Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Review: "The Devil's Horror Show" (Dennis Stamey)

What do you fear most?

Spiders? Snakes? Being alone? Losing a loved one? Losing your job? An accident? Thunderstorms? The dark?

What if what you feared most was something you couldn't put words to, didn't know how to describe, couldn't even classify? What if it was something that kept you imprisoned --- you and others with you --- and defined your very existence?

The town of Jerusalem, North Carolina, in the 1880s, is such a place, a prison for its inhabitants, who have no idea what kind of evil has stealthily infiltrated their ranks. Within the span of a few decades, the townspeople will be brought to their knees not once but twice by forces determined to see Jerusalem, the cornerstone of the world, totally destroyed.

With great eagerness, let me introduce to you The Devil's Horror Show, a historical horror novel by author Dennis Stamey.

In truth, the story is difficult to classify into a single genre. Stamey includes elements of coming-of-age, young adult, horror, thriller, romance, and supernatural, all so seamlessly intertwined against the historical backdrop that any uncertainty in classification fades in light of the events narrated.

The protagonist and first-person narrator through the work, is Jesse Landry, who grew up in Jerusalem, the only surviving child of his father, Joshua, a cynical war veteran, and his mother, a dysfunctional religious fanatic. Jesse's voice --- practical, precise, at times self-deprecating, always authentically "all boy" --- will captivate readers from the very first page and draw them into Stamey's world.

It's a fantastical world he's created, populated by forces of evil impossible for some to comprehend or even imagine beyond the scope of fiction, and yet many of Stamey's horrific elements are derived from the Bible and the doctrines of Christianity, including demonic possession and the very tangible presence of evil forces contrary to those who choose Christ. Also interwoven are elements of Native American spirituality and Hindu reincarnation, making for an intriguing amalgamation that begs you to keep turning pages.

Also unique to the work, aside from all its gruesome violence and stark sexuality, is its different format, the way in which the story is told. In essence, there are three stories happening at once, told in frames. (To understand a frame device, picture the movie The Princess Bride ... the movie opens and ends with a frame, in which the young boy is home sick from school and his grandfather comes to visit and reads The Princess Bride to him, while the story within the frame is that of Princess Buttercup, Westley, Prince Humperdinck, and the others.)

Here, the first frame is Jesse Landry as an elderly man, widowed, who stares out across what has become of Jerusalem and thinks back over its chaotic history and near demise. The second frame or story, within the first, is Jesse as a middle-aged man, when his son was still a toddler and the town was visited for the second time by terrifying forces of evil bent on its destruction.

The third and final story within the other two is Jesse as a young adult, leaving for college in the fall to become a lawyer and escape Jerusalem, falling in love with a young black woman in town despite the racial tensions still running high, trying to survive with his dirt-poor parents, and how he and only a handful of other townspeople faced down the first wave of evil that breached their borders and very nearly desecrated the town into nonexistence.

Perhaps the breakdown sounds confusing now, but pick up a copy of the work and I assure you, it will make much more sense as you follow the individual threads of these three distinct story lines to their braided-together conclusion.

The writing style is compelling; the tension between what is known and what is unknown, what was past and what is present, constantly drives the pace of the story forward. Readers who prefer their works thrilling and unpredictable will not be disappointed.

If I had two wishes for the work to improve on a future edition, they would be twofold. First, the book would benefit from a close proofread to ensure that the periodic errors in grammar and punctuation currently present would be corrected for the sake of an easier read.

Second, the work would also benefit from a content edit by an editor familiar with historical fiction, as some of the story elements (spoken lines of dialogue, manner of speaking, certain catchphrases and cliches) are or feel too modern to be included in a work of accurate historical fiction such as this one intends to be. Some of the spoken phrases, terms of endearment, and the like used in the story simply didn't come into existence until later in the historical record.

Nonetheless, The Devil's Horror Show is one of the most fascinating, absorbing novels I've read in a long while, and I can't recommend it highly enough to readers who don't mind their works to land on the side of edgy violence, brutally honest sexuality, and co-mingled supernatural and spiritual elements.

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Author: Dennis Stamey
Title: The Devil's Horror Show
ISBN: 978-1-5030874-5-3
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1JoyWQW

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from June 22-26

5. "5 Tips for Structuring Your Novel Visually" on e-Books India (Georgina Roy)

Link: http://bit.ly/1BzdubR

Maybe you're a visual learner and you've always needed to SEE something laid out in order for it to make sense. Maybe you're usually an auditory or other type of learner, but somehow, you feel the need to break out of your usual mold with a project. Here are five ways you can approach organizing or structuring your novel visually.

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4. "Dubai-Based American Author Liz Fenwick on Writing with Dyslexia" on Friday Magazine (Shreeja Ravindranathan)

Link: http://bit.ly/1Jd9b60

There's so much to be learned from reading the works and wisdom of others in your professional industry. To fiction authors, I highly recommend this interview with Liz Fenwick, in which she discusses the challenges of writing with a learning disability, what inspires her to write, how she found success when not expecting it, and embracing imperfection instead of being enslaved, as so many creative types are, to perfectionism.

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3. "8 Clever Ways to Triple Your Content Output (and Traffic)" on Hubspot Blogs (Justin Mares)

Link: http://bit.ly/1IBOi1I

Ever feel like you're stuck in a holding pattern, doing the same things over and over to produce and promote your content for your blog or website? You're not alone. Visit this excellent article for in-depth, practical yet unique ways to mix up your usual routines!

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2. "What Is SMO? Develop Your Social Media Strategy in 8 Steps" on Mequoda (Amanda MacArthur)

Link: http://bit.ly/1Nn9FYW

Maybe you've got a social media presence. Perhaps you're on Twitter and Facebook, the big two, and maybe a couple of other ones. You're managing so far. But have you ever stopped to think about developing a strategy for your social media? What are you trying to achieve? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to be known for? Read this insightful post for more guidance!

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1. "Secrets Nobody Tells You About Personal Branding" on Punch

Link: http://bit.ly/1HnEldF

The saying is that YOU are your brand. What does that really mean? What's the deal with personal branding, and what do you really need to know, from an insider perspective, to be fully informed? Start with this post and its six secrets that you'll probably never hear elsewhere about personal branding.

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There's the lineup for last week ... excellent resources, all. Let me know what spoke to you most!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Vacation! (In Advance This Time!)

Dear Readers,

Still on vacation (kind of, sort of) and therefore still playing with my blog posting schedule. More book reviews to come next week, along with the top five best writing-related posts that were published this week, but for today ...

Image courtesy of 9comeback via freedigitalphotos.net

... it's summer. Get outside. Pick some flowers. Do something creative. Take a walk. Phone a friend. Write something.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book Review: "To Tempt a SEAL" (Sara Jane Stone)

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas ... or does it?

Social worker Lucia Lewis arrives in Vegas with a wish list. She has four smoking hot things that she wants to experience with an equally smoking hot guy. There are only a couple of rules: total anonymity, and the promise that the weekend will be just that -- short-lived, without a long-term attachment. Eventually, she'll have to return to her predictable, quiet life, and she doesn't want to handle the inevitable questions about the scars on her face.

Navy SEAL Cade Daniels seems like just the ticket.

Cade is shocked by the wanton, brazen, beautiful woman he finds when he meets Lucia. Furthermore, he wants nothing more than to be the man who fulfills her every sinful desire ... except that he's not who she thinks he is. Her older sister Natalie is his best friend, and Cade is specifically in Vegas to find and keep Lucia safe and out of trouble, which does not mean indulging himself.

But how is he going to resist?

Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint presents To Tempt a SEAL, a scintillating erotic romance by author Sara Jane Stone, newly released this month.

The word "scintillating" really doesn't do justice to the heat level that this novel exudes. Think words that melt right off the pages, and you come pretty close to the kind of cataclysmic passion these characters share with one another, right from the very first. One intriguing and naughty situation after another only deepens their attachment to each other, making the inevitable end that much harder.

Lucia is really the focal point of the work: her past abuse at the hands of a foster father who should have been trustworthy and wasn't ... her descent into passivity and compliance to keep the peace ... her scars, more than just physical, that she works so hard to hide from public view and ridicule ... and finally, her breaking point, when she decides that she's sick of being the one everybody feels sorry for and decides to give herself something positive to remember.

Even if it means breaking completely out of her comfort zone and indulging some of her deepest, sexiest, most forbidden fantasies.

Cade, a man of integrity, character, and honor, is sympathetic and likable for his very human struggles. Torn between loyalty to his best friend, on the one hand, and both attraction to and protectiveness toward Lucia, on the other, he juggles that age-old dichotomy between family (or friends who are the equivalent) and lover. At first, his helping Lucia with her wicked to-do list is as much about keeping her safe and out of the arms of other men as it is about his own desires, making him arguably a regular knight in shining armor.

For thoroughly developed, fascinating characters and some truly blistering love scenes, look no further than Stone's offering.

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Author: Sara Jane Stone
Title: To Tempt a SEAL
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-293-1
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1GXxbN3

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review: "Protector for Hire" (Tawna Fenske)

Schwartz Patton is a former military man whose latest self-imposed mission has been easy to maintain: lose himself in the wilds of Montana, away from the close family his actions in Iraq disappointed ten years ago.

Now, though, he's needed, and not in a way that makes him happy. His brother Grant contacts him through secret communication methods only to be used in an emergency. There's a woman who needs him to keep her safe.

Janelle Keebler is the sister of Grant's new fiancee. She's also in extreme danger, courtesy of her ruthless drug-running ex-husband, who either wants her remarried to him (to keep her silent) or dead. Either way, she wouldn't be able to spill any of his criminal secrets.

Now, the designer-clothed city girl is spirited away to the middle of nowhere and stuck with a crazy mountain man and his wolf-dog for company. Not exactly what she had in mind in terms of protection.

Except that being in such close contact with Schwartz, watching him work to keep her safe, needling her way under his gruff exterior, starts to get to both of them. If they give in to a roaring attraction between them, though, the mission could be compromised and Janelle could be dead.

Entangled Publishing's Lovestruck imprint presents the sexy romantic thriller Protector for Hire by Tawna Fenske, just released this month.

As far as the personalities of the combatants ... oops, I mean, protagonists ... goes, Fenske's characters are the most fascinating, varied, and entertaining I've ever read. Janelle, as out of place in the Montana wilderness as a wolverine at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, holds her own with aplomb, self-deprecating humor, and no small amount of grace, especially when faced with a protector whose goal seems to be to torment her from the first moment.

But Schwartz is the one who really shines in his role as verbal combatant (that latter being the operative word in their exchanges). His dry wit only underscores his ability to ceaselessly produce and hurl snarky, sarcastic, ironic comebacks, quips, and one-liners that take you a second to digest, given that they're really not things said among nice-minded people. He's irreverent to a T and totally uncaring about anybody except himself, really.

Which is perhaps part of what makes his eventual surrender to attraction, desire, and then more with Janelle so satisfying. To see the rough military man not whipped by Janelle's presence but deliberately bowing to her in respect and with tender deference, especially when the sparks between them finally ignite and land them together in bed for some really steamy scenes, makes for a tremendously fulfilling romance.

I can't say enough to urge you to get your hands on a copy of this novel, posthaste. Others will pale in comparison!

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Author: Tawna Fenske
Title: Protector for Hire
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Lovestruck)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-307-5
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1GLw1SM

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review: "Naked Words: The Effective 157-Word Email" (Gisela Hausmann)

No matter what your industry, you probably write emails. Most of us do. We email colleagues about the current project or the upcoming meeting. We email administrative assistants about appointments and availability. We email our employers with questions or for clarification.

How do you know that your emails are being read (aside from the ones that garner a response)? How do you know that your emails are as effective and efficient as they could possibly be?

Wonder no more.

In her quick, painless nonfiction guide titled Naked Words: The Effective 157-Word Email, author and life skills expert Gisela Hausmann sets out to debunk the all-too-common idea that the length, format, and style of your professional emails doesn't matter as much as the content.

If you've believed that myth, you would be incorrect.

Hausmann's guide powerfully demonstrates the impact of a brief, precisely worded email, one that stays focused on the subject at hand, pays careful attention to detail, and uses a professional tone. She even includes examples of actual emails and details how and why they are so ineffective in the business world.

Never again will your emails be relegated to any farther down in the recipient's inbox than they deserve. They'll float right to the top, the proverbial cream, because those who receive your emails will know without a doubt that you are a consummate professional who only sends direct, incisive and businesslike messages that deserve to be given top priority.

I invite you to check out this easy-to-read, down-to-earth guide. Your professional reputation will benefit!

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Author: Gisela Hausmann
Title: Naked Words: The Effective 157-Word Email
ISBN: 978-0-9864034-1-5
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1ddKhaW

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "Letty's Story" (Leticia Lakusiewicz)

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to heaven is often paved with horrific, unbelievably heart-rending obstacles and setbacks ... and yet, to those who reach heaven, or their idea of it, the battle is worth the reward. 

Letty's Story: Hell to Heaven, is a nonfiction biography (almost a memoir) of Leticia Lakusiewicz, whose idyllic, comfortable childhood in Manila slammed to a halt and took a very different turn when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, during World War II. Within days, the Japanese occupied the Philippines and transformed life from safe and secure to fraught with danger.

The passing years saw Letty lose both her parents, suffer terrible abuse at the hands of family members who should have been trustworthy, learn nursing skills alongside her aunt, marry and suffer further abuse at the hands of a controlling man who nearly kept their four children from her, and eventually grow up and move to the United States, where she went to college and then nursing school, and finally met and married an engineer-slash-surgeon who went on to become a renowned inventor, even after several health scares.

Her true story is poignantly rendered, with tremendous detail, heartfelt patience and grace toward those who made her life difficult or almost impossible, and great care as she relates even the most frightening and intense moments of her life, the ones that really transformed Leticia into the gifted nurse she became.

Lakusiewicz writes mostly from the third-person point of view, telling the story from the perspective of a kind of all-knowing, all-seeing omnipresent narrator, as though she were recording someone else's life story as that person related it to her. Her ability to render on the page the naivete and innocence of the child Letty as well as the brokenness and eventual inner strength and determination of the adult Leticia is expert.

I would wish that a future edition of her work be written with assistance from a professional biographer, someone who could edit out the distracting typos and formatting and streamline the story to give it as much impact and power as possible to readers. Navigating some of the pages, especially later in the book, became difficult with all the bold, italicized, and underlined words, which are normally not a part of a professional manuscript.

Nonetheless, the story is one that deserves to be told if for no other reason than to get to know this woman whose present success and happiness in life is something she owes to her tenacity, endurance, and faith in the face of breathtaking opposition.

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Author: Leticia Lakusiewicz
Title: Letty's Story: Hell to Heaven
Publisher: Tate Publishing
ASIN or ISBN: Unavailable
Purchase here: http://bit.ly/1I6aLIt

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from June 15-19

5. "Pump Up the Search Power of Your Blog" on She Owns It (Martina Iring)

Link: http://bit.ly/1H5IuTo

You're writing excellent content, doing everything you can to promote it to your readers ... but what if you're just not getting much interest? How do you know you're really doing everything possible to get your words out there? Here's a list of practical things you can do on your blog (that won't take up much of your time!) to make your blog more likely to appear in search results.

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4. "To Work Better, Work Less" on The Atlantic (Cody C. Delistraty)

Link: http://theatln.tc/1pgG4q6

Some of you have probably heard of that new book, The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. (Disclaimer: I haven't read the book.) But it seems to me that the point of the work, at least according to the title, is that it's better to work smarter, not harder (or more). Check out that intriguing premise with this fascinating, in-depth article from The Atlantic online.

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3. "How to Start a Fashion Blog and Get Paid" on Passive Residual Income Ideas (Chris)

Link: http://bit.ly/1MVtkyh

It's relatively common, these days, to work a full-time job and then also work some kind of part-time gig, whether freelancing or blogging or something else entirely, on the side. Maybe you just got married and you need some extra income. Maybe you're testing out the freelancing world. Maybe you've always wanted to go back to school and pick up another degree or certification, and this side job can help you do that. Whatever your goal is, fashion blogging is a completely legitimate way to make some extra money. Here's how!

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2. "5 Tips for Optimizing Your Blog for Mobile" on JeffBullas.com (Rosie Barry-Scott)

Link: http://bit.ly/1mjG1Kt

Ever tried to check out a website on your phone and discovered that there's no way to conveniently view the site from a mobile device? You've got to find a computer to see the full site so you can navigate easily. Don't wonder whether your blog or website is a headache to navigate on a mobile device. Here's a checklist of elements to update so anyone can find you on any device, any time.

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1. "The Giant List of Blogging Mistakes I've Made" on A Girl, Obsessed (Mandy)

Link: http://bit.ly/1K2OooI

You've read all the articles about what to do correctly when you're blogging, to ensure your success. Check out this quick-read article on what a long-time blogger has done wrong, and the mistakes she's made, in her time in the profession. Often, you can learn more from others' mistakes than from reading all the "how to achieve success!" articles in the world.

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BONUS: "The Strange Rise of the Writer's Space" on The New Yorker (Evan Hughes)

Link: http://nyr.kr/1JG5rLN

If I asked you to describe to me your current writing space, what would you tell me? A window ledge in your downtown Manhattan apartment? A cozy finished basement nook in a farmhouse? A sunny afternoon on a sailboat? What if I asked you to define your ideal writing space? What would it look like? And what's the deal with the "rise of the writer's space"? Read this insightful article to learn more!

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And that's the lineup for last week. Let me know what you liked, or not ... and, for kicks, what your ideal writing space looks like!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review: "Locked, Loaded, and Lying" (Sarah Andre)

One lie leads to another, and another, and another, in an infinite web. But happens if you have to build your entire life on one lie after another ... just to survive?

Locklen Roane is an Olympic downhill skier with world records to his name ... until the night he blacks out after a public argument with his model-gorgeous heiress girlfriend Tiffany and wakes up with her blood on his hands. She's been brutally murdered, and he's the only suspect. A technicality lets him out of prison, and he flees town and holes up with his estranged twin brother Leo in the Colorado mountains for the ten months until trial. If he shows his face to the media during those ten months, he's off the Olympic team.

And then he's out skiing in blizzard conditions when he witnesses a car accident and rescues a beautiful young woman from the wreckage. At first, she has amnesia, but then, as her memory slowly returns, he finds it harder and harder to believe she's who she says she is. What's she really doing there?

Jordan Sinclair, freelance journalist, desperately needed to find Lock Roane. There's a quarter of a million dollars in payment for anyone who turns in a picture and an interview with him, and she needs the money to keep her and her mom safe and hidden. Now she's even landed with Lock and his secretive brother: the perfect opportunity.

But not only is Lock distrustful of the media and all her questions and thoroughly against lying, which she's doing a lot of ... he also doesn't strike her as the kind of person who would kill his girlfriend. Now Jordan's stuck. Saving her mom relies on proving Lock guilty, but she can't stop thinking he might actually be innocent.

Entangled Publishing's Select Suspense imprint presents the newly released romantic suspense/thriller Locked, Loaded, and Lying by gifted author Sarah Andre.

When spinning a suspense/thriller novel and doing it well, the story can't be a quick read. There are just too many elements to juggle, introduce, balance, and reveal. There's too much suspense to be drawn out, too much mystery for which to lay groundwork. As such, Andre's novel is not a quick, easy read. It's an involved, complex story, something for which you'll need some time and a while to process.

But its excellence makes it well worth that time and effort.

Andre takes two impossible situations and seamlessly weaves them together until readers are frantically turning pages, trying to find out (a) what happens next in the suspense part of the novel and in the romance part of the novel, and (b) whether those situations will be reconciled at the end of the book. (You'll have to pick it up for yourself to see what I mean.)

Jordan is a beautifully crafted character, a young woman whose complexities include fearlessness and naivete, innocence and worldliness, certainty and hesitation, deep love and deeper hatred, self-sufficiency and weakness. Her past is so checkered it could be a gingham picnic tablecloth, and yet everything that has happened to her has made her into the steadfast, stubborn, determined woman she is in the present ... someone worth cheering for.

Lock, for his part, would be slightly less dimensional a character if not for his intriguing and dysfunctional relationship with his twin brother, and the guilt Lock carries with him in that regard. Otherwise, Lock would come across as just another professional athlete, a carousing ladies' man when he isn't tearing up the slopes. Still, his obsession with honesty from others makes for a fascinating juxtaposition with his own ability to withhold information when it suits him to do so.

For an unpredictable, unforgettable, edge-of-your-seat page-turner, I highly recommend Locked, Loaded, and Lying ... gold medalist in its category!

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Author: Sarah Andre
Title: Locked, Loaded, and Lying
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Select Suspense)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-301-3
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1GnphWu

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Reviews: "Love You Madly" (Ashlee Mallory)

Remember high school? All those cliques, and you either belonged or you didn't?

So does Travis Brennan, who started out the biggest geek on the planet and suffered terrible torment and abuse by his classmates all through high school, mostly at the bidding of the head cheerleader and undisputed class queen Meredith Sanders. Now, he's a former United States Navy SEAL, hardened by years of training and battle, and he works as a private security specialist.

And his latest client is none other than Meredith herself, whose step-daughter is missing without explanation. Meredith is as gorgeous, imperious, stubborn, and impossible as she used to be. He can't afford to be attracted to her, and would be crazy, in fact, to find her desirous after so many years of torture, but it's getting harder to conceal his growing feelings.

Meredith, meanwhile, is terrified for Darcy. Having raised her step-daughter as a single mom, Meredith was determined to toughen Darcy up, withholding any praise or appreciation she considered excessive ... which was pretty much all of it. Consequently, she can't shake the thought that maybe Darcy has simply run away to get away from her. Still, something isn't right, and the only person who seems to be in a position to help is Travis, whom she really doesn't trust ... as sexy as he is.

Their search for Darcy turns into a race against the clock to stop the unthinkable from happening, before Meredith never sees her daughter again.

Entangled Publishing introduces the romantic suspense/thriller Love You Madly, by Ashlee Mallory, released this month from its Select Suspense imprint.

This story errs more heavily on the side of the suspense and thriller genres than on the romance, although the attraction between Meredith and Travis is both undeniable and extremely sexy. From page one, there's humor here and there, but the majority of the novel is a hard-fought thriller as the protagonists chase one lead after another --- some futile, some confirming their growing fears and suspicions that Darcy's life is in danger.

It takes great skill to incorporate a touchy topic like the sex slave industry into the usually lighthearted and more carefree line of books for which Entangled Publishing is universally known. Author Mallory does a spectacular job, however, weaving together the elements of suspense and mystery right alongside the steamy romance. Readers will undoubtedly keep turning pages to find out what happens next in both aspects.

At first, Meredith comes across as truly unlikable, with almost the only thing going for her being her genuine fear and concern for her daughter's safety and well-being (even if Meredith only recently realized how hard she's been on the girl). Otherwise, well through the majority of the work, Meredith remains the same stuck-up, spoiled control freak readers can easily picture her being all the way through her high school years. Perhaps the depths of her snobbishness are what make her transformation mid-story so satisfying.

Travis, too, is a complex, interesting character, for lack of a better term. Having grown up the brilliant computer geek, he rounded out his abilities and attributes when he joined the Navy and then specialized with his SEAL team. Nowadays, he has some trust issues, granted, but also boasts an eclectic assortment of useful connections and talents that make him perfect for the role he inhabits.

If you're a fan of suspense or thriller, with a hint of romance thrown in for good measure, I invite you to check out Love You Madly. You won't be disappointed!

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Author: Ashlee Mallory
Title: Love You Madly
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Select Suspense)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-300-6
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1ev0p9w

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review: "Witness to Passion" (Naima Simone)

Birthdays aren't always reasons to celebrate.

Ask Fallon Wayland, for whom birthdays have always seemed like let-downs, disappointments, or even horrifically dangerous things. Like her most recent birthday ... she was fired from her job for something over which she had absolutely no control; her boyfriend broke up with her via public message on Twitter; and she witnessed the murder of a member of a local crime family, along with the guy who did it.

Now, she's fighting to stay alive. Turns out the killer is a member of a bloodthirsty, ruthless gang in the area, and because she went to the police with what she saw, she's their next target.

The only thing worse would be ... having her long-time crush protect her.

Shane Roarke is a former soldier and now a security specialist. Keeping people safe is what he does for a living. Keeping Fallon safe won't be any different; after all, she's his younger sister's gorgeous, stubborn, rebellious best friend. And sure, he's attracted to her, but he's had his fill of flighty, untrustworthy women. Even when he has to hide her away in a safe house and stay with her, he's sure they can keep it platonic.


Entangled Publishing's Ignite imprint presents the newly released Witness to Passion, a sexy contemporary romantic suspense novel by Naima Simone.

Romantic suspense can be pretty straightforward, even to the point of predictable or two-dimensional, with flat, stereotypical characters. I'm pleased to report that there's very little that's predictable, flat, or dull about Simone's work.

Steamy sexual content aside --- and yes, there's more than enough of that to carry the killer attraction between the lead characters, and to keep them preoccupied, as if they didn't already have enough to worry about --- these characters are some of the most intriguing and entertaining I've read in a while.

Take Fallon, who wants to be an event planner and work to coordinate weddings some day ... even as she despises the idea of marriage for herself, given the wreckage her parents shared when she was growing up. No wedding bells for her, thanks anyway, but her willingness to work tirelessly on behalf of others so they can have a beautiful "I do" day makes her approachable, even gracious.

Of course, not everyone would call her gracious or patient. No, she tends to be hot-headed and impulsive, especially when in defense of those she loves, like her best friend (and Shane's little sister). Both qualities that send Shane, her counterpart, right over the edge.

Shane, for his part, grew up the man of the house because his mother was unpredictable ... sweet enough, sure, just unreliable. Nowadays, he craves structure and order. No more chaos for him. Until he winds up protecting Fallon, about whom he cares (he tells himself) like a sister, even if she drives him crazy.

Suspenseful, steamy, sexy, sweet ... this romance has it all and more.

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Author: Naima Simone
Title: Witness to Passion
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Ignite)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-278-8
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1N2jCuC

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: "Blame It On the Kiss" (Robin Bielman)

Honor Mitchell doesn't have a great track record when it comes to following through.

Which makes her current to-do list all the more important. Ever since her best friend Payton died way too young and left Honor a wish list of things to accomplish and try, Honor has been doing her best to silence her naturally rebellious and flaky personality and get done what her best friend wanted. The list is supposed to stay a secret ... until someone finds out.

Bryce Bishop can scarcely believe that he's still so attracted to Honor. After all, she was his ex-girlfriend's best friend. Though he'd loved Payton, his one-night stand with Honor remains forefront in his mind, especially when they're thrown together as members of a wedding party, and he unexpectedly finds the list she's tried so hard to keep from everyone. Before he can even think, he's conned her into letting him help tick things off Payton's list.

She isn't exactly trustworthy. He'll never trust a woman again, anyway. It's not like they could actually end up together. No danger here.

Entangled Publishing's Red-Hot Bliss imprint presents the sexy-sweet romance Blame It On the Kiss by talented romance author Robin Bielman, released just this month.

It's easy for a romance novel to focus solely on like-minded themes: romance, marriage, divorce, passion. While Bielman's novel expertly encompasses a number of those usual themes, another that she thoroughly explores is friendship: the extent to which loyalty to a lifelong friend lasts, whether friends trump lovers in priority, and how a close friendship can genuinely change a person forever.

Honor is the sweetest, most likable heroine, honestly determined to uphold her dying best friend's wishes, even if it means branching out of her own comfort zone to do it (really, a hot air balloon ride? Payton must have been crazy!). Her willingness to sacrifice her own life, to a large extent, to keep Payton's memory alive makes her a sympathetic character from the first page.

Meanwhile, Bryce stands as her foil, her opposite: equally loyal to his ex-girlfriend's memory, even though when she found out she was terminally ill she broke up with him without explanation or warning and left him seething until he learned the truth. Now, even as he lusts for Honor, he hesitates to take any risk that might mean getting burned again.

Usually, the Bliss imprint from Entangled Publishing focuses more on attraction than on the actual culmination thereof, but their Red-Hot Bliss titles have no such compunctions, and Blame It On the Kiss is a temperately sexy read from beginning to end, with the desire between Honor and Bryce flaring at some of the most (hot and) bothersome moments!

Sit back, relax, and prepare to be wooed into a truly poignant, thematically diverse, and hotly satisfying story!

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Author: Robin Bielman
Title: Blame It On the Kiss
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Red-Hot Bliss)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-291-7
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1GWDqR3

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via the Netgalley program in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "Turning the Tables" (Joan Kilby)

Heiress, billionaire, and renowned clothing designer Tina Borlenghi has nearly everything a successful businesswoman could want. After all, she's visiting New York City from her native Italy to debut a new fashion line and open a new fashion boutique. Unfortunately, she's also battling a former lover who took gross advantage of her status and wealth, and who only loved her for her money. When Luke Pederson, owner of the sports bar around the corner from her boutique, mistakes her for a simple sales associate and sparks between them fly, she decides to play along.

Something isn't quite right about Tina. Luke can't put his finger on it, especially when she's got his hands (ahem) fully involved in some of the sexiest role-playing passion he's ever experienced, but she's way too secretive and clearly hiding something. As their passion intensifies and his suspicions deepen, he doesn't know what to believe, except that he'd really like to make something long-term work between them.

Until he finds out her little secret, who she really is. The truth upends everything they both thought they had together.

Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint presents the edgy erotic romance Turning the Tables by Joan Kilby, newly released this month.

Light on plot, this work is nonetheless long on character, the suspense of wondering whether the relationship will work out against seemingly impossible odds, and (good grief) love scenes. You've got to appreciate an edgier style of sex to be able to enjoy the boiling hot scenes Kilby has envisioned for her characters.

As a billionaire businesswoman, Tina lands just the right combination of savvy competence, creative artistry, and intense vulnerability. Having been burned once, it isn't surprising that she's gun-shy about trust, and when Luke's honest misunderstanding of her position arises, she takes advantage of the opportunity to have a hot, no-strings fling before she has to buckle back down to work and go back to Italy.

Luke is perhaps the most well-developed character, strikingly enough, from his ownership of the sports bar to his past as a pro hockey player to his rugged physique and his impassioned and exploratory attraction to Tina. What makes him unbelievably likable and laudable, though, is his commitment to a foundation he created for kids with special needs, like his wheelchair-bound nephew, who might otherwise never have some of the opportunities his generosity and active involvement afford them.

If you're looking for a feel-good, smoking hot love story between the unlikeliest of characters, reach for Kilby's novel. You'll be more than satisfied.

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Author: Joan Kilby
Title: Turning the Tables
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-292-4
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1HQzrVc

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: "Revenge Best Served Hot" (Jackie Braun)

After a car accident involving a semi-truck from Douglass Shipping killed his parents years ago, Brody Flynn has been biding his time, waiting for the chance to exact revenge. When the company's CEO screws up several major opportunities and lands the business somewhere in the red, Brody steps in and executes a carefully planned buyout-slash-takeover, and not of the benevolent variety.

Enter the CEO's daughter, Kate Douglass, who has wanted for years to prove to her father and his colleagues that she can handle more than being a coffee maker and secretary at the shipping company she loves. Now that the company is in Brody's hands, she makes a desperate play for a job, and winds up with a vice presidency and a whole lot of suspicions about the real agenda of the new owner.

If only she, and he, could keep their forbidden attraction to one another under control.

Entangled Publishing's Indulgence imprint presents the sexy category romance Revenge Best Served Hot by talented author Jackie Braun, newly released this month.

A trademark of the Indulgence imprint at Entangled is the fantasy hero, the ultimate self-made man, the one who has it all. Brody Flynn embodies just exactly that kind of scintillating, sexy, raw power and hunger, all of which is underscored and heightened further by his rage-fueled agenda on behalf of his deceased parents.

Sure, his actions are ethically suspect and morally reprehensible, but when viewed through the lens of his grief, loss, and years of built-up bitterness, no one would blame him for his well-planned maneuvers. Besides, once he lands in control of Douglass Shipping, he remains fair and largely impartial to its current employees and works tirelessly to turn the company around, both signs of a businessman with integrity, character, and determination.

Kate, for her part, is his undeniable equal in more ways than one. Just as passionate and savvy about the business world as her father always assumed she was incapable, her drive and devotion to her work mark her as a worthy opponent, serious about making her own notch along the corporate ladder. When Brody unexpectedly gives her that opportunity, she's gracious enough to make the most of it.

Their respective demons only further serve to complicate matters between them, especially when attraction flares hot and inevitably proves to be a distraction and even a hindrance to their individual determinations to stay detached and not involved.

Prepare for a steamy corporate romance sure to keep you turning pages!

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Author: Jackie Braun
Title: Revenge Best Served Hot
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Indulgence)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-302-0
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1MJamuL

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "The Toil of Hands" (Todd Mihalcik)

In the early twentieth century, the Sonoma Valley in California finds the O'Keeffe family vineyard the site of a terrible clash between the past and present, encompassing all the betrayals, fears, hopes, and secrets that were never meant to be exposed to the light.

Jim O'Keeffe, patriarch of the family and the successful vineyard, lover and worshiper of the grapes that he has tenderly bred and nurtured for decades, has little time left on earth. His grandson William is his chosen successor for the vineyard, and yet William struggles to accept his preordained place in the ancestral tradition.

For Jim, this last season among the grapes harbors all the darkest demons he's worked for years to expunge and put behind him. For William, both cursed and gifted beyond measure with an unbelievable ability from childhood, this time is in coming to the end of himself, trying to determine where he belongs.

What neither expects is that the arrival of a newcomer in their midst will bring a deeper and more hellish darkness than any they could have imagined, and that the final battle will require every secret laid bare and more blood shed than they have ever lost working their beloved vineyard for so many generations.

It is with the deepest pleasure and honor that I introduce to you The Toil of Hands by Todd Mihalcik, a beautifully rendered work of literary fiction, rife with generational tensions, unforeseen consequences, unnerving motives, and unsettling suspense.

Both character-driven and substantially and meticulously plotted, this sweeping novel encompasses in an epic form the combined ancestry and legacy of Jim O'Keeffe, whose life stands as the pivotal point around which the story events take place. You'll step into another century, another world, through the four parts and myriad interconnected lives that comprise the work, which shifts its focus from the past to the present alike.

As fascinating and detailed as are the characters and their respective agendas, dreams, failures, and triumphs, the novel's most spectacular feature is its stylized language. Mihalcik carefully and painstakingly renders every scene with the kind of attention to detail, consistency, and description ordinarily (and perhaps shortsightedly) reserved for those works in the high fantasy or science-fiction genres, in which world-building is as much a part of the story as character, plot, dialogue, and every other fiction element.

The stage throughout The Toil of Hands is rendered with stunning care. From the very first sentence, I found the work impossible to put down, if for no other reason than that I might lose the intricately drawn images that my imagination had created from the expertly crafted content and the striking imagery.

A further claim to the literary genre is the perspective from which the story is written. Readers follow not one character after another but a broader context, a kind of macro-cosmic, all-knowing, all-seeing point-of-view that delivers the thorough and lifelike descriptions with the same detached, godlike aplomb as are delivered character interactions and story events.

Intricately woven, masterfully written, deeply philosophical, reservedly poignant, filled with unexpected turning points and breathtaking reversals, The Toil of Hands is a true modern classic, akin to such sweeping literary standards as those produced by Dickens or Tolstoy in bygone eras, that you won't soon forget.

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Author: Todd Mihalcik
Title: The Toil of Hands
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1JSbkqM

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from June 8-12

5. "Where I Write: Finding Time to Write Wherever You Are" on Scottish Book Trust (Rachelle Atalla)

Link: http://bit.ly/1TmwDUm

Sometimes it's easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to writing. The coffee has to be just the right temperature ... the chair must be comfortable and angled in the right direction ... the minute hand on the clock has to have ticked over to a multiple of five. Here's an article that encourages you to find a way to write wherever you are, no matter if you've got your coffee or not.

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4. "How to Use Quizzes and Facebook to Build Your List ... Fast" on ProBlogger (Luke Moulton)

Link: http://bit.ly/1M2rdbZ

You're looking to up your followers count for your blog or website. What's the quickest way to do that with the tools you've already got? How about putting to work your content, which you've already created, and your Facebook page, which most professionals have these days? Think reader engagement galore. Start with this post to find out the specifics!

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3. "Minding Your Pinch Points in Fiction Writing" on A Writer's Path

Link: http://bit.ly/1SgaJjW

Fiction writers talk a lot about turning points in manuscripts and projects. Sometimes it isn't as clear as it could be what we're talking about. What if you call those turning points "pinch points" instead? Here's a new perspective on a familiar topic, and how to put them to best use in your fiction.

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2. "How to Start a Journal (and Keep It Up)" on Journal of Stuff (Janine Alyssa)

Link: http://bit.ly/1IdLzeH

Most writing professionals agree that the key to success in a writing career is to make it a habit. Write every day. Write something every day. One option is to start and maintain a journal. You don't have to write in your chosen genre on a daily basis to build the habit (or you could if you'd like). Check out this post with its excellent guidance for getting a journal going.

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1. "6 Simple Tricks for Building a Strong Writing Habit" on Write to Done (Ali Luke)

Link: http://bit.ly/1Q9lhnm

And in keeping with the previous entry (see #2 above) this article offers six tried-and-true writing tips for how to make and maintain a habit of your writing. Inspiration isn't enough. Even motivation isn't enough. What it comes right down to is sitting down at the computer or with pen and paper, and putting words on a page, day after day after day. Look for wisdom and encouragement here.

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That's the lineup of the best of the best for last week, folks. What did you like? What did you not like? What would you like never to hear about again? What haven't you heard enough of yet? Let me know!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: "The Hookup Hoax" (Heather Thurmeier)

What do you do when you're a single man in need of a temporary relationship, and you're totally against commitment?

Find a girlfriend you can hire for the time being, of course.

Ask Sawyer Sterling, whose time is running out to get his hands on the family cabin. His grandparents are supposed to decide whether to give it to him, or to his cousin, and Sawyer will stop at almost nothing to ensure that he's the winner. Even if it means hiring his best friend's little sister to act like his girlfriend for a while.

Besides, he doesn't do commitment. What could go wrong?

Olivia Morgan has an eclectic resume when she lands back in town to stay with her brother, Sawyer's best friend, for a while. She's ready for some consistency, and hopes to find someone with whom to settle down and share a life together. She also needs money, and a job. What better way to make a little fast cash and keep out of her brother's way than as Sawyer's guest and faux girlfriend?

He doesn't do commitment, and she wants one. Nothing's going to happen between them.

Let me introduce The Hookup Hoax by Heather Thurmeier, newly released by Entangled Publishing's Lovestruck imprint.

There's something to be said for testing the boundaries defined by a friendship versus a romance. Does loyalty to your long-time best friend trump love for a significant other? What happens when the two loyalties seem at odds with one another? Who should get short shrift, and who, the most commitment and attention? Thurmeier explores these themes with aplomb and intrigue, not bothering to keep the stakes low or light.

The Hookup Hoax is not for those who prefer their romances lighthearted and fluffy, without substance. Sawyer's devotion to the only family he has ever known is a very real, vulnerable thing, and his relationship with his grandparents not only underscores the thematic explorations in the work but also heightens them: now you're wondering whether family, friendship, or romance will win out in the end.

I guarantee you'll keep turning pages to find out.

As sweet romances go, this one toes the line between innocence and smoky attraction beautifully. Think forbidden passion, sizzling attraction, and some sinfully intoxicating teasers, and you've got this one nailed.

Meanwhile, Olivia is a fascinating character in her own right, having spent the last five years backpacking across one continent after another, racking up an impressively ... different ... list of job experiences, from kiwi picker to farm hand. Her passions lie in the direction of family --- which she and Sawyer have in common --- and concern for the environment, both admirable and likable traits in a modern heroine.

If you prefer your romances with one unexpected twist after another, and with the inevitable HEA (happily ever after) ending far from a foregone, predictable conclusion, I invite you to check out this title!

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Author: Heather Thurmeier
Title: The Hookup Hoax
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Lovestruck)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-279-5
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1FY3G6O

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via the Netgalley program in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.