Authors: Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
Pub. Date: Feb. 18, 2014
Acquired: From author/publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Find "Branded": Amazon | B&N | iBooks
Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.
Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.
Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.
The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.
I've think I've always taken our legal system for granted. The whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing is actually pretty important. What would life be without it? What would happen if any Tom, Dick, or Harry could just accuse someone of something and instead of a fair trial, the accused were sent to prison? Not just any prison, but one so horrible that people went there to die? And be robbed of their dignity.
Well, lucky for us, I don't think that will ever happen.
But, if you want a peak at what that life would be like, Ms. Ketner and Ms. Kalicicki have done a splendid job of illustrating that world with "Branded".
From page one, we are thrust into the desperation and horror of Lexi Hamilton's life. It's one rabbit hole after another into the pits of hell...Or, as it's referred to here, the Hole. With its bleak mise en scène and horrific dwellers that all seem to want to do nothing but drag Lexi down, the Hole is immediately recognized as a antagonist all on its own.
Slowly I started to feel hope as Lexi was able to trust and open up to a select few individuals. Which is the true purpose of a good dystopian. To give the reader hope. Hope that whatever pits the hero may find themself in, it can only get better. And for our fragile and kind Lexi, this seems to be the case.
I connected with Lexi right away. It wasn't difficult to put myself in her shoes or to understand why she may be feeling what she's feeling or acting the way she's acting. And it wasn't hard for me to trust and like the same people she did, either. It's always a wonderful story that can drag me in wholeheartedly.
I won't lie. There were some tear-jerker moments. Some suspenseful moments and some swoon-worthy moments. Each and every one was essential to the story. It was such a great read and I had a very hard time putting it down.
Whether it's this series or another I am absolutely thrilled to read anything these two ladies dish out!
I turn on the faucet for a long while only to discover ice-cold water rushing out. The water never warms and I begin to understand. The Commander thinks he can wash away my soul by freezing me to death. He thinks he can destroy me by stripping away my possessions. But he can’t and I won’t let him take my memories, my ambition, and my pride.
He thinks I’m so easily broken.
The Commander doesn’t know anything about me, what I grew up with, what I endured—the father I lost, the mother I hate, the brother who walked out of my life, and the stepfather I was forced to accept. He thinks since I was rich, making me poor will cause me to give up. What he doesn’t understand is that, after my father passed away, I grew up behind walls of hatred. I had nothing, but had everything at the same time. I owned expensive clothes, enjoyed good schooling, and lived in a nice home. But my body was just a shell protecting an empty, desperate heart. My life was a colorful façade.
I had so much time to sit and think. I spent the majority of my life between four walls. I was abandoned, neglected, starved, betrayed, and abused. I’ve already been treated like the scum of the earth, so the Hole is nothing new. He wants to erase every sign of my existence on this earth, but I won’t let that happen. He can strip me naked, but he’ll never reach my soul.
It’s personal, completely personal.
~About the Authors~
Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.
Author: Melissa Delport
Find "The Traveler": Amazon
Seven years ago, Rachel gave her heart to a dark, intense stranger, who left her broken and alone.
Every day since then Rachel has thought about Dex, her memories refusing to be silenced.
Now, Dex is back, but this time he is not alone. He has brought a formidable army – their sole purpose to conquer. Fate will bring Rachel and Dex back together, but on opposing sides of a war that threatens to obliterate her world.
Pitted against the power of the elements, Rachel and her friends must survive tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes and fire, all the while being hunted by a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to pillage her planet.
Fleeing for her life amidst the chaos of a raging, burning city, Rachel realizes man’s only chance of survival lies in the hands of the very person who betrayed her all those years ago.
Earth is destined to fall, but Rachel is determined to save mankind, no matter the sacrifice.
The Humvee in front of us slams on brakes but not fast enough, and the monstrous military vehicle slides over the edge of the newly formed cliff just ahead, plummeting to the ground some three hundred feet below. Dex’s foot is already flat on the brake pedal and we screech to a stop almost as if in slow motion, inch by precious inch. Just as I think we’re actually going to make it, the front right tire goes over the edge beneath me and the Toyota careens violently forward.
We are suspended, hanging precariously over the abyss and I barely dare to breathe. I can hear the shouts of Tom’s team behind us but my gaze is fixed on the black-clad woman standing on the opposite edge of the ravine. Her hair is long and blonde like mine, but her eyes are glowing emerald. She raises her hand, but before even the slightest tremor emanates around her, Dex roars, in a voice I have never heard, “Dallan!” His voice rings with authority and menace, and that one single word stops the woman in her tracks. Her eyes fix on Dex through the windscreen, widening in shock and fear. She hesitates, taking a step forward toward the abyss and then she gives a small shake of her head, as though clearing her thoughts. In the space it takes for me to blink, she is gone.
“Rachel,” Dex murmurs, closing his eyes, “don’t even breathe.” I focus only on his face as he opens his eyes again and the familiar glow is back. Ignoring the ominous creaks as the Toyota slowly sways on the spot, I brace one hand on the dashboard and one on my seat, trying to make myself as weightless as possible.
The earth below us starts to tremble and slowly, infinitely slowly, the Toyota starts to rise, as if the ground below is repairing itself. The tendons in Dex’s arms are bulging and he looks as though he is in physical pain. I barely register this when the car lurches forward again and Dex opens his eyes, panting. He stares at me, a bewildered expression on his face.
“Get to the back, get out,” he orders, casting a glance over his shoulder at where the others are huddled around the trunk. They seem too nervous to touch the car for fear of unbalancing it.
“Are you all okay?” I hear Tom’s voice and I nod before shouting back.
“We’re going to try and put weight on the back end,” he continues, “try and weight it down so that...”
“No!” Dex yells a warning, “it’s too risky! Rachel’s coming out, just be ready to grab her!”
“I’m not leaving without you,” I whisper urgently, but he just smiles trying to placate me.
“Yes, you are. Now move.”
I breathe in deeply through my nose and exhale through my mouth, and then I nod quickly, removing my right hand from the dash and placing it behind the headrest of Dex’s seat. Slowly, I ease my reluctant body up and out of my chair toward the space between the seats, but I haven’t gotten far when the car emits a loud creak and pitches forward. I fall heavily back into my seat and the impact seems to be too much for the infinitely delicate stability of the Toyota. With a spine-chilling grating sound, the nose of the car tips even further forward and we start to slowly slide forward.
“No!” Dex grabs the steering-wheel, his eyes gleaming, and, as he lets out a bellow of pain and effort, our forward momentum stops. I watch in horror as his muscles strain and a sheen of sweat breaks out across his forehead. His face is contorted in agony and intense concentration, as inch by inch, the car rights itself. I can hear the earth beneath us shifting and sliding, as if building blocks are being slotted into place to support the sedan. I give tiny shrieks of terror at every small bump and tilt but I cannot take my eyes off Dex. The strain of using his power is taking its toll and his arms are shaking with exertion, his face deathly pale. Eventually, I feel the Toyota roll backward, onto firm ground, and I almost pass out in relief. My door is hauled open and gentle hands pull me from the car. I meet Tom’s wide hazel eyes and then I am out in the open, sucking in huge gasps of fresh air. They are pulling Dex out too and I start to totter around the car on shaky legs to thank him and check if he is okay. Before I can reach him a loud boom reverberates in my ears and a burst of red blossoms near his right shoulder, the blood slowly spreading across his white T-shirt.
Through his pallor, I see the bewildered expression cross his face and I launch myself at him just as he slumps to his knees. Shielding him with my own body I turn ferociously on Tom, who still has his gun pointed at Dex. Without a thought to the consequences I reach behind Dex and pull Dennis’s gun from the waistband of his jeans, swinging it in an arc and aiming it right at Tom’s weather-beaten face.
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~About the Author~
Wife, mother of 3, businesswoman by day and author by night, Melissa Delport is the author of The Legacy Series and Rainfall. She graduated from the University of South Africa with a Bachelors Degree in English in 2000. She currently lives with her husband and three children in Hillcrest, South Africa.
Her first novel, The Legacy, published in 2013, is the first in The Legacy Series trilogy, and is followed by the sequel The Legion. The final book, The Legend is due out in 2014. She has also written an independent novel entitled Rainfall, a psychological romance, and a science-fiction, action-adventure called The Traveler.
An avid reader herself, Melissa finally decided to stop “watching from the sidelines” and to do what is her passion.
“I was driving home from work when inspiration struck, and a storyline started unravelling in my head. For a few days, it was all I could think about and eventually I realised that the only way to get it out of my head, was to put it all down on paper. I started writing, and that was that.”
Author: Jennifer Ann
Publication Date: June 2014
She’s ready to give up on life, hiding her depression with sarcasm and booze.
He’s quit college and is directionless with few friends to lean on.
When they discover each other, the sexual attraction is undeniable. So why does it seem impossible for them to be together?
Everyone wanted to be Jewels Peterson in high school. Naturally beautiful, exceptionally smart, talented cheerleader, life of the party, and with an All-American boyfriend to boot. One regrettable choice and fatal accident later, and Jewels found herself unceremoniously knocked off her pedestal. Now she’s in college, going through the motions, but not really living.
Adam Murphy is easy-going, charming, considerate, and crazy good looking; he’s exactly the kind of guy Jewels pictures herself being happy with. But Jewels is already involved with someone, and Adam makes it known that he’s guarding a dark secret, one that makes him the wrong guy for her. Trumped by the promise of an innocent friendship, Jewels is forced to ignore her overwhelming hunger for Adam.
After Jewels unknowingly helps Adam create a bucket list, they embark on the adventure of a lifetime that pushes their platonic relationship to its limits. But does she want to be with Adam without knowing the truth behind the skeletons in his closet, or is being with him just another pointless thing in her life?
~About the Author~
When Jennifer Ann isn't writing heart wrenching romance novels with hot scenes, she either has her nose stuck in someone else's book, is curled up watching a movie, can be found taking pictures of other people (not in a creepy way), or is rocking out at a concert.
Jennifer writes New Adult books that pull at your heart strings one minute, then want a cold shower the next. She's currently getting ready to release her upcoming novel ADAM'S LIST, coming summer 2014.
Hold Me (Life After the Outbreak #3)
Author: LJ Baker
Publication Date: April 16, 2014
Find "Hold Me": Amazon | B&N
Nothing comes easy in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world and Andi is used to losing the people she cares about. But when Will gets infected so soon after getting him back, she can’t accept the possibility that her life may have to go on without him. She clings to Dan for support through one impossible situation after another, and although there are some bright spots, the darkness just keeps rolling in.
When finally things seem to be settling down, and she thinks she might actually have a shot at a normal life, the unthinkable happens. She struggles with knowing nothing will ever be the same again and moving on to honor the memory of the one person she thought would always be there. But that’s easier said than done, and Andi finds has to fight harder than ever just to hold on.
Go here for a look at my review of Hold Me.
Dan and I found the parts we needed, a small cache of fuel, and even a few cans of beef stew, just in time for the rain to begin. I was actually used to walking in the rain, but he insisted we hang back a bit and wait for it to slow down. We found an abandoned hardware store to sit in until the big baby decided he wouldn’t melt in the storm.
The store was a mess, shelves knocked over, most of the good items cleaned out, but scattered around in the mess, there were still some usable finds. Dan found a canvas tool bag halfway under one of the fallen shelves and he pried it loose to fill with whatever he found that might be useful. I wasn’t really sure what most of it was, but he seemed to have an idea what he was doing so I left it to him.
In front near one of the large windows, there was a workbench and stool, so I made myself comfortable and sat down to wait. There were names carved into the wooden top of the workbench with dates and little sayings. Some were written in pen, listing the date they were there, and others were carved in with whatever tool they might have had at the time. There were a few dates that were recent, but most of it looked to be from before the outbreak. The kind of thing teenagers did to leave their mark on the world. Back when it seemed like that was so important.
I’d actually been in that particular store a few times with my Dad when I was younger. Even if it was just to run a small errand or pick something up for Mom, he usually brought me with him. I could remember when I got to the age where it was more of a chore than it was cool to hang out with my dad. In another life, I might have been one of those kids carving their name into the work bench, counting the minutes before I could get back home to complain to my friends about the agony of my wasted time.
I pulled out my knife and absently carved my name into the splintered wood. Making a mark on the world was so much more important since the outbreak than ever before, because life was so much more uncertain. Not that carving my name into an old piece of wood would make my existence mean something. It didn’t. But I wanted there to be some evidence in the world that I was there. That I existed. That I mattered.
“Whatcha doing, love?” Dan came up from behind me and peered over my shoulder.
I shrugged and continued carving the last letters of my name. “Making my mark.”
Dan raised an eyebrow and sat down next to me. He looked like he was about to say something, maybe tell me not to worry or that we weren’t all going to die, but instead, he pulled out a screwdriver from his newly collected hoard, and started carving his name in next to mine.
Andi Sheppard and Dan MacNamara. Our names immortalized forever in a useless wooden table.
I looked over the words and pressed my finger to the indentations in the wood. It wasn’t much, but it was something. If the world ever went back to something resembling normal, it was something to let them know we were there. I wanted to do something important. Something that would be remembered.
“Do you ever think that there is no point to all of this?” I tilted my head up and looked at Dan. He narrowed his eyes and glanced over me like I was a little nuts.
“Like… everything we go through… then we die and it’s like we were never even here. We don’t matter.”
“Of course we matter. Just as much as we ever did. You think that because there are zombies that everything that was important before, just isn’t anymore?” He turned to face me and trapped my legs between his knees.
“Yeah, don’t you?”
“No, I do not. If we were ever anything more than insignificant blips in time, then we are much more important now, than we ever were. What we do in this life matters, Andi. The people we help, the differences we make, just the fact that we survive at all, is important. You are important. You will be remembered and missed and thought about after you’re gone. The same way you would have been if that virus never took over and the world was exactly how it was two years ago.”
Dan took my hands into his and looked for a long moment into my eyes. “What did you want for your life before the outbreak?”
It was a valid question. I didn’t have a real answer, but it was valid.
“I don’t really know, I guess. To go to college, find a career, get married, have children. The usual stuff.”
“Okay, so you might not get to go to a traditional college and have that whole dorm experience, but tell me why you can’t do every one of those things now?”
“Don’t be insane. I can’t…”
Can’t what? Go to college. But, I’d learned more in the two years since the outbreak than I ever would have at college. Find a career? I’d almost joined the military and after my stint at the infirmary, I knew I had options. Get married… well not legally, but that didn’t even matter since there was no real government and law anymore.
“I don’t know. I mean, I guess that makes sense. It’s just that… I don’t even know.”
Dan smiled and lifted my chin up to look at him. “Sweetheart, you can do anything you want to do. As much as things are different, they’re the same. It’s whatever we make of it. We are the pioneers of this new world. Like Ben Franklin and shit.”
We both laughed at his ridiculousness, but he was right. I was focusing on all the wrong things. If I wanted to leave a mark, there was so much more I could do besides carve my name into a forgotten workbench in a ransacked hardware store. I could find a way to really leave a mark.
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~About the Author~
L J lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband, four kids, two cats, and an inherited dog from hell (a.k.a. the sewer gremlin). Though writing has always been her first passion, she got a degree in psychological counseling and worked in the mental health field for awhile, which she finds very helpful in dealing with her crazy family. She is a lover of all different types of music and books, switching between genres so wildly it sometimes makes people wonder if she has multiple personalities. She is most likely to be found writing romance stories of all kinds (contemporary, erotic, new adult, young adult, fantasy, etc.) and enjoys jumping genres just for the fun of it. When she’s not writing, she prefers to spend her time reading, taking photos, or spending time with her family.
The Reason I Stay
Author: Patty Maximini
Publication Date: Summer 2014
Jack Daniels is the cure to all evils.
Sex should be casual and, preferably, anonymous.
Giving a damn is for nurses, philanthropists and suicide hotlines.
Those are the values Mathew Rogers built his adult life on and plans to spend the rest of his days honoring. In his pursuit of happiness, he embarks on a one year journey where he’ll have to prove he can live by his values and rely only on himself.
Four months and thirteen days later, due to a series of unfortunate events, he finds himself in the rickety town of Jolene, Alabama. There, he meets Lexie, a waitress with some serious attitude and values of her own.
Never underestimate the healing power of chocolate chips.
If it walks and talks like a jerk, it’s definitely a jerk. Stay the hell away.
When in doubt, go with a smile and kindness. It goes a long way.
Taken by her beauty and personality, Mathew questions all he’s ever known and, much to his surprise, begins to give a damn about someone else for once in his life. The problem, however, is that Lexie seems to despise him.
Desperate to get his life back but unable to get in his car and drive to the next unplanned destination, Matt stays in Jolene. In the midst of arguments, unlikely friendships, new values and heartbreak, they’ll both try to find a reason to stay.
~About the Author~
Words have always been a passion of mine. I’ve always loved to read them, write them and learn them in other languages. Last year, I’ve decided to take that passion and turn it into a book, the result was Exception, my very first novel due this October.
Whenever I’m not sitting behind my computer, I’m either enjoying the company of my dear hubby, Alex, and our four four-legged babies or reading. I’m a firm believer in long hand written letters, love of any kind and good stories.
Blood and Magic
Author: Ann Gimpel
Find "Blood and Magic": Amazon
Magic didn’t just find Luke Caulfield. It chased him down, bludgeoned him, and has been dogging him ever since. Some lessons are harder than others. Luke survives by embracing danger and upping the ante to give it one better. An enforcer for the Coven, a large, established group of witches, his latest assignment is playing bodyguard to the daughter of Coven leaders.
Abigail Ruskin is chaperoning a spoiled twelve-year-old from New York to her parents’ home in Utah Territory when Luke gets on their stagecoach in Colorado. A powerful witch herself, Abigail senses Luke’s magic, but he’s so overwhelmingly male, she shies away from contact. Stuck between the petulant child and Luke’s raw sexual energy, Abigail can’t wait for the trip to end.
Wraiths, wolves, and humans with dark magick attack. Unpleasant truths surface about the child and Abigail’s well-ordered world crashes around her. Luke’s so attracted to Abigail, she’s almost all he can think about, but he’s leery too. In over his head, he summons enforcer backup. Will they help him save the woman he’s falling in love with, or demand her immediate execution?
Musings on Steampunk
There are about as many interpretations of steampunk as there are writers who incorporate some of its elements into their stories. Steampunk started as a subgenre in science fiction, which is probably why it appeals to me. I’ve been reading SF books since I was a kid. “Traditional” steampunk—if there even is such a thing—took place in the nineteenth century and featured steam powered machinery operated by creative means. (That’s where the science in science fiction comes in: an artistic bending of scientific principles that doesn’t offend readers with a hard science background.) Many steampunk books feature airships, which of course weren’t cluttering nineteenth century skies.
Maybe because of the airships, goggles made the hit parade. After all, it’s tough to pilot an airship without eye protection. Another prime element of steampunk is gears and gearing mechanisms, frequently run by steam, but also by magic.
Though the genre first showed up in the mid-1960s television show, The Wild Wild West, it didn’t get popular until the 1980s. Since then authors have placed steampunk stories in Victorian times, the American West, post-apocalyptic settings, alternative worlds, fantasy, and horror. It’s such a broad swath, the genre has gotten progressively more difficult to pin down.
Blood and Magic is a historical paranormal romance with a healthy splash of urban fantasy. Its only claim to steampunk fame is a stagecoach operated by gears (in addition to horses) with a magical assist from my witchy heroine. There were other places I could have added steampunk elements, but I was afraid they’d take away from the pace of the story. Whenever an author puts in something unusual, readers always slow down to picture it.
How about some of you? What about steampunk appeals to you? Do you have favorite books in the genre? What are they?
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~About the Author~
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. She’s published over 20 books to date, with several more contracted for 2014.
A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.