Aicha Zoubair

Jessica Bell

Friday, January 31, 2014

Author Interview - Jennifer Cornet @J_Cornet

Image of Jennifer Cornet

When you get free time on the internet or you go to the library – what do you want to read about?

-I must confess, I read the stupidest stuff on the internet. I look at “Top 10” lists, anything with cute animals, fashion how-to’s, dumb videos, you name it. If it’s a waste of time, I’ve probably looked into it.

Do you find the time to read?

-I always find time to read. Even if it’s just for a few minutes before bed, I always make time for a good book.

Last book you purchased? Tell us about it.

-The last book I purchased was Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I read the first two and am not totally sold on why it’s been such a huge hit. I keep reading it hoping that my opinion changes. As of now, I’m 75% of the way into the last book, so I still have faith it could turn around and win me over. Here’s hoping the ending is amazing.

Who do you admire?

-My mom, Sandy. My mom was a stay-at-home mom my whole childhood. She did everything from cooking to throwing the best birthday parties. I still don’t know how she did it all. While she was busy raising three girls, she managed to run her own business from our basement and still make it to all of our soccer games and school functions. It’s amazing when I think about it. I wonder if she has a secret twin we never knew about…

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

-Personally, I like my sense of humor. It’s a bit dry and snarky, which can get me in trouble, but I like it.


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Genre - Urban Fantasy

Rating – PG - 13

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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

#Author R.J. Blain Shares A Publishing Horror Story @rj_blain #AmWriting #Fantasy

I’ve heard a lot of publishing horror stories from talking to other writers, but one stood out to me in particular. This didn’t happen to me, but I think the tale is worth retelling, just to make people aware that even the most reputable houses can offer really crappy contracts.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman. She was a newly-fledged author, without an agent. She approached A Very Big Publishing House with her manuscript. A few weeks later, she received a letter from the Very Big Publishing House with an offer of publication.
In her excitement, she signed the contract without negotiating with the help of an agent. She received a small advance for her novel, and a book deal. These two things are something many authors dream about and very few actually get.
At first, everything seemed okay. The writer had a novel out in the wilds. She was even earning sales. All looked well. The Very Big Publishing House was happy. She thought she was happy.
Then she received her royalty statement, and everything changed. According to her statement, she was making $0.05 per paperback sale.
That was what was written into her contract, and because she didn’t consult with an agent or other traditionally-published authors, she had no idea that this was not a normal royalty rate. An agent would have caught this and fought it tooth and nail, and experienced authors would have noticed the abnormally low (and horrific) royalty rate.
The moral of the story?
Never sign anything without doing your research first.
As a hopeful author, it is really tempting to go with the first contract you receive. Making the right decision about the first contract you sign can make a huge difference on your career. Advances have to either be paid out or repaid. In the case of this young author, in order for her to actually earn any royalties, she would have to sell 40,000 novels if her advance was $2,000, which is pretty close to the average starting advance.
Considering most new authors only sell a few hundred copies at a maximum, she’ll have to worry about other elements of her contract. For example, does her contract require her to repay the advance? Once a contract is signed, it is very, very difficult to have it changed, especially without the assistance of an agent or a contract lawyer.
Contracts, in other words, are serious business and need to be handled in a professional manner.
There are a few things that you should do before you sign a contract, be it with a publisher, an agent, or a print-on-demand service.
First, read the entire contract. Don’t skim it. Actually read every single word of the document. If you don’t understand something, ask someone who is in the know. Research standard royalty rates. Understand your obligations.
Second, don’t sign a contract right away. Sleep on it overnight.
If in doubt, and you have a contract in hand from a publishing house, approach agents on your short list. An agent may have more interest in you as a potential client if you’ve demonstrated that you have a viable novel.
In any case, don’t be afraid to ask advice from other published authors. If they don’t have an answer for you, they may know someone who does.
Good luck with your publishing ventures!

Kalen’s throne is his saddle, his crown is the dirt on his brow, and his right to rule is sealed in the blood that stains his hand. Few know the truth about the one-armed Rift King, and he prefers it that way. When people get too close to him, they either betray him or die. The Rift he rules cares nothing for the weak. More often than not, even the strong fail to survive.

When he’s abducted, his disappearance threatens to destroy his home, his people, and start a hopeless and bloody war. There are many who desire his death, and few who hope for his survival. With peace in the Six Kingdoms quickly crumbling, it falls on him to try to stop the conflict swiftly taking the entire continent by storm.

But something even more terrifying than the machinations of men has returned to the lands: The skreed. They haven’t been seen for a thousand years, and even the true power of the Rift King might not be enough to save his people — and the world — from destruction.

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Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG - 13
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

#Excerpt from The Sovereign Order of Monte Cristo by Holy Ghost Writer #AmReading #Books

To pass the time, the Count takes a nap in his quarters. He dreams of Haydee and Mercedes, and occasionally of Raymee. Just as he begins to rouse, the servant returns and tells Dantes they will be underway within the hour, at roughly one o’clock.
“Good. Now tell the cooks to prepare a feast tonight to celebrate our trip. I want pheasants roasted in plum sauce and plenty of fruits and wine. Spread the word we will start the feast at seven o’clock tonight!”
“Yes, sir,” the servant says as he leaves. He has never had a master such as Dantes before, and counts himself lucky to be part of the Count’s entourage.
Dantes wonders how he will deal with the loneliness on this voyage across the ocean.  He normally has a beloved friend as a traveling companion to share his days, but for the first time since he can remember he is completely alone. He wonders what he will do to while away the hours.
I know that after a short while at home, I have to go to America to search for a plantation as Mother Wisdom has shown to me, he thinks. I also know I have a long, tough job ahead, but I will have time to ponder the best ideas during this voyage. Maybe I can even gain some knowledge from my crew.
Eventually, his thoughts turn to his slaves. You could liken them to the slaves who suffer so deeply in America. How do his own servants feel? Is it wrong that they are bound to him, without any choice? He decides to address all of these questions with them, and hopes they answer honestly. He knows his most faithful servant, Ali, a black Nubian slave, will help him. As always, Ali is not far away and, when called, is at his master’s side in a matter of minutes.
Holy Ghost Writer
The Sovereign Order of Monte Cristo is a continuation of The Count of Monte Cristo (Book I), related through the voice of Sherlock Holmes and The Sultan of Monte Cristo (Book II). It includes exhilarating new adventures, characters, and ideas, carrying the reader past book I and II and into book III of an ever-expanding new series based on the classic.
Those who have already had the pleasure of reading The Sultan of Monte Cristo will certainly appreciate the unique way in which the Holy Ghost Writer has expanded the original story without the help of anyone (except perhaps from the ghosts of Dumas and Doyle).
In addition to comprising a 3rd sequel to The Count of Monte Cristo, The Sovereign Order of Monte Cristo serves as a prequel to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Action, Adventure
Rating – PG-15
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The Jonas Trust Deception by A.F.N. Clarke @AFNClarke

The Jonas Trust Deception

by AFN Clarke

AFN CLARKE is the author of 8 books, including the best selling memoir CONTACT, that was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film.  His latest novel, The Jonas Trust Deception, is a Thomas Gunn thriller and follows the success of The Orange Moon Affair.  Readers have called it “classy, complex and cunningly compelling” and a “powerful force in the thriller genre”.  In solving the mystery of an ongoing conspiracy involving his old friend Morgan, Thomas Gunn, ex-Special Forces, takes an action so shocking and bold, that even his team fear he’s lost his mind.  The question is, has he?  To get a taste of things to come, here’s an excerpt from the book.  And for more information visit or the Amazon Kindle store.

There is something so totally desolate about sitting in a prison cell staring at the blank grey walls that, unless you’ve experienced it, you’ll never understand. There is a finality and hopelessness that is almost beyond comprehension. A despair that sucks at your soul. My salvation was that I knew that my stay here was going to be short-lived, but what the future held was one big question mark. I had the distinct feeling somebody had put a ring in my nose and was leading on a mystery tour with more questions than answers.

Left alone with just the usual sounds of dissatisfied inmates, clinking keys and slamming doors for company, I thought back to the frantic last few days.

Confusion would be an apt description of my state of mind.

What facts could I scramble together?

Several dead bodies at Morgan’s ranch.

A small but ruthless Mexican Mafia gangbanger, with the unlikely nickname of ‘El Cobra Poco’, who seemed as if he could be a strange ally.

And the mysterious Robert Sutherland.

What other questions remained?

There were many, starting with who would have wanted to kill Morgan? Everything went back to my request for her to investigate the financial dealings of the Griffin Trust and its Chairman Ted Lieberman.

How was the Mexican Mafia involved if what Sutherland said about Morgan working for him was true?

I could just lie here all night long and create imaginary scenarios, but that wouldn’t supply any answers, so I closed my eyes and concentrated on emptying my mind.

Sleep was what I needed.
It must have been two hours after the jail cell lights went out, that the goons came for me. Dragged me off the bed and frog marched me down the corridor to the back of the jail and down narrow stairs to a basement garage without saying a word. There was a nondescript cream coloured painter’s van waiting with the rear doors open, and I was unceremoniously bundled inside.


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Genre – Thriller

Rating – PG-13

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Birth of an Assassin by Rik Stone @stone_rik

Image of Rik Stone
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
He’s been telling us for the last 90 years he wasn’t well, looks like he was right.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you live now?
I grew up in the slums of north east England and now live in a nice area in south-east England. And you’re right about influence, what I write is akin to my own experiences, albeit they are grossly exaggerated.
How did you develop your writing?
I guess you learn the most from the mistakes you make along the way, which means I must be pretty good by now.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Real life, but mostly good old imagination.
What marketing works for you?
Blog tours, I hope.
Birth of an Assassin
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Genre - Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Rating – R
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Defying Age with #Food by Freda Mooncotch @Kindleexpert #Free #eBook

Reclaim Your Health, Energy & Vitality! 
It's What You Eat, Not How Much You Exercise 

In a society that spends billions of dollars annually in seeking better health and appearance through pills, powders, drinks, hormones, exercise obsession, gym memberships, and medical drugs, Freda Mooncotch is making a very bold proclamation with the title of her new book Defying Age With Food: Reclaim Your Health, Energy & Vitality. It’s What You Eat, Not How Much You Exercise! Can we really defy the aging process with what most of us take for granted each day — our food? Freda says we most certainly can in fact dramatically slow our inevitable passage of life while attaining superior health and vitality.

The pages of her new release are not filled with theories, conjecture or speculations; they tell the riveting tale of a woman’s plight to regain her health. In describing her story, Freda literally runs the gauntlet of healing protocols from both the orthodox medical and alternative health fields. What the author accomplished in her success not only gave back her health and beauty, but fired a few heavy artillery rounds across the bows of a good number of our “sacred cows” such as excessive exercise, fad dieting, mega-dosing on supplements, and a pharmaceutical drug reliance that has forged the industrialized world.

This is a must read for anyone wishing to seriously upgrade their nutritional knowledge.

Media celebrity, Kathy Hart said:
“What an eye-opener! I learned more about the effects of food on our body from Freda and her book, Defying Age, than I’ve learned in months of interviewing health experts! Her passion, knowledge and energy are a true inspiration … and those pictures of her in the book are absolute proof of how the right diet can give you a rockin’ body”.

Randy Roach of Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors wrote:
“This is a story of tenacity where a strong determination saw Freda through a fight to reclaim a healthy mind and body while ridding herself of a number of addictions plaguing so much of our society.”

Along with her amazing story and nutritional revelations and tastefully done photos of Freda, this resourceful book also contains recipes that she promises will nourish one back to health, strength, and vitality.

Defying Age with Food by Freda Mooncotch
Rating – PG
Genre – Non-Fiction
4.7 (25 reviews)
Free until 28 January 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Forgotten Child by Lorhainne Eckhart @LEckhart

“Please sit down, Emily.” He extended out the flat of his hand, very much in control.

“Ah, thank you.” She perched on the edge of the soft leather seat across from a man who was too damn good to look at—a man obviously comfortable in his own skin.

Hardness set his jaw as he studied her. The tick of the wall clock seemed to echo in the silence, and Emily squirmed in her seat. Why was he looking at her like that? Maybe it was her outrageous entrance and he was wondering what kind of kook she was, whether he could entrust her with his child. Yes, that had to be it.

She swallowed hard. “I’m Emily Nelson; I talked to you yesterday on the phone about the job.”

He blinked before closing those exquisite eyes, as if he’d forgotten the reason she was here. When he opened them again, his hard judgmental expression seemed to have softened a bit.

Again he extended his large hand, taking hers in a firm grip. Just the touch of his solid calloused hand and the secure squeeze was enough to teeter her nerves back to that awkward woman at the door. She wondered what it would be like to have a man like this run his hands over you. She snatched her hand back before her face burned any brighter. Finally, he introduced himself. “The name’s Brad Friessen.” Emily kept quiet. He didn’t run on with his words. He must be a deep thinker, a doer. She could relate to that… but not to him. Her sly eyes glanced down at his left hand: no gold band, no white line, no wife or significant other. Or maybe he was one of those arrogant guys who wouldn’t wear a ring, a lady’s man. He had the looks and the attitude. Now was the time to ask about the woman who answered the phone when she called. Who was she?

“This is a working ranch I run, and I need a woman to look after my son. I’m old fashioned in my values. Children should be at home, not stuck in daycare. I’m looking for someone who’s comfortable in a kitchen and looking after children: a role that should come natural to a woman. I don’t want someone who’s got the phone stuck to their ear half the day. It’s a decent job and good pay; $500 a week, room and board, and includes all your meals.”

Her heart sank about the same time the bottom dropped out of her stomach. It was too good to be true. She wanted to cry. “But I… I have a little girl, I didn’t realize–”

His face hardened and he looked away. For some reason he was angry with her… no, furious. Emily didn’t know what to say when he let out a heavy sigh. He closed his eyes, rubbing his hand over the light brown shadow that appeared over his jaw. Then he faced her again, with those deep brown eyes now turned to steel. Emily saw that he could be a hard man.

Lorhainne Eckhart

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Genre – Contemporary Western Romance

Rating – PG

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Author Interview – Jade Kerrion @JadeKerrion

What are you most passionate about? What gets you fired up?

Inequality of opportunity is a topic that can always get me started. The outcomes of life will never be equal because there is so much that is personal (e.g., hard work, luck) that goes into the outcomes, but I’m a firm believer in equality of opportunity.

What makes you angry?

Angry is a bit of a stretch. Angry takes effort and I usually have more important things to spend my energy on. What definitely irritates me is when emotions are allowed to overrule logic. I especially detest illogical arguments.

Are you a city slicker or a country lover?

City slicker. I get twitchy if I can’t walk on pavement and asphalt. I do enjoy the country though, just not in large increments.

How do you think people perceive writers?

Before I started writing, I think many people perceive writers with some kind of awe, like it’s so hard to be a writer. It isn’t really. It’s like any other thing in life. You just have to sit down, do it, and commit to getting better at it.

What’s your next project?

Right now, I’m revising the first draft of my romantic-thriller set in the world of the Double Helix and fixing all the plot holes (and there are lots of them.)

Eternal Night ebook

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Genre - Fantasy, Paranormal

Rating – PG-13

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunspots by Karen S. Bell @KarenSueBell

* * *

As I lie in bed with these thoughts, I finally notice that Marina has quietly come back into my room and is sitting in the armchair watching me. She offers me some more medicine and I shake my head, “no.” I don’t want to sleep, and I don’t want to be awake. There is no comfort in anything. She says, “Come. We’ll have a nice cup of tea.” And I follow her downstairs and into the kitchen, zombie-like. I watch her with dull eyes that do not see her movements as she opens cupboards and finds a teapot, cups, and tea bags. I listen with deaf ears to her hum a Russian tune. I sit patiently with no patience sipping the tea I cannot taste. In silence, we sit. In silence, we speak without speaking. Marina’s life force wills me to feel her love.

And then she tells me her plan. “Maybe, I’ll stay with you awhile. Nothing back in Brooklyn right now.” I answer, mouthing words that I want to feel and yet cannot feel because I have closed myself off to the emotions of life, “Oh yes, please stay, Marina. I couldn’t bear all this alone.” I’m overwhelmed by her generosity, my loss, and the hidden truths lurking under the surface waiting to be revealed. Then the cordoned off person inside me breaks through all my controls again and unwonted tears erupt in a torrent of suppressed anguish. I am enveloped in her arms and her soothing voice whispers calming words as I try to regain the safety of stoicism.

Marina and I, sisters of a sort, sit together in my huge kitchen, in my huge house, sharing the huge hole in my heart as my tears pour down my face, flowing as if someone has turned on a spigot. Two small souls in a too-big kitchen of a too-big house silently wondering about the business problems of which his lawyer spoke using carefully chosen words somberly executed while his eyes burned with deep meaning. Problems that would have to be sorted out after I finished sitting “Shivah.” How can one cope with all of this? When will I wake up from this nightmare?

Eventually, it is dawn and I must sit on the wooden bench that signifies my mourning as memories cloud the present and I relive a life that is no more.


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Genre – Contemporary romance, Magical Realism

Rating – PG-13

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Absolution (The #Vampire Alliance) by Angela Louise McGurk @Angela_McGurk #Paranormal #TBR


Eve Blakethorn can barely remember what it was like to be unaware of the vampire world around her. Many years have passed since she met the stranger, the man who saved her life, gave her the world and promised her immortality. Unfortunately for Eve someone in power had not wanted her to have the world. Within days of her marriage her life is shattered. Everyone Eve cares for, vampire and human, is taken from her and she is left alone to fend for herself in a world she neither understands nor fits into.

How can she hope to survive her dark and lonely existence while still plagued by the horrors she witnessed when her husband died? How can she avoid becoming prey to the monster who stalks her footsteps, the devil she has long suspected to be the one who brought about her husband’s downfall?
Desperation drives her every move, leading her into the darkness where monsters wait. Can Eve discover the truth about how her world came to crumble and who was really responsible? Is there another stranger out there capable of bringing her some sense of peace? And just what is the vampire government, The Senate, hiding in the dark tunnels under the city?

Praise for Absolution*: 
“I enjoyed every chapter haven't stayed up so late for a book in so long I just couldn't put my phone down. Great book.”

“Wow! It's a nice change to read something in the vampire category with a more mature storyline. Your story was interesting and had me captivated from the beginning until the end. It was beautifully written, and falling in love with with the characters was easy. Great job absolutely loved it!”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed this book! I think this has been one of the most original, mature vampire stories I have ever read... The lives of your vampires are fully realised, their abilities are believable, and the twists in your story are sublime.”

*All comments are from readers.

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Genre - Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Rating – R
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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Along The Watchtower by David Litwack @DavidLitwack

The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. In less than a minute, I found myself in physical therapy. Like the rest of the hospital, the room was green-tile sterile, but someone had made an effort to cheer it up. Porcelain clowns lined the windowsill. Stuffed circus animals—lions and elephants and a family of monkeys—surrounded the rack that held the free weights. And a variety of fresh-cut flowers had been set in mugs in the cup holder for each exercise bicycle and treadmill. Later, I’d learn from Ralph that Becky kept them fresh, paying for them out of her own pocket. He said she’d deny it, but he’d seen her sneak in on more than one Monday morning with an armful.

Fresh-cut flowers. Mom used to get them every Monday as well, to brighten up the gingerbread house. But after Dad died, she started leaving them too long, not replacing them until they’d decayed so badly they smelled. After Joey died, she stopped buying them altogether.

The girl I met in the courtyard stood over a rolling aluminum table, organizing things I didn’t much like the look of. She was sufficiently absorbed that she didn’t notice us until Ralph called out.

“Afternoon, Becky. Brought you some fresh meat.”

She turned and grinned. “Always love a new victim.”

“Great. I’ll leave you two alone. Sounds like you need some privacy.”

After he left, she went back to finishing her preparations, making me wait. Finally, she came over and extended a hand.

“We already met, but let’s make it official. You’re Lt. Williams, but I can call you Freddie. I’m your worst nightmare, but you can call me Becky.”

I reached out and shook her hand. She didn’t seem scary.

“Ralph says you’re the best, that if anybody can bring me back, you can.”

“Ralph’s wrong. I’m just the guide. You’re going to do most of the work.”

“But are you the best?”

“Let’s say I haven’t lost one yet.”

“So I’ll be back on the basketball court in no time.”

Her grin vanished. She grabbed a chair, dragged it over and sat next to me.

“We’re going to be spending a lot of time together, Freddie, so we need to be straight with each other, right from the outset. My goal is to get you back to as normal a life as possible. If you work hard, I’ll have you out of that wheelchair and on crutches in a month. A month after that, maybe a cane. Beyond that, we’ll see. I make no promises other than to work as hard as you will.”

She stared at me. I stared back, captivated by my reflection in her gray-green eyes. She blinked first and went back to the rolling table.

. . . . . . .

She sat down again and undid the Velcro from my brace.

I winced. I hadn’t looked at my leg much since my peek the week before. The incision was less angry and the oozing had stopped. But what shocked me were the muscles. Where once I had bulges, now there were hollows. Not the leg of an athlete or soldier. Not the leg of a guy who might someday dunk. The leg of an invalid. Becky’s words rattled around in my brain. Crutches, then a cane. After that, we’ll see.

“It may not be pretty,” she said, as if she’d read my mind, “but it’s yours. Take a good look. Let it motivate you when you start making progress. And trust me, you will make progress.”

She squeezed some ointment from a tube onto her hands and rubbed them together.

“This will feel a little cold.”

She spread the ointment, swirling her fingertips over what had once been my quad. When she started the e-stim treatment, I felt the muscle spasm and contract involuntarily, a strange but not entirely unpleasant feeling. As she slid the wand around, humming along to its buzz, I noticed her touch more than the current.

She spoke out of nowhere. “I read the report. Says you have no family.”

I kept staring at her making figure-eights on my leg.

“Is that right?” she said.

I nodded.

“What happened?”

“I was born an orphan.”

She turned off the e-stim and looked up at me.

“Want to talk about it?”


“Ralph said you don’t talk much.”

“I talk when I want to. I don’t want to talk now.”

“Fine with me.” She resumed the treatment, hummed a few more bars, and then spoke without looking up. “Ralph was right about another thing.”

“What’s that?”

“You are a hard case.”

She was quiet after that, going about her job while I focused on the clowns at the windowsill. Every now and then, I’d sneak a look at her. A beautiful, happy optimist. But she’d never lived my life.

Crutches and a cane. After that, we’ll see. I was different from her—a realist. I knew what “we’ll see” meant. I’d need more than physical therapy to bring me back. I’d need a miracle.


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Genre – Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy

Rating – PG

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

#Free #NonFiction Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox @Kindleexpert

Showtime at the Apollo is the definitive history of Harlem’s world-famous showplace. Home to nearly every great black star including: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Richard Pryor, Gladys Knight, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Redd Foxx, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn and “Bojangles” Robinson, – the theater still hosts contemporary luminaries like The Roots, Mary J. Blige, Chris Rock, Wynton Marsalis and Whoopi Goldberg. Numerous performers relate their own poignant, exciting and sometimes hilarious stories. Some 150 photographs – many never before published – are interspersed throughout.

For African-Americans, the Apollo was the greatest black theater, and a special place to come of age. For whites – including Elvis Presley and the Beatles – the Apollo was as close as they could come to the reality of the black experience.

Still thriving, the Apollo has exerted an unprecedented influence upon popular culture. Since 1934, the Apollo has been at the forefront of African-American music, dance and comedy. It’s legendary Amateur Night spawned countless stars. Renowned for having the world’s toughest and most appreciative audience, it is the place where, as Dionne Warwick says in the book,

“Everyone gave their best performance".

"The essential book, mandatory for the most casual student as well as the most ardent fan." – David Hinckley, Daily News

"Ted Fox made the Apollo come alive for me again."– Jerry Wexler, co-founder of Atlantic Records

"Ted Fox mows through the 20th century's mind blowing cavalcade of segregation byproduct, inhumanity producing creative transcendence. The survivors of the era provide Fox with a front-line document." - Raoul Hernandez, Austin Chronicle

"A wonderful book." – Tavis Smiley, National Public Radio

"I could almost feel and taste the Apollo again." – Doc Pomus, classic songwriter

"The definitive history of Harlem’s (and black America’s) essential theater." – New York Magazine

"Showtime at the Apollo is not only a history of that wonderful theatre, but also a fascinating insider’s view of the Harlem music scene." – John Hammond, legendary producer and talent scout

TED FOX is also the author of In The Groove a collection of interviews with men who have shaped the music industry. He produces and manages Grammy-winner Buckwheat Zydeco and lives in upstate New York.

Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox
Rating – PG
Genre – Music History & Criticism
4.8 (7 reviews)
Free until 24 January 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Order of the Seers by Cerece Rennie Murphy @CereceRMurphy

Chapter 1: The End

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Liam was losing his patience. “Aw, come on! Are you serious? You can’t want to ride this thing again!”

Instead of answering her older brother, Lilli remained in her seat as the Ferris wheel conductor looked on expectantly, hand outstretched and waiting for another two tokens.

The way Lilli’s skinny arms hugged her book bag while she stared blankly at the pressed metal floor of their “Fairy Land Caboose” made it hard for Liam to stay angry. The sight of her looking so dejected softened him enough to give the conductor his fifth set of tokens in less than 45 minutes. Liam settled back into his seat just as the lap bar clamped down uncomfortably against his thighs.

“Lilli, say something. Why’d you drag me out here if you were just gonna sulk? I hate the carnival, you know that.”

“I know something… okay? Just… trust me. We have to stay here.” Her voice was so low he could barely hear her over the wind-up music that was blaring from the overhead speakers.

“Did Mom say something to you?”

Lilli responded to his question with silence and a barely discernable shake of her head back and forth. He tried again.

“Lilli! Did Mom…?”

“Yes,” she snapped.

They both fell silent again as Liam took in the latest weird thing of the day. Lilith Knight, or Lilli as she preferred to be called, had always been strange. Even when she was five, she could beat Liam at chess lazily, without even thinking about it. She would find things and give them to you before you asked for them. Before you, or even she, knew why. Up until recently, he thought she was just a freak. No biggie. All little sisters are like that, he told himself.

It was only in the past few months that his perception of her began to shift, after her prediction that he would catch his new girlfriend, Krista, kissing his teammate Lance in the locker room after their championship game. At the time, he’d brushed off her premonition as meddling. Krista wasn’t even his girlfriend and his team was 1-1 with the whole basketball season ahead of them.

He’d forgotten her warning completely until two months later when he ran back into the locker room after winning the championship to get the jacket he’d left behind and immediately smelled Krista’s perfume. When he found them, two thoughts overshadowed the scene unfolding in front of him. The first was that what they were doing wasn’t really “kissing,” though he could see how a sheltered thirteen-year-old would describe it that way. His second thought was that Lilli was right; she was exactly right. He was so stunned by Lilli’s accuracy that he didn’t even bother to disturb them, leaving his new ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to their business. From that moment, Liam understood that Lilli wasn’t just a freak, or more accurately, that she wasn’t a freak at all. She was special…gifted.

The sound of Lilli’s sniffling followed by the trembling of her body as she began to cry uncontrollably broke the long silence that had fallen between them. What the…, Liam half-mumbled as his mind swung from irritation to absolute bewilderment. Slowly and deliberately, Liam moved his palms down the front of his face as he fought the urge to shake the truth right out of her and end whatever this was. But he couldn’t. She’s so brittle already, he thought, without any idea as to why. So instead, he reached out to envelop his sister in his arms, trying to soothe her and comfort her from some unknown force.

“Lilli, it’s all right. I’m sorry, okay? Don’t cry. Just… tell me what’s going on. Why are we here?”

He tried to wait patiently, to rein in the confusion and frustration that had been piercing through the calm day he had planned for himself when he woke up that morning, as cool and carefree as any sixteen-year-old boy. It was Lilli who had dragged him out of the house before he could even wolf down his second bowl of Honeycombs. “Mom said you have to take me to the carnival. NOW!” She had demanded.

He had started to head upstairs to launch his appeal when his eye caught his mother’s note on the refrigerator door. “Take Lilli to the fair. NOW.—Love, Mom,” it read. He knew that meant his mother had left the house early; there was no appeal to be made. Begrudgingly, he slipped on his sneakers and grabbed the car keys, all the while wondering if Lilli was still too young to be left at the fair by herself.

His earlier thoughts of abandonment brought him back to his sister’s form beside him. Not knowing what else to do, Liam simply held her tight as her convulsing turned to trembling, and finally, back to stillness. At the top of the Ferris wheel, she finally spoke.

“It’s over now, we can go home,” she whispered. But as impatient for answers and a reprieve from big brother duties as he was, Liam knew that it was not over. The emotionless tone in her voice scared him. It made him want to stay on the Ferris wheel he’d been begging to get off of a few short minutes ago. As the music died down and their feet got closer to the ground, he suddenly felt conflicting urges to stay where he was and to rush home to his mother. As the ride came to a stop, he suddenly realized with profound certainty that this was much more than one of Lilli’s “episodes.” Something was very, very wrong.

When Liam pulled his father’s green 2002 Saab in front of their small brick house, everything seemed as it always did—quiet and predictable in their modest yet comfortable home. They had lived in a much bigger house before his father died, but Liam never minded sharing a bathroom with his mother and sister. All the toys and trinkets that had mattered to him when he was a child were rendered insignificant the moment his mother told him that his father would never come home again. As he got out of the car and began to take the front steps two at a time, he noticed that Lilli had stopped at the tree stump his mother had cut down the week before. Sitting down, her eyes remained on the ground. Just as his mouth formed the shape of a question, she spoke.

“No, you go. I can’t see it again.”

Liam didn’t stop to ask what she meant. Whatever she meant, he was sure it was worse than he thought. He tried to hold back the swell of fear in his chest as he ran to the front door, but his emotions spun out of control the moment he tested the front door knob and found it opened—easily. They never left the front door unlocked.

When he stepped into the house, he actually felt the life, the person he had been, rush past him and out the door as his eyes took in the overturned, splintered remains of their living room. It was a feeling he’d felt only once before, when his father died. But what made it worse, what made it permanent, was lying in the middle of the floor, with its contents thrown everywhere. It was his mother’s purse, which had not been there when he left that morning.

“Mom!” he shouted as he raced up the stairs to her room. “Mom. Please!” he shouted again, but no one answered. In every room he looked, it was the same - scattered clothes, broken mirrors, and silence—a deafening silence that rang louder than the sound of his own shallow breathing.

If he took the stairs at lightning speed to make it to the second floor, an age could have passed during his descent. The entire house consisted of three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a small open dining area that you could see clearly from the front door. As he walked down the steps, he knew there was only one room left to check. His mind was frozen on what to hope for as his hand reached the end of the banister. If she wasn’t in the kitchen, she might have been taken, but at least there was a chance she was still alive. If she was in the kitchen, it was unthinkable.

Lilli’s words came to him just as he rounded the doorway to the kitchen.

No, you go. I can’t see it again.”

He found his mother sitting with her feet planted on the floor, shoulder width apart, bright eyes open and cast to the ceiling, with a hole blown through the middle of her chest.

Liam braced himself against the door frame as he began to sob, the sounds seemingly emanating from a place far away from where he stood. He could not look away from the horrific image before him, the last image of his mother. He stood there with wide-eyed and tear-stained pain as the last measure of his youth drained from him like blood rushing from an open vein. When it was done, his body slid to the ground.

We are alone, he thought. There’s no one left.

Ever since his father had died, Liam lived in fear that one day he would lose her. Unable to tear his eyes away from her body, he could hear her vehemently denying that there would ever be a time when she wasn’t with them. “Never,” she would say.

Never, he thought, has finally come.

Though Liam had been staring at her body since he entered the kitchen, he had not seen the gun in her hand until he noticed a fly land on it. Years of training to keep the gun out of Lilli’s sight made him jump to his feet until he remembered that Lilli was still outside. He knew the gun well; it was his mother’s. She had taught him how to use it and to keep it out of Lilli’s reach when she was small.

At first his mind could not decipher the meaning of the scene before him. Was he meant to believe that she did this to herself? Why would the people who broke into their house ransack the place and then try to make it look like a suicide? But he couldn’t think straight, couldn’t figure out the logic or the answer to any of the crazy questions running through his mind. Why would she kill herself? He was sure the answers were obvious; he just wasn’t making sense. None of this was making any sense.

His confusion caused him to draw closer to her body. Kneeling down beside his mother, Liam took the lifeless hand that dangled at her side, the one that was not holding the gun. Though his eyes were still filled with tears, they were no longer breaking through the barriers of his lower lids. This momentary fortitude allowed him to have the courage to look directly into her face and see her open smile. The sight of it knocked him down and back into the base cabinets. She was smiling. She was smiling, he thought. She had known what was coming, and she was smiling.

Suddenly, he remembered his mother’s constant warning every time they went to the shooting range. “Don’t pick up a gun unless you mean to use it. There can be no hesitation. Do you understand me?” she would ask him sternly. Liam knew Jill Knight was skilled at using a firearm. If she had a chance to draw her gun, no one could take it from her. The implications made him immediately sick and angry before their full meaning could even register.

As if retching the contents of his stomach into the kitchen sink made room for clarity, he suddenly understood the reason behind her smile. She had killed herself. She had done this to herself, on purpose. He threw up again in a wave of protest at the notion that she would abandon them, even as the resentment of her betrayal took root. When he was done, he didn’t want to turn around, didn’t want to face her.

How could she do this? She wouldn’t do this. She promised.

Holding himself up at the sink, his thoughts turned to Lilli. Is this what she saw?, he wondered, fighting a new wave of nausea. No wonder she cried like that. No wonder… Rather than try to sort out the conflict of thoughts and emotions inside him, he decided to check on Lilli and make sure that she remained outside while he tried to figure out what to do next.

As he peered over his shoulder toward the doorway, his eyes caught the folded cuff of his mother’s sweatshirt, which was turquoise save for the blood, and a little corner of white paper that was peeking out. He knew his mother hid things in the cuff of her sleeve all the time; it was one of the many old lady habits Liam enjoyed teasing her about. He stared at the white edge of paper for a long time, warring with his own feelings of anger and grief before simple curiosity forced him to bend down and retrieve it. As his fingers curved around the edge of her sleeve, he could feel something flat and hard inside. When he rolled down her sleeve to get it, the key to his gym locker at school slipped out before he could fully unroll the note. When he did, it unleashed a new avalanche of questions upon heartbreak over questions.

In his mother’s tiny cursive handwriting, the note read, ‘Go now. Protect her.’ Liam felt a new level of understanding peel back in his mind as he read her note again. He began to see the very real possibility that perhaps his mother had not wanted to do this to herself. Perhaps she was forced by the same people who came into their home. The same people who she wanted him to protect Lilli from now. Liam grabbed the key off the floor before rising to meet his mother’s eyes one last time. They looked so different from how they had even two minutes ago and held so much he couldn’t understand, couldn’t handle right now. He closed his eyes and softly kissed her on her forehead before running out of his home for what he knew would be the last time.

Liam closed the front door behind him and turned to find Lilli sitting exactly where he left her twenty minutes before. He had only two objectives at that point - making sure that she was safe, and getting the hell out of there. As Liam scanned the neighborhood for anything suspicious, he took in the studied quiet of his block. There was no one on the street at 11:23 am on a beautiful Sunday morning. Where is everyone, he wondered, suddenly wary of the neighbors with whom he had grown up. How had no one heard the gunshot? Why didn’t anyone call the police?

The tremor in his neighbors’ curtains gave credence to the sensation that they were being watched, but no one would step outside to help them. This realization came over him with a bitterness that cast itself over all the sorrow he held inside. They had all been witnesses, he guessed, but they would no longer be friends.

Watching Liam as he crossed the small front lawn to reach her, Lilli was struck by how much older her brother looked compared to just a few hours ago. Though his straight black hair hung as sloppy and heavy as it always did over his blue-green eyes, there was none of the playful nonchalance that usually characterized her brother’s disposition. His hair was slick, spiked, and jet black with sweat, and it framed the angles of his face in a way that made her easy-going brother look cold and menacing. But it wasn’t a surprise, Lilli could see everything Liam felt on his face—anger, sorrow, betrayal, and a ferocity emerging that she did not understand. Seeing her brother so unlike himself made Lilli’s face crumple in agony as she trembled under the weight of her own choices.

“I’m sorry, Liam,” she begged in between sobs. “I know you’re mad at me for not telling you. Mom told me that if I did, they would kill you. She said I had to be strong enough… strong enough to save you.”

“Shhh, Lilli. It’s all right. We’ll talk about this later. Don’t cry. Shhh.”

Lilli knew Liam meant his response to be soothing, but his words came out cold, devoid of any life or feeling behind them. When she looked up to search his face and understand the hollowness in his voice, she found him scanning the street with the same look of fierceness. Something in the clenched set of his jaw made her finally understand. He was determined, to keep her alive, to protect the only family he had left.

“We need to go,” he said, as he led her to the car.


“I don’t know, Lilli. I don’t know.”

Order of the Seers

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Genre – Science Fiction

Rating – NC-17

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

#Fantasy #ReviewShare Echo in the Underworld by Brietta Tatro @BriettaTatro

Echo in the UnderworldEcho in the Underworld by Brietta Tatro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What were the main relationships explored in this book? There’s Persephone, Echo’s younger sister and it is easy to think that the core relationship of the book is family. To this reader, the core relationship was the one Echo had with herself. She needed to trust herself more and not second guess her abilities.

What I liked about the book … Echo is full of emotion and is fascinating from start to finish. She’s so easy to like and feel what she is feeling. Some things about the story are predictable and at some points it was amusing to see that every time Echo sort of had things figured, things would sort of go topsy turvy again. This is well-written book with an imaginative setting that deserves all the five-stars it can get.

Favourite character(s) … Echo is obvious but I also liked Samuel. Once again the author toys with the sibling angle (Agnes) in the story but I also feel these relationships were put in place to function as mirrors so readers are able to see weak versus strong and which one of the two siblings were prepared to risk more.

Disclosure - As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book from the author via Orangeberry Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tales of Mi7: The Kramski Case by J.J. Ward @MI7Ward

Chapter 1: Them Ol’ Paparazzi Blues
Kendal, Cumbria.

Someone called Jilly’s name, then the name of her band, Four Girls on Fire. At first, she thought she was dreaming – they’d just won the nation’s biggest talent show all over again, and from now on, life was going to be really amazing! - then her stomach turned over.

She disengaged herself from Rob, got out of bed and went to the window. Bloody hell, yes, down in the narrow cobbled street that fronted the guest-house. Paparazzi, sixteen or seventeen of them, all men, full of last night’s chip fat and strip-club testosterone, leering up at the net curtain like they could see through it. She swallowed.

The other girls had warned her about dating a member of a boy band, but only tongue in cheek. Twice the publicity, babes, sure you can handle that? She couldn’t help herself, though. Two years ago he’d been her hero and she’d been a nobody. Now they were equals.

“They’ve found us,” she told him.
Rob stretched and yawned. He discarded the bedclothes, picked up his boxer shorts and put his foot in one leg. “The press?”
“You don’t seem very bothered.”
“You were bloody brilliant last night, Jilly.”
“How did they know we were here?”
“I mean it. Outstanding.”
She realised she didn’t even like him much. “Did you tell them?”
“Wake up, Rob! It’s the press! I said the press have found us!”
He pulled on his boxers and put his arms round her. She disengaged herself, plonked herself at the dressing table and brushed her long brown hair, pulling halfway down as if it was full of knots. She was trying to stop herself shaking.
“Anyone could have told them,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t me, babe.”
“Put your clothes on. We’re leaving.”
“Why? They can’t get in here.”
She fished her bra from the pile of clothes on the floor and put it on. “We’re in the bloody Lake District, Rob. We’re supposed to be miles from anywhere. How did they find us so quickly?”
She looked round the room: the plaid curtains, the beds with valances, the 1920s lampshades, all the varnished wooden surfaces, so unlike the places she always stayed when she was touring with the girls. She’d fallen in love with it at first sight. She’d been drunk, true, but she’d never wanted to leave.
Rob pulled his socks and T-shirt on then looked at her. “You’re not frightened, are you?”
“They’ve probably got the place surrounded. And yes. Yes, I am frightened.”
“We’ll just call a taxi. We can be downstairs and in the car before anyone knows it.”
“I’m not bothered about us, Rob. I’m bothered about them.” Tights, tights, where were her bloody tights?
“Yeah, ‘them’. The photographers, journalists, whatever they call themselves. Them!”
He laughed. “First time anyone’s cared what happens to paparazzi. Anyway, what could happen to them?”
“Haven’t you been watching the news recently? Are you really that self-obsessed?”
“Hey, now - ”
“Four photographers shot dead in four weeks. Following Bobby Keynes, Zane Cruse, Mikey from Bad Lads Zero, Stallone Laine - ”
“No such thing as bad publicity, from what I hear. Not that you need it, girl, but it won’t hurt. Besides, they’re all douche bags, right?”
She pulled her dress on and smoothed the waist. She’d had enough now. She wanted out. Of everything. “I misjudged you, Rob. They’re still human beings.”
“No, they ain’t. Anyway, what are the chances?”
“I don’t want to think about it.”
He picked up the telephone. “Is that reception? Hi, yeah … Room …”
“Fourteen,” Jilly said.
“Fourteen. Could you get a taxi pronto for me and the shorty? And fetch us the bill for the room? … Yeah, we’re leaving … Yeah, all good things have to come to an end sooner or later … Yeah, we’re disappointed too.” He put his hand over the receiver. “She knows us,” he told Jilly. “It’ll be her that told the reporters.”
He put the phone down. “About fifteen minutes. Get your face on, gorgeous.”
“I’m not waiting for her taxi to come, Rob. Not if she’s with them. I’ll get my own. There’s a rank down the road. Come on.”
“What about your make-up?”
She rammed a pair of sunglasses on and picked up her travel bag. He followed her downstairs. They didn’t stop at reception. Rob reached into his wallet, pulled out four fifties and thrust them at Mrs whatever-she-was-called, the proprietress. “Keep the change.”
Suddenly, they were out on the street. Paparazzi to their right, shouting Jilly. Jilly take off your shades, Jilly flick your hair, Jilly wave, Jilly smile, Jilly stop, who’s that with Jilly, that’s Rob from Simply Boyz, Rob give us a smile, Rob –
She took off her glasses, grabbed Rob’s hand and turned left and accelerated. She almost changed direction. There was a loud crack and she jumped like she’d been hit.
Behind them, the paparazzi roared. One of them – a photographer, about twenty-five - lay prostrate and bloody. Four others photographed him, ten or twelve were in full flight, one was trying to get a signal on his mobile. No one was interested in Jilly and Rob any more.
Rob looked at them then at her. “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
Jilly started screaming.
Tales of MI7
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Genre – Espionage Thriller
Rating – PG
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