May 29, 2014


Branded Blog Tour: Review

Hello everyone! I'm SO excited to be part of this tour! I was first introduced to Branded when I participated in a blitz for it late last year (here, which also includes all of the first chapter), and then it zoomed back onto my radar with a gorgeous never cover in February (here). Two short months later I decided that the universe was trying to tell me something when I heard that the novel had been revamped AGAIN, this time with permanent changes to the story. So here it is, for the third time on Marked By Books (I think that may be a record for us!), at long last, ready to be reviewed.
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.

Amazon          B&N

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.

 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png  photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png  photo icontumblr-32x32_zps959818ca.png  photo iconpinterest_zps6fcf02a7.png

I know that I've posted Abi and Missy's bio up here three times now, but I still get so happy every time I read it! If you're just popping over here (in which case, HI!!!! NICE TO MEET YOU!!!!), then you may not know that I co-run this blog with my best friend Gabby, and I LOVE it when we get people over here who have been such good friends for so long. Abi and Missy, you two are amazing!

Branded swept me in from the moment I first saw the summary for it. I fell completely in love with the idea, and I stayed enamored with it throughout the entire novel. I can't even come up with a worthy way of describing why I was so interested in the premise because there were just so many reasons: a deep cultural backstory that promised some pretty kick-butt world building, an incredibly strong heroine who is wrongly accused and fights to be more than who she is told to be, and an entire dystopian society modeled after the seven deadly sins. How could I NOT love that?!

For the majority of the novel, not loving it seemed pretty impossible. I'll admit it, I had huge expectations for this book, and it probably isn't fair that I held it to such a high standard going in. I can't say that all of those expectations were met at the end of the book, but what I will say is THANK GOODNESS this book is part of a series. Because if it wasn't, there's no way in the Hole that I'd be able to sleep at night. (Get it, "the Hole" / Hell.... oh, c'mon, I tried.)

As a standalone novel, there's no way that the story, the way it is now, would have held up. As a singular book, I do think that it COULD have held up, if it were not for all of the loose ends. Yeah, there was sort of a cliff hanger, but there was also legitimate closure, which I appreciate more than words can describe. My problem was that SO MANY really interesting outlets for potential twists or extra plot depth were introduced and never used. And then that just left me waiting and waiting for something really spectacular to happen, only to be left at the ending with the thought, "Well, I guess it will happen in the next book."

But why am I even saying any of this? There obviously ARE going to be other books, as is evident by the big, white words "A Sinners SERIES" right above the title, so why am I getting all worked up? Aren't some things supposed to be left for the other books?

Well, yeah, but I still wish that a few more of those potential avenues had been explored at least a little bit in the first novel. For example, Keegan had a RIDICULOUS amount of hatred towards the guards, but I only knew his character for such a short amount of time that I never really understood it. Keegan's not branded. Keegan never lived with the guards as far as I know. So why does he keep adamantly protesting that they're not even human when Lexi, someone who is very aware of the cruelty some of them can possess, is unnerved by her brother's idea? What happened that made him think that?

And then there's the identity of the Commander. I can't say my mind was blown by who he is, but there were certainly others I expected before him. But when I found out for sure, I really liked the choice the authors made. I LOVE a villain with a backstory and a lot of depth, and that's exactly what I was expecting once his identity was revealed. I want to know his REASONS for everything he did, both as the Commander and as who he was to me before. I want to see Lexi put two and two together to give me a character who may have been completely insane, but was still a person all the same. But she didn't. That time never came, and I was really disappointed that the idea was touched on but never fully explored. There was just SO MUCH POTENTIAL. And that's not even mentioning his relation to Sutton and Lexi's dad (or her mother for that matter, although I'm very confident that idea will be extensively explored in the next books).

But before you think I completely hate this book (which I DON'T) because all I've done is complain about it so far, let me tell you what I did like.

Zeus. No explanation needed other than he's the best goofball guard dog out there, and if anything had happened to him, I would have gone on a rampage in some unsuspecting medieval village. Ready the pitchforks.

Reason Two, although not NEARLY as exciting as a slobbering Great Dane afraid of his own farts (yeah, you try to make sense of what I just said), is how well the pieces in between dialogue fit together. What am I supposed to call that? Prose isn't right. Descriptions? Text? Neoskizzles? I don't know what the heck that means, but it's what came up when I clicked on a made-up word generator. I'm trying to add some pizzazz to this review.

What I was trying to say before I went completely off track because of the wonders Google has to offer is that I actually WANTED to read those parts. And that's really rare for me. What usually happens is I catch myself skimming between pieces of dialogue and going back to the "neoskizzles" later once I realize I missed something important. But I didn't do that with Branded. In fact, I think I enjoyed the neoskizzles MORE than the dialogue (which at times felt a little bit rushed or forced), so that definitely says some very good things about the authors' writing abilities.

Reason Three: THIS WORLD. Oh, this world, this world, this world. It lived up to my expectations in every way. The idea behind it is SO COOL, and the only complaint I have is that I wish I had gotten to spend more time with it before the book ended. It's just something you'll have to experience for yourself.

Finally (and I SWEAR I really am about to end this really long review), I want to talk about Cole (aka Mr. Love Interest). Oh, Cole. Sweet, sweet, confusing Cole. You, my dear, are an enigma to me. At first you seem so very concerned about the dangers of your relationship with Lexi, and next thing I know, there's hugs and longing glances and bagels for everyone, every morning. You have no middle ground. And then towards the end, you get all mysterious and suspiciously confident about what's going to happen, so I think that you're sabotaging or plotting something. You make me start to believe that Keegan might actually be right about something, which I really DON'T want to do because I do not like him at all. Then, after all of the literal and metaphorical smoke has cleared, you just pop back in at way too convenient of a time. And then nothing further is explored. Lexi has zero hunches or even suspicions, and now I'm left wondering if I'm just crazy or if you're sending some freakishly mixed signals.

I don't say this often, but I really think this book would have really benefited from being told in third person, or at least from dual perspectives. There was so much that I was left wondering about other people (namely you, Mr. Love Interest), and I think Lexi being the only voice for the entire story kind of held it back. She is surprisingly unspeculative, and I'm so curious about all of this that I just needed more. Actually, what I REALLY want from Branded now is a retelling of some of the crucial scenes from Cole's perspective. I feel like if I could actually see his progression from "I'm your guard, Lexi" to "PLEASE LET ME BE YOUR BOYFRIEND PLEASE" and so on, a lot of my original issues with this book would be gone. That way I could do more than just like it, and love the story for all that it is like I had hoped.

My Rating:

May 28, 2014


Blood Oath Blitz: Excerpt & GIVEAWAY!!!
Blood Oath by Samantha Coville

Raya Sarian has always known she was different. The water calls to her in a way that isn't human. She has seen things that would scar anyone for life. And her father has been nonexistent in her childhood.

Because he is a Siren.

A blood drinker.

A monster.

And now she must live with him in a world populated with enemies and dangerous friends. Can she survive the year?

Amazon          B&N          The Book Depository          Smashwords

Samantha Coville is an editor and literary critic at her website, Sammy the Bookworm. She’s been writing short stories for six years and has appeared in magazines, both in print and online. When she’s not doing something book related, she is singing in her church choir or enjoying one of the theme parks in her home state of Florida.

Website          Facebook          Goodreads          Twitter

“I need you to watch my daughter and protect her with your life. I have a lot on the line and I need to know that someone will keep an eye on her and keep her out of danger.”

Drew reflected on the idea and glanced to the floor, calculating what would happen if he accepted the task. “And I can’t tell her?”

Christopher shook his head. “Absolutely not. She would avoid you so as not to have someone peering over her shoulder. I know my daughter enough to know that much.”

“But you want me to get close to her, so I can watch her at all times?”

“Yes, I can’t let anyone try to… remove… her because of what she is. I need someone to get as close to her as possible without raising any red flags on her radar. And, of course, you have to keep the Secret of the Halflings. Can you do that?”

“What’ll happen if she finds out?”

“If you’re worried she’ll find out, then you’re not right for the job.”

There was no easy way to this and no upside either. Things would be difficult and confused around Raya, as if they weren’t already. But he couldn’t exactly turn down Christopher Sarian.

“I’ll do it.”

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 24, 2014


Mind Static Cover Reveal & GIVEAWAY!!!!

Isn't this cover so beautiful?! I hadn't realized how many covers Najla Qamber of Najla Qamber Designs had created that I was so familiar with until I looked at her gallery here. They're all amazing! And this book sounds so mysterious too!
Mind Static by Jen Naumann

Keyanna Sanders is about to get everything she could ever wish for on her 18th birthday: a hot guy who’s really into her, the sports car she’s always dreamed of owning, and the party of a lifetime that no one will forget any time soon.

But before long, she’ll understand these wishes are more than a coincidence, and that they come at a steep price. Keyanna is more than just an average high school senior, her best friend is more than the innocent boy next door, and her sudden good fortune isn’t just by chance. When her estranged father suddenly re-enters her life, she’ll have to decide who to trust, and whether or not the man she loves has become the enemy.

Amazon          B&N          The Book Depository          Kobo

Jen Naumann grew up in southern Minnesota as an addict of such flicks as Indiana Jones and The Goonies until she discovered John Hughes, and spent her high school days locked away writing love stories with a sci-fi twist. Married to a farmer in southern Minnesota, she tries to follow the madness of her four active children while balancing an imagination that never shuts down. As the author of CHEATING DEATH, SHYMERS, AND PARANORMAL KEEPERS, she writes stories with strong female leads who have a good sense of humor and tend to fall in love despite their better judgment.

Website          Facebook          Goodreads          Twitter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 23, 2014


Hold Still Blog Tour: Review & Excerpt

I know that here on the blog, we mainly work with the paranormal, and the contemporary romance, and the urban fantasy, but today, we are also working with the MYSTERIOUS!! (Insert creepy ghost sound...) Seriously though, Hold Still is a crime-fiction, suspense thriller that will leave you holding breath with every turn.
Hold Still by Lisa Regan

After saving her three-year-old daughter from a car-jacking, off-duty police detective Jocelyn Rush ends up in the ER. The last person she expects to run into is Anita Grant, former prostitute and an old acquaintance from Jocelyn’s days on patrol. In spite of her obvious injuries—mutilated hands and feet—Anita refuses to talk about what happened. Reluctantly, Jocelyn backs off, and Anita's case goes to Philadelphia’s Special Victims Unit.

Before long, Jocelyn is pulled into the SVU’s investigation. Anita is finally ready to talk, but only to Jocelyn. Her story is harrowing, even to a seasoned veteran like Jocelyn. Working with SVU, Jocelyn’s investigation unearths a series of similar crimes going back four years. Three men are preying on local prostitutes, viciously assaulting and mutilating them.

The police apprehend two of the suspects, but the third eludes capture. As the hunt for the most sadistic of the three intensifies, and his crimes escalate, Jocelyn and her colleagues have precious few leads. Then a monster from Jocelyn’s past resurfaces. She doesn't want to be reminded of the terrible secret that destroyed her family nearly twenty years earlier, but the man offers her a lead that could crack Anita’s case.

To solve it, Jocelyn must connect her past with her present—before a sadistic attacker sets his sights on her.

Amazon          B&N          The Book Depository          Kobo

When it comes to writing a review for a book such as this one, there is so much that I want say, but sometimes, words cannot suffice for what needs to be said. This blog focuses primarily on paranormal, and it's quite rare that either Taylor or I read a book that is NOT something supernatural. Every once in a while we choose to read something along these lines that we figure will capture our interest. This is my turn.

Hold Still is definitely more than just something I would recommend. When I first picked up the book, I thought, "This is going to be something just like every other crime-fiction book I have read." In a way, I was right on target, but I also was not. This is what I loved most about this book, that it kept me on my tippy-toes, and whatever it was I expected to happen, didn't. And honestly, that is one of the faults nowadays in finding a good book to read: you can almost always predict the ending. It is similar to watching any movie; once you know the plot and the main characters, you can predict the outcome nine out of ten times. This to me distracts from enjoying the story because I already know what will happen. I am not sure about you all, but I LIKE being surprised.

Another interesting concept I found in this book was the way the story was told. It is told in third person, but the story itself made you feel as though you were hearing the events occur from the protagonist herself. I suppose you all are thinking that that is how third person is supposed to work, but to me, some authors are better at writing it than others. This perspective made me feel as though I was actually part of the story. It was incredible how detailed and how thorough the author was in writing this book. The switching of perspectives also allowed more intensity and hearty-pounding.

I cannot help but praise this book. It starts off with a carjacking/kidnapping. That automatically sets a person up to believe that there will be more intense moments in the book, and believe me there are. You would not expect prostitution or crucifixion to be in a book such as this one. Yet there is, and somehow, Ms. Regan makes it work. It fits. Unfortunately, I cannot say that about many other authors. Not many have the talent to incorporate scenes such as those and have them make sense, or even fit into the plot of the book, but again, Ms. Regan does have that talent.

All in all, this was a very good book. One that I would recommend for anyone a fan of Karin Slaughter or Agatha Christie.

My Rating:

Jocelyn took a quick look up and down the street, gauging how long it would take her to sprint to Martina’s door and back. It shouldn’t take more than ten seconds. As a rule, she never left Olivia alone in the car—not even when she was paying for gas—but the door was only twenty feet away. It would be faster to run for it than to unfasten Olivia’s seat belt and carry her to and fro.

Jocelyn slipped her seat belt off and got out, closing the door softly behind her. She sprinted up the steps and snatched the bag from between the doors. As she turned back to her car, she saw the figure, just a blur in her periphery. Then her Ford Explorer drove off down Chew Avenue with Olivia in the back seat. Jocelyn leapt off the steps and ran into the street.

“Olivia!” she screamed.

She had never run so fast, and was only vaguely aware of the other cars whizzing past, beeping and swerving to avoid her, expletives rolling out of the mouths of passing motorists. The Explorer made the first right onto North 21st Street and Jocelyn followed, arms and legs pumping, feet slapping the pavement, her heartbeat thundering in her ears. She reached for her gun but quickly remembered she didn’t have it. It was her day off.


She was losing ground as the Explorer turned right onto Conlyn and out of her sight. “Olivia!”

Lisa Regan is a suspense novelist. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University. She is a member of Sisters In Crime. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, Finding Claire Fletcher won Best Heroine and was runner up in Best Novel in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards for 2013.

Website        Facebook         Goodreads         Twitter

May 22, 2014


Review of Carry Me Away by Robb Grindstaff

I am so, so sorry.

Please don 't hate me here because I really am trying to be honest, but I actually finished this book a few days after Christmas. And I loved it, but I didn't have a computer that I could travel with at the time, so instead of writing my review then, I just scribbled down a few notes on a scrap piece of paper that I found. I saved that paper, and it has been tacked to a cork board above my desk for these past few months, so now's the time when it finally gets put to good use. It's about time, Taylor!
Carry Me Away by Robb Grindstaff

Carrie Destin, a biracial military brat, learns the injuries she sustained in a car accident will prove fatal before she reaches adulthood. She accelerates her life and sets aggressive goals: college, connecting with her Japanese roots, and the all-consuming desire to find her soul mate. A kid from nowhere, she travels the world with her Marine father and Japanese mother.

Facing an abbreviated life with a brash attitude and a biting, sometimes morbid sense of humor, Carrie races to graduate high school at age fifteen. College is her marker of adulthood, when she can smoke in public and order dessert before dinner. She tosses out her adolescent wedding scrapbook for a funeral plan. A teenage crush on Paul, a family friend and a widower seventeen years her senior, develops into a fantasy that takes on a life of its own.

As she outlives the original prognosis into her early twenties, her life goals evolve—always short-term. The longing for love stays constant, yet she walls herself off from others. Relationships end in betrayal, abandonment and violence. When love reveals itself, she pulls away, fearing that an early meeting with Death is on the horizon.

Carrie’s frantic desire to experience life before it ends spirals out of control, leading to a physical and emotional collapse. Her grandmother’s wisdom points her toward acceptance, but first she must break through her walls before she can give the gift of ‘til-death-do-us-part.

Amazon          B&N          Kobo

In addition to a career as a newspaper editor, publisher, and manager, I’ve written fiction most of my life. The newspaper biz has taken my family and me from Phoenix, Arizona, to small towns in North Carolina and Texas, and from seven years in Washington, D.C., to five years in Asia. Born and raised a small-town kid, I’m as comfortable in Tokyo or Tuna, Texas. I now reside in a small community in Wisconsin where I manage the business operations of a daily newspaper. The variety of places I’ve lived and visited serve as settings for the characters who invade my head.

I’ve had a dozen short stories published in several print anthologies and e-zines, and several articles on the craft of writing fiction. My first novel, Hannah’s Voice, debuted January 15, 2013, and two more novels are in the works for 2013-14.

I also edit fiction and non-fiction books for authors from around the world. It helps that I’m fluent in five languages: U.S. English, U.K. English, Canadian English, and Australian English, plus my native language, Texan.

Website          Twitter          Facebook          Goodreads

I had originally planned on starting this review off with something interesting along the lines of "Earlier this year, I had said that Hannah's Voice, Robb Grindstaff's first novel, was the best book I'd read all year, but that's not true anymore. Carry Me Away takes the cake," but that doesn't exactly work now, considering that it's no longer 2013. I can, however, still say that Carry Me Away blew every other book out of the water for me that year.

This is a story about how to not just live life, but to love it. And as cheesy as that sounds, it still works. Carrie's life was taken from her before she even had the chance to begin living it....

"I had been just a regular seventh grade, twelve-year-old kid on my way to spend the night at my best friend's. On my thirteenth birthday, less than a month later, I didn't recognize or even much remember that little girl. When Death approached, my life didn't flash before my eyes. It evaporated."

.... and when she woke up, completing that stolen life with the little time she had left was her only goal. She rushed to hit those major mile markers: finishing college, falling in love, and returning back to visit her grandmother in Japan. Her life became consumed by those goals, yet as she hit each one, she never got any closer to feeling alive again.

"Living under a Death sentence gave life meaning. I knew when it would end, or at least a general idea. I made a list of goals and set out to reach them. When the horizon moved a little farther out, I set new goals."

So she kept on like that, refusing to die yet still never learning how to live. With everything she did, she was still consumed with the knowledge that her death was coming for her soon. And that was all she defined herself by.

But then she made it another week. Then a month, then a year, and it kept on going until her death sentence finally lifted. Since she was twelve years old, all she had been trying to do was make it to the finish line. And for all those years, that was all she was able to see. When you've been told your entire life that you're going to die, what are you supposed to do when you finally realize that you don't know how to live?

I love this book. I thought that I loved Grindstaff's first novel, Hannah's Voice, but I REALLY love Carry Me Away. Neither of his books are anything like what I typically read, yet they blow me away each and every time. Grindstaff's ability to capture the minds of his characters when they're young girls still remains unparalleled, and what I once thought was a one-time gift actually turns out to be a slightly concerning affinity for unlocking the minds of the world's most disturbed creatures. I should know. I used to be one.

In all honesty, though, there's nothing else out there quite like what Grindstaff is able to deliver here. These coming of age stories after a great personal tragedy are pitched all of the time, but they have always seemed to fall flat for me. Not once did I think that here. And if Grindstaff can get me, a girl who usually only reads books packed to the brim with action and comedy, to actually want to read a story this deep not once but twice, then that should tell you more than anything else that this book is really something special.

My Rating:

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

May 21, 2014


Hidden Blog Tour Part One: Review & Excerpt of Lost

Hello, everyone! Do you recognize the first book up there in that banner? No? That's okay, it was almost a year ago that Hidden was at Marked By Books. Its first stop here was in a promo post, and then a little over a month after that, I read and reviewed the first book. And I loved it! So when I saw that Hidden was going on tour again, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it.

This is my first post on the tour, and it will be followed by one more on June 9th. Both stops will have a review, this one of the second book, Lost, and the next of the third, Shattered. And just so you really notice this next part, I'm going to try to make it very obvious:


I'm serious! I've yet to find any eBook store that does not list its price at $0.00! So PLEASE go and get your own copy of it because this book really isn't something you're going to want to miss!

(This is the summary for the first book in the series. My review and the excerpt today are for the second, and its summary is right below this one.)

Hidden by M. Lathan

Sixteen-year-old Leah Grant has given up on being normal. She’d settle for stopping the voices in her head, intrusive visions of the future, and better odds of making it to her seventeenth birthday.

That’s the thing about pretending to be human in a world where magic used to exist – at any moment, her cover could be blown and she’ll be burned to death like the rest of the witches.

Everything changes when she loses control of her powers and flees the orphanage she grew up in. She desperately wants to be invisible but finds her face plastered on every news channel as humans panic over the possible resurgence of her kind. And now the hunters won’t give up until they find her.

Making friends for the first time in her life and falling in love with one of them drives her to discover why she is unlike any being she’s ever met – human or otherwise. The dangerous powers inside of her that would repel Nathan, her new, handsome reason for living, are priceless to some. The locked up forever kind of priceless. And to others, they are too dangerous to allow her to live.

Let’s hope she can stay hidden.

Amazon          B&N          Smashwords          Kobo
Lost by M. Lathan

Three months ago, Christine Grant found herself, love, and impossible friends, while losing the memories of the biggest piece of her past.

Now, her powers are spinning out of control and must be tamed by the woman who saved the world, the same woman Christine is predicted to kill in less than a month.

Wanting to punish catty orphans was just the beginning. It’s only a matter of time before she discovers that the world is not as safe from her as she hoped it was.

Amazon       B&N       Smashwords       Kobo

M. Lathan lives in San Antonio with her husband and mini-schnauzer. She enjoys writing and has a B.S. in Psych and a Masters in Counseling. Her passion is a blend of her two interests – creating new worlds and stocking them with crazy people. She enjoys reading anything with interesting characters and writing in front of a window while asking rhetorical questions … like her idol Carrie Bradshaw.

Website          Goodreads

I’d thought I hated Sienna Martin. That was nothing, a childish grudge. I used to hate Remi until my heart started bleeding for her. That was nothing too. Hate was what I felt for Kamon.

I’d give anything to know what he was up to, pull him out of the shadows and into the light. Was he getting close? Did he know who and what I was?

I welcomed the energy that rushed over my skin, and his name echoed in my head.

He was in New Orleans. I knew it for a fact.

I faintly heard when Nate turned off the TV. I didn’t open my eyes, too wrapped up in the buzzing, in the power I pretended I didn’t have.

Behind my eyelids, I saw a blurry picture of my New Orleans backyard.

Kamon chuckled, circling Lydia Shaw near the pool. “Where is she?” he asked.

That’s not your business, and stay away from this house.

She is very much so my business. A girl with her potential does not come along every day. I noticed it the first time I saw her. I knew then.

Lydia laughed and stepped closer to his face. “I can’t wait for this to be over,” she said.

My muscles quivered. Lydia and Kamon shook with me.

Me either. I have big plans. I’ve been working on my new title. What do you think of Emperor Kamon? Too much?” He laughed. “There’s finally a date after your dash. I guess I’m lucky Leah’s so unstable. I know you’re terrified. It’s getting so close. July 4th.

I shook even harder and heard a far away scream.

Lydia spun around, and Remi wiggled her fingers at her, a taunting wave. Her jet-black hair dangled to her waist now. My Master, My Lord, in a fancy, ancient script, was permanently inked on her stomach, right above her low-cutting leather pants.

Remi is one of the best things to ever happen to me. Her first offering brought my nemesis barging through the doors. In time, she’ll bring me Leah. I’ve seen July 4th, Lydia. It is your pet’s destiny, and I’m going to help her fulfill it.

My backyard trembled like an earthquake was ravishing New Orleans, and someone screamed, “Emma, hold her head!”


“Wake up, Chris,” Emma said.

I opened my eyes. Nate and Em were shaking me and swatting at my cheeks. Blood was everywhere – on Nate’s hands, his chest, my pillow.

I’d had another fit. Correction. I was still having a fit, shaking and bleeding and buzzing. Em’s thoughts were frantic and in fluent French. But understandable. I had a feeling she could speak Chinese, and I would understand it right now.

She snapped and disappeared, leaving me alone with Nate. His face vibrated as I shook, and he braced me against his chest.

After a moment, his body tensed against mine, and he drew his arms away, no longer holding me. My nails were in his sides, and they didn’t want to let go.

Embers blew around us, and found their way to his head, circling and sparkling, crowning him with fire. I coughed from the smoke tickling my throat. He didn’t seem to see them at all.

A deep voice I’d never heard screamed, “Dali!” It echoed several times after. With each repeat, Nate clutched his head tighter, in pain.

All day I had been questioning where I belonged. Now I knew. I belonged in a cage, not allowed to roam freely around my enemies.

I didn’t want to hurt him. Or myself. I needed to listen to my body. Someone had told me that. Someone …

A flash of light blinded me, and Sophia and Emma appeared when it cleared.

Sophia pried my clenched jaw open. Something warm filled my mouth and slithered down my throat.

Then there was nothing but darkness.

I'm really glad that I decided to read this book, mostly because I had almost forgotten how much I loved all of the characters from the first novel. I fell right back into the hilarious house dynamic that I loved so much in Hidden, and I'm so glad that I did. The characters were my favorite part in the first book, and I'm very happy to say the same about this one!

I'm really struggling to choose a favorite character, but it feels nearly impossible for me to do that right now because I have so many! I felt so bad for Lydia, knowing what happened at the end of Hidden, which Christine doesn't know for most of this book, but she is far from perfect. I go from sympathizing the heck out of her, to being overjoyed that she's happy again, to feeling a little disappointed in her, to wanting to beat the sense back into her, especially once we meet a certain somebody for the first time (which I'm really glad happened, by the way!), and then finally to completely understanding why she did what she did and knowing that she made the right choice. All in the span of a few hundred pages.

And of course there's Sophia, who is just one big bundle of overprotective sweetness. She loves Chris SO much, and everything she does for her continues to amaze me. Sophia really is the perfect "grandmother type" character: such an angel to the kids, yet still pretty kick-butt on her own. I mean, she really is the only reason why things turned out fairly well at the end of this book.

But then there's Nathan who, let's face it, is nearly impossible not to love. Even when everything goes completely wrong towards the end, he STILL manages to be nothing short of perfect, and I don't even get how that's possible. I'm not trying to say that he seems too good to be true, therefore his character isn't real enough for me. No, what I'm saying is that I don't see how he could have been written so perfectly, even after everything that happened. Other than his slight lean towards the melodramatic about certain things (and even that is still pretty sweet), I literally have zero complaints when it comes to him.

And here's a fun surprise for other fans of Nathan: he gets to tell the epilogue! At first, I was a little unsure of whether or not that was a good idea, mostly because it just seemed a little out of the blue, but I knew I was hooked on the idea as soon as he described the first time he met Christine. And I fell even more in love with the dog version of his thoughts, even though they came about for a very upsetting reason.

That's another thing - M. Lathan's ability to mesh together a person's thoughts from either two different viewpoints, or two whole different memories, like with Christine, is extremely impressive. Not once did I think anything she wrote in any of those instances sounded odd or forced, which is something I usually have a huge problem with when other authors attempt it. I can honestly say that Lathan's handling of the issue is the best I've ever seen of it, so amazing job to her there!

And now for my criticisms. Don't worry, there aren't too many. Actually, they can probably be boiled down to one really vague one, and that is that sometimes the story seemed to be moving a little too quickly. Like I said before, I have always loved these characters, so I was a little disappointed that there wasn't as much time spent with them as there was in the first book. Paul and Em are phenomenal characters, and it kind of seemed like they were shorted. I did really love their one moment together, but that still didn't feel like enough. Paul's crazy fashion sense only got mentioned once, and that was at the very end!

I even wish that some of the newer characters had been explored further. I'm happy with the time spent on the big new addition (whom I can't exactly name for fear of revealing too much but is the same one I mentioned when talking about Lydia), but some of the new minor characters could have been pushed more. I adored Annabelle from the moment Chris met her, and I'm sure I would be able to say the same thing about Shane, but the sad thing is, neither one of them got a whole lot of page time in this book.

There isn't a whole lot more I can talk about without spoiling the entire book for you, but a few other things needed more explaining too. Like I said in my review of Hidden, Christine is a very smart girl (it's about time these female protagonists started to be!) and she figures things out very quickly, but sometimes that leads to a lack of explanation on her part. I can usually figure out what's going on too (like the reason behind her lack of abilities after the big incident in the pool), but my ideas are never really confirmed or denied, so I don't know what to believe. I think that maybe if her thought process was laid out a little more, that would help. I really don't want her to draw out and explain every little revelation (because that's not how actual thoughts work), but I just think there could be a little more of a balance in that area.

I really don't want you to think that I didn't like this book since I just spent all of this time criticizing it because that's not true at all! I loved Lost very much, and I'm extremely glad that I got to read it. Overall, however, I'd still chose Hidden over it without much contest, but seeing how I gave that book five amazing stars, I'd say coming in second isn't too shabby after all!

P.S. And if you have read my review of Hidden and are wondering whether or not I forgive Nathan now, I'd have to give that one a very strong yes!

My Rating:

May 19, 2014


AfterLife Release Day Blitz

To request a review copy of AfterLife, you can e-mail AToMR at
AfterLife by Zoe Dawson

The fine thread between reality and the fantastical has snapped. The mortal and supernatural must learn to co-exist in post-reality Minneapolis/St. Paul where video games leak monsters into the night, demons roam, thirsting for more than just blood, people are not who or what they seem, and a diabolical evil plots and plans to devour the world.


Lily Starbuck’s day doesn’t start well with blood on the horizon and a grumpy werewolf who refuses to pay his catering bill. Her day only gets worse when she finds out that her business partner in their catering company has embezzled all their available cash.

Lily can get no answers from her partner when she finds her dead. That’s the least of her worries—her landlord is evicting her, she’s being hounded by the Fairy Dust Administration (FDA) who suspects that her partner was dealing in illegal dust, and Lily’s pissed off their werewolf supplier.

With Lily’s very livelihood in jeopardy, she has no choice but to discover who killed her partner and try to track down the cash. She has only Spocko, a small, wizened gnome with just a bit of gremlin blood in him that makes him cantankerous at best to depend on, but he often goes invisible on her. Clues lead her to an open case being investigated by Otherworld Security (O.S.) and the tough O.S. Warden, shapeshifter Tam Darkwood. And, at the outset of the investigation, a tiny, mythical fire-breathing, red dragon joins her as her trusty (and opinionated) sidekick, Kindle.

It seems a rogue mage has created a video game that is unwarded and game monsters are being released to terrorize the citizens of the Twin Cities. Trouble is Lily has reason to believe that this mage killed her partner.

The investigation takes an unexpected turn when they are led to influential and powerful Archmage Tarquin Wilding, and somehow Lily finds herself embroiled in a sinister shadow Fae plot. With her friends at her side, she tackles dangerous and unpredictable supernaturals and monsters with an “all in a day’s work” attitude.

Amazon          B&N

Zoe Dawson is the alter ego of Karen Anders, award winning, multi-published author. Her writing journey started with poetry and branched out into fiction. With a couple of college English courses under her belt, she penned a historical, then moved onto contemporary romance fiction. Today, she is happy producing romantic suspense, romantic mystery, urban fantasy and paranormal novels. The words feed her soul and the happily ever afters feed her heart.

Website       Blog       Facebook       Goodreads       Twitter