Monday, November 30, 2020

Book Blitz and Giveaway - O Night Divine: A Holiday Collection of Spirited Christmas Tales by Various Authors

Title: O Night Divine: A Holiday Collection of Spirited Christmas Tales
Publisher: Dragonblade Publishing
Publication Date: December 17th 2020
Print Length: 899 pages
Genre: Historical Romance


Enjoy this stunning holiday collection from some of your favorite Dragonblade Publishing authors in this collection of never-before published seasonal tales!

Imagine, if you will, that it is Christmas Eve.

The candles are guttered, one by one, and a hush falls over the parlor. The children have gone to bed, and a tall, gloriously decorated Christmas tree looms in the shadows of the hearth’s dying embers. A tattered copy of Charles Dickens’ masterwork, “A Christmas Carol” sits, cold and lonely, upon a table nearby.

A small gust of wind, hurling from the seam of an ill-fitting window, blows the cover open. The first chapter appears… “Marley’s Ghost”…

The clock on the wall chimes midnight.

Now, the magic happens.

From the gaily bedecked halls of Regency England to the cold and crisp air of the Scottish Highlands, and everything in between, enjoy the magic of a holiday collection that has drawn inspiration from Charles Dickens’ most beloved literary works. Where the ghosts of Christmas, the incandescent spirit of a tiny disabled boy, and the joy that is the very heart of the Christmas season come alive.

USA Today and Internationally bestselling authors bring you their version of a Dickens’-inspired holiday in O NIGHT DIVINE

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This collection includes:
Twas the Executioner Knight Before Christmas by Kathryn Le Veque
A medieval version of the Ghost of Christmas Future…

No one survives an Executioner Knight and least of all, Maxton of Loxbeare. But when he married his wife and had children, three little girls right away, Maxton grew a heart. He became a devoted and dedicated father who loved his children dearly. But the Executioner Knight in him still lived. So after a very bad dream, Maxton sees that, for his daughters’ sake, he must change.

Learn more about Kathryn Le Veque here.
The Laird’s Yulebringer by Caroline Lee
The Mackenzies are in mourning… none so much as their laird. Since the loss of his wife, leaving Callan to raise a young son alone, he believes he’s lost his chance at happiness. As his extended family gathers to celebrate the Yule together, they can do naught to raise his spirits… until a midnight visitor—of the ghostly variety—brings him hope for the future.

Learn more about Caroline Lee here.
Making Spirits Bright by Chasity Bowlin
After a lifetime of secrets, scandal, and disappointment… Elizabeth doesn’t believe in happy endings, at least not for herself. But an unconventional nobleman, with the help of a novice Spirit of Christmas, may just change her mind…

Learn more about Chasity Bowlin here.
The Haunted Scot by Hildie McQueen
The allure of a reformed rake…

She’s as determined to pursue him as he is to keep his distance. After a heartbreaking debacle, Thomas Sullivan decides to give up his roguish ways and considers the priesthood. Unfortunately, the beautiful arrival gives him second thoughts. Mary Asher is not sure why the handsome new driver tries to avoid her at all costs. After being told he follows her every move, Mary decides to test him.

Learn more about Hildie McQueen here.
Never Keep a Secret at Christmas by Maggi Andersen
’Tis not the season to be surreptitious…

Alice Dountry’s father has gout, and she must spend Christmas with her sister, Marian, Lady Belfries. Their neighbor, the gruff, bad-tempered Earl of Hawkinge, refuses Marian’s invitation to Christmas dinner.

While chatting with him over the garden wall, Alice suspects something deeper lies beneath his humbug opinion of Christmas. Hawkinge and his grandson, Hugh Gifford, are at odds. Alice writes to Hugh but must keep it a secret from her sister.

When the handsome Lord Gifford arrives, there is an immediate spark between them. But Lord Hawkinge is hardly welcoming, and now, Marian and her husband argue over the secret letter.

Learn more about Maggi Andersen here.
Her Star from the East by Mary Lancaster
Miss Emma Sayle has enjoyed two London seasons and rejected many suitors. Her heart was given long ago to an exciting prince of the east, a man of another country and another faith. As Christmas approaches, she daydreams of what her life with him might have been – until his ghost walks out of the freezing fog. But is it the ghost of his past or her future?

Learn more about Mary Lancaster here.
The Remembrance of Love by Meara Platt
Hyacinth Farthingale has known and loved Lord Innes Buchan since the day she was born. She is now in her debut season, and as Christmas approaches, it is high time this aloof and lonely lord realized his happiness depends on marrying her.

Learn more about Meara Platt here.
How to get an Earl of Christmas by Violetta Rand
Learn more about Violetta Rand here.
Yuletide at Gillingham by Alexa Aston
A lonely holiday…

One boy abandoned by a greedy gambling father. Another boy watches his father slowly dying. A lasting friendship that will see them through the hard times—and beyond…

Can two lonely boys draw strength from one another during a Yuletide season that only promises heartbreak?

Learn more about Alexa Aston here.
A Thrill of Hope by Anna Markland
Foiling an attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria earns Parker a medal and royal gratitude. The lunatic’s bayonet plunged into his thigh leaves him with a pronounced limp and reassignment to a small constabulary. Particularly trying is having to spend Christmas Day with his miserly uncle.

During her family’s Yuletide celebrations, Samantha discovers she doesn’t love her straitlaced fiancé. A bleak future looms large.

Neither realize that anarchists are plotting to blow up a newly-constructed railway bridge—although Parker might if he’d heed the mysterious warning voices he hears.

A tale of the eternal struggle between good and evil.

Learn more about Anna Markland here.
A Gift for Agatha by Anna St. Claire
A visit and a warning…

Years after her husband’s death, Lady Agatha Wendt has become a surly, cold-hearted miser, increasingly left to her own company. Childless and with little family, the wealthy widow fears falling into poverty and spurns even the smallest gestures of Christmas giving. A determined spirit visits the wealthy widow and warns her change must happen.

Charles Bentley, her butler, sees goodness in her, and finds himself attracted to the real Agatha—despite knowing they could never be.

Can the spirit awaken Agatha to her real fears and help her to overcome them in time to realize the gift she has always wanted?

Learn more about Anna St. Claire here.
The Heart is Never Silent by Aubrey Wynne
Miss Etta Rose Comden is desperate to protect her younger sister, Horatia, after the death of their father. When the heir—and Tia’s new guardian—finds out his ward is deaf, he makes plans to send her away and marry Etta. With no one to turn to, the sisters flee in the middle of the night.

Dr. Gus Wharren, disillusioned with his practice in London, retreats to his late grandmother’s estate. Instead of a much-needed respite, he finds two lovely females stranded along the road.

Two sisters on the run. A London physician who has given up on humanity. The spirit of a loving grandmother. The stage is set for a holiday full of coincidence, a little Christmas magic, and a happy ever after.

Learn more about Aubrey Wynne here.
Of Christmas Past by Charlotte Wren
Pride and promise before forgiveness

At the volatile age of seventeen, Percival Josiah Northcott storms out of Highfield Hall on Christmas Eve, vowing never to return. It is a vow supported solely by pride, which, as the old adage goes, generally comes before a fall.

Five years later, Percival has fallen about as low as a man can get. He secretly longs to return home, but pride and fear stand in his way. That is, until he’s visited by someone from his past, someone who gives him the courage to seek his family’s forgiveness.

But first, he must promise to complete a very special task.

Learn more about Charlotte Wren here.
Tidings of Comfort by Elizabeth Ellen Carter
A boy with a remarkable talent…

In the lead up to Christmas, Captain Kit Hardacre is in London looking for his long-lost parents. After a disappointing initial search, he finds himself in the city alone. Bringing him out of his self-pity is a call to help in a search for a missing little boy. But which one of them is more lost?

When Kit finds Pip, he discovers a youngster with a remarkable talent for going directly into the heart of those he meets. After seeing Pip safely returned, Kit’s faith in family is restored and a kind word gives him the courage to continue his search.

Learn more about Elizabeth Ellen Carter here.
A Christmas Miracle by Elizabeth Johns
Alex Hartmere, Duke of Frompton, has endured enough heartache to make any man bitter.

Having lost his wife and child in the war in Canada, he returns to England, only to inherit a dukedom from a father who dies in a scandalous duel soon afterwards.

Repairing to his family estate for Christmas, Alex finds his first love now widowed and penniless. Can a Christmas miracle, in the form of a crippled little girl, bring them the happiness which was once stripped away from them?

Learn more about Elizabeth Johns here.
Her Christmas White Knight by Elizabeth Keysian
England, Yuletide 1587
The dice have really been loaded against Mistress Julia Wentworth. Little wonder she no longer trusts a soul—except for the urchin she rescued from the poorhouse. Having fallen in love with—and been abandoned by—a murderous traitor, Julia’s been turned out by her family and left to scrape what living she can on the brutal London streets. When a goose strays into her yard, it looks as if she’ll at least have something to feast on at Christmas.

Exploding into her life in pursuit of his goose is Myall Farrar, a scarred nobleman who loathes his miserly father and can’t afford to lose the fowl for which he’s scrimped and saved all year.

Can there be any common ground between the mismatched Myall and Julia? Is there any hope of goodwill within their families? And—perhaps more importantly—will the goose prove itself worth saving from the butcher’s knife?

Learn more about Elizabeth Keysian here.
Always the Mistletoe by Emily E K Murdoch
When a woman loves a man, it’ll take more than a little Scrooge like behavior to stop her standing by him. Her family, on the other hand…

Learn more about Emily E K Murdoch here.
A Libertine’s Christmas Miracle by Emily Royal
Christmas is a time for miracles

Alice and Ross Trelawney are enjoying a quiet Christmas in Cornwall, until their daughter Amelia strays onto the nearby estate of Mr. Scrimgeour, the infamous Beast of Boscarne. When Amelia comes home in tears after a terrifying encounter, Alice resolves to teach the Beast a lesson.

Haunted by his late wife’s ghost and taunted by the locals, Edward Scrimgeour hides away in his crumbling mansion. His peace is shattered when his neighbor’s hellion of a wife storms into his home on Christmas Eve. But she’s no ordinary trespasser. When events threaten to take a tragic turn, Edward is given a chance at salvation, showing that miracles can occur in the unlikeliest of places.

Learn more about Emily Royal here.
Past, Present, Future by Lynne Connolly
Rhona sent the love of her life away once, but now Frederick is back. He doesn’t care that she’s a housekeeper, and he’s a wounded soldier and the brother of a duke. For the three nights of Christmas, he’ll give her three gifts; wooden figures he carved for her in the long nights before his last battle. They represent their past, their present, and what they could have in the future. If she doesn’t accept his love this time, he’ll leave for good.

Learn more about Lynne Connolly here.
A Yuletide Yearning by Maeve Greyson
Regret is a sly enemy…

Captain Tait Mackenzie doesn’t regret a life of pirating, but it’s Christmas and he’s lonely. Thoughts of dying alone trouble him. What woman would settle for a life with a pirate lord?

If wishes and dreams were oceans and streams, she’d sail her way to happiness…

Ellie has always loved Tait, but he politely ignores her. She intends to change that with a little help from the North Star.

Can three pirate ghosts on Christmas Eve scare some sense into a Scottish rogue and make him see that the love he needs has been right in front of him all along?

Learn more about Maeve Greyson here.
A Strange Christmas Game by Whitney Blake
Mr. Charles Mason doesn’t expect a December summons to end in his own love story…

Learn more about Whitney Blake here.
Win a $100 Amazon gift card and a hard copy of Charles Dickens' Christmas stories! (Open INT.)
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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Ruinsong by Julia Ember

Title: Ruinsong
Author: Julia Ember
Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: November 24th 2020
Print Length: 368 pages
Genre: Young Adult LGBTQ+ Romantic Fantasy

In Julia Ember’s dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…

Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence must choose between the two. For years, she has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.

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The velvet curtain lifts, revealing two figures standing on the stage. One of them is Lord Durand, the queen’s confidant. I recognize him from last year. Papa says Durand is the architect of these Performings – the queen wanted vengeance on us, but it was he who proposed the method and honed it. As a reward, he was given a lordship and an estate, making him the only noble exempt from the horrors of the Opera Hall. 

The second figure, a girl, surprises me. The queen has always employed the same chantrix for the Performing: a fire-haired mage named Ava who wore her advancing age like a carefully chosen accessory. This girl looks so young, and she stands hunched, wringing her hands. She presses against the rear curtain as if looking for the first chance to run. She stares into the crowd with wide eyes that never stop moving. 

“She looks ready to faint,” Baron Foutain whispers. “Do you think that if the principal were to expire onstage, they’d just forget the whole thing and send us home?”

“Maybe we can sneak out in the shuffle,” I say. “Climb the balcony, steal the mage pins off some of those stewards, and bribe our way to freedom.”

“I like it.” The baron nods, his hazel eyes twinkling. He weighs his purse in his hand. “I’ve got a few coins to throw at this endeavor.” 

Lord Durand takes center stage and clears his throat. “Esteemed guests, on behalf of Her Majesty, I am humbled to present a new talent to you this evening. Our most gifted corporeal singer, and a delightful, exuberant mezzo-soprano.” 

He sweeps a low bow, but when he lifts his head, he’s smirking. The theatrics of it all make me sick. I fish another lemon drop out of my pouch. 

Still, the audience applauds politely. The queen will be here somewhere, watching the proceedings from behind the stage or concealed in one of the dark private viewing boxes above us. No one wants to be seen resisting. 

Durand beckons the new singer forward, and she creeps to him like a timid barn cat. There’s something I recognize in the shape of her nose, the curve of her pink rosebud mouth. She’s pretty, but in a fragile way, like a pressed flower in the pages of a book. She’s thin and white, with ivory skin and long blond hair styled into a sort of tiara. A green gown clings to her frame, her waist cinched by a shimmering corset inlaid with emeralds. 

Durand pushes her into the light. “Chantrix Cadence de la Roix,” he says, and I nearly choke on the lemon drop. “The jewel of Her Majesty’s academy, ready for her first season.”

I start to cough, but the baron isn’t paying attention to me anymore. Cadence de la Roix. I know that name.
Julia Ember is the author of The Seafarer's Kiss duology, a Norse myth inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, published by Interlude Press (Duet Books), and Ruinsong, a standalone high fantasy reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera, forthcoming from Macmillan Kids (FSG) in November 2020. She lives with her wife and two fluffy cats in the Pacific Northwest.

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Crimson Snow by Ina Carter

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Crimson Snow by Ina Carter. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a great guest post from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Crimson Snow
Author: Ina Carter
Publication Date: May 12th 2020
Print Length: 360 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
The Greeks had seven words for LOVE. I felt all of them for ONE MAN…

My name is Lauren, and I was a stolen baby.

They found me in a trailer park in rural Texas when I was eight years old. My childhood wasn’t perfect, but then I had Kevin. He was my everything…

When they returned me to my biological parents, we were torn apart. 

My new family desperately tried to fix me, make me forget him… My father kept me on a short leash and controlled every aspect of my life. The one thought keeping me afloat was to find Kevin, but he vanished without a trace.

I searched for him for twelve years, but the man I found was not the boy I lost. He is a college baseball star, tattooed, moody, and dark… And he hates me.

Can Kevin help me defeat my demons, or does he have too many of his own? 

**The eBook is on sale for $0.99 until December 2nd!** 

I was taken to another room with a big table and many chairs. A woman came in, sat across from me, and started telling me things about how Mamma was not my real mom and neither was Daddy. She said Mamma told Stacy she stole me when I was a baby from some hospital in the California State. I knew those were lies, and I told her Stacy is a liar. All I could think of was Kevin, not about Mamma and Daddy. She was trying to tell me he was not my brother, either. When I heard that I had to go with her and stay for a while with some nice people, I started crying. 

“Is Kevin coming too?” I sobbed. 

“No, sweetheart. He would have to stay in another place.” 

I tried to run away from the room. All I wanted was to get back to my brother. The officer must have been guarding the room from the outside because he grabbed me before I could get away from him. 

At the same time, I saw another man taking Kevin out of the doctor’s room. My brother looked at me, and I would never forget his eyes. Desperate, fearful, broken. His whole face was distorted by the pain. It was radiating from his whole being. 

I kicked and screamed. Called Kevin’s name. I bit the hand that was holding me prisoner. Kevin was also pulling away, trying to kick the policeman keeping him captive. 

I don’t know why, but they let us go. We ran to meet in the middle of the corridor and collapsed down to our knees, wrapping our arms around each other. And we cried. 

“You are my sister, Jules. My friend. My… everything,” Kevin sobbed, and his words were echoing my exact thoughts. 

“Please, Kevin! Don’t let them take you away from me! Please!” I begged him. 

But they were already pulling him from my arms, breaking our souls, ripping away from me the one person I loved the most in this world. 

“I’ll find you, Jules! I’ll come for you!” Those were the last words he said to me…
Ina Carter has always been an avid reader. She discovered her love for writing at an early age when her first poem was published in a literary magazine at age twelve. As a lifetime collector of inspirational stories, Ina believes that love is the most powerful force in the Universe. She writes in multiple genres – romantic comedies, contemporary and paranormal. Ina lives in Southern California with her husband, two kids, and one very temperamental cat.

- What does your writing space look like?

For the last few years, my favorite place to write was my living room couch. When I do research for a book, I print out pictures of the places I am writing about or have a “mood board” of visual imagery related to my story. This can include symbolic objects related to the plot and pictures of people who I think look like my characters. For Crimson Snow, for instance, I ordered all the books that Kevin and Lauren read and had them spread out on my coffee table, so I can “live” somewhat in their heads. 

I write on two laptops. I prefer using Word for PC for my main story, and use my MacBook for design work, formatting, and marketing. I have a degree in Graphic Design, and I create all my book covers, my website, and marketing materials.
Ina Carter will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. To increase your chance of winning, leave a comment at a different stop on the tour each day. Good luck!
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Book Blitz and Giveaway: The Prince's Bride Part 2 by J.J. McAvoy

Title: The Prince’s Bride Part 2
Series: The Prince's Bride #2
Author: J.J. McAvoy
Publication Date: November 27th 2020
Genre: New Adult Romance

Book 2 of The Prince’s Bride duet.

In book one, he was just a spoiled playboy prince whose family was in desperate need of money. Now everything has changed. Odette Wyntor has a choice.

Stay or Run.

Royalty is not for the weak of heart.

Can they handle what is to come? 

Goodreads * Amazon * iBooks * Kobo

Closing the bathroom door behind me, I gave her space because it would be the last time she truly had it. Then I entered the living room where Iskandar was already inside, waiting for me.

“They know,” he said to me. “The press is already outside. We did our best to keep it a secret that you came here last night. However, it seems someone in the hotel leaked it.”

“I knew they would find out if we came here,” I replied, taking a seat at the table, flipping open the morning brief. I could see the grim look on Iskandar’s face out of the corner of my eye.

Last night was the first time he did not want to follow orders. He repeated he could bring her to the palace secretly, and there was no reason in his mind for me to come here. However, he was wrong.

“I know you would have preferred if I had brought her back to the palace last night, Iskandar.”

“It would have been easier to contain the situation.”

“She is a woman, not a situation,” I replied, signing the bottom of the page before glancing back to him. “I came here to grovel. The only way groveling works is if she is in her comfort zone, or at the very least, in a place that she considers hers and can make a choice without pressure. “If you had brought her to the palace and I had begged her there, she would have gotten further upset because she did not know where she could go or how to leave. Here, if she really wanted to, she could have thrown me out.”

“Could she?”

I saw his point—who was going to force the prince to leave?

“There could have been another way.”

“There always is. But this was what felt right,”
J.J. McAvoy was born in Montreal, Canada and graduated from Carleton University in 2016 with an honour's degree in Humanities. She is the oldest of three and has loved writing for years. She is inspired by everything from Shakespearean tragedies to current culture. Her novels hope to push boundaries and allow readers to look at the world from another perspective. Please feel free to stay in touch with her via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and youtube, where she video blogs. 

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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Book Tour and Giveaway: A Wisp of Fate (Elsie True Series #1) by Kristy Centeno

Title: A Wisp of Fate
Series: Elsie True Series #1
Author: Kristy Centeno
Publication Date: November 20th 2020
Print Length: 261 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Elsie True lives with only one goal in mind …
to avenge her father’s death.

Branded a traitor among the brotherhood of the Cause, an organization dedicated to the destruction of all magical creatures, her father was unjustly murdered for falling in love with a celestial being, leaving a teenage Elsie to learn the creature-hunting business with the help of her father’s old friend.

Her life revolves around besting the Cause and keeping the world safe from any creatures that get out of hand. When her mentor signs her up for another case, she jumps at the opportunity to steer business away from the corrupt organization.

Not long into the investigation, she realizes she might have walked right into a setup, including coming face-to-face with a creature she doesn’t know if she should kill or protect.

Elsie feared little in life, but she isn’t prepared to face the demons of her past, especially those hell-bent on killing her. Outwitting her enemies means solving the case, but in a world where she has more foes than friends, who can she trust?

The oracle’s gaze settled on the cloth in her palm. She furrowed her brow in response to what Elsie was offering her.

“What is that you ask of the gods, Elsie True?”

“Can they tell me where I can find the object stolen from the shifter monk monastery? Where do I begin my search?”

“Are you sure you wish to ask the gods for help?”

Elsie blew air out via her nostrils. The gods hadn’t answered her appeals in years, but this time things were different. Things seemed different.

Renounced by the gods, abandoned by her mother’s brethren, she had been deemed unworthy to receive advice from whatever ruling body still made a half-assed attempt at pleasing underlings with answers borne of pity.

Elsie’s human blood had branded her a disgrace among all creatures of magical descent. So, she wasn’t expecting much in terms of answers of whatever god was listening, if any at all, but a tiny part of her hoped that not every god saw her as a nuisance or a disgrace. She wanted to believe at least one viewed her as equal—farfetched as the likelihood for that was.
Kristy Centeno loves to spin tales of creatures that go bump in the night, with a sprinkle of romance to top them off. Her passion for writing stems from a lifelong enjoyment of reading and the pleasure derived from the magical worlds created by authors like her. She prefers her female leads strong, independent, and stubborn who will stop at nothing to save their loved ones and protect those they care for.

Kristy currently resides in Pennsylvania with her five kids, a quartet of noisy parakeets, and a spoiled puppy. When she is not working or writing, she juggles her free time between raising a handful of minions and pursuing other career goals.

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Book Review: Music Box (Dark Carousel #4) by Anya Allyn

Title: Music Box
Series: Dark Carousel #4
Author: Anya Allyn
Publication Date: February 17th 2017
Print Length: 276 pages
Genre: Young Adult Supernatural Horror
The final terrifying story of The Dark Carousel series.

As the day of Cassie's marriage to the centuries-old spirit, Balthazar, grows chillingly close, she finds a secret way to the high tower. The shadowy inhabitant of the tower has haunted her mind since her first day at the castle.

In the tower, Cassie makes a shocking discovery, after which nothing can be the same.

Before Cassie's last stand against the castle ends, she'll fight the serpent shadows that swoop in like spectres from across the frozen wastelands, and she'll face down Balthazar and the serpent empress herself.

But her greatest fight will come from within.

I loved the Dark Carousel series by Anya Allyn. (Check out my reviews for Dollhouse (book 1), Paper Dolls (book 2), and Marionette (book 3).) I couldn't wait to dive into Music Box, the last book in the series, but at the same time, I was saddened that it was coming to an end. Music Box was definitely a thrilling read!

Cassie has given up hope of not being Balthazar's bride. She's about to just give in to it when she finds a way to the tower where the spooky figure she has seen lives. Scared as she is of the figure, she decides to investigate and is shocked to discover who the figure is. Cassie, with the help of her friends, must find some way to defeat the serpent shadows before they take over the Earth all while battling the humans and spirits of the castle. While she and her friends put their lives in great peril, they never give up hope of returning the Earth to its former glory.

The plot of Music Box did a fantastic job of holding my attention throughout. While there are some parts of this novel that are a bit too fast paced like in previous books in the series, for the most part, the pacing is easy to follow along with. There are a few plot twists that I wasn't able to predict. There was so much action going on in Music Box, and I loved it. It wasn't overwhelming, and it was underwhelming. Anya Allyn did a fantastic job with getting the ratio of action to narrative perfect! I did have a feeling that one of the characters in the Dollhouse would make an appearance, and I wasn't wrong. I liked the way all the loose ends from the previous books in the series were all tied up nicely. While I wasn't really a fan of how the book ended, I will say that it didn't have a rushed ending feel. I just wish things would have turned out a bit differently. However, I did love how the author explains more of the ending and what she believes happened to all the other characters in the afterword, so definitely don't skip out on reading the afterword!

As always, Anya Allyn was amazing at making her characters come alive. It was so easy to relate to all of them (bad guys and girls aside). Cassie was even more hardcore in this book! I loved how Cassie was willing to sacrifice everything to protect her friends and others. Ethan was the same as Cassie. He tried to protect innocents from the bad guys. While I liked Molly, I still don't think her character was needed, same with Frances. Don't get me wrong, they are great characters and written really well, but they seemed a bit pointless. I was happy about Aisha in this book. (I won't go into greater detail due to minor spoilers.) I absolutely loved Zack, and I was always secretly hoping that Cassie would end up with him. Zack turned out to be such a gentlemen from the second book. I loved how he was willing to cut ties from his family to help Cassie even though he knew it was an unrequited love. Henry was another character that I really loved. I felt that he wasn't all bad and that there was some good in him. The book he was seeking in the novel was what brought out the bad. He did have a bunch of redeeming qualities though. I was overjoyed that Jessamine was finally featured a bit more in this book! Jessamine has been my favorite character throughout this series. I was thrilled with how her story ended. I always knew she'd turn out to be awesome!

Trigger warnings for Music Box include violence, death, murder, suicide, attempted rape, minor swearing, the occult, and imprisonment.

While I'm devastated that the Dark Carousel series has come to an end, I am so grateful that Music Box was a great read. All of the characters were still so amazing, the story was thrilling, and everything was so nicely explained. I would definitely recommend Music Box (and all of the Dark Carousel series) by Anya Allyn. If you want a book with lots of action and a great cast of characters, this is your book. Do be prepared to suffer from a book hangover when you're done reading it though!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

NBtM Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Blackhorse Road by Merida Johns

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Blackhorse Road by Merida Johns. This tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt as well as a guest post from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Blackhorse Road
Author: Merida Johns
Publisher: Coffee Cup Press
Publication Date: July 21st 2020
Print Length: 304 pages
Genres: Women's Fiction, Romance
Under another hand, Blackhorse Road could all too easily have been a singular romance. Johns provides more as she follows Luci down the rabbit hole and out the other side of life experience, bringing readers into a world where . . . transgression changes everything and challenges carefully-constructed foundations of belief and values. As Luci lets go of her lifesavers and navigates obstacles to happiness, her story becomes a vivid portrait of hope and self-examination which ultimately moves into unexpected territory. Novel readers seeking a tale that closely considers deception and forgiveness, love gained and lost, and family ties will welcome the multifaceted Blackhorse Road's ability to come full circle in a satisfyingly unexpected way. - D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

It’s the turbulent mid-1960s, and Luci, an eighteen-year-old Southern California girl, is on the quest for self-determination and new beginnings. Three powerful forces influence her values: the grit of her Irish great-grandmother, Lucinda McCormick; the philosophy of choice of her father, Sam; and the 1960s ideals of equity and altruism. But potent foes thwart Luci at every turn. Her budding romance with a handsome United States Air Force Academy cadet sets the stage for conflict and deception that last for two decades. When Luci discovers how her autonomy and her love affair were hijacked, she struggles with anger and bitterness. But from a surprising source, she finds a forgiveness path that restores her well-being and hope and, in the end, faith in herself.

Monday, July 18, 1966 – Buffalo, NY

Dear Luci with an i,
Here I am at 2:00 a.m., a lonely lover whose sole comfort comes from the cherished memories we made together a few hours ago. My desk is a witness to the completion of many term papers and homework assignments, but it has never been my partner in a confession of love. Can words convey the depth of my thoughts, rampant emotions, and gratitude to you? I’m uncertain they exist, and if they did, it’s unclear that I could assemble them to explain how you have captured my heart and what you mean to me.

I’m no John Keats or Robert Browning, but my feelings are no less potent than their descriptions of love. Being “in love” is a passion like the flames of a blistering fire that race across the prairie. It’s fierce and red, self-serving, and out of control. It feeds upon itself until there is nothing left. “To love,” though, is a passion like the embers of a flickering fire that lingers within the hearth. It’s gentle and glowing, crackles with surprise, and permeates the senses. It’s warm and steady. It rekindles itself, and it endures.

With you, Luci, being “in love,” is inadequate for me. No, I love you. You unexpectedly and beautifully transformed my life the evening you entered it. Because of you, my world flourishes in joy, compassion, amusement, serenity, and awe. I feel, for the first time, that I am entirely immersed in the bounty of life. I would be lost and hollow without you. You’ve made me complete. I can face any hurdle and accomplish anything with you beside me. Our time is just beginning, Luci, as we walk across the stepping-stones of life together.

For all of this and more, I seal my love with gratitude for our memory making. I send you a cascade of Bois Blanc Island kisses, placing each one where I know it will please you the most.

Merida Johns takes her experience as an educator, consultant, and businesswoman and writes about the human experience. In 2018 Merida took an unlikely off-ramp from writing textbooks and motivational books to authoring women’s fiction. Her stories are learning lessons where awareness and curiosity transport readers to the most unexpected places within themselves. Merida hails from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, grew up in Southern California and has lived from coast-to-coast in the United States. Besides writing, she enjoys fabric arts, including weaving and knitting. She makes her home in the serene Midwest countryside that gives her the inspiration and space for storytelling.

- What is your number one tip for staying calm in an upsetting situation? 
What a great question! My go-to technique for staying calm in an upsetting situation is to practice mindful behaviors. (And by the way, it is probably no surprise that mindful behaviors show up in Blackhorse Road).

So what exactly are these mindful behaviors? 

Studies have demonstrated over and over that the practice of mindful behaviors help people reduce stress and anxiety and make better decisions. 

The first behavior is to listen with intent, often called self-regulation and focus. Often we make poor choices because of miscommunication, not picking up on essential cues from other people or the environment. Essentially listening with intent means that we begin to control our fight or flight impulses, which puts us on a path right away to make better decisions. 

The second mindful behavior is noticing and being curious about new things and asking powerful questions. When people focus on the present, they are more likely to perceive and be curious about new things. This has several benefits. First, it makes you more sensitive to your immediate surroundings, helps you be open to information, and enables you to be aware of things from different perspectives or points of view. When you are curious, you ask questions. And asking questions prompts you to find out answers. So noticing and being curious expands the ability to accumulate new information, solve problems, and improve communication with others.

The third mindful behavior is attending to thoughts non-judgmentally—This doesn’t mean that you don’t have an opinion about something. What it means is that you control your automatic impulses and biases and refrain from making snap decisions. How many times has someone made a snap decision about you or about something you did that was wrong? Or how many times have you come to a snap decision, and it was wrong? Or how many times have you seen someone lose emotional control? 

There’s a really great technique called the STOP method that anyone can use to implement mindful behaviors in an upsetting situation. In its basic form, this is what it is:

S: Stop and step back from your emotions
T: Take a deep breath
O: Observe the situation and your own emotions, suppress knee-jerk reactions and analyze the situation
P: Proceed by making a conscious choice, not an emotional one.
Merida Johns will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour. To increase your chance of winning, leave a comment on a different stop on the tour each day. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway