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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

#ReviewShare #Fiction The Strange Year of Vanessa M. by Filipa Fonseca Silva @poshpipa

The Strange Year of Vanessa M.The Strange Year of Vanessa M. by Filipa Fonseca Silva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has been perfect in many ways save for the main character, Vanessa, who sometimes broods too much for my liking. To the Reading Cat (me) Vanessa was a cross of Calista Flockhart in Ally McBeal and Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. Vulnerable, undecided and yet she knows what she wants / what she has to do.

From the first chapter, I appreciated the intrigue and speed of the story. Any reader will find this mental roller coaster one of the most entertaining. The conflict of the story is both internal and external so I must say bravo to Filipa for putting together such a solid and captivating story.

She has used everyday characters, in everyday situations asking the same questions we all ask ourselves at one stage or another to share a tale of change, family and midlife crisis.

You don't have to be experiencing a midlife crisis to enjoy this book. Anyone who has experienced change, life and any kind of connection with another person will find this to be a good book to read more than once.

View all my reviews

The Jonas Trust Deception by A.F.N. Clarke @AFNClarke

6:45 AM Posted by James Noel No comments

The Jonas Trust Deception

by AFN Clarke

AFN CLARKE is the author of 8 books, including the best selling memoir CONTACT, that was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film.  His latest novel, The Jonas Trust Deception, is a Thomas Gunn thriller and follows the success of The Orange Moon Affair.  Readers have called it “classy, complex and cunningly compelling” and a “powerful force in the thriller genre”.  In solving the mystery of an ongoing conspiracy involving his old friend Morgan, Thomas Gunn, ex-Special Forces, takes an action so shocking and bold, that even his team fear he’s lost his mind.  The question is, has he?  To get a taste of things to come, here’s an excerpt from the book.  And for more information visit www.afnclarke.com or the Amazon Kindle store.

There is something so totally desolate about sitting in a prison cell staring at the blank grey walls that, unless you’ve experienced it, you’ll never understand. There is a finality and hopelessness that is almost beyond comprehension. A despair that sucks at your soul. My salvation was that I knew that my stay here was going to be short-lived, but what the future held was one big question mark. I had the distinct feeling somebody had put a ring in my nose and was leading on a mystery tour with more questions than answers.

Left alone with just the usual sounds of dissatisfied inmates, clinking keys and slamming doors for company, I thought back to the frantic last few days.

Confusion would be an apt description of my state of mind.

What facts could I scramble together?

Several dead bodies at Morgan’s ranch.

A small but ruthless Mexican Mafia gangbanger, with the unlikely nickname of ‘El Cobra Poco’, who seemed as if he could be a strange ally.

And the mysterious Robert Sutherland.

What other questions remained?

There were many, starting with who would have wanted to kill Morgan? Everything went back to my request for her to investigate the financial dealings of the Griffin Trust and its Chairman Ted Lieberman.

How was the Mexican Mafia involved if what Sutherland said about Morgan working for him was true?

I could just lie here all night long and create imaginary scenarios, but that wouldn’t supply any answers, so I closed my eyes and concentrated on emptying my mind.

Sleep was what I needed.
It must have been two hours after the jail cell lights went out, that the goons came for me. Dragged me off the bed and frog marched me down the corridor to the back of the jail and down narrow stairs to a basement garage without saying a word. There was a nondescript cream coloured painter’s van waiting with the rear doors open, and I was unceremoniously bundled inside.

THE JONAS TRUST DECEPTION

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Genre – Thriller

Rating – PG-13

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Website http://www.afnclarke.com/

Author Interview - Simone Pond @SimonePond

6:30 AM Posted by James Noel , No comments

What book genre of books do you adore?

Speculative fiction and memoir.

What book should everybody read at least once?

The Outsiders.

Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?

I was born in Kensington, Maryland - a small, dry town just outside of Washington D.C. I went to the University of Maryland, College Park and moved to San Francisco a week after graduation. After five years, I headed south to Los Angeles where I live today. I came for the opportunity and stay for the weather. I love the city, but my dream is to retire in the small town of Ojai, CA.

How did you develop your writing?

By writing, writing and writing.

Do you find it hard to share your work?

I love sharing my work. When I was in junior high school, I’d write stories in my spiral notebook and read to my classmates. They couldn’t wait to get to class the next day to hear what happened.

Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you?

My family is incredibly supportive. My father is my number one blog commenter. I drive my poor friends nuts with my constant requests for their support. I wouldn’t be as inspired to keep going without the love and support of my family and friends.

Do you plan to publish more books?

Absolutely. The City Center is the first in the series. I’m not sure how many there will be total, but I’m staying open to the possibilities.

What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time…

I’m a freelance project manager in advertising. The job requires a lot of organizing, communicating and planning ahead. I’ve become an expert on managing the creative process – with a smile.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Sometimes I fantasize about living in Paris, but then I’d have to start drinking, smoking and eating meat again.

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?

I write on a laptop at my dining room table. When I start to get cabin fever I go to a coffee shop to be around other humans. I keep a notepad next to my bed and write notes when they come to me in the middle of the night. I learned the hard way that I won’t remember them in the morning.

The City Center

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Genre - Science Fiction

Rating – PG-13

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Website http://www.simonepond.com/

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

George Bernstein – On Doing Research @GeorgeBernstein

6:30 AM Posted by James Noel No comments

On Doing Research

by George Bernstein

Non-fiction writers are constantly challenged with getting the facts right. That usually requires a lot of research, especially if you’re dealing with a subject on which you are not already an expert. Nothing denigrates a work more than faulty or bogus data.

Of course, if you’re writing fiction, your imagination is allowed to run free, so accurate details aren’t prerequisites, right?

Wrong! Nothing bugs readers more than seeing information that is totally out of sync with the real world… unless you are writing fantasy or sci-fi. Even little things like descriptions of locations that don’t jive with physical reality can draw critical comments on a writer’s web site or the multitude of writing blogs that span the internet. Of course, you can intentionally change the description of a location and give streets bogus names if you think it necessary for the story you’ve developed. Just be sure you state that fact in the Foreword or Acknowledgements.

Occasionally you’ll find your imagination actually coincides with reality. That’s when getting the facts straight really count. When I began writing my first novel, Trapped, in 1990, I imagined a physical condition for my protagonist, Jackee, as physically comatose but fully sentient, locked in her head. Only her mind and her eyes worked. It wasn’t until several years ago that I heard of “Locked-in Syndrome,” which is exactly the condition I envisioned. When Trapped won TAG Publisher’s  “Next Great American Novel” contest in 2012, and I was on my way to getting published, I figured I‘d better do some research on the condition, to lend reality to her story.

Thanks to Google, I found a plethora of articles on the syndrome, including many vignettes about real people in Locked-in Syndrome. I even discovered the medical terms for the parts of the brain affected. It took several days of digging and sorting to accumulate what I needed, and then several more days to incorporate it into the story without making it look like a “data dump.” I was happy with the results, and I’ve received many comments from doctors, including two neurologists, complimenting me on the accuracy of my work. That makes you feel great about a job well done.

In my second novel, A 3rd Time to Die, launched in June of 2013, I was faced with a more difficult research task. This romantic suspense deals with past lives and rebirth. I’d read several books on the subject by Dr. Brian Weiss, a leading proponent of the subject. In A 3rd Time to Die, two lovers are brutally murdered in the 17th Century. Their souls are reborn in the 19th Cerntury, again finding love together… and are again gruesomely murdered. Now they are back in the 21st Century… and so is their killer.

My protagonist is eventually hypnotically regressed into those past lives, so I decided reading about how it was done wasn’t going to cut it for me. I found an associate of Dr. Weiss’ who hypnotically regressed me… into NINE lives of my own. I had my doubts of the reality of the condition, but wanted to see what it was like. This, you may think, is going a bit “overboard” for research, but it was a life-changing experience. I’ve found that good research is often fulfilling and mentally expanding, but this went beyond. And it gave me a clear understanding of how regression actually works, the actual mechanics the therapist uses to take you back… back… back into past lives.

Here’s an interesting personal antidote. When I was twelve, my dad brought home a bow and a big straw bull’s-eye target. My only experience with a bow was Western movies, but I set up the target in the back yard, strung the bow (how did I even know how to do that?), paced off about 100 feet…and started shooting bull’s-eyes! I seldom missed that center black circle. Once, while practicing, a big crow flew over, probably 60 feet high. I instinctively put an arrow in him. A week later, while “hunting” in a nearby forest preserve, I flushed a ringneck pheasant, and knocked him down with a quick shot. Then a rabbit, dodging through the brush. I don’t know how I did it, I just DID IT, without thinking.

The point of this little tale is, during one of my regressions, I found myself in Lincolnshire Forest, shooting game for a 16th Century English duke… a regular Robin Hood. An interesting and provocative side-light to doing research for a novel.

Frankly, I’m usually reluctant to do much research. It can be time consuming, and often frustrating. I’d rather rely on my imagination. But, if you’re a serious writer, the time will come when it’s a necessity to lend the feeling of reality to your tale. I’ve written two novels in a series featuring a troubled Miami homicide detective. In the first, he’s chasing an elusive serial killer. Now we all know quite a bit about these guys, with all the TV detective shows, but I needed to know more details of who they are, how they think, and what can motivate them. Again, plunging into Google, I found loads of information, including the complete minutes of an FBI symposium given by their BAU division (Think “Criminal Minds” on TV). While those two novels are yet to be published, I’ve now got a storehouse of info on how to make these guys seem real.

Research can be complex, like regressing into Past Lives, or simple, like learning about the streets and demographics of a city you’re writing about but have not visited. Whatever, good research helps separate the professional novelist from the common amateur.

Sometimes, it can be down-right fun! Just don’t forget the “Disclaimer” in the front matter of your book, stating this is a work of fiction, and you may have taken liberty with facts to meet the demands of the story.

3rdTime3D-2

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Genre – Romantic Suspense

Rating – PG13

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#ReviewShare Kain by Brie McGill / 4 stars @briemcgill #scifi #amreading

3:29 AM Posted by James Noel , , No comments
Kain (Sex, Drugs, and Cyberpunk, #1)Kain by Brie McGill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you get a good book in your hands it is easy to throw words around like "love" and "like" but one thing I will give this book was that it was captivating.

Within the first quarter, I fell under the spell of this book and didn't want to put it down. McGill in my humble opinion is in love with love and life and it is reflected in this book so well. Although a work of fiction, it still makes you appreciate what you have and what is important to you.

Brie McGill is a brilliant author in the way she describes her scenes, world creation and the way she makes you connect with each and every character.

Any reader will be easily consumed by this book. I bawled, I laughed, I got angry! Seriously, I don't think I've ever had a book put me through this much emotion before. The book is slow in the beginning which is what takes away one star for me and then suddenly there was too much going on and I wondered if I was really understanding what was going on, but it all comes together masterfully in the end. As you digest Kain's life everything about the plot, situations and characters will make sense.



View all my reviews

Sunday, January 26, 2014

10 Things You Didn’t Know About #Fantasy Novel - Promised Land by C.D. Verhoff


1)    The tale of Josie Albright and Lars Steelsun was originally a few lines of back story in a manuscript called, Guardians Arise. Over time, I became so enamored with their tale of love and woe, I put the completion of Guardians Arise aside to flesh it out into its own novel, the one promoted here today.
2)    Before I was born, my father was seriously injured in an industrial accident. Bedridden, unable to work, my mother took care of him while looking after three young daughters. Great Aunt Josie didn’t have a lot of money herself, but my family had food on the table and managed to pay the bills because of her generosity. Thankfully, my father slowly recovered and was able to return to work. Despite his protests, Aunt Josie continued to buy bags of groceries for the family until she died at the ripe old age of eighty-four. The main character in my novel, Josephine Albright, was named in honor of her.
3)    The seed of the series was planted more than twenty years ago when I was a senior in high school. I had a part-time job as a receptionist in a law office. On a slow Thursday afternoon, I began my first novel. Some of the ideas and characters born that day made the jump to Promised Land.
4)    Way back when, I followed my sister around for three days to tell her the plotline for the series. She tried to ditch me, but she couldn’t get rid of me.
5)    Promised Land was originally twice as long. I moved portions of it to the second book in the series, Seeker of the Four Winds.
6)    Most fantasy novels are relatively clean, so having sexual situations in Promised Land and its sequel has given me a lot of angst. After a debate with myself, I thought they were important to show the controlling nature of one of the characters, so I kept them in.
7)    I chose Ohio for the location of the bunker for a simple reason--I live in Ohio.
8)    Midwestern and pop culture associations are part of the series. I use them like props on a stage to create juxtaposition between the old world and the new.
9)    Most of my family and friends are supportive of all of my writing ambitions, but only a handful of them have expressed interest in reading my books. This was disappointing, but it served as a valuable lesson. Don’t assume too much. Don’t expect too much. People have different tastes, busy schedules and some of them simply don’t like to read.
10) One of my nieces has Erbs Palsy. That’s why I gave the physical condition to one of my characters, Lars Steelsun. My niece has as mild case—hence, so does Lars. Erbs Palsy is nerve damage, frequently caused by a botched delivery during the birthing process. The damage results in permanent weakness in the muscles, reduced range of motion, and physical deformities.
PromisedLand

The last survivors of the human race are riding out nuclear winter in an underground bunker when disaster strikes. Forced to the surface centuries ahead of schedule, what they find blows their minds. Who can explain it? Two social misfits work together to unravel the mystery.

After living in a posh underground shelter his entire life, Lars Steelsun is plunged headfirst into a mind-blowing adventure on the surface of the Earth. As Lars and his displaced bunker mates are led across the grasslands by Mayor Wakeland, a man of questionable sanity who claims to talk with God, they discover a primitive world where human beings are no longer welcome. 

Even more mystifying is the emergence of new senses and abilities from within. Learning to use them has become a priority, but his biggest challenge comes from the vivacious Josie Albright. Her lust for glory is going to get them both into trouble. Sparks fly when her gung ho ways clash with his cautious personality. Can they overcome their differences to find love and a homeland for their people?

May not be suitable for younger readers. 
Contains mild profanity, sexual situations (infrequent), and violence. 

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Genre - Epic Fantasy
Rating – R
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Riddle Of The Diamond Dove (Arkana Mysteries #4) by N. S. Wikarski #AmReading #History

RiddleofTheDiamondDove
THE ARKANA SERIES: Where Alternative History Meets Archaeology Adventure
Volume Four - Riddle Of The Diamond Dove
"From Kindle Nation fave N. S. Wikarski comes the long-awaited fourth book in her fascinating seven-part Arkana archaeology thriller series -- with more of the wonderful characters, sly humor, intrigue and mayhem that come together to create the absorbing world of her intricate, fast-paced mysteries." (Kindle Nation Daily)
Global Treasure Hunt
Where do you hide an ancient relic that has the power to change the course of history? As Cassie Forsythe and her Arkana team discover, you scatter clues to its whereabouts across the entire planet. Five artifacts buried among the rubble of lost civilizations point to the hiding place of a mythical object known as the Sage Stone. Thus far psychic Cassie, bodyguard Erik, and librarian Griffin have succeeded in recovering two of those artifacts.
Opposing Forces
Cassie and Company find their lives threatened at every turn by agents of a religious cult known as the Blessed Nephilim. The cult's leader, Abraham Metcalf, wants to exploit the power of the Sage Stone to unleash a catastrophic plague on the world. The quest for the next piece of the puzzle has led both sides to Africa. They must comb an entire continent--their only lead a riddle carved onto a mysterious dove sculpture. Even as the Arkana team struggles to decipher the clue, new dangers hover over their colleagues at home.
Other Dangers
Metcalf's child-bride Hannah has taken refuge at the home of the Arkana's leader Faye while mercenary Leroy Hunt creeps ever nearer to her hiding place. His search for the girl brings him dangerously close to the secret location of the Arkana's troves--a collection of pre-patriarchal artifacts which confirm an alternative history of the origins of civilization itself. While Hunt closes in on Hannah, Metcalf's son Daniel dogs the footsteps of the Arkana field team in order to claim the next artifact before they do. Daniel recruits a clever ally along the way who might be more than a match for the opposing side.
Collision Course
When the forces of the Arkana and the Nephilim converge on a ruined city in a forgotten corner of the dark continent, the shocking outcome is beyond even Cassie's powers to foresee. The quest for the Sage Stone will veer in an unexpected direction once both sides solve the Riddle Of The Diamond Dove.
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Genre - Alternative History Fiction
Rating – PG
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Sunspots by Karen S. Bell @KarenSueBell

6:45 AM Posted by James Noel No comments

* * *

As I lie in bed with these thoughts, I finally notice that Marina has quietly come back into my room and is sitting in the armchair watching me. She offers me some more medicine and I shake my head, “no.” I don’t want to sleep, and I don’t want to be awake. There is no comfort in anything. She says, “Come. We’ll have a nice cup of tea.” And I follow her downstairs and into the kitchen, zombie-like. I watch her with dull eyes that do not see her movements as she opens cupboards and finds a teapot, cups, and tea bags. I listen with deaf ears to her hum a Russian tune. I sit patiently with no patience sipping the tea I cannot taste. In silence, we sit. In silence, we speak without speaking. Marina’s life force wills me to feel her love.

And then she tells me her plan. “Maybe, I’ll stay with you awhile. Nothing back in Brooklyn right now.” I answer, mouthing words that I want to feel and yet cannot feel because I have closed myself off to the emotions of life, “Oh yes, please stay, Marina. I couldn’t bear all this alone.” I’m overwhelmed by her generosity, my loss, and the hidden truths lurking under the surface waiting to be revealed. Then the cordoned off person inside me breaks through all my controls again and unwonted tears erupt in a torrent of suppressed anguish. I am enveloped in her arms and her soothing voice whispers calming words as I try to regain the safety of stoicism.

Marina and I, sisters of a sort, sit together in my huge kitchen, in my huge house, sharing the huge hole in my heart as my tears pour down my face, flowing as if someone has turned on a spigot. Two small souls in a too-big kitchen of a too-big house silently wondering about the business problems of which his lawyer spoke using carefully chosen words somberly executed while his eyes burned with deep meaning. Problems that would have to be sorted out after I finished sitting “Shivah.” How can one cope with all of this? When will I wake up from this nightmare?

Eventually, it is dawn and I must sit on the wooden bench that signifies my mourning as memories cloud the present and I relive a life that is no more.

Sunspots

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Genre – Contemporary romance, Magical Realism

Rating – PG-13

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Along The Watchtower by David Litwack @DavidLitwack

6:45 AM Posted by James Noel , No comments

The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. In less than a minute, I found myself in physical therapy. Like the rest of the hospital, the room was green-tile sterile, but someone had made an effort to cheer it up. Porcelain clowns lined the windowsill. Stuffed circus animals—lions and elephants and a family of monkeys—surrounded the rack that held the free weights. And a variety of fresh-cut flowers had been set in mugs in the cup holder for each exercise bicycle and treadmill. Later, I’d learn from Ralph that Becky kept them fresh, paying for them out of her own pocket. He said she’d deny it, but he’d seen her sneak in on more than one Monday morning with an armful.

Fresh-cut flowers. Mom used to get them every Monday as well, to brighten up the gingerbread house. But after Dad died, she started leaving them too long, not replacing them until they’d decayed so badly they smelled. After Joey died, she stopped buying them altogether.

The girl I met in the courtyard stood over a rolling aluminum table, organizing things I didn’t much like the look of. She was sufficiently absorbed that she didn’t notice us until Ralph called out.

“Afternoon, Becky. Brought you some fresh meat.”

She turned and grinned. “Always love a new victim.”

“Great. I’ll leave you two alone. Sounds like you need some privacy.”

After he left, she went back to finishing her preparations, making me wait. Finally, she came over and extended a hand.

“We already met, but let’s make it official. You’re Lt. Williams, but I can call you Freddie. I’m your worst nightmare, but you can call me Becky.”

I reached out and shook her hand. She didn’t seem scary.

“Ralph says you’re the best, that if anybody can bring me back, you can.”

“Ralph’s wrong. I’m just the guide. You’re going to do most of the work.”

“But are you the best?”

“Let’s say I haven’t lost one yet.”

“So I’ll be back on the basketball court in no time.”

Her grin vanished. She grabbed a chair, dragged it over and sat next to me.

“We’re going to be spending a lot of time together, Freddie, so we need to be straight with each other, right from the outset. My goal is to get you back to as normal a life as possible. If you work hard, I’ll have you out of that wheelchair and on crutches in a month. A month after that, maybe a cane. Beyond that, we’ll see. I make no promises other than to work as hard as you will.”

She stared at me. I stared back, captivated by my reflection in her gray-green eyes. She blinked first and went back to the rolling table.

. . . . . . .

She sat down again and undid the Velcro from my brace.

I winced. I hadn’t looked at my leg much since my peek the week before. The incision was less angry and the oozing had stopped. But what shocked me were the muscles. Where once I had bulges, now there were hollows. Not the leg of an athlete or soldier. Not the leg of a guy who might someday dunk. The leg of an invalid. Becky’s words rattled around in my brain. Crutches, then a cane. After that, we’ll see.

“It may not be pretty,” she said, as if she’d read my mind, “but it’s yours. Take a good look. Let it motivate you when you start making progress. And trust me, you will make progress.”

She squeezed some ointment from a tube onto her hands and rubbed them together.

“This will feel a little cold.”

She spread the ointment, swirling her fingertips over what had once been my quad. When she started the e-stim treatment, I felt the muscle spasm and contract involuntarily, a strange but not entirely unpleasant feeling. As she slid the wand around, humming along to its buzz, I noticed her touch more than the current.

She spoke out of nowhere. “I read the report. Says you have no family.”

I kept staring at her making figure-eights on my leg.

“Is that right?” she said.

I nodded.

“What happened?”

“I was born an orphan.”

She turned off the e-stim and looked up at me.

“Want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“Ralph said you don’t talk much.”

“I talk when I want to. I don’t want to talk now.”

“Fine with me.” She resumed the treatment, hummed a few more bars, and then spoke without looking up. “Ralph was right about another thing.”

“What’s that?”

“You are a hard case.”

She was quiet after that, going about her job while I focused on the clowns at the windowsill. Every now and then, I’d sneak a look at her. A beautiful, happy optimist. But she’d never lived my life.

Crutches and a cane. After that, we’ll see. I was different from her—a realist. I knew what “we’ll see” meant. I’d need more than physical therapy to bring me back. I’d need a miracle.

AlongtheWatchtower

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Genre – Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy

Rating – PG

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Connect with David Litwack on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.davidlitwack.com

Friday, January 24, 2014

Absolution (The #Vampire Alliance) by Angela Louise McGurk @Angela_McGurk #AmReading #PNR

Absolution

Eve Blakethorn can barely remember what it was like to be unaware of the vampire world around her. Many years have passed since she met the stranger, the man who saved her life, gave her the world and promised her immortality. Unfortunately for Eve someone in power had not wanted her to have the world. Within days of her marriage her life is shattered. Everyone Eve cares for, vampire and human, is taken from her and she is left alone to fend for herself in a world she neither understands nor fits into.

How can she hope to survive her dark and lonely existence while still plagued by the horrors she witnessed when her husband died? How can she avoid becoming prey to the monster who stalks her footsteps, the devil she has long suspected to be the one who brought about her husband’s downfall?
Desperation drives her every move, leading her into the darkness where monsters wait. Can Eve discover the truth about how her world came to crumble and who was really responsible? Is there another stranger out there capable of bringing her some sense of peace? And just what is the vampire government, The Senate, hiding in the dark tunnels under the city?

Praise for Absolution*: 
“I enjoyed every chapter haven't stayed up so late for a book in so long I just couldn't put my phone down. Great book.”

“Wow! It's a nice change to read something in the vampire category with a more mature storyline. Your story was interesting and had me captivated from the beginning until the end. It was beautifully written, and falling in love with with the characters was easy. Great job absolutely loved it!”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed this book! I think this has been one of the most original, mature vampire stories I have ever read... The lives of your vampires are fully realised, their abilities are believable, and the twists in your story are sublime.”

*All comments are from readers.

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Genre - Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Rating – R
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

#Free #NonFiction Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox @Kindleexpert

10:30 PM Posted by Quality Reads UK , , , No comments

Showtime at the Apollo is the definitive history of Harlem’s world-famous showplace. Home to nearly every great black star including: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Richard Pryor, Gladys Knight, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Redd Foxx, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn and “Bojangles” Robinson, – the theater still hosts contemporary luminaries like The Roots, Mary J. Blige, Chris Rock, Wynton Marsalis and Whoopi Goldberg. Numerous performers relate their own poignant, exciting and sometimes hilarious stories. Some 150 photographs – many never before published – are interspersed throughout.

For African-Americans, the Apollo was the greatest black theater, and a special place to come of age. For whites – including Elvis Presley and the Beatles – the Apollo was as close as they could come to the reality of the black experience.

Still thriving, the Apollo has exerted an unprecedented influence upon popular culture. Since 1934, the Apollo has been at the forefront of African-American music, dance and comedy. It’s legendary Amateur Night spawned countless stars. Renowned for having the world’s toughest and most appreciative audience, it is the place where, as Dionne Warwick says in the book,

“Everyone gave their best performance".

"The essential book, mandatory for the most casual student as well as the most ardent fan." – David Hinckley, Daily News

"Ted Fox made the Apollo come alive for me again."– Jerry Wexler, co-founder of Atlantic Records

"Ted Fox mows through the 20th century's mind blowing cavalcade of segregation byproduct, inhumanity producing creative transcendence. The survivors of the era provide Fox with a front-line document." - Raoul Hernandez, Austin Chronicle

"A wonderful book." – Tavis Smiley, National Public Radio

"I could almost feel and taste the Apollo again." – Doc Pomus, classic songwriter

"The definitive history of Harlem’s (and black America’s) essential theater." – New York Magazine

"Showtime at the Apollo is not only a history of that wonderful theatre, but also a fascinating insider’s view of the Harlem music scene." – John Hammond, legendary producer and talent scout

TED FOX is also the author of In The Groove a collection of interviews with men who have shaped the music industry. He produces and manages Grammy-winner Buckwheat Zydeco and lives in upstate New York.

Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox
Rating – PG
Genre – Music History & Criticism
4.8 (7 reviews)
Free until 24 January 2014

#SciFi #Excerpt - Anomaly by Michael Gilwood @michaelgilwood

9:30 AM Posted by James Noel , , No comments
The Platnios 
It was about seven in the morning when the first shadow of a building touched the vehicle. Two fiery streaks left the launch pads and zoomed upwards into the clear, violet sky. Sentrywatcher would track the Grionic missiles progress every step of the way until their eventual detonation on Abnarak. The Excelsior was patient in the front row, constantly sending images back to Terron. If everything went well, the impact would take place in about five hours. Alana had programmed the second missile to impact on Abnarak on the dark side, just in case the Platnios had some device to prevent the missiles from landing. Lexia continuously scanned Abnarak for any changes in behaviour, but it was as ominously tranquil as it was before. Between all of them, they erected a formidable wall of defences combining the new batch of weapons with their remaining stocks. 
Alana programmed the blue rays, strategically placing them on walls or high ground pointing towards valleys and vacant spaces, on all points of the compass. For up to seven kilometres, the forest-surrounded city and its flattened splendour gave them an ample, perfect view. All entrances to the buildings were protected by blue rays, bringing comfort to all of them.
A general alarm sounded for all civilians to come into the city, for protection during the battle. Philip had never seen a mass concentration like this. It was an endless sea of heads, appearing out of nowhere. More than four million Peblinus scuttled into the city and disappeared into the bunkers. Some came with their strange wind vehicles, while others drove electric machines with small mounted stumpy wings like flaps. They descended into the underground tunnels constructed for this purpose decades ago.
The tunnels stretched for dozens of kilometres under the city. They consisted of three levels accessible only by a metal ladder. At each entrance to the bunker, a guard tower added some extra protection. The underground tunnels could sustain life for up to six months, each one capable of housing more than half a million Peblinus. The normal everyday Peblinus here on Ganus was a shy person, they avoided confrontation. The few times Philip or Lexia tried to communicate with them, they backed away without saying a word, so they never forced the issue.
"Just look at them," said Baygorn. "Two billion people without defences; the battle wouldn’t have lasted even a day." Some of the elite guards would use their ion and plasma technology, they seemed capable enough to handle them.
"We got an impact warning!" shouted Alana, as she watched Sentrywatcher transmit images on the C-12. The first missile landed directly in the middle of the two infestations. The visual images they received were fascinating because the detonation didn’t reveal any physical explosion of any kind. Instead, as it struck the landscape of Abnarak, the rocky surface began to melt away like an ice cube on a hot summer’s day. All matter living or dead would become part of this rapidly forming, giant drop of water. By the time the second missile hit, Abnarak had almost transformed, but before the missiles had completed their task, some of the Platnios had taken off. Twenty Platnios warships had reached the orbit of Abnarak. They were hanging there in debate. Lexia was observing them with the eyes of Sentrywatcher --- suddenly she stood up.
"Here they come!" Most of their plan had worked. The math was easy. Ramaan calculated that each Platnios warcraft carried about a hundred thousand. The good news was they didn’t know Philip and his crew were here, but Philip wasn’t sure if they could even defeat twenty of these gigantic freighters with their limited firepower. Philip certainly wasn’t sure of the quality of the Commanders manpower. The Peblinus were completely untrained for any type of military maneuver, and all Ramaan could do was to show them how to point and shoot. Many of these Peblinus would die ---they knew it, yet it was up to them to prevent it. Ramaan and Alana pointed out to them strategic positions. Philip gave them powerful weapons, but they had limited time ---the twenty war craft could arrive at any moment. Baygorn constantly monitored and relayed their distance and speed. One of the Peblinus gave them a map of the central continent. They called it Astmad. Philip unwound the map on the floor as the C-12 continued unravelling their progress. A Peblinus, staring at the map, moved closer.
"Its possible they could land there and there," he said pointing with a long plastic ruler revealing fourteen possible points of descent.
"The remaining Platnios will probably land on the other side of Ganus ---the maps are not available, but we did manage to warn them. They are aware of the situation."
Anomoly
When two-hundred year old human remains are found on one of Neptune's moons, Earth's history falls into chaos. The momentous discovery points planet earth towards a solar system a thousand light years away. Twenty years later, Captain Philip Wakefield and his team, onboard the starship Excelsior, reaches the solar system of Mintaka and continues the investigation. But they are not the only thing evolving in the galaxy. Something frightening has them in its sights. Their discovery of the very cradle of humankind becomes a struggle for interstellar survival.
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Genre - Science Fiction
Rating – PG
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 Connect with Michael Gilwood on Facebook & Twitter

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Order of the Seers by Cerece Rennie Murphy @CereceRMurphy

6:45 AM Posted by James Noel No comments

Chapter 1: The End

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Liam was losing his patience. “Aw, come on! Are you serious? You can’t want to ride this thing again!”

Instead of answering her older brother, Lilli remained in her seat as the Ferris wheel conductor looked on expectantly, hand outstretched and waiting for another two tokens.

The way Lilli’s skinny arms hugged her book bag while she stared blankly at the pressed metal floor of their “Fairy Land Caboose” made it hard for Liam to stay angry. The sight of her looking so dejected softened him enough to give the conductor his fifth set of tokens in less than 45 minutes. Liam settled back into his seat just as the lap bar clamped down uncomfortably against his thighs.

“Lilli, say something. Why’d you drag me out here if you were just gonna sulk? I hate the carnival, you know that.”

“I know something… okay? Just… trust me. We have to stay here.” Her voice was so low he could barely hear her over the wind-up music that was blaring from the overhead speakers.

“Did Mom say something to you?”

Lilli responded to his question with silence and a barely discernable shake of her head back and forth. He tried again.

“Lilli! Did Mom…?”

“Yes,” she snapped.

They both fell silent again as Liam took in the latest weird thing of the day. Lilith Knight, or Lilli as she preferred to be called, had always been strange. Even when she was five, she could beat Liam at chess lazily, without even thinking about it. She would find things and give them to you before you asked for them. Before you, or even she, knew why. Up until recently, he thought she was just a freak. No biggie. All little sisters are like that, he told himself.

It was only in the past few months that his perception of her began to shift, after her prediction that he would catch his new girlfriend, Krista, kissing his teammate Lance in the locker room after their championship game. At the time, he’d brushed off her premonition as meddling. Krista wasn’t even his girlfriend and his team was 1-1 with the whole basketball season ahead of them.

He’d forgotten her warning completely until two months later when he ran back into the locker room after winning the championship to get the jacket he’d left behind and immediately smelled Krista’s perfume. When he found them, two thoughts overshadowed the scene unfolding in front of him. The first was that what they were doing wasn’t really “kissing,” though he could see how a sheltered thirteen-year-old would describe it that way. His second thought was that Lilli was right; she was exactly right. He was so stunned by Lilli’s accuracy that he didn’t even bother to disturb them, leaving his new ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to their business. From that moment, Liam understood that Lilli wasn’t just a freak, or more accurately, that she wasn’t a freak at all. She was special…gifted.

The sound of Lilli’s sniffling followed by the trembling of her body as she began to cry uncontrollably broke the long silence that had fallen between them. What the…, Liam half-mumbled as his mind swung from irritation to absolute bewilderment. Slowly and deliberately, Liam moved his palms down the front of his face as he fought the urge to shake the truth right out of her and end whatever this was. But he couldn’t. She’s so brittle already, he thought, without any idea as to why. So instead, he reached out to envelop his sister in his arms, trying to soothe her and comfort her from some unknown force.

“Lilli, it’s all right. I’m sorry, okay? Don’t cry. Just… tell me what’s going on. Why are we here?”

He tried to wait patiently, to rein in the confusion and frustration that had been piercing through the calm day he had planned for himself when he woke up that morning, as cool and carefree as any sixteen-year-old boy. It was Lilli who had dragged him out of the house before he could even wolf down his second bowl of Honeycombs. “Mom said you have to take me to the carnival. NOW!” She had demanded.

He had started to head upstairs to launch his appeal when his eye caught his mother’s note on the refrigerator door. “Take Lilli to the fair. NOW.—Love, Mom,” it read. He knew that meant his mother had left the house early; there was no appeal to be made. Begrudgingly, he slipped on his sneakers and grabbed the car keys, all the while wondering if Lilli was still too young to be left at the fair by herself.

His earlier thoughts of abandonment brought him back to his sister’s form beside him. Not knowing what else to do, Liam simply held her tight as her convulsing turned to trembling, and finally, back to stillness. At the top of the Ferris wheel, she finally spoke.

“It’s over now, we can go home,” she whispered. But as impatient for answers and a reprieve from big brother duties as he was, Liam knew that it was not over. The emotionless tone in her voice scared him. It made him want to stay on the Ferris wheel he’d been begging to get off of a few short minutes ago. As the music died down and their feet got closer to the ground, he suddenly felt conflicting urges to stay where he was and to rush home to his mother. As the ride came to a stop, he suddenly realized with profound certainty that this was much more than one of Lilli’s “episodes.” Something was very, very wrong.

When Liam pulled his father’s green 2002 Saab in front of their small brick house, everything seemed as it always did—quiet and predictable in their modest yet comfortable home. They had lived in a much bigger house before his father died, but Liam never minded sharing a bathroom with his mother and sister. All the toys and trinkets that had mattered to him when he was a child were rendered insignificant the moment his mother told him that his father would never come home again. As he got out of the car and began to take the front steps two at a time, he noticed that Lilli had stopped at the tree stump his mother had cut down the week before. Sitting down, her eyes remained on the ground. Just as his mouth formed the shape of a question, she spoke.

“No, you go. I can’t see it again.”

Liam didn’t stop to ask what she meant. Whatever she meant, he was sure it was worse than he thought. He tried to hold back the swell of fear in his chest as he ran to the front door, but his emotions spun out of control the moment he tested the front door knob and found it opened—easily. They never left the front door unlocked.

When he stepped into the house, he actually felt the life, the person he had been, rush past him and out the door as his eyes took in the overturned, splintered remains of their living room. It was a feeling he’d felt only once before, when his father died. But what made it worse, what made it permanent, was lying in the middle of the floor, with its contents thrown everywhere. It was his mother’s purse, which had not been there when he left that morning.

“Mom!” he shouted as he raced up the stairs to her room. “Mom. Please!” he shouted again, but no one answered. In every room he looked, it was the same - scattered clothes, broken mirrors, and silence—a deafening silence that rang louder than the sound of his own shallow breathing.

If he took the stairs at lightning speed to make it to the second floor, an age could have passed during his descent. The entire house consisted of three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a small open dining area that you could see clearly from the front door. As he walked down the steps, he knew there was only one room left to check. His mind was frozen on what to hope for as his hand reached the end of the banister. If she wasn’t in the kitchen, she might have been taken, but at least there was a chance she was still alive. If she was in the kitchen, it was unthinkable.

Lilli’s words came to him just as he rounded the doorway to the kitchen.

No, you go. I can’t see it again.”

He found his mother sitting with her feet planted on the floor, shoulder width apart, bright eyes open and cast to the ceiling, with a hole blown through the middle of her chest.

Liam braced himself against the door frame as he began to sob, the sounds seemingly emanating from a place far away from where he stood. He could not look away from the horrific image before him, the last image of his mother. He stood there with wide-eyed and tear-stained pain as the last measure of his youth drained from him like blood rushing from an open vein. When it was done, his body slid to the ground.

We are alone, he thought. There’s no one left.

Ever since his father had died, Liam lived in fear that one day he would lose her. Unable to tear his eyes away from her body, he could hear her vehemently denying that there would ever be a time when she wasn’t with them. “Never,” she would say.

Never, he thought, has finally come.

Though Liam had been staring at her body since he entered the kitchen, he had not seen the gun in her hand until he noticed a fly land on it. Years of training to keep the gun out of Lilli’s sight made him jump to his feet until he remembered that Lilli was still outside. He knew the gun well; it was his mother’s. She had taught him how to use it and to keep it out of Lilli’s reach when she was small.

At first his mind could not decipher the meaning of the scene before him. Was he meant to believe that she did this to herself? Why would the people who broke into their house ransack the place and then try to make it look like a suicide? But he couldn’t think straight, couldn’t figure out the logic or the answer to any of the crazy questions running through his mind. Why would she kill herself? He was sure the answers were obvious; he just wasn’t making sense. None of this was making any sense.

His confusion caused him to draw closer to her body. Kneeling down beside his mother, Liam took the lifeless hand that dangled at her side, the one that was not holding the gun. Though his eyes were still filled with tears, they were no longer breaking through the barriers of his lower lids. This momentary fortitude allowed him to have the courage to look directly into her face and see her open smile. The sight of it knocked him down and back into the base cabinets. She was smiling. She was smiling, he thought. She had known what was coming, and she was smiling.

Suddenly, he remembered his mother’s constant warning every time they went to the shooting range. “Don’t pick up a gun unless you mean to use it. There can be no hesitation. Do you understand me?” she would ask him sternly. Liam knew Jill Knight was skilled at using a firearm. If she had a chance to draw her gun, no one could take it from her. The implications made him immediately sick and angry before their full meaning could even register.

As if retching the contents of his stomach into the kitchen sink made room for clarity, he suddenly understood the reason behind her smile. She had killed herself. She had done this to herself, on purpose. He threw up again in a wave of protest at the notion that she would abandon them, even as the resentment of her betrayal took root. When he was done, he didn’t want to turn around, didn’t want to face her.

How could she do this? She wouldn’t do this. She promised.

Holding himself up at the sink, his thoughts turned to Lilli. Is this what she saw?, he wondered, fighting a new wave of nausea. No wonder she cried like that. No wonder… Rather than try to sort out the conflict of thoughts and emotions inside him, he decided to check on Lilli and make sure that she remained outside while he tried to figure out what to do next.

As he peered over his shoulder toward the doorway, his eyes caught the folded cuff of his mother’s sweatshirt, which was turquoise save for the blood, and a little corner of white paper that was peeking out. He knew his mother hid things in the cuff of her sleeve all the time; it was one of the many old lady habits Liam enjoyed teasing her about. He stared at the white edge of paper for a long time, warring with his own feelings of anger and grief before simple curiosity forced him to bend down and retrieve it. As his fingers curved around the edge of her sleeve, he could feel something flat and hard inside. When he rolled down her sleeve to get it, the key to his gym locker at school slipped out before he could fully unroll the note. When he did, it unleashed a new avalanche of questions upon heartbreak over questions.

In his mother’s tiny cursive handwriting, the note read, ‘Go now. Protect her.’ Liam felt a new level of understanding peel back in his mind as he read her note again. He began to see the very real possibility that perhaps his mother had not wanted to do this to herself. Perhaps she was forced by the same people who came into their home. The same people who she wanted him to protect Lilli from now. Liam grabbed the key off the floor before rising to meet his mother’s eyes one last time. They looked so different from how they had even two minutes ago and held so much he couldn’t understand, couldn’t handle right now. He closed his eyes and softly kissed her on her forehead before running out of his home for what he knew would be the last time.

Liam closed the front door behind him and turned to find Lilli sitting exactly where he left her twenty minutes before. He had only two objectives at that point - making sure that she was safe, and getting the hell out of there. As Liam scanned the neighborhood for anything suspicious, he took in the studied quiet of his block. There was no one on the street at 11:23 am on a beautiful Sunday morning. Where is everyone, he wondered, suddenly wary of the neighbors with whom he had grown up. How had no one heard the gunshot? Why didn’t anyone call the police?

The tremor in his neighbors’ curtains gave credence to the sensation that they were being watched, but no one would step outside to help them. This realization came over him with a bitterness that cast itself over all the sorrow he held inside. They had all been witnesses, he guessed, but they would no longer be friends.

Watching Liam as he crossed the small front lawn to reach her, Lilli was struck by how much older her brother looked compared to just a few hours ago. Though his straight black hair hung as sloppy and heavy as it always did over his blue-green eyes, there was none of the playful nonchalance that usually characterized her brother’s disposition. His hair was slick, spiked, and jet black with sweat, and it framed the angles of his face in a way that made her easy-going brother look cold and menacing. But it wasn’t a surprise, Lilli could see everything Liam felt on his face—anger, sorrow, betrayal, and a ferocity emerging that she did not understand. Seeing her brother so unlike himself made Lilli’s face crumple in agony as she trembled under the weight of her own choices.

“I’m sorry, Liam,” she begged in between sobs. “I know you’re mad at me for not telling you. Mom told me that if I did, they would kill you. She said I had to be strong enough… strong enough to save you.”

“Shhh, Lilli. It’s all right. We’ll talk about this later. Don’t cry. Shhh.”

Lilli knew Liam meant his response to be soothing, but his words came out cold, devoid of any life or feeling behind them. When she looked up to search his face and understand the hollowness in his voice, she found him scanning the street with the same look of fierceness. Something in the clenched set of his jaw made her finally understand. He was determined, to keep her alive, to protect the only family he had left.

“We need to go,” he said, as he led her to the car.

“Where?”

“I don’t know, Lilli. I don’t know.”

Order of the Seers

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Genre – Science Fiction

Rating – NC-17

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Connect with Cerece Rennie Murphy on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.crmurphybooks.com

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Survivors Book I: Summer by V.L. Dreyer #Zombie #ReviewShare @VL_Dreyer

The Survivors Book I: Summer (The Survivors, #1)The Survivors Book I: Summer by V.L. Dreyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What were the main themes of the book? Firstly, I must say that you can expect all the usual elements of a typical zombie novel in this book. But what will blow you away is the author’s imaginative writing and descriptions that enable you to be present for each and every scene. The central premise of the novel is survival. Execution is almost flawless although the constant change of tone from happy to sad and vice versa was a bit too much to keep up with.

Does the plot come across clearly? It does and the author had me spellbound from the first paragraphs. Despite the flashback sequences and the jumps to other characters or events, she stays true to the plot and does not stray. I recommend both book and author, I for one will be looking up other books by her.

Were you able to connect with the main character and why? Sandy’s predicament does seem a bit unrealistic. However, without too much analysing, she is the unlikely heroine who is easy to connect with on an emotional level. Her loneliness, confusion and need for (non-zombie) human contact is what many people go through, young and old.

Disclosure - As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book from the author via Orangeberry Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

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#YA #Fantasy #ReviewShare Echo in the Underworld by Brietta Tatro @BriettaTatro

Echo in the UnderworldEcho in the Underworld by Brietta Tatro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Which did you find more appealing, the introduction or the conclusion? Echo’s life turning upside down makes the reader laugh, cry and become angry. Her quest makes her stronger than before but you do not see the best parts of her in the introduction or the conclusion. The best parts of Echo, plot and adventure are in between.

Why would you recommend or not recommend this book? While I was expecting a fantasy read, I wasn’t expecting something so enjoyable. Echo did not disappoint and I am very satisfied with this book. It is a cute, adventurous, story from start to finish. I will definitely recommend it.

Did the book description relate to the story? It does and there’s just enough mystery to it so if I were seeing this book in a store, I will definitely pick it up based on cover and description. I do wish the author will explore the idea of including images or drawings in her book as some science fiction novels do. It will be more fascinating that way.

Disclosure - As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book from the author via Orangeberry Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

View all my reviews

#Author Aven Ellis Shares Her Character Closet #AmWriting @avenellis

11:00 AM Posted by James Noel , , No comments
There are many key components in developing a well-rounded character. Physical description...personality...deepest fears...likes and dislikes...
...and the clothing in their closets.
Yes, my characters all have a specific fashion style. Okay, so I adore fashion--my stash of fashion magazines under the coffee table is rather, um, fine, I’ll say it: it’s RIDUCULOUS-- but I think fashion can tell a lot about a person. And I have found that I can use fashion to make my characters come alive on the pages.
For Connectivity, I knew Mary-Kate (MK) Grant was a young woman living in the city, working her way up the ladder in TV. Her clothing was professional, but fresh and modern at the same time. Slim skirts, wrap dresses, fitted sweaters are all part of MK’s working wardrobe. She knows the importance of accessories. Creative by nature, MK put her own spin on her outfits with vintage, unique jewelry pieces. And her head band is her signature accessory, one that catches the eye of William Cumberland and plays a part throughout the entire story.
William Cumberland is the badass mogul billionaire and the owner of Connectivity, a social media empire. William knows the power he has, and that power influences his wardrobe choices. He’s serious, committed to his work, and wears modern, fitted suits that work with his tall, lean frame. William has slim fitted Prada dress shirts and Burberry suits (which he picks up when he is back home in London.) But once he lets down his guard with MK, we see a different side of William, and I reflect that in his wardrobe as well: cashmere V-neck sweaters, leather jackets, and jeans.
So there’s a peek inside MK and William’s closets.  And if you really want to see the clothing, check out my character fashion boards on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/avenellis/boards/ . Here you’ll find William & MK’s inspiration boards, as well as boards for my next two releases, Waiting For Prince Harry and Chronicles of a Lincoln Park Fashionista.
But as far as a peek into my real closet? Nah. I’m not nearly as organized or as neat as MK is. We’ll leave that hot mess under wraps, LOL.

connectivity200x300

Overachiever Mary-Kate Grant (who is indeed named after an Olsen Twin) has followed every rule to the letter to pursue her dream of working in TV programming. Ripping a page from the “hard work pays off” playbook, she takes an assistant level job at a Chicago sports network to break into the industry.

MK has no time or desire for a relationship right now—she is totally focused on her career and being independent, unlike the other women in her family.

But MK’s plans are run through the shredder when she finds herself working for William Cumberland, a British media mogul who made his fortune with Connectivity, a social media site. William blows into Chicago just like the winds off Lake Michigan and purchases the group of networks MK works for—and makes her his personal assistant in the process.

Suddenly MK finds her career plans in jeopardy. William makes her question everything she has ever thought and has the uncanny ability to see right through her. And for the first time in her life, MK finds herself not only questioning what she wants for her career but for her personal life as well.

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Genre -  Humorous Contemporary Romance
Rating – R
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