Blog Tour, Excerpt, and Reviews: In Truth and Ashes by Nicole Luiken

in truth and ashes nicole luikenthrough fire and seaGoodreads/Amazon/UK/CA/B&N/iBooks/Kobo/Entangled

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There is one True World, and then there are the four mirror worlds: fire, water, air, and stone. And each has a magic of its own…

In the Fire World, seventeen-year-old Leah is the illegitimate daughter of one of the realm’s most powerful lords. She’s hot-blooded—able to communicate with the tempestuous volcano gods. But she has another gift…the ability to Call her twin “Otherselves” on other worlds.

Holly resides in the Water World—our world. When she’s called by Leah from the Fire World, she nearly drowns. Suddenly the world Holly thought she knew is filled with secrets, magic…and deadly peril.

For a malevolent force seeks to destroy the mirror worlds. And as Leah and Holly are swept up in the tides of chaos and danger, they have only one choice to save the mirror worlds—to shatter every rule they’ve ever known…

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled. 

Through Fire and Sea is a multidimensional thrill ride. Worlds based on elements, traveling through mirrors, and meeting “otherselves” through the glass, Through Fire & Sea is a gripping epic that’s as refreshing as it is inventive.

PROS:

  • The world-building is astounding. Everything is intricately plotted and flows seamlessly together. The diversity between worlds is genius. Details in abundance. You can picture everything from scenery to secondary characters. The worlds are drastically different, it almost feels as though you’re travelling through time. It’s adventurous, lively, and keeps you guessing from start to finish.
  • There’s an interesting blend of creation myth, gods & goddesses, and science fiction. The volcanoes are temperamental and have distinct personalities. Personification at its finest. The link between elemental power and emotions is spell-binding. When the volcano mourns, lava flows and sulfur suffocates, when the sea weeps, waves rise to tsunami level. Just wow. 
  • Leah is a feisty, fiery beauty. She’s inquisitive, calculating, and emotional. She risks everything and puts lives on the line to save the world and at the same time, she’s got a beautiful, compassionate heart. Leah yearns for the affection of her father, the duke, but as a bastard she’s used as a pawn in a political game that leaves her emotions reeling. Leah struggles to balance what is right with pleasing her father. Leah is smart, she pushes through her insecurities to hone in on her skills and is pretty BA at everything she does. Leah embraces her hot-blooded nature and uses her elemental skills to battle the ultimate villain, a destroyer of worlds. Even though Leah has several reasons to give up, she pushes through and comes out stronger. 
  • Gideon and Leah are perfect together. Their interactions are natural and full of understanding. Leah tames his hysteria and Gideon calms her soul. It’s sweet and heartwarming watching their love grow. 
  • Holly feels a magnetic pull towards Ryan. Their connection is instantaneous and full of heat. Holly refuses to give up on Ryan despite everything they go through with Ryan’s rising stardom. Their relationship is imperfect and incredibly real (apart from the paranormal aspects).
  • Qeturah is a force to be reckoned with, a serious villain. She’s consistently steps ahead of everyone and her end game is a mystery that is impossible to crack. Qeturah wants to wreak havoc on the universe and she makes a good job of it. 
  • THAT ENDING. I will be waiting not so patiently for the next book because holy hot mess. The world is in danger and those most equipped for saving it are in no position to do so. 

CONS:

  • Secondary characters were unlikable and fairly predictable. Both worlds had a snotty mean girl and absentee parents that were forgettable. 
  • Holly’s character lacked the development Leah’s had. Her likes and dislikes fell into the background for what was expected of her and how the world perceived her. I wondered what Holly wanted to be, her dreams and aspirations. It seemed everything was related to someone else’s desires or happiness. 

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There is one True World, and then there are the four Mirror Worlds: Fire, Water, Air, and Stone.

Audrey and Dorotea are “otherselves”—twin copies of each other who live on different Mirror Worlds.

On Air, Audrey has the ability to communicate with wind spirits. As war looms, she’s torn between loyalty to her country and her feelings for a roguish phantom who may be a dangerous spy.

Blackouts and earthquakes threaten the few remaining humans on Stone, who have been forced to live underground. To save her injured sister, Dorotea breaks taboo and releases an imprisoned gargoyle. Brooding, sensitive Jasper makes her wonder if gargoyles aretruly traitors, as she’s always been told.

Unbeknownst to them, they both face the same enemy—an evil sorceress bent on shattering all the Mirror Worlds.

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled Teen

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You like strong female protagonists. 
  • You’re into world building.
  • Books that span genres excite you.

Amid Wind and Stone is a brilliant continuation of the Otherselves series. At first, I was a little hesitant to dive in because I loved the first two girls in Through Fire and Sea so much but OMG was I surprised. The romance feels as fresh as the quirky storyline and creative as the characters. 

PROS:

  • Audrey.Man that little minx. I love her to pieces. She’s ballsy and a total feminist. She loathes the female expectations and pressures of her upper-class life. Think Victorian/Steampunk. If you’re a Jane Austen fan, forget about it, this girl is PERFECT for you. Audrey is brave, fierce; she doesn’t let anything get in the way of her passions and dreams. She gets in trouble, sneaks around, takes risks, and does what so many are scared to, she lives, fully and vibrantly. She jumps through the air and rides the wind, she dresses up as boys to join the military, I mean, seriously, what is not to love about her? On top of that, she is cheeky, funny, and full of heart. 
  • Phantom.Playful, flirty, forward, and oh-so-swoon-worthy. He’s an invisible knight in shining armor with questionable behavior and secrets. There’s something about him that’s dangerous and thrilling that will make you fall hard. The vulnerable side…is there anything sexier than a guy who opens up and puts his fears and heart on full display? 
  • Phantom and Audrey. Sweet, teasing, addictive flirtation. I wanted whole books on this relationship.
  • Dorotea’s story is a little different but provocative, pervasive, and so relevant. Dorotea’s story is about indoctrination, the teachings of our parents, and how prejudice is spread without knowing the full story. Dorotea has powerful beliefs but they’re rooted in lies. This makes her mean sometimes and hardheaded. At first, it’s hard to get behind her, she seems needlessly cruel but once you understand her reasoning, it’s easy to see where that’s coming from. Underneath the prejudice is just a girl who loves beyond everything. She grows on you.
  • Jasper.Holy hotness. Think Beauty and the Beast. The way he burrows through rock and transforms. Give me more of that. Jasper challenges Dorotea, makes her step outside herself and it’s like a revelation.❤

CONS:

  • The climax was a bit of a letdown. For so long (if you’ve been eagerly anticipating revenge since book 1 like I have) we’ve waited for the reckoning, the moment when Qeturah would have to answer for her devious behavior and horrendous crimes and when it happens, it was abrupt and unsettling but something…I guess the processing by Leah and the others, wasn’t where it could have been to pack that emotional sucker punch. 
  • The feels weren’t as pronounced as in book 1. I didn’t have the same emotional connection to characters. 

in truth and ashesGoodreads/B&N/Amazon/Kobo

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What she can’t remember could ruin her life.

The Mirror Worlds are but dull reflections of the True World, where magic and technology blend together…

On the True World, Belinda Loring has known from childhood that she must Bond with the son of another noble First Family. Uniting the families ensures hers will hold onto its powerful position, and so she’s always pushed down the tender feelings she has for her best friend—gorgeous, steadfast Demian, who isn’t noble.

But when the ceremonial magic goes disastrously wrong, Belinda becomes a national disgrace. Scorned as Broken, she turns to Demian for help getting revenge on the man who ruined her: the radical Malachi.

But the seeds of Malachi’s murderous plans lie buried in Belinda’s past, in the dark days of her kidnapping—a period of which she has no memory. And Demian may hold the key to recovering all that she’s lost—and saving the worlds.

review3.5/5 Stars 

*** I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled Teen

In Truth and Ashes is full of unexpected twists, complex relationships, and an epic fantasy world. With memorable characters, romance, and multiple worlds to keep you ensnared, it’s a magical and exhilarating read. 

PROS:

  • I love Leah and Gideon’s story arc. From the beginning, I was completed consumed by their ill-fated romance. It’s complex, dangerous, full of fire and respect and learning each other. And the adrenaline. It’s fantastic. When I saw Leah pop up in this book, I prayed she’s have a huge roll and she does. Her love story gets even more emotional and chaotic. My heart broke for her. You can feel every ounce of her sadness and desperation, her pain…it’s brutal and beautiful and OMG I needed them to be okay because if they weren’t there was no such thing as happy endings. That scene at the end, the last one with Leah, be still my little black heart because heavy, dreamy sigh. Whoever said they didn’t like long-winded, straight from the heart confessions, is full of it. 
  • Belinda is not at all what I expected. From the previous books I assumed she was this snobby, cold, robot of a girl, but that is so not the case. Her back story is epic and mysterious and terrifying. She struggles with fierce loyalty to her family and trusting her heart. She’s brave, takes huge risks, and will do anything to save the world. She’s a full on heroine who is far from perfect, takes a few hits, and makes terrible assumptions, but she definitely redeems herself. 
  • Demian and Belinda. It’s sweet, playful, and who doesn’t love a sexy artist who is dynamite with his hands? His past is dark, complicated, and full of secrets that make him both endearing and magnetic. And those kisses ❤
  • The ending was shocking. I never saw it coming. I never expected it to end the way it did and it’s insanely creative the way it’s done. 

CONS:

  • If you hoping to see Holly, Audrey, and Dorotea, there parts are so fleeting and minimal that you almost forget they were there at all. I missed Audrey’s daredevil attitude and her saucy wit. I yearned for Dorotea’s heart and determination. I felt nostalgic and at a loss at some points without them. On the plus side, that means they were totally wonderful characters in the previous books and left a great impression, plus we finally got to see Belinda. On the minus side, it felt like the story was incomplete without them. As a final book (or what reads like one at least) I expected a more solid goodbye and it felt rushed to the conclusion. 
  • The fight seemed to go on forever because there were so many non-fights that dragged and were resolved in a too-simple fashion. Yes, people have elemental powers, but the struggle…until the last bit of the book (for Belinda and Demian) was a little soft. 

authornicole-luikenWebsite/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads

Nicole Luiken wrote her first book at age 13 and never stopped.

She is the author of nine published books for young adults, including Violet Eyes and its sequels Silver Eyes and Angels Eyes, Frost, Unlocking the Doors, The Catalyst, Escape to the Overworld, Dreamfire and the sequel Dreamline. Through Fire & Sea, book one of Otherselves, and Amid Wind & Stone, book two of Otherselves, are her most recent releases. She also has an adult thriller, Running on Instinct, under the name N.M. Luiken and a fantasy romance series, Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith.

Nicole lives with her family in Edmonton, AB. It is physically impossible for her to go more than three days in a row without writing.

Excerpt

Nightmare

Fire World

Leah wept in her sleep. And dreamed:

She was a dragon, floating on an orange sea of molten rock. Far above her was a hole like an eye, the Volcano Lord Thunderhead’s caldera. At first, the heat felt pleasant, soaking away the lingering chill of death, but then it increased in intensity as the magma invaded every nerve and lit them each on fire. She screamed through her ruined throat and convulsed—

Leah bolted upright and found herself in the Aerie, the top room of Qeturah’s Tower. She must have fallen asleep on Gideon’s bed.

She was shaking, her heart trying to beat its way out of her chest. Her skin felt clammy. What a terrible, awful nightmare.

One whole side of the Aerie opened out onto a large natural stone balcony. Outside, the sun silhouetted Thunderhead’s steep-sided black cone against the red sky. Thin trails of lava trickled down his sides as he erupted again.

The Volcano Lord grieved for the loss of his son, just as Leah grieved.

Leah had met Gideon here in this very room. He’d been feverish, and she’d been spying for her father, Duke Ruben, trying to prove that the evil sorceress Qeturah had something to do with the dragon attacks on their valley. Only, by the time she found out Gideon shape-shifted into the dragon at night and his mother Qeturah used a magic amulet to control him, Leah had already fallen in love with Gideon, and turning him in had been unthinkable.

But in the end, she’d been unable to protect him from her father. Duke Ruben’s army had shot the dragon down with a huge crossbow, and Gideon had died. And his death had signaled the beginning of the end of Fire World.

Gideon’s father, Thunderhead, had erupted and killed Duke Ruben and three other dukes. Their deaths, in turn, had sent the Volcano Lords linked to them into a mindless fury, and they’d all exploded. Those not killed in the eruptions would likely starve in the next year, since falling ash had blighted all the crops.

And Leah could barely bring herself to care.

Gideon was dead. Duke Ruben, her father, whom she’d alternately feared and wanted to please, was dead. Likely so were Jehannah, her half-sister, and her mother, Beulah. Her childhood home was destroyed.

Leah had spent all her time since the cataclysm struggling to stop Qeturah. But now Qeturah was dead, too. And Leah had no purpose.

Oh, the war hadn’t ended: Qeturah had had a mentor named Malachi who had supported her. He was still out there, no doubt still scheming to shatter the other Mirror Worlds, but Leah had run out of energy to fight. Let someone else take him down, someone from the True World.

Malachi wasn’t her problem.

Leah would just stay here with her memories. Alone.

Only the thought of the nightmare returning kept her from sleeping the rest of the day away.

Other Stops on the Tour 

January 2nd

For Love of Books4 – Spotlight Post

YA Book Madness – Review Book #3

January 3rd

RoloPoloBookBlog – Spotlight Post

January 4th

Queekie Girl Reads – Guest Post

January 5th

YaReads – Author Interview

Sizzling Hot Books – Review Book #1

January 6th

The Book Beacon – Review Book #3

Pearls Cast Before A McPig – Spotlight Post

January 7th
Just One More Chapter – Spotlight Post

January 8th

Roxy’s Book Reviews – Spotlight Post

January 9th

Mythical Books – Author Interview

The Crafty Engineer’s Bookshelf- Review Book #3- Review Book #3

January 10th

Captivated Reading – Guest Post

January 11th

Crossroad Reviews – Spotlight Post

Splashes Into Books – Review Book #3

January 12th

YA Book Divas – Guest Post

January 13th

Sleeps on Tables – Spotlight Post

Home of Writing – Review Book #2

January 14th

Verbosity Reviews – Review Book #1

January 15th

Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Author Interview

Magical reading, 

Jordan

 

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Release Blitz & Giveaway: Mayan Blood-Theresa Delayne

Their empires have fallen, but their mythology lives on…
Zanya Coreandero is a seventeen-year-old orphan with only a single friend and no hope for a normal life. Diagnosed with anxiety and night terrors, no one believes her cuts and bruises are a result of an evil entity, and not a brutal case of self-harm.
 
With the only home she’s ever known being the isolated institution—where breakfast is a handful of medications, the psychiatry sessions are mandatory, and her every move is watched—the only relief is her red-haired roommate named Tara, who’s more like a little sister than her best friend.
 
Free will is strong, but destiny is stronger.

When Zanya is kidnapped, she meets a group of gifted Mayan descendants, each with a unique ability. Gone from a nameless castaway to the only hope of mankind, Zanya is forced to make a grueling decision: bond with an enchanted stone and save humanity from rising underworld forces, or watch helplessly as Earth falls victim to a familiar dark deity from her dreams. This time, he’s playing for keeps.

A wicked secret hides behind a handsome face…
 
 
When Arwan, a dark-eyed timebender, takes interest in Zanya’s mission, it’s unclear if his intention is to help, or if he’s on a hell-bent mission for revenge. Wary of falling for another guy with major secrets and a tainted past, Zanya fights to keep her distance. If only her heart gave her a choice.
Excerpt 

Chapter OneZanya

“Let’s get the formalities over with before we begin.” Dean Nelson shifted through paperwork scattered across the table. “Patient identification number A692. Age, seventeen. Mother, unknown. Father, unknown. No living relatives.” He rubbed his bearded chin. “Hmm, that’s unfortunate. Name, Zzz…” He flipped back through the case file.

Zanya watched everything from her special spot—center stage in the nearly vacant evaluation room, in a single wooden chair—as he butchered her name, yet again. She should have been used to it, considering every dean who had come and gone did exactly the same thing. “Zan-yuh,” she said, “with a short a.”

“Ah.” He nodded. “Right. Well, now that we’ve been introduced, let’s continue. Nice to meet you, Zanya. I’m Dean Nelson.” He smiled, though the deepening creases in his forehead made it seem painful. “How are you feeling today?”

She glanced at him between layers of chestnut brown hair draped along her high-set cheekbones. Squinting, she and blinked under the burning lights, then turned her gaze to the floor. “I’m okay.”

“Just okay?”

She shrugged. Why the hell was he acting like he cared, anyway? He was just one in a long line of interim administrators. The stress of working with a school full of insane teenagers every day ran most of them off pretty quick. This one had that eager zeal—all too happy to pick her brain—and he probably wouldn’t last long either.

Dean Nelson set down the papers. “I know I’m new here, but in order to conduct your evaluation, you need to answer my questions.”

The two board members flanking him shifted in their seats. Zanya’s breath sped up. Damn it. If she didn’t want to be sedated again, she’d have to keep the panic attack at bay.

She shut her eyes and played a classical melody in her mind. Ludwig van Beethoven’s violin concert in D major, Op. 61—Larghetto. That piece always slowed her heart rate. She imagined the sounds pouring out of her violin as she caressed imaginary strings.

Dean Nelson cleared his throat, jarring her out of the moment. Annoyance tugged at her, but at least she could breathe again.

She lifted her chin. “I said I’m fine.”

“How are you managing the panic attacks? Have you had any recently?”

“Yeah. I had one last night…and the night before.”

“They’re becoming more frequent?”

If he had bothered to actually read her case file instead of just skimming through it, he’d already know the answer. “Not really. Pretty much the same.”

“And how are you sleeping?”

“Like usual.”

“It says in your case file you suffer from night terrors. Are you still experiencing them?”

Zanya shrugged.

Dean Nelson frowned. “Okay. Let’s talk a little about The Man. Is he still hurting you?”

The mention of him made the hairs on Zanya’s arms twitch. She pulled her sleeve over the blue and yellow bruise that encompassed her wrist. This team of board-certified, renowned medical professionals didn’t know the first thing about what could be found in her dreams.

They claimed she suffered from severe anxiety and night terrors. They had no idea. The knots in her stomach tightened. She balled her fists, but stayed quiet.

After all, what could she say? If she told them the man in her dreams hurt her almost every night, they would continue to believe she was delusional. If she lied and told them she hurt herself, it would only confirm their misdiagnosis. She’d just tell the truth and prove both theories correct.

“He’s always in my dreams.” Bits and pieces of her nightmares reeled in her head. “He’s always waiting for me.”

“But you do understand that a dream cannot hurt you? Dreams are simply images, feelings, and sensations that collect and pool involuntarily in your mind during sleep. They can seem very real, but once you wake up, they’re gone. A simple figment of your imagination.”

Zanya fidgeted nervously with the sleeve of her uniform, twisting a seam that had come undone.

“And dreams certainly don’t leave bruises or any of the other alarming wounds Nurse Faber has found on you over the years.” He flashed photos taken during Zanya’s countless visits to the hospital.

“I guess.” She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, forgetting about the fresh gash on the back of her hand—evidence of last night’s brawl with a demon of some sort.

Nurse Faber leaned forward in her seat and peered at the swollen wound. “Where did you get that cut? I haven’t seen that, and it needs to be treated—maybe with stitches.”

Dean Nelson scribbled a note on her evaluation paper. “Perhaps we should continue this patient’s assessment once we get an updated report of her physical condition.”

The nurse stood and waved Zanya to her feet. “Come on, honey. Let’s get that taken care of.”

* * *

The stone sat high on the altar’s peak, as it always did, glowing like a beacon in the darkness. Its whispers echoed in Zanya’s mind, guiding her blind footsteps. It drew her in with some invisible tether—a connection she couldn’t explain.

She never understood why she searched for it.

Longed for it.

Needed it.

With each careful step, her bare feet padded up the cool, smooth steps. Then another source of light flickered on, casting a soft glow around her.

The light churned out from her chest, pulsing with hues of blue and white—colors of recognition. The stone and the illumination in her chest seemed to be connected; only flickering to life when they were close.

At the temple’s base, she steadily ascended the narrow steps until she reached the peak. Zanya cupped the stone in both hands and lifted it from its perch. Orbs of light twinkled over its smooth surface.

Searing pain tore through her belly. She gasped and jolted forward, then wrapped shaky fingers around a blade protruding from her gut. Scarlet liquid slowly seeped through her shirt. The stone dropped from her hand and thudded to the altar, rolling down one step at a time until it reached the bottom. The blade was yanked out of her, though she couldn’t see by whom. No matter. It was always the same person who watched her die.

Zanya stumbled down the steps while gripping her belly. When she reached the bottom of the temple, she fell to her knees and curled into a fetal position, the pain more than she could bear. The edges of her vision became fuzzy. Darkness closed in while she stared helplessly at the stone lying just feet away.

Warmth cradled her body. Death was warm. She’d always heard passing would be peaceful, like slipping into a pool of serenity. With her cheek rested against the cold ground, hot liquid saturated the dry, cracked dirt.

A slithering creature slinked toward her, its eyes as black as onyx. Thousands of legs stuck into the hard soil, pushing its armored body forward.

It was not a creature Zanya would soon forget, as the last time she encountered it, it had killed her—again.

The Man had to be lingering somewhere nearby. His bitter scent whirled through the air. His footsteps grew louder as he approached.

Not again. She lay like a suffocating fish, gulping in her final breaths.

Zanya jerked awake and shot up in bed, gasping for air. She clawed at her chest where a thin mark etched her skin. It burned, as if someone had pressed a cattle brand to the delicate curve between her breasts. She moaned, willing away the pain. It never took longer than a half hour, but it hurt, and this time, it nearly made her cry.

Zanya glanced at a clock mounted on the far wall. It read three thirty. She wouldn’t be able to sleep for the rest of the night. She lay back down in bed and rolled onto her side, searching for a hint that Tara was awake. Only a few feet separated their beds. Tara was the only person in the world who understood her.

Tara shifted under the covers, and Zanya caught a glimpse of her face—her angelic, freckled cheeks, rosy and flawless, under dark auburn lashes. Tara yanked the thin blanket over her shoulders and under her chin.

Zanya whispered, “Are you awake?” After a moment of silence, she sighed and exercised her only option—to stare at the ceiling and wait for the morning community alarm.

At six o’clock sharp, the bell sounded. Tara blinked open her eyes. With a sleepy stare, her lips tightened and she let out a deep sigh. “Another nightmare?”

“What else is new? That’s the third one this week.” Zanya rolled on her side to face her. “At least it wasn’t accompanied by a midnight panic attack this time.” Zanya touched the now faded mark on her chest. “They’re getting worse.”

“Any real-life damage?”

Zanya shook her head. “Not this time.”

The day unwound as usual. Secular studies followed by a mid-day group therapy session, journal entry writing, and their afternoon dose of medications.

Zanya found her last class of the day and ascended to the fourth row in the music room. Miss Lippard must have been sick. A sub had written his name on the stand-alone chalkboard in the front of the class: Dr. Fitzgerald.

Zanya slouched in her chair, pinching her violin case between her feet.

Great, another doctor. He’d be watching the students during class, assessing, and trying to pick out which students needed more psych work. “Patient B843 has the beginning symptoms of early onset Diogenes Syndrome, and patient A119 seems to be suffering from clinical depression, brought on by early childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect.” Blah, blah, blah. Ugh, she hated doctors.

Tara skipped in, holding her clarinet; an instrument she wasn’t particularly good at. All students were required to take up an instrument. Apparently, music helped to express emotion and heal physiological damage.

Tara sat beside her. “Hey.” She tucked a curl behind her ear. “New teacher?”

“Just a sub. Miss Lippard is out sick. I needed to ask her a question about our sheet music.” Zanya leaned forward and propped her elbows on her knees. “I guess I’ll have to wait.”

“Yeah. The sub probably doesn’t know a thing about music, anyway.”

“Well, just try not to be,” she waved her hand in the air, “yourself. I don’t want him picking your brain.”

Tara grinned. “Afraid he’ll discover what a genius I am?”

“More like what a—”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence.” Tara puckered her lips, then smiled.

When the bell rang, Dr. Fitzgerald made his way to the center of the room. A tailed sports coat hugged his tall, lean frame. His skin—like toasted caramel—complemented his dark brown eyes. He was handsome for a middle-aged man, and she tried to imagine what he might have looked like twenty years ago.

He locked his hands behind his back and cleared his throat. Zanya sat up straight as the room fell silent.

“Good morning.” He had a charming Spanish accent. “As I’m sure you have already noticed, your teacher is out for the day. Everyone please get your books and arrange into groups.” He pointed to several areas of the large music room as he spoke. “Strings in the upper right corner, percussion in the lower left, and winds in the center. I understand from Miss Lippard’s instructions the advanced strings students are working on a piece, Canon Pachelbel in D Major. Those students, please break off to the lower right corner. Everyone else, practice your sheet music.”

Violin in hand, Zanya descended the stairs, the soles of her shoes catching on the Berber carpet along the way. Canon. She rolled her eyes. If the other advanced students practiced more often, they’d be on to something more challenging by now.

She reached the right corner of the room and took her place at first chair. With the rest of her group ready, she tucked the chinrest in place.

Her fingers relaxed, and she held the bow with balance rather than tension. Her pinkie pinched against the frog, loosely cradling it in her hand, her index finger draped over the top.

Just holding the sleek wooden tool made her breath rhythmic. It was a rare feeling—peace. But with her violin cradled against her and the familiar strings calling out, all her fears melted away.

She drew in a cleansing breath and began to play. The notes pulsed through her body, feeding life to parts of her soul that lay dormant, hiding from the realities of life.

She became lost in the melody while each note stirred her heart and awoke her senses. The darkness, the pain, it all stepped back, overpowered by the light and energy of the notes. Music was always there to fill the space in her heart that she had locked away.

With one final pass over the strings, the vibrato left her with a feeling of drunken satisfaction. Her muscles relaxed as she exhaled and opened her eyes, then lowered her bow to her lap.

Dr. Fitzgerald watched her intently. His gaze did not waver as she sat motionless, returning his stare. He peered into her. Through her.

The bell rang, and she slinked out of the room, avoiding eye contact with the sub.

* * *

Weekends weren’t much fun at the institution. To kill time, Zanya sometimes listened to Tara’s stories about what normal kids did on Friday nights. Parties, bonfires, sleepovers. Teenage girls painting each other’s toenails, their polished feet later dressed in fuzzy slippers, and blushed cheeks that accompanied stories about a boy and a kiss.

None of that happened here. And although religion was only taught for educational purposes in their institution, Zanya often felt like she was stuck in purgatory. Long, terrifying nights. Tedious, drawn-out days that always ended in the same way with lights-out in her assigned bed.

Someday it would be different. Someday, things would change.

“Lights out in fifteen minutes,” the dorm mother announced, shuffling through the sleeping quarters. Her shoes squeaked against the tile with every step. “Let’s go, ladies.” She clapped to gain everyone’s attention. “Get changed and into bed.”

Zanya snatched her pajamas and slipped into the bathroom. When she came out, all but the backlights were switched off. The soft glow cast over the room painted tall shadows of headboards on the walls.

After settling in bed, she braced herself on the edge and leaned over to inspect the dark space beneath her mattress.

“There’s nothing under there,” Tara whispered.

Zanya glanced up. “I know.”

“No, you don’t, or you wouldn’t be checking.”

Zanya’s attention returned to the dark space. If Tara only knew what could be hiding in the darkness, though it was best she didn’t. Zanya was glad her friend wasn’t taunted by the same horrifying images she was every night. It gave her someone to talk to—someone who wasn’t equally paranoid, and who made her feel normal.

A shudder crawled up her arms and down her spine. “There’s no harm in checking.”

“There’s plenty of harm, Zanya.” Tara played with the corner of her pillow. “The board will never place you with a foster family if you don’t show them you’re getting better.”

“Who said I want a foster family? Besides, I have you. You’re all the family I need.” Zanya slipped under the over-starched sheets.

The lights shut off and the room fell silent. Zanya closed her eyes, wishing, praying, that just for one night she would sleep peacefully.

The fire alarm sounded. Bright red-and-white emergency lights cast color over the room. The screaming sirens sent every student shooting out of bed. Staff members flooded the sleeping quarters. They rounded up the children and shouted instructions to form a line and exit the building.

Zanya jumped up and followed Tara to the back door and down a ramp, which lead them outside into the bitterly cold night. She hugged herself as breath flowed from her lips in clouds of white.

Emergency vehicles sped down the gravel driveway. They skidded to a halt, and a team of firemen loaded with gear poured out of the trucks.

While Zanya watched the men in uniform, a strange sensation tugged at the back of her mind. Her eyes narrowed. Shivers quaked her muscles. She blinked and huddled against Tara as a stretcher was unfolded from an ambulance.

“Oh, crap!” Tara’s eyes grew wide. “Do you think someone got hurt? I hope it’s not another suicide attempt. I swear to God…”

As Tara rambled on, Zanya couldn’t shake the feeling someone was watching her. She glanced over her shoulder at the tree line of the forest—aspen and beech trees sprinkled between a thick blanket of fallen leaves. But there was nothing. No one.

She turned back around, the freezing temperatures biting at her toes. She hadn’t thought to put on her slippers, and the soles of her feet were paying a heavy price. She balanced on one foot, then the other.

“I mean, if every kid here who hated their lives tried to kill themselves, we’d have nobody left,” Tara continued to rant. “Just two more years and I’m so outta here.”

A whisper, from what seemed like far away, caressed Zanya’s ears. She glanced over her shoulder at the tops of frail trees swaying under the moonlight. Leaves danced across the soggy ground, blown by gusts of chilled wind. She rubbed her arms.

Maybe it was just the breeze. Through the branches, it could sound like a whisper. Just as she prepared to chalk it up to fatigue and chaos, she spotted a tiny shadow lurking between the trees.

Zanya gripped her arms tighter. She blinked once, twice… Her eyes watered from the cold. When she blinked again, the shadow was gone. She spun back around, determined to ignore any more noises.

The image of the tiny shadow pulsed in her mind. Another whisper. Zanya’s heart raced. The urge to look again grew stronger, and when she finally collected the nerve, she turned around one last time.

The figure stood motionless just beyond the first row of trees.

Not just a figure—a girl in a thin, white nightgown with her hands hanging at her sides.

Zanya tugged on Tara’s sleeve. “Turn around.”

Tara’s attention was solely focused on the broad-chested firemen. Zanya tugged harder. “Turn around and look at this.”

Tara finally obeyed and followed Zanya’s attention toward the trees. She gasped. “What the hell is she doing out there?”

Zanya shook her head. Without saying another word, Tara stalked toward the woods.

“Wha… Where are you going?” Zanya’s voice cracked, her gaze flickering between Tara and the child.

“To get her.” When Zanya didn’t reply, Tara stopped and spun to face her. “Well? Are you coming?”

“Am I coming?” The eerie night suddenly consumed her. “I can’t. You know I hate the dark. And there could be…” She frantically searched her mind for some epic excuse to keep Tara from trekking forward. “Wolves.”

Wolves? That was the best she could come up with?

Tara snorted. “It’s fine, Zanya. I’ll go alone. It’ll only take a sec.”

Zanya shifted her weight as Tara walked toward the shadowed figure standing unnervingly motionless in the woods.

“I…I…” Zanya forced her feet to uproot from the ground and rushed to catch up. “I’ll come with you.”

Tara grinned. “You have to admit, being eaten by a hungry pack of wolves is still better than being stuck in this loony bin by yourself.”

Zanya’s eyes widened. She’d made the wolf thing up, but what if…

Tara rested her hand on her hip and cocked her head. “Oh, come on. I’m just kidding.”

“Definitely not funny.”

“Sorry.” She grabbed Zanya’s hand. “Now come on. The longer we wait, the more likely it is she’ll catch frostbite. Poor thing is out here in nothing but that dress.”

Zanya walked over the damp leaves, pushing muddy water through the moss, between the cracks of her toes.

Now just yards away, Tara reached out to the young girl. “Hey. Come here. We’ll take you back.”

A gust of wind blew, carrying the child’s blonde waves off her shoulders. Her bright green eyes seemed to glow in the silky moonlight.

Tara dropped her arms and sighed. “I guess she likes freezing her ass off in the middle of the night.” When Tara stepped closer, the child darted into the woods. Tara scoffed. “I never want to have kids.”

Zanya blinked at the maze of shuddering trees. “Let’s get out of here.” She stepped back. “Now.”

“We have to get that girl. If she stays out here overnight, she’ll freeze to death.”

Zanya couldn’t feel the cold anymore. Whether that was good or bad, she wasn’t sure.

The little girl carved a deeper path into the forest.

Tara shook her head. “Something’s not right. It’s like she’s running away from us.”

“Maybe she’s one of the more critical psych patients.”

“I don’t know, maybe.” Tara cupped her fingers over her nose and mouth to keep them warm while she searched their surroundings. “You’re right. We shouldn’t have come out here alone. Let’s go back.”

A tiny girl, no older than eight or nine years old, stepped into sight. Her nightgown was damp and smeared with mud.

Tara’s eyebrows crooked downward. “There you are. Now we can get out of here.” Tara held out her hand to the child, who only stared at her reaching fingers.

The child stepped to the side and slid her small hand into Zanya’s. The little girl’s bare feet was covered in pine needles.

“Come on,” Zanya said. “I’ll carry you back. You must be freezing out here with no shoes.” She would know, being in the exact same situation. She lifted the small-framed child to her hip, and the girl wound her legs around Zanya’s body. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

She didn’t reply.

“She’s probably too freaked out to talk,” Tara said. “Let’s just get back.”

Zanya did her best to shield the child from the wind as she followed Tara back toward the orphanage. She hummed the tune to Romance softly in the little girl’s ear. The melody had always calmed her. Maybe it would do the same for the kid.

The girl’s cheek pressed against hers. “Thank you for rescuing me,” she whispered in a tiny, angelic voice.

Her humming must have worked. “You’re welcome, sweetie.”

The girl’s blonde hair bobbed up and down with a subtle nod. “Everything will be fine, Zanya. Do not be afraid.”

Zanya smiled softly. “I’m not scared. Are you?”

“No.” The little girl hugged her tighter. The stars twinkled above them blurred into streaks. Her head spun and her knees buckled. She collapsed onto the damp forest floor.

Trapped in a thick mental fog, she fought to break through. Her eyes fluttered open and closed. Snapshots of what was happening around her filtered through the cerebral haze.

The girl stood over her, staring down with a sweet face and bright eyes. A tiny smile curled the corners of her delicate lips.

Another voice. It was stronger. Deeper. Who… God, she was so tired. She would give anything to be able to just relax her mind and drift off.

A mixture of voices and a shout from Tara sprouted a renewed resolve, and Zanya pushed against the desire to sleep with all her might. When she managed to force open her eyes, a dark-haired man leaned over her. Tara crept toward him with a small log clenched in her hand.

Heavy lids drew over her eyes.

A loud thud followed by scrambling movements forced Zanya’s eyes open one last time.

The man struggled to hold a flailing Tara under his arm like a bag of potatoes while rubbing the back of his head. Was he talking to himself? The child seemed to be paying attention, but didn’t reply. Still, while Tara kicked and punched, he continued to hold what seemed like a one-sided conversation.

A second later he dropped Tara to the ground with a shout, and lifted his shirt to find a crescent bite wound over his ribs.

The young girl loomed over Tara; then, silence.

teaser
auth
A long-time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of fiction.
Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and has been repeatedly guilt-tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries—not to mention an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. Wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.
giveawayEnter for your chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card or silver Mayan inspired necklace pendant (US ONLY)
Keep reading, 
Jordan

Review: Gilded-Christina Farley

16173250Goodreads/Amazon/Barnes & Noble (PB)

“He presses me to him, and my arms wrap around his neck, loving how perfect his body feels. His lips kiss my forehead, breath hot as fire, and drag along my cheeks to my lips. I’m lost. Between earth and sky. It’s as if we’ve entered our own realm that belongs only to the two of us. I could live here forever.”

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Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next.

But that’s not Jae’s only problem.

There’s also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae’s been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she’s always been looking for.

-via Goodreads

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3.5/5 Stars

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  • The descriptions of the demi-gods and magical creatures are to die for. They’re vibrant, majestic portraits that truly capture the personality of each creature, whether it be the trickster or the sociopathic obsessions of a demi-God jilted at the altar one too many times.
  • As someone who has never had the pleasure of reading Korean folklore or mythology, these stories were breathtakingly beautiful and full of the twisted darkness reminiscent of great Grimm interpretations. The weird leprechaun character was creepy and sadistic, definitely a perfectly warped and terrifying antagonist. These secondary creatures were all memorable and will be the stars of many a haunting dream.
  • The detail was astounding. It was like being teleported to Korea. Between the physical descriptions of the buildings and nature to the clothing worn by the people, mannerisms, and colloquialisms, this is not only fun to read but educational. You get a bold and in-depth journey into Korean culture. 
  • Spirit World and the scenes set in Haemosu’s palace were dizzying. The shift between worlds forced the reader to mesh reality with myth and to fully grasp Jae’s fear and confusion over her heritage and what’s happening to her.
  • Jae is determined, confident, and aware of her power to dominate and protect herself. Jae refuses to feel weak, she’s worked so hard in martial arts to become a master at fighting and in archery to be easily scared. Jae is challenged and battered by her destiny and the terrible uncertainty of her future. When everything seems hopeless, Jae will make the ultimate sacrifice for her loved ones, risk everything and never forget her heritage. Jae feels so indebted and connected to her female predecessors and she really comes to respect just how hard their trials were. Jae goes up against a mighty foe, one that has plagued her family for centuries, she recognizes her fear but she never lets it beat her.
  • Marc is a nice guy, genuine and flirty. He knows just what to say to make Jae smile and brighten up her day but what makes him irresistable is that he believes her and has faith in her when no one else does. When Jae feels like she’s going crazy and her world is falling apart, Marc is there to lean on and offer encouragement. Their time together is sweet and passionate.

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  • Some sections were really slow and a little predictable. 
  • Jae’s jealousy and animosity towards Min is annoying and cliché. It frustrates me to no end that when another girl approaches a guy that the protagonist was too cowardly to flirt with and that suddenly that other girl is the enemy or slut. Speak up or get over it.
  • I would have liked to have seen more of Jae’s school and social like, especially her relationship with Michelle and Lily. When Jae is so upset later in the book about being distant with Michelle, there’s not enough of a background to get the full emotional chaos she’s feeling.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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Happy reading,

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Release Day Blitz & #Giveaway: Blood and Gold-T.G. Ayer


Title: Blood & Gold (The Hand of Kali #2)
Author: T.G. Ayer
Release Date: 31st August 2014
Add to Goodreads
Purchase Link: Amazon US

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As Maya perfects her Fire skills she finds there is more to being the Hand of Kali than just wielding Fire.

A surprising summons to Mount Kailas takes Maya on a journey to meet the Lord of the Hindu Pantheon – Lord Shiva himself. This time the God’s request may not be so easy to fulfill.

Maya and her friends must flee the demons and the ruthless killers on their trail to retrieve the golden bow of Lord Rama.

Can Maya get the bow back in time, and also save a certain demon king in the process?

 
 
 
Fire & Shadow (The Hand of Kali #1)
Release Date: 23rd July 2013
 

Normal people sneak out to a party and have fun. Maya Rao ends the evening by incinerating the guy who attacks her.

Nik Lucas, sexy, new in town and totally forbidden, happens to walk in on her. Normal guys would run for the hills. Nik knows a whole lot more than he’s telling.

Maya doesn’t believe the gods are real, doesn’t waste her time with mere mythology. But when gods, demons and hellhounds become the new normal and wielding fire becomes her new skill, she must decide what it is she really believes.

Can Maya accept that normal is something she will never be because it isn’t normal to be …

The Hand of Kali.

A new Paranormal coming of age series delving in the fantasy and magic of Hindu mythology and its plethora of gods, demons, legends & mythology.

 

 

 

I have been a writer from the time I was old enough to recognize that reading
was a doorway into my imagination. Poetry was my first foray into the art of
the written word. Books were my best friends, my escape, my haven. I am
essentially a recluse but this part of my personality is impossible to practice
given I have two teenage daughters, who are actually my friends, my tea-makers,
my confidantes… I am blessed with a husband who has left me for golf. It’s a
fair trade as I have left him for writing. We are both passionate supporters of
each others loves – it works wonderfully…

 
My heart is currently broken in two. One half
resides in South Africa where my old roots still remain, and my heart still
longs for the endless beaches and the smell of moist soil after a summer
downpour. My love for Ma Afrika will never fade. The other half of me has been
transplanted to the Land of the Long White Cloud. The land of the Taniwha,
beautiful Maraes, and volcanoes. The land of green, pure beauty that truly
inspires. And because I am so torn between these two lands – I shall forever
remain cross-eyed.
 
 
Presented by
 
 
Happy reading, 
 
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Review Blitz: Honey Queen-Christina Mercer

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decf5b0f-0fec-4a10-acf0-08a9d4616562Goodreads/Amazon/Barnes & Noble Paperback

*** I received this book in exchange for an honest review via Mark My Words Publicity.

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Love is honey sweet, but it comes with a fatal sting . . .

Melaina Maris needs wings to fly the gap between loving Sam and her family’s ancient curse that forces carnal love and then kills the male lovers. She won’t let the same fate that killed her father befall another. She refuses to allow her goddess-created bloodline to continue. But there’s no easy way out, especially after the curse turns her into the Honey Queen—savior to honey bees—intensifying her charms.

To help her fulfill the curse’s demands in the least harmful way, her grandmother takes her to mate with terminally ill Boyd. But Boyd’s gay. And an expert in mythology. Instead of having sex, Melaina learns how she might summon the goddess who created the first ancestor bee-charmer and cursed her bloodline. Melaina’s magic—tears to save honey bees from endangerment—could be enough to persuade the goddess to end the curse. But an unexpected discovery soon changes that hope, spinning Melaina into a swarm of love, friendship and death.

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5/5 Stars

Honey Queen is one of those reads that hooks you from the very first line, it’s un-put-downable, magnetic, and wickedly addictive. Honey Queen has everything going for it, a dominant female lead, an explosive love story, a disastrous curse, and  a mythology that’s incredibly unique. 

PROS:

  • From the very first page, I was hooked. Honey Queen sucks you in and surrounds you with mystery, intrigue, and a vibrant story that makes you question everything you know about mythology. This world, though set in contemporary time is coupled with the breathtaking descriptions of the past reign of gods and goddesses and the beautiful peace of farm life. 
  • The history of Aera and the honey bee curse is so rich and packed with detail that it’s easy to fall prisoner to the legend. I was enchanted and so emotionally invested, every ounce of pain and suffering Melania felt, I was right there with her. Melaina’s horrible position moved me and made me question what I would do if faced with the same choices. At its core, this is a book about fate vs choice, about the remarkable resilience of humanity and the power of one decision to change the world. 
  • Melaina is awe-inspiring, she’s the kind of woman that any girl should aspire to be. She fights her fate tooth and nail and refuses to accept the dire circumstances she’s been put into. The legacy of pain is not something she’s willing to put up with and she risks everything for what she believes is right. Melaina has an overflowing heart, her connection to the honey bees is like a mother to her children, like an older sister to her younger siblings. Her emotions fuel and rejuvenate the bees, everything she has, her entire being is poured into this relationship. It’s almost poetic. 
  • The science behind how bees work, their lifestyles, functions, and how the colonies work was very obviously researched and it was fascinating to get an insider look at the honeycombing process and how this paralleled Melaina’s own life.
  • The carnal desire, the pheromones, and Melaina’s struggle to procreate is palpable. Every moment of interaction is a fight to resist the temptation. The heat  of attraction is raw, animalistic, and full of raging passion. The scenes between Sam and Melaina are HOT. What makes this so perfectly written is the true love between them. Melaina’s race to defeat the curse is mainly to protect her beloved, she’s willing to give her life, forsake love, and displease the goddess to save Sam. Her plight is heartbreaking yet full of hope. Melaina’s determination keeps spirits up even when it seems there’s no happy ending on the horizon.
  • Boyd is marvellous. He’s made of knowledge and compassion. His friendship with Melaina is pure and instantaneous, he’s exactly the sort of stable, reasonable friend she needs to push her in the right direction. His insight into mythology is critical and every moment with him is a learning experience.
  • Aera is portrayed as a sinister, malicious fiend who lacks courage and is too lazy to take on her responsibility. She’s an evil dictator who, in a fit of anger punished her bloodline for all of eternity. However, there’s subtle hints that suggest a woman who might have ulterior, positive motives. So many questions and secrets are presented about Aera and there’s much more to be said about her. I’d love to read her story.

CONS:

  • Something about the cover detracts from the magical, whimsical aspects of this story. The rich mythology and the fierce connection to the bees in not captured in the cover. The bees seem out of place, like an afterthought when they’re central to the plot. While the story is essentially a love story there’s an erotic element that suggests something closer to New Adult than YA with this cover. 
  • The entire story I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Aera to appear and it was a definite let down that she never shows up. There’s so much mystery surrounding her character and Aera’s reasoning behind the curse might have added to the closure that the end of the story brings. 

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Facebook / Twitter

Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She took Writer’s Best in Show at the 2012 SCBWI CA North/Central Regional Conference, was a Semi-Finalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakout Novel Award Contest, and won Honorable Mention in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self Published Book Awards. She holds a degree in Accounting from California State University at Sacramento and a Certificate in Herbal Studies from Clayton College of Natural Health. Christina resides in Northern California enjoying life with her husband, two sons, four dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.

To learn more about her at her writing visit: www.christinamercer.com

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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Author Spotlight: Kristen Day

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I am a southern belle at heart with a crazy streak that desperately tries to escape at every opportunity. I love all things nostalgic, rustic, and quirky. I’ve been told I see the world through rose-colored glasses, but I prefer to think of them as kaleidoscope glasses – swirling and morphing reality into something I can digest (who hasn’t pretended those pasty lima beans were really kiwi strawberry jelly beans?).

I am the author of the DAUGHTERS OF THE SEA series, which includes FORSAKEN, AWAKEN, CHOSEN, HEARKEN, PROVEN (2014).I love all books, but really enjoy writing young adult, paranormal romances. I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember. My first published work was my poem RED in second grade (you guessed it – it was a poem about the color red – life altering, I know) that won me 5 gold stars and a spot in my elementary school’s poetry book. That’s when my addiction to the written word officially began. I was the only kid in fifth grade that actually enjoyed diagramming sentences. Go ahead and laugh – its okay.

When I’m not writing I’m making jewelry, painting, drinking sweet tea, watching the discovery channel, or going on random adventures in the mountains of North Carolina with my amazing husband.

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10519191_10152492784246311_9034369593574094807_oGoodreads/Amazon/Barnes & Noble

Once you’ve been touched by darkness, it never leaves you…

Abandoned by her parents as an infant; seventeen year old Hannah spent her childhood wading through countless foster families until being adopted by the Whitmans three years ago.

Unfortunately, Atlanta’s high society wasn’t quite ready for Hannah…or the strange events that plague her.
Chilling visions of murder, unexplained hallucinations, and a dark, mysterious guy who haunts her nightmares all culminate to set in motion a journey of self-discovery that will challenge everything she’s ever believed; not to mention her sanity.

Sent to live at The House of Lorelei on Bald Head Island, NC for ‘kids like her’, Hannah quickly realizes things are not what they seem. Her fellow ‘disturbed’ teens are actually the descendents of mythical Sea Gods and Goddesses. And so is she.

But when Finn, the ghost from her dreams, appears in the flesh; her nightmares become reality and her dark visions begin coming true. Inexplicably drawn to him, she can’t deny the dangerous hold he has on her heart. The deadly secrets he harbors will ultimately test her courage and push the boundaries of her love.

She must decide if she is ready to embrace the ancient legend she is prophesized to be a part of. The fate of all the descendents will forever depend upon it.

through-windshield-glass-kristen-day-paperback-cover-artGoodreads/Amazon

Alice is dead but her life isn’t over. After battling her way through a hallway full of doors leading to experiences she never had in life and past an insidious demon she finds herself in a place called Beyond. A sort of middle ground between life and death. There she meets Michael, a handsome World War II casualty, and Leigh, a pint-sized murder victim who tell her that Beyond and all its inhabitants are in danger and she may be their only hope. Alice must come to accept the circumstances of her death, move past the experiences she had in the hallway, and ultimately face the same demon who nearly kept her trapped in limbo forever.

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Goodreads/Blog/Twitter/Amazon/Facebook

I hope you all enjoyed learning about this wonderful author and those who have never been exposed to Kristen’s work have found something new and exciting to add to your TBR 🙂 

Happy reading, 

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ARC Review: Cursed-Lizzy Ford

4/5 Stars

Cursed (Voodoo Nights, #1)-Lizzy Ford* 

I received this ARC through a giveaway and there was no obligation to review but because I loved Cursed, I felt compelled to review

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It would not be long before he learned of his role in what was to come. Soon, he’d meet her, the white zombie that plagued Marie’s dreams. A beautiful girl in her early twenties with blonde hair and light eyes. An un-dead girl whose spirit was returned to her even after her body was gone. Her siren song would draw the Red Man and doom everyone around her.

***

She looked up, her eyes even prettier up close than he expected. They were as flawless as the rest of her. For a moment, they were frozen in their own world.

* Cursed is available on MARCH 6  Add to Goodreads

Ever since the last season of American Horror Story: Coven, I’ve been a little absorbed with witches, but haven’t found anything quite as dark or twisted as Coven. Cursed opens with a familiar sinister feeling; filled with haunting images and shadowed cemeteries, from the first clutch of a gris gris bag to the prayers to Papa Legba, I was lost to this world. I needed to know more. For those AHS: Coven fans, there are some familiar characters referenced throughout but nowhere near how they were presented on AHS. When I learned that Papa Legba was the sacred god of a specific family, I was terrified. Papa Legba is more than a trickster, he’s a monster on AHS. This really was a more authentic look into the role of Papa Legba as a deity who is not solely devoted to evil and bartering in vicious sacrifice and curses, nor is he the seriously creepy psycho he was marketed as on AHS. That is not to say that this book is not scary, exactly the opposite. Cursed is the kind of scary that straddles a fine line between reality and nightmare and that’s what makes it so unsettling. From blood magic to zombies to serial killers, Cursed is just enough horror to keep you guessing even to the last pages.

Plot: New Orléans is notoriously known for its mischief and as a magical place shrouded in mystery and whispered superstitions, but what’s on the surface is nothing compared to what’s going on behind the scenes. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, a band of voodoo gang members patrol the streets, keeping people in line when everything threatened to fall to chaos after the natural disaster. Rene, his brother Jax and the rest of the tattooed thugs lurk in the shadows, always watching with fists at the ready and a bokor at their disposal. Black magic is a price that must sometimes be paid to protect their territory. There are three main family lines that coexist in New Orléans, all tampering in some form of voodoo and with a powerful ability to communicate with the spirits. Usually, between their insights, magic, and unity they can work together to face whatever challenges their authority but nothing can prepare them for the hellish nightmare the spirits warn of, one of an apocalyptic massacre of epic proportions that all started with a curse cast hundreds of years before. There’s a serial killer roaming the alleyways, leaving dead bodies in his wake, a red cloaked man who seems to bleed from the shadows and disappear in a flash, and a prophecy that warns of a white zombie, rotting flesh and destruction for all. Meanwhile, Jayden, descendant of one of these houses, just wants a normal life as a popular teenager but the weight of the world seems to rest on his shoulders. A star football player, Jayden comes from a family that couldn’t be more opposite. His father is what he calls a “black Steve Jobs” and his mother’s side practices voodoo as a religion that they’re more than firmly invested in, it’s their lifestyle. When Jayden meets Adrienne, it’s like his whole world comes crashing down on him. From her sultry, intoxicating voice to her fragile, bird-like appearance, Jayden experiences an attraction unlike anything he’s ever felt before. He doesn’t know who she is, he doesn’t care, all he knows is that he wants to be close to her. Adrienne has just moved in with her father in the bad ward of New Orléans. Devastated after her sister’s murder, Adrienne is on the hunt to learn anything about what happened. Working at a local psychic shop reading tarot cards and with the hopes of gaining a record deal, Adrienne is ecstatic about her new life at a rich school with amazing possibilities to advance her career. What she doesn’t count on is the social mockery at her status as a scholarship student. Already she feels like an outcast, that is, until she runs into Jayden, literally. Adrienne is floored by his charismatic, glowing smile. She wants to get to know him but is too shy to push. Luckily for her Jayden is persistent. When strange things start to happen and the voodoo community is in an uproar over a hundreds of years old prophecy that may star Jayden, Rene, Jax, and Adrienne, battle lines are drawn and it’s a race to the death to figure out how to stop an evil so strong it could destroy them all.

The Red Man is coming …

Five years after her sister disappeared, seventeen-year-old Adrienne finds the strength to return to her father’s home in New Orléans. But soon after she arrives, the mark of a curse appears on her, leaving her worried. Will she be the next victim of a four-hundred-year old family curse … the next to be claimed by a serial killer roaming the back alleys of the city?

The day before his senior year begins, Jayden is given a skeleton key passed down through his family for generations — a gruesome reminder of how his ancestors betrayed their own people and sold them into slavery. He doesn’t believe in the curse the key allegedly bears and puts it away with the intention of forgetting about its message. Until he meets Adrienne, a girl he’s compelled to for more reasons than her beauty.

He’s not the only one who notices her. A man in a skeleton mask and a voodoo gang member are also drawn to Adrienne. One is determined to protect her. The other intends to mislead her. Haunted by the mythical Red Man, all are connected to the ancient curse.

Can they overcome their misgivings about one another and prevent the dark prophecy looming over them? Or will they be lured away from each other by evil’s siren song?

-via Goodreads

PROS:

  • The cover is beautiful. At first glance, the splash of crimson on her lips, the stark contrast of the black and white lettering, the pale skin, and the hair that almost fades out into nothingness suggests a ghostly wickedness that is only accentuated by the vise-like grip of the snake. The girl at once seems in bondage but the soft way her hands caress her face makes the snake more of a cherished pet. The flowered necklace adds an innocence that directly contradicts the pop of cleavage and the red lips. There’s an amazing duality, one that carries both darkness and light and really presents an internal battle projected onto the outer image.
  • The prejudice and racism in the south over two people of different colored skin dating is discussed. This is the first time I’ve read a YA book where race relationships in this context have been addressed and it’s a subject that I think should be further explored. While this is not the main theme of the book, as an underlying sort of thematic antagonist, it creates the feeling of a forbidden relationship while rocking the foundation of these prejudices by how strongly the protagonists fight for their relationship yet walk a fine line because they don’t want to anger their families. It’s a direct conflict that both characters war with even though they think such racial signifiers are a thing of the past.
  • The love stories rival Romeo and Juliet. They’re complete and utter travesties of epic proportions. They escape time and space and leave their mark on generations. The consequences are so much worse and a burden that each family must carry.
  • Adrienne is an angel. While she gets angry at the life she’s destined for, about the cruel way people treat her as a scholarship student at her fancy school, and the disastrous travesty of her sister’s murder, she is like a tiny, fierce and fluffy kitten. She fights, she’s not afraid to speak up, and she has an innocent faith in people that is remarkable given her past. She has an adorable accent, an endearing way about her, and is so stubborn and confused that it’s easy to imagine her stomping her feet in frustration. One thing Adrienne is not is patient. She’s rash, she’ll walk into pitch black alleyways, and verbally fight like a banshee. The girl is a trooper.
  • Jayden. He’s kind, funny, and just a tad sexual. His attraction to Adrienne is enough to make him crazy and risk everything he believes in. Jayden had to grow up way too fast and has taken care of his family for as long as he can remember, he has to succeed, he can’t take a break, everyone is counting on him and he’s flailing. Jayden puts up with a lot and yet, he maintains his composure even though his spirit is slowly suffocating. Adrienne lifts his heart and allows him peace. Their interactions are fluid, fueled by sensual tension.
  • Rene. Mmm, mmm, mmm. Rene. From the way her carries himself, like a warrior of solid muscle and cat-like reflexes, who prowls but has a compassionate, protective side. Rene is sexy, in that smooth, rough, and raspy way. He doesn’t know where he belongs, his place in the voodoo gang is questionable, at least to him, and he’s torn between who he wants to be and what’s expected of him. These dueling personalities are present throughout the book as Rene fights himself. Sometimes he’s rough around the edges, pushy, and a bit of a jerk but he exudes that bad boy vibe that is just so tempting.
  • Chemistry. It’s everywhere. It’s in smoldering glances, warm touches, and heated embraces. There’s a flirtatious, suggestive banter between the couples that will keep you toasty and hunkering for more interaction.
  • The climax is so unexpected. There are several surprises that are impossible to guess and so shocking that you may have to pause and reevaluate your feelings towards specific characters.
  • The story is sick, sinister, and in many ways a very creepy love story. The grotesque imagery, the slimy looks, the way characters are one with the shadows, the violence, the gore, and the rampant, psychotic serial killings make this a chilling, gripping read. If you like horror films, ghost stories, disturbing images, and elaborate plots, this is for you.
  • LIzzy Ford obviously did a lot of research while writing this book. From the rituals, to the specific herbs in tea, to the set up of alters, and even to communing with the spirits, everything was meticulously detailed.
  • These families take dysfunctional to a whole new level. It’s a train wreck that is both amusing and sad.
  • This actually, in a way, read like a retelling of Pride and Prejudice but with voodoo and serial killings.

CONS:

  • The story is a little slow to start. You will be confused. You will feel frustrated by all the seemingly random tidbits and clues but all questions will be answered. The beginning of the book is somewhat convoluted. So much happens in so few pages that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with information that won’t make sense until you’re well into the book. This is one of those stories where even the smallest details count. Pay attention, it all becomes clear.
  • Towards the end of the book Adrienne gets a teensy bit whiny and while it’s understandable, she quickly gets irritating.
  • There’s a scene that completely blew my mind. There’s a scene where one of the secondary characters gets surrounded and attacked in an alleyway. From the way it’s described, at first it sounds like it was a really bad beating yet, a couple pages later it’s no big deal and there’s little talk of it. Frankly, I feel like this scene should have been discussed more and not taken so lightly. Also, the ear hacking scene.

If you liked any of the following, you’d enjoy this:

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Pleasant reading,

-BB