paranormal romance

REVIEW: DATING THE UNDEAD BY JULIET LYONS

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Vampires in fiction have been given short-shrift in the post-Twilight years and perhaps in some cases, rightly so, but vampire PNR is still a favourite genre of mine, if the authors can do something slightly different and not wander down the path of well-trodden tropes.

Dating the Undead definitely brings us something new – it’s vampires for the Tinder generation, in a world where we know vampires exists and if the mood takes us, we can even hook up with one through dating website V-Dating.com.

Appropriately named Silver Harris, experiences her first kiss (and first bite) on New Year’s Eve with a mysterious Irish vamp and decides that V-Dating might just be the thing for her and who can blame her, because I think most women would definitely swipe right for male MC Logan Byrne!

As female MC’s go, Silver has a bucket full of sass, is unashamedly open about what she’s looking for in a man, and has the right amount of feistiness without becoming irritating – in short, she’s the heroine for the modern age. Logan is the cocky heart-throb who discovers WAY more than he was looking for, is more vulnerable than he lets on, and who knows he’s met his match with the sassy Silver.

A chance meeting on New Year’s Eve sets the ball in motion for what at first seems to be nothing but a few steamy encounters (okay, more than a few!) but soon transpires into something deeper (pardon the pun) and Silver and Logan discover they are connected in ways neither could have imagined.

Dating the Undead is a fun, hotter than hell read, with characters that I found instantly likeable. It has just the right amount of sauciness, a boat-load of action, and a sprinkle of romance that thankfully doesn’t make you want to up-chuck because of its saccharine sweetness. I enjoyed this immensely and whizzed through it in a day, not wanting to put it down.

If you’re looking for a vamp read that’s not heavy on the angst, and that might leave you needing a cold shower, this one is definitely for you. Highly recommended!

 

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paranormal romance · urban fantasy

Review: Haven by Lindsay J. Pryor

Writing a spin-off to a popular series can often seem like a no-brainer for authors.

You’ve created something that your readers just can’t get enough of, and of course, your fanbase doesn’t ever want the series to end, but for some authors, you just can’t squeeze any more juice from the lemon and in some cases, probably shouldn’t even try. It takes a certain kind of world-building to be able to pull it off successfully. And you need to be brave enough to sometimes move away from characters that have become well-loved and to whom your readers have become attached to the point where you have to pry them off with a crowbar.

Fortunately for Lindsay J. Pryor fans, Lindsay is both a brave writer and a proficient world-builder, so they have nothing to worry about with her new release from Piatkus Fiction, Haven, the spin-off from the highly successful Blackthorn series.

With the Blackthorn series, we found a world that already seemed mammoth, despite being mostly set in just one of the districts that Lindsay has created – Blackthorn, the dark and dangerous district of the Third Species and any other low-life creature forced to reside there (for those newbies amongst you, the vamps, lycans and cons). But Blackthorn really is just one part of something much bigger, and if you’re already a LJP fan, and have checked out the ‘About Blackthorn’ section on her website, you might already have an understanding in just how huge this world is and how many possibilities there are to create spin-offs and new adventures to appease older readers and hopefully generate new ones. I remember reading Lindsay’s posts about Blackthorn and at the time, thinking how there was so much more I wanted her to write about, so many more tales I wanted to read, and this is why I’m so happy to see Lindsay investigate the Lowtown district with Haven.

For me, a successful spin-off should be able to stand in its own right and that’s just what Haven does. You can read Blackthorn first, of course (and you should read it anyway because it’s all kinds of awesome), but the first thing you should know about Haven, is that if you’re new to LJP, then you’re not going to have to read an 8 book series before you start on the Lowtown book. Yes, there’s a few references to Blackthorn, but you’re not suddenly going to find yourself in a world without a handy travel guide and spend forever wandering around, trying to work out what the Hell is going on.

Let’s meet Ember and Nate. Ember, a waitress in a cafe, is on the brink of gaining citizenship to the district of Midtown, having been through a gruelling and lengthy process to escape the gritty and brutal confines of Lowtown where she’s lived her whole life. She’s crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s and finally, she’s been given approval to cross the border, pending her final medical. Nate is a vampire, and has been dropping by the cafe for months. A man of very few words, he keeps himself to himself, but his elusiveness and air of danger has sparked some interest in Ember, even though she knows she has to stay away from him. Any involvement with the Third Species could have her application torn up before the ink is dry on the stamp of approval.

Her determination to gain a new life for herself seems certain to succeed, that is until she discovers Nate has moved into the apartment across the hall from hers and she finds him close to death in the stairwell of the apartment block. Helping him could risk her application, and Ember has to make a quick decision whether to be compassionate and save him or be selfish and leave him to die.

When sinister forces set to rip Ember’s world apart and threaten the business and lives of her friends, she finds herself on a mission to help them and the only person who she can turn to is her mysterious neighbour, Nate. But is Nate all he appears to be?

With danger lurking around every corner, and time running out, Ember must fight the demons of her past and her feelings for Nate, if she is to make it to Midtown and start a new life for herself, but it seems as if others have a different path for her.

As with all Lindsay’s female characters, Ember is something to be admired. She’s everything we want to see in a female MC – feisty, independent, compassionate but flawed – and I genuinely wanted to see her succeed. I was rooting for her from page one, right through to the end, even if I didn’t always agree with her decisions. As a reader, I think that’s important. I don’t want to see a perfect heroine getting it right all the time and turning into the Mary Poppins of urban dystopian fiction. I want someone real. Someone that I can identify with. Someone that I want to see win. I definitely found that in Ember, she’s vulnerable at times, but has the capability of great strength, and a protective side to her when it comes to those she loves.

Nate isn’t always likeable, particularly to start with. He’s aloof, cold at times, detached, but that is something I like in my male MC’s; one, because it means we root for our heroine more, and two, because again, I have no desire to see Mary Poppins and Bert chim-chiminey-ing across the rooftops of Lowtown, sprinkling magic over the houses and dancing up a jig. I like to feel a little bit torn when it comes to the male MC’s. I want to see tension. I want to see a bit of angst. I want to see two people battling against each other, because let’s face it, it makes the coupling all the more sweeter 😉

I absolutely loved these two. I’m not sure if these characters will pop up again in Lowtown or not, I’m sure we’ll meet new characters along the way, but the important part for me was my connection with them both and that is something LJP always gets spot on. Characters that we love, characters that drive us crazy and make us shout at the pages while reading (yeah, I did that), characters that make us want to keep reading and lament the fact we have to put down the book to go back to our lives/jobs etc (yeah, I did that too). I talk a lot about Lindsay’s skill for world-building, and I hope if you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll just take that as a given now, but we should never forget the power of the characters she creates. The fans all have their favourites (HELLO, JASK!) but there’s something to be said for an author who can change your mind with each book and have you start bumping up new characters to the top of your list, particularly with a spin-off series.

The villains of the book, the powerful and brutal Hordas clan, are a disturbing bunch, seeking out businesses to claim as their own, while crushing, manipulating and abusing anyone who dares get in their way. They’re on a mission to rule Lowtown and their icy ambition left me cold in all sorts of good ways, because let’s face it, we all LOVE to hate a good villain, right? I definitely had all the bad feels when reading their scenes, but again, that’s important, because we shouldn’t feel comfortable when confronted with the bad guys and while I loved Ember and Nate, I hated the Hordas clan in equal measure.

The plot went places I never saw coming and as always, I was left with nothing but admiration for how well Lindsay weaves her web, to the point where we’re never quite sure what path the story will take. The pacing was fast and relentless, the tension was electrifying throughout, the hot scenes were, well, sizzling (as always) and there was mystery and intrigue on every page. It’s been a while since a book got me so hooked that I spent my time in between reading thinking about what might happen next and each time I returned to it, I lapped it up and hoped it would never end. It did, of course and yes, I may have cried a little (although this was mostly due to plot, damn you LJP!).

As always, I’m now left wanting more and counting down the days to a new Lindsay J. Pryor release. This author never disappoints. I love that she never shies away from dark content. I love that she keeps us guessing throughout.

Gritty, relentless and hot as Hell, with new favourite characters to adore and darkness and danger lurking at every turn, Haven is without doubt my PNR top read of the year so far.

If you haven’t yet checked out any LJP books, now is definitely the time to start!

Five stars for this breath-taking, brutal, dark fantasy tale!

Buy Links

iBooks

Waterstones

Amazon UK

KOBO

Amazon US (for eBook)

Amazon US (for paperback)

Amazon ANZ

Barnes and Noble 

Amazon.ca

Indigo 

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dystopian

Not All Are Equal – Gilded Cage by Vic James

It seems like forever ago now when I stumbled across the name Vic James, or as Wattpadders know her ‘JayVictor’.

Having just joined Wattpad, Vic happened upon my freshly Featured short story The Fan, a commentary on the sometimes obsessive and unhealthy side of fandoms, and her name flashed up on my notifications feed.

By that point, I’d become slightly disillusioned with the concept of being a Featured writer on Wattpad, having lost the dizzy afterglow some weeks before, when readers descended upon the story in their thousands. My notifications had blown up and I was lost in a chaos of inane comments that left me feeling despondent and despairing that someone would actually provide some constructive feedback on the story itself, rather than tell me which fandom they belonged to, berate me for the character’s foul language (‘it’s limited vocabulary, don’t you know?’) or to tell me that ‘you spelt grey wrong. It’s G-R-A-Y. Spell things correctly, author!’

Then one day, Vic appeared, and I was surprised (and touched) to discover that not only was The Fan the first story she had chosen to read on Wattpad, but that she had zero interest in telling me which fandom she belonged to and actually had something meaningful to contribute. A spark of something constructive that revived my love for the story and gave me the gusto to dive back into the comments board and interact with my readers. After that, I saw Vic’s name crop up quite a bit on my newsfeed as she navigated her way through the site and I even added her story – back then known as Slavedays – to my extensive To-Read list.

Now, I’m going to be honest here.

Slavedays wasn’t top of my list in terms of priority reads.

I didn’t do dystopian. Dystopian had suddenly become one of those trendy genres and I usually like to avoid trendy fiction as much as I possibly can. Remember when Fifty Shades came out and then everyone was writing about millionaire (or even billionaire) CEO’s with a penchant for whips and red rooms? Or when Twilight became huge and everyone was writing about vampire-werewolf love triangles and imprinting wolves and completely forgot that vampires weren’t always sparkly? Hunger Games…. Divergent …. none of it really caught my attention and so, I tended to avoid anything dystopian. To me, dystopian fiction was like your Great Aunt Gertrude, the one you avoided at family gatherings because she liked to spit on a hankie and wipe your face clean while overpowering you with the stench of lavender and moth-balls.

Yeah, dystopian was my least-favourite Aunt.

But still… I liked Vic immensely, having met her at the very first London Wattpad convention (she asked me to attend) and I found myself wanting to read it, just as I often do when I like the author – call it a sense of author-loyalty, if you like. Plus, the book had picked up a lot of attention, winning a Watty Award in 2014 and I knew that I needed to get past my snobby dislike of trend and just read the blooming thing.

Alas (for me) by then, Vic and Slavedays had been signed up by PanMacmillan and the book was removed from Wattpad (the old cover and prologue is still there) and by the time I wanted to read it, I had to wait just like everyone else. Damn it.

But hey, isn’t it just GREAT when you can honestly say that something really was worth the wait??

With the newly-named Gilded Cage downloaded on my Kindle before Christmas (the paperback is out in the UK on 26th January), I finally managed to secure some read-time and settled down at the weekend to dive in, having only managed to find time to read a couple of chapters when it was first released on ebook.

Shockingly, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to, what with work, commuting, motherhood and writing now filling up my schedule but you can rest assured if I put the writing to one side to read – and by read, I mean CONSUME – then you KNOW it’s a bloody good book.

The story focuses on the fate of the Hadley’s, an average family torn apart when they are committed to doing their slavedays – 10 years of compulsory servitude to the Equals, the ruling aristocracy of the land, who rule because they are gifted with Skill, a magical power passed from generation to generation and which sets them apart from the commoners. In a cruel twist of fate, the Hadley’s (almost seventeen year old) son Luke is separated from his family and forced to undertake his slavedays at Milmoor, the grim, brutal industrial slave town, while his mum, dad and two sisters get to serve the infamous Jardines, one of the most powerful families of all the Equals.

At Milmoor, Luke learns quickly, trying to avoid the baton of the security guy Kessler who has taken an instant dislike to him, while also trying to make sure he isn’t crushed by the colossal machinery in the workhouse everyday. Back at Kyneston, the Jardine family estate, the rest of the Hadley’s have seemingly a better lot in life and are put to work serving the strange and powerful Equals.

We soon discover that life isn’t all that it seems in either Milmoor or Kyneston, and both Luke and his family, discover that adapting to their new lives brings more surprises and twists than they could ever have imagined.

The contrast between the grey, dirty almost Dickensian world of Milmoor and the sumptuous luxury of Kyneston couldn’t be more pronounced and I adored dipping back and forth between POV’s, creeping with Luke along the grimy back alleys of the slavetown and then wandering the halls of the Jardine’s stately home with Abi Hadley and her Equal masters. As usual, I am always envious of anyone who writes third person really well, as I really don’t, and Vic definitely nails her characters, giving us just enough tempting insight into each mind to leave us desperately wanting more. The narrative was compelling and I was torn throughout as the story led me through countless possibilities as to who I could trust and who I couldn’t and just when I thought I had it all worked out, I was right back to square one again.

Individual POV’s and plot lines are interwoven within the backdrop of political agenda, secrets and lies and civil unrest, all boiling within this huge cauldron of simmering tension that keeps you turning the page. Added into the mix is the mystery and wonder of the Equals Skill, awe-inspiring and, at times, quite terrifying to behold, in particular I thought, the power of the sinister Silyen Jardine (a particular favourite of mine) and the as yet unknown twisted intent of Lord Crovan (I can’t wait to find out more about him!).

It wasn’t until I reached the jaw-dropping end (and yes, its F-ing jaw-dropping) that I had to sit back and remind myself:

I DON’T DO DYSTOPIAN!!!!

Yet apparently now, I do. Who’d have thought it?

I’m not even going to lie. Gilded Cage rocked my world at the weekend and the truth is, I wasn’t expecting it to, despite the fact there’s been such an industry buzz about this book brewing for months now. Bloggers are talking about it. Industry experts are talking about it. Readers are loving it. I loved it.

If you want a book that’ll have you reeling for days, this is it.

If you’re like me and dystopian fiction is your Great-Aunt Gertrude, or Millicent, or Antonia, read this book. Seriously. Just read it.

If you’re already a big YA Fantasy fan and you’re looking for your next favourite read …well, you catch my drift already, I’m sure.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, this anti-dystopian reader is off to rage at Vic James on every social media account she has, to demand more words. OR ELSE.

FIVE BIG MAGICALLY SKILLED STARS!!!

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Wattpad

5 Reasons I’m Looking Forward To London WattCon 2016

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In 2014, Wattpad held their first London WattCon. I went, and it was so much fun, so of course I had to go to the next one the following year! This Saturday (3rd December, from 11:30 to 17:00), I am attending the London WattCon 2016, and I am infinitely excited. Jess (bookendsandendings) is also a Wattpad ambassador, and is needed slightly earlier, so I’m going with her to help set up.

I used to be completely obsessed with Wattpad. In fact, I used to have a story up on there that reached 10k reads before I unpublished it (it was a story I’d started writing aged 12, I’m sure you can understand why I wanted it deleted from the internet). Now I just like to read on it when I have time, but I still think it’s an amazing platform and love going along and joining in with…

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paranormal romance

Review Time! The Fires of Tartarus by Emma Leech

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It’s been two years since Emma Leech’s The Heart of Arima. A LONG two years, I might add, and while of course, I’ve loved the intermittent offerings from the Les Fees series, it’s fair to say that Les Corbeaux: The French Vampire Legend is the series that stole my heart.

From it’s early days on Wattpad to the first instalment The Key to Erebus being published in 2012, I was hooked on the story of Jehenne and Corvus from the start. Set in the Dordogne countryside and weaving a story involving vampires, witches, fae and ghouls, Erebus instantly threw fresh light onto what had become a tired genre. Fast forward four years, and what was a refreshing paranormal romantic adventure, has become something of an epic extravaganza, which I’m delighted to say, is going to stretch to a four book series, instead of the three I had expected. And why not? Because clearly there’s still much to tell of this tale that has its origins not only in the supernatural world, but also in Greek mythology.

Following the series and the author on social media, and as is the way with many paranormal romances, undoubtedly it’s the male protagonist that gets the main share of the limelight where the fans are concerned, something which I totally get, but which also often leaves me feeling a touch of sympathy for the female MC. Particularly when that female MC happens to be as kick-ass as Jehenne. I do recall in the early days of the series, Jehenne sometimes got a bad rap from those expecting someone slightly more ‘Bella Swan’ and instead being given more sass than a sack full of ‘Selene’s’. But, having been exhausted by too many weak and so-desperately-in-love-far-too-quickly-with-the-bad-boy female protagonists, I was craving for a character like Jehenne – someone with a bit of grit about her, someone who was feisty and independent and who was likely to give the guy a hefty kick in the balls if he so much as spoke to her in the wrong tone of voice. I liked Jehenne instantly and I never once stopped rooting for her, even if at times, I could see she was about to end up in a whole heap of trouble. She wasn’t perfect, she felt real, and that, to me, was key.

And besides, you can forgive a character for their flaws, if essentially, they learn from them and grow and whoa, has Jehenne grown! The Fires of Tartarus is like a coming of age story for Jehenne, having had to take the helm as Master of Corvus’ family, while also battling to rescue him from where he languishes in Tartarus itself. We see a new Jehenne, one who has to learn to believe in herself while keeping control of all the chaos surrounding her and mourning the loss of the love she so desperately wants back. I’m not going to delve too much further into the plot here, in case of spoilers, but suffice to say that it was a total delight to see just how far Jehenne had come since the first book in the series. She was masterful, she was strong, she fought to be the person Corvus always maintained she was and she did everything with a touch of humility that showed she was still the Jehenne we had grown to love, just a more grown-up and in-control Jehenne.

Of course, I’d love to wax lyrical about Corvus in this review, because he is still one of my all-time favourite characters but if I talk about him here, I’ll reveal way too much of the plot and nobody wants to see that in a review! Instead, I’ll just let you find out for yourselves, Tartarus gives us a very different Corvus to the one we knew in Erebus and Arima, but still one with the ability to make all the female readers sigh a bit and in need of a cold shower or two 😉

Also interesting to see was the continued development of some existing characters – I’ll guarantee you now that Sariel, Lucas and Cain will become firm fan favourites – plus the addition of the glittery and magical Kai, Emma has built solid network of three-dimensional characters around our two MC’s that helps bring this book to life, until you feel invested in each and every name on the page.

With a slightly darker, and noticeably hotter edge to book three in the series, Emma has managed to create something which transcends the paranormal romance genre, a story in which world-building takes centre stage, where places like Tartarus and Alfheim seem as familiar as London and Paris, where vampires, witches, fae and angels are most definitely all real and where you wouldn’t bat an eyelid to meet a Cockney-ghoul called Rodney. At its heart, it’s the age-old battle between good and evil, but with an angst and fire that will have you turning page after page, sobbing into your pillow and then punching the air with triumph.

Want a story with grit, passion, love, hatred, war and a bit more passion thrown in for good measure? Then The Fires of Tartarus is a five-star epic spectacular that you won’t want to miss!

Roll on book four – just don’t leave us waiting too long, Emma 😉

Short Stories

New Story Inspired by the new Movie “Ouija: Origin of Evil

Morgana´s Book Box

Holy guacamole! 

Wattpad writer, Lindsey Clarke ( a.k.a. LittleCinnamon ) has been commissioned by Wattpad and Universal  Pictures to write a story inspired by the new and upcoming movie,  Ouija: Origin of Evil.   

I´ve been a fan of writer Lindsey Clarke for a some time now and judging by her previous works she´s one hell of a storyteller! Fans of Horror and dark fiction will absolutely LOVE what this author has created with `Between Screams and Silence`.

Story Description

Following the traumatic birth of her daughter, Kathleen-Anne spirals into depression and struggles to cope with her newborn baby.
Desperate to put some life back into the wife he adores, husband Rheemus suggests that she takes some time out to have some fun with her friends and Kathleen-Anne reluctantly finds herself at the home of Barbara Arden, the town medium.
Invited to take part in a séance with the spiritualist…

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paranormal romance · urban fantasy

Review Time! Blood Bound – Lindsay J Pryor

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Sequels are tough to write, there’s no doubt about that. Writing a sequel to a successful, well-received, debut novel is even tougher, but when you are seven books into a series? Even some of the most famous writers of the past forty years (I’m naming no names!) can struggle with that kind of pressure, so for Lindsay J Pryor to still maintain the adrenalin-filled, fast-paced buzz of her four-year old debut Blood Shadows is seriously no mean feat.

There’s always something rather wonderful about discovering a new author when they debut, diving headlong into the pages of a book that seems so fresh and exciting and knowing that you have found a new fictional world and characters that will go down on your all-time favourites list, and it’s been an absolute pleasure over the past four years to stick with Lindsay’s Blackthorn series and feel the thrill of an imminent new release. But, to be fair, I could have said that about a lot of authors over the years, because debut novels and new literary voices are always exciting – the difference with Blackthorn, is that Lindsay’s writing just seems to get better and better with each new book in the series. With each book, the tone gets a little darker, Lindsay gets a little braver with just how far she’s going to push her readers and there’s nothing I appreciate more than a writer who is willing to not just push the boundaries, but to hurdle right over them, not to be controversial, mind you – because it has to be right for the story – but to take a story in a more challenging and unpredictable direction.

Blood Bound starts where we left off in Blood Instinct, with the war mounting between the third species and the effortlessly twisted Sirius Throme, who seems to know just how to outwit his enemies at every turn. Forced to try and find a way out of Blackthorn via the tunnel system and now faced with another potential threat much closer to home, Eden, ex-Curfew Enforcement Officer and angel envoi Jessie embark on a mission that threatens to tear them apart forever.

I’ll admit that of all the Blackthorn pairings, Eden and Jessie were never really my favourite, having had my heart claimed already by Jask and Phia (swoon Jask!), but I have to say that Lindsay really turned my head with these two in Blood Bound. At times, the imagery that exploded out of the pages was hard to ‘watch’, particularly with the short, choppy chapters that Lindsay uses so well that you can’t help but feel like you’re watching a movie, seeing the action switch back and forth at speed between the characters, but I realised partway through that I was wincing and shifting uncomfortably in my chair much more than I would usually, because I’d grown to really love Eden and Jessie as characters. I saw depth here that maybe hadn’t captivated me the first time round in Blood Deep. I felt connected to them in a way that hadn’t been obvious to me before and it wasn’t long before I wished I could reach in and save them both, even if it was strangely and morbidly fascinating to witness all the trauma and horrors that both were forced to experience.

In all honesty, I had thought to myself prior to reading Blood Bound, that to have Eden and Jessie as the focus in the penultimate book was possibly going to be hard work for me, but as usual, in her own inimitable style, Lindsay has once again pulled me in and reminded me just why Blackthorn is still my favourite PNR series of all time.

The hot scenes were hotter than ever. The action scenes were gripping and edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster rides. And just when you think Lindsay can’t surprise you with any more plot twists, you get hit between the eyes by some new, jaw-dropping revelation that has you reeling because you just never saw it coming. Seven books into the series and I am still, completely and utterly addicted to Blackthorn. That, my friends, is testament to great writing and that is why you should all pick up this series today and fall in love just as I and many other Blackthorn fans have.

Blood Bound is a heart-racing, soul-pounding instalment and thoroughly deserving of five shiny, sparkling stars!