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Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine: Excerpt and Giveaway (link at bottom of post)

Sunday, May 20, 2018


It had all started as an exercise to fight the unending boredom of being locked in this Alexandrian prison cell.
When Jess Brightwell woke up, he realized that he’d lost track of time. Days blurred here, and he knew it was important to remember how long he’d been trapped, waiting for the axe to fall—or not. So he diligently scratched out a record on the wall using a button from his shirt.
Five days. Five days since he’d arrived back in Alexandria, bringing with him Scholar Wolfe and Morgan Hault as his prisoners. They’d been taken off in different directions, and he’d been dumped here to—as they’d said—await the Archivist’s pleasure.
The Archivist, it seemed, was a very busy man.
Once Jess had the days logged, he did the mental exercise of calculating the date, from pure boredom. It took him long, uneasy moments to realize why that date—today—seemed important.
And then he remembered and was ashamed it had taken him so long.
Today was the anniversary of his brother Liam’s death. His elder brother.
And today meant that Jess was now older than Liam had ever lived to be.
He couldn’t remember exactly how Liam had died. Could hardly remember his brother at all these days, other than a vague impression of a sharp nose and shaggy blondish hair. He must have watched Liam walk up the stairs of the scaffold and stand as the rope was fixed around his neck.
But he couldn’t remember that, or watching the drop. Just Liam, hanging. It seemed like a painting viewed at a distance, not a memory.
Wish I could remember, he thought. If Liam had held his head high on the way to his death, if he’d gone up the steps firmly and stood without fear, then maybe Jess would be able to do it, too. Because that was likely to be in his future.
He closed his eyes and tried to picture it: the cell door opening. Soldiers in High Garda uniforms, the army of the Great Library, waiting stone-faced in the hall. A Scholar to read the text of his choice to him on the way to execution. Perhaps a priest, if he asked for one.
But there, his mind went blank. He didn’t know how the Archivist would end his life. Would it be a quiet death? Private? A shot in the back? Burial without a marker? Maybe nobody would ever know what had become of him.
Or maybe he’d end up facing the noose after all, and the steps up to it. If he could picture himself walking without flinching to his execution, perhaps he could actually do it.
He knew he ought to be focusing on what he would be saying to the Archivist if he was called, but at this moment, death seemed so close he could touch it, and besides, it was easier to accept failure than to dare to predict success. He’d never been especially superstitious, but imagining triumph now seemed like drawing a target on his back. No reason to offend the Egyptian gods. Not so early.
He stood up and walked the cell. Cold, barren, with bars and a flat stone shelf that pretended at being a bed. A bare toilet that needed cleaning, and the sharp smell of it was starting to squirm against his skin.
If I had something to read . . . The thought crept in without warning, and he felt it like a personal loss. Not having a book at hand was a worse punishment than most. He was trying not to think about his death, and he was too afraid to think about the fate of Morgan or Scholar Wolfe or anything else . . . except that he could almost hear Scholar Wolfe’s dry, acerbic voice telling him, If only you had a brain up to the task, Brightwell, you’d never lack for something to read.
Jess settled on the stone ledge, closed his eyes, and tried to clearly imagine the first page of one of his favorite books. Nothing came at his command. Just words, jumbled and frantic, that wouldn’t sort themselves in order. Better if he imagined writing a letter.
Dear Morgan, he thought. I’m trapped in a holding cell inside the Serapeum, and all I can think of is that I should have done better by you, and all of us. I’m afraid all this is for nothing. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being stupid enough to think I could outwit the Archivist. I love you. Please don’t hate me.
That was selfish. She should hate him. He’d sent her back into the Iron Tower, a life sentence of servitude and an unbreakable collar fastened tight around her neck. He’d deceived Scholar Wolfe into a prison far worse than this one, and an inevitable death sentence. He’d betrayed everyone who’d ever trusted him, and for what?
For cleverness and a probably foolish idea that he could somehow, somehow, pull off a miracle. What gave him the right to even think it?
That was the sound of a key turning in a heavy lock.
Jess stood, the chill on his back left by the ledge still lingering like a ghost, and then he came to the bars as the door at the end of the hall opened. He could see the hinges move and the iron door swinging in. It wasn’t locked again when it closed. Careless.
He listened to the decisive thud of footsteps against the floor, growing louder, and then three High Garda soldiers in black with golden emblems were in front of his cell. They stopped and faced him. The oldest—his close-cut hair a stiff silver brush around his head—barked in common Greek, “Step back from the bars and turn around.”
Jess’s skin felt flushed, then cold; he swallowed back a rush of fear and felt his pulse race in a futile attempt to outrun the inevitable. He followed the instructions. They didn’t lock the outer door. That’s a chance, if I can get by them. He could. He could sweep the legs out from under the first, use that off-balance body to knock back the other two, pull a sidearm free from one of them, shoot at least one, maybe two of them. Luck would dictate whether he’d die in the attempt, but at least he’d die fighting.
I don’t want to die, something in him that sounded like a child whispered. Not like Liam. Not on the same day.
And suddenly, he remembered.
The London sky, iron gray. Light rain had been falling on his child’s face. He’d been too short to see his brother ascend anything but the top two steps of the scaffold. Liam had stumbled on the last one, and a guard had steadied him. His brother had been shivering and slow, and he hadn’t been brave after all. He’d looked out into the crowd of those gathered, and Jess remembered the searing second of eye contact with his brother before Liam transferred that stare to their father.
Jess had looked, too. Callum Brightwell had stared back without a flicker of change in his expression, as if his eldest son was a stranger.
They’d tied Liam’s hands. And put a hood over his head.
A voice in the here and now snapped him out of the memory. “Against the wall. Hands behind your back.”
Jess slowly moved to comply, trying to assess where the other man was . . . and froze when the barrel of a gun pressed against the back of his neck. “I know what you’re thinking, son. Don’t try it. I’d rather not shoot you for stupidity.”
The guard had a familiar accent—raised near Manchester, most likely. His time in Alexandria had covered his English roots a bit, but it was odd, Jess thought, that he might be killed by one of his countrymen, so far from home. Killed by the English, just like Liam.
Once a set of Library restraints settled around his wrists and tightened, he felt strangely less shaken. Opportunity was gone now. All his choices had been narrowed to one course. All he had to do now was play it out.
Jess turned to look at the High Garda soldier. A man with roots from another garden, maybe one closer to Alexandria; the man had a darker complexion, dark eyes, a neat beard, and a compassionate but firm expression on his face. “Am I coming back?” he asked, and wished he hadn’t.
“Likely not,” the soldier said. “Wherever you go next, you won’t be back here.”
Jess nodded. He closed his eyes for a second and then opened them. Liam had faltered on the stairs. Had trembled. But at the end his elder brother had stood firm in his bonds and hood and waited for death without showing any fear.
He could do the same.

“Then, let’s go,” he said, and forced a grin he hoped looked careless. “I could do with a change of scenery.”


This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Forsaken Paradise by Elise Whyles: Promo

Saturday, April 14, 2018
About the Book:
What could be more dangerous than loving a rogue?

Condemned as a rogue and punished by his master, Angrail, one of the Seven Paradise Walkers, has wandered mortal and immortal worlds for centuries. He's determined to find those responsible for killing an innocent woman and the child she carried, no matter the cost to himself.

Ephynia, a demoness with scars, has spent a lifetime serving Nerafail, Lord of the Dead. When she unwittingly stumbles upon the one being who can end her loneliness, the battered Angrail, her life changes forever.

Unknown to Angrail and Ephynia, evil lurks in the shadows. There are those who believe Angrail and Ephynia are the key to preventing a coming war—a war that they need to take place—and they seek to end their lives.

Can Angrail find love in the arms of a demoness at war with herself? Or will the secrets hidden within the bowels of their worlds destroy them before they can find peace?

Book Links:

Read an Excerpt:

Angrail moaned, agony flowing like water through him. He could taste the souls wanting peace, hear their weak cries, but could do nothing. Shifting, the wounds he'd suffered screamed in protest, pain lacing through his muscles.

Inhaling a sharp breath, he froze. The sweetness of a strange smell stirred something within him. Blood, bone, life clung to whoever hovered nearby. The smell of smoke, of flame swirled in the air as well. Cracking his eyes open, he blinked to clear his vision and tensed.

Bronze skin glistening in the fading sunlight, a female stood at the mouth of the cave. Her arms were crossed beneath her breasts, a sword hanging at her hip. Multi-toned hair was slicked back, revealing the ornately decorated curve of a horn. She was a huntress. But why would she have removed him from the battlefield? None of her kind, or his own brethren, were allowed to touch him. Nerafail's generosity had bound them to watch him suffer. Aye, the old lord was a fool, one he had no desire to seek forgiveness from.

"What…" Licking his dry lips, he struggled into a sitting position. His head swam with the effort, his stomach revolting at the pain swarming him. "What do you have need of me?"

"You are awake. Excellent." The demoness turned, her eyes narrowed on him. "What do I have need with you? I should hope you have such an answer for me, guide."

Coughing, Angrail leaned his head against the stone, his chest tight, burning with the need for oxygen. Being trapped within the mortal frame had its drawbacks. "Who are you? Nerafail would not permit you to aid me."

"Aid? I have no desire to aid you. I wish to know why you called me back from my task." She stalked to him, her hips swaying. Hunkering down by his feet, she tilted her head. "I was sent forth to retrieve a soul and had nearly done that when I felt you. You kept me from leaving the field, I would know why."

"Go to Hardress." Angrail winced. "Back to your revelry and—"

"I would go home, but you refuse to release your bonds. You will tell me what I wish to know." She slammed him into the rock, her fingers tightening around his throat.

With her touch, Angrail's body arched, gasping for air as pain and heat washed over him in waves. He could feel her grip tightening, feel the force of her anger, and felt his own stirring.

He blinked, the images dancing in his mind ones he'd never seen before. Images that instinct told him were important.

Flames danced around them. Sweat beaded and rolled between her breasts. Her tongue licked at his skin, and her horns flared with passion. His shaft throbbed in yearning at her body undulating, her hips gyrating slowly. To and fro, rolling, pitching, she remained in constant motion, her hands trailing over her flesh, cupping her breasts. Her fingers plucked at her nipples, pulling on them until they stood hard, pointing toward him. She shuddered, her hand drifting down her abdomen, slipping beneath the braided belt of her skirt.

Heady, rich, the scent of her essence filled the air. Sweeter than honey, it teased along his shaft, filling him with want. Faint, the echo of her sliding her fingers through the folds between her legs grew in volume with each slow roll of her hips.

He pushed the images out of his head and shoved her arm aside, his eyes narrowing. "Careful, huntress, you're showing weakness."

"Tell me and I'll ease your misery."

"You can't."

About the Author:
Born in Northern British Columbia, Elise is a small-town girl. She writes in a variety of genres including paranormal, contemporary suspense, m/m in various lengths. Currently, she lives in British Columbia with her husband and son, one dog, one cat, and a gecko. Elise enjoys reading as much as she does writing, with some of her favorite books being read until they fall apart. 
She is currently working on the next book in the Forsaken Series, Burning Rain. As well she has a new contemporary she’s working on. For more information on Elise, or to check out her books you can find her on Facebook, twitter, and her website.

Contact the Author:
This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Guest Post and GIVEAWAY by Lauren Carr: The Key Word in Social Media is SOCIAL

Monday, April 2, 2018

The first time I heard the word social media, I got sick to my stomach. When I found out what it was, and that this was the new wave in book promotion that was sure to open doors of discovery for indie authors, I had flashbacks of sitting alone at the lunch table in high school. Across the room, all the popular kids were whispering about that strange girl in literature class who didn’t write a love story for the term assignment like all the other girls. Instead, she wrote a murder mystery about a body found in a gym locker.
Some of us never get over being the social misfit during those formative years.
By nature, most writers are introverts. It’s hard enough to pack up our books in the trunk of our car, get out of our bathrobe and slippers, brush our teeth and hair, and venture forth into the outside world to sell books to total strangers. I’ve had authors tell me that appearing at events is harder than writing the book!
Good News:  Technology has made it possible for us to sell books without ever having to get out of our bathrobe and slippers. Hey, we can even sell books while having a bad hair day and morning breath.
Bad News: All we have to do is get popular.
I’ll wait until your flashback has subsided before continuing.
Social media truly has opened doors for authors who otherwise would be terrible at public appearances.
Several years ago, I met an author at a book event. Painfully shy, she sat in the corner and hardly spoke to anyone. When I learned she was a mystery writer, I struck up a conversation. To my surprise, I discovered that this quiet, socially backward woman was a best-selling mystery author.  Her books had made best sellers lists—thanks to social media. Behind the cover of the computer screen, she shines and sparkles.
Her story inspiring me, I decided I had to face my fears. After all, this isn’t high school anymore.
I started on Facebook. From there I went to Linked-In, Goodreads, Google-Plus, and then the biggie Twitter. I have accounts with the other sites, but I hang out more on Twitter and Facebook than the others because (Surprise!) I have friends there that I actually hang out with, even though I have never met them in person. They love me even when I have bad hair days. How do they know? I tell them. When you’re a middle-aged mystery writer, you are who you are. I’m too old to put up a fake profile picture of a bathing beauty. Instead, my profile picture is me and Sterling (he’s the handsome guy with the big ears). A delightful mixture of readers and writers, my friends list grows daily. Have I seen an increase in book sales? Yes. I also see a decrease in sales when I’m not on social media. Is my success purely due to social media? Not strictly.
Social media is best used as a tool in promotion. Don’t go onto Twitter with the intention of poaching followers to bombard with sales pitches for your books in order to make you a best-selling author. Most likely, you’ll lose a thousand followers as quickly as you’ve made them.
I use social media in conjunction with virtual blog tours through iRead Book Tours. With every stop of the tour, I use social media to promote my reviews, guest blog posts, and interviews.
Remember the word social. The rules of basic social media etiquette aren’t that hard. Even when not using media for promotion, these rules can help you to become more popular in cyberspace.
1.            Complete your profile...completely. Include the basics: name, e-mail, url(s), accomplishments, publications, professional experience, etc.
If you’re using Facebook for book promotion, you may want to look into setting up a separate fan page or a separate site for your career. This way your personal friends will not be bombarded with notifications about Lauren Carr getting yet another good review for her book and your fans won’t see that video that your son clandestinely took of you drooling while you were sleeping.
2.            Don't be a pest. This means you should not continuously blast your friends every five to ten minutes 24/7 with ways they can benefit you. Reserve sending out e-mail blasts for really big news: Major book awards, major book deal, finally made the NY Times Best seller’s list. In fact...
3.            Find ways to give more than you take. Isn’t that the point of being friends? Over coffee in the morning, I go through my social media routine which consists more of sharing my fellow authors’ books than pitching mine. If you want your network to grow over time, then you need to offer value to your potential audience.
I never shoot my new friends and followers a direct message with a sales pitch to buy my books. Nothing screams newbie to social media like a direct message pitching your book! Rather, I give my new friends and followers an opportunity to sell theirs by sharing their posts about their books to my friends and followers. With over 38,000 followers on Twitter, all it takes from me is a push of a button to help a fellow author. That doesn’t cost me anything.  Like my mother always said, “You make friends by being a friend.” In return, word has quickly spread on Twitter. Every week I get tagged by followers for the highest volume of retweets. I get an average of a hundred new followers a week—all for retweeting while drinking my coffee.
4.            Listen to others. Social media is most effective when you're building relationships. Relationships are formed through the sharing of information. This means you should absorb as much or more than you put out into the world. When you have friendship with other authors, and they have a blog tour stop, share the link on YOUR Facebook page and pass it along in your other social media. If you do this, they are more likely to do likewise for you. That’s friendship.
5.            Don't post when you're overly emotional, especially if you're angry or depressed. That doesn't mean you should hide your emotions, but it does mean you should give yourself a little time to simmer down before posting—to protect yourself. Also, it's never a good idea to post when drunk. Remember: What goes on the Internet stays there forever.
6.            Be accountable. Some people get a little crazy online because of the perceived anonymity. But if you're a writer trying to build your social network, you don't have the option of being anonymous. In fact, that's exactly the opposite of what you're trying to do. So be an upstanding and accountable member of your social networks and respect the toes of others online.
7.            Keep Sex, Religion, and Politics Out of Your Social Media! Notice that I’m making this a separate item all by itself. It used to be under items 5 and 6, but over the last couple of years, I have found that it needs to be addressed in no uncertain terms.
Our country is divided. That means that despite what you may think based on how your friends feel about liberals or conservatives, gay marriage, or our president—whatever—half of the country disagrees with you. That means half of the people on social media disagree with you. That doesn’t make them stupid or racist or socialist or whatever. That means they are potential readers who disagree with you on these issues, which are totally separate from your sci-fi or romance books. So, you need to ask yourself, are these issues important enough to you to cut your potential reading audience and book royalties in half by ranting about political issues on your social media and calling everyone who disagrees with you a deplorable bigot or corrupt socialist?
Not me.
If you want to rant to your political opponents on social media without taking a hit on your book sales, set up a completely separate social media account under a different name.
Really, it all comes down to this final rule...
8.            Follow the golden rule. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. In short, be nice—
As I tell my son, “Mind your manners.” Make friends, treat them like friends, and then you’ll have friends applauding you across cyberspace when you get a good book review—even if you do have chocolate stains on your bathrobe while posting the news. They may even buy your book.

Book Details:

Book Title: ICE by Lauren Carr
Category: Adult fiction, 380 pages
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Cozy
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Release date: February 26, 2018
Tour dates: April 2 to 30, 2018
Content Rating: PG (It's a murder mystery and there is mild violence. Very mild swearing no F-bombs. No on-stage sex scenes.)

Book Description:

The clues for a close-to-the-heart missing person’s case heat up when Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on the cold case.

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappear, the court of public opinion finds young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted. With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

To read reviews, please visit Lauren Carr's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Watch the Book Trailer:

About the Author:

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 5, 2018

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

This Is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell

Thursday, December 7, 2017

One week. That's all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend, Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future--decisions they had been fighting about for weeks.

Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he's run away, but Jessie doesn't believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river--the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened.

As the police are spurred to reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie's town who don't like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’s character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats.

Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit.

Goodreads Summary

Changes can be both positive or negative, but when you know change is coming in the future it is always scary. Jessie and Chris are in love; Jessie is from a poor white family and Chris is a well-rounded black boy. When Chris doesn't return after a jog Jessie accuses some boys from her predominantly white town of killing him. In the meantime, she writes to him to keep him up to date on what is currently going on; she prays for his return. Unfortunately, not everything is simplistic and what it seems; as the novel wears on, Jessie is confronted with difficult realities and must modulate her reaction to them accordingly. 

Jessie's character fit the theme and the overarching tone of the novel. She came off as a bit of a pathetic defender; it was obvious that she truly loved Chris as much as possible for one in high school. Although we never feel like we truly "meet" Chris, Chris appears as the stereotypical good boy. He's smart, charismatic, handsome, and kind. I never fully connected to the characters, but I didn't mind too much since it felt like the author was trying to get a message across versus making the characters overly easy to relate to. The ending fit what I had suspected and I liked how the author handled several difficult issues (i.e. mental illness). This would be a great read on a long plane ride or  rainy day that would allow for some introspection.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ