Black Friday Giveaway Hop Sign Up

It’s that time again! Welcome back to the NINTH annual Black Friday Book Bonanza.

Even if you think it’s too soon for the holidays, they are right around the corner!

Just like last year (and the year before that, and the year before that) Black Friday is a great day for a hop. It’s the perfect opportunity to share a bookish prize or two, and also to stay home and surf the web instead of crowd-surfing at the mall.

The hosts for this year’s event are Reading Reality (yours truly) and the Caffeinated Reviewer.

The giveaway will run from 12:01 am on November 29 through 12:01 am December 2. That’s Black Friday through Cyber Monday

Hop Details

  • Giveaway must be book-related (books, book etailer (i.e. Amazon, etc) gift cards, pre-orders, bookish crafts, etc.)
  • If you are an author, you can include book swag, but you must also include a book or gift card
  • Please specify if your giveaway is US-only or International in the linky
  • If using Rafflecopter or Giveaway Tools, please limit your entries to no more than 5
  • Your post must be easy to find from your front page
  • Your post must be live by 9am EST on November 29th (aka Black Friday). Any links not live by this time will be removed from the linky
  • Please announce your winners within 72 hours of giveaway end
  • Sign-up closes November 26th so link up today 🙂

PLEASE include US or INT on the linky! Pretty please with candy canes on it it!

p.s. Be sure to sign up on this form (https://forms.gle/zZa7jNyHWbPVXfUK9) if you want a reminder before the hop begins!

The more blogs to hop, the better! Put our grab button on your blog and help spread the word!

Follow the Yellow Brick Road Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Follow the Yellow Brick Road Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see that phrase “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” without hearing the song in my head. So if I’ve given you an earworm, sorry not sorry.

But the movie The Wizard of Oz is one of those stories that has passed from being “just a story” to being a part of the commonly understood cultural zeitgeist. If you mention the ruby red slippers, EVERYBODY knows what you mean. Or the Wicked Witch of the West. Or Toto. Or flying monkeys. Or my personal favorite after a long trip, “There’s no place like home!”

I remember being scared of the Wicked Witch and her flying monkeys the first time I saw the movie, on television in the early 1960s. But the moment when the film switches form black and white to color is one of those perfect “Aha!” moments that lives in childhood memories. There’s a cartoon I remember that does the reverse, I think it’s a Roadrunner cartoon, where he races past a sign that reads “Technicolor Ends Here” and then the cartoon switches to black and white. Equally indelible, but I had never seen it again until researching this post and “voila!” there it was on YouTube and it’s Lucky Ducky not Roadrunner. Memory is both fickle and tricksy.

So what do you remember about going “off to see the Wizard”? Answer in the rafflecopter for your choice of either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book.

But speaking of cartoons, as Porky Pig (and occasionally Bugs Bunny used to say, “That’s All Folks!”

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fabulous Fall prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: Dead Man Stalking by TA Moore + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Dead Man Stalking by TA Moore + Excerpt + GiveawayDead Man Stalking (Blood and Bone #1) by T.A. Moore
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, paranormal, urban fantasy, vampires
Series: Blood and Bone #1
Pages: 266
Published by Dreamspinner Press LLC on September 10, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


A Blood and Bone Novel
Agent Luke Bennett proved that humans could rise just as high in the ranks as their vampire colleagues—until a kidnapper held him captive for a year and turned him without his consent.

Now he’s Took: a reluctant monster afraid to bite anyone, broke, and about to be discharged from his elite BITERs unit.

When an old colleague suggests he consult on a BITERs case, Took has little to lose. The case is open and shut… but nothing is ever that easy. As he digs deeper, he discovers a lot more than one cold case is at stake, and if he wants to solve this one, he’ll need the help of the BITERs team. Even if that brings his old commander, Madoc, back into his life.

My Review:

Dead Man Stalking was a terrific reminder of what makes urban fantasy one of my go-to genres, especially when I’m in a reading slump and need to be knocked out of it! Because this one really knocked me out of my slump – and knocked one out of the park into the bargain.

As with the best of the genre, this is a story that turns some of the usually accepted paradigms around, as it makes heroes out of groups that are normally villains – and vice versa. It’s also, as so much of urban fantasy is, a detective story, where our “cops” have to investigate a series of crimes and figure out who, or what “dunnit.”

Of course, things are not as they seem, and not just because the cops in this case are vampires – not that they call themselves that.

Instead, we have a case that the investigators are positive is all sewn up, and a profiler who no longer trusts his own judgment poking his nose into that case and discovering that either the investigators missed something or that he’s further off the rails than he thought.

Took, formerly Luke, Bennett used to be the best profiler in the agency, until he was betrayed by someone he trusted, held captive for over a year, and changed from one of the few successful humans in the agency into shaky vampire who believes he’s lost his nerve.

Which doesn’t stop him from investigating that supposedly open-and-shut case, and doesn’t stop his former boss – and would-be lover – from racing across the country to get his ass out of the fire yet again.

And again.

Leading both of them deep into a case that gets darker and nastier the deeper they get into it. And exposes more of the fault lines in the trust between them as they dig under the surface of what they feel for each other.

Escape Rating A-: This was an absolute blast – a terrific way to spend a lazy afternoon, lost in a fascinating world, following a deadly investigation and a romance that shifts from cold to hot in the blink of an eye. And the whole world catches fire.

I didn’t even mind the cat on my chest holding me in place. He was doing me a favor, after all, providing an excuse for my reading binge.

One of the things I loved about this one was the way that history had worked in this alternative to our own. The way that the vampires (and werewolves) had always existed, and how that changed history, felt reminiscent of some of my favorites in the genre, like Sookie, and Pentonville, the Black Dagger Brotherhood and surprisingly, The Others.

Several of those series wrap around the idea that vamps have always not just walked among us, but run things either covertly or overtly. Also that vampire politics and vampire grudges are both epic and eternal.

And from The Others, that concept that “original recipe” humans are really hard-headed about their own superiority, in spite of repeated evidence to the contrary.

There’s a sense in Dead Man Stalking that we’ve been dropped into the middle of a case – only because we have – and into the midst of a fully realized world. I kept wanting a bit more background on who the players in the shadows are, and how things got to be the way they are. Although the introduction of the historical figure Elizabeth Bathory certainly added weight and depth and horror to that shadowy history. It’s something I’d love to see more of in future entries in the series.

I keep referring to Dead Man Stalking as urban fantasy, even though sometimes it gets referred to as paranormal romance. Yes, there is a romance, but it doesn’t feel like the center of the story. The case felt like the backbone of this one, at least to me. Your mileage may vary.

Whatever you think is the heart of this one, whether it’s an actual romantic heart or the kind that gets cut out by one’s enemies, Dead Man Stalking is compelling and absorbing and I can’t wait for the next book in the Blood and Bone series. This is a world I want to explore more deeply, and in the company of these characters.

A Few Words from our author, T.A. Moore!

First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here with my new urban fantasy Dead Man Stalking. This is the first book in the Blood and Bone series and I am thrilled to put it out there into the world. I was meant to be writing an entirely different book, but then Took and Madoc took up residence in my head and I had to give in and let them have their say.

I had a blast creating this world and these characters, and I hope you enjoy them too. I’ve included a chapter of a prequel short story that you can follow through the blog tour. 

Chapter Eight

“Henry stayed out of the field,” Kit said harshly to Madoc. “And he, at least, had magic to fall back on.”

The door to Nina’s house opened and the coroner’s assistants carried her out, wrapped in black plastic and padlocked down with silver to the stretcher. Just in case. Silver would kill a vampire, but something would occasionally move into what was left. It might mimic who they’d been before–whatever it could piece together from the brain tissue left–but it was generally agreed the revenants were other.

Luke rinsed his mouth and spat green and pink froth into a bowl. The wintergreen didn’t mask the taste of blood so much as mix with it, sharp and potent like salt on minted lamb. He rubbed his jaw and pressed on the tender points around his jaw. It was jarred, but not dislocated.

“If he had a year to prepare, he could bring a dragon to tinkle on them,” Luke said. “Maybe.”

 It was unfair. Slightly. By repute Henry had been a dangerous man, but sorcery was high investment for small returns. It was why the scholomance existed despite sorcerers being as community minded as a spoiled house cat. Five sorcerers could bundle their spells and flood a city to execute a man they’d arranged to be stranded there with a woman he couldn’t resist. It would still take a year.

“You could have been killed,” Kit said. He grabbed the back of Luke’s head and shoved him around to look at his reflection in the mirror. The shadows of fresh bruises bloomed grey and red over Luke’s jaw and cheek. “Are you really so arrogant you can’t see that.”

Enough,” Madoc said icily. “Go and make sure Nina’s consort doesn’t do anything foolish.”

“I need to speak to him,” Luke said as he scrambled up off the tailgate of the ambulance. “Before he goes to the hospital.”

Madoc put a hand on his shoulder and pinned him in place. “He doesn’t want to see you right now.”

Probably not, Luke supposed, but… “It’s important.”

“Give him time to grieve,” Madoc said. “Kit? Go.”

He waited until Kit grumbled and stalked off. Then he put his thumb under Madoc’s jaw and turned his head around to study the bruise. “You’ll ache tomorrow.”

“I ache now,” Luke said. He swallowed and moved away from the too-careful touch. “I know how the killer is.”

“Dead, surely,” Madoc said as he glanced after Nina. “She choose her own punishment.”

“It wasn’t her,” Luke said. Habit made him check his holster and he hissed in annoyance as his fingers found empty leather and nylon. The local cops had taken his gun when they got there. It wasn’t how they did it, but it generally wasn’t a good idea to argue with anxious, trigger happy police officers alarmed that you’d blown off someone’s entire head. Madoc reached around and pulled a gun out of the back of his jeans. He offered it up on the palm of his hand. “She was just…”

Scared. Angry. Threatened.

Luke took the gun. He checked it over briskly, made sure it was loaded and the safety was on, before it holstered it. 

“I made a mistake,” he said stiffly. The words felt like gravel in his throat. “I pushed when I should have pulled, and she caught me off guard. It shouldn’t have been necessary to kill her.”

“But you did,” Madoc said.

Luke gave him a puzzled look. “At that point it was necessary.”

“Why not here?” Madoc asked. “Jamie got over-possessive, thought a midnight snack meant a commitment and pressured her. She’d lived here for a long time. Anakim that entrenched can react extremely to any threat to their nest.”

“I got that,” Luke said. He rubbed his jaw. “But what about the others?”

“Senescence,” Madoc said. Vampire senility. “Maybe she didn’t have a reason.”

Luke shook his head. “No one kills without a reason,” he said. “We might not think it is a good reason, but it’s still a reason to them.”

Madoc looked exasperated. “So you came out, executed the daughter of the Tsar’s favourite, and it was all for nothing?”

“No,” Luke said. “Nina was involved, she just didn’t know how. When can I talk to Darren?”

“Tomorrow.”

Luke made a sound of protest in his throat.

“Fine, when he’s ready,” Madoc conceded. “Let him grieve first.”

Luke shrugged an apology. “That might be too late,” he said. “I need to talk to him now.”

Not that he’d be able to if Madoc decided to stop him. He waited and, after a second, Madoc shook his head and stepped aside. Luke jogged over to where Darren, coffee all over his trousers, sat under Kit’s awkward sympathy. When Darren saw Luke he snarled and tried to lurch to his feet. Kit pushed him back down and gave Luke an exasperated look.

“Jamie,” Luke said. “Tomas, Bray, Loretta”

“What about them?” Darren asked bitterly. “Are you going to shoot them too?”

Luke bit the ‘someone beat us to it’ off the tip of his tongue. “They were all mules, right?”

Colour pinched Darren’s cheeks. “UnKissable,” he said bitterly. “Resistant. Mules are animals.”

“You all met at a support group right?” Luke said. He barely waited for Darren’s resentful noise before he pressed on. “And someone there introduced you to Nina right,, you and Jamie both?”

It took a moment for Darren to answer. When he did, he sounded wary. “We don’t talk about who we meet there.”

Of course not. Being a mule was somewhere between being a saint and being a leper. The Pentecostals saw them as souls too pure to be condemned in life, the rogues saw them as nothing but cattle, and the Anakim pitied them. Any of the above was an awkward place to live. So first names only, and if you had the means you’d attend a support group away from where you lived.

“So yes.”

Darren glared at him but, after a quick wary glance at Kit, reluctantly nodded.

“Who introduced you?” 

“Why do you care?”

Luke changed direction. “You were her favourite, the consort. She gave you somewhere to live, she let you drink her blood, she let you love her.” 

Most mules found out what they were when they tried to court the Kiss, and it didn’t take. It usually ended badly. The Anakim didn’t care to love anything that would die centuries before they did. Darren took a shaky breath as the grief pinched him again.

“But she liked variety, so then Jamie came along. Nina gave him money to keep himself nice, to come and see her. More money. More visits. Until you and Jamie fought over her. He wanted to take your place?”

“I didn’t kill him,” Darren protested. He stiffened under Kit’s hand as his voice pitched up an octave from nerves. “Jamie was…After he left Nina told me she loved me, that she’d not replace me!”

Except she would have. Eventually. She’d been willing to kill for Darren today, but one day he’d have been too old to be beautiful, then too old to be fun. She might keep him, a fond friend and ex-loved, but someone new would be in her bed. Even if she’d stayed with him when he was old, he’d die and she’d need to find a new mule to love.

“What if she had?” Luke pressed. “What if Nina had gotten tired of you, replaced you with someone younger and prettier. Would you still have loved her?”

“Of course!”

“Would you be willing to do anything to get her back?”

They both knew the answer. Darren stared at Luke for a second as the idea dawned on him. Then he shut down as he clenched his jaw and looked away.

“Fuck you.”

“Who introduced you?” Luke pushed.

“You killed her!” Darren spat furiously. He lurched up out and tried to grab Luke’s shirt, but Kit dragged him back. “I hope you’re next to get strung up.”

“More likely to be you,” Luke said. “The old wether. Like Jamie was the rutting stag and Loretta was the fish.”

Grief crumpled Darren’s face like a tissue. “I don’t care,” he said. “I can’t do this again.”

Shit. Luke grimaced as he tried to think how to drag the truth out of Darren. Before he could change tactics, Madoc put a hand on his shoulder.

“Wait,” he said. He moved Luke out of the way and crouched down in front of Darren. He smiled at him, a disarmingly pleasant expression. “Darren, right. Darren Voight-Kares.”

Darren fired a bleak look of triumph at Luke, as if that changed anything.

“Yes.”

Madoc put a hand on Darren’s voice and dropped his voice slightly, a hint of his old accent furred over the words. 

“You’ll be the executor of her estate, there’ll be a lot of things to sort out. We’ll help you with that, if you want,” Madoc said. He nodded and Darren nodded with him. Then Madoc grimaced. “If we can. Until we find this killer, there’s not a lot of time we can give up.”

Luke shifted his weight uncomfortably. He wasn’t sure he didn’t agree with Madoc’s plan, or was just uncomfortable at seeing that charm turned elsewhere. Kit gestured him to silence.

“I..need help,” Darren admitted. “Her family. The Russians.”

His hands knotted anxiously in his lap, twisted painfully together.

“What was his name?” Madoc asked, his voice suddenly hard and thick with something that caught in the back of Luke’s throat. “The man that introduced you. Tell us.”

“Mark,” Darren said obediently. Then he stalled. “I don’t know anymore than that. Just Mark.”

Luke shifted again and glanced askance at Madoc. After a glance at Darren’s face, Madoc gave Luke a nod of approval to rejoin the conversation.

“He’d been a soldier, right?” Luke said. That fit his profile. Someone who was willing to kill, but who balked at the hot gore of butchery. “That’s where he found out what he was?”

There was a pause and then Darren nodded. “He was wounded, lost half his stomach. One of the medic Anakim tried to turn him, save his life, but it didn’t work. They thought he’d die, but he survived. Discharged. Came home. Nina helped him put his life back together, set him up in a job.”

“What job?”

Darren shrugged. “I don’t know. A security company or something? It doesn’t matter because he messed it up anyhow, lost everything. Nina had to step in again, get him a job as a security guard somewhere.”

The pieces slotted together. “Mark,” Luke said. He remembered the ginger security guard, wiry muscle under a fresh layer of indulgent flab. But still there. “Mark Clade?”

Darren made a helpless gesture. “I don’t know. I guess,” he said. “Nina called him last night about Jamie, told him that she didn’t need the support group anymore. She had me.”

And that meant Mark only had one thing left. So he wasn’t going to give that up.

__________

Last chapter of the story on my blog tomorrow! Www.tamoorewrites.com. All the blog tour posts will also be linked here: http://tamoorewrites.com/deadmanstalking/

Author Bio:TA Moore – 

TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sectors before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.

Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.

 

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~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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September to Remember Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the September to Remember Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island.

September begins the unofficial start of the Halloween season, which, bless its little orange and black heart, keeps most people and places from starting to put up Xmas decorations.  (It’s too early, people, the trees still have all their leaves!!!!!)

I’m looking forward to Fall, when it finally reaches us. The high temperature in Atlanta today is predicted to reach the mid 90s, so it definitely isn’t Fall here yet. I took a look at the other cities we’ve lived in, just to see. Gainesville and Tallahassee will both have similar temps to Atlanta, Cincinnati will be in the low 90s this week, Chicago in the mid 80s to mid-70s, Seattle in the high 60s to mid 70s (and rainy). Anchorage is already down to the low 60s and dropping like a rock for the rest of the month. It’s not something I miss.

There are plenty of Fall Festivals around here for the next few weeks – we’ll probably go to one or two.

To help with your Fall Festivities, whatever they might be, I’m giving away the winner’s choice of either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository.

So welcome to Fall. May all your apples be crisp, and all your leaves be crunchy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fabulous Fall prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Hello Autumn Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Hello Autumn Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media and Chatty Patty’s Place!

Fall may not officially begin until September 23 this year, but now that it is after Labor Day it certainly feels like Fall – no matter what the weather might be. There’s something about the Labor Day holiday that just marks the beginning of the end of the year. Of course, that something probably has something to do with memories of going back to school, marking that the summer holidays were officially over even if the meteorological season was not.

Labor Day also used to signify a whole bunch of weird wardrobe do’s and don’t that have thankfully gone by the wayside over the decades. There used to be a whole crazy business of not wearing white – except of course for “winter white” – after Labor Day. Or before Memorial Day for that matter. The same rule applied to seersucker suits for men – not that one sees too many of those anymore, either.

So what’s your favorite thing about the change in seasons from summer to fall? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at a $20 Amazon Gift Card or $20 worth of books from the Book Depository.

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And for more fabulous fall prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!


Review: Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest + Giveaway

Review: Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest + GiveawayBursts of Fire (Addicted to Heaven, #1) by Susan Forest
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genres: coming of age, epic fantasy
Series: Addicted to Heaven #1
Pages: 394
Published by Laksa Media Groups Inc. on August 6, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

To survive. To fight. To restore balance.

The Falkyn sisters bear a burden and a legacy. Their mother, the imperial magiel of the kingdom of Orumon, protects her people from the horrors of the afterlife by calling upon the Gods with a precious Prayer Stone. But war among the kingdoms has brought fire and destruction to their sheltered world. When a mad king's desire to destroy the Prayer Stones shatters their family, the three girls are scattered to the wilderness, relying on their wits and powers they don't yet master.

Assassin. Battle tactician. Magic wielder. Driven by different ambitions, Meg, Janat, and Rennika are destined to become all these and more. To reclaim their birth right, they must overcome doubtful loyalties within a rising rebellion; more, they must challenge a dogma-driven chancellor's influence on the prince raised to inherit his father's war: a prince struggling to unravel the mystery of his brother's addiction to Heaven.

My Review:

I signed up for this tour because, well, epic fantasy has always been one of my loves, and this book looked interesting. I’ll admit that the series title, Addicted to Heaven, gave me more than a bit of pause, but as it turns out, the heaven that people are addicted to is nothing like contemporary Western versions of heaven.

Bursts of Fire is very much a part of the epic fantasy tradition. There were times, in fact, when it felt like specific epic fantasies. But it does such a good job of exploring both its new facets and riffing on the stories from which it sprang that it made for a darn good read.

And I was on an airplane and this book was next in my queue. Bursts of Fire turned out to be a terrific book to transition from Worldcon back to “real life” as I traveled from a place where everyone was talking about SF and Fantasy and back to the so-called real world where those discussions are not quite so commonplace.

The story of Bursts of Fire begins in the way that quite a few epic fantasies begin – where the kingdom is under siege and the heir to the throne gets smuggled out of town ahead of the rampaging horde.

And that’s where the differences begin.

The heir isn’t the heir to the throne. And the heir isn’t an heir. Instead, the heiresses to the king’s magical advisor, all three of them, sneak out of the capital with the help of their nanny. Who they still need, as the oldest girl is 17 and the youngest is 11. And none of them have the remotest clue about how to manage on their own – or how to manage period without people waiting on them hand and foot.

They’ll have to figure it out – and somehow manage to grow up, in the midst of a civil war where they are being hunted by both sides. The forces of the usurper believe that all magic is evil – and the rebels just want to use them for their powers.

Powers that they mostly aren’t trained to use. They’re alone, desperate, and on the run. But at least they have each other. Until they don’t.

Whether they can figure out the right course to save themselves, save each other, and save the people that they feel responsible for, is a race against desperation and despair.

And just when they think they might have a chance to right at least a few of the wrongs – they discover just how bad things really, really are.

Escape Rating B+: Bursts of Fire turned out to be a terrific airplane book. Anything that can keep me distracted for 3-4 hours of an 8 hour flight is very much appreciated. And this certainly did.

As has been a relatively recent but also extremely welcome trend in epic fantasy, Bursts of Fire is a heroine’s journey rather than a hero’s journey. Or in this particular case, three heroines’ journeys. At the same time, the story begins on a familiar note, as the chosen one – or in this case chosen ones – are thrown from their original setting to make lives for themselves, and oh-by-the-way save the world.

Part of what does make this a bit different is that there is no mentor character to provide guidance – or for them to rely upon. They lose Nanny almost immediately. She was the one their mother gave the plan to, so the girls are on their own, lost and desperate.

Also very, very young and completely out of their depth. Only the oldest, Meg, has a real clue about just how bad things are and just how much things have changed for them. Little Rennika is too young to understand, and middle-sister Janat is too self-absorbed.

Janat is a character that I never warmed up to, and her self-absorption and unwillingness to grasp their situation continues throughout the story, making this reader grateful that the relatively mature Meg is the primary point of view character.

Meg understands the stakes earliest. Rennika is young enough to adapt. Janat is a problem from beginning to end, a problem that it looks like is only going to get worse.

What’s gone wrong with the kingdom did not make much sense at first. The reader is dropped into the middle of the story, just as the girls escape – and no one seems to know why their ally has suddenly attacked. As the story progresses, it becomes clear – for select definitions of clear – that no one really does know why he went off the rails. They just see the effects – and those effects are gruesome.

War is hell, and civil war is particularly hellish. The rebels want peace and they want to go back to the way things were – as much as is possible after two years of war. The girls, who have become young women fired – or broken – in the crucible of that war want to save as many people as possible, want to reverse the sudden upwelling of prejudice against magic users fostered by the usurper and his advisors, and want to take up the purpose that their family has always undertaken – to visit heaven and intercede with the gods on their people’s behalf.

The magic system of this world is fascinating and different, and their gods are real and act upon their world in ways that can be seen and measured if not countered. The primary manifestation of that magic is the magic users’ uncontrolled shifting through time. Magic has a price, and becoming unmoored from the time you are living is part of that cost.

The glimpses that all three sisters receive of their past, present and future are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes heartening, and always confusing. It is as much of a curse as a gift, but their ability to intercede with the gods is both powerful and necessary in this cosmos.

That the usurper is determined to break that connection powers his mad campaign against his former allies – and the reasons for that determination are shattering for the kingdom, the reader, and his heir.

That the heroines are all very young leaves this book, and presumably the series it begins, balanced on the knife edge between young adult and adult fantasy.  The protagonists may be young adults, but the situations in which they find themselves feel adult in their consequences.

In the end of Bursts of Fire, we, and the characters, know more about the reasons for the fractured state of their world, but are no closer to a resolution. This is a story about a world that is broken – and it is not made whole by the end. There must be future books in this series, and I’m looking forward to reading them.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I am giving away a copy of Bursts of Fire to one very lucky US/CAN commenter!

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TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Back to School Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Back to School Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media and Chatty Patty’s Place!

This is the second blog hop this month with a “back to school” theme – so it must be that time again!

What’s the best thing you remember about going back to school? Or the worst? I never was a morning person, so on breaks I would sleep late and then stay up late. I always had another book to read. My mother always swore that someday that would change, but it hasn’t happened yet!

I loved learning new things but hated being told that I HAD to read something. So I read a lot, but usually the “wrong” things. Or at least books not assigned. Some things don’t seem to change!

Tell us what your favorite, or least favorite thing is/was about going back to school for a chance at your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository!

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For more wonderful back to school prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Review: The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe + Giveaway

Review: The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe + GiveawayThe Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, women's fiction
Series: Physick Book #2
Pages: 338
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 25, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe returns to the world of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane with a bewitching story of a New England history professor who must race against time to free her family from a curseConnie Goodwin is an expert on America’s fractured past with witchcraft. A young, tenure-track professor in Boston, she’s earned career success by studying the history of magic in colonial America—especially women’s home recipes and medicines—and by exposing society's threats against women fluent in those skills. But beyond her studies, Connie harbors a secret: She is the direct descendant of a woman tried as a witch in Salem, an ancestor whose abilities were far more magical than the historical record shows.

When a hint from her mother and clues from her research lead Connie to the shocking realization that her partner’s life is in danger, she must race to solve the mystery behind a hundreds’-years-long deadly curse.

Flashing back through American history to the lives of certain supernaturally gifted women, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs affectingly reveals not only the special bond that unites one particular matriarchal line, but also explores the many challenges to women’s survival across the decades—and the risks some women are forced to take to protect what they love most.

My Review:

“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” If that sounds familiar, that’s because those are the words written on James and Lily Potter’s tombstone. Or, if your reading trends in an entirely different direction, it’s a line in the 15th chapter of the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians.

Considering the story in The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, the Harry Potter reference is more appropriate. Because Temperance Hobbs and all of her mothers and daughters in every generation up to and including Connie Goodwin in the here and now, were all “cunning women”. In other words, they were witches. Sorta/kinda. More or less.

Howsomever, Connie doesn’t actually want to defeat death, she just wants to postpone the bout with him until a much later date. Because Connie is caught on the horns of a familial dilemma that she wasn’t prepared for in any way, shape, or form.

In all the generations of her family, all the way back to Deliverance Dane in the 1690s, there has been one constant in their lives. They can have a husband – or they can have a child – but they can’t have both at the same time. Or at least not for very long.

Whether it’s really terrible luck or a truly horrific curse, in each generation, as soon as they have a child, their husbands die. Of accidents. Natural causes. War. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One after another after another.

But Connie Goodwin is more than just an occasional practitioner. She is also an academic specializing in American History of the Colonial Period, with a particular emphasis on the belief in, practice of, and suppression of witchcraft.

She did her Ph.D. thesis on The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and her adventures in producing that thesis and exploring the world and practices of her ancestress are detailed in the novel of the same name.

She’s already pregnant. She just doesn’t want to lose her lover, the father of her child, to any force other than the hands of time – a long, long time from now.

Connie is sure that somewhere or somewhen in her family tree, at least one woman found a way around the curse. Connie just has to discover that secret for herself, before it’s too late.

Escape Rating A-: I did read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, back when it came out ten years ago. I remember it being a terrific time slip book, but I do not remember the details. I didn’t need to in order to enjoy The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs – but enjoy it I certainly did.

The events of that first book are 10 years in Connie’s past as well as ours. I want to say that her life has moved on, but technically I’m not sure that’s true. She is every bit as driven and tunnel-visioned as an Assistant Professor seeking tenure as she was as a grad student seeking a Ph.D.

She’s still a hamster on her wheel, unable to see anything except what’s right in front of her. And what’s right in front of her is always more work. The description of the paper chase of academic life rings true – and makes the reader wonder how Sam has managed to be so tolerant and so supportive for so long.

We’re not surprised that he’s reaching the end of his rope.

But Connie’s discovery that she is pregnant changes her focus in ways well beyond the obvious. She’s worried about the effect it will have on her still-fledgling career – but she fears that their child means Sam’s imminent death – and history bears her out. And she finally figures out that she doesn’t want to lose Sam, and that she needs to find some balance between her work and her life – because they are not, and should not be, the same thing all the time.

Connie begins researching at a furious and desperate pace, hoping to discover that at least one of her ancestresses beat the curse – and how she did it. The portrayal of how the research is conducted, the long hours of fruitless searching, the despair of reaching dead ends and the joy of discovery, sucks the reader right in – as do the interlude chapters told from the perspective of the women that Connie finds in her search.

Connie’s race against time, her race to save her soon-to-be-husband Sam, provides all the tension this story needs. There was an attempt to add a more human villain to the mix, but it didn’t quite work for me. This person wasn’t present enough or woven into the narrative enough to make that concept gel for me – and the story didn’t need it.

Connie’s race against time and death – just like Temperance Hobbs’ before her – provided all the drama needed – along with plenty of compulsion to keep the reader in a race to get to the very last page.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

 

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August 1 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW
August 1 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT
August 2 – The Book Diva’s Reads – REVIEW*
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August 3 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT
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August 6 – Ascroft, eh? – REVIEW
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Oh! the Places You’ll Go! Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the fourth annual Oh! the Places You’ll Go Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island.

The theme of this hop is back to school. It’s something that seems both appropriate and not. Let me explain…

The schools here went back yesterday, August 5. That just seems OMG incredibly early. (They also get out in May, so it does all work out.)

But, but, but…I remember going back to school a month from now – just after Labor Day. Then again, I remember that schools mostly weren’t air conditioned back in the dark ages when I went, so they had to close during the heat of the summer. Cincy doesn’t get quite as hot as Atlanta – but it does get plenty hot in July and August. The last days in June and the first days in September could be fairly beastly even with that schedule.

When someone says “back to school” when does that make you think of? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository.

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For more terrific Back to School prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Review: Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz + Giveaway

Review: Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz + GiveawayForgotten Bones by Vivian Barz
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Series: Dead Remaining #1
Pages: 302
Published by Thomas & Mercer on August 1, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

An unlikely pair teams up to investigate a brutal murder in a haunting thriller that walks the line between reality and impossibility.

When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted felon who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started.

Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in.

Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?

My Review:

Forgotten Bones is definitely not a book to be read with the lights off. Or alone in the middle of the night. Or anyplace where it can feel like the creepy-crawlies might be closing in.

This one sits at the intersection between mystery/thriller, horror and paranormal – and that’s not a comfortable place to be in the dark. It’s a fascinating place, in the thrills and chills kind of way, but not exactly comfy or cozy.

A place to get really, really to get sucked into – but absolutely not cozy. Unless you like to cozy up to claustrophobia.

There are two protagonists in this story. One seems fairly typical for the genre, but the other is definitely not. And that’s part of what makes the story so fascinating.

Perrick, California is a small town, and Susan Marlan is a member of its equally small police force. She’s relatively young, still pretty gung-ho about policing and crime solving, and kind of stuck.

Not that she can’t leave, but that the police chief is also her mentor – and he’s just weeks shy of retirement. There might be promotions in the inevitable shuffling in the wake of his departure. And Perrick is her home.

We’ve seen Susan’s type before in plenty of mysteries. She’s the young investigator who just can’t let go when a big crime – with its attendant opportunities for recognition and promotion – drops into her lap. So of course she goes out on her own, against orders and definitely off the books, to try to solve the case before the FBI. Or perhaps in spite of the FBI, as she’s sure the neat and tidy solution they finally come up with isn’t all there is.

And there needs to be plenty. Because the crime that has been uncovered under the soil of tiny Perrick becomes known as the “Death Farm”. Twenty-plus bodies have been hiding under a local farm, bodies going back decades. All – but one – children. Young children. Decades of dead little boys and girls.

Susan feels compelled to find the killers – because the FBI find one but not his partner.

Eric Evans is compelled too, but he’s compelled by the dead. He’s just arrived in Perrick to teach at the local community college after his life derails in Philly.

Eric is extremely lucky that he couldn’t possibly have been the perpetrator or any of the murders, because if he were he would have been the FBI’s best suspect. Eric was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago. He manages his condition with medication, and he’s mostly successful. He’s high functioning, to the point of being a good teacher, a decent drummer and completely capable of forming friendships and relationships and making a good life for himself.

But something about Perrick is sending him off the rails, or so it seems at first. The dead invade his dreams – and his waking life. The dead children from that farm. When he can’t pretend that the visions are just dreams, he tries to believe that they are just a symptom of his illness.

In the end, he teams up with Susan. She’s compelled to find the truth. He’s compelled to bring that truth to light to get those children out of his head, his house and even his classroom before someone decides that he’s even crazier than he actually is.

Or someone decides that Susan and Eric need to be the final victims.

Escape Rating B+: The crime in this story, the multi-year, multi-victim murder spree, is not unprecedented. There have been real-life cases where “death farms” have been discovered, to the nightmares of investigators and local residents alike, after an event uncovers one or a few of the bodies.

(I’m particularly thinking of the case of Belle Gunness in LaPorte County Indiana, which is indelibly imprinted on my brain. I was attending a dinner meeting and the post-dinner speaker gave the assembled – and rather startled – diners a fascinating but stomach-churning talk about her murder spree and discovery – complete with pictures. And I’m finding myself wondering what the post-lecture bar tab turned out to be…)

Susan Marlan is not an atypical investigator in a case – or story – like this one. The young cop going a bit rogue because she (or he) knows that the powers-that-be – the FBI in this case – are willingly overlooking something because it interferes with their neat theory. And because they want to go back to their big city home office and get out of tiny wherever.

And because someone local misdirects the out-of-towners for usually underhanded reasons of their own – as happens in this case. That the reader has a handle on who the perpetrators are long before the FBI – and even somewhat before Susan – does not detract from the compelling readability of the story.

Because this is a case where Susan’s actions and reactions in the face of that discovery are more important than the discovery itself.

What makes this tale rise above its stock characters is Eric Evans. The story does not fall into the trap of making Eric an obvious suspect so that he has to find the killer to get himself out of the frame. That would have been an easy way to go, and the story is much better for not going there.

It also feels like it treats his mental illness sympathetically and realistically – as well as his reactions to it and people’s reactions to him. That Susan is able to accept both his help and him is what powers this book into the opener of what could be a fascinating series. Hidden Bones will come to light this time next year. I’ll be looking for it when I want some creepy chills to go along with my mystery thrills.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of Forgotten Bones to one lucky US/CAN commenter on this tour!

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