11/13/13

Review: Merry Ex-Mas by Sheila Roberts

Merry Ex-Mas (Life in Icicle Falls, #2)

Imagine spending the festive holiday season with someone you despise – or at least thought you despised – you Ex-husband. Ummm, not so fun. That is what Cass Wilkes, Charlene Albach and Ella O’Brien find themselves dealing with this season. Each woman’s story is very different, however, and their close friendship is a soothing and healing balm as each works through their personal demons to find that light at the end of the dying, dead Christmas tree tunnel.

Sheila Roberts has long since been one of my absolute favorite authors. Her stories are amazing in the fact that with each one, her characters are like real-life friends. Each time I read one of her tales, I feel as though I am sitting at a cozy kitchen nook with a hot cup of coffee, fresh from the oven coffee cake, covered in cinnamon, sugar and lots of gooey icing and chatting with old friends. I am struck with how “at home” I feel with the stories and the characters that she creates. I especially cannot miss one of her holiday stories; they are essential to kicking of the season for me.

In Merry Ex-Mas, we meet three very different women. Cass, whose daughter has decided to get married on Christmas and include Cass’s ex-husband in on the big day; Charley (Charlene) whose cheating ex-husband re-enters the picture, claiming that he would more or less sell his soul if only Charley would take him back; and Ella who is sharing a house with her ex-husband until it sells and who cannot seem to shake her attraction and affection for her ex. Along with the main characters, there are several secondary characters that play a very important role within the story as well. Though I enjoyed each of the characters, I found myself really loving Ella, even at the times that I wanted to tell her to cut the mama cord. She is young and truly thought she found her soul mate, until her mother decided to plant a little seed of suspicion, leading to her divorce to inspiring country singer, Jake. The chemistry that these two have is amazing and I truly loved the interaction between them. Cass I was torn with. While I really liked her, there were a few times when I wanted to yell at her to not be quite so self-focused. That is not to say that she was a complete self-absorbed witch, which is the furthest thing from the truth. She just had a few, shall we say…issues. Charley was an ambitious woman who tries desperately to close her heart and keep it safe. It was her story that had me bouncing around emotionally and never knowing exactly where I stood.

With the three stories interwoven together, the transitions from each woman’s point of view were seamless and perfect. From the first page, I quickly found myself engrossed within the story and found it very difficult to put the book down for any reason – including a little thing known as sleep, lol. Another aspect of Merry Ex-Mas that I loved was the fact the each of the characters ran a shop/business within the town of Icicle Falls: Ella, a clothing boutique; Cass a bakery, and Charley a restaurant. Each person playing a vital part of the day-to-day running in this lovely little town.

Oh! Did I mention that there are also recipes included in the back of the book?! Mmmm….yummy recipes that are used within the story itself. My favorite is Cass’s Red Velvet Cupcakes! I cannot wait to give this a whirl – as well as an in-depth taste test!!

If you are looking for an amazing novel that has a touch of the Holidays and a lovely cozy feel to it, Merry Ex-Mas is one not to miss!! I do want to mention that this is the second book in “Life in Icicle Falls” series, however it is easily a standalone read. The characters in the first book, Better Than Chocolate also appear in Merry Ex-Mas, however they are part of the secondary cast and you will never feel as though you are jumping in the middle of something and feeling lost. Sheila Roberts has an amazing and true gift for storytelling and I anxiously await her next novel!

Rating 5

Blurb:

Christmas in Icicle Falls…

Cass Wilkes, owner of the Gingerbread Haus bakery, was looking forward to her daughter Danielle’s wedding—until Dani announced that she wants her father, Cass’s ex, to walk her down the aisle. Seriously? Even worse, it appears that he, his trophy wife and their yappy little dog will be staying with Cass…

Her friend Charlene Albach arrives at their weekly chick-flick night in shock. She’s just seen the ghost of Christmas past: her ex-husband, Richard, who left a year ago when he ran off with the hostess from her restaurant, Zelda’s. Now the hostess is history and he wants to kiss and make up. Hide the mistletoe!

And bring out the hot buttered rum, because the holidays aren’t easy for Ella O’Brien, either. Ella, newly divorced, is still sharing the house with her ex while they wait for the place to sell. The love is gone. Isn’t it?

But watch as Christmas brings all kinds of surprises…

Merry Ex-mas, ladies!

Excerpt:

Once in a while, if a woman is really lucky, the perfect day she envisioned turns out to be just that. This was going to be one of those days, Cass Wilkes thought as she set the platter of carved turkey on her dining table.

She surveyed her handiwork with a smile. Everything was Martha Stewart lovely from the china and crystal to the Thanksgiving centerpiece she’d bought at Lupine Floral, and her old Victorian home was filled with the aroma of herbs and spices. The dining room window framed a greeting card-worthy winter scene: her front lawn with its trees and shrubs draped in frosty white and snow-capped mountains looming beyond.

The snow had done what all good snow should do; it had stopped in plenty of time for road crews to clear the way for travelers. Unlike this time last year the town of Icicle Falls was humming with visitors looking for a holiday getaway. Good for business, especially when you owned a bakery. This weekend, gingerbread boys and girls would march out the door of Gingerbread Haus in droves and money would march right into Cass’s bank account – a good thing since she suspected she was going to have a wedding to pay for in a year or so.

A whoop of male excitement came from the living room followed by cheers. The football game on TV was nearing its end and obviously the favored team had scored a touchdown.

“Okay, that’s everything from the kitchen,” said Dot Morrison, Cass’s mentor and former boss, as she placed a serving bowl heaped with stuffing along with another full of mashed potatoes on the table. NOrmally Dot would have been celebrating with her daughter Tilda, but Tilda was on patrol, keeping Icicle Falls safe from … who knew? Their town wasn’t exactly a hotbed of crime.

Dot had dressed for the occasion wearing jeans and a white sweatshirt decorated with a turkey holding a sign that said, “Think outside the box. Serve ham.” Dot, who owned the Breakfast Haus, had encouraged Cass to think outside the box years ago, even lent her money to start her bakery. Cass owed her Thanksgiving dinners for life.

“Get those clowns in here,” Dot said. “There’s nothing worse than cold food.”

Cass could think of a few things: taxes, yeast infections, exes.

Oh, no. She wasn’t’ going to ruin a perfectly good holiday with even a hint of a thought about her ex-husband. That man, that self-centered, undeserving rat who’d tried to lure the kids away this weekend with a trip to Vail, who… No, no. No thoughts about Mason. It was Thanksgiving, after all, a time to count her blessings.

Three of those blessings were sitting out there in the living room – - her kids Danielle, Willie and Amer. Dani’s boyfriend, Mike, was there, too, tucked beside her in an overstuffed easy chair.

Twenty-year-old Dani was Cass’s oldest and her right-hand woman at the bakery. She’d inherited Cass’s passion for creating in the kitchen, and after a are of community college had opted to work full-time at the bakery. Cass had hoped she’d put in at least another year, but she’d had no interest. “I can learn more from you than I can from any college professor,” she’d told Cass. When it came to baking, well, what could Cass say? Dani was right.

Amber, fifteen going on twenty, sat curled up on one end of the couch, texting. A few months earlier she’d been adding to Cass’s gray hair collection, hanging out with the kind of kids no mother wanted her child to be with or, worse, become. Thank God (and, possibly Cass’s pal Samantha Sterling) Amber had changed direction and found some new and improved friends.

Willie, Cass’s high school jock, was sprawled on the floor, holding the favorite toy of high school boys everywhere: a football. The only trouble she had with Willie was keeping him full. The boy was a two-legged locust.

Then there was her younger brother, Drew, who’d come over from Seattle. Recently divorced (was this tendency toward divorce something in their genes?), he’d been more than happy to spend the weekend hanging out with her family. He’d never had kids of his own, so she’d shared. He’d made a great uncle and a better father figure than her ex. No, no, no. NOt giving him so much as a thought today.

Cass stood in the archway like a lady butler and announced, “Dinner, guys.”

Of course, no one was listening. Another touchdown happened in TV Land.

“My team sucks,” Willie muttered, giving his football an irritable bounce.

“My dinner’s going to suck if you don’t get out here and eat it right now,” Cass warned.

“The game’s as good as over anyway,” Mike said, demonstrating good boyfriend etiquette. He stood, pulling Dani up with him. He was a big boy, a former football star and her son’s new hero. Mike was currently employed at the local hardware store, which, as far as Cass was concerned, was ideal. Once he popped the question, he and Dani would get married and live in Icicle Falls, near family and friends, a win-win for everyone.

“You’re right,” Drew agreed. He shut off the TV and led the parade to the dining room table.

Cass only had to look at a cookie to gain five pounds. Her brother, lucky dog, was tall and reedy, and could eat anything. He was a better dresser, too, always had been. And better looking. But he couldn’t cook, and when he came to town he was her best customer. He was also her best friend.

The only ones missing as everyone settled around the table were Cass’s mother and stepfather, who had become snowbirds and were with his family in Florida. But Mom and Fred planned to come out for Christmas, and if Cass had to choose she’d rather have her mother with them for that holiday.

Drew reached for the turkey and Cass rapped his hand with a serving spoon. “Grace first, you heathen.”

Willie snickered, which earned him then privilege of offering thanks. He barely had amen out of his mouth before he was into the dressing, piling it high on his plate.

Any other day she’d have reminded him that other people might actually want some, too, but not today. Thanksgiving was for resting and she’d made plenty. Besides, she planned on taking an extra serving herself.

For a while conversation consisted of comments like, “Pass the rolls,” and “Where’d the olives end up?” As plates and then stomachs filled, new topics arose: whose fantasy football team was going to win, how well Cass and DAni’s new gingerbread necklaces were selling, Dot’s upcoming bunion surgery.

Then it was time for pie. In spite of how crazy-busy Cass had been with work she’d managed to bake pumpkin, pecan and her brother’s favorite, wild huckleberry.

“This will be enough for me,” he joked, grabbing the whole pie.

With dessert came another tradition, one Cass had started when the kids were small. “Okay,” she said once everyone had been served, “it’s gratitude time. Who wants to start?”

Gratitude. Sometimes the challenge to be grateful had been as big as the word. Often she’d been a first-class hypocrite, encouraging her children to look on the bright side while she indulged in resentment.

It seemed like she’d spent most of her married life in that particular mental state. She’d resented Mason’s decision to join the navy when they were engaged. They’d barely set up housekeeping when he shipped out for the first time. He’d missed his daughter’s birth; Cass’s childbirth partner had been her mother. Better her mother than his, she’d told herself. There was something to be grateful for. And she’d been grateful when he got out of the navy. Not so much when he went back to school and neglected his family for his studies. Not so much when he carved out a career that seemed to keep him gone more than it allowed him to be home. Mason had been determined to find the path to success but that path had left little room for his family. She was the one who’d always been there to soothe every heartbreak, puzzle over every math problem, cheer at every ball game. And what had he done?

Gratitude, remember? Okay, she had something to be grateful for. She wasn’t with him any more.

“I’m grateful for something,” Dani said. She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a diamond ring and slid it on her finger.

“Oh, my gosh, you’re engaged!” cried Amber.

Cass set down her fork and gaped. Of course, she’d known this was coming, but she was surprised her daughter hadn’t told her before everyone else. “When did this happen?” she asked.

Dani was beaming now, her brown eyes sparkling with excitement. She looked at Mike and the;y shared the smie reserved for a man and women in possession of newly minted love. “Last night. We wanted to wait and surprise everyone.”

Well, they had.

“Don’t know how surprised anyone is,” Dot said, “but I think you made your mother’s day.”

Of course she had. Why was Cass sitting there like a turkey in a pan? She jumped up and went to hug her daughter and future son-in-law. “This is wonderful You two are going to be so happy.”

How could they help but be? Unlike her mother at that age, Danielle head been wise and thoughtful when selecting a mate. She hadn’t rushed into a relationship with her hormones on fire and her brain dead from smoke inhalation. She’d held out of the right man. They even looked perfect together, Mike with his dark hair and eyes and that big frame, her with her lighter coloring and sandy hair and perfect willowy figure. In their wedding garb they’d look fit for the top of a wedding cake.

“This calls for more pie,” Drew said with a grin and helped himself to another piece.

“I’m going to be a bridesmaid, right?” Amber asked her sister.

“Of course,” Dani said.

“You’d better dig out your Armani,” Cass said to Drew. “Dani’s going to need you to walk her down the aisle.”

Dani’s face lost some of its bride-to-be glow and she bit her lip.

“Hey, I’m cool with sitting in the front row with your mom,” Drew said quickly. “I don’t have to be the one.”

Oh, yes, he did. Who else was going to? Oh, no. Surely not…

“Actually, I was hoping Daddy would walk me down the aisle,” Dani said.

The undeserving, absent father? The man who had been M.I.A. for most of Dani’s life? Cass fell back against her chair and stared across the table at her daughter.

Dani’s cheeks bloomed with a guilty flush and she studiously avoided her mother’s gaze.

“Daddy?” Cass echoed. It came out frosted with scorn. Way to be mature and poison your daughter’s happy moment, she scolded herself.

With her sunny disposition and eagerness to please, Danielle was normally easy to get along with, but now her chin jutted out at a pugnacious angle. “I know he’ll want to.”

Oh, he always wanted to be there, but he never had been.

Until lately. Now that their children were practically grown. He and his thirty-two-year old trophy wife Babette seemed to think they could lure the kids over to Seattle any time he swooped in from his business trips and buy their affection with shopping trips and Seahawks tickets.

Obviously it was working, and that made Cass want to break the wishbone she’d been saving into a thousand pieces.
Once in a while, if a woman is really lucky, the perfect day she envisioned turns out to be just that. This was going to be one of those days, Cass Wilkes thought as she set the platter of carved turkey on her dining table.

She surveyed her handiwork with a smile. Everything was Martha Stewart lovely from the china and crystal to the Thanksgiving centerpiece she’d bought at Lupine Floral, and her old Victorian home was filled with the aroma of herbs and spices. The dining room window framed a greeting card-worthy winter scene: her front lawn with its trees and shrubs draped in frosty white and snow-capped mountains looming beyond.

The snow had done what all good snow should do; it had stopped in plenty of time for road crews to clear the way for travelers. Unlike this time last year the town of Icicle Falls was humming with visitors looking for a holiday getaway. Good for business, especially when you owned a bakery. This weekend, gingerbread boys and girls would march out the door of Gingerbread Haus in droves and money would march right into Cass’s bank account – a good thing since she suspected she was going to have a wedding to pay for in a year or so.

A whoop of male excitement came from the living room followed by cheers. The football game on TV was nearing its end and obviously the favored team had scored a touchdown.

“Okay, that’s everything from the kitchen,” said Dot Morrison, Cass’s mentor and former boss, as she placed a serving bowl heaped with stuffing along with another full of mashed potatoes on the table. NOrmally Dot would have been celebrating with her daughter Tilda, but Tilda was on patrol, keeping Icicle Falls safe from … who knew? Their town wasn’t exactly a hotbed of crime.

Dot had dressed for the occasion wearing jeans and a white sweatshirt decorated with a turkey holding a sign that said, “Think outside the box. Serve ham.” Dot, who owned the Breakfast Haus, had encouraged Cass to think outside the box years ago, even lent her money to start her bakery. Cass owed her Thanksgiving dinners for life.

“Get those clowns in here,” Dot said. “There’s nothing worse than cold food.”

Cass could think of a few things: taxes, yeast infections, exes.

Oh, no. She wasn’t’ going to ruin a perfectly good holiday with even a hint of a thought about her ex-husband. That man, that self-centered, undeserving rat who’d tried to lure the kids away this weekend with a trip to Vail, who… No, no. No thoughts about Mason. It was Thanksgiving, after all, a time to count her blessings.

Three of those blessings were sitting out there in the living room – - her kids Danielle, Willie and Amer. Dani’s boyfriend, Mike, was there, too, tucked beside her in an overstuffed easy chair.

Twenty-year-old Dani was Cass’s oldest and her right-hand woman at the bakery. She’d inherited Cass’s passion for creating in the kitchen, and after a are of community college had opted to work full-time at the bakery. Cass had hoped she’d put in at least another year, but she’d had no interest. “I can learn more from you than I can from any college professor,” she’d told Cass. When it came to baking, well, what could Cass say? Dani was right.

Amber, fifteen going on twenty, sat curled up on one end of the couch, texting. A few months earlier she’d been adding to Cass’s gray hair collection, hanging out with the kind of kids no mother wanted her child to be with or, worse, become. Thank God (and, possibly Cass’s pal Samantha Sterling) Amber had changed direction and found some new and improved friends.

Willie, Cass’s high school jock, was sprawled on the floor, holding the favorite toy of high school boys everywhere: a football. The only trouble she had with Willie was keeping him full. The boy was a two-legged locust.

Then there was her younger brother, Drew, who’d come over from Seattle. Recently divorced (was this tendency toward divorce something in their genes?), he’d been more than happy to spend the weekend hanging out with her family. He’d never had kids of his own, so she’d shared. He’d made a great uncle and a better father figure than her ex. No, no, no. NOt giving him so much as a thought today.

Cass stood in the archway like a lady butler and announced, “Dinner, guys.”

Of course, no one was listening. Another touchdown happened in TV Land.

“My team sucks,” Willie muttered, giving his football an irritable bounce.

“My dinner’s going to suck if you don’t get out here and eat it right now,” Cass warned.

“The game’s as good as over anyway,” Mike said, demonstrating good boyfriend etiquette. He stood, pulling Dani up with him. He was a big boy, a former football star and her son’s new hero. Mike was currently employed at the local hardware store, which, as far as Cass was concerned, was ideal. Once he popped the question, he and Dani would get married and live in Icicle Falls, near family and friends, a win-win for everyone.

“You’re right,” Drew agreed. He shut off the TV and led the parade to the dining room table.

Cass only had to look at a cookie to gain five pounds. Her brother, lucky dog, was tall and reedy, and could eat anything. He was a better dresser, too, always had been. And better looking. But he couldn’t cook, and when he came to town he was her best customer. He was also her best friend.

The only ones missing as everyone settled around the table were Cass’s mother and stepfather, who had become snowbirds and were with his family in Florida. But Mom and Fred planned to come out for Christmas, and if Cass had to choose she’d rather have her mother with them for that holiday.

Drew reached for the turkey and Cass rapped his hand with a serving spoon. “Grace first, you heathen.”

Willie snickered, which earned him then privilege of offering thanks. He barely had amen out of his mouth before he was into the dressing, piling it high on his plate.

Any other day she’d have reminded him that other people might actually want some, too, but not today. Thanksgiving was for resting and she’d made plenty. Besides, she planned on taking an extra serving herself.

For a while conversation consisted of comments like, “Pass the rolls,” and “Where’d the olives end up?” As plates and then stomachs filled, new topics arose: whose fantasy football team was going to win, how well Cass and DAni’s new gingerbread necklaces were selling, Dot’s upcoming bunion surgery.

Then it was time for pie. In spite of how crazy-busy Cass had been with work she’d managed to bake pumpkin, pecan and her brother’s favorite, wild huckleberry.

“This will be enough for me,” he joked, grabbing the whole pie.

With dessert came another tradition, one Cass had started when the kids were small. “Okay,” she said once everyone had been served, “it’s gratitude time. Who wants to start?”

Gratitude. Sometimes the challenge to be grateful had been as big as the word. Often she’d been a first-class hypocrite, encouraging her children to look on the bright side while she indulged in resentment.

It seemed like she’d spent most of her married life in that particular mental state. She’d resented Mason’s decision to join the navy when they were engaged. They’d barely set up housekeeping when he shipped out for the first time. He’d missed his daughter’s birth; Cass’s childbirth partner had been her mother. Better her mother than his, she’d told herself. There was something to be grateful for. And she’d been grateful when he got out of the navy. Not so much when he went back to school and neglected his family for his studies. Not so much when he carved out a career that seemed to keep him gone more than it allowed him to be home. Mason had been determined to find the path to success but that path had left little room for his family. She was the one who’d always been there to soothe every heartbreak, puzzle over every math problem, cheer at every ball game. And what had he done?

Gratitude, remember? Okay, she had something to be grateful for. She wasn’t with him any more.

“I’m grateful for something,” Dani said. She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a diamond ring and slid it on her finger.

“Oh, my gosh, you’re engaged!” cried Amber.

Cass set down her fork and gaped. Of course, she’d known this was coming, but she was surprised her daughter hadn’t told her before everyone else. “When did this happen?” she asked.

Dani was beaming now, her brown eyes sparkling with excitement. She looked at Mike and the;y shared the smie reserved for a man and women in possession of newly minted love. “Last night. We wanted to wait and surprise everyone.”

Well, they had.

“Don’t know how surprised anyone is,” Dot said, “but I think you made your mother’s day.”

Of course she had. Why was Cass sitting there like a turkey in a pan? She jumped up and went to hug her daughter and future son-in-law. “This is wonderful You two are going to be so happy.”

How could they help but be? Unlike her mother at that age, Danielle head been wise and thoughtful when selecting a mate. She hadn’t rushed into a relationship with her hormones on fire and her brain dead from smoke inhalation. She’d held out of the right man. They even looked perfect together, Mike with his dark hair and eyes and that big frame, her with her lighter coloring and sandy hair and perfect willowy figure. In their wedding garb they’d look fit for the top of a wedding cake.

“This calls for more pie,” Drew said with a grin and helped himself to another piece.

“I’m going to be a bridesmaid, right?” Amber asked her sister.

“Of course,” Dani said.

“You’d better dig out your Armani,” Cass said to Drew. “Dani’s going to need you to walk her down the aisle.”

Dani’s face lost some of its bride-to-be glow and she bit her lip.

“Hey, I’m cool with sitting in the front row with your mom,” Drew said quickly. “I don’t have to be the one.”

Oh, yes, he did. Who else was going to? Oh, no. Surely not…

“Actually, I was hoping Daddy would walk me down the aisle,” Dani said.

The undeserving, absent father? The man who had been M.I.A. for most of Dani’s life? Cass fell back against her chair and stared across the table at her daughter.

Dani’s cheeks bloomed with a guilty flush and she studiously avoided her mother’s gaze.

“Daddy?” Cass echoed. It came out frosted with scorn. Way to be mature and poison your daughter’s happy moment, she scolded herself.

With her sunny disposition and eagerness to please, Danielle was normally easy to get along with, but now her chin jutted out at a pugnacious angle. “I know he’ll want to.”

Oh, he always wanted to be there, but he never had been.

Until lately. Now that their children were practically grown. He and his thirty-two-year old trophy wife Babette seemed to think they could lure the kids over to Seattle any time he swooped in from his business trips and buy their affection with shopping trips and Seahawks tickets.

Obviously it was working, and that made Cass want to break the wishbone she’d been saving into a thousand pieces.

Picture

About Sheila Roberts:

Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. She’s been writing since 1989, but she did lots of things before settling in to her writing career, including owning a singing telegram company and playing in a band. Her band days are over, but she still enjoys writing songs. Sheila’s books are best sellers and often appear as Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. Her novel “On Strike for Christmas” was a Lifetime Network movie and she has since optioned more books for film.

When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences or hanging out with her girlfriends she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

10/3/13

Day 2 of 31 Days of Spine-tingling Reads

A Cold Season (Library Hardback)

A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

  • File Size: 434 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (December 22, 2011)

Cass is building a new life for herself and her young son Ben after the death of her soldier husband Pete, returning to the village where she lived as a child. But their idyllic new home is not what she expected: the other flats are all empty, there’s strange graffiti on the walls, and the villagers are a bit odd. And when an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm maroons the village, things get even harder. Ben is changing, he’s surly and aggressive and Cass’s only confidant is the smooth, charming Theodore Remick, the stand-in headmaster. Not everyone approves of Cass’s growing closeness to Mr Remick, and it soon becomes obvious he’s not all he appears to be either. If she is to protect her beloved son, Cass is going to have to fight back. Cass realises this is not the first time her family have been targeted by Theodore Remick. But this time, the stakes are immeasurably higher….

My thoughts:

I actually read this a couple of months ago and am just insanely lagging in my reviews, lol.  I have to say that I really enjoyed A Cold Season from start to finish.  I found it to be unique in the aspect that it was a story line that I have not visited repeatedly and it had a true horror aspect/feel to it, which I loved!  There are not many horror genre books out there today that I can say this about.

Ms. Littlewood does a fantastic job of creating a story of a widowed mother and her young child trying to begin a new life again in a place that was thought to be one of safety.  What takes place has Cass endlessly turning thoughts over and over in her head, trying to decide what is real and who to trust; trying to make a good life for her son when things are anything but making sense and making her feel safe and secure.

A Cold Season has a strong theme of evil woven throughout that underlies the entirety of the story.  With this being said, there is really no gore to speak of, just creepiness – which, for me, is a hard aspect to find in many books.  I love the fact that this story was able to creep me out, to a point, without wanting to make me gag with extreme violence.  The characters are very well written and I found myself liking Cass for the most part.  There were times I wanted to give her a good shake, but that fact just shows me that the author was able to create a character and a story that made me feel connected.  I also found the story to be written in a smooth way that had me wanting to continually read to see what happened next.  I also have to say that I liked how the ending was played out and the twists and turns that Ms. Littlewood used throughout her story.  I am anxious to read more by this author and would recommend A Cold Season to anyone looking for a creepy, not gory, read.

Rating 4

08/6/13

Guest Review: Hot on Her Trail by Sable Hunter

I am so excited to have a wonderful friend of mine pop in with her thoughts on some of the books that she has really enjoyed.  Michelle Vasquez is an avid reader who leaves my reading in the dust, lol!  Please help me in welcoming Michelle and show her some love!  The first book that she is sharing her thoughts on is one that she just read this past weekend, Hot on Her Trial by Sable Hunter!

Hot On Her Trail by Sable Hunter

Hot on Her Trail by Sable Hunter

The Hell Yeah! Series continues with Hot On Her Trail (Hell Yeah!: Book 2)
 
Jacob McCoy wishes for a wife and a family. Tis the Season for miracles when a young woman shows up on his doorstep: homeless, in danger and expecting a child - Jacob’s child. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that, A – they’ve never met before and B – she’s a virgin.Jessie is determined not to be a burden to the McCoy family. As far as she’s concerned, she is just passing through. Jacob has a different opinion – he wants Jessie in his life, in his bed and in his heart.

*Warning: Contains explicit content, 18+ Audience

 

 

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Michelle’s Thoughts:

I love this series and love those McCoy brothers! This is book 2 in Sable Hunter’s “Hell Yeah!” series. One of my favorite things about this series is that, even though each book is more about one brother in particular, you still get a little of each brother’s story in each book. The series is about the whole McCoy family and the rest of the family doesn’t just drop off into the background. If you enjoy a hot cowboy romance, you should definitely check out this great series!

Rating 5

02/5/13

Review: Soul Control by C. Elizabeth

Soul Control Soul Control by C. Elizabeth

Print Length: 454 pages
Publisher: Wings ePress (December 1, 2012)
Genre: YA Paranormal

About: “Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil.”

Words that ring true for seventeen-year-old Saydi Gardiner upon discovering her ancestry. But if she has doubts, further confirmation is forthcoming and it comes in the form of a wickedly gorgeous Nathanael Braxton, when he steals her heart and cuddles into her soul – the last place the boy should be.

Nineteen-year-old Nathanael’s unrelenting good looks aren’t the only thing that make him dangerous – and he knows it! However, his caring human side struggles with a loyalty – a loyalty that binds him to the hunt for the soul that will give his family the power they seek. There’s only one problem: When he finds her, Nathanael falls in love with his prey – Saydi.

“SOUL CONTROL pulled me in from the first sentence and had me on the edge of my seat all the way to the end. Everything you could want is there…wit, banter, romance (appropriate for the young adult reader) danger, suspense, mystery…and the list goes on. C. Elizabeth’s writing is flawless and relatable. 5 stars all the way!”
- – Laura Burks, author of Altered

My Review:  Unique and absorbing, Soul Control is a Young Adult Paranormal that will grab the reader within its grasp and hold tight until the very end.

With well-developed characters and a story line that has not been re-hashed a million different ways, Soul Control will appeal to a wide audience range – both in age and genre.  Saydi is a young adult nearing her eighteenth birthday.  She is like many girls her age – giggly, loves being around her friends, having fun and enjoying life.  However, what Saydi is soon to find out is that she is unlike any other girl her age.  She has a destiny to fulfill – one that will change the outcome of the entire world and each and every person who is in it.

Nathanael and his brothers – hunky and desirable triplets, are new to town.  With their good looks and charisma, the brothers are instant attractions for everyone.  What everyone does not know, however, is that with these brothers, what you see is not exactly what you get and there is an evil that lurks beneath the surface, waiting to break free and change everything.

Good vs. evil is one of the main characteristics and ideas of Soul Control, however there is so much more going on within the story.  There are several back stories of the characters that seamlessly intertwine together and further gives the main story line an excellent depth.  The ability to trust and follow your heart is a difficult thing under normal circumstances, throw in the fact that there is a plot to steal your soul and the one that holds your heart in his hand is suppose to play a major roll in this theft and you may feel as though you are caught in a whirlwind.

Honestly, there are so many aspects and parts of Soul Control that I loved.  The characters are written incredibly well, the twists and turns are plentiful, the main story idea is unique and there is an excellent blend of humor, romance, paranormal and courage.  The emotions within Soul Control are raw and often times gut-wrenching and I could not help but be swept up within the story.  Watching as Saydi develops her talents is incredible and being part of her growth in such a harrowing journey, mixed with the chemistry and relationship between her and Nathanael is something that will not soon be forgotten.

I absolutely loved how this story revolves around the soul – what it means in the bigger scheme of things.  The beauty and frailty of humankind is not often thought of, but is done so in Soul Control – at least for me, while giving life to an incredible story.  The romance is done in a way that is ideal for younger teen readers – very clean, while adding a bit of that yearning.  I cannot wait for the next story in this series.  C. Elizabeth is such an incredible talent and has transitioned from Adult Contemporary with her novels Absolute Obsession and Absolute Obstruction to the young adult perfectly.  Soul Control is a book that I highly recommend to anyone looking for an engrossing and hard-to-put-down young adult paranormal story!

Favorite Quote:  ”…You never know what has happened in someone’s life to make them who they are, and only until you know them completely will you understand.”

Rating 4

Excerpt:

Angie and Becky startled me when they stood up.
“Okay, I’m moving on in.” Becky proclaimed, confidently.
“Me too,” Angie piped up, gazing nervously around the table.
Todd, Norma and I laughed. “Go for it!” I said.
Angie flopped back down on the seat, defeated. “I’m such a chicken.”
Becky tugged on her hand. “Angie come on! What’s the worse they could do? Say no?”
Angie slowly stood and drew her shoulders back to show her strength, even if it was fake… but she was going to do it and off they went.
For some reason, the closer they got to the new boys, the harder it was for me to breath. My nails dug into Todd’s leg.
“Ouch!” he yelped, yanking my hand away. “That hurt!” He rubbed where my nails surely left a mark.
Without looking his way I apologized. My attention stayed with Becky and Angie as they made their way through the crowd.
It seemed to take them forever to get to the table, and when they did, all three boys looked up and smiled. Segra, Jocelyn, and Mattie sneered. Then Segra said something that had Mattie and Jocelyn laughing and giving her high fives.
The triplets didn’t seem to like the little exchange and flashed a quick look of disapproval at each other. All at the same time they sat straight up, distancing themselves from Segra’s little group — well, at least as a far as you can distance yourself when you’re sitting right beside someone in a cramped booth.
Something Angie said to them caused all three to take stock of our table. My first reaction was to cast my eyes down, that is until the one sitting against the wall took hold of them…
~ * ~
…A sea of dark ocean took me through caverns and caves. Being under water didn’t bother me, and my chest rose and sank as if I were on land. Something shimmered on the ocean floor, looking completely out of place. When I reached for it and cradled it in my hand, the crystal felt smooth and comfortable — soothing.
~ * ~
“Earth to Saydi!”
Someone shoved me.
“Saydi! Are you already daydreaming about them?” Todd snarled hotly.
It was easy to ignore Todd when the triplet’s face came back into full view, considering my imagination was playing tricks on me… his features twisted in such a way that it made my skin crawl — then it was gone, leaving behind a beautiful smile as he nodded once at me in a greeting.
“Saydi, are you all right?” Becky asked.
“Um, yeah, good.” I let out a nervous giggle.
They all stared with shocked looks.
I eased back in the seat. “What?”
The fact that all their eyes looked down at the table, then back up to me, enticed me to look too. The napkin in front of me had a drawing on it — a tear drop, with sun rays billowing out and ghosts floating away from it.
“What a cool drawing. Who drew it?” Clearly, I had five heads, at least that’s how they were making me feel by the way they were sizing me up.
“You did,” Todd said, raising a curious eyebrow.
Impossible! My only artistic side went as far as reading. I preferred sports. “I can’t draw.”
Becky plucked the pen from my hand. “Apparently, you can.”
“What was that?” Norma whispered through her teeth, inspecting my eyes.
“What was what? You guys are acting all weird.” Todd snorted. “You go off into some far off land and start drawing a spooky picture, and you say we’re acting weird?”
“I wasn’t daydrea…”
“Have a good night, Saydi,” said a dreamy, deep voice.
I whipped my head in its direction. One of the triplets, the one with green/blue eyes, knocked twice on our table and smiled directly at me as they passed. My tongue tied up in a knot, giving me no ability to spit, never mind talk. The only thing I could do was gape while all three brothers smiled and waved when they walked out the door… and to add to my already moronic reaction, I was certain drool played a part. I flopped my forehead on the table and moaned, “What is wrong with me?”
“That was Nathanael!” Angie gushed.
“Saydi, you can stop drooling,” Todd barked. No! I didn’t! Testing, just to make sure, I licked my lips then threw a look at him. “Todd!”
“What? You were.” Then he shoved the napkin with the picture in my face. “Here, why don’t you run after him? Maybe he’ll ask you out!”
The way he was acting was starting to piss me off, and to let him know, I formed each word perfectly as I said them. “Todd, what is wrong with you?”
“I’m just saying.” Crossing his arms, he refused to look at me.
Shaking my head, I turned back to Becky and Angie wanting information. “So?”
Angie blushed, nearly bursting at the seams. “Did you not see them?”
I bobbed my head, smiling, the drawing and Todd’s outburst forgotten.
Angie angled in close. “Well, the one against the wall… His name is Joshua, and you already know Nathanael.” She giggled. “And the one on the end was Job.” Then she arched in closer yet, as if to tell me a huge secret. “Weren’t they gorgeous?”
“Oh please!” Todd huffed.
“Oh shush!” Norma fanned her hands at him. “Angie, you can’t have all of them,” Becky informed. The way she said it led me to believe it wasn’t said all in fun. I picked up on the little bit of bitterness that had snuck into her tone.
Angie either ignored it or didn’t catch it. “Darn right, I can!” she insisted.
All us girls laughed — Becky used her fake one.

C. Elizabeth About C. Elizabeth: C. Elizabeth lives in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada and during her short writing career she’s learned a lot about herself, sometimes to the point that she wonders how the heck she got this far in life and know so little about herself.

For the majority of her life she dabbled in many things, such as drawing, photography, sewing, only to find that after a while, she would lose interest, but writing is a different story — it found her and continues to be an addiction, as well as a most wonderful, incredible passion.

Not only does she write novels, but she does whatever she can to hone her craft. Such as attending the New York Pitch Conference, seminars and the like, as well, she writes for online magazines on the topic of… you guessed it, writing.

Her latest book is the YA paranormal romance, Soul Control.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

 

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Check out these other great blogs also on tour with C. Elizabeth and Soul Control!

Monday, February 4 – Guest Blogging at The Caffeinated Diva Reads

Monday, February 4 – Book Review at The Caffeinated Diva Reads

Tuesday, February 5 – Cover Envy at As the Pages Turn

Wednesday, February 6 – Book Review at Cafe of Dreams

Thursday, February 7 – Guest Blogging at What’s on the Bookshelf?

Friday, February 8 – Book Review at Must Read Faster

Friday, February 8 – Guest Blogging at Paranormal Haven

Monday, February 11 – Book Review at Good Choice Reading

Tuesday, February 12 – Interview at Between the Covers

Wednesday, February 13 – Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Thursday, February 14 – Book Review at Reader Girls Blog

Monday, February 18 – Book Review at Literary Getaway

Tuesday, February 19 – Book Review at Waiting on Sunday to Drown

Wednesday, February 20 – Interview at Examiner

Thursday, February 21 – First Chapter Reveal at Beyond the Books

Friday, February 22 – Book Review at My Cozie Corner

Monday, February 25 – First Chapter Review at Literarily Speaking

Tuesday, February 26 – Book Review at Paperback Princess

Friday, February 28 – Book Review at Miki’s Hope

01/23/13

Review: My Wolf’s Bane by Veronica Blade

My Wolf's BaneMy Wolf’s Bane by Veronica Blade

Paperback: 365 pages
Expected publication: February 1st 2013 by Crush Publishing, Inc
Genre: YA Paranormal
Series:  Book 1 in the ‘Shapes of Autumn Series’

NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: As with any Veronica Blade book, this is a ROMANCE NOVEL, meaning it’s romance FIRST and everything else is secondary. Rated PG-13 for sexual situations and mild profanity.

Different species. Mortal enemies. It’ll never work, but they’ll die trying.

Autumn Rossi thought she was a normal teenager. Suddenly, she can outrun every critter in the forest, making her wonder if she’s even human.

When the new guy at school, Zack de Luca, witnesses a questionable scene, he unfairly pins her as stuck-up. He acts like he hates her, yet he keeps bailing her out of trouble. Not only is Zack both insufferable and irresistible, he seems to sniff her anytime he gets close.

As passion flares between them, Autumn isn’t sure which is more dangerous: her psycho ex-boyfriend, or falling for Zack — who’s risking his life just by being near her.

 

My Review:

Un-freakin-believable!!  That is the first word that pops in my mind to sum up My Wolf’s Bane by Veronica Blade.  I will be honest, I absolutely loved her debut novel Something Witchy This Way Comes and have been dying for the follow-up to that one.  Well, My Wolf’s Bane – a completely new series – has completely blown that one out of the wooded forest.  This is truly one of the best YA Paranormal novels that I have ever read, and I have read several.

What makes My Wolf’s Bane stand out to others that I have read?  The story line is a fairly unique one – a young werewolf (yes, there are tons of werewolf stories out there, but not like this one) and a young girl who is discovering insane changes to her body, mind and life, come together in a flurry of dislike and distaste.  At least that is what they try so hard for – to dislike one another.  Zack is 18 and a senior.  He is a werewolf who is cherishing his final days with his dying mother.  Autumn is 18 and has always been sheltered to the point of being smothered by her parents.  When a sudden change in attitude occurs with her parents, Autumn finds herself trusted to be alone for a few weeks while her mother and father are off traveling for her father’s job.  This is nothing but a huge relief and shock for Autumn.  This also leaves the perfect opening for Autumn to try out the special abilities that she has recently obtained.

As antagonism turns to a truce of sorts between Zack and Autumn, they find themselves becoming what resembles friends.  This, however, is kicked up a few notches when Autumn’s ex becomes insanely jealous and threatening to Autumn.  Zack takes it upon himself to protect Autumn, as well as help her in her new-found discoveries and talents.  The chemistry between the two doesn’t take long to sizzle and the tension between several of the characters to go from steamy to boiling.  The story explodes into one that will not soon be forgotten and will long live in the hearts and minds of the reader.

From the very beginning I was hooked on Zack.  He is all male, but sensitive and caring – you know the type that every female yearns for – alpha male mixed with bad boy mixed with sensitivity – yep, that is Zack to a “T”.  I questioned my liking for Autumn in the very beginning, unsure if she was going to be the snobbish type or not.  That, opinion, however, was quickly rectified and I found myself adoring her.  She is sassy, intelligent, brave, stubborn and takes no guff from Zach – well, with the exception of the “does he, doesn’t he” conflict that she constantly goes through with him.  Their chemistry is pure fun laced with that yummy underlying steam that teases rather than pours itself out on the pages.

Veronica Blade has such an amazing ability to transform worlds, sucking the reader into the story, making them yearn and crave, fly through pages and take all the world’s troubles away.  Her characters are incredibly well developed and so true to life that the reader cannot help but feel as though they are right there in the story.  My Wolf’s Bane is the perfect mixture of paranormal, suspense, romance and just pure fun.  From scenes of “sniffing” to scenes of flying through the air with speed, there is never a dull moment in this story.  I absolutely loved Zack and Autumn and cannot wait for the next in the series to read more about them – yes, I am begging for a quick release, lol.  The ending was perfect – bringing contentment, yet leaving an ocean of questions rolling on the waves of uncertainty.  I cannot recommend this one enough and have added it to my favorite reads of 2013, hands down!

Favorite Quote:

As I moved forward to close the space between me and the person in front of me, I felt him move up as well.  He was so close, I could feel the warmth radiating from him.

I spun when he leaned into me and inhaled.  ”Did you just sniff my hair?”

His brows rose in innocence.  ”Why would I do that?”

Rating 5

Excerpt:

I tossed the makeup bag into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder and whipped open the door. Barreling out of the bathroom, I slammed into what felt like a walking boulder. I ricocheted off the human rock and my backpack hit the wall behind me, throwing me off balance and pitching me forward into the hard, linoleum tile.

My palms cushioned my fall, but I winced as pain spiked up my wrists. On all fours, I lifted my chin and peeked through my curtain of dark hair. He wore a black tee that molded to his wide, muscular shoulders and jeans that fit over powerful legs.

Wow. I’d thought my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was cute, but this guy…

“You okay?”  The hottie asked in a sexy, gravelly voice, stretching a hand toward me. His hand wrapped around mine and effortlessly pulled me up, as if I weighed no more than my calculus book. Maybe it was the throbbing in my limbs or the warmth of his hands on my elbows. Or maybe it was his earthy scent invading my senses, but a wave of dizziness hit me and I tipped forward.

His hands shot to my hips to steady me. “Easy there.”

My palms rested on his hard biceps for support as I stared into his deep, green eyes. Lord, he smelled good, like the forest after rain.

My breath hitched.

About Veronica Blade:

Veronica Blade lives in Southern California with her husband and children. By day she runs the family business, but each night she slips away to spin her tales. She writes stories about young adults to relive her own childhood and to live vicariously through her characters. Except her heroes and heroines lead far more interesting lives — and they are always way hotter.