Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New Releases: 5/1-5/7

Tue. May 3rd

 Escape the Vortex (Voyagers #5) by Jeanne DuPrau 
 Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano
 Night Speed by Chris Howard 
 Outriders (Outriders #1) by Jay Posey
 The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece 
 Ruined (Ruined #1) by Amy Tintera
 The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood 
 Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman 
 Wandering Wild by Jessica Taylor  

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Interview + Giveaway: The Patient Wolf by Karen Hodges Miller

UFI welcomes Author Karen Hodges Miller. 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?
I’ve lived in a lot of places, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Puerto Rico and New Jersey. I like to say I’ve spent half my life in the tropics and the other half trying to get back there. I think my characters might have to vacation in Puerto Rico in one of my books. That would give me an excuse to travel back to one of my favorite places.
What do you enjoy doing on your down time?
I’m a homebody. I like to read, cook, swim, and spoil our two cats, Milo and Felix. I love to make jewelry, but I’ve been so busy writing lately, I haven’t had time.
What is your Favorite part of writing?
When it is done! Seriously, though I enjoy creating stories that people want to read. I want my readers to walk away feeling satisfied and to do that I try to create characters that people like and identify with and plots that have a bit of a twist. I like ending a chapter with something that makes you have to turn the page and keep reading.

Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write?
Chocolate and Coca Cola. I have a firm believe that chocolate increases creativity. And Coca Cola, well, that’s my favorite form of caffeine.

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres?
There are so many. Laurel K. Hamilton, Karen Marie Moning—I LOVE the Fae Fever series, Christine Feehan, Melissa Macfie, KelleyArmstrong—I discovered her through the TV series Bitten, but of course the books have so much more detail.

How would you pitch The Patient Wolf  to someone who has not heard of it before?
The small town of Rivelou is hiding secrets, and they are about to claw their way to the surface.
Ana Dugan used to enjoy her nighttime walks through her quaint college town, but all of that changes when a handsome stranger rescues her from an attack. She’s not sure who she should be more afraid of the four legged beast who attacked her or the two legged one who saved her. She narrowly escapes, but soon learns that others weren’t so lucky. When another man enters her life claiming he’s there to protect her she’s not sure who she should trust, the wolf or the hunter.

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that The Patient Wolf is set in?
Rivelou, the town where my books take place, is a typical Midwestern small city…but when you scratch that ordinary surface something strange is going on. Many of the residents are leading a double life. Who is a werewolf? Who is a witch? Who knows the secrets that some very important people in town are keeping? In Rivelou, you never know just who…or what… you neighbor is.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Patient Wolf?
AS ANA APPROACHED the main entrance to the campus shortly after her class ended at nine o’clock that night, she began to feel a nervousness she had never before experienced on her walks home.
The entrance consisted of a large stone archway that covered the two-lane street. The school’s name, University of Rivelou, was painted in gothic letters across the top. Two smaller arches on either side of the auto entrance had paved cobblestone paths running through them for pedestrian use. The arches were covered with ancient Zephirine Droughin roses. The bushes climbed over both halves of the two smaller arches, and for most of the summer turned the two pedestrian entrances into miniature tunnels of the pink petals of the old fashioned Bourbon roses. Now, though a few late-blooming flowers still decorated the branches, the leaves had begun to drop off, and those that remained had turned a deep bronze, melding with the color of the old stone arches. Ana shivered. She wasn’t nervous, she told herself. It was just that the weather had turned colder this evening. She would not let yesterday’s attacks take away her enjoyment of her walk home.
On one side of the arches the campus was brightly lit, on the other side there were just a few streetlights, and very little traffic this time of night in the mostly residential section of town. The shadows seemed to close in around Ana as she approached the archway, and, for a few moments, she considered stepping off of the pedestrian path and crossing under the larger, brighter arch designed to accommodate cars. But she shook her head and chided herself.
“How silly of me. I’m more likely to get run over by some student speeding to get home after class than to meet the boogie man, or anything else, in the sidewalk tunnel.”
She took a deep breath and headed into the arch, then jumped and screamed as a tall shadow brandishing a sword loomed at the end of the passageway.

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about?
That is such a hard question. I like them all, even the villains. Alexander Fontaine may be my favorite character to write about. He is sexy, mysterious, and has just a touch of a French accent. Which was fun to throw in.
Ana, the heroine, was the most difficult because I wanted her to be vulnerable, yet spunky.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you?
The second book in my series is titled The Artificial Witch. It features one of the minor characters in The Patient Wolf, Shannon Kelly. She’s a cop and a young widow. I liked her so much I decided she deserved her own story. I’ve completed the first chapter, and I hope to have it finished before the end of the year.

Karen Hodges Miller’s fascination with werewolves, vampires, witches, ghosts, and all things supernatural began with the childhood classics. She gobbled up everything from The Haunting of Hill House to the Narnia series, from Dracula to Rebecca. As a writer, however, she stuck to non-fiction; working as a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor and in 2004 opening her own publishing company.

She has written several books for authors on the subject of writing and publishing. The Patient Wolf is her first fiction novel and of course, it features a very sexy werewolf.

Find Karen and her books

The Patient Wolf
Wicked Urban Fantasy #1

The small town of Rivelou is hiding secrets, and they are about to claw their way to the surface.

Ana Dugan used to enjoy her nighttime walks through her quaint college town, but all of that changes when a handsome stranger rescues her from an attack. She’s not sure who she should be more afraid of the four legged beast who attacked her or the two legged one who saved her. She narrowly escapes, but soon learns that others weren’t so lucky.

When another man enters her life claiming he’s there to protect her she’s not sure who she should trust, the wolf or the hunter.


The Patient Wolf Chapter 1

Ana breathed in the early autumn air as she headed away from the university and onto the darker streets of the neighboring suburb. It was an older neighborhood, built in the 1920’s when the town of Rivelou had begun to spread from its central location on the river across the railroad tracks to the north. This particular section of the town had been built for the railroad workers, with tiny shotgun houses lined up on even tinier lawns.
As Ana crossed Roosevelt Avenue and headed into her own neighborhood, the streetlights ended and the sidewalk became lighted only by an occasional porch light or walk light. She loved walking home from her night classes at this time of the year. The air, while it could not yet be called crisp, had lost its summer sultriness, a welcome change from the blistering heat of a Midwest summer.
And these walks home after her night classes were one of the few times during her week when she could be truly alone. No bosses, no teachers, not even Sophie chattering away in her ear. She’d been a mom long enough not to feel guilty at enjoying a a little time alone without her child. Her thirteen-year-old daughter was the light of her life, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy a little time by herself, too.
As she headed down Harlan Street, farther from the more heavily trafficked avenue, the street became even darker. It was too soon for most of the leaves to have fallen, they were just beginning to turn red on this last week in September and they were so thick on the trees that they hid the full moon. Part of the charm of the old neighborhood was the beautiful, large old maples and oaks, but their roots also tore up the sidewalks. Ana tripped on one of those cracks, and shook her head in disgust. How could she always trip in the same spot, night after night? It wasn’t as if she hadn’t memorized the bad spots in the sidewalk after years of walking this way.
She smiled; only one more year of classes and, with luck, she wouldn’t be taking this same walk anymore. She would have her teaching degree, be able to quit her job as an admin at the university, and start a new life with her daughter, maybe somewhere else. She would enjoy teaching, preferably high school, but she’d take whatever grade she could get to start. Sophie would miss her friends; they would both miss their family. They’d come back a lot to visit. She was sure of that—her family, particularly her grandfather, would certainly insist on it. But it would be nice to start over. Of course, Jonathan, her ex, would probably object if she moved even to the next county. The one good thing she could say for the man was he always fulfilled his obligations to their daughter, even if it was only because he thought about running for political office someday and didn’t want to ruin his reputation with the other lawyers and judges in Rivelou.
She shook her head as if to change the direction her daydreams had taken her and sidestepped another large crack in the sidewalk. She wasn’t going to let thoughts of Jonathan ruin a lovely evening. Maybe after Sophie was in bed she’d have a chance to get outside again and enjoy the full moon and beautiful weather. She wouldn’t indulge herself in a run; she couldn’t leave Sophie alone, but some time out in her backyard to appreciate the full moon would be good.
She stopped and looked around, working to regain her pleasure in the evening, when she heard a low growl nearby.
A dog? No one on this block had a dog big enough to make that sort of sound. That growl had definitely come from something larger than Mrs. Ahearn’s yappy little Pomeranian. She began to walk more quickly. Only a half block until she turned onto Sycamore, then another half block until she arrived at her own home.
The growl came again. She tucked her purse more securely on her left shoulder, her computer bag on her right, and doubled her pace. There were no lights on at any of the houses on that part of the block, and of course, the moon took that moment to hide behind a cloud. She took a deep breath and tried to walk at a steady pace. She wouldn’t run, even though she could hear the animal behind her as she rounded the corner. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her own porch light on, as well as that of her neighbors, Joe and Lindsey, who kept Sophie evenings when Ana had class. Only a few more steps to safety.
She was almost in front of her own door when she heard the rush of paws with nails clicking on the sidewalk. With a howl, the animal knocked her down.
She held her computer case in front of her face, “Take a bite of that, you nasty beast,” she said, pushing the case at its huge, dark head. It was all teeth and glowing eyes as it stood over her, growling. “What do you want?” she shouted.
Though it had her on the ground, it didn’t make a move, just stood gazing at her. Somehow she sensed if she did move, it would strike. She had to do something. She drew a deep breath and prepared to scream when she heard someone running up behind her.
“Hey, you, get back! Get back!” She turned her head and saw a man come running toward her and the slobbering animal. The man grabbed a stick from the ground and waved it at the animal as he rushed forward. “Back! Get back, you ugly beast!” he shouted again, striking the creature who turned, snarling at him. They stared intently at each other for a moment when the dog finally dodged the stick and lunged to take a bite out of the man.
The man got in a couple of good blows before the dog suddenly grabbed the stick, tugged at it, and knocked the man to the ground. Ana decided it was time to take action. She fumbled through her purse as the dog leaned back on its haunches preparing to strike. Just before he lunged on the fallen man Ana found her can of mace and hit the dog in the face with the noxious spray. With howl of pain, it ran into the darkness.
Several more porch lights suddenly popped on to light the night, and the street was filled with neighbors coming to check on the unusual commotion.
“Are you all right?” her rescuer, still gasping and out of breath, asked. “It didn’t bite you, did it?” He made his way to his feet and held his hand out to her.
“No, no. I’m fine,” Ana replied as she was suddenly bowled over by an armful of an anxious thirteen-year-old. “Mom, mom, are you okay?” Sophie asked.
“What happened?” her neighbor, Joe, questioned her at the same moment.
“It was a dog. A huge one. I’ve never seen it before. This man chased it away,” she said, turning to the man who was wiping his face with a handkerchief and coughing.
“I think you were the one who chased it away. Wish you’d had a little better aim with the mace, but under the circumstances I don’t think I can complain,” he said between coughs.
“Hey, are you okay?” Joe asked, looking the man over. “You’d better come in and let us take a look at you. My wife’s a nurse. She can check you out. Just a whiff of that stuff can be torture on the eyes.”
“No, I’m fine, I’ll …” he protested, but Ana cut him off.
“I insist. If it wasn’t for you, I’d have been bitten by that animal.”
“I think we’d better make a police report,” Joe said as they headed for his house. “Joe Lessing,” he added, holding out his hand to the stranger. “And this is our neighbor, Ana Dugan, and her daughter, Sophie.”
“Good to meet you. Chris Spier,” the man said, shaking hands with Joe as they reached the porch. At the top of the steps he turned to Ana, where, under the porch light, she got her first real look at her rescuer.
He was just shy of six feet, with the build of teddy bear, the kind you’d like to give a big hug and take to bed with you, Ana thought, then inwardly blushed. Where had that thought come from? She didn’t have time for men. It wasn’t that he was soft, or fat, she added, mentally adjusting her initial teddy bear image. He was muscular, and he had a kind face, soft brown eyes, shaggy light brown hair and beard, both of which needed a trim. There was something about his worn khakis and wrinkled plaid flannel shirt that said he wasn’t used to being cared for.
“I’m so sorry if I hurt you,” Ana said, taking his hand. Chris held onto it until Joe said, “Come on in. You need to wash off that mace.”

He guided Chris into a small, warm living room and back to a kitchen where Sophie was animatedly, if with little accuracy, describing the incident to Joe’s wife and daughter.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Week in Review: 4/24-4/30

Books Received for Review

The Curse of Tenth Grave by Darynda Jones
Struck by Amanda Carlson

Books I've Read

Boundary Born by Melisa F. Olsen
The Curse of Tenth Grave by Darynda Jones
Shadowed Blade by J.C. Daniels
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Reviews Posted

Down the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep
Artificial by Jadah McCoy


* New Releases for the week. Was there anything you were looking forward to reading?

* Tuesday- Guest Blog + Giveaway for Starr Valentine by Wende Dikec


* 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.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: Artificial by Jadah McCoy

Author: Jadah McCoy
Release Date: April 4, 2016
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
ISBN13:  9781620074930
Genre: Science Fiction
Review Copy Source: NetGalley
She struggles to feel human.

In 2256, the only remnants of civilization on Earth’s first colonized planet, Kepler, are the plant-covered buildings and the nocturnal, genetically spliced bug-people nesting within them: the Cull. During the day, Syl leaves her home in the sewers beneath Elite City to scavenge for food, but at night the Cull come looking for a meal of their own. Syl thought gene splicing died with the Android War a century ago. She thought the bugs could be exterminated, Elite city rebuilt, and the population replenished. She’s wrong.

Whoever engineered the Cull isn’t done playing God. Syl is abducted and tortured in horrific experiments which result in her own DNA being spliced, slowly turning her into one of the bugs. Now she must find a cure and stop the person responsible before every remaining man, woman, and child on Kepler is transformed into the abomination they fear.

He struggles not to.

For Bastion, being an android in the sex industry isn’t so bad. Clubbing beneath the streets of New Elite by day and seducing the rich by night isn’t an altogether undesirable occupation. But every day a new android cadaver appears in the slum gutters, and each caved in metal skull and heap of mangled wires whittles away at him.

Glitches—androids with empathy—are being murdered, their models discontinued and strung up as a warning. Show emotion, you die. Good thing Bastion can keep a secret, or he would be the next body lining the street.

He can almost live with hiding his emotions. That is, until a girl shows up in the slums—a human girl, who claims she was an experiment. And in New Elite, being a human is even worse than being a Glitch. Now Bastion must help the girl escape before he becomes victim to his too-human emotions, one way or another.

I was very skeptical of the blurb for ARTIFICIAL and I actually almost passed it up on NetGalley, SO glad I didn't because it was an enjoyable, unique read with plenty of action and a great cast of characters.

One thing I learned quickly about Syl is that she is loyal, but bored with the life she is living. After an unfortunate series of events leads her to run from her home in the sewers she is taken away and soon realizes that her life will never be the same. Bastian is an android who works in the sex industry in New Elite. We learn about some of the hidden things he supports when he happens upon a human girl that looks like she's in need of saving. Little does he know, his life will never be the same.

I liked both of our main characters. Syl had a tough personality with a bit of fire mixed in. She has no trouble expressing what she's feeling or sticking up for what she thinks is right. Bastian was a bit reserved, but cares deeply about things he shouldn't being an android. I thought both characters worked well together and there was a definitely a spark, but the romance wasn't really a typical romance. I would like to see how it develops more in the next book though.

I really enjoyed ARTIFICIAL. The world was very unique and well built. The storyline was full of danger and suspense and the ending really threw me through a loop and made me want to read the next book in the series. I have no clue when book two will be available, but it will be on my wishlist as soon as I do.

I gave it 4/5 stars

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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Down the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

Down with the Shine
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
ISBN:   0062356046
ISBN13: 9780062356048
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Review Copy Source: Edelweiss
There's a reason they say "be careful what you wish for." Just ask the girl who wished to be thinner and ended up smaller than Thumbelina, or the boy who asked for "balls of steel" and got them-literally. And never wish for your party to go on forever. Not unless you want your guests to be struck down by debilitating pain if they try to leave.

These are things Lennie only learns when it's too late-after she brings some of her uncles' moonshine to a party and toasts to dozens of wishes, including a big wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was abducted and murdered six months ago.

Lennie didn't mean to cause so much chaos. She always thought her uncles' moonshine toast was just a tradition. And when they talked about carrying on their "important family legacy," she thought they meant good old-fashioned bootlegging.

As it turns out, they meant granting wishes. And Lennie has just granted more in one night than her uncles would grant in a year.

Now she has to find a way to undo the damage. But once granted, a wish can't be unmade...

I wasn't sure about DOWN THE SHINE when I decided to give it a try, but it ended up being a neat and unique story.

I really enjoyed the way that Lennie's magic worked. On top of her neat gift, Lennie was an interesting character and I found her pretty humorous. Lennie's Uncles really brought some more fun to the story. They are pretty crazy, but n a fun way. I enjoyed the overall storyline while Lennie learns how important it is to be careful what you wish for.

So why the 3 star rating? There was a LOT of weird going on. There is some cool mixed in, but there is just too many things that were way out there that made me roll my eyes or make a 'you've got to be kidding me' expression. There was some really odd dialogue is some situations that really didn't need to be in the story. The relationship between Lennie and Smith just didn't do anything for me. There was a lot of on again, off again and just not enough spark. 

All in all though, it was a neat read and I'm glad I gave it a shot.

I gave it 3 /5 stars

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN:  006238094X
ISBN13: 9780062380944
Genre: Fantasy
Review Copy Source: Edelweiss
The first in a thrilling new four-book fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima, set in the same world as her beloved Seven Realms series, a generation later.

Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?

Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told that the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.

Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.

Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series a generation later, this is a thrilling story of dark magic, chilling threats, and two unforgettable characters walking a knife-sharp line between life and death.

I really wanted to love FLAMECASTER, but really only liked it.

What I liked about FLAMECASTER: I enjoyed the fantasy of the story. There were dragons, wizards, healers, a dragon hybrid?—I think we will find out more about that in a later book. I liked most of the characters. They still had some mystery to them to be solved in a future book, but they had some good development in FLAMECASTER and I enjoyed following them. I enjoyed the world. I had no problem picturing the places visited thanks to the world building.

What I didn't like about FLAMECASTER: There were too many POVs. I would connect with one mind and then be thrust into another right when things were getting interesting. Too many changes. The story got a bit boring and slow in many spots and I found myself skimming to get to the good stuff. I think some of the skimming and boring parts came from not loving all the characters whose POVs were included. There is some MAJOR insta-love going on. If that wasn't bad enough there is some weird mystical like connection between them that really wasn't explained that well.

So the big question is, will I read the next book? I honestly don't know. I don't think I will search it out, but if it happens to fall into my lap for review I think I might give it a try.

I gave it 3/5 stars

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Guest Blog + Giveaway: Starr Valentine by Wende Dikec

UFI welcomes Author Wende Dikec. Thanks for Joining us!!

A great story always starts with two words.

What if?

People have often asked me how I came up with the story for my newest book, STARR VALENTINE. The answer starts with a warm, spring day and that most important question…what if?

Tennis season had just started for the boys’ team, and I was standing around, waiting for my son’s practice to end. I noticed a woman standing nearby with two girls by her side. I didn’t know her, but she caught my attention because she was remarkable. She had on brightly colored clothing in several contrasting patterns, a head full of curly hair divided into what looked like random ponytails, and a self-confidence that exuded itself in her booming voice and glowing, happy face.

She looked very different from the other mothers, in their yoga pants, designer t-shirts, and color-coordinated tennis shoes. Even the travel mugs they had clutched in their perfectly manicured fingers matched their outfits, but this woman didn’t match. She also didn’t quite fit.

Her clothing was tight, accentuating her generous figure. She didn’t have a tiny butt or toned arms or a flat tummy, but she didn’t seem to care. She loved the way she looked, and seemed to celebrate that fact with every article of her clothing, with every movement of her body.

Next to her stood a young girl who looked just like her, the same colorful clothing, wild hair, and extremely curvy shape. She was smiling, just like her mother, the spring sunshine kissing her face as she lifted it to the sky. They both looked so happy, so completely at ease. And then I noticed the other member of their little trio, a girl shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot as she eased away from the other two. I could feel her embarrassment, a palpable thing, as if she wanted to physically separate herself from them. She had on a very plain navy blue skirt. A white t-shirt. Straight, brown hair. A pretty girl, she looked very…normal next to the other two.

And then I heard the whisper of a story start to swirl around inside my brain. What if?

What if I was looking at a family? What if a mother had two daughters, one who looked just like her and one who was very different? What if the “different” daughter was pretty, normal, and popular, and felt ashamed of her mother and her older sister?

I lived overseas for six years of my life, and during that time, I discovered something interesting. Beauty is something open to interpretation. In Japan the nape of a woman’s neck is considered to be erotic, which is why geishas allow the back of their kimonos to gape, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of skin. It’s the equivalent of a show of cleavage in western culture.

After Japan, I travelled to Turkey and married my Turkish husband. Although Japan and Turkey share a linguistic connection (both are Ural Altay languages and have similar grammatical structures), culturally they are extreme opposites. The idea of beauty is very different in Turkey, too. Although women in Turkey don’t walk around in belly dancing costumes (they dress like everyone else in Europe), this old photo of the legendary belly dancer Princess Banu, does demonstrate one thing. Turks like a woman with curves.

In China small feet have always been coveted. In North Africa the ideal bride has a “bottom as big as the wedding table”. In some tribes in Burma and Thailand, long necks are beautiful, and women create this effect by wearing brass rings starting at age six. Rings are added every year until eventually their necks are incredibly long.

After thinking about all the different forms of beauty I’d seen around the world, I realized that our rather narrow standard in the States put a great deal of pressure on young girls. They are faced with impossible standards, and think that if they don’t fit within certain narrow parameters, they aren’t good enough.

What a sad, sad thing.

And so I wrote Starr Valentine, the story of a beautiful girl who finds out her parents are from another planet. When she moves there, she discovers the standard of beauty is different, and she isn’t pretty anymore.

What if that happened to you? What if you had to accept the way you looked, flaws and all? What if you were able to raise your face to the sun and smile, happy with your body and happy in your skin?

That would be beautiful indeed.

Wende Dikec has spent her life traveling the world, and collecting stories wherever she visited. She writes in several romance genres, and her books are quirky, light, and fun. Fluent in several languages and married to a man from Istanbul, Wende is a trekkie, a book hoarder, master of the Nespresso machine, and mother of three boys. A puppy named Capone is the most recent addition to her family, and she blogs about him as a way of maintaining what little sanity she has left.

Find Wendy and her books

Starr Valentine
Amazon BN Kobo iTunes ARe

What happens when the beautiful swan becomes the ugly duckling?

Starr Valentine has a perfect life in Middleton, Ohio. She was named captain of the cheer squad, her mother finally allowed her to get highlights, and the cutest boy in school asked her to homecoming. But everything comes crashing down when she finds out her parents are actually monarchs in exile from a mysterious planet called Vega. Starr doesn’t want to leave, but loves the idea of being a princess, and decides moving to an alien world might not be so bad. When she gets there, however, she discovers that something is terribly wrong.

Starr has always been the winner of the family, but now everyone is fawning over her chubby older sister, Astra. And everyone, even a handsome and annoying young duke named Julian, seems to hate her. That is when she realizes the awful truth. Astra is now the pretty one. Astra has all the friends. Astra gets all of the attention. And Starr Valentine, voted Miss Perfect, is now the ugly duckling. Her biggest fear is…will she be able to turn back into a swan, or is she doomed to be a loser forever?


We all met in the captain’s lounge just after the transport ship had safely landed. My father wore some sort of military uniform, and he was completely dashing, as always.
“Girls, you both look lovely.”
I smiled up at him. “So do you, Daddy,” I said, and he patted my cheek.
My mom fluttered up to us in a cacophony of lime green lace and feathers. A large gold medallion was pinned to her breast and she had on the crown she’d worn for the nightly news. She reached for our hands, tears swimming in her eyes.
“I have something for you,” she said, her voice trembling. Captain Augustus stood behind her, looking just as handsome as my father. He held open a wooden box. Inside were two small, yet perfect, tiaras.
I gasped. “Diamonds.”
“These are not your true crowns,” my mother explained. “Those went missing during the confusion when we were trying to escape. These are just a substitute until we can find something better.”
I couldn’t imagine something better. The tiaras seemed perfect. I leaned over slightly so my mom could slip it onto my head, glad I’d decided to wear my hair up in a French twist. The tiara was beautiful. I admired myself for a few minutes in the mirror before looking at Astra. She and my mother stood side by side, their hair a riot of dark curls, their dresses positively painful to the eyes, and I sighed. I really hoped they didn’t humiliate themselves too much at the ceremony. They looked like clowns from a circus performance.
My father, of course, didn’t seem to notice. He bowed and kissed my mother’s hand gallantly before linking it through his arm and leading her out the door. I could tell it was a very emotional moment for both of them. They were returning to the home they loved after being exiled for so many years. Even I could feel my throat tightening up.
Astra walked up and took my arm. “Are you ready?” she asked, and I nodded. It was time to face the music, or the Vegonians, as the case may be.
We stepped out into a warm, sultry evening on Vega. Lights had been set up all around the landing bay, and we followed my parents to an elevated platform near the ship. People waited as far as the eye could see, and as soon as my parents stepped up to the podium, the crowd roared.
I stood arm in arm with Astra, taking in the moment. The city of Celesta glittered in the light of the fading sun, just beyond the crowd of people assembled before us. It sparkled like it was made of glass. I could see what must have been the royal palace on one side of the city on top of a small hill, and it made me think of Aladdin’s castle, all gilt and white marble. I decided I could definitely get used to living there.
As I stared at the people in front of me, I started to notice something odd. The women here were not at all what I’d expected. Supposedly the most beautiful women in the universe, they all looked a lot like my mother and sister, with short, oddly shaped bodies and large behinds. They also dressed just like my mother and sister, in a riot of colors and patterns.
A quick assessment told me that I was the only pretty girl around, other than Maya, and definitely the best dressed. Maya had been forced by her parents to wear some sort of Vegonian monstrosity made out of a hot pink iridescent fabric. Torture. I, on the other hand, felt like an elegant swan dumped into the middle of a bunch of plump, gaudy, peacocks.
I heaved a sigh of relief. I’d been a little teeny tiny bit worried when I’d heard about how beautiful Vegonian women were. It was good to realize those rumors had been pure exaggeration. No one in this crowd could hold a candle to me.
Another quick look around told me that there wasn’t a single bad looking guy here. I was completely devoted to Adrian, of course, but I couldn’t help but admire and appreciate male beauty when I saw it. The boys were all works of art. It was as if I’d been dropped into a huge candy shop full of the most delicious boys I’d ever seen, and knew I could have my pick. Of course I would never cheat on Adrian, but it felt like a candy shop here, nonetheless.
My joy proved short-lived. None of the boys even looked at me. At first I thought that several of them stared at me, which made me happy, but soon realized it wasn’t me they stared at. They had their eyes locked on Astra with the same sort of enraptured expressions boys usually reserved for me.
A cold wave of shock crawled over my entire body. Boys never looked at Astra like that, especially when I stood right next to her. Something was very wrong here.
I smoothed my hair, which was perfect and didn’t need smoothing. I stuck out my chest and turned my body so they could see my best angle, but none of them even noticed me. Astra had suddenly become the center of attention.
My mother gave a very lovely and heartfelt speech, which I barely paid attention to. The crowd roared and screamed her name, but I hardly even heard it. People waved and cheered with tears streaming down their faces, but I felt numb to everything.
When we were introduced to various dignitaries, everyone said “lovely,” and “a vision,” when they met Astra. When they saw me, they looked a bit confused and then mumbled something boring like “nice to meet you.” Something very strange was going on, and I had to figure it out.
I searched the crowd for Adrian, but he was nowhere to be seen. One sexy, appreciative look from him might have been enough to restore some semblance of balance and order to my universe. But he wasn’t around and I’d been cast adrift in a sea of beautiful boys to whom I was invisible.
“Art thou okay, Princess Starr?” asked Captain Augustus. “Thou art pale.”
I blinked as I digested his words. The Vegonians spoke English, but a weird form of archaic Elizabethan English mixed with modern slang. The only people who had spoken like that on the transport ship were the captain and the crew. All of the Vegonians who been on Earth for the last fifteen years spoke standard, modern English, although I’d heard a few “thou’s” and “thee’s” begin to slip into the language of the older passengers, including my own parents.
“I’m fine. Thank you.”
As the captain bowed and turned away, I realized I wasn’t fine at all. I stared around at the sea of happy, glowing, faces, including those of my parents and my sister, and understood that suddenly, and without any explanation, I had become the outsider.
“Thou art in hell, Starr Valentine,” I murmured to myself.

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