A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4


Companion to the Full Tilt series


Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Review: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Series: Kingdom of Cards #1
Publication date: August 25, 2020
Published by: Wednesday Books
Genre:  YA fantasy

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In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

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Praise for Where Dreams Descend:

"Vibrant imagery, jaw-dropping set pieces, sizzling romantic tension, and unstoppable heroine Kallia bring this ambitious debut novel to spectacular life. Fans of Caraval and The Night Circus will be delighted!" - Claire Legrand, New York Times bestselling author of Furyborn


Janella Angeles is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age–which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. She is represented by Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. WHERE DREAMS DESCEND, Book 1 in her debut fantasy Kingdom of Cards duology, will be out June 2, 2020 from Wednesday Books.

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Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1)Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where Dreams Descend is the first in a duology and a first from new author Janella Angeles as well. When I read the synopsis, it was giving me Caraval vibes so I jumped to give it a go. The Caraval series by Stephanie Garber is one of my favorite YA fantasy series because of how unpredictable and magical it is. I was hoping for some of that same dazzle in this duo.

This is a hard one to rate; in fact I've been debating myself over it and can't seem to come up with a fair answer. Here's my big issue: it took me a long time to get through the book. A really long time. Yes, the book is over 450 pages, but I've read long books that I fly through in 24 hours without breaking a sweat because the story has me so hooked. This one didn't feel that way, I felt as if I was dragging my feet through quicksand and inching forward as I tried to save myself from sinking. To be fair, it's entirely possible that it was just my mood preventing me from getting invested completely. But I do think that the scenes dragged out with too little action to push things forward as they should have. There wasn't a wordbuilding info dump which is more common with a first book, and yet I still struggled to become fully engrossed for at least the first half.

Kallia is a showgirl at the House. She descends from a glittering chandelier, and puts on a magic show the likes of which no one in the audience has ever experienced before. She uses her raw, natural magic to create awe inspiring illusions for the "master" of the house, Jack. He inherited the mysterious place beyond the cursed woods and taught Kallia everything she knows about manipulating magic. He can steal memories and manipulate your perception of reality. He seems to have a soft spot for her, but you know right away he is much more than what he appears. Far from a simple mentor or guardian, he has an agenda that remains unclear. Kallia has come to realize that she's a bit like a bird trapped in a golden cage. Never allowed to leave the property or have news from the outside world filter in. While she's been well cared for, she isn't content to be confined. She wants to spread her wings and show the world what she has to offer.

Her presence there is yet to be explained. We don't know how she go there, or why she is deceived in the fashion that she was. I'm really curious about who her parents were, and why she was taken there. I would also really like to know WHY Jack is called master and his father was called sire. We are given some idea as to what they are, but nothing concrete. And all along, I was questioning whether he was a true villain or if he fell somewhere in a grey area. I even wondered at points if this would be a love triangle situation developing, but I think it's pretty clear which side of the fence Kallia stands on. I'll just leave it at that.

Our heroine Kallia is a girl who grasps life in an iron grip with both hands. She doesn't sit idly by and let others rule her fortune, she pursues the future that she dreams of achieving. Her dreams have always centered around stardom. The spotlight, the fame, and the fortune, all of which she is capable of reaching if only women were given equal opportunity. In her world, women are barred from being the star of magic shows, relegated to the background. She's determined to make it happen anyway, and her plan is to force her way through the barred door by winning the Conquering Circus' magic competition in Glorian.

This is another mysterious place that is filled with secrets, lies, and malice. It keeps you questioning who or what is insidiously watching from the darkness. Waiting to strike and pick people off one by one. Kallia's competitors start disappearing, causing the judges to place blame on her simply because they want her to fail. She's met with scorn and unfair treatment since day one, but that only spurs her to work harder. That's one thing you have to love about this character, she knows her worth and fights for her place in the world. She's also a very lonely and distrustful person who doesn't allow anyone to truly know her. Even her new friend and assistant Aaros struggles to gain her trust during the escalating danger. She's been forced to fend for herself for so long that she doesn't really know how to share her burdens with others. For me, there was a hardness to her and prickliness that took a little while to warm up to but I did understand it.

Demarco is one of the judges at the competition and he's one of the few males in the story who isn't misogynistic. He defends Kallia's right to compete, and treats her fairly every step of the way. He has secrets of his own-from the judges, his family, and the heroine. He purposely insinuated himself into Glorian and the judges' table in order to solve a tragic personal mystery that he can't let go. Once a magic performer himself, he gave up the stage after the horrible night that changed his life forever. He's haunted by things he can never take back, and determined to find the missing answers he seeks. Though Kallia is a distraction that he can't afford, from day one he fights his fascination with her. She captivates him against his will, only no matter how hard he struggles against the pull, he's only drawn in closer. She gives him absolutely no encouragement, in fact, she rebuffs him at every turn. He sees right through her sharpness to the vulnerable girl underneath and eventually she believes he is someone she can put her fragile faith in.

    For so long she’d envisioned only herself on the stage, 
an image that always kept her going: 
basking in the spotlight, 
hearing her name and cheers over everything else. 
Strange how applause was just noise, 
when you were all alone.

I liked the characters in the circus and I'm looking forward to seeing them play a stronger role in the next book. There are dozens of unanswered questions left dangling pretty much from every angle and every character's perspective, so obviously this reader needs to know how this is all going to tie together in the end. The action leading up the the cliffhanger at the end was one big heart-pounding rush. You know something bad is about to happen, and you're reading half in dread, the other half relief. After waiting and watching for the danger lurking around the corner you just want that corner to be turned so you finally know. Will Kallia escape the darkness that's waiting to consume her? This is a question that won't be answered until book two, so prepare thyselves to hang on that cliff until sometime next year.



Spotlight: Nowhere to Hide by Leslie A. Kelly

A cold case is suddenly too hot to handle in the second installment of the Winchester Brothers romantic suspense series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Leslie A. Kelly.

Series: Hollywood Heat #2
Publication date: August 25, 2020
Genre: romantic suspense
Publisher: Forever

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Police officer Rowan Winchester wants nothing to do with his celebrity family's legacy. Working with the LAPD is his way of atoning for the Winchesters' dark and secretive past. And, right now, the last thing Rowan needs is true-crime novelist Evie Fleming nosing around the most notorious deaths in Los Angeles -- including the ones that haunt his own family. To make things worse, he's torn between wanting the wickedly smart writer out of his city . . . and just plain wanting her.

While researching her latest book, Evie suspects that a dangerous new killer is prowling the City of Angels. Now she just has to convince the devastatingly handsome cop that she's right. Soon Evie and Rowan are working together to try to find the killer, even as their attraction ignites. But when the killer hones in on Evie, she and Rowan realize they'll have to solve this case fast if they want to stay alive.

Previously published as Wanting You

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Leslie A. Kelly is a New York Times Bestselling author of more than fifty novels in various genres. She writes contemporary romances--usually funny and sexy--as Leslie Kelly. The middle initial--A.--means a thrilling, dark suspense novel, like one of her Black CATs or Veronica Sloan titles.

She lives in Maryland with her husband and their daughters.

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Blog Tour: The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen

One Irish family. Three decades. One dazzling story.

Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 18, 2020 
Genre: women's fiction
Publisher: Graydon House Books

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In the courtyards of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1978, aspiring actress Maeve meets pottery student Murtagh Moone. As their relationship progresses, marriage and motherhood come in quick succession, but for Maeve, with the joy of children also comes the struggle to hold on to the truest parts of herself.

Decades later, on a small Irish island, the Moone family are poised for celebration but instead are struck by tragedy. Each family member must find solace in their own separate way, until one dazzling truth brings them back together. But as the Moone family confront the past, they also journey toward a future that none of them could have predicted. Except perhaps Maeve herself.

Praise for The Dazzling Truth:

“Love is here in spades... clear a weekend for this gorgeous read.”
—Library Journal (STARRED REVIEW)

“Cullen’s lyrical prose drives the immersive and heart-wrenching narrative. This complex study of depression and its impact on family dynamics will lure readers.”
—Publishers Weekly

“With a group of well-crafted, intriguing characters, [Cullen] realistically portrays a tight-knit group of people trying to grow up and grow old under the shadow of a tragedy they can never understand. Readers will enjoy experiencing a slice of life in this small Irish community, and embrace the very interesting characters who live there.”

"Absolute poetry and a love letter to family and to the arts. The empathy in this book is beautiful.”
—Maggie Smith, award-winning author of Good Bones and Keep Moving

“A perfect combination of deeply felt tragedy with great hopefulness.”
—Anne Youngson, author of Meet Me at the Museum

“An extremely moving read. Helen Cullen handles the complexities of love, grief, family life and mental illness with sensitivity and depth. A truly gorgeous novel.”
—Ali Land, bestselling author of Good Me, Bad Me

“I devoured this, falling in love with the setting and with every character—and when I reached the end, I wept because it is just glorious. The Dazzling Truth is a sweeping family saga and at the same time, a close-up on the everyday beautiful details that make up love.”
—Emma Flint, author of Little Deaths

“A beautiful bittersweet story of love, loss and families all set in the most irresistible of locations. Tears were shed!”
—Graham Norton, BBC

“???????Cullen’s beautifully observed novel The Dazzling Truth charts a family across 37 years, living through a tragedy on a remote island; portraying mental health and the fall-out around it with enormous humanity and integrity. Tonally reminiscent of recent Colm Tóibín.”
—Caoilinn Hughes, author of Orchid and The Wasp and The Wild Laughter

“A beautiful novel. Helen Cullen writes with such deft care and attention about the things that hold us together when everything falls apart.”
—Rónán Hession, author of Leonard and Hungry Paul

“Helen Cullen is so wonderful on the Irish family and the utter complexity of motherhood, family entanglement and love. I was full on weeping at the end.”
—Elaine Feeney, author of As You Were

“In The Dazzling Truth, Cullen has woven a powerful and poignant narrative told over a lifetime; exploring unconditional love, heartbreak and the beautiful flaws of human nature set within a family unit. She is an astute and empathic writer and an incredible voice in Irish literature. You'll fall in love with the Moone family and they will linger in your heart long after you read the final pages.”
—Cat Hogan, author of They All Fall Down and There Was A Crooked Man

“The Dazzling Truth is such a tender read. Astute and compassionate, it made me cry. It’s full of love. And it’s quietly magnificent.”
—Tor Udall, author of A Thousand Paper Birds

“A beautifully observed saga of abandoned dreams, loss and self-discovery.”
—Alan McMonagle, author of Ithaca


Inis Óg: 2005

Murtagh had woken that morning, once again, to an empty bed; the sheets were cool and unruffled on Maeve’s side. He had expected to find her sitting at the kitchen table, wrapped in her hound’s-tooth shawl, pale and thin in the darkness before dawn, a tangle of blue-black hair swept across her high forehead like a crow’s wet wing, her long, matted curls secured in a knot at the nape of her neck with one of her red pencils. He had anticipated how she would start when he appeared in the doorway. How he would ignore, as he always did, the few moments it would take for her dove-grey eyes to turn their focus outward. For the ghosts to leave her in his presence. The kettle would hiss and spit on the stove as he stood behind her wicker chair and rubbed warmth back into her arms, his voice jolly as he gently scolded her for lack of sleep and feigned nonchalance as to its cause.

But Maeve wasn’t sitting at the kitchen table.

Nor was she meditating on the stone step of the back door drinking milk straight from the glass bottle it was delivered in.

She wasn’t dozing on the living-room sofa, the television on but silent, an empty crystal tumbler tucked inside the pocket of her peacock-blue silk dressing gown, the one on which she had painstakingly embroidered a murmuration of starlings in the finest silver thread.

Instead, there was an empty space on the bannister where her coat should have been hanging.

Murtagh opened the front door and flinched at a swarm of spitting raindrops. The blistering wind mocked the threadbare cotton of his pyjamas. He bent his head into the onslaught and pushed forward, dragging the heavy scarlet door behind him. The brass knocker clanged against the wood; he flinched, hoping it had not woken the children. Shivering, he picked a route in his slippers around the muddy puddles spreading across the cobblestoned pathway. Leaning over the wrought-iron gate that separated their own familial island from the winding lane of the island proper, he scanned the dark horizon for a glimpse of Maeve in the faraway glow of a streetlamp.

In the distance, the sea and sky had melted into one anthracite mist, each indiscernible from the other. Sheep huddled together for comfort in Peadar Óg’s field, the waterlogged green that bordered the Moones’ land to the right; the plaintive baying of the animals sounded mournful. Murtagh nodded at them.

There was no sight of Maeve.

As he turned back towards the house he noticed Nollaig watching him from her bedroom window. The eldest daughter, she always seemed to witness the moments her parents had believed—hoped—were cloaked in invisibility, and then remained haunted by what she had seen. Ever since she was a toddler, Murtagh had monitored how her understanding grew, filling her up, and knew it would soon flood her eyes, always so questioning, permanently.

He waved at her as he blew back up the pathway. Later, he would feel the acute pain of finally recognising the prescience his daughter seemed to have absorbed from the womb.

‘How long is she gone?’

Nollaig was now standing before the hallway mirror, her face contorted as she vigorously tried to brush her frizzy mouse-brown hair into shape. She scraped it together into a tight ponytail that thrust from the back of her head as if it were a fox’s brush.

‘Ach, you should leave your gorgeous curls be, Noll,’ her father cajoled, ‘instead of fighting them.’

She smiled at him but slammed the mother-of-pearl hairbrush down on the sideboard.

‘I don’t have curls, I have Brillo pads,’ she sighed. ‘Did she say where she was going?’

Murtagh squeezed his daughter’s arm as he continued into the kitchen. ‘I’m sure your mother is just out for a walk. Happy birthday, love. Lá breithla shona duit.’

He placed a small copper saucepan of water on the range to boil and waved the invitation of an egg at his daughter. She nodded begrudgingly and curled into the green-and-gold striped armchair that sat in front of the stove.

‘With your white nightdress, you could almost pass for the Irish flag,’ he joked, and was gratified with her snort of glee.

He watched the clock hand count three minutes in silence. Expected any moment to hear his soaked wife splash through the door. He was poised, ready to run towards her with a towel and hushed reprimands for her careless wandering, but the boiling, cooling, cupping, cracking and spooning of each egg passed uninterrupted. Nollaig yawned, stretching her arms and legs before her in a stiff salute.

‘Why don’t you go back to bed for an hour?’ Murtagh asked. ‘We’ll all have proper breakfast together later.’

She eyed him with suspicion but acquiesced. ‘If Mam’s not back soon,’ she said, sidling away, ‘come and wake me. Promise? We’ll go out and find her. Remind her what day it is, for God’s sake.’

Murtagh nodded, ushered his daughter out of the kitchen and watched her climb the stairs.

Born on Christmas Eve, twenty years before, she was the only one of their children who came into the world via Galway maternity hospital and not into the impatient arms of Máire O’Dulaigh, the midwife of the island. She resented it; how it made her feel less of a true islander. What was more, the specialness of her own day for individual attention, her birth day, was irrevocably lost in the shared excitement of Christmas. In retrospect, it had been a mistake, perhaps, naming her Nollaig, the Irish for Christmas, and further compounding the association. No nickname had ever stuck, however. She wasn’t the sort of child who inspired others to claim her for their own with the intimacy of a given name.

‘Born ancient,’ her little sister, Sive, always said of her, with bored disdain.

And Murtagh sympathised. Nollaig carried the weight of being the eldest with pained perseverance, heavy responsibilities that were self-imposed. Her mother harboured a not always silent resentment of it, and it seemed only natural, if unfair, that Maeve and Sive gravitated more towards each other; the baby of the family shared her mother’s wit and wildness and often expressed the irritation her mother tried to hide at Nollaig’s sense of duty.

Excerpted from The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen, Copyright © 2020 by Helen Cullen.
Published by Graydon House Books

About the Author

HELEN CULLEN wrote her debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf, while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing program. She holds an MA in Theatre Studies from University College Dublin and is currently studying further at Brunel. Prior to writing full-time, Helen worked in journalism, broadcasting and most recently as a creative events and engagement specialist. Helen is Irish and currently lives in London.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Blog Tour: Say No More by Karen Rose

Mercy Callahan thought she'd escaped the cult decades ago, but its long fingers are reaching out for her again in this electrifying novel in the Sacramento series...

Series: The Sacramento series #24
Publication Date: August 11, 2020 
Genre: romantic suspense
Publisher: Penguin/Berkley

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Seventeen years ago. That was the last time Mercy Callahan saw Ephraim Burton, the leader of the twisted Eden cult where she was raised. But even though she escaped the abuse and terror, they continue to haunt her.

When her brother Gideon discovers new evidence of the cult's—and their victims'—whereabouts, Mercy goes to Sacramento to reconnect with him. There, she meets Gideon's closest friend—homicide detective Rafe Sokolov. From Rafe, she receives an offer she never knew she needed: to track down Ephraim and make him pay for everything.

But Ephraim, who had thought Mercy long dead, discovers she is in fact alive and that she is digging around for the cult's secrets. And now he'll do anything to take her back to Eden—dead or alive.

Praise for Say No More:

“A pulse-pounding mix of romance and terror.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“There’s lethal, heart-tripping danger, but the tender love story and powerful friendships provide a positive emotional core to this exciting thriller.”—BookPage

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About the Author

Internationally bestselling, RITA-award winning, author Karen Rose was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. She met her husband, Martin, on a blind date when they were seventeen and after they both graduated from the University of Maryland, (Karen with a degree in Chemical Engineering) they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Karen worked as an engineer for a large consumer goods company, earning two patents, but as Karen says, “scenes were roiling in my head and I couldn't concentrate on my job so I started writing them down. I started out writing for fun, and soon found I was hooked.”

Her debut suspense novel, DON'T TELL, was released in July, 2003. Since then, she has published fifteen more novels and two novellas. Her seventeenth novel, ALONE IN THE DARK, will be released in 2016.

Karen's books have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, USA Today, London's Sunday Times, and Germany's der Spiegel (#1), and the Irish Times, as well as lists in South Africa (#1) and Australia!

Her novels, I'M WATCHING YOU and SILENT SCREAM, received the Romance Writers of America's RITA award for Best Romantic Suspense for 2005 and 2011. Five of her other books have been RITA finalists. To date, her books have been translated into twenty-four languages.

A former high school teacher of chemistry and physics, Karen lives in Florida with her husband of more than twenty years, her two daughters, two dogs, and a cat.

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