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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: 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

Jennifer Reviews: The Jeweler by Beck Anderson (@BeckAndersonID)

The Jeweler Banner-1

Adult Contemporary Romance
Published by Omnific Publishing
Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Synopsis:

Fender Barnes profits from an institution he doesn’t believe in: marriage. He’s a talented designer, but a reluctant jewelry store owner, thanks to his pop’s retirement. He’s cynical, he’s jaded, he’s not entirely certain about the concept of love, but he’s happy to sell an eager young guy an engagement ring for his fiancée to be—until moments after the transaction when that eager guy is hit by a car and killed, and Fender’s conscience pays a rare visit.

He retrieves the ring and decides to find the woman his customer intended to marry. That woman turns out to be Ginger Stevens, twenty-something ski instructor, who—despite being full of guilt and self-doubt after the death of her boyfriend—is someone Fender finds he quite enjoys being around. He’s smitten.

Which is all well and good, except that after he meets her, Fender can’t do it. Though it’s right there in his pocket, he can’t tell her about the ring. Instead, he embarks on a long, ridiculous quest to find a way to tell her the truth he knows she deserves. Aided by advice from Pop and the antics of his best friend Sam, Fender tries desperately to juggle his budding romance with the reality he knows could ruin it.

Will he find love or foul it up? Can Ginger move out of the past to embrace what the future has to offer? Meet this unlikely pair in Beck Anderson’s heartfelt and fabulously funny second novel, The Jeweler.

Add to your Goodreads list!

My Review:

I’ll make one statement right upfront. For me, there was a familiarity with The Jeweler that was particularly endearing. The story is set in Boise, Idaho, which is a place that many of my family and friends call home. We travel there for family events every once in a while and so I recognized many of the settings used in this novel (the scene at the Record Exchange was a particular favorite). There’s even a mention of an Oregon coast town that I know well and it really helped me connect on a deeper level with the book. It was as though I was reading about people I already knew.

The synopsis above does a stellar job of explaining the overall plot,  so I won’t bother to recap the summary here. I’d rather spend my limited review space highlighting the one big note I made about The Jeweler as I read it.  There’s a unique spin on this romantic tale that I don’t often come across in such stories. Ready?

While this is a narrative written in third person, and explores the perspectives of Ginger and Fender, I found that much of the romantic story unfolded from the male point of view.

“Fender looked back on his “wasted youth” and didn’t feel regret; he just felt sorry for his dad. Oh, to have a son who excelled in mediocrity, with a side of troublemaking. This was yet another reason to never have children; they might inherit his juvenile delinquency. And another reason not to get married. But Fender was constantly reminded why he despised marriage, regardless. Every time he’d craft a delicate setting with a pale, clear diamond, and it went on the hand of a crass, selfish gold digger, or some cheating, sweaty lout gave a necklace of blood red rubies to his unsuspecting, hard-working wife, Fender remembered how he felt about the sacred institution.”

Not only does the reader become well-accustomed with Fender’s thoughts and feelings about romance in general and Ginger in particular, but many of the story conflicts and solutions are largely driven by the male influences in Fender’s life.  Fender’s best friend, Sam, is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest bachelor. He lives a quiet, unassuming life and enjoys smoking, Carhartt coveralls and beer. He’s perfectly content and could truly care less if people can’t deal with his choices.  But he’s also warm and loyal and willing to help Fender figure out his dilemma with Ginger.  He pushes Fender to stray outside his romantic comfort zones, and stays right by his side through thick and thin.

Another source of male guidance and support is Fender’s father. Not only has he looked after Fender emotionally, he has also provided his only child with an established jewelry business for financial security. Having grown up without a mother and with no other siblings, Fender’s experiences with women are largely limited. Until his life intersects with Ginger’s under a set of tragic circumstances, Fender has kept his interactions with women casual, seemingly as Sam and his father sit on the sidelines waiting for Fender to discover something or someone special.

Pop’s questioning gray eyes were still trained on Fender, and his sparse mustache twitched with curiosity. “Tell me, Sonny. What’d you do today?”

“Nothing.” The day had been humiliating enough. He didn’t want his dad to know on top of it all.

“Jerry, he was in fine form.” Sam sat across the table from them, out of Fender’s striking distance.

Fender tilted his head and shot his most withering look at Sam. “I went skiing.”

“No, no, it’s better than that. We went after this girl, and Fender learned how to ski all over again. He also tried to use two old ladies as bowling pins.” Sam’s shoulders were shaking again.

As per usual, Pop focused on the woman in the conversation. “Fender went after a girl? Really? Does this mean little Sandy didn’t make you swear off women forever?”

Sam brightened. “I’d almost forgotten about Sandy. Isn’t she the one that wrote I HATE YOU with weed killer on your front lawn?” Sam sat back and stretched his arms out on the top of the booth, relaxed and apparently prepared for a stroll down Fender’s memory lane of exes.

As The Jeweler unfolds, we see that even Ginger tends to rely on the support and advice of these two gents; and as a captivated reader I was glad to see her do so.   For these reasons, this novel was an enchanting and refreshing read for me. I’ve become a true fan of Beck Anderson as a result, and I’m hoping that she’ll be willing to meet up with me in downtown Boise the next time I happen to pop into town for a visit.  The author has that special ability to infuse both tragedy and humor into a novel without skewing to extremes with either. Not only is this novel filled with characters I swear I already know, it tells a story that is as realistic and fragile as it is courageous and surreal. Just like life.

An enthusiastic four star read from me!

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

Jennifer Reviews: Love Starts With Z by Tera Shanley (@terashanley)

LSWZ Cover

 

Synopsis:

Twenty-four years into the Dead outbreak that ended the world, Soren Mitchell sticks out like a sore thumb in the remains of the human race. She’s an anomaly: a hybrid of human and Dead, created by her mother’s genetic immunity. Like her parents, she’s fierce and strong. But despite their hopes for her happiness and safety, and even though she is no real threat to the colony, she has let the humans muzzle her and confine her within the walls of Dead Run River in search of a cure.

When Kaegan Langford stumbles into the colony with an injured friend draped across his shoulders, her world is turned upside down. Intrigued and affected by her, he asks her to come to Empalme, Mexico with him to fight in the war between Deads and humans. It’ll be a long, treacherous journey to the coast, but she’s had all she can take in the colony.

Battles with Deads, betrayal, injury, kidnappings, and a criminal-run train ride stand between them and the war. But in the end, it’s not just the war with the Deads that could be the death of them.

Tera Shanley’s final book in the Dead Rapture series will thrill your heart…and your braaaains.

My Review:

Love Starts With Z is the third and final book in the Dead Rapture series, and I have to confess upfront that I’ve haven’t yet read the first two books.

Tera’s novel was brought to my attention by her publisher, and after hearing a little bit about the plot I decided that I would give it a go.  Admittedly, this was a bit of a risk but I’m happy to say that the book can easily be read as a stand alone novel. And perhaps the even better news is that I now plan to backtrack and read the others in this series.

The easy description of this novel is to call it a zombie story, but  it is a zombie story with what I considered to be a unique angle.  The main character of the book is a young woman named Soren Mitchell.  Born in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, Soren is a living, breathing, conscious human who happens to possess many of the physical traits of a zombie. While her zombie-like appearance and her tendency to enjoy extremely rare meat make it difficult for other humans to trust her (most humans initially are inclined to kill her at first sight), these traits also make it possible for Soren to come into direct contact with zombies (also referred to as Deads) without danger of being attacked.

At the beginning of Love Starts With Z, we learn that Soren has left the colony of humans she was born into and raised by to live with a different colony. The purpose in doing so is to assist researchers in their quest to develop a cure for the deadly zombie outbreak that constantly threatens to wipe out the dwindling human race. In this new colony, Soren is treated more like a Dead than a human. She is forced to adhere to a strict series of rules developed to protect humans, but at the cost of dehumanizing Soren. Despite the inhumane treatment, Soren endures in ultimate hopes that her personal sacrifice will benefit mankind.

Amidst this chaos, a young man named Kaegan Langford finds himself at Soren’s colony. Once he’s made aware of her existence, Kaegan becomes infatuated by Soren. What begins as intense curiosity in Soren soon develops into something much more substantial. Kaegan finds her treatment by others in her colony cruel and is soon inclined to become a defender of the mysterious young woman.

Anger coursed his veins, red and blinding until all he could think about was wrapping his fingers around Colten’s throat. Closing his eyes, he counted to ten, and then ground out, “If you call her a zombie again, your nose will match Mark’s.”

“Geez, man. You’re so touchy now.”

“He’s got it bad,” Ben said.

Bad? Nah. He’d liked girls before. It had been a few years since he’d had any kind of steady relationship with one, but bad? So he thought about her more than was maybe healthy. And he worried about her wellbeing. And when people insulted her, he wanted to kill them slowly. Okay, so maybe he did have it worse than he ever had before, but it was Soren. She was different. Not just the way she looked, which enamored him more every time he saw her, but she was kind. Not polite-kind to trick people into liking her, but she was someone who honestly cared about the feelings of others. And she did what she thought was right no matter what anyone else thought of her. She was respectable, beautiful—this gorgeous warrior who had consumed him, mind and body, without any effort at all. And when she fought? She was an artist.

“Hello,” Colten said, waving his hand in Kaegan’s face.

Irritated, he swatted it away and ducked a low hanging branch.

Soon, a friendship begins to grow between Kaegan and Soren and the two allies quickly find themselves caught up in circumstances that accelerate both the depth of their connection and their respect for one another.

While I’m pretty open to reading books of all kinds, I do have to admit that I’ve never sought out zombie stories. What I enjoyed about Love Starts With Z was that while the zombie outbreak is an integral part of the overall plot, this novel is really more about how humans can sometimes be more frightening than the numerous Deads wandering aimlessly in search of brains.  The unusual dynamic that develops between Soren and Kaegan made for a compelling read, and ultimately I found their eventual outcome uncertain due to the unconventionality of their relationship.

The action scenes were well-written, the various characters were numerous and interesting, and the emotional scenes were captivating. There were great moments of suspense and swoon, and I’d happily recommend the Dead Rapture series to anyone looking to read something a bit outside the usual realms of the typical romance novel.

Love Starts With Z is now available from Omnific Publishing:

Goodreads Amazon

Book One (only 99 cents for the month of February! Get it now!)

Book Two

You can also follow Tera Shanley on social media:

Website  Goodreads  Twitter

Happy Release Day! Love Starts With Z by Tera Shanley (@terashanley)

Love & Zombies Banner

Love Starts With Z
available 2/17/15

Synopsis:

Twenty-four years into the Dead outbreak that ended the world, Soren Mitchell sticks out like a sore thumb in the remains of the human race. She’s an anomaly: a hybrid of human and Dead, created by her mother’s genetic immunity. Like her parents, she’s fierce and strong. But despite their hopes for her happiness and safety, and even though she is no real threat to the colony, she has let the humans muzzle her and confine her within the walls of Dead Run River in search of a cure.

When Kaegan Langford stumbles into the colony with an injured friend draped across his shoulders, her world is turned upside down. Intrigued and affected by her, he asks her to come to Empalme, Mexico with him to fight in the war between Deads and humans. It’ll be a long, treacherous journey to the coast, but she’s had all she can take in the colony.

Battles with Deads, betrayal, injury, kidnappings, and a criminal-run train ride stand between them and the war. But in the end, it’s not just the war with the Deads that could be the death of them.

Tera Shanley’s final book in the Dead Rapture series will thrill your heart…and your braaaains.

 

Buy Links:

Goodreads Link:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24325289-love-starts-with-z?ac=1

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Starts-Z-Dead-Rapture-ebook/dp/B00T9U5EQC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423502993&sr=8-1&keywords=love+starts+with+z

Book One (only 99 cents for the month of February! Get it now!) http://www.amazon.com/Love-Time-Dead-Rapture-Book-ebook/dp/B00NO13982/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Book Two: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Days-Dead-Rapture-Book-ebook/dp/B00OGUXAL6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Author Website: http://terashanley.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @TeraShanley

 

Author Bio:
Tera Shanley writes in sub-genres that stretch from Paranormal Romance, to Historic

Western Romance, to Apocalyptic (zombie) Romance. The common theme? She loves love.

A self-proclaimed bookworm, she was raised in small town Texas and could often be found

decorating a table at the local library. She currently lives in Dallas with her husband and two

young children and when she isn’t busy running around after her family, she’s writing a new

story or devouring a good book. Any spare time is dedicated to chocolate licking, rifle slinging,

zombie slaying, friend hugging, and the great outdoors. For more information about Tera and her

work, visit http://www.terashanley.com.

Excerpt from “Love Starts with Z” by Tera Shanley (@terashanley) – Plus Giveaway!

Love & Zombies Banner

Love Starts with Z
available 2/17/15

Excerpt:

Anger coursed his veins, red and blinding until all he could think about was wrapping his fingers around Colten’s throat. Closing his eyes, he counted to ten, and then ground out, “If you call her a zombie again, your nose will match Mark’s.”

“Geez, man. You’re so touchy now.”

“He’s got it bad,” Ben said.

Bad? Nah. He’d liked girls before. It had been a few years since he’d had any kind of steady relationship with one, but bad? So he thought about her more than was maybe healthy. And he worried about her wellbeing. And when people insulted her, he wanted to kill them slowly. Okay, so maybe he did have it worse than he ever had before, but it was Soren. She was different. Not just the way she looked, which enamored him more every time he saw her, but she was kind. Not polite-kind to trick people into liking her, but she was someone who honestly cared about the feelings of others. And she did what she thought was right no matter what anyone else thought of her. She was respectable, beautiful—this gorgeous warrior who had consumed him, mind and body, without any effort at all. And when she fought? She was an artist.

“Hello,” Colten said, waving his hand in Kaegan’s face.

Irritated, he swatted it away and ducked a low hanging branch.

Synopsis:

Twenty-four years into the Dead outbreak that ended the world, Soren Mitchell sticks out like a sore thumb in the remains of the human race. She’s an anomaly: a hybrid of human and Dead, created by her mother’s genetic immunity. Like her parents, she’s fierce and strong. But despite their hopes for her happiness and safety, and even though she is no real threat to the colony, she has let the humans muzzle her and confine her within the walls of Dead Run River in search of a cure.

When Kaegan Langford stumbles into the colony with an injured friend draped across his shoulders, her world is turned upside down. Intrigued and affected by her, he asks her to come to Empalme, Mexico with him to fight in the war between Deads and humans. It’ll be a long, treacherous journey to the coast, but she’s had all she can take in the colony.

Battles with Deads, betrayal, injury, kidnappings, and a criminal-run train ride stand between them and the war. But in the end, it’s not just the war with the Deads that could be the death of them.

Tera Shanley’s final book in the Dead Rapture series will thrill your heart…and your braaaains.

Buy Links:

Goodreads Link:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24325289-love-starts-with-z?ac=1

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tera-Shanley/e/B00G1WIIL4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1423148621&sr=8-1

Author Website: http://terashanley.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @TeraShanley

Author Bio:

Tera Shanley writes in sub-genres that stretch from Paranormal Romance, to Historic

Western Romance, to Apocalyptic (zombie) Romance. The common theme? She loves love.

A self-proclaimed bookworm, she was raised in small town Texas and could often be found

decorating a table at the local library. She currently lives in Dallas with her husband and two

young children and when she isn’t busy running around after her family, she’s writing a new

story or devouring a good book. Any spare time is dedicated to chocolate licking, rifle slinging,

zombie slaying, friend hugging, and the great outdoors. For more information about Tera and her

work, visit http://www.terashanley.com.

RAFFLECOPTER:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b63a9e325/

Jennifer Reviews: Closer and Closer by Jenna Barton (@WriteyJennaB)

Closer and Closer

The Synopsis:

Dominance and submission. The delicate balance between hurts so good and too hot to handle. They’re not just kinky trends for the members of The Enclave, a tight-knit group gathering in a Gilded Age mansion secluded in the North Carolina mountains.

Come Closer…

For Erin Proctor, life has always been about working hard, creating stability, and succeeding. She plays it safe, watching from a distance. Then she encounters an unpredictable, sensual world she’s always known was there, but didn’t believe she could belong to.

Walt Easton is straightforward and unpretentious, a big, earthy man in possession of himself—and a fierce set of solid leather floggers. Once he and Erin meet, their attraction is undeniable. Walt wants a full relationship, not just fun in the playroom. Their kinky adventures can be negotiated later.

They’ve finally found a relationship that can let them explore who they fully are. But can Walt accept that while he’s in charge in their private lives, when it comes to her job, Erin is the one in charge? Will Erin take the risk of letting down her walls and allowing Walt in all the way?

The biggest risk, after all, isn’t mixing pain and pleasure. It’s finding yourself—in love.

The first book of The Enclave series will bring you Closer to your desire.

My Review:

I have to start this review with the disclaimer that I haven’t read a wide variety of stories that feature BDSM, but when I was offered the opportunity to read Closer and Closer there was just something about the synopsis that told me this book was worth a peek. I agreed to receive an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I’ve been mulling over my thoughts on this book for a couple of weeks now.

The story begins with Erin Proctor, a successful and single career woman who has just relocated from California to North Carolina. She does so not only to pursue a promising job opportunity, but also to put some distance between herself and her mother and sister (who have always depended on Erin to be the responsible one). Having secretly possessed a curiosity about the taboo world of BDSM, Erin now finds an opportunity to indulge her interests in a town full of strangers. After being invited by an acquaintance to a *demonstration*, Erin is introduced to Walt Easton at the event.

The attraction between Erin and Walt is sparked almost immediately, but not in the overtly sexual way I would have expected. Erin and Walt genuinely like one another and their friendship forms in a quiet, even sweet way.  By day, Walt is a responsible and unassuming Park Ranger, but he’s also been an *ahem* active Dominant for most of his adult life. Erin know this and is intrigued by him…

He was recalling last night. I knew it, in another atypical flash of human-focused intuition. Felt it, really, as a plume of heat rolled down my neck.

I cleared my throat. “Thank you for inviting me. I’m sure it’s unusual, asking someone to your workplace who’s from…well, you know—there?”

He glanced away, turning the brim of his hat through his hand, then gestured toward me.

“I’m glad you came.”

The timbre of his voice never changed, but the volume softened appreciably. Before I could stifle the thought, I wondered what his voice would sound like in the morning, across from me in my bed, or in my ear as his thick thighs rode between mine, behind me as he grasped my hair and drove into me again and again.

Warmth quite unlike anything I’d known spread, from that first shimmer across my neck, to my shoulders, and sparked a fuse traveling straight down my spine.

His mouth twitched slightly, then spread into a disarmingly sweet smile as his eyebrows lifted. A small rumbling chuckle escaped his chest, and then Walt the Park Ranger with matching floggers shocked the hell out of me. His eyes darted toward the parking lot, he looked down, and the tips of his ears flushed.

“I think it’s just us,” he said, still looking away, and put his ranger’s hat on. “Want to get goin’?”

“Yes, of course.” I bristled inwardly at the sound of my own voice: too efficient, mechanical, harsh.

As we walked across the wooden bridge at the trail’s head, I settled into a pace a little slower than his. Practically, his legs were much longer and he would constantly trip over me if I lead. Letting him lead made sense.

An added benefit was a better view of the movement of his legs against his dark olive green pants, and the round, muscular backside that rippled in differing defined landscapes with each step. His pale green ranger’s shirt stretched across his broad back as his arms swung, revealing even more refined muscles. They strained slightly against the short sleeves before continuing on to tanned forearms, scattered with brown hair.

I pushed a damp strand of hair from my neck. Only May and it’s this humid?

On the other side of the spectrum, Walt is a man who has sworn off relationships in favor of play. When he is introduced to Erin, he immediately knows that she is new to the scene; but he also senses there is a deeper yearning brewing within her. Something more than the mere exploration of her deepest sexual fantasies. Walt intuits (correctly) that Erin wants to experiment as a submissive and he offers her careful guidance as she delves more and more into a lifestyle she knows precious little about.  What I found welcoming about Walt was his concern for Erin’s well-being. He is not an alpha man simply looking to take advantage of a naive woman. Walt values and respects Erin and strives to nurture her burgeoning sexuality.

“So how long have you been in…um, known Cla—clover?”

“How long have I known Claire or how long have I been in the lifestyle?” He took a long drink from his water bottle. “Or how long have I been kinky?”

“I don’t know.” His directness pinned me down, with no easy route to a more comfortable means of discovering everything I wanted to know about him. I wanted to hear his version of this thing—a lifestyle, maybe—he shared with Claire. And I did want to know, not only because I should if what felt like our mutual attraction became something more, but because of him. Already, I liked him. I wanted to know Walt’s story. Maybe all of them.

“Kinky. How long?”

Glancing over at me with a wry half-smile, he laughed softly. “Straight to the point, huh?”

I shrugged, pulled at a stray peanut and bit into it. “I suppose. I wonder about things, though.”

“About?”

“About people. I’m curious about how people figure things out. Not just with—” I gestured toward the forest, like it was where I’d find the perfect example of the parts of BDSM I always was curious about. “That. Being into that.”

“Hey, Erin,” he said, tipping his shoulder toward mine like a conspirator. “If you have a hard time saying it, you might want to reconsider giving it a try.”

As I read Closer and Closer, I was completely won over by Erin and Walt. Their relationship may not be defined by convention, but it is wholly real.  It is emotional and complex, intelligent and sensual. And while all my attention in this review is focused on them, this book also contains a fabulous ensemble cast of characters, each as well-developed and captivating as the two leads. This novel is the first in the new Enclave series by author Jenna Barton, and I’ve been given a few clues by the author as to what comes next.

I’ve thought a lot about this story (and definitely about Walt) over the past few weeks and I’ll be on pins and needles waiting for the forthcoming books! I’ve been spoiled lately with several 5 star reads, and I’ll happily add this story to that list.

Closer and Closer will be released by Omnific Publishing on February 10th, 2015.

You can add it to your Goodreads list or you can follow Jenna Barton’s Amazon page to await the live links.

You can also follow Jenna Barton on social media:

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Excerpt from Going the Distance by Julianna Keyes (@JuliannaKeyes)

GOING THE DISTANCE
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Olivia Clarke’s fall from pretty, perfect and popular happened in an instant. With her life in tatters, she impulsively accepts a teaching job in the small city of Lazhou, China. Three months in, she’s ready to admit she made a huge mistake. She doesn’t speak Mandarin, the teachers at her school refuse to include her in anything, and she spends her nights watching counterfeit DVDs in her twin bed. Alone. 
Jarek McLean is a loner. He’s not looking for friends, and he’s definitely not looking for love. The former army interrogator works as a carpenter for a small construction company rebuilding a travel office in Lazhou. When he meets Olivia he knows immediately she’s too wholesome to be his type, but when he discovers the pretty kindergarten teacher is hiding a secret, his inquisitive side rears its nosy head and demands answers.
Olivia isn’t interested in a one-sided interrogation, and makes her position clear: if Jarek wants to ask questions, he’ll have to answer some, too. Jarek’s never let anyone in—not into his apartment, not into his life, certainly not into his heart. But the closer he gets to Olivia, the more he falls for her, and suddenly the man who doesn’t do relationships finds himself in a most unexpected one. When he reluctantly admits that this could be love, he’s faced with the most terrifying question of all: What the hell does he do now?
The wooden door swung open, leaving them with the outer door, composed of a series of thick metal bars, between them. Olivia wore sweatpants, wool socks, and a threadbare white T-shirt with a high school logo straining across her breasts. Her blond hair was pulled up in a messy bun, and she wore no makeup. She looked him up and down, gaze lingering on his peace offering, then she took a deep breath. “What’s this?” she asked.
“Let me in.” Jarek tilted his head so rain water dripped off the ends of his curly hair.
“What do you want?”
“Ritchie told me about your accident.”
“I’m fine.”
“Just open the door.”
She looked ready to argue, then her eyes flitted back to the bags in his hands and she reached gingerly for the keys on the table inside the door, selecting one and twisting it in the lock. She stepped back as he entered, closing the doors behind him, and he stepped out of his shoes and hung his wet coat on a chair. 
“It’s fucking pouring,” he said, for lack of anything better. “Where’s your bathroom?”
The apartment was small, just four rooms leading immediately off the main entrance area, and he could see into three of them from where he stood—bedroom, office, and kitchen—so he went into the fourth, found a hand towel, and dried his face and hair. When he emerged, Olivia was peeking into the bags.
“I brought you dinner, in case you hadn’t eaten.”
“I haven’t.”
“What were you doing?”
“Getting ready to watch a movie.”
“Want to eat first?”
She looked him over strangely. “Sure.”
There were only two chairs at the small table, so she took one and he took the other, peering around the sterile room. White tile floors, white-painted plaster walls, neon tube lights on the ceiling. A few handmade posters with English and Chinese words written on them.
“Do those help?” Jarek asked, nodding at the posters as he twisted the caps off the bottles of Sprite. 
Olivia peered into both takeout containers. “As much as knowing the word for ‘nose’ can, I suppose. What is this?”
He leaned forward to study the contents of one container; he had ordered it based on the picture, but couldn’t possibly identify it now. “I’m not sure.”
The second dish was the one they’d had the first night, so Olivia took that and he ate the mystery meal, which wasn’t bad. They barely spoke and she avoided his gaze, though she didn’t look angry. Tired, maybe. But not angry. 
When half her food was gone, Olivia polished off the Sprite and pushed her container away. “Do you want this? I’m full.”
He’d finished his own meal. “No. I’m good.”
She stood and took the carton to the narrow fridge that stood in the corner of the room, its only furniture apart from the table. When she closed the door, he was standing behind her. She jumped and clasped a hand to her chest. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” he began, “but take off your shirt.”

Julianna Keyes is a Canadian writer who has lived on both coasts and several places in between. She’s been skydiving, bungee jumping, and white water rafting, but nothing thrills—or terrifies—her as much as the blank page. She has volunteered in Zambia, taught English in China, and dreams of seeing pink dolphins in the Amazon. This is her second book

Jennifer Reviews: Seven For A Secret by Rumer Haven (@RumerHaven)

SFAS

The Synopsis:

It’s the year 2000, and twenty-four-year-old Kate moves into a new apartment to find a new state of independence in a new millennium. Almost immediately, she starts crushing on a hot guy who lives in her building. Deciding to take a break from her boyfriend Dexter, Kate believes the only thing now separating her from the fresh object of her sexual fantasies is the thin wall between their neighboring apartments.

A former 1920s hotel, Camden Court has housed many lonely lives over the decades—and is where a number of them have come to die. They’re not all resting in peace, however, including ninety-year-old Olive, who dropped dead in Kate’s apartment and continues to make her presence known.

For Olive has a secret she’s dying to tell. One linking her to the sex, scandal, and sacrifice of a young dreamer named Lon. As the past haunts the present, Kate’s romantic notion that the thrill-of-the-chase beats the reality-after-the-catch unexpectedly entwines her modern-day love life with Lon’s Jazz Age tragedy.

With a little supernatural and a lotta’ razzle-dazzle, Seven for a Secret is where historical fiction meets contemporary rom-com—from the Roaring Twenties when the “New Woman” was born, to the modern Noughties when she really came of age.

My Review:

Truthfully speaking, Seven For A Secret is not just one love story, but two. Although both are told simultaneously and are set in the same city of Chicago, they take place 75 years apart from one another.  One story takes place during the Roaring 20’s and is centered around Lon and Eva. Lon is a man who is attempting to discover his own place in the world, away from the societal expectations of his upbringing.

“Staring down at the floor as he strode deeper down the corridor, Lon lost his focus in observation of the intricate design, step after colorfully tiled step – until his wingtips stubbed against a marble lip rising about an inch from the floor. He looked up to meet the life-sized stone likeness of a courtier wooing a fair maiden above a fountain. The couple was white as purity and forever frozen mere inches from embrace.

“The thrill of the chase,” Lon murmured. “The only thrill there is.”

Lon isn’t looking for love, but finds it anyhow when he attends a party and meets Eva, a young and intelligent woman who immediately captures his eye.

“There was no doubt about it: she was exquisite. Lon knew this not to be a matter of his opinion, but a fact.This beauty had nothing to do with which eye beheld it. It was there, filling all eyes in the same way, no more, no less. She is for everyone.”

In stark contrast is the story of Kate and Dexter, set in the year 2000.  By all accounts, Kate has found a good man in her work colleague, Dexter. But as their relationship deepens and the pressure mounts for Kate to make a long-term commitment she becomes insistent on setting boundaries by moving out of his condo and into her own studio apartment.

“The music next door had stopped, perhaps already had some time ago while she and Dex had been…what? Making love? Just passing the time? What was it that she’d really wanted when she’d walked out of that Lake Shore condo? Suddenly, she couldn’t breathe as the responsibility for Dexter’s heart crushed down on her own. Absence was only making things foggier so far.”

Kate’s desire to establish some personal distance from Dexter provides some potential complication when she notices a good looking stranger in her new building  – a man she soon begins to speculate is her next door neighbor.

“Suddenly shy and anxious about what might happen next, she turned to press her palm against the wall behind her. It felt warm, a soothing contrast to her room that had just turned so cold. She imagined Hot Neighbor sitting there with his hand against the wall, too, directly opposite her. What if he’d noticed her before and wanted to get her attention? Maybe seen her around sometime, even if just out his window, and then followed the sound of her footsteps and door slams to trace her to this unit? Kind of stalkerish, but awfully flattering, Kate thought. After all, she was doing the same thing with him.”

The historical love story is dramatic and dark, while the modern contemporary tale is lighter and humorous. At first glance it might be tempting to think there is too much story within one novel, but Rumer Haven balances it all so well.  Both love stories are compelling, intelligent and heart-warming.  Haven’s narrative is both poetic and endearing and I quickly found myself admiring the effort and devotion that went into writing this story.  There were moments in Seven For A Secret when I laughed out loud, shed a few tears and held my breath while I read.

This novel hit all the right spots emotionally for me, and I highly recommend it. Typically, I’m stingy in doling out 5 star ratings. I only do when I know that a book has made a lasting impression on me and when I know that others will feel the same way once they’ve given the story their time and attention.

Seven For A Secret receives an enthusiastic 5 star rating from me!

I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what Rumer Haven produces next, which incidentally won’t be long from now. Her next release, Four Somethings and a Sixpence, is coming up on February 3!

You can purchase the ebook or the paperback of Seven For A Secret here:

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