Reviewed: August 14th, 2022 Released: October 17th, 2015 Genre: MM Romance
Lucas Vallois is always in control. He’s building an empire in the glittering city of Cincinnati and created his own family from his three close friends. The self-made millionaire has everything he wants within his tight grasp. But his world starts to crumble after he’s jumped by a trio of thugs late one night after leaving a club. The warning is clear – give up his new property venture or end up dead.
Caving to the demands of his friends, Lucas accepts the help of bodyguard Andrei Hadeon as he hunts for the source of this new threat. But as Lucas gets closer to uncovering the danger, he realizes the sexy Romanian bodyguard poses an even bigger risk to his carefully constructed world. Trapped by a need he never expected, Lucas must find a way to deny the shiver of longing he cannot control.
His brother. His warrior. His heart. Four friends. Unbreakable bonds. Read my Thoughts…
Reviewed: June 1st, 2022 Released: February 7th, 2019 Genre: Contemporary YA LGBTQ+ Graphic novel
Charlie and Nick are at the same school, but they’ve never met … until one day when they’re made to sit together. They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance.
But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is more interested in Charlie than either of them realised.
By Alice Oseman, winner of the YA Book Prize, Heartstopper is about love, friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us. Read my thoughts...
Reviewed: December 7th 2021 Released: November 25th, 2020 Genre: MM Dark Fantasy
Book two of the Prince’s Assassin series
“Know your place, Nikolas.”
“Under the heel of your boot, Your Highness?”
After a terrible inferno destroys the Caville palace, and with the people of Loreen turned against him, Prince Vasili is left with no choice but to flee his ancestral home, leaving his brother Amir to proclaim himself King. But Vasili’s life isn’t the only one left in ashes. King Amir has not forgotten Nikolas Yazdan—a lord’s bastard son and Vasili’s favorite pet. With forbidden power in his veins, Amir has become more than Niko can fight alone.
Thrust together with Vasili once more, Niko must travel south, to a land of pirates and thieves, of mystery and magic. A land of opportunity for a manipulative prince and his reluctant assassin. But just as Nikolas begins to believe Vasili might be worth fighting for—that Loreen can be saved with Vasili on the throne—the dark flame trapped in the royal bloodline unravels its ancient bonds. One prince must control the unrelenting power desperate for its escape. The other must die.
Niko thought he knew which prince he could trust, but he’s been fooled before and as Vasili’s true motives are revealed, Niko finds himself at the mercy of Prince Vasili once more. Only this time, there’s more than love at stake. The fate of the world rests on Niko discovering the truth about the flame, about the cursed Cavilles, and his place in their doomed destiny.
***Reign of Darkness is the second book in the Prince’s Assassin series. The series should be read in order, beginning with King of the Dark.
Reviewed: December 5th, 2021 Released: July 10th, 2020 Genre: MM DarkFantasy
“Your love is worthless, it’s your hate I need.” ~ Prince Vasili Caville
When King Talos Caville surrendered the war to the elves, soldier Nikolas Yazdan vowed never to serve the royals again. He said the same to the prince who tried to buy his loyalty, and learned that the Caville princes don’t take no for an answer.
Whipped for his insolence, Nikolas is also forced into slavery in a palace full of vicious, brutal royals. Prince Vasili is the worst Caville of all. Malicious and cruel, the prince is more viperman, and someone inside the palace wants him dead. Nikolas would kill the prince himself if not for one thing: Julian, the prince’s personal guard and Niko’s light in the dark. If Nikolas doesn’t submit to Prince Vasili and discover who is plotting against him, Julian will suffer.
But there’s more wrong in the palace than just the prince. The king is on his deathbed, the ferocious elves are creeping closer to the great city of Loreen, and madness stalks the hallways. There’s poison in the Caville court, and if Nikolas doesn’t discover the real reason Prince Vasili tried to buy him with a bag of coin, the palace, the city, and everything he loves, will be lost forever. Read My thoughts…
Reviewed: September 16th, 2021 Released: September 15th, 2021 Genre: Dark Fantasy
Check out this new release, the second book in the Banshees Curse series.
Fight or flight… why not do both?
Cara is magic-bound by her promise to Cadan, keeping her in the fae realm. On the run from the power hungry King, Cara and her friends search for a way to stop him and bring back balance to Gon’an’rit. Still hurt by a recent betrayal and confused by her heritage, Cara struggles to find her place within her evolving life.
Perfect for fans of fated mates, enemies to lovers,complicated & diverse characters, slow burn romance, and celtic folklore.Read More…
I am joined today by author Emily Michel who releases her fantasy novel Memory of Wings on August 3rd! Links to the pre-order are at the end of this post. Welcome Emily. Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your book. Please tell us a little about your novel.
Emily:A Memory of Wings(coming August 2021) is an enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance. Shax tries to escape his past as Lucifer’s best assassin after the Gates to Heaven and Hell explode, casting down to Earth all of the angels and demons caught in the blast. But then he runs into the one that got away, Guardian Angel Kheone. After rescuing her from the falling body of her friend, he finds himself searching for the killer. Shax questions his nature as a demon and faces a choice between love and saving his own skin.
Helen: What an exciting premise, it definitely sounds like a novel I would pick up. What made you begin writing?
Emily: I began writing stories in elementary school but had the joy of writing stripped from me by all the essays in high school and college. When my husband deployed in 2012, I used creative writing as a way of acknowledging and processing my feelings. It took seven more years, but I turned that story into three novels, which I self-published.
Helen: Congratulations on finding the joy of writing. I agree with you that writing is a cathartic experience. The fact that we also create amazing books is a bonus we get to share with other readers. Your preferred genre is paranormal fantasy isn’t it?
Emily: I’ve mostly written paranormal romance (five books out of seven drafted), probably because I was heavily inspired by Anne Rice, Laurell K Hamilton, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I find it fun to create these hidden worlds. I’ve also drafted a contemporary romance that I’m considering changing into a paranormal and a fantasy romance.
Helen: Seven books drafted and five of them published is an amazing feat. Did you plan the whole series or did it just sort of happen?
Emily: Oh, I’m definitely a pantser, though I have learned the wondrous utility of the Beat Sheet. I pantsed my way through my first five books then discovered Save the Cat! It helped me revise books 4 & 5 — a contemporary romance that I couldn’t fix at that time and what became A Memory of Wings. I approached my next two books (a fantasy romance and the sequel to AMOW) with beat sheets in hand, and the drafting was much easier. It’s like having a road map with the important stops marked on it, but how I choose to get to those stops is still very much freeform.
Helen: Save the cat! is an amazing book, for those writers out there, you can find the links on my recommended writing tools page. Tel us a little bit about how you write. Do you like music or silence?
Emily: I love listening to music as I write. I have multiple playlists depending on what I’m writing that day. There’s usually one overall playlist for each series, sometimes a secondary playlist for a specific book. I also have mood music: music for fight scenes, love scenes, sad scenes, sex scenes, etc. Then when it’s time to edit, I choose instrumental music. Sometimes classical, sometimes more “new age”. My playlist for A Memory of Wings features a lot of music from the TV show Lucifer and music by Klergy.
Helen: It’s been great finding out about your novel, thank you for joining me. Congratulations again on the forthcoming release of Memory of Wings. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other authors?
Emily: Keep writing and keep learning. Writing is a skill, and as with all skills, you can learn to do it better. The more you practice, the better you will get. Set aside regular time to write, not necessarily everyday if that stresses you out, but frequently and guard that time. Read inside and outside your genre. The more you read, the more you see how other authors put together stories, both the good and the bad. I’ve used some favorite books to help me determine how to structure a story. The structure behind Devil’s Claw & Moonstone, my second book, was based on an amalgamation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Voyager (Outlander 3).
About the Author:
Emily Michel spent most of her life as a military family member. She has called many places home, including Germany, Belgium, and Kansas. After nearly twenty years traipsing around Europe and the US, she settled back in her home state of Arizona a few years ago with her husband and kids.
When not writing, Emily reads, walks, hikes, and pets her feline overlords. Emily is the current President of Saguaro Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. She also volunteers for the PTA, but do not accuse her of being a PTA Mom. She’s cooler than that. Maybe.
In 2019, she self-published her Magic & Monsters trilogy, a steamy witchy romance, and is currently working on a new angel/demon romance set in Kansas City. Please buy them. Her two teenage boys eat a lot of food.
I am joined today by author Kristen Braddock who releases her novel Whisper of Darkness today! I have been fortunate enough to read an eARC, an advanced copy, and I can tell you, you are in for a treat! Welcome Kristen. Congratulations on the release of your book, the first in the Banshee’s Curse series. I am really excited to talk about your books, because you introduce a lot of diverse characters, all of which have emotional baggage that you just want to unravel, and you address some difficult topics through your character’s experiences. Please tell us a little about your novel.
Kristen:Whisper of Darkness is the first book in my new Banshee’s Curse series where a young woman believes she is cursed due to how death seems to follow her through her life, only to discover she’s actually a banshee- a predictor of death. After being saved by another fae, she’s forced to join a competition to fulfill her life debt to him. The first book focuses on the discovery of this other realm, and surviving the deadly trials she is now a part of. Personally, what I think is unique about my books are the representation I include. I feel the fantasy genre can be greatly expanded with its diversity, and I’m not simply talking about race. The main character, Cara, struggles with her mental health. Her sister is a lesbian. The love interest, Killian, has burn scars that marr the left side of his body. A friend Cara makes in the fae realm is autistic. These are a few examples of the diversity I include. I want my books to not focus on coming out stories or focus on these traits, but for them to be a natural part of who they are, just like in our world. A person is more than their depression, their physical ailments, their sexuality or neurodiversity. I want a cast of characters that are as diverse and complex as the world we do live in.
Not only this, but I want to put my money where my mouth is. So, for each book/series I will donate 10% of my profits to nonprofit organizations. For example, for Whisper of Darkness (potentially the whole series), I will donate to the Foundations of Divergent Minds which is run by autistic people, instead of parents of autistic people, and has a high employee rate of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ persons.
Helen: That is amazing. I hope everyone is rushing off to buy your novel right this minute. (Links at bottom of post.) With so much diversity in your novel, how did you come up with the title?
Kristen: Again, Cara battles depression, and her powers are generally dark. Whisper of Darkness is the whispering of her dark thoughts from her mental health, but also represents the dark powers she’s learning about.
Helen: Sounds just right, fits the book and the cover is gorgeous! How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
Kristen: My covers have key elements from the book. Every single feature is chosen for a reason, even down to why the main character has her back turned away. However, I don’t want to explain it too much because I could reveal elements that I’m interested to see if readers pick up on instead of what I explain. Also, some things will be represented across all the covers, almost as if the covers tell their own story. For example, I plan to have the main character slowly turning around with each consecutive cover because with each book she learns and accepts more about herself. So, the unveiling of her on the covers, represents the acceptance she has for who she is too.
Helen: Very clever. Your book sound very intriguing, and definitely delivers. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Kristen: It started with a “what’s a supernatural creature that isn’t common in stories?” I came across a banshee in my research, and thought that would be cool. Upon further investigation, I learned banshees come from Irish/Celtic Folklore, which the rest of the series is highly inspired by. From there, I wanted to write a fantasy novel that contained characters you did not often come across in the genre. A diverse cast with the kinds of representations I would love to see in books.
Helen: I must admit I write what I like to read as well. What made you choose fantasy?
Kristen: I write fantasy, a variety of subgenres, because the sky’s the limit. I love to see where my imagination takes me, how the characters become alive. It’s my favorite genre to read, and I love when I become so immersed in my writing it feels like I’m reading a book as I type instead of writing it myself.
Helen: I think that is what is magical about reading fantasy, a lot is left to your imagination to build that world how you want to see it and how the characters live in it. What inspired you first start writing?
Kristen I’ve always loved to create stories. My first was a two page short story at 6 years old about a cat who ate too much. I even studied Creative Writing in college before swapping my major to Biology. I have slowly accomplished my childhood goals, and one of them was being a published author. Thankfully, with what indie publishing has become, the only thing stopping me from realizing that dream was myself.
Helen: With such a diverse cast of characters, who was your favourite character to write?
Kristen: I would definitely have to say Cadan, her autistic fae friend. Actually, I was initially going to have him die, an emotional burden Cara would carry, but by the time I reached that point in my story I couldn’t do it. First off, I totally loved him by that point, and the friendship that formed between him and Cara. Also, I felt it was almost stereotypical for diverse characters to be killed off. Time and time again, writers for movies, books, tv shows, etc are criticized about the LGBTQ+ or BIPOC characters coming to a demise or not finding a happily ever after. I didn’t want the same fate for Cadan. I want Cadan to find his happily ever after by the end of the series.
Helen: I hope he manages to find one, and he truly is a wonderful friend for Cara! So who do you prefer to write? Villains or heroes?
Kristen: I love both as long as they are complicated. I love to understand what makes a character tick. I want a hero who isn’t naturally perfect, and I want a villain who isn’t “evil because they’re evil” but because they have a reason. No one sees themselves as a villain, everyone would view themself as the hero in their own story. So, diving into the grey area of all my characters is amazing.
Helen:Your novel is full of complex characters. All of which have interesting back stories which you slowly reveal, and tempt us with. You must have had such fun writing them, as they all tug at the heart strings. As you wrote this book, which part of the writing process did you prefer? Writing or editing?
Kristen: Writing all the way! It can be difficult when creative blocks hit, but editing is where I spend hours upon hours criticizing my work and questioning everything. If there was a way I would never have to edit my own work, I’d take it. Helping others with editing I don’t mind at all, but I loathe the process for myself. However, when the initial spark of a book occurs, and you begin writing and watch it develop is **chef’s kiss**.
Helen: Love it. Btw my daughter had to explain ‘chef’s kiss’ to me, but I get it now! Tell us a little about how you write. Do you plan everything in advance and follow it religiously or allow it to develop as your write?
Kristen: I’m a planster. I usually outline each chapter with a few words. For example, “Chapter 17: fae ball.” It helps ensure I don’t get stuck, the book is progressing, and there’s a reason for each chapter. I usually know the general idea of where I want the chapter to end up or key things I want to occur, but otherwise I let the scene develop on its own as I write.
Helen: Tell us about your writing environment. Do you write in silence, or do you like to listen to music?
Kristen: Sometimes, and if I do it’s classical, often film scores. I created my own playlist with pieces from Pride and Prejudice, How To Train Your Dragon, Maleficent, Chronicles of Narnia, and a few others. I, also, have a Dark Academia Classical playlist I found on Spotify.
Helen: This is the first book in the Banshee’s Curse series, how do you get the ideas to write a whole series?
Kristen: Everywhere. I get them while sitting in a Marine Science class, letting my mind wander while traveling, sitting at the end of a boat dock looking over the ocean, what I dream about at night, or word vomiting what I love to read. Inspiration is everywhere and I have endless notes and Google docs filled with ideas.
Helen: Thank goodness we are surrounded in inspiration! Tell us a little about your work in progress. Book two of the series I hope?
Kristen: Currently, I am working on Book 2 and 3 of my Banshee’s Curse series. Also, I’m in the editing stage for a YA mermaid series. With my marine science background, I thought “what realistic ocean phenomena could be used for a mer-society?” and it went from there. I actually wrote this novel before Whisper of Darkness, and plan to release it soon.
Helen: It sounds like you are juggling multiple books as well as daily life. But selfishly I want the next books in the banshee series! How do you fit it all in?
Kristen: Not well **awkward laughter**. I have yet to reach a point where being an author is lucrative enough to be my main job, so I am a full time High School science teacher. Anyone who knows a teacher understands it is a very demanding job, and I have yet to learn to balance the two well. I often go to work an hour and a half early to try to write before school starts, and finish it up that night when I get home. This means I have very long days between my two jobs. For a while, I used weekends to catch up on my writing too. This meant I never took a day off. I’m still bad at taking days off completely due to marketing, but I try to have one weekend day where I don’t do anything with writing or teaching, and step away from all professions. Thankfully, I have a very supportive and amazing husband. I think I’m pushing myself harder now because we don’t have kids yet, but I know we hope to soon and once kids come into the mix, I will not be able to invest as much time in my professions. So, I’m trying to accomplish as much as I can now.
Helen: Great plan! Hopefully you will get your series completed before further distractions divert you. Tell us, if you didn’t write fantasy what genre would tempt you?
Kristen: If I didn’t write fantasy, I would consider writing a memoir. I considered writing one in regards to generational trauma starting with my grandmother, but I think it’d be too raw and I can’t bring myself to write about my family in that way. The other one I would consider is when I lived abroad after college. I didn’t know what I wanted for my future, so I sold everything I owned and left the U.S. I even have a working title of “Behind The Lens” because during the time of living in England, Bali, and Belize, what I posted on social media was so picturesque, as it usually is, but what I went through was not as ideal as it seemed to everyone. Through this journey, I found myself and what I wanted to do with my life, and my future no longer seemed like a black hole. There are still plenty of raw moments, but I’m okay with painting myself/my life in a less than ideal way rather than my family members.
Helen: I am glad that travelling helped you find your calling in life. It is really adventurous, and can be life changing. My daughter is currently experiencing the travel bug. She studied in the US, and is now living in Canada. It is an amazing experience if you get the chance. I imagine that gave you the chance to read a lot. What are you currently reading?
Kristen: Anything by Audrey Grey or Annette Marie. They are both indie fantasy authors that I found through the Kindle Unlimited program. Annette Marie is the reason I dived into the world of indie authors. Her world building is absolutely unbelievable, and a reason I fell in love with Urban Fantasy. Audrey Grey has one of my all time favorite character arcs. All I’ll say is you watch a beloved character become the ‘villain’ instead of starting as the ‘villain’ and it’s so brilliantly done. Her characters in general jump off the page, even minor characters, and they are so morally grey and beautifully written.
Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, I’ve loved chatting with you, and I thoroughly enjoyed your book. (look out for the review!) Congratulations again on the release of Whispers of Darkness, and I wish you all the best with the next in the series. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other authors?
Kristen: You can’t edit a blank page” has gotten me through countless days where the words didn’t come as easily and I had writer’s block. I stopped viewing the first draft as needing to be perfect, and a way to simply get the initial story out, to help it exist outside of my own mind. This quote has helped three novels come to fruition.
About the Author:
Characters and their worlds have inundated Kristen’s mind since she was a kid. Traveling to far off places and having words on a piece of paper transform into entire scenes pulling at her emotions is an obsession.
Today, I am talking to YA fantasy author, Cami Murdock Jensen, author of the Arch Mage series, which currently sits at three books with Cami currently working not the fourth. Welcome Cami. Please tell us a little about your series
Cami: I wrote the books to encourage my chronically ill daughter to fight against her depression. Agnes (my heroine) struggles with nerve pain in her legs, weakness, and scars on her face. As the only wizard born on our planet which banned magic thousands of years ago, Agnes has to use her creativity and determination to outsmart a variety of severely overpowered villains. Well, creativity, determination and magic.
Agnes isn’t in this fight alone, as she travels from planet to planet, she gathers a circle of friends who help her meet her destiny. A matter-shaping prince, a water elemental siren, a beautiful necromancer, a computer hacking genius, and incredible magical creatures including dragons, genies, and sciftans (magical talking cats from Fifth Earth that can take any feline form).The Arch Mage series is chock-full of adventure, action, mystery, and amazing magic. It’s a fast, clean read, and will engage even reluctant readers. And, I have to admit, each book teaches a lesson that helps teenagers navigate a difficult time of life.
Helen: I am so sorry to hear your daughter has been ill. I hope the books have helped her overcome her challenges as I am sure they help many other teenagers. What made you name the books, First Earth, Second Earth etc?
Cami: I named the book First Earth for simplicity. Kind of boring, but there it is.
Helen: Sometimes simplicity is best. The covers have such vibrant colours, they are really eye catching. The covers give off a science fiction vibe, but you write young adult fantasy, don’t you?
Cami: I love Young Adult Fantasy. I’m all about magic, creativity, and quality stories. As a child, I voraciously read every book I managed to lay hands on. While I read adult fiction, (mysteries hold a special place in my heart) I still love YA stories. It’s a stage where young people are figuring themselves out. My books are a way to convey lessons I wished I’d understood myself—lessons to make life easier. Who doesn’t want an easier life?
Helen: Very true. It’s great when books can provide multiple purposes, not only entertaining but also imparting wisdom and knowledge. What gave you the inspiration to become an author and write?
Cami: My daughter. As a teen she began displaying unique and troubling health problems. She would suddenly lose strength in her legs, go pale, and slump into a heap onto the floor. It took years to find a doctor who could give us an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. In the meantime, I wrote First Earth to keep her engaged and help her deal with depression. My main character is Agnes Ann Cavanaugh, the only wizard born on our planet since it was banned thousands of years ago. She survived an explosion as a baby and suffers from severe neuropathy in her legs and scars on her face. She accomplishes great things despite her handicaps, and never stops trying. My daughter was inspired by this character, who was based entirely on her, and pushed herself to get out of bed every day. She is now married, going to a local university, and writing her own stories.
Helen: How wonderful. I am so glad your daughter was able draw strength from your writing. I hope others are able to as well. Out of all your books, who is your favourite character?
Cami: I like the quirky side characters. I have a sciftan in my Arch Mage series named Grimmal. A sciftan is an intelligent, talking, magical creature that can take the form of any feline. I love writing Grimmal. He is such a picky thug, who is totally loyal, but would never admit it. I also love Dame Maudine, the eccentric former warrior queen whose crazy ideas are relentlessly right. As a script writer, actress, and director, my characters are always speaking in their own voices and running about my pages as though I lived in their world.
Helen: Writing is very immersive, I agree. I do similar things, playing the scene in my mind to get a feeling for how the characters should react. Let’s chat about your writing style. Do you plan out your novels, or do you let hem take you where they will?
Cami: Combination of both. I know where a book is going and what steps it needs to get there. I often nail down character traits on paper, so I don’t write something unbelievable. Other than that, I am a pantser all the way. It feels almost like reading, only much more slowly. I can’t tell you how many times stories have taken me somewhere I didn’t anticipate. I once wrote a mystery for my children’s theater group with no idea who the ultimate thief was until the detective revealed her for me. It was such an exciting moment–even for me.
Helen: How wonderful! Characters can be sneaky like that. Always providing us with unexpected surprises! How do you come up with the ideas for your books?
Cami: Walks. I love walking my dogs through our neighborhood at night when it is quiet. My brain never shuts off. So far, I’ve never had crippling writer’s block. I always have ideas and use my very patient family as a sounding board to weed the good ideas from the bad ones. Thanks family! [Insider’s secret, I’ve also been known to talk to myself while doing dishes or laundry. Acting out a potential scene really brings it to life.]
Helen: Which element of the writing process you do you prefer? Writing or editing?
Cami: J. Scott Savage once said, “I’m a terrible writer, but a good re-writer.” I feel that. I have a piece of notebook paper propped up next to my computer that says, “Just slap words on the page.” Not very poetic or inspirational, but I can’t polish what isn’t there. And isn’t that the purpose of a rough draft? To be rough?
Helen: It is indeed. Thank you so much for joining me today; I’ve loved chatting with you. Just to close us out, can you tell us what you are currently reading?
Cami: I’ve got one book left in John Gaspard’s Eli Marks Mystery series. I love putting an element of mystery in my books. I try to have a big reveal accompany the big triumph at the end of my stories. Double the satisfaction!
About the Author:
Cami Murdock Jensen grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah, fostering two passions: science and the fine arts. As a senior in high school, she won the Sterling Scholar in science and cloned DNA to compete on the state level. One year later, she wrote the score for her first children’s musical, “Robin Hood: Tales of Ye Merry Wood”, which she later published. She has since dedicated years to teaching, writing, composing, and directing, as well as studying the genetic defect that runs in her family. Cami has six amazing children who have battled leagues of demons and a husband who is a much better hero than any prince..