Saturday, November 28, 2015

The holiday season is upon us!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Greetings awesome readers!

It's been a whirlwind of a week, but there was much joy to be had. Spending time with family, eating superbly delicious food, and relaxing instead of being at work. What more can a girl ask for? The holiday season is definitely my favorite time of the year, but above all else it's Christmas that makes me smile the most.

There's something about the holiday. All the red, gold and white. The love that is spread. It's almost like people are a little nicer to one another for a bit :). Plus, I can't deny that it's the one time of year that I actually get to see all of my family at once. It makes it all worth while.

Pardon our radio silence during this time. I'm sure you're all out doing the same thing as we are. Living it up for the holidays! We'll post as much as we can, and start fresh in the new year. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Blitz + Giveaway: Fright Before Christmas

Do you know what your Monday needs? Some holiday horrors! Nothing says Christmas quite like 13 tales of holiday horrors. You are in luck because today we have for you, the Fright Before Christmas by Ally Mathews, Andrea Stanet, Boyd Reynolds, Dax Varley, Jacqueline Horsfall, Jessica Bayliss, Judith Graves, Laura Pauling, Lea Storry, Medeia Sharif, Patrick Hueller, Richard Ankers,Ty Drago

It's the most wonderful time of year...or is it?

Christmas Eve is a night of mystery and magic, but not always in ways we expect. Things lurk in the shadows and they're not the least bit jolly or merry. Let's just say some presents are better left unopened.

‘Tis the season to be screaming along with our thirteen tales of holiday horrors. Ghosts. Monsters. Demons. And more!

This Christmas, be careful what you wish for...

Curious yet? Check out the book trailer below for even more excitement! 

Boyd Reynolds is a freelance writer and educator living in Vancouver, Canada. He has published short stories for children, teenagers and adults. His other published works include newspaper articles, educational non-fiction pieces and pop culture commentary. Boyd holds a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature and enjoys all things scary.

Find Boyd:

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Fright Before Christmas by Shannon Delany

Fright Before Christmas

by Shannon Delany

Giveaway ends December 05, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: A Spark of Justice by J.D. Hawkins

Media Type: Ebook
Title: A Spark of Justice
Publisher: Self-published
Author: J.D. Hawkins
Pages: Kindle; 196
Release Date: August 21, 2015
Source: Author
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy stories with vivid and interesting settings.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
A fatal accident at the circus sparks an insurance investigation that leads John Nieves, a former New York cop, to a list of murder suspects. It seems that The Great Rollo, beloved of millions, had enemies... both at the circus and among his own family. 

All that is surreal and magical about the circus brings out Nieves' deepest fears, blinding him to the very real danger that is closer at hand. A bizarre series of revelations and coincidences keep Nieves' suspicions of the circus people high, even after the actual evidence suggests that the incident really was only an unfortunate accident. 

The furtive actions of Rollo's wife and brother, the beneficiaries of his insurance, lead Nieves into even dirtier family secrets. Apparent attempts on his life from all quarters threaten Nieves, but he refuses to drop the case until the whole truth of who killed The Great Rollo is revealed.

I won't even attempt to deny that it was the circus aspect that drew me to read this book. When J.D. Hawkins contacted me for a review, he mentioned that he had lived and traveled with the circus for many years. First hand knowledge promised me a vibrant setting, realistic scenes, and a new glossary of terms. How could I resist?

Which brings me to the main point I want to make about this book, and that's the fact that the setting really is the attraction to reading A Spark of Justice. The circus comes to life on the pages of this book, with both the fun and the grit attached. As John worked his case, each new character he met added to the depth of the setting. I met a family of clowns (the "Zannies" as I was soon taught), the ringleader, the big cat feeders, and everyone in between. Circus life came to be the center of this book, and it was fascinating.

The downside of this, was that John's character, as well as his case, suffered from hiding in the background. John was likable enough. I think his passion for the circus is what made me like him most of all. He just never felt fully fleshed out. His past as a cop was mentioned, which helped to fill in a bit of why he was so good at police procedure, but there wasn't much else there. Just enough to make him a character, but nothing to make him feel realistic.

I felt like the mystery had the same problem. At first, Rollo's death was prominent. Suspects were laid out, little clues were dropped, and John was on a roll. Slowly though, things dwindled. By the time the actual culprit was found, it all felt a bit anti-climactic. I know that John wasn't a cop anymore. I know that his hands were tied in certain aspects. Darn it all if I didn't want some action though!

Still, A Spark of Justice is a solid and enjoyable read. I'll happily award it 3 stars for bringing the circus, and all its performers, to life. It also really made me want some popcorn.

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.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


In truth, my coffee is hardly ever this fancy. Unless I feel like dropping the money on the posh coffee place that's downstairs at my work. I sure do love this picture though. It whispers "WARMTH" to me, and at this time of year that's what I love.

Thanks for sticking with me, my awesome blog readers, through this weird transition month. If you noticed, I've posted a lot more. It feels good. I'll admit it. The connection that I used to have with this bookish space is slowly coming back, and I'm thrilled! Last year was a rough one. This one was much better. Now that it's nearing the end, I think I'm full of optimism and enthusiasm that next year will be even better! It's hard not to be. I love the holidays.

Anyway, you've probably noticed that Tina and I have been writing up personal posts a bit more often. I think that's what has me feeling so good. I was always afraid of mixing my bookish space, and my personal one. You know what though? I realized that I love when other people do it. Getting that snippet of insight into their lives, getting to know what they like, it makes me appreciate their reviews that much more.

So if I ramble at you about coffee, and holidays, it's because that's what felt like coming out of my brain and into my fingertips today. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Spotlight + Guest Post: A Spark of Justice by J.D. Hawkins

It's time for another book spotlight, and this one in particular caught my attention instantly. Why, you ask? Well, interestingly enough, J.D. Hawkins actually has experience living with the circus! I can't think of better field work for a book than that.

A fatal accident at the circus sparks an insurance investigation that leads John Nieves, a former New York cop, to a list of murder suspects. It seems that The Great Rollo, beloved of millions, had enemies... both at the circus and among his own family.

All that is surreal and magical about the circus brings out Nieves' deepest fears, blinding him to the very real danger that is closer at hand. A bizarre series of revelations and coincidences keep Nieves' suspicions of the circus people high, even after the actual evidence suggests that the incident really was only an unfortunate accident.

The furtive actions of Rollo's wife and brother, the beneficiaries of his insurance, lead Nieves into even dirtier family secrets. Apparent attempts on his life from all quarters threaten Nieves, but he refuses to drop the case until the whole truth of who killed The Great Rollo is revealed.
Interested? I thought so! I'll leave you the links below to procure this book for yourself. Before you leave though, please enjoy a fabulous guest post by J.D. Hawkins! I found this riveting, and I do believe that you will too.

Find it at:

Talking the Talk: Carny and Circus Lingo in Fiction
J.D. Hawkins

Once upon a time, in my misspent youth, I was hitchhiking the coast in California (back when people used to do that sort of thing without worrying about serial killers) and took a deviation to Sacramento. Why is irrelevant to this article; I did a lot of random things in those days and was following an address written on a scrap of paper.

During my time in the state capital, I learned that the carnival was in town and things were happening at the Sacramento Fairgrounds. I decided to pay a visit, but not the entry fee. Like the good anarchist hippy hitchhiker I was, I went over the fence.

By a fluke, I soon found myself talking to a seasoned carny on the site and he suggested that I join the show. Green help was common enough on a spot and they needed a few people to run the permanent rides on the fairgrounds, which were kiddie rides. The idea suited me. There was something about the carny set up that appealed to my free spirit. They paid in cash, didn't ask questions and people could come and go when they wanted to between spots. Employment on tap! I might mention that I was sixteen and that became my first job. California laws being what they were, my parents had police looking for me, technically a runaway, and a place where I could make myself invisible appealed to me in a big way.

When the Sacramento Fair finished, I left with the carnival. We played spots up and down California in small towns like Merced and Hayward, usually just a few rides and joints (games) on a spot, with just one food wagon so we wouldn't starve. During that time, I learned about a way of life that would stay with me for the rest of my days. I became carny, and once a carny, always a carny. Because I was young, the old timers effectively mentored me in the 'rules' and lingo once I had become one of them by traveling.

Turn the clock ahead to 2015, and suddenly the indie publishing industry has enough books about circus and carny life to make it a genre. The trouble is, a lot of the writers have never been inside the worlds they depict and horror of horrors, haven't done even minimal research to learn the difference between a circus and a carnival, how things work or even the languages inside the amusement business. The thing is, if they had used Google to try to learn some of the lingo, they might easily have been led astray.

Out of curiosity, I recently did a search to find out if a list of carny terms had been put online. What I found was interesting and extensive, however, many of the terms in a long glossary I found had fallen into disuse decades before I ever touched carny soil and some of them were wrong. I could see two possible reasons for the latter; the writer who had composed the list for a book got his information from east coast carnies. Language has a way of developing differently in distant places and the terms might have evolved with slight variations.

The more likely possibility, based on my experience of carnies, is that some of them were intentionally skewed so that anyone trying to pass themselves off as carny who hadn't walked the walk would be exposed by mistakes when they tried talking the talk. Think about it, is a closed society going to give away all its secret signals to the general public? One of the things I learned early in my experience of carny life is that the occasional runaway teenager was the least of reasons why carnies might take on a nickname and want to become invisible to society. I never knew whether some of my brothers in the biz might have been prison escapees or serious criminals. Part of the code is that you don't ask. Not for real names, not for history or reasons for joining the carny. You take people as they are, stick to the rules, and watch yourself. Instinct means a lot when you spend half your nights sleeping under the stars or inside a ride.

So how is a writer supposed to crack a highly defended barrier and get inside carny life to write a story? The first and most important thing any writer needs to remember when using the amusement business for a setting is that the circus and the carnival are completely different entities. The terms are not interchangeable. All one has to do to get this straight is to think back to one's own childhood. Did your parents ever take you to the local fair? What did you see? Rides and games, food wagons, and if it was a big county fair, local farmers showing off crops and animals in the part that kids don't want to go because they want to get back to the rides at the carnival.

That's a carnival. Rides, games, food. The only thing the carnival has in common with the circus, apart from the fact that they both travel, is the type of food available. Hot dogs, cotton candy, everything sweet and greasy that western society has taught us goes with amusement culture. You might see a clown design painted on the outside of a dark ride, but you won't see any actual clowns or other performers. That's what you find in a circus.

Circus life is relatively 'clean' compared to the carny. It's performance oriented so you're dealing with professionals rather than the flotsam that drifts to the carny. The circus has a Big Top, the tent where the main performances happen. There is no Big Top on carny grounds unless someone has booked a few carny rides to set up next to a circus for a major holiday event. Within the Big Top, performances happen in rings. A small circus may have only one ring, or if you go to a big show like Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, they might have as many as three rings.

It's here that you'll find live clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists, possibly animal acts, though protection laws are tightening up on those. As an aside, despite my depiction of a lion tamer act in A Spark of Justice, I actually agree with animal protection. Big cats were not meant to live in cages, even fairly spacious ones. As much as I loved seeing these magnificent animals as a kid, as an adult with a conscience I cry for their captivity. I can reconcile a well designed zoo because of the breeding programs saving species of tigers and other endangered cats from becoming extinct, as long as the enclosures have plenty of space and as close to a natural environment as is possible for the animals.

A writer who wants to use amusements as their setting absolutely must get these differences into their head if they want any sense of realism. I have to hand it to Stephen King for his handling of the material in Joyland. His setting was a stationary amusement park and most of 'the talk' came from a character with a hazy past in the amusement business. I speculated when I was reading this book that he might have worked for both circus and carny at different times in his past. Best of all, King explained in his afterword comments that he made up a few terms of his own which specifically fit that particular amusement park.  That actually added even more realism because language is organic and grows independently in a closed environment. He got the spirit of the usage right and the terms fit the needs of his setting.

For most writers, my advice would be that less is more. Pick a few terms and make sure you're using them right. In the carny, a customer is a mark. In the circus, he's a rube. Some old time carnies might use the term rube, but unless your setting is 1940s or before, leave that one for the circus. The games are called joints and the people who run them are jointies. An old term for ride jockey is pig iron. The glossary I saw had this as the name for the ride itself. This might be a historic usage, but I suspect it's one of the terms that was deliberately told wrong to the chronicler. Old terms for specific games have mostly fallen out of use. By the 1970s we used simple terms like dime pitch that any mark would understand.

If you want to write a book in a carny setting, this is enough. Trying to be too clever will only trip you up. If you're writing in a circus setting, I suggest doing extensive research. Look up instructions for becoming a lion tamer, like I did before writing A Spark of Justice. The details of how the cats are trained will make all the difference. Read the literature for taking lessons from a clown school, search for instruction to become a trapeze aerialist. It's easily available. If you don't want to do all this, don't try to write from inside circus life. You can still use a circus as a backdrop for rube characters. But if you can, at least go to a circus one day and remember what it feels like and smells like, what you'll see and experience. This can give your story realism.

If you're using a carny setting, there's likely to be a town fair, even a small one, somewhere near you during the summer. Go hang out for a few hours and if possible, get into conversations with the people working the rides. Not the green help (locals doing it as a temp job), but the greasy looking old timer who will try to talk you up if you're a pretty girl. Get him talking about carny life, like you're considering it, or be honest and tell him you're a writer. Just be aware that honesty will cost you details. It's more likely to make a carny clam up than to try to set you straight.

Stick with just a few terms and concentrate on developing your characters and you shouldn't go too far wrong, as long as you don't forget the difference between a circus and a carny. The reader doesn't have to be an ex-carny to notice when it's wrong.

Many thanks for such a great guest post, J.D. Hawkins!

Remember friends, go get your copy!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review: Dream A Little Dream (Silver Trilogy #1) by Kerstin Gier

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Dream A Little Dream
  * Series: Silver Trilogy #1
Author: Kerstin Gier
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
Pages: Hardcover; 322
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy sweeping stories with vivid characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yes, Liv's dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially the one where she's in a graveyard at night, watching four boys conduct dark magic rituals.

The strangest part is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They're classmates from her new school in London, the school where she's starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But what's really scaring Liv is that the dream boys seem to know things about her in real life, things they couldn't possibly know--unless they actually are in her dreams? Luckily, Liv never could resist a good mystery, and all four of those boys are pretty cute...

What fun this book was! I'm already quite partial to Kerstin Geir, ever since the Ruby Red trilogy was translated to English. Dream A Little Dream has everything you need to get lost in a quick read. Adorable family drama, a protagonist with a sharp wit, and some pretty boys who are hard to look away from. Best of all, there's no love triangle! YA abounds with these, and so reading a book where that isn't necessary is essentially the best thing ever.

Let's talk about Liv, our protagonist, first. I absolutely adored her. Liv's character is adorably awkward. She's sweet, has a wit to be reckoned with, and doesn't fold under pressure. In fact, what I loved most about her was how vibrant she was. Even in the face of darkness, because trust me when I say that this book isn't all sunny skies, Liv shines. She's a logical character which doesn't quite stop her from being all swoony over boys, but it does make it much more fun to read.

Even better, is the family relationship in this story. Liv's mother travels constantly for work. As such, Liv and Mia are shipped off all over the globe and never really settle. Their mother is a bit flighty, but her love for them comes through. Still, it's the relationship between Liv and Mia that takes center stage. These sisters are so sweet! Sure, there's the normal banter and bickering. There's also a ton of adoration and support there too. I love sister relationships, and this one was perfection.

Story wise, things move quickly but there's always just enough explanation to make it easy to follow. I'll admit that there are a few plot holes, I definitely had some questions at the end, but I'm heartened by the fact that this is a trilogy! I need more as soon as possible.

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.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Kiss Kill Love Him Still - Scavenger Hunt!

Kiss Kill Love Him Still
by Jamie Blair & Dawn Rae Miller
Release Date: November 10th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg


Jackson Landis kept secrets. It's how he got girls into bed, the grades he wanted, and a reputation for being the life of the party.

But now he's dead, and no one knows how or why. Especially not the four girls whose secrets he protected. Secrets so scandalous they could cause each girl to lose something valuable. Secrets so dark, someone may have killed for them.

The four girls - a campus drug dealer, an overweight bookworm, a closeted lesbian, and a spoiled princess have one thing in common – they’re terrified the things Jackson knew may not have died with him. As Reggie, Haddie, Val, and Livie try to piece together her own role in Jackson’s death, each girl realizes Jackson had some not-so-pretty skeletons of his own.

Which makes a girl wonder, who really wanted Jackson Landis dead?


We're trying to discover who killed Jason Landis in Jamie Blair and Dawn Rae Miller's book. In the 7 days that the tour will be running, you will find interviews with the suspects, their profiles and music playlists that will help you decide who you think did it.

Each day you will find a team that will introduce you one character. The winner team will be picked on November 11th and will have the pleasure to host an exclusive excerpt from Kiss Kill Love Him Still.

Please note that reviews from bloggers will be published on November 11th and November 12th, see schedule, and that might give you an extra insight to the book, too!

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 175 lbs

Hair: Short, light brown, graying

Eyes: Medium brown

Demeanor: Imposed upon, rushed

Motivation for killing Jackson Landis: His daughter broke her purity promise by sleeping with Jackson.

Officer McMichaels: Mr. Eubanks, thank you for speaking with me today.

Mr. Eubanks: Let’s make this quick. I have meetings this afternoon. I’m extremely concerned about my daughter’s safety on the Fairfax University Campus. Are you close to making an arrest?

Officer McMichaels: First, let me ask: Your daughter, Haddie, she’s an only child?

Mr. Eubanks: I don’t follow your line of questioning. How does the fact of Haddie having or not having siblings relate to a campus murder? I came today believing that, as a major donor of Fairbanks University, you were performing a kindness—an obligation if you will—easing my mind about my daughter’s continued enrollment at FU.

Officer McMichaels: You’re mistaken, Mr. Eubanks. I have no obligation—or even a care in the world—about what you feel FU owes you. My job is to solve a murder case.

Mr. Eubanks: And you somehow think I have information regarding this case?

Officer McMichaels: Possibly. Does Haddie have many friends?

Mr. Eubanks: You do realize I own a law firm, correct?

Officer McMichaels: You’re not under arrest, Mr. Eubanks. We’re questioning everyone who might be able to give us a clue as to what happened the night Jackson Landis was murdered.

Mr. Eubanks: The next time you bother me with unfound accusations, I suggest you have a warrant for my arrest. Until then, I’ll direct any further questions to my lawyer.


This is what the authors propose:

Follow the Kiss Kill Love Him Still by Jamie Blair & Dawn Rae Miller Scavenger Hunt Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.

Young adult author of the Kirkus-starred novel Leap Of Faith (Simon & Schuster 2013), and Lost To Me (2014), featured in the New York Times and USA Today bestselling anthology, Dirty Boys of Summer. Represented by Rebecca Friedman of RF Literary.

Dawn is a Twitter and fashion addict whose favorite things in life are her family, gorgeous dresses, tea leaf salad, and French macarons. She splits her time between San Francisco and Northern Virginia, and is always up for a trip to Paris.
During release week the book will be on sale for $.99. On top of this sale Dawn and Jamie will also be giving away 2x3 book buttons to the first 100 people who buy the book!

Do you want some Kiss Kill Love Him Still button? Just click here to submit your entry.


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