Homeward Bound

Hi there, 'lo there, peeps. Wasn't originally intending to post anything on the matter, but I'm just too excited: the move has finally arrived! By that, I mean that my hubs and I are flying--along with the last of our things--back home to California. I've been able to spend time in the Bay Area taking care of some stuff, but now we're undertaking the official "move". The hubs has not set foot on U.S. soil in two years...and I think he's beyond stoked to see family once again.

Ooh...and bookishly speaking, I've still been in a phase of short-attention-span reading...meaning that I'm "currently reading" several books but have only finished a few. But those last few have been freaking awesome:

The Renfield Syndrome by J.A. Saare - Holy buttered biscuits, this was an amazing book. I cannot wait to post about this one. 'tis an instance of a sequel being even better than its (also fantastic) predecessor.

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre - This was a reread, but I think I might've fallen even harder for the book the second time around. Ann Aguirre has crafted fabulous characters and an absorbing fictional universe...and she's done it all in the first-person present narration. Hats off to that woman.

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley - Yep, this is my favorite book thus far in the Highland Pleasures series. And that's saying a lot. The hero and heroine were fantastic as individuals, and they made for an interesting and engaging pair.

Here's to hoping there'll be some good reading time on the trip back home. We're flying out in about 12 hours. Woot! I'll see you all on the flip side!

Review: Learning Curves by Elyse Mady

Title: Learning Curves
Series: n/a
Genres/Themes: contemporary romance, opposites attract
Author: Elyse Mady

Quick Take:
The premise may not feel absolutely fresh and original, nor does the supporting cast of characters or major plot dilemma. But what the book does it does well, providing an outrageously sweet romantic tale. And man, what an opening act!
Book Description (via Goodreads): Leanne Galloway has no time for dating; her focus is on launching her academic career. Dragged along to her childhood frenemy Gillian's bachelorette party at a male strip club, she just wants to get through the evening—but she can't help interfering when Gillian sends a note to a sexy dancer proposing a hot hookup.
     Brandon Myles is working backstage at the Foxe's Den to fund his post-graduate studies in dance, but he's forced onstage when the headliner fails to show up. He feels a surprisingly strong connection with a quiet woman watching from a table full of tipsy bridesmaids, and he's delighted when she appears backstage after his set.
     After a scorching spontaneous encounter, Leanne and Brandon agree to go their separate ways. But they're both grad students on a small campus, and avoiding each other and denying their attraction won't work for long, especially when a jealous rival appears, determined to ruin both their academic careers.
Oftentimes, as I’m reading through a book I try to jot down really brief impressions, just to maintain a sense of how my opinions change (or not) over a span of time. For this book, my notes are full of variations of the same comment: “Very, very sweet!”

But really, the damn book has sweetness in spades. The premise is rather straightforward, though it might cause a little niggling of familiarity at the corners of your brain (freewheeling guy with immense talent strips to pay the bills; meets uptight girl who always plays it safe...will they overcome their differences to make it work?). And the plot progression is uncomplicated—rather movie-like, even, given how focused it is on character interactions. I personally thought the book had a great first and last act (hence the rating of “4 of 5 stars”). The middle, in comparison, was “okay.” Which is still far from “bad”; the whole book was fun, it’s just that the best stuff really bookends the piece. It starts and ends with a bang, so to speak.

Main character Brandon provided particular enjoyment for me. His personality, motivations, and actions were quite well-done and in-depth. His whole deal of working at a strip joint whilst putting himself through university; it could’ve been cliché, but it worked well here. It was often the scenes that involved him that were the most memorable.

The couple (Brandon and Leanne) were…you guessed it: sweet! There’s no better way to put it. Their initial connection was mega intense (yes, I’mma re-read it again and again), and everything that flowed from there was engaging. There were times I wanted to smack one or the other (or both) upside the head…but hey, that’s often the case with romances, is it not? ^_^

All told, I found this book to be exceedingly easy—and pleasant—to read. This is a total beach book, in that it’s perfect for frivolous, sunny-day reading. The premise might not be the most original, but the story is executed well. I’d recommend this first to readers of paranormal or historical romance (especially of the dark sort) who want a brief change of genre.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
"I really liked it."

Guest Post: Author Sonya Clark & Giveaway

Today I'd like to welcome author Sonya Clark to the blog for a guest post about her new book, Mojo Queen. I recently read the novel and thought it was fantastico (review to be posted shortly), so I'm pleased that Ms. Clark could make a stop by MNtR. She's even hosting a drool-making contest (seriously, I already envy the GP winner....details at the end of the post, though). So, without further ado...

A Little Extra Mojo
By Sonya Clark
The main character of Mojo Queen is Roxie Mathis, a paranormal investigator who can see auras and spectral energy. She uses that ability as well as hoodoo folk magic to help people with their supernatural problems. She’s aided in her work by her best friend and cousin Daniel Rambin. Except Daniel’s not really Roxie’s cousin but it’s easier than explaining the truth: Daniel is her ancestor and a vampire.
(Click on image for more info on the book)
     When I first started writing Mojo Queen it took some time to get to know these two characters and to develop a feel for their friendship. I wound up taking a bit of a detour and writing a short story about a completely different case. In Goofer Dust Blues, Roxie is hired to collect dirt from the graves of a famous blues guitarist. This story gave Roxie and Daniel a chance to take a road trip from Nashville to the home of the Delta blues in Mississippi. It also gave me a chance to indulge my love of music, something that Roxie wound up sharing. I had a lot of fun writing the story and it helped me get a better idea of who Roxie and Daniel are, which of course helped in the writing of Mojo Queen.
     At the beginning of Mojo Queen their friendship is already established but there didn’t seem to be a good place to explain how they first met. That idea led to a second short. Mimosas At Dusk is about the beginning of their friendship. Daniel is having a ghost problem at his home so he hires Roxie to evict the pest. Wackiness ensues and Roxie finds out her client is a vampire.
     Writers always want to share their work so I posted the stories as free reads on my blog. As a reader I frequently enjoy these kind of extras about characters I really enjoyed. I also thought it might be a good way to introduce Roxie and Daniel. I still haven’t written the story of how Daniel tells Roxie he is her ancestor, but I know I’ll get around to that eventually. I might also write a short about Roxie’s love interest, sexy sorcerer Blake Harvill. No telling what I might discover in his background!
     Both Mojo shorts are available for free download in three formats – pdf, mobi for Kindle, and epub for Nook and other ereaders – at the free reads page of my blog at this link: http://www.sonyaclark.net/p/free-reads.html. Enjoy!

Thank you for the virtual visit, Ms. Clark! I'm so glad there's an extra story exploring Roxie's past with Daniel. It was clear in Mojo Queen that they cared about each other and held one another in the very highest of esteem...so it's nice to get the chance to see how that all started.

Want more Sonya Clark? Check her out at the following links:
     Blog/website: http://www.sonyaclark.net/
     Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/sonyabclark
     Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorsonyaclark
     Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3510861.Sonya_Clark

Now, I must say that Sonya Clark is full of awesomeness. That would be because--among many reasons--she's celebrating the Mojo Queen book tour by having a fabulous giveaway. All one must do is fill out the form. The deets (and entry forms are below).

Giveaway Details:

Winners will be chosen from all of those who enter via the form.

Leave comments at tour stops for bonus entries

You can also enter at each tour stop

10 winners will receive signed book plates

2 winners will receive free ebook copies of Mojo Queen

1 grand prize winner will receive the Mojo Prize Pack, which includes:

·         Signed book plate
·         Mojo Queen playlist CD
·         A voodoo doll
·         A protective mojo hand
·         Spirit of Good Luck incense
·         A seven-day spell candle
·         A bag of graveyard dirt

The winners will be announced on Sonya's blog on Friday, August 19. Physical prizes open to US Shipping Only Please.

Ebooks international.

(Contest over--entry form removed)
Click image for info on the other tour stops!

Giveaway for Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny by Pepper O'Neal

Yesterday, author Pepper O'Neal visited the blog to share a guest post about her adventures in writing under unique circumstances and in a different locale (Mexico!!!). Find Pepper O'Neal's guest post here.

Today, it's all about the yummy, yummy giveaways. Got a good one for you, today!  Ms. O'Neal is graciously offering an e-copy of her latest book, Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny. It's an intriguing paranormal romance full of shifters galore.  Here's a description of the book:

She didn’t know what she was—or that what she was could get her killed…

A struggling private detective in Los Angeles, Chase Alcott has no idea about her unique genetic makeup. So when she takes on a new client—an old man with ulterior motives—Chase is unaware of the danger she will soon face. Traveling to England to solve a mysterious murder at the request of her new client, Chase encounters terrifying creatures she thought only existed in her nightmares—creatures bent on her surrender or destruction—only to find out she’s one of them. Caught in a web of evil and deception after learning some terrifying truths about her long dead parents, Chase doesn’t know who to believe. Does she dare trust the enigmatic Roman, a man with dark secrets of his own, when she can no longer even trust herself?

He knew what she was—he just had no idea what to do about her…

English nobleman, Roman Fernwood, half werewolf shifter and half vampire, doesn’t want a mate, especially not a half human, half tiger shifter with no knowledge of what she is. After all, cats and dogs would hardly be a good match. But there’s something about Chase Roman can’t resist in spite of his determination not to fall in love. Is it her fascinating American spunk and courage, or her stunning cinnamon eyes? Or could it be the passion he senses just beneath her calm, unruffled demeanor? Whatever it is, Roman must keep her safe from those who want to kill her—and a way to show her what she is without driving her into the arms of the other Weres who also want her for a mate.

Like what you see? Then feel free to enter for a chance to win by filling out the form below. Easy peasy, just a contact email (and a random question for kicks, cuz I loves those). I'll pick an entry randomly on Thursday, August 11, and the winner will have their choice of format: ePub, PDF, or Kindle.

Enter giveaway here:

Chasing Destiny is currently making rounds in the book blogosphere. Join Pepper O'Neal and other bloggers on the tour!

8/4 – guest post & giveaway @ Getting Naughty Between The Stacks
8/5 – review @ Bri Clark
8/6 – guest post @ My Need To Read
8/7 – giveaway @ My Need To Read
8/7 – guest post @ The Write to Make A Living
8/8 – excerpt @ Keeping Up With The Rheinlanders
8/8 – guest post & giveaway @ Workaday Reads
8/8 – excerpt @ Reader Girls
8/9 – guest post @ Nightly Cafe
8/9 – guest post @ Sugarbeat’s Books
8/10 – review @ Reader Girls
8/10 – excerpt @ Sugarbeat’s Books
8/10 – giveaway @ My Bookish Ways
8/11 – excerpt @ Book Lover’s Hideaway
8/11 – review @ The Phantom Paragrapher
8/12 – interview @ Bri Clark
8/12 – guest post & giveaway @ Romancing the Darkside
8/13 – guest post @ Reading Romance
8/13 – excerpt @ The Phantom Paragrapher
8/14 – giveaway @ Reading Romance
8/14 – review @ Just Another Book Addict
8/14 – review @ Novel Addiction
8/15 – guest post @ Just Another Book Addict
8/15 – giveaway @ Nightly Cafe
8/15 – excerpt @ Aobibliosphere
8/15 – giveaway @ Novel Addiction
8/15 – review @ Keeping Up With the Rheinlanders

Guest Post: Author Pepper O'Neal

Today I have the great pleasure of having author Pepper O'Neal visit MNtR for a guest post! She discusses what it was like to write while she lived in Central America. You simply must read her post, whether you love to travel or simply imagine living in far off locales. Enjoy!

When Diplomacy Fails—Write!

I was asked recently if, while living and working in third world countries for several years as I did, I found it difficult to write. Actually, I would have to say the writing itself wasn’t that difficult, however, some of the conditions I had to write under were...interesting, to say the least.

Just after graduating from law school in Southern California, I landed a dream job as a non-fiction writer with an educational research & resource company based in México City, whose teams worked throughout México, Central America, and the Caribbean. My job description included keeping a log or diary of my team’s research activities and recording our results. I was also charged with reporting my own personal observations on the culture and people my team encountered as well as my thoughts on the impact of the rampant illiteracy on both the people and their culture.

Before landing this job, I was a sporadic writer. I could only write when it was convenient, when I could sit at my word processor, had at least a couple of hours free, the house was clean, supper over with, the dishes done...well, you get the idea. To my dismay, I discovered after heading out on my first assignment that none of the above conditions were feasible or practical. In fact all my required prerequisites to writing were luxuries I could ill afford. I now had deadlines to meet, and excuses related to lack of proper writing conditions would not only have fallen on deaf ears, they would have gotten me fired.

So just like a combat soldier learns to sleep anywhere, anytime, because if he doesn’t, he might not get another opportunity for a while, I learned to write under any conditions. I had to write when and where I could, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t meet my deadlines. I was given a state-of-the-art laptop computer—which was great, except I couldn’t use it often since there was rarely any electricity to charge it. So I wrote on legal pads and tablets and took notes in the margins of old newspapers, on restaurant napkins, used envelopes, and once on my own forearm. When you need to record important information on something so you don’t forget it, you use whatever is handy. It’s probably a good thing I had mostly dark-colored clothes in my wardrobe. No doubt any white one would have soon been covered in ink.

As far as writing conditions were concerned, I wrote sitting on a fallen log in the pouring rain, in the back of a pickup truck slogging through the mud, perched on a rock beside a campfire, fending off mosquitoes the size of small dogs with one hand, while writing an overdue report with the other, and even dodging beer glasses during a bar fight. Hey, you name it, I’ve probably written through it.

When I think back on what I considered acceptable writing conditions pre-dream job, and what I consider proper writing conditions now, I have to laugh. After fighting cockroaches for a square foot writing space on a table, or scribbling notes on a bar napkin while hiding under my bar stool to avoid flying mugs—and their contents—I can write through just about anything. A barking dog, noisy neighbors, or squabbling family members? Doesn’t even phase me.

Something else I discovered during this time. People in a country plagued by illiteracy consider reading and writing almost sacred. Whenever my team interacted with the local people in the rural areas of whatever country we were in, it wasn’t the scientists or teachers, or even the medical staff who were treated with a respect that bordered on reverence. It was myself and the one other writer on the team, both of us scribbling furiously away on whatever writing material we could find. Not that the other team members couldn’t read and write, they just didn’t seem as obsessed with it as we did.

In fact, in the bar fight I mentioned—which my team didn’t start, by the way, we just sort of stumbled into it—we were the only two team members not injured. While the local drunks had a marvelous time bouncing beer, bar snacks, and the containers that held them off everyone else in the room, no one aimed anything at us. Now whether they were just superstitious about disrespecting someone who possessed the amazing ability to read and write, or they figured anyone who grabbed a pen and a napkin during a bar fight was mentally-deranged and therefore off limits, I couldn’t say. Luckily, no one on the team was seriously injured, but we adopted a new Team SOP (standard operating procedure) after that night—the next time diplomacy failed, we’d all grab something and write!


Rock the heck on. As someone who dreams of being able to live in Central or South America doing the same thing that Ms. O'Neal got to do, I'm bewitched by this post. Talk about trial by fire! It looks like Ms. O'Neal had an unbelievably amazing time--even during conditions that sound potentially traumatizing! ^_^

Thank you to Pepper O'Neal for an awesome guest post. Her recent book, Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny, is out now. Check back tomorrow to enter a giveaway of the book!

Until then, check out a quick synopsis of the book (or read the first chapter on O'Neal's website). See you tomorrow!

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