Review: The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

Title: The Restorer
Series: The Graveyard Queen, #1
Genres/Themes: urban fantasy, murder mystery, ghosts, romance-ish
Excerpt: here
Author: Amanda Stevens

Quick Take:
A highly atmospheric, chilling novel. I absolutely loved it! It might give you a fright, but it's well worth the thrill.
Book Description (via author site):
     My name is Amelia Gray.  I'm a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts.  In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I've always held fast to the rules passed down from my father.  But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.     It started with the discovery of a young woman's brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I've been hired to restore.  The clues to the killer--and to his other victims--like in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret.  Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy.  To warn him would be to invite them into my life.  I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.
Review:
Freaking A, man. What an awesome book this is!
I must confess that, as a scaredy cat and ghost-story wimp, I was hesitant at first to read Amanda Stevens's trilogy opener. The book description sounded very intriguing, but it was obviously meant to give the potential reader a taste of the eerie setting and chilling theme of the full novel. Boy, am I glad I got past that hesitancy. I was thoroughly creeped out whilst reading this tale, but more importantly, I was exhilarated.

So let's start with that emotion. Yes, this book is creepy; the author is quite skilled at creating atmosphere. Stevens's writing style is resonant, engaging, and very easy to fall into. The language is crisp and easily accessible--not simplistic--and yet descriptions are vivid, crafting a clear visual and understanding of both the characters and the settings. I'd imagine that's precisely what one would want when attempting to scare the pants off of someone. ^_^

It's perhaps good that the mechanics of the language used does not confound, because this is indeed a dense book. There are numerous details that are integral to the storyline, and the main mystery is quite multilayered. In fact, there are elements in play that suggest the author is focused on the bigger, series-wide picture at all times. In that regard, this story's events solve mysteries, but titillate even more. The narrative barely scratches the surface of the main characters' struggles and inner scars. Protagonist Amelia Gray is one complex individual; amiable as far as protagonists go, but clearly haunted (literally and figuratively). That she finds herself drawn to an equally haunted man will provide a lot of arresting emotional material in upcoming installments.

If you can manage a highly atmospheric, spooky and complex book that absolutely must be read as part of a series arc, you need to pick up The Restorer. This will be a standout series, just you wait n see! ^_^

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
"I REALLY liked it!"

Giveaway: The Rookie by Liz Crowe

Hope you've been enjoying a lovely, sunny, fun-filled weekend!! As promised in yesterday's post featuring an awesome interview with author Liz Crowe, today you'll find a quick n' easy giveaway.

On offer is Liz Crowe's The Rookie, the opening piece to the author's Brewing Passion series. Here's a taste of the story's premise:

Lisa loves her job in the male-dominated beer sales industry and has built a reputation as one of the best. But she dreads the "ride along" days when beer companies sends their least experienced representatives to see how she operates—until her one bad day turns into something more with The Rookie.  

Undercover for his own brewery, Trent has heard of Lisa's prestigious sales prominence and sets out to see for himself—to show Lisa what he is capable of—in business and pleasure. Their attraction leads them to an amazing encounter in the most unlikely place, but will Lisa accept Trent's true identity once it's revealed? Or will she finally surrender and reach out for the unexpected?

Sounds like major hotness waiting to happen. ^_^ I've read the story, and can definitely recommend it to others; it's a quick and easy read with lots of steam to spare. To enter for a chance to win a copy of this short story, simply fill out the form below (which I hope will be easy as pie). A winner will be picked randomly on Friday, June 3, 2011.

Interview with Author Liz Crowe

How are you doing this fine weekend? In the U.S., this weekend is a particularly special one, with Memorial Day coming up on Monday. The weekend is often spent around loved ones..relaxing by the pool, hanging out at a barbecue or at a service of remembrance. Or all three (and more), at some point. One thing's for sure, though. The three-day weekend is best with a cold, delicious beer in one's hand. Can you imagine Memorial Day celebrations without it? Yeah, me neither.

Today at MNtR, I'm very pleased to welcome a guest who is an expert at beer: she's one of the masterminds behind Wolverine State Brewing Company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She's also the author of the Brewing Passion series, which chronicles tales of hot lovin' in the cool biz of beer brewing. Today, she chats for a bit about her industry, her books, and of course, the liquid gold itself.

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MNtR: Welcome, Ms. Crowe! I'm curious. You've noted in the past that you are the marketing director/owner/Beer Wench for Wolverine State Brewing Company. What brought you into the business of beer brewing?

Liz Crowe: Marketing, or more specifically my ability at same.  I have a degree in English but have worked in public relations, marketing, fundraising and promotions my entire working life.  I spent 8 years as an ex-pat trailing spouse (bless him) between careers and while my kids were at ages where they needed me (and made me completely insane).  So we schlepped around between Hiroshima, Japan, Istanbul, Turkey (where all sorts of shenanigans nearly cost me a marriage but that’s a whole ‘nother story isn’t it?) and finally to London, England.  When we returned to Ann Arbor, I picked up where I left off with my real estate license, making money even in a down market.  Realtors are the original guerilla marketers IF they know what they are doing.  And I did. 

So one of the founders (I have 2 male biz partners…it’s inspiring) knows me as a neighbor and from my Realtor rep and when he and his partner decided to make the business “for real” and not just a football season gimmick (“Wolverine Beer” in Ann Arbor sells itself for exactly 2.5 months a year) they did their research and realized that a “marketing person” handling all aspects of sales, marketing, promotion and distributor relations was crucial.  I’m told I was the only one they spoke to about this.  I think they are stroking my ego, but we have learned through our relationship that ego-stroking is crucial to my functional well-being so stroke away.   Urban Legend someday I swear!


I have used my abilities as writer (blogger) and the power of social networking to bring our company to a 12-months ahead of schedule point, with new fermentation capacity and a bottling line way earlier than planned.   My “boys” as I call them, have taught me all I need to know about beer.  I am so advanced in my journey in craft beer that I am going to start the cicerone-training program this summer.  A “cicerone” is the equivalent of a wine sommelier—an expert in all aspects of the craft from off-flavors, brewing and fermentation technicalities, serving and storage protocols and food pairings an there are Very Few Females with the certification.  

But I digress…
  
MNtR: What made you decide to write a series involving beer-making?

LC: Because I know it and it’s hot and trending.  Craft brewing is poised to take nearly 10% of total market share which is HUGE considering that the other 90% is comprised of 2 overseas companies that own:
Budweiser
Miller
Coors
I’m having a bit of trouble translating to some readers/reviewers but I think I’m making headway.  It’s different—no vamps, weres, shifters, cops, firemen, senators, cowboys, army men, or CEO’s just entrepreneurs, doing their thing, in a highly competitive and pretty damn interesting industry.  

MNtR: In your stories, the women involved in the industry are far and few between. What's the situation like for their real-life counterparts?

LC: Exactly the same.  I am working to get more women involved in just drinking beer much less the industry.  I don’t mind the exclusivity right now—it gets me noticed and once I prove I know my lagers from my ales (among other things…) I can hold a room full of beer dudes pretty captive.  But ultimately, we are going to rule it.  After all, women brewed the beer in the beginning of time.  The whole thing got hijacked from us at some point but we are getting it back.  Beer has taste, and women have better, more refined taste buds.  It’s just a matter of time!

MNtR: Lisa and Trent's story in The Rookie was hot (and deliciously cold ^_^), spicy fun. Any chance we'll see them together again? 

LC: Yep.  As part of the Brewing Passion series, The Tap Room will be released September 30, 2011.  It is a “choose your romance” format, where the reader will choose Erin’s fate, from among the many fully fabulous male options she has.  Trent Franklin and Erin Brady are old friends (with benefits) from way back.  He is the one who brings her in as marketing owner and while they share a few intense moments together, ultimately, once he meets Lisa he is all hers.  Lisa plays an important role helping Erin shape her destiny as a good friend too.  “Specific Gravity” is a short story that will release right after The Tap Room novella highlighting how Trent and Lisa’s connection is threatened by his inability to commit …. But how he finally sees the light!
They are fun, those two….I’m glad you like their first encounter!

MNtR: Lastly, inquiring minds want to know, from a beer expert… what's the most bizarre ingredient you've ever tasted in a beer?

LC: Peanut butter and jelly.  No lie.  Right here in Michigan (the Great beer state!) at Short’s Brewing by my good buddy Joe Shorts! A close second is “Key lime”  from the same brewery.

MNtR: Wow. The world of beer is truly big big place! Thank you so much for stopping by, Ms. Crowe. ^_^
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Again, Many thanks to Liz Crowe for a wonderful interview! I look forward to The Tap Room coming out this fall; it's going to be hot, mark m'words. ^_^

Stayed tuned for tomorrow here at MNtR....we'll have a giveaway of Liz Crowe's The Rookie, just in time for the unofficial kick-off of summer season.

Keep up with Liz:
www.brewingpassion.com
www.a2beerwench.com
www.breathlessblog.com ("Liz's F#@!ing Fridays!")

Review: Collision Course by Zoe Archer

Title: Collision Course
Series: The 8th Wing, #1
Genres/Themes: science-fiction, romance, opposites attract
Excerpt: here
Author: Zoe Archer

Quick Take:
A solid series-starter, this would make for a good first taste of sci-fi romance for fans of paranormal romance. Some very minor personal gripes couldn't keep me from loving this action-filled, steamy romp.

Book Description (via author site):
     Mara Skiren is a scavenger, a black-market dealer. Blackmailed into helping Commander Kell Frayne infiltrate a treacherous corner of the galaxy, Mara learns that her biggest danger is from her sexy, by-the-book partner.  She’s a loner with more than a few battle scars on her heart, but something about Commander Frayne stirs up her long-buried need for an intimate connection.     An ace pilot for the elite Black Wraith Squadron, Kell’s mission is to rescue a lost pilot and ship. Unable to deny his  attraction  to the beautiful, rebellious woman , he decides bedding her would cool his ardor. But one taste is not nearly enough, and he finds himself sharing more of his real self with  Mara than he has with anyone.      With deadly criminals on their heels and an increasingly dangerous  assignment to complete, he’s starting to wonder….  If they survived, could he let her go? And will Mara want to stay?


Review:

A new sci-fi romance series is born! This is a great bit of news, since this segment of the romance genre definitely deserves more love and attention, especially given the increased popularity of its sibling paranormal romance. In my view, Collision Course is sci-fi lite—in a good way. It would be a decent segue into its genre from those used to PnR.

This book is aptly named, as it involves the clash between classes, ideologies, and—most specifically—the two main characters. The plot itself is straightforward, with not many asides. The set-up of an epic struggle between corporations 8th Wing and PRAXIS is fun, and carries much potential. It’s pure space opera to the max.

Though there is a good bit of legitimate world-building, the narrative definitely doesn’t hold your hand through visuals. The text is full of what I like to call “nothing words.” Those are science-fiction-sounding wording that ultimately carry no real meaning to the reader; comprehension instead comes from the rest of the sentence, as in “he was as sneaky as a Cormelian sea worm.” But this sometimes happens in science fiction writing, right? One must simply get used to working more actively with the descriptions provided.

I really enjoyed the hero, Kell Frayne. He was intriguing both when serving as the narrative voice, and when being described through the heroine’s head. There’s something rather attractive about the tough and practical yet honorable hero. ^_^ He’s definitely one of the strongest sources of my attachment to the book.

Zoe Archer is quite good at action sequences. My excitement for the book ratcheted up several notches in the third act, where most of the high-octane activity takes place. In that area, the author seems to have a great sense of pacing and tension building.

I must make a small note of one aspect that didn’t thrill me, though. A little bit of the later dialogue felt a bit too trite for my taste. It was discourse between the hero and heroine, too…oh well.

This story is definitely a solid series starter. I’d recommend it to those newer to or unfamiliar with the genre, since its themes are fairly universal and the world built thus far is not too complex.

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

Armchair BEA Day 3: Bloggers I Heart

There are a lot of blogs and bloggers I dig; I think that might just be the same with most other bloggers out there. We're a community-lovin bunch; it fits perfectly with the reasons why we love to blog in the first place (which I hope include some version of "to share a love of books with like-minded individuals"). If I tried to list all of my most beloved blogs and bloggers, I'd be here all day long. So instead, I'm listing three. For a full list of my faves, check out the sidebar to the far right. ---->


Book Lovers INCBook Lovers, Inc. 
This blog just has so much life and energy, and its all because of the ladies (“Lovers”) contributing to it regularly. Regular posts like "Around the Bookish World" and "New Releases" serve as my best look at the latest book happenings (Google, who?), while their "The Good, the Bad and the Are-You-Kidding-Me?" features make me smile every time. Each contributor brings a unique flavor to the mix, as evidenced by their varied, creative and descriptive pseudonyms. Just call me the Needy Lover, ‘cos I need this blog like I need to read. ^_^

Photobucket
Don't worry too much about trying to pronounce the name Blodeuedd (...it's blod-EH-yeth, right?). You won't be able to capture this blogger's awesomeness from that uniqueness alone. She often reads things just outside of my radar, so invariably I find great new-to-me picks to add to the TBR list. She's gloriously opinionated, super engaging, fun to follow, and seems to be everywhere at once. If there were a single blogger that I had to identify as the coolest, she'd be it.


Parajunkee's View 
This last pick is no surprise. To me, Rachel of Parajunkee's View is the gold standard to which book bloggers should aspire. She provides fantastic reviews, gives great interviews, and hosts one of the most popular memes around. On top of that, she's sweet, amiable, and is always trying to help other bloggers out. I have high, apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes of attending the 2012 Authors After Dark conference in New Orleans...and this blogger is among those that I'm most looking forward to meeting in person.


So, that's that. It should go without saying, but... you simply must check out the three blogs above. I guarantee you won't be sorry you did.

Armchair BEA Day 2: Best Of 2011



2011 is shaping up to be a great reading year for fans of genre fiction series. I tried my very best to narrow down the books that I'm most excited about this year (both released and upcoming), but barely scraped by under ten selections. ^_^ Check it out.

Already Released

Aftertime (Aftertime, #1)
by Sophie Littlefield
Quick Take: This book had my pulse racing for much of the time I spent reading it. The lush visuals, the emotions, the mystery and (of course) the high chill-factor made this an absolutely wonderful read. I was so spooked and unnerved, but absolutely could not tear my eyes from the page. (full review)

The Restorer (The Graveyard Queen, #1)
by Amanda Stevens
Quick Take: Loved it. Loved. It. Stevens's writing style is so easy to get into. To say that I look forward to more of this series is a serious understatement. Highly recommended to all of my ghost-story-friendly urban fantasy peeps. (full review forthcoming)

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth
by The Oatmeal
Quick Take: Freaking. Hilarious. (full review)
Upcoming Sequels

Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2)
by Meljean Brook
I sort of have to not think about this book's release, or else I get too excited and whiney about the release date still being a good ways off. But you can bet I'll be first in line to buy this one. And oh, the wait will have been SO worth it.
Release date: November 1, 2011 by Berkley

Shadowflame (Shadow World, #2)
by Dianne Sylvan
A paranormal romance series that reads like urban fantasy…I'm hooked. This installment continues the adventures of newly minted vampire Miranda Grey.
Release date: July 26, 2011 by Ace

Rebirth (Aftertime, #2)
by Sophie Littlefield
I absolutely fell in love with the first book, and from the quick synopsis of the second, I think my love affair with this series is bound to continue. Protagonist Cass Dollar is a supremely intriguing character.
Release date: July 19, 2011 by Luna

Runners up ('cos it's so hard to pick JUST three!):

Upcoming New Series

My Life As A White Trash Zombie (White Trash Zombie)
by Diana Rowland
This book has a fabulous premise, making me so excited to read about a good (and good looking) zombie. ^_^ I have the feeling this series will become a favorite; Rowland's Kara Gillian series is already near the top of my lists.
Release date: July 5, 2011 by DAW

Nightfall (Dark Age Dawning)
by Ellen Conner
From the writing team of Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty, this paranormal romance series looks like it will have all the necessary elements for a good time. The three books (Nightfall, Midnight, Daybreak) will be released within months of each other.
Release date: June 6, 2011 by Berkley Trade

Dead Iron (Age of Steam)
by Devon Monk
As far as I'm aware, I've never before read a Devon Monk book. But when I hear the word "steampunk," I automatically sit up and take notice. Monk's Allie Beckstrom series is quite beloved…so I'm sure the author is fully capable of creating another winner.
Release date: July 5, 2011 by Roc Trade

**Note: Release dates may not be finalized.**

Review: Blood of the Maple by Dana Marie Bell

Title: Blood of the Maple
Series: Maggie's Grove, #1
Genres/Themes: urban fantasy, romance, obsession
Author: Dana Marie Bell

Quick Take:
This book features a wonderfully amusing and addictive cast of characters, forming a solid basis for future installments. Despite the second half featuring a few laggy scenes and somewhat uneven dialogue, the story as a whole is solid and worth a visit.

Book Description (via Goodreads):  
     A seduction-gone-wrong leaves vampire Parker Hollis with a new vegetarian lifestyle and on the run from a vengeful witch. Moving to small-town Maggie's Grove, Parker meets a redheaded dryad with green, leafy blood that draws him in a way he hasn't experienced in decades. His new neighbor smells divine, and it isn't long before craving gives in to need.
     In a unique community of supernaturals, tree-loving outcast Amara Schwedler has never quite fit in. She's scarred by a traumatic incident and feared by the local townsfolk. She's convinced Parker will look elsewhere for a mate once he discovers she's not one of the O-positive set, and can't believe it when Parker finds her irresistible.
     When the witch who's been plaguing Parker's life discovers the newfound attraction between Parker and Amara, she takes out her anger on the town. Can the supernaturals of Maggie's Grove accept Amara and band together in time to withstand the assaults of the enraged witch?
Review:
First off, props go to whoever thought up the book’s title. It gives an idea of what the story might involve (namely, blood and plant life), but also perplexes and intrigues—after all, what in tarnation does blood have to do with trees? ^_^

This work by author Dana Marie Bell is fun and entertaining, focusing on the small supernatural community of Maggie’s Grove. It begins with the introduction of cursed vampire Dr. Parker Hollis, who has just moved into town to start a new (undead) life. Following the vamp is engaging, as he possesses a witty yet adorably geeky sense of humor. His interactions with others are the basis for a lot of the laughs and strong moments of the story.

Likewise, the supporting characters populating the town are lively and amusing (as well as deliciously infuriating at times). Unsurprisingly, the author makes as much use of the townspeople as possible, crafting what is essentially a love story and revenge tale into an ensemble piece of sorts. I would suggest keeping notes (either mental or physical) about the characters introduced. There are quite a few of them, many of whom recur in both name and person.

The plotting and pacing of the book was not as endearing, however. I found the first half of the tale to be very easy to engage, compelling through scenes both cheerful and solemn. But the second half seemed a bit uneven at times, punctuated by scenes that dragged and moments of somewhat disparate dialogue.

Even so, the pacing scheme did sometimes work nicely. I found that, in certain situations, the abrupt change in characters’ focus lent a sense of reality. After all, real life isn’t one clear-cut, uninterrupted vignette after another.

Blood of the Maple is intended to be the first in a set of books focusing on Maggie’s Grove. The story set up some clear dilemmas to be solved in future installments, and I’m happy to say that they all seem quite intriguing.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
"I liked it!"

Giveaway: Incredible Dreams and Kindle 3 Contest 411!

Hey guys! Got an awesome couple of opportunities for you. First, we've got a giveaway for an e-copy of Sandra Edward's book Incredible Dreams. New to the title? Here's a snippet of what it's about:

      Izzy Miller prefers to call herself a spiritual therapist because she thinks it makes her sound more professional than plain old ghost-whisperer. She expects her latest project to be quick and easy because exorcising military personnel is pretty routine. But there's nothing easy or routine about Captain Jack Baker-he's a rather forgetful spirit and somewhat mischievous. And even though he's intrigued by the US Government's latest attempt to remove him from the only place he can ever remember being...he has no intentions of going anywhere.
     Plans to exorcise Jack are quickly sidelined when Izzy discovers a portal into the past inside her dreams and sets out to change his fate. Trouble is...when she gets back there, she can't remember anything but her name. She still sees ghosts, but is far less accepting of her gift. And, to make matters worse, a demonic force pretending to be the forgetful heroine's sister has her own plans-to steal Izzy's soul.
Sounds like awesomeness, right? So what you do now is mosey on down to the bottom of this post to fill out the form. It's super easy; just leave a name and e-mail address at which to contact you. I guarantee, you'll be glad you did!  Winner of the e-book will be chosen on May 31, 2011.

NOW. For the really exciting part....

Sandra's also giving away a new Kindle 3 and a nice starter library from some great authors at the end of this blog tour. For more info, please check her website (www.sandrawrites.com).

Followers of the "Incredible Dreams Kindle 3 Giveaway" here are your questions for this stop on the blog tour:

1. What has author L.C. Evans always wanted to own?  -- Find the answer at: http://amoosewalkedintoabar.blogspot.com/p/linda-evans.html

2.  In LK Rigel's Space Junque, what does Char leave in the Malibu's glove box? -- Find the answer at: http://www.lkrigel.com/spacejunque/lets-get-the-hell-off-this-rock-space-junque-ch1/


* You'll notice that you cannot post your answers in the comments section here. Detailed instructions for entering the giveaway are at Sandra Edwards's website. Go there now!!! ^_^

To enter for a copy of Incredible Dreams:
 

KLB Tour Stop: Giving Up the Ghost (Review)

Title: Giving Up The Ghost
Series: n/a
Genres/Themes: paranormal romance, mystery, love after loss
Author: Melissa Ecker
Length: 75,000 words
Excerpt: here

Quick Take:
This is a paranormal romance with lots of heartfelt emotion, though it still had plenty of sizzle to satisfy PnR fans.
Book Description (via publisher):
     Kylie McAllister has it all until her world is shattered by the death of her husband, Jackson, in a car accident. After a year of grieving, Kylie uses the proceeds from Jackson’s life insurance to purchase a plantation home on the outskirts of New Orleans to start over with their daughter, Abby. Confirmed bachelor, Ryan LaCroix, has no intentions of settling down with anyone, let alone his best friend’s widow, but somehow Kylie and Abby find their way into his heart.
     After discovering an old Ouija board in the attic of her new home, Kylie unwittingly opens a cosmic door to an incubus who pretends to be the dead husband she is so desperately struggling to let go of. She falls deep under his potent spell of delicious sex and malevolent obsession while he gradually drains her life to fortify his own. By the time she realizes he’s an imposter, she is powerless to stop him. Together, with Jackson’s subliminal guidance and the help of a kind voodoo practitioner, Ryan and Kylie wage a fight for her life against the evil entity.
Review:
Loss of a spouse. From the get-go (read: the book description), one knows that this book is not likely to be full of sunshine and slapstick, or even an abundance of purely physical pursuits. Melissa Ecker's paranormal romance takes a difficult situation and builds upon it to be much more than just a devastating life event.

But speaking of said event. I think it's a testament to the author's skill as a writer that this book had me swimming in tears within the first three chapters. That reaction wasn't brought about simply because "someone died," but because Ecker really drew out the devastation and desperation that the protagonist (Kylie McAllister) experienced as a result of her loss.

This loss has enduring effect on the heroine, but not for the reasons one may think. This story does not feature a long struggle of guilt at being a surviving spouse, nor does it have Kylie hesitating to eventually want to find love again. This is a ghost (or mysterious presence ^_^) story, in which a sequence of events following Kylie's loss leads to a haunting. A very malevolent, but steamy, haunting.

There's certainly a decent amount of heat to be found in this story (though it's by no means at the level of erotica, Ecker's typical genre stomping grounds). Even given the sensuality factor in this book--which was delectable, let me tell you--there was a lot of emotion. It's in that respect that I felt the tale was really stand-out. The concern, care, anger, frustration, sadness, fear...all of these expressions were vivid and believable.

A note for those typically averse to ghost stories: don't fear this one. This book won't keep you up at night pointing a flashlight at the closet. It might keep you up for a different reason, however, and will likely make you think twice about that next sexy dream. ^_^

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

Want to check out more by this author? Visit www.melissaecker.com for excerpts, other titles, and info on appearances.  KLB Tours will be giving away a themed trading card as well as an e-copy of Giving Up The Ghost, so be sure to mosey on over there!!!


Giving Up The Ghost - Virtual Journey Schedule 
5/15   Book Lovers:  http://www.bookloversinc.com/
5/16   Lush Book Reviews:  http://lushbookreviewss.blogspot.com/
5/17   Ramblings From A Chaotic Mind:  http://nikkibrandyberry.wordpress.com/
5/18   The Order of Smut Vixens:  http://orderofsmutvixens.blogspot.com/
5/19   Hanging With Bells:   http://hangingwithbells.blogspot.com/
5/20   Erotic Reviews by Mistress Spice:  http://spiceeroticreviews.blogspot.com/
5/21   My Need To Read:  http://www.myneedtoread.com/ 
5/22   Paranormal & Romantic Suspense Reviews:  http://paranormalromanticsuspensereviews.blogspot.com 
5/23   Larissa's Life:  http://www.larissaslife.com/ 
5/24   Read My Mind:  http://aliseonlife.blogspot.com/ 
5/25   Tigris Eden:  http://www.tigriseden.com/

Guest Post: Author Deena Remiel Interviews TRINITY's Michael!

I'm so excited to be able to welcome the fabulous Deena Remiel to MNtR today. The author of Trinity sits down with the book's protagonist, Michael D'Angelo, for a quick interview about his job as an elementary school principal, and its relationship to his other role as protector of humankind. I got to sit in on the session, and I'll say now, Michael is beyond swoon-worthy. ^_^
-----------


Deena Remiel: Good day to everyone! I’d like to thank Alisha for having me over today. With the school year quickly coming to a close in Arizona, I was lucky enough to snag Michael D’Angelo, Prophet’s Point Elementary School principal and Brethren Protector for a few minutes and a few questions.
Michael: Hello Alisha, Deena, everyone… *gives me a big hug*
DR: *I blush* Michael, good to see you! Have a seat. Glad you could spare some time today out of your busy schedule. I was wondering if you could answer a couple of burning questions for us.
MD: I’d be happy to. The students are getting mighty restless, but I’m sure Emma and the rest of my staff are keeping them busy with learning and fun. *winks*
DR: This brings me to my first question. How long have you been principal at Prophet’s Point Elementary School? And what made you choose it?
MD: Well, I’ve been principal there now for 6 years. I didn’t actually choose it. It chose me. I just had a feeling when I got the call to interview that it was going to be my home for a good long while.
DR: Now, we know you’re a Brethren as well, right?
MD: Yes, I’m a Brethren Protector. *leans in close* But please, don’t go spreading it around. I try to keep my two lives as separate as possible.
DR: Don’t worry, this is only being seen by hundreds of humans. *I pat his hand* That leads me to my next question. How do you juggle these two lives- your normal, everyday human job and your immortal, angelic job? I mean, don’t you get confused sometimes or afraid your cover will be blown?
MD: Well, to tell you the truth, sometimes the lines do blur. But it doesn’t happen often. I see these two careers as being very similar. As a Brethren Protector, I’m charged with the responsibility of protecting the human race from Evil. As a school principal, I protect the students and faculty that are in my care. Juggling gets a little hairy when I’m thrust into a situation that needs my attention and I’m in the middle of the school day. It’s a bit tricky to coordinate coverage. But the staff is wonderful and picks up my slack when I can’t be there. *smiles and shifts in his seat* As far as keeping my Brethren identity under wraps, that is difficult. I guess this interview is going to “out” me.
DR: I think people will welcome the knowledge that angels are here on earth. Don’t you?
MD: *chuckles* I honestly don’t know.  I’ll just have to wait and see if the world embraces me. There are plenty of people under the influence of Evil that won’t be too happy. As we Brethren say… Evil better start running!
DR: Ooh…  A bit of a threat there. *I raise an eyebrow* So have you been busy with fighting Evil?
MD: It’s like a never-ending story, Deena, with wars and battles, both sides winning and losing in turn. But in the end, Good has remained sovereign over this world. *frowns*
DR: What’s up, Michael?
MD: I don’t know. I just got a feeling. Something is brewing. I’d better get going. Can’t ignore the senses, you know. Thanks so much for having me here today, Alisha. Deena, I’ll be talking to you real soon. Give my best to your editor, Nicole. I hear she gets emotional over your work. *winks*
DR: Thank you, Michael. And best of luck with those senses. Stay safe! Well, Alisha, I guess it’s time for me to go as well. But knowing that you have a “need to read”, I’ll leave you with a blurb from Trinity, my new paranormal romance novel that’s available wherever eBooks are sold. Thanks again for hosting me here. I’ve had a wonderful time!
---------
Thank you, Michael (*wink, giggle, blush*), and many thanks to Deena Remiel! It was fab having them stop by. If you'd like to read more about the Brethren Protector as created by Remiel, be sure to check out Trinity. Here's a bit about the story:
Mmm. Yes, please!
One way or another, terror will reign tonight.
     School teacher and single mom, Emma Livingston, has been through hell—and back so she thinks. While dealing with the night terrors and active imagination of her five-year old daughter, Hannah, she attempts to lead a normal life. That is, until the demon from those nightmares pays her a visit, too, and threatens both of their lives. Desperate, she reaches out for help—and finds Michael waiting.
     Michael D’Angelo is known to everyone in Prophet’s Point, Arizona, as their loving elementary school principal. But to The Brethren, he is the most powerful Protector. Immortal and angelic does not mean he’s without doubts or fears, as protecting Emma and Hannah from Evil tests his ability to fight his tortured past.
     As the Trinity is formed, ancient secrets are revealed and faith is tested. When a prophecy is exposed, Hannah becomes the main target and Emma wonders if a normal life will ever be possible again. Hope is like an anchor, but can a mother, her daughter, and an angel overcome the evil determined to annihilate the world?
©Deena Remiel, 2011.
You can find Deena Remiel at:

You can buy Trinity at:
Decadent Publishing (link); Amazon (link); Barnes & Noble (link)

Thoughts On: What I Read When I'm Not Reading

I love to read (Can that be more of an obvious, unnecessary understatement? No matter.)! I find few things more enjoyable than cracking into a good book. But I increasingly find that over the years I've become just as addicted to reading about reading. The popularity of sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing,  and MobileRead--not to mention the cornucopia of book blogs--have made it that much easier to spend large amounts of time reading about possible book selections or musing about the craft of reading/writing itself. Have you ever spent a solid block of hours surfing about the topic of books, reading or writing? Well, then, I've got a few more sites to add to your list, all of which I've discovered within the last few months and have enjoyed for the reading-related enjoyment they bring.

Book Yap (site)
Like discovering new literary finds? On this site, rather than relying on recommendations from friends, you're searching for books based on the aggregate data put forth by countless other readers. The site itself is relatively new and, as such, still has a somewhat limited database of titles compared to some of the more established setups. But even so, the search functions are easy to use and helpful, the interface is purty, and the vibe of the whole thing is magnetic, anyhow. And I've received some good recs from it thus far!

Bite-Size Edits (site)
Love to nick-pick the heck out of written works? This site is based on allowing you to do just that, whilst being of assistance to others. The premise is that writers of all types upload their prose to the site, which then breaks the works down to a few isolated sentences at a time. Other folks can then suggest edits for these bite-sized bits of writing. As the site creators note, this dynamic of community-style editing is not meant to replace the more traditional editing process (which, among other things, takes into account a written work as a whole), but rather help with the indisputable or straightforward issues of grammar and style.


LibriVox (site)
Fond of your own voice? Like to read stories to others? Is there a particular type of timbre you want to have read War and Peace to you? LibriVox is a project similar in spirit to Project Gutenberg (in which out-of-copyright works are made electronically available to the public, free of cost). In this case, however, it's audio books that populate the site. People can upload recordings of themselves reading public domain works, and anyone can download and enjoy them. This is obviously a great resource if you enjoy both classics and audio books.

So that's that. Hopefully, you'll find some of the offerings on this site as enjoyable and addictive as I have. Because we can't spend all our time in books. ^_^

In Anticipation: Rebirth by Sophie Littlefield

Near the beginning of this year, I was given the opportunity to read a galley of a book by Sophie Littlefield, author of crime novel A Bad Day for Sorry and YA thriller Banished. The book in question, Aftertime, knocked my freaking socks off, a fate from which I've yet to recover. The post-apocalyptic tale of personal redemption and love was wonderfully written, with a scope both epic and intimate, themes both frightening and comforting, and so much more than I could have hoped for. At the moment, it's my favorite book of the year.

Needless to say, when I found out that the book was in fact the first in a series, I was over the moon. The sequel, Rebirth, is set for release in the middle of this summer...and from the blurb below, it sounds like it'll be a doozy. (Note, if you've not read the first book, decide now whether you care to read the info below!)
     Civilization has fallen, leaving California an unforgiving, decimated place. But Cass Dollar beat terrible odds to get her missing daughter back—she and Ruthie will be happy.

     Yet with the first winter, Cass is reminded that happiness is fleeting in Aftertime. Ruthie retreats into silence. Flesh-eating Beaters still dominate the landscape. And Smoke, Cass’s lover and strength, departs on a quest for vengeance, one that may end him even if he returns.
 
    The survivalist community Cass has planted roots in is breaking apart, too. Its leader, Dor, implores Cass to help him recover his own lost daughter, taken by the totalitarian Rebuilders. And soon Cass finds herself thrust into the dark heart of an organization promising humanity’s rebirth—at all costs.
     Bound to two men blazing divergent paths across a savage land, Cass must overcome the darkness in her wounded heart, or lose those she loves forever.
From the looks of it, Rebirth might have some of the dichotomy of scope that was present in its predecessor. One got glimpses of the great magnitude of the fate that's befallen society, but saw it through the eyes of a flawed individual who had much soul searching to do. That'd be a great thing for this story, because Cass has been a supremely compelling character to follow. It's too bad Smoke might be out and about for some of the time, but it's equally intriguing that there might be new faces to look forward to.

The cover art is great, in my humble opinion (props to the artist!). It's visually in line with the first book of the series, with similar visual cues (the lone figure in the distance, the murky and diffuse atmosphere, the delicate bird perched upon some barbed wire, etc.). But what's noticeably different are the signs of life and civilization hinted at by the pristine wire fence and...(gasp!)...is that electricity in the street lamp? Oh, and the risk of over-analyzing, I'll also point out the choice of green as the main color in the scene fits the title, at the very least. What else to represent rebirth than the hue of our beloved flora?

Rebirth is scheduled to be released in July, 2011 by Harlequin LUNA.
LUNA website: here
Sophie Littlefield website: here

Review: Darkness Dawns by Dianne Duvall

Title: Darkness Dawns
Series: Immortal Guardians, #1
Genres/Themes: paranormal romance, vampires, brotherhood
Author: Dianne Duvall

Quick Take:
A solid opener for a brotherhood-centric paranormal romance series. I wasn't completely convinced by all of the story's twists and turns, but overall found a lot to like, especially in the characters' interrelationships.

Book Description (via Goodreads):  
Once, Sarah Bingham's biggest challenge was making her students pay attention in class. Now, after rescuing a wounded stranger, she's handed in the middle of a battle between corrupt vampires and powerful immortals who also need blood to survive. Roland Warbrook is the most compelling man Sarah has ever laid hands on. But his desire for her is mingled with a hunger he can barely control...In his nine centuries of immortal existence, no woman has tempted Roland as much as Sarah. But asking her to love him is impossible - when it means forfeiting the world she's always known, and the life he would do anything to protect.
Review:
Yay for yummy preternaturals! Or perhaps I should make that tall, hulking, intense, gorgeous and heroic preternaturals! This series opener hits all of the aforementioned points with its merry (or more appropriately, brooding) band of blood-sucking immortals.

You may have noticed I just now avoided using the moniker of "vampire" to describe the entities upon which the Immortal Guardians series is centered. In this world, "vampires" are mindless, bloodthirsty creatures of the night, whereas "immortals" are those who possess a very particular genetic composition allowing them to avoid the less refined aspects of their sanguineous nocturnal condition. Needless to say, the immortals are the "good" guys and the vampires are the bad.

Have you ever seen or heard of the independent film Before Sunrise? If so, you'll recognize a similar type of romantic structure, in which the two romantic leads--initially strangers--are thrown together for a short but intense (and revealing) period of time. Before Sunrise is one of my favorite movies, so I very much enjoyed the similar type of interplay in Duvall's tale. Here, the world distills to just the two protagonists (at least in their minds). They share such honesty with each other, resulting in a plausible and intriguing connection.

For that reason, I enjoyed the first half quite a bit more than the second, in which the story's scope broadens and begins some serious world-building. The climax of the tale felt like a bit of a jumble to me, and there were some plot developments and resolutions that seemed more random than surprising or exciting. That said, I still liked the characters and the overall lore that was developed throughout the book.

This book does a great job where character interrelationships are concerned; from the romance to the various friendships examined, there was plenty to be charmed by. The next book will inevitably focus on different protagonists (as is the standard practice in paranormal romances), but with this first glimpse at the cast's personalities and dilemmas, I'm supremely enthusiastic about what's in store.
 
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
"I liked it!"

Review: The Vampire Dimitri by Colleen Gleason

Title: The Vampire Dimitri
Series: Regency Draculia trilogy, #2
Genres/Themes: vampires, romance, historical
Author: Colleen Gleason

Quick Take:
This book, which parallels much of book one's story, does a decent job of balancing old and new information, resulting in greater depth of certain characters and unexpected twists. But the book definitely stands on the shoulders of its predecessor.

Book Description (via Goodreads):
     Dimitri, the Earl of Corvindale, should be delighted that the headstrong Maia Woodmore is getting married. His mortal ward and houseguest has annoyed – and bewitched – the Dracule nobleman too long, and denying his animal cravings grows more excruciating by the day.

     Miss Woodmore's family has a rather...complicated history with the immortals and she herself possesses a keen sensibility far beyond mere women's intuition. Marriage will give her safety, respectability, and everything else a proper young lady could wish for. Everything, that is, except for passion.

     In the looming battle between Dracule factions, all pretenses will shatter as Maia and Dimitir come together in an unholy union of danger, desperation, and fiercest desire.
Review:
Parallel novels can sometimes be tricky. Prior to picking up this book, I was informed of the fact that at least half of this tale would run during the exact same weeks-long time frame as its predecessor The Vampire Voss,  focusing on a different hero and heroine. I wasn't sure what to make of that: would this book assume you've read book one, thus leaving out chunks of crucial exposition? Or would it rehash materials from Voss making for a duller experience?

 I'm happy to report that--at least in my mind--The Vampire Dimitri struck just the right balance in telling a story that was both old and new. In the previous book, Dimitri is portrayed as a stoic, scholarly vampire. He is that way indeed, but almost immediately his inner character and decision-making is fleshed out, changing much of what was previously assumed about him. Likewise, the more critical events (involving numerous characters) were given more depth by the change in narrative focus. Just when one thinks they know how a scene will progress based on book one, it goes in a surprising direction that still fits within the confines of the plot overall.

This only continues until about halfway through the book, however. Completely new content follows from there, and it's a wild ride. Of particular enjoyment was the interaction between Dimitri and heroine Maia. The story resembles the lore of Beauty and the Beast, albeit more in spirit than in specific plotting.

As with The Vampire Voss, the language used to paint the story is well-crafted. It's not particularly flowery or dramatic; rather, it uses precisely the right words to bring out the drama and allure of the era and setting. Author Colleen Gleason's eloquence goes to show that particular words and phrasing do still matter.

There's a version of the classic love triangle, though one "corner" of it spends most of the book as a distant thought rather than a flesh-and-blood person. I must admit, I wasn't hot on a couple of the elements related to its development. I'm not a big fan of too-easy-to-be-plausible resolutions, and I felt this book definitely had some of that going on.

Though this book could technically be read as stand-alone, it wouldn't be as effective or enjoyable without a read-through of the first book. Some of the drama comes from a readjustment of perspective, a re-living of previously visited scenarios. That said, I enjoyed The Vampire Dimitri even more than its predecessor. It runs the gamut of themes, touching on love, regret, redemption, thorns-to-roses romance, mystery, revenge, adventure and more. I definitely look forward to more Regency Draculia and more Gleason!
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
"I really liked it"

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