Down Under Day 19: Author Tony Griffin, AUS/NZ Facts of the Day!

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Welcome, Toni Griffin!

It’s Day 19 of our Down Under Author Showcase and our featured writer today is Toni Griffin!  Toni lives in Darwin and write a number of supernatural romance series, including shifters!  Toni is also involved in a new publishing company along with Angel Martinez, Freddie McKay and Silvia Violet in Mischief Corner Books which put out one of my favorite holiday anthologies in 2014, Chestnuts Roasting, including a story from Toni Griffin!

Visit Toni Griffin’s page which  follows shortly, learn about Toni, her books and writing and don’t forget to enter her giveaway contest and find the Down Under Scavenger Hunt word of the Day.

Australia Fact of the Day!

Today’s Down Under Australia  fact will be about Darwin, Toni’s home town!Darwin map

Darwin is the capital of Northern Territory is a multicultural city famous for its huge thunderstorms, beautiful sunsets,mindell beach marketsDarwin_2324 colourful Mindil Beach Markets and excellent barramundi fishing. Places to see include the Northern Territory Parliament House, Fannie Bay Gaol Museum, Darwin Entertainment Centre and Botanic Gardens. Outside are Charles Darwin National Park, Crocodylus Park, Territory Wildlife Park and Berry Springs Nature Park.

Who was Darwin named after?  Charles Darwin, the man came up with the concept of natural selection and evolution.  darwin

Find out more about Darwin here!

 

 

 

New Zealand Fact of the Day!

Since I chose a city for Australia, let’s take a closer look at New Zealand’s Christchurch.

Christchurch is New Zealand‘s second-largest city (question: can you name the first?) and the gateway to the South Island. christchurch cathedral new-zealand_zpse7b0c64dSumner Bay, Christchurch NZBordered by hills and the Pacific Ocean, it is situated on the edge of the Canterbury Plains that stretch to the Southern Alps. Christchurch, New Zealand is interwoven by two rivers linking parks, gardens and avenues. Bordered by the Port Hills and the Pacific Ocean, it is situated on the Canterbury Plains with the Southern Alps as a majestic backdrop. The award-winning Christchurch Botanic Gardens feature one of the finest collections of exotic and native plants found in New Zealand,

In February 2011, Christchurch was hit by a huge earthquake. Much of the central city with its classic neo-gothic architecture was destroyed.  This event was a major element in a book from one of our Down Under Authors.  Do you know which one? It’s still in the process of rebuilding, but the heart and soul of New Zealand remains the great people who live there. tram1

An Aurora YA Review: Tales From High Hallack Volume Three by Andre Norton

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Tales From High Hallack 3In the third and final volume of High Hallack, tales of high fantasy, science fiction, and coming of age reach back as far as 1943, yet are still as fresh and relevant today as when they were written. High Hallack was a place in Andre Norton’s fiction and was also the name of the genre writer’s library she opened in Tennessee. It is a wondrous keep that she called home, and now High Hallack opens its gates and allows these amazing stories to unfold.

 

This book is a compilation of short stories, all taking place within the same world, but not necessarily interconnected. It focuses largely on high fantasy elements.

I really had a great time reading this book, and it’s definitely one that I would have picked up even if I had just seen it on a shelf somewhere. Some of the stories had be so on edge that I read through them again simply to get the thrill of it. I think that the author really captures making very real characters in very ridiculous circumstances, which is always something that I love to see in my fantasies. Short stories can often fall short in making you really care about the characters in such a short amount of time, but that is really not a problem with this book. I found myself, with many of the stories, even wishing that they could have gone on longer!

The book only lost a star because, while I absolutely loved a lot of the stories in the book, some of them weren’t quite suited to my fancy, which is a matter entirely of personal opinion and every story was very well written, my interest levels just varied throughout the book.

Cover Artist: L.C. Chase. The cover art is simple, but pretty and well suited to the book. I think the dark color scheme definitely makes it appealing, while the bright color of the fire draws the readers eyes to the bottom of the page where the artist wants them to look.

A MelanieM Note:  I first discovered Andre Norton when I was about Aurora’s age and have loved her writings ever since.  I was curious when I saw this new collection of her stories just published.  Would this generation of YA readers find her as relevant and exciting as I found her all those years (decades if I am honest) ago?  Happily, it turns out the answer is yes,  Andre Norton and her stories are timeless.  Pick them up and discover that for yourself!

Sales Links:      Open Road Media    amazon             Buy It  Here

Book Details:

ebook, 300 pages, also in paperback
Published October 14th 2014 by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (first published January 1st 2014)
ISBN 1497660378 (ISBN13: 9781497660373)
seriesTales from High Hallack #3

Tales from High Hallack Collections by Andre Norton:

Tales From High Hallack, Volume 1: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton, Volume 1
Tales from High Hallack, Volume 2: the collected short stories of Andre Norton
Tales from High Hallack, Volume Three: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton

An Aurora YA Review: Children of the Knight (Children of the Knight #1) by Michael J. Bowler

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

Children of the Knight coverAccording to legend, King Arthur is supposed to return when Britain needs him most. So why does a man claiming to be the once and future king suddenly appear in Los Angeles?

This charismatic young Arthur creates a new Camelot within the City of Angels to lead a crusade of unwanted kids against an adult society that discards and ignores them. Under his banner of equality, every needy child is welcome, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gang affiliation.

With the help of his amazing First Knight, homeless fourteen-year-old Lance, Arthur transforms this ragtag band of rejected children and teens into a well-trained army—the Children of the Knight. Through his intervention, they win the hearts and minds of the populace at large, and gain a truer understanding of themselves and their worth to society. But seeking more rights for kids pits Arthur and the children squarely against the rich, the influential, and the self-satisfied politicians who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo.

Can right truly overcome might? Arthur’s hopeful young knights are about to find out, and the City of Angels will never be the same.

 

Arthur, a boy apparently the reborn King Arthur, of legend, is in Los Angeles, California, with a Camelot of his very own, fighting the oppressive nature of the city with an admirable message of equality and acceptance.

I think this book had a really original idea behind it, which was something that I immediately loved, with so many books marketed toward young adults seeming like a copy of The Hunger Games or Twilight or Harry Potter. This book definitely didn’t seem like that, and the author took the idea that had a lot of potential, and transformed it into a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was interesting to see an attitude toward the adult world from someone who hadn’t quite reached adulthood yet, and seeing a young person fighting for something they really believed in, in an inclusive way. The book sends a great message without being overt about it, or pushing the theme to the point where it distracts from the actual story.

The characters were great, as well, and, again, the original idea behind the story fueled my interest at the beginning, but before long, I really cared about the characters and wanted to know how their journeys were going to play out. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it very highly.

Cover Artist: Reese Dante. I’ve said this before, and it is absolutely my own personal bias, but I simply don’t enjoy photo-edited covers as much as drawn covers except in very rare cases. That being said, this cover is well put together, and it is suited to the book, it simply isn’t my cup of tea.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press     All Romance (ARe)      amazon             buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 344 pages
Published June 20th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 19th 2013)
original titleChildren of the Knight
ISBN 1623806569 (ISBN13: 9781623806569)
edition languageEnglish

Series the Knight Cycle:

Children of the Knight #1, The Knight Cycle #1

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Vixen’s Valor by Charlie Cochet

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5:

Vixen's Valour coverSexy, and shall we say slutty, Vixen, one of Santa’s trusted Rein Dear squad has been jealous of his team leader, Rudy, for years. Though Rudy is his friend, Vixen’s now even more envious of Rudy since Rudy captivated the heart of Prince Jack Frost (The Heart of Frost). Always wanting to be the center of attention, Vixen uses his body to entice as many members of the Toy Soldier Army into his bed as possible.

His dreams of one day becoming a prince are unrealistic, but he can’t help himself, and even when presented with an opportunity to date Lieutenant Vale Frost, cousin to the prince, he treats the date casually. Until he starts to notice that he’s interested in more than Vale’s body, and Vale is interested in more of him than a quick and easy tumble in the snow.

Then, just as their relationship begins to mean more to each of them, Vixen betrays Vale’s trust and winning it back nearly costs him his life. Will he succeed? What will happen with his friendship with Rudy? And what awaits Vixen and Vale in the future? You’ll have to pick this up to find out.

This is such a fun series! Charlie Cochet has put together a sweet holiday saga laced with visions of sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers, Santa’s elves, and the highly esteemed Rein Dear squad. Her subtle sense of North Pole humor is woven throughout each of the books in the series, and this one is no exception. Don’t hesitate to pick it up.

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Cover Art by Paul Richmond depicts a sexy Vixen trying to entice a more straight-laced and official-looking Lieutenant Vale Frost into playing some Rein Dear games. Great cover for this story.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press         All Romance (ARe)          amazon                  buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 81 pages
Published December 3rd 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632165183
edition languageEnglish

Series: North Pole City Tales:

  • Mending Noel (North Pole City Tales #1)
  • The Heart of Frost (North Pole City Tales #2)
  • Vixen’s Valor (North Pole City Tales #3)

 

An Aurora YA Review: Of Dreams of Fire and Gods – Gods by James Erich –

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Rating: I give this book 5 out of 5 stars:

A Harmony Ink YA Novel

 

Dreams of Fire and Gods: Book Three

GodsLong ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak in a great war. The Taaweh vanished when their queen was imprisoned, and the Stronni declared victory. A thousand years later, a young nobleman named Sael and his lover Koreh have rescued the Taaweh queen. In the process Koreh was killed, and now an injured Sael struggles to heal from both injuries and grief. Unknown to him, Koreh embarks on a journey across the land of the dead, trying to make his way back to Sael—and to life. But time moves differently in the underworld, and decades pass while Koreh travels.

In the living world, tensions between the emperor and Sael’s father, Vek Worlen, who is regent of the eastern kingdom, have soured beyond repair. Worlen conspires with the assassin Donegh to break into the imperial palace and challenge the emperor to a duel to the death. But the goddess Imen has chosen a young priest named Gonim as her champion. Through him she discovers the Taaweh have returned, and her enraged king threatens to destroy Dasak and all its human inhabitants. Sael must save his world, must confront the gods and persuade them not to destroy humankind. But it seems hopeless. If only Koreh were at his side…

First, I would like to say that I loved this book! Often times, epic books aren’t exactly my cup of tea, and I tend to prefer shorter, more modern-fantasy type stories, but I had an amazing time reading this book, regardless. The only difference between this book and any of my favorite books was that it took me a little while longer to read, but once I’d finished it, and as I was reading it, it was a great experience.

There was great depiction of bigger things while still keeping the characters and problems ‘real’, which is what I loved so much about it and what kept me interested. The author also did a great job of keeping things from getting too confusing while still being on a big scale. I know that this book is one of a series and I haven’t read the others so there are probably some things that I didn’t necessarily appreciate that I could have, but even only reading this book out of them all, I didn’t find myself ever scratching my head and being drawn out of the story.

I would definitely read this again, and I plan to read the rest of the series, and I would recommend it even to people like me who usually reach for shorter books, because it is worth it.

Cover Artist: James Erich. I think this cover is beautiful, and it’s one of the few times I would actually probably favor a photo-edited cover over the exact same premise, but drawn, because it just seems more realistic, and is able to have more details. Because it’s simple, I think it works really well.

Sales Links:   Harmony Ink Press eBook & Paperback         All Romance (ARe)        amazon            buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published October 17th 2013 by Harmony Ink Press (first published October 16th 2013)
ISBN 1627983783 (ISBN13: 9781627983785)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
seriesDreams of Fire and Gods #3

Books in the series include:

Dreams (Dreams of Fire and Gods, #1)
Fire (Dreams of Fire and Gods, #2)
Gods (Dreams of Fire and Gods, #3)

A MelanieM Review: Darach’s Cariad (The Fire Trilogy #2) by R.J. Scott

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Darach's Cariad coverWhere once there were three who were as close as brothers, now there is only one who remains in the land.  Darach Gravenor is a keeper of blue Fire. He is alone in his world because one of them, Eoin, died consumed by his amber fire.  Kian, the second of them has fled to Earth, forever out of reach. All Darach can think of is to follow Kian to the Other World now that Darach is older and able to rescue his friend.  But to accomplish this impossible mission, Darach needs help and from the one people he has always been told were horrors unto themselves and banned from his city.  But Darach knows that a Cariad has crept into their city and been captured.  Now all he has to do is rescue the Cariad and get him to help Darach travel to the Other World.

Ceithin Morgan’s brother Trystan was a wielder of the amber fire, and that was reason alone for someone to kidnap and kill  his beloved brother.  Ceithin seeks answers and revenge upon those who killed Trystan,  answers he believes he can find within the forbidden city.  Ceithin is a member of the Cariad, a nomadic tribe still connected to the old magic.  Captured and tortured for his  power, the last thing he expects is to be rescued by Darach.

Both men are on a mission to find theirs to their lost brothers.  Unexpectedly, their journey and missions find themselves bound them to each other in a way neither could have predicted.  Then they come upon some shocking information, and the search that will bring them both to the Other World and Kian.  Soon it’s not just one world but two worlds that need saving….

Darach’s Cariad is the second story in The Fire Trilogy by RJ Scott.  Scott continues to build her universe and complicated mythology needed for her Fire lore and trilogy structure.  There are three fire powers. Green fire which has the qualities of nature, nuture, and protection.  Blue Fire which gives its user the power over water, and finally Gold or Amber Fire, the rarest, most powerful of them all.  Amber fire is used to rule.  But those born with amber fire are few and they have a tendency to disappear shortly after coming into their powers, a mystery that acts as another primary plot thread throughout all the stories.

I loved the world building here.  We start back on Earth (the Other World) with Regan and Kian from the first story in the trilogy, Kian’s Hunter.  Immediately we know that things and Kian’s health have gotten worse.  For those readers not familiar with the first story, this chapter provides enough information on their story and a tantalizing glimpse into the relationship between Regan and Kian.  From there we are transported back to the City, the ruling Council, and the dungeons with its one despairing occupant.  I loved all the various storylines, layered one on top of the other, and soon, to flow into one central plot that will pull all three books together, along with their characters.

Scott skillfully builds her larger trilogy leitmotif, first in small clues and facts scattered throughout the first part of the story, then gathering momentum as the characters themselves start to pool all their knowledge to arrive at a horrific and shocking revelation.  It helps immensely that we are drawn to the complex characters as much as the characters are mesmerized by each other.  Darach is a wonderful combination of youthful confidence and need.  We get his measure and strength immediately and love him for it.  Ceithin Morgan on the other hand is full of arrogance and pain, a member of the Cariad, a gypsy like clan that are the keepers of the old magic and gateway to the Other World.  The Cariad are as fascinating a tribe as all the other engrossing elements that Scott has created here.  The fire of attraction that ignites between them is hot and sexy and layered over with uncertainty.

There is so much information as to the world building and lore that it can sometimes confuse a reader unfamiliar with Kian’s Hunter, but never once will a little confusion make you want to put this story down.  No, instead, once you have reached the end of this story, the only frustration will be at not having the final story to delve into.  This trilogy is addicting and with the resolution just out of reach by the end of Darach’s Cariad, the reader will be left grasping at the clues and revelations that point to a rich, explosive final story.  Don’t be surprised to find yourself heading back to the first story, Kian’s Hunter and begin the journey all over again while you wait for the final book to arrive.

If you are a lover of fantasy and romance, if the idea of different worlds or realms connected to each other by magical portals grab your imagination, this is the series for you.  You can read Darach’s Cariad out of order but the trilogy is far richer if read in the order they were written.  This is definitely a fantasy must read for all.

Cover artist: Meredith Russell.  The fantasy element is minimal, with just a trace of fire at his hands.  I could wish for a little more of the fantastical worlds that Scott has built for us.

Sales Links:  Love Lane Books    All Romance (ARe)       amazon                 buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 133 pages
Published November 7th 2014 by Love Lane Books (first published January 1st 2011)
edition languageEnglish
url http://rjscottauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/new-cover-art-fire-trilogy.html
seriesThe Fire Trilogy #2

Books in The Fire Trilogy in the order they were written and should be read:

Kian’s Hunter (Fire, #1)
Darach (The Fire Trilogy #2)
Eoin (The Fire Trilogy #3)

 

The stories were previously published at Silver Publishing, but have been revised prior to their re release.

November 2014 Best of the Month Lists

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November 2014 Best Books and Covers

Best Books of November:

So many outstanding novels this month, it was a reader’s cornucopia of  goodness.  The Pulp Friction 2014 is represented by their penultimate stories.  Must have, must reads include Starstruck (a favorite book and series of Barb the Zany Old Lady), Manipulation by Eden Winters (Bo and Lucky are back), a historical romance by Keira Andrews sure to bring out the tissues, and one of the best short stories that should top everyones list, Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall.  Check them out below and the Best Covers of the Month as well.

Cold Day in Hell (In from the Cold #5) by Lee Brazil A MelanieM Review
Final Blow (Whispering Winds #5) (Pulp Friction 2014 #19) by Havan Fellows
Manipulation by Eden Winters
Radiant Burn (Fighting Fire #5) (Pulp Friction 2014 #17) by Laura Harner,
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
Semper Fi by Keira Andrews (4.75)
Starstruck by L.A. Witt (5 stars) A Barb Zany Old Lady Review
Terra Firma (Earthquake #5) by T.A. Webb
Then the Stars Fall by Brandon Witt
The Devil Lancer by Astrid Amara (5 stars) A MelanieM Review
The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
Third Eye by Rick R. Reed
Under the Stars by Geoff Laughton  An Aurora YA Review

 

falls leaves 2Best Covers of November 2014

Key to Behliseth, artist Catt Ford
The Shearing Gun, artist Paul Richmond
Then The Stars Fall, artist Anne Cain

Third Eye, artist Aaron Anderson
Precious Metals, artist April Lee
Sand and Ruin and Gold, Artist Simone
Semper Fi, artist Dar Albert
Sleigh Ride, artist L.C. Chase
Circus of the Damned, artist Kanaxa

 

Third Eye cover

Sand and Gold and Ruin

Then the Stars Fall cover

The Shearing Gun cover

Precious Metals

 

 

 

 

 

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Sleigh Ride cover

Key of Behliseth

Enter the Fantasy World of Alexis Duran and To Catch A Threeve (book tour and contest)

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Alexis Duran is here today! Check out our interview, read the blurb and excerpt and don’t forget to enter the contest at the end of the post!  Happy Reading.

So I was lucky enough to catch Alexis Duran and have her answer a few questions for me.  Here is the fascinating look at Alexis Duran!

Q: I love the title To Catch a Threeve.  Where did that come from?

AD: This is one of those times a title just popped into my head. After I’d come up with the threeves and the plot unfolded in my head, it struck me as perfect (and pretty darn clever, I must say).

Q:Threeve?  Is that something you created or took from established folklore?

AD: Threeves arose out of my own twisted imagination. I love to create my own mythos, especially when the classic ones don’t quite fit my literary needs. If you’re interested in reading more about threeves, I’m writing a blog post on the topic for Rainbow Gold Reviews. It will come out on November 4.

Q: Fantasy is obviously a favorite trope.  Have you always loved fantasy stories?

AD: Yes!

Q: When did your love of fantasy start?

AD: From the first time my mom read my sister and I a fairy tale at bedtime. Going to the drive-in to watch a Disney movie was my idea of pure heaven.

Q: Were you a prolific reader as a child and did you have a favorite story or book that has had a lasting impact on you as an adult and a writer?

AD: Oh, yes. I was that kid, the one with her nose always deeply buried in a book. I think my early outlook, as a story spinner and as a human being, was deeply influenced by the classic fairy tales; Hans Christian Anderson, The Brothers Grimm, The Arabian Nights, plus a rather scary big book of folk tales our German grandmother sent us. I think that book might have sent me down the path of dark fantasy.

Q: Fantasy or urban fantasy?  How do you define them?

AD: There’s no either/ or here for me. I love them both. Fantasy, what you might call classic fantasy, takes place in another world or an earth-like setting in a different time. Usually the author makes use of well-known mythical creatures like elves and fairies, but not always. Urban fantasy happens in the here and now, in worlds similar to this one but with magic. Urban fantasy tends to break the “rules” more often, which can be exciting.

Q: Do you have a favorite fantasy author you read?

AD: I tend to have favorite books rather than authors, but a big favorite is Neil Gaiman. Neverworld is one of my all time BBE’s (Best Book Ever). I also absolutely adored Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. New (to me) writers I’ve recently discovered and plan on stalking are Astrid Amara and Rhys Ford.

Q: Why fantasy?  Why does that resonate with you?

AD: Possibility. Potential. Power. As a kid I deeply believed in magic. As an adult, I strive to recreate that feeling of wonder in my stories. I love the idea of a vast mysterious power source that can save us or destroy us, depending on how we choose to use it.

Q: Favorite fantasy universe if you have one?

AD: Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea. How can I not have mentioned Ursula under favorite authors? Tolkien’s Middle Earth, of course. A bit astray of the fantasy genre is Tom Robbins. He creates magic-tinged worlds I just don’t want to leave.

Q: Old school elf or new mythology elf?  Do you draw from one or both?

AD: Totally depends on the story. My tendency is to start with the with the classic model, then tweak accordingly.

Q: What’s next for Alexis Duran?

AD:I’m mere days away from finishing the next book in the Masters and Mages series, currently titled Blood of Salar. That’s Classic Fantasy. And then I have an Urban Fantasy called Dark Heart nearly completed that I hope my publisher will love as much as I do. My problem is too many ideas, never the opposite. I hope to finish several stories during NaNoWriMo.

Thank you, Alexis Duran, for the great interview and for definitely adding to my TBR pile! And I couldn’t agree with you more about Astrid Amara and Rhys Ford!

 

Book Name: To Catch A Threeve
Author Name: Alexis Duran

Author Bio:

Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing. She’s worked in museums, fashion, finance and film production. Her favorite job so far was Administrative Assistant in a haunted Victorian Mansion.

She’s had several short stories published in the mystery, horror and literary genres and is the author of the Masters and Mages erotic fantasy series. Her fiction has won several awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference. She lives with one dog and four and half cats. She is currently working on the next Masters and Mages novella and several other erotic novellas.

Author Contact:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alexis.duran.18294
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/AlexisSDuran

Publisher: Loose IDTo Catch a Threeve_coverin
Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

Sales Links:  Loose id     amazon

To Catch a Threeve Blurb:

Axel Blackwood catches a thief and is astounded to see that he closely resembles Liam Alloway, the love he lost seven years ago in an attack by the evil woodland folk known as threeves. Axel suspects he’s fallen prey to dark magic, but can’t help becoming infatuated with his prisoner. He’s overwhelmed with the hope that he can at last bring his lost lover home, despite everything that warns him it’s all a diabolical trick. 

Bryn Darrow, the half-threeve, half human orphan sent to trick Axel and rob him of much more than a simple gem finds himself equally as fascinated with his handsome human captor and the lure of someplace to call home, but he knows deep down that the constable is in love with a dangerous illusion. When he’s commanded by the threeves to murder Axel and steal a witch’s powerful grimoire, he’s forced to decide between the only family he’s ever known and the one person who might rescue him from a life of isolation and pain.

Will Axel and Bryn be forced into a deadly confrontation before they can discover the truth?

Categories: Erotica, Fantasy, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance

To Catch a Threeve Excerpt:

“What are you, Bryn Darrow?” Axel asked.

“Wish I knew,” Bryn answered, shaking his head and chuckling. “You can go on pretending I’m this Liam person if you want.”

“If you ever try to act like Liam again, I’ll let Drummond lop your head off. He’s itching to, you know.”

“You started it,” Bryn snapped. “And now you’re getting friendly again.”

Axel jerked his hands away from Bryn’s back as if he’d been burned. “I’m looking for your clan sign. Why’d you remove it?”

“Looking with your fingers instead of your eyes? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind it.” Bryn looked over his shoulder with that annoying, delectable smile. Only the memory of being spelled senseless stopped Axel from resuming his exploration of Bryn’s skin, kissing his neck, pushing him down into the grass—


Pages: 43,000 words/135 pages

ThreeveBadgeTour Dates: October 28, 2014

Tour Stops:  Parker Williams,  My Fiction Nook,  Prism Book Alliance,  Multitasking Mommas,  Inked Rainbow Reads
Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words,  Cate Ashwood,  Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews,  Rainbow Gold Reviews,  Love Bytes,Andrew Q. GordonThe Hat Party,  Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents,  MM Good Book Reviews.  Jade Crystal,
It’s Raining Men,  Michael Mandrake,  Fallen Angel Reviews,  3 Chicks After Dark

 

Contest:  Enter to win Rafflecopter Prize: $10 Loose ID gift card.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Use the Rafflecopter link below for the entry and for all additional contest details.

Rafflecopter Code:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

A MelanieM Review: A Taste for Poison (Memory of Scorpions #3) by Aleksandr Voinov

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.

ATasteForPoison_200x300Once the leader of the band of mercenaries known as the Scorpions, Adrastes is now King and a changed man.  Ruler of two countries, along with his sister/wife, King Adrastes has just survived an assassination, just barely.  In poor health and still recovering, Adrastes trusts no one and is determined to find the assassin and make the individual pay.  Wary of everyone now, including allies and friends, King Adrastes prepares his kingdom for war against the only kingdom and ruler outside his control, the Elder of Vededrin.  But not everyone supports Adrastes, including the man who loved and rescued him, Kendras.

Kendras, former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions, no longer blindly supports his king.  He’s watched Adrastes change and the orders from the King are making him uneasy and reluctant to obey.  And to go to war with Adrastes against Vededrin just might mean the end of the Scorpions for all time.  And replacing Adrastes in Kendras’ bed and heart is Graukar, newly appointed general to the king, an event the King is not happy with.  Kendras must figure out how to balance responsibilities and loyalties in a world gone increasingly complex and grey.  And quickly before someone he loves is injured.

As Kendras tries to work through his thoughts and feelings, a new threat arises to King Adrastes rule.  An anonymous outrider wearing a mask calling himself Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King.   Ordered to find and kill the man called Death, Kendras leaves feeling unsettled, uncertain and sure of only one thing…his love for Graukar.

From the moment I read the first book in this series, Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1), I knew that Kendras and the Scorpions would lead me on a remarkable journey.    It’s been a brutal, raw, and violent saga and one of the best in its genre.  The life of a mercenary is a hard and savage one, unsparring in the injuries and deaths that come as part of the profession.  Only the loyalty to each other and the tight rules and rich history of the Scorpions, make this band of soldiers a family.  Voinov’s saga begins with Kendras, his entrance into the Scorpions, his scant memories of his childhood, and the heartbreak and pain of finding and then losing Adrastes, not to another lover, but to the kingship itself.  Told from Kendras’ point of view, the character grows from a soldier with a single minded focus and goal to one floundering amongst the political seas at court.   It’s a mesmerizing and arduous scramble as Kendras rises up the social scale, pulled along by Adrastes, whether he wants to go or not.  Kendras must grow as a character and Voinov delivers that mental and emotional growth in spurts that come with despair along with great joy.

A Taste of Poison (Memory of Scorpions #3)  finds Adrastes suffering the effects of an assassination attempt, one that profoundly changes the King’s outlook on those around him and accelerates his goal of expanding his rule to all three kingdoms.  The man who rules is not the man Kendras followed and loved.  That dichotomy is cause for depression, and uncertainty, along troubling thoughts of disloyalty  is adding to unrest among the Scorpions and Kendras.  Voinov has made Kendras a man of honor and depth and to see and feel him floundering and pulled by this faction and that both enriches this story and ups the suspense for the welfare of all involved.

Everything is heightened here in A Taste of Poison.  Goals, loyalties, love, trust…the bar is now so high and the repercussions of any deviation or conflict are swift, exacting, and devastating.  Voinov reveals more of Kendras’ past, unknown even to Kendras  Also revealed are hidden alliances, and schemes to depose one ruler or another.  There are no black and white sides, only grey as Kendras has been slow to learn.  And with every startling exposition and shattering event, we are pulled deeper into the lives of all the Scorpions and their leader, Kendras.

Voinov has delivered a saga rich in character development, alive with action and battle sequences, and complete with the horrors that love and jealousy can and does inflict on all involved.  Aleksandr Voinov has said that the quote from Leo Tolstoy: “The best stories don’t come from “good vs. bad” but “good vs. good.” helped shape not only the characters of  Adrastes and Kendras but the stories themselves.  Only a tilt of the prism or a slight change of perspective will make either character “good” or “evil”.  Is it evil for Adrastes to want to solidify the 3 warring kingdoms into one for the betterment of all?  At what price is that not acceptable?  Is Kendras’s feelings and actions betrayal or loyalty?  Whose goals are the ones that should be honored by personal sacrifice and love?  That Voinov is able to bring all facets to life in each of these strong personalities is not only a marvelous achievement but makes this a series worth reading and remembering.

The Memory of Scorpions series is astonishingly inventive, beautifully crafted and fiercely passionate. From the bloody sands of battle to the lethal layers and complex rituals of court, Alexandr Voinov brings his world and characters to life word by word, page by page using vivid imagery and an attention to detail that leaves no construct of person or kingdom feeling shallow or undone.  Just masterful.

I don’t know if this is the end of the Scorpions.  Voinov is silent about future stories.  I hope not.  There is so much here I still need to know.  The Black King still lives…if the prophecy is correct, who will bring him down?  What is ahead and possible for Kendras and the Scorpions?  This amazing story and series begs the questions.  Hopefully Aleksandr Voinov will answer.  Meanwhile, pick up this wondrous series and get acquainted with some of the most powerful and engaging characters around.  One of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words “must reads” and highly recommended stories of 2014.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Love that cover, powerful and perfect image that speaks to the story within.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing    All Romance eBooks (ARe)     Amazon      A Taste of Poison

Book Details:

alternative world, gritty fantasy, warrior mercenaries

ebook, 265 pages
Expected publication: October 13th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491557
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/a-taste-for-poison
seriesMemory of Scorpions #3

Books in the Memory of Scorpions series in the order they were written and should be read:

Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions, #1)
Lying with Scorpions (Memory of Scorpions, #2)
A Taste for Poison (Memory of Scorpions, #3)

Scorpion coverLying with Scorpions coverATasteForPoison_200x300

Enter the Addictive World of the Scorpions! On Tour with Aleksandr Voinov’s A Taste of Poison

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One of my favorite series from Aleksandr Voinov is the addicting and dangerous universe of the Memory of Scorpions series , an ancient mercenary band of brothers (and sister) with a history as rich as the kings they work for.  Now comes the latest installment, and hopefully not the last, A Taste of Poison (Scorpions #3) by Aleksandr Voinov.   You can follow Aleksandr Voinov on tour with all the dates here.  For now, let’s focus in on Aleksandr Voinov on his Scorpions:

 

“Good versus Good”

Hi, I’m Aleksandr Voinov, and I’m happy to talk about my newest release. Thank you for the invitation!

I recently stumbled over this quote from Leo Tolstoy:

“The best stories don’t come from “good vs. bad” but “good vs. good.”

It struck home for me, because while some writing courses tell you that you need a “villain” (in m/m, it’s the “evil ex”), and the more villainous the villain, the more tension we get. I think it’s bollocks, to use a lovely British term. Even if we have an almost cartoonish level of over-simplification, in, say, Star Wars (I love Star Wars), the much more interesting evil guy is Darth Vader. (Palpatine is more “cartoon evil”) Why? Because he used to be “good” and Luke believes passionately that Darth Vader, his father, can be redeemed. And it’s amazing, because that levels the playing field – while Luke is still in training, Darth Vader is seen as “just evil”. Once Luke comes into his power, he gets almost literally hamstrung (arm-strung?) by the revelation that Darth Vader is his father, and the decision to get him back to the good side. It’s very difficult fighting a duel against somebody you want to save/redeem, especially when that somebody seems absolutely set on destroying or breaking you.

What a conflict.

So often we do have the villain with the redeeming feature (“He only wants to bring peace to the galaxy”). But studying real-life evil, I’m usually struck by how some of the evillest men ever fully accepted they were doing “bad things”, but they usually did it not out of lust for destruction, but because they were looking for a higher good. The evil they did was seen as a “price worth paying”. In short, they were twisted idealists. Some stated that the “work” (read: atrocities) wasn’t pleasant, but they sacrificed themselves, their sanity, their peace, their souls, to do it. And that’s really disturbing. “Personal sacrifice” is actually a virtue.

I have zero doubt that Adrastes in the Memory of Scorpions series considers himself the “good guy”, and Kendras is being bothersome, dishonest, disloyal, and also in league with mutinous soldiers. Apart from the obvious jealousy with regards to Kendras and Graukar, Adrastes is driven by the need/desire to rebuild the empire, to end internal wars, to be strong against outside invaders, and to have peace and prosperity. And if he has to kill, torture and wage war for that noble end – well, he’s good at it, and there would be much worse people to do it. Less competent, less decisive, less thorough. He truly believes he’s doing the right thing. And we’ve seen him as the charismatic, self-sacrificing leader who looks after his men. Regardless of what he does later, we know he’s not “evil”. He’s very possibly not “good”, he’s just human. Like they all are. We buy more into Kendras’s version of the story because we never hear the story of the other characters, but chances are, if we did, we’d buy their version and consider Kendras “evil” or “wrong”.

And that’s really where I’m coming from. I can’t do sparkly shiny heroes versus dark and twisted evil guys, because I don’t believe that’s how it happens in real life. I can have characters cross the line (arguably, once Adrastes begins assassinating political enemies and using his father’s intimidation tactics, that’s where he crosses the line), but even in fantasy, which is full of dark gods and demons and tyrants and whatnot, I just don’t believe in that model of the world.

For me, pitting idealists with strong values against each other is far more fun, so I can root for all of them. It keeps me engaged and happy as an author, and I hope it has the same effect on readers.

 Title: A Taste of Poison (Memory of Scorpions #3) by Aleksandr VoinovATasteForPoison_200x300
Publisher:  Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist:  Reese Dante
Page Count:  260 pages

 

A Taste of Poison Blurb:

ATasteForPoison_200x300Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.

After barely surviving an assassination attempt, King Adrastes is a changed man—one who mistrusts even his allies and friends. He readies his empire for war against an enigmatic enemy, the Elder of Vededrin, but not everyone approves. While courtiers dare only to whisper dissent, an outrider called Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King.

Kendras—former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions—is sent with his elite mercenary force to bring Death to justice. But when Kendras learns who’s hiding behind the mask, he must choose between his lover Graukar, newly-appointed general to the king—and King Adrastes himself.

With no man to call master, the Scorpions could flee the danger and intrigue. But Kendras cannot abandon the man he once loved—or the man he’s growing to love—without first uncovering the real threat to the Empire.

– See more at: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/a-taste-for-poison#sthash.n5Pu5nYZ.dpuf

A Taste of Poison Excerpt

(read more at A Taste of Poison Excerpt page at Riptide Publishing)

Chapter 1

“Officer, Lady Nhala wishes to see you.”

Kendras had barely sunk into the hot bathwater to wash the sweat and dirt off when Runner stepped into the room. He groaned and ducked his head underwater, scraping over his scalp with both hands, then emerged again, blowing out a breath.

“How urgent?”

“She looked like it was a pressing matter.” Runner walked over to the stool next to the bath and picked up a linen towel, unfolded it, and offered it to Kendras. Her ironic expression forbade any comment that she wasn’t a bath slave and he could dry himself. Kendras crumpled his washcloth into a ball and ran it over his chest, belly, armpits, and groin. No leisurely soak to loosen up his tired muscles, then. Duty was calling. He tossed the cloth into the water and stood.

She enveloped him in the towel, and he reached for a corner of it to dry his face and head before he stepped out of the bathtub. “Get me my boots and leathers.”

“At once, Officer.” She turned and walked off.

Kendras rubbed his skin dry and was almost finished before Runner returned. He tossed the towel over the rim of the tub and began to dress. “Let her in.”

He was just pulling on his boots when Nhala appeared in the doorway. He felt her gaze linger for a moment on his bare chest, then she straightened almost as if standing at attention. “Officer.”

“My lady.” He closed the top of his leathers and began tightening the straps and laces. “I’m at your service.”

She stepped further into the room and glanced over her shoulder back into the barracks, checking for witnesses, no doubt. “We are all called to war council. Immediately.”

Kendras bit down on a groan. After a long, hot day on the training yard, and before any food, standing for hours in his heavy plate armor while generals bickered over the best strategy to achieve a victory wasn’t a prospect he relished. He much preferred when the plan was set and the only issue left was when to act. “Who’s issued the call?”

“The king.”

“The king’s—”

More dead than alive. Maybe dead.

 

– See more at Riptide Publishing’s A Taste of Poison page.

Memory of Scorpions stories in the order they were written and should be read:

Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions, #1)
Lying with Scorpions (Memory of Scorpions, #2)
A Taste for Poison (Memory of Scorpions, #3)

Lying with Scorpions coverScorpion coverATasteForPoison_200x300