Friday, January 31, 2014

January 2014 Wrap Up


Can you believe it's already going to be February? Wow! I'm still trying to wrap my head around writing 2014 when I write out a date. Ha! Time flies, especially when you have a busy reading month. Let's see how I did!

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(YA) = Young Adult / (NA) = New Adult / (A) = Adult / (MG) = Middle Grade
** Books read in previous months


Books read and reviewed in January:
(A) From the Outback by Ann B. Harrison - Review (3/5)**
(YA) The One You Feed by James Drummond - Review (3/5)
(YA) Uninvited by Sophie Jordan - Review (3/5)** 
(YA) Bold by Julia Swift & Andrew Landis - Review (3/5)
(YA) If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch - Review (5/5)
(A) Silent City by Alex Segura - Review (2/5)
(YA) Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott - Review (4/5)** 
(YA) The Obsidian Pebble by Rhys A. Jones - Review (3/5)
(YA) A Life of Death by Weston Kincade - Review (4/5)
(A) What the Dark Brings by Edward Lorn - Review (5/5)
(YA) Fuse (Pure #2) by Julianna Baggott - Review (5/5)
(NA) The Secret of Isobel Key by Jen McConnel - Review (3/5)
(NA) Eversea (Eversea #1) by Natasha Boyd - Review (4/5)

Total Reviewed: 13
Towards month totals: 10


Books read but not reviewed:
(YA) Kiss & Sell by Brittany Geragotelis (2/5)
(YA) Angelfall by Susan Ee (4/5)
(A) Nightcrawlers by Tim Curran (4/5)
(YA) Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2) by Richelle Mead (3/5)
(YA) Robot Pony by Madeline Claire Franklin (5/5)
(YA) Burn (Pure #3) by Julianna Baggott (5/5)

Total books read in November: 16
Goal Progress: 16 out of 125 (13% finished)

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Participating in the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon really helped with my reading this month!

Favorite book of the month? Both books from the Pure trilogy win this month, hands down. Both Fuse and Burn blew me away! I'm so sad to see these characters go.

How did you do this month?


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: Eversea

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Eversea
   * Series: Eversea #1
Author: Natasha Boyd
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Paperback; 358
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Source: Xpresso Book Tours
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Genre: Romance

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy quick, fun reads with well built characters.

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
An orphaned, small-town, southern girl, held hostage by responsibility and self-doubt.

A Hollywood A-list mega-star, on the run from his latest scandal and with everything to lose.

A chance encounter that leads to an unlikely arrangement and epic love affair that will change them both forever.

When his co-star and real-life girlfriend is caught cheating on him with her new director, A-list hottie, Jack Eversea, finds himself in sleepy Butler Cove, South Carolina. Jack hopes the sultry southern heat in this tiny coastal Lowcountry town will hide him not only from the tabloids and his cheating girlfriend, but his increasingly vapid life and the people who run it. He doesn’t count on meeting Keri Ann Butler.

Keri Ann has relied on herself so long, dealing with her family’s death and the responsibilities of keeping up her family's historic mansion, that boys and certainly the meager offering of eligible boys in Butler Cove, have never figured into her equation. But fate has other plans. Suddenly face to face with the man who played the movie role of her favorite fictional character, Jack has Keri Ann yearning for everything she has previously avoided ... and Jack must decide whether this funny, sassy girl is worth changing his life for, before his mistakes catch up to him.

Ah, Butler Cove. We meet Keri Ann Butler at a part of her life where things are in flux. She's lost her parents, inherited a home that is slowly falling apart, and doesn't know where her future is headed. I have to admit that I wholeheartedly loved Keri Ann. She's bright, funny, and the perfect amount of gutsy. In fact, I actually liked her a lot more than I thought I would. There's a big stigma in this book about her being a virgin, and I can't deny that I was worried she'd be naive. She might be slightly, but let me tell you that she's lovable too.

As for Jack, he took me a little while longer to warm up to. From the beginning, he appeared a bit arrogant. I guess that's to be expected if you're a movie star? However he soon grew to be someone I enjoyed reading about. Keri Ann definitely brought out the best in him. If you're a fan of characters who are sarcastic and witty, he's your man. I loved the chemistry and banter between Jack and Keri Ann. Call me girly, but it made me feel all swoony inside.

Admittedly there is a bit of insta-love in this book. Don't worry, it's bearable. I was able to overlook it simply because these two were so sweet with one another.  In fact, I didn't even really mind that the storyline was a little predictable. That's saying a lot, because I normally get easily annoyed by that. Instead, I was too busy gushing over the sweetness that pours off these pages. Best of all? This was an extremely quick and easy read. I ate it up like candy. Need a book to break things up? Try this.

There is a cliffhanger! I'll admit that I'm now absolutely ready to dive into the sequel. More Jack, more Keri Ann, more sweetness! Have I used that word enough? Grab some chocolates, kick back in your favorite comfy clothes, and dive into Eversea. You won't regret it!




 

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: The Secret of Isobel Key


Media Type: Ebook
Title: The Secret of Isobel Key
Author: Jen McConnel
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: Ebook; 220
Release Date: December 2013
Source: Xpresso Book Tours
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Content Screening: Nothing of note

HDB Rating: 3 Key to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy shorter stories that span continents and time periods.

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Fresh out of college, she’s unemployed and unsure of herself. But when she gets the chance to escape to Scotland with her best friend, it could be the answer to her quest for self-discovery. The trip is not at all what she expected, especially when her tour guide turns out to be the dreamy historian Brian, and together they embark on a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.

They set out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but Lou isn’t prepared for the knowledge that awaits her. She must face her own demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.

Flashing between seventeenth century Scotland and a contemporary romance, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.

Louisa Ann is our present day main character. Recently graduated from a University in Boston, she's at a turning point in her life. She's unemployed and frustrated. When she's offered the opportunity to travel to Scotland, she jumps right in. Who wouldn't? This is where things get interesting. Louisa finds out that she's somehow linked to Isobel Key. That there are secrets that she doesn't know about her past. Told in alternating points of view, we see the story from both time periods as the mystery unravels.

Here's the big problem I had. I thought that the chapters from Isobel's point of view were fascinating. They take the reader back to the 1700's, during the witch trials, which is a period I'm particularly interested in. I was enthralled by Isobel's story line as she had to fight the persecution surrounding her. I honestly would have been thrilled to read a whole novel about this topic. The history in these chapters was beautifully woven into fiction that kept me reading.

Louisa's chapters though? They felt boring to me. She did touristy things, pined over hot tour guides, and all the while had to put up with Tammy. In fact, I think it was Louisa and Tammy's friendship that didn't feel real to me. I constantly felt like Tammy was only put there to keep Louisa from feeling totally confident about herself. Even when she was on the right track, she second guessed herself. It got on my nerves. In my opinion, this book would have been more effective if Louisa was just by herself on this adventure.

Things did pick up towards the middle. As Louisa discovered more about the past, I found myself more invested in the story. Still, I never really felt like I was fully in love with Louisa's story line. It got to the point where I'd skim her chapters to get back to reading about Isobel. So points go to The Secret of Isobel Key for being about a topic I'm invested in. Points also go to this book for being well researched. Other than that, I still feel rather lackluster towards it. So, three star rating it is.




 

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Dreaded DNF: And...Discuss!




And...Discuss is a way for me to share a topic I've been thinking about, ramble about it for a bit, and then open the floor to your opinions. An open forum for bookaholics! What I love most about these posts is seeing your comments, so share away :).


This time the topic is...



I've mildly touched on this subject here before, but it's been a few years and my opinions have changed!


It used to be that I couldn't bring myself to mark a book as DNF. I'd struggle through, even when I wasn't enjoying myself. Why? I can't really say! I think it was mostly that I felt like I'd already committed myself to finishing once I started a book.

Now? I'll drop a book after 20 pages if I'm not feeling it. Sometimes I set them aside for later. We all know that genre overload exists, so sometimes it's not the book's fault. However a lot of times I'm just over it. Why spend my time on something that I don't love if I can just move on to something that I do?


Now it's your turn!

Shout it out! What do you think about marking a book as DNF? Do you keep reading even when you're not feeling it?


Friday, January 24, 2014

Audio Book Review: Fuse (Pure #2)


Media Type: Audio Book
Title: Fuse
   *Series: Pure #2'
Author: Julianna Baggott
Narrators: Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, Pierce Cravens
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Format: MP3 Download
Duration: 16 hours and 44 minutes
Source: Library Download
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Content Screening: Violence

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Everyone.

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
We want our son returned. This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.

To be a Pure is to be perfect, untouched by Detonations that scarred the earth and sheltered inside the paradise that is the Dome. But Partridge escaped to the outside world, where Wretches struggle to survive amid smoke and ash. Now, at the command of Partridge’s father, the Dome is unleashing nightmare after nightmare upon the Wretches in an effort to get him back.

At Partridge’s side is a small band of those united against the Dome: Lyda, the warrior; Bradwell, the revolutionary; El Capitan, the guard; and Pressia, the young woman whose mysterious past ties her to Partridge in way she never could have imagined. Long ago a plan was hatched that could mean the earth’s ultimate doom. Now only Partridge and Pressia can set things right.

To save millions of innocent lives, Partridge must risk his own by returning to the Dome and facing his most terrifying challenge. And Pressia, armed only with a mysterious Black Box, containing a set of cryptic clues, must travel to the very ends of the earth, to a place where no map can guide her. If they succeed, the world will be saved. But should they fail, humankind will pay a terrible price...
 
Narrator Review:
This book is read by multiple narrators, which is both a blessing and a curse. Let's be honest, you can't win them all!

Khristine Hvam is one of my favorite narrators. She has a way of reading so that you really feel every emotion that the character might. In this series she is Pressia, and I think she does a wonderful job of bringing her to life. 

Casey Holloway reads the part of Lyda, and I was less than in love with her reading. It's not that she was boring persay, but her voice is much more flat than Khristine Hvam's. 

Kevin T. Collins reads for El Capitan, and I honestly loved him! At first I thought it was a little over the top, but after a while I couldn't read the book without adding his voice for El Capitan. He's passionate about the character, and it shows.

Finally, Pierce Cravens reads the part of Partridge. I thought his voice was pretty spot on, but it was so quiet! I'm sure that's the fault of the audio book company, but each time it came to a chapter narrated by him I had to turn up the volume.


Audio Book Rating: 4/5 - Pretty good! I'd recommend it.

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Book Review: 
Well Julianna Baggott, you've done it. You've stepped right on up to the shelf that holds my absolute favorite authors. It's not often that I find a trilogy to fall in love with. It's even less often that I find the middle book of a trilogy to be utterly perfect. Fuse took everything I was pining for at the end of Pure and wove it into something beautiful. Something I wasn't expecting. Something I couldn't stop reading.

I felt at home as I reentered Pressia's shattered world. It was just as I remembered it. Everything in shambles. Ash floating on the air. Humans and animals fused in both beautiful and grotesque ways. This is one of my favorite dystopian worlds. The "After" is built with careful hands, making it easy to get lost in the story. The best part this time around? The scope is so much broader. I was treated to sprawling deserts, abandoned relics, and even woods that housed dark, squirmy things. Plus there is so much more about the dome in this installment. If you missed learning more about it the first time around, you'll be just as happy as I was.

The characters are also just as vivid as they were before. Each one unique, created with real emotions and flaws. I've never been able to choose a favorite character. Pressia, Bradwell, Partridge and El Capitan all have things about them that I both love and rage at. Trust me, if you're a character driven reader you'll easily fall into step with Pressia and her friends.

What sealed the deal for me was the plot. There have always been themes of morality and mortality in this series. In Fuse, however, lines start to blur. There is no longer a solid choice between good and evil. I loved that. I couldn't get enough of it. We all know the world isn't perfectly black and white. We all know that there are always hidden agendas and secrets behind every door. Baggott shows that in Fuse. She shows that no matter how the world changes, people will always be fundamentally human. Survival knows no bounds.

I could gush on and on. I honestly could. This trilogy has shattered my heart twice now with the cliffhanger endings, and yet I just keep coming back for more. Beautiful world building, wonderfully designed characters, and a quick moving plot. What more could you ask for? If you haven't already started the Pure series, I highly suggest you get on that. It's worth it.


  
Other books in the series:
Pure (Pure #1) 

 

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: What the Dark Brings


Media Type: Ebook
Title: What the Dark Brings
Author: Edward Lorn
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Kindle; 145
Release Date: October 17, 2012
Source: Author
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Genre: Horror / Short Story Collections

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a mix of stories full of both horror and hope.

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
Follow Edward Lorn out of the light and into the darkest recesses of his mind.

What the Dark Brings is a collection of 19 short stories, beginning with "Literary Sweets", a tender jaunt into Christmastime that proves all is not lost for one jaded gentleman. But by the time you reach the final tale, "Come to Jesus Meeting", the darkness is all encompassing.

Tales of hope, heartache, and horror abound.

Come find What the Dark Brings

***As an added bonus to new fans, Edward Lorn has included his mini-anthology, Three After, complete and uncut, at the end of this collection. A total of 22 tales of terror coming it at over 40,000 words.***

First off, a huge thank you to Edward Lorn for leading me back into the darkness. That might sound odd, but let me explain. Up until recently I've been so busy reading contemporary fiction that I forgot all about my love of reading horror. Watching it or reading it, I used to devour all things related to creepy occurrences and things that go bump in the night. This collection of stories reminded me of that love, and brought it back tenfold. So, thank you!

I'll admit this up front: I have a rather twisted sense of humor. Which is most likely why What the Dark Brings settled so well with me. That's not to say that all the stories felt this way. That's actually what I loved about this collection. Things start out rather tame, and almost sweet in a way. "Literary Sweets" felt almost like Poe to me, which is honestly the highest compliment I could give this story. Then they slowly get darker. You've been warned.

I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just give you some highlights. "Up on a Rooftop" was deliciously twisted, and one of my early favorites. "The Land of Her" blew me away. That's all you get from that. I adored "Sissy", although I never want to meet her. My absolute favorite though? That award goes to "That Thing about a Picture and a Thousand Words". Pardon my french, but HELL YES. That story just wouldn't let me go. In fact, I had my husband read it, then promptly had all my coworkers read it too. If I was going to keep thinking about it, so were they. Honorable mention also goes to "He Who Laughs Last". What can I say? It's infectious.

The point is that I was entertained the entire time I was lost in What the Dark Brings. Even the stories that didn't become my favorites still meshed perfectly into the whole. If you can entertain me, and creep me out in equal measures? You have my attention. Read this. Preferably in the dark. Once again a big thank you to Edward Lorn! I can't wait to descend further into the darkness.

 

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: A Life of Death


Media Type: Ebook
Title: A Life of Death
Author: Weston Kincade
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Serial Novel
Release Date: June 8, 2011
Source: Author
-----------------------------------------------------------
Content Screening: Violence; Adult Language

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who can deal with intense child abuse scenes, and other tough issues while reading.

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
Alex Drummond is a troubled high school senior with a checkered past, a broken home, and a surprising ability. When he touches items that murder victims held in their final moments, Alex relives the events in gruesome detail, seeing what they saw, thinking their thoughts, and even feeling what they felt. But who will believe a troubled teen, especially when the murders are so close to home and might reveal skeletons hidden for hundreds of years? Join Alex as he struggles to find his destiny, understand love, solve the mysterious murders within his small home town, and speak for victims who can no longer speak for themselves.

Reader be warned, A Life of Death is not an easy read. Weston Kincade doesn't pull any punches in this book. It deals with child abuse, murder, and the inevitability of death. Everything is presented in vivid color, against the stark background of what should be a normal childhood in a normal town. While the synopsis deals a lot with Alex's mysterious ability that isn't really the main focus of the book. Just be warned, most of this book isn't pretty.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at how polished and quick moving A Life of Death turned out to be. This was originally a serial novel, but I was given the opportunity to read it as a whole entity. On the one hand, reading it in its entirety was nice. Things flowed along, and I didn't have to wait to see things resolved. However I can also see the benefit of reading this as a serial novel. Some parts seemed overwritten to me, but I had to keep in mind that I wasn't waiting a week, or even two, between reading.

In terms of content, you've read my piece above. A balance between light-hearted moments and dark ones is attempted here, but there is still a lot of sadness built into Alex's life. It's hard not to feel for him. I saw Alex in my mind many times while reading. A boy who lost a father. A boy whose mother has checked out. A boy who has to deal with things that, by all rights, not even people twice his age should have to deal with. I became one with Alex as I read and, even when things felt bleak, I rooted for him. Credit where credit is due, but Kincade definitely knows how to write a character.

As for Alex's ability, I saw how it fit into the story and why it was necessary. I'm still not one hundred percent sold on it, but it did make things interesting. Watching as he relived other people's deaths was both eye-opening, and terrifying. I'm not sure he ever had the chance to do too much good with his ability, but it wasn't for lack of trying. It adds another layer to his life, and keeps things from being all about his problems at home. For that, I was appreciative.

I know I'm rambling, but it's tough not to. There is so much wrapped up in A Life of Death. So many minor things that, as a whole, contribute to make this a book that's honestly tough to put down. It is a bit long. It does deal with tough issues. However it's put together in a way that creates a need to know what happens next. Whether you read this as a serial novel, or as a whole, I suggest you give this a place on your reading list.

 

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (1/20/14)



http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/its-monday-what-are-you-reading-214/
Click above to join in the fun!

Last week was a quiet week of reading and reviewing. I took an impromptu vacation from work, and decided to spend my time doing other things besides being bookish :). It was awesome! Now I'm ready to dive back in!


 
I didn't finish all the books I set out to read last week, but I did make it through two! A Life of Death was surprisingly good. Definitely one that you don't want to judge by its cover. Nightcrawlers was extremely creepy. Perfect for the horror-driven mood that I was in. Loved it!
 
        

I'm still working on Fuse. The audio book is long and, although it's good, it's pretty slow going. I'm also reading The Zombie Cowboy Two-Step for a review this week. Slow start, but promising!

 
Next up is Red Rising by Pierce Brown! I've heard so many amazing things about this book, and I honestly can't wait to dive in. I only regret I haven't had the time to read it yet.

 
That's it for me! What are YOU reading this week? Don't forget to leave a link so I can go and visit you too!


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book Blitz + Giveaway: The Appeal of Evil by Pembroke Sinclair


Here's another book blitz for all of you, and this one looks amazing!

Katie wants to invest her heart and soul in love, but she may lose both to Hell.

Katie, a senior in high school, is torn between loving the “good” guy, her childhood friend Wes who makes promises he doesn’t keep and abandons her when she needs him the most, and the “bad” guy, the new kid at school Josh who is also a real demon from Hell. Katie wants someone who pays attention to her and puts her first, but what is she willing to give up to find him?
I have to say that Pembroke Sinclair's The Appeal of Evil drew me in with its cover. I mean, seriously, this is gorgeous! Add in a synopsis that sounds deliciously spicy, and I'm sold. Are you sold yet? If not, how about an excerpt for you?

Purchase:
Amazon

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Wes sailed across the room, through the opening, and slammed into the wall several yards away. Katie’s jaw fell open. What just happened? No one was that strong. Josh got to his feet and wiped the blood from his nose with the back of his hand. He stared at Wes, who sat on the floor, his head hanging on his chest.


Josh reached his right hand behind him, toward Katie. “C’mon. He won’t bother you for a while.”

Katie hesitated taking the offered hand. Her chest heaved with ragged breaths, her head swam with confusion. How did Josh throw Wes like that?

Josh looked over his shoulder at her. “You’re not going to get another chance. Are you coming or what?”

Katie shook herself out of her daze and grabbed Josh’s hand. The pair stepped over the mats and through the opening. They stopped in front of Wes. He looked up at them, his eyes taking a moment to focus. Katie glanced into the gym. Why wasn’t anyone else coming to help them? Surely they heard the fight, her screaming.

The door to the girl’s locker room opened in slow motion. Two of her classmates walked out, but their movement wasn’t normal. They, too, were stuck in slow motion.

“Hey!” she called to them and tried to run up to them, but Josh had a tight grip on her hand and wouldn’t let go.

“They can’t do anything to help you,” Josh said softly. “They don’t even know what’s happening.”

Katie’s breath caught in her throat. She turned back to Josh, eyes wide. “What is happening?” The words barely made it out of her mouth. Josh smiled.

“Let her go. I’m the one you want,” Wes croaked from the floor.

Josh knelt down in front of him, inadvertently pulling Katie closer since he wouldn’t let go of her hand. “You know I’m not going to do that. Besides, you never know how useful she’s actually going to be.”

Wes attempted to lunge for Josh, but his balance was off and he fell to one side. Josh laughed. Katie stared down the hall at the two girls as they headed to class. She reached for them, hoping they’d sense her desperation and turn around. Josh jerked on her hand, pulling her into his body. Her back was against his chest, and he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. His breath tickled her ear lobe.

“Take one last look, Katie. It might be the last time you see him.”

Katie stared down at Wes. He struggled to get to his feet. Pain pinched his face, along with something else. For a moment, Katie thought it looked like sadness. He reached for her. Involuntarily, she reached for him too. Then, the world was shrouded in blackness.
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I have had several short stories, novels, and novellas published. My story, “Sohei,” was named one of the Best Stories of 2008 by The Cynic Online Magazine. I have novellas and a short story collection available from Musa Publishing and eTreasures Publishing. I have a novella, The History of My Wishes, published by MuseItUp Publishing. My novels, Coming from Nowhere (adult, sci fi), Life After the Undead (YA, horror), and Death to the Undead (YA, sequel to Life After the Undead) are available from eTreasures Publishing. Life After the Undead was a Top Ten Finisher in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll in the YA category and the cover art category.

In April, I have a middle grade novel called The Ifs coming out, which will be published by Little Devil Books. I also have two picture books that will be available from eTreasures Publishing. All of the children's titles are written under the pen name J.D. Pooker. Under Pembroke Sinclair, I also have an adult urban fantasy novel entitled Wucaii that will be published by MuseItUp Publishing.

Under my real name, Jessica Robinson, from March 2008 to January 2011, I wrote scientific articles for Western Farmer-Stockman. I have a nonfiction book, Life Lessons from Slasher Films, published in July 2012 from Scarecrow Publishing (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield).

I have my Master’s in English, and I am a freelance content editor for Musa Publishing, as well as a former content and line editor for eTreasures Publishing.

Author Links:
http://pembrokesinclair.blogspot.ca/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3522214.Pembroke_Sinclair


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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: The Obsidian Pebble

Media Type: Ebook
Title: The Obsidian Pebble
Author: Rhys A. Jones
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pages: Paperback; 240
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Source: Author
-------------------------------------------
Content Screening: Nothing of note

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy fast paced mysteries, with fun and intelligent characters.

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N
11-year old Oz Chambers lives in a haunted house (Penwurt). His mother wants to move, but Oz would rather do double algebra (yuck) every day for twelve months than leave. Where others see spooky, Oz sees wonder and mystery and aching reminders of his deceased dad. When he and his friends hear ghostly footsteps in the boarded-up dorm at Halloween, it leads to an exploration of the old place's eerie reputation. In his Dad's locked study, Oz finds a parcel addressed to him and posted the day before his father died. Inside is the obsidian pebble, the link to all of Penwurt's astonishing secrets. Suddenly Oz begins to change; he goes from maths dunce to A student overnight and has to deal with suspicious teachers and jealous pupils. But the footsteps in the locked rooms don't go away and slowly, Oz begins to knit together the strands of lies and mystery that tie the obsidian pebble, his father and him together. What Oz hasn't bargained for is that he's not alone in that search for understanding and that solving Penwurt's puzzles lead to other, much darker secrets that will test his loyalty and his bravery to the limit.

I'm still torn on whether this story is aimed at an MG, or a YA audience. It's true that The Obsidian Pebble features an 11-year old protagonist. However these characters don't act, think, or even talk like most 11-year-olds that I know. On the one hand, I loved that. I adore when authors don't think they need to talk down to their audience. On the other hand, this may be a difficult read for younger readers to get into at first. Just something to think about before you put it in your reader's hands.

Yes, The Obsidian Pebble does take a little while to get up and moving. It makes sense though. Rhys A. Jones uses the first few chapters to introduce the reader to Oz's town, his amazing home, and give the reader some back story on how he came to live there. I was enchanted by the idea of Penwurt. This massive home, big enough to house boarders even, came to life in my mind. What better place to have an adventure? What better place to uncover a dark mystery? Penwurt became a character in its own right, and I ate it up.

Oz and his friends were also great characters. They were funny, bantered like best friends should, and were extremely smart. I couldn't get over how quickly they managed to sort out any problems that came their way. My only gripe is that I didn't get to know them as much as I would have liked. The author does a great job of quickly introducing each one, and showing how they work as team. I just wasn't as invested in them as I thought I should be. In the story, yes. In them, not so much. The mystery really pulls the story forward.

I honestly ended up enjoying The Obsidian Pebble in the end. It did take me a little while to become immersed in the story, but once things picked up in the mystery department I was hooked. Again I say, just keep reading on. The story does pick up! By the ending, I was ready for more. I think this would be a great read to share between a parent and a child.

 

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Author Interview: Roger Ruffles, author of The Age of Secession series


It's time for another author spotlight, here on HDB! I love doing these! It's always fun to get to know an author a little deeper before diving into their book. This time our guest of honor is Roger Ruffles, author of Dissolution and the entire Age of Secession series.

The Battle for Mars has been fought and won, and the False Emperor lies shot in the head in the ruins of the Red Palace. The rebellion is over, its purpose apparently complete. Little were the participants to suspect that it was merely the beginning of a whole new age of suffering and strife, as the Red Empire shatters into pieces, and civilisation falls and begin anew. New alliances, treacheries, aspirations and failures shape the future of mankind. The Age of Secession has begun.

The Praetorian Guard, elite of the False Emperor, have divided and fought amongst themselves. Those that supported the rebellion thought they had won with the death of the False Emperor, but they could not be more wrong. In the secession that follows, as the revolutionaries that used the Praetorians force them to dissolve, it transpires that some of the participants planned more than just the end of the tyranny. They want their own rule to prosper.

Commander James Gavain has inherited command of his own ship, and into the maelstrom of the Dissolution of the Praetorian Guard he struggles to find a new future for his people. Lost and wondering where he is to go, and what he is to do, he is just one of many genetically-engineered creations who find they have destroyed their own reason for existence.

In a galaxy where the treacheries of the dead Red Imperium of Mars are giving birth to a whole new host of tyrannies, temporary alliances, and plotting on a Machiavellian and life-changing scale, the abandoned Commander Gavain sells his services to the highest bidder – and in the process finds himself fighting a threat that he helped to create.

Roger has even been so kind as to answer some interview questions for his stop today! Please enjoy his interview below, and don't forget to say hi in the comments. Happy reading!

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1) If you had to describe yourself in just three words, which would you choose and why?

Cheeky, brave, and hopeful. Cheeky because sometimes I can be. Brave because sometimes you have to be. And hopeful because what's life without a bit of optimism?


2) I noticed, in your author bio, that you're a fan of science fiction and fantasy. Do you have any favorite reads in these genres? Any authors you tend to revisit?

I am a major fan of science fiction and fantasy - I do read (and watch) all sorts within these genres, as well as some thrillers. There are so many I could not list them if I tried. I love the George RR Martin books (not the TV series, I've never seen it shockingly), the man is a genius. Terry Pratchett has a wonderful writing style, in that he usually manages to get the point across with a well-drawn character and a sentence. And of course, there is the all-time, one and only favourite - Doctor Who. Who can beat the longest running television sci-fi series of all time? There is no shame in admitting that I owned a copy of all the Target books for the original series. It just cannot be beaten for imagination and scope.


3) What was the most difficult part of writing The Age of Secession series? The most rewarding part?

The horrifying thing is that it wasn't difficult to write at all really. The background, the characters, and the story are all so clear to me it really does virtually write itself. That is not something I've experienced with anything I've written before. The rewarding parts are getting the twists in, where it changes the direction of the story, or where I feel for the characters when things do not quite go their way. The rewarding part is that the main characters are real, fallible, courageous, ambitious, loving, hateful, or vengeful - they all seem real. The background of the universe is similarly both hopeful and despairing. The rewarding part has been enjoying the writing of it all.


4) Will the series continue beyond Shadow, or are you heading into something new?

Yes, the series continues far past Shadow. I am writing them either in trilogies or as individual books; the next three-parter (the Blood Money trilogy), consists of #4 - Crying Moon which has already been written, #5 - Blood Feud which I'm currently having a great amount of fun with, and then #6 - Cost of the Hunt. The next trilogy after that is potentially much darker than the previous two, but I can't say why otherwise that would spoil it - and I may change my mind as I'm not sure I want to go that dark. The books work because there is light and dark in them, just like in real life. Then beyond the trilogies there will be some individual books, which I'll release as I work on other stuff. I am looking at a standalone book on time travel which would be very, very controversial, a near-future book based on the United Kingdom, and possibly a fantasy book. Did I mention that I'm a very fast writer? But to be honest I'm enjoying Age of Secession so much, I'll keep writing in it for some time to come yet. There is just so much scope within it, and I love it with a passion.


5) What would you like to say to readers who are considering picking up a copy of your books?

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them! Also, if you'd like to give me direct feedback on what you think works well, what you enjoyed, what you thought didn't, I would really appreciate it. I'd love to know what characters you thought worked best, and which stories caught your imagination. I'm amazed by how many people pick up on differing aspects. I'm guessing that's a good thing!


6) Any final thoughts?

There's a serious side to life, and a fun side, and the trick is getting it in the right proportion. Age of Secession falls firmly under my heading of "fun", which just shows how desperately I need to get out more.

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About the Author:
I was born in 1980, in Cheshire.

A Manchester lad, I developed a keen interest in science fiction at a very early age thanks to a very popular time travel series on BBC1. This has led to a life-long interest in the genre, which continues to this day, proving that the licence fee is worth it after all. The appeal of science fiction, and fantasy, is in the escapism, the look at what could be, and the sheer imagination and suspension of belief it requires – and how despite its groundings in the far-fetched, real-life often comes to imitate the imaginings of those insane enough to love science fiction.

I completed his first book at 15, and attempted but failed to get published. Looking back on it, this is probably more of a relief to those who like to read. It certainly allowed me to do more boring things, such as work, first in the financial sector, then utilities, and latterly commercial and military aerospace.

Writing is and always will be a hobby first and foremost, a love and a way to express. An escape from reality, whilst holding a mirror up to all that is good and bad in the world. All I want is for you to enjoy the reading as much as I did the writing. So please, enjoy. I most certainly did.

Find Roger here:
Twitter: RogerRuffles
Facebook: Facebook profile
 

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (1/12/14)

http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/its-monday-what-are-you-reading-214/
Click above to join in the fun!
I spent the last week participating in the Bout of Books Read-A-Thon 9.0! It was a great chance for me to get some hardcore reading done. I also got sick so, there's that reason to stay home and read too. It's been nice. So many great reads!

 
Above are the three most recent books I've finished!
Silent City by Alex Segura and The Obsidian Pebble by Rhys A. Jones both get honorable mentions. They were good, but not exactly what I was looking for. What the Dark Brings, on the other hand, gets five shiny stars! It's a mix of flash fiction and short stories, all horror based. The best part is that all of the stories are different. From a story that feel slightly Edgar Allan Poe in nature, to one that could come right out of a slasher flick. I loved them all.
 

Nightcrawlers is a deliciously sinister horror novel so far. It reminds me of Stephen King. Venice in the Moonlight has been romantic, and a bit dark. Fuse I've been carrying on with Fuse on audio for about a week and half now. Trying to finish it up so I can move on to Burn!

 
Next up I'll be reading Fuse by Julianna Baggot, the third book in the Pure series. I can't believe that these books have been so good! *cries* I love this series. I only hope it keeps being as awesome. I'll also be diving in to A Life of Death by Weston Kincade. While I'm not totally sold on the cover, it does have good ratings. So, I guess we'll see.
 
That's it for me! What are YOU reading this week? Don't forget to leave a link so I can go and visit you too!

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