Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Blogtour: Sparkles by Michael Halfhill




Please welcome Michael Halfhill and 

Sparkles 

Jan Phillips #3






Blurb:

A life cut short; unsolved robberies plaguing Philadelphia’s Jeweler’s Row; a cryptic message scrawled on a paper napkin; a Romanov prince; a young man held captive in Iran; a terrorist cell bent on revenge; and an opera company due to mount a rarely performed production of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast. What do these have to do with Jan Phillips?
One plunges Jan into a prolonged sadness. One leads him on a race to prevent a nuclear disaster. One offers Jan the promise of renewed love. One leads him to reluctantly wield his power as a Mundus master. One is bent on shattering thousands of lives beyond repair, while one unknowingly holds the key to the mystery that has baffled Philadelphia’s finest. Follow Jan as he untangles this Gordian knot that will alter his life in a way he never thought possible.




Excerpt:



Getting to Know You


Jan snuggled against Stephen’s chest. The fire had died to a few cinders, and the room had become chilly. The snow had stopped. The wind that had wiped the windowpanes clean had died away. Bright stars burned holes through the black, predawn sky. The new lovers, occupied as they were in pleasuring one another, hadn’t noticed the fire, or the snow, or the sky.
“Jan? Are you awake?”
Jan smiled. “I’m awake. I don’t want to fall asleep.” Jan scooted up and kissed Stephen softly. “I’m afraid if I do, I’ll find that all this will have been a dream.”
“It is real, isn’t? I mean we are…?”
“Yep. We’re what ever we want to be.”
“Jan, you can tell me to mind my own business if you want… I mean, you know about my background, but I don’t know much about yours, except of course that you’re a lawyer, and a…”
Jan stirred. Old feelings, some hurtful, some beautiful, welled up in his heart. He shifted so he could look Stephen in the eye. “I’ll give you the basics. Then we can fill in the details as we go along, okay?”
“I’m all ears.”
Jan thought a while, then he began, “I was raised in a rough working-class neighborhood. My father worked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard, painting ships. With three girls and two boys to feed, he barely made enough to cover expenses.  I was just twelve when he committed suicide. Suddenly I was the man of the house. Imagine, I wasn’t anywhere near being a man, and there I was, with people telling me I had to take care of my mother. My father’s best friend from school days was a teaching priest at Saint Dominick’s Academy. He took pity on us and managed to get my sisters and me into school there. Then when I was eighteen I met Tim Morris. He held the same office I do now in Mundus. We became lovers. He was a lot older than I was. Then one day one of Tim’s associates, who had met my mother, asked Tim if he could date her. Tim didn’t see a problem. Well, there was a problem. First he didn’t ask how I felt about it, and second, there was a hit out on this man. The hit man was clumsy. He missed his mark, and killed my mother instead. You see what I meant earlier about there being danger?”
Stephen looked serious, but said nothing. Jan continued, “I blamed Tim. Later I met a woman at Saint Joe’s College. I persuaded myself that I loved her, and we got married. Not long after we married, we began arguing…. We fought every day for the next three years. We were divorced. By the time I finally admitted to myself that I’d left Tim to get back at him, it was too late… Tim had died. I inherited his law firm, and the North American Mundus master’s chair.”
Stephen squeezed Jan’s hand. “My god Jan, that’s awful. How did you survive it?”

Blogtour: Daniel & Erik's Super Fab Ultimate Wedding Checklist by K.E. Belledonne




Please say hello to K.E. Belledonne and 

Daniel & Eric's Super Fab Ultimate Wedding Checklist 





Blurb:

When Daniel gets caught up in the demands of a cheeky wedding planning app, his fiancĂ© Erik grows frustrated with his preoccupation with adhering to heterosexual traditions. Will Daniel’s groomzilla ways give them the wedding of their dreams, or ultimately lead to their relationship’s demise?














Excerpt:



“I think Aurora is disappointed in me.”
“What?” Erik rubbed at his eye. It wasn’t even early morning, judging by the weak light coming through the blinds from the streetlights. “Who?”
“Aurora. The wedding planning app.” Daniel lay on his back, wide awake and staring up at the ceiling.
“The wedding planning app is not a sentient being. It has no feelings or opinions.”
“I feel like she's judging me. I’m sorry if I woke you up.”
“Oh my god, go to sleep.”
“I can't. I'm never going to sleep ever again.” Daniel tugged the blanket higher up his chest, folding his arms over it and exhaling heavily.
“You're being dramatic.”
“I've got too many things buzzing in my head. There's too many things I'm going to forget to do.”
“I thought that's why you had that damn app, so you don't have to remember anything; it's all right there saved on your tablet.”
“Yes, but I have to remember to put everything in it. Daniel rolled over. She doesn't just know everything—”
“A: She is not a she. It is an it. B: What are we doing tomorrow?”
“Oh my god, what is the point of sharing the app calendar if you're never going to look at it?” Daniel wailed.
“I look at it. It's just crammed so full of everything that I have no idea what's going on when.”
Daniel blew out his breath. ”Look, I know you don’t like the calendar. We’ve been over that, but I don’t know how else to keep track of all of these appointments and deadlines.”
“I told you, we could color-code them, or something,” Erik rolled to his side and punched at his pillow.
“Aurora doesn’t give you that option.”
“Well, it should.”
“I agree, but there’s nothing I can do about that.” Daniel bunched his pillow up under his head. “Tomorrow, we have four appointments to meet with caterers: two in the morning, two in the afternoon.”
“Why so many in one day?”
“It's the only day we both have available this week, and I am not going to make any decisions about the food at our reception without you there to discuss it.”
“Seriously, you could just make a choice, and I'll live with it.” Erik rolled over.
“I don't want you to just 'live with it,' Erik. Daniel tried to keep his voice neutral, but failed. This is our wedding. I don't want you to just 'live with it.’”
“Why are you getting so worked up about it?”
“We only get one chance at this. Everything needs to be perfect.”
“You're going to drive us both crazy, you know that, right?” Erik tugged the blankets back up over his shoulder.
“Well, then, we'll both be crazy.” Daniel squinted up at the ceiling. He was so tired of making these decisions. Why were there so many options? Why were there so many decisions? The planning was getting on Erik's nerves; he was getting on Erik's nerves. Erik was getting on his nerves. They were both just a pile of irritated nerves because the to-do list didn’t seem to be getting any smaller.
Daniel’s phone chimed with another notification from Aurora.
New Private Message from: MommyMargie.
His mother probably had another ludicrous suggestion for the reception, or a passive-aggressive reminder of the hymn that she and his father had had played at their wedding, that their grandparents had had played at their wedding and that she expected to hear at his wedding. Or maybe his parents had decided to paint the living room green. Who knew?



Get the book:


    



We were able to ask Kat a few questions!

1. What is the biggest thing people think they know about your subject/genre that isn’t so?

Monday, June 27, 2016

ARC Review: Snakes Among Sweet Flowers by Jason Huffman-Black


Blurb:
Two-time ex-con Camden Sanders has decided that Hog Mountain—an isolated community on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia—is the perfect place to continue running small scams without the threat of more prison time. But there are a few problems with this plan. One is the neighborly citizens of Hog Mountain thwarting his dirty dealings at every turn with their kindness. Another is Jackson Rhodes, a closeted Hog Mountain police officer who can see right through Cam’s good ol’ boy act and plans to catch him red-handed despite the attraction they both can feel. But the biggest problem of all is that Cam’s past is threatening to catch up with him, and it could mean trouble for more than just himself.



Jewel's rating:




Second chances. Not at love, this time, but life. And sometimes, you don't even realize you want to change, until you find yourself doing it, anyway. And that is what I loved about Snakes Among Sweet Flowers.

Camden Sanders thinks he doesn't have much of a conscience (he also lies to himself). He does have lines he won't cross, though, and because of that, Cam decided he needed a change of scenery, STAT. He's charming, but still looks like (and is) a bad boy. His specialty is small time cons. When he moved to Hog Mountain to open up his own garage, he fully intended to take advantage of what he saw as small-town backwater people. And he starts out doing just that. However, once he starts getting to know the people, it gets harder and harder to do what he has always done. Of course, it doesn't help matters that a hot cop is watching him like a hawk.

Jackson Rhodes would be the hot cop that just doesn't trust the Cam. Jackson just knows the man is up to no good, and he'd be right. But even more distressing to Jackson, is the attraction he feels toward Cam. Jackson is firmly in the closet, with no plans to ever come out. Part of Jackson, I think, also wanted to give Cam a chance to prove himself, and that surprised no one more than Jackson.

Release Day ARC Review: Anthony (Survivor Stories #4) by J.P. Barnaby

Anthony (Survivor Stories, #4)Blurb:

Aaron Downing worshiped his mother. She saved his life. She did everything for him. But Anthony Downing has a different perspective. He sees the woman who tossed him into a basement for eight long years and forgot he existed. When Anthony decides he’s done being invisible, he packs up and heads for Detroit to stay with his Internet friend Jay, but fate intervenes.

Brendan Mears lost everything the day the man with a gun came into his father’s store. Now, he’s tethered to a business he can’t manage and a brother who resents him.
Different in all the ways that matter, Anthony and Brendan struggle to overcome their psychological obstacles, until a crushing betrayal sends them running for cover and each other.


My rating:





As with "Ben", when this book became available as an ARC, I asked the author whether she thought I could handle it. Because I'm a wimp, and I know I can't read "Aaron" or "Spencer", for reasons.

But she assured me I would be just fine, and I was.

Anthony is Aaron's little brother, moved to the basement with the middle brother Allen when Aaron returned home after being rescued from the man who abused and tortured him. There is thankfully no explicit violence in this book pertaining to Aaron's story. But living in the basement changes Anthony profoundly.

For many years now, even though Aaron has long since gone off to college, and is now living with Spencer, Anthony has been basically ignored, neglected, abandoned, and thinks that nobody cares about him. It's all about Aaron. And now Allen has gone off to college too.

So Anthony has resorted to alcohol and pills to numb his pain, and it is thus that we meet him in this book, on his way to another party with his friend Chase. I say friend, because that's how Anthony thinks of him.

Then Chase does a horrid thing to Anthony, and it's the straw that breaks the camel's back. Anthony wants to leave. Leave his crappy town and his crappy life and his dysfunctional family.

But Anthony is still just a dumb and impulsive teenage boy, and then he does a really dumb and impulsive thing. Actually, it's a series of dumb things, out of desperation and pain. I won't go into detail here so I don't spoil things for you.

The author really packs on the teenage angst, from a boy who feels broken and useless and thinks that nobody gives a rat's ass about him. JP Barnaby shows the reader how a single horrible act can have massive ripple effects and can destroy many lives.

Things could have gone terribly wrong for Anthony, but he's ever so lucky when his car dies in front of a liquor store and is found by Patrick Mears, who owns the liquor store with his brother, Brendan.

I liked Patrick a lot. He was straight-forward but kind, and he gave off that great big brother vibe. He seemed trustworthy from the start, and even offers Anthony a job.

There's a history of violence in the Mears family too, you see, the repercussions of which affect both Patrick and Brendan, and I think Patrick saw that Anthony was in way over his head.

I liked Anthony's snark - once he came out of his shell, he was a great kid, and I enjoyed reading him, even though he had a lot yet to learn.

But learn, he does, as time goes by, and as Patrick and Brendan and Anthony figure out how to deal with their individual pain, and start to realize that working together makes them stronger, not weaker.

The author does a fabulous job letting us see into all the main characters' heads, and their actions and reactions make sense within their characterizations. It turns out that Anthony and Patrick have something in common - they both live with the repercussions of what violence has wrought upon their families. They share the exhaustion of walking on eggshells around their brothers, the constant fear that the slightest thing might set them off. In some way, they bond over that, as strange as that may sound.

I also wondered if Patrick didn't see Anthony as a way of redemption, someone whom he could help when he couldn't help his own brother. He helps Anthony build a life for himself, find friends, carve out a niche that fits him.

When Brendan and Anthony get closer, there's a lot of miscommunication and jealousy in play, something that in romance books often is overdone, but in this case totally worked. It fit their characters, especially Brendan, who hates that he can't leave his house, another ripple effect from the aforementioned violence, and doesn't think that Anthony would want him.

At this point, I was rather upset with Brendan and Anthony both for being stubborn and emo. I could understand why they acted the way they did, but man, it made me mad.

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