Wednesday, March 31, 2010

GUEST AUTHOR: Jessica Andersen


Today, we have Jessica Andersen visiting the blog!

The Raving Readers: Hi Jessica, thank you so much for joining us today at The Raving Readers. I love the way you depicted the Nightkeepers' world. So fascinating and mysterious. Have you always been interested in Mayan lore and civilization? When and how did this fascination start?

Jessica Andersen: Thanks so much for having me, and for your kind words on the Nightkeepers' books! Yes, I've always been fascinated with the Mayan civilization, going back to my kidhood, when my parents used to take me down to the Yucatan for several weeks each spring.

This was just as Cancun was building itself up as a tourist destination, when most of the 'big' ruins in the area were in the process of being restored and weren't as tightly regulated (or touristi-i-fied) as they are today. Those experiences (climbing up the pyramids, down inside the tombs, hanging my feet over the edge of the sacred cenote) really stuck with me.

So when I was researching for another book, and came across the idea that the Mayan calendar would complete its cycle on 12/21/2012, and there was some scientific reasoning to suggest that something Big And Bad could happen on that day ... I was hooked!

TRR: We can see how that could be so exciting. In fact, your Final Prophecy series has an overall storyline arc. Did you plot everything before writing the first book? Or did the storyline come about on a per book basis?

JA: Erm, yes and yes? LOL. Really, it's a bit of both. Although I wrote a series bible at the very beginning, there have been major changes along the way. The world, the basic characters, and the magic were mostly established from the beginning, the stories and twists have really evolved on a book-by-book basis.

TRR: I love the twists and turns you presented in each book. I could never predict what's going to happen and I love being surprised! In Skykeepers, we see you dipping your toes into Egyptian lore. Will we see more Egyptian influences in the coming books? Any other civilizations making their appearances in future books?

JA: I'm fascinated by the way similar myths, images and rituals can show up in cultures that are (in theory, anyway) completely separate! Yes, we're definitely seeing more of the Egyptian influence (especially in Demonkeepers). Another culture that may play into the stories is that of the Hopi, who have an end-time myth that runs parallel to that of the Maya.

TRR: In the books that you've written, whose story was the easiest to write? Why do you think this is so?

JA: I don't know that any of them have been all that easy, per se. These are long, complicated books with lots of moving parts, as well as characters that really challenge me (and each other!). That being said, I've always found Lucius's (hero of Demonkeepers) point of view very natural for me to write-- he's a total nerd, knows he's a nerd, embraces his nerdhood, and then tries to find an element of coolness within it. That's sort of how I see myself, so Lucius and I get along.

TRR: That's interesting, coz Lucius is one of my favorite characters! Sh, don't tell the others or they might get jealous. Now, which among the couples is your favorite? Why?

JA: Whichever couple I'm writing at a given moment becomes my favorite! I need to love them in order to write their story-- because if I'm not totally sucked into their story, then I won't be able to bring the reader along with me. So even if a character isn't necessarily someone have a ton in common with (e.g., Michael, the mysterious assassin from Skykeepers), I look really deep inside them and find something that I can connect with.

That being said, Rabbit is probably my favorite character-- love him because not only is he an intentional troublemaker, half the time he creates chaos with the best of intentions! Not to mention that I think it would be very cool to be pyrokinetic :)

TRR: I have to admit I was anxious for Lucius's story, but I thought he'd be paired with Anna (vibes from Nightkeepers)! But in Demonkeepers, his mate is obviously Jade. Can you tell us a little about Demonkeepers, which will be out in April?

JA: One of the things that I find really cool about Demonkeepers is that even though Lucius is fully human, he's been exposed to both demonic and Nightkeeper magic, and has gained some powers of his own.

So where the geeky 'old' Lucius tended to cling (for example, to Anna), now there's this 'new' Lucius who has outgrown a bunch of the old one's insecurities ... but then he starts realizing that being a front-line warrior isn't nearly as glamorous as he'd made it out to be. Then we add Jade into the mix, along with their one-night stand (which was hinted at in Dawnkeepers), and things heat up fast!

TRR: How do you create your characters? Let's say, for example, Lucius. Did you know when you were writing Nightkeepers that he would end up the hero in Demonkeepers?

JA: There have been a few character shuffles since I wrote Nightkeepers. For example, there's one main character I thought was going to die who refused to go, another I expected to survive who didn't, and there was a little bit of brain-swinging going on, where I had planned one set of couples who traded mates on me.

Honestly, I had thought that Lucius and Sasha would end up together. But then in Dawnkeepers, Lucius and Jade worked together in the archive, and before I knew it, sparks were flying!

Those scenes didn't make it into the final book-- they were cut because these books get long, and I'm forced to really concentrate on the main storyline, even though my brain is telling me about all this cool stuff that's happening off-screen to the main plot. However, I knew what Jade and Lucius had been up to while we (the 'viewers' of the series, so to speak) were focused on other things. So for me, the only possible choice for Lucius was Jade, and vice versa.

As for how I created the characters, back when I was writing Nightkeepers, I knew that I had a *lot* of people in the story, and I was using an unusual number of points of view (my agent even joked at one point that she expected the tree to get a scene in its POV). So I worked very, very hard to make the characters feel unique and individual.

Thus, most of their major traits were set up in that first story ... but at the same time, everyone has evolved. They've all had different experiences along the way, and those experiences have continued to shape them. That's what is (I hope) helping each story feel very different from the others.

TRR: Why is Jade, and not Anna, perfect for Lucius?

JA: Although Anna and Lucius share a love of ancient Mayan research and hieroglyphics, it's far more in a mentor-student way than in a romantic way. They're just at different places in their lives.

Jade was a counselor in the outside world, but keeps her feelings deeply hidden. Lucius wears his heart on his sleeve, but needs help adapting to his new powers and responsibilities. In that way, they're perfect for each other.

Problem is, both of them are also trying to prove themselves as fighters and magi, which complicates things, especially when you throw sex magic (one of the Nightkeepers' strongest powers and greatest temptations) into the mix.

TRR: Will Anna get her own story someday? *g*

JA: That's the plan!

TRR: How many books did you plan for the series? After Demonkeepers, what have you got for your fans?

JA: I'm planning nine books and one novella!

After Demonkeepers, we shift gears a little with new titles and new cover concepts: Blood Spell will be out this fall-- it's Patience and Brandt's book, which is really different because they've been married for six years and have twin sons together. However, their relationship has been spiraling downward ever since they joined the Nightkeepers, and now it's reaching critical mass. When they're forced to work together-- and revisit pieces of their past-- in order to break a secret curse, things heat up fast!

TRR: I can't wait to see the new cover! The title Blood Spell sounds awesome, certainly different from the first four books. Anything else you'd like to tell us?

JA: Please visit me at the Nightkeepers' online home: http://www.jessicaandersen.com/. Be warned, the animated intro is kind of loud! So if you're at work, think about turning the volume down (snicker). The website is a ton of fun, and includes not only my schedule, newsletter signups, and excerpts, it also had additional info on the Maya, the 2012 doomsday, and a bonus short story that's available free for your reading pleasure. I'm a big Facebook-er, too, so please hit me up-- either search for 'Doc Jess' or search for 'Jessica Andersen' and look for the cover of Demonkeepers!

Oh, and as extra fun, I'm doing a Virtual Signing of Demonkeepers! To order a signed copy that will be delivered to you the first week of release (first week of April), go to store.radcliffbookstore.com and click on the virtual signing. While you're there, you can also order a signed copy of Ward's Lover Mine! (Great book, btw.)

Thanks for having me on this week, and please feel free to hit me up with questions or comments!

TRR: Thanks, Jess, great to have you here!

Reviews of books in the series:

Nightkeepers
Dawnkeepers
Skykeepers
Quiz on Nightkeepers - How well do you know the book? Test your knowledge!

Three (3) copies of book #4 Demonkeepers to be won! Everyone on the planet can join, even the penguins in Antarctica, if they can get on the 'Net and write a comment. LOL

How to enter?

Go to Jessica's website and tell us what you like about it. It can be about her books, the extras she has there, or even the design of the website. You can also tell her what you want to see there. Anything. While there, look at the amazing information she has for you. But be warned that the animated intro is a little loud, so if you're at work, hit the volume!

Extra chances to win:

+ 3 if you're an old follower of this blog
+ 2 if you're a new follower of this blog (starting to follow from this post/contest)
+ 2 if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter
+ 2 if you take our poster (located on the right sidebar) about this contest and post it
               on your blog/website with a link back to us
+ 1 for every time you spread the word about this contest via Facebook, MySpace,
              Twitter, your blog, website or other form of social media. For example, you
              tweeted about this contest twice and also announced it on your Facebook. You
              also wrote a blog post. That's 4 additional chances! However, for these to
              qualify, be sure to come back here and post the links. Like, if you tweeted
              twice, give me both links.

If you do all of the above, at a minimum, that's 9 chances to win (8 chances if you're a new follower)! Remember, the more things you do to help us spread the word about this contest, the better are your chances.

Contest ends on April 2 (Friday), 1159pm EST. (Original deadline was April 1, which is April Fools' Day, so we thought it might be better if we extend the contest by another day. *grin*)

Winner will be picked via Randomizer.org and announced within the week. Instructions will be given then on how to claim your prize. Be sure to come back and check because we won't hunt you down. If prizes are unclaimed after 1 week, new winners will be chosen.

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

GIVEAWAY and REVIEW: Skykeepers by Jessica Andersen

 
ISBN 9780451227706
Series: A Novel of the Final Prophecy, Book 3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
(c) October 2009, Signet, Penguin Putnam
Jessica Andersen's website 

Rating: 5 stars

Buy Links (paper): Amazon, Book Depository

"The series gets better and better! Not to be missed!"

With each installment, Jessica Andersen ramps up the action and excitement in a thrilling ride that takes the reader on unexpected turns! In Dawnkeepers, we have--oh horrors!--Rabbit killing the three-question nahwal and the loss of the skyroad and thus, the Nightkeepers' communication with the gods. We see things getting bleaker and bleaker for the Nightkeepers as their powers waned. How then are they going to save the world from the end time? What's in store for them as the days keep counting down to the zero date?

Skykeepers opened with a bang as the Nightkeepers staged a hostage (Sasha Ledbetter) rescue, as she is their only hope of recovering the missing library (knowledge that the Nightkeepers desperately needed) that her father had ostensibly transferred to a safer location. Attraction sizzled between Sasha and Michael Stone, but while Sasha is all too willing to develop the relationship, Michael held himself apart from her, because he feared the thing, the monster he called Other that lives inside him. As much as Sasha's presence gave Michael a measure of peace, she also seemed to incite this Other to greater violence, and he was finding it harder and harder to keep it contained within him, and he feared the havoc it could cause should he let it loose.

Exciting stuff happens! Who is Sasha Ledbetter? Of whose bloodline is she? What is her talent? These questions and more are answered in this book! (Cannot give them away though. Wouldn't want to spoil things for you.)

I like the little touches that Ms. Andersen gave her, like the fact that Sasha loves to cook and that she treats her plants and herbs like her babies. I was totally charmed at the scene when Sasha saw them again after so long.

"Hello, she breathed, knowing she should probably feel like an idiot for talking to her plants, and not giving a crap. "Do you remember me?"

I like that these small things serve to give Sasha character yet at the same time, these very qualities are important to her role as a Nightkeeper. Suffice it to say, I like Sasha better than Alexis (Dawnkeepers) because the former is so refreshingly uncomplicated. Her scenes with Ambrose (both at the temple and later, at Skywatch) were done rather well, in my opinion, bearing a bittersweet, poignant quality and bringing Sasha the needed closure without the scenes being mushy.

And Michael, wooh! He totally owned this book, with his pain and anguish and conflict, in his striving to be a better man. Who couldn't identify with that? Especially toward the end, when he needed to cross the river again. I could feel his ambivalence and his pain. Heart breaking and soul crying out... Should he cross or not? A return to what he was (which he hated) or to reach for his desired future and sacrifice a teammate? In the end, there was no choice, not if he was to be true to what he is at his core. But I suffered with him, cried with him (oops, he didn't cry, but maybe in his heart he did) as he made the irreversible decision.

Jessica Andersen sure knew how to put readers through the emotional wringer. But I love love love Michael Stone, more than Nate and even maybe Strike.

Though the end of the world events still surround and interweave with Sasha's and Michael's romance, they didn't overwhelm. Though we still see Rabbit trying to help, there wasn't anything of Anna's problems with her hubby. As for Lucius, we only see him for a short time at the beginning and toward the end. So, this book is really all about Sasha and Michael, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I'm looking forward to Demonkeeper, because Lucius is one of my favorite characters. I've been waiting for his story since Nightkeepers (book #1)!

There is something though that wasn't answered in the story. Since Sasha is a Nightkeeper (not a spoiler, as it's suspected in book #1 that her father is one), why didn't her winikin have her mark on his forearm? 

When we asked Ms Andersen this question, this is her reply:

Good question!  This is one of those things that is hinted at in the stories, but gets glossed over a little because there's only so much detail I can include before my editor says: "Stop worldbuilding and get to the running, screaming, and sex!' Snicker. 

The books mention that the winikin receive a child's mark (indicating that they have another protectee of their bound bloodline) at the child's birth. This actually happens during a brief ceremony that is performed with umbilical cord blood, during which the child is connected to the community. Sasha did not receive this ceremony. Neither did Patience and Brandt's twins, which is why neither Hannah nor Woody (Patience and Brandt's winikin) have marks representing the boys. 

Buy Links (paper): Amazon, Book Depository 

Reviews of other books in the series:
Nightkeepers
Dawnkeepers
Quiz on Nightkeepers - How well do you know the book? Test your knowledge!


~ o ~


WE'RE HAVING A GIVEAWAY! Three (3) copies of book #4 Demonkeepers to be won! Everyone on the planet can join, even the penguins in Antarctica, if they can get on the 'Net and write a comment. LOL

How to enter?

Go to Jessica's website and tell us what you like about it. It can be about her books, the extras she has there, or even the design of the website. You can also tell her what you want to see there. Anything. While there, look at the amazing information she has for you. But be warned that the animated intro is a little loud, so if you're at work, hit the volume!

Extra chances to win:
+ 3 if you're an old follower of this blog
+ 2 if you're a new follower of this blog (starting to follow from this post/contest)
+ 2 if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter
+ 2 if you take our poster (located on the right sidebar) about this contest and post it
              on your blog/website with a link back to us
+ 1 for every time you spread the word about this contest via Facebook, MySpace,
              Twitter, your blog, website or other form of social media. For example, you
              tweeted about this contest twice and also announced it on your Facebook. You 
              also wrote a blog post. That's 4 additional chances! However, for these to 
              qualify, be sure to come back here and post the links. Like, if you tweeted 
              twice, give me both links.

If you do all of the above, at a minimum, that's 9 chances to win (8 chances if you're a new follower)! Remember, the more things you do to help us spread the word about this contest, the better are your chances.

Contest ends on April 1 (Thursday), 1159pm EST.

Winner will be picked via Randomizer.org and announced within the week. Instructions will be given then on how to claim your prize. Be sure to come back and check because we won't hunt you down. If prizes are unclaimed after 1 week, new winners will be chosen.

Good luck!

Monday, March 29, 2010

GIVEAWAY and REVIEW: Dawnkeepers by Jessica Andersen

ISBN 9780451225757
Series: A Novel of the Final Prophecy, Book 2
Genre: Paranormal Romance
(c) May 2009, Signet, Penguin Putnam
Jessica Andersen's website

Rating: 4 stars

Buy Links (paper): Amazon, Book Depository

"A thrilling sequel as the adventure continues!"

It was several months since the end of the events in the first book and Nate and Alexis have broken off their relationship, mainly due to a rejection on Nate's part, who didn't believe in gods and prophecy and fate and destiny. All his life, he's had to work for things he wanted--wealth, success, etc--and he didn't see why he couldn't do that too for the woman he wanted in his life. Yet, something drew him back again and again to Alexis, the woman on whom his fantasy game heroine Hera was modeled after, years before he'd seen Alexis.

Alexis, on the other hand, having grown up with a winikin (something like a bond-servant) who instructed her in the Nightkeeper lore and history from young, bought fully into the prophecies and concepts of destiny and fate. As she didn't seem to possess the full warrior fighting powers, she wanted to have more magic and more power in order to live up to the memory of her mother, who'd been one of the king's advisers. And so she clung to Nate, not only because she was hopelessly attracted to him, but also because a mated Nightkeeper is more powerful than an unmated one.

Being a Nightkeeper must be tough on the nerves because there is nonstop action and excitement and danger. The story opens with the Nightkeepers searching for the artifacts that contain the demon prophecies, the next stage in their fight against the Banol Kax. Magic and mayhem ensued and there was never a dull moment, though the story dragged a bit in the first few chapters with explanations and highlights of past events. Some of the abbreviated language threw me at first and I had to stop and think what it meant, especially 'hood for neighborhood, but once I got the hang of it, I was fine. In fact, 'porting sounds way better than teleporting.

For Nate, I think everything came together when he stumbled into his parents' cottage. It was like waking up from a foggy dream and realizing, "Oh fucking shit, this is real." He had parents who loved him and cared for him, and if the massacre hadn't happened, he would have grown up being trained as a Nightkeeper. His assimilation into his role within the Nightkeepers was gradual and logical, coming out of his own realization that the royal council needed an objective voice, someone who didn't believe wholly into the Nightkeeper traditions and prophecies, someone who could think out of the box. I didn't quite like him at first, because I hate the way he pushed Alexis away when he obviously yearned for her, but later on, when he started accepting the inevitable (to a certain extent), I find him super-hot, especially toward the end when he made himself vulnerable to her. (Couldn't say more, as it would be a spoiler.)

I have a harder time understanding Alexis's character and motivation, because I couldn't quite decide if her ambition of being part of the royal council came from Alexis herself or from her winikin. I read on, fully expecting Alexis to rebel sometime down the road, that no, this wasn't what she wanted, but later on, we see that Alexis herself wanted the position. She wanted to be acknowledged that she was doing something important, like her mother did. So maybe, Alexis herself was confused at the start, but the idea grew on her until she wanted it. Perhaps she saw it as things coming full circle--her mother being Strike's father's adviser, while she is Strike's adviser. This may be the reason in part for me having the feeling of the story being confusing as I read.

However, I totally admire and rooted for Alexis for being a kick-ass heroine in that she was strong enough to reject Nate somewhere in the middle of the book, that no, she might need a Nightkeeper mate in order to have strong magic enough to battle the bad guys, but he didn't have to be Nate, since Nate so obviously didn't want to be with her. Yay for the woman who doesn't cling or goes weepy because the man didn't want her.

Like in the first book, so many things happened in the story that the events almost overshadowed Nate's and Alexis' romance, but actually, everything was integrated into the whole, even their romance. The problems that cropped up in their relationship was due to their identities as Nightkeepers, and their background as both humans and magical warriors. Each event that the Nightkeepers encountered only served to strip them both bare until nothing was left but the very essence of who they are and made them see, especially Nate, what is most important to them.

Of course, life would be very bland and dull without Rabbit, whose foul-ups seemed served to help the enemy more than the Nightkeepers, Anna who was still torn between her human life and her destiny as a Nightkeeper, and Lucius, who it seemed has to undergo a lot of pain and transformation before he'd realize what his destiny was. I do wish though that some momentous events in some of the characters' lives could be given longer screen time, like when Rabbit discovered the truth of his powers and when Alexis realized she loved Nate.

Review of Nightkeepers
Quiz on Nightkeepers - How well do you know the book? Test your knowledge!


~ o ~


WE'RE HAVING A GIVEAWAY! Three (3) copies of book #4 Demonkeepers to be won! Everyone on the planet can join, even the penguins in Antarctica, if they can get on the 'Net and write a comment. LOL

How to enter?

Go to Jessica's website and tell us what you like about it. It can be about her books, the extras she has there, or even the design of the website. You can also tell her what you want to see there. Anything. While there, look at the amazing information she has for you. But be warned that the animated intro is a little loud, so if you're at work, hit the volume!

Extra chances to win:
+ 3 if you're an old follower of this blog
+ 2 if you're a new follower of this blog (starting to follow from this post/contest)
+ 2 if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter
+ 2 if you take our poster (located on the right sidebar) about this contest and post it
              on your blog/website with a link back to us
+ 1 for every time you spread the word about this contest via Facebook, MySpace,
              Twitter, your blog, website or other form of social media. For example, you
              tweeted about this contest twice and also announced it on your Facebook. You 
              also wrote a blog post. That's 4 additional chances! However, for these to 
              qualify, be sure to come back here and post the links. Like, if you tweeted 
              twice, give me both links.

If you do all of the above, at a minimum, that's 9 chances to win (8 chances if you're a new follower)! Remember, the more things you do to help us spread the word about this contest, the better are your chances.

Contest ends on April 1 (Thursday), 1159pm EST.

Winner will be picked via Randomizer.org and announced within the week. Instructions will be given then on how to claim your prize. Be sure to come back and check because we won't hunt you down. If prizes are unclaimed after 1 week, new winners will be chosen.

Good luck!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

WINNERS : Beyond the Darkness



Or any book from Alexandra Ivy's backlist! 

First, a big thank you to everyone for your participation and to Alex for joining us here and answering our questions and of course, for offering the giveaway! Those who've mentioned that they've read the book and members of The Raving Readers are excluded from participating in the draw. 

And so, here are the winners!

Giveaway from The Raving Readers - International Pool - Sunny G 
Giveaway from Alexandra Ivy - US residents only - Diana Owen-Emerson 

Congratulations!

Winners, please send your name and address to caroletrr(@)gmail(.)com

If I didn't receive your email within one week, we'll be choosing new winner.

And, don't forget, tomorrow, we'll be having Jessica Andersen with us!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sorry for the delay...

Winners of Beyond the Darkness will be announced on March 28 (Sunday).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SNEAK PEEK: Beyond the Darkness by Alexandra Ivy




ISBN 9781420102987
Series: Guardians of Eternity, Book 6
Genre: Paranormal Romance
(c) April 2010, Zebra Books, Kensington
Alexandra Ivy's website 

Buy Links (paper): Book Depository, Barnes and Noble 

Excerpt: (Exclusive to The Raving Readers. Thanks, Alex!)

At a glance Harley was the spitting image of a Barbie Doll. 

She stood barely over five feet, her body was slender, her heart-shaped face was delicately carved with large hazel eyes that were thickly lashed and her golden blond hair that tumbled past her shoulders gave the image of a fragile angel.  She also looked far younger than her thirty years.

Anyone, however, stupid enough to dismiss her as harmless usually ended up injured.

Or dead.

She was not only a full-blooded Were, but she took her training in combat skills to a level that Navy SEALS would envy.

 She was working out in the full-scale gym when Caine returned to the vast colonial home.  She continued lifting the weights that would crush most men as she absently listened to his bitter tirade of the ineptitude of his cur pack and the injustice of a world that contained Salvatore Giuliani, the King of Weres.

At last, Harley moved to take a swig of bottled water and wiped the sweat coating her face.  She glanced toward Caine who leaned negligently against the far wall, his jeans and muscle shirt filthy and his short blond hair tousled.  Not that his bedraggled appearance dimmed his surfer good looks.  Even beneath the fluorescent lights that made everyone appear like death warmed over, his tanned skin glowed with a rich bronze and the blue eyes shimmered like the finest sapphires.

He was gorgeous.  And he knew it.

Barf.

Harley’s lips twisted.  Her relationship with Caine was complicated.

The cur had been her guardian since she was a baby, but while he’d protected her and kept her in considerable luxury, she’d never truly trusted him. 

And the feeling was entirely mutual.

Caine allowed her to roam the house and the surrounding lands with seeming freedom, but she knew she was under constant surveillance.  And God knew, she was never allowed to travel away from the estate without two or three of Caine’s pet curs.  Caine claimed he was concerned for her safety, but Harley wasn’t stupid.  She knew his motives were far more selfish.

It might have been tempting to escape her golden cage if the knowledge that a lone wolf, even a pureblood, rarely survived.  Weres were by nature predators and there were any number of demons that would be eager to rid the world of a Were if they could catch them without a pack’s protection.

Besides, there was always the fear that the King of Weres was out there somewhere, anxious to kill her as he had her three sisters.  Caine might be determined to use her for his own purpose, but at least that purpose meant he had to keep her alive.

Tossing aside the towel, Harley sent her companion a mocking smile.

“Let me see if I have this straight.  You went to Hannibal because Sadie created some mysterious mess that you had to clean up and while you were there you brilliantly decided to kidnap the King of Weres, only to drop him like a hot potato when you were nearly caught by a vampire and pack of curs?”

Caine pushed away from the wall and prowled forward, his gaze skimming over her tight spandex shorts and sports bra.  The cur was nothing if not predictable.  He’d been trying to seduce her for years.

“You have it in a perfect little nutshell, sweet Harley.”  He halted directly before her, toying with her pony tail that had fallen over her shoulder.  “Do you want a reward?”

“And your pet jinn?”

“Slipped from her leash.  She’ll be back.” His smile was taunting.  “Like you, she has nowhere else to go.”

Harley jerked from his touch.  Bastard.

“So now you’ve lost half your pack, your demon, and you’ve left behind a trail that will lead the pissed off King of Weres and his angry posse directly to this lair.”

Caine shrugged.  “I’ll call for one of the local witches.  My trail will be long gone by the time the almighty Salvatore manages to get out.”

“Get out of where?”

“I collapsed the tunnel on top of them.”

“God.  Are you even barely sane?”

“Once they manage to heal enough to dig out of the rubble they’ll discover the entrance has been completely blocked.  They will have no choice but to turn back.”

“You’re pretty damned cocky for a cur who has just pissed off your royal master.”

“I don’t have a master,” Caine snarled, revealing a glimpse of his resentment at being a lowly cur instead of a full Were before he was smoothing his expression.  “And besides, the prophecies have spoken.  I’m destined to transform the curs into purebloods.  Nothing can happen to me.”

Harley snorted.  Caine wasn’t a complete loon.  He managed to control his large pack that he had spread throughout the Midwest with an iron hand.  He was a Harvard trained scientist who made a fortune with his black-market drugs.  He regularly kicked her ass at Scrabble.

But at some point in his very long life he claimed he’d been visited by an ancient pureblood who had given him a vision.  Harley didn’t pretend to understand it.  Something about seeing his blood run pure. 

Being a scientist, he naturally assumed this miracle would be performed in a lab, which was why he kept Harley as his permanent houseguest.  He thought by studying her blood he could find the answers he sought.  Moronic, of course.  Visions were the stuff of mist and magic, not glass beakers and microscopes.

“Look, if you want to get yourself killed because of your delusions of grandeur I don’t give a shit.”  She narrowed her eyes.  “But I’m not going to be happy if you put me in the firing line.”

Caine stepped forward, reaching to trail his fingers over her shoulder.  His touch was warm, experienced.  She shook him off.

A woman would have to be dead not to find Caine attractive, but Harley needed more than simple lust.  She needed…hell, she didn’t know what she needed, only that she hadn’t yet found it.

Besides, her skin was suddenly feeling hyper-sensitive.  As if it had been rubbed raw by sandpaper.

“Would I ever put you in danger, sweet Harley?” Caine goaded.

“In a heartbeat if it meant saving your own hide.”

“Harsh.”

“But true.”

“Perhaps.”  His gaze dipped downward, studying her sports bra.  “I need a shower.  Why don’t you join me?”

“In your dreams.”

“Every night.  Do you want to know what we’re doing?”

“I’d rather yank out your tongue and eat it for dinner.”

With a laugh, he snapped his teeth near her nose.  “Naughty Were.  You know how it makes me hard when you threaten violence.”

Spinning on her heel, Harley headed for the door.  “You’d better make that a cold shower or you won’t have to worry about Salvatore Giuliani slicing off your balls.  I’ll already have them dangling from my rearview mirror.”

She ignored Caine’s low laugh as she headed toward the front of the house. 

It was late and she was tired, but she ignored the carved wooden staircase that led to the bedrooms as she entered the paneled foyer.

What the hell was wrong with her?

She felt restless and on edge.  As if there was a looming thunderstorm and she was about to be struck by lightning.

Telling herself it was nothing more than frustration with Caine and the mysterious games that were being played around her, she yanked open the door and stepped outside. 

What she needed was a walk.

And if that didn’t work, then there was always cheesecake in the fridge.

There was nothing in the world that couldn’t be cured by cheesecake.

~ o ~


We have two giveaways--any book from the author's backlist, which includes the one to be released in April (Beyond the Darkness)! One international and one US residents only. In fairness to everyone, this means there'll be two pools of entrants--one US resident pool and the other non-US resident. Please indicate your country of residence when you comment.

We'll also have Alexandra Ivy popping in and out of the blog, so if you've any questions, feel free to ask! She'll be around to answer and comment.


How to enter the contest?


Answer this question: Go to
Alexandra's website and tell us which of her Guardians of Eternity books you'd like to read the most and why.

Extra chances to win:
+ 3 if you're an old follower of this blog
+ 2 
if you're a new follower of this blog (start following from this contest/post)
+ 2
if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter
+ 2
if you take our poster (located on the right sidebar) about this contest and post it
              on your blog/website with a link back to us
+ 1
for every time you spread the word about this contest via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter,
              your blog, website or other form of social media. For example, you tweeted about
              this contest twice and also announced it on your Facebook. You also wrote a blog
              post. That's 4 additional chances! However, for these to qualify, be sure to come
              back here and post the links. Like, if you tweeted twice, give me both links.

If you do all of the above, at a minimum, that's 9 chances to win (8 if you're a new follower)! Remember, the more things you do to help us spread the word, the better your chances.


Contest ends on
March 24 (Wednesday), 1159pm EST.

Winner will be picked via
Randomizer.org and announced on March 25 (Thursday). Instructions will be given then on how to claim your prize. Be sure to come back and check because we won't hunt you down. If prizes are unclaimed after 1 week, new winners will be chosen.

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

GIVEAWAY & GUEST AUTHOR: ALEXANDRA IVY

Today, we're honored to have Alexandra Ivy, author of the wonderful Guardians of Eternity series, featuring sexy vamps and hunky weres. Yum!

The Raving Readers: Alexandra, thank you so much for joining us today! Your Guardians of Eternity series is so awesome! How did you come upon the idea for this series?

Alexandra Ivy:
First I want to thank you so much for having me as a guest!!  I absolutely love talking with readers (I'm an avid reader myself!) and it's always exciting when I find anyone interested in my Guardian series…especially if they happen to like the books :)  My first itch to write the books came from Buffy (of course). I LOVED that show and the way they combined humor with horror!  It was different and funky and just plain fun.  Of course, when I wrote When Darkness Comes, I was writing historicals and I didn't really plan on having it published.

TRR: Not published? Gasp! What a horr
or that would be! We're glad that didn't happen. In fact, in reading several of your books, we noticed that your series has an overall arc storyline. Did you plot everything before writing the first book? If not, how do you do it?

AI:
  No, the first book I wrote just for fun, but as the series has progressed I've found that there are always a few loose ends that I don't have time to clear up, and that the loose ends have become more and more important and are weaving their way through the series…so now I do have an overall idea of where I want the books to go and while the books are still stand alone, there is a growing evil that encompasses the story line that will be resolved in the last book!

TRR: Yes, so we've noticed and that makes it so exciting!
Of all the books that you've written thus far, who is your favorite Guardian and why? Which Guardian fascinates you the most and why?


AI:
Dante was my first so he'll always have a special place in my heart, but I think Styx is the most fascinating, simply because of the burdens he carries as King.  I also have to admit to having a very large crush on Salvatore…I didn't know if I'd like writing a Were, but he's such a bad boy I couldn't help but fall in love. :)

TRR:
Your heroes are all so yummy. I'd have to add Jagr (Darkness Unleashed) to the list. Viper (Embrace the Darkness) too!
In terms of couples, which pair is the easiest to write, as in the words just seemed to flow and there was no stopping you, not lunch nor dinner nor sleep? LOL Why do you think this is so?

AI: Absolutely Viper and Shay…their chemistry just seemed to leap off the page and it was also the book I introduced Levet so there was an added dimension of having the tiny demon around to aggravate Viper (who needed to be aggravated!).  And I just liked their love story.

TRR: Oooh, Viper. Yes, definitely! And now we're on book #6, Beyond the Darkness, Salvatore's story, which will be out in April. Do tell us more.

AI: Salvatore has made appearances in the other books…he's the King of Weres and desperate to save his people from the edge of extinction.  Thirty years ago he genetically altered four female pureblooded females so they couldn't shift, which he hoped would help them carry their litters to full term.  During Beyond the Darkness, he discovers there is a darker force hunting the Weres and he also stunned when he finds one of the pureblooded females (Harley) stirs more than his lust.  Ancient powers are stirring and Salvatore realizes Harley is his true mate.  Unfortunately, she's been trained to believe he's the enemy and unless Salvatore can convince her to join their powers, it might very well be the end of the Weres.

TRR: Why are Salvatore and Harley perfect for each other?

AI: Salvatore has always been the strongest, the smartest, and the most arrogant among the Weres.  He needs a female who can stand up to him and be a true partner, not a lapdog (pun intended :)).  There are also wounds that they both carry that can only be healed by each other.

TRR: I LOL at the dog comments. I really like your humor. Have there been instances when your characters refused to do as they're told? How did you deal with them? 

AI: Daily.  Sometimes they don't behave because I'm trying to take them in the wrong direction.  Once a character is fully formed it knows where it wants to go and what it wants to do…I know, it sounds creepy!  I usually have to take a break and truly consider what the scene is about and how I can approach it differently.

TRR: I guess a writer's job is not easy. Now, the question all fans truly want to know the answer to: How many more books do you have planned in the series, assuming your publisher buys them all? 

AI: There will be at least four more (as well as two anthologies that are loosely based on the Guardians).  The next book will be Tane's, who is a vampire Charon (a vampire assassin) and a half-Jinn mongrel…I'm writing the book now and it's soooo much fun!  There others are still fairly vague.

TRR: Oooh, I know about that half-Jinn. Would love to read that. Hope there'll be more about that still unknown sister too. Are you by any chance joining any conferences or do you have any book signing events where fans can meet and talk to you? 

AI: I rarely do conferences…I'm fairly shy and the thought of going alone to a huge conference tends to give me a rash. :)  I do love to do book signings to meet readers (actually it's one of my favorite things!!)  Right now I haven't scheduled any signings but I always keep my website updated!

TRR: Right. I'll be sure to check the website often. Sadly, we're down to our last question. Anything else you'd like to tell us?

AI: You can contact me at any of the below:


I hope everyone will drop me a line…I love to hear from readers!!

TRR: Thank you, Alex and it's a real pleasure to have you with us.


~ o ~

We have two giveaways--any book from the author's backlist, which includes the one to be released in April (Beyond the Darkness)! One international and one US residents only. In fairness to everyone, this means there'll be two pools of entrants--one US resident pool and the other non-US resident. Please indicate your country of residence when you comment.

We'll also have Alexandra Ivy popping in and out of the blog, so if you've any questions, feel free to ask! She'll be around to answer and comment.

How to enter the contest?

Answer this question: Go to Alexandra's website and tell us which of her Guardians of Eternity books you'd like to read the most and why.

Extra chances to win:
+ 3 if you're an old follower of this blog
+ 2 if you're a new follower of this blog (start following from this contest/post)
+ 2 if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter
+ 2 if you take our poster (located on the right sidebar) about this contest and post it
              on your blog/website with a link back to us
+ 1 for every time you spread the word about this contest via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter,
              your blog, website or other form of social media. For example, you tweeted about
              this contest twice and also announced it on your Facebook. You also wrote a blog
              post. That's 4 additional chances! However, for these to qualify, be sure to come
              back here and post the links. Like, if you tweeted twice, give me both links.

If you do all of the above, at a minimum, that's 9 chances to win (8 if you're a new follower)! Remember, the more things you do to help us spread the word, the better your chances.

Contest ends on March 24 (Wednesday), 1159pm EST.

Winner will be picked via Randomizer.org and announced on March 25 (Thursday). Instructions will be given then on how to claim your prize. Be sure to come back and check because we won't hunt you down. If prizes are unclaimed after 1 week, new winners will be chosen.

Good luck!

Monday, March 22, 2010

GIVEAWAY and REVIEW: Beyond the Darkness by Alexandra Ivy


ISBN 9781420102987
Series: Guardians of Eternity, Book 6
Genre: Paranormal Romance
(c) April 2010, Zebra Books, Kensington
Alexandra Ivy's website

Rating: 5 stars

Buy Links (paper): Book Depository, Barnes and Noble 

"Another exciting book in the series! Not to be missed!"

I really love Alexandra Ivy's writing! Her prose flows like smooth, warm honey, the kind you'll never get enough of. I know I've said something to that effect before, but I witnessed it again in this story and in Embrace the Darkness, which I've read but haven't yet written the review.

I have to admit that when I was reading Darkness Unleashed (Jagr's story), I hadn't liked Salvatore Giuliani, King of the Weres, that much. I thought he was too smooth, too slick and let's face it, I hate any man who has a better grasp of fashion than I. In this story, Salvatore is still the same fastidious Were, but his head is by no means only wrapped up in his appearance. There's another side to him--the king who takes his responsiblity and duty to his people seriously, maybe at cost to his own life. The man who would do anything to protect his mate and keep her safe. When Harley itches at his protectiveness, he told her, "There will never be a moment when I won't need to protect you." Happy sigh, and in serious danger of melting! What I like best was his snappy, witty banter with the heroine. I could read on and on. Totally refreshing and never failed to bring a smile to my face.

Harley is a likeable heroine, strong, spunky, smart, an equal partner for Salvatore. I like that when she did finally meet her sister in person, she was wary and that they didn't immediately fall crying into each other's arms. Affection does take time to grow. Though she seemed to resist making any commitment to Salvatore, her reaction when she discovered he might be in danger is a dead giveaway to the people around her. But when she finally accepted her place as Salvatore's mate and queen, she stepped right up to her responsiblities.

In this book, we finally discovered who engineered the kidnapping of Harley and her sisters and the reasons behind! However, the story doesn't stop here. Ms Ivy cleverly dangles another thread before us, one that might have cataclysmic repercussions, and I hope we see this in the next book, which is still a long time coming--December 2010!

Sadly, there's not much about Levet here, except for the first few chapters. But there's a fascinating new character--Harley and Darcy and Regan's sister. There are intriguing bits about her, who is very mysterious and seems to be the catalyst to some world event. And then there's Caine, evil cur turned good guy? I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him. The next book should be plenty exciting!

Buy Links (paper): Book Depository, Barnes and Noble 


~ o ~

We have TWO GIVEAWAYS--any book from the author's backlist, which includes the one to be released in April (Beyond the Darkness)! One international and one US residents only. In fairness to everyone, this means there'll be two pools of entrants--one US resident pool and the other non-US resident. Please indicate your country of residence when you comment.

We'll also have Alexandra Ivy popping in and out of the blog, so if you've any questions, feel free to ask! She'll be around to answer and comment.

How to enter the contest?

Answer this question: Go to Alexandra's website and tell us which of her Guardians of Eternity books you'd like to read the most and why.

Extra chances to win:
+ 3 if you're an old follower of this blog
+ 2 if you're a new follower of this blog (start following from this contest/post)
+ 2 if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter
+ 2 if you take our poster (located on the right sidebar) about this contest and post it
              on your blog/website with a link back to us
+ 1 for every time you spread the word about this contest via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter,
              your blog, website or other form of social media. For example, you tweeted about
              this contest twice and also announced it on your Facebook. You also wrote a blog
              post. That's 4 additional chances! However, for these to qualify, be sure to come
              back here and post the links. Like, if you tweeted twice, give me both links.

If you do all of the above, at a minimum, that's 9 chances to win (8 if you're a new follower)! Remember, the more things you do to help us spread the word, the better your chances.

Contest ends on March 24 (Wednesday), 1159pm EST.

Winner will be picked via Randomizer.org and announced on March 25 (Thursday). Instructions will be given then on how to claim your prize. Be sure to come back and check because we won't hunt you down. If prizes are unclaimed after 1 week, new winners will be chosen.

Good luck!

Friday, March 19, 2010

REVIEW: Breaking Daylight by M. J. Fredrick


ISBN 978-1-60504-869-7
Genre: Romantic Suspense
(c) 2010, Samhain Publishing
M. J. Fredrick's website

Rating: 3 stars

Buy Links (ebook): Samhain Publishing, Barnes and Noble Ebook

"All the ingredients for a good romantic suspense are here! A sexy, tortured hero, a drug lord villain and the beautiful, gutsy heroine."

On a mission to hunt down drug kingpin Santiago Saldana, Alex Shepard instead rescued Saldana's mistress, Isabella Canales. His orders were to keep close to her in case she led him to Saldana, but Alex found it hard to ignore the attraction that flared between them. Yet he fought it, because he believed her to be the same as his mother, a woman who put pleasure over everything that was right and decent.

As for Isabella, she had been Saldana's prisoner for over four years, but Alex didn't believe it. His words and the way he thought of her hurt, but she forced herself not to care, not if it meant getting out alive and being able to retrieve her most precious possession.

Because of what Isabella had been over the past four years, it wasn't easy to like her at first. She whored for Saldana, not because she was willing, but because she was essentially trapped. In a sense, we are seeing a woman who would do anything to survive and to protect her own. As I read, I thought of the women who were probably in the same situation--trapped because they had no other way of making a living, of making it through to the next day except to sell themselves. And it made me uneasy.

However, Isabella also proved herself to be strong, courageous and smart in the face of danger, willing to do anything to get what she wanted most. (Sorry, can't say what, as it would be a spoiler. I think.) She did have her TSTL moments initially, especially when she and Alex were still in the jungle. When a ranger (Alex) tells you to be quiet, he has a reason. When he tells you to stay put, he has a reason. You don't go talking just because you can't stand the silence and you don't go barging into unknown potentially dangerous situations, especially when in the previous village you came to, all the people were shot dead by Saldana's men. I'm glad to see though that she wised up over the course of the story and even learned to hold her own against the bad guys by thinking what Alex would have done.

Alex is a man mired in his past, which was the basis for his rejection of Isabella. I like that he has a good relationship with his adopted father, and that he didn't hesitate to open up his problems to his parent.

M.J. Fredrick's writing is understated, which is both good and bad, in my opinion. Good because she doesn't dumb down the reader. She describes the action and a little bit of the character's emotion and lets the reader fill in the rest with her imagination. On the other hand, this kind of writing creates a distance between the characters and the reader. For example, I would've loved to know more of what Alex was feeling when he finally realized he was in love with Isabella rather than just reading that he grinned and threw his hands up in the air. I get that he's happy, there are the outward signs after all. But what was he feeling inside? Was his happiness a joy that expanded his heart and overflowed? Or was it a gentle, quiet one that brought peace? Also, the action/suspense scenes could do with a little more excitement, especially the last one, since it's the biggie scene with the bad guy there and all.

Note that I'm not a writing expert, but merely a reader who tries to articulate what she felt while reading. That said, there's a solid plot here, with an unexpected villain and real emotions. There were also unexpected moments of humor that I appreciated. I would definitely want to read more of M.J. Fredrick's works.

Buy Links (ebook): Samhain Publishing, Barnes and Noble Ebook

*Note: This review copy is provided by the author.
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