Nov 29, 2013


Stim Blitz: Excerpt & GIVEAWAY!!!

This book sounds so great! Whenever I read books like Stim, I usually end up finding a disturbing number of similarities between myself and some of the characters. Sometimes I think that's really interesting, while other times it just makes me a little nervous, but I don't think it's unusual for most people to find that they have at least something in common. In my opinion, that's half of the fun!

I would just like to include another little Taylor side note in here before I continue introducing the book: you really need to read the excerpt. Now, I'm not saying that I've ever done anything like what Robert does in the excerpt before, but I found the idea absolutely hilarious. It's so matter of fact, and if you really think about it, the SCREW equation isn't such a bad idea. Though I guess for me it would be SCREM.... You'll just have to read it to find out!
Stim by Kevin Berry

Robert is different. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. He experiences the world differently to 99% of the population. Follow his entertaining and highly empathetic story as he struggles to realise and accept who he really is, try to understand other people—which he cannot—and find a girlfriend. Especially find a girlfriend—he’s decided it’s his special project for the year. Accompanied on this transformative journey by his quirky flatmates, Chloe (who also has Asperger’s, amongst other things), Stef (who hasn’t, but doesn’t mind) and their oddly-named kitten, Robert endures a myriad of awkward moments in his quest to meet a nice, normal girl…and not even a major earthquake will stop him.

This absorbing and humorous story is starkly told from Robert’s point of view, through the kaleidoscope of autistic experience.

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Kevin Berry is an indie author. His particular niche is writing Aspie New Adult contemporary novels set in an earthquake zone. The first of these is STIM, published in October 2013.

His first novels, co-written with Diane Berry, are Dragons Away!, Growing Disenchantments and Fountain of Forever (humorous fantasy). These are available as paperbacks and ebooks at Amazon and elsewhere.

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There is a well-known equation, known as the Drake Equation, that is used to estimate the number of detectable, sentient, communicative races in the galaxy (besides us, if we consider ourselves as one of them). It works (or does not work, according to its critics) by guessing the value of a lot of variables, such as the fraction of stars which have planets, and the fraction of planets which develop intelligent life, amongst other things, and multiplying them all together. Depending on the values chosen, the equation produces a number between zero (we are alone in our galaxy) to billions (we have lots of intelligent neighbours in the galaxy).

I decided to modify this equation to estimate the number of potential girlfriends for me in Christchurch. Here is my Girlfriend Equation, for a Scientifically Calculated Reckoning of Eligible Women (or SCREW score):

G = P . fw . fa . fi . fs . fp . fr . fh . fg


G = the number of potential girlfriends for me in Christchurch;

P = the population of Christchurch, which is about 400,000 (I am not interested in a long-distance relationship, so I am restricting this variable to my home city);

fw = the fraction of the population made up of women, which is about 50% (I am not interested in a gay relationship, so I will calculate for females only);

fa = the fraction of the above women within one year either side of my own age, so aged about 18-20, which I estimate at about 5% (I do not want to date a schoolgirl, and women aged 21 or over will surely be too sophisticated for me);

fi = the fraction of the above women who are highly intelligent, say with an IQ within the top 5%, which is (obviously) a certain 5% (because we must be able to talk to each other at approximately the same level);

fs = the fraction of the above women who are currently single, which I…um…guess is about 50% (I do not want to date someone already dating someone else, as I do not want to get involved in threesomes or a trinogamous relationship);

fp = the fraction of the above women who I find physically attractive, which is…er…about 10%, at a guess. I do not know exactly (I think physical attractiveness is probably quite important for the sex aspect of the relationship);

fr = the fraction of the above women who reciprocally find me physically attractive, which is even more difficult to estimate…so about 20%, at a guess (yes, this is double the percentage I estimated I find attractive, but I am not unhandsome, you know);

fh = the fraction of the above women who I will like hanging out with, which I estimate at 100% (I am sure I would like hanging out with an attractive woman, and I am quite easy-going);

fg = the fraction of the above women who will get along with me and tolerate my Aspie ways… Hmm, hard to estimate… I will be generous and guess 20% (most women are likely to consider me too weird to go out with, as Chloe told me).

Treating all of the above as independent variables, which is maybe a little questionable as some of them are probably correlated, I plugged all of the values into the equation, which became:

G = 400000 x 0.5 x 0.05 x 0.05 x 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.2 x 1.0 x 0.2

Multiplying everything together, this equation of somewhat dubious credibility results in:

G = 1

That is it. I have calculated there is one unattached, intelligent woman of about my age in Christchurch who I will find physically attractive and who will find me physically attractive, and enjoy hanging out with. One.

Where is she?

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Because This is Forever Book Tour: Interview, Excerpt, & GIVEAWAY!!!
Because This is Forever by Lena Hart

The decision that tore them apart...
Former hopeless romantic, Mia Trent, is crushed when the love of her life, Nate McArthur, reveals that he doesn’t want to get married—or have children. But it’s too late. Mia is already pregnant and her dream of “happily ever after” is sharply put to an end when she decides to keep her pregnancy a secret, refusing to force him into a life he doesn’t want.

The compromise that made them a family...
Five years later, Mia must reach out to Nate for help or risk losing her home and shelter for their son. Stunned and outraged by the sudden news of his child, Nate proposes a compromise: give him the summer to get to know his son and he’ll save her home. Yet with Mia back in his life, Nate isn't willing to lose her—or their son—again. What starts off as a temporary arrangement soon becomes a chance at rediscovery and becoming a family. Only Nate must convince his jaded dreamer that his love for her is true…and will last now and forever.

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Lena Hart writes sensual romances with a hint of mystery and suspense. Together, her alpha heroes and smart, sexy heroines tell a story of incredible love with unforgettable passion. A Florida-native, Lena currently lives in New York City with her two calico kitties, Duchess and Daisy. When she's not writing stories of happily ever after, she's reading, researching, or conferring with her muse. Lena Hart writes sensual romances with a hint of mystery and suspense. Her bestselling debut novel, BECAUSE THIS IS FOREVER, was released October 2013. To learn more about Lena and her work, visit or find her musing out loud at

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Q:  Is there a specific reason for wanting to write a realistic fiction novel?

A:   I wrote Because This Is Forever in response to someone who tried to make me feel foolish for believe in “happy ever afters”. Ultimately Mia and Nate came to me and through their story, I wanted to present two people whose view on love eventually matures when they realize what it truly means to be in love.

Q:   What do you do to gain inspiration? Do you listen to music, eat a certain food? What is your secret?

A:  It’s weird but most of my inspiration comes whenever water is involved so story ideas or scenes tend to flare when I’m washing dishes or taking a shower. But it’s when I least expect it or not actively thinking about it, that inspiration seem to come.

Q:  Is realistic fiction the only genre of writing that you enjoy or was this just a book that you wrote for fun? 

A: No, I love to read in all genres, particularly historical and romantic suspense. I have a few stories that are in a range of different genres, including a time travel and a light paranormal.

Q:  How hard was it to come up with characters and their personalities?

A:  Not hard at all. I normally create character profiles when I start a project but for Because This Is Forever, their story—and personality—just flowed out naturally. Though I did have to do a bit of research on Mikey to be sure I was staying true to his 4-year character, particularly when it came to his dialogue.

Q: What is your next novel about? Do you plan your books ahead of time or do you just "go with the flow?" 

A: I have many stories and my head and not nearly enough time to write them. As scenes and dialogue come to me, I write on each whenever I can. But I’m currently working on a project that will be a steamier then my current stories. It’s about four women, who are “queens” in their own right, finding love in the City of Sin.

Q:  Does this book, or any of the characters in it, reflect anything about you personally?

A:  Despite what we see and hear about relationships in our “real” lives, I—like my heroine—am a hopeless romantic and I still believe in happily ever afters.♥

As she rinsed the last dish, Mia jumped when strong arms suddenly wrapped around her middle.

“Sorry,” Nate whispered into her ear. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I thought you heard me.”

She turned off the running water and leaned against him. “No, I was lost in my head. What did you say?”

Nate leaned down and kissed her on the back of her neck. Mia shivered. No matter where or how many, his kiss always left her lightheaded.

“I asked what’s for dessert,” he repeated, kissing her again.

Mia turned in his arms, laughing. “That’s so cliché, you know.”

“What do you mean?” he asked with mock disbelief.

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. You say ‘what’s for dessert’ then I say something ordinary and then you say something cheesy like wanting me for dessert.”

He looked down at her, thoughtful. “Hmm, that does sound like something I’d say. But this hungry man could actually still eat.”

“Oh,” Mia said, a little embarrassed by her rash assumption. He was serious. Nate wasn’t a small guy and could honestly still be hungry. “Well…” she began lamely, “I don’t have anything else to feed you.”

Nate’s eyes sparkled. “Yeah, you do,” he whispered. He placed his hands on the counter to either side of her, trapping her between his solid frame and the sink. “I said I could still eat.”

Mia paused, confused. Then she laughed, recognizing the heated suggestion in his eyes. “You’re bad,” she murmured, shoving at his hard chest.

He leaned in closer, his lips only a breath away from hers. “And you like it.”

Scavenger Hunt Prize: the winner will get a “Forever Care Package” valued at over $50 (US entrants only), which will include a $25 Visa gift card, favorite items from the characters, and exclusive author swag.

If the winner is international he/she will receive a $25 Amazon gift card in place of the care package.

Secret Giveaways: Also, five secret prizes will be offered throughout the tour in five different blog stops. If you want to participate just follow the tour stops and find the secret giveaways!

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November 15

Lindsey Gray Author & Reviewer: Review
A Writer's Life: Guest Post 

November 16

Ambrielle Kirk: Spotlight

November 18

Fandom Fanatic: Spotlight

November 19

My Devotional Thoughts: Top Ten List

November 20

Clean Romance Reviews: Interview

November 21

Cheryl's Book Nook: Spotlight

November 22

Deal Sharing Aunt: Interview

November 24

Books, Books the Magical Fruit: Interview

November 25

Romance Book 4 Us: Guest Post

November 26

Romance novels in Color: Guest Post

November 27

Kwana Writes: Guest Post

November 28

I Know that Book: Review

November 29

Scattered Thoughts, Random Musings: Blog Post

November 30

Black Lion Tours: Top Ten List

Nov 24, 2013


Reap Blitz: Excerpt & GIVEAWAY!!!

I just love books where the main character doesn't have the slightest idea what's going on. No, really, I mean it. It adds a different feel to the story because I get to discover everything along with him/her. Yes, sometimes the ignorance can get a little old, but if the situation is handled well, it ends up being really cool.
Reap by Christina Channelle

Foreign, or rather unfamiliar, would be the word I would use to describe how I felt.

Faintly, I could hear the glimmer of voices surrounding me in this dark haze, caressing my ears like skin against silk. I felt like I was in a cocoon of sorts, protectively enveloped, quietly drifting in some far-off place. I wanted to stay that way forever.

But we all know that what you want never really seems to happen in the real world.

Something’s not right in Mia’s head.

The first thing is that her name isn’t Mia. In fact, she has no clue what her name is—who she is. All that she knows is that she’s not like the ones who found her: Dante with his kind blue eyes, Amy with her child-like demeanor, James with his questioning gaze.

And Briggs.

The one she cannot decipher no matter how hard she tries.

As Mia tries to fit in with these people, a strange occurrence is amidst outside. And as she finally remembers who she is …

Well, let’s just say that things get a little more complicated.

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A dreamer, Christina Channelle holds two degrees in health sciences but has always had a passion for writing. You will find her reading other young adult novels, or typing up a new story on her computer. When not writing, Christina spends her free time at the movies, listening to music, or eating sushi. She’s a reality TV junkie and has a close relationship with many characters on TV that have been a topic of many heated discussions among friends. She resides in Ontario, Canada.

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I opened my eyes but had to squeeze them shut against the harsh lights. My lids felt swollen, heavy with fatigue. My eyes burned, tears leaking from their corners.

It was the most uncomfortable of feelings.

I must have been dreaming.


Although the word seemed alien to me, almost as if I had never heard it before, I instantly understood its meaning. The voice that had spoken was warm, making me feel as if I were suddenly sitting in front of a fireplace, wrapped in a heavy blanket, flames crackling. The heat of the word practically licked my skin.

Again, I tried opening my eyes, this time a bit more cautiously. Blinking, I slowly adjusted to the artificial lights, now able to see.

I found myself staring back into a pair of bright blue eyes, a look of wariness in their depths. For a brief moment I couldn’t look away as I stared up at him. Then he cleared his throat and glanced away, as if uncomfortable with my gaze. With the spell of his eyes broken, it was then that I noticed I was lying on the ground—no, on hardwood floor.

And with not one, but three interested faces peering down at me.

I sat up, then winced at the abruptness of my movement, bringing my hand to the back of my head.

Pain, my mind whispered.

“Careful now.”

I directed my eyes toward the person who had spoken such kind words. It was the first person I had noticed, the one with the blue eyes and the warm voice. His voice was deep and calming, and as I sat there I tried to think of the emotion I should be experiencing. Inhaling softly, I closed my eyes, ignored the painful throb in my head, and waited for the proper term to flutter into my mind.


“Where did you come from?”

Satisfied I had found the correct word, I opened my eyes again to the voice speaking to me. It was a pleasant voice, reassuring to say the least, and immediately captured my attention.

At that moment, I didn’t notice the black hair atop his head, a striking contrast against his blue eyes that looked like I was staring into an ocean. I didn’t notice that the corners of his eyes crinkled up when he smiled kindly at me, complementing the single dimple in his right cheek. By just looking at him, anyone could tell that he was someone who knew how to laugh. But I didn’t notice any of that.

All those things I would notice later.

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Nov 18, 2013


Drawn Blitz: Excerpt & TWO GIVEAWAYS!!!

Oooo, espionage? Strange gifts that make people reveal all of their secrets? Sounds like my kind of book!
Drawn by Cecilia Gray

Take a journey into the gritty world of political espionage through the eyes – and lies – of one extraordinary girl. A wholly original tale of friendship and betrayal from the author of The Jane Austen Academy series....

Sasha has a secret – that she can make you spill your secret with nothing more than a question. Her strange gift makes her a burden to her foster family and a total freak of nature. Not that Sasha cares. Why should she when no one cares about her?

Then the CIA knocks on her door. They want to give Sasha a new identity and drop her into a foreign country to infiltrate a ring of zealous graffiti terrorists. They want to give Sasha something to care about.

To survive a world where no one is who they seem, Sasha needs to make people trust her. But when that trust blossoms into love, Sasha is forced to decide between duty and friendship, between her mind and her heart, and whether to tell the truth or keep her secrets.

Drawn releases December 15th

Cecilia Gray lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she reads, writes and breaks for food. She also pens her biographies in the third person. Like this. As if to trick you into thinking someone else wrote it because she is important. Alas, this is not the case.

Cecilia has been praised for “instilling a warmth and weight into her characters” (Romancing The Book Reviews) and her books have been praised for being “well-written, original, realistic and witty” (Quills & Zebras Reviews).

Her latest series of young-adult contemporary Jane Austen retellings was named a What’s Hot pick (RT Book Reviews magazine) and is a Best of 2012 pick (Kirkus Reviews) where it was praised for being a “unique twist on a classic” and offering “a compelling mix of action, drama and love.”

She’s rather enamored of being contacted by readers and hopes you’ll oblige.

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FBI Field Office, Atlanta, Georgia

I've studied Chelsea since the FBI teamed us up when I was twelve. She has a move…classic Chelsea. She turns the doorknob and her body stiffens, a metal rod shoved down her spine. As she sets a high heel inside the interrogation room, her southern accent and soft manners are buried beneath a terrifyingly sleek, blond exterior in a perfectly pressed pinstriped suit.

Four years of practice, two custom-cut suits of my own, and I still look epileptic when I try to project that sense of total control. Of I've got this. Even though I don't have her drawl and my posture's not bad.

I follow Chelsea, stiff as can be, into the room with the bright white walls. Our sicko suspect glances up from the steel table in its center. I flinch at his chilling stare. Flinching already, see. A slow smile bulges his cheeks as he studies me. Attention from a guy in an orange jumpsuit sitting at a steel table—to which he is handcuffed—is what Chelsea would officially term an undesirable outcome. More undesirable—me showing I care. Like she always says, "Don't let 'em see you sweat, hon."

No way am I giving this psycho the satisfaction. I suppress a shiver as the air conditioning kicks on with a groan. Tiny goosebumps break out on my forearms, raising the fine hairs to attention. Can't rub myself warm—that's a tell. Instead, when Chelsea slides into one of the fold-out metal chairs across from him, I follow her lead and take comfort in her giraffe-like posture in the chair next to mine.

Chelsea tosses a manila folder so that its contents spill across the table. The file details his alleged heinous crimes, the FBI's efforts to track him, and the blood evidence in his garage that matches that of the latest missing girl—Georgia State art major, vegetarian, and more important to the suits, daughter of a local bigwig. Funny, the things you remember from a file when they have nothing to do with the case, like how she specialized in collages. They'd found cut-up pieces of magazines littered across the desk and floor of her dorm room. The pieces trailed into the hall like flower petals down a church aisle.

The strewn high-gloss photos of his suspected victims—his own personal collage of the young, female, and carved—don't solicit a cringe from him when I can barely hold down my water and I've been staring at them for weeks. My gaze flickers to the one-way mirror—a silent promise: We're gonna nail this freak.

"I'm FBI Agent Chelsea Tanner. This is my partner. How are you this evening?"

This is normally when a suspect will ask, with understandable outrage, why I'm party to the interrogation because aren't I, at almost sixteen, too young to be in the FBI? Pinstriped suit or not, I look my age, maybe even a year or two younger because I've always been small—childhood malnutrition will do that to a girl.

It's the suspects who don't care that I'm in the room who worry me. Like this guy, whose pale eyes flicker to my throat.

I fight the urge to shift, even to clench my fingers tight into a fist. I don't blink.

"Fine weather we're having this winter." Chelsea manages not to smirk at our sitting in a windowless room. Her face is unbreakable. "These are perfect skies for a getaway. Do you have plans for the weekend?"

When he doesn't answer, she shares our itinerary—a leisurely drive to Savannah to visit her mother at their family wintering home. Yes, that's a thing. The trip always involves mint juleps and wide-brimmed hats, not that Chelsea shares the finer details. A genteel background rarely earns cred with criminals.

She chit-chats as if he's not imagining the slice of his boning knife into my neck. The careful incision he would carve against the clavicle, removing the flat bone from the ligaments attached to the shoulder. I don't need my unique magic to know what's on his mind. Some things in the case file stick for a reason.

My bone structure fascinates him. His gaze caresses my cheekbones, roams over the bridge of my nose, dips into the hollow of my neck, and brushes the stray dark corkscrew curls that drape over my sternum.

Don't move. Don't blink. Don't even breathe.

"Savannah's so beautiful this time of year. Any time of year. I go as often as I can. Don't you think you should make time for family?" The word rolls off her tongue in three syllables, a rare ray of southern shining through her otherwise stiff facade.

Fah. Mil. Lee.

He closes his eyes as though in prayer. When he opens them, his pupils dilate to nearly black and he rubs his thumbs over his knuckles. He does not take the bait.

Come on, Chelsea. You work your magic and I'll work mine.

That's our deal. She gets them talking. I make them spill their guts.

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Nov 17, 2013


Branded Blitz: Excerpt & GIVEAWAY!!!

This book sounds so interesting! It kind of reminds me of Dante's Inferno, with the Hole being Hell. I don't know if each of the seven deadly sins have their own little area bracketed off for them like they do in Inferno, but I'm definitely interested in finding out!
Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best. 

Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.

The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

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Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

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Chapter One

I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams.

The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough. My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back.

Death and I glare at each other through my tears.

I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No happy memories here.

I’m ready to go. On the count of three.

I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now.

A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already muddled, I stand waiting with the rope hanging around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls.

Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head.

Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home.

It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me.

My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I decide to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble up the marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is partially covered, but it exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge myself against it. Nothing. I step back and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters open, and my foot gets caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline pushes me forward. The voices at the front door shout my name.

On hands and knees, I squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and now it’s my escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end, I feel for the knob, twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse. I sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the end. A burst of cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder.

Reaching the fifth floor, I knock on a friend’s window. The lights flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one answers. I bang on the window harder.

“Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. They know I’ve been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy. They all know what happens to sinners.

Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I hear the guards’ heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without trying.

Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now. 

My previous desolation evolves into a will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and gasp for air. I steel my nerves and force my body to keep moving. In a matter of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. I plunge to the ground, scraping my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest.

Gotta keep going.

“Stop!” Their voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender yourself,” they command. They’re gaining on me.

I resist the urge to glance back, running into what I assume is an alley. I’m far from our high-rise in High Society as I plunge into a poorer section of the city where the streets all look the same and the darkness prevents me from recognizing anything. I’m lost.

My first instinct is to leap into a dumpster, but I retain enough sense to stay still. I crouch and peek around it, watching them dash by. The abhorrent smell leaves me vomiting until nothing remains in my stomach. Desperation overtakes me, as I know my retching was anything but silent. My last few seconds tick away before they find me. Everyone knows about their special means of tracking sinners.

I push myself to my feet and look left, right, and left again. Their batons click against their black leather belts, and their boots stomp the cement on both sides of me. I shrink into myself. Their heavy steps mock my fear, growing closer and closer until I know I’m trapped.

Never did I imagine they’d come for me. Never did I imagine all those nights I heard them dragging someone else away that I’d join them.

“You’re a sinner,” they say. “Time to leave.”

I stand defiant. I refuse to bend or break before them, even as I shiver with fear.

“There’s no reason to make this difficult. The more you cooperate, the smoother this will be for everyone,” a guard says.

I cringe into the blackness along the wall. I’m innocent, but they won’t believe me or care.

The next instant, my face slams into the pavement as one guard plants a knee in my back and another handcuffs me. A warm liquid trails into my mouth. Blood. Their fingers grip my arms like steel traps as they peel me off the cement. The tops of my shoes scrape along the ground as I’m dragged behind them until they discard me into the back of a black vehicle. The doors slam in unison with one guard stationed on each side of me, my shoulders digging into their arms.

Swallowing hard, I stare ahead to avoid their eyes. My dignity is all I have left. The handcuffs dig into my wrists, so I clasp them together hard behind me and press my back into the seat, unwilling to admit how much it hurts.

Did they need so many guards to capture me? 

I’m not carrying any weapons, nor do I own any. I don’t even know self-defense. High Society frowns on activities like that.

The driver jerks the vehicle around and I try to keep my bearings, but it’s dark and the scenery changes too fast. Hours pass, and the air grows warmer, more humid the farther we drive. The landscape mutates from city to rolling hills. They don’t bother blindfolding me because they escort all the sinners to the same place—the Hole. Twenty- foot cement walls encase the chaos within. There’s no way out and no way in unless they transport you. They say the Hole is a prison with no rules. We learned about it last year in twelfth grade.

To the outside, I’m filth now. I’ll never be allowed to return to the life I knew. No one ever does.

“All sinners go through a transformation,” one of the guards says to me. His smirk infuriates me. “I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of stories.” I don’t respond. I don’t want to think about the things I’ve been told.

“You won’t last too long, though. Young girls like you get eaten alive.” He pulls a strand of my hair up to his face.

Get your hands off me, you pig. I want to lash out, but resist. The punishment for disobeying authority is severe, and I’m not positioned to defy him.

They’re the Guards of the Commander. They’re chosen from a young age and trained in combat. They keep the order of society by using violent methods of intimidation. No one befriends a guard. Relationships with them are forbidden inside the Hole.

Few have seen the commander. His identity stays under lock and key. His own paranoia and desire to stay pure drove him to live this way. He controls our depraved society and believes sinners make the human race unforgivable. His power is a crushing fist, rendering all beneath him helpless. So much so, even family members turn on each other when an accusation surfaces. Just an accusation. No trial, no evidence, nothing but an accusation.

I lose myself in thoughts of my father.

“Never show fear, Lexi,” my father said to me before he was taken. “They’ll use it against you.” His compassionate eyes filled with warning as he commanded me to be strong. That was many years ago, but I remember it clearly. My father. My rock. The one person in my life who provided unconditional love.

“Get out,” the guard says while pulling me to my feet. The vehicle stops, and I’m jerked back to reality. The doors slide open and the two guards lift me up and out into the night. A windowless cement building looms in front of us, looking barren in the darkness.

The coolness of the air sends a shiver up my spine. This is really happening. I’ve been labeled a sinner. My lip starts to quiver, but I bite it before anyone sees. They shove me in line, and I realize I’m not alone. Women and men stand with faces frozen white with fear. A guard grabs my finger, pricks it, and dabs my blood on a tiny microchip.

I follow the man in front of me into the next room where we’re lined up facing the wall. Glancing right, I see one of the men crying.

“Spread your legs,” one of the guards says.

They remove my outer layers and their hands roam up and down my body.

What do they think I can possibly be hiding? I press my head into the wall, trying to block out what they’re doing to me.

“MOVE!” a guard commands. So I shuffle across the room, trying to cover up.





Five of us sit in the holding room. One by one, they pull people into the next room, forcing the rest of us to wonder what torture we’ll endure. An agonizing amount of time passes. I lean my head back and try to imagine a place far away. The door opens.

“Lexi Hamilton.”

A guard escorts me out of the room, and I don’t have time to look back. As soon as the door closes, they pick me up and place me on a table. It’s cold and my skin sticks to it slightly, like wet fingers on an ice cube. Then they exit in procession, and I lie on the table with a doctor standing over me. His hands are busy as he speaks.

“Don’t move. This will only take a few minutes. It’s time for you to be branded.”

A wet cloth that smells like rubbing alcohol is used to clean my skin. Then he places a metal collar around my neck.

Click. Click. Click. 

The collar locks into place, and I struggle to breathe. The doctor loosens it some as I focus on the painted black words above me.

The Seven Deadly Sins:

Lust ⎯ Blue
Gluttony ⎯ Orange
Greed ⎯ Yellow
Sloth ⎯ Black
Wrath ⎯ Red
Envy ⎯ Green
Pride ⎯ Purple

“Memorize it. Might keep you alive longer if you know who to stay away from.” He opens my mouth, placing a bit inside. “Bite this.”

Within seconds, the collar heats from hot to scorching. The smell of flesh sizzling makes my head spin. I bite down so hard a tooth cracks.

“GRRRRRRRRR,” escapes from deep within my chest. Just when I’m about to pass out, the temperature drops, and the doctor loosens the collar.

He removes it and sits me up. Excruciating pain rips through me, and I’m on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown. Focus. Don’t pass out. 

Stainless steel counters and boring white walls press in on me. A guard laughs at me from an observation room above and yells, “Blue. It’s a great color for a pretty young thing like yourself.” His eyes dance with suggestion. The others meander around like it’s business as usual.

I finally find my voice and turn to the doctor.

“Are you going to give me clothes?” A burning pain spreads like fire up from my neck to my jaw, making me wince.

He points to a set of folded grey scrubs on a chair. I cover myself as much as I can and scurry sideways. Grabbing my clothes and pulling the shirt over my head, I try to avoid the raw meat around my throat. I quickly knot the cord of my pants around my waist and slide my feet into the hospital-issue slippers as the doctor observes. He hands me a bag labeled with my name.

“Nothing is allowed through the door but what we’ve given you,” he says.

I hide my right hand behind me, hoping no one notices. A guard scans my body and opens his hand.

“Give it to me,” he says. “Don’t make me rip off your finger.” He crouches down and I turn to stone. I don’t know what to do, so I beg.

“My father gave this to me. Please, let me keep it.” I smash my eyes shut and think of the moment my father handed the golden ring to me.

“It was my mother’s ring,” he’d said. “She’s the strongest woman I ever knew.” With tears in his eyes, he reached for my hand and said, “Lexi, you’re exactly like her. She’d want you to wear this. No matter how this world changes, you can survive.” I turned the gold band over in my palm and read the engraving.

You can overcome anything… short of death.

“You’re going to take the one thing that matters the most to me?” I say, glaring into the guard’s emotionless eyes. “Isn’t it enough taking my life, dignity, and respect?”

A hard blow falls upon my back. As I fall, my hands shoot out to stop me from smashing into the wall in front of me. The guard bends down and grabs my chin with his meaty fist.

“Look at me,” he commands. I look up and he smiles with arrogance.

“What the hell?” He staggers a step backward. “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your eyes?”

“Nothing,” I respond, confused.

“What color are they?”

“Turquoise.” I glower at him.

“Interesting,” he says, regaining his composure. “Now those’ll get you in trouble.”

Reality slaps me across the face. I have my father’s eyes. They can't take them from me. I twist the ring off my finger and drop it in his hand.

“Take the damn ring,” I say. I walk to the door. He swipes a card and the massive door slides open to the outside.

“You have to wear your hair back at all times, so everyone knows what you are.” He hands me a tie, so I pull my frizzy hair away from my face and secure it into a ponytail. My neck burns and itches as my hand traces the scabs that have already begun to form. Squinting ahead in the darkness, I almost run into a guard standing on the sidewalk.

“Watch where you’re going,” he says, shoving me backward. His stiff figure stands tall and I cringe at the sharpness of his voice.

“Cole, this is your new assignment, Lexi Hamilton. See to it she feels welcome in her new home.” The guard departs with a salute.

“Let’s move,” Cole says.

I take two steps and collapse, my knees giving out. The unforgiving pavement reopens the scrapes from earlier and I struggle to stand. A powerful arm snatches me up, and I see his face for the first time.

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Nov 14, 2013


Review of Escaping Darkness by Theresa McClinton

Look what's finally back! After too many months of me having read this book and not having time to review it, "Escaping Darkness" has returned! I give my most sincere apologies to Theresa, whom I have surely failed, in hopes that she will forgive me for screwing this up. I was originally supposed to review the novella during the book blast run by the author here, but, as you can see, that didn't really happen. I was about a third of the way into the story by that point and actually finished it the next day, but that review just wouldn't come. So I waited a little longer and fully intended to write the review, but things just kept coming up, and then I went out of town multiple times where there wasn't much web access. I've actually had this review mostly written and saved as a draft for a while, but I guess finishing it got kind of pushed off to the side after I got so bogged down. Which really isn't fair to the book at all because I really liked it!

Somehow this book managed to survive my madness, though! I really enjoyed reading it, so without further ado, here is Theresa McClinton's "Escaping Darkness!"

Escaping Darkness by Theresa McClinton

She may have spent years in an asylum, but that didn’t make her crazy–just fearless.

Dropped in Moscow with her friends on an impossible mission against underworld forces, Tara is left to her feelings of overwhelming inadequacy. Her boyfriend is a healer, her best friend is “the Guardian,” and everyone else is a powerhouse of awesome strengths. The only thing she has been able to contribute are her memories, which has left her with nightmares of her time spent at the mercy of the evil Sarian–who everyone has gone to fight.

Alone with her emotions, Tara finds herself falling into a city of depravity and corruption. And amidst all this evil is a young man with an agenda of his own, who leads her down a road that will either prove she is a hero at heart, or drag her into a world she’s always feared.

He wants revenge, she wants redemption. And in an underground rings of missing girls and bloody sacrifices, only the fearless can survive…

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The Paranormal Romance Guild gave "Escaping Darkness" 4 stars! You can read their review of the novella and book one here.

I absolutely loved The Stone Guardian when I read it, so when I saw that "Escaping Darkness" was up for review, my thought process went a little bit like this: "AAAAGH!!!! OH PLEASE, OH PLEASE, OH PLEASE!!!! HAVE!!!! MUST HAVE!!!!" Or something along those lines.

From the first novel, what I learned of Tara really impressed me. She was a very strong and resilient soul, much unlike the ditz I had foolishly assumed her to be. Of course, all of the ditzy impressions I originally got from her later came to do nothing but support how incredible of a character she was. While she hadn't been my favorite (that would be Drina), I still thought she was pretty cool and definitely had an important story that needed to be told.

Child abuse is a real thing as much as we wish it wasn't, and it's not going to go away if people just hide from it. Well, not only does Theresa McClinton not hide from it, but she tackles it to the ground in "Escaping Darkness" along with another tough current issue: human trafficking. She doesn't just add them in as footnotes by saying, "Oh, yeah and this stuff is bad too," and continue on with the story either; no, she entwines them into this novella so completely that you couldn't take them out and continue on reading. Now, I'm not saying that that's all "Escaping Darkness" is about because that's not true. Trust me, she had many other things to deal with too.

Speaking of one of them (that I actually can't really speak about without spoiling anything, you'll just have to read the novella): what the heck, Peter?! I mean, yeah, I guess I can kind of see where you were going with that, but did you honestly expect that to go over smoothly and leave the world looking like a wonderland full of rainbows and happy butterflies? Not with your luck, buddy. However, I must give you this, you handled the situation with much grace and poise at the end of the novella, and you are completely forgiven.

Now, on to what I've really been waiting to talk about: Malachi. That guy was so dang cool! He threw me all over the place for most of the novel, but I was never willing to completely give up on him. I knew that he would have to play an integral part of the story, and I'm really glad with how things turned out with him. It definitely made sense with the rest of the novel, and it left me really happy. Actually, his last message to Tara was probably my favorite part about the entire story. I couldn't have imagined a better way for everything to have wrapped up.

My Rating:

And my favorite passage, just because I love Peter so much and it's really sweet:

Tara's gaze focused on the lead squad car. The passenger door flung open and Peter jumped out, searching the growing crowd of girls who were emerging from the shelter.

She jumped to her feet and peered across the yard at Peter. They locked eyes.

"Tara!" He sprinted toward her. His body slammed into hers and he threw his arms around her, lifting her off the ground. Peace and light and the scent of freshly fallen rain washed over her like a wave of comfort.

She laid her cheek on his shoulder and, for the first time in a long time, she allowed herself to rest. Peter was there, and all she had to do was be. Be happy. Be thankful. Be loved. This was clearly the place to be, and she swore never to forget that again.

A copy of the novel was provided for us in exchange for an honest review.

Nov 13, 2013


Ink My Heart Blog Tour: Excerpt & GIVEAWAY!!!

Tattoos have always held an appeal for me.... there is something attractive in inking your body and expressing your sentiments through drawings. Anyone who feels the same should most definitely read this book. I mean really. Really, really. Really, really, really. Did I get my point across? I certainly hope so.

Ink My Heart by Jean Haus

Even if he weren't the lead singer of the popular college band, Luminescent Juliet, Justin Noel would have his pick of women. And he does pick. Nightly. Tattooed, blonde, and green eyed, he flashes his dimples and females swoon.

 Except for one.

 Tattoo artist, Allie Landon, rarely dates, and especially not men like Justin. Though he’s hot enough to melt off permanent ink, she’s done with the bad boy type. But when the ex who broke her heart wants to reunite, desperation has Allie introducing her latest client as her boyfriend. Justin’s more than happy to play the part. He’s completely intrigued by the sexy artist and college student.

 However, Allie’s life isn't what it seems. There’s little room in it or her shattered and confused heart for Justin. But as Justin remains persistent, ignoring the growing attraction—both physical and emotionally—between them becomes more difficult than tattoo removal.

 *New Adult. Recommended for mature readers due to language, drug references, and sexual situations.

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About the Author

Jean Haus writes young adult and romance novels. She reads a lot too. Anything with a bit of romance has the possibility of being loaded on her Kindle. She even does a bit of cooking, which is actually quite good. She also golfs in the beautiful summers of Michigan with her awesome husband and son, but she cooks way, way better than she golfs.

Wanting to change the subject fast, I ask, “Things go okay the other day with your ex?”

Allie’s lips tighten. “Things went fine. I sort of freaked out over nothing.” She steps forward with others in the line, and I’m staring at her back. When she readjusts her bag and her sweater shifts, I catch half of the sunflower tattoo on the base of her neck. The colors are vibrant. Her skin looks soft. I’d like to kiss the yellow and brown ink. Slide my lips around the dark outline of the flower.

I lean close to her ear and ask in a whisper, “Also inspired by the ear slicer’s work?”

She slowly turns to me with a pensive expression. “Are you guessing or do you truly recognize it?”

As if I’m not trying to impress her, I shrug. “I’ve seen the painting.”

Her gray eyes widen for real this time. “Get out. Where?”

“London? Paris? New York? Those museums all seem the same inside.”

She blinks at me with an amazed expression. “London and New York, yes, but the paintings at each are actually a bit different. But you’ve been to Paris too?”

I was trying to impress her with my knowledge of art, not my travels, which weren’t impressive but lonely. They were never family trips. My parents did their thing. I did mine. How else would I have wandered into an art museum? My parents certainly weren’t interested. But if she’s impressed, I’ll roll with it.

“And Rome. I’ll never forget Rome.”

You can check out the rest of the tour here!