Review: Shadow Moon (Unbidden Magic #4) by Marilee Brothers

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Allie Emerson is hoping for a few quiet months to catch her breath after a summer that included the discovery she is not only a twin and of faery blood, but also destined to play a pivotal role in faery world. School has barely begun when Allie must kiss her hope of a normal year goodbye.

She can't escape her unfinished business with the fae, the Trimarks, or Junior Alvarez, who is making it clear he plans to win her back. Signs, portents and whispers are pushing Allie to "find the girl" before it's too late. Hoping her twin can help her solve the riddle of their destiny, Allie uncovers old secrets and begins a cross-country journey that puts her in more danger than ever before. If she succeeds, she may just find the answers that can save everyone she loves. 
Shadow Moon affirmed everything that I loved about this series so far. Allie Emerson has grown up so much since Moonstone and she proves so many times that she's now a force to be reckoned wi
th. And woe betide anyone who steps in her way. In the beginning she was meek but with a little attitude, and now she's full on 'don't mess with me!'.

The characters in the series all play their parts, and its Junior, her love interest in the first book, that comes to her rescue this time. The trimarks have involved a cult religious group and scour towns to bring in new followers. When they arrive at Peacock Flats everyone in Allie's confidence can tell somethings not right about them. Even Nicola, twin to Allie's ex boyfriend Beck, wants to find out what their plans and how they mean to rid the world of supernatural and demonic forces.

Ryker's gone back to faery land, Beck is still away at college (they're now 'justfriends') but Junior decides he's had enough of his TV stardom and settles back into town. He backs up Allie's decisions and becomes her voice of reason, and even wins Allie's mum over in the end.

While Allie is worrying about the new cult, a special government agency pop into town too to recruit Allie. But she proves she's got a good head on her shoulders and checks up with her FBI source, and with the help of her father (part faery) she discovers they may have ulterior motives.

But the main adventure in this book is Allie's quest to find her unknown twin sister. With the help of Sammie (who she meets telepathically at the cult show), her mom and Junior they visit California to pay a visit. But the trip dooesn't go as planned at all and with disasterous repercussions.

This really has been an exciting series so far. In the beginning I was dubious. I thought it would be a little too young for me but I've laughed and been thoroughly entertained throughout. Book 5, the last in the series is being written right now and I hope Allie finally can put the past behind her and find a bit of happiness.
You can reach Marilee Brothers here: 

Review: Moon Spun (Unbidden Magic #3) by Marilee Brothers

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Junior's back from Mexico with his movie-star entourage. Beck's using his half-demon charms to "heal" a new girl. Mom's still wacky and now she's dating Principal Hostetler. High school is still an obstacle course of drama queens, bullies and nutjobs. The Trimarks are still a menace, and the moonstone pendant has revealed even more mind-boggling powers. In other words, Allie Emerson's life as the Girl Voted Least Likely To Save The World From Evil has gone from Weird to Super-Charged Super-Weird, and it's about to get even weirder. You're a faery princess. So says the mysterious Ryker, whose handsome talents include turning himself into a hawk. By the way, he and Allie are destined to marry. In faery land--Boundless. If they can save it from forces even more deadly than Trimarks and high school. The third book in the Unbidden Magic series plunges readers into a rich other-world of danger, humor, romance, fable, fairytale and magical destiny.
No matter how much you think you know about Allie Emerson there's always something else that crops up into her life and surprises you. This time its when she discovers she's part faery. Not just from one side of her family but a part from her mother side and her fathers side. Allie has a destiny involving the Moonstone and in this installment she must travel to Boundless, a faery kingdom to help save her sick faery grandmother and free the forest faeries from the dark fae.

Ryker is introduced as the hot new guy to help her with the travel arrangements. He's a faery prince and Allie, or should I say Avalon, is destined to be his mate. But Allie being Allie is having none of it. She's over boyfriends. Junior disappeared off to Mexico without so much as a phone call and then arrived back with a fan club entourage. Beck is now at college and can scarsely spare the time for a phone call, and although Ryker seems nice enough he's not a strong character like the other two.

I'm not a big faery fan. I liked the Iron Fey series but everything I've read fae related tends to be unoriginal. What I liked most about this installment of the Unbidden Magic series is that Brothers made it seem new and unexpected, and the folklore aspect was closely stuck to. I couldn't compare many parts to anything else I'd read so the faeryland, Boundless, was an almost whimsical world and a real treat to read.

When Allie gets back to Peacock Flats she also experiences some very awkwards when all three ex and present- love interests meet unexpectedly (I really did squirm on this occassion) and also her Grandfather Claude turns into an unpleasant old man and shows his true colours to Allie.

Whether Allie is in this world or the other she's still funny and interesting though. I'm happy she stood her ground with Ryker and her grandmother, and again showed her true grit in the right places. But learns what its like to feel sorrow also, and Beck, of all people (I loved him in Moon Rise) is the cause.

Probably not as enjoyable as Moonstone or Moon Rise but still an enjoyable read. Any readers who enjoy Faery books will love it!
You can reach Marilee Brothers here: 

Review: Moon Rise (Unbidden Magic #2) by Marilee Brothers

My Rating: 4 out of 5
Her mom's still dating losers. Her boyfriend's gone back to Mexico. Dad still hasn't told his wife and kids that she exists. At school, the drama queens and bullies still rule. But worst of all for Allie Emerson--aka the Star Seeker of an old Gypsy prophecy--is that her powers have taken a hike. She can't read minds anymore. She can't move stuff just by looking at it. The other Star Seekers are counting on her psychic gifts more than ever, and the evil Tri-marks are closing in, eager to snatch her magic moonstone necklace while she's helpless. The hot new guy at school is ready and willing to fight her battles, but he comes with some wicked baggage. Dear Diary: I'm a little worried. My new BF is a demon. Welcome again to Allie Emerson's funny, scary, amazing, and always unpredictable life, as the girl voted least likely to save the world from evil.
I had so much fun reading Moonstone that I had to follow straight on to Moon Rise. Again this book is quirky, funny with great humour moments but Moon Rise brings a darker side to Allie's life. The Trimarks are proper evil, no doubt about that, and her biggest danger is not only the lose of her powers but also who to trust.

With her boyfriend Junior making a quick exit prior to the start of this sequel, we feel Allie's pain as she's let down again by someone close to her. Her mother still drags home the obnoxious loser boyfriend and disregards her feelings on the matter, and her father still holds her at arms length. But things turn out more terrible when Allie finds out that the only person who can help regain her powers is the
hot new guy at school with his own secrets and a weird stare. He's half-demon with a twin sister who looks at Allie like she's puddle mud.

The secrets come out and Allie begins to experience new adventures, especially when she's near Beck Bradford. His psychic healing involves a lot of touching, not something she's comfortable with. He can daze people with his amber eyes and draw in their emotions, turn them around and project a sense of calm. But does he only affect Allie this way because she's the bearer of the Moonstone. He says not but she's unsure.

An old enemy comes back to school which turns everything on its head in a bad way. Can anyone rescue her in time?

Again Brothers pulls it out of the bag. The romance and the boys are hotter, the emotions are more acute and Allie still treats us to her quirky life full of twists and turns. I loved this one a little more than Moonstone and will continue with Moon Spun to discover whats next in Allie's quest for the Moonstone secrets. Will she fulfill the prophecy? I can't wait to find out!
You can reach Marilee Brothers here: 

Review: Moonstone by Marilee Brothers

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Thank you to Net Galley and Bell Bridge Books for allowing me to review and give my honest opinion.
A sickly mom. A tiny house trailer. High school bullies and snarky drama queens. Bad-guy dudes with charming smiles. Allie has problems. And then there's that whole thing about fulfilling a magical prophecy and saving the world from evil. Geez. Welcome to the sad, funny, sometimes-scary world of fifteen-year-old Allie Emerson, who's struggling to keep her and her mom's act together in the small-town world of Peacock Flats, Washington. An electrical zap from a TV antenna sets off Allie's weird psychic powers. The next thing she knows she's being visited by a hippy-dippy guardian angel, and then her mysterious neighbor, the town "witch," gives her an incredible moonstone pendant that has powers only a good-hearted "Star Seeker" is meant to command. "Who, me?" is Allie's first reaction. But as sinister events begin to unfold, Allie realizes she's got a destiny to live up to. If she can just survive everyday life, in the meantime.
Aimed at 14-17 year olds, The Moonstone tells the story of Alfreido, or Allie to her friends, who discovers she from a long chosen line of Star Seekers. This isn't just a story about a girl discovering magic. Allie's life is complicated enough. She looks after her mother and lives in a tiny trailer in Uncle Sids back yard. Allie knows nothing about her father because her mum won't tell. So when the Child Protection Service come knocking on the door to investigate her mother, Allie learns how to do magic with the help of a Moonstone, given to her by an adult friend whose family are romany gypsies. When a group known as the Trimarks start making things difficult for Allie she must put her trust in her friend Junior to help. But Junior is two years older than her and rigged with a bad reputation, especially when it comes to girls. Was her trust in vain?

This book was so much fun with proper laugh out loud moments. I loved the writing style. Yes, its written for the younger YA age range but it made me love Allie for all her zany thoughts and quirkiness, she's gutsy and thinks on her feet. This adventure story flowed so easily and the characters were all terrific. Ah, Junior!! Be still my heart..

This ARC came as a series so I'm off to continue Allie's adventure now in Moon Rise.
You can reach Marilee Brothers here: 

Cover Reveal: The Goddess Legacy (#2.5) by Aimee Carter & Goddess Interrupted Book Trailer

Oh! Giddy, giddy, giddy, giddy, giddy, giddy.....!

I love the Goddess Test Series by Aimee Carter and here is the new cover for The Goddess Legacy!!!

This is a #2.5 in the series. I thought it would be another novella but its listed on Goodreads as a paperback of 304 pages and is due out July 31st 2012 by Harlequin Teen.

As the ending of Goddess, Interrupted is a HUGE cliffhanger I'm even more excited!!!
Anyway, here's the cover!! (sorry, got carried away!)

 Harlequin Teen have also released the Book Trailer for Goddess Interrupted which is due to be released on March 27th.

(Still giddy!!)

save 20% every day at Harlequin

Review: In Shadows by Rebecca S. Foote

Guest Reviewed by SCD Goff
SCD specialises in reviewing self-published books, in fact she thrives on it, preferring it to more traditionally published novels. Her reviews are thorough, with good tips for debut authors on what worked well and what didn't, and overall I can guarantee your novels are in good hands.
-SCD Goff's Blog
Published November 4th 2011 by Echelon Press LLC
In the fall of 1832, London, England, Ariana Dallenhauf begins an unlikely journey into the dark reaches of the unknown. Her guide and mentor, Dimitri Rochester, takes the young woman and attempts to transform her into what he deems more worthy, an immortal; for Dimitri Rochester is the shadow that consumes light; he is an artful killer, a vampire. Although Ariana is reluctant, she has no choice but to follow Dimitri into her new existence.

While adapting to her new life, Ariana discovers that her assumptions about Dimitri are wrong and her feelings for him have changed into something more passionate. In gaining a better understanding of what it means to be a vampire, Ariana discovers her history with vampires goes back further than she ever imagined, for she is in the middle of a legend and has become part of its unfolding story.
The author sets the scene in London, 1832. Rarely can an author effectively transpose her work to another time and another continent and succeed in creating a believable narrative. Unfortunately, Ms Foote, like most others, doesn’t get there. Instead the style sounds as if it was written by an able American author who can’t quite differentiate between American and England styles. This is a shame: if the story was set in present-day America (and I can’t see any reason why this shouldn’t be so) the author would have accomplished the creation of something with a more honest and realistic voice and style. We have phrases like ‘check on you’, ‘I just need a moment’, and ‘I guess’ – you’d have trouble finding phrases like this in present-day England, never mind the London of nearly 200 years ago. I acknowledge that historical accuracy (ice for champagne? In the middle of London in 1832?) isn’t of paramount importance here, but if the author isn’t making use of the voice, style and atmosphere of her chosen place and period.
The story opens with a scene involving a woman being chased down by vampires.  The use of the past tense here gives a slightly stale feel to the action. The atmosphere is a little disappointing; it’s a rainy evening in central London, and the streets are quiet – it should be brilliantly creepy but stilted language doesn’t help. ‘Her desire for safety was paramount.’ It’s pretty obvious that the woman wants to be safe – but how do her feet sound against the cobblestones, what do those greasy old streets smell like? The author confuses the issues further by sometimes referring to the character as ‘she’ and to offer a change from this, sometimes as ‘the shop assistant’ – this method isn’t terribly effective and if anything ensures that the reader is holding the character at arm’s length.
Despite some awkward turns of phrase (‘He lifted him up and flew into the dark night, quickly drinking his blood and also breaking his neck, so he would stop screaming.’) there are also some gems, like ‘subtle as a shadow’. When the author concentrates on clarity, keeping sentences short so that the story can speak for itself, some of her promise as a story-teller really shines through. And this is a story- rather than character-led novel.

But, as always, a strong edit would have been incredibly helpful to iron out some of these thoughtless sentences: ‘Two prostitutes stood on the street near a brothel trying to entice people. He came up to the women and smiled at them. One of them, a prostitute with blonde hair, invited him closer.’

And later: ‘Throughout the night, both Ariana's father and Nathaniel looked for her. The two of them were bereft by her disappearance and searched exhaustedly, but it was to no avail. Try as they might, they could not find her. No one would have ever guessed what truly happened to her, or that they would never see her sweet innocence again.’
There is much to like, however, such as the petty squabbling of the vampires, which makes them seem more animal and also more human. A protégé is taken on, a ‘huge’ responsibility. We are told that things didn’t work out so well when Dimitri last took on a protégé. This provides a tasty bit of foreshadowing.
The story the shifts gears and we are given Ariana, the ingénue’s perspective, which is a welcome change. Again the reader is surprised with some good detailing; the new protégé connects with her lost lift with her fiancé through the item of clothing she wore when she was last with him. This is an honestly touching moment.  In fact, the story is always strongest when told from Ariana’s perspective; she is being introduced to the vampire world, just as the reader is, so we can discover and commiserate with her – but it would be good to have a greater difference between her still half-mortal world and their depraved one, with different voices and more atmosphere.
People are always ‘sensing’ and ‘feeling instinctively’ – these sentences should be watched out for – if the author is doing her job, then she will be able to trust that we, the reader are doing ours, too; we will know when the characters are sensing something because we sense it too. For example, ‘She obviously knew very little about being a vampire, but felt instinctively that Dimitri would be a good teacher.’ The author has already done her work here; we have watched Dimitri watch his pupil carefully, and we already know that he’ll be a good teacher. So the sentence becomes redundant. The author should trust the reader in other ways too - we know already that there is a tension between the idea of vampire as beast and vampire as sophisticate, so when the author belts us over the head with this idea, saying ‘He was an enigma of sorts, because he was both a gentleman and a beast’ we feel like rolling our eyes. Furthermore, the author won’t allow the reader to make our own judgments on the natures of these vampires she has created, as the narrative voice throws around words like ‘evil’. The author is perhaps unconsciously setting herself up in opposition to her reader by over-riding the reader’s natural feelings, rather than working with them.

When the author if forthcoming with details, they’re generally interesting and thoughtful. Too often we lack them though, which lends a slightly unbelievable air to the action scenes: ‘He was transforming into a gigantic demon … Dimitri had hanged into an enormous dark demon that seemed to phase into shadow. Large horns began growing out of his massive head and his eyes glowed, red as if on fire. His teeth were long and sharp and he looked terrifying. It was as if the devil himself was standing before her.’ This isn’t enough; he has red eyes, big teeth, horns and he’s large. But what’s his skin like? Does he smell? What happened to his clothes? How big is ‘gigantic’ – 8 foot or 25? Can she still see the remnants of Dimitri in the demon?
Other weaknesses involve a lack of differentiation in voices of characters. Each sounds almost identical, and so again the reader misses out on details and atmosphere. My edition didn’t have page numbers, but the author names her chapters, which I found distracting: it feels pointless and quite Enid Blyton-esque to call chapters things like ‘A Strange Development’. On the other hand, the formatting is attractive, which is something of a rarity in this brave new world of eBooks.  
In terms of structure, the story has a nice bookend feel as Ariana goes to see her mortal family once more. On the other hand, the suggested climax to the story never really pays off. The storyline is sound but we miss out on character and atmosphere – and these could make an ordinary, decent-ish story into something magical. Again, one feels that the strength of writing isn’t there – yet – to back up the strength of ideas. It’s difficult as a reviewer to spend as much time on the positive as the negatives. But there are positives here, and for such a new writer, I have every belief that the author can improve on her strengths and diminish her weaknesses in future outings, and thanks to the glimpses of real promise shown here, I for one will look forward to that.
SCD Goff's Blog

You can reach Rebecca S. Foote here:

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Review: Interrupted: Life Beyond Words by Rachel Coker

My Rating: 3 out of 5


Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn't shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie's heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.

I was excited to read this book. Anything about life during World War 2 always fascinates me. It's a life that none of us will ever really understand, especially how life as a teenage girl carried on while teenage boys do truly heroic things on the other side of the pond.

Before I start let me just say that this isn't a happy book. There are a few happy moments but overall Allie is not a pleasant person. Before her mother died Allie was told by her mother that Christians were bad, they lied, they say anything to get you to do their bidding. I'm not a religious person but even I thought this was a bit of a harsh line to tell your 9-year old daughter. However even after Allie's ardent care and attention her mum eventually dies from brain cancer and Allie starts to believe that her mother's words hold merit, and that life is cruel. Allie doesn't have time to grieve and instead is whisked off to the home of Miss Beatrice Lovell to be her new 'daughter'.

From here on in Allie's character is one of spite, bitterness and verbal cruelty. No matter how much Beatrice gives, Allie won't take it. She's puts up a defence mechanism and doesn't let anyone in or get close to her. Continually from here she's unguarded in her words and even gets a reputation of putting people down verbally. Allie finds solace in her poems and her diary she writes to her mum. She also treasures the sketchpad and chalk that her childhood friend Sam bought for her. But stuck in my mind is the memory than she barely uttered a 'thank you' to him except when prompted by her mother. But Sam is forgiving as always and accepts Allie is that way.

Over the years Allie doesn't change her attitude and when Sam moves in with his Aunt Rachel Allie shows a little surprise at seeing him again but no gladness that an old friend is there to cheer her up. Someone who knew what life was like for her when she cared for her mother. She only sees how annoying he was and that he would follow her around like a puppy dog.

As World War 2 sets in and life goes on, Allie doesn't change. Although Sam spends more time with Allie she doesn't drop her guard. But the instants where she's actually nice do come out more often. There is a happy ending though and I did feel a relief when, after a few certain events, Allie was able to finally come to terms with her mothers death.

Overall the character of Allie made me frustrated. To lose a parent so young is hard to bear. I' surprised that once Allie started growing up she didn't gradually accept the love around her. Truthfully I really didn't like her. Sam was an amazing character though. To be so supportive, even with the put-downs from Allie took courage. I even felt sorry for Beatrice more than once.

Towards the end the story takes on a heavier religious theme, and almost implies that had Allie believed in God then she wouldn't have become so bitter and twisted in her beliefs.

I'm glad I read it, I would recommend it as a very powerful and heartwarming story.

Here's the Book Trailer! Enjoy!

You can reach Rachel Coker here:

Review: White Witch by Trish Milburn

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Witchcraft Is Her Family’s Business.No One Quits The Family And Lives To Tell About It. “Jax” Pherson has power, enough power to know her future will end in service to the dark coven her father controls. Unless she can stay hidden in a small community in the mountains of North Carolina.

She must find a way to live without magic and deny the darkness she feels welling up inside her—the same dark power that fuels the covens around the world. All she wants is a normal life. A boyfriend. Friends. Some place to belong, but all too soon Jax’s barely begun new life hangs in the balance when she discovers that the boy she’s attracted to is sworn to kill her kind. He’s a hunter with good reason to kill everything that goes bump in the night. Even the most fleeting use of her power is tantamount to signing her death warrant and will bring both hunter and coven down on her. But can she walk away when her friends are threatened by an old evil? Something created by the magic of witches? Jax’s only hope of survival is to convince the boy she loves to forget everything he’s ever been taught and help her find a way to fight the covens. To believe there is some good in her
My Review:
This is a sweet, younger age YA Paranormal book. The main character, Jax, is 16 years old, a renegade witch who's run away from her coven. She wants to go to high school, have a best friend, even date. But mostly she wants to be a normal teenager. She gets her wish albeit for a short while before an event happens that almost destroys her new friendship with Toni and new boyfriend Keller. She confesses her history to them and though Keller isn't thrilled, him being a supernatural hunter and all, he comes around.More badness and mayhem happens and before you know it Jax is facing her greatest evil, her father.

I enjoyed this story. The constant references to Joss Whedon and Buffy made me smile. I'm just worried they might be a little lost on the age that this book is aimed at.

There was nothing really intense or heavy, a few moments of passionate kissing, a camaraderie that unites the friends in question and I just felt the book was a little lacking. Backstory from Keller, maybe, was needed. A little more information on Jax's family as we only get a few sentences about her sister. Not even a great amount about her dad who is the big bad (even I can do the Buffy thing!). This book skims the surface and tells a story rather than shows it. Don't get me wrong it's good, the writing style is fluid and pacy, but it isn't anything that I haven't read before hence the 3.5 out of 5.

With an ending like that however I'm intrigued as to how the author will unite everyone and continue the story. Bane (Book 2) has no release date as yet.

You can reach Trish Milburn here:

Review: Pure (Covenant) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

My rating: 4 out of 5

There is need. And then there is Fate...

Being destined to become some kind of supernatural electrical outlet isn't exactly awesome--especially when Alexandria's "other half" is everywhere she goes. Seth's in her training room, outside her classes, and keeps showing up in her bedroom--so not cool. Their connection does have some benefits, like staving off her nightmares of the tragic showdown with her mother, but it has no effect on what Alex feels for the forbidden, pure-blooded Aiden. Or what he will do--and sacrifice--for her.

When daimons infiltrate the Covenants and attack students, the gods send furies--lesser gods determined to eradicate any threat to the Covenants and to the gods, and that includes the Apollyon... and Alex. And if that and hordes of aether-sucking monsters didn't blow bad enough, a mysterious threat seems willing to do anything to neutralize Seth, even if that means forcing Alex into servitude... or killing her.

When the gods are involved, some decisions can never, ever be undone.
To be able to appreciate Pure fully I made my own sacrifice (of my time!) and reread Half Blood to be absolutely certain I remembered everything. Half Blood was as amazing as I remembered so to delve straight back into the characters and the story was as thrilling and exciting as I hoped it would be.

Alex is a great character and underneath her mouthy, almost arrogant at times exterior she has a certain vulnerability about her. She absolutely knows where she stands in the order of things except where her relationship with Aiden occurs in the grand scheme of things. She's got over the whole Pures can't mix with Halfs, mostly because of how Aiden reacts to her. Does he lead her on? I'm not so sure. Personally I think Aiden is as lost in his feelings as Alex is in hers. Except one moment really highlights the downfall of everything between them and it was the moment of the 'I love you.' From here on in we see Aiden taking very big steps backwards to the point that he hurts Alex in a way she's never hurt before.

Seth is always on the periphery. Whether its to help sooth Alex through her nightmares by staying with her and emphasising the bond of the Apollyon between them, or even being the sounding board for all her angst, he doesn't take it to heart but in fact encourages her.

Despite the heartache and extreme loss that Alex goes through in Pure she must endure the court proceedings that resulted from her actions in Half Blood but everything starts going wrong when an unknown person wishes her removed. My only gripe with this is that even at the end of the story we are none the wiser as to who it is although we have a rough idea.

The action in this book is full on all the way through, the pace is extremely fast and the story exceptional as Armentrout treats us to another superb book. Now all we have to do is wait until Deity is out at the end of the year!

PS. I love Seth, Seth rocks!

You can reach Jennifer L Armentrout here:

Review: Dearly Departed by Lia Habel

My rating: 5 out of 5


Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.
Oh why, oh why, oh why?
I received this book as an ARC way back when (October last year!). I loved the cover, thought the story sounded interesting, tried to read it and fell flat. I tried it 3 or 4 times but was almost always distracted by another, more favoured book just released that I wanted to review more.

I wish I'd stuck with it in the first place! I set myself 3 hours to get into the story before finally giving up and marking it as a DNF. By 3 hours I was already half way through the book and LOVING it!

I wasn't keen on the different POV's (there are a few), I think that's been most peoples gripe about it, however when you finally reach the end of the book you realise how the story fell into place WITH the different POV's that couldn't have happened any other way. Sure, I wanted to read about Nora and Bram more than Victor or Wolfe but once I sucked it in and plowed through, the story was absolutely fantastic.

I've never been one for zombie movies. I prefer the 'Shaun of the Dead' style rather than the others. 2 hours of playing Dead Rising on the PS3 also made me dislike anything zombiefied however thanks to the deft and art-like writing of Habel you get immersed in the lore and before you know it it feels like normal when a leg gets blown off or a bite meets flesh!

The steampunk, new Victorian world-building was slow-going to start with but again, like the zombie lore, exceptional once you got used to ultramodern versus victorian. The city of New London was almost a holograph behind my own eyes as the author takes us through the story of a New Victorian era.

And the characters are more than lifelike. Personally I loved Pamela, the BFF. She showed true courage, and who wouldn't love Bram. What a brilliant character that I'd even want to take him home and introduce him to my parents (despite the fact that he's dead). The slow burning romance between Bram and Nora was so lovely, I was just rooting for them from the first.

All in all, this is a brilliant YA-Zombie-Steampunk novel and the first of a new series. I can't wait to get my hands on more!

(My, my Bram - what big hands you've got!
This is the UK Cover - I like it more than the other!)

You can reach Lia Habel here: 

Here's the book trailer! Enjoy!

Review: Blood Curse by Tamara A. Lowery

CB - Firstly let me say a massive welcome to my guest reviewer, SCD Goff. If you've sent me something and are still waiting for a response, please be patient with me! SCD is helping with the backlog of review requests so we can sample your stories with a bit more time and dedication.

SCD specialises in reviewing self-published books, in fact she thrives on it, preferring it to more traditionally published novels. Her reviews are thorough, with good tips for debut authors on what worked well and what didn't, and overall I can guarantee your novels are in good hands.
-SCD Goff's Blog

Guest Reviewed by SCD Goff

Known as Bloody Vik Brandee, Viktor Brandewyne had a reputation as a bloodthirsty pirate. The world would soon learn just how bloodthirsty he had become. Thanks to the vengeful curse of a powerful witch, he had become a vampire. However, since he was cursed, rather than bitten, he was not vulnerable to daylight or holy items. As curses went, he didn't think it was all that bad, until Mother Celie, his foster mother and a witch in her own right, informed him that the curse would eventually destroy him. Now he finds himself in a race against time to find the seven Sisters of Power and gain some of their magic in order to survive the curse. He is aided in his quest by Hezekiah Grimm, his first mate; Belladonna, a siren and sea witch; and Lazarus, a creature that is sometimes a cat and sometimes a raven.
Tamara Lowery is a debut author and as such, there’s a lot to recommend her novel Blood Curse. The pace is non-stop, and the author throws together a huge variety of plot points (it’s a period piece, and involves a pirate-vampire, witches, sirens, the odd hint of a mermaid, there’s a quest to be undertaken, and various proclamations that our hero is ‘the One’). It’s debatable whether any of these ideas are truly original – do they really need to be? – but the gusto with which the author combines these points is enviable.

The manuscript is complete at 85000+ words, making the price-tag fairly good value. If you’re looking for a basically light-hearted romp you could do far worse in the burgeoning eBook world than Ms Lowery’s Blood Curse. Besides all this, the author has allowed the first chunk to be freely available – so the reader will largely know what to expect, having read the first pages and encountered our anti-hero, named Viktor Brandewyne.

Now for the drawbacks, and I’m afraid there are a few.

The author’s writing style is sometimes stilted, and the dialogue is often wooden. The character’s voices are only distinguishable from one another by the most superficial means – for example, Carmella, the ‘mulatto’ girl (whether or not it is acceptable to say ‘mulatto’, even in a period piece is a question for a longer article) says ‘oui’ constantly to establish her provenance, but otherwise is happy to render long sentences with the correct terminology for a variety of ships.  Later, a Spanish character is called Paella.

The author has given such prominence to action over character that she runs the risk of alienating her readers entirely from her characters – action isn’t terribly exciting, of course, if we haven’t built up relationships with the likes of Viktor, Belladonna and the gang.

The hero himself, I hasten to add, runs the risk of being compelling. He’s dastardly and self-absorbed, but smart, enterprising and of course, smoking hot. One annoying thing habit is that the narrator refers to him as Vik, Viktor and Brandee interchangeably. However, there are inconsistencies of character. Viktor, for example, is amongst other things trying to revenge the death of a friend, though early on in the book he shows little reluctance to murder one of his closest friends. Several secondary characters think longingly of how they’d give their own life for this megalomaniac, but the reader is for the large part shown only the grotesque side of Viktor, so it’s unclear why everyone is so keen to fawn over him.

The author also has some irritating habits, such as saying something with action and then again in words (for example,  ‘‘Names aren’t really important right now,’ Brandee dodged the question.’’) She is clearly well-read and with a large vocabulary but this could be put to better use; sometimes the writing gets in the way of the story and words aren’t always mean what the author thinks they do though (‘goading’ is an example of this).

The language doesn’t allow for the proper build-up to important incidences; they’re just upon you suddenly, which can unfortunately make them sound ridiculous:
‘Carmella screamed, as she realized Mamaan Juma had sent her zombies to fetch the pirate who had dared to kill one of her favourites.’

The author has allowed some totally unrealistic interactions largely in the name of progressing the story.
‘Viktor looked at his first mat, and Jim could have sworn his captain’s eyes were glowing faintly. He got a sense of overwhelming hunger, and it unnerved him a bit.’

And, of course, there are some awkward word repetitions and some ugly typesetting. Like most indie eBooks could do with a strong copy-edit ‘ ‘She was a bit jumpy, but not too.’ But – and this is a big but – these are the sorts of faults and oversights to be found in almost every Indie eBook.

One larger complaint is that the novel is determined to be as lighthearted as it is bloody which is a strange and very uncomfortable mix. It’s thoughtlessly dismissive of women, as the presumably author imagines all men must have been at the time – ‘That Carmella still drew breath spoke of how talented a lover she was. Ordinarily, in a similar situation, Brandee would have killed the whore, as well, for inconveniencing him. ‘
Even the magical women are mistreated and overrun by the men. The bloodthirstiness in this novel borders upon the repellant – casual mention of pedophilia, brutal gang rapes, torture and our hero’s nonchalance at it, feels strange in such an obviously lighthearted romp. This effort at darkness and seriousness is seriously misjudged.

Having outlined all the weaknesses of the novel, it’s hard to keep in mind my first encouraging remarks, but they’re still true. Blood Curse has a few large defects and several smaller ones, but all in all it’s readable, fun and good value. The author has clearly worked hard at making her story engaging and enjoyable, and the structure of the work is very good. For a debut novel, this is relatively strong, and again, fairly good value.
SCD Goff's Blog

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New YA Book Publications - week ending 16th March 2012

Week Ending 16th March

** HOT PICK  **

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

Out 13th March 2012

It was a slender length of rusted steel, tapered to a point at one end and jagged at the other, as if it had broken. A thousand people would step over it and think it trash, but not her.

This was the tip of a rapier.

Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.

The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate’s life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

Time travel, swordplay, and romance combine in an original high-seas adventure from New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.
 Charlotte thinks:
I love anything with a sword-wielding sassy girl, add a bit of time travelling and a smidgeon of romance and I'm all over it. And Carrie Vaughn never disappoints!

  **  also out this week  **

Hunger Games Competition in association with Kobo Books

Over 2.5 Million eBook titles

Between March 13th and the 27th, Kobo will be running a pretty awesome contest that we would like to extend to our valued customers .

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two years, you have no doubt heard about the Hunger Games series and the massive following that it has gained since initial publication. To coincide with the upcoming release of the first movie in the series, Kobo is giving our customers the chance to win the movie experience of a lifetime.

The Details:
Any customer who purchases any of the Hunger Games titles through Kobo during the contest period will be entered into a draw for the following prizes.

What's up for Grabs:
Grand Prize (1)
  • One (1) Kobo Touch eReader,
  • One (1) The Hunger Games Gift Pack, and
  • One (1) $50 Movie voucher
  • (Approximate retail value of $310 CDN).
Secondary Prize (1)
  • One (1) The Hunger Games Gift Pack
  • (Approximate retail value of $310 CDN). (Open to residents of Canada and USA only.)
Sounds good to me! Click on the big advert above, get entering and tell Kobo you heard it first here!

Review: Bound (Arelia LaRue #1) by Kira Saito

My rating: 5 out of 5

Sixteen year old Arelia LaRue lives in New Orleans where the music is loud, voodoo queens inhabit every street corner, and the ghosts are alive and well. Despite her surroundings, all she wants is to help her Grand-mere Bea pay the rent and save up for college.

When her best friend Sabrina convinces her to take a well-paying summer job at the infamous Darkwood plantation, owned by the wealthy LaPlante family, Arelia agrees.

However, at Darkwood strange things start to happen, and gorgeous Lucus LaPlante insists that he needs her help. Soon, the powers that Arelia has been denying all her life, come out to play and she discovers mysteries about herself that she could have never imagined. 

As soon as I received this book to my kindle and started reading I was hooked. The writing is so rich and absorbing that it was difficult to put it down even for a few minutes!

Firstly the main character, Arelia, is someone I can relate to. From a poor background she and her Gran-mere have had to work hard just to keep a roof over their heads. Everything in Arelia's life is about survival so its no surprise when she decides to take the job offer of summer work at the Darkwood Estate.

Her best friend, Sabrina, comes from the other side of the fence, the rich side. While Arelia is very proud and would never accept any monetary help from Sabrina, her best friend still shows her kindness in different ways. Yes, Sabrina is spoiled beyond belief. Her work ethic is nonexistent and she has only one wish. To meet and eventually marry the heir to the Darkwood estate. The only problem is that Lucas, gorgeous and mysterious as he is only has eyes for Arelia. But why?

The characters in this story are brilliant and well developed. Ivan, the most annoying waiter, the irritating guests such as the Dumpty's, and Ms Mae and her secrets. All of them pop out of the book with such life that you feel like you're really in the house experiencing it all first hand.

And I can't not mention the food! I'm from England. I've never been to New Orleans. I have no idea what a pain perdu, buttermilk drop, shrimp gumbo, or any of the other delicious sounding foods are. I had to google them just to see pictures. The mentions of the food made even my mouth water!

The scenery of the Darkwood Estate is described exquisitely and was such an excellent backdrop for this amazing book. Arelia has a mysterious past that she has little knowledge of. Spirits talk to her as though they've known her for years, yet she doesn't understand why they come to her. Lucas singles her out and pays great attention to her. But he has a mysterious past too. And only Arelia has the ability to discover the truth and help him.

What I liked most was the fact that the author had clearly done a huge amount of research about Voodoo, the Spirits and the history that comes with it, especially that of the slave trade.

All in all, I loved Bound. I'm now reading Punished (Book 2) and I can't wait to find out what happens next! And Lucas? He can have my heart any day!! This is a must read for anyone who loves Paranormal Romance.
You can reach Kira Saito here:
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Something Different! The Hunger Games - In Style Magazine Special

This is something different that I had to share especially for all you Hunger Games fans!

Check out this In Style magazines special article on The Hunger Games Katniss fashion choices!

You too can wear Katniss inspired looks now!

Review: Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay

My Rating: 4 out of 5

All will be revealed for fans who have breathlessly awaited the sizzling sequel to Juliet Immortal. This time Romeo takes center stage and gets one chance, and one chance only, to redeem himself.

Cursed to live out eternity in his rotted corpse, Romeo, known for his ruthless, cutthroat ways, is given the chance to redeem himself by traveling back in time to save the life of Ariel Dragland. Unbeknownst to her, Ariel is important to both the evil Mercenaries and the love-promoting Ambassadors and holds the fate of the world in her hands. Romeo must win her heart and make her believe in love, turning her away from her darker potential before his work is discovered by the Mercenaries. While his seduction begins as yet another lie, it soon becomes his only truth. Romeo vows to protect Ariel from harm, and do whatever it takes to win her heart and soul. But when Ariel is led to believe his love is a deception, she becomes vulnerable to Mercenary manipulation, and her own inner darkness may ultimately rip them apart.

Short Review:

Anyone who has read Juliet Immortal MUST read this. Romeo was a rotting corpse at the end of Juliet Immortal, ready to do whatever it takes to get back his body and soul. Now its time to change sides and prevent someone with a future apocalyptic tendency. He must make Ariel love him in 3 days to prevent the destruction of mankind.

The two sides - Mercenaries and Ambassadors - are still at war but we get more of an insight to the evil that has been done, especially towards Romeo.

This tale twists us around with great character use, Gemma, Ariel and Romeo all play their own parts but who is telling the truth. And who is the villain?

Add this book to your To Be Read list - its so worth it!!

Full review will be added nearer the release date of 9th October

Don't Miss...

Review: Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

My Rating: 5 out of 5

"These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume."
—Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love

If you know the story of Romeo and Juliet then forget everything you know. This isn't a romantic tragedy in the Shakespearean sense. Its a supernatural dark romance. The wicked, twisted evil bad-guys (Mercenaries)versus the selfless good-guys (Ambassadors).

A war has been raging for centuries and it just so happens that Romeo and Juliet were real people who got caught up in the war. For entirely his own reasons Romeo made a promise, thinking he was doing the right thing, but got dragged into a Mercenary life. Over the years his perception got twisted and now he wants nothing more than to end Juliets life.

They aren't immortal in the strictest sense. They shift through time taking over human bodies to accomplish their deeds. Juliet must make sure those marked as soul-mates meet, and find true love. Romeos task is to stop her and turn one of the couple towards the dark side. In this story Juliet jumps into the body of Ariel Dragland, a teenager badly scarred from a childhood accident. Romeo jumps into Dylans body. A trickster young man who plays with Ariel with wicked, spiteful intentions. But both Romeo and Juliet don't realise why this shift is different. It feels different, their supernatural abilities are different, petered down and almost non existent. Somethings changed and soon they will have to work together to figure out how they can both survive the shift.

I found this book difficult to get into in the beginning. The first chapter was easy, but the second chapter had to be re-read a couple of times for me to understand the underlining story. Once I got it I couldn't put it down. The secret behind the Mercenary and Ambassador magic is a little vague but something I can live with. The writing is beautiful, as is the character of Ben - so suitably better matched to Juliet than Romeo ever could be.

The ending was a surprise. Everything I'd read until that point stuck, but then the twist seemed to slot into place and help make sense of the battle between R & J.

I loved Ariel, such a brave character for the author to write about. I was sooo disappointed to finish this, I wished it had carried on but thankfully Romeo Redeemed is next to be reviewed :)
You can reach Stacey Jay here:
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Review: Winter Rose by Rachel A. Marks

My Rating: 4 out of 5

A dark and haunting tale of a young girl trapped in Winter, longing to be free. When Rose and her sister are left to fend for themselves and an ailing mother, they must fight both nature and the darkness of the soul to survive. And perhaps, along the way, they will find the strength to love.

There are some tales told that finish up too sugar coated for their own good, and there are stories like Winter Rose that have you fixed on every word and every sentence by its powerful yet gritty writing.
The tale of Rose, her sister Becca and their mother is chilling, raw and bitter. Just like the cold winter on the mountain where they live in a cabin to fend for themselves after their drunken father abandons them. Both daughters have harrowing histories with their father, they hope he doesn't return. Ever.
Then one day Rose finds something unexpected in her animal trap and a hint of positivity suddenly shines through unlike the sun that never visits their mountain. His name is Luke.
But the harsh life the sisters lead isn't over yet. Sacrifices must be made and Rose is still haunted by her terrifying past.
This short story will capture your heart, and is a must read for anyone who enjoys American Historical stories.
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