Are you an avid reader looking for your next "fix"? Can't bear to be without some form of reading material in your spare time? Welcome to my world! Whether you are seeking a new book to "feed your need", or you are an author seeking an unbiased point of view on your own recent masterpiece, this is the place to be. With life as with books, you never know where the next step might take you...

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know there are naysayers that absolutely abhor this particular work, but I for one, LOVED IT. Perhaps it's because I fell in love with the movie first, and then read the work...I know, a big no no, but it just worked out that way...and the two were very much alike (a few changes here and there, but nothing too grossly out of sorts). Maybe it's because I like the uppity way these two teens battling the unseen enemy night and day manage to find something else entirely to put their focus on, reach towards, and fight for/about. Maybe it's how the author of Hazel's favorite work is truly an a** and despite her fondest desires to know the "more", he won't provide it. Could even possibly be how Augustus isn't perfect, but for Hazel, he tries to be, and yet the moments where he drops the façade and overacting is when she falls for him most. I don't know, I can't really pin it down, but I just LIKE it, and if you don't, no harm done...but if you haven't tried it yet, give it a whirl! It may just be your next favorite for no particular reason read too.
Okay? Okay. ;)

**purchased (again, thanks Hurricane Michael) for my own personal library

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Thursday Next, Book 1: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a series I fully intended to check out once upon a time. I even procured the whole set (past tense, thank you Hurricane Michael *grr*) because what I read about it sounded so odd, so interesting, so different that I couldn't fathom reading JUST ONE. Upon picking up a copy at a local bookstore, I decided to give it a try in the here-and-now...and I'm sorta glad I stuck with just the first title for now.

It's not that it wasn't good because it was. It's not that I didn't enjoy it because I did. It's not that it's wordy, a tad lengthy, or even that the lead character's name is a day...because really, how can you not like something because of a name? It's more because of the intense world building and the frame of mind I had to be in in order to fully enjoy the story. I mean really, it's not just a detective novel. You've got characters leaping from books, evil villains whom you can't fathom the depths of their evilness, vampires, time travel, worm holes, stolen works of literary wonder, work drama, relationship drama, and a few too many Twains...just to name a few. I'm telling you, it's actually rather heady, and while for a moment, just a moment, it started to lose me along the way, it wasn't long before I was scooped right back into the swing of things and riding shotgun with Thursday and her new partner to save the day.

So, was it good? Yes...but it's not just for Literary Fiction fans. You've got to have a taste for something a little more out there, a little more fantasy, a little more like you took a novel from various genres, ground them in a blender, and served it chilled to an unsuspecting customer. It's a mix to be sure, but one I'm glad I tried, and I wouldn't be surprised if some day in the future you see me exploring the next installment....though what she could possibly go through next that would be surprising is beyond me!

**personal library selection

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one CRAZY story, and I mean that in the best way possible, but be sure to keep your head about you or you may end up lost to the Hinterland!

Alice is our leading lady. Just another teen trying to get by with a mother that loves her fiercely and bad luck that follows them everywhere. Sounds great, right? Yeah, no. Every time they seem to falling into a comfortable pattern, something goes wrong. Whether epic or mundane, it matters not, the result is the same...they pick up and get out of dodge. One day, they receive a letter that a relative passed away, and while you'd think tears would be shed, they were of joy not sadness because according to Alice's mother, they were finally free. But WERE they? I mean, did the bad luck stem from their existence or that of someone else's and the why still remains too? So many questions and so few least in this world. It seems the dark fairy tales that the dearly departed penned are perhaps more than fantasy and fiction with flair. Now, they may be the only way for Alice to discover what's truly behind their family's rotten luck, and just maybe finally be free...

There is a lot of suspended belief needed to fully immerse yourself in this one, but IS fiction with quite a lot of fairy tale fantasy (even if it's not filled with sleeping princesses and singing dwarfs), so that kind of goes with the territory. Once things get really in depth and the characters existences start coming to light, as well as her as well as her mother's past, that's when things get really curious...but if you can hang on just a bit longer, you'll find an ending that will satisfy even if it doesn't completely least for now. Hey, it lists as BOOK 1, meaning there should be more to come!

**from my personal library

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Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber

Alaskan HolidayAlaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Palmer, Josie, and who can forget Jack, along with the whole of Ponder, Alaska, steal into your heart like a cold wind on a dark winter night, illuminated by the brilliance of the Northern lights.

What begins as a job between jobs turns into the possibility of something more for Josie when connections are made and relationships are forged that were never expected. The romance is demure, but their hearts are fully invested, even if some are slower than others to admit that simple fact...and surprise, it's not the guy! But I digress...we've a bumbled proposal, a lack of shared worries to complicate things, and the classic appearance of the green-eyed monster when there was really no need to worry that keep the story interesting...though I for one was happy enough with the long-distance romance that seemed meant to be, but the HOW was up in the air!

This was only my second read of this author's work, but I definitely enjoyed it. A great read this time of year or any for that matter...and a great big thanks to dear old mom for the Christmas gift (nice pick!)! Recommended for Contemporary Romance fans as well as Women's or General Fiction.

**from my own personal library

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Borrowing Christmas by Kat Bellemore

Borrowing Christmas (Borrowing Amor, #1)Borrowing Christmas by Kat Bellemore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Katie and Sam. Sam and Katie. Though they couldn't have been further apart, once couldn't imagine them anywhere else.

Katie had a bit of bad luck growing up...okay, A LOT of bad luck, and landed herself in some sticky situations. Problem was a bad cop was pulling the strings and that made breaking free way harder than it should have been. She takes it upon herself to try YET AGAIN to cut the strings he's pulling and lands in what could only be described as least to her. Grant it, it drives her CRAZY at first, along with a certain mayoral figure (ooh!), but everyone wants a place to call home, somewhere to land when things get tough, and people to care for and about...even if at first they don't realize it. Same goes for same in regards to that last sentence. He's the bachelor mayor the town never thought to want, and may not be for long (a bachelor, that is) if certain things go his way. Thing is there are more than a few surprises arriving in town along with the appearance of a certain someone beautiful that's captured more than his eye. Can two people wearing masks of their own making come clean to build a lasting future? In a town like Amor, sounds like that just might be a possibility...

It's a page turner from the start and while the story itself only transpires over the course of about two weeks, it's long enough to get a good read of the people/community, and the lay of the land. I can see future stories being released to flesh out the town, and let us catch up with the changes that came about during our short time there, and will certainly be interested to see what the author delivers. Recommended for Contemporary Romance fans of the Young Adult set as well as Adult; it's flirty without getting steamy, so you can enjoy the snow angels and your cocoa too!

**signed copy received from the author with no promise to review, but I simply couldn't help myself

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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Berkley: A Nose Tale by David Hillman

Berkley: A Nose Tale by David Hillman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Berkley is just your average pup making his way through life by the power of his nose...this is, his nose is MUCH MORE POWERFUL than your average four-legged friend! Maybe it's his pedigree (basset hound and beagle), maybe it's his paw-sonal preferences (stinky sock smell being his ALL TIME FAVORITE!), or maybe it's simply who he was meant to be. Whatever the reason, Berkley's powerful sniffer took him many places and got him in all sorts of rubs too....until one day, the power of his sniffer is the only thing standing between Becky and her little heart breaking due to Mimi (her kitty) being lost! Jeremy (Berkley's human friend/owner) knows just what to do and in no time flat, Berkley is on the case....

With full page illustrations that will capture the eye, this charming Picture Book will have Berkley wiggling his four-legged self into the hearts of readers young and old. Who hasn't regretted sticking their nose in where it may not necessarily belong...but some lessons are harder to learn and sometimes the need found in the nosing is greater than the need to keep to ones self. A great pick for fur baby fans of all ages.

**ecopy received for review

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Rockstar Book Tours presents... THE DATING ALTERNATIVE by Jennifer Woodhull - EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!

Psst!  Did you know? THE DATING ALTERNATIVE by Jennifer Woodhull is available now and we're spreading the news!  Keep reading for ALL the details PLUS this blitz also includes a giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International, courtesy of Jennifer and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Author: Jennifer Woodhull
Pub. Date: December 26, 2018
Publisher: Jennifer Woodhull
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 288
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&N

Brie picked the wrong guy—gave him the wrong finger. 
When her fiance walks out three weeks before their wedding, she slowly picks up the pieces with the help of her friends. A serial monogamist, she's not quite ready to start dating again. There are some things she misses about having a boyfriend, though. Her friends convince her to try something more casual. Random hookups have never been her thing. When a guy she has flirted with for a while offers his services to solve her dilemma, she can't help but be intrigued. Now she's trying to keep things casual, but when she's wrapped in his arms, it's hard to remember she's not supposed to be falling for him. 
Max has had a few hookups since he split with his last girlfriend. Lately, though, he feels like something is missing. He has crushed on the girl he affectionately calls Cheese for years, but the timing was never right. When he finds out they're finally single at the same time, he is poised to make his move. Unfortunately, she's only looking for something physical. Of course, Max is happy to oblige, but the more time they spend together, the more certain he becomes that she's the perfect girl for him. 
He pulls out all the stops, and just when he's about to make his move from the friends-with-benefits zone to serious dating, Brie completely ghosts on him. Now he has to figure out if she has really walked away, or if something more serious is keeping him from the girl of his dreams. 
Funny, sexy, and satisfying, The Dating Alternative is a standalone new adult/contemporary romance. 

Chapter 1 Excerpt – Sabrina

As I lay on the bed, wearing my ex-fiancé’s t-shirt and remembering the night he left me six months ago, I realize that tears are slipping silently down my cheeks.

I’ve done reasonably well, too. The first week, I was catatonic. The first month, I was practically a zombie. In those days, even showering on my day off had been a challenge. Within a couple of months, though, I was doing better. By the ninety-day mark, I could be mistaken for someone who hadn’t been virtually left at the altar.

Now, lying on the bed six months after Grant had thrown away our life together, I was almost indiscernible from a normal girl. Looking at me most days, you would never know that my life had been ripped apart by an exotic Olympian named Isabel and my former fiancé, Grant.

I sit up, realizing how far I’d come since that night. I put the back of my hand up to one cheek, then the other. No more. That asshole doesn’t get another single tear from me. Control-G-Delete.

Chapter 1 – F*CK YOU by Cee Lo Green
Chapter 2 – We All Want Love by Rihanna
Chapter 3 – I Don’t Need A Man by Pussycat Dolls
Chapter 4 – I Want You To Want Me by Cheap Trick
Chapter 5 – Me Without You by Gwen Stefani
Chapter 6 – Closing Time by Semisonic
Chapter 7 – Pocketful of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfield
Chapter 8 – Every Little Thing She Does is Magic by The Police
Chapter 9 – Sex On Fire by Kings of Leon
Chapter 10 – Toothbrush by DNCE
Chapter 11 – After You by Meg Myers
Chapter 12 – Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding
Chapter 13 – Time To Get Closer by Foster the People
Chapter 14 – Bonfire Hearts by James Blunt
Chapter 15 – Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover by Sophie B. Hawkins
Chapter 16 – Waiting for the Weekend by The Vapors
Chapter 17 – Isn’t It Ironic by Alanis Morrissette
Chapter 18 – In Between Days by The Cure
Chapter 19 – Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
Chapter 20 – It’s My Life by No Doubt
Chapter 21 – Freedom by George Michael

Chapter 22 – Halo by Beyoncé

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Woodhull is based in the Southern United States, spending time in her second home of England, and traveling as often as she can. Her love of travel permeates her work, and her characters often find themselves exploring new and foreign surroundings.

A keen observer of human behavior, Jennifer often draws inspiration from something as simple as a fleeting connection, or the glimpse of a unique trait or characteristic. Her favorite place to write is on airplanes.

"The drone of the engine, the scores of people, all traveling to something or from something, and being disconnected from digital distractions are a combination that provide the perfect place to write," she says. "If you see a woman in seat 9F who is balancing her Macbook on her lap because it's time to close your tray table, please have patience. I'm just trying to finish one more sentence."

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Giveaway Details:
1 lucky winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

The Librarian of AuschwitzThe Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This isn't one of those titles that when someone asks "how is it" you want to answer "great" because it has roots in reality, and the topics/history covered is many shades less than something that should rank as incredible, or amazing, or anything with a positive connotation, and yet...I couldn't completely shy away from the use of that particular word "great" when conveying my thoughts in brief.

Once upon a time, the word wasn't as accepting, understanding, or inclusive as it should be...wait, okay so that's pretty much ANY time, but for the sake of this review, let's go with it, shall we? Once upon that time, people were persecuted for their heritage, for their beliefs, for their features, for the blood that ran through their veins...pretty much for everything that made them THEM and not "them". That time we're once upon-ing was filled with brutality you can't imagine, bloodshed like you'd never want to see, and lies held up as truths until the hidden cracks in their veneer finally wore through and the world could see them as they were. The thing is...this isn't a story so much about ALL THAT though it most definitely is there, but about all the things that went into making daily life livable to some degree.

It's a story about the hardships and terrors, but also about the friendships however tenuous, the relationships however distant, the hopes and dreams for the future....whether they would be there themselves to actually see it come to pass. It's about how one can survive something so atrocious, and still come out on the other side a different version of ones self, but still ones self. It's about the power of the written word to transport us from the most dire of straights to something more beautiful beyond. I admit, I was captivated by the work, and while yes, there is fiction with the facts, it was instilled just so, that it allows readers to fully immerse themselves in the time. This was not a title received for review, but a book I purchased for my personal library that I am slowly rebuilding after Hurricane Michael's destruction...and I doubt I could have chosen a better title to dive into at the time.

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story by Edward Hemingway

Tough Cookie: A Christmas StoryTough Cookie: A Christmas Story by Edward Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most people see this and think...okay, a retelling of the gingerbread man tale, whoop dee, but take another look and you'll see, you can't judge a cookie by its icing!

It's a fun holiday tale that reminds us that even those that look a little different, or act a little different, they are their roll to play, and they should be CELEBRATED for they make us who (or what) we are. This little cookie may not have been "fast as fast can be", he might not have tasted the best of the best, but he still had a purpose...and a group of friends-in-waiting to welcome him! Great for little ones and beyond.

**copy received for review

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

RABT presents... RETRIEVE by Sarah Addison-Fox - BLITZ + GIVEAWAY!

 photo Book One_Symbol Romance Internet Use - Copy 2_zpsdsriyagk.jpg
YA action adventure
Date Published: 26 December 2018
Publisher: Double Edged Sword Publishing

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What if the job you took to stay alive might be what kills you?

Kade knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it's like to lose everything and everyone around him.

His job in a Stormer Unit guarantees not just his survival in the decimated country of Azetaria, but his sister Meg's. Even if it means facing the Numachi warriors baying for his blood, he'll do what it takes to keep her safe.

Hadley is alone and surviving the only way she knows how. By hiding where predators won't find her and scavenging enough just to keep her alive.

When desperation drives Hadley to search for her missing brother, she mistakenly accepts the offer of recruitment into the Stormer's camp, only to be partnered with Kade and sent as a scout into Numachi territory.

The intimidating young Stormer may just know where her brother has gone. But can they stay alive long enough to find him?


Kade’s footsteps were heavy as he approached and stared down at her. “This isn’t going to work. You need to be wearing something lighter, or we’ll never make it to Lazen.”

Hadley tried for a weak shrug but could barely muster the energy. “What do you suggest?”

Kade raised an eyebrow, and a deep frown appeared on his face as he considered her.  He continued to stare at her as she sat, legs sprawled out on the ground. “The best I can come up with is cutting your clothing.”

His eyes narrowed as he searched the length of her. A bolt of alarm jostled her into thinking. “How much are you cutting off?”

Kade dipped his chin, his voice low as he spoke. “Enough, so you don’t keep fainting, enough, so you still pass for a boy.”

He reached for a knife and wore the slightest of smiles as he unsheathed it. “Let’s hope you have hairy legs then eh?”

Hadley’s lips split into a smile before she remembered she was annoyed with him for being so smug.

About the Author

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Sarah Addison-Fox is a New Zealand-born misfit who writes action-packed fantasy with a smattering of punch-ups, mega amounts of romance and a dash of family values. She has an astonishing amount of nail polish, has all her creative writing credentials shoved in a drawer somewhere, and has a husband who, after 28 years, can still make her blush. When she’s not working on her multiple YA fantasy romance series' she can be found binge watching Mission Impossible movies, drinking lager and eating curry.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Santa BruceSanta Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You can't go wrong with a BRUCE book, I'm just saying. This time around Bruce and his curmudgeonly yet big hearted self is awake during his normal hibernation season and what's this He's mistaken for Santa Claus? Uh, yeah...I'm not really seeing the resemblance either, even with the outfit he has going on, but perhaps with the right twinkle in your eye, or desire to see magic around us, I suppose it could happen. Anywho, Bruce tries to set the wee woodland creature right, but there's no turning them away from the idea that they've just met the big S.C., which of course leads to all other sorts of playing Santa-like behavior thanks to those well-meaning mice housemates of his and the goose, neither of which will let him let the animals of the forest down, even if it comes to him pulling his own sleigh...which we won't get into because that would be telling too much.

Suffice it to say, Bruce is back, he'll give Scrooge a run for his money, just in a much less-spoken word fashion, and in the end he'll delight readers young and old just by being his big bear self. With colorful images to add to the holiday reading splendor, this is one to pick up for both those delighting in the joys of the season and not!

**copy received for review

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Camelot Code: The Once and Future Geek by Mari Mancusi

The Once and Future Geek (The Camelot Code #1)The Once and Future Geek by Mari Mancusi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just when you thought it was safe to venture into Medieval times through your favorite online game, Merlin has to muck it all up!

Meet Arthur and Guinevere...or rather their younger selves, as they live their carefree (not really) childhood days harboring the normal issues of self-doubt, the need to be seen AND heard, and unrequited love. Ah yes, the ye olde good days. Now jump back to the present as we introduce Sophie and Stu...schoolmates and gaming friends aiming to take down Morgana (virtually) while navigating the murky waters of growing up, which pretty much includes the same harbored issues as that duo of old. Not much has changed between the then and now, until an unexpected turn of events that just might leave HISTORY CHANGED FOREVER! That's right...we're talking no King Arthur, no conquering of the Saxons, no PEPPERONI PIZZA! WTH! All for the lure of 21st Century advantages and the blabbermouth that is Google spilling the beans on the unfortunate outcome of Arthur's future. I mean, you can't blame him for wanting a better life, but yet you can because while you lose the bad, you also lose all the GOOD and which outweighs which in the end? I guess we'll just have to depend on Arthur taking the noble high road...right? I mean he IS a teen, it's not like self-absorbance would be anything new.... *-*

All in all, it was a great mix of legend and gaming allowing readers of a new generation a loophole into the intriguing mysteries of our past and the grand potential of our glorious future....if only SOMEONE is brave enough to take the chances, risk the risks, ride the stakes, and otherwise go into the challenges we face with eyes wide open, head held high, and not let fear of defeat stop them from taking that first step? I mean if Arthur can do it, and Stu, and Sophie, and even Guinevere to some degree....what's to stop you? Being the first of a planned series, I'm curious to see what the future holds for all our characters...and whether their paths will diverge or intertwine further as the times change.

**copy received for review

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Monday, December 17, 2018

The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack by Steve Rasnic Tem

The Mask Shop of Doctor BlaackThe Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack by Steve Rasnic Tem
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Trevor and Laura are like any other brother and sister duo; they drive each other crazy, but love each other until the end....a time which neither thought might just be so very near.

While on the hunt for the best of the best Halloween being Laura's last year, and Trevor's first...they stumble upon a shop bearing the title of the book as its name. It's a creepy shop, displaying equally creepy items for purchase, and while supposedly being shopped just recently by a classmate, appears to be in utter abandon and disrepair. Does that stop these two from venturing forward?, yeah, but then again I'm not running upstairs in a horror movie either, but these two are diving headfirst into an "adventure" they won't soon forget.

If Doctor Blaack himself isn't enough to frighten you, his bird man sidekick should definitely give you pause, or maybe the talking masks, or how about one that LOOKS LIKE A FUTURE YOU? Yeah, something was definitely amiss here right from the start, and only got worse as the story marched on. At first I was really surprised that the story was as DARK, as gruesome as it was considering the intended audience, but then I looked at the author's other works and I could see that this was probably just scratching the surface of weirdness for his writing talents.

All in all, not a bad read, just not something I was exactly expecting. There didn't seem to be much more moral or point to the story other than "listen to your elders" and "don't stick your nose (or face!) in places it doesn't belong"...and maybe a good reminder to listen to your gut when you get THAT feeling....but you know, sometimes those can be the scariest of stories!

**copy received for review

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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Rite to Reign: A Limited Edition Fantasy Collection - WHAT A WITCH by Colleen S. Myers

Rite to Reign: A Limited Edition Fantasy CollectionRite to Reign: A Limited Edition Fantasy Collection by Heather Marie Adkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, so I read "What a Witch" by Colleen S. Myers specifically in this collection...received a copy of that portion for review.

You've heard me before, short stories are not my bag, but this one definitely starts out with a bang! Vampires are taking over the world, or pretty much HAVE, and while humans were being corralled, mages seemed off hand since they don't appeal to their particular tastes. But then, something changes, and it seems they are ALL under siege...and so begins the anticipated, yet unexpected "quest" for these two sisters, and their brother (eventually). With their powers, they're a force to contend with, but only if they can control them, and that's easier said than done...with good reason as we find out along the way. Up the ante with secrets being played close to the vest even within covens, and an unexpected yet not completely unwelcome romantic entanglement that'll take both parties by surprise, and you've got a tale that you'll enjoy, but will still leave you chomping at the bit for more.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Psst! TWO THOUSAND YEARS by M. Dalto is available now and we're sharing the news!  If you haven’t yet heard about this title, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift Card, International, courtesy of M., The Parliament House Press, and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

About the Book:

Author: M. Dalto
Pub. Date: December 11, 2018
Publisher: Parliament House Publishing
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 310
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooks

Two thousand years ago, the Prophecy of Fire and Light foretold the coming of the Queen Empress who would lead the Empire into a time of peace and tranquility. But instead of the coming of a prosperous world, a forbidden love for the Empress waged a war that ravaged the land, creating a chasm between the factions, raising the death toll of innocent lives until the final, bloody battle.
Centuries later, Alexandra, a twenty-two-year-old barista living in Boston, is taken to an unfamiliar realm of mystery and magic where her life is threatened by Reylor, its banished Lord Steward. She crosses paths with Treyan, the arrogant and seductive Crown Prince of the Empire, and together they discover how their lives, and their love, are so intricately intertwined by a Prophecy set in motion so many years ago.
Alex, now the predestined Queen Empress Alexstrayna, whose arrival was foretold by the Annals of the Empire, controls the fate of her new home as war rages between the Crown Prince and Lord Steward. Either choice could tear her world apart as she attempts to keep the Empire's torrid history from repeating itself. In a realm where betrayal and revenge will be as crucial to her survival as love and honor, Alex must discover whether it is her choice - or her fate - that determines how she survives the Empire's rising conflicts.


The streets were quiet for a Friday night in the city. Alexandra Ross clenched her collar tighter around her neck as the wind began to pick up, unseasonably cool for so early in Boston’s September. Her heels clicked along the damp cobblestones of the old sidewalks as she headed towards her apartment. She had to take extra care while walking in her four-inch heels.
Especially when she knew she was being followed.
The city had been her home for three years now, so the late-night trek home remained familiar, almost a comfort. In the now twenty-two years of her life, maintaining her independence was as much of a priority as the switchblade in her jacket pocket was a security. There was a part of her that truly enjoyed the peaceful solitude these walks could bring, but she wasn’t stupid enough to do it without protection.
She was aware he remained a short distance behind her ever since she left Faneuil Hall.
This evening was no different, except that she was celebrating her twenty-second birthday, which also may have involved too much alcohol. Perhaps it was the intoxicated appreciation of her city within the quiet of the early morning hours that distracted her from her surroundings.
Even the reflections in the familiar storefront windows she passed by reminded her of the fact she that wasn’t alone.
Either way, her attention was focused anywhere but where it belonged. It wasn’t until her heel caught in the sidewalk, and a hand grabbed her arm to keep her upright, that she realized she tripped and started to fall.
And that the one she believed to be a stalker turned out to actually be a rescuer.
His grip remained firm as his other arm wrapped around her waist to steady her on her feet. As she composed herself, trying to clear her head, her hand went towards the knife in her pocket while she glanced towards the individual who just saved her from needing a nose job.
The stranger’s hair was dark under the streetlights, side swept and held loosely in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. He was dressed casually: wearing a dark, button-down shirt over clean denim jeans and sensible dress shoes as if he, too, had just emerged from the bustling social atmosphere that brought so many to Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
His features were thin with chiseled cheekbones beneath skin too tanned to be local, but then she looked into his eyes. They were the most piercing blue she had ever seen—almost too blue, especially without the sunlight’s shining assistance. They radiated with their own luminescence; which was odd at first, but the color was as though they were refractions off of the ocean’s waves. As she continued to stare, the more familiar they seemed. Looking up and into his eyes felt as if she had stared into those eyes before—been lost within them too many times to count.
The feeling was almost nostalgic, though she was certain she’d never met him before. She would have remembered those eyes, regardless of how many cosmopolitans she may have drank.
By the time she realized she was staring, he had already released her from his grasp.
“I—” She blinked, struggling for words as her grip tightened around her knife.
“A simple ‘thank you’ would suffice.” His words purred with a foreign accent—familiar, but she couldn’t place it. Irish? Scottish? Perhaps Welsh, she thought to herself, though she wasn’t even certain if it was European at all.
“Oh,” she spoke, clearing her throat. “Thank you.” She moved to smooth out the short, black dress she wore, awkwardly running her hands over her legs, her ass—anything she could do to avoid his gaze. “I didn’t even hear you behind me.”
“I know.” He smirked. Again, that sense of nostalgia clenched at her chest, her stomach, lower. Before she could inquire further, or at least find out where he came from, he had already moved past her, continuing on his way down the street.
“Happy birthday, Alex.” He waved back to her without another glance.
How did he know?
“Hey, wait!” she called after him, her voice laced with panic, but he disappeared out of sight as quickly as he arrived.
Deciding she had had enough excitement for one birthday, Alex slowly, and far more cautiously, finished her walk home. Occasionally, she would chance a glance behind her to ensure she wasn’t followed again. He was just some creep who must have been too close for comfort while they were drinking the bar, she convinced herself as she turned the corner onto the street that led to her apartment. Or merely a lonely someone who overheard her saying her goodbyes to her friends on the way out and thought he’d get lucky.
She came to the gate that barred the walkway leading to her apartment, the skin on her neck prickled and the hairs on her arms stood on end. Something was off. The familiarity of home felt wrong, like a lost memory, just within reach moments ago, now nowhere to be found. Her hand had been stuffed into her jacket pocket ever since her encounter with the dark-haired stranger, and she continued to grip the knife tightly as she opened the gate and she headed down the final stretch.
Her apartment was situated in one of the older colonial row houses within Boston’s North End that later converted into apartments and condominiums as the years went on and the economy grew. She rented out the bottom floor of the building, with her ground-level entrance beneath the building’s main stairway barred behind a wrought-iron gate. Taking another look around her surroundings, she approached her door as her other hand managed to find her keys, but nearly dropped them as she stopped to survey the scene before her.
The light from a nearby street lamp shone on the damage that had been done. The gate was bent in a fashion that looked as though a gorilla took a bar in each hand and spread them apart. Through the warped iron, she could see the lock to her apartment had been destroyed, the surrounding door blown apart with it, shattered beyond easy repair.
“Fuck,” she whispered, taking a step back to as she glanced to see if there was anyone around, but not a soul was in sight. With a shaking hand, she reached for her phone. Did she call the police on the off-chance her father’s colleagues would report back to him and have to hear another lecture from her about the horrors of living in the city? Or hell, ensure the potential of seeing any of them the next morning while she was at work, having them remind her of her over-exaggerations while she served them their overpriced coffee?
No. No, she did not. So, she rang her best friend instead.
“Hello?” Crystal answered on the third ring.
“Crystal!” Alex whispered harshly into her phone. “Someone’s broken into my apartment!”
“So, call the police,” Crystal reminded her lazily, her tone muddled by the evening’s inebriation.
“You know I can’t do that,” she snapped. “Besides, what if they’re already gone? It would be a waste of time and effort.”
“And your pride?”
“That too.”
“What if they’re not?” Crystal queried. “Your father will be pissed, and your mother—”
“You are no help; do you know that?”
“You’re the one calling me, thinking someone broke into her house!”
Before Alex could continue to interrogate her friend, the slightest sound of movement from the other side of the door caught her attention, and her knife was out of her pocket and at the ready, her heart pounding.
“Crystal, I’ve got to go,” she murmured into the phone.
“What? Wait—” Alex hung up before Crystal could finish her sentence.
Reaching the warped gate, she slowly pushed open the ruined door that led into her apartment. She listened again, waiting for a repeat of movement, and quietly stepped through and into the mudroom once she decided it was safe to do so. Everything was dark and quiet, just as she left it, which gave her even more cause for concern. Whoever was there, whether they remained or not, they weren’t there with robbery as their intention…not that she had much to steal, anyway, beyond an expansive collection of epic fantasy books and Harlequin romance novels.
Liquid courage—that was stupidity. At least that’s what she convinced herself as she tiptoed through the kitchen, her ears still perked when she heard a subtle creak of a floorboard and she tightened her grip on the knife. Peeking around the corner, she noticed a dull light emitted from her living room, appearing as though a flame flickered in the darkness.
Except Alex’s fireplace was only decoration and never once actually contained a fire.
Despite the nauseating curiosity that gripped her and tightened her stomach into knots, she approached the living room, lingering just outside the entryway. The flickering light made it difficult to adjust her eyes to the darkness, but she was certain she could hear bits and pieces of a conversation within an unknown language between two individuals whose voices she didn’t recognize.
Holding her breath, Alex glanced into the living room. Crouched before the fireplace was a figure in black with its back turned to her. Male in appearance, he was too focused on an orb floating before him to notice her. The swirling red flames neither burned nor emanated heat as they hovered over the ground, and her attention was caught upon their pulsating beat as it communicated with her apartment’s intruder, like the blood flowing through her veins.
And the foreign language, unfamiliar to her in every possible manner, resounded through her like a jolt—as though a part of her memory had been previously locked away, and hearing it again was the key. No different to her mind than English, she could understand every word they were saying as if it was her native tongue.
“You are certain you’ve secured the perimeter?”
“Yes, my Lord,” the figure spoke into the flame-less conflagration. “There’s been no sign of the Empress. She will be none the wiser that the Key is in place.”
“You best hope so, for where she will be, the Prince will follow. The Empress must be in my possession before he can make his next move.”
“Of course, my Lord, but what shall I do in the meantime?”
“Be patient. Be vigilant. And so help me, when the Empress returns, do not allow her to leave that apartment.”
“And the Key?”
“You will wait until it activates within the next moon cycle. Until then, remember that she will be your only way home. Do you understand me?”
The figure bowed his head. “Understood, my Lord. And should the Prince interfere?”
Alex could almost feel the simmer through whatever allowed such a floating object to exist, and a shiver trickled down her spin as she watched the dark figure finally stand and turn in her direction.
Red eyes glowed in the darkness, like dying embers fighting to remain lit. Being distracted by the earlier conversation, she hadn’t noticed how far she stepped into the room. Whatever courage she may have had before entering her apartment dissipated as those red eyed focused on her. She tried to take a step back, but hit the wall, jarring her elbow in the process and hissing of pain at the impact.
“Well, it appears my job just became a hell of a lot easier,” he slurred in English, though drawling with an accent both foreign and familiar.
Not unlike her would-be stalker-savior’s.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she announced as she pushed off from her spot against the wall, remembering the knife in her hand and willing her fingers to steady themselves as she pointed it at the head of the intruder. “But I think it’s time you removed yourself from my apartment.”
“The Empress?” The voice from the flames sounded pleased, and the orb’s size and power intensified as it emitted an almost demonic chuckle.
At the words of whatever master presided on the other side of that communication device, the intruder rose to his full height as he turned around to face her fully. The amplified light from the orb finally displayed his features. Other than his eyes, there was nothing extraordinary about him. Pale in the pulsating red light, with a shock of black hair and thin lips. He wore unremarkable clothing—a black shirt over black pants that could have come from anywhere—but still it was his eyes that held her attention, creating an otherworldly presence about him.
He paused his approach, however, when he saw the knife, cocking his head to the side as though in silent challenge. Instinctively, she sliced it through the air in his general direction, and the unexpected action seemed to surprise him as much as it had her. Taking a reflexive step back, his legs hit a side table next to her couch, knocking a lamp to the floor.
The orb ceased its laugher at the commotion.
“It’s a pleasure, Empress Alexstrayna," the voice said while the intruder continued his retreat, falling into the fireplace as if the orb would give him protection or a quick escape out of the room.
Alex rolled her eyes at the intruder’s pathetic attempts to escape through a brick wall, though her attention was caught at the greeting from the orb. It wasn’t her name, but it was close, and she didn’t want to know how or why. Before she could inquire, the voice behind the floating ball of flame seemed to realize he was losing his local support, and the fire erupted once again. “Where the hell do you think you’re going? The Prince is following her. Find him before he finds you first! Do not let the Empress out of your sight!”
The flaming orb allowed his threat to linger as its flames continued to rant and rave, all while the intruder composed himself and again began to approach her. The orb’s light now reflected off of claw-like talons extending from each finger on both hands of the intruder, and his teeth grew into a predator’s fangs. Every bit of his deadly intention was focused solely on her.
Alex felt the sweat form on her brow as her heart beat with a terrified fury. Even as she held the knife up to defend herself, it shook between her fingers. The intruder merely gave her a knowing smirk before he reared back on his legs and leaped into the air with feline grace, lunging across the room with his claws extended, aiming directly for her over-exposed chest.
Frozen in the spot where she stood, Alex’s eyes were wide as she watched death approach. She remained where she was even as a sudden bolt of cold, blue flame shot over her shoulder, knocking the attacker hard against the wall next to the fireplace. The plaster splintered on impact, causing the intruder to crumple to the floor, unmoving once he hit the ground.
Alex thought her heart was going to pound through her ribcage; she made herself take one deep breath, and then another before she looked over her shoulder toward the direction of the flash. In the lingering blue glow stood the stranger who helped her in the street. Those same cold flames appeared to grow from his right hand as he was poised in a battle-ready position, preparing for another strike as his attention focused deeper within the room.
Following his glance, she saw that the intruder remained still and motionless, remnants of the blast that sent him there the only movement coming from his body. She wanted to say something—perhaps she should thank him? Too many questions began to cross her mind as she shifted towards him, needing to know more, that same pull of nostalgia almost drawing her in. No sooner had she opened her mouth than did the red orb cease its ranting to greet the new arrival.
“I was wondering when you were going to show your face, Treyan. Unfortunately, you’re too late. My Key is in place, and come the next moon cycle, the Empress will rightfully be mine.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Reylor, but my Key has been in place for years.” Treyan walked forward, outstretched his right hand where again blue flames sprung from it, this time engulfing the red orb. Not a moment later, it was extinguished. Without delay, he turned towards her and began to approach her. “I am sorry about all of this, Alex—”
“You!” She raised her knife between them, the point hitting his chest before he could move another inch. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Sighing, he brought his hand to the blade, his blue flames warming the metal to the point of nearly burning Alex’s hand, forcing her to drop the knife. She moved to run, but he grabbed hold of her forearm and he pulled her face to him.
Alex caught herself getting lost in his blue eyes again and he watched her with an enthusiasm that was unwarranted given their sudden meeting. It was a feeling of intense warmth throughout her body, akin to the comfort of a lover’s embrace. A feeling she had met him before but knew their paths had never crossed before in her life. And yet, some part of her knew him, or knew of him, and that terrified her.
Who are you?
Unfortunately, the question never left her. Before she could break his intense stare and begin to protest further, he brought a hand to her face, gently cupping her cheek, and after a few murmured words, Alex’s world fell to darkness.

About M.:

M. Dalto is a Young Adult / New Adult fiction writer of adventurous romantic fantasy stories, and her debut, TWO THOUSAND YEARS, won one of’s coveted Watty Awards in 2016. She continues to volunteer her time as a Wattpad Ambassador, where she engages and hopes to inspire new writers, and also mentors authors through the #WriteMentor program.

As a mentor, MB is on the lookout for YA and NA novels heavy in plot with the ability to make her fall in love with its characters. Her favorite tropes include love triangles of all kinds, enemies to lovers, dream sequences, and prophecies. She always wants villains you can’t help but be attracted to, redemption arcs or otherwise. She loves novels with deep character development, a setting where she can get lost, and plot twists that make her want to throw the book across the room. Give her main characters you love to hate, but can’t help but hate to love.

She spends her days as a full-time residential real estate paralegal, using her evenings to hone her craft. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, playing video games, and drinking coffee. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, their daughter, and their corgi named Loki.

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