Review and Sweepstakes: The Prophecy of Shadows (Book #1: Elementals Series) by Michelle Madow

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Title: Elementals: The Prophecy of Shadows Series: Book #1: Elementals Author: Michelle Madow Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing Published: January 26, 2016 Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Format: eBook and paperback ISBN: 2940152448849

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Synopsis:

When Nicole Cassidy moves from sunny Georgia to gloomy New England, the last thing she expects is to learn that her homeroom is a cover for a secret coven of witches. Even more surprisingly … she’s apparently a witch herself. Despite doubts about her newfound abilities, Nicole is welcomed into this ancient circle of witches and is bedazzled by their powers—and, to her dismay, by Blake—the school’s notorious bad-boy.  Girls who get close to Blake wind up hurt. His girlfriend Danielle will do anything to keep them away, even if she must resort to using dark magic. But the chemistry between Blake and Nicole is undeniable, and despite wanting to protect Nicole from Danielle’s wrath, he finds it impossible to keep his distance.  When the Olympian Comet shoots through the sky for the first time in three thousand years, Nicole, Blake, Danielle, and two others in their homeroom are gifted with mysterious powers. But the comet has another effect—it opens the portal to the prison world that has contained the Titans for centuries. After an ancient monster escapes and attacks Nicole and Blake, it’s up to them and the others to follow the clues from a cryptic prophecy so that they can save their town … and possibly the world.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review:

Nicole Cassidy isn’t at all excited about being the new kid at school!  It’s awkward and weird, she doesn’t know anyone, and all that is compounded when she finds out in her first period class that she isn’t just the new kid, she’s also a witch.  What the what???  Are you kidding??

No, dear reader, I am not kidding!  Nichole Cassidy isn’t just a witch, she is one of a select few in her new school and given the fact she had no idea prior to day one that she’s a witch, she’s behind and has a lot of witchy business to catch up on.  Thankfully, Nichole meets Kate, a quiet and nerdy girl who is willing to help Nichole with the basics.  In what turns out to be a surprise to all, Nichole doesn’t just pick up on the basics, she excels.  In fact, Nichole is learning to control her magic at a far faster rate than the average witch.  Very interesting . . . . .

What’s even more interesting is what happens to Nichole, Kate, and three others from their homeroom the night of the Olympian Comet.  As the comet passes over the Earth, Nichole and crew find that their considerable powers are enhanced with each now having control over one of the five elements, air, water, earth, wind, and aether.  What’s more, the comet also has the nasty side effect of unleashing some seriously ancient critters that are hell bent on destruction and mayhem.  To be sure, those critters have a master and it will take each of the group members and their unique talents to solve the riddles that will shut down the big bads for the time being. 

The riddles aren’t just lying around waiting for anyone to find because that would be way too easy.  In fact, the group is sent on a harrowing scavenger hunt with one riddle set aside for each group member.  The hunt not only tests the group intellectually but it also stretches the limits of their new-found abilities.  With each riddle solved, the group gets closer and closer to grave danger and some answers. Mixed into all of the riddle solving is the group dynamic that is shifting the more involved they become with one another and the tasks at hand.  Nichole and Kate are fast friends, Kate is shy and rather introverted which means she keeps her feelings for Chris to herself.  Nichole is instantly drawn to Blake but must keep her feelings in check since he is attached to the final group member, Danielle.  Blake likes Nichole as well but Danielle is a little scary and willing to perform harmful magic in order to keep Blake.  As you have already guessed, the group dynamic makes working together as a team all the more difficult. 

The Bottom Line:  While the Prophecy of Shadows is very reminiscent of the Percy Jackson series, I simply don’t care.  I loved the Percy Jackson series (the original, not that crap that came later!) so reading something similar with a twist is right my alley.  There was a lot of ground to cover in this book: 1) witches and witchcraft, 2) the coming together of the group of five, 3) the origin of the group and the big bads, 4) the actual prophecy that sets all the action into motion, 5) and the set up for the next book in the series.  Madow has done a decent job of covering all the bases and I suspect (and hope) we will be seeing far more character and plot development in later installments which will serve the series well.  Overall, I liked this read and feel comfortable recommending it to lovers of witches/witchcraft, Greek mythology, and YA/high school reads.

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About the author and where to find her:

SONY DSCMichelle Madow grew up in Baltimore, graduated Rollins College in Orlando, and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida. She wrote her first book in her junior year of college, and has been writing novels since. Some of her favorite things are: reading, pizza, traveling, shopping, time travel, Broadway musicals, and spending time with friends and family. Michelle has toured across America to promote her books and to encourage high school students to embrace reading and writing. Someday, she hopes to travel the world for a year on a cruise ship.  To get instant updates about Michelle’s new books, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Amazon!

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Mylena Chronicles by Chloe Jacobs

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Book #1 - Greta and the Goblin King

Title: Greta and the Goblin King Series: Book #1: Mylena Chronicles Author: Chloe Jacobs Format: Kindle Edition, 305 pages Published: November 13, 2012 by Entangled: Teen ASIN: B00R6AVKHY

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Synopsis:

While trying to save her brother from the witch three years ago, Greta was thrown into the fire herself, falling through a portal to a dangerous world where humans are the enemy, and every ogre, goblin, and ghoul has a dark side that comes out with the full moon. To survive, 17-year-old Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter–and she’s good at what she does. So good, she’s caught the attention of Mylena’s young Goblin King, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her determination to escape. But Greta’s not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. The full moon is mere days away, and an ancient evil being knows she’s the key to opening the portal. If Greta fails, she and the boys she finds stranded in the woods will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back . . .

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Book #2 - Greta and the Glass Kingdom

Title: Greta and Glass Kingdom Series: Book #2: Mylena Chronicles Author: Chloe Jacobs Format: Paperback, 320 pages Published: February 9, 2015 by Entangled: Teen ISBN: 1622662660

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Synopsis:

Greta the human bounty hunter never quite fit into the shadowed, icy world of Mylena. Yet she’s managed to defeat the demon Agramon and win the love of the darkly intense Goblin King, Isaac. Now Isaac wants her to rule by his side—a human queen. And the very announcement is enough to incite rebellion… To make matters worse, defeating Agramon left Greta tainted with a dark magick. Its unclean power threatens to destroy her and everything she loves. With the Goblin King’s life and the very peace of Mylena at stake, Greta must find a cure and fast.  Her only hope lies with the strange, elusive faeries in the Glass Kingdom…if she can get there before the evil within her destroys everything.

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Book #3 - Greta and the Lost Army

Title: Greta and the Lost Army Series: Book #3: Mylena Chronicles Author: Chloe Jacobs Published: February 1, 2016 by Entangled TEEN ISBN: 1633755568

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 Synopsis:

After spending the last four years trapped in a place of monsters, demons, and magick, the last thing the fierce teenage bounty hunter Greta expected was to ever be back on Earth. But a rare opportunity gives her and the Goblin King Isaac the opportunity to do just that. Now she’s home. With a boy in tow. And her parents have lots of questions.  Although Greta finally has her heart’s deepest wish—to see her family again—every step she takes to reconnect with them drives her further away from Isaac. Greta and Isaac planned for her to return to Mylena and become his queen, but she’s not sure if she can go back to that harsh world, though staying on Earth means giving up the boy she loves.  But a powerful enemy refuses to let Greta escape. A demon who will stop at nothing to destroy her and everything she loves. Even if it means following her to Earth and forcing her to face a fate as unavoidable as love itself.

Excerpt from Greta and the Lost Army (Book #3: Mylena Chronicles):

The streetlamps cast soft cones of light on the sidewalks all the way through the neighborhood. Greta pointed things out as she remembered them. “That’s where my friend Danielle used to live. I guess she probably still lives there.”

“Are you looking forward to seeing her again?”

She nodded. “And if I remember correctly, she’s more hyper than a Mylean berserker—only less ripping and tearing, and more frenzied hugging and constant talking.”

The rumble of his amused chuckle made her grin. He squeezed her hand. She looked up at him, and it hit her. “You know, this is kind of like a date,” she said, tingles of awareness dancing up her spine.

His smile was crooked, and his eyes warm as he laid his arm across her shoulders, making her feel like he would rather be here with her right now than anywhere else. It probably wasn’t true. They were both too worried about Mylena for it to ever leave their minds completely, but maybe one day it would be true.

“What would be the purpose of a date?” There was such a thing as courtship in Mylena, but she and Isaac had pretty much bypassed anything resembling normal…in both worlds.

What if she was wrong and the portal didn’t open again? What if they stayed here? There could be more nights just like this, and eventually maybe they would get a place of their own and… “You know, so a couple can get to know one another and decide if they like each other.”

“But we already know we like each other.” When they were alone like this and his voice softened because he trusted her enough to let down his guard, it did crazy things to her. Like popping candy hitting her bloodstream. “Even more important, we know that we fit together. In battle together, or planning for Mylena’s future, even while arguing…and definitely when I kiss you…nobody fits me like you do.”

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About the author and where to find her:

chloe-jacobsChloe Jacobs is a native of nowhere and everywhere, having jumped around to practically every Province of Canada before finally settling in Ontario where she has now been living for a respectable number of years. Her husband and son are the two best people in the entire world, but they also make her wish she’d at least gotten a female cat. No such luck. And although the day job keeps her busy, she carves out as much time as possible to write. Bringing new characters to life and finding out what makes them tick and how badly she can make them suffer is one of her greatest pleasures, almost better than chocolate and fuzzy pink bunny slippers.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Thirst: Blood of My Blood by RP Channing

 

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Title: Thirst: Blood of my Blood Author: RP Channing Format: Kindle Edition, 243 pages Published: November 26, 2015 ASIN:B018M5GTLI

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Synopsis:

Kira Sutherland: After a near fatal accident (and getting cheated on by her ‘boyfriend’), and beating up the lead cheerleader (with whom the boyfriend cheated…), and being labeled as having ‘issues’ in her school because she, uhm, sees ghosts, Kira is left with two choices: 

1. Continue her ‘therapy’ (where she’s told the ghost is a hallucination and also gets her legs ogled too often…) 

Or 

2. Go to Starkfield Academy, a boarding school for “Crazies and Convicts” (as the social media sites call them.)

She chooses the latter…

Cory Rand: Cory Rand has not had an easy life. His mother died in a car accident when he was twelve, and so did his mother’s best friend…sort of. You see, Janice made a promise to take care of Cory just before she died, and so she lingers. Undead. A ghost that watches out for him.  Brought up in an abusive home, Cory quickly falls into a life of disreputable behavior. After his third offense (which was prompted by a girl, as usual – he has a weakness) he’s left with two choices: 

1. Be tried as an adult and share a cell with a guy named Bubba (he thinks…) 

Or 

2. Go to Starkfield Academy, which Cory is pretty sure is run by vampires. But, hey, at least he’ll get an education.

He chooses the latter…

It’s at Starkfield that Kira meets Cory Rand, a boy with an insatiable Rage who sees ghosts, too. As well as other things, other things from his past, things that confuse him, things like fire and witches and demons.  Things he’s always ignored.  Until now.

Excerpts from Thirst: Blood of my Blood:

#1: The Puppy Eyes: 

My life was perfect.  I had the perfect shoes and the perfect friends and I lived in the perfect house. My nails were perfect and my hair was perfect (except on Sundays, it was always windy on Sundays) and I had the perfect clothes. My lips were a perfect red and my hair perfectly straight. My eyeshadow was perfect, my hips were…okay, and my waist…well…also okay. Nothing was wrong in my life.  But then there was Jack. Jack was a problem. He needed to go. I mean, when you’re dead, you’re dead! I had told him this endlessly. Somehow, Jack didn’t get it. I mean, I felt sorry for the guy. Sure. Being stuck between this life and the next. But just because I found him, does that mean I needed to keep him? I think not! Sadly, when Jack got that look in his eyes, that weary, almost teary (if his tearducts worked) look, I melted. I just couldn’t send him away. Not even Jack knew where he would go after he died.  Would he, like, die? As in — dead, nada, kaput, finito, gone, no more? Bye bye, sayonara, ciao, hasta la vista baby and all that? I couldn’t have that on my conscience. No way.  I lay on my bed, wondering what to do about him. “Jaaaaaaack,” I hollered.  “Jaaaaaaack!” Still no answer. “Jack!” Jack…materialized. His eyes rolled down to the ground. He was making those puppy eyes again. “Jack, I told you not to do that. I told you not to play on my sympathies.” His puppy eyes became worse. 
His skin was gray and, well, dead. “Oh, brother,” I said. “I have to do something about you. If mom finds out I have another ‘imaginary friend’ — at my age — well, I’d die of embarrassment. But, like, really die. Not like you.” I wondered about this. Would I die? Was Jack a freak accident, or did all people live on like him? Think of the cemeteries… The idea excited me somewhat. “What would you have me do, Miss Kira?” “Knock off the Miss Kira crap. I told you it’s just Kira.” “Yes, Miss Kira.”  The dead. There’s just no reasoning.  “Fine, Miss Kira it is then.” Rover barked like a lunatic in the garden. No one else might be able to see Jack, but I was sure my dog could.  “I have to do something about this,” I mumbled. 

#2: The Rat:
Mike knocked on the door before I had time to leave the house. Mike was the guy I thought (at the time) was perfect. “Who is it?” “It’s me, baby.” Baby, urgh — I wasn’t his baby. I dated Mike because he was the quarterback, because girls are supposed to like the quarterback, because it’s just so darn perfect to be seen with the quarterback, like we’re brainwashed into thinking these things from the first romantic doll set mom buys us. This was my previous life. “Mike.” “Uh-huh. Gonna let me in?” So you can try rub me up and then complain when I don’t let you? This, dear reader, was the big problem with Mike. The second we first kissed, his hand went way too far south for me to be comfortable — and I pulled back. Mike suddenly wasn’t so perfect. 
“Uhm, I was just on my way out,” I said. “Kira? C’mon, open the door.” He sounded upset. “Is there someone in there with you?” Boys. As if. I didn’t know much about love (nothing, actually) but I knew this wasn’t it.  “Uhm, now’s not the time, Mike.”  “C’mon, Kira, what’s going on?” He banged harder.  When in doubt…lie. I opened the door a crack. “There’s a dead rat in the house, Mike. Been here for days. I gotta go get some detergent and stuff to handle the stench.” Mike stepped back. He peered through the crack of the door.  “It’s really bad,” I said.  “I’ll drive you.” “I’m afraid the smell” — I stuck my armpit to my nose — “has found its way all over me. I’ll drive myself.” “O — okay. Fine.” And then he grinned like he wanted something. “Later? My place?” Urgh. “Uhm, sure…er…later. Not sure when though.” “Six.” I fought the urge to roll my eyes. According to girls at school, he was apparently so damn good looking — theoretically. But for me personally, he did nothing. Moved nothing. Twisted nothing. “Look, I gotta go, Mike. I gotta — ” “Kira.” His eyes grew stern. “You’ve been avoiding me…” Bingo! Well done contestant number one! And what have you won? A brain! I tilted my head. “Mike, look, this…rat — I need to deal with it. We’ll talk later, okay? Bye.” I closed the door, not waiting for an answer, and peered out the peep hole. Mike hung around for a second, shoulders wide and eyes glaring straight at me through the door. Could he see me? Did he know I was looking at him? He kicked something off the ground, and I had the distinct impression he mouthed the word Bitch before leaving. But I wasn’t sure… 

#3: The Mack:
“Roll down the window, Jack.” Jack was recently dead, so he still had a smell about him. (Which only I could smell…) I had purposely skipped breakfast. Maybe Jack would help me lose weight. I was (still am) a little wide, although it had never stopped guys flirting with me. I know how to dress.  But I could be skinnier.  Lucy Rogers was skinny. All bones and no boobs.  Charlene Carverton was a babe. Cheerleader. Big chest (which she pushed out generously with a push-up — if only guys knew). Toned thighs. Charlene only dated college boys (back then), which I still think is pretty gross for a girl her age.  “He’s not for you,” Jack said out the blue. “Hmm?” “This…Mike — he’s wrong for you, Miss Kira.” For all Jack’s faults (mainly, being dead), he has a good heart. Factually, probably it’s why I kept him around at first. “You think I don’t know that?” “Then why don’t you dump him?” I braked at a stop sign. Looked left and right. “Because I’d look like an idiot. I flirted with him and showed interest, and one kiss later I can’t stand the sight of him.” “So dump him.” “It’s not that simple. Kids at school — they can be vicious. I have to let it fade slowly. If I drop the bomb on him, I’ll never hear the end of it through senior year.” “And you care?” Yes, I did. Forget Guantanamo, schools are rough. “You don’t understand, Jack. Maybe school was different in your day. But in mine, well, we walk through metal detectors.”  “Schools weren’t too different in my day.” I noted the sadness in his voice. “You okay?” “I’m dead.” Right. “You miss…your life?”
Jack shrugged. “I like being with you, Miss Kira. And I don’t remember much of my life. I think I’m in limbo.” “Limbo?” “Yes, like I have some unfinished business. If only I could remember…what…it is…” He scratched his head.  “Any ideas?” “Well, it can’t be love. If it were love, I’d be a vampire. That’s who teenage girls fall in love with these days.” “A vampire? That’s just what I need — two undead beings stalking me.” “I feel I have something to do around you, Miss Kira. I don’t know what, but something. Something important.” I looked over at him. “Me?” I was still looking at him when I missed the stop sign. The Mack truck drove straight into us.

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About the author and where to find him:

R P Channing started writing three years ago, but never published anything even after churning out over a million words of fiction. Thirst: Blood of my Blood is the first book he dared to publish. When asked why, he said, “Because it’s the first thing I wrote that my wife actually enjoyed reading.” When not hammering away (most literally) at his keyboard, he can be found buried in a book, reading anything from romance to horror to young adult to non-fiction to comedy.

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SWEEPSTAKES: At the back of the book there is a giveaway link. Once the book hits fifty reviews on Amazon, one of those reviewers will win a $20 (US Dollars) Amazon Gift Voucher!

 

Excerpt and Sweepstakes: The Secret to Letting Go by Katherine Fleet

 

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Title: The Secret to Letting Go Author: Katherine Fleet Print Length: 334 pages Publisher: Entangled: digiTeen Published: February 1, 2016 ASIN: B01AGHEOBM

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Synopsis:

Haunted with guilt after his girlfriend’s death, Daniel Hudson has no interest in committing to anyone. At the end of the summer, he’ll be leaving Florida for a new start in college. If only he could avoid the mysterious new girl in town, who seems every bit as naive and eccentric as she looks. Trouble is, she’s hard to ignore, with her beautiful piercing eyes, pitiful-looking dog, and unsettling tendency of finding trouble.   Clover Scott lived her whole life off the grid and arrives on the Gulf coast in search of her grandparents. She never expected to nearly drown, or get caught in a hurricane, or fall in love with the boy who rescues her. Now, she has a chance to rewrite her life’s story, to finally fit in somewhere, but Daniel wants answers about her past. When the police start asking questions about the disappearance of her parents, she must make a choice: go to jail or confess her secrets—even if they might destroy her chance at a happily-ever-after.

Excerpt from The Secret to Letting Go:

“So, I’ll see you tomorrow at noon?”

She nodded so hard, her teeth probably rattled. “I’d like that.”

It wasn’t like we were arranging a date, so why did her enthusiasm make me straighten up and puff out my chest? “We can meet at the beach next to the pier. My friends and I’ll be surfing. You bring the preserves, and I’ll bring the stove.”

Uncertainty flickered across her face, and her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.

I should have used her reluctance to back out, but instead I reassured her. “We won’t be hard to find. We’re just north of the pier, and this way we can meet on neutral territory.”

Her expression turned blank.

“You know…in case I’m secretly a serial killer. There’s always safety in numbers.”

Her lips twitched upward, and she laughed. The sound tinkled through the air like wind chimes on a breezy day. “I already know you’re not a bad person.”

“Oh yeah?”

She nodded. Her unwavering stare made me want to squirm in my shoes. “True evil can never be hidden. It’s always there, if you know where to look. When I look at you, I see only good things.”

I snatched my gaze away from hers and tugged at the collar of my shirt. I wanted to know how she could talk with such authority on the subject. I wanted to know what evil she’d seen, but I wanted even more to escape the narrow store aisle. Warning bells pealed in my brain. She’s crazy. Don’t get involved.

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About the author and where to find her:

Katherine-FleetOriginally from Newfoundland, Canada, Katherine Fleet moved with her family to the Caribbean island of Curaçao in 2007. The slower pace of island life gave her time to pursue a long-time goal – becoming an author. When she’s not writing, she spends her time baking, chauffeuring her three amazing, talented kids around, and having sun-filled adventures with her wonderful friends. She is a member of RWA™ and several of its chapters. She also loves NaNoWriMo and is an active supporter of the associated Young Writers Program. She is represented by super-agent Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. The Secret to Letting Go is her debut novel.

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Excerpts: Jen Frederick’s The Woodlands Series

 

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Synopsis:

UNDECLARED: For four years, Grace Sullivan wrote to a Marine she never met, and fell in love. But when his deployment ended, so did the letters…Noah has always known exactly what he wants out of life. Success. Stability. Control. That’s why he joined the Marines and that’s why he’s fighting his way — literally — through college. Now that he’s got the rest of his life on track, he has one last conquest: Grace Sullivan. But since he was the one who stopped writing, he knows that winning her back will be his biggest battle yet.

UNSPOKEN: AnnMarie Sullivan made one mistake in her freshman year and her entire college existence became tainted by it. Guys labeled her as easy and girls shied away. To cope, AnnMarie stayed away from Central social life and away from Central men until Bo Randolph storms into her life. Bo allows instinct to rule his behavior. If it feels good, do it, has been his motto. AnnMarie is everything he didn’t realize he wanted. He knows he should walk away, but he just can’t.

UNRAVELED: Twenty-five-year-old Sgt. Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his life: stay in the Marine Corps or get out and learn to be a civilian? He’s got forty-five days of leave to make up his mind but the people in his life aren’t making the decision any easier. His dad wants him to get out; his grandfather wants him to stay in. And his growing feelings for Sam Anderson are wreaking havoc with his heart…and his mind. He believes relationships get ruined when a Marine goes on deployment. So now he’s got an even harder decision to make: take a chance on Sam or leave love behind and give his all to the Marines.

UNREQUITED: Winter Donovan loves two things: her sister and her sister’s ex boyfriend. She’s spent her whole life doing the right thing except that one time, that night when Finn O’Malley looked hollowed out by his father’s death. Then she did something very wrong that felt terribly right. Finn can’t stop thinking about Winter and the night and he’ll do anything to make her a permanent part of his life, even if it means separating Winter from the only family she has. Their love was supposed to be unrequited but one grief stricken guy and one girl with too big of a heart results in disastrous consequences.

Excerpt from Undeclared (Book #1: Woodlands Series):

Dear Grace,

My biggest fear, huh? I don’t think I ever told you about my recruitment experience, did I? So the AF reps show up at high school on career day. Bo had skipped and gone somewhere to drink the day away. Lucky bastard. I would’ve cut class that day, too, but I had too many skips and was warned that if I had any more, they would withhold my diploma and make me go to summer school. That wasn’t going to happen.

Anyway, I end up talking with the Army and Marine recruiters. Their spiels are pretty similar. They ask me about my interests, and I tell them getting the hell out of Nowheresville is my priority. The Marine recruiter nods and says he felt the same way. He tells me I can earn money, get my college paid for, and make a lot of friends. The first one sounds interesting, the second intriguing, the third I could care less about. Turns out the last one is actually the biggest benefit of joining.

Later, the recruiter follows up with me.  Gives me a huge laundry list of awesome things about joining. I tell him he doesn’t have to sell me anymore, that I’m ready to sign. Only I’m debating between the Marines and the Army. Then I make my biggest mistake ever. I admit that I’m not a fan of water. The Marine recruiter laughs and says, “You’ll be infantry, son,” and I sign.

When I get to boot camp they tell me the Marines are a branch of the Navy. The Navy, Grace. The Marine recruiter must have noted that I had an aversion to water, because every punishment I ever received was water-related.

The moral of this story is that I can’t go around telling people my greatest fear, because someone will use it against me. It ain’t water anymore.

~Noah

__

Dear Grace,

I think what you feel on my letters is dust. I’m bummed that it is on my letters to you. They say it’s sand, but it’s finer than that. It’s like the particles that make up the sand, and it is everywhere. When you get home on leave and wash for the first time, you have to stand under the water for at least twenty minutes, all the while watching the black dust collect and pool at your feet, creating coffee-colored water that swirls down the drain.

I don’t think you can ever fully erase the dust from your belongings. It sticks with you no matter how long you let the water wash over you or how many times you wipe it away. Like the tension I have in being weaponless and exposed back home, the dust is one of the many things I’ll carry with me when I’m out.

I’m sorry that it is invading your space now through my letters. It’s like I’m spreading a contaminant. Am I Patient Zero, or are you?

I probably shouldn’t have volunteered for a third tour, but combat pay is hard to turn down. After three years here, though, I feel like I am a loosely contained conglomerate of those particles of dust.

Yours, Noah

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Excerpt from Unspoken (Book #2: Woodlands Series):

“I heard you drove over to the TKE house and played ‘If You Love Me’ on a loop from your convertible until the sorority girl came out, with her white dress billowing behind her. Maybe there was a glass slipper left on the stairs. I can’t remember.”

Bo was laughing at this. “First, I don’t have a convertible and wow, I sound like a total douche bag. How is this rumor helping my reputation?”

“It’s not a douche bag move.” I took a sip of my coffee. “It’s totally a Lloyd Dobbler, Say Anything move. John Hughes could have scripted that.”

“John Hughes?”

“You know, the moviemaker from the eighties.”

“You weren’t born in the eighties.”

“They’re still teen movies!”

“If I say you’re hot when you’re angry, will you hit me?”

I motioned that I would throw the cup of coffee in his face, which only made Bo laugh more.

“Okay, okay. Sorry. Tell me why this is appealing, because it sounds kind of pathetic to me.”

“I can’t believe you haven’t seen Say Anything.” I shook my head in disbelief.

“I’m pretty sure I was too busy killing people in Call of Duty to watch that movie.”

“In Say Anything, Lloyd Dobbler stands outside his love’s window and holds up a boombox that’s playing their song. In the rain. It’s very romantic.” I held up my arms to mimic the gesture.

He looked at me skeptically.

“It’s a sign of his true love,” I argued.

“I think true love is signified by more than some dippy guy standing outside in the rain playing music for a girl.”

“What’s an act of true love, then?”

“Throwing your body on a grenade so your buddies don’t become pieces of shrapnelized flesh.”

“My God, did you do that in the war?” I was shocked. I’d seen Bo without his shirt on and didn’t recall seeing any marks. Maybe I’d been blind? I shuddered at the thought of him being hurt.

“No,” he sighed, “but I know a guy in a different unit that did.”

“Okay, but that’s not something you could do for a girl here.” I frowned.

“True love means that you’d be willing to sacrifice all for another person.” That was pretty profound. Bo believed that?

“So maybe Lloyd was sacrificing his ego for Dianne in the movie,” I countered.

“Possibly. Still seems like a passive, weak-ass move.” Bo rubbed a finger across his chin and relaxed back in his chair.

“What should he have done?”

“To express his love?”

“Yes!” I exclaimed, leaning toward him. My hands were planted on my legs and I felt poised to jump him, either in frustration or desire.

“Actions speak louder than words. Or singing, as the case may be.”

“He was out there, in the rain.”

“But he wasn’t doing anything. You show a woman you love her by what you do for her, from opening her door to making sure that bumps in the road of life are smoothed out. That she wants and worries for nothing. That when you think about sex, it’s her face in your fantasies, her body you’re touching, her lips you’re kissing. That every day you remind her that she’s the first thought in your mind when you wake up and the last thought before you drop off to sleep.”

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Excerpt from Unraveled (Book #4: Woodlands Series):

“I’m going to kiss you now.” His voice was deep and rough, and it matched the rest of his thoroughly masculine body.

“I know,” I whispered back. And I wanted that kiss from Gray, even though he ordinarily wouldn’t be my type at all. I wanted it more than I wanted to breathe. When his mouth molded against mine, it felt like bliss—as if my whole cold body had been submerged into a warm bath. If I thought I had been engulfed before it was nothing like I felt at that moment. My entire world—my thoughts, my feelings, my senses—were full of him. I tasted the mint and hops on his tongue. I inhaled the scents of cinnamon and bergamot and ocean of his faint cologne into my airways. I felt the calloused palm on my waist and then lower against the exposed skin of my thigh. His dense muscles were drawn tight under his skin and the fabric of his t-shirt and he felt as strong as a citadel. The moan that had been building since he first backed me into the wall escaped. It had been so long since I’d had the touch of a man’s hand on any part of me, and I nearly wept at the pleasure of it.

Every square inch of my body felt sensitized, as if I’d been an unlit Christmas tree and I’d just been plugged in. I wanted to feel his hands all over, not just on that patch of thigh. I needed his touch in those secret places, those places I thought had calcified. I’d thought I’d been waiting for the smooth hands of an accountant but the longer, rougher fingers pushing the hem of my shorts up couldn’t belong to a man who worked in an office.

His tongue and mouth broke from mine to leave a hot, wet path from my mouth, across my jaw line, and down to my neck. My leg lifted of its own accord and he took it as a sign to hitch me up higher until both my legs either dangled off the floor or wrapped around him. I chose to wrap my legs around him and was rewarded with a thick hard column pressing into my sex. We both groaned at the contact and I could feel his sound against my neck. The reverberations sent minor shocks throughout my nervous system. Holding me up against the wall, he began thrusting against me rhythmically, every impact of his hips making me hotter and wetter than I thought I could get.

I gripped him tighter with my legs and dug my hands into his hair, using every bit of his body as leverage. He held me up with ease, as if I were a feather. One hand was under my right butt cheek and the other was exploring my left side, pulling out my T-shirt, only to find the tank underneath. Needing his mouth back, I tugged on his hair and he took the hint immediately. He fastened his lips over mine and we devoured each other, still rubbing our lower bodies against each other as the bass from the dance floor pounded the floor boards.

Whimpering, I begged in moans and small cries for more. A familiar but almost forgotten tension was winding its way from between my legs outward. All thoughts of storage rooms and hallways and strangers were lost in the swirl of bright lights bursting behind my eyelids.

“I got you, baby,” he growled against my mouth. “Just let go.” And so I did. I closed my eyes and let those long-dormant feelings wash over me, spreading from the inside of my legs to the nerve endings in my toes and fingertips and the very top of my head. And he kept grinding and grinding and grinding against me, whispering in my ear how I was the hottest thing he’d ever held, how he couldn’t wait to taste me, how he’d die if he couldn’t be inside me tonight.

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About the author and where to find her:

Jen Frederick lives with her husband, child, and one rambunctious dog. She’s been reading stories all her life but never imagined writing one of her own. Jen loves to hear from readers so drop her a line at jensfrederick@gmail.com.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Schemes Gone Amiss (Book #2: Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper) by Collette Cameron

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Title: Schemes Gone Amiss Series: Book #2: Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper Author: Collette Cameron Genre: Historical Romance Format: Kindle Edition, 173 pages Published: February 1, 2016 by Blue Rose Romance LLC ASIN: B01A0E42HW

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Synopsis:

Intrepid and outspoken, Blythe Culpepper is dragged against her will to London for a Season. To her dismay, her guardian enlists the devilishly attractive Lord Leventhorpe, the one man she detests, to assist with her Come Out. Since their first encounter, hostile looks and cutting retorts have abounded whenever they meet, yet she cannot deny the way her body reacts when he’s near. So perhaps it’s no surprise that upon overhearing another woman scheming to entrap Tristan into marriage, Blythe risks all to warn him.   Haunted by childhood trauma, Tristan, the austere and controlled Marquis of Leventhorpe, usually avoids social gatherings. So why, against his better judgement, does he agree to aid his closet friend in presenting the Culpeppers to the ton? Might it be because one Culpepper stirs more than his interest? Blythe taxes him to his limits with her sharp wit and even sharper tongue. Yet, he cannot deny the beauty fascinates him.  However, when an old enemy comes calling, using Blythe to settle old scores, Tristan must decide if protecting his honor is more important than winning the heart of the woman he has come to love. 

Excerpt from Schemes Gone Amiss (Book #2: Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper):

“You’ve a dab of dirt smearing your cheek, just there.” Lord Leventhorpe indicated her cheek with a long finger.

Covered in dog hair, mud, and grass. Perfectly lovely.

Blythe wiped her face. “Did I get it?”

“No. You smeared the blob more.” He chuckled and moved his fingers over his cheek, in imitation of where her smudge was. “You look rather like an adorable ragamuffin who’s been making mud pies.”

Blythe rubbed the spot again then examined her gloves. Earth marred the fingertips. Whether from wiping her face or from her tumbles in the park, she didn’t know. Probably ruined her gloves too. “Better?”

“No. Allow me.” He swiftly removed his black leather glove. “Lean my way a mite.”

Blythe complied, and he bent and brushed his thumb along her cheek a couple of times.

Sensation darted outward, raising the flesh along her shoulders and arms.

The shards of silver in his gaze glittered as he stared into her eyes, and his touch lingered a fraction longer than entirely necessary. “You have the loveliest eyes and the most perfect mouth I’ve ever seen.”

Such was the wonder in his voice, he almost seemed to speak to himself.

Blythe wet her lips, gone abruptly dry as autumn leaves.

His gaze riveted upon her mouth, tension tightened his lips.

He had the most beautifully sculpted mouth she’d ever noticed, and that included the Greek gods from last night’s ball. Were Lord Leventhorpe’s as warm and firm and tasty as they appeared?

What the blazes did Mr. Burlington’s lips look like?

Did he have lips?

He must, of course.

A wheel sank into a hole with bone-jarring force, abruptly interrupting Blythe’s mental rambling and pitching her and Lord Leventhorpe headfirst. His hat flew from his head as he tumbled from his seat onto his knees and reflexively wrapped his arms around her to keep her from plunging to the floor.

Their faces mere inches apart, Blythe couldn’t haul her gaze from the glinting specks in Lord Leventhorpe’s eyes. His focus sank to her lips, and his enlarged pupils revealed his arousal.

Would he kiss her?

Did she want him to?

Illogically, yes.

Breath suspended, she remained perfectly motionless. Waiting.

Lowering his head, he tightened his embrace an instant before his lips whispered across hers.

A brilliant light burst behind her eyes, and every bone in her body turned molten. She clutched his lapels, certain if she let go, she’d slither to the floor.

He ran his tongue along the seam of her lips, and, sighing, she readily capitulated and parted her mouth, eager to taste more of him.

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About the author and where to find her:

Bestselling, award-winning author, Collette Cameron, has a BS in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in Teaching. Author of the Castle Brides Series. Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, and Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper Series, Collette writes Regency and Scottish historicals and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and five mini-dachshunds. Mother to three and a self-proclaimed Cadbury Chocolate chocoholic, Collette loves a good joke, inspirational quotes, flowers, trivia, and all things shabby chic and cobalt blue. You’ll always find dogs, birds, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels.  Her motto for life? You can’t have too much chocolate, too many hugs, or too many flowers or books.  She’s thinking about adding shoes to that list.

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Email: collettecameronauthor@gmail.com

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Spotlight: Boy (Book #2: The Training House Series) by Eden Bradley

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Title: Boy Series: Book #2: The Training House Author: Eden Bradley Published: January 26, 2016 by Smashwords Edition ISBN13: 9780990501268

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Synopsis:

Being broken has never been such beautiful torture…  I am Christopher. I am most specifically not called Boy in this exclusive slave training arena where every submissive male is known as ‘Boy’. They don’t let me retain my identity—they make me. They keep me in my head, in my body, no matter what they’re doing to me, because they know I require it. They call me brat. They call me rebel. These terms are far too bland to describe what I really am. I am anger in chains. I am seething sexual animal. I am the worst kind of f*ck-up.  The Master loves me. Maybe only because the level of my misbehavior challenges him to come up with new and terrible punishments. Do I sound proud? I am. I also love him, in my way. It’s a strange dynamic, one that has never been disrupted by anyone. Until I saw the new Girl.  Fresh-faced and indescribably lovely. Burning alchemical reaction that threatened to consume me the moment I saw her. I will call her Aimee. I refuse to play the Master’s games. Because for reasons I don’t understand, she is instantly more to me than any of the other Girls. What will she think of me? The ultimate anarchist. The keeper of secrets. The unbreakable one. Why do I even care? All I know is that I do. And that this Girl could ultimately be the one who finally breaks me.

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About the author and where to find her:

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author Eden Bradley aka Eve Berlin writes dark, edgy erotic fiction. Her work has been called ‘elegant, intelligent and sensual’. Her debut novel, THE DARK GARDEN, has been praised as ‘a masterpiece’, and was a Romantic Times Top Pick. Her novels and novellas have been translated into German, Romanian, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Polish and Japanese.  As someone who has been involved in BDSM practice for much of her adult life, she relates in particular to her kink stories, infusing them with her own truth about kink practice from her life experiences. Eden speaks regularly on BDSM psychology and practice, as well as sex positive culture for women.

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