Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books of 2013

The Broke and the Bookish hosts this fun meme. Stop by their site to participate.

It's been ages since I did this meme, but I figured it was the perfect chance for me to share my favorite reads this year. It was so hard to narrow it down to ten, but here it goes. I didn't put them in any particular order either =)

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
I really loved the premise for this book as well as how it became so much more than a time travel novel. Characterizations were amazing and the ending left me heartbroken and sobbing.

Going Under by S. Walden
Another heartbreaking book with a realistic and horrifying premise revolving around serial rapists and the girl who tries to take them down. This one stayed with me long after I finished reading.
Archetype by M.D. Waters
This doesn't come out until January, but I'm certain it will be one of the most buzzed about books of the year. Amazing characters and a plot twist I'm still reeling from. Thank goodness the sequel is going to be released in the summer because I would die if I had to wait much longer.

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
This is a book people either love or hate, but I absolutely adored it. I read it straight through during a road trip and I was snorting with laughter the entire time. The main character Kippy is one of my favorite narrators of all time.

Surviving Raine by Shay Savage
This book was a huge surprise because I usually hate main characters like Bastian. He's broody and violent, but I ended up really becoming invested in his survival story. He had major chemistry with the sweet and innocent Raine and I couldn't put this book down until I found out if they would make it or not.

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
The final book comes out in a couple of months and I CAN NOT WAIT. This sequel to Shatter Me did not hit a sophomore slump at all and it made me fall in love all over again with the characters.
World After by Susan Ee
I read Angelfell and World After back to back and it quickly became one of my favorite paranormal series. The dystopian world the author created is frightening with the unique idea that angels are the bad guys.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Alien invasion stories are hit or miss for me and this was a big hit for me. I loved the survival story of Cassie and the twists and turns in the novel that I never saw coming.
Omens by Kelley Armstrong
I love Kelley Armstrong's books and Omens didn't disappoint. It was different than her other novels, but I loved it all the same.

Parallel by Lauren Miller
Although I like standalone books, I almost wish this was a series because of how much I loved the plot and the characters. It also had one of the most interesting love triangles I've ever read.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Goodreads Summary:

After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Publication Date: October 1, 2013

This is the first Simone Elkeles book I’ve read and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I loved Ashtyn and Derek and although they faced a lot of hurdles in their relationship, I was really hoping they both would get their crap together and realize how right they were for one another.

I loved that Ashtyn was a kick butt football player. She’s not afraid to be tough and doesn’t allow herself to be intimidated despite being the only girl on the team. But she also has a very soft, feminine side and it was sweet when Derek was able to bring out her vulnerability. Ashtyn is afraid of being left abandoned while Derek is constantly running from place to place and it causes a lot of discord between the two.

Derek was a great male lead as well. I loved his swagger, but underneath his cockiness he really cared about Ashtyn. He had a lot of pain in his past and it was touching to see how Ashtyn helped him work though it. The secondary characters were well done with my favorites being Derek’s grandmother, Brandi and Julian.

The plot moved very quickly and I liked how the book never hit a lull. There are some interesting sub-plots too and I sympathized with the sexism Ashtyn had to deal with while attending football camp. Her ex-boyfriend was also reprehensible and I couldn’t wait for him to get his *ss kicked.

The ending felt a little rushed and there was a couple of unbelievable plot reveals. There’s a sequel in the works and I hope it features some of Ashtyn’s teammates and also find out how the football rivalry was resolved. I would definitely recommend this book to YA contemporary fans who enjoy sports-themed romances.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book for review!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stacking the Shelves #71

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews and features books you've added to your shelves, both physical and virtual.

Hope everyone is enjoying their holidays! I picked up a few historical romances this week. Not the normal genre I read, but I go through phases when I can't get enough of them.

For Review:
Captivate by Vanessa Garden

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Salt by Danielle Ellison

Wallflower Gone Wild by Maya Rodale

Redemption of the Duke by Gayle Callen

Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Come As You Are by Theresa Weir

Goodreads Summary:

Molly Young has a secret. To keep it she holds the world at a distance. Behind her lies a trail of dumped boyfriends who came too close to discovering what no one can know. When her estranged father dies of an unexpected heart attack he leaves an even deeper secret, one tied to Molly's.

At the funeral repast Molly is unable to tolerate the shoulder-to-shoulder mourners and runs out the door and down the street to the nearest bar. Come dawn, with no memory of the past ten hours, she finds herself in bed with a beautiful stranger. She slips away before he wakes up, unaware of the role he's about to play in her life. Is he the one guy who can convince Molly to face her painful secret and become the person she's meant to be?

Publication Date: September 20, 2013

This was such an angsty and dark read, much more so than I ever guessed. Molly is a tormented main character and the walls she had built up made it difficult to connect with her character. However, I liked Ian a lot and I felt like he was able to bring some light into Molly’s dark existence.

Molly is a complicated character and although many NA heroines are tortured—Molly is a NA heroine to the extreme. Thoughts of suicide are never far from her mind and some really awful crap has happened to her at the hands of her father. To make matters worst, her father dies and leaves her next to nothing in his will.

Ian was really a nice guy and I liked that he was always trying to do the right thing despite how difficult Molly could be. The beginning was really good and their chemistry was obvious despite the circumstances surrounding how they meet. Once the relationship happened between the two, it happened super fast and fizzled out just as quickly.

My main issue with the book was I felt like certain things were way too rushed. A few major reveals happen towards the end and they were never fully explored. The ending also felt like it came out of nowhere and too many things were unresolved.

I liked Come As You Are and I’d love to read another book by the author. I don’t believe there’s a sequel in the works but I believe there could be due to the abrupt ending.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novel for review!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Cheating on Myself by Erin Downing

Goodreads Summary:

What happens when good enough just isn't enough anymore?

Stella Dahl assumed her life was as good as it was ever going to get. But after twelve years with a man who’s more a habit than husband material, she walks out on her bland existence, determined to start over. Goaded by her friends and a group of crass retirees she befriends at water aerobics, Stella plunges back into the dating pool. After a few false starts, she meets Joe, the sexy banjo player in a popular children’s band. He’s cocky, a smirking flirt, and a musician...everything she’s *not* looking for in a guy. Even still, she begins to fall — hard.

Just when Stella is beginning to think she could find true happiness, a family tragedy turns her world upside down. As she tries to hold together everything that’s crumbling around her, Stella starts slipping back into old habits — and away from Joe. Soon, she begins to wonder: Is she really destined for anything more than a life that’s good enough?

For fans of Jennifer Weiner and Kristan Higgins, CHEATING ON MYSELF is a touching, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy about starting over and finding your happily ever after

Publication Date: October 2, 2013
I really enjoyed Cheating on Myself more than I expected. The premise didn’t sound like something I would really be into, but I’ve read another book by the author so I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did because I found it to be a fun romantic comedy about discovering yourself for the first time in years.

The setup was simple enough. Stella finally decides she’s had enough of a dead-end relationship. She works for a marketing firm and she’s been in a relationship with a corporate guy. It was fun to see her step out of her comfort zone and go for a member of a children’s band. Her relationship with Joe leads to some funny laugh out loud moments.

The workplace drama and dynamics were a little dull for me, but that’s more of a personal preference. Otherwise, I liked how Stella grew as a character and decided to stop trying to mold herself into the perfect woman for a man who would never commit. Stella was exasperating at times, but her sense of humor and wit made me cheer for her over the course of the novel.

I would recommend this read for lovers of contemporary romances with humor. It was a quick read for me and I would definitely read another book by the author.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel from the author for review.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Review: Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

Goodreads Summary:

You're alone. You're vulnerable. And you have something that someone else wants. At any cost...

Claudia seems to have the perfect life. She's heavily pregnant with a much-wanted baby, she has a loving husband, and a beautiful home. And then Zoe steps into her life. Zoe has come to help Claudia when her baby arrives. But there's something about Zoe that Claudia doesn't like. Or trust.

And when she finds Zoe in her bedroom, Claudia's anxiety turns to real fear...
Publication Date: June 20, 2013

This book was a huge surprise. I’ve never experienced such a change of heart in the course of reading any other novel. I was all set to give the novel three stars when the ending came along and completely blindsided me. It changed the entire book for me and I loved how the author tied everything together.

The subject matter definitely made me squeamish. Pregnant women having their bellies cut into aren’t something I normally want to read about. However, I thought it was interesting how the author focused on different women and their struggles with fertility. I thought the author did a good job of depicting an infertile woman on the outside looking in.

The story is told from three female points of view: Lorraine, Zoe and Claudia. I liked reading about each character and their struggles they faced. A few of the sub-plots were a little boring, but I understood their purpose a little more as the story unfolded.

I don’t want to post spoilers, so I’ll only say the ending will leave you breathless. I’m never usually surprised, but there were incredible twists to the story. I loved how I never saw it coming, but now when I look back at the novel, it makes perfect sense. The author didn’t leave plot holes for the sake of a shocking twist.

I would highly recommend this novel to suspense lovers. The crimes are horrifying and I was on the edge of my seat over if the right person would be brought to justice.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book for review!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

Goodreads Summary:

When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

The first in a two-book series, Uninvited tackles intriguing questions about free will, identity, and human nature. Steeped in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan's trademark mix of gripping action and breathless romance, this suspenseful tale is perfect for fans of James Patterson, Michelle Hodkin, and Lisa McMann.

Publication Date: January 28, 2014

I absolutely loved the premise of Uninvited and found myself sucked into the plot early on. Often dystopian plots don’t seem plausible at all to me, but the scary thing about Uninvited is I could totally see this happening in the future. My only issue was I wished the book had a stronger female lead and that Davy didn’t constantly need saving by the love interest Sean.

The setup was wonderful—mandatory genetic testing has revealed charmed high school girl Davy is a carrier of a HTS, a homicidal tendency syndrome gene. I found the idea intriguing: should individuals be punished for being predisposed to violence? I actually wished the nature versus nurture debate could’ve been explored over the course of the novel fully.

Davy was empathetic and I did feel for her as her friends and boyfriend oust her. Her future is torn from her and she’s put in several dangerous situations as panic ensues over the possibility of killers living alongside the general populace. The secondary characters were all good and I especially liked Davy’s brother Mitchell and her newfound friends Gil and Sabine.

Sean was a bit of a confusing character for me and I think it was the author’s intention to make him this way. You never really know if he’s a good guy or not, especially since he’s also a carrier of HTS and has been branded because of violence. The thing annoying about the romance was every scene Sean was saving Davy. I understood Davy wasn’t exactly street smart, but by the end I felt like come on already. The way Sean looked out for Davy was irritating too because he was constantly inferring she was hopeless and needed a man to act as her protector.

The series has so much room for growth and I’ll definitely read the next installment.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book for review!    

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Blitz and Kindle Giveaway: Insanity by Cameron Jace

Book & Author Details:

Insanity by Cameron Jace 
Publication date: December 20th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal

After accidentally killing everyone in her class, Alice Wonder is now a patient in the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum. No one doubts her insanity. Only a hookah-smoking professor believes otherwise; that he can prove her sanity by decoding Lewis Carroll’s paintings, photographs, and find Wonderland’s real whereabouts. Professor Caterpillar persuades the asylum that Alice can save lives and catch the wonderland monsters now reincarnated in modern day criminals. In order to do so, Alice leads a double life: an Oxford university student by day, a mad girl in an asylum by night. The line between sanity and insanity thins when she meets Jack Diamond, an arrogant college student who believes that nonsense is an actual science.

Will be found here come release day:


Wonderlander, Neverlander, Unicorn-chaser, enchanter, musician, survived a coma, & totally awesome. Sometimes I tell stories. Always luv the little monsters      I write young adult paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and science fiction mostly. The Grimm Diaries series is a seven book saga that deals with retellings of fairy tales from a young adult POV - it connects most of the fairy tales together and claims to be the truth about fairy tales.      I live in San Fransisco and seriously think circles are way cooler than triangles.

Author Links:

Q & A with Cameron Jace

Q: Is insanity an Alice in Wonderland retelling where fact and fiction intermingle like in your previous series the Grimm Diaries?
A: It’s not quite a retelling of Alice in Wonderland as much as inspired by it. It has all the whimsical and nonsensical wonderland fantasy parts, but it’s more grounded to reality because it happens in our time. Fact and fiction do walk side by side in this book. For instance, Lewis Carroll is present as character himself.

Q: Why did you call it Insanity?
 A: Well, insanity is the main theme of the book. All what Alice has seen could be interpreted as madness in many ways. Also, when you read the book, it’s insane. I mean like really insane. You will either love or hate it. I don’t think there is a middle zone.

Q: Is the story told from many point of views like the Grimm Diaries?
A: Just a few, but most of the story is Alice’s personal journey.

Q: The Grimm Diaries was filled with research, how much did you put in Insanity?
A: I think the research in Insanity is even greater than the Grimm Diaries. The book is also more action oriented. Alice travels from Oxford, London, Vatican City then Belgium in a couple of days. Each city had to be researches and connected with Lewis Carroll and his books.

Q: The blurb says Alice’s sanity can only be proved through Lewis Carroll’s photography and writing. We thought this is about Wonderland.
A: It’s about Wonderland. The idea is that all puzzles, action scenes, and even romance have a Lewis Carroll background to them. The main reason why this book came to my mind is my fascination with both Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll himself. If you learn the reasons behind each character and location in his book, you will love Alice in Wonderland even more. It’s no coincidence that we all relate to the book. It’s a masterpiece.

Q: You said Insanity is more of a TV pilot. How so?
A: I did write it as a novel but also as TV pilot. The reason is that once you get the idea of the book, the possibilities are infinite, and incredibly amusing. When outlining my plot, I found out it would take books and books to write it. So I wrote one story with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s satisfying on its own, but if I succeeded in peaking your interest you should like to read the next books. The beauty of it is that once you read one book, each other book will be a story of its own. It’s very much like a TV series.

Q: Anything you want to add?
A: I wish everyone and awesome Christmas and a Fantabulous new yearJ And if I messed with you childhood memories of Alice in Wonderland a bit, don’t hate me. Lol.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Stacking the Shelves # 70

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews and features books you've added to your shelves, both physical and virtual.

Have you stopped by to check out my new release from Crescent Moon Press? You can click here to enter for a chance to win a paperback or eBook version of The Memory Witch. I'm featuring several Crescent Moon Press titles this week that I plan to review in the upcoming weeks.

For Review:
Sorrow's Point by Danielle DeVor

Death Lies Between Us by Jody A. Kessler

Phantom Touch by Jessica Hawke

Son of a Mermaid by Katie O'Sullivan

Blitzing Emily by Julie Brannagh

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Wood

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

In the Blood by Lisa Unger

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: Speak of the Devil by Shawna Romkey

Goodreads Summary:

What happens when falling in love and falling from grace collide?

After dying in a car accident with her two best friends, Lily miraculously awakens to grief and guilt. She escapes to her dad’s to come to terms with the event and meets some people at her new school who seem all too eager to help her heal. Sliding deeper into sorrow and trying to fight her feelings for two of them, she finds out who…what they really are and that they are falling too.

Can she find the strength to move on from the past, reconcile her feelings for Luc, find a way to stop a divine war with fallen angels, and still pass the eleventh grade?

Publication Date: March 15, 2013

Speak of the Devil was a fun and exciting read. I liked the main character Lily’s spunk and I wasn’t expecting the twists and turns the story would take after Lily meets a mysterious group of friends at her new school.

The book starts out exciting and I liked the author’s writing style. She has a talent for building up the suspense of a scene and it kept me reading. I really felt like she did a good job at describing the state of mind and emotions of a teen girl who has gone through a tragedy like Lily.

I avoided reading reviews before diving into the book and it was fun not knowing where exactly the story was going. When all was revealed, my jaw dropped. I definitely didn’t expect the story to go in the direction Romkey took it and I was completely wrong in guessing the good and bad guys of the story.

The plot moved at a quick pace and had plenty of action.  I also enjoyed the metaphysical aspects and found the book well researched. It was wonderful how Lily threw herself into battle and didn’t back down. I’m a huge fan of strong female characters in YA literature and Lily took the cake.

The romance was sweet and I loved the hot and cold between Luc and Lily. There was also some unexpected moments of levity which nicely broke up the high drama parts. I’d recommend the book highly to YA paranormal romance fans who want a refreshing take on angels and demons.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

Goodreads Summary:

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

Publication Date: November 26, 2013
I was hoping to love this as much as The Goddess Test, but I think I should’ve went into reading without comparing the two books. I did like Pawn, but I didn’t love the characters as much as I loved Henry and Kate from the Goddess series.

The setup for the plot was interesting. Society has been separated into caste systems based on the results of a test given when a person turns seventeen. When Kitty takes her test, she scores a III which guarantees a future working in the sewers. However, the ruling family wants her to take over the life of their departed niece Lila and become a part of the rich and powerful VIIs.

Kitty was all over the place for most of the novel and it made me question whether she had a manic disorder. One minute she’s sobbing hysterically, the next minute she’s stoically accepting her fate. I did like Carter’s choice to feature a dyslexic heroine and I empathized with Kitty’s learning disability. Her boyfriend Benjy was a little boring and he didn’t sound very physically appealing. If I were going to have to pick a team, it would be Team Knox all the way.

The plot isn’t for the faint of heart, a twist about where people go when they end up “elsewhere” was particularly horrifying. I did like the brewing rebellion and the political intrigue plots. Since this is the first in the series, I’d expect the story to come together more in future books.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novel for review!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: A Terrible Love by Marata Eros

Goodreads Summary:

Jess Mackey is living a meticulously fabricated lie of necessity. She's left the secret tragedy of her past behind along with who she was and is forging ahead with a clean slate. But Jess soon discovers that passion can't be left behind—neither her own, nor that of the one man who sees who she really is…and whose unexpected presence may breach the peaceful life Jess has painstakingly created for herself.

Devin Castile didn’t expect to meet a young woman who may be the missing puzzle piece to his existence…and who is also the victim of a heinous crime. Devin convinces himself that he can remain emotionally distant even while indulging his physical desire for her. But when Jess’s lies begin to crumble in the face of their undeniable attraction and the truth is revealed, one of them might pay with their life.

Publication Date: April 26, 2013

I really liked the start of this book, but along the way it lost some of its luster. I couldn’t connect with the main characters at all and I felt like the murder mystery plot became too over the top. It’s not a bad read, but just not really my cup of tea.

Jess was likable in the beginning and I really loved how the author started off the story. I was drawn into the plot of Jess trying to hide in plain sight and her terror over the murderous intentions of her stepbrother. I liked the ballet angle as well and I really found myself learning about what it takes to be a dancer.

After Jess meets bad boy Cas, I started to dislike the book. It was the start of an annoying love triangle with Mitch being the “safe” choice and Cas being the “obvious” choice. I just didn’t understand her reasoning for dating both and her wishy washy behavior. Cas and Jess had strong sexual chemistry, but I just didn’t feel the love aspect. Also, he talked about f*cking her way too soon. It’s a bit of a pet peeve when male characters start talking dirty with the heroine after they barely know each other.

There were some twists, but I figured them out very early. The final scenes are ripe with tension and the book ended strongly. A Terrible Love is filled with drama and readers will definitely be biting their nails as Jess’s past threatens to catch up with her.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novel for review!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Switched by Cassie Mae

Goodreads Summary:

Ever since high school, Kayla has been crazy for gorgeous football player Talon. But before she could muster the courage to tell him, he became a hot item with her beautiful BFF, Reagan. The only person who knows Kayla’s secret is Wesley, Talon’s best bud—and he’s got it bad for Reagan. Now they’re all in college together, hanging out 24/7. For Kayla, seeing the two lovebirds together is absolutely unbearable. So Kayla and Wesley hatch a plot to drive them apart before Talon has a chance to give Reagan the Christmas gift she’s been waiting for.Soon enough, the once happy couple is fighting. Reagan suddenly can’t get enough of Wesley’s goofy sense of humor, and Talon seems to be paying more attention to Kayla than a guy who’s “only a friend” ever should. But just when everything seems to be falling into place, Kayla and Wesley accidentally spend a night together and discover a hitch in their plan they never considered: that switching partners may not lead to a perfect ending after all.

Publication Date: December 2, 2013

I hadn’t planned to read Switched so quickly, but after reading the premise, it sounded like the perfect guilty pleasure book. I have such a thing for books about characters who don’t like each other at first but end up falling for one another. Switched didn’t disappoint and I absolutely LOVED it.

At first, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Kayla and Wesley trying to break up their friends. But their efforts were mostly innocent and it seemed clear that neither would make a move unless they had blessings from both Talon and Reagan. Although the friends don’t like each other at first, feelings start to develop after they plot together to switch romantic partners.

Kayla was lovable and earnest and I really loved the story from her POV. I loved the funny/awkward moments between her and the guys. I adored Wesley, like so much that he’s my new book boyfriend. I love romantic interests like him. He’s not a billionaire CEO or a NFL quarterback, but he’s sweet and funny. Before this book, I never thought a guy smelling like gummy bears could be so freaking cute.

The pacing was good and I stayed up late to finish it. I had to know what guy Kayla was going to end up with! Characterization was well done and despite the first person POV, all of the characters came to life for me.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet and fun read, I’d highly recommend Switched. It’s a standalone and although there are a few sexy scenes (nothing graphic), it would still be a good pick for older teens along with adults. 

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novel for review!

Monday, December 16, 2013

New Release and Giveaway: The Memory Witch

Today I'm celebrating my new YA release from Crescent Moon Press. It's called The Memory Witch and it's the first book in a planned trilogy. It's full of magic, romance and angst. I have the Amazon Buy Links and will be sharing the other purchase links as they go live. Enter below for chance to win an autographed paperback copy or eBook version. 

Book Summary:

Ten years ago, Quinn Jacobs’ mother made a bargain with a local witch—steal away Quinn’s memories from the first eight years of her life and in return, Quinn would spend a year in servitude to the witch.

On Quinn’s eighteenth birthday, she’s forced to leave her home and friends behind. For the next year, she’ll live at the Chadwick House, learning everything she needs to know about being a spellcaster. As her powers grow, Quinn begins to unravel the secrets of the past and the reason her mother was so desperate to conceal the horrifying truth.

Kindle Version: http://www.amazon.com/Memory-Witch-Heather-Topham-Wood-ebook/dp/B00HB67IWY

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18248374-the-memory-witch


After about an hour of swimming, I climbed back onto the pier. Throwing on my tunic, I laid back onto my towel. Drowsiness set in as I sunbathed and before long, I felt myself drifting...

I was in the woods again. This time I wasn’t running. Instead I sat sobbing as I held a piece of torn cloth in my hands. I had no idea the significance of the scarlet fabric, but it filled me with sorrow looking at it. The fabric was roughly torn and the glossy surface made me guess it had come from a jacket.

Dark shadows were creeping towards me as I sat crying with my back against a white birch tree. I gripped the fabric in my fist as I became aware of the presence of the darkness. I stopped my tears and looked at the swirling forms moving steadfastly in my direction. Wiping off the residual moisture on my cheeks, I stood and stared down the ghastly shapes.

I threw the fabric on the moist ground. An army of spiders, beetles, and worms emerged from the ground and began to devour the material. Once it disappeared into their greedy little mouths, they returned to ground. I was heartbroken with their hungry destruction of something that was so precious to me, but I had to find the strength to confront and embrace the darkness.

“I welcome you.” The voice wasn’t my own. It was full of malice and power. My hands shot out before me and the dark mist came to them. They disappeared inside of my fingers and I could see the energy pulse through my body. I shut my eyes and reopened them. They were no longer my own. Blackened irises with a red rim now stood in place of my soft brown eyes... 

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Stacking the Shelves #69

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews and features books you've added to your shelves, both physical and virtual.

Leo by Mia Sheridan

For Review:
Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike

Wicked Games by Sean Olin

After the End by Amy Plum

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

Running on Empty by Colette Ballard

Friday, December 13, 2013

Blog Tour Stop and Review: Path Unchosen by Kim Cleary (Daughter of Ravenswood #1)

Book & Author details:

Path Unchosen by Kim Cleary 
(Daughter of Ravenswood #1) 
Publication date: September 7th 2013
Genres: Dark Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

When eighteen-year-old Judy Hudson discovers she’s a necromancer and sees first-hand the pain her powers can cause the dead, she just wants to deny who she is. The zombie plague is long over. She wants to find a more normal life, but that’s a challenge when a beautiful otherworldly man, who claims to be her guardian, saves her life.

Judy tries to set right the harm she inflicted on a spirit she raised, but new zombies attack—zombies raised from among the long-time dead. Someone else just like her is out there, and he’s not trying to set anything right. To save her own life, and protect the innocent inhabitants of the nearby town who’ve become her friends, Judy has to figure out who’s raising the dead and why. She must also learn to control the darkness inside her—a seductive darkness that promises her power beyond her wildest dreams.



Kim writes urban fantasy for anyone who longs to discover they are extraordinary. She writes about hopefulness and determination, and about heroes who push through extraordinary situations and obstacles, one step at a time. Magical friends and gorgeous guys help, or hinder, in one adventure after another.

When not writing, revising, or thinking about writing, Kim gardens, plays with her dog, chats on social media, catches up with friends or cooks an Indian feast. She is a member of Writers Victoria, Romance Writers of Australia, The Alliance of Independent Authors, and a certified chocoholic.

Kim grew up in Birmingham, UK, studied medieval history and psychology at Adelaide University in South Australia and has worked all over Australia and in London. She now lives with her husband and an adorable Cocker Spaniel in Melbourne, Australia.


My Review:

I liked the mysteries of the Path Unchosen, but I feel like if the author would’ve focused the plot and setting more, it would be a must read for paranormal lovers. Along with Judy, I was trying to figure out the story of her birth and I liked that there were a lot of surprises in store for the reader as we followed along on her journey.

I’m a sucker for zombie and necromancer novels, so I liked that aspect of the novel a lot. The book starts out with Judy living in an orphanage and being forced out because of her ability to revive the dead. Judy was somewhat likable, but a little immature once I realized she was 18 and not younger. But in a way her lack of worldliness fits well with the fact she was sheltered inside the walls of the abbey.

The setting was a little hard to get a handle on. I was certain it was historical fiction, but then there would be references to inventions that made me guess it took place in the future. There needed to be more consistency too as readers move from scene to scene.

The pace was quick which worked well for me because it was able to hold my interest. A few of the plots needed to be fleshed out more or eliminated altogether, but it is a series so that could be improved upon in future outings. I also really loved the cover and felt it worked well for the book.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

At Any Price by Brenna Aubrey Book Blitz and Giveaway

Book & Author Details:

At Any Price by Brenna Aubrey 
(Gaming the System #1) 
Publication date: December 9th 2013 
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Achievement Unlocked: Geek Virgin
When Mia Strong, proud geek-girl and popular gaming blogger, auctions off her virginity online, she knows she’ll make waves. But what she will not be making is a love connection. Her rules are set in stone: One night. No further contact.
It’s a desperate step, but it’s the only way she can go to medical school and pay her mother’s mounting hospital bills.
Difficulty Level: Millionaire CEO
Adam Drake, the enigmatic auction winner, is a software prodigy who made his first million at seventeen. Now, in his mid-twenties, he’s sexy, driven and–as CEO of his own gaming company–he’s used to making the rules. Before Mia knows what’s happening, he’s found the loophole in the rules of her auction. Every stipulation she’s made to protect her heart gets tossed by the wayside.
She can’t tell if he’s playing her…or if he’s playing for keeps.
This New Adult book is intended for audiences over the age of 18 due to adult language, sexual content and adult situations.



Brenna Aubrey is an author of New Adult contemporary romance stories that center on geek culture. Her debut novel, AT ANY PRICE, releases in December, 2013.

She has always sought comfort in good books and the long, involved stories she weaves in her head. Brenna's favorite author is Jane Austen and favorite novel is PERSUASION.

Brenna is a city girl with a nature-lover's heart. She therefore finds herself out in green open spaces any chance she can get. A mommy to two little kids and teacher to many more older kids, she juggles schedules to find time to pursue her love of storycrafting.

She currently resides on the west coast with her husband, two children, two adorable golden retriever pups, two birds and some fish.



“I’m quite capable of understanding sexual attraction, Mr. Drake.”
“Adam,” he said quietly, his eyes lowering to focus on my mouth. My heart skipped a beat in its frenetic pace.
“Why does it make you uncomfortable to call me by my first name?”
I locked gazes with him, suddenly intensely aware of how close we were standing. I could smell him—a subtle scent, masculine, clean, like the ocean and the hint of peppermint candy on his breath. I could almost feel the heat and power oozing off of him in waves. I swallowed in a suddenly dry throat.
“I don’t know.”
“I want to give you one more thing to think about.”
“And what is that?”
He leaned closer, his head approaching mine. I didn’t have the time to step back nor, I think, the willpower to do it even if it had occurred to me. His mouth met mine in a firm, sure kiss.
It wasn’t overpowering. That was the first thing that surprised me. It was a subtle give and take—gentle, at first, a warm pressure of his lips on mine. Then he took a step closer and slid a hand around my waist, the other going to my back.
He retreated, just slightly, just enough to allow me to pursue him. His mouth moved against mine, teasing, pressing it open. Now his body pressed against mine, his head angled down to reach me, for I was at least five inches shorter than him.
I opened my mouth to him then and his tongue slid in easily. Nothing tentative in this kiss. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was telling me I had the control, declaring the decision mine and then swooping in and taking no prisoners.
His hands stayed put. I was glad of that though I wanted his touch everywhere—my aching breasts, the throbbing between my legs. Goose bumps prickled up and down my arms. His tongue explored my mouth with surety, easy possession. And—to my utter humiliation—I let loose a small whimper at the back of my throat.
The arm around my waist tightened when he heard it, responding immediately, almost instinctively. He pulled his tongue back, as if inviting me to follow him with my tongue. And tentatively, I did.
I’d been kissed before—back in high school when I was normal and I actually dated. But it had been years, now, and I’d never, ever been kissed like this. My tongue entered his mouth and he made a noise at the back of his throat, not quite a growl, kind of more like a huff. It emboldened me. Empowered me. I thrust my tongue, lacing my hands around the back of his neck. Our heads moved together for long minutes and I felt like I hadn’t breathed in a lifetime.
Everything was spinning around me and I—I was spinning too, delirious with want. Like a woman drowning in the middle of stormy sea, in desperate need of a life raft. That sea was Adam Drake and he was pulling me adrift, stranding me in some strange and forgotten land.
When finally he ended it, he pulled away so slowly that I could hardly tell our lips had parted until cool air passed between us. It was then that I saw that he was as affected as I was—flushed cheeks, his breath coming fast, his eyes dark and drunk with desire.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Author and Book Spotlight: Corcitura by Melika Dannese Lux

Corcitura Backstory Article

Be honest. You’re wondering what on earth a Corcitura is, right? Well, I’d be more than happy to slake your curiosity! ;) Corcitura is the Romanian word for hybrid. It has no vampiric connotations whatsoever, but before I tell you why I chose this as the name for my new creature, how about a little backstory?

A year before I even got the idea for the Corcitura, I had seen a painting that sent my mind reeling with all the possible implications behind it. The painting was “Oh, what’s that in the hollow?” by Edward Robert Hughes.

I took one look at that painting and screamed “VAMPIRE!” There’s something so morbidly entrancing and enigmatic about that painting. Is he dead? The sheen of his nearly translucent eyes certainly seems to suggest it. But what if he’s just resting until the moon rises? I only recently found out that he is dead! But back then, I was still in the dark, and so I did what all good storytellers do: I totally ignored the inconvenient facts behind the painting and ran roughshod with my inspiration. Those translucent eyes were never far from my mind and inspired me so much that they found life in the book’s eponymous creature.

So, why vampires, after all? Out of all the monsters of myth, vampires had always been my favorites. I had always been fascinated by how they could be suave and alluring on the outside (or when the sun wasn’t up), but with the flick of a barbed tongue, turn into slavering, fang-toothed, bloodsucking beasts! The juxtaposition fascinated me, since in original folklore almost all vampires are essentially plagues. Some just know how to mask their true nature better than others.

I knew if I was going to write about vampires, they’d better be different and intriguing, and since I have always been crazy for folklore from different parts of the world, this idea gave me an excuse to explore vampire mythology. It’s fascinating reading, freaky, but fascinating. Up until this point, I had the makings of a novel, but my vampire wasn’t being cooperative at all and just stayed hidden in the background, kicking through my mind until he finally got his act together and distinguished himself enough to set the story in motion. Until then, I had nicknamed him “Our Combo,” since he was going to be a hybrid—created after being bitten by two vampires of differing species. I knew I couldn’t continue calling him by such a McDonald’s Value Meal sounding name forever, so I took the next step in finding out what the word “hybrid” in Romanian was (since Stefan’s family has a long and torturous history deep in the soil of that country). I have Romanian ancestors, so digging into the country’s myths and legends was an added bonus. When I discovered that corcitura meant hybrid, I thought about it, and since I didn’t like any of the names I’d made up in the interim, it eventually stuck.

One huge thing that was clear in my mind from the outset was to make certain my novel took place before Dracula was even published. Dracula was such a tremendous milestone in vampire literature…and I didn’t want my characters to know about it at all. I wanted to create new myths, new ways of dispatching the creatures of the night, new fears and horrors—all things which would have been greatly hindered by a post-1897 setting. Where would the suspense be if my characters could fall back on what they’d read in Stoker’s novel? When they came up against pointy-toothed demons, I wanted no little lights going off in my characters’ heads, and definitely no saying, “Ah ha! This is exactly like what happened in Dracula! Quick, get some garlic!” I wanted my characters to have absolutely no frame of reference for dealing with the horrible situations they found themselves in, which is why all the action in the novel takes place from 1888 (there is also a very ripping reason for choosing that year, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why ;) through 1895.

That settled, I turned my attention to sunlight. Yes, sunlight. That was the real impetus behind the idea of having the victim be a hybrid, and was how the whole “combo” concept was born—finding a way to make sure my vampire would be able to frolic around during daylight hours without being charred to ashes by the sun’s rays. For three months, I went back and forth on how a vampire could achieve this, during which time I whittled down my choices for favorite vampire candidates. Once I started seeing how different the strengths and weaknesses were, and understanding how much more indestructible the combined blood of two vampires would be (plus the human blood of the original victim), I knew I was on the right path, and settled on the Vrykolakas (from Greece) and the Upyr (from Russia) for the creators of my new vampiric species.

The Vrykolakas (referred to as the Vryk from this point forward) was a jackpot find for me, mainly because he’s a virtual unknown in literature, but mostly because it is unclear if the Vryk is a vampire or a werewolf. You see where this is going, right? Just before I hit the halfway point of the novel, I realized I would have to be crazy not to exploit that gray area to the hilt. It only made sense to embrace this ambiguity, which led to a whole new story arc being created for my two female Vryk protagonists later on in the novel. I am so happy I did this because it launched the second and third halves of the novel onto a completely different plane, with the book beginning to essentially write itself from that point on. To quote Colonel Hannibal Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together!” ;)

The Upyr and the Vryk are two sides of the same coin. Where the Vryk was plague-ravaged, nasty, and didn’t do anything to hide his true nature, the Upyr moved heaven and earth not to show his hand. My Vryk was rabid and couldn’t do much to control it. But the Upyr…he was a bird of an entirely different breed. Debonair on the outside, but blacker than the foulest dungeon, he was ten times more deadly than the Vryk and no one would ever be able to tell. He was my linchpin and turned out to come on scene much quicker than expected, which goes to show you that when the character wants out, you’d better listen, because from the moment he waltzed into the story, everything was transformed.

I began this process thinking I would just write a vampire novel with a new twist, but what started as a story about hybrid vampires quickly morphed into something beyond what I had been planning to write. Probably more than anything else, Corcitura became the story of the corruption of a soul and how this has a domino effect on all those who encounter him—life is overturned for everyone; everything they have ever known is distorted past recognition; nothing can ever go back to the way it used to be, for now they live in danger, fear, and some that loved him most meet their ends at his hands.

After everything was said and done, and the book marinated and went through countless edits, I realized that Corcitura is, in fact, a horror novel, but not in the normal sense. It’s horror on many levels. The first part deals with the visceral, blatant horror of the vampires and the terror of having no way of stopping these creatures from corrupting you, body and soul; the second with the horror of deception, lying, treachery, betrayal, with thinking you know someone but discovering they have lied to you about practically everything; the third with the horror of abandonment; and lastly with the horror of the unknown—the uncertainty of things to come. But Corcitura is also a historical novel, a thriller, a book with that unnerving Gothic feeling that permeated the stories I grew up with—novels you could lose yourself in for days at a time, tales filled with characters you’d miss when the final page was turned. That’s what I set out to write, even more than a straight up vampire novel, because it’s really not about vampires in the end. It’s about the people whose lives they destroy, the people who choose to fight against them, who team up with vampires who have decided that it doesn’t matter what the legends have taught them, they will do everything in their power to stop the undead from claiming even more souls.

Nine years, thousands of revisions, and 700 pages later, Corcitura is finally here. Welcome to a world where an ancient Upyr plots your destruction and a half-wolf, half-vampire haunts your doorstep, its barbed tongue poised to rip into your throat the second you answer its call.

Button up your collar.

Keep the flame burning.

And come along for the ride.


Corcitura. Some call it hybrid, others half-blood, mongrel, beast. They are all names for the same thing: vampire—the created progeny of the half-wolf, half-vampire, barb-tongued Grecian Vrykolakas, and the suave but equally vicious Russian Upyr. Corcitura: this is what happens when a man is attacked by two vampires of differing species. He becomes an entirely new breed—ruthless, deadly, unstoppable…almost.

London, 1888: Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, best friends since childhood, have finally succeeded in convincing their parents to send them on a Grand Tour of the Continent. It will be the adventure of a lifetime for the two eighteen-year-old Englishmen, but almost from the moment they set foot on French soil, Eric senses a change in Stefan, a change that is intensified when they cross paths with the enigmatic Vladec Salei and his traveling companions: Leonora Bianchetti, a woman who fascinates Eric for reasons he does not understand, and the bewitching Augustin and Sorina Boroi—siblings, opera impresarios, and wielders of an alarming power that nearly drives Eric mad.

Unable to resist the pull of their new friends, Eric and Stefan walk into a trap that has been waiting to be sprung for more than five hundred years—and Stefan is the catalyst. Terrified by the transformation his friend is undergoing, Eric knows he must get Stefan away from Vladec Salei and Constantinos, the rabid, blood-crazed Vrykolakas, before Stefan is changed beyond recognition. But after witnessing a horrific scene in a shadowed courtyard in Eastern Europe, Eric’s worst fears are confirmed.

Six years removed from the terror he experienced at the hands of Salei and Constantinos, Eric finally believes he has escaped his past. But once marked, forever marked, as he painfully begins to understand. He has kept company with vampires, and now they have returned to claim him for their own.

Book trailer


Amazon.com Buy Links

Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Corcitura-ebook/dp/B009JKUWKK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1380726601

Paperback Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Corcitura-Melika-Dannese-Lux/dp/0615722091/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380726601&sr=8-1&keywords=melika+dannese+lux

Amazon UK Buy Links:

Paperback Edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corcitura-Melika-Dannese-Lux/dp/0615722091/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1381946506&sr=8-1

Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corcitura-Melika-Dannese-Lux-ebook/dp/B009JKUWKK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1381946506&sr=8-1

Author Bio
I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write Young/New Adult historical romance, suspense, supernatural/paranormal thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, novellas—you name it, I write it! I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

Social Media Links

I’m very active on social media, so please feel free to connect with me on any or all of the following sites:

My Web Site: http://booksinmybelfry.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BooksInMyBelfry

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/950456.Melika_Dannese_Lux

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/booksinmybelfry/boards/

Corcitura Excerpt: Madelaine and the Vampires

This is one of my favorite excerpts from the novel because it’s from Madelaine’s POV—and she is the only female narrator in the book. This was also the first time I ever wrote in first person present tense, and I have to say, I fell in love with that style of writing! It's so immediate. Maddie's narrative is the only one to use this tense, which I think sets her “voice” apart from those of the two men who narrate the first and last halves of the book. Enjoy! :D

Taken from Corcitura, Chapter 16, Belododia’s Belfry

My husband is gone. I cannot find him anywhere. When I went to sleep last night, he was by my side, but now, as the first rays of dawn break through the window, I know for certain he is gone. His side of the bed is cold—as cold as if he has not slept there at all. The door is bolted. There is no trace of him.

I have ransacked this room, torn it apart, and still it is as if he never set foot here, never even existed. I feel a heaviness in my limbs this morning, though I suppose it could just be the baby within me. When I look in the cup from which I drank my tea last night, I notice a residue, a filmy white liquid on the bottom. I dip in my finger and put it to my lips, tasting something sickly sweet.

I know I have been drugged.

I must go out into this desolate house; I must leave the safety of this chamber that begins to feel more and more like a tomb. I must find answers. Yet I am afraid, terrified even, of what will happen if the master of this place finds me alone. I have a mission; I know that, now that my husband is gone. My heart aches to admit it. I pray he is still alive, but if he is alive in a different form, will he still be the man I love? Can he even love in that state? I cannot think of these things now or I will go mad.

The only one I can count on is myself. I do not trust Stefan’s so-called wife nor that son of hers who bears an uncanny resemblance to my husband. And though it pains me to admit it, I cannot trust Luc, least of all Luc, though he swears he will be able to bring Zigmund back.

I walk toward the door and reach for the handle. I breathe in deeply, steeling myself. Father did not raise a coward. Mother would not allow me to fear the dark. How could I fear the dark when I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life? I’ve always been drawn to things that make other women scream.

I press down on the handle and step out into the corridor. I don’t know what I am expecting to see, maybe a bevy of vampires rushing down the hallway, but there is nothing. Darkness, silence—the corridor is empty.

I am nearly at the bottom of the steps when something calls to me. I know it is not his voice. Eric said only those who were marked can hear him in their minds. Still, whose voice could it be?

The voice draws me back up the staircase, leading me on, its soft, wordless timbre guiding me toward I don’t know what. Finally, it ceases. I feel somehow bereft, even more alone without it, until I see where it has led me.

I am standing before the door leading up to the turret above our room. I noticed the turret the night we first arrived. How could I not? There is something dark about it, something mysterious, something unknown that frightens me. I have tried to convince myself I did not see a figure flitting up there that first night, but I cannot deny what I saw. Was it Leonora? Or something else? I have never ventured there on my own, but now I have no choice. The pull is too insistent.

I push open the door and once more the voice starts to call. I cannot make out what it says. All I know is that I must go to it, must answer its summons.

The steps are narrow and made of stones so ancient I am afraid they will crumble if I put too much weight on them. There is no light in here, no air. I feel choked and am thankful when I finally emerge onto the balcony. Tendrils of morning fog wisp through the railing, which is decaying, I notice with alarm. I dare not go near it. One false move and over I will go, which I’m sure will make the master of the house very pleased, since he has me marked for death already.

“Such a fine morning, my dear, is it not?”

I have tried my hardest to avoid him, yet he has found me regardless of my efforts. That voice was his, I am sure of it now, so why am I still hearing it if its owner is in my presence?

The breath catches in my throat as I look into his eyes. His dark-rimmed pupils are larger than I remember, the rest of his eyes so colorless as to be nearly white.

“It’s a bit chilly,” I say. He seems amused by this. His eyes crinkle at the edges and he buttons his coat, though I know it is just an act for my benefit. He has no pulse. How could he be cold?

“You know much, my dear, but what do you really know about vampires?”

His question startles me. I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from betraying my fears to this creature. “Naught but what I’ve read in Polidori and Le Fanu,” I answer. I remember the ashes of Carmilla and the terror in Eric’s eyes when he saw me holding the book. All I know of vampires, I have learned from a handful of novels, but what good does fiction do me when I have a damned soul staring me in the face?

“Ah, yes, but those are fairy tales,” he says, waving his hand dismissively. “Pure fantasy.” He pauses near a waterspout carved into a devil’s head. It is meant to portray a gargoyle, but I have never seen one so ugly and diabolical-looking, even by grotesque standards. I shiver, but not because I am cold.

“What do you know about...real vampires?”

“Not enough to kill them.” The boldness of my words surprises me, but he does not flinch. “What have you done with my husband?” I have spoken before I can stop myself, but then I realize I don’t want to stop myself. Something has changed in the air between us. I’m no longer as afraid as I was.

“I haven’t the faintest idea. Was he not with you this morning? I should think you would know his whereabouts better than me. Or is there already strain in your too-brief marriage? Does he not want a child so soon?”

“Of course he wants…” I cut off the words, biting my tongue in the process. His eyes are gleaming, his lips parted in anticipation. He is staring at me as though he wants to devour me…me and the child he already knows I carry. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Belododia…”

“Stefan.” The name slithers off his tongue.

“Stefan,” I say with effort. “I expected Eric to be with you at the bedside of Greydanus. I must say the boy is doing remarkably well, considering that he was supposedly at death’s door, hence our presence here.”

“Ah, yes, my son…”

“Your son, who shares so many characteristics with my husband.”

The words make me sick to say. I fear them too much, fear the implications, though Eric claimed he’d never known Leonora in that way.

I feel as though my words have erected a barrier between us—more of a barrier than there already was. He reaches out and brushes the leaves off the railing. I see his shoulders tense, his whole body becoming rigid. I take a step toward the railing and stare down at what he’s looking at so intently.

A small, brownish-grey wolf prances about the frozen pond. Something about that wolf strikes me as familiar. I lean against the railing, causing bits of gravel to slip through the spindles. The wolf must have exceptional hearing. That small sound has alerted him to our presence.

The wolf ceases his wild gamboling and stares up at us. I find it hard to concentrate on anything else. The wolf’s eyes are so radiant, glowing almost, yet black as night. Idiotically, I reach out my hand as if I could stroke the wolf’s fur from such a great distance. I stare dumbly at the wolf, until I am jerked back to reality by the feel of a vise closing around my wrist. I cry out as I look down at my arm.

Stefan’s ice-cold hand encircles my wrist, crushing it. “Do not be attracted to things you don’t understand,” he hisses. Is he talking of himself? I can soundly disabuse him of this notion in a matter of seconds. I am not attracted to him, though I do not understand him any more than that wolf down below.

He releases my wrist. There is a blue mark discoloring my skin where his hand used to be. I rub it fiercely, trying to instill some warmth, but it is no use. I wonder if I am now marked, too.

He seems to have forgotten me. He is still staring at the wolf. There are worry lines between his brows, and his mouth is drawn down at the edges into a scowl. “It appears we still have a wolf infestation. If you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to. I hope to see you again for dinner?”

“Yes, of course,” I say abstractedly, watching the wolf run off into the forest.

“I wish you good hunting today, my dear.” Before I can snatch it away, he takes my hand in his and kisses it. Ice shoots through my body and weakens my knees. I feel as though I have been kissed by death.

I am alone once more, on this the highest peak of the ch√Ęteau. A chill wind lashes through the trees, sending snowflakes fluttering to the ground. Dark strands of my hair whip across my face, obscuring my vision, but not completely, not enough so that I am no longer incapable of watching Stefan…

…watching Stefan watching me. He is not alone, standing now at the edge of the forest. There is a woman at his side. She is not the woman I expected to see, the woman I mistrust. This woman’s beauty terrifies me, mainly because it is so perfect, so inhuman. Her lustrous blonde hair flows freely down her back. She turns, and I can see her eyes—green and glowing and brutal. Her lips are redder than blood and her skin as pale as the snow she treads upon. I know she sees me, but whether he tells her not to acknowledge my presence or she decides to ignore me of her own accord is a mystery. Her eyes remain fixed on the wolf tracks at her feet.

He takes her hand and guides her toward the trees, and I am left with a memory of her face. I know I have seen her before.

Something slithers beneath my feet. I look down, expecting to see a snake or some other creature. Instead, there is nothing but a rose. A dead rose, its petals black and brittle. Affixed to the stem, threaded through a frayed black ribbon, is a small band of gold.

My husband’s wedding ring.

This is all the impetus I need. I am down the staircase and making for the stables in an instant. I feel panic in my chest, but I damp it down. Hysteria will do me no good now. This is a clue. I know it is, though it is meant as a taunt. In my heart, I feel he is alive.

I must find Professor Fertig’s book.