Tag: young adult

Spice up your summer with SPICE BRINGER

I read fantasy. Fantasy makes me happy. And there are a few authors who I will always pick up their books. H.L. Burke, author of SPICE BRINGER, is one of those.

I’m in Ms. Burke’s “fan” group on Facebook. I’ve been hearing about this book since it was an idea that was keeping her from focusing on another project. So…for awhile now.

I voted on character names. Each of the tidbits she shared as she wrote it piqued my curiosity. My opinion was cast when she asked for input about the blurb.

But it was at that point I told myself, “This is going to be a sad book. I don’t think I’ll read it.”

And that’s why I signed up for an advance copy.

Wait! What? It doesn’t make sense to you that I’d volunteer to read and review a book I’d decided I wasn’t going to read?

It was a book by H. L. Burke. I wanted to read it (even thought I didn’t want to read it). So I convinced myself that the best thing to do was get a free copy, and that way if it was too sad for words, I wouldn’t have spend money on it.

Makes perfect sense, right? *holds up hand*


What’s the Story?

This is a tale of three people on individual quests. Their goals bring them together.

Niya has known she’s living on borrowed time for her entire life. She dreams of seeing the sea and riding an elephant, but she’s happy to spend her days in the grove caring for the spice that keeps her alive.

Unfortunately, the princess of the realm believes she needs the fire salamander that helps the vitrisar seeds to germinate and grow in order to ascend her adoptive father’s throne. When her eagerness to snatch the beast sets the grove on fire, Niya must take the remaining plant and Alk, the fire salamander, to a safe place.

Early in this journey, Niya runs into people who want to steal the spice she’s carrying. It’s rare and valuable. Jayesh, a monk on his own quest, saves her from robbers and joins her. He’s searching for redemption. His lack of faith in his god cost people their lives, and now he’s trying to atone for that. Helping Niya fits into his plans.

They travel. They meet people. Their beliefs are tested. Eventually, they face the princess. Can they convince her that their quest will benefit the empire than hers?

My Thoughts

Once I started this book, I didn’t want to put it down.

But I did. Because I also didn’t want it to end.

I hate books like that. I mean because I LOVE them, so why can’t they go on forever?

These three characters are realistic and relatable. You want to despise the princess because of the heartache she causes for Niya, but since Burke gives you scenes from the princess’s point of view, you know what’s motivating her. And it’s a reasonable and justifiable motivation.

Even if she’s being manipulated.

Niya’s death sentence makes her live every moment to the full. But it also makes her leery of emotional attachments. After all, she’s going to die, and whoever loves her will be brokenhearted.

Jayesh has his own baggage. His tendency to over-think every decision and wait to act puts him in conflict with Niya’s immediacy. Since he rescues her at their first meeting, we cheer him on to the end. He’s a good guy and he deserves to find the redemption he seeks.

There is a not-so-obvious allegory in this story. The three gods that act together could represent the Trinity. Each of the gods have an attribute that is also one of God’s characteristics: Kind, Just and All-Knowing. The battle between good and evil is clear.

The magical elements are neatly interwoven into the setting and characters. It was easy to believe each one. Burke does a great job of explaining what could be unbelievable in a way that doesn’t rob it of it’s mysticism (The Force was way more interesting before it was explained).

I laughed at the character dialog and interaction. I cried at the heartaches and losses. And I predicted who would make the first and greatest sacrifice.

My Recommendation

If you read young adult fantasy, this book is for you. If you like quest stories, this is a story you don’t want to miss.

You like snarky heroines? Me too! You’ll get that and an even MORE sarcastic fire salamander. The bi-play between the two will make you laugh.

Maybe you think stories should have a deeper message, not be solely for entertainment. Well then, why are you still reading this? Go get this book. Download it today and see if you aren’t moved by the themes underlying the adventure.

Yes, there’s romance in this story. It’s not sappy. And it’s not typical.

In fact, the only people who might not enjoy this story are people who despise fantasy, especially if it has a hint of allegory. Otherwise, this is a five star read guaranteed to take you from hilarity to suspense to tears and back again.

SPICE BRINGER is the perfect spice for the final weekend of summer (and any other time of year).

Transformation: Genre Branding & Platform

It’s hard to make a change when you don’t have consistency. Or at least that’s what I told myself about my author brand and platform. And then came 2018 and its Word:

The truth is, I’ve been walking around rather apologetically since I started this professional author gig. Well, except for a few months around the time of this release:

“What do you write?” People would ask.
“All sorts of things.” And then my eyes would dart to the side. “Most of my published stuff is romance, but I have one YA Fantasy and a women’s fiction novel.”
I’m guilty. I was ashamed to admit that I wrote romance. Many of my author friends are angry and revolted as they read this.

Because romance writing isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Is it what I “dreamed” of writing? Nope.
But it IS what I’ve been able to market to publishers, and where most of my readers come from.
This is the year I embrace that identity. With one caveat, of course.

My Brand: Before

I’m not even sure I had a brand before this. Check out the things I used for continuity across every social media platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you saw those things, what would you guess I wrote?

What? It doesn’t scream any genre at you?

That would be because I wrote so many genres I feared embracing anything that might look distinctively romance or fantasy or nonfiction or Christian.
Is it any wonder I haven’t been able to build an audience? No one can figure out what it is I’m selling here.

My Brand: After

 
One thing I’ve heard over and over is: “As an author, YOU are your brand.”
But what does that really mean? What does that LOOK like in logos and colors and fonts?
I am a person who loves to read many genres and has too many ideas to contain in a single writing category. So do I brand multiple personalities? How?
This is what I learned from a quick quiz from Kaye Putnam and her Brand Personality Quiz:
1. I have elements of several personalities in my brand
2. The ones that appeal to me most are Hero and Magician
3. To settle on ONE or know how to properly combine these, I needed to discover what I want my ideal clients (readers) to FEEL
Light bulb moment.
I knew the answer to this. So I took some time considering it more deeply.
I want my readers to feel understood and hopeful and encouraged. I want them to be empowered to chase (and capture) their own dreams.
Yes, I want to offer them escape, but more than that I wanted them to see themselves between the pages and know they are not alone. Someone relates to how they’re feeling and what their lives are throwing at them right now.
Then I outlined all of that and shipped it off to a designer. Perry Elisabeth is a freelancer I met through a Facebook Group. I’d been admiring her cover designs for months and I’d succumbed to the magnetism of her WriteMind Planner.
And this is what she came up with.



There was a transformation here, right? I can build a platform with this distinctive symbol.
Based on that, what genre would you guess I wrote?

And if you say “romance” or “women’s fiction” I won’t cringe. Because in 2018 I’m going to publish three (or more) Christian romances with women’s fiction themes and motifs.
More on that later.
What do you think of the new look? What/how does it make you feel?

EMBERS IN THE SEA is Finally Here! Sneak Peek Inside this Post

Exciting news, dear readers! The next installment in one of my favorite series by one of my Pen Sisters is finally here. I’m talking about EMBERS IN THE SEA by Jennifer M. Eaton.

I adored FIRE IN THE WOODS. You can read my review here. It was a  rollicking good time, and I don’t even like science fiction. Except for after I read book two in the series, I had to recant that claim. If I was reading these books and loving them, I obviously liked SOME science fiction books.

Now you can read the third installment in the series. I read an early version of this manuscript, and let me tell you, it goes beyond anything you could possibly imagine. David and Jess face their biggest test ever (and a crazy alien leader was trying to kill them in the last installment so…)

After you read the amazing excerpt, don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the post where you can enter a giveaway to win some awesome prizes.

Embers In the Sea eBook FINAL
Title: EMBERS IN THE SEA (Fire in The Woods #3)
Author: JenniferM. Eaton
Pub. Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 300
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Alien scientist David has dealt with disappointment his entire life, but failing to breathe life into the planet Mars is his greatest regret. Out of options and in need of a new home for their people, the alien Caretakers rekindle their plan to inhabit Earth. First they will have to eliminate the human race, including Jess, the only human David holds dear.

Humanity has one final chance at survival. David needs to emulate Earth’s precipitation on Mars. But the catalyst to make it rain lies in the fathomless depths of Earth’s ocean.

The clock is ticking down to humanity’s last hours as Jess and David face a world more alien than either of them can imagine. The sea hides secrets, but some secrets don’t want to be found.

Here is the Promised Sneak Peek:

Jess and her friend Matt from FIRE IN THE WOODS (Book one) are hanging out at Columbia University when a strange apparition forms in the sky. Of course, our girl starts snapping photos!

“What is that?” a man yelled.
Matt grabbed my hand and we followed the throng away from the steps, across 116th Street, past the sundial, and onto the South Lawn. A huge hole had formed in the clouds, widening into a shimmering circle of crystal blue.
I plucked my camera out of my backpack and joined the amateurs clicking away with their cell phones. I hid my amusement behind the lens of Old Reliable.
These people had no idea what a picture could be, how to focus in just the right place, how to find tone in the simplest of images, and catch the perfect light to evoke the exact mood. I hit the shutter four times as the anomaly widened, expanding past several city blocks. Nature never ceased to astound me.
A few more photography students added their lenses to the crowd. There’d be no deficit of pictures for the internet newsfeeds to choose from, that was for sure.
I snapped seven more shots. The race was on. Click. Who would take the best shot? Click. Who would be the first to get their work published?
Me. That’s who. Click. Click.
The shape shifted and elongated, swirling until it settled over the courtyard and froze as if someone pressed the pause button.
The crowd grew silent. I lowered my camera. WTF?
A ball formed in my gut as the air in the middle of the circle formed a nearly transparent, shimmering bubble. A rainbow formed across its surface; the stripes brilliant, clear, and defined. Dozens of breaths hitched as an iridescent flicker glimmered across the apparition. The form pinched and molded into a colorful, swirling tube that slowly dropped from the sky.
Oh. Crap.
Matt tightened his grip on my hand as the other spectators stepped away. Half their gazes staring up, the remainder staring at me. Some stumbled into the bushes lining the walkways.
“Friends of yours?” Matt asked.
I shivered. “No. That’s not Erescopian technology.” At least I didn’t think it was. Erescopian ships were liquid metal … shiny opal or silver. “That just looks like … ”
“Water,” Matt whispered.
Water hanging in the sky. Or more like a lake … a huge lake with a giant elevator tube dropping out of it. So. Not. Good.

This is part one of a three part reveal of the spaceship landing in chapter one of EMBERS IN THE SEA. For the next excerpt, please go check out Read Coffee and Teen on 2/7/2017 (Sorry, it was totally NOT my idea to be SUCH a tease. Really.)

About Jennifer: Jennifer-M.-Eaton-Promo-Protrait-239x300

Jennifer M. Eaton hails from the eastern shore of the North American Continent on planet Earth. Yes, regrettably, she is human, but please don’t hold that against her. While not traipsing through the galaxy looking for specimens for her space moth collection, she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband and three energetic offspring. (And a poodle who runs the spaceport when she’s not around.)

During infrequent excursions to her home planet of Earth, Jennifer enjoys long hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the fire with a great book; but great adventures are always a short shuttle ride away.

Who knows where we’ll end up next?

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:

(1) winner will receive a Perfectly Posh, Posh To Meet You Set ($20 value), US Only.

(1) winner will receive an Alien Charm Necklace, US Only.
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Check out the Rest of the Tour

EMBERS IN THE SEA

My YA Fantasy Debut is HERE!

It’s here! I’m officially a published young adult author! Yes, that’s my sing-song voice.

What you gonna do about it?

Get your copy today. While it’s new and hot!

Eight great stories from the Bible. Told in such a way you might not even recognize them.

This collection is not for the easily offended. If you can’t separate the truth (the Bible) from fiction (this collection), please don’t buy this book.

I love it. My review will be posted later this week.

But the uptight, we-hate-magic type of Bible aficionados are NOT the intended audience for this work.

This anthology, IN THE BEGINNING,  contains these stories:

  1. “Daniel and the Dragon” by Stephen Clements :A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master’s zealous defiance of the king’s law seals their fate.
  2. “Babylon” by Nicole Crucial: Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she’ll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live.
  3. “Last Will and Testament” by Mike Hays: A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken.
  4. “The Demon Was Me” by Sharon Hughson (yes, me): Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he’s meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host.
  5. “The Deluge” by Marti Johnson: A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late-than-never attitude just might be your doom.
  6. “Condemned” by Elle O’Neill: Just sixteen-years-old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life.
  7. “First Wife” by Lora Palmer: In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah’s sister Rachel.
  8. “Emmaculate” by Christina Raus: A contemporary retelling of the story of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Enter the troubled mind of Emma. She finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.

A few of these stories read like fictionalizations, but all of them are products of overactive imaginations. That’s what writer’s are famous for, right?

Get yours today at  Amazon

When You Want to Read Three Books at Once

The worst part of the vacation I recently took was that my Amazon book order didn’t show up before I left. Instead, three books I’d been slavering over arrived on my doorstep while I was gone.

When I got home, I stared into one of my favorite gifts-a box of books-and my eyes glazed over.

I wanted to read all of them. All three were the newest release in series I enjoyed.

How is a girl supposed to choose?

I decided based on how recently I’d read the first book in the series. It had been less than two months for one of these three books.

So I picked up The Skylighter by Becky Wallace.

The Skylighter

Love this world and these characters. Wallace ended the first book with our characters in peril and so this novel starts at a sprint and rarely slows for breathers.

I enjoyed the growing romance between Rafi and Johanna because it spotlighted their individual character and priorities. The sad truth that love is rarely convenient and often a nuisance was fun to consider.

My favorite character from book one was Leao, the immortal who was played by Legolas (ie Orlando Bloom) in my mind. His unique powers as a full mage were explored (and exploited) in this novel. There were moments I wanted to throw the book against the wall because things weren’t easy for Leao, or his love interest Pira.

A few twists are in store for readers. I don’t like to spoil anything. I will say that the “ultimate” bad guy didn’t impress me much. I never understood his true motivations, so he seemed more like a caricature than anything else.

I didn’t fully accept the “change” in Vibora late in the novel. After she had been built up so convincingly as completely evil in the first book, it was difficult for me to accept the change. Wallace did lay groundwork and make it an evolving switch, but it still didn’t sit well with me.

One part of the story I didn’t anticipate was the portion from Dom’s viewpoint. It was vital to the tension and pace and overall understanding of the story. I liked him, but felt his character arc peaked too quickly. Many of the things that happened in his portion of the story were predictable to the point of heavy sighs and almost eye rolling.

People I liked were killed. The bad guys lose in the end. These two things can be mutually exclusive, but I’m more willing to accept the first when the second is the payoff.

All in all, this was a satisfying sequel to The Storyspinner (which is the best book I’ve read in 2016). I give it 4.8 out of five stars.

A Daring Sacrifice

The second book I picked from this stack of three “I can’t wait to read” novels was A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund. This is a sequel – sort of – to An Uncertain Choice, which I read last year.

Here we have Juliana, a female Robin Hood, robbing a man we were introduced to as an amazing knight. Her backstory is interesting and convincing, although this novel could have been longer to explore that more.

Collin has inherited his father’s massive estate which borders the estate where Juliana was born and raised as a noble for the first ten years of her life. He has a spoiled sister and very little interest in being tied to an estate. He’s enjoyed his adventures with The Noblest Knight.

Collin immediately sees through Juliana’s disguise as a man when she robs him. He follows her with his unbeatable tracking skills and takes her back to his estate.

If Juliana hadn’t been gravely injured, I wouldn’t have accepted her staying with him for nearly a week. Of course, he does pay her in gold and jewels. I found this somewhat belittling, but Juliana accepted it as a way to provide for her band of peasants in hiding.

The politics behind Juliana’s forced hiding were hardly touched upon. The romance was enjoyable without knowing all these details, but the broader story suffered because of these omissions.

Collin was the one of the three knights I chose in the first book, so it was nice to see him find true love. It isn’t an easy path. It’s complicated by cruel and greedy men, a spoiled lady and a headstrong woman.

This novel earns four out of five stars from me. It’s fairly short, a quick read, but perfect for fans of the Robin Hood trope. As the first book ended with a hint about the danger of the second, this one ends with a preview of the danger awaiting Sir Bennet in the next book.

Calamity

This is the final book in Brandon Sanderson’s The Reckoners series. And just because I read it last doesn’t mean I was anticipating it any less than the other two books.

Sanderson impressed me with his Mistborn trilogy and has become my favorite fantasy author for adult books. He’s been exploring the young adult fantasy genre, as well, and this series is proof that he’s a man of many talents.

Calamity is the name of the so-called meteor that appeared a decade ago and transformed some humans into super-humans. Notice I didn’t say super heroes. In fact, nearly one hundred percent of the time, the powers drove these people to do heartless and despicable things. In fact, this abuse of power has transformed the United States into the Fractured States.

David Charleston watched one of these Epics kill his father. From that time, he made a study of every epic to learn how to destroy them. In the first book, Steelheart, he was recruited by The Reckoners, a rogue group whose goal was to dethrone the Epics, in order to help them carry out a plan to kill Steelheart, the Epic who murdered his father and held all of Newcago (yes, Chicago in our world) hostage.

While David mourned the loss of his father, he channeled that grief into hatred for Epics. Until he realizes the girl he loves is one. And the man he works with and respects.

This final installment of the series deals with David’s plan to save his friend Prof, whose powers have subverted him to become the evil overlord of Atlanta, Limelight. And carry out a plan to destroy Calamity, which is at the heart of the problem. After all, if there was no Calamity, there would be no powers. Or at least the powers wouldn’t turn people to darkness.

I still haven’t decided if I can buy into the fact that Calamity is actually an Epic himself. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I won’t explore my doubts in this review. However, it seems highly unlikely that the way Calamity came onto the scene would have ever been accepted as “a meteor” or some other anamaly. But this is what the author wants us to believe.

David spends too much time revisiting his past with his father, which is something that was lost beneath the plans of the day in the second book. In the end, this also seemed contrived to me because of the way the story wraps up.

I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of paralell dimensions and random superhuman powers is beyond my realm of comprehension. Still, I expect the explanation of these things to follow a form of logic that I CAN understand. My brain is still working over the nuances of this story to see if Sanderson did that.

I may have to re-read the entire series before I decide.

These conundrums didn’t keep me from enjoying the story. It was well-planned with a suitable number of twists, turns and cliff dives. The pages kept turning, and I wasn’t ready for it to end when I got to the last page.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to be inside Megan’s head in this book. She had become one of my favorite parts of this series, and has plenty of ghosts of her own to battle. Instead, her ability to subdue the darkness is trivialized, which it shouldn’t have been. But since the novel was all written from David’s perspective, we couldn’t really grasp the battle. And Megan isn’t the type to bleed emotions all over the place.

I will say the aspect that Sanderson might have considered his biggest surprise, really didn’t shock me too much. However, I couldn’t comprehend the underlying logic of the villain. And the purpose of his visit to Earth wasn’t satisfactorily explained.

This is still a four-star story. Whenever you blend all these fantasy elements, some of them won’t measure up in the mind of readers. I’m sure the young adult and new adult readers, the target audience for this series, will be quicker to take all of this at face value.

And since I’m talking about re-reading the entire series, you know I’m not disappointed I read it the first time.

What about you? Have you ever picked up or recieved in the mail a number of books (or something else) and faced the dilemma of deciding which one to read first (where to begin)? Do you have a fantastic decision-making strategy to share?

The Paladins Release Tour: Reviewed Here

I’m thrilled to announce that one of my Pen Sisters is releasing a new book tomorrow, May 3. If you’re a fan of young adult romance, you want to pick up your copy of The Paladins by Julie Reece. Go ahead and click the cover photo. You can pre-order it today. As in now.

This book is a sequel to The Artisans. You can read my review of that book here.

When I first learned Ms. Reece was writing a sequel, I thought, “Huh?”

My depth of thought amazes even me sometimes.

The reason I was stymied is because The Artisans is completely self-contained. It doesn’t leave any nagging questions remaining. The problem is resolved and the characters are in their “happy for now” existence.

But that doesn’t mean the characters had nothing left to say. Maybe you wondered what happened with Cole. How did he adjust to life after being trapped in The Void for five years? Did things with Raven and Gideon last?

Well, you can find the answers to these questions and so much more if you read The Paladins.

The Blurb

The Paladins CoverThe Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.

The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

My Review

I was involved from the first page. And I was enthralled with Cole by the third chapter. He’s a much more engaging character than Gideon.

Reece takes us into the story from the perspective of all three of the main characters. Her narration is exceptional. Each chapter sounds like the chosen narrator. Cole’s voice is fun, engaging and sprinkled with British euphemisms. Raven is snarky, although a little more melodramatic than before. Gideon is dark, but wait! That’s what’s going on inside his handsome head?

Elemental magic makes its appearance here, which surprised me since it didn’t have the same “feel” as the Artisan magic they “destroyed” in the first book. While they were slow to realize the source of the magic, they were quick to determine the keeper of The Void and the entrance into it. That seemed a little too convenient to me.

The romantic angle in this story isn’t as compelling as in the first book. Gideon decides to dump Raven and encourage her and Cole to get together. (I know. He doesn’t even LIKE that guy.)

Raven isn’t impressed to be dumped and pawned off on someone else. She thought Gideon was going to let her start making her own decisions. Why is he trying to manipulate things again?

And Cole is starting to have feelings for the ghost girl he’s desperate to rescue.

I didn’t guess the exact twist to that whole thing (kudos to the author), but I knew that our lovely Desiree (witch extraordinaire from the first book) would have to be involved somehow. If she got the connection to the water element, there was no way she could have been drowned as they assumed.

I was a tad disappointed in The Void’s populace. Zombies? I’m not a fan of them at all. Three witches sharing one eye? Been done before. The minotaur in the labyrinth was a nice touch and well-played by the author. (Although I’m not sure how the earth magic would have created a link to animals. That seemed a little too convenient, too.)

Will Cole get a girl in the end? Can Gideon swallow his pride? Will Raven be able to escape her own dark fears?

Read it and you’ll see.

My Recommendation

You should read The Artisans before you read this book (the eBook is only 99 cents) . It will give you the proper context for the characters and especially the villain. You won’t be sorry. It was a ghost story I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you like fantasy, you’ll enjoy this book. Paranormal? You’ll get that here for sure. Maybe you’re more of a mythology buff. Reece has you covered. If you want it, The Paladins has got it.

There is romance, but it’s more like the third story line in this novel. The quest to resolve magical issues is primary and character growth secondary.

Even though I gave it only 4.3 out of five stars, I highly recommend this book.

About the Author

Julie ReeceBorn in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.

I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.

Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.

Then I thought I’d write one down…

Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

Connect with Julie here:    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Tumbr | Instagram | Goodreads

The Giveaway

Contest runs until May 20, 2016. The prize(s) :

  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece (INT)

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Find the Book Everywhere

Add it to Goodreads

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Friday Cover Reveal: Into the Light by Caroline Patti

Today Caroline T. Patti and Month9Books are revealing the cover for INTO THE LIGHT, book 2 in the INTO THE DARK Series. This title releases July 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!
 
Here’s a message from the author:
 
Into the Light is the continuation of Mercy’s journey with Nathaniel’s backstory mixed in. Readers will learn the history of breaching while Mercy engages in the fight of her life. What draws me to the cover are the colors. The palette is appealing and I love how it all swirls together
because it perfectly captures how Mercy’s two lives, one as a human and one as a Breacher, are intertwined.

On to the reveal! 

Title: INTOTHE LIGHT
Author: Caroline T. Patti
Pub. Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon| B&N| TBD|Goodreads
Mercy’s family is back together and the threat of danger appears to have passed. But any relief she feels is short lived as she is ripped from her body and thrown in jail. Gage and Nathaniel’s plans to break Mercy out won’t exactly be easy. Stuffed full of a chemical binding agent, Mercy is trapped inside the body of a convict without the ability to breach and set herself free. Unfortunately for Mercy, being trapped in jail becomes the least of her problems when she meets her evil twin, Justice.

 

Caroline T Patti is the author of The World Spins Madly On and Too Late To Apologize. When she’s not writing, she’s a school librarian, mother of two, wife, avid reader and Green Bay Packer fan.
You can chat with her on Twitter: @carepatti or find her onFacebook.

 

 
Giveaway Details:

 1 winner will receive an eBook of INTO
THE LIGHT & an eGalley of INTO THE DARK. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cover Reveal: The Paladins by Julie Reece

I’m thrilled to host this reveal on my blog. I’ve read the first book in this series and found it ensnaring, to say the least. Check out my review. Then read on to learn about the second book and how to win a free copy.

Today Julie Reece and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE PALADINS, book 2 in THE ARTISANS Series which releases May 3, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley and a eBook of THE ARTISANS!!

Here’s a message from the author:

Book covers are tricky things. My respect for cover artists has grown exponentially after entering the world of publishing. I learned the challenge of a good cover artist is to hint at the story beneath using a single image. They must create a picture that suggests to perspective readers what lies within those hundreds of pages—using nothing more than specific font and a few square inches of graphic design. It seems impossible, yet most of us agree that art evokes emotion. And when I saw my cover, I was overwhelmed.

 The Paladins is dark. And this cover is dark. The story is a Gothic tale, mysterious and eerie. And while parts of this world are beautiful, beauty is often deceptive. You’re never quite sure if something lurks in the shadows, where the path you tread is leading, or even if what you see is real … until it’s too late. For me, the cover encompasses all those story elements. I hope you like it as much as I do.

On to the reveal! 

 

Title: THE PALADINS (The Artisans #2) 

Author: Julie Reece

Pub. Date: May 3, 2016

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Paperback & eBook

Find it: Amazon | B&N| TBD | BAM| Kobo | Google Play Books | iBooksGoodreads

The Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.
The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

In case you missed it here’s the redesigned cover for THE ARTISANS!

 

Title: THE ARTISANS

Author: Julie Reece

Pub. Date: May 12, 2015

Publisher: Month9Books

Pages: 300

Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
(You can read Sharon’s review of this book here)

Excerpt

 

 

Prologue

The Before

Cole

It’s been four years since I planted the fireworks in Gideon Maddox’s locker that burned a third of his face.

Four years since his father took revenge, trapping me with a spell that kept me prisoner in The Void.

Three months since the magic found me again.

Two months since my parents put me in therapy.

One day since my parents left for Paris on a month long business tour.

This morning, a mysterious girl no one else can see beckoned again from The Void.

Tonight, I’m standing on the balcony of my parent’s palatial home, buying an airline ticket back to the states—back to Maddox mansion—the heart of my nightmares.

People say the more things change the more they stay the same. I hate them for being right. I lived with the monsters in my prison until I thought I might go mad. Repentant of my past, I made peace with my fate, my eternity. Until the day I was freed, because a stranger had the courage to help.

This time someone needs me.

How can I doom a girl to a fate I barely escaped?

There’s only one answer.

I can’t.

Chapter One

Cole

A bottle-green fly hums, rubbing his tiny legs together as though he’s plotting something. The insect seems a dirty ornament on the shiny desk nameplate he sits upon. Gold on gold, the engraved letters read Navin Cahvan M.D. This is the third psychiatrist I’ve met in as many weeks. Part of my mother’s plan to fix me. Jumpy nerves, insomnia, nightmares about demons when I finally do fall sleep—these are her justifications. Everyone tries to shrink me like a cheap T-shirt in the dryer.

The tawny-skinned man across the desk folds his knotted fingers over his belly and stares. Dark eyes track my movements beneath two bushy white eyebrows. “Mr. Wynter?”

Right. He asked a question. The fly hums again, wings fluttering against his hairy back. My head pounds, my clothes scratch, eyes burn, and my ears are raw with the smallest sounds echoing deep inside.

When Dr. Cahvan shifts, the leather seat groans in protest. “I can help you. But you must tell me the truth.”

All I hear is Jack Nicholson screaming the line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”

“Trust me, Cole. Tell me your secret thoughts.”

Trust you? Sure. I tell you what happened and you lock me away forever on meds that keep me drooling, while I play dominoes with people who see giant, pink rabbits. No thanks.

He leans forward. His fingers thread together as his hands rest on the desktop. He taps his thumbs together. “I assure you this is a safe place. I call it … the circle of trust.”

Give me a break. You want me to tell you how I was a mean, dangerous kid. Confess that because I tormented a crippled boy, his father used a magic camera to trap me in an alternate universe as punishment. Explain how I lived a half-life in the Maddox mansion for four years until Raven Weathersby rescued me. About how much I miss her and think about going back someday … Maybe I am insane.

“Let’s discuss something else.”

I find his suggestion amusing since I’ve barely said ten words in the past hour, and our time is almost up.

The good doctor shifts again. “Instead of talking about the past, why not speak of the present. How are you adjusting to life at home? I understand your parents had a welcome home party when you first arrived. How did that go?”

How do you think? “Swell.” I would have preferred stuffing my hand in a high-speed blender. A hundred people that I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen—and couldn’t care less to see again—showed up to shake my hand and recite all they’d ever read about amnesia, the lie Gideon made up to cover my absence. “I really just need some space.”

“And you got your wish, did you not? I understand your parents left town yesterday. How does being alone again so soon make you feel?”

Incredibly pissed. “They’ve always been busy people. I’m used to them traveling.” But I wasn’t. I thought with all the time apart, my parents might want to stick around a while. Be a family. Nope. Since appearances mean everything, they threw a party right away to show their friends and colleagues how fine I was. The powerful and highly regarded Mr. and Mrs. Wynter pulled out all the stops to prove their love for their long lost son: fine wine, catered dinner, china, crystal, even a string quartet. Yet, my father couldn’t keep the disappointment from his face any more than my mother could drown her misery in vodka.

Perhaps to appease their consciences, my folks hooked me up with doctors and provided for my physical needs before bailing. But a new car and an obscenely padded bank account wasn’t what I needed. So easily brushed aside again, I couldn’t help but wonder if parts of them were relieved when I’d disappeared four years ago.

Dr. Cahvan’s eyes narrow. “So, you remember your life up until your trip to the States?”

“Yes.” I’m lying about my amnesia. I know it. He knows it. So do my parents, but it’s too late to come up with a better story … like being the victim of a cult brainwashing or joining a psychedelic commune. I drank a different brand of Kool-Aid in Sales Hollow, South Carolina, and I can never tell a soul.

The fly zings to the window. I flinch as the buzzing is magnified ten times in my head. It takes all my will not to jump up and smash the bug against the glass. The doctor watches me with sharp eyes trained to interpret body language. I hold his gaze, though my skin breaks out in a sweat. A sudden wind rattles the panes, and I startle.

Cahvan’s mouth crimps at the corners. “Rather breezy today,” he says, glancing out the window at the quiet, blue sky.

Who cares about the weather? I have to give the old guy something before I start whining about magic spells, heightened senses, or worse: how my daddy never loved me.

I blow out a breath. “Look, some things seem familiar, others are confusing. I don’t need a doctor. I need time.” I only meant to throw him a bone so he’d have something to report when my parents call, but my body heats as I talk. Anger, resentment, and fear all claw their way up my throat and charge out of my mouth before I can stop them. “Time I can’t get back where I finish school, date hot girls, and grow up like normal kids do. I’m trying. Doing the best I can, but what I don’t need is to sit in rooms with smug strangers who are paid to dissect my brain over things I can’t explain, and neither of us will ever understand!” I drag my fingers through my shaggy hair. “That time is gone. I’m pissed off, and I guess I’ll be pissed off until I’m not anymore.”

Dr. Cahvan rubs his jaw. “That’s very interesting, Cole.”

My laugh is harsh. Not that any of this is funny. “Is it?”

“Yes. Thank you for your honesty today.” His bushy eyebrows push together. “Thank you for entering the circle of trust and allowing me to help you. Please see my secretary on your way out and make another appointment for next week.”

Seriously? I stand and head for the door. Oh, I’ll see your secretary, all right. I’ll nod as I walk right past her. He didn’t help me. No one can. There are a lot of things I need. But touchy-feely therapy with Doctor Eyebrows isn’t one of them.

***

After the awkward “circle of trust” episode, I can’t decide what to do with myself. I don’t want to be around people, but I don’t want to go home to an empty house either, so I wind up in the rambling cemetery a couple miles from our house.

I like it here and come pretty often just to think. Crumbling grave markers bear witness to France’s rich history, even with the chiseled dates worn and fading with time. Moss, ivy, and ancient trees lend beauty and peace to a place that soothes my soul. I’m not trying to be morbid. I never kept company with the dead. We were the undead, in a non-sparkly kind of way.

I’m not stupid enough to think I’ll discover the meaning of life. I’m just trying to find meaning in mine.

After surviving a half-death, I’ve been given a second chance. Trouble is, I don’t know what to do with it.

The sun is too hot on my back. No sooner does the thought cross my mind, when a friendly breeze tousles my hair like an old friend. I pull my cell from my pocket and stare at Raven’s number. She said to call her anytime, and I do. Gideon said to call her if I wanted my arse kicked. Typical. He’s still that insecure kid deep down. Still trying to prove himself, as he tries to control everyone and everything within his reach, just like his old man taught him.

Should have known something was wrong when I first got the invitation to visit Gideon in America all those years ago. My parents were so happy Maddox Senior wasn’t pressing charges; they actually thought the gesture was an attempt at friendship. Of course, Mum and Dad sent me packing complete with an olive branch in my mouth. That gesture of goodwill got my picture taken and a trip to The Void with a bunch of vengeful old guys from the early nineteen hundreds and a hot blond with twisted taste in men. We spent our days trying to escape that hell. The labyrinth’s ghouls, the surreal existence of consciousness without a physical body, and the constant pain of regret all earmarked a life that wasn’t.

Until her.

My fingers comb the grass at my sides. I close my eyes and feel the day’s warmth on my face, the wind threading through my thin tee. I may look like a freak, but I can’t stop touching everything around me. While I was gone, I missed the sensation of air in my lungs, the taste of coffee, the sweet sensation of a kiss …

My thumb starts dialing Rae’s number.

Cole …

Shite. Here we go again.

Come to me, Cole …

I wonder if I sounded this creepy to Raven when I begged for her help.

Veins at my temples pulse. Leaves shake and laugh in the breeze, the echo reverberating in my head. “Who are you? What do you want with me?” I want to stand, but my limbs weigh a hundred pounds each. My lungs deflate under the crushing pressure, and I struggle to breathe.

The scenery of oaks and elms surrounding the cemetery blur into a muddy gray-green wall, and I know what’s happening. Gravestones push up from the ground like gnashing teeth and recede again until the ground transforms into a smooth, stone floor. The world of pedestrians, car horns, and singing birds around the graveyard fade to a quiet worse than death. My body rejects the idea of gravity. The weightlessness of being sucked back into The Void again invades my person like a virus, spreading into my muscles and bones, my very essence.

I will the door of my mind closed to shut out the transformation. I place a mental shield before the magic so it won’t consume me, but magic has a will of its own. It snakes under the imaginary door I’ve erected in my head, enveloping me. I thrash, but it’s useless. My soundless screaming and mind-withering despair only seems to feed The Void’s strength.

When I open my eyes, the cemetery is gone. I shift on a cold, damp floor, taking in my new surroundings. I’ve seen this place before, several times. The space is a circular stone room with two tall, skinny windows allowing diffused light inside. A bed sits across from me. Downy quilts worn and faded with use cover the straw mattress. On the wall, a huge, gilt-framed mirror reflects the room where a pretty blond sits in a hardback chair. Watching me.

I’m familiar with strange, but not with sad, soul-eating eyes like hers.

When she rises, I feel like I should thank her, because light from the window shows her curves through an ultra-thin nightdress. The sight chokes my airflow for a whole different reason.

ThinkofRaventhinkofRaventhinkofRaven.

I’m so not thinking of Raven. For all my faults, I’m not the cheating type, but I am a guy, and this girl is seriously fit! I want to touch her in the worst way, but I swallow instead. Attempting to be a gentleman, I lift my gaze and focus on the far wall, yet somehow—because I’m still a guy—I end up watching the way her hair hangs in white blond waves to her thighs. Her rosebud mouth opens slightly. Pleading eyes, more silver than blue, threaten to pull me under and drown me. None of this helps curb my impulse to reach for her.

Then I think about how she brought me here against my will, and that helps tamp down the hormones.

Cole.

What do you want?

Can’t you guess?

I can. I pleaded with Raven for the same help not too long ago. Inside The Void, I thought I’d met everyone. The ones that Maddox had imprisoned, and the indigenous inhabitants of the labyrinth. I hadn’t known there were any others.

The drip-drop of a leaky faucet is the only sound as I gather my thoughts. “Who are you? Where are you? I don’t understand what’s happening. Where is this place? Did Gideon put you here?” I rattle off my questions not pausing for a response.

She doesn’t answer. Maybe she can’t.

Wind picks up, whooshing through the hollow room, though the windows are shut. The sound grows, as though someone dropped a microphone in a washing machine. I grit my teeth against the noise. My mind squeezes in the pressurized vacuum.

Cole … She extends a thin, white hand.

I remember Raven. How she fell to her knees on the floor of the mill house when we first met. Pain rips into my psyche, claws at my sanity. The same way I’m sure it did hers.

“I’m sorry. Forgive me, Raven. I didn’t know.”

… My name is Rosamond …

Stone walls smear and fade, the beautiful girl along with them. I can’t breathe. Then, the faint outline of tree tops bleed back into view.

… Rosamond Bryer …

My panting rivals an overheated Saint Bernard. Grass pokes my palms. Rough bark scrapes my spine through my T-shirt. Any trace of the castle turret is erased as the same decrepit cemetery I know solidifies, and the garden is as it was before.

Almost …

I’m leaning against an old tree, yet my cell and sunglasses still lie next to the rose bushes where I was sitting, almost twenty feet away. I have no memory of moving. How did I get way over here?

Both hands plow through my hair with my exhale. What the bloody hell just happened? Am I imagining this? A nightmare left over from the reality of my imprisonment. Or is the girl real? Trapped like I was and waiting for someone with the courage to free her.

Is that someone me? I’ve been a lot of things, but brave isn’t one of them. To help her means going back to the mansion.

No. I definitely do not need this shite. I’m starting over, leaving that life behind. Yet, the haunted expression on the girl’s face tugs at me. Something about her seems familiar. I’m gutted over how she reached for me. Raven doubted, too, but not for long. If the blond is real, then she’s really in trouble. And if she’s really in trouble, what, if anything, are you prepared to do about it, Cole Wynter?

 

 As a child, Julie’s summers were about horseback riding and fishing, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all. She struggled with multiple learning disabilities, and spent much of her time gazing out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) she fought dyslexia for her right to read and won.

Afterward, she invented stories where powerful heroines kicked bad-guy butt to win the hearts charismatic heroes. And then she wrote one down…

Writing ever since, Julie weaves southern gothic, contemporary, fantasy, and young adult romances. She enjoys sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. Her writing is proof a dream and some hard work can overcome any obstacle.
Where you can find Julie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eBook of THE ARTISANS and an eGalley of THE PALADINS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Writing in a New Direction

Which-Way-is-the-Right-way-for-Satellite-Web-Browsing-Sometimes directions are clear: “Turn left at the next stop light.” Other times, the directions can be convoluted: “Take the next right. Keep left.” (My GPS often says this, in fact. Amazingly unhelpful.)

In 2013, I started in a new direction. I quit my job with the school district to pursue a writing career full-time. I finished my bachelor’s degree and wanted a change.

Immediately thereafter, I finished my first young adult fantasy novel and had begun writing its sequel. I took a class on antagonists from Writing Jedi Master Kristen Lamb. When we spoke on the phone about my story, I learned it was gobbledygook without a clear purpose.

Back to the drawing board. For another young adult fantasy series, which Kristen and I had discussed during the heart-shattering call. Her advice: write the entire series before going back to edit book one. That way I’d know what the “real” story of the series was by the time I was rewriting.

Six months later, I had three complete novels in very rough first draft form. The summer of 2014, I attempted to market the first book in the series. By the time I’d gotten the final rejection back, I knew the first book was crap needed work.

But I had this amazing idea for a contemporary young adult fantasy. Dragons, erupting volcanoes, teenagers with special powers and the end of the world at stake. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Or maybe the question should be: who wants to read it?

I’m still waiting for the rest of the rejection letters to roll in, but I think I finally figured something out.

What I Can Sell

As much as I love young adult fantasy, I’m not going to break into publishing with those stories.

No, I’m not giving up. I’m not copping out.

I’m being realistic.

Young adult is the fastest growing and most competitive fictional market right now. And fantasy has to have a certain bent to even get a look.

Sadly, dragons aren’t it.

Dragons: so TEN years ago.

Short fiction: I have sold three short stories. Two of them are sweet romances written to a new adult audience. The third is a young adult dark biblical retelling.

Bible studies: These are independently published by me, and I don’t price them to make a bundle. However, I do have a small following who enjoys my quirky teaching style.

Writing that Grows Me

In the end, writing the biblical fictionalization and Bible study books challenge me as a person. They require a slightly different writing voice and tons more research than most of my fiction stories.

In short, they stretch me out of my comfort zone.

And if people will buy them, I should produce them.

My Big Dream

During November, I wrote the first book in another young adult series.

I know. I know. I never learn.

What’s different about this book? It uses the short story I’ve already sold as a springboard into my post-apocalyptic universe. I continued the story of Scisco Irons, a sixteen-year-old blacksmith who dreams of discovering the technology destroyed in his homeland during the Demon Wars. And escaping the backward region he’s lived in forever.

I introduced a snarky teenage girl with major trust issues. Added in a “mentor” character with a pile of his own secrets.

The best part, I pitched the outline to the publisher of the short story (at her request, because she liked the world introduced in that story and saw potential for the story to continue). She wants to see it.

I have a professional editor who will help me content edit the first draft and polish the second draft to get it ready for submission. She’s employed by the publisher but has offered to help me because she believes in my story.

The dream:

I submit this manuscript in May 2016. The publisher adores it and offers me a three-book contract (that will finish out the series as I’ve envisioned it).

During our conversations, I mention my four other manuscripts. She asks for outlines of each of them. Why not, right? It doesn’t cost her anything.

She sees the potential in all of them and offers me another contract on Doomsday Dragons and asks to see the first Gates of Astrya book before deciding on that series.

Of course, the Age of Apocalypse series will appear in bookstores everywhere during 2017-2019. I’ll have an enormous fan base. They’ll scarf up anything I write.

The rest is J.K. Rowling’s history.

Where I’m Going Now

As often as I’ve been accused of being a dreamer, I’ll argue that point. I’m a realist. Yes, I’m a realistic optimist, but I know better than to float on the puffy vapors of “hope it happens.”

I’m going forward. I have a novella releasing in a collection with nine other independent romance writers in February. And I’ll say this, romance rolls from my heart onto the page. Nearly effortlessly (and then the editing torture begins).

All those years of sneaking my mom’s romance novels into my room to read when I should have been sleeping are paying off. Unfortunately, those royalties aren’t buying too much at the moment.

I have another study book in the works. There are ideas for sequels to Reflections from a Pondering Heart, but I’m not convinced that’s where I should invest my time.

My biggest project idea is a grief memoir/Bible study combination. I’ve got this baby outlined, and I’ve started amassing research. Am I ready to tap into my personal losses for the memoir vignettes? That’s the big unknown.

I’ll keep subbing short stories to anthologies – romance, young adult and fantasy. My crazy ideas will find their way into the spiral notebook I have dedicated for them.

Writing is more than my passion or my dream. I’m convinced it’s my calling.

And I’m saying “yes.” Even if I’m unsure of the direction it will take me.

Any advice? What would you like to read from me?

The Artisans by Julie Reece: a MUST read

Sometimes I avoid reading a book because I think the subject matter is wrong for me. That was the case with The Artisans by Julie Reece. It was reviewed as a ghost story.

First of all, horror movies are not for me. I will have nightmares for weeks. The same goes for scary books (because my imagination is every bit as good as Hollywood’s best special effects).

So even though I heard great things about this book – and interact with the author in an online critique group, I avoided reading it.

Then it went on sale for $3. Yep. I couldn’t avoid the impulse purchase.

And after finishing the book this morning, I’m not at all sad to have caved in to my baser need for books. I only wish I had snapped the thing up when it first released into print.

Summary

Raven’s stepfather’s in trouble. His alcohol problem has led to a gambling debt and getting on the nerves of the powerful Maddox family. To get him the help he needs, she agrees to live with and work for Gideon Maddox.

She thinks she’d in danger from Gideon, but she soon discovers things are not all peaceful and serene in the enormous mansion where she lives and works. While her heart fights attraction to the complex master of the house, ghosts from the past make her fight for her very life.

This is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a paranormal twist.

My Review

I’m not a fan of ghost stories. Did I already say that? Sorry. To reiterate, I don’t read ghost stories. If they don’t make me have nightmares, they make my eyes roll in disbelief.

I read to immerse myself in a different world. Why would I read something that constantly kicked me back to reality because it was unbelievable?

That is not Ms. Reece’s ghost story. She has a plausible explanation and resolution for the spirits haunting the pages of this young adult romance.

I adore Raven. From the first page to the last, I wanted her to succeed. Her backstory was complex and well-constructed and her personality had just enough contradiction to keep her believable.

I loved the banter between Raven and her two friends. Although they were minor characters, her friends were well-drawn. No cardboard cutouts here.

Although Ms. Reece did a fine job making Gideon likable, I still had trouble seeing past his veneer. Of course, that works for the first part of the story. He won me over when he chased after Raven. Seriously, I hate when guys let the girl of their dreams walk out.

The magical element – why Raven could see and hear the ghosts when no one else could – was never explained. This bummed me out a little, but didn’t keep me from loving the story.

After all, “The Force was a lot more interesting before it was explained.”

My Recommendation

If you love quirky teenage heroines, you want to read this story. If you like a little bit of ghost with your romance, you’ll find this book worth every moment you spend in its pages.

Hot guys? Yep, that’s here. Laughter and tears? Another yes. A book that’s hard to put down? Oh, yeah.

If you’re an adult, you’ll enjoy this book. The mystery and intrigue will keep you wondering. There isn’t too much angst and only a couple hot-and-heavy kisses.

Don’t let the description of “Southern gothic horror” deter you if you’re not a big paranormal fan. Is it creepy in spots? Most definitely. And I refused to read it after dark on principle.

But I could hardly wait for it to be daytime so I could start reading it again. Worth five stars in my book.