Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Author Spotlight: Jennifer McDonald

Into the VeilIntroducing Jennifer McDonald, author of the YA Urban Fantasy trilogy The Veilwalker Trilogy:

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: There isn’t a terrible amount to tell. I’m married with two children and three cats. Most of my free time is spent arguing with my characters in front of the computer. I’ll read just about anything but my favorite books are those I can share with my friends and family. While literature has been the first love of my life, music is definitely the second. My tastes range from classical (which I listen to when writing) to punk and metal.Q: When did you start writing, and why?
A: Inspired by the horror novels I read as a teen, I spent a lot of time writing short stories in school. They were always quite dark and twisted though, and my teachers were always trying to curb me toward contemporary ideas. They really never took.

Through the GloomQ: What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

A: I write Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Books for me have always been an escape, so I think it’s natural that I was seduced by the imagination and worlds of impossibility that fantasy offer. Though I enjoy adult novels, the YA genre allows me to explore minds still growing and maturing. The teenage years are a powerful time. Characters are learning who they are, beliefs are forming and changing, and the future is wide open to an abundance of possibilities.

Across the Blood Red RiverQ: What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?

A: Across the Blood Red River was released in August 2014 and marked the end of my Veilwalker Trilogy. Completing my first series was gratifying, but after nearly two years of writing about Lyric and Lincoln, it was a little sad to say goodbye. I’m now working on a multi-book series titled The Helios Chronicles that follows a rebel warlock clan as they fight against the archaic royal families of the magical world.Q: “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
A: The Veilwalker Trilogy is a YA Urban Fantasy that takes place in modern day. The mythology goes…
Magical creatures and humans once lived together in peace and harmony. But six thousand years ago, when the humans were most brutal and magical folk most arrogant, a great war broke out. Humans had always possessed vast numbers, and the magical factions lost the earth because they couldn’t work together.Their kind faded from memory over the generations—becoming history then legend and myth and fairy tales. Now they live as a secret civilization hidden amongst the humans and still locked in eternal battle.

Into the VeilQ: Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

A: Lyric is a teenage veilwalker. This means she has the ability to cross realms and enter the land of the dead. Along with her twin brother and father, Lyric has been hiding from those who seek to use her gifts for their own gain. She’s a driven young woman, focused primarily on being a good little soldier and keeping her family safe. Her brother Lincoln is the charismatic of the pair. He’s easy-going, calm, and a bit of ladies’ man. Then we have Gemma – the ghost who was accidentally enthralled and trapped in the living world. Gemma is certainly the most fun to write. She’s snarky and sarcastic, and constantly at odds with the twins. But when things get tough, Gemma makes for a great ally.Q: A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
A: Lincoln and Lyric had actually appeared in an unpublished book I wrote years ago. They were only children then, about seven or eight, and played a small role. But I loved the other character’s reactions whenever the twins were around. Everyone was intrigued – fascinated by their odd presence and eerie demeanor. Little by little, Lyric and Lincoln’s roles grew until I realized I was writing about the characters.

PictureAcross the Blood Red River (Veilwalker Trilogy, #3):

To lost souls, the veil is a cold, tragic existence. But for Lyric Yama, the living world is so much worse.

Lyric has finally uncovered the truth of her mother’s brutal murder. Now her hands are stained and her mind is plagued with the bitterness of regret.

Soon she will have bigger problems. A grieving warlock is closing in. He’ll stop at nothing to reap vengeance on the young witch.

As the consequences of her past march closer, and the illusion of safety is abandoned, Lyric must decide whether to run or stand and fight.

But when the full power of a veilwalker’s magic is unleashed, no one—living or dead—will ever be safe again.


I smirked at the melancholy in her sigh, and tossed in a twenty to kick off the betting. “Tell us about yourself, Ray-Anne. I barely know anything about old souls. Or incubi and empaths for that matter.”
Sure, I’d heard rumors like everyone else—the unfair and untrue reputations tacked to each race in a blanket stereotype. Veilwalkers were spies, conjurors thieves, and werewolves were mindless beasts. Succubi were sluts while seers were nothing but trouble. But I hadn’t heard much about empaths or old-souls, good or bad.

“What would you like to know?” She draped her arm over the back of her chair, watching me with eyes that held far too much knowledge.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Do you look the same in every life? Are you always a girl?”

“Heavens, no. I’ve been born into families of every skin color on every continent, and though I’m usually female, I’ve spent four lives as a boy.” She grinned as if conveying top secret information. “Being a boy is amazingly fun, Lyric. A hundred years ago, women couldn’t do anything without everyone getting a bug up their asses. But men? Opium and orgies were expected of men. I can’t begin to tell you how many fresh young maids I defiled…”


The Veilwalker Trilogy is available at Amazon

About the Author:
Jennifer R. McDonald resides in Canada with her husband, two children, and three cats. Urban Fantasy is her favorite genre to write but she enjoys reading Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and anything with great antiheroes, cunning villains, and flawed characters.

Jennifer’s first YA Urban Fantasy series, The Veilwalker Trilogy follows the misadventures of a young witch with the power to separate her soul from her body and cross into the land of the dead. After its completion, Jennifer began work on a spin-off series. The first installment of The Helios Chronicles (still untitled) will take a darker turn and feature a teenage witch raised within the treacherous warlock royal palace.

When not writing, Jennifer loves to read, paint, create music, and watch old horror movies.

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


COYER Book Review: Secrets

SecretsSecrets (the Guardian Trilogy #1), by Liz Schulte

Exciting and entertaining paranormal suspense/romance. After Olivia has a chance encounter with a handsome, compelling stranger, frightening and tragic things begin to happen all around her. In the meantime, she and the stranger find themselves irresistably attracted to each other – against both their better judgments – and Olivia is faced with a destiny she doesn’t want and a heartbreaking choice.

This kept me reading to find out what happens next. It’s clear from the beginning that Holden is no ordinary human; the hints and suggestions that are dropped during the chapters in Holden’s point of view make an entertaining puzzle, and, for me, the big reveal comes at exactly the right point in the story.

I liked the alternating sections in Olivia’s and Holden’s points of view, overlapping so we see the events of the story through each character’s eyes. Most scenes aren’t repeated; usually it’s done so that a chapter takes place in one character’s point of view, then the next chapter overlaps the end of that bit of the action so we get the other character’s reflections and reaction as the story moves on. I thought that was very well done.

The characters of Holden and Olivia and engaging and likable, as is Olivia’s best friend Juliet. The other mysterious guy involved, Quintus, doesn’t have quite as much personality, he seems kind of smug and perfect, but that seems to be on purpose – he’s supposedly a force for good but without real empathy for human emotions. I did have a little trouble with Olivia; she seemd kind of stubborn and prickly, with a tendency to sometimes make not very smart decisions. This is something I’ve noticed in contemporary urban fantasy/paranormal (though I’ll admit I haven’t read a lot in the genre) – orneryness being used to show that a female character is “strong”. However, I did like how thoughtful she is in evaluating the realities of who Holden is and if she can deal with that. And I liked it that when confronted with Holden’s supernatural identity, she was able to accept it without denying what’s been right in front of her all along. It bugs me when characters refuse to accept the magic or supernatural things that are happening even when they see them happening right in front of them.

There’s some pretty depressing stuff that happens in the book, which made it a little hard to get through, and the ending is inconclusive. But I enjoyed it enough to download the sample for the next book right away.

See my main Clean Out Your eReader post for reading list and review links.

Author Spotlight: Rachel A. Brune

Rachel A. BruneIntroducing urban fantasy author Rachel A. Brune (don’t miss the giveaway link at the bottom of the post, to win a signed paperback copy of Cold Run!)

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

When I learn something, I like to learn it all the way. I love reading, so I write. I like baking so I learned how to make bread from scratch. I like knitting, so I am learning how to spin. I enjoy German and Russian literature, so am learning the languages. All these random hobbies come in handy when I sit down to write a new project.2. When did you start writing, and why?
My mom has a story I wrote in Kindergarten about Santa Claus and a pie.  I think the jolly old saint got it in the face… I’ve always had an interest in writing, both creative and journalism. After college, I joined the Army as a combat journalist and had a chance to travel around and get experience writing about different subjects as well as producing work on a deadline. I don’t know where this compulsion to put words on paper comes from, I just enjoy telling stories.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
Currently I write news articles for a military-interest Web site, Task and Purpose, as well as short fiction and novels. As before, I enjoy reaching out to people, talking to them, learning what excites them, what they’re passionate about. This goes for fiction, too — I enjoy getting to know my characters, finding out what makes them tick, what drives them crazy, and why they do what they do.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My novel, Cold Run, launched August 4 from Untold Press. It’s a bit shifter urban fantasy meets action spy novel. I’m currently working on a sequel, as well as a separate urban Fae fantasy.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Cold Run
 is set in our contemporary world, with the little added detail that the main character is a werewolf. His shifting ability gives him an advantage in sneaking around, so he spends a lot of time working for a covert organization, MONIKER, fighting crime and criminals. His abilities were discovered in WWII, so various groups of scientists have had a shot at analyzing and studying him. Some of this information has been leaked to some unsavory characters, with just about the results one would expect. The world as a whole, then, is a world of science with undertones of things that can’t be explained.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
The three characters we spend the most time with are Rick Keller, our resident werewolf secret agent, and his partners John Tell and Karen Willet. Rick is kind of a pain, grumpy all the time and not really a team player. But he has a strong sense of loyalty, and will bend over backwards to help a friend, or someone who’s getting a raw deal. John is an experienced agent, who used to be an NYPD detective. He’s not very forthcoming about his past, and has an over-fondness for making shaggy dog jokes at Rick’s expense, but when there is a job that has to be done, he will make sure it gets done. Karen has a military background, but is also a bit of a scholar. She is a legacy member of MONIKER; her grandmother was a founding member. When things — and Rick — are falling apart, she is the one to put them back together.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
One of my tattoos is based on a short story featuring Rick Keller that was published in the Dark Oak Press anthology, Luna’s Children: Full Moon Madness. It was the tattoo that came from something I wrote, but probably not the last!

Cold RunCold Run:

It is amazing how quickly a phone call can interrupt your life, even when you’re a werewolf. Rick Keller hangs up from the unwanted call, but the shadowy organization he once belonged to doesn’t take such an answer lightly. Waking up collared and caged by MONIKER is a quick way to learn retirement isn’t always permanent. Death will be if he doesn’t accept their assignment.

Keller and his new team follow a group of human traffickers on a thin trail across the globe. Their only hope is in a man who hasn’t had much practice being a werewolf in a really long time, a sadistic agent who loves making dog jokes, and a beautiful operative who is better with guns than relationships.
If being forced back into service wasn’t bad enough, he quickly discovers they have many new experiments to try out on their pet wolf. Even worse, MONIKER now isn’t the only one who knows his secret.

Hopefully an old dog can learn some new tricks, especially if he wants to stay alive.



The man behind the weapon was a ghost, a black tactical suit concealing his form, expensive scope mounted on some sort of rifle. I howled again and lurched at him, brought down short by another surge of the change. I struggled to remain upright but found myself on my knees.

Another man appeared to the side, shining a bright, piercing strobe light at my eyes, disorienting me as I tried to turn to face the new threat, my traitorous body rendering my reactions unreliable.

I scrambled to get my feet under me, but the final throes of the change robbed the ground from me. I flailed my paws against the last remnants of my work clothes, now torn and scattered on the ground.
I heard the explosion of gases from the chamber of the first man’s rifle a split second after the bullet pierced my side. I yelped and fell sideways, trying to relieve the pressure. I rolled to all fours and lunged toward the man, intent on relieving the pain by ripping the screams from his throat.

He shot again and again as I reached him, bowling him over and aiming for the soft pieces exposed to my grip.

Instead of soft viscera beneath my teeth, the next sensation I felt came as intense pain, which slowed and disjointed my movements. I raised my head, snapping and gnarling in vain against the folds of the net suddenly enveloping me. Ignoring the second man–stupid mistake. From the burning the lines of the net raised against my hide, I could tell the wires were laced with silver filaments.

The man with the rifle scrambled away from me. I let him go, rolling on the ground, trying to escape the clutching net.

“He’s a big one.” The second man spoke the words, looking down on me from an impossible height as the pain began to outweigh the panic. I could feel the silver working against my struggling.

“He always was.” The first man hocked and spat. It smelled of Copenhagen. “It’s going to be a bitch dragging him down to the truck.”

The words made no sense. I listened, but could not understand.

“If we let you up, do you promise to be a good doggie?” The man with the rifle prodded the barrel into my side.

I growled, but it was mostly wishful thinking, the energy from the night and the change suddenly sapped by the ensilvered net. I lay on my side and simply lolled.

“Good boy.” The man kept his rifle trained at me as his partner knelt down and fiddled with the edge of the net. Grasping a loop from the edge, he pulled. The line must have been attached in some ingenious way so when he pulled on it, it contracted the net into a small, compact circle around my neck.

“Come on.” The second man jerked at my neck, holding the line as a leash. “I’m not carrying you down this hill in the dark.”

The net continued to burn against my neck as he dragged me to my feet. Head hanging, I padded after him through the snow.

Cold Run is available at Amazon.

About the Author:

Rachel A. Brune graduated from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in May 2000, and was immediately plunged into the low-stakes world of entry-level executive assistant-ship. Her unexpected journey out of that world and into the military is chronicled in her self-published book Echoes and Premonitions. After five years as a combat journalist, including two tours in Iraq, and a brief stint as a columnist for her hometown newspaper, she attended graduate school at the University at Albany in NY, where she earned her MA in Political Communication, and her commission as a second lieutenant in the military police corps. Although her day job has taken in her in many strange, often twisted directions, Rachel continues to write and publish short fiction. She released her first novel, Soft Target, in early 2013. She blogs her thoughts about reading and the writing life at http://www.infamous-scribbler.com.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Click the picture to go to the giveaway! Prize: signed paperback copy of Cold Run (one of five copies)
Giveaway runs through October 1, 2014.
Cold Run giveaway

Author Spotlight: Josephine McNabb

PictureIntroducing author Josephine McNabb and her paranormal romance/urban fantasy novel Fire and Fangs:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a twenty-three year old student. I grew up in a farm in Northern Ireland. I have two brothers and so many pets I couldn’t start naming them all. I started writing Fire and Fangs about a year and a half ago. I didn’t think it would turn out to be an actual book, but when it did, my boyfriend suggested that I publish it. I am editing book two in the Blood and Flames series and looking forward to starting book 3. I’ve always been an avid reader too. My Mum used to read stories with me when I was younger and I’ve been reading ever since.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing because I was off work with an injury and this scenario came to mind when I was going to bed one night.. Then the next night.. So I decided I would write it down to get it out of my head. It didn’t work! It kept going so I kept writing. I’ve written small stories since I was in school, nothing published, but my teacher said i had a vivid imagination.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write paranormal romance with a lot of action and suspense. I like my stories to have a bit of grit about them. I don’t like it to be all about the romance, but how the romance can survive through the tough times.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My first and only (so far) series is Blood and Flames. Fire and Fangs is available now and book two, which I am in the process of editing will be available before the end of the summer.

Picture 5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
My world builds itself throughout the book. It begins as a normal world, where there are bad creatures out there, but only a select few know about it and they try to protect humanity from it. Of course it doesn’t stay that way.. Danni and Keri hunt rogue’s, vampires, shifters etc that go bad and start killing innocents.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Danni is a seasoned fighter, she grew up under the wing of Nick, who is a surrogate father to her. He took her in after her parents died. The book begins with Danni tailing a rogue who has kidnapped a little girl. She is bad ass and not afraid of anything. She is confident in her abilities but she wishes that she was normal. She has a gift that she calls, ‘The Heat’. Her body goes up in flames and she can manipulate her fire. She has been repressing it for years.

Keri is a newbie, she is fresh out of the training academy and is keen to prove her skills. She is naive and comes across quite vulnerable at times. Although I do love her snide remarks. She develops and grows within this book.

Nest Master Damon is someone that you love to hate at the beginning. He isn’t very nice. He is determined to rule his Nest and keep all of his vampires safe. I think his stubbornness and single mindedness is what I like about him.

Rachel aka Blondie is Danni’s boyfriends sister. Blondie hates Danni with a passion and thinks her brother Greg, can do so much better. She’s out to make trouble for them.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
While writing this book I sent everyone around me mad, you would have to say my name about four times before I heard you and if you were wanted me to do something you had to wait until my brain went quiet before I could tear myself way. I was too afraid I would forget such a brilliant scene.

8. Blog/site link:
Facebook | Goodreads

Fire and Fangs is available at Amazon (universal link)

COYER Book Review

Picture Princess of Persia, by Shantnu Tiwari

Princess of Persia is a tale of the end of the world, gods and demons, terrorists, superheroes, polite vegetarian zombies, super-intelligent coffee machines, evil conspiracies, gay arranged marriages, murderous butterflies, and Bollywood. And, oh yeah, there’s a prince of Persia in there who’s in love with the heroine.

This book is part satire, part farce, and mostly pure silliness. You don’t read it for the prose stylings or the character development (which is a little thin), you read it for the humor. And, yeah, the story itself is pretty exciting. But mostly it didn’t matter what was going on in the story, I was too busy laughing out loud.

See my COYER main post and reading list here.

Author Spotlight: Zoe Dawson


Today I’m pleased to host author Zoe Dawson, who writes a little bit of everything!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Raleigh, NC but I’m originally from Burlington, Vermont, but the winters were much too cold, so I’ve been moving my way south. I lived in Fairfax, Virginia for 18 years before moving to Raleigh 8 years ago. I work a full-time job while writing on my off hours. I also enjoy watercolor painting and gaming. I have two grown daughters who are the best things I ever did and will ever do in my life.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing historicals which I loved to read and was influenced by the book The Sheik which my grandmother gave me. She was a huge Rudolph Valentino fan. I have been published since 1996, but have been writing since 1980. I started writing my own contemporary suspense stories because I couldn’t find what I enjoyed reading.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write in several genres:

Romantic Comedy
I have seven books out in my Going to the Dogs series and one more to complete with Going to the Dogs 2 series planned to begin in 2015. These books are based on the friendship in Sex and the City with four friends who met at a dog park. They’re light mysteries and include each of the heroine’s and hero’s dogs incorporated into the main storyline. I love writing romantic comedy because I basically have a lame sense of humor and it really translates into good comedy, sometimes even slapstick which has been quite fun.

New Adult Contemporary
I have three books in the new adult genre. One is a standalone Christmas novella. The other two are the first two books in my A Perfect Secret Series with the third book out this summer. They’re set in the bayou in Louisiana, include three hot triplets brothers, and are mysteries. I love writing this angsty coming of age romantic drama stuff. I also really discovered that I love writing in first person.

The debut of my Urban Fantasy series, The Starbuck Chronicles begins a heroine-centric journey. I also have a serial and a four-book paranormal romance series planned in this world. I’m also planning two three-book series in Syfy. I have always felt that my writing was lyrical and I have to curb that in my contemporaries, but in the syfy/fantasy genre, I can let my poetic mind free rein. I also thoroughly enjoy the totally awesome experience of worldbuilding. I’ve always loved magic and love writing about how it works and how it affects a character’s life. For syfy, I am a space geek. Loved Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate Atlantis, and Firefly. I can’t get enough space drama and when it’s mixed with romance…so deliciously yummy!

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
I am working on A Perfect Dilemma that is slated for a summer release. It’s the third book in my A Perfect Secrets series – Three perfect girls, three perfect secrets, one unholy trinity. I will have my last  wedding and honeymoon novella, Captured, the eighth book and wrap up of my first Going to the Dogs series. And another new adult contemporary, Sk8er Boy, that begins a new series out in the fall with a robust 2015 writing schedule continuing series and beginning new ones.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Reality was fractured by a rogue mage who used runic magic. Once this happened portals to other realms opened and supernatural beings flooded the Earth plane. Now humans have to learn to co-exist with supernaturals where reality is broken and video games leak monsters into the night, characters walk off the pages of books, demons roam, thirsting for more than just blood, people are not who or what they seem and a diabolical evil plots and plans to devour the world.

Picture 6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Lily Starbuck – She is the main protagonist and has no memory of her past. She woke up three years ago and while working as a waitress met her Kitchen Witches partner, Olivia Vesta. She’s a witch, but has mostly honed her magic skills in the kitchen. What I love about her is her determination and grit. She does what she has to do for her own principles.

Nock Whisk – a cantankerous gnome sidekick who loves to be sarcastic, contrary and often goes invisible on her. What I love about Nock is his affection for Lily and his glee in pushing her buttons. He would do just about anything for her.

Talon Sunstrike – The lead agent from the Fairy Dust Administration (FDA) who is investigating Lily’s catering partner in the use of illegal dust. What I like about Talon is his passionate dedication to protecting his people and the human population. He’s devoted his very long life to it and he’s as sexy as hell.

Rayne Parrish – The tough Otherworlder Security (OS) warden that Lily meets and saves her life. She then works with her team. Rayne is a shapeshifter and part of a mysterious race that is a small part of the population. What I like about her is her direct, no-nonsense attitude and kick-butt personality.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
The Starbuck Chronicles came to me in a dream. I got the idea, woke up, and wrote a 22 page synopsis. It was great.

The Starbuck Chronicles:
The fine thread between reality and the fantastical has snapped. The mortal and supernatural must learn to co-exist in post-reality Minneapolis/St. Paul where video games leak monsters into the night, demons roam, thirsting for more than just blood, people are not who or what they seem and a diabolical evil plots and plans to devour the world.

Book 1 – AfterLife:
In this world gone mad……Lily’s biggest challenge is to survive.

Lily Starbuck, kick-ass witch caterer, knows that a day that starts with blood on the horizon is a terrible omen. The day goes downhill from there when a grumpy werewolf refuses to pay his catering bill, her partner cleaned out their bank accounts, and Lily finds her murdered in their kitchen. To make matters worse, the Fairy Dust Administration (FDA) is sniffing around. Fae dust hounds hot on her partner’s trail for dealing in illegal dust now turn their attention to her. Their sexy Fae leader takes a particular interest in her and is hard to shake.

Heartbroken, flat broke and with her very livelihood in jeopardy, she discovers that the formidable Otherworlder Security (O.S.) is being tampered with. With no active investigation and a missing body, she has no choice but to discover who killed her partner. Her only backup is a cantankerous gnome who delights in going invisible on her. Clues lead her to an open case being investigated by a tough O.S. warden shapeshifter. It seems a rogue mage has created a video game that is unwarded and game monsters are being released to terrorize the human and supernatural citizens of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Trouble is Lily has reason to believe that this mage killed her partner. Looks like Lily will have to make a deal with a vamp devil and battle wits with the Twin Cities most powerful leader all in the name of justice.

AfterLife is available at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | itunes

Find Zoe Dawson at:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads | Newsletter

Book Review: Monochrome

Picture Monochrome, by H.M. Jones
* * * * (4 stars)

Monochrome is a strikingly original tale of a young wife and mother who, overwhelmed with post-partum depression and fears about her marriage, comes close to giving up on life. When she awakens from a panic attack, she finds herself in the strange, dark world of Monochrome (fittingly colored blue), where good memories are the highly-coveted currency. With the help of her guide, Ishmael, she has the chance to find her way back to the life she no longer wants to leave behind – but at what cost?

I love the idea of a world where you have to pay your way by giving up memories. The book takes a close look at the different kinds of memories we have – from nice ones that we could live without to those memories that define who and what we are – and how giving up even the ones that don’t seem significant affects our perceptions of our whole selves. It really made me think about what memories I would give up if I had to – and in Monochrome, only good memories are valid currency, you can keep the bad ones. The thought was chilling.

Ishmael and Abby are both appealing characters. I especially liked Ishmael, the deeply wounded young man who never made it out of Monochrome and instead took a job of trying to help others find their way out. I would like to know more about his past, and his future. I’m also intrigued by how the world of Monochrome came to be, and would love to read more about that and about the menacing Boss, who rules Monochrome.

There’s some action, but this is mostly an introspective book, with long conversations between Ishmael and Abby, two very articulate and self-aware young people. They are both also poetry buffs, and quote a lot of Romantic (as in style, not in lovey-dovey) poetry to each other.

Monochrome is a dark book, but also filled with hope and beauty. Recommended if you’re looking for a fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal that will make you slow down and think and feel.

(My interview with Abby)

Book Spotlight: Sentinel


Last July, I reviewed Sentinel by Joshua Winning, and gave it a rare 5-star review. Recently, Joshua achieved a major goal and received a publishing contract for Sentinel. To celebrate the re-release on May 19 of this awesome book, I’m re-posting the review here.

PictureSentinel, by Joshua Winning

Kyra’s Star Ratings:
Characters: * * * * *
Story: * * * * *
Writing: * * * * *
Emotional Engagement: * * * * *

(I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)

“Sentinel” is the story of a fifteen-year-old boy, Nicholas Hallow, who, when his world falls apart, learns that he has abilities and a heritage that he never dreamed of. Evil beings who were long held at bay by the Sentinels have begun to gain a foothold in our world, and Nicholas finds himself the object of the stuggle between the Sentinels and the servants of the Dark Prophets.

This book grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let go till the end. The sense of menace never lets up – even when Nicholas finds refuge, the danger is still out there, waiting. The descriptions of a world where evil is gaining power are chilling, as are the antagonists themselves. The characters are vividly drawn, and I found myself loving the good guys (and girls) and loving to hate the baddies. The book is also emotionally gripping – I felt the highs, lows, fear, relief, and shock right along with the characters.

“Sentinel” is described as “dark YA fantasy,” but it hits that sweet spot of having a teen protagonist and being appropriate for/interesting to teens, while also being written with a deeper, more sophisticated adult voice and outlook and featuring some adult point-of-view characters. I’m not a big YA reader, preferring adult characters and an adult voice, but I found myself deeply engaged in and satisfied with reading “Sentinel.” Besides being a good example of YA-adult crossover, I think this book would appeal very much to teen boys who enjoyed the Harry Potter books.

[Note: It’s very likely that the book has been re-edited prior to this release, so this part of the review may no longer be valid.] It isn’t perfect; there are a few bits of the story that didn’t quite hang together for me, though it never lost my attention, and the author occasionally uses words to attribute dialogue that don’t really work as substitutes for “said.”

Other than those tiny nitpicks, I thought “Sentinel” was fantastic, and enjoyed it immensely. (Plus it gives a whole new meaning to the term “crazy cat lady”!) I highly recommend it, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.


“What is a Sentinel? A guard. A killer. A detective.’

You see them every day, but you would have no idea who they really are or the power they hold. They are the world’s best kept-secret – and now the world needs them more than ever.

Mobilised against the devastating return of centuries-old dark forces, the Sentinels face their greatest challenge and a threat to their ancient existence. And when 15-year-old Nicholas Hallow’s parents are killed in a suspicious train crash, the teenager is drawn into a world where nothing is quite what it seems.

Against the backdrop of a summer snowstorm, Nicholas and hardy pensioner Sam Wilkins embark on a treacherous journey in which their pursuers are never far behind.

A young adult dark fantasy set in Cambridge, Sentinel is the first book in the thrilling Sentinel Trilogy. Filled with action, mystery, monsters and murder, it takes the reader on a terrifying adventure with unconventional heroes and a touch of magic.

The Sentinel Trilogy Website | Facebook | Twitter

Coming May 19
Peridot Press | Amazon UK | Amazon US


About the Author:

Joshua Winning was born in Cambridge, but don’t hold that against him. He’s attempted to escape reality for most of his life by writing. As a child, that involved poring diligently over anything by C.S. Lewis or Robin Jarvis, and attempting to come up with stories that were even half as good.​​

He mostly failed. His stories were often gruesome and had titles like Skull and Skull II: The Revenge. (He even bound them using the old binding machine at his dad’s school.)​

When he was 16, Joshua started writing his first ‘proper’ novel. It didn’t have a title then (or at least, it had a terrible one that Joshua refuses to reveal), but it slowly morphed into Sentinel. Almost 15 years, a film studies degree, and about five thousand cups of coffee later, he’s finally finished it. It’s turned out to be a very personal story, even if it does involve big explosions and nasty demons.​

When he’s not writing about Sentinels, Joshua can usually be found watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Wire and Daria. He also works as a freelance journalist, writing about movies for Total Film, movieScope and Grolsch Film Works.​

Joshua currently lives in North London with his cat Mia. Unfortunately, she’s not a great conversationalist, but he’s working on it.

Website | Twitter

Kyra’s interview with Joshua Winning

Book Review: Shadow Pack

Picture Shadow Pack, by Marc Daniel
* * * * (4 stars)

(I won a free copy of Shadow Pack in a giveaway, and would like to thank the author for the book.)

The ingredients for a perfect crime thriller:

Series of mysterious and bizarre murders – check.
Honest cop on the case – check.
Outside expert brought in by his old army buddy the honest cop to help out – check.
Frick and Frack, the detective team who aren’t quite as clever as they think they are – check.
Corruption in high places – check.
The Mob (Russian, in this case) – check.
Femme fatale – check.
Spunky lady journalist – check.
Vengeful daughter – check.
Pack of werewolves – check.
Thousand-year-old Viking shapeshifter – check.
Wizard in a pointy hat – check.

Paranormal suspense isn’t my usual reading, but I do enjoy the occasional crime thriller, and I really enjoyed the way Shadow Pack puts the two together. The story is fast-moving and suspenseful, with lots of exciting action, and I really enjoyed the character of Michael Biorn. It’s kind of gory in places, but that’s about par for the course when you’ve got both werewolves and the Mob involved.

The story seems pretty straightforward – not so much a mystery, since we’re seeing things from the bad guys’ point of view as well as the good guys’; the suspense comes from seeing who will get the better of the other. But there’s also a very nice twist to it, very cleverly set up, and it took me a while to catch on to the fact that there was a twist. Once I realized there was something else going on under the surface, I didn’t have too much trouble figuring out what it was, but it was fun to read the rest of the story to see if I was right.

There are a few rough spots in the prose, and the ending seems kind of abrupt, but overall the writing is very clear and readable. Fans of werewolves or crime thrillers, or fans of crime thrillers about

Author Spotlight: Nicoline Evans

PictureToday I’m pleased to welcome fantasy author Nicoline Evans to the blog.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Nicoline and I love to invent new worlds for readers to get lost in. My goal while writing is to create a safe place for people to forget about the heavy things in their own lives, even if it is only for a few hours of the day.I graduated from Rutgers University – New Brunswick, NJ as a communications major. After taking every creative writing course they offered, I realized writing was my passion.Random things about me? I am a certified scuba diver, I revel in new adventures, and I believe in all things magical.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I have been writing since I was in middle school. I have some fun short stories in my archives from those days. In high school, I kept a journal that documented my everyday activities (ridiculous, I know) and I had many notebooks full of poems. I continued writing through college, the daily journal stopped but the poetry continued (improving drastically, in my opinion). Writing down my thoughts in short, poetic prose helped me get through some of the hardest times in my life. At Rutgers University, I took as many of the creative writing courses that I could. After I graduated in 2009, I immediately began writing my first novel. “Haemans”, which is available now, is the second novel I wrote. The first is still in editing but should be available soon 🙂

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write fantasy novels. I enjoy taking real life issues or ideas and putting a whimsical spin on them. Sometimes it’s light, airy fantasy and sometimes it’s dark, twisted, and creepy. In all cases, I like to have a touch of darkness in them. It keeps the story real. It also is the style that’s most fun for me to write.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
“Haemans” is my debut release. It came out on February 3, 2014 and as of right now, it is a stand-alone book. After reading it you will see that there is room for a sequel, but that would come at a later date. I have another novel coming out in the forthcoming months. It is a completely separate story from “Haemans” but it is still a fantasy tale with epic world-building and adventure.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Russia has a secret and it is the transformation of their people. Hooked on the newest craze brought to light by the reinstated royals, Russians are now known as haemans; morally unhinged addicts with super strength and speed. The rest of the world is clueless to this new development; it has been kept confined within the borders of Russia. The haemans are wicked, filling the country with depravity as they seize control over the culture. While the new royals reign over their loyal haemans, Russians who escaped this newest fad live hidden in the wilderness, away from the dangerous cities. These escapees live each day carrying the weight of loved ones lost and the mindset to survive.

Picture6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Sevrick Bykovsky – A non-haeman survivor. He will do all he can to save his fiancée, Arinadya, from the grips of haemanism. From his hiding place in the woods, he makes dangerous trips into the city to check-in on his love, hoping to convince her to see the error in her ways.Arinadya Tarasova – Haeman. Extremely strong female lead who takes pride in her new lifestyle. CEO of Arkline Advertising, Arinadya is a force to be reckoned with.  She is strong and ruthless. Over the years she has forcibly forgotten all about her life as a human.Mikhail Romanov – Newly titled prince of Russia. One of the three originators of haemanism. He is callous, cruel, and lethal. His manipulative style has coerced naïve and impressionable Russians into following his lead, dragging them down to his level of immorality.

Milena Romanov – Newly titled princess of Russia. Mikhail’s sister, and the only person he truly loves. Gorgeous in how she portrays her life as a royal haeman, Milena made this self-destructive lifestyle seem fashionable. She influenced the opinions of millions, putting a desirable light upon an addiction that would otherwise be deemed deplorable.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
This story is important to me, as the writer, because it is a reminder to everyone reading that anyone can come undone. No one is perfect and we all have moments of weakness. Some of us are still struggling through our darkest times while others may have a past that feels heavy. No matter the case, we all endure difficult moments that make us who we are today. Just because you have gone through a tremendously hard time, or are still going through it, does not mean you cannot rise above and move forward from it.

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
Barnes & Noble

By Nicoline Evans

Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Russia has undergone drastic changes. When descendants of the lost royals are discovered, they are thrust into the spotlight. They use their power to corrupt the population, turning those who succumb to their addiction into freakishly strong and morally unhinged individuals. These addicts are known as haemans. Those who escape this terrifying new culture must live hidden in the forested outskirts, far away from the danger that now engulfs the cities. HAEMANS follows the tragic love story between one escapee and one haeman.