Happy Sunday, everyone! I’m over at Paranormal Romantics today talking about dreams. And music. Together. Hope you stop by!
Melina Markowitz is a Messenger, a go-between for paranormal forces and supernatural creatures. Problem is, when a girl’s a go-between, it’s hard not to get caught in the middle…
When ninjas steal an envelope from Melina, her search leads her to a Taoist temple in Old Sacramento, where the priests seem to practice Zen and the art of mayhem. Melina learns from the handsome ER doctor (and vampire) who gave her the envelope that it contained talismans created by the priests to control Chinese vampires, who are attacking gang members to spark a street war.
Although he may look more like a surfer than a cop, Ted Goodnight is dead serious about investigating the surge in gang violence. At every turn he runs into Melina, a very attractive-and very mysterious-young woman. Can Melina enlist his help to battle something he doesn’t even believe in without blowing her cover?
First off, I have to thank my lovely friend Patricia Rickrode for gifting me with this book. She had a great idea to give books away to everyone who commented on her blog (which I obviously did), reinforcing the importance of readers leaving reviews. I thought that was a creative way to share books while selflessly garnering reviews for other authors. Genius! If you don’t follow her blog, you should.
So…Don’t Kill the Messenger is the first book in the Messenger series, and for me, it was a mixed bag.
WHAT I LOVED…
THE UNIQUE WORLD. This is urban fantasy, but the concept was something fresh and fun. Our main character, Melina, basically died when she was 3 and returned…with Messenger responsibilities. This isn’t really explained, but that’s okay. It’s urban fantasy, after all. But a Messenger was a new and interesting concept I hadn’t read before, so that was intriguing. As a Messenger, Melina is tasked with making no-questions-asked deliveries between all the supernatural beings in the world. And that’s another thing I loved–the full range of supernaturals. There are vampires, werewolves, witches, imps, zombies, gnomes, everything! But if she doesn’t make the deliveries, she’s plagued with bad luck until the delivery is made (she learned that the hard way, of course).
MARTIAL ARTS. I’m a martial arts girl, so the fact Melina not only practiced martial arts but taught kids at her local dojo…I was IN. All the lingo and brand names and struggles that go along with it had me nodding. Oh yeah, I felt her pain.
NINJAS. ‘Nuff said, because…ninjas.
CHINESE VAMPIRE ZOMBIES. Seriously. How could you not want to read about Chinese vampire zombies? That went right along with the unique world Melina deals with on a daily basis.
ROMANCE: There was just enough romance to make me happy, and I was definitely on board with the person Melina chose to get a little frisky with, although she did have a few other options that probably would’ve been just as fun.
THE GANG: Once Melina’s individual friends from all her different worlds converged, I really liked them together. They were fun and they squabbled and made each other a little crazy, but their care for Melina made a common cause. I would’ve loved to see them together more on the pages.
WHAT I WASN’T SO CRAZY ABOUT
First person POV isn’t generally my favorite, but it won’t make me shy away from a book I really want to read. Melina’s introspection was often entertaining, not gonna lie. The problem for me, though, was there was just too much introspection and not a lot of action, especially at the beginning of the book. Even though I liked Melina’s character, I eventually got bored with her inner monologue, simply because there was so much of it. And maybe the problem was that Melina was mostly investigating by herself for a good portion of the book. Who else is she going to talk to, right?
I also didn’t feel completely immersed in the story until the end, and that was probably due to the combination of too much introspection and first person POV. Until the gang got together, I felt as if I was being told the story by Melina more than being in the story with her, which made it hard to enjoy the read as much as I wish I could have.
Melina’s job as a supernatural Messenger is initially what leads her to trouble in the story, but the side missions felt unconnected to the main plot line, which pulled me a little more out of the story. They were sorta fun, true, but didn’t tie in with figuring out how to stop the villain and his creatures.
All in all, Don’t Kill the Messenger had a lot going for it with a unique world, fun protagonist, and interesting supernatural creatures. It’s the first in a 3-book series, and I’m sure Melina will have a lot more opportunities to get into trouble.
Happy Sunday, people! I hope you join me over at Paranormal Romantics, where I’ll tell you a few fabulous reasons to keep on kissing…as if you need more reasons. 🙂
I’m so excited and beyond psyched to share with you a brand spankin’ new release by debut author Mia Celeste! Mia is one of my favorite writer people in the world, a lovely person and brilliant writer. Today, I’m sharing an interview with Mia, who was kind enough to answer all my snoopy questions, as well as an excerpt, and my review of Other Than. Isn’t the cover fabulous?
Gaslamp Fantasy/ Paranormal Historical Romance
It only takes one drink from the Water of Immortality to kill Evie Woods—halfway. Trapped in undead flesh, the world’s last skin-slider wakens on an island purgatory where a cursed spring bubbles with immortality, and zombie cannibals crave living flesh.
Her only hope of escape rests in the hands of the one man who would see her fail. Bound to her by cords stronger than death, Lord Victor Lowell is both the man of her dreams, and her darkest nightmares. Contrary and intractable, Victor preys on others to maintain his angelic charisma and preternatural prowess. Drawn to the compellingly gallant and vulnerable soul behind his mercurial humors, Evie can only watch as protecting her forces Victor to sacrifice yet more of himself to the ancient evil long tethered to his soul.
Trapped in an ever escalating war they can’t stop, Victor and Evie fight time for a cure, but as the long days pass blackness tears at Evie, ripping her thoughts from her one memory at a time. Victor will to do whatever it takes to prevent her from deteriorating into a rotting husk, even if it means dooming himself, but Evie won’t surrender his soul without a fight. Battle lines drawn, the soul mates resolve to find redemption or die trying.
Print Length: 309 pages * Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Publication Date: January 27, 2017
CJ: What inspired you to write such a unique, zombie-esque romance?
MIA: I was trying to think of a ginormous problem that would be big enough to require a novel’s worth of pages to solve. A fellow critique partner started a romance with the heroine dying. I thought that’s it! Too bad I didn’t think of that. When I found out that I’d actually read her story’s prologue, I started Other Than.
CJ: What scene from Other Than was the most fun to write?
MIA: My favorite scenes are the Howler attacks and the different ways the heroine and the hero manage to rescue each other.
CJ: Would you mind explaining to readers what a Howler is?
MIA: A Howler is a zombie who hungers for human flesh. As a Howler dines on more and more humans his/her cunning and strength grows.
CJ: Victor is a deliciously dark character—have you always leaned toward writing characters with an underlying darkness?
MIA: No, I’m actually fond of kind beta males. That said, Victor’s compelling, smoking hot and very redeemable. His behavior improves throughout the story.
CJ: Do you have a muse for Evie or Victor?
MIA: I used the Bronte sisters’ heroes, Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester, for inspiration.
CJ: If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
MIA: I’d like to have Green Lantern’s ring, so I could change things with my imagination.
CJ: Most life-changing moment?
MIA: My life-change wasn’t a moment. It was the two years I spent in Egypt as a Volunteer in Mission for the Presbyterian Church after I graduated from college that set my life. That’s where I discovered I loved teaching English.
CJ: What author do you love who doesn’t get a lot of hype?
CJ: Awwww, shucks. I’m blushing right now. 🙂
CJ: What’s your current WIP?
MIA: It’s a YA story where a villain changes sides.
CJ: What are you currently reading?
MIA: When a Monster Calls.
CJ: Which character of yours would you like to meet?
MIA: Elias Caster. He’s the top wizard in the Fairy Syndicate.
Favorites Flash Round:
Martial arts move: Kung Fu Hustle
Weapon: a flintlock pistol
Beverage: Diet Coke
Book boyfriend: Westley, the Dread Captain Roberts, from the Princess Bride
CJ: Excellent choice.
CJ: I knew there was a reason I liked you…
Comedy: People of Earth
Ice cream: Rainbow Sherbet
Movie: Star Wars (the first one)
Video Game: Fallout
CJ: In the absence of a new Assassin’s Creed this year, I discovered Dishonored 2. A fine replacement.
TV show: The Strain
Drink: Green Tea
Artist: Georgia O’Keeffe
Sports team: Does League of Legends count?
CJ: I say yes!
Guilty pleasure: Ghirardelli Chocolate
Thanks for answering my questions, Mia!
He materialized in the inky shadow.
Or rather his apparition did. His ghostly frame hovered before her, sinuous and lithe. Against his shadowed form, the string glimmered like liquid silver. Slowly he unwrapped her, tossing the spectral bands to the floor until a coil lay between him and her.
Something inside her chest fluttered. “You followed me.”
He nodded. With a slight shrug, he spread his hands. “You shouldn’t be alone.”
She wanted to turn, giving him her back, but her betraying gaze remained fixated upon him. When he paced around her, she waved him away. “Don’t.”
He caught her hand and placed an insubstantial kiss in her palm. “Let me help you…please.”
A gallant gesture, perhaps, but her skin-slider sensitivity noted the rigidity of his stance, the twitch along his jaw, and the slight narrowing of his eyes. How could he think of helping her when he was in so much pain?
Ordinarily, she might be grateful. Might…if loss hadn’t hollowed her.
She ripped her cooling flesh from his spectral arms. “I don’t deserve kindness.”
“Good.” He gave her a rakish smirk. “Because I’m not kind.”
She shook her head, biting back the emerging smile that had no place on her countenance. She couldn’t be civil, couldn’t risk the involvement. “I can’t go on like this—stuck betwixt life and death.”
“You must. Don’t you see, sweet dove? You’re beyond both. You’re immortal. Like me.”
There are so many things I love about Other Than, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s told in a point of view with an old fashioned flair – once the main character, Evie, said “zounds” I was in! Archaic words happen to be my catnip. To stay in that olden days thread, there was also an herbalist apothecary, and between him and Evie, you get some great natural remedies. Gardening, another of my favorite things (without the weeds, thank you very much). There’s an antihero, my favorite type of hero, and horror among the romance. I’m not into sugary-sweet most of the time, so yeah. I was invested. But beneath all those goodies, the underlying themes of the story are what killed me (in a good way). There’s the theme of redemption, that we’re never too lost or too fallen to be saved. There’s hope, that no matter how desperate and dark the world seems, you’re never alone. There’s conviction, that people are worth fighting for, no matter how unreachable they appear. These are things I can never be reminded of too often.
So, the story itself. Evie is a doctor’s daughter, and not only is she his apprentice, she and her father are skin-sliders, the last of their kind. In other words, they’re fey and can change their appearance at will. How cool is that? People have been getting sick and dying, and no one knows why. One day they’re fine, they come down with a fever, and bam. Dead. Only not. They wake up later in various states of zombiehood. And Evie is the latest victim. With her fey nature, Evie isn’t brain dead, nor is she exactly living, stuck in a limbo half-life. Just like our antihero, Lord Victor Lowell. She wakes up in a coffin on a ship bound to the sinister Lowell Island, somehow alive, and somehow mysteriously bonded to Victor. The sickness, the death, and her bond to Victor all seem connected, but Evie doesn’t know how.
Lowell Island is rumored to be filled with wild cannibals and evil magic, and the truth isn’t far off. The Lowell family rules the island and those unfortunate souls who die from the uncurable sickness only to wake up as zombies are brought to the island to work the plantation until a remedy is discovered by the gentle, honorable, hardworking island physician, Jessup. But the walls around the residence raise big questions, as do the bloodcurdling howls that echo beyond the walls, the flagging people serving the estate, and the malevolent statue overseeing them all. But once Evie meets Victor, the line between right and wrong is smudged in a big way. He’s traded part of his soul for a dark magic that sustains him, and only Evie can save him, a hard task since she doesn’t even know how to save herself.
This isn’t a sweet romance by any stretch. There are glimpses into the darkest part of human nature. There are moments that make you shudder (zombies can do that…although I assure you the romance scenes contain no decaying body parts). There are moments that make you despair for everyone on the island. Good seems to fail when everything looks darkest. But the very end? Sweet indeed. If you’re looking for a unique tale in a dystopian setting unlike any other, characters that scratch and claw to survive and save each other, I hope you give Other Than a shot.
Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English teachers, so it was no surprise when she chose to pursue both careers. She grew up watching horror movies and reading romances. To her, the two genres go together like salty and sweet in kettle corn.
I’m absolutely thrilled to share with you the newest read from Lisa T. Cresswell. She writes beautiful, heartfelt YA with a diverse flavor, and if you haven’t read Hush Puppy yet, I definitely recommend it. Crawdad is on my TBR list now…and hey! There’s a giveaway too. Win-win!
For the whole month of January, my new contemporary young adult novel Crawdad, will be featured on the blogs of some of my besties – authors and book bloggers who support the readers and writers of diverse YA – and I couldn’t be more pleased. I hope you can visit them all and enter the giveaway.
Here’s the schedule:
~About the Book~
Seventeen-year-old Jamil Ramos grew up on Alabama’s Gulf Coast believing his mom, Loretta, was his only living relative. She put a trumpet in his hands as a toddler and sparked his love of jazz. But when Loretta drops a bomb on Jamil from her deathbed- she’s not his mama and his daddy is still alive, living in Charleston, S.C. – his world is turned upside down. Now, with the only mama he’s ever known gone and the Loyola University trumpet audition less than a week away, Jamil has trouble feeling his music. When his band teacher tells him to get it together, Jamil decides to hitchhike to South Carolina over to find his father and get his questions answered. All he has is a name –Leon Ramos. Jamil relies on the kindness of the strangers he meets-a gay teen kicked out of his home, a runaway prostitute, and a street musician-as he makes his way across Florida and Georgia trying to avoid the cops along the way. But when Jamil is robbed of his most prized possession, his trumpet, his plans go anywhere but where he’d hoped. That trumpet was supposed to be his ticket for a scholarship, the only way to college his mama could give him. Lost and alone without it, Jamil wonders if finding his father is worth risking his future.
Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m over at Paranormal Romantics today talking about the magical effects of music. Swing by and say hi!
Happy Tuesday, people! I am SOOOOO psyched to share with you the new release from my writer buddy Georgia Lyn Hunter. It’s the first in her contemporary romance Players to Men series, and you don’t want to miss it. Trust me on this. I got to help out with the initial draft and, like all of Georgia’s stories, this one seriously smokes. PLUS, it’s on a special release sale for only ninety nine pennies. If you’re not convinced by the cover alone, there’s also an excerpt below to tickle your temptation. What are you waiting for? Go get it! 🙂
When the fairy tale life you believed in falls apart, there is nothing else left…
Or so I thought, until Trouble, wrapped in one hunky body and a sinful smile promising untold pleasure of the carnal kind, lands on my doorstep. Despite what my body demands or the fact that I’m irresistibly drawn to him, I’d been burned too deeply to dare try again. Besides, Max Meade-Sinclair is my younger sister’s best friend—and totally off-limits.
Ila Logan’s coolly dismissive manner captures and challenges me from the moment our paths cross. What I want, I usually get. A little thing like age isn’t going to stop me. Neither are the men who disappear into her secluded room. However, she proves a difficult opponent who leaves me falling for her a little more at each encounter.
This tempestuous woman is mine, but to win her, I must dig deeper, and show her that beneath my brawling, player facade exists a man who would go to the ends of the earth to make her happy.
But surviving my own dark past may just destroy the fragile bond growing between us…
Special release price: $0.99
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Players to Men #1
Bile crept up my throat as pain churned in my head. Yet it didn’t stop me from chugging back more of my beer, searching for oblivion. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at the bottom of the bottle. The din of the place grew, competing with the pounding in my skull. I squeezed my eyes shut.
“Lights off!” someone shouted.
Christ. I winced, the yell reverberating in my head as total darkness enclosed me in its stifling hold. Slouching lower in the armchair, I opened my eyes and squinted at the tiny, flickering flames casting an eerie glow over several grinning faces.
Damn idiots! Just how many candles had they stuck on the cake? Because it sure looked like it could light up a small town.
“Happy twenty-first, Max!”
My head protested the loud chorus viciously. Twenty-one, and I felt a hundred. As if I’d lived a lifetime.
“Blow ‘em out. Make a wish.” Jack, the bastard—and my best friend since the crib—gave me a crooked grin. Near him, War, our other buddy, lifted his beer in cheers, then guzzled the thing down.
Jack just had to use my birthday as a reason to party and celebrate my return to civilization after my hiatus in the “wilds” as he called Peru.
Feeling as if my body weighed a ton, I pushed to my feet and crossed to the table in the dining room of the house I shared with Jack, each step jarring my throbbing head. I blew the candles once, twice…three friggin’ times before the flames hissed out.
The noise in the room ratcheted up with whoops and cheers. Slaps resounded, pelting my back, accompanied by well wishes as I headed to where I’d dropped my tote near the front door when I’d walked in a few hours earlier. I needed the relief it held. A blonde lunged at me, and I hit the wall like a bumbling drunk.
“Happy birthday, Max.” She hiccupped, her hands wandering over my chest. Her mouth slid over mine. She tasted of liquor and pizza.
My stomach revolted violently. The beer I’d swallowed backtracked up my throat. “Get off me—”
She flashed me a drunken grin. I shoved away before I hurled on her and lurched in the opposite direction toward the bathroom. I slammed inside, just in time to embrace the porcelain god for several long minutes.
Feeling as if I’d puked my guts, along with the contents of my stomach, I collapsed against the wall, mouth vile and my brain looking for ways to escape the pressure in my skull. I rubbed my temples and prayed for nothingness.
Christ, I hated these fucking headaches.
“Damn, Max, I didn’t realize you were so shit-faced.” Jack’s voice came from a distance. I ignored him, didn’t care what he thought or bother to correct him, really wishing I were drunk.
“Come on, man, let’s get you out of here.” He grabbed me. I was no lightweight. At six foot three, I stood an inch taller than him, but he hauled me up with little effort.
I pushed him away and shuffled for the basin, rinsed my mouth, and caught a glimpse of my reflection. Red-rimmed eyes, waxy-looking skin, and a bisected left eyebrow, the scar giving me a sinister air. For the rest of my life, the latter would serve as a reminder of the horror I was responsible for, the blood on my hands.
I’ve been creating stories from the moment I could string two words together. No matter the tale, it always has romance woven through them. Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic.
When I’m not writing or plotting new books, I like to read, travel, painting, or troll flea markets where I usually buy things I might never actually use because they’re so pretty.
After working in a few jobs all art related, a chosen career as a fashion designer, then an art teacher, I finally found my passion four years ago: writing. There really is no other job I’d rather do.
Oh, and I hail from the beautiful country of South Africa, and currently live in the Middle East.