Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

5 out of 5 stars
*It's not often I have a Top Pick, but this one took the cake for creativity and wonderful story crafting.

For the back cover visit Courtney Milan's website- Unclaimed

Never was there such a tale of woe between a seasoned courtesan and her… virgin.
Sir Mark Turner is the epitome of masculinity. His vow of chastity until marriage has sparked men to hail him as a leading example to all society. Women see him as the ultimate prize in holy matrimony. Sir Mark simply refuses to subject to baser instincts, and seeks solace from his celebrity image amidst the quiet countryside of his childhood home. What he doesn’t expect is to feel desire beyond reason, but when Jessica Farley sashays her way into his sight that’s exactly what happens.

Yet, Jessica’s no virginal queen, and her mission is to remove all traces of chaste and innocence from Sir Mark’s character. Facing destitution Jessica was left with little choice but to accept the contract proposed by Mark’s enemies. All she has to do now is get him to let go of his lofty ideals, though she never thought the man behind the celebrity image would be a man she could easily come to love.

Hail to Milan for an absolute stunner. The entire story was completely unexpected. There is something special about a virginal hero pitted against the sinful courtesan. I found both Jessica and Mark endearing because neither one is exactly how they seem to be in the eyes of outsiders. To most Jessica is evil incarnate, and at times I could swear she should have been walking around with an ‘S’ sewn into her clothes. Though Jessica tries hard to pretend she is not affected by the way people treat her, internally she hates being the villain. She merely wants her own personal chance at happiness. At the same time happiness always has a price.

Mark on the other hand is considered a man incapable of impure thoughts—the chastity king, who only thinks of peace and serenity and doing well by his fellow man. I love how he’s built up by others in the book and set onto a pedestal. Honestly, I was waiting for him to fall, and at the same time hoping he wouldn’t succumb. Also Mark knows that he isn’t perfect and completely chaste, and he’s not afraid to admit it. Like in this one scene with Jessica:

“I don’t want you to cover yourself to withdraw my temptation.” And then—he wasn’t precisely sure why—he dropped his voice to a whisper. “More clothing would hardly signify in any event. I could not possibly forget a single curve of your skin, and when I take myself to bed tonight I doubt I will see anything else.”

She’d been reaching for his jacket. But she froze at that, her hand held rigidly an inch away. Her eyes widened.

“No,” he continued, “the reason I offer is not because I want to avoid my sins, but rather that I must own up to them.”

“Sins?” she repeated.

“We’ve already discussed my sins, Mrs. Farleigh. I am greedy. I am covetous. I am selfish. And one other thing.” He leaned in. “I absolutely do not share.”

“I—But I haven’t—We—“ Her eyes fell from his in discomfort.

“Just because I happen to be a virgin does not mean I am content to share my fantasies at night with other men.”

She exhaled slowly. “If you were any other man,” she said softly, “I would think that you had just threatened to seduce me.”

“Worse.” He leaned down, close enough to whisper. “I threatened to like you. “

That honest streak of Mark’s was just another character trait that made me swoon, and his tongue is sharp and sensual at all the right moments. The story has the other Turner brother’s from Milan’s series popping up, and several interesting characters that make the book complete. I found the scenarios and plot refreshing, different then typical historical novels. Surprises abound, romance formed from the barest of embraces—Unclaimed is a sure win!

*Additional review is available on The Season E-Zine

Blog award- You Love me! You really love me!

Okay, I'm finished channeling Sally Fields. It's a tough job, but someones got to do it. As you can tell I'm a little kooky today, more so then the usual kookiness. Things are heating up in the writing world. The Baker's Dozen contest is in full swing over at MSFV, Nanowrimo is only a couple of weeks away, and I'm itching to read more books.

Between all of that I got a Blog Award from Beckah-Rah! Shocking, I know. For my keeping on the blog skills are sorely lacking. I have about half a dozen posts in the 'Edit Posts' tab half written or half empty; depending on how you look at it. 

Back to the blog award *pretty picture time*
"The purpose of this award is to ask bloggers to identify their own blog posts in certain categories."
I admit the questions aren't easy. But I'll give it my best go anyway.


Most Beautiful Post: Thank you Dad! I'd have to say this post was my most beautiful. Because it stirred up a world of wonderful memories that I have of time spent with my father. Being an adult usually means you see your family less, and that's the truth. Plus, I made my dad blush.

Most Popular Post: DABWAHA Rap This post was all about inspiration. Sometimes I parody songs when I get a wild hair in my shirt. Surprisingly tons of people flocked to read my hilarious ode to the DAWAHA contest for 2011. For those who don't know DABWAHA is a contest for romance readers and works similar to March Madness, except we don't play games- instead people vote for their favorite books. It'll be coming around again in 2012 and I'll be sure to post lots of links and info.

Most Controversial Post: A bathroom emergency I would say this is my most controversial because I rarely post about my children on the blog. I typically keep to safer subjects and since no one commented on this post, I got a feeling either a. Too Taboo or b. Difficult to relate to. So controversial in the fact that I probably won't mention children again or at least the odd random things that happen.

Most Helpful Post: The Devil Inside I say this was my most helpful post because I believe it, whether others do or not is left up to the whispers in the wind. But two commenter's found it helpful.

Most Suprisingly Successful Post: Blog Joy Saturday This post had a ton of views, where subsequent posts of a similar nature rarely get that kind of traffic. I just assumed that originally people were interested and then interest dwindled... or I didn't mention the right ones so I stopped Blog Joy Sat. If people are interested maybe I'll resume.

Post that didn't get the attention it deserved: My Paranormal Secret This post was all big, showy, and I even included pictures. Plus this post was about peeling back another layer in the mystery of me. I like attention, but those who know me know that I am extremely shy. It's a double edged sword really, and I don't typically like to throw myself out in front visually. I'm like the wizard in The Wizard of Oz- I prefer to stay behind a curtain, while projecting the image I want people to see.

Post I'm most proud of: Review: Spoil of War by Phoenix Sullivan I know it's a review, but let me just say that I'm a reviewer writer and every time I read one of my reviews I'm shocked, proud, and elated. Not to sound egotistical, but honestly when I write a review my initial thought is that I wrote a few paragraphs of junk. Then I go back and read the review a day or week later and surprisingly I think the entire time, "Wow! I wrote that."

Now to pass along this tasty morsel to other blogs. I have to pick 3 winners. So I pick:
1. Confessions of an Animal Junkie
2. The Ink Diva Diaries
3. Two Left Shoes

And back to the grindstone....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Funday Monday- October 17, 2011

My life's been a little bit like a crack-addled hamster running a wheel. Regardless here I am trying to bring some fun to this wonderful Monday. My reason for the Monday being wonderful-- My car is running again. If you've ever lost your flex pipe and catalytic converter in one day then you'll know why I'm so joyous.

Now, to the top 4 (there was 5, but the website didn't work... grrr, people fix your sites).

4. NANOWRIMO- the countdown is on! Personally, I've never participated in the official Nanowrimo contest, but I do believe that National Writing Month should be a time for writers to diligently dedicate that 20 minutes to writing on their novel. I will say if you haven't checked out the site yet there are a ton of resources, even resources for young writers. It would be great to see writing classes at colleges and high schools get involved in something like this.


3. Concord Free Press- Like free books. Well, Concord Free Press has cornered the market. This particular publishing company allows you to get a free book when you donate to a local charity. Now, you can't pick and choose the book you want. They offer so many copies of a particular book and then switch to a new one. If you want to know the why? click here


2. Romance Bandits- This particular group of ladies has been featured on my Funday Monday posts before. I enjoyed their blog when it was stationed here in the blogger world. Now they've upgraded to their own website. Romance Bandits features 19 authors and 1 out of control rooster... a golden rooster that is.


1. Tee Fury- This is a great site. They carry exclusive, obscure, limited edition cheap t-shirt. They sell 1 t-shirt at a time for 24 hours only. Yep, that's right you can only buy each shirt for 24 hours. How's that for being one of few to have something unique and special. Today's shirt was from the movie Labyrinth, which is a personal favorite of mine. Who knows what's in store for tomorrow. I encourage you to check it out. P.S. the Labyrinth Tee is still available for another hour.

That wraps it. I'm working away on too many things to count, but know that there's more where this came from. *Side note- I have no idea where that came from.

Big thanks to @delilahsdawson, @janet_reid, and @annacampbelloz for assisting, unknowingly to this week's Funday Monday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum by Stephen Prosapio

Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum by Stephen Prosapio

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Back Cover: Zach Kalusky, host of Sci-D TV's Xavier Paranormal Investigators, is ecstatic when he’s given the opportunity to explore the most haunted site in Chicago for a Halloween Special: Rosewood Asylum, a place long made off-limits by the local government, plagued by decades of mysterious fires and unexplained events, and Zach’s dream investigation. But there's a catch: the network forces Xavier Paranormal Investigators to partner with the more dramatic—but less ethical—Demon Hunters. Now, Zach must fight for his show’s integrity and his team’s loyalty while trying to protect his own secret: that he, himself, is possessed.
As they investigate Rosewood Asylum, Zach’s team of college science geeks square off against the showy Goth freak Demon Hunters, and the two teams experience more tangible paranormal activity than either has previously documented—apparitions swirl on video footage, Electromagnetic Field meters zing, and the smell of peaches wafts from room 217. But are the occurrences authentic or staged? Even members of Zach’s team are not above suspicion of sabotage.

With the clock ticking towards the 48-hour investigation deadline, it becomes clear that Rosewood’s actual history differs vastly from the written record. To put the pieces together, Zach must–at the risk of his own life–induce an episode, while at the same time pushing his team to find answers. But once Rosewood’s secret is uncovered, an outburst of supernatural activity threatens the lives of all the investigators–not to mention the surrounding neighborhood. Now, science and entertainment must take a backseat…to survival.

Review: Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum is the first paranormal book I’ve read that has nothing to do with vampires, werewolves, and spirit romance. The story is 100% ghosts and paranormal investigation. There is action, thrills and chills, and a ghost tale that hooks into you from the first page.

Prosapio does a great job at portraying both investigation teams--the serious Xavier Paranormal Investigators, and the flamboyant, dramatic prone Demon Hunters. I liked the dueling team premise and found the plot intriguing. The characters were memorable, and all the players are realistic. I easily fell into stride among the XPI team, and held a little love to hate attitude towards the Demon Hunters. I was also pleasantly surprised by Prosapio’s ability to give an individual voice to each of his characters, as the cast is quite large.

The story is mainly told from Zach’s point of view, and I quickly admired this character’s tenacity, and ethical standards. As someone involved with the paranormal field, my views are of a scientific bent, and Zach’s own beliefs are similar. Even if you’re not involved in the paranormal though, Zach personality is likable but reflects a person who has experienced too much in a short time span. He’s definitely not the typical guy, and that’s not counting the fact that he’s possessed. The possession is only one of many interesting subplots to the story.

The historical aspect and the ghostly story is well thought out and developed. Prosapio is meticulous with crafting a location so real that I couldn’t believe the Rosewood Asylum depicted didn’t exist in reality. This level of diligence to the story made this more than a work of fiction in my mind, and I could easily relate to the situations and locations the characters were experiencing because of it. There is a ton of fine print (details), and I do recommend that readers pay close attention to the little things.

Overall, Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum is a book that I recommend to anyone with a love for paranormal or horror books. It's definitely a good pick with Halloween season being in full swing. With a sequel in the works, I’m anxious for the next haunting challenge that will encompass the XPI team.

Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. *Clicks the links to head straight there*
To learn more about Stephen you can find him on Facebook (Stephen Prosapio-novelist) or visit his website at http://www.prosapio.com/ 

Also, if you want to know more about this fantastic author and get inside his head a little then join me on my paranormal show The Beyond Natural this Wednesday night at 9pm CST on Paranormal TV Network . I'll be interviewing Stephen, about his book and much more.

Just a swallow- the proverbial glass

Today I feel like something out of Harlem Nights!
The scene: Della Reese is the rough talking madam Vera, who works Sugar Ray's (Richard Pryor) brothel. She's standing in the kitchen of Sugar Ray's house making sandwiches, goes to remove the orange juice from the refrigerator and all that's left is a swallow.
Her line: "Benny, you put this orange juice back in here, ain't nothin' left but a swallow!"

And that's my proverbial glass at the moment-- just a swallow. Usually I would say that it's half full, positive energy  to keep it that way. Then just as I'm turning the other cheek, ignoring another negative pitfall, something else occurs or happens to knock a little more juice out the glass.

Now I'm down to a swallow, and I don't have the will or desire today in adding anything else to the glass. My question for writer's: Do you feel like this? Do your characters?

I recently read a book where the protagonist was consistently being treated horribly, in some of the worse ways imaginable. The reasons for the protag's treatment were flighty at best, but somewhat realistic in the world we live. The problem was the story made me angry. It was a little too close to reality, and no matter what the protag did he couldn't fill that glass beyond a swallow.

In reality most characters are written with more than a swallow left in their glass. Who wants to read about someone experiencing horrible luck, with no relief in sight? No one, even I don't (as I pointed out). We want happy endings, a reprieve from the harsh true that the world tends to inflict on it's inhabitants; with more challenges versus successes.

I think it's okay for a character to run around with just a swallow, but not for long. Something has to lift that character's level in the glass, a love interest, a surprising windfall or a miraculous medical procedure that cures them of their ailments. So while I'm down here in Swallow-ville, wondering if things will ever turn around and examining my own thoughts for some truthful reflection, maybe I'll take the time to make sure some of my characters aren't down here with me. If they are then that needs to change...quick!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reading List for September 2011

Here's my reading list for September. I'll have to admit that September was an exceedingly busy month for me, outside of the typical reading and writing. I'm back on track though and October is already shaping up to be an exciting month with tons of books on my TBR pile.

1. An Angel for Christmas by Heather Graham*
2. Seduced by Grace by Jennifer Blake*
3. The Sexiest Vampire Alive by Kerrylynn Sparks*
4. Night Shine by Lynn Veihl*
5. Nighthawk by Beverly Jenkins*
6. Romancing the Countess by Ashley March
7. Heart of Steel by Meljean Brooks*
8. A Midnight Summer's Sin by Kasey Michaels*
9. What I Did for a Duke by Lavinia Kent*
10. Tender Betrayal by Jennifer Blake

*Review available or upcoming on The Season

Also, I know that my Independent Publishing Reviews never made it up, but it's been pushed back to October due to the obvious busy reasons I mentioned. Probably should have posted a delay post earlier... unfortunately that post wasn't in the hand the dealer dealt.

The Devil Inside

Undoubtedly, self publishing is the new hot topic. Everyone’s talking about it from Chuck Wendig over at TerribleMinds to a plethora of authors that are doing it, thinking of doing it, or against doing it. Damn…you would think I’m talking about some sort of new, taboo sexual act.
Truth is I’ll admit to thinking of self-pubbing at one point. The little demon jumped on my shoulder and said, “Yes you don’t need money stealing agents or publishers to tell you what to do. You can do everything on your own and it will be like flipping off the candy cane sucker that cut you off on the highway last week.” Yes, na├»ve. Again devils will say anything negative and horrendous to get me to agree, untruths are the best.

Problem is after a little more reading I realized I’m young in the writing world. I don’t know nearly enough about the pubbing biz to determine the path I want to take. In this case I agree with Chuck, focus on the writing, get nitty gritty with that 80k manuscript and choke the life out of the sucker until it decides to conform to your greatness. In my opinion, throw publishing ideas out the window. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to plan and plot your rise to the upper echelons of the author world, where everyone will love you and you’ll hit the big time when the King deigns to call your book a success or flopping piece of monkey poo; either way you’re successful… he mentioned you right?

But think of it this way: If the book isn’t ready then you can’t publish it. So why debate over the method you will use to gain success. Worry more about that word document that you need to remember to back up on a jump drive or you will likely lose it in the impending computer crash from the subliminal messages being programmed into this post. Learn about the biz in your blog readings, article pandering, etc. after the novel is complete/edited, and the query and synopsis are in fine figure form.

Let me say I didn’t take my own advice and I’m suffering for it now. Yes, suffering. I’ve got a handful of maybe not crap story plots and ideas, a novel still in need of editing, a crappy query, and a non-existent synopsis. Instead of honing my awful ability to write something cohesive without sounding like a rambling hyena, and turning words into the flowing poetry of angels in Victoria Secret wear, I’ve been reading blogs on pubbing, e-pubbing, agents, etc. I need to be reading more of this and this. Let’s talk GMC. Let’s talk coming up with a decent plot. Let’s not talk counting deviled eggs before mom makes them.

For all the allure of self-pubbing I think this is where some of us may have it backwards. We get into the blogging world and find tons of authors, agents, and writerly folk. During that researching binge we get lost and all we find to read is authors talking about the latest trend (self-pubbing) or authors who just landed the agent, trying to land the agent, or in the process of publishing with said agent. We hear about the business, but not enough about the craft. Maybe it’s my unfortunate tendency to check-in with the blogging world on the wrong day.

Bottom line if you don’t have something finished… I mean truly finished, like a porcelain toilet after the marines have taken toothbrushes, and scrubbed on hands and knees for 5 hours, to the point that I could eat a bowl of cereal out of the sumbitch; then don’t drop into the pubbing foray. Stick to honing, stroking, and cultivating your writing capabilities. If this blog proves anything it’s that I need to be doing just that instead of listening to the devil inside.