Thursday, January 30, 2014
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a difficult review to write without giving too much away. Suffice to say, the writing is what makes it exceptional and brilliant. Ms Silva develops each character with a skill that has the reader often wondering, what would I do in this case?
The way she strings the relationships together make this realistic novel totally believable and has the reader caring about each character. To some readers, Vanessa is a take it or leave it character, no such thing as small doses about this woman.
This book was full of discovery, at every turn a surprise. Ms Silva is a master of story, pulling the reader towards the next chapter and then the next. Very touching all the way through. In a way, she makes an extremely good attempt at trying to explain "what do men/women want?"
My journey through this novel, has brought me to rethink points in my own life. Ms Silva and her writing have captured my soul, in every sense of the word. All said, this is an incredible book and I look forward to reading more of her work.
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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Nadine was leaning over Thipp saying, “Thipp. Can you hear me?” and softly shaking him. Thipp only groaned, but Dude thought ‘Damn, she does know our names!’ Nadine turned to the crowd and snapped, “I know everybody here, and if I hear anything about you jerks spreading this tale, you’ll all be cut off from every bar in the sector as well. Reggie – go get your car and take Brit Boy here to the Doc.”
Someone in the crowd must have left because a minute later Dude heard a motor start up across the parking pad and rumble over towards the crowd. Dude noticed it was a ’77 Pontiac – nice looking with a new-ish paint job in a sort of turquoise color. Several people picked Thipp up smoothly and put him in the back seat, although Thipp would say later they tossed him in like a sack of plasticrete. Dude very slowly and gingerly climbed in the front seat of the car and shut the door. Nadine gave two knocks on the roof and Reggie drove off.
Dude looked over at Reggie and saw a pretty pleasant looking fella – maybe a dockworker over at the plant? Dark ebony skin and black eyes that twinkled. Pretty well muscled, messy jeans and a tight tee-shirt Dude would never be caught in; but basically Reggie looked like an all right kinda guy, which was a big relief after the run-in with Troy.
“Uh, where are you taking us, dude?” Dude asked.
“Oh, just over to the Doc’s place.” He turned to look at Dude. “And I have to ask, how open-minded are you?”
The question threw Dude and all he could say was “Why?”
Reggie shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, Doc ain’t like most medicos you know. As a matter of fact, I’d be willin’ to bet you never met anybody like our Doc.” He smiled slightly. “You just need to be a little open-minded s’all I’m sayin’.”
Reggie pulled up to a small brick building and across the front in faded letters it just said ‘ os ital’. There was a neon sign on the front door that flashed ‘the Doc is in’ every few seconds.
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Genre - Space, Fantasy
Rating – PG
Why writing is a form of personal therapy
I’ve always wanted to write, and always have for the most part. As previously mentioned, I did poetry for a while, and a long, long time ago I wrote songs and the music that went with them. I broke a finger that never healed correctly and made it impossible to play a guitar anymore. A little over 5 years ago I was laid off from a job and it was just as jobs became few and far between. I was extremely frustrated I couldn’t find a job; my stress level was through the roof, my blood pressure went sky high and my self-worth suffered. But I finally had no excuses NOT to write. I jumped into it and found writing soothed my current issues to some extent. To sit down with these characters I consider dear friends, and see what came flying out of my fingertips that made them seem so real to me, was good therapy. I felt like I was accomplishing something I wanted to do. I felt proud of these characters. It was a wonderful boost to my ego. I have some hard core fans, and it makes me feel so glad I continued to write.
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Genre - Space, Fantasy
Rating – PG
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
It seemed like a cruel irony.
I had survived the brutal end of civilization and watched our world fall from grace; I had stood by helplessly while all of my friends and family died, or were reduced to the walking dead, one by one. I lived on and yet now, a decade later, my salvation lay behind a worn, old movie poster for a film named Zombieland.
Crouched between a dumpster and a stack of decaying boxes, I stared at the faded, ruined poster, wondering at life’s morbid sense of humour. I remembered that movie. It had been a few years old at the point when the world ended, so it seemed strange to have it hanging in the window, but places like this backwater little town tended to be behind the times. I used to enjoy that kind of thing, back when I was a teenager and the world was still whole. The zombie fad had been so popular in 2013 – there were copies of The Walking Dead in the window, too.
If only we had known what was to come.
The virus that struck us down was nothing like any of those movies. There was to be no Dawn of the Dead for us, no 28 Days Later. I was eternally grateful for that fact, actually. My reality was very different to the fantasies dreamed up by Hollywood.
There was one of them in the DVD store across the road from me: An old man. I could just see him past the tatty photograph of Jesse Eisenberg, shuffling back and forth between the shelves. He wandered tirelessly, trying to organise his stock with hands no longer capable of gripping.
Some of the undead were still dangerous, but most of them were slow and heart-wrenchingly pathetic, like the little old man in the store. I’d take him over a fast-moving, angry movie zombie any day, even if it did break my heart to look at him. The difference came down to which one was more likely to eat my brain. Frankly, I liked my brain right where it was. The real undead weren’t interested in brains – or anything else, really.
There was nothing left on the shelves now; the old man had knocked all the videos to the ground long ago with his limp-fingered efforts, and then crushed them beneath his wandering feet. He was far gone after all these years. His flesh was half-rotted, and his eyes were unseeing. Only instinct kept him moving in his relentless, unattainable quest for perfection.
A lot of the infected seemed to retain the basic memories of their lives, but only the things that they had repeated so often that the action ended up deeply ingrained within their subconscious. The core of their personalities seemed to linger as well, but it was just an echo of the person they used to be.
That made them unpredictable.
Genre - Post-Apocalyptic Survival
Rating - PG-13
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.
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-13
I’m not even being corny when I say “writer”. This is my lifetime goal. If I were a Sim, then I’d have a little locked my Lifetime Achievement.
Other than that, I’d love to be a xenogeologist (which is a made-up word for someone that studies the geology of other planets), a genetic engineer, a pilot, or a volcanologist. I love science.
What are you most passionate about? What gets you fired up?
I am very passionate about equal rights. Nothing gets me more upset than hearing about people being treated badly because of their ethnicity, religion, or sexual preferences. I’m one of those people that does get involved in charities and causes whenever I can, because I believe every person has the right to equal opportunities.
What makes you angry?
Hate speech. You do not use racial slurs around me – even ones directed at Caucasian people – because you will get smacked in the face. You do not try to tell me that your religion makes you better than anyone else. I also get very angry at people to try to hurt or belittle others to feel better about themselves.
What’s your most embarrassing moment of your life?
Getting a big box of paperbacks and hardbacks in, getting totally excited, then opening it up and realising that there’s a typo right there in the foreword. S#$%!
Are you a city slicker or a country lover?
An awkward combination of both. But, for a New Zealander, “city” is a relative term. Our largest city is a million people, which is pretty tiny.
How do you think people perceive writers?
If they’re anything like me, they perceive them as larger-than-life, quiet people, like celebrities. It’s strange to think that other people may see me that way, but that’s still the way I perceive my author idols.
What’s your next project?
Editing The Survivors Book II: Autumn is next on the agenda, along with writing The Survivors Book III: Winter. I also need to finish the three book arch in The Immortelle series, which will cover #3, #4, and #5. All work and no play makes me… happy, strangely.
What would you love to produce in your life?
A book that makes someone feel the way I feel about Gaelyn Gordon’s books. Even though she died more than 15 years ago, I still remember her works vividly, and I still love them – and her. I want to be remembered for my writing long after I’m dead.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
From Chapter 12 – Visit to a Blue Amber Mine
As Tara alighted from the vehicle, she found herself facing a ghostly white haze of wispy, low-lying clouds that hung as if suspended in time above the undulating hilltops. The peaks rose from the variegated emerald and olive valley below and stretched into the distance amid a virginal mixture of lush equatorial undergrowth. She drew a deep, involuntary breath.
‘Wow!’ There were no other words to describe the feeling of awe-inspired privilege that washed over her. The vista was about as far removed from Central Park as a New York city skyscraper was from the little pastel coloured huts lining the Carretera Turística.
Aurelio smiled. Intuitively, he seemed to understand that the most appropriate response to this magnificent sight was silence. It was a full two minutes before Tara gathered her thoughts.
‘Let’s get going,’ she said.
They made their way carefully—gingerly climbing over dead logs, negotiating their way around rocky outcrops, and grabbing onto available plant life to steady themselves as they walked and stumbled their way towards the valley below. On either side of the track, a mixture of tall, fronded plants grew in an array of shapes and sizes beside stunted and gnarled old trees with deep green foliage. Tara thought of the trees like friendly bystanders, their leafy branches protectively shading Aurelio and her from much of the glaring sunshine above. They came across a trickling stream, which they followed for a while; Tara ever mindful and vigilant, watching for any sign of wildlife in the undergrowth. Except for the background humming of insects, the occasional noisy squawking of a flock of parrots flying past overhead and, once, the silent imprint of a shoe sole on the muddy banks of the stream, they seemed to be alone.
Then, in a clearing, they came across a group of young men standing seemingly relaxed and chatting. A few feet away, under a lean-to made of branches and palm fronds, one of them squatted while cooking something on a small paraffin or gas stove. Aurelio and Tara had arrived at the mine.
Again, there was a short conversation in Spanish. Again, there was a wrinkling of noses followed by broad smiles of understanding and agreement. There were also some side comments and laughter amongst the men. The word ‘gringa’—foreigner from America—came up a couple of times. Tara thought she also heard the words ‘bonita’, and ‘sexual’, but she couldn’t be sure. She decided to keep a slight distance for the time being. They were in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest civilization.
Aurelio walked back towards her. ‘They will be happy to show you around, but we should remember our time limitations. We cannot spend more that half an hour here if we are to return to Santo Domingo before dark.’
‘Are you trying to protect me from these guys?’ she asked with a smile. Aurelio looked embarrassed.
‘What’s he cooking?’ she asked to change the subject. ‘It smells great.’
‘That is called arroz con abichuelas, a mixture of rice and beans. He is probably cooking some small pieces of beef with it, but it could be any meat.’
‘Can one buy that in a restaurant in Santo Domingo?’
‘Of course, but not exactly the same. This is a local dish for locals. To sell food like this to tourists would be like offering leftovers to your guests. It would not be right. In the restaurants it is much more carefully presented and is usually served with salads.’
The word ‘dignity’ popped into Tara’s mind. Aurelio seemed to have it, and that was what she had seen on the faces of the fruit vendor and the amber polisher and, now, even the miners as she approached them. Other than their initial jocularity, they seemed to consider her as their guest and themselves as hosts who happily welcomed visitors into their world. The men were just being men.
As they approached the entrance to the mine, a happy looking miner wearing a backward facing baseball cap sat with a short-handled pick in one hand, a lump of soft rock in the other.
‘Hola, señorita,’ he said, grinning broadly.
She smiled back at him, lifted her hand in greeting, but continued to follow Aurelio to the mine entrance. It was like standing at the entrance to the burrow of a large animal.
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – MA (15+)
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Monday, January 27, 2014
“Please sit down, Emily.” He extended out the flat of his hand, very much in control.
“Ah, thank you.” She perched on the edge of the soft leather seat across from a man who was too damn good to look at—a man obviously comfortable in his own skin.
Hardness set his jaw as he studied her. The tick of the wall clock seemed to echo in the silence, and Emily squirmed in her seat. Why was he looking at her like that? Maybe it was her outrageous entrance and he was wondering what kind of kook she was, whether he could entrust her with his child. Yes, that had to be it.
She swallowed hard. “I’m Emily Nelson; I talked to you yesterday on the phone about the job.”
He blinked before closing those exquisite eyes, as if he’d forgotten the reason she was here. When he opened them again, his hard judgmental expression seemed to have softened a bit.
Again he extended his large hand, taking hers in a firm grip. Just the touch of his solid calloused hand and the secure squeeze was enough to teeter her nerves back to that awkward woman at the door. She wondered what it would be like to have a man like this run his hands over you. She snatched her hand back before her face burned any brighter. Finally, he introduced himself. “The name’s Brad Friessen.” Emily kept quiet. He didn’t run on with his words. He must be a deep thinker, a doer. She could relate to that… but not to him. Her sly eyes glanced down at his left hand: no gold band, no white line, no wife or significant other. Or maybe he was one of those arrogant guys who wouldn’t wear a ring, a lady’s man. He had the looks and the attitude. Now was the time to ask about the woman who answered the phone when she called. Who was she?
“This is a working ranch I run, and I need a woman to look after my son. I’m old fashioned in my values. Children should be at home, not stuck in daycare. I’m looking for someone who’s comfortable in a kitchen and looking after children: a role that should come natural to a woman. I don’t want someone who’s got the phone stuck to their ear half the day. It’s a decent job and good pay; $500 a week, room and board, and includes all your meals.”
Her heart sank about the same time the bottom dropped out of her stomach. It was too good to be true. She wanted to cry. “But I… I have a little girl, I didn’t realize–”
His face hardened and he looked away. For some reason he was angry with her… no, furious. Emily didn’t know what to say when he let out a heavy sigh. He closed his eyes, rubbing his hand over the light brown shadow that appeared over his jaw. Then he faced her again, with those deep brown eyes now turned to steel. Emily saw that he could be a hard man.
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Genre – Contemporary Western Romance
Rating – PG
Sunday, January 26, 2014
* * *
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.
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Genre – Contemporary romance, Magical Realism
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Washington was now buzzing with as many rumours as had swept London during the height of the scandal, so what happened next was not entirely a surprise. The White House became involved. The most likely explanation for President Kennedy’s sudden interest in the affair is that his brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, told him of the long report from Hoover.
There were then both political and personal reasons for the President’s interest. One was that the scandal could provide Kennedy’s opponents in Congress with ammunition to attack his plans for a multi-nation NATO nuclear force. If Britain was so leaky, why should the US share it’s defence secrets? Another was a call in the Washington News for Kennedy to cancel his scheduled visit to London because it would provide moral support for the foundering Government of Harold Macmillan. ‘We can think of no better time for an American President to stay as far as possible away from England.’
And a third reason, a personal one, was that given Hoover’s animosity for the Kennedy family, the President became concerned that Hoover would somehow use the scandal against him….The only feasible reason for this widespread fascination is that all these people feared that the President of the United States was about to be dragged into the scandal, not on a political level, but on a sexual one…..The reason was that Robert Kennedy was worried that Christine or Mandy, or even both girls, might have slept with the President during their recent visit to the United States and he needed to know for certain so that he could protect the President from the scandal that would follow if the girls blabbed. It would have been simpler for Robert Kennedy to ask his brother if he had slept with either of the girls. But, as we now know, John F. Kennedy’s sexual appetite was so prodigious and so indiscriminate that he would not have been able to remember.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
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 was born an orphan.”
She turned off the e-stim and looked up at me.
“Want to talk about it?”
“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.”
“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.
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Genre – Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy
Rating – PG
Friday, January 24, 2014
Mouse moved swiftly up the spine of the Fire Dragon towards its rider. He didn’t realize she was there at first and when he did, it was too late. Her daggers had found their marks before he’d seen the flash of the blades – one in his side, the other in his neck. She withdrew the daggers from his flesh and neatly dumped him from the saddle. Only then did the Beast turn around, snapping its full skull of teeth at the stowaway. The frenzied Dragon ignored the fast-approaching earth, blinded by the scent of its rider’s blood. Mouse sidestepped a snap. And another. She dodged the jaws just long enough to tuck and roll off the Dragon, crashing half-heartedly into a boulder. Scrambling for her dislodged rapier, she dove behind the boulder as the Fire Dragon bucked, turned, and spewed a wall of flames in her direction.
The Beast landed with a thud and sprayed the boulder again.
Mouse pressed her head and back into the boulder, the heat beginning to sear her skin through the disintegrating rock. She shut her eyes, blacking out the licks of orange flame around her. A deep breath. Two. Three. Her eyes snapped open, dark with determination.
The Dragon bellowed a deafening cry of challenge and spewed a blast of fire again, before drawing back to begin a charge. Once the flames subsided, she spun from the boulder’s shelter and sprinted towards the charging Beast. A few lengths from the acid-kissed mouth, she slipped into a feet-first slide. Back against raw stone, Mouse freed her daggers into the Dragon’s eyes before rolling onto her stomach as she passed under the length of the flailing Beast’s body. Her slide ended out beneath the Beast’s tail. Grappling for any uneven ground, she clutched onto a root, pulled herself up and dove behind a rock outcropping.
The Dragon staggered. His scream deafened. In a final, mourning chortle, the bloodied orange-red Beast took to the sky.
The 10-man Council Dragonics patrol stopped and stared at the Beast’s whirling, scream-filled demise. One Water Rider passed low over the crumpled Rider and retrieved his pin and sword. At the rallying cries of the Rogue Dragons, the Water Rider ordered the retreat.
Mouse laid low until the Council Dragonics had gained enough altitude to be harmless. Standing, she dusted off her pants and checked for any significant cuts or gashes. Satisfied with only a few long scrapes from the scuffle, Mouse strolled over to the lifeless Fire Dragon and pried out her daggers. With a swipe across her pants, she returned them to her belt and looked up at Callon and Vylain, hand on her hip for their impertinent stares. Casually, she waved them down.
“You good?” Callon asked as Syralli landed.
Mouse shrugged and nodded.
“Is she good? You ask if she’s good? Are you both mental? It’s obvious she is bretzing mental, Callon, but you, too? Woman. You could have been killed!”
Another silent shrug.
“Ease up, Brydellan. She saved our skins.”
Mouse smiled a gratefully and then cocked an eyebrow at Vylain.
His green eyes remained still. His jaw clenched as he flexed and closed his hands until he could muster a solid, controlled breath. “She could’ve gotten us killed since, and I’m just guessing here, but from that display – they were actually after her!”
Callon shrugged. “Eh… technically both of us,” he said, crossing his arms.
“Like I said, it’s a long—”
“Story. Yeah, I know.”
“Don’t pout, Lady Vylain, it’s very unbecoming. I’ll explain it to you later.”
“Oh,” Vylain scoffed. “Don’t bother with me. Explain it all to Alaister when he demands to know why one of his officers was almost killed.”
“You’re exaggerating just a smidge, don’t you think?
Immune to the bickering, Mouse slowly approached Syralli. Her snout twitched. Her mouth seeped black tufts of smoke, but she did not make a move. Mouse stared into amber eyes that were nearly as large as she was wide.
“Why is she even—”
“She did accost me at blade point.”
“You’ve got to be joking.”
“Wish I was…”
“I find that a bit… hard to believe, Callon.” Vylain gestured to all of Callon and then his twin blades. “Really, really hard to believe.”
Callon pointed to the slain Rider’s crumpled corpse and shrugged. “Do you? Really?”
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Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG-13
Thursday, January 23, 2014
"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.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What did you think about the writing style? I was drawn in from the very first page. Bocco’s writing style is akin to a beautiful temptress who whispers in your ear and if you do not turn the page, you know it’s your loss. Despite the numerous twists in the story, Bocco keeps it smooth and you are not unwillingly thrown out of the mesmerising setting she has created.
What I liked about the book … Writing style which I covered above. The push and pull between innocence versus the ways of the world. While I was expecting the heroine to be naive as most are in this genre, Isabelle was brave, witty, cunning and had her head screwed on right. Additionally, despite the gloomy settings contrasted with the steamy lovemaking scenes and action scenes. Well done, Bocco.
Favourite character(s) … Marcus and Isabelle. At the end of the day, it takes two to tango and their performance keeps the reader glued. I’m watching you, you’re watching me, we’re making love … it was sometimes amusing and sometimes so very beautiful.
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
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
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.
“I don’t know, Lilli. I don’t know.”
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – NC-17
More details about the author
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? No I don’t and thank God! My books are science fiction and take place in another galaxy. I get to stay right here on Earth and hang out with my family.
Who is your favorite author? I have a bunch. I love Dean Koontz, I snatch up anything he writes. I love Joey W. Hill (my girl crush) and her Vampire Queen series. I love Kresly Cole and her Immortal After Dark series. I love Sherrilyn Kenyon and her Dark Hunters series. I love Nalini Singh and her Guild Hunter series. I love Tina Folsom and her Scansguards Vampires series. You can never go wrong with Eloisa James. There’s a lot more but my mind is blank. It’s not often that I get to indulge in reading but when I do, those are my go to authors. Apparently I love a lot of authors. LOL
Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Yes! I currently have 3 books that I’m working on. All of them are from different series. I’m hoping to get them finished and out in 2014. One is a superhuman story that will be included in a series with various authors. The other is a shifter story that I’m 25k words into and the other is a spin-off YA story that I’ve just begun. I’m excited about all three and can’t wait to get them out!
Have you started another book yet? Yes! I currently have 3 books that I’m working on. All of them are from different series. I’m hoping to get them finished and out in 2014. One is a superhuman story that will be included in a series with various authors. The other is a shifter story that I’m 25k words into and the other is a spin-off YA story that I’ve just begun. I’m excited about all three and can’t wait to get them out!
Where do you see yourself in five years? Five years? Hopefully I’ll be blessed with writing full-time. In order to do that I’ll need to stick to my guns and keep moving forward, staying positive and writing the stories that need to be told.
What are your current writing projects now? I have 2 more books in the Loving Dangerously series completed and to my editor, Dangerously His and Dangerously Forever. I’m excited to get J.B.’s and Allysan’s story told. I’m working on a superhuman story that will be in a series with other authors. I’m also working on a shifter story and a spin-off. I’m hoping 2014 will be the beginning of a couple new series for me and I’m looking forward to it.
Jess hates aliens. After the invasion that destroyed Earth, the extraterrestrial bastards sold her to a brothel as a sex slave. She may have escaped but the old memories and fears still linger in the dark corners of her mind. Supposedly Sonis is just the place for her—somewhere safe, where she can heal and start fresh. She’s almost hopeful…until she meets Rasha, her new boss.
Rasha, captain of the Sonis Royal Guard, is a warrior through and through. He’s huge, sinfully sexy and could have any woman on Sonis—but the woman he wants is Jess. He’s very much an alien and Jess knows she should hate him or at least be wary, but whenever he’s around, she loses control. She tells herself it’s only sex—amazing, mind-blowing sex like nothing else she’s ever experienced—but there’s something about Rasha that shakes her soul. The feel of his skin against hers, the look in his eyes as he touches her—they make her want to believe it’s possible to find love and begin again.
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Genre - Science fiction
Rating – R
More details about the author
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014
- Beyond Neanderthal was written and published months before the Global Financial Crisis manifested, but in Chapter 1 it was made clear that a crisis was coming and why.
- The hilarious scene where Patrick tells Samantha about his experiences on the island of Skiathos actually happened to my wife, Denise and me when we were there on holidays – of course, the way Patrick told it was embellished with author’s license.
- The story’s insights into Muslim thought processes were partially facilitated by the fact that, for many years, I sat on the Board of Directors of a Muslim family owned business. It was franchisor of kebab stores and it brought me into direct contact with a diverse range of the family’s friends and business associates.
- The scene with Tara and Patrick flying through the Bermuda triangle describes reported physical results that were claimed to be demonstrated and photographed in laboratory experiments by a Canadian by the name of John Hutchison. Knowing about these experiments I scoured the internet looking for reports regarding the Bermuda Triangle and discovered that every one of Hutchison’s reported experiments had at least one matching story that had been reported by pilots who had flown through the Triangle.
- The house that Patrick and Tara stayed at in the Samana peninsular actually exists. I wrote to the owner of this holiday home and asked him about terms. The owner – who was an ex airline pilot living in France – was a great help in providing me with details of life in that area.
- A book called Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic , by Robert M Best, “presented itself” to me as if synchronously whilst I was writing Beyond Neanderthal. It offered a fascinating view of the Sumerian numbering system that existed at the time of Great Floods that geological research has validated occurred across the planet about 5,000 years ago. Using that numbering system – instead of the decimal system we have today – Best recalculated the ages of all the patriarchs from Noah and before him (including Methuselah) and recalculated the year in which Adam was supposedly born as 3,113 BCE; which happened to coincide exactly with the start date of the Mayan Calendar. I wrote to Best to ask about it and he had never heard of the Mayan Calendar. He said it was “a coincidence”.
- Speaking of coincidences, Beyond Neanderthal’s original name was “Blue Amber”. A friend and ex-mentor of Denise’s in matters relating to “The Higher Self” had suggested I let my proposed novel be about Blue Amber. I had never heard of Blue Amber and only after I started researching it did the idea of the Bermuda Triangle come to me. As I already had an interest in “alternative energies” I saw how I would be able to craft a story that encompassed both subjects. Philosophical ruminations in my younger years presented me with tangential ideas, and the storyline evolved with other “coincidences” manifesting along the way.
- Denise was convinced that when I was “in the zone” of writing, I was actually connecting to my Higher Self. I don’t fully understand these things but I mention this because ideas just seemed to flow when I was in the zone. When that happened – which didn’t happen often, but often enough to be remarkable – it was almost as if I was channelling information.
- I knew that a particular scene was good if it “felt” right. Often I had to rewrite a scene more than once to achieve this outcome. Some parts of the book were written only once whilst others were written and re-written several times.
- My editor taught me a trick when she was editing the book. When I presented her with the completed manuscript she told me to go through it and highlight the entire manuscript in three colours: “Red” for what had to stay in the storyline on a not negotiable basis, “Orange” for what would be nice to have but not essential, and “Green” for stuff that, if was deleted, I wouldn’t even care. That enabled both me and her to see what was important from a reader’s perspective and made the job of editing much easier. She concentrated on making damned sure that the Red highlighted information was attractive and easy to read and she checked punctuation and sentence structure in the orange colour, often coming up with creative ideas for a scene. Green highlighted wording was treated with less microscopic attention and much of it was deleted.