Happy Holidays with an inspiring children’s book!

What better way to wish

happy holidays

to all of you wonderful and supportive readers than a recommendation of an inspiring, heartwarming tale for your young ones—or the young at heart!

I’ve just read and reviewed Runaway Smile, wrtten by my author friend Nicholas Rossis whose best-selling epic fantasy series, Pearseus, I’ve enjoyed immensely, and I truly loved it! Nicholas has uploaded the story here where you can read it for free! The fantastic illustrations are the work of Dimitris Fousekis.

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My Review

I picked this title up as I’m a fan of Nicholas Rossis’ epic fantasy series (Pearseus) and I was curious to see how a fantasy writer tackles the challenge of writing for kids. Smoothly, apparently. This isn’t a happy-go-lucky fairytale. The boy of this story is on a quest. Unlike Alice, this little guy is used to the bizarre world he lives in, and takes milk-surfing ants and complacent monsters in the closet at a stride. What he can’t deal with, though, is the loss of his smile. On his way to school, he comes across colorful characters with huge smiles plastered on their faces, but although they vy for the little one’s attention, they can’t seem to listen to him. They’re grown ups after all; self-serving and self-centered. Each and every one, although full of promises, fails to bring happiness to our little hero. But in the end, he finds what he’s after in the sweetest possible way, and he knows how to keep it forever.

This story is layered with thought-provoking semiotics that will attract parents as well. Fantastic illustrations make our boy’s trek to school come to life, and the summary in verse at the end is a touch of genius and extra proof of the author’s diverse talent. This is one book you won’t regret reading to little ones, but even if there aren’t any around, just go for it. You’ll love it.

Purchase Link: Amazon / Createspace

About the Author

Rossis_1000px

Avid reader. Web developer. Architect by training, holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Now, author.

Nicholas Rossis loves to write. Runaway Smile is his first children’s book, out of a total of six. The next one is currently being illustrated.

Except for his epic fantasy series, Pearseus, he has also published The Power of Six, a collection of short sci-fi stories, and the Greek translation of the Tao Te Ching.

He lives in Athens, Greece, in the middle of a forest, with his wife, dog and two very silly cats, one of whom is always sitting on his lap, so please excuse any typos in his blog posts: typing with one hand can be hard. Mercifully, all his books are professionally edited!

Connect with Nicholas Rossis:

Bloghttp://nicholasrossis.me
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nicholas_Rossis
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NicholasCRossis
Site: http://www.nicholasrossis.com
Pearseus Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Pearseus
LinkedIn: http://gr.linkedin.com/pub/nicholas-rossis/0/b7b/122/
Google+ http://google.com/+NicholasRossis

About the Illustrator
Fousekis_500pxBorn in 1966 in Tripoli, Libya to Greek parents, Dimitris grew up in Rome, Italy and Athens, Greece. He studied Geology at the University of Athens. During his studies, he illustrated various Paleontology-related theses and projects. Between 1992 and 1997 he worked for the Ministry of Culture, illustrating the objects unearthed during the Athens Metro construction.

Since 1997, he has freelanced with various design agencies, advertising companies and publishing houses. He has also illustrated for two musems – one in Papigo, Pilio (WW F) and one in Tinos (Marble Museum).

He is a member of the design group Parachute Font and collaborates regularly with Yalos Branding. His latest projects include the co-creation of Fuzzylon. Since 2003, he has increasingly focused on children’s books illustrations. He has already published a number of children’s books (nine so far, with a number of further titles currently under work).

Since 2010 he has lived permanently on the island of Hydra, where he teaches painting and has had his first exhibition.

You can find more about Dimitris and his work on http://www.dimitrisfousekis.com

_________________

Fate Accompli is now out on Amazon in two heat versions. The links below will take you directly to your Amazon store.

Fait Accompli - Spicy version

Fate Accompli Spicy: getBook.at/FateSpicy

Fate Accompli Clean: getBook.at/FateClean

If you’d like to read the first chapters of Fate Accompli, they’re available on Wattpad. (3,000 views and counting…)

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Repossession by Rachael Wade (Review)

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One of the most exciting books I’ve read this year, Repossession by Rachael Wade, the first book in The Keepers trilogy, will keep you on your toes and create as many questions as the answers that gradually emerge. Before you read my full review, make sure to enter the international giveaway to win a signed swag and an eBook copy of this amazing title. This review tour is brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours.

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My Review

Skylla’s dad made sure she could handle a gun. When the Invaders crash into her home, that skill saves her life but not her parents’. She manages to slip away from the aliens that have taken over earth only to be captured by a human who appears to have sided with them. But Jet Phoenix has his own agenda. Soon, they flee together fighting every step of the way, not least their attraction to each other. But finding answers is more important. What is the aliens’ ultimate goal? Why are they drawn to earth’s water resources? And more specifically, why when they touch Skylla, they instantly release her in awe?

Kale, a young man they stumble upon, leads them to the rebels who have answers but also a plan he wants no part of. Forcing Skylla and Jet to follow him, he reaches the core of the Invaders’ headquarters where they finally come face to face with the truth.

But is that the truth or, apart from their emotional memory, the Invaders can also tamper with their mind?

I was blown away. Sci-fi is not my genre of choice and can rarely keep me deeply involved, but I was drawn by the blurb and the beautiful cover, so I decided to give this book a try. Not only did I not regret it, but I found myself skimming instead of reading to get on with the story. And that wasn’t fair to the author as her writing is stellar! This book is a page-turner in every sense of the word. Action-packed, fast-paced but also thought-provoking, it can equally appeal to women who enjoy sci-fi romances and men who opt for a thrilling read. The plot is thick, complex but not confusing. The main character, Skylla, puts Katniss to shame, and Jet is everything you’d expect of a true hero with a noble quest. Of course, there is the indispensable love triangle as Kyle would like nothing more than keep Skylla for himself.

There was nothing amiss in this book. It does end with a cliffhanger though. But in such a glorious way, my jaw dropped!

I seriously recommend Repossession. Even if you don’t enjoy reading about little green men, which in this case are lithe incandescent creatures with jet black pools instead of eye sockets, this ride will be one you won’t forget any time soon.

Official Synopsis

Skylla only knows that she has been kidnapped and held prisoner by the foreign invaders and their human allies. And that the world is ending. Or so the humans think. The invaders have made it clear that their arrival is one of hostile intent, and as their takeover spreads, so does the panic across the globe. No one knows how to defeat them, or if it’s even sane to try.

Jet, Skylla’s human captor, is up for the challenge, though. A traitor in Skylla’s eyes, he is working with them. But Jet has his own agenda; one that doesn’t include babysitting Skylla or helping the enemies. And as the human race struggles to keep the invaders from achieving their goal, Jet and Skylla’s paths collide to reveal the truth behind Skylla’s abduction.

The invaders are headed for the water. Jet is headed for the water. But that’s the last place Skylla wants to be. That’s where the future of humanity lies, and where the bridge to their yesterdays was burned. On a mission to take back what is rightfully theirs, Earth’s population is determined to make sure this isn’t the end. But some endings were never theirs to begin with.

Author Bio

RachaelRachael Wade is the Amazon bestselling author of The Preservation Series, The Resistance Trilogy, and the upcoming sci-fi series, The Keepers Trilogy. When she’s not writing, she’s busy learning French, watching too many movies, and learning how to protect animals and the environment. Visit her at www.RachaelWade.com and www.LightsOnOutreach.com, or come chat with her on Twitter via @RachaelWade.
Author links:
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The Viscount Who Lived Down The Lane by Elizabeth Boyle (Review)

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A charming take on The Beauty and The Beast, this historical romance, the fourth in New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Boyle’s “Rhymes with Love” series, will leave fans of the genre truly satisfied. Make sure you enter the rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win one of ten print copies of the book, courtesy of the author. Also, scroll down for a sample of Ms Boyle’s excellent writing.

The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane

Rhymes with Love # 4
By: Elizabeth Doyle
Releasing October 28th, 2014
Avon Romance

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Cover (1)

My Review

Laura Tempest is a disaster magnet. And Lavinia, her identical twin, is even worse! But when they are offered a sponsored Season in London full of social life among the best of the ton, Lavinia drags Louisa with her. While Lavinia is set on finding a respectable husband, Louisa’s practical mind knows that their family’s tarnish won’t be covered with pretty frocks and intricate hairdos. She’s not the marriage sort, anyway. So she brings Hannibal, her devilish one-eyed tomcat with her. With him at hand, no one will bother her.

All Viscount Wakefield wants is his thick drapes shut and his bottle of Madeira full. After the retreat to Corunna, amidst the Peninsular War, that shattered his leg and his heart, he resents still being among the living. But when a cat from hell wreaks havoc in his household and his tempestuous mistress (Miss Tempest, indeed!) decided she wants to put everything to rights, including his life, he bans both cat and lady from his house. So she starts working on his garden. And suddenly that demmed drape insists on letting sunshine creep in even when he’s sure he left it hermetically shut. Just like his heart.

This historical romance was a delight! The language was as authentic as it gets, the plot, although not highly original, delicious, but what made the difference for me were the characters. True to themselves down to the bone, they never falter, and that’s including pets! From the elderly butler and the impertinent new cook to the two kids that are hired as extra help, and Hannibal the cat (unforgettable Hannibal) they all get memorable, fast-paced scenes that often made me think that I’m watching a farse on stage.

The dialogues are witty, the settings well-rendered (although maybe a bit underdescribed) and the main characters set so many obstacles along the way, I really wondered how the HEA would come about. If I must complain about something that would be that the final reconciliation scene was too easy, and there are loose ends concerning other characters, but Ms Boyle has promised that everything will be sorted out in the next installment where we’ll learn what Lavinia is up to. I’m surely picking that one up!

All in all, I truly enjoyed this delightful historical romance. In terms of character development, I would say that Ms Boyle is among the best. This new version of The Beauty and The Beast put a smile on my face–not an easy task with a swollen cheek after a wisdom tooth extraction. 🙂

Excerpt

London, Hanover Square

November 1810

“What is it, Haley?” Lord Charleton asked, sparing a glance at the door of the breakfast room where his secretary stood, hovering about like a nervous sparrow. “Is it Rowland? Tell me he hasn’t landed in the suds yet again.”

“No, my lord.”

The man’s brow furrowed a bit. “Couldn’t be Wakefield.”

“Certainly not, my lord.”

The baron glanced up. “Wouldn’t mind if it was. Demmed waste having him mope about, locked up in that house of his.”

“Indeed,” the secretary replied, and if Charleton wasn’t mistaken, there was a note of irony to the man’s declaration—one he chose to ignore, instead pinning a glance on the impudent fellow.

Under the scrutiny, Haley’s jaw worked back and forth as if the words were stuck there in his craw.

“Well?” Lord Charleton prodded. “Out with it. Before my kippers grow cold.” As it was, the baron shoved his plate forward and set down the paper he’d been reading.

Mr. Haley cleared his throat and held out a letter. “I’ve come across a small debt your wife owed—”

There it was. That cold stillness that came every time someone had the nerve to mention Isobel’s name.  How  Lord  Charleton  wished  he  could forget her passing so this wrenching pain would fade from his heart. Yet, still, even a year after her loss, it was a sharp ache he woke up with, one that haunted him even after he closed his eyes at night.

Now here was his secretary bringing her up when he’d quite forbidden the matter.

“Pay it,” he ordered in a tone that said he wanted nothing further to do with any reminders of her.

“But, my lord—” Haley shuffled about.

Lord Charleton removed his glasses and slowly cleaned them. Then once they were perched back up on his nose he stared coldly at the fellow. He was a good man, Haley. An excellent secretary, but why the man continued to bring up Lady Charleton, the baron could not understand. Speaking slowly and deliberately, so there was no mistaking the matter, he said, “You know what to do. Take care of the matter and leave me be.”

“If you insist, my lord . . .” Haley’s voice trailed off tentatively. It wasn’t so much a reply as one last prod.

Truly? He was going to ask yet again? If he wasn’t the most thorough and honest fellow the baron had ever hired—well, actually Lady Charleton had found him and insisted he be hired, but that wasn’t the point. Haley had become rather cheeky of late and Charleton wanted nothing more than to fire him on the spot.

But Isobel wouldn’t have approved, and so Charlton inclined his head, reined back his ire and said with a final note, “Just see to it as Her Lady- ship would have wanted.” Then he went back to his paper and ignored Haley, who stood for a few more moments in the doorway.

And if the baron had looked up, he might have seen the wry, wily smile that had led Lady Char- leton to hire Mr. Haley in the first place.

CHAPTER 1

London

Six months later

Areowwwwww!  The unholy complaint filled the

carriage.

“You should have left that foul creature back in Kempton,  Miss  Tempest,”  Mrs.  Bagley-Butterton complained for about the hundredth time.

Which equaled the number of times Hannibal had let out that ear-piercing yowl from the basket in which he was trapped.

“He  doesn’t  like  being  penned  up  so,”  Miss Louisa Tempest said in defense of her cat. “And I couldn’t leave him behind.”

There  was  a  sigh  of  resignation  from  beside Louisa. Miss Lavinia Tempest, Louisa’s twin, made a very deliberate show of looking out the window. She wasn’t about to rise to Hannibal’s defense.

Never would.

Louisa suspected her sister shared Mrs. Bagley- Butterton’s exasperation and wished poor Hannibal back in Kempton as well.

“I only hope your godmother is an understanding sort,” the matron continued, shifting in her seat in the carriage and eyeing the large basket on Louisa’s lap with an air of disdain and suspicion. She had protested vehemently against the cat being brought along, but she could hardly prevent the matter when the carriage conveying them to London belonged to the girls’ father, Sir Ambrose Tempest. “I know I wouldn’t have that cat in my house.” She sniffed loudly.

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Elizabeth BoyleAuthor Info

Elizabeth Boyle was an antipiracy paralegal for Microsoft before settling down to write full-time. Her first novel, Brazen Angel, which won Dell’s Diamond Debut Award in 1996, also won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award for Best First Book, and was a finalist for Best Long Historical Romance. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. She is also the author of Brazen Heiress.

Author Links

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Believing in Bigfoot by JC Miller (Review)

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A never-too-late romance was this week’s read ‘n’ review. Believing in Bigfoot by JC Miller is a heartwarming story of a man and a woman who could have given up/fallen back to old ways and patterns, but they give love a chance. The tour is brought to you by Book Enthusiast Promotions.

My review

An art professor, Ruth has lost the drive both for her art and teaching. Just like her 28-year-old son who drifts in and out of her life, fun and thirst for new things also seem out of reach. Playing along her best friend’s whim to go trekking on the mountains, she has an acutely embarrassing encounter with “Bigfoot” turned rescuer. Shockingly, his fleeting presence becomes creative inspiration.

Isaac has fled his high profile life and his demons. Living like a hermit on the mountain, brings lucidity he never experienced while living on the fast track. But the woman whose friend he is forced to help out, affects him in ways he cannot explain, and she unwillingly forces him to re-enter the world. The catch is that his disappearance didn’t erase his problems and they instantly flood him to the point of choking him. How can he be what Ruth needs when he himself doesn’t know who he is?

Believing in Bigfoot is a lesson in believing in life and love regardless of the stage of life you’re in. Written with surprising attention to detail both in settings and emotions, this novel flows with naturalness as much as it flirts with nature. The author’s loving attention to the minutiae of every day life is charming, and her flexibility and ease in handling complex emotions of characters with huge emotional baggage (remember: this is the opposite of a YA romance) is amazing.

The story is well-paced, and the characters full-fleshed and totally relatable. I was drawn in the story from page one, and that was because the settings were rendered so vividly, I could picture them in amazing clarity! If I have to comment on one thing that would be the lack of a distinct point of reference. A center of gravity, if you may. It wasn’t the romance so much, as Ruth and Isaac share but a few scenes, or the challenges of friendship and motherhood, as the need to re-invent oneself, re-calibrate one’s life at an older age, or maybe the need to let go of excess baggage even when it’s become second skin. I’m having some trouble defining the true essence of the story.

Other than that, this was a book I enjoyed reading and finished in one (and a half) sitting. If you enjoy sweet romances about second chances, Believing in Bigfoot should be your next read.

Scroll down for more details on the book, purchase links and a chance to win two $5 Gift Cards.

Synopsis

Reeling from his failed comeback and ruined marriage, washed-out actor Ian James (née Isaac Janowitz) flees Los Angeles for a two-week respite in Northern California’s remote Marble Mountains—Bigfoot country. His time alone in the wilderness begins to peel away the layers of his Hollywood persona. After a fateful meeting with a beguiling woman, Ian begins to question his heart. In a moment of clarity, Isaac ditches his publicist and finds himself in Redding, living with invisibility at the Vagabond Motel.

Professor Ruth Hill is burnt out teaching photography at Redding’s Shasta College, eager for her upcoming retirement. But for unexplained reasons, despite weekly therapy sessions, her panic attacks have escalated. Her artistic slump persists. Looking back, she regrets a life without risk; looking forward, she dreads a meaningless future. Going over her proof sheets one morning, she stumbles upon a series of striking thumbnails, reigniting her passion and creativity.

Readers will root for Isaac and Ruth as they grapple with their chance encounter on the mountain and search for meaning in their repellent, yet intense attraction. Their paths do cross again, but when confronted with the possibility of enduring love, Ruth’s cynicism creeps in; Isaac’s self-defeating beliefs take hold. For these two damaged souls, it just may be too late.

Meet the Author

JC (Jeanne) Miller, M.A., is an educator and founding member of JAM, an editorial-consultation team. An avid reader, aspiring traveler and table tennis enthusiast, she resides in Northern California.

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The Dos and Don’ts of a review seeker: Guest Post by Ichabod Temperance

I connected with paranormal/steampunk writer, Ichabod Temperance, earlier this year during a cross-blog critique event where he bravely submitted his excellent work for constructive criticism. Ichabod has written five novels: ‘A Matter of Temperance‘, ‘A World of Temperance‘, ‘For the Love of Temperance‘, ‘A Study in Temperance‘ and ‘In a Latitude of Temperance‘, all available on Amazon.

In this guest post, the man himself, will give us insight into his steep review-seeking learning curve. And steep it was!

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In Review with Temperance

Hello my friends! My name is Ichabod Temperance. I am very new to writing and self-publishing, but would like to share a few thoughts on the battle to gain reviews.

Our story begins with a boy writing a book. The silly chap thinks that writing the book is all that he has to do and believes that publication, sales, fame and fortune will just trot themselves into formation to carry him into the sunset. Much to the elderly youngling’s surprise, no-one wants to read his goofy book. He writes another. No sales! The fledgling writer realises that huge amounts of shameless self-promotion are called for. The electronic dunce is introduced to social media. The dangerous knowledge of how to paste a link is passed into his hands. With complete innocence, a spammer is born. Suspension from facebook and twitter quickly follow his novice zeal. Undaunted, the delusional writer then begins a review request campaign.
This is carried out in a sloppy manner, with numerous embarrassing mistakes:

Photo by Depositphotos - edited with PhotoScape
Photo by Depositphotos – edited with PhotoScape

Subject line: Review Request. That is all that is required. No need to get cutesy here.

A nice Greeting: It is hard to not be clumsy here! Don’t be generic, as in: “Hi Blogger. I hope you are having a nice day.” This person is being asked to devote time and attention where their time might be better spent reading someone else’s book. Then they are asked to write a book report on it! Geez! The least our prospective author can do is spend a moment on the blogger/reviewer, reading their bio, a review or two, and just generally getting a feel for their blog.

The kid’s greetings slowly improved. He might now open his letter with: “Hello Maria. I am thrilled to be in contact with someone in Greece! This is a first for me and is very exciting! You and your family appear to live in an idyllic world. BTW- Is that a shark in the water on your blog photo?”

Too wordy with his Genre description:
*Steampunk, Paranormal, Happily Ever After, Action/Romance, told in a Humorous fashion.
+I think this is slightly better for him:
*Steampunk/Paranormal.
These are humorously told adventures with a touch of innocent romance.

Asking for reviews before the book is ready!
Our hypothetical writer sends out a gazillion requests. A few requests were answered and out go the books. He gets some bad reviews. They were not mean, but a couple said that the books needed a lot more work. I suspect that many early reviewers that he did not hear back from ‘Did Not Finish’ the books, and just never bothered to contact this author. One reviewer published a ‘DNF’ review on the second book, but it was accompanied by constructive criticism, not mean-hearted snarkiness. Again, the opinion was that the author was on the right track, but needed to go back and work on the book some more. Review requests are suspended until these first two books are cleaned up. Without an editor or Beta readers, other than his significant other, it behoves our friend to exercise more caution with what he presents to be judged.

Read and follow the Review Requests Policies!
If a reviewer does not accept independent writers, you must respect that position. It took a moment for our favourite dingbat to catch on to the fact that many people despise indies.

Writing and promotional advice is then eagerly sought by the desperate fellow.

One day, he comes upon an article, ‘Five Ways New Writers Can Chase Away Potential Readers‘. Here is some good advice! Much of the information is very easy to implement, as it is simply an application of common sense. This wonderful woman generously shares a clever tip with our thick headed pal: Take advantage of Twitter. She tells of how an author showed her a kindness by sending out a tweet to put her over, that is, make her books appealing. Our storybook hero began doing this. People appreciate and enjoy his saying something nice about them or their work and his recognition has spread because of it. Reviewers are now approached through twitter to develop a relationship before then asking permission to submit the books for review. This has helped our protagonist to gain reviews and consideration from bloggers that normally may not consider his genre. He, that is, I, am now enjoying the spotlight of a noted romance book blog, that may not have noticed me if I had not made a good impression through twitter first. (The book blog mentioned is Tome Tender, and here’s Icky’s author spotlight.)

Thank you, Maria!
Cheers, my friends! *klink*

Aww! I’m a sucker for stories with a happy ending, and this one certainly has one to show! Thank you, Icky, for your insight and also for the kind mention. The thought that a post I published help you get onto the right track, baffles me! I’m not even published (a fact that will change on November 21! 🙂 ).

If you love Icky’s style and would like to get to know him better, read his fun WIP interview on this blog! For more on his work, visit his Amazon’s Author Page.

And if you have review-seeking stories to share, please do in the comments’ section. Thanks for reading!

A rough road to love: His Road Home by Anna Richland (Review)

His-Road-Home-Anna-Richland (1)

His Road Home is an original love story, both heart-warming and heart-rending, that brings together an unlikely couple. Read on for my review and an excerpt from the book.  If you’re US-based, make sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, as the author will make a $50 DONATION to The Fisher House Foundation in honor of a veteran of the winner’s choice. The virtual tour is organized by Tasty Book Tours.

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His Road Home
By: Anna Richland
Released October 13th, 2014
Carina Press

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His Road Home final cover

My Review

A marine biologist, Grace Kim, is more into her whale expeditions than into complex people relationships. Yet she finds herself engaged—with all the unwanted family hoopla over her finally settling down—when she doesn’t even know the guy! The fact that he’s just returned from Afghanistan seriously injured after a heroic effort complicates the situation even more. Demanding answers from a speech challenged double amputee, when everyone expected her to play the part of the fiancee, took Kim on a guilt trip on top of her frustration when all she wanted was to go back to her single, quiet life.

But after sweet texting each other while Ray was on a tough rehabilitation program, and she’s deployed to Alaska, Kim starts feeling a lot more toward him than guilt. And when she accompanies him on his cross-country drive back home, their faltering friendship turns sizzling hot. But can Kim be strong enough to support Ray, or is she again stereotyping?

His Road Home is a jolting read. So much for the heroine to deal with here until she settles for unconditional love: prejudices, guilt, objective practical difficulties, social demands … that’s one hell of a tough road to take. And Kim is by nature untrained to be that kind of tough. But Ray is such a sweetheart—on top of being dark and handsome—he makes everything fall into place without exerting any emotional pressure.

There are amazing heart-warming moments in this book as there are painful, heart-wrenching images. From Afghan war-zones and the Gulf of Alaska to a cross-country road trip, this one is quite a ride. The writing is no-nonsense, fitting the bill perfectly. The character development is expertly done, and the HEA while bumpy is right there; uplifting and empowering. What I felt, though, was that this was a story that needed more space to naturally evolve. It seemed that it was squeezed into a small book, giving some scenes a rushed, choppy feel. There were aspects that I’d like to see more of. Like get to know Kim’s traditional Korean parents and their ways more. Or have a better feel of Grace’s role on the Alaska expedition.

That aside, I enjoyed this original and thought-provoking story. It blows many cliches into smithereens, but what’s left standing—proud and tall—is true love. ‘Cause love is all you need, right?

EXCERPT: Grace Arrives at the Hospital

Chapter 2

The rose-tinted stone buildings and immaculate landscaping of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, reminded Grace of a university campus more than a military hospital. On the parking shuttle route, signs pointed to the Warrior Center and celebrated Warrior Pride, and she half expected men in blue paint and kilts to swarm the bus.

The massed display of flags inside the main lobby pressed home the weight of her false pretenses. The closer she drew to reception, the harder the fictions she hadn’t created but had been too obedient or timid to unravel squeezed her stomach. Five feet from the front desk, her charade bit more uncomfortably than the airplane seatbelt she’d worn all night.

“May I help you, ma’am?”

No one else was behind her. She was the ma’am.

The man on the other side of the desk smiled at her. “Are you here to see someone?”

Although she’d read his name in dozens of news articles, she hadn’t said it aloud. Her first attempt was a whisper. “Reynaldo Cruz.”

The keyboard clicked as he asked, “Are you Sergeant Cruz’s next of kin?”

“No.” Her stomach somersaulted as another lie rose to the surface to join so many others.

“Whoa, ma’am.” He reached across the desk as if to catch her. “Sergeant Cruz arrived yesterday from Landstuhl, but we have to ask because sometimes people pretend to know soldiers who’ve been in the news.”

That was her, a pretender. She clutched her jacket over her chest, chilled even inside the building, and hoped the airplane bagel didn’t revisit the scene.

“Name and photo identification, please.”

“Grace Kim.” Her driver’s license shook until she dropped it on the counter.

More clicking and peering before he said, “I don’t have you listed.”

If she couldn’t find out why Reynaldo Cruz had turned her life upside down, she’d never put it back together. Her chest expanded with bottled frustration.

“Hold on, I’ll call the ward to get permission.”

While the receptionist muttered into the phone, she willed the hot ball in her throat to dissolve. If she had to leave, this farce would end without an explanation to share with her family, her boss, her co-workers. The reporters calling her parents would change their tone, and people in Pateros would stop eating at the restaurant.

“Duty nurse confirmed you’re Sergeant Cruz’s fiancée.”

Relief snapped through her, even as the label made her squirm.

“Petty Officer Boichek will escort you. Visiting hours until twenty-hundred.” He clarified, “That’s eight tonight. I’ll add you as a permitted visitor. Here’s your temporary badge.”

Her escort was a woman, younger than her. “Morning, ma’am. This way to the elevators.”

As they left the lobby, Grace’s clogs clomped on the gleaming bare floor. At least her escort wouldn’t hear her thudding heart.

“No matter what, when you see your warrior, smile.”

Anna RichlandAuthor Info

Anna lives with her quietly funny Canadian husband and two less quiet children in a century-old house in Seattle. Like the heroine of her debut paranormal romantic suspense novel, First to Burn, Anna joined the army to pay tuition, a decision that led to a career on four continents.

She donates a portion of her book proceeds to two charities: the Fisher House Foundation, which provides free accommodations near military hospitals for families of wounded soldiers in the US and Great Britain, and Doctors Without Borders, which delivers emergency medical care in more than sixty crisis zones world-wide.

To sign up for Anna’s newsletter and find out about her next release, The Second Lie (The Immortal Vikings, Book Two), visit her website at www.annarichland.com

Author Links

Website: http://www.annarichland.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnnaRichlandAuthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7440825.Anna_Richland

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Classically beautiful: Beneath the Scars by Melanie Moreland (Review)

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An ocean retreat in Main where the beauty meets the beast and makes him love her. But where love comes easily, trust seems as elusive as a handful of sand…

This review tour is brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win the following goodies (ends Oct 27):

  • 4 ebooks of Beneath the Scars (INTL)
  • 2 signed Paperbacks of Beneath the Scars (US/Canada only) with book marks
  • 1 package of Into the Storm/Beneath the Scars Paperbacks with bookmarks – both signed (US/Canada only)

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Beneath the Scars
by Melanie Moreland
Publication date: October 14th 2014

Beneath

My Review

Megan’s life has turned into a nightmare. Having her boyfriend humiliate her in such a destructively public way—the person she trusted implicitly—makes her flee Boston. Her friend’s ocean house on Cliff’s Edge in Main is just the place for her to regroup and maybe even start writing again. She is certain she will be left in peace what with her only neighbor being a renowned recluse. Soon, she discovers he’s also a misanthrope. So why is she drawn to him so much?

Zachary’s only companion is his art. And his shaggy golden retriever; the only being he touches anymore. Until the stupid girl next door needs his rescuing. So he is forced not only to touch her but to also hold her, feel her against him. And now all these buried needs rush forward.

With the only currency he was used to dealing in—his face—partially destroyed along with his faith in people and their motives, is there a chance for him and Megan to work out? And when her ex’s deceit spins out of control, and the first thing thing that crashes is their fragile trust, will Megan have the strength to give Zachary a second chance?

This novel starts out in a quiet, lulling manner in sync with the soft waves breaking on the shore—the main setting of the story. The soft, sweet, well-rounded writing reminded me of older romances, and having read lots of choppy, vibrant New Adult stories recently, I was worried my interest might wane. But the plot is surprisingly strong. When the main conflict comes about, I was stunned at the ferocity of the situation and left wondering of how this mess will be resolved.

Zachary’s backstory is well presented, making his disposition plausible and his reaction to events more or less predictable. The good kind of predictable. I also appreciated how Melanie Moreland builds up her story gradually; two thirds into the book and the reader still doesn’t have vital info on both the main characters’ past. Another positive aspect was the slow road to the book’s HEA. The way things turned out, a rushed embrace with the ocean’s horizon as a backdrop would have been eye-roll inducing. But this one takes its time, so the beautiful epilogue is worth the wait.

The only thing that slightly got to me was that Megan is too sweet—bordering on naive. She’s an angel-like character; a somewhat old-fashioned romance heroine. Of course, Zachary makes up for any excess sweetness, so things are nicely balanced. Also, while used to crass language in romances, the F-bombs here seemed a bit forced.

If you enjoy classically romantic stories in an idyllic seascape setting with a strong plot Beneath the Scars is just right for you.

Official synopsis

The sound of the ocean, the crash of the waves as they kick up against the sand and rocks—these are the only sounds Megan Greene wants to hear. She wants to leave the rest of the world behind, and find some peace.

The offer of a private house on the beach, set in a small town in Maine, is perfect. Time to think—to be by herself. It’s all she wants. It’s the escape she needs.

Until she stumbles across the painting that seems to echo her own chaotic mindset.

Until she meets the unfriendly artist behind the stormy painting and discovers his secrets.

All Zachary Adams wants is to be left alone. His canvases, and the unending scope of the ocean and sand, are his life. They direct him—fill his hours. Bring him focus.

Until she enters his life.

She dredges up memories of the past—the haunting images he has hidden for years; the fears he has never shared.

A story he keeps buried below the surface.

Can she make him see what he is missing? Can he trust her enough to believe?

Together they embark on a journey where their pasts collide and threaten to tear them apart.

Will their fragile bond hold or wash away with the ebbing tide?

MelanieAuthorPicAUTHOR BIO

Melanie Moreland lives a happy and content life in a quiet area of Ontario with her husband and fur children. Nothing means more to her than her friends and family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them.

Known as the quiet one with the big laugh, Melanie works for the sporting teams of a local university. Her (box) office job, while demanding, is rewarding as she cheers on her team to victory.

While seriously addicted to coffee, and somewhat challenged with all things computer-related and technical, she relishes baking, cooking, and trying new recipes for people to sample. She loves to throw dinner parties and socialize, and also enjoys travelling, here and abroad, but finds coming home is always the best part of any trip.

Melanie delights in writing a good romance story with some bumps along the way, but is a true believer in happily ever after. When her head isn’t buried in a book, it is bent over a keyboard, furiously typing away as her characters dictate their creative storylines, to her even more inspired tales, for all to enjoy.

Author links:
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Alex by Sawyer Bennett (Review)

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A steamy sports romance, starring a bad-boy NHL star might be just what the doctor ordered for October. This one packs powerful psychological portraits of adults dealing with childhood abuse. Read on for my review and don’t forget to enter the Giveaway for an Alex Crossman/Cold Fury team jersey! This review tour is brought to you by Tasty Book Tours.

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Cover

Alex

Cold Fury Hockey # 1
By: Sawyer Bennett
Releasing October 14th, 2014
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Goodreads Link

Goodreads Series Link

My Review

Alex is a machine. He plays hockey like a machine, he beds women like a machine (I used the other word in my Goodreads review) he socializes like a machine–as in not at all. Fans of Cold Fury, his team, love to hate him. He’s the MVP, as in the Most Valuable Prick.

But the team’s management want their star player to work on his social profile. Or else. Alex now has to deal with some social worker on a drug prevention outreach program. Life sucks. But the surprisingly young and beautiful social worker doesn’t, so he decides to show her both spaces he owns: the pitch and the bedroom. He even resorts to showing her his gentleman side: he warns her that he’s going to break her heart. Because that’s all he’s capable of, right?

Sutton Price knows very well what she’s getting herself into. But Alex’s abusive background, bits and pieces of which surface especially during their post-coital bliss, hit very close to home: she’d been there herself, only she chose the path of acceptance and forgiveness, and she wants more than anything to help Alex involve more emotions than anger, hatred and apathy. But when he gets there, fear and insecurity also creep in and mire everything. With his father always devastatingly present in his life, and a career with an expiry date he needs to focus on, how can Alex give Sutton what she needs?

This sports-themed NA romance had some surprising elements. First of all, it offered the male point of view as well. In the case of a damaged, withdrawn hero, especially if he’s in the star (rock or sports) category, it is not often that we get to see his mind at work with extra insight into his childhood; the source of all evil. Usually, his behavioral pattern is explained in the final stages of the plot through dialogue or revelations of a third party. In the case of Alex, however, not only he knew exactly what mindset he was in and what caused it, but we get a front-row seat to vivid scenes of his hair-raising childhood in the hands of a father destroyed by alcohol and his own demons.

The other element I appreciated was the presentation of the two different paths an abused child can follow in life: Sutton shared experiences with Alex, but she embraced her past in an empowering, creative way. But Sutton’s way, although acknowledged by Alex, causes further rift between them, as self-doubt and even envy tipping towards jealousy manage to further distance him from her. These subtle psychological insights made the book stand out from the lot.

The sex scenes are frequent and steamy, but they’re not there just to underline the hero’s prowess; they also help to move the plot forward as that’s where Alex’s psyche is gradually revealed.

Ms Bennett’s writing is efficient, adeptly delving into the characters’ true essence. The only thing that got to me was big chunks of narration revealed in the form of thoughts during an on-going scene, inevitably using past perfect. For example, someone would wake up and start getting ready for the day, thinking about what happened the day before. Quite a number of scenes were presented that way. Other than that, this was a smooth read.

If you enjoy reading sports romances with seriously hot, seriously damaged heroes, but want a deeper portrayal than just of their physical attributes, you should consider picking Alex up—pun intended 🙂

Sawyer BennettAbout the Author

USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett is a snarky Southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. Her husband works for a Fortune 100 company which lets him fly all over the world while she stays at home with their daughter and three big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.

Author Links
Website: http://www.sawyerbennett.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bennettbooks
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bennettbooks
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6950682.Sawyer_Bennett

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Honest and raw: Shameless by Nina Lemay (NA romance)

Shameless

by Nina Lemay
Amazon

Goodreads

My Review

Hannah flees her suffocatingly boring Minnesota home town to study art in a prestigious English speaking university in Montreal. With a barbed wire firmly set around her small frame because of a mistake that branded her the wrong way back home, she shuns everyone out and when finances become an issue, she becomes a cliché. She starts stripping to pay for college. She becomes Alicia. Most patrons at the club are your average gross, bald, middle aged guys who, on the one hand want to grope her (not allowed) but on the other want to mend her. Soon, the sensitive skin she has on display becomes thick, and life goes on. But one guy—young and hot—seems to neither want to grope nor mend her. It hurts when it shouldn’t, and she tries to shrug it off, until she sees him again. As the teacher of her Classic Photography class. Where she wears Converse, large sweaters and not a speck of make up. And what’s worse? The hot guy—no, teacher—might not have wanted Alicia, but he sure wants Hannah. A lot. That’s when lots of stuff hit the fan.

This NA really blew me away! The depiction of life in strip clubs was raw and evocative, but it avoided all the clichés we’re fed up seeing in films. The writer paints a vivid but not necessarily ugly picture of the girls. Sure, some of them end in the gutter, but some do not. And Hannah is determined not to. Although the obstacles that are thrown her way are overwhelmingly difficult to surpass, she finds the inner strength she didn’t know she had to fight back. I won’t give you the outcome, but this is one book I wouldn’t mind not having a traditional HEA. It was so good to read a fully fleshed-out character who stands her ground unwaveringly even if it means she’ll lose it all.

The male character, Emmanuel, is sweet and the perfect material to become a book boyfriend, but he was a weak link in the story. I’m not entirely sure I was rooting for him in the end. But I loved the way he treated Hannah (or ‘Annah as he is French) and the trips they took around Montreal and Quebec City were truly beautiful. I also loved the setting. Original, rich and … very Canadian 🙂

The writing is fantastic! One of the best NA I’ve read this year. Gritty and raw but with deep empathy and an ability to delve deep into the main characters’ psyche.

If you enjoy New Adult romances that are not buttery sweet, and feel you want to take a ride on the wild side, Shameless is what you should try.

I was offered a copy of this book by Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Link: Amazon

About the Author

Nina Lemay is a YA writer by day and author of sinfully twisted New Adult…well, also by day. She loves all things dark and edgy and never tires of tormenting her characters. While Nina is a fan of all things scary, Gothic, and fantastic, she doesn’t shy away from a gritty contemporary romance when the muse strikes. She lives in Montreal, a city that never fails to inspire, with her partner and her dog.

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A heart-warming tale of healing wounds: Leaving Liberty by Virginia Carmichael

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Book & Author details:
Leaving Liberty by Virginia Carmichael
Publication date: July 1st 2013
Genres: Adult, Romance
Purchase link: Amazon

My review

Don’t you just love libraries? You might own a Kindle like me to fix your need for read, but don’t you get that fuzzy, warm feeling blooming in you when you immerse yourself in the dim glow of a true library? The quiet rustling of paper, the smell of leather and old paper? And won’t you get a sense of loss if your favorite library had to close down? Now, imagine this to have been your shelter from an abusive parent, the only place where you’d find peace and a sense of purpose. Wouldn’t you want to defend its existence with everything you’ve got?

That’s the story of Daisy. She returns to her small town and her childhood nightmares to attend the funeral of the elderly librarian: the only person who saw her potential. It’s supposed to be a one-day trip, but the mayor’s plan to demolish the almost condemned library due to lack of restoration funds, makes her reconsider fleeing. The frustratingly calm and handsome Lane, the police officer with the hero complex, messes with her resolution even more, but nothing good can come of their attraction. His heart has already been broken by an out-of-town girl, and she just can’t imagine reliving the terror of being branded as the town drunk’s daughter. He needs her to stay forever, she needs to go for good. Will their pull heal their wounds?

The story has all the nostalgic, heart-warming elements you’d expect to find in a small-town community; beautiful locations, genuine, fleshed-out characters, but its strongest aspect is the writing. Ms Carmichael can really add bold strokes of poignant emotion to a rather sweet, pastel-colored story of pure love, pure characters and reliance on faith. This is a faith-based clean romance, but the writing compensates with spurts of interesting banter and subtle but effective humor. Although too clean for my own taste—slow-building with frequent references to the small-town self-righteousness you either love or hate—it was a story that I enjoyed reading mainly because the writing was solid and surprisingly evocative.

If you enjoy reading sweet romances with a strong religious streak, you won’t want to leave Leaving Liberty.

Make sure you enter the awesome giveaway to grab the goodies listed below (the links will take you to the products in their respective Etsy stores)

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Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)
Awesome swag pack with the following (will be customized with the winner’s preferred name)

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Official Synopsis:

At eighteen, Daisy McConnell left Liberty, Colorado and never looked back. The only bright spot in a childhood of neglect and loneliness was the town librarian, Marie. Now settled as a teacher in sunny Fresno, Daisy does her best to forget everything about Liberty including her drunk father, her MIA mother, and the town she hated with every beat of her heart.
 
Lane Bennett’s life as a small town cop is pretty close to perfect. He’s got his dog, a pretty date when he needs one, and plenty of time to fish on the weekends. No other place can compare to his hometown and he’s happy to devote his life to keeping the folks of Liberty safe. When Marie passes away, Lane knows one of the best parts about living in Liberty is gone, along with the old Carnegie library. It needs repairs the city can’t afford and the city managers won’t pay the new flood insurance. It’s too bad, but safety comes first.

When Daisy comes home for Marie’s funeral and hears the only safe place she knew as a child is going to close, she refuses to let it happen. She hatches a plan to save the old library, run the summer reading program, and keep Marie’s legacy alive.

She once vowed never to come home and he’s vowed never to leave. Daisy and Lane discover together that true love happens when you least expect it and you should never say never in Liberty.
 

AUTHOR BIO

Virginia was born near the Rocky Mountains and although she has traveled around the world, the wilds of Colorado run in her veins. A big fan of the wide open sky and all four seasons, she believes in embracing the small moments of everyday life. A home schooling mom of six young children who rarely wear shoes, those moments usually involve a lot of noise, a lot of mess, or a whole bunch of warm cookies. Virginia holds degrees in Linguistics and Religious Studies from the University of Oregon. She lives with her habanero-eating husband, Crusberto, who is her polar opposite in all things except faith. They’ve learned to speak in short-hand code and look forward to the day they can actually finish a sentence. In the meantime, Virginia thanks God for the laughter and abundance of hugs that fill her day as she plots her next book.
 

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