Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Release Blitz: STOLEN by Marlena Frank—Excerpt + Giveaway

PRESENTED BY ROCKSTAR BOOK TOURS
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Stolen
by Marlena Frank


It’s difficult taking care of a delusional father by yourself. Sixteen-year-old Shaleigh Mallet would rather explore and photograph dilapidated buildings than cater to her father’s dark episodes. But when she’s kidnapped by a creature who carries her atop a flying bicycle into another world, she realizes this wasn’t the escape she wanted.

In a kingdom known as the Garden, where minotaurs pull carriages and parties are held in hot air balloons, Madam Cloom and her faerie servant, Teagan, rule over the land with incredible but terrifying magic. Shaleigh must prove that she is the reincarnation of a long-dead ruler, not because she believes it, but because it’s her only chance to survive. With the help of a trespassing faerie, a stoatling, and a living statue, Shaleigh hopes to outwit everyone. She aims to break the bonds of servitude and finally make her way home. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that she’s playing right into the hands of a far worse enemy...

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Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
• Publisher: The Parliament House
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo

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FREEFALL


AN EMBARRASSMENT

Shaleigh didn’t think about how much concrete and steel stood over her head as she stepped carefully down the decaying hallway of Ferris Factory. The building had been abandoned for so long that the mildew and fungus ran rampant from the moisture that crept down the crumbling walls, so a respirator was a requirement. Ferris Factory was only two stories tall from the outside, but the floors underground felt endless. The elevator shaft only went down three floors when it had been operational; the rest of the floors could only be reached with the stairs. She doubted any of it had been inspected by the fire marshal.

Her best friend, Kaeja, walked so close behind that she could feel her warm breath on the back of her neck. The only sound that echoed up and down the hallway, besides their footsteps, was the snap of Shaleigh’s camera. The photos were why they risked their lives to explore dangerous places: to document the decrepit. It was thrilling to explore a place that nobody else would see. Eventually all the walls would fall, and Ferris Factory would decay into memory. Shaleigh and Kaeja would have the only remaining proof it even existed, especially since it was clear that nobody was supposed to know about this section of the factory.

A rat skittered out of a heap of moldy paperwork and Kaeja took a deep breath until it passed. “This is the worst one yet. By far.” Shaleigh grinned, though her respirator concealed it. “Come on, we had to come back and take the stairs down. We couldn’t just end it at the base of the elevator.”

“Do you see that?” She swung the flashlight to the side. “I couldn’t even hang a picture on that wall. Four floors down was enough, five floors is just begging to get hurt.”

Kaeja was right, the walls of the hallway curved inward like a bow string. Shaleigh hadn’t noticed how bad it was until she mentioned it. “We’ll be quick.”

She snapped as many photos as she could while Kaeja held the flashlight. It illuminated a good portion of the hall, but the beam had little effect against the thick, sick air. The light ought to have made the place more inviting, but it only made the shadows darker. It was hard for Shaleigh to keep her hands steady for the photos; fear and exhilaration kept combating within her. Sure, this place was terrifying and could collapse at any moment, but the thought of capturing a world that would never been seen again, of documenting the forgotten before it disappeared, made her tap the shutter button of her camera faster. "I wish we had more time. I'd love to look inside some of these rooms."

"Not me," Kaeja said, her eyes shadowed by the reflections of the flashlight on her mask. "These halls are creepy enough, thanks." The light flashed across some metal scraps against the bowed wooden wall. It was hard to tell if it had been left behind by the workers, or if it had fallen from the ceiling. "Didn't they used to make cars here?"

"Sure, that's it." Shaleigh snorted as she tapped on a dirt-encrusted sign that warned visitors that the hallway was a high security corridor. "Whatever helps you sleep at night."

"It's an old building, but that doesn't mean they were hiding anything down here."

"Then what's with the high security? They had to be doing something illegal down here. The maps we found don't even show these floors. I heard it used to be a hospital,”
Shaleigh glanced back to her with a smile. “Dad heard it from a colleague at work. They used to keep dangerous people here.” Kaeja stared at her, the beam from the flashlight in her hands trembling.

A high-pitched squeal of metal echoed down through the insides of the building, as though the entire structure was shifting under its own weight. The squeal turned into a groan that shook the very floor beneath their feet. Both teens froze, barely daring to breathe as debris fell from the ceiling. Seven levels of exhausted steel, wood, and plaster shifted over their heads. They stood in silence waiting for the walls to give way, waiting to be buried beneath the rusty metal beams, discolored linoleum floors, and rat-infested insulation; but the building remained steady.

The noise stopped. Particles drifted in the air.

"It doesn't sound very good, does it?" Shaleigh whispered.

"I don't like it. I don't care what you say, this is the lowest I'm going. Five levels below ground is far enough."

Shaleigh stifled a laugh, "That's what you said when we found the stairs."

A high-pitched noise erupted down the hall causing both teens to jump. It didn't sound metallic...it didn't sound like the building at all.

Kaeja stared down the hallway with wide eyes. The noise broke into a whimper, and then there was silence. It only lasted maybe a few seconds, but they both knew what they had heard. Someone was down there with them.

Shaleigh turned to look behind them, but without the flashlight beam it was too dark to see anything. "Was that—was that behind us?”

Kaeja spun around, temporarily blinding Shaleigh in the process. "I don't know. I thought it came from in front of us."

The darkness felt like a cage all around them. The beam of the flashlight, darting forwards and backwards down the hall, seemed so small and insignificant now. Someone was in the darkness. Someone was watching them. Shaleigh stepped around Kaeja and started back toward the stairwell. "We should go."

Kaeja grabbed her arm and Shaleigh could feel her clammy fingers through the sleeve of her jacket. "Are you crazy? You said that's where it came from."

"How else are we going to get out of here?"

Kaeja could give no argument and shook her head. "Shaleigh..." she whimpered.

"It's okay, we'll do it together." She put her camera around her neck and took Kaeja's hand. They walked slowly towards the door of the stairwell, side by side, fingers clasped in a death grip.

For a moment, Shaleigh thought she saw movement ahead of them and stopped. Kaeja must have seen it too because she swept her flashlight left and right, searching for whatever it was. Just before the beam of light reached one of the doors, Shaleigh was certain she spotted a shadow move into one of the rooms.

"Ow..." Kaeja whispered giving their joined hands a tug. Shaleigh realized she had been gripping too hard and loosened her hold but didn't say a word. Her eyes were fixed on where the shadow had been. As they drew closer, an arm stretched out, hairy with long, black fingernails, and pulled the door closed. There was a splash as though something heavy had fallen into a pool of water from behind the door.

Kaeja screamed. A bolt of adrenaline hit Shaleigh and she grabbed Kaeja's arm. Together they ran. As they passed the door, the knob began to turn with a creak. She wasn't sure if Kaeja had seen it or not. "Keep going!" she yelled, all pretense of caution forgotten.

Once the stairwell came into view, they sped up. Shaleigh slipped on a wet spot and her foot skidded. She would have sprained her ankle if she hadn’t grabbed for the wall. What a stupid way to die, she thought as she regained her footing. She had to keep her head straight, because panicking in an old, decrepit building was a sure way to get hurt or killed by whatever was after them. She forced them to slow down to climb over a pile of broken boards and nails. Shaleigh had thought it odd to have it so close to the stairwell when they’d first come down, but now she saw it as a marker, a warning perhaps, to keep trespassers out. As she helped Kaeja down the opposite side of the rubble, she heard limping footsteps approaching them.

"It's coming!" Shaleigh cried and together they sprinted for the stairwell. The flashlight bounced beams off the walls.

They hit the metal door like a battering ram, shoving it into the rusted railings of the stairs, causing it to reverberate like a gong up and down the concrete shaft. Shaleigh gripped the metal rail, feeling the flecks of paint come off on her hands, and the raw rust beneath. She exchanged a glance with Kaeja, both trying to catch their breath. The respirator was humid with her breathing and she couldn’t wait to rip it off when they got outside. She looked up the dark stairwell above them and grimaced. There were too many floors between them and safety.

Kaeja gasped and reached out to grab Shaleigh’s arm. Shaleigh stared at her. She thought she could make out footsteps from the hall they just left, but it was so faint it was hard to make out. It could have just been the sounds of the building, but she didn’t want to take any chances. Taking a deep breath, Shaleigh led the way as they started up the stairs.

One floor, two floors, three floors.

Was that the sound of the doorknob beneath them being turned? Kaeja hurried to her side as they continued to climb. Both were audibly gasping now. It wouldn’t take much for their pursuer to know where they went. Shaleigh’s thighs were burning. She could sprint up a flight or two of stairs, but this was tough. It didn’t help that she was already out of breath before they even started climbing.

"What if it's locked us in?" Kaeja asked between sucking in gulps of air.

Shaleigh didn't respond. She didn't want to even consider that option.

They climbed two more flights of stairs. Kaeja reached the door first. They both let out a sigh of relief when the door opened. Panting, they jogged to the main exit, a pair of massive iron doors that looked like they belonged in a mausoleum. Neither of them said a word as they descended the short flight of broken steps to the grass. Shaleigh ripped off her respirator, Kaeja did the same, and they both exchanged grins as they crossed the grass-pocked concrete walkway. It felt good to feel the heat of the day on her skin too. The sun was sinking in the west, but the air was sweet with wild honeysuckle and a light breeze rustled the old oaks. Shaleigh relaxed a bit but could tell by Kaeja's expression that she wouldn’t be able to relax until they had left the property completely.

The concrete walkway fell away to tall grass that came up to their hips, as they sidestepped small pine trees that were beginning to take over the lot and moved further away from the building. The chain link fence that surrounded the property sported multiple warning signs for trespassers, though they were faded from exposure. Kaeja pulled back the corner of fencing they had used to get in, and they both climbed through without saying a word. Kaeja paused, took a deep breath, and relaxed her shoulders.

"I know you'll hate to hear this, Kaeja," Shaleigh started. "But I think I'm done with Ferris Factory for a while."

Kaeja laughed. "No complaints here. I’m going to add that we never go underground again either. I am not running up that many stairs again, no matter how great you say the pictures will be." Shaleigh couldn’t help but laugh. The downtrodden path through the woods made it a short walk to reach the bus stop. Shaleigh unwrapped the scarf from around her head and shook out her twists. The breeze felt wonderful on her scalp. They dropped everything into Shaleigh's backpack as they walked. The main road was surprisingly empty for a Sunday afternoon. After exploring inside of decomposing buildings for a while, she had new respect for even the simplest things. The bench for the bus stop, covered in graffiti and bearing a single broken board, looked like a luxury.
Kaeja sprawled across the broken wooden bench and covered her eyes with her arms.

"Wow, what a rush!"

"I know!" Despite her smile, Shaleigh still glanced over her shoulder, as though expecting the person from the building to be slinking toward them through the woods.
"What do you think it was?"

Kaeja stared up into the sky. "Someone crazy, I'm sure. It's a good thing they made some noise. I don't like the thought of them sneaking up on us like that." She sat up and patted the bench beside her.

Shaleigh obliged, her legs were still shaky. "Did you see that hand?"

Kaeja shuddered, "Looked like he hadn't seen the light of day in forever." She stretched her arms over the back of the bench. "This is exactly why I don't like the big ones. There are too many hiding places."

"The small ones aren't much better," Shaleigh added. "Sometimes it feels like a shot right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know?"

Kaeja nodded and the two grew silent from their own nerves. Kaeja’s leg jumped up and down, as though at any moment she would jump up into a sprint. Shaleigh kept resisting the urge to look over her shoulder once more. The bus couldn't come fast enough.


"Ugh, I need to think about something else." Kaeja said with a tense smile. "You've got a party coming up tonight, don't you? You get to get all dolled up. I know you don't like the people much, but I do envy you getting to go."


Shaleigh sighed. "I had almost forgotten about it.” She checked her watch. It was a good thing they had left when they did because she still needed to get home and clean up. “If you like it so much, you can totally go for me."

"Your dad would never let me. He needs you there."

"Unfortunately."

Kaeja scooted closer and put an arm around her shoulders. "I'm sorry. I guess that is pretty hard on you. Do they ask you a lot of questions about him?”

Shaleigh nodded. She hated the tight feeling she got in her chest whenever she thought of those stupid parties. She hated the fact that she had to go. Why in the world did Roseworth College have so many of them anyway? It was like they wanted to torture her.

Deciding to change the subject, she picked up her camera from around her neck. After checking to make sure nothing had been damaged in their mad dash, she asked, "Want to see the pictures?"

Kaeja nodded but looked concerned. Shaleigh ignored it.

The brilliant light of the flash somehow made the dark halls of Ferris Factory less frightening, less dangerous. If only people were so easy to strip of fear.

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I write about strange creatures. Typically they shouldn’t exist, or they have bled through from a different reality, or they’re pretending to be a crying baby in a crib. Sometimes that lands my stories in horror and other times in fantasy, but there’s always an air of strangeness to my tales. If you want to get a better feel for what I’m talking about, check out a few clips or read a few drabbles.

My work has appeared in a spattering of short story collections, but I do have a few novellas and novels in the pipeline. Other than talking about writing, I also talk about cryptozoologywerewolveswildlife conservation, and of course kitties. I’ve also been known to nerd out about Batman and The Hobbit, and have recently discovered the cracktastic fun of Black Butler cosplay, so there will likely be more of these incidents.

By day I work as a web developer, so I’ll occasionally talk about web issues like finding the right theme.


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Continue on for the giveaway! ~

Monday, January 21, 2019

Release Blitz: BLOOD AND CHAOS by S.M. Soto

PRESENTED BY INKSLINGER PR
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Blood and Chaos
by S.M. Soto


We thought the games were over...but they've only just begun.

She was the puppet.
He pulled the strings.
Now the death toll is rising, what could this mean?
It was all a game.
Of feelings. Of pain.
Death is just an illusion, or so they say.

She was just a pawn on a piece of his demented board. But there’s only one question left to settle the score…Can dead people really stay dead?

Book two in the Chaos Series. MUST be read after book one.




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Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo

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S.M. Soto was born and raised in Northern California where she currently resides with her son. Her love for reading began when she was a young girl, and has only continued to grow into adulthood. S.M. lives for reading books in the romance genre and writing novels with relatable characters. She refers to herself as a bit of a romance junkie. S.M. loves to connect with readers and eat copious of donuts that will surely lead to her demise (carbs are life).


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Thanks so much for stopping by! Happy Reading!

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: That Night by Amy Giles

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Title: That Night
Author: Amy Giles
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Pub Date: October 23, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Book Source: publisher via edelweiss
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Synopsis: The year since a mass shooting shook their Queens neighborhood has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar and deeply personal ways.

As Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother, and Lucas takes up boxing under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, their paths converge. They slowly become friends and then something more, learning to heal and move forward together. But what does it mean to love after an unspeakable tragedy?
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*** POSSIBLE SPOILERS ***

I was wowed by this book. I went into it without any expectations, really, because I haven't read Amy's other book (her debut from 2017). I was hooked immediately upon starting this one. This book is told from two perspectives; Jess and Lucas. Both of these teens lost a brother in a mass shooting a year prior. Both of them are coping in different ways; both were effected in different ways. Jess' mother is gravely depressed and barely leaves her bed—effectively neglecting and isolating the only child she has left. This leaves Jess feeling as if she must pick up the slack as far as caring for the home as well as her mother. She is desperate for a job. She is also missing her best friend, who is away at a different school with therapeutic benefits for her PTSD from the shooting. And Lucas? He boxes to deal with the stress and cope with his loss. Though, this is only when he can dodge his mom, who has turned into a helicopter mom post-shooting. Lucas also sees a therapist and takes meds.

The two come together when Jess gets a job at the hardware store Lucas works at. Working alongside Lucas is tough at first, but the two tentatively become friends and then much much more.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, DON'T WORRY! There is no instalove and this book does not promote throwing yourself into a relationship to get over your loss. No; this book promotes so much more than that. Lucas is very open about being in therapy and taking medication for anxiety. He also sheds some tears in the book, which is nice to see. Stigmas be damned! I love the positivity toward therapies of many kinds—talking to someone, medication, physical exercise, etc.—that were present in this story. This book also covers the topic of suicide and it is done well and respectfully.

We live our lives like survivors, weaker in some places, but stronger in others. Scarred, but healing.
The romance is truly just a bonus in this book. It has a realistic build-up and the chemistry between Lucas and Jess was fantastic. They made me laugh with their banter and cry with their emotional healing, both together and apart.

Another thing I feel is important about this book is that the shooting, as well as the shooter himself, wasn't a highlight of this book; it wasn't sensationalized in any way. It was something that happened, but the book was about the way people cope with grief and how they move on afterward, not the terror of the actual shooting.

Life is either about moving forward or looking back. We're moving forward again, but we'll never forget what's back there behind us.
Overall, this was one of my top ten books of 2018! I loved every moment of reading it. The character arcs were great and the way everything from therapy to mental illness was portrayed was just perfect. The romance enhanced the story, but didn't serve as a stand-in for true grief counseling and management. This book left me in tears, but it also gave me comedic relief and had me laughing out loud. I cannot recommend this one enough!
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

{Blog Tour} ANALIESE RISING by Brenda Drake—Guest Post + Giveaway

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Analiese Rising
by Brenda Drake


When a stranger gives Analiese Jordan a list of names before he dies, the last thing she expects to see is her own on it. Not. Cool. Her search for answers leads to the man’s grandson, Marek, who has dangerous secrets of his own. Both are determined to unlock the mystery of the list.

But the truth is deadly. Analiese is a descendant of the God of Death, known as a Riser, with the power to raise the dead and control them. Finding out she has hidden powers? Cool. Finding out she turns corpses into killers? No, thank you.

Now the trail plants her and Marek in the middle of a war between gods who apparently want to raise an army of the Risen, and Analiese must figure out how to save the world—from herself.

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Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
• Publisher: Entangled Teen
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / TBDIndieBound

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by Brenda Drake

TOP TEN GODS AND GODDESSES
FROM ANALIESE RISING


There are several gods in Analiese Rising. Listing my top ten favorite gods and goddesses from the mythologies from around the world was difficult. There are so many that would make number one for me. So I decided to list them in the order of my favorites in the book, and here they are.

1.       Sidapa comes from Philipine mythology. He’s the god of death. In the novel, he doesn’t have his power anymore. He’s in love with the Bulan and sees him only during the full moon when the other god can come down to earth.

2.       Oyá is from African mythology. She’s an Orisha of winds, lightning, and violent storms, death, and rebirth. She’s a kick butt goddess, and she makes a grand entrance into the story.

3.       Lugh comes from the Irish mythology. He’s a trickster god. There’s hardly nothing he can’t do. He has so many powers and magical items. I decided to explore his more trickster side which was tons of fun to create.

4.       Thor aka Bjorn—do I need to tell you about him? Okay, I will anyway. He’s the hammer-wielding Norse god who can control lightning and thunder. In my novel, he goes by one of his many aliases, Bjorn.

5.       Inanna, the ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, war, and political power, keeps Ares on his toes. She’s a strong goddess and doesn’t let others walk over her.

6.       Horus is a sky god in ancient Egyptian mythology. He’s associated with the falcon.

7.       Ares is the Greek god of war. He’s arrogant and an instigator.

8.       Bastet, the Egyptian goddess of protection, used to be worshipped as a lion form before becoming a cat.

9.       Pazuzu is the Babylonian demon god. He’s the demon that possessed the little girl in The Omen. I have to say it creeped me out writing him.

10.   Janus is the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, doorways and passages, endings, and time. In the novel, he protects the entrance into a creepy catacomb that Analiese and Marek must enter to search for a clue left behind by Marek’s grandfather.


There we have it, ten of my favorite gods and goddesses from Analiese Rising. Who are your favorites from the mythologies around the world?

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Brenda Drake grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother's animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. With kids of all ages populating Brenda's world, it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical for both younger readers and the young at heart. And because she married her prince charming, there's always a romance warming the pages. Her favorite books are The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Kings Row by Henry Bellamann, and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. When she's not writing, she hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. In her free time, Brenda enjoys hanging out with her family, haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or just reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).


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Continue on for the giveaway! ~