‘Guardian Angel’ excerpt and pre-order links

It’s less than a week till Guardian Angel hits the e-shelves (shush, that’s totally a thing) — 28 April is the big day, and I’m not at all nervous, ahahahaha. D: Seriously, releasing a book, even a novella, is always nerve-racking. But I am proud of this little story, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

All the pre-order links are live, so you can buy Future You a present. And as Guardian Angel is a bargain at US$0.99 (around AU$1.30), Future You will be super-impressed at your frugality!

If that price doesn’t convince you, you can find an excerpt below. Enjoy.

Pre-order Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Barnes & Noble
iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords

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Blurb

Can her light hold back the night? 

There are two things actor Jordan Woodrow always swore were true: that there was no such thing as love at first sight, and that he could never love a fangirl. But after he met Brianna at a convention, everything changed.

Now, hallucinations creep at the edge of his days and nightmares scuttle through his sleep, and only Brianna can keep them at bay. When she is with him, everything is fine. No, it’s better than fine—it’s perfect.

Why can’t his family and friends see that?

Excerpt

Jordan was dreaming.

He knew it was a dream, because he was on the set of Beyond Deathgate, and he knew, even dreaming, that he’d finished filming that movie three years ago. It had already premiered, and it had been a hit. They were negotiating the sequel.

But knowing that didn’t change the dream.

He was back in the spideresque cavern, but he was in his pyjamas, not Aldron’s trademark blue leather armour. There were no film crews hovering around the edges of the room, no cameras on tracks or scurrying assistants carrying messages or coffee. The domed ceiling was full of heavy cobwebs and shadowed darkness, not a lighting rig.

He turned around to look behind him … or tried to. He couldn’t move. A thick, sticky web was wrapped around him, cocooning him, its strands gleaming sullenly in the uncertain light. He looked down at himself; his hands were crossed over his chest, like the corpse at a funeral, and bound as tightly as if he wore a straitjacket. His feet were bare in the thick detritus on the floor of the cavern. The frail skeletons of small animals looked up at him with accusingly empty eye-sockets from amid the decomposing leaf matter.

Something squirmed against his toes.

Oh, god! Jordan made a small, panicked sound in the back of his throat. He tried to lift his feet, but he couldn’t—the web didn’t have enough give in it for him to bend his knees. His pulse thundered in his ears. What the—?

That was when he smelled it.

His brain struggled to find a word for the foul reek that drifted through the tunnels. Struggled and failed. Maggot-infested meat rotting in the sun? The stench of untreated sewerage? It was both those things, and more. His eyes watered with the acrid stink of it, and he thrashed against the web that bound him. He knew what was coming. The spideresque: half human, half spider, all black malevolence and aching hunger. She was going to scuttle into the cavern, and she was going to devour him. And this time he had no Ring of Emrys to save him.

The huge, bloated shape of the spideresque appeared, silhouetted against the roughened stone of the far wall. Her stench washed over him, stronger now. He coughed, retched. It’s a dream, he told himself. It has to be. But that initial certainty seemed far away now. A second thought came, barely a whisper: I’m going to die. Despair flooded him, weighing down his limbs and settling like a rock on his chest. What’s the point in fighting?

There was no point. He hung in the web, a fly ready to be eaten.

“Get back!”

Jordan lifted his head, relieved at the sound of that familiar, beloved voice. Brianna stood before him, facing the beast. She was dressed in lambent white, a vision of Emrys herself; her hair glowed with its own golden light, casting soft shadows across the webs that ensnared him. She held one hand before her, palm outward toward the spideresque. “Get back,” she yelled again. Her light grew brighter—so bright his eyes began to water. “Leave him alone!”

The monster shrieked, rattling its forelegs together. Dust rained down from the ceiling with the force of its cry, and it paced back and forward—but it drew no closer. Finally, unable to face the purity of her light, it retreated into the shadows with a final, protesting wail. The reek of its body faded.

Brianna turned to him, her brilliant emerald eyes wide, and reached out to touch the webs. They disappeared, and he collapsed into her arms.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said.

At her words, they were transported onto a field of grass whose blades were so soft they were like feathers beneath him. Flowers bobbed in the breeze, yellow and perfect. The trees whispered at the edge of the field, and the sky was a brilliant, aching blue.

Brianna cradled him against her chest like a baby as he wept with relief. “It’s okay,” she murmured, “I’ll protect you. Don’t you worry. Your guardian angel is here.”

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Review: ‘Godsgrave’ by Jay Kristoff

A ruthless young assassin continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff.

Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church hierarchy think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending the men who destroyed her familia; in fact, she’s told directly that Consul Scaeva is off limits. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia suspicions about the Red Church’s true motives begin to grow.

When it’s announced that Scaeva will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end him. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between love and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

This is the second book in the Nevernight Chronicles (you can see my review of the first book here). Now, given that Jay Kristoff and co-writer Amie Kaufmann have a fabulous, bestselling YA series together, you might think this was YA. You’d be wrong. As I said about the first book, Godsgrave contains pretty much all those adult themes that make conservative school librarians faint: a bisexual main character, swearing, explicit sex and violent murder.

But if the idea of those things doesn’t bother you, and you love the idea of seeing a complex, dystopian fantasy world brought undone by a cold teenage killer, then this is the book for you.

If you took medieval Venice, mixed in some Ancient Rome, and added a daub of original World of Darkness Vampire: the Masquerade (but minus the vampires), you’d get the world of Godsgrave. Slaves, gladiators, masked balls, a looming and evil godlike presence, a secretive cult of assassins, a dissolute and entitled nobility that is either clueless or wilfully cruel — this book has it all.

And then there’s Mia. She was forced to watch her father hanged by her mother when she was a child, and was then taken in by a retired assassin who set her on that path. When you add in the fact that she can manipulate the shadows and is followed around by slices of shadow that eat her fear so she simply doesn’t feel it, she’s a little broken — although that spark of empathy  we saw in her in the first book is still there, buried deep.

The plot twists and turns like a twisty, turny thing. And I didn’t see most of them coming, which always fills me with glee. I can’t wait to see what Mia does next.

 


Review: ‘This Is Where It Ends’ by Marieke Nijkamp

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

This book caught my eye last weekend in the bookstore because I recognised the author’s name from her involvement in the writing community, particularly as a PitchWars mentor. Then I read the blurb and the idea of it gave me chills, especially in light of what happened in Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High last month.

This Is Where It Ends didn’t disappoint.

First, while I’m talking about the blurb, let me say that it’s a tiny bit misleading. This book isn’t really a “game of survival” — it’s not The Hunger Games set in a high school or anything like that. I loved THG, but TIWIE is contemporary, not spec fic; it is more realistic, and more dreadful. None of the characters manifest cool ninja superpowers or a talent with a crossbow that saves the day. They are scared teenagers who don’t want themselves or their loved ones to die.

Some of the story is told through flashbacks; the four characters all have a connection to the shooter in one way or another, and we get to explore that as the story progresses. But I don’t want to go into those connections any further, because there is a minor spoiler involved in who the shooter actually turns out to be.

The four characters are Autumn, the dancer from an abusive home; her girlfriend, Sylv; Sylv’s twin brother and teen rebel, Tomas; and track star Claire. Through them we get to see the shooting unfold from different points around the school. This means that — even at times when the characters trapped in the auditorium can’t do a lot other than watch and try not to die — the other characters have some ability to try and affect events, even in a small way. The way the storylines were interwoven was very well done, and all of the characters were well-rounded. (My only minor criticism is that I found the voices of all four characters rather similar. But each section starts with the narrator’s name, so it’s still easy to follow along.)

Another device that TIWIE uses is social media, with Twitter and blog posts at different points, as the event unfolds. Having read some of the tweets from during the Florida shooting, these particularly undid me (a little awkward when I was reading in the doctor’s waiting room, not gonna lie). They were so real — complete with a troll — and through them we got to watch smaller stories play out over the course of the larger one.

TIWIE isn’t a light read, by any means, but it is a powerful one, especially in light of the #NeverAgain movement. It doesn’t take a position on gun control — not overtly — but the fictional shooter in this book is so much like the real-life shooters we read about in school shootings. And he obtained his gun legally. Make of that what you will.

TIWIE3


Book announcement and cover reveal: ‘Guardian Angel’

So, for those who’ve been following along, I’ve had a bit of trouble getting started when it comes to my next novel. But I haven’t been wasting time (well, not just wasting time — ha ha awkward!). I’ve been working on a handful of shorter projects, including a sci-fi short story for an anthology coming out later this year, and getting my ducks in a row to release the fantasy novel I finished a while back. That one will come out in the second half of 2018, but, for now, I’ve got something new for you to sink your teeth into.

Guardian Angel is an urban fantasy novella, which will only be available in ebook format due to its shorter length (about a third of the length of one of my other novels). I’m working on edits now, and am aiming for a May release date. In the meantime, I have a blurb and cover to share with you — this cover, like my others, was made by the talented Kim at KILA Designs.

Blurb

Can her light hold back the night?

There are two things actor Jordan Woodrow always swore were true: that there was no such thing as love at first sight, and that he could never love a fangirl. But after he met Brianna at a convention, everything changed.

Now, hallucinations creep at the edge of his days and nightmares scuttle through his sleep, and only Brianna can keep them at bay. When she is with him, everything is fine. No, it’s better than fine—it’s perfect.

Why can’t his family and friends see that?

Goodreads

Add to your “to read” shelf on Goodreads today!

Cover


Review: ‘Silver and Stone’ by Felicity Banks

Getting into prison is easy.
Getting out is hard.
Getting away is nearly impossible.
Getting the power to control your own destiny might cost everything you have.

Emmeline, Matilda, and Patrick are sworn to rescue Patrick’s mother from the infamous Female Factory prison, but when a vengeful police officer tracks down their hideout, things get worse fast.

Soon they’re framed for a double murder and fighting a magical monster in the eerie and unfamiliar island of Tasmania. Patrick’s mother hides crucial papers in a tin under her prison smock, and her best friend Fei Fei is dying in the overcrowded prison.

More than one woman’s life hangs in the balance.

This book is number two in the trilogy The Antipodean Queen; I reviewed the first book, Heart of Brasshere. A lot of what I said there is still true of Silver and Stone: it is a fast-paced story set in a parallel world to colonial Australia, one with steampunk technology and a slightly more modern feel in certain regards than was the reality — the author says in a note at the end that she wanted to write a tale that was fun, so she eased off on the worst of the grim racism and bigotry. But it wasn’t completely glossed over; there was still acknowledgement of some of the worse events in Australia’s history, such as the complete extermination of the Aboriginal people in Tasmania.

Emmeline is the narrator. She is a scientist and engineer in a world where metals can be activated and bestow certain abilities, and her passion for experimentation and discovery is enjoyable to see. Yet she is still quite the proper English woman in some ways. Although she’s an outlaw and a bandit, she can’t fathom the idea that she might choose not to wear a full dress, for example, and although she and Matilda are a couple, she gets very flustered at the other woman’s more casual approach to nudity. In a fight, Emmeline does tend to expect someone else to rescue her rather than rescuing herself — but, undermining the ‘damsel in distress’ trope a little, the one doing the rescuing is usually Matilda.

Did I mention that I love Matilda? She’s a feisty woman whose mother is Aboriginal and  father English. She is clearly struggling to find her place a world that doesn’t quite no what to do with her, but at the same time, she’s not afraid to just be who she is. I also loved seeing Emmeline gradually growing more bold, following Matilda’s example.

The story flows quickly, with the characters barely having a chance to rest between one adventure and the next. Some of the things they get up to would be impossible in our world, but I didn’t have trouble suspending my disbelief given that our world also doesn’t have steel corsets that give a woman the strength of a man, or aluminium that, when affixed to an item, neutralises its weight. However, the story focuses less on the characters’ emotions and more on what happens next. I would have liked a bit more emotional depth.

As with Heart of Brass, the last 100 pages or so of the paperback are devoted to a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style story. This one is from the perspective of Patrick’s mother, as she waits for Patrick to rescue her from the Female Factory. I really enjoyed that!

The last book in the series comes out later this year, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for it.


Review: ‘Arcanum Unbounded’ by Brandon Sanderson

An all-new 40,000-word Stormlight Archive novella, “Edgedancer,” is the crown jewel of Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, the first book of short fiction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. A must read for fans of the series.

The collection includes nine works in all. The first eight are:

“The Hope of Elantris” (Elantris)
“The Eleventh Metal” (Mistborn)
“The Emperor’s Soul” (Elantris)
“Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes 28 through 30” (Mistborn)
“White Sand” (excerpt; Taldain)
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” (Threnody)
“Sixth of Dusk” (First of the Sun)
“Mistborn: Secret History” (Mistborn)

These wonderful works, originally published on Tor.com and elsewhere individually, convey the expanse of the Cosmere and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect, including the Hugo Award-winning novella, “The Emperor’s Soul” and an excerpt from the graphic novel “White Sand.”

Arcanum Unbounded also contains the Stormlight Archive novella “Edgedancer,” which appears in this book for the first time anywhere.

Finally, this collection includes essays and illustrations for the various planetary systems in which the stories are set.

I heard about this book a while ago (it came out in 2016), but didn’t buy it at the time because I hadn’t read the novels in all of these Cosmere worlds and didn’t want to expose myself to spoilers. However, after I finished Oathbringer (Stormlight Archive #3), I had such a massive book hangover and withdrawals that I bought this audiobook so that I could have a little more Stormlight.

This book was everything I could have asked for. I have a terrible long-term memory for details, so I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow some of the short stories and novellas, but that wasn’t the case at all. I read Elantris a couple of years ago, and I had no issues at all slipping into that world when I read the novella set in that city. So I can say with confidence that this anthology would be accessible to those who haven’t read anything by Sanderson.

I loved all of these stories, though the stand outs for me were ‘Edgedancer’, ‘The Emperor’s Soul’ and ‘Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell’. I also loved ‘Mistborn: Secret History’, although that one in particular does contain massive spoilers for the Mistborn trilogy, so handle with care. Both ‘Sixth of Dusk’ and ‘White Sand’ were also excellent and left me craving more of those characters’ stories (‘White Sand’ in particular seemed a little truncated, which makes sense given that it’s an excerpt). Oh, and ‘Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes 28 through 30’ was whimsical and made me laugh out loud (for real) with a dangling modifier joke that convinced me that Brandon Sanderson is my soulmate. 😉

The whole anthology was excellent. What really made it stand out for me, though, were the introductions that set each world into the broader context of the Cosmere (the universe in which all of these planets and their stories co-exist). Sanderson’s ultimate plan is to have crossover between these worlds; the ambition of it blows my mind. The post script notes by him also gave fascinating insights into his process and each story’s history, which were to me — as a writer — utterly fascinating. And apparently the hardcover book contains maps.

When I win lotto, I will repurchase all of my Sanderson novels (which I have as audiobooks) so that I can see the illustrations for myself.

Fans of Sanderson won’t regret buying this anthology, which also provides an excellent taster for those curious to experience his amazing worldbuilding and magic systems.


Cover reveal and excerpt: ‘Honest Love’ by Lauren K. McKellar

It will be no surprise to people who’ve read the last few reviews on my blog that I am a huge fan of Lauren K. McKellar’s writing. She lets the reader experience her characters’ emotions (as she puts those characters through hell!) like no other. Well, I was lucky enough in the last week or so to get to read the first few chapters of her impending release, Honest Love, and then I couldn’t help but sign up for the cover reveal.

Keep scrolling, you guys — not just for cover-y goodness but for an excerpt.

Title: Honest Love (Twisted Duet #1)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release: March 8, 2018
Cover design: BE Designs

Cover

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Blurb

When you’ve got nothing left to live for, you’ve got nothing left to lose.

In one tragic moment, Cameron Lewis lost everything. His fiancée. His unborn child. His perfect life.

Now, he does what needs to be done in order to get by. Work hard. Play it safe. They’re his mottos, and he’s not going to break them.

Until a beautiful woman with the ocean in her eyes and freedom in her soul comes to his rescue. She’s never known the kind of tragedy he has—and that’s what makes her so damn appealing.

But can Cameron finally let go and risk that last piece of himself? Will honest love be enough?

 

Excerpt

I staggered onto the street, the chill of the late autumn air creeping into my bones. The yellow glow of speeding vehicles blurred into a long never-ending light.

“I’ll never let you go.”

I rubbed my thumb against the ring on my finger. Today was the day. The day he would have been born. The day our baby …

And then I saw her.

Red hair curling down her back.

A white dress, billowing in the breeze.

She was about ten feet ahead in a group of three. Two other women I didn’t know.

My chest tightened. My throat constricted.

I grabbed at the wall of the building next to me, but my hand couldn’t make purchase. It slammed against the ground, my body weight behind it, but I didn’t feel the sting, didn’t feel the pain.

Bea.

“Wait!” I pushed to my feet, darting between shadows of people, my eyes on the red hair moving so far in front. “Please!”

I ran, my breath coming shorter. Too much whiskey. Too much love—both were the culprits and I didn’t give a damn. Because I didn’t know how, and I didn’t know why, but she was here. My Bea. She’d come back.

My feet pounded against the pavement, my soles slapping on the concrete. People turned to look, but for once, I didn’t care. Let them look. I wanted to laugh, a crazy, maniacal laugh. Let them look all they want.

Bea.

It was her.

I was sure of it.

It was her—

And then she turned around.

And for one glorious second, it was her. The woman I loved.

The woman I saw every time I closed my eyes, and sometimes when they were open, too.

The woman who’d own my heart forever.

“Hey,” she said.

But her voice—it wasn’t right.

I shook my head. No.

“Hey.” She tried again, but her smile was big. Too big.

Bea never smiled like that.

Nausea churned in my gut.

“Aren’t you that guy from the—”

Bile raced up my throat. I doubled over, clutching at my waist, and emptied the contents of my stomach into the gutter. Acid burnt the back of my tongue, and I coughed and spluttered, wiping at my mouth.

It wasn’t Bea.

No matter how many times I thought I’d seen her during the last six months, it was never Bea.

And as I stared at my own vomit, wanting her to be there, needing her to be there, I wished that just once I could pretend she was. That for one night, I could hold her in my arms again, stroke her long, red hair, and tell her everything would be all right.

“You guys go ahead,” the redhead told her friends. She placed a cool hand on my back, bending to my level. “Are you okay?”

“No,” I croaked. “I was s’posed to be a father. Today.” My baby. I would have met my baby today. Our baby.

She gave a smaller smile this time, and damn, she looked like her. “My name’s Giselle.”

“I’m Cam.” I straightened, the world sliding as I overbalanced, then corrected myself. “I have to go …”

“No.” She linked her hand in mine. “Let me take care of you.”

And I shouldn’t have. But I was so tired of fighting, of blocking out the past, that I let her lead me to her hotel room, let her pour me another drink, let her take off my clothes.“We’re so incredibly lucky, babe.” I pressed a kiss to the soft skin of Bea’s neck.

“The luckiest.” She smiled up at me, tossing her hair out of her eyes. “The luckiest people in the world.”

Only, it turned out that we weren’t.

Because seven weeks after that positive pregnancy test, Bea died.

And I’d never let her go after that.

Author Bio

Lauren K. McKellar is a writer of contemporary romance reads that make you feel. This hybrid-published USA Today best-selling author loves writing books with stunning settings, heart-throb heroes, and leading ladies who overcome great hardships in their lives.

In addition to writing, Lauren loves to read, and you can often find her up at all hours of the night with a glass of wine, some chocolate, and a good book. She lives by the beach in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband, infant son, and their two dogs. Most of the time, all four of them are well behaved.

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