Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cover Reveal: HEXOMANCY by Michael R. Underwood

The Qwillery is absolutely thrilled to reveal the cover for HEXOMANCY, the 4th Ree Reyes novel by Michael R. Underwood. This is a fabulous and fun series that you should be reading and you have plenty of time to read the prior novels before HEXOMANCY is published on September 14th.


Ree Reyes 1
Pocket Star, July 10, 2012
eBook, 400 pages

Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire the Slayer in this original urban fantasy eBook about Geekomancers—humans that derive supernatural powers from pop culture.

Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comicshop slave to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic “BOOM!” echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

Ree joins Eastwood (aka Scruffy Guy), investigating a mysterious string of teen suicides as she tries to recover from her own drag-your-heart-through-jagged-glass breakup. But as she digs deeper, Ree discovers Eastwood may not be the knight-in-cardboard armor she thought. Will Ree be able to stop the suicides, save Eastwood from himself, and somehow keep her job?

Ree Reyes 2
Pocket Star, July 15, 2013
eBook, 400 pages

Fame has a magic all its own in the no-gossip-barred follow-up to Geekomancy. Ree Reyes gets her big screenwriting break, only to discover just how broken Hollywood actually is.

Things are looking up for urban fantasista Ree Reyes. She’s using her love of pop culture to fight monsters and protect her hometown as a Geekomancer, and now a real-live production company is shooting her television pilot script.

But nothing is easy in show business. When an invisible figure attacks the leading lady of the show, former child-star-turned-current-hot-mess Jane Konrad, Ree begins a school-of-hard-knocks education in the power of Celebromancy.

Attempting to help Jane Geekomancy-style with Jedi mind tricks and X-Men infiltration techniques, Ree learns more about movie magic than she ever intended. She also learns that real life has the craziest plots: not only must she lift a Hollywood-strength curse, but she needs to save her pilot, negotiate a bizarre love rhombus, and fight monsters straight out of the silver screen. All this without anyone getting killed or, worse, banished to the D-List.

Attack the Geek
Ree Reyes 3
Pocket Star, April 7, 2014
eNovella, 160 pages

A side-quest novella in the bestselling Geekomancy urban fantasy series—when D&D-style adventures go from the tabletop to real life, look out!

Ree Reyes, urban fantasista and Geekomancer extraordinaire, is working her regular drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s bar-and-gaming salon when everything goes wrong. The assorted magic wielders of the city’s underground have come to test their battle skills via RPGs like D&D, V:TES, White Wolf, and the like. All the usuals are there: her ex-mentor Eastwood, Drake (the man-out-of-time adventurer), and, of course, Grognard himself (her boss and a brewer of beer that act as magic potions). However, it’s the presence of these and other “usuals” that makes all the trouble. For, a nemesis from Eastwood and Ree’s past decides to finally take her revenge not just on those two, but on every self-styled “hero” in the city who happens to have crossed her at one point or another. When wave after wave of monsters besiege Grogrnard’s store, if Ree & Co. are going to survive, they’re going to have to work together. And avoid the minotaur. That’s always a good rule of thumb.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Hunted Warrior by Lindsey Piper

Hunted Warrior
Author:  Lindsey Piper
Series:  The Dragon Kings 3
Publisher:  Pocket Books,  April 28, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
List Price:  $7.99  (print)
ISBN:  9781451695939 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Demonic gladiators, ruthless mafia villains, and a race on the brink of distinction: What will become of them? One proud leader wields his power to unlock dark mysteries in the third book in this fierce, sensual new paranormal romance series.

When the head of the Five Clans of the Dragon Kings wants something, he gets it. Raised among the most privileged of his dying race, Malnefoley conceals a devastating tragedy from his youth. Now, many call him the Usurper because of his unconventional rise to power. His influence is waning while the Dragon Kings must solve the puzzle of their slow extinction. So when a particularly important captive escapes his compound in the Greek mountains, Malnefoley leaves nothing to chance. She is his prisoner to retrieve.

The woman is known as the Pet, a former associate of a sadistic doctor from the Asters, a human crime cartel. Her loyalties cannot be trusted, even when she claims to hold the secret to conception—an invaluable secret for a race unable to procreate. Neither can her unique gift from the Great Dragon be believed. She’s a soothsayer, able to see glimpses of the future. Her quest is to find and save a Cage warrior on the verge of her first match—a young woman whose destiny is bound to a timeless prophecy.

Malnefoley has no respect for the ancient superstitions that brought about his childhood trauma. His only goal is to return the Pet to his compound and use her knowledge for the betterment of their people. Yet her restless energy and raw sensuality are as intriguing as her predictions about the rise of the Great Dragon. He dares not trust the crafty fugitive’s loyalties, but as their treacherous chase turns passionate, can he even trust himself?

Melanie's Thoughts

Hunted Warrior starts approximately six months after the end of book 1 Caged Warrior with the destruction of the fighting cages and the Aster family lab. Mal aka The Giva has been keeping Aster's pet Dragon King, the aptly named Pet, prisoner until she gives up Aster's secret cure to the Dragons King's infertility. Pet however, has a few secrets of her own. She escapes Mal's custody and starts her search for some ancient weapons that will help a young cage warrior fulfill the destiny that Pet saw when the warrior was still in the womb. There is only one problem and that is in the form of a tall, blond, Adonis-like Dragon King by the name of Malnefoley. He doesn't trust Pet and doesn't believe in her visions or her belief in the original dragon. He is, however, determined to find out all that she knows from her time in the Aster's labs in order to save his race. On a journey that takes them from Greece to Italy to London Mal soon discovers that Pet isn't quite who he believed her to be. Drawn to one another the former slave and the leader of all Dragon Kings are on a perilous journey to fulfill a prophecy.

It's almost as if Piper has read my reviews of the prior books in the series and took my comments into account when writing Hunted Warrior. I wasn't happy with the brutality of Caged Warrior where Nan was almost raped and the romance was more violent than romantic. In Blood Warrior I felt there was a lot of romance but very little background about the Dragon King race. Now in Hunted Warrior there is a much better balance between romance, plot and background. This is PNR so obviously there is a lot of romance and steaminess between Pet (who he later names Ayva) and Mal but through both characters Piper explains more about the origin and the role of The Giva along with some of the history of the different families within the Dragon King race. Pet gives the reader a different perspective on the history of the Dragon Kings through her visions and with her relationship with Mal which I thought was effective.

I feel that Piper put more effort into these characters. Pet/Ayva had a tragic upbringing yet she sticks up for herself and can hold her own. I didn't immediately warm to Mal and thought he was a tad stuck up but I am sure this is what you were supposed to think of him. He did start to grow on me towards the end but only just. I had high hopes for a bit more of a slow burn romance as the hot and steamy hadn't started a third of the way in. This wasn't meant to be and it wasn't too long before Mal and Avya are getting horizontal almost everywhere including an Italian crypt! That sounded uncomfortable and lacking in the R in PNR.

I don't think it is necessary to read the first two books of the series to enjoy this one. There is enough re-capping of previous events to understand what is happening. Overall, Hunted Warrior is a more balanced book and therefore, a more enjoyable read. There is something for everyone in this book - romance, action and even a dragon!


Silent Warrior
Dragon Kings ePrequel
Pocket Star, April 22, 2013
eBook, 80 pages

An exciting, emotionally charged prequel to the Dragon Kings trilogy featuring warriors fighting for their lives in violent cage matches to guarantee their clans’ survival—available exclusively as an eBook!

A silent woman ashamed of her criminal background becomes a Cage warrior to seek redemption. An unrepentant fortune hunter will do anything to escape his mounting debts. Although rivals on the streets of Hong Kong, they find common ground when seeking their clan’s stolen idol, but for vastly different reasons. Neither one suspects that love will begin when he becomes the first man in five years to hear her speak.

Caged Warrior
The Dragon Kings 1
Pocket Books, June 25, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

The first installment in this fierce and sensual new paranormal romance series features demonic gladiators, ruthless mafia villains, and a proud race on the brink of extinction.

Ten years ago, Audrey MacLaren chose to marry her human lover, making her an exile from the Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons once worshiped as earthly gods. Audrey and her husband managed to conceive, and their son is the first natural-born Dragon King in a generation—which makes him irresistible to the sadistic scientist whose mafia-funded technology allows demon procreation. In the year since her husband was murdered, Audrey and her little boy have endured hideous experiments.

Shackled with a collar and bound for life, Leto Garnis is a Cage warrior. Only through combat can Dragon Kings earn the privilege of conceiving children. Leto uses his superhuman speed and reflexes to secure the right for his two sisters to start families. After torture reveals Audrey’s astonishing pyrokenesis, she is sent to fight in the Cages. If she survives a year, she will be reunited with her son. Leto is charged with her training. Initially, he has no sympathy for her plight. But if natural conception is possible, what has he been fighting for? As enemies, sparring partners, lovers, and eventual allies, Leto and Audrey learn that in a violent underground world, love is the only prize worth winning.

Blood Warrior
The Dragon Kings 2
Pocket Books, July 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

The Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons, were once worshipped as earthly gods. Centuries later and facing extinction, their survival is challenged when a madman renews his clan’s tradition of ritualized murder.

For decades, Tallis of Pendray has been visited in dreams by a woman who tempts him to fulfill a sacred prophecy. He devotes his life to the cause, until her violent demands destroy his family. Now he wants revenge.

To her devoted followers, Kavya of Indranan is a peaceful savior. But believing Kavya responsible for his deadly dreams, Tallis kidnaps her on the eve of a vital truce within her warring clan. During the ensuing chaos, her bloodthirsty brother attempts to kill her, certain the sacrifice will transform him into a dangerously powerful telepath.

Tallis safeguards Kavya—who shares little but a name in common with his avowed enemy. Their impassioned flight leads them to the Scottish Highlands, where Tallis is held liable for his crimes. He’ll do what he must to protect Kavya and the iconic message of harmony that could ensure the survival of the Dragon Kings . . . as much as her love could heal his jaded heart.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Interview with Andrea Phillips and review of Revision - April 28, 2015

Please welcome Andrea Phillips to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Revision will be published on May 5th by Fireside Fiction.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Andrea:  Hello, and thank you for having me! I've been writing since at least the third grade — back then it was stories about being kidnapped by an alien civilization. By eighth grade I wrote a ton of what I know realize was the worst kind of self-insertion fanfic for ElfQuest. I'm a lucky one who always had supportive family and teachers telling me, "Andrea, when you grow up, you should be a writer."

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Andrea:  When I wrote Revision, I was a pantser. Basically I wrote interesting scenes and chapters as they came to me, and then tried to put them into something like a causation order. Frankly all the worst problems in the book are a result of this. There are some structural hiccups I couldn't smooth out entirely; reviewers have said the first couple of chapters are a leeeetle too slow, and they're 100% right — because I wound up with four chapters that all wanted to go third for pacing!

Since then I've done more writing from a detailed outline, and I love it. It's faster for me, and comforting to be certain where it's all headed. I'm not sure I'll ever go back!

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Andrea:  The single most challenging thing is just… doing the work at all. Putting the hours in, day in and day out, no matter how I feel or what else I have going on. Isn't that the hardest part for everyone?!

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Andrea:  My #1 literary influence is probably Naomi Alderman, because she's a dear friend and we've spent so much time talking about the mechanics of writing over the years. If you happen to have the opportunity to befriend a highly acclaimed literary author and talk about writing over the course of years, I recommend it; your writing cannot fail to improve.

The whole world influences me and how I approach writing. Elizabeth Bear and Jennifer Crusie write about writing on their blogs, and I learn from them constantly. I read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass many years ago and finally understood pacing and tension for the first time.

And then there's the stuff you learn from by way of example: Sean Stewart, Tim Powers, Roger Zelazny for showing me how magic can be hidden in the now, and not just long-ago and far-away. Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley for showing me that you can write SF/F about women and women's concerns. Not just literature, either — the game Ultima IV showed me what moral ambiguity is and how to use it, for example. The whole world is constantly teaching you how to be a better writer, the trick is learning how to see it.

TQ:  Describe Revision in 140 characters or less.

Andrea:  Revision is about a wiki where your edits come true. Also snark, startup culture, and bad relationships.

TQ:  Tell us something about Revision that is not in the book description.

Andrea:  One of my goals with Revision was to write a book from a decidedly feminine point of view, that is also unquestionably science fiction. Alas some readers may be put off by the first couple of chapters because of this, because yeah, it feels like chick-lit. Not going to lie, that's a little scary, because "chick-lit" means a bunch of things that we tend to think are the exact opposite of "serious science fiction." So there's the terror that people won't take the book seriously purely because of tone.

But the truth is, it's a book I would love to read, and I can't be alone. So I'm trying to shrug off that reflexive sense of shame. And c'mon, let's be real — if I get a fraction of the readership of a Marian Keyes or Helen Fielding, I'll be selling beyond my wildest dreams.

TQ:   What inspired you to write Revision? What do you hope that readers will take away from Revision?

Andrea:  The intersection between magic and technology has fascinated me since I was a kid playing Trinity (the Infocom game), and first came across that famous Arthur C. Clarke quote: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." That comes out in my writing in lots of ways; AIs that do spellcraft, for example, or ghosts that send email.

Along those lines, I'm fascinated by the process by which technologies slowly accrete a sense of magic. We have ghost ships and ghost trains; mirrors that show the truth or take you somewhere else; phone calls from the dead; dolls that take on a life of their own. But it takes a while for a technology to reach that eerie tipping point, and some technologies never really become magical at all. Who writes about ghost ATMs, or light bulbs? Has anyone ever written about a magical blender or flush toilet? We have endless stories about books where their contents come true; so why not… a wiki instead?

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Revision?

Andrea:  I'm not typically much of a researcher, honestly. I'm more likely to draw from the well of things I already know in the heat of writing.

There's one thing, though, I researched exhaustively — data center disaster recovery systems, building codes, water sprinklers, halon. For the most part, Verity technology in the book is what I say it is and I can wave my hands and tap-dance until it works the way I want. But for this one particular scene, if I got it completely wrong, I knew someone would be annoyed. And who wants to annoy their readers?

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Andrea:  The easiest character was Mira herself. Which is a good thing, since the book is first person! Since I spent so much time in her head, I developed a really solid sense of what she's like and how she thinks: she has generally low expectations for herself and for the world, she's a little too self-centered, she has a bunch of principles but isn't great at living up to them. She's very human, I think.

It was much harder to write Benji, though, Mira's boyfriend. He's meant to be a bad boyfriend — patronizing and kind of douchey, but with enough heat and magnetism that you see why Mira would stay with him. It's funny, because people cling to bad relationships allllll the time in real life, but in fiction you have to work hard to make a character's terrible life choices seem plausible.

TQ:  Which question about Revision do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: Wait, your book has a content note? What's that all about?

A: You know how some people don't want to read a book if it has a pet die in it, that kind of thing? No animals are hurt in Revision, but there are some things that happen in the book that might be upsetting to some readers, and the publisher and I thought it would be kind to provide some sort of warning. We felt it was the right thing to do, and so we did it!

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Revision.

Andrea:  In terms of sheer lyricism, I love this one the most:

I found myself craving the earthy flavor of truthful words.

TQ:  What's next?

Andrea:  Right now I'm writing a YA novel about the Luckiest Girl in the World (literally), which has a mythology involving luck-eating magicians, the Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles, and attempted human sacrifice. If things go according to plan I should be done writing it this summer, and then… I'll try to sell it, I suppose!

After that I have an experimental story I want to do called Attachment Study. It'll be told in emails and text messages to the reader in real time. One of the characters will fall in love with the reader over the course of the story. Speaking as an artist, that's a very interesting emotional dynamic, and you can only really explore it in a work that feels interactive.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Andrea:  Thank you so much for having me! Eeee! This has been a delight.

Author:  Andrea Phillips
Publisher:  Fireside Fiction Company, May 5, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 230 pages
List Price:   $14.99 (print);  $6.99 (digital)
ISBN:  9780986104015 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Mira is a trust fund baby playing at making it on her own as a Brooklyn barista. When Benji, her tech startup boyfriend, dumps her out of the blue, she decides a little revenge vandalism is in order. Mira updates his entry on Verity, Benji’s Wikipedia-style news aggregator, to say the two have become engaged. Hours later, he shows up at her place with an engagement ring. Chalk it up to coincidence, right?

Soon after, Benji’s long-vanished co-founder Chandra shows up asking for Mira’s help. She claims Verity can nudge unlikely events into really happening — even change someone’s mind. And Chandra insists that Verity — and Mira’s newly minted fiance — can’t be trusted.

Amazon print edition, Barnes and Noble ebook, and iTunes ebook will be available May 5th

Melanie's Review

Mira does what every heart broken girl does when her boyfriend says the fateful words 'its over'. She cries her eyes out, looks in the freezer for the largest tub of ice cream available, drinks too much and then hits social media with a declaration of the scoundrel's undying love and imminent engagement. No one is more surprised than Mira when the very recently ex-Ben turns up on her doorstep on bended knee to propose. Pure coincidence or something more sinister? Mira soon learns that Verity, the news aggregating software Ben's company has developed can turn statement into fact. Science or magic? Is it good or evil? Is Ben involved? Mira is about to find out.

Revision is Phillips' debut novel and she does an admirable job of setting the scene and further chain of events that lead Mira on her journey to discover the truth. The plot is punchy and the dialogue is witty, especially Mira's inner dialogue. Phillips carefully builds the plot and leaves the reader so many breadcrumbs that its not difficult to figure out what the Verity software is capable of and what Ben's role in it really is. It is therefore, quite surprising that Mira seems almost the last to know or should I say, last to believe the truth that is practically slapping her in the face. When Chandra, the former Verity employee that everyone thinks is dead shows up and tries to convince Mira that all is not as it seems she is still reluctant to believe. After a near fatal car accident of a dear friend and the death of a loathed one Mira is forced to face the facts of what Verity can do and what Ben is capable of.

As much as I enjoyed Revision and thought that Phillips had created an interesting concept with Verity I didn't warm to Mira. The trust fund heiress slumming it as a barista in a boutique coffee shop did not ring true. Mira comes across as being on the world's longest pity party and apart from a demanding mother I couldn't really see why she she disliked everything about her former life. She also lacking in empathy or true remorse. There is a whole series of events from her best friend almost dying to her witnessing the death of someone she knows from childhood, yet Mira shows very little in the way of feeling. She even makes a comment about her fiance almost killing her best friend and then continues on with her self involved life. As much as I think that her dialogue was, in parts, extremely funny she just isn't the heroine for me.

I like Revision and think it could have been an 'I love it' book had I liked Mira a bit more. Well done though to Phillips' on creating a great plot for her debut novel.

About Andrea

Andrea Phillips is an award-winning transmedia writer, game designer and author. She has worked on projects such as iOS fitness games Zombies, Run! and The Walk, The Maester's Path for HBO's Game of Thrones, human rights game America 2049, and the independent commercial ARG Perplex City. Her projects have variously won the Prix Jeunesse Interactivity Prize, a Broadband Digital award, a Canadian Screen Award, a BIMA, the Origins Vanguard Innovation Award, and others. Her book A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling is used to teach digital storytelling at universities around the world.

Her independent work includes the Kickstarted serial The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart and The McKinnon Account, a short story that unfolds in your email inbox. Her debut novel Revision is out on May 5from Fireside Fiction Co. and her short fiction has been published in Escape Pod and the Jews vs. Aliens anthology.

You can find Andrea on Twitter at @andrhia. I mean, if you like that sort of thing.

Review: Shadow of a Spout by Amanda Cooper

Shadow of a Spout
Author:  Amanda Cooper
Series:  A Teapot Collector Mystery 2
Publisher:  Berkley (Prime Crime), April 7, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425265246 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Avid teapot collector Rose Freemont takes a break from her Victorian tea house only to find a new mystery brewing elsewhere…
Leaving her home in Gracious Grove behind her, Rose is off to the annual convention of the International Teapot Collector’s Society. Her granddaughter Sophie is minding the tea house while she’s away. Rose is eager for tough cookie Zunia Pettigrew to appraise a prized antique teapot she believes may be a holy water vessel from China.

But when Zunia declares the pot a fake, Rose is really steamed. After Zunia’s found dead beside Rose’s dinged-in teapot, Sophie must rush to her grandmother’s aid and find the real killer—before Rose is steeped in any more trouble… 

Jennifer's Review

Shadow of a Spout is the second book in the Teapot Collector Mystery Series. The first book in the series introduced us to Sophie, who moved to a small town in upstate New York to spend time with her Grandma Rose, and recover from the bankruptcy of the New York City restaurant she started up at a very young age. Rose and her best friend Laverne have left Gracious Grove and Rose’s flourishing Auntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House for a small inn that is hosting the annual teapot collector society weekend. Unfortunately, the weekend is anything but fun when the universally despised president of the New York division of the society is found brutally murdered, bludgeoned with Rose’s antique metal teapot after she and the victim, Zunia, have a public altercation. Sophie races to the Stone and Scone Inn to help her keep her grandma from being arrested for murder and stop the real killer before there is another victim!

Sophie is still very fragile from the failure of her restaurant, but is showing more strength in this novel. She is clearly a talented and creative chef, who has found her niche in her grandma’s tea house; she just hasn’t quite figured that out yet. She’s putting down some roots in Gracious Grove and reestablishing old friendships that foundered after she stopped spending her summers in the idyllic town. She’s been hanging out with Cissy, her childhood best friend, who is trying to rebuild her life after the disaster that took place in the first book, and Dana, an uneasy past acquaintance who is turning into a real friend and ally. Sophie is also contemplating rekindling her romance with old flame, Jason; she just isn’t sure if he feels the same way and is worried about making a huge mistake. This story is chock full of other supporting characters, many of them elderly and highly entertaining.

Rose and Laverne’s long term friendship is one of the more charming aspects of the book, along with the friendship of two gentlemen teapot collectors, Laverne’s father Malcolm and his friend Horace, both over ninety and still robust. Thelma, who has hated Rose for a slight that happened sixty years ago, is also along for the convention, being newly inducted into Rose’s small group of teapot collectors, The Silver Spouts. Thelma, whose disposition has always been quite tart is trying to turn over a new leaf and be less catty and judgmental, but, luckily for the reader, she hasn’t really mastered the whole kindness thing and is just as crusty and self righteous as ever, in a delightfully humorous way. Josh, the youngest member of the Silver Spouts, being just 16, is a favorite character. He has old school manners and is truly interested in the lives of the older people he chooses to spend his time with. Multiple other members of the national society have prominent, but secondary roles. Bertie, the neurotic innkeeper, has so many phobias it is comical. The widow of the murder victim and his teenage daughter are under the microscope for their familial issues. A weepy pastor, an ambitious wife and her womanizing husband, and a shy but talented tea blender all add to the suspect list and bring depth to the mystery and overall story.

The mystery is powered mostly by the multitude of lies told by everyone involved, which is started off by poor old Thelma, right in the beginning of the story. The lies are all well told and help keep the reader guessing right up to the end of the book. Being a prolific cozy mystery reader, I can very often pick out the killer early on in a novel, but was very pleasantly surprised to find that I could not do this with a Shadow of a Spout. The twists and turns in the plot, and the lies and secrets surrounding almost every character keep the story fresh and interesting right up to the end. The author did a wonderful job of tying up some minor lose ends from the first book, which had been niggling at me. We get to learn just what happened to Sweet Pea, the cat of the murder victim in Tempest in a Teapot, and find out what path Cissy has decided on for her life. Tiny details, but I loved that they were worked into the second book in an organic and relevant way. On a final note, be sure to take the time to read the little poem before the first chapter, it was short but lovely, and will resonate with any lover of a warm and restoring cup of tea.


Tempest in a Teapot
A Teapot Collector Mystery 1
Berkley (Prime Crime), June 3, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Tucked away in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is the charming town of Gracious Grove, where time moves slowly, gossip spreads quickly, and the scones are to die for...
When her fashionable Manhattan restaurant goes under, Sophie Taylor retreats to her grandmother’s cozy shop, Auntie Rose’s Victorian Teahouse, where serenity is steeped to perfection in one of her many antique teapots. The last thing Sophie expects is a bustling calendar of teahouse events, like her old friend Cissy Peterson’s upcoming bridal shower.

Not everyone is pleased with the bride-to-be’s choice of venue—like Cissy’s grandmother, who owns a competing establishment, La Belle Epoque, and has held a long-simmering grudge against Rose for stealing her beau sixty years ago. Tensions reach a boiling point when Cissy’s fiancé’s mother dies while sampling scones at La Belle Epoque. Now, to help her friend, Sophie will have to bag a killer before more of the guest list becomes a hit list... 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Tails, You Lose by Carol J. Perry

Tails, You Lose
Author:  Carol J. Perry
Series:  A Witch City Mystery 2
Publisher:  Kensington, March 31, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781617733710 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Author

Her instincts may be killer--but can she catch one this wicked?

After losing her job as a TV psychic, Lee Barrett has decided to volunteer her talents as an instructor at the Tabitha Trumbull Academy of the Arts--known as "The Tabby"--in her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. But when the school's handyman turns up dead under seemingly inexplicable circumstances on Christmas night, Lee's clairvoyant capabilities begin bubbling to the surface once again.

The Tabby is housed in the long-vacant Trumbull's Department Store. As Lee and her intrepid students begin work on a documentary charting the store's history, they unravel a century of family secrets, deathbed whispers--and a mysterious labyrinth of tunnels hidden right below the streets of Salem. Even the witches in town are spooked, and when Lee begins seeing visions in the large black patent leather pump in her classroom, she's certain something evil is afoot. But ghosts in the store's attic are the least of her worries with a killer on the loose. . .

Qwill's Thoughts

Tails, You Lose is the second novel in the Witch City Mystery series by Carol J. Perry.  After her stint as a TV psychic, Lee Barrett has volunteered to teach at The Tabby, a new arts academy, that is in a converted department store. The store has a history of hauntings and mysterious goings-on.

Lee is teaching 6 students. Each of them seems to have something to hide. Despite that Lee does teach them and they do start working on a documentary about Salem and The Tabby. Lee works hard while trying to avoid her own supernatural talent, clairvoyance, and solve an intertwined set of mysteries. I like Lee a lot. She's level-headed, usually does not take ridiculous risks, and cares about the people around her.

Lee is also dealing with the beginning of a romance with a local police detective that started in the first novel, Caught Dead Handed. Lee has lost her husband and is going slowly into this relationship. Detective Pete Mondello is a wonderful and warm character... when he is not in policeman mode. I really like how Perry is handling this relationship. It's absolutely lovely. It's a joy to read their interactions. In many ways they have already become a team.

Lee's Aunt Ibby is another standout character. She's portrayed beautifully. She's smart and often helps Lee with her research skills that she honed as a librarian. She's a great sounding board for Lee and a wonderful Aunt. There is so much warmth in the relationship between Lee and Aunt Ibby. They share a home (Aunt Ibby's home where Lee grew up) with a terrific cat, O'Ryan.

Perry mines the rich history of Salem for Tail's, You Lose. There really are tunnels under Salem and Perry uses them to great affect. I love when a novel teaches me something new! There are witches, ghosts and more.

Unlike the first novel in the series, I did not guess who did it or why. Even though I had figured it out I did read the entire first novel because I enjoy Perry's writing so much. In Tails, You Lose Perry's clues are much subtler. Additionally there are so many people with secrets and interesting back stories that I had no idea who the culprit was or what everyone really was up to. It makes for an exciting and engaging read.

Tails, You Lose is a fabulous cozy mystery, with wonderful writing, superb characters and intriguing mysteries. I am really, really looking forward to the next novel in the series, Look Both Ways.


Caught Dead Handed
A Witch City Mystery 1
Kensington, September 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

She's not a psychic--she just plays one on TV.

Most folks associate the city of Salem, Massachusetts with witches, but for Lee Barrett, it's home. This October she's returned to her hometown--where her beloved Aunt Ibby still lives--to interview for a job as a reporter at WICH-TV. But the only opening is for a call-in psychic to host the late night horror movies. It seems the previous host, Ariel Constellation, never saw her own murder coming.

Lee reluctantly takes the job, but when she starts seeing real events in the obsidian ball she's using as a prop, she wonders if she might really have psychic abilities. To make things even spookier, it's starting to look like Ariel may have been an actual practicing witch--especially when O'Ryan, the cat Lee and Aunt Ibby inherited from her, exhibits some strange powers of his own. With Halloween fast approaching, Lee must focus on unmasking a killer--or her career as a psychic may be very short lived. . .


Look Both Ways
A Witch City Mystery 3
Kensington, October 27, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

In Salem, Massachusetts, there are secrets everywhere—even in the furniture…

When Lee Barrett spots the same style oak bureau she once had as a child on the WICH-TV show Shopping Salem, she rushes to the antiques shop and buys the piece. Just like the beloved bureau she lost in a fire, this one has secret compartments. It also comes with an intriguing history--it was purchased in an estate sale from a home where a famous local murder took place.

The day after the bureau is delivered, Lee returns to the antiques shop and finds the owner dead. The police suspect the shop owner’s unscrupulous business partner, but Lee wonders if the murder is connected to her new furniture. At least part of the answer may be revealed through a mirror in the bureau, tarnished and blackened, allowing Lee to tap into her psychic visions. Using this bureau of investigation, Lee may be able to furnish her policeman beau with the evidence needed to catch the killer—before the next one to be shut up is her…

Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

The Damned
AuthorAndrew Pyper
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster, February 10, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $25.00 (print)
ISBN:  9781476755113 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

ALREADY OPTIONED FOR FILM BY LEGENDARY PICTURES (Inception, the Dark Knight movies, Interstellar)

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist, called “smart, thrilling, utterly unnerving” by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, comes a spine-tingling supernatural thriller about a survivor of a near-death experience haunted by his beautiful, vindictive twin sister.

Most people who have a near-death experience come back alone…

After he survived a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh, Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about going to Heaven and back. But despite the resulting fame and fortune, he’s never been able to enjoy his second chance at life.

Ash won’t let him.

In life, Danny’s charming and magnetic twin had been a budding psychopath who privately terrorized her family—and death hasn’t changed her wicked ways. Ash has haunted Danny for twenty years and now, just when he’s met the love of his life and has a chance at real happiness, she wants more than ever to punish him for being alive—so she sets her sights on Danny’s new wife and stepson.

Danny knows what Ash really wants is him, and he’s prepared to sacrifice himself in order to save the ones he loves. But to do this, he'll have to meet his sister where she now resides—and hope that this time, he can keep her there forever.

Deb's Review

Twins enter the world as a ready-made team; two distinct halves of one eternally bonded whole. In Andrew Pyper's The Damned, Ashleigh Orchard and her brother Daniel also share an even more remarkable distinction. They were both stillborn, only to be revived at the desperate plea of their mother, by a doctor with a particular set of skills. Dead and then not dead on their very first day in this world. Of course, such an extreme reversal of fortune almost always comes with a price, and sometimes the reckoning for hastily made promises isn't apparent until it's really too late.

Ash and Danny have the twin bond, but there are distinct differences between them that go far beyond their being fraternal twins. Danny is awkward and introverted, while Ash is a unique beauty who is popular, intelligent and accomplished. But only her family knows that she has a side far darker and colder than anyone suspects, and that she is slowly destroying the family from the inside. On their 16th birthday, Ash and Danny die in a fire in nearby crumbling Detroit. Unlike the first time, Ash remains dead, but Danny returns. Ash is not about to take Danny's revival lying down. At the minimum, she will haunt her twin's footsteps from beyond, chasing off friends and lovers, and ensuring that his existence is as lonely as hers.

Years pass, and awkward teenager Danny grows into an equally awkward adult who makes a modest living off of his book about returning from the dead. Still living in fear of Ash, Danny meets Willa at an Afterlifer meeting, where people share their near death experience stories. Their common ground of returning from The After gives them a quick rapport. A brief courtship leads to marriage, and with Willa's son Eddie, they form a family, giving Danny the will to fight for more than the miserable husk of a life Ash has allowed him. His defiance ups the ante for Ash, and Willa and Eddie wind up in her tightening circle of vengeance. If there's a way to put Ash to rest, Danny must discover it before she destroys his family a second time.

This book was a mixed bag for me. Ash is truly wicked. Without conscience. Tireless and unpredictable. If nothing is happening, chances are that she's only letting Danny develop a false sense of security; she has nothing but time. Danny is definitely the "good twin," but his character suffers from the nice guy mantle that is his birthright. It was sometimes a bit of a stretch to believe someone with such a tepid personality could be a worthy adversary to the formidable Ash. And while Danny's relationship with Willa is an important shift for him, it happens so quickly that it did not resonate with me. The depth of their bond should be Danny's new driving force, but there wasn't enough time to develop a true emotional connection. Danny adores Willa, and this may be because she is willing to stay, even in the face of Ash's torments. But it's difficult to understand Willa's motivation to stand by Danny, putting her young son at risk when so little time has been invested. It's not really surprising that the evil twin is lavished with a delicious story while the good twin pales in comparison because he simply wants a family and a normal life. In the end, it was this unfairly matched fight between good and evil that made this book a page turner.

Pyper has written a solid story, with an interesting premise, and a larger than life villain. His descriptions are lovingly detailed, whether he's relating Ash's nightmare vision of Detroit, or the oozing texture of burned, rotting flesh. The Damned has been optioned by Legendary Pictures, and I think the strong visuals in Pyper's story will translate well to the big screen. In spite of unevenly developed characters, there's a lot to praise about The Damned. It doesn't matter whether Ash is living or dead: what she does for fun and sport brings pain and ruin to everyone in her path. If you're looking for horror, Ash and Pyper won't let you down.

The View From Monday - April 27, 2015

Happy last Monday in April! I finished reading Midnight Crossroad and Day Shift by Charlaine Harris. I'll tell you more about these novels soon but if you've read Harris' Lily Bard and Harper Connelly series as well as the Sookie Stackhouse series you may recognize some of the characters. I also recently read Tails, You Lose by Carol J. Perry and The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson. I'm presently reading Desert Rising by Kelley Grant and really enjoying it so far. More about each of these novels in full soon.

Debuts out this week:

The Vorrh by B. Catling


The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack.

And from formerly featured Debut Author Challenge Authors:

The Deepest Poison (A Clockwork Dagger Story) by Beth Cato;

Boundary Crossed (Boundary Magic 1) by Melissa F. Olson;


The Shattered Court ( Four Arts 1) by M.J. Scott.

April 27, 2015
Vanished (e) Kate Watterson Th - Detective Ellie MacIntosh Novella

April 28, 2015
The Damnation of Pythos (tp2mm) David Annandale SF - The Horus Heresy 30
Emergence: Dave vs. the Monsters John Birmingham UF - David Hooper Trilogy 1
UFO Hunters: Book One William J. Birnes UF - Hunters 1
The Day Before (e) Liana Brooks UF - Jane Doe 1
Darth Vader and Friends Jeffrey Brown GN - Star Wars
The Girl With All the Gifts (h2tp) M.R. Carey SF/Ap/PA
The Vorrh (D) Brian Catling F
The Deepest Poison (e) Beth Cato HistF - A Clockwork Dagger Story
Against a Darkening Sky (e) Lauren B. Davis F
The Doors You Mark Are Your Own Okla Elliott
Raul Clement
Dys/PA - Joshua City Trilogy
Outlander 4-Copy Boxed Set: Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn Diana Gabaldon Hist/TT/R - Outlander
Crisis of Consciousness Dave Galanter SF - Star Trek: The Original Series
A Shiver of Light (h2mm) Laurell K. Hamilton CF - Merry Gentry 9
The Witch with No Name (h2mm) Kim Harrison UF - Hollows 13
Alien Wars Vaughn Heppner SF - A Fenris Novel 3
The Devil's Touch (e) (ri) William W. Johnstone H - Devil 3
Devil's Kiss (e) (ri) William W. Johnstone H - Devil 1
Lords of the Sith: Star Wars Paul S. Kemp SF - Star War
Space Helmet for a Cow: The Mad, True Story of Doctor Who Paul Kirkley NonF - Doctor Who - Space Helmet for a Cow 1
The Undead Ruins (e) Eloise J. Knapp PA - Undead Situation 3
Of Noble Family Mary Robinette Kowal HistF - Glamourist Histories 5
The Three (h2mm) Sarah Lotz Th
SCHISM (e) Laura Maisano PNR - Illirin 1
Dragondrums (ri) Anne McCaffrey F - Harper Hall of Pern 3
Darkened Blade Kelly McCullough F - Fallen Blade 6
The Hercules Text Jack McDevitt SF
The Guardian Interviews: The Guardian, The Regulators, Broken Clary Michael H/Z - The Guardian Interviews 1 - 3
No One Gets Out Alive Adam Nevill H
Man-Kzin XIV (ri) Larry Niven (created by) SF - Man-Kzin Wars 14
Charm Sarah Pinborough DF - Tales from the Kingdoms 2
Hunted Warrior Lindsey Piper PNR - Dragon Kings 3
The Adjacent (h2tp) Christopher Priest AH
Heaven and Earth (ri) Nora Roberts R/PE - Three Sisters Island Trilogy 2
MirrorWorld Jeremy Robinson Th/SF
Depth Lev AC Rosen SF/PA/M
The Shattered Court M.J. Scott F - Four Arts 1
Contagion: Eyre Alison Sinclair SF
Shadow of Freedom (tp2mm) David Weber SF - Honor Harrington 18
Children of Arkadia M. Darusha Wehm SF
The Memory Painter (D) Gwendolyn Womack Th

April 30, 2015
Rolling in the Deep Mira Grant H
Tales of the Primal Land Brian Lumley F - Collection

May 1, 2015
Possessed by a Wolf (e) Sharon Ashwood PNR
The Shadow Cartel Layton Green Sus - Dominic Grey 4
The Dark Side of The Road Simon Green M/Su - Ishmael Jones Mystery
Hotwire Simon Ings SF
Wolves Simon Ings SF
Boundary Crossed Melissa F. Olson UF - Boundary Magic 1
The Frood: The Authorised and Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (h2tp) Jem Roberts LC/SF/F
Wolf Hunter (e) Linda Thomas-Sundstrom PNR

May 2, 2015
Modernism and Science Fiction Paul March-Russell LC

D - Debut
e - eBook
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade to Mass Market Paperback

AH - Alternate History
Ap - Apocalyptic
CF  - Contemporary Fiction
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
GN - Graphic Novel
H - Horror
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
LC - Literary Criticism
M - Mystery
NonF - Non Fiction
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PE - Paranormal Elements
PNR -Paranormal Romance
SF - Science Fiction
Su - Supernatural
Sus - Suspense
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
UF- Urban Fantasy
Z - Zombies

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Melanie's Week in Review - April 26, 2015

I was finally quite productive this week both with reading and with writing reviews. I was starting to get worried that I had lost my reading and review writing mojo but its back. So what did I read?

I started the week with a debut novel that the lovely Qwill sent to me. Revision by Andrea Phillips is the very first novel to be published by Fireside Fiction Company and will be released on May 5th. I will be writing a full review of this book so keep your eye on the blog next week to find out what I thought about it.

I turned to my Amazon recommendations (again...very bad) and found that the next book in the Seven series by Dannika Dark had been released. It wasn't long before Three Hours was on my Kindle. I have mixed views of this series. I liked book 1 Seven Years, thought book 2 Six Months was OK, did not like book 3 Five Weeks and back to another OK review for book 4 Four Days. Part of me wants to continue reading this story just so I can find out if Dark can get her characters to fall in love in a matter of seconds. There are 2 more books in this series. It's going to have to be love at first sight by the time we get to book 7!

This instalment starts a few years after the end of book 4 with Lexi and Austin still in love, Izzy and Jericho and Ivy and Lorenzo both have young children and Lexi's human sister Maizy is a tweeny. The story is told mainly from Naya's POV. Naya has appeared in most of the novels as she is Lexi's friend and former neighbour. Naya is an exotic dancer and secret panther shifter. Panthers are feared for being too violent so she has kept her shifter identity secret. When young women start to go missing from her strip club Naya approaches the wolf Alpha Austin for help. He assigns the tattooed Wheeler to be her bodyguard. Naya and Wheeler do not get along and the fireworks start when they are forced to spend more time in each others company. Hiding secrets is the theme in Three Hours as Naya isn't the only one who is keeping secrets. Wheeler has almost as many secrets as he has tattoos and Naya is determined to find out each and every one of them. The other sub-plot is the shifter cage fighting and the seedy underworld that Naya and Wheeler find themselves reluctantly involved in.

This book gets another 'OK' for me. Unlike some of the other female characters Naya is a bit more complex and more developed. She is obviously the most noble and well centered stripper in town who helps out her local animal shelter and came to Lexi's aid more than once. I had a hard time imagining what Wheeler was like besides being covered in tattoos. He also kept saying 'preciate ya' and talked about 'his woman' which I found annoying and misogynistic. I can't understand why the female characters in this series are so objectified and are always getting into trouble when not shaking their 'booty'. I was fully expecting the one book of the series that involved a stripper to have the most hot and steamy but it really didn't. Yes, there is a smoking hot sex scene but really only the one. This is quite refreshing as there is more romance in this PNR.

My final book for this week was a little bit different. The good people at Curiosity Quills Press rescued my copy of I Kissed a Ghoul by Michael McCarty. I had received a copy from NetGalley in a format I couldn't open, I forgot I had it and then when I went back to sort it out the book had been archived. I apologised for not reading it in time and within an hour the publisher was sending me another copy in a different format. Hurrah!

If you are looking for a light hearted read look no further than McCarty's I Kissed a Ghoul. The 'big boned' teenager Tommy has been desperate to lose his virginity and every time he thinks he is going to get lucky he is thwarted by one of the many supernaturals in his small town. This book is a mere 120 something pages of Tommy's desperate attempts to seduce almost every female in town while fighting off vampires, werewolves and cannibals. Tommy doesn't seem to think that any of these supernatural encounters are anything out of the ordinary which makes it all the more amusing. One particularly funny scene occurs when Tommy's parents go on vacation leaving him home alone. He watches Tom Cruise in Risky Business and with the help of his father's credit card decides to re-enact the movie. This had me chuckling all the way through. Tommy isn't especially likeable and does seem to be either incredibly naive or incredibly dim but even so, you can't help but feel a bit sorry for him. He is just an overweight teenager looking for love (or a desperate girlfriend who wants to have a lot of sex). If you are looking for something different, a few laughs and a quick read then this is the book for you.

That is it for me for this week. I hope you have a great week ahead and Happy Reading.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April 2015 Winner

The winner of the April 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Desert Rising by Kelley Grant with 36% of all votes.

The Final Results

The April 2015 Debut Covers

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue with voting on the May Debut covers starting on May 15, 2015.

Review: Fish Tails by Sheri S. Tepper

Fish Tails
Author:  Sheri S. Tepper
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, October 21, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 720 pages
List Price:  $32.00 (print)
ISBN:  9780062304582 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own
Upcoming:  Trade Paperback, July 28, 2015

In her 35th novel, science fiction master Sheri S. Tepper boldly weaves together the storylines of eleven of her previous works—from King’s Blood Four (1983) to The Waters Rising (2010).

In Fish Tails, two of Sheri S. Tepper’s beloved characters—Abasio and Xulai (A Plague of Angels and The Waters Rising)—and their children travel from village to village scattered across the sparsely populated land of Tingawa. They are searching for others who might be interested in adopting their sea-dwelling lifestyle.

Along their journey they encounter strange visitors from the far-off world of Lom, characters from Tepper’s nine-book True Game series of novels—Mavin Manyshaped, Jinian Star-eye, and Silkhands the Healer—all of whom have been gathered up by an interfering, time-traveling, rule-breaking do-gooder to do one last good deed on earth before its metamorphosis is complete. For the waters are rising and will soon engulf the entire planet, transforming it utterly and irrevocably.

Brandon's Review

I think the first introduction to Tepper’s work for me was Beauty or the omnibus of The True Game. There are things that you can rely on to be present in almost all of her writing: strong female characters, eco-friendly messages, and deep seated worry for the future. Something else I find is that as dark or hopeless as some populations of humanity can be, she agrees and paints their future in bleak terms. Without fail though she also tells the story of how humanity can save itself.

Fish Tails draws on several of her previous works. Included at the end of the book was a synopsis of the stories and books involved in this story and while reading the other items first isn’t required reading this can help make sense of some of the plot points and characters. I am not really clear on why this wasn’t a preface or something more clearly offered to readers before leaping head first into a deep pool of work.

The primary mover in this book was the need to convince people of the coming of a flooded earth where normal people would not be able to survive and the only way to preserve humanity was with a genetic change allowing people to live in the water. The princess and former pauper who lead the cast on a trek to proselytize the populace struggle with the uneducated and bigoted in their path to changing the course of human existence. With a touch of Canterbury Tales meets the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Tepper draws together talking animals, griffins, aliens, monsters (human and non), and struggles with the best way to deal with a drowning planet and those who refuse to acknowledge the danger.

I am and will always be a huge fan of all of Sheri Tepper’s work because I think she isn’t wrong when it comes to the need for a more eco-feminist approach to saving ourselves from…well ourselves, but this book was not as subtle or enthralling as some of her other works and the inclusion of seemingly unrelated stories feels more like fan fiction of her own earlier works. For fans I think this is a solid book in her catalog, but for the uninitiated I would recommend starting with some of the precursor books both for the world building and to get a sense of the messages that are a little lighter than in this polemic against climate change deniers.