Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guest post & Giveaway: Memory War by Paul Anthony Shortt

Meet Nathan Shepherd

"My name is Nathan Shepherd, and I remember."
 
Every story needs a hero. I first decided I wanted to be an author when I was 12, and soon after that I began writing down ideas for a series of books about a vampire hunter. This would be a character that embodied everything I wanted to see in a hero. He'd get back up no matter how hard he got knocked down. He'd never quit. And he wasn't interested in rewards or any other kind of prize at the end. He just wanted to help.

Well some 22 years on, and that character has evolved and changed over time into Nathan Shepherd. One of the reborn, he is able to remember past lives, and in doing so, re-learn skills and knowledge from those lives, as well as draw their strength into his own body for brief periods to give him an edge against the monsters he faces.

Nathan began the Memory Wars series as a bored administrator working in the New York Department of Records. Along with his friend, Cynthia, he used to follow missing persons cases and reports of strange animal attacks. Using his access to death certificates and her position in the Medical Examiner's Office, they would investigate where they could, and call in anonymous tips to the police.

That all changed the night Nathan dragged Cynthia to a condemned building, where a woman's body had been found, not far from where a man's body had more recently been discovered, both dead from sudden heart failure, despite being young and healthy. That night plunged both of them into the supernatural world hidden in the New York streets. Both came out of the experience with scars, mental and physical, and both knew that they couldn’t simply stand back and allow vampires, ghouls, and other creatures prey upon the city's inhabitants.

Since then, Nathan has led the fight against New York's immortal masters. He has lost much in this fight. His job and his father were the first to go, along with his girlfriend leaving him. In Silent Oath he not only encountered the reincarnation of his past lovers, Elena DeSantis, but also confronted his nemesis, Athamar. Though Nathan and Elena were able to stop Athamar, and the goddess Morrigan, from enacting their plans, both were left shaken by the revelations of their most recent past incarnations.

Nathan cannot let the rest of his allies know the dark things he has done, no matter how noble his intentions had been at the time. New York needs strength now, as war comes in the wake of Athamar's return. It needs hope. It needs Nathan and Elena to stand united.

But even together, they may not be strong enough to stop Athamar this time. Only by braving their most ancient incarnations can they hope to find the key to Athamar's defeat. What they find could shake the foundations of the world, and force them to make decisions they never imagined.

In the end, Nathan knows that Athamar will settle for nothing less than to personally end his life, as painfully as possible. Can Nathan defeat such an enemy, who has mercilessly hunted him and Elena throughout their lifetimes? Even if he can, what hope can there be of defeating a foe who will always come back?
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A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life.

Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends.

The following year, Jen gave birth to twins, Amy and Erica. Their fourth child, Olivia, was born in January, 2014.

Find Paul and his books
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Memory War
Memory War #3
Available at Amazon
War is coming to New York. Nathan Shepherd's growing band of followers is dedicated to protecting the city, but they now face their greatest threat.

Athamar returns, plunging the city into chaos. Uniting the forces of darkness against Nathan and his allies, Athamar strives to discover a secret hidden for thousands of years. A secret lost to Nathan's memories. Something so dangerous, even the gods themselves fear it.

Nathan and Elena were once the greatest of heroes, champions against evil. Now, haunted by Nathan's past-life betrayal, they must work together and brave the pain of long-buried lifetimes. Somewhere, locked within their former incarnations, lies the key to stopping Athamar, an enemy who has hunted them from one incarnation to the next.

As the city burns and innocents suffer, as heroes fall and hope dies, Nathan and Elena face their final battle, a battle where legends will be reborn.
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Excerpt Chapter One
 
Tuxedos were the worst. At least in the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, even during the Renaissance, clothing, men’s especially, was designed to allow enough freedom of movement to fight or defend oneself. The 21st century had long seen the end of that. Nathan Shepherd’s feet blistered in polished shoes. He was sure they were too small, despite what the man in the rental store had said, and found himself longing for a practical form of battle dress which would also go with black tie events.

He scanned the ballroom as he descended the marble steps. The scent of expensive perfume drifted across the air, accompanied by the gentle sway of a string quartet on the stage. Tugging at his collar, Nathan walked to the buffet table and plucked a glass of champagne.

“Status?” Cynthia Keller’s voice crackled in his earpiece.

“Champagne’s not bad,” he said, softly. “Not sure about the caviar though.”
“You’re supposed to be watching the mayor.”

“I’m getting into character.”

“Well listen, 007, we’ve got four people who just went in through the kitchen door and one of them looks a lot like Lucius.”

Lucius was a vampire, one of the top-ranking enforcers for the Council of Chains. He’d been seen on the street a lot since Dorian went missing last year.

“Were they armed?” Nathan asked, sipping the champagne.

“Couldn’t see,” Cynthia replied. “Nothing big, at least. No heavy bags or boxes that could conceal large amounts of weaponry.”

“How are they going to do this?”

“Poison?” Cynthia said. “That’s how they got the chief of police.”

“Difficult,” Nathan said. So many people were taking hors d’oeuvres and drinks from tables and passing servers that it would be impossible to predict what the mayor would take. “Unless they poison something other than the food,” Nathan said. He frowned. It was something to watch for.

“What else is there?” Cynthia asked. “This is too big for a bomb or a shooter.”

“Keep me posted on anything suspicious entering or leaving the building,” Nathan said, sipping his drink and wandering along the dance floor. The crowd on the dance floor parted and he saw the mayor speaking to a group seated at a table.

“I have him,” Nathan said. “Tommy, what’s your status?” This was Tommy’s first time in the field, and he was doing everything he could not to seem nervous.

“Uh, restroom,” his voice came back through Nathan’s earpiece.

“You’re supposed to be by the stage.”

“Sorry boss,” Tommy said. “Must have been the crab meat crackers.”

“I’ve got Green,” Nathan said. “I need your eyes out here.”

“I’ll do my…” The sound of Tommy’s voice was replaced by retching and the splash of liquid hitting liquid. Nathan’s stomach turned a little.

“Just give me a minute,” Tommy said, coughing.

Movement caught Nathan’s eye. Four men moving through the crowd, shoulders set back and arms loose. They were ready to pounce. “I don’t have a minute.” Where was Lucius?

One of them nodded across the ballroom. Nathan turned to follow the gaze and spotted Lucius emerging from a staff door. Nathan set his glass down and started across the dance floor.
Then he saw her, flowing across the floor in a backless scarlet dress, split along the sides to reveal her sculpted calves and thighs. Three ebony hairpins held her long black hair in a coiled bun, leaving only a few tantalising locks framing her face. She turned and narrowed her eyes. He wondered how many other people would have been able to spot the marks on her arms and back where she’d used make-up to cover her scars. Marks earned in battle. Nathan’s gaze drifted of its own accord, up each curve from her hips to her neck, settling for a moment on her blood red lips and wide, practiced smile. Her sea green eyes fixed him and she advanced, sweeping toward him and locking her arms around his shoulders.

“Elena,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

“Making sure you get out alive,” she said. Her smile never faltered. She pulled Nathan into the crowd as the musicians started up a new piece.

“I don’t have time to dance.” He tried to pull away, but Elena held him firm. Nathan placed his hands on her hips and pushed, but she pressed herself against him. He shivered and inhaled her perfume.

“You have four behind you,” she said, “and another four coming from the staff entrance.”

“I know,” he said, leading her across the floor in time to the music. “Lucius is leading them. It’s a Council hit.” He glanced to the side. “Two more on your left, dancing.” They moved apart, keeping their steps in perfect rhythm.

Elena flicked her eyes around. “Three by the stairs. Just you?”

Nathan shook his head as they closed in together again. “Tommy’s inside. Cynthia and Cadence are watching from the next building. Sue’s got the truck waiting.”

“Sam?”

“Watching the bar.”

“You should have Cadence in here,” she said.

“I can handle this,” he said.

“You need help.”

Nathan smirked and dipped Elena, gazing down at her.

“That’s the wrong step,” she said.

Nathan felt the energy in the crowd shift. A forgotten sense most mortals possessed, but which only those regularly exposed to the supernatural were aware of, allowed the detection of emotional energy and even the presence of supernatural creatures and magical effects. The crowd was nervous. Eyes moved to Nathan and Elena. People backed away. One of the men approaching from behind Elena flashed a grin, showing a pair of long fangs.

“It’s time to change the tempo,” Nathan said. “Allegro, perhaps?”

Elena nodded and reached for one of her hair pins. Nathan pulled her back up and she threw the pin. It flew straight into the heart of one of the Council agents. Nathan ignored the scream and delivered a side-kick to the sternum of the vampire behind Elena.

“Tommy,” Nathan yelled into his radio. “Where are you?”

Nathan spotted him pushing his way through the crowd as two more vampires moved in on him and Elena. They fought back to back. Elena kicked off her shoes and used another hair pin as a close-range stabbing weapon. Nathan blocked a wild punch and twisted the vampire’s arm, breaking it at the elbow joint. The vampire yelled and Nathan spun, hurling him against the buffet table.

A female vampire leaped onto Nathan’s back. Her hiss closed in on his ear as she reached for his throat. Nathan reached around to grab her, but another vampire kicked him in the stomach.

Tommy tried to push onto the dance floor, but the crowd was too thick and panicked.

“Cadence,” Nathan said, struggling to breathe as the woman on his back tried to strangle him. “Now.”
A window smashed inward as a rolled-up black wrap flew through the air. It landed close to Nathan and fell open, revealing the hilt of his sword.

“Elena!”

The woman on Nathan’s back seized and shrieked. Her grip loosened. Nathan spun his hips and threw her off. One of Elena’s pins stuck out of her back. These vampires weren’t dying immediately upon wood piercing their hearts. That meant they were older; more powerful than the average street vampires. They’d need their heads cut off or their bodies burned to finish them off for good.

Nathan dove for his sword, snatching it and slashing the next vampire’s leg. He rolled to his feet and swung down as the vampire’s fingernails grew into long black claws. Its hands fell away and the vampire shrieked, running from Nathan.

Elena reached for the roll of weapons and took two small curved axes. Five vampires surrounded them. Nathan pointed for Tommy to get to the mayor and he nodded, running to the stage. The vampires pounced.

Nathan and Elena reacted as one, fighting off their attackers with precision and unity honed over a hundred lifetimes. Dark blood splattered the dance floor as they cut down the vampires one by one. With every heartbeat, Nathan felt Elena’s soul pulsing and his own respond in kind. They breathed in unison, feeling what the other felt, seeing what the other saw. It was in this, the work of performing death, that their last true bond remained. Nathan was almost used to the regret. It urged him on, giving him power, bringing forth memories of past-life battles to fuel his strength and speed. He reached into those memories now, plucking one from the chaos and taking his past-self’s adrenaline to keep his mind focused on the task at hand. There was no room for mistakes here.
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Cover Reveal: Fragile Reign by Stacey O'Neale

We're thrilled to help reveal the cover for FRAGILE REIGN (Mortal Enchantment #2) by Stacey O'Neale! Check out the cover below, and let us know what you think in the comments. Then be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $100 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card!
 

Details about the cover, from author Stacey O'Neale:

In case you're curious about the cover, the model represents Marcus. The background represents the woodland court and the caves at the bottom are where the members of the royal family live. I chose caves because the woodland court protects the forests of the world. I didn't think they would choose to cut down trees to make a castle, so the massive caves worked out nicely. If you zoom in, you can see where the doors and windows are cut out. The inside is very lavish. If you read FRAGILE REIGN, you'll learn all about it.
FRAGILE REIGN (Mortal Enchantment #2) by Stacey O'Neale | November 18, 2014
It’s been a week since all hell broke loose… Rumors of King Taron’s weakened powers have left the air court vulnerable. Kalin is desperate to awaken her akasha powers, except she doesn’t know how. Tension within the court is at an all-time high. Pressure is mounting for her to ascend to the throne, but a halfling has never ruled over any court. To solidify her position, the council has advised her to marry Sebastian—a high ranking air elemental she’s never met and her betrothed. Will Kalin sacrifice her relationship with Rowan to strengthen her court? Rowan and Marcus return to a fire court in turmoil. Liana’s death has fueled the fire elementals’ distrust against the air and woodland courts. The unbalanced elements have set off natural disasters all over the mortal world. Rowan takes the throne to restore balance, promising to unite the fire court. But not all elementals are happy with his leadership. Many are secretly loyal to Valac, which means Rowan needs to find allies for his cause. Can Rowan unify the court of fire before the elements destroy the world?
MESFBCover.v3

Be sure to add FRAGILE REIGN to your TBR on Goodreads, or pre-order on Amazon! The prequel novella, THE SHADOW PRINCE, is currently free on Amazon, and you can also read MORTAL ENCHANTMENT for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Stacey O'Neale

About the Author

Stacey O’Neale lives in Annapolis, Maryland. When she’s not writing, she spends her time fangirling over books, blogging, watching fantasy television shows, cheering for the Baltimore Ravens, and hanging out with her husband and daughter.
Her career in publishing started as a blogger-turned-publicist for two successful small publishers. Stacey writes young adult paranormal romance and adult science fiction romance. Her books always include swoon-worthy heroes, snarky heroines, and lots of kissing.
Stacey loves hearing from readers. Follow her on Twitter @StaceyONeale, look for her on Facebook, Pinterest, and GoodReads. You can also visit her blog at http://staceyoneale.com/.

Giveaway

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New Release: 8/31-9/6


Mon Sept 1


Tue Sept 2

 Daring (Pax Arcana #2) by Elliott James 
 Dark Blood (Dark #26) by Christine Feehan
 The Dolls (Dolls #1) by Kiki Sullivan 
 Fall of Night (Dead of Night #2) by Jonathan Maberry 
 Feuds by Avery Hastings 
 The Girl and the Clockwork Cat by Nikki McCormack
 Hidden (Alex Verus #5) by Benedict Jacka
 Night's Honor (Elder Races #7) by Thea Harrison
 Son of No One (Hellchaser #6) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
 The Winter People by Rebekah L. Purdy

Thur Sept 4

 The Memory Keepers by Natasha Ngan 

Happy Reading

Monday, September 1, 2014

Interview: Witch's Bane by Ann Gimpel

UFI welcomes Ann Gimpel Author of Witch's Bane. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview?
 
Snort! Once upon a time, questions like this were easy, but they aren’t anymore. Everyone knows about my mountaineering background and that I’m a psychologist and about my three wolf hybrids. Let’s see. I love dark coffee. The darker and thicker the better. I also love tea. Coffee happens in the morning, and I switch to tea in the afternoon and evening. I also enjoy playing in the kitchen. I adopted a paleo eating plan (no grain, no dairy) about eight months ago and it’s been fun finding substitute recipes. Who would have guessed you could make bread from cashew butter, eggs, and a smidgeon of coconut flour?
 
What do you enjoy doing on your down time?
 
I love spending time in the backcountry hiking, skiing, and backpacking. Fortunately, I live in a mountain wonderland in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so it’s a perfect fit for me.

What is your Favorite part of writing?
 
When the story picks me up and I get lost in the writing. So lost the book world feels as real to me as the other one. You know, the one I live in the rest of the time. I’ve never written a book that hasn’t grabbed me and spun me around like that. It’s a type of altered state and it has addictive qualities!

Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write?
 
No. My daily schedule varies. Sometimes I’m writing at five or six in the morning and other days at ten at night. I get a couple hours of exercise every day and work my writing time around it.

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres?
 
Sherrilyn Kenyon, JD Robb, Anne Bishop, Illona Andrews, KM Moning, Diana Gabaldon, and the list could go on and on. I also like Patty Briggs, but not quite as well as the ones I just listed.

How would you pitch Witch’s Bane to someone who has not heard of it before?
 
Two stubborn people—a witch and a mage—come together with a fierceness borne of desperation. Can passion trump their intense need for independence? Will they live long enough to find out?

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that The Witch Chronicles Series is set in?
 
Like most urban fantasy, The Witch Chronicles takes place in the real world, but with a few twists. Abbadon, scourge of Hell, is leader of the Irichna demons. They want Earth for themselves. Two hundred years ago, the Daoine Sidhe foisted demon containment off on the witches, and now only three demon-stalking witches remain. Faced with the enormity of nearly killing off a witch bloodline, the Sidhe reluctantly attempt to make amends. Witches aren’t the only ones the Sidhe managed to alienate. They stripped the changelings of their power and severed ties with the Unseelie. All that has to be made right before people living in this world can survive. Add romance, danger, and changelings with smart mouths and you’ve got the ingredients for urban fantasy that’s been described by reviewers as fresh, unique, and a breath of new life in a genre that repeats itself far too often.

Do you have a favorite scene in Witch’s Bane?
 
Probably when Roz lets her emotions loose for the first time in a long time and understands she’s terrified she’ll make a mistake and one of her sister witches will die. My second favorite scene is when Roz and Ronin make love for the first time.

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about?
 
My favorite character is Lachlan Moncrieffe, the dragon shifter in To Love a Highland Dragon. I adore him because he carried all that Middle Ages stuff along when he was ensorcelled and slept for three hundred sixty years. It was an absolute blast having him integrate into modern society and made for some truly epic one-liners.

Probably my toughest character is Aislinn Lenear, my protagonist in the Earth Reclaimed series. When the series opens, she’s twenty-two and has lost damn near everything. She’s tough as nails and has sealed her heart behind barbed wire. Coaxing her to take a chance on anything was challenging, but she grows a lot over the course of three hundred thousand words. Her character arc is one of the most satisfying I’ve ever written, but one of the hardest too.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you?
 
Witches Rule, last book in The Witch Chronicles series is coming in November. I wrote a full length UF that takes place in Antarctica. I’m shopping for a home for it right now. It came out of a trip I took to the southern oceans and Antarctic Continent last March. I’m closing on finishing Earth’s Hope, last book in the Earth Reclaimed Series. Once that’s done I’m not sure what’s next. Fans have clamored for more books in The Company Store Series, a world where shifters run an international espionage operation. At some point I need to finish the last book in Dragon Lore, my dragon shifter series. Who knows? One of the best things about this career is it’s full of surprises.
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Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains.

It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.

Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.

In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.

Find Ann and her books
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Witch's Bane

Roz, Jenna, and Colleen are the last of the demon-stalking witches. So far, they’ve escaped disaster, but their luck is running low. When demons strike in the midst of Colleen’s wedding, Roz launches desperate measures because she and her sister witches are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. As she shape-shifts to keep one step ahead of the demons, at least it takes her mind off her other problems. Personal ones. She burned through a couple of marriages with a string of loser men before, after, and in between. Though she wants to be happy for Colleen, the jealousy bug bit deep and hasn’t let go.

In Roz’s secret heart she’s attracted to Ronin, one of the Daoine Sidhe. He’s so profanely beautiful she can barely breathe around him, but he’s also headstrong and arrogant. Not good partner material, she tells herself, unless she wants to end up dusting her heart off one more time.

Ronin set his sights on Roz when she was at his home in the U.K. for a strategy meeting and he can’t get her out of his mind. Unfortunately, she’s so prickly getting close to her requires scheming. He casts an enchantment to lure her at Colleen’s wedding, but she senses the spell and rebuffs him.

Roz is used to calling the shots. So is Ronin. Sparks fly. Tempers run hot, right along with an attraction too strong to be denied. Roz and Ronin come together with a fierceness borne of desperation, but demons are determined to rid themselves of the witches for good, no matter what it takes.
Excerpt: 
 
Ronin Redstone unwound his arm from Roz and gripped his hands together in his lap to lessen the temptation to touch her again. Where he figured most of the guests were anxious to see the bride, he’d been interested in Roz. Probably too interested since he’d bounced to his feet the moment she entered the room and had even spun the mildest of spells to coerce her to sit near him. He pressed his lips into a flat line as he wrestled with his thoughts. Ever since he’d met the tall, imposing witch at his home in northern England a couple of weeks before, he’d been able to think of little else. She even entered his dreams with her silky black hair, pronounced cheekbones, and hawk-like nose. In those dreams, she was naked, her bronze skin glimmering in moonlight.

Her heady scent, pine forests and jasmine, tickled his nostrils and made him wonder what she’d feel like in his arms. Once he kicked the door open to that slippery slope, his cock sprang to life, clearly eager to find out. He tried to clip his libido before things whirled out of control and she noticed his arousal, but his cock wasn’t in the mood for negotiation—or retreat. He wove the tiniest don’t look here spell and draped his lower body with it.

In years past, he’d simply have created a love charm, imbued it with compulsion, and bedded the woman. That probably wasn’t a good idea, though. Roz would sense his magic, be outraged he tried to coerce her, and that would be the last he ever saw of the striking witch. Never mind she had good reason to not want much to do with him since he’d been one of the key players two hundred years ago who’d suggested foisting demon stalking onto the witches. He tightened his jaw muscles. Who could have guessed his little machination to get his kin out from under a highly unpleasant task would nearly be the death of the few witches who’d inherited the power through a magical version of gene splicing? Of course, he’d also been the one to send Duncan to fetch one of the witches to quell a demon uprising in the U.K. last month. That was how they’d discovered only three of the special witches remained…

No wonder she’s not overly fond of me. Ronin grimaced, not liking the truth in his thoughts. An inner voice huffed, reminding him it wasn’t his fault the witches in question hadn’t produced more offspring, but he shushed it.

Surely I can at least charm Roz out of that sour expression on her face.

He forced his breathing into a regular pattern and glanced toward Duncan and Colleen at the front of the room. The resident witch had completed her part of the ceremony and Titania was speaking in Gaelic so old he had trouble following it. The Sidhe binding ceremony lasted at least half an hour, so he let his thoughts drift. Anywhere but to his cock, which still throbbed uncomfortably.

As de facto leader for the Sidhe, a post he held more because no one else wanted it than because of any special skills on his part, he sensed they stood at the edge of a cataclysmic event. Abbadon and his henchmen, the Irichna demons, had grown appallingly strong. Capturing them one at a time and shepherding them to the Ninth Circle of Hell where they were trapped for all eternity wasn’t a workable solution anymore. There were too many of them, and maybe not enough space in the bottom of Hell.

Because he was afraid of a firm answer regarding Hell’s demon storage capacity, he hadn’t asked Titania, though surely she’d know. If they couldn’t dump Irichna behind the Ninth Circle’s gate, he had no idea what they’d do with them. And if Abbadon consolidated his full power, Earth would be laid waste. Ronin clamped his jaws together. Apocalypse didn’t come close to describing what would happen if Abbadon were freed from protecting his demons and could concentrate on taking over Earth.

In addition to not inquiring too closely about the Irichna, I also haven’t asked about Oberon. Ronin grimaced again. If the King of Faerie were truly so tired of immortality he’d let himself fade into the Dreaming, Ronin didn’t want to know about that, either.

When did I turn into such a craven I avoid unpleasant answers?

Even though he wasn’t expecting one, a response popped up anyway. He’d loved a human woman once, but she’d died bearing their son, who’d perished right along with her. The major vessel serving her heart had ruptured, and no amount of Sidhe magic could heal her or breathe life into their dead child. Ronin withdrew from the other Sidhe after that, mostly because he didn’t want to hear their lectures about the whole debacle being his own fault. After all, they weren’t supposed to mate outside their blood. When he finally picked up the reins of command a couple of centuries later—or maybe it had been three—he held himself aloof and avoided confrontations with anyone, about anything.

He ground his jaws harder together. His internal inventory was damned depressing; it forced him to take a harsh look at himself, and he didn’t like what he saw. He glanced at Titania. She clasped Duncan’s and Colleen’s hands between her own, and his eyes widened. Had he truly spent the entire ceremony sunk in memories and self-pity?

It would appear so, he thought dryly. In moments, Titania would utter the final words, Duncan would kiss Colleen, and the ritual would be done. He barely had time to wonder why Titania hadn’t kicked up more of a fuss about Duncan marrying a mortal, when the bridal pair kissed.

The tiniest sigh escaped Roz, and he looked sidelong at her. Her full lips were parted in half a smile, and she looked captivated by the ancient binding that had unfolded, mostly without him paying one whit of attention to it. She leaned toward him, her earlier ire apparently forgotten. “They make such a lovely couple,” she whispered.

Ronin narrowed his eyes and looked hard at Duncan and Colleen, wrapped in one another’s arms and kissing enthusiastically. He didn’t know about the lovely couple part, because he didn’t view the world that way. “They do look happy,” he whispered back because he thought he ought to say something.

Bubba, who’d been standing off to one side, made a grab for a bag Ronin hadn’t noticed before. The changeling reached inside and Ronin’s internal alarm went off. The changeling was about to throw something at the couple. Had the creature been co-opted by demons? It wasn’t unheard of since their race contained a smattering of demon blood. Afraid if he hesitated he’d be too late, Ronin pulled strong magic and rose to his feet.

Before he could loose it, Roz fastened a hand around his lower arm. “It’s just rice,” she said, her voice still low. “He’s going to throw rice at them. Stand down.”

Ronin met her dark, luminous gaze. “What sort of custom is that?” he demanded. Magic thrummed around him, making the air shimmer in iridescent hues. The changeling indeed tossed rice high in the air, showering everyone within a ten-foot radius of him, laughed uproariously, and then did it again.

“An old one.” Roz tugged on his arm and he sat reluctantly. “Bubba adores Colleen. He’s laid his life on the line for her a bazillion times. He’d never hurt her.”

“Better safe than sorry,” he muttered, feeling like an ass. “How was I to know?”
“It’s okay.” She let go of his arm and patted one of his hands.

As long as he was in an apologizing mood—they were rare for him—Ronin exhaled sharply and said, “I’m sorry I, um, suggested you sit next to me.”

She cocked her head to one side and quirked a brow. “If you’d only suggested, it would have been fine, but you did a tad more than that.”

Flutes and guitars began to play Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” Colleen and Duncan turned and floated up the center aisle with Bubba right behind, still throwing rice. Even Ronin had to admit they looked radiant. He’d known Duncan his entire life, and he’d never seen his fellow Sidhe look so carefree and besotted with joy. In one wild, unrestrained moment, before he glossed his emotions over with rationality, he wanted the same for himself.

Ronin felt Roz’s gaze still on him and knew he couldn’t ignore her comment. “You’re right,” he said stiffly. “I did do more than that.”

She repositioned herself so he had to look at her. “Why?”

Because I’ve wanted to strip you naked and worship your body from the day I met you. He cloaked his mind, hoping he’d been fast enough and she hadn’t read his thoughts. “I’m not quite sure,” he stumbled over the words, because they weren’t the truth.

Her dark gaze never left him as she weighed his statement. Finally she nodded, almost to herself. “When you figure it out,” she said and winked broadly, “be sure to let me know.”

Heat rose from his neck and swooshed over the top of his head. Damn! He was a Sidhe and a warrior. It was unseemly to blush like a love-struck maid. He opened his mouth to stammer some sort of reply, but she got up, along with the rest of the guests. “Come on,” she said. “I’m starving.”

He’d been afraid the second the ceremony was over, she’d race away from him as far and as fast as she could, but she’d just invited him to eat with her, at least he thought she had. He bit back a smile until just the edges of his mouth twitched. Maybe she didn’t abhor him as much as it seemed when she’d shot him that poisonous look once she sensed his magic.

I learned something. I have to ask her, not simply push her to do what I want. He hurried after her swishing skirt, not wanting to lose her in the crowd. He could always locate her, but the less magic he used until she got to know him, the better.

*
Roz caught up to Jenna just inside the dining area and hugged her. “Wasn’t it just perfect?” she gushed, still caught up in the mystical pull of dual wedding ceremonies.

Jenna hugged her back and nodded. She disentangled herself and eyed her friend. “What the hell, Roz? It isn’t like you to fall all over yourself.”

Roz settled her face into its usual, stern planes. “There. Is that better?”

Jenna grinned. “Yup. There’s the grumpy witch I know and love. What happened to you anyway? I looked back and you were trailing after that hunky Sidhe.”

“He snared me in a spell.”

“Ooooh.” Jenna clapped her hands together. “He must be interested.” She leaned close. “What did he do during the ceremony?”

Roz felt her face redden. “Nothing. I got mad at him once I realized he’d bamboozled me. Hush. Here he comes.”

“Awesome.” Jenna practically vibrated with enthusiasm. “He can eat with us.”

“I already invited him.”

A knowing look crossed Jenna’s face and she opened her mouth, but Roz hissed, “Can it, sister,” just before turning to Ronin and asking, “Where would you like to sit?”

He half-bowed—a courtly, old world gesture that drove home just how old he was—lifted Jenna’s hand to his lips, and said, “Nice to see you again, Miss Jenna. Anywhere the two of you wish to settle is fine with me.”

“Maybe we should get our food first,” Jenna suggested brightly, “since the tables will fill fast.”

“Good idea,” Roz snapped, feeling unaccountably jealous. Ronin hadn’t kissed her hand, but he’d been quick enough to snatch Jenna’s.

“If you don’t want him…” Jenna spoke in their telepathic speech.

“I thought you were interested in Tristan.” Roz led the way to a buffet table and picked up a plate.

Jenna smirked. “I am, but he’s not here.”

Roz dished up an interesting looking salad, brimming with shrimp and crab, and followed it with a few slices of rare beef and a roll. They found a table beneath a leaded glass window and laid their plates down.

“I’ll get us something to drink.” Ronin smiled. “Preferences?”

“What are you getting?” Roz asked, avoiding Jenna’s gaze.

“Mead,” he answered. “It’s what I prefer.”

“I’ll take Irish whiskey,” Jenna trilled and settled into her seat.

“Just bring me a glass of one or the other,” Roz muttered. “I’m not picky.” As soon as Ronin was out of earshot, or close enough, she glared at Jenna. “Leave him alone.”

“But you’re not even sure you’re interested in him,” Jenna protested.

“And how would you know that?” Roz stuffed a forkful of salad into her mouth, chewed with a vengeance, and swallowed.

The other witch dropped her gaze, looking sheepish. “I, um, peeked.”

Roz slammed a fist on the table hard enough the dishes rattled. “You looked inside my head without asking?”

“’Fraid so. Sorry.” Jenna started eating with a studied nonchalance.

Roz exhaled and then did it again. Both of them were lonely; getting angry with her longtime friend wouldn’t serve any purpose other than creating bad water under the bridge they’d have to clear at some point. “Jenna. It’s the wedding ceremonies. All the old magic in them makes us want what Colleen and Duncan have.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Jenna’s hazel gaze met hers and she looked repentant, her brows drawn together. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.” Roz smiled crookedly. “Let’s not fight. Not today.”
__________________________________

__________________________________



Early Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

The Jewel
Author:Amy Ewing
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
The Lone City Book #1
ISBN:  0062235796
ISBN13: 9780062235794
Genre: Dystopian
Review Copy Source: Edelweiss
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.
The blurb sums up what the book is about so I won't go into details on what THE JEWEL. I found the story to be extremely intriguing, thought provoking as well as downright shocking. There were so many things WRONG about the world of The Lone City and how they treat their surrogates, but I enjoyed exploring it and following Violet on her journey.

Violet was taken away from her family as a small child and raised to be a surrogate. It has been a good life besides not being able to be with her family and her auction day is finally here. She quickly learns that everything she was prepared for isn't what she thought it was and the life of luxury she still has isn't worth everything she is soon put through.

Violet had a wonderful personality for this book. She is an extremely strong character and I enjoyed the way her mind worked. Although she is willing to follow what she was raised to do she has questions and reservations from the beginning. She doesn't idly stand by, but sits and plans and thinks about what she can do. Which is why she gets the opportunities that she is offered. I wasn't crazy about the romance. The connection was rushed and felt unreal. The things that Violet was willing to give up to have this relationship were way too much for what she got in return. Hopefully it will feel more real and equal in book 2.

THE JEWEL was a crazy ride. The ending left me reeling and wanting more, but I was left with a ton of questions. Book 2 will be interesting.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week in Review: 8/24-8/30


Books I've Bought/received

- Red Blooded by Amanda Carlson - eARC- Publisher via NetGalley

- Claimed by Light by Reese Monroe - eARC- Netgalley

- Gray Bishop by Kelly Meade, eARC- Publisher via NetGalley

- Forged in Fire by Juliette Cross- eARC- NetGalley

- The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows- eARC- Edelweiss

Books I've Read

The Aftermath by Jen Alexander
Red Blooded by Amanda Carlson
A Secret to Die For by Sierra Dean
Saving the Hero by Sabrina Sumsion
A Human Element by Donna Galanti
Predator & Prey by James D. Horton

Reviews Posted

The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost
Betting on Julia by Nina Croft
His Secret Superheroine by Patricia Eimer
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* New Releases for the week. Was there anything you were looking forward to reading?

* Wednesday- Guest Blog & Giveaway for Night Unbound by Dianne Duvall

* Thursday- Guest Blog & Giveaway for Accidentally ... Over? by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff 

* Friday-  Interview & Giveaway for The Spanish Billionaire's Baby Promise by Sheritha Singh

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* Did you know you can follow UFI on these other sites?

You can also add me (as in Stacy) to your friends on these sites if you're on them.
 
 * I love comments so if you see something you like (or not) please comment away and let me know.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost

The Beautiful Ashes
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN:  1306906725
ISBN13: 9781306906722
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Review Copy Source: NetGalley
In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate.

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. And the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who's bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.

Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn't mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn't: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side and Adrian on the other. And nothing but ashes in between…

I was really excited to see a new series from Jeaniene Frost. Everything I have read from her I have thoroughly enjoyed, so I jumped right in to THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES expecting nothing less than a great story.

THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES starts off with the main character already in the middle of something so you don't have a back story or any real idea what is going on. The author however makes it really easy for you to fall into her story while keeping your mind busy on other things. I actually found myself looking forward to each little slow reveal of the overall story, but I was content to wait for those small reveals.

The romance wasn't really what drove the story for me. Sure it progressed and Ivy and Adrian fit together/made sense, but it was a slow progression with Adrian fighting a relationship the entire way. There is bad history between their family lines that make it easy to understand but the story itself is what I felt drove THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES.

The end didn't give me as much satisfaction as I would have liked. It was somewhat easy to guess and the final conflict wasn't as *POW* as I thought it deserved. THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES was a great start to Jeaniene's new series, I think anyone that likes her previous books will enjoy it.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.