A MelanieM Review:Locked (Telluric Realm #1) by Anyta Sunday

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

LockedA curse threatens the Winter Kingdom.
A brother is turned to ice.
A rebel uprising is on the horizon.

Marble-maker Rye Cunnings is at the center of it all—and doesn’t know it.

He doesn’t know he’s the lost summer prince. Doesn’t know his blood can unlock Winter’s curse. Doesn’t know why the marbles he makes flutter with magic. All he thinks is that he’s crazy. That he sees things others don’t, like dragons and strange markings on his skin.

But when a dark dragon snatches away Rye’s only friend Milo, he is forced to face the crazy in his life and figure out a way to bring Milo back.

Help comes in the form of Cerdic Leit, a warrior who finds Rye to take him “home” to the Telluric Realm and their kind. All Rye has to do is follow him into Gatreau, the gateway to the four Telluric kingdoms, and all his questions will be answered.

In the hopes of saving Milo, Rye steps into this new and dangerous world. A world where he learns of the Tellurics and their Hansian foes. A world that is swept up in a bitter battle of justice and hate.

And a world that won’t let Rye leave again.

I adore a wonderful fantasy saga and Anyta Sunday’s latest novel, Locked, has all the markings of making it into my top  fantasy list.  Its the first in her new series, Telluric Realm, and it sets the ground work not only for her series universe, which includes multiple dimensions, but a cast of characters complete with dragons, kingdoms at war, lost princes and curses that will break your heart.

We jump into Rye’s life as he’s running, fleeing actually, towards the comfort of his marble shop, Marvels Marbles:

Rye Cunnings shivered and hoofed it down the cobblestone road, fixed on the slice of his marble store ahead. This was just another morning. Just another morning.

A drizzly dawn fingered through the low-hanging mist creeping along Bristol’s narrow streets. Lamppost lights flickered and blinked out, sucking their murky reflections from deep puddles. Rain hit Rye’s neck and face and the palm he pressed against his chest. The drops snaked down his sleeve and mixed with the blood at his wrist. It tingled, and Rye dabbed his cuff over the cut—a circle intersected with twelve loops.

A cut that he’d gouged out with his keys, following the shimmery pattern that had marked his skin for as long as he could remember.

 

Already, the author has told us so many things, there’s a  spooky pattern playing out in Rye’s life, he has an odd design on his wrist and his cuts the pattern repeatedly.  That’s just the opening paragraphs, the following ones just cement your curiosity about this haunted man, the incredible marbles he makes that give him so much peace and perhaps act as a balm in more ways than one.

The action starts in too.  Anyta Sunday is not content to “tell you” but picks up the pace of her narrative (which was already fast), to whip along at dragon flight speed.  There is plenty of action, oodles of subterfuge,  political bad history between the kingdoms, lost princes and other back history for the author to lay out.  Oh and romances as well. Three of them to be exact if I’m following the threads here, not just the main characters, which is a total delight.

But, a cautionary note, the romances are of the slow building type.  You can see it happening, the chemistry the  author has created between several couples in her story is delicious.  Its the wonderful dialogs, great scenes, that deliver in some cases (ok, more than one) the prickliness and snark, the huge misunderstandings and the betrayals, but the actual falling, verbally, in love?  The commitment and the kissing? Don’t expect to see here.  It will have to be won, and too much will have occurred between all of the characters here  for that to have happened.  Trusts need to be rebuilt, and in some cases, people will need to be…well never mind, laughing, I’ll let those bits to the story and storyteller.

As I said before this is a long tale, with a saga’s worth a world building to layout for the reader.  At times, it gets a bit bogged down under the weight but it quickly picks up steam again.  And, honestly, you need that information later on in the story and series.

Sunday’s descriptions of fights and action are tremendous, I see the action happening as though it was just in front of me.  There are more than a few white-knuckle moments here and they were outstanding in making me wonder at the outcome, for the book and our hero (even as I knew there was a sequel coming).

Only the ending left me a little hanging. It felt less complete  and more like a setup for the next story.  Its really the only reason this story didn’t get a 5 star rating.  But I suppose that as saga’s go, I’ll settle for that and eagerly await the next installment in the Telluric Realm.

I’ll leave you with a  dream that Rye constantly has:

 

He lay back, practiced emptying his mind, and tossed and turned toward sleep.

Then, like a heavy weight plunging into deep water, Rye sank into The Dream.

She was there again, standing in a narrow alley, a slip of light overhead and a black shaft gripped in her hand. She held herself straight, chin up, honeycomb hair spilling over her shoulders. With a flick of her wrist, the shaft extended to the length of a cane and she stilled, statuesque for a long moment, and then spun into a fluid dance, the sharp end of the shaft cutting easily into the ground.

From inside her coat she pulled a vial and poured a glittering fluid over the markings she’d made. She flipped the shaft to its bristly end and traced the glitter over the wreath of symbols at her feet.

She came close, filling his vision.

“Shhh,” she said softly. “He won’t get you.”

His vision blurred to a curtain of golden hair, then sharpened, and her figure shrank away. The edges of the dream warped, distorted. There was a flash of orange light, followed by the woman’s wretched, agonized scream.

The alley entrance darkened as a scaled body slunk past, and then swiveled…

Fierce black eyes glared at him through thick plumes of smoke. One massive ball of fire shot out and bounced back at him. The dragon reared back, wings shooting out, belly expanding. Its jaws parted, jetting out a mighty burst of flame…

Again, the fire bounced.

The ground shook as the animal slammed against the alley entrance and roared. Then he flew overhead, diving down toward them. Again, something blocked him. Over and over he tried, retreating and slamming, retreating and slamming, retreating. . .

The dream warbled again, jerky

Do I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  Its exciting, its adventurous, highly imaginative and kept me glued to my Kindle until it was over.  Just how I love my fantasy tales to be told.

 

Cover Design: Natasha Snow is lovely, with just a hint of the designs that cover Rye’s body.

Map Design: Renflowergrapx

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 330 pages
Published April 26th 2016
ASIN B01DX3EAZQ
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Rhythm & Blues by Shae Connor

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Rhythm and BluesPate Hawkins wanted to be a dancer from the moment he stepped into a dance studio at age ten, and he’s among the few who achieved his dream of being well-known to Broadway audiences. But he’s returned to Atlanta, his hometown, pursuing his backup dream—to open a dance studio where he can inspire young talents to go for their dreams. A severe knee injury ended his career on Broadway, but with a few more months left in his therapy, he knows he’s going to dance again—just not in a Broadway show.

Finding a fifteen thousand square foot space ideal to suit his needs, and getting the financing through his trust fund, the only thing left is to interview a few contractors and move forward with his plans. When six-foot tall, blue-eyed, muscular Ace Samson shows up to get the specs for his company’s bid, Pate is hit in the gut with desire, and if the look Ace gives him is any indication, the feeling may be mutual. Ace also informs him that they went to school together, and after being stunned into silence, Pate learns Ace is none other than nerdy little Horace Samson who was a few years behind Pate in high school.

Holding off on acting on his desire for Ace is a test of Pate’s resolve, but he doesn’t want a fling to cause a rift between them while the building is still under renovation. Unfortunately, or fortunately, that becomes impossible one steamy afternoon, and the two embark on what turns out to be so much more than a one-night stand. Pate’s agent won’t stop bugging him about keeping his name at the forefront of director’s minds so he can come back once he’s got the studio established, so when she arranges an interview for a new show, he takes off to appease her. And that’s when the ax falls on his relationship, and Pate realizes just how much he doesn’t want to lose Ace. How will Ace react to Pate’s audition? Will the two find happiness in their hometown, or will the lure of Broadway be too much for Pate to resist?

I enjoyed this story by an author I haven’t read enough from. This story is engaging, with great secondary characters and three-dimensional main characters that made me want to like them the moment we met. I always enjoy a slow burn/UST, and we get that with this story. And the artist who lies within the heart of the big handsome contractor is just as nice as the surprise he gives Pate when the studio is ready.

If you like sweet MM romances with a slow burn that ultimately leads to some smoking hot times, this one is for you.

~~~~~~

Cover Art by AngstyG depicts a male dancer leaping high in the air in a dance move reminiscent of a Broadway show and set on a light blue background. This represents both the story about this retired dancer and the mural painted by the artist who also happens to be a contractor. Very nicely done.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 70 pages
Expected publication: June 20th 2016 by Self
ASINB01F0X40Y8
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lila Review: Enemies of the State by Tal Bauer

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Enemies of the StateThe prologue sets the suspense arc in the story and brings the reader into the heart of Washington DC.

We first meet Special Agent Ethan Reichenbach on Christmas Eve as he guards President-Elect Jack Spiers. They’re at the President’s Austin, TX apartment getting ready to travel for the presidential inauguration. This night marks the starts of a friendship frown upon the Secret Service, but that would change their lives.

Life as President of the United States isn’t what Jack expected. He had not problems dealing with his political counterparts or advisors, but the lack of a personal life is keeping him off balance. As a widower with no children, he has no family living with him at the White House residence, and he spends most of his spare time with Secret Service agents that wouldn’t engage him in a simple conversation. It’s up to Ethan, his detail supervisor, to find a way to help the president adjust to his new reality.

This new friendship would keep them sane as they deal with the realities of their jobs. As time passes, they found themselves at the mercy of external forces trying to change the world’s political balance. Their relationship turns into an exploration of something more, and simple decisions would affect, not only their partnership but world peace.

Enemies of the State is a political thriller that happens to have two male main characters. There are three sets of narrators in this book. One brings the chaos into the MCs’ lives, as well as, into the world of politics. The second tries to stop the plans from the first group before they can accomplish their goals. And lastly, we have Ethan and Jack dealing with world threats as their friendship morphs into a loving relationship.

There’s no easy way to review this story without spoiling the outcome. Each chapter starts with a briefing of the political events taking place between chapters. Some of them are short and to the points, but others introduce too much political information for a leisure reader. In order to truly enjoy this story, you need a basic knowledge of global politics and current threats. That’s the only reason I took away from the stories rating.

The amount of characters involved can be overwhelming, and sometimes you have to read a passage twice to keep them all straight, but the further you read, the easier it’s to follow all the events developing concurrently. There’s never an idle moment. Something is happening at all times even when the main characters are relaxing and spending a comfortable afternoon together.

The location descriptions are accurate, and even simple things like weather patterns and smells play an important part in the story. The amount of detail is impressive and well distributed. We get to see exactly what the characters saw and what they experienced. The reader is always on the narrator’s side, being part of the events.

Yes, this story has a good dose of romance and sexual exploration, but it’s more than that. The political events are as important as the main characters’ relationship and without them, it would be another bodyguard/protectee cliché. The author did an excellent job creating a world, realistic enough, to set the love story. Their relationship goes beyond lust, and it’s based on everyday interaction and complete trust– a slow build with a fulfilling HEA ending.

The images in the cover matched the main characters descriptions very well, and the rest of the composition shows the main ideas of the story perfectly.

Sale Links: NineStar | Amazon | ARe

Book Details: 

ebook, 324 pages
Published: February 15, 2016, by NineStar Press
ISBN: 9781911153337
Edition Language: English

Series: The Executive Office
Book #1: Enemies of the State

 

E.J. Russell On Characters, Inspiration, and ‘Stumptown Spirits’ (guest blog and giveaway)

Standard

StumptownSpirits_600x900

Stumptown Spirits by E.J. Russell
R
iptide Publishing
Cover Artist L.C. Chase

Read An Excerpt/Buy It Here

********

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have E.J. Russell here this morning to talk about her novel, Stumptown Spirits, and the inspiration behind her characters.  Welcome, E.J.!

********

Maybe because I was an actor for years, or maybe because I’m an introvert and all my best conversations occur in my head, my first drafts are always dialogue-heavy. In fact, some **cough**most**cough** scenes might be dialogue only on that first pass. I have to force myself to write description. Consequently, to make that process as easy as possible . . .

I cheat.

It’s a method I use all the time in my day job — copy and paste.

Okay, with descriptions it’s a little more effort than that — I still have to write the words. But if I find pictures of major story elements, I can look at them and just, you know, describe them.

So before I start the actual first draft of any book, I have to find pictures of my main characters. For Stumptown Spirits, I happened on a picture of Dylan O’Brien and Tyler Hoechlin cuddled together on a boat, Dylan’s arm around Tyler’s shoulders, Tyler’s finger on Dylan’s lips.

Hello.

Then I found a picture of Dylan O’Brien in glasses and that was it. Game over.

That’s right—I was totally shipping Sterek—Stiles and Derek from Teen Wolf.

Since this particular ship is extremely popular in Teen Wolf fandom—and the two actors obviously get a huge kick out of teasing the fans along—locating other images wasn’t too difficult. My Pinterest inspiration board got littered with all kinds of fabulous pins. Things like Tyler kissing a smiling Dylan on the cheek. The two of them lying in bed, Dylan’s hand on Tyler’s shoulder and Tyler gripping Dylan’s wrist (with the bonus of the very nice definition in Dylan’s upper arm, courtesy of a rucked-up T-shirt sleeve). Oh, yeah. And that fan art illustration of a shirtless Derek pinning Stiles against the wall, obviously one breath away from a pretty steamy kiss? Unfortunately, I didn’t find that one until after I wrote the book.

But what the heck. I’m always game for another Sterek shot.

Here’s the board, if you’d like to take a look. https://www.pinterest.com/ejrussell/stumptown-spirits/

And that first picture? Dylan and Tyler on the boat (shipping themselves, the sly devils)? The description of that picture makes a cameo appearance in Stumptown Spirits—as the wallpaper on Riley’s laptop.

About Stumptown Spirits

What price would you pay to rescue a friend from hell?

For Logan Conner, the answer is almost anything. Guilt-ridden over trapping his college roommate in a ghost war rooted in Portland’s pioneer past, Logan has spent years searching for a solution. Then his new boyfriend, folklorist Riley Morrel, inadvertently gives him the key. Determined to pay his debt—and keep Riley safe—Logan abandons Riley and returns to Portland, prepared to give up his freedom and his future to make things right.

Crushed by Logan’s betrayal, Riley drops out of school and takes a job on a lackluster paranormal investigation show. When the crew arrives in Portland to film an episode about a local legend of feuding ghosts, he stumbles across Logan working at a local bar, and learns the truth about Logan’s plan.

Their destinies once more intertwined, the two men attempt to reforge their relationship while dodging a narcissistic TV personality, a craven ex-ghost, and a curmudgeonly bar owner with a hidden agenda. But Logan’s date with destiny is looming, and his life might not be the only one at stake.

About EJ Russell

E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.

E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Connect with E.J.:

StumptownSpirits_TourBanner

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Stumptown Spirits, EJ is giving away $25 in Riptide credit. Leave a comment to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 21, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Legend Tripping

The ghost that walks at midnight . . . The man who transforms into a beast . . . The sinister figure lurking in the shadow of dreams . . .

The door between our world and . . . something other.

There’s a reason why such legends persist in every country, every region, every town.

They’re real.

For most, they’re the stuff of nightmares, terrors to be avoided. But for others, they’re an irresistible challenge—a chance to raise the ghost, stalk the beast, open that inter-dimensional door, and say “It’s all true, and I’ve lived to tell the tale.”

These legend trippers are in it for the thrill, the adventure—and sometimes, when they least expect it, for love.