Book Blast: 3 Charity Anthologies, Edited by Mia Darien

Three Anthologies to Support Three Great Causes 

Publication Date: October 4, 2013

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Charity: Exotic Feline Rescue Center

What is it about the tiger that so captivates? Or about the jaguar that enchants? Why are we so drawn to the lethal grace of the large feline predators of the world?Get ready to purr, growl and roar along with six paranormal romance authors in this anthology of love and shapeshifting kitties. After reading these six unique tales, from the sexy to the sweet, you’ll be guaranteed to be saying… Here, Kitty Kitty…

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In ‘His Jaguar Princess’ by A. Star, jaguar shifter Selene Peters can’t deny her feelings for the tycoon Lucas King. Somehow, he’s penetrated her barriers and become more than just a client, but loving a human is dangerous and she fears her past repeating itself. Could he help her overcome the past or will she sacrifice her happiness and succumb to it? Not if he has anything to say about it…

In ‘In Our Nature’ by Jessica Nicholls, when Mira’s privacy and independence are threatened, she can be very nasty. Daniel is an expert on American mountain lions. His assistance is requested after an ‘incident’ on Mira’s front lawn. When the two meet, they recognise each other in more than one way.

In ‘Divine Passage’ by Dariel Raye, Kimani, a breeder with the power to preserve the human race, must depend on her guardian, Ahkil, a black panther shifter with more than one reason to distrust humans, but his secrets could change the course of her life forever.

In ‘The Distance Between’ by Mia Darien, she’s traveled thousands of miles, looking for a safe place. He’s brought her thousands of miles, looking to not be lonely any more. But they both have secrets. Can they bridge the distance between, and find what they’re looking for in each other?

In ‘Hannah’s Fate’ by Abigail Owen, cougar shifters have allied into groups, together in a rocky alliance to protect themselves against other shifters. Hannah Keller becomes the targeted Mate for Kyle Carstairs, the treacherous soon-to-be Alpha of another group. Meanwhile, Nick Jensen, her childhood hero and longtime secret crush, has returned home with hopes of claiming Hannah for his own. But will he be in time to rescue her from the Carstairs’s schemes?

In ‘Full Moon’ by B. R. Kingsolver, the full moon can get a girl stirred up, especially with a handsome cowboy paying her way too much attention. If it wasn’t for those damned werewolves causing trouble and getting in the way…



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Publication Date: May 10, 2014

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Charity: American Red Cross

Romance can be found among the darkest of times. In this anthology, you’ll find four tales of sweet romance about those who dedicate their time, and sometimes even their lives, to helping others. 100% of the proceeds go to the American Red Cross.
“Cross My Heart” by Abigail Owen
“A Healing Touch” by Jessica Nicholls
“Lesson Learned” by Crystel G. Smith
“Hope” by Mia Darien
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Publication Date: August 1, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy

Charity: Wounded Warrior Project

Science Fiction and Fantasy, two genres that are both unalike and inextricably entwined, stretching the imagination to the expansive boundaries of time, space, and magic. These boundaries are often filled with warriors and war, fights and causes worth fighting for, and that’s what you’ll find in this anthology.
From fighting aliens in space to demons in a world of magic, you’ll find many stories to suit your starship’s entertainment collection or your favorite bard at the local tavern…or just your imagination here and now. Sit back and enjoy twelve stories from authors both familiar and new!
100% of the proceeds to be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.
“SARAH” by Lee Pletzers
“The Summoned Rise of the Phantom Knights” by Kenny Emmanuel
“Border Patrol” by BR Kingsolver
“The Twelve” by Mia Darien
“Ghosts” by Christi Rigby
“Outside the Walls” by A. L. Butcher & Diana L. Wicker
“My Brother’s Keeper” by Raphyel M. Jordan
“With Our Own Blood” by Jessica Nicholls
“The Connection” by Crystal G. Smith
“A Fly on the Wall” by Chantal Boudreau
“Slacker” by Doug Dandridge
“The Light Bless Thee and Keep Thee” by Mason Darien
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Losing Heart by Donna Brown

Losing Heart by Donna Brown(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

“I hate you. I hate you with all of Sylvia’s heart.”

Helen has waited for months for the heart that will save her life. After reaching out to the grieving mother of her donor heart, Helen realises that a second chance comes at a price. The price, she soon realises, is much steeper than she’d ever have chosen to pay.

There’s more than one way to break a heart. There’s more than one way to destroy a life…

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through Masquerade Tours’ Reader Round-Up in exchange for an honest review.]

I didn’t even really read the blurb all that closely before I requested the book, to be honest.  So the events of the book were somewhat of a shock for me.  A pleasant shock, as it turns out.

Helen is an amazing character.  At first she learns that she’s dying of congestive heart failure when she’s still so young, only in her 40s.  Then, thankfully, she gets a donor heart from a young woman killed in a car accident and thus gets a new lease on life.  Of course she feels guilty that she thrives from another family’s suffering but she is very eager for life to go on.  Except that everyone around her really is acting weird.  Her husband calls her an ingrate for being tired while recovering instead of going around and volunteering to house the homeless and be perpetually cheerful 24/7.  The donor’s only living family, her mother, contacts Helen and at first seems rather nice but starts to reveal a darker side involving some pretty interesting mind games.  And of course Helen starts an affair with a doctor, who turns out to be a really awesome guy but feels guilty that she’s immediately doing a ‘bad’ thing upon getting a new lease on life.

So Helen is going through all of these crazy emotions at once and as a reader it was absolutely fascinating.  The fact that she didn’t immediately turn into a saint but rather continued living as a normal person was far more believable and her guilt over her affair was palpable but we also got to see her happy, which she clearly isn’t with her husband.  It’s kind of jarring to see how her new boyfriend treats her in comparison to her husband, who seems increasingly distant and critical of Helen.  Especially when Sylvia’s mother is around as a living reminder of the heartbreak that gave Helen a new lease on life.

The plot is amazing.  I think you can kind of guess the gist of it from the blurb but I have to say that the actual plot is far better than the blurb really hints at.  I can’t really describe it all that much without spoiling the whole thing but let’s just say that not everyone is as they appear in Losing Heart.  Donna Brown’s characters are people and that means they are flawed; sometimes they lie, cheat or cover important things up in order to get what they want.  Sometimes they have misunderstandings with their friends and/or partners that lead to disaster.  Sometimes they put their needs ahead of the needs of everyone else.  So while the plot is fast-paced because the book is so short, it really is character-driven and very realistic.  The ending is sort of predictable but also sort of surprising.

And no, that last sentence really won’t make sense until you read the book.  So go and pick up Losing Heart!  It’s definitely worth your while.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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*Not available.

Bursting the Atmosphere: What Happens When Rain Falls Up by Robert Ben Mitchell

Bursting the Atmosphere by Robert Ben Mitchell(Cover picture courtesy of Amazon.)

Nostradamus and the Bible foretell the end of times. In school we learn that five billion years from now the sun engulfs and incinerates the Earth. Recent headlines say asteroid 1950 DA might wipe out all life on Earth if it collides with us in 2880. But what if none of this matters? What if none of this can harm us, because what if all life is gone from Earth before the year 2100? Using both thermodynamics and the Ideal Gas Law, Robert Ben Mitchell explains how global phase change (not global warming) is the ever present danger that might very well be the end of the world as we know it.

Author’s Note: “For those who seem a little intimidated at this point by words like thermodynamics and phase change, do not run to find your high school or college physics books just yet. In some ways, I fully understand your trepidation in engaging in an ivory-tower discussion about such a lofty topic. That fear notwithstanding, I was once told by a professor of mine that if you can’t explain your ideas at eleven o’clock in the evening to the graveyard shift waitress who is serving you coffee at an all-night diner, then no one is ever going to understand what you are talking about. So drop your books and pick up your aprons, because I am going to try and make this explanation easy to understand.”

[Full disclosure: I accepted a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Global warming, climate change, global phase change…call it what you will, normally I would not touch the topic with a ten foot pole on my blog.  In part because I don’t have a good background in environmental science and also because despite the overwhelming evidence that it does exist, the climate change controversy invites some heated debate to put it mildly.  I honestly didn’t think it was worth it until I got a review request from Robert Ben Mitchell asking me to review this relatively simple yet scientific explanation of why we should all be a little more worried than we are about climate change.  I was a little reluctant but I decided to give it a go.

As promised in the Author’s Note in the blurb, this is not an overly complicated highly technical book.  Your average high school student could read this book and understand the science behind it quite well because the author is able to explain the science in a more accessible way.  He doesn’t dumb things down so much as use regular language to explain the concepts behind climate change and add in statistics that present to us the fact that it is a clear danger to human life as we know it.  Even if you have little or no science background I think you’ll find his explanations very easy to understand and at the end of every chapter there’s a bullet point summary of all of the concepts discussed so the information sinks in much better.  Overall it simplifies things without talking down to readers but there are some times where I did feel like I was being spoken to like a child.  That creeps into the information rarely but it definitely is there.

One of the things I liked very much about Bursting the Atmosphere is that the flow is very logical, organized and none of the sections are overly long.  This is the kind of book where you could read a section when you have fifteen minutes to spare at lunchtime and then go back into it at dinner without getting confused.  Robert Ben Mitchell organizes things in a logical fashion: first he talks about the controversy surrounding climate change, then he goes into the science of it and then he uses the science he just explained to extrapolate his findings to what might happen if something isn’t done soon.  He does point out that life on earth will be extremely difficult for millions if not billions of people but it’s never done in a sensational 24 hours news like manner.  That doesn’t make it any less terrifying, however.

Really, if you’re looking to understand the science behind climate change and really don’t have a strong science background, this is the book for you.  It’s not overly data heavy but there are places where you can fact-check everything the author presents and he cites his sources quite well.  It’s a well-written analysis of climate change and it is definitely accessible to the average person.  Sometimes he talks down to his readers but those instances are rare and don’t really detract from the arguments and data he presents.  All in all, it’s a pretty good if terrifying look at the possible future of our planet.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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Voracious by Mia and Mason Darien

Voracious by Mia and Mason Darien(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Sometimes, life doesn’t begin until after you’re dead.

Days stretch out in a series of predictable steps. A to B to C to A. Work. Friends. Life. But for some people, it’s not enough. It’s not enough for D. Possessed of a ravenous hunger for more, he’s at a loss for how to find it.

Until he meets Cielle. She’s everything he’s looking for: new and exciting.

And a vampire, which he’s less crazy about.

But when “new and exciting” Turns him, D is forced into an undead life he never anticipated. Trying to adjust to this new existence is hard enough, but he’s about to get more than he ever bargained for.

Will it be enough to sate his hunger?

[Full disclosure: I obtained a free ebook through the blog tour for the series but was under no obligation to review it.  As always, this review is honest.]

Sometimes collaborations between authors work, sometimes not.  Sometimes authors collaborate with their spouses to write a book just like Mia Darien did.  Again, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  But in the case of Voracious, it most definitely worked.

D is a man who we have no full name for but that’s about as mysterious as he gets.  He’s just a regular guy at a nine to five job but deep down he yearns to be something more.  In the beginning, the Dariens do a really good job creating this sense of “there’s gotta be more to life” for him, this inescapable energy, this mysterious urge to have something more out of life.  It’s really hard to describe but in the book it is done extremely well.  And it of course leads to D becoming a vampire, lured in by the mysterious Cielle who turns him somewhat against his will.  Being a vampire would certainly add spice to anyone’s dull life but D takes it pretty badly because of the whole “against his will” thing.  In his situation I wouldn’t really do much different but unfortunately his ignoring Cielle despite her pleas leads to her death.  Then D is left to transition to a vampire without a sire and to hunt down the people that killed Cielle.  It’s when he decides to do this that we finally see some of that drive of his satiated as he finds a new role both as avenger, and oddly enough, protector of a woman he saves.

A lot of books with unnamed narrators just don’t work in my opinion.  The author tries so hard to create an air of mystery around characters that it becomes laughable.  However, the Dariens are more than capable of pulling this off.  They depict D’s drive to have something more so well that you start to feel the same as he does by about the end of the second or third chapter.  He is so well written that it’s hard not to connect with him despite his sometimes ethically questionable actions.  He is, in essence, a perfect character because he’s interesting and readers can easily connect to him on an emotional level.  Haven’t we all wanted something more out of life at one point or another?

The plot was pretty amazing.  I really had no idea where Voracious was going for the majority of the book so the ending was kind of a pleasant surprise.  It’s certainly not your perfect fairytale ending but it is emotionally satisfying and you have fewer questions than you do at the beginning of the story.  Of course as always we get to see Sadie (the main character of Cameron’s Law, the first book) through the eyes of another and really appreciate what a great person she is for helping out so much in the supernatural community.  She certainly helped out D during his adjustment period and when he had no choice but to turn another vampire, something that is sort of forbidden for new vampires.  Although the plots of the first two books were fast-paced, Voracious is probably one of the more action-oriented books of the series.  It never sacrifices character development for the plot, though.

As always, the world-building in the Adelheid series is fantastic.  When we meet Sadie she’s already been a vampire for several decades so it was nice to see how a new vampire would be treated, especially since Cameron’s Law was passed and they didn’t have to hide their new abilities.  One of the things I actually liked the most, however, was seeing how the animators in the series work.  We saw an animator bring back a dead person temporarily to get their side of the story in the second book, When Forever Died, but seeing the other uses for animators was fascinating and oddly touching.  Once again, Mia Darien has expanded the world of Adelheid and she’s done it to great effect in collaboration with her husband.  It’s really hard not to love Voracious.

Even if you haven’t read the previous two books, I highly recommend picking up Voracious.  Since every book in the series is only slightly connected and features a different character you can pick up a book anywhere in the series and still enjoy it.  And really, starting with D’s story is as good a place as you’ll get.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Search for the Golden Serpent by Luciana Cavallaro

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044](Cover picture courtesy of the author.)

It’s not where he appears, it’s when.
What if you’re born during another time grew up in the 21st century and thrust back into the past? Confused? So is architect, Evan Chronis.
Evan drawn by screams ventures out to his backyard and sees blood trickling down the limestone steps. He steps off the veranda and finds himself in the days of great and marvellous power, a time when the gods ruled the universe.
To return to the 21st century life he longs for, he must risk his life in search of powerful, treasured relics older than the Holy Grail. But what he finds might be more than he expected.
Will Evan find the relics and return home or will he remain forever stuck in a world so different from his own?

[Full disclosure: I was contacted by the author and provided with an ebook in exchange for an honest review.]

I’ve read quite a few of Luciana Cavallaro’s previous works so I was pretty excited to read Search for the Golden Serpent.  The only problem was that she had previously only published short stories and I was a little worried about how she would transition into longer works like this one.  After all, a 354 page novel is not the same as a 40 page short story.  Still, I was more than ready to give her a chance.  In the end, I honestly didn’t even need to worry in the slightest.  Her debut novel is just as good as her previous short stories, even better in many ways.

Evan Chronis is a very memorable character.  In the modern world he’s a successful architect who absolutely adores his job.  Then Zeus decides that he’s needed back in his real time: the early years of ancient Greece, after the sinking of the mythical Atlantis.  I don’t know about you but being immersed in the modern world and suddenly being contacted by a god who drops you in the ancient world would be a little jarring to say the least.  Evan, understandably, really doesn’t handle it all that well in the beginning until he begins to speak the language and make friends.  But poor Evan, called Evandros in his own time, doesn’t ever really get a break: Zeus and the other gods have sent him on a mission to recover powerful artifacts to prevent their eventual fading into historical fiction in the modern era.

He really does have a remarkable physical journey but also a mental and emotional one.  When he goes back to the past he fights it tooth and nail, desperate to go back to our own time.  However, when he realizes that his only option is to recover the artifacts he throws himself fully into the task.  In the beginning Evan is also a little arrogant in his own way, utterly convinced that the people in the past are more primitive and somewhat inferior.  Yet through his journeys he tends to appreciate them a little more and realize that many ancient cultures had more accomplishments than just their fantastic architecture.  And when he befriends Phameas on the ship that rescues him and is forced to learn an entirely new language in a very short time, it sort of humbles him.  He learns a lot on his journey and it was really interesting to see how his character changed throughout the course of the novel.

One of the things I absolutely loved is that Luciana Cavallaro has clearly done her research.  She so vividly describes past cultures that we very rarely read about in historical fiction that you feel like you’re really there.  From the streets of Carthage to the temples of ancient Egypt and a ship from Phoenicia, you will feel totally immersed in the world of the ancient Mediterranean.  It’s brilliant because it shows old empires like Egypt and contrasts it with the rising might of the Greeks.  It’s so rare in historical fiction to get a more international picture like this one and it’s a real treat to have it handled by an author with such a passion for history.  Obviously Evan and his group are fiction but many of the main events and where they occurred are real.  It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m not really doing it justice with this description.

The plot begins a little slow but that’s quickly remedied as Evan is contacted by Zeus and is forced to become Evandros, the version of himself that was raised solely in the past instead of just being born in it.  I suppose some people will find Evan’s period on the Phoenician ship a little boring but I really enjoyed his adjustment period as he learned more about the world he was suddenly dropped into.  It helps that Evan’s point of view is interspersed with scenes with the gods, who are more than a little worried about their fate as well as scenes with the rest of his crew, who are understandably wondering where the Evandros they knew and loved has gone and whether or not he’s even alive.  By the time I got to the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what would happen next. The ending was a cliffhanger but it was a good place to stop and it was a fairly satisfying end.  It made me want more but I had fewer questions than when I started out.

Luciana Cavallaro really has a gift for making you care about her characters and their fates even if you don’t necessarily think they’re sympathetic or likeable.  That much was obvious from her short stories but she really transitioned into a longer work really well.  The beautiful descriptions that were the hallmark of her short stories for me are expanded and add so much more to the richness of the world she brought to life.  So if you loved Cavallaro’s short stories, you will also love Search for the Golden Serpent.  And if you’re never ready anything by her, you need to pick up one of her short stories and/or pre-order a copy of her debut novel.  You certainly won’t regret it.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Lazy Sundays: Clothing Sizes are Idiotic

I have to confess that I absolutely hate shopping.  Clothes shopping in particular, but especially dress shopping.  Not only is it stressful because I have to drive a minimum of an hour away to find clothing stores it also tends to bring up old insecurities caused by years of bullying in middle and high school.  Did I mention that it’s also nearly impossible to find a dress between ‘Amish’ and ‘Look at everything I’ve got’?  Ugh.

So obviously you guys can tell I had to go shopping recently.  I had to find a dress for an occasion in the summer and the two dresses I bought two years ago aren’t sufficiently formal so off I went a-shopping.  When I got to a dress store the clerk asked what size I normally was and I told her about a dress size four.  She looked at me like I had grown an extra head and went off to find me something semi-modest but not grandmotherly.  When she came back I tried on a beautiful blue dress that fit me like a glove; it seemed to be made for me.  But when I went to check the price tag it said that the dress was a size ten.  I didn’t like the shade of blue so I ordered in another colour in the same style only to learn that sample dresses are often inconsistent with the actual sizes.  Therefore the clerk had to take my measurements only to tell me I was a size twelve.

This just highlights the stupidity and the arbitrary nature of clothing sizes.  There are no standard sizes for clothing, dresses especially.  I have gained a bit of weight since I last went dress shopping but I don’t think five pounds shoots you up from a size four to a size twelve.  Clothing manufacturers seem to base sizes off some mythical algorithm that bears no relation to the sizes of their competitors.  This is apparent in t-shirts because I can take anything from an extra small to a medium but it seems particularly bad in dresses.  It’s just very, very frustrating and is the main reason why I never shop online for clothes.

Ladies, have you noticed that dress sizes vary wildly from brand to brand?  And gents, do you have this problem with your clothes too?

Please, someone tell me I’m not the only one with this problem.

Discussion: Befriending Authors

We in the blogging community often work quite a bit more closely with authors than, say, a reviewer for a national newspaper or bigger book reviewing website.  One of the consequences of that is we develop pretty good working relationships with authors and sometimes those develop into friendships (insomuch as one can be friends with someone purely online).  But that also brings up a big ethical question: How do these relationships affect our reviews?  Should book reviewers befriend authors and review their books?

No review is completely objective, obviously.  Your own experiences and likes and dislikes go into your perception of a book and the writing of the review.  But being friends with an author can make writing a review a little harder so should bloggers either a) not befriend authors at all or b) not review books by their friends.

Personally I consider myself friends with some of the authors I’ve reviewed here on my blog and I still reviewed their books anyway.  (This is a limited number because while I’m friends with about 5 authors most of my relationships with authors would be considered ‘professionally friendly’.)  But when I write a review I totally block out any perceptions of the author as best I can.  If my friend writes crappy dialogue, I’m going to tell her in the review.  If the characters seem one dimensional and have very few realistic motivations then I’m going to call him out on it.  Sometimes it’s hard; I’m certainly not going to claim that it’s not.  However, I feel that I am generally objective enough not to let my friendships as they stand interfere in my criticism.  If at some point in the future I did feel like I couldn’t objectively review a book by a friend, then I simply would not review the book.

What I want to know now is this: As a blogger do you feel it’s right to make friends with authors at all?  If you are friends with an author, do you feel it affects your ability to give them an objective review?  How do you balance your friendships with your reviewing principles of honesty and openness?