Monthly Archives: March 2015

Jennifer Reviews: Missing Pieces by Meredith Tate (@mltate24)

Missing Pieces

Synopsis:

Your family is the most important part of your life. Your families are the people you love, and love is what separates us from scoundrels and criminals. It maintains order. Your parents, your sibling, and your Partner, are the ones you love. There should never, ever, be anyone else who comes close to that bond. You have only one best friend, and that is the person you’ll be marrying someday. We must learn to differentiate the relationships in our lives: the people we love, and the ones we don’t. It’s inappropriate, it’s foolish, and it’s forbidden to think otherwise.

Trace Bailey’s mouth is her worst enemy – somehow it always gets her in trouble. Luckily, she has a partner in crime – her best friend and neighbor since age seven, Piren Allston. He can’t get enough of her crazy sense of humor, and she loves that he’s always up for another adventure.

They can’t be friends, though, not in their world. Trace and Piren were Assigned to other people at the age of six, and they’re supposed to marry their Partners when they turn twenty-four. Failure to comply leads to Banishment, a fate worse than death.

Worse still is the growing realization that their bond is stronger than just friendship.

In a world without freedom, there are still choices to be made. Following their hearts means losing their family, but following the law means losing each other.

Forever.

My Review:

Missing Pieces is the story of best friends, Piren Allston and Trace Bailey. The two meet in childhood, and their strong bond to one another forms almost immediately. They spend as much of their free time together as possible and quickly achieve an intimacy that even children recognize as a once in a lifetime kind of event.

“From the moment we happened upon the treehouse, it became our sanctuary, our pirate ship, our castle, our hideaway, our place. We visited it every day after school.

Trace and I shared all our secrets lying on the floor of our treehouse, from the juicy to the mundane, I relished the chance to share my day’s stories with her, and most afternoons I couldn’t get up that ladder fast enough. She’d perch her chin on her hands and smile up at me, awaiting whatever news I wanted to tell. I knew she already accepted my secrets before I even opened my mouth. Her presence draped me in an overwhelming sense of comfort.”

Theirs is the kind of affection we tend to label as Puppy Love, and in our universe it is normally viewed as something endearing and sweet. Unfortunately, Piren and Trace do not live in the same world as us.

In their society, children are assigned Partners by those in authority and are committed to their eventual spouses at the age of six. From a very young age, children are taught that no one but their assigned partner can be their best friend and they must adhere to a strict set of social rules until they are old enough to marry.

They date no one but their partner and cannot kiss until age sixteen.

They must begin living together at eighteen, but cannot have sex before marriage takes place at twenty-four.

And they must never have more than two children.

These are just the basic rules; and you can bet there are plenty of other restrictions in place. Any violation of the rules results in Banishment from everyone and everything they know.

Despite the serious consequences at stake, Piren and Trace manage to find ways to keep and grow their friendship while still adhering to their societal expectations. However, this leads to near constant complications that begin in childhood, continue through adolescence and seep into adulthood.

As I read this story, it was obvious that even a best case scenario for Piren and Trace would not be free of conflict and anguish. I found myself growing increasingly concerned for their eventual outcomes with each turn of the page. Missing Pieces is a tension rich story, yet despite the logical probabilities that consume Piren and Trace, both characters stubbornly cling to the hope that they will find a way through their tribulations together.

As a result of their defiance, there isn’t much that comes easily to Piren and Trace. The author, Meredith Tate, doesn’t shy away from allowing her characters to be damaged, and this kind of fearlessness in writing is a trait I have come to admire. It can be difficult to put your characters through hell, subjecting them to their worst nightmares come true; but we all know that nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy to secure.

Don’t allow the youth of these characters to steer you away from giving this book a try. Piren and Trace may be young, but their lives are full of raw intensity. These characters shouldn’t be required to become wholly focused on adulthood responsibilities, but because they are their story is a mature and cautionary tale.

You will experience a wide range of emotions while reading Missing Pieces and I give tremendous credit to Meredith Tate for striking the perfect balance between all of them.

This is a 5 star read that I highly recommend.

Missing Pieces is now available from Omnific Publishing:

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You can also follow Meredith Tate on social media:

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Command the Tides by Wren Handman – Excerpt & Giveaway!

command the tides

 

Command The Tides,
a romantic fantasy novel by Wren Handman

 

Excerpt:

“David, help Ryan cover the trail. I’ll help Sarah take Darren. Taya, take my sword and cover us.”

“The girl? She’s like to cut off her own feet as an enemy!” Liam hissed.

Taya felt her face grow hot. As always when she felt embarrassment closing in, she covered it with anger. She grabbed Jeremy’s sword by the hilt, drawing it out with one smooth motion and swinging it down so the point touched the ground just an inch in front of Liam’s foot. She felt Jeremy take a staggering step backward, startled.

“I will not only cut our enemy, I will cut the feet off of our enemy and leave them to bleed in the dirt. I haven’t let us down yet, and I certainly don’t intend to start now. And if you ever call me ‘the girl’ again, I will show you exactly what I am expert at cutting off,” she snarled, and then she hoisted the sword and spun on her heel, storming away before he could react.

She stood at the edge of their sad, sodden company, the hilt of the sword resting snugly in the palm of her hand, her back straight and her head held high, and the only thing going through her mind was the fact she had absolutely, completely, no idea how to use a sword.

Giveaway:

Enter to win a copy of the book and one of 2 $10 Amazon cards!

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♢♢♢♢♢♢

Book Title: Command The Tides (The Chronicles of Midvalen, Book One)
Author: Wren Handman
ISBN: 9781623421809
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Available in Paperback and Ebook March 17, 2015

Amazon   BN.com  Goodreads  Simon and Schuster

Author Bio:

Wren Handman is a novelist, fiction writer, and playwright. Her first novel, Last Cut, was published by James Lorimer Publishing Ltd (Sept 2012) and is aimed at teenagers with reading difficulties. She has published short stories both in print and online, including in the anthology Voice From the Planet (Harvard Square Editions) and the online magazine Crow Toes Quarterly, an award-winning Canadian children’s publication. For regular updates check out her short fiction project, Lucid Dreaming (www.wrenhandman.com/lucid-dreaming), which responds to original art pieces with flash fiction stories.

Jennifer Reviews: Pros & Cons by Sydney Logan (@SydneyALogan)

1dcf9-p26c-ebook-cover

Synopsis:

Con artists Jenna York and Ethan Summers always seem to cross paths during their travels around the world. With their partners in tow, the cunning criminals wreak havoc across the globe, stealing from the rich and giving to the richer. While Jenna tries to convince herself that she sees him as nothing more than a professional rival, Ethan finds it a little harder to fight his attraction to the beautiful thief.

When tragedy strikes, Jenna and Ethan join forces, but are the stakes too high? Can they escape this last job with their lives—and their hearts—intact?

My Review:

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read and reviewed several of Sydney Logan’s novels. Her books are always well-written and offer a certain amount of sweetness that I find refreshing. I’ve enjoyed all her stories to date, and was excited when I heard another book was on the way. Right from the moment I first saw the cover of Pros & Cons, I knew there was going to be something a bit different about this story.  As soon as I began reading this book, I really began smiling…

 As I slip quietly out of the suite and rush toward the elevator, I can’t deny I’m feeling a little better about Vegas.

That is, until the elevator doors open.

Standing there, leaning against the stainless steel wall with a cocky smile on his face, is the one person I really didn’t want to see this weekend.

With a miserable groan, I step inside the elevator and furiously stab the button.

“Are you following me, Summers?”

“I’d follow your dimples anywhere, York.”

Ethan Summers is infuriatingly charming and handsome. Both assets have proven to be beneficial to his career and detrimental to mine.

“Well, these dimples just lifted Bradley Jones’ credit card numbers.”

“Impressive. Although, one might argue that a more superior con artist would be capable of accomplishing such a feat without showing a little skin. Really, Jenna, I’m disappointed.”

He rarely calls me by my first name. Last names have always been our thing.

“Were you watching me?”

“Every heterosexual man in the casino was watching your little performance. Nice legs, by the way.”

Crap.

“Not good,” I mutter.

“No, but I enjoyed it.”

Ethan grins as the elevator doors open. I don’t protest when he grabs me by the elbow and leads me toward the nearest exit. It’s not brightly lit, but there’s a very nice bouncer that Ethan greets by name who allows us to walk right out the door and into the starry Nevada night. He doesn’t let go of my arm as we hurry toward a black SUV.

“Why are you helping me?”

“You drugged a millionaire and stole his credit card info. I think it’s best we get you out of town.”

That doesn’t really answer my question, but I can’t argue with his logic.
Ethan opens the passenger door and helps me inside.

“Nice stilettos.”

I glare at him, and he shoots me a sexy smile before slamming my door.

It’s really too bad that I hate his guts.

Ethan Summers and I have crossed paths many times throughout the past couple years. It’s unavoidable, considering we’re two of the finest criminal minds in the world.

That’s what the news says, anyway.

“Let me guess,” Ethan says as he pulls the SUV out onto the highway. “You used Rohypnol on Jones?”

I roll my eyes. “I’m a thief, not a sexual predator.”

“Well, you obviously slipped something into his drink.”

“Sleeping pill.”

Ethan hums his disapproval. I can’t argue with him. Slipping Bradley a sedative is so amateur.

“I was desperate. The entire weekend has been a complete waste of time. When did the Viper install dome cams?”

“A few weeks ago. The casino’s hosting the U.S. Poker Championship next month. Ceiling cams are a requirement.”

“Super.”

“I know.”

“So, if you knew about the cameras, what were you doing at the casino?”

“Let’s just say a little birdie told me you were hitting the Viper tonight. I had a feeling you might need my assistance.”

“So you’ve been talking to Abby.”

He remains silent and keeps his eyes trained on the freeway, giving me the chance to study his profile. Ethan has a mop of unruly dark hair and deep blue eyes that make most girls go weak in the knees.

Not this girl. Nope.
“Like what you see?”

My face heats. I hate when he catches me ogling him.

“You’re an ass.”

He laughs. “Someday, Jenna, you’re going to stop fighting this attraction between us. I’m really looking forward to that.”

Right off the bat, Ethan and Jenna show us their incredible chemistry.  Their back and forth banter is flirty and fun, and as the story moves along the sexual tension between the two amps up considerably with each encounter. Along with this dose of humor, however, is a darker plot twist that perfectly offsets the sexy comedy. As the story progressed, I found myself wrapped up within the fast paced plot and drawn up in the suspense generated once years of conning others begins to catch up with Ethan and Jenna.

The synopsis for Pros & Cons is shorter than most books I see, and I think there is good reason for this. There are several great twists and turns within the story, and to reveal any one of them could really diminish from the reader’s overall enjoyment. I am always loathe to reveal spoilers in my reviews, so I’m hoping my enthusiasm for Pros & Cons along with the excerpt I’ve included here will be convincing enough for you to give this book a go. If you’re looking for an entertaining read with some great sexual tension and a large dose of humor thrown in, then I highly recommend Pros & Cons.

While I was reading the story, I tweeted Sydney Logan and informed her this was fast becoming my favorite book of hers, and I still stand behind that tweet in this review. Four fabulous and flirty stars from me!

Buy links:

Kindle

B&N Nook

About Author

Amazon bestselling author Sydney Logan holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. She is the author of three novels – Lessons Learned, Mountain Charm, and Soldier On. Sydney has also penned four short stories and is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul.

A native of East Tennessee, Sydney enjoys playing piano and relaxing on her porch with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat.

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Jennifer Reviews: Fix You by Beck Anderson (@BeckAndersonID)

Fix You final cover

Adult Contemporary Romance
New release from Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) March 2015
Previously released by Omnific Publishing

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Synopsis:

In this modern-day Cinderella story with a charming twist, a young widow with two rambunctious sons falls for a gorgeous movie star. But can she handle life in the limelight?
When Kelly Reynolds’s husband died two years ago, he left her to raise their two young boys. She’s barely pieced herself back together and takes refuge in her routine, running her kids around town and running the trails near their Idaho home.

A chance encounter on a trail run brings famous actor Andy Pettigrew into her life. He’s clearly interested in her, but Kelly hates risk, and a love affair with Andrew is certainly tempting fate. She doesn’t fit into his Hollywood world. She doesn’t own a pair of Louboutins, and she couldn’t walk five steps in them if she did. Andrew oozes cool. She reeks of dork.

Despite this, they click. But Andrew struggles with the pressures of his fame, and Kelly’s hold on a so-called normal life is already tenuous. So as much as she wants to indulge the fantasy, she doesn’t know how either of them is supposed to cope with stalkerazzi and tweet-happy fans with camera phones. Especially when she and Andrew both have secrets that seem impossible to keep…

Add to your Goodreads list!

 My Review:

As an author of a contemporary romance set in the celebrity world of Hollywood, I’m always interested to read someone else’s inside perspective on a movie star’s life.  Having already read another one of Beck Anderson’s novels, I was confident I would be treated to a good story in Fix You.  I’m happy to report that was exactly the case.

Both Fix You and The Jeweler feature heroines who are dealing with loss and grief, which can be a difficult emotion to write about.  It can be easy to over-dramatize the emotions associated with deep loss, just as easily as it can be to underwhelm a reader with a character’s apparent lack of feeling while mourning a loved one.  Just as when one writes about love, there is a fine balance to be maintained when addressing the delicate subject of death and grief. Beck Anderson has proven to me, not just once but twice, that she can convey these complicated emotions organically with her characters and I greatly admire this skill of hers.

When Kelly Reynolds loses her husband at the beginning of Fix You, the reader is taken along on her journey to mourn and to move on with life so that she can remain an involved and caring mother for their two children.  In the process of recovery, Kelly finds herself on vacation with her sons and her parents in California.  One morning she goes out for a jog and ends up running into one of the world’s most sought after movie stars. One brief introduction to Andy Pettigrew, the famous actor, leads to another brief interlude and soon Kelly finds herself easing into a most unlikely new friendship.

“Remember when you were first learning to drive?” I take another deep breath. I’m not sure if I’ve been breathing in any reliable way since we crossed the condo’s threshold.

“Yeah, I do, actually. Everything was a giant ordeal. My dad took me out in our neighborhood. I sneezed and ran the car up on Mr. Hattingfield’s yard. Took out his mailbox.”

“I haven’t been very social lately – except with people I know. Heck, since the boys were born, I haven’t been super social at all. Okay, I wasn’t ever amazingly social to begin with.”

“But your point?” I think he’s kind of grinning. At me. He could be close to laughing.

“I have one. Stop smiling. You’re not helping. The point is, I’m back at the aware-of-every-little-part-of-a-social-interaction stage. Like beginner driving, when you check the mirrors, and you have to think, Turn on the blinker. That’s the stage I’m in. I don’t even know where to look. Do I look right at you the whole time we talk? Do I look you right in the eye?”

I stop to breathe for a second. He turns the mug all the way around by the handle before he responds, his eyes on the tea bag. “You’re fine. You need to breathe, and you need to not tap the spoon on the table. Other than that, I find you pretty socially capable. I might even venture to say charming.”

“Where do I look?” This has devolved into a social etiquette class offered by a movie star to a woman whose mind has completely left her in her moment of need.

“You can always look at me.” He looks up from the mug, right into my eyes.

I agree. I think I could look at him for a nice long while.

Naturally, Andrew (as he prefers to be called) prefers to keep his personal life as private as possible, and given the situation Kelly is currently working through her mindset is in a similar place. The two enjoy a budding but secret friendship, and when Andrew makes an unexpected visit to Kelly’s hometown of Boise, he soon finds that her quiet lifestyle is exactly the kind of life he dreams to call his own.  The two spend limited time with one another but quickly come to rely on each other for a much needed change of pace from their individual normal routines.

Content in their bubble of distraction, Kelly and Andrew easily find ways to avoid sharing some of their deeper personal struggles with one another, but as their affection for one another begins to grow hiding these issues becomes more and more difficult.  Both Kelly and Andrew are in mentally fragile places and Fix You soon transforms into a dramatic love story as a result.

I’ve enjoyed reading Beck Anderson’s books recently and it is easy to see why Fix You was picked up by Gallery Books for a re-release. Beck is a skilled storyteller and she navigates her characters quite naturally through some very extraordinary circumstances.  As a reader, I experienced a wide variety of emotions while immersed in the story and practically read this book through in a single day, after finding it nearly impossible to set down.

For those of you who enjoy a good Hollywood novel or a story about finding love a second time around, I highly recommend Fix You. I happily rate it 4.5 stars!

About the Author

Beck Anderson loves to write about love and its power to heal and grow people past their many imperfections. She is a firm believer in the phrase “mistakes are for learning” and uses it frequently to guide her in writing life and real life.

Beck balances (clumsily at best) writing novels and screenplays, working full-time as an educator, mothering two pre-teen males, loving one post-40 husband, and making time to walk the foothills of Boise, Idaho, with Stefano DiMera Delfino Anderson, the suavest Chihuahua north of the border.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Locklear Library: The Prince by Sylvain Reynard (@sylvainreynard)

Morgan and I recently benefited from good book release timing. As we were finishing up our year-long read of Dragonfly in Amber, we realized we would have the perfect opportunity to read the first novella in The Florentine Series before moving on to the next book in the Outlander saga. We read through The Prince in just a couple of evenings and found it an intriguing introduction to the underworld of Florence, Italy.

In case you haven’t read one of our Locklear Library posts before here is how it works. This will be a written conversation between us about our experiences and impressions of the book. We do our best not to disclose spoilers, but we will be talking about the story, and we have no idea what we’ll be asking each other about until now.

Jennifer will go first…

 

the prince

JENNIFER: We’re both long time readers of Sylvain Reynard’s stories, and I know you’ve been curious to see what SR could do with a supernatural series. After reading The Prince what are your first impressions? What do you think of SR’s vampyres and their world?

MORGAN: Did you spell vampyres with a ‘y’ on purpose? SR told me many years ago that he wanted to write a vampire novel and I knew then that he had a dark side just waiting to get out. The Prince was even darker than I had expected. The Prince is savage, and worse yet, unreasonable! I didn’t know if I liked him or loathed him and I tend to enjoy reading complicated characters like that. As you know, I am a fan of creating and re-creating lore. What did you think of how SR used established rules and the new ones we hadn’t heard of before?

JENNIFER: Yes. I did spell the word with a ‘y’ on purpose out of respect for the world created in the Florentine Series.

I remember that we both were excited by the idea that the Prince had the ability to keep others of his kind away from his villa by making them feel physically ill whenever they strayed too close to his home. I have to admit that power could really come in handy sometimes.

A lone figure lurked in the shadows outside the Prince’s villa, which overlooked the city of Florence. From the villa’s windows, one could enjoy an incredible view of the skyline – even at night.

Not that the figure was able to enjoy that prospect.

The Prince used strange magic to repel others of his kind, or so the figure averred. Half a block from the villa, which was more like a fortress, he felt nauseated and uneasy, his muscles twitching. No wonder the Prince had ruled the city for so long. No one was able to set foot inside his gates, let alone challenge him physically.

Much of the vampyre lore I observed in The Prince was not unfamiliar, but I did enjoy how SR put a special twist on some of the usual vampyre rules. The moment when the Prince visits Santa Maria Novella and the Spanish Chapel stands out in my memory. I found myself replaying that scene over and over as I read The Raven. To me, it was an outstanding opportunity to study the true character of the Prince.

I heard you chuckling quite a bit whenever the Prince offered his unsolicited opinions about my beloved Professor Gabriel O. Emerson. May I ask what was so funny?

MORGAN: It was clear to me that SR was making the conversation between the Professor and Julia sickeningly sweet and I liked how it annoyed the Prince. I related to his character in those moments by wanting to kill them myself. I’m glad you brought up the “warding” of places to keep other vampires away. It was a cool bit of writing that I had never encountered before. I get the feeling that Aoibhe will have a bigger role to play in future books. What do you think about her?

“How does it feel to be dead, my lord?” Aoibhe addressed him in English as she entered his private rooms near the Council chamber.

He was seated in a tall wingbacked chair, perusing a leather-bound volume of Machiavelli and listening to medieval music, which he found soothing.

“A better question would be how does it feel to be dead again?”

Aoibhe laughed.

“There are many kinds of death. The littlest of them is my favorite.” She gave him a heated look.

He lifted his eyebrows but said nothing.

“I see you have yet to go into hiding.” She regarded his lavishly decorated apartment with appreciation.

“I wished to retrieve a few items.” He pointed to some books and a couple of manuscripts that he’d placed on a nearby table.

“When was the last time you fed, my lord?”

“Why?”

“I have procured sustenance for you. Someone lovely.”

“This is irregular.” The Prince’s eyes narrowed. “To what do I owe your generosity?”

“I’m glad you’re still alive.”

The Prince took a moment to examine her features.

She was beautiful and strong and very, very ambitious. He wondered if she resented Niccolo’s elevation. At the moment, it seemed clear she wanted something: he simply wasn’t able to discern what it was.

JENNIFER: This is probably a good time for us to mention that while I went on to read The Raven, you haven’t yet had the time to do so. There are a few things I know about Aoibhe now that you don’t, and yes I would say your instincts about her are correct. A few weeks ago, I mentioned online that I thought Aoibhe was a scene stealer (along with who knows what else). She is a fascinating character and, truthfully speaking, I’d love to see a novella that focuses on her. She is cunning and ambitious and I think she has a deeper hold on the Prince that he’s willing to admit to anyone, even himself.

Having read the Gabriel’s Inferno series, we’ve become more familiar with Florence, Italy over the past few years. What did you think of SR’s decision to expand on the setting by populating it with an underworld of vampyres?

MORGAN: He used his setting well, and didn’t just describe its beauty, but its grit. An historic and art filled city, Florence makes for a great place to tell any story; but this one in particular was aided by its magnificent backdrop. It was the Prince who stole the show, however, with his consuming arrogance and his insurmountable power. He captivated me. He is bloodthirsty, and not just because he’s a vampire. There is a rage inside him, a need for satisfaction even though his logic is unjustified. I’ve been wanting to ask you questions about The Raven and whether or not the Prince gets called out on his mindset, but since this is a post about the novella, I’ll restrain myself.

Do you like this new direction SR is taking as a writer, moving from romance to life and death supernatural drama? Does his exploration of evil up the ante for future books?

JENNIFER: I’ve been a fan of supernatural stories for most of my life, so I’ve been looking forward to The Florentine Series for a while now. Although it was tempting to devour the story, I forced myself to read The Raven slowly. There is so much I’d love to talk to you about, so I hope you get the chance to read it soon. I can say with confidence that if you enjoyed your introduction with The Prince, then you would definitely like The Raven. In the novella, the Prince witnesses a private moment between the Emersons that stays with him and this begins to influence his choices during The Raven. I find the complexity of his character absorbing. The Prince’s vampirism is a trait that cannot be ignored, but I see it as merely one aspect of a very complicated individual. There is still plenty of romance within the story, so fans of the Professor shouldn’t be disappointed in that regard; and yes, I think SR’s exploration on the themes of justice and mercy have made for a compelling read. I’m very much looking forward to the next two books.

If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Sylvain Reynard and his works, here is the Goodreads link for you to check out.

Please also feel free to friend us on Goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan  Jennifer

See you soon and thanks for reading!