Thursday, July 31, 2014

*Gizmos Early Reviews* Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson

**I received this book from Edelweiss / Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


A year ago Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction — and taking the life of Dovey's best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her. 

But recently she's started to believe she's seeing things that can't be real ... including Carly at their favorite cafe. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined. 

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah — where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk — she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Dovey's running out of time and torn between two paths. Will she trust her childhood friend Baker, who can't see the threatening darkness but promises to never give up on Dovey and Carly? Or will she plot with the sexy stranger, Isaac, who offers all the answers — for a price? Soon Dovey realizes that the danger closing in has little to do with Carly ... and everything to do with Dovey herself.

*My Thoughts*

On the day that Hurricane Josephine came to Savannah, Georgia, it devastated the city, and took an exorbitant toll on the population. Families were torn apart, parts of Savannah won't ever be the same again, and a darkness quietly waltzed into to town, taking up roots, and changing the overall landscape without anyone noticing.

For Seventeen year old Billie Dove (Dovey) Greenwoood, Josephine was just background noise to the fact that she watched as her best friend, Carly Ray, was taken away by the storm. She's spent the past year in a drug induced numbness thanks to several episodes that made people believe that she had lost her hold on reality. Some reviewers have already spoiled, or mentioned Dovey's episodes, so I won't do so here. 

This all changes after Dovey sees Carly at their favorite coffee shop, and proceeds to stop taking her pills so she can discover the truth. This leads Dovey down a dangerous and deadly path that won't end until her eyes are completely opened. What really happened to Carly, and who she can really trust when a large part of her memories have vanished into a dark hole, and her parents don't seem to care?

For me, Dovey is a character that you really had to withhold commentary on until you found out where Dawson is taking the story, and why, or whether or not there will be a follow up book. Whenever you have a character who has lost memories, that character becomes a questionable source of information for the reader. How can we really trust what she is telling us, when she's spent the past year taking pills that made her lose interest in everything that she enjoyed? It's even worse when she has to rely on people who know more about Dovey's past year, than she does, and these people may or may not have her best interests at heart.

If you want a good view of who Dovey really is, then you have to look at the good, along with the bad. It's poetic that she actually believes she can find out the truth about Carly while shifting through treacherous territory and not letting her parents know that she's off her meds. Then you have the fact that she stumbles and bumbles around catching the eyes of those who hold the key to Carly's fate, while also attempting to unlock her own lost memories, and why she is able to see things nobody else can.

Without giving away any spoilers, Dovey finds an interesting partner in Isaac. So much so, that you can't really get around the fact that he may or may not be a trustworthy character. Are we really to presume that he has Dovey's best interests at heart, or is he another piece of the twisted game that is being played out under the cover of darkness and mind numbing pills? Are we to absolutely trust Dovey's reality when Dawson twists her ending in such a way that we end up questioning everything?

I loathe 3 way love triangles. I am sure you all know this by now by reading my reviews. But, I can't help but to ask why YA novels feel it necessary to combine this with a story that is already semi-discombobulated? Thanks to Dovey's memory lapses, and a friendship with Baker that turns into a virtual game of name calling and he-man antics with Isaac over her affection, perhaps it would have been better to leave that part out of this story and focus on "other" things.

Servants of the Storm is an entertaining and twisted story that reveals a whole slew of paranormal creatures that live right alongside Savannah's population. This from the same writer who created Criminy Stain, Blud bunnies, and other strange creatures that live in an alternative reality. But, the ending of Servants of the Storm has left me totally confused, and demanding answers to LOTS of different questions. I am still trying to get a handle on the fact that apparently the next book in the series is in the hands of the readers. It's one of those, buy this book now, or there won't be another kind of situations.

Author - Delilah S. Dawson
Title - Servants of the Storm
Published by Simon Pulse
Releases: August 5, 2014
Genre: Southern Young Adult Gothic
Format: E-Book 384 pages

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

*Gizmos Early Book Review* Mortal Danger (Immortal Game #1) by Ann Aguirre

**I received this book directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


Revenge is a dish best served cold.

In Ann Aguirre's Mortal Danger, Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn’t imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She’s not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he’s impossible to forget. 

In one short summer, her entire life changes and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly . . . bad things are happening. It’s a head rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil’s bargains, she isn’t sure who—or what—she can trust. Not even her own mind.

*My Thoughts*

Ann Aguirre has created a world where separate entities play the ultimate game of chance. Where there are mythological monsters, and creatures that are created from the imaginations of humans. Where one who is considered to a catalyst (one destined for greatness), is considered to be the Queen of the game and therefore a valuable tool to both sides.

Mortal Danger focuses on Edith (Edie) Kramer. When we first meet Edie, she's reached the end of her rope, and decides to kill herself. She has it all meticulously planned out to the very minute. Edie has been the brunt of cruel bullying and harassment by the so called Teflon crew at Briarwood Academy that goes beyond what is considered to be in good taste. She's shy, she has absolutely no friends, her parents are pretty clueless and ignorant about her unhappiness, and in her mind's eye, it's better to be dead, than face yet another day.

Kian Riley appears out of nowhere and offers Edie a way to get her revenge on those who did her wrong.

"I’m authorized to offer you three favors now in return for three favors later.”
“I don’t understand. What kind of...favors?”
“Anything you want,” he said.

With her first wish, Edie asks to be beautiful while retaining her smarts. With a full body magical transformation, a few weeks at a science camp where she finds an actual friend, and a boyfriend, Edie believes that she is ready to take on her demons. If you think all is well is happyville, you would be absolutely wrong. What she doesn't plan on is her feelings for Kian, or what is truly expected of her once her revenge has taken place, or who would be pulling all the strings in order for this to actually happen, or the fact that innocents would be tossed into harms way without a care in the world.

**Here's where I tell you what I didn't like about this story. I think the story's message is absolutely wrong. It's saying that beauty and popularity is more important than being who you really are. That a person with boat loads of insecurities can suddenly find themselves the queen of the damned, with loads of self confidence to boot. While I don't agree with bullying AT ALL, a large majority of us have been through it, and gone on to be better lives than those who bullied us. Most of us weren't beauty queens in High School but we managed to survive and blossom after we went to college, and started our careers.

I'll also call out those who don't believe that people who are bullied kill themselves. Obviously, you are not paying attention to the news. I would also say that if you are bullied and think that you need to commit suicide, to please talk to someone first.

**The insta-romance between Edie and Kian kind of unnerved me to be perfectly honest. I have a whole lot of faults with Kian starting from the fact that he "watched" as Edie got bullied, and faced the worst moments of her life without stepping in and helping. The fact that he apparently liked Edie when she was "ugly" and now that she's beautiful, he's hopelessly in love with her, and willing to die in order to protect her.

I have to speak about Edie's parents for a moment. You've heard about helicopter parents. You've heard about latch key parents. Edie's parents are oblivious to what is actually happening to their daughter. They go on trips for months at a time. They are so focused on their work, that they missed all the signs that something was horribly wrong with Edie. When they do finally appear as parents, Edie has already made her choice, changed her appearance, and started on a journey that only Aguirre knows where it ends.

It took a very long time to come up with the right words for this review without sounding negative, or petulant, and I'll probably end up coming back to this later on. I am not one to angrily shake my fist at the author and scream and holler. I am not sure how I managed to make it to the very end, but apparently I am eager to be emotionally torn apart at the seams by Aguirre. As with her Enclave series, there is not one character that you can seriously consider to safe in this story.

I still haven't got a handle on the agencies involved in this story. While Aguirre manages to give us just enough information to keep us busy, she stops at revealing the other side of the coin, and those who are called the opposition. Mortal Danger has been an interesting book to talk about. Some have absolutely hated it, while others, like me, are somewhere in the middle.

Author - Ann Aguirre
Title - Mortal Danger
Series - Immortal Game # 1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Releases: August 5, 2014
Genre: Paranormal
Format: Paper ARC 372 pages

Monday, July 28, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires #9) by Chloe Neill


Since Merit was turned into a vampire, and the protector of Chicago’s Cadogan House, it’s been a wild ride. She and Master vampire Ethan Sullivan have helped make Cadogan’s vampires the strongest in North America, and forged ties with paranormal folk of all breeds and creeds, living or dead…or both.

But now those alliances are about to be tested. A strange and twisted magic has ripped through the North American Central Pack, and Merit’s closest friends are caught in the crosshairs. Gabriel Keene, the Pack Apex, looks to Merit and Ethan for help. But who—or what—could possibly be powerful enough to out-magic a shifter?

Merit is about to go toe to toe, and cold steel to cold heart, to find out.

*My Thoughts*

Chloe Neill's Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires #9) picks up with Merit, Ethan and the Cadogan vampires dealing with the fall-out from Biting Bad. Mayor Kowalski has a major ax to grind with the vampires of Chicago, especially Ethan, to the point of labeling the vampires domestic terrorists in order to bring them to their knees.

If that weren't enough, the General Presidium wants their pound of flesh as well, leaving Ethan no real choice but to flee the city with Merit alongside until things get smoothed over. This means finding refuge among the North American Pack lead by Gabriel Keene whose prophecy concerning Merit's future and a green eyed baby, is one of the mysteries that has remained unresolved.

Since this IS Merit and Ethan, not everything goes smoothly. As the celebration of Lupercalia kicks in, all hell breaks loose, and creatures that haven't been seen before, make their presence known in a major way. Merit, along with Jeff, Mallory, and Catcher, take the lead in finding out who is responsible while Ethan faces his own challenge, and a decision about his future.

Ever since Merit was turned into a vampire 10 months ago, she has had to go through several changes. She's become more comfortable as a vampire, and takes her job as Sentinel seriously as well as the threats to the vampires and their allies. What is also pleasant to read about, is the fact that Merit isn't embarrassed any longer by being in a relationship with Ethan. Their relationship has turned the corner to the point where they almost feel like a happily married couple.

For me, Wild Things wasn't necessarily the best novel of the series, but I'm not ready to say it was a disappointment either. The story was more of a wrap-up of the previous story arc, and hopefully, we are moving towards an even more entertaining one with lots of action, mystery, suspense, dangers, and romance. I still enjoy Merit, Ethan, and the rest of the cast of characters. Merit still tends to get beaten down like a drunken homeless person more times than not, but in the end, she somehow manages to live to see another day.

Is anyone besides me sick of Mayor Kowalski's bullshit yet? I really wish she would just jump off the nearest high rise building and save us all time and energy. At least with Seth Tate, we actually had a tangible villain that didn't hide who or what he was. It was a chess match watching Tate and Merit, whereas now, it's a bit on the silly side that someone in her position could have the means to consider anyone she considers dangerous to be a domestic terrorist. Isn't what the FBI, or Homeland's responsibilities are? Isn't that what the fourth and eighth amendment protect us from?

I'm curious to see where Neill takes this series now that Ethan has made his choice about future moves, and now knows about Gabriel's prophecy concerning Merit. I like that Merit and Mallory are moving forward, and not letting past mistakes ruin their friendship. I loved the appearance of Tall Dark, and handsome Damien Garcia to the story, as well as Tanya Keene's sister Emma who kicked some serious ass.

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires #10) will be released on August 5, 2014, and thus begins the wait until I am either able to find the money to buy the book, or my local library finds the necessary funds to purchase it for me.

Author - Chloe Neill
Title - Wild Things
Series - Chicagoland Vampires # 9
Published by NAL Trade
Released: February 4, 2014
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: Library book 350 pages

*Susan Dennard's 'Strange & Ever After' Book Blitz Info + Giveaway [July 28 - August 1]

IFB is hosting the promo tour for the third and final book in Susan Dennard's steampunk, zombie trilogy, and today is Gizmos Reviews day to participate! Continue below for a sample and a cool giveaway.

17902141Series: Something Strange & Deadly #3
Release date: July 22nd 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Purchase: Amazon | B&N

Synopsis via Goodreads:
In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus...all before it’s too late.

He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.

Susan Dennard will leave readers breathless and forever changed in the concluding pages of this riveting ride.

Susan DennardAbout the Author
Susan Dennard is a writer turned marine biologist turned writer again. Strange and Ever After is the conclusion to her trilogy, which includes A Darkness Strange and Lovely and Something Strange and Deadly. Among the traits she shares with her heroine Eleanor are a weakness for Shakespeare quotes, a healthy appetite for baked goods, and an insatiable curiosity. Sadly, Susan does not get to wear a corset or wave a parasol on a daily basis.

The Complete Series

a-dawn-most-wicked-a-something-strange-and-deadly-novella something-strange-and-deadly a-darkness-strange-and-lovely strange-and-ever-after


Sunday, July 27, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Premonitions by Jamie Schultz


It’s the kind of score Karyn Ames has always dreamed of—enough to set her crew up pretty well and, more important, enough to keep her safely stocked on a very rare, very expensive black market drug. Without it, Karyn hallucinates slices of the future until they totally overwhelm her, leaving her unable to distinguish the present from the mess of certainties and possibilities yet to come.
The client behind the heist is Enoch Sobell, a notorious crime lord with a reputation for being ruthless and exacting—and a purported practitioner of dark magic. Sobell is almost certainly condemned to Hell for a magically extended lifetime full of shady dealings. Once you’re in business with him, there’s no backing out.
Karyn and her associates are used to the supernatural and the occult, but their target is more than just the usual family heirloom or cursed necklace. It’s a piece of something larger. Something sinister.
Karyn’s crew, and even Sobell himself, are about to find out just how powerful it is… and how powerful it may yet become.

*My Thoughts*

Premonitions is the story about a group of thieves thrown to together to steal occult items from their supposed owners. Having made their share of enemies over the years, the group agrees to work for crime lord, sorcerer, and billionaire Enoch Sobell. Sobell's mission may be the most dangerous of their lives, and it will be a major surprise if anyone survives what's coming next.

Karyn Ames is the presumptive leader of the group which also includes Anna Ruiz, and DeShawn "Nail" Owens. She sees future events, and warns her crew if they are in danger. Her premonitions have pretty much saved the group from some hairy situations. Karyn experiences a heavy load of hallucinations that cause her to question reality. The only thing that apparently works for her is an expensive and rare drug known as Blind which isn't exactly cheap. I truly felt for Karyn as a character. She has a whole lot of things on her plate, and every day things get much less clear. Can she continue to lead, or will darkness swallow her whole?

If Karyn is the leader of the group, Anna Ruiz is its heart. She's stood by her best friends side for 10 years. After Sobell approaches the group about a job and offers them $2 million for a successful result, his one condition is that they also take on Genevieve Lyle, a person who is more than familiar with the occult. Knowing the risks and dangers involved, Anna still gets involved with Genevieve, but the relationship isn't a major part of the storyline. Anna and Karyn's friendship has covered a plethora of situations and dangers. Will it last, or will it implode the more they get involve with the darkness of Sobell's world?

I love when villains are much more than they appear. Sobell is a determined crime lord that has plenty of secrets in his closet. He moves people around like chess pieces, and plays them off against each other without caring about their welfare. Schultz has only touched the surface of who Sobell really is, and where he's been, and why he is so determined to keep ahead of the demons he sold his soul to. I'd love to know more about his past, and how he came to making deals in order to find immortality.

I read a recent interview that Jamie Schultz did for the Quillery. He mentioned that Premonitions is the first book in the series, and that three were currently under contract with Roc. The sequel, Splintered, will be released July 2015. I will be looking forward to seeing if Schultz can continue his creative world building and characters.

Premontions is a hodge podge of different genre's thrown together. The characters are far from being truly good or bad and they face the ultimate test of survival. They are an eclectic bunch that straddles the line, and does what needs to be done in order to survive. I would definitely lean towards Premonitions being a dark urban fantasy novel because there are plenty of situations that are bloody.

Author - Jamie Schultz
Title - Premonitions
Published by ROC
Released: July 1, 2014
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback 384 pages

Saturday, July 26, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Between by Megan Whitmer

**I received this book from Netgalley / Spencer Hill Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


When a supernatural freak of nature forces her family to separate, seventeen-year-old Charlie Page must turn to her frustrating (yet gorgeous) neighbor, Seth, to help reunite them. Seth whisks Charlie to Ellauria—a magical world filled with the creatures of myths and legends—and tells her of the Fellowship, the group charged with protecting mystical beings from human discovery. (All except Bigfoot: that attention whore is a total lost cause.) But when Charlie learns that she's under the Fellowship's protection herself, well, "stressed" is an understatement.

Ellauria should be the safest place for Charlie while the Fellowship works to find her family, but things in the mystical realm aren’t what they seem.

Magic is failing, creatures are dying, and the Fellowship insists Charlie holds the key to saving everyone. With her family still missing and the danger in Ellauria growing, Charlie doesn't know who she can trust. She's dealing with a power she never asked for, falling for a guy she can't have, and being forced to choose between her destiny and her heart. And if she chooses wrong, she could destroy magic forever.

Charlie may be in over her head.

*My Thoughts*

Between is Megan Whitmer's debut novel and the first in a yet to be named trilogy. Between's opening chapters come at you like a massive tidal wave. The best thing you can hope for is that you don't get swept away by the plethora of mystical characters that are introduced, or the world that Whitmer has created.  

The story features Seventeen year old Charlotte "Charlie" Page who has absolutely no clue that she is something special or that magical beings actually exist. Charlie is a talented artist who loves to draw. She loves her brother Sam, and her mother Adele, and has wondered why her neighbor Seth can understand when something is wrong.

After an attack on their home by a creature known as the Mothman, Charlie sees things through different eyes as she watches her mother fight off the Mothman, and is spirited away by Seth through the Between, and into a land called Ellauria. I'll touch briefly on the Between by saying that its the center of all magic, and thus important to events that happen in this story, as well as Charlie.

Ellauria is a place filled with mystical and legendary beings like fairies, pixies, centaurs, unicorns, mermaids, dragons, gorgons and a whole multitude of others that you've probably heard about before. This mixture of mystical being is what makes Between stick out from others. Megan's ability to actually blend various mystical and legendary characters together to bring her story to life is what impressed me the most about this story.

Ellauria is governed by the Fellowship whose job it is to keep mortals from seeing things like the Lock Ness monster, or Big Foot. If mortals get too close to the truth, the problem disappears. As Charlie gets a first hand look at the new world she's supposed to belong to, she slowly learns the whole truth about Seth (her protector), her mother, and her brother, along with those she can and can't trust.

Obviously, there are more memorable characters than not. I'll mention Alexander, Clara, Lulu, and Kieran as the ones who stick out the most for me. I personally have questions about the trustworthiness of several of the characters, especially after Charlie's fight with the story's villain, and how they acted after it was all said and done. Hopefully, all will be revealed in the future.

There is a bit of romance in Between, but it is not rushed, or thrust into your face, or twisted into an 3-way triangle. Seth, as Charlie's protector and neighbor for years, has responsibilities and duties to the Fellowship. He is supposed to protect Charlie from all enemies without getting personally, or emotionally involved.

I have to say that I admired Seth's strength and courage in not breaking his vows to the Fellowship, even when Charlie wants more from their friendship. I admired the fact that he was put into situations where he has to stand by and watch from a distance as others attempt to train Charlie on her abilities.

As this is the first novel in the trilogy, the ending leaves many questions to be explored in the sequels. While Between touches on Charlie's family roots, and we do get a glimpse into who her parents were, I sincerely hope that we learn more about them in the sequel, and that perhaps Charlie can get the answers she needs to go forward in this new reality she finds herself in.

I want to send a personal thanks to Megan for being so open while I asked questions via Twitter. It is that openness that goes a long way towards gaining my desire to keep reading this series until the end.

Author - Megan Whitmer
Title - Between
Published by Spencer Hill Press
Releases: July 29, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Format: E-book 384 pages

Friday, July 25, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Welcome to the Dark House (Dark House # 1) by Laurie Faria Stolarz

**I received this book from Netgalley / Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.

*My Thoughts* 

Welcome to the Dark House is apparently the first book in the Dark House series by Laurie Faria Stolarz and that's a good thing since there are plenty of questions, and not enough answers to go around. You could say that this story gives readers a chance to understand the writer, and her world building, and then decide whether or not they will continue to the next installment.

The premise to Dark House was absolutely interesting enough for me to request the title from Disney-Hyperion, and to read it right to the very end. I would imagine that fans of horror movies, and reality TV shows, will find this story entertaining as well as compelling. The horror aspects, once revealed, gave me the chills, and goosebumps, and no way in hell would I ever think about doing anything like this...EVER!

Seven are chosen out of thousands of applicants. They are told that they will have the same chance to meet director Justin Blake who has produced some memorable horror movies over the years. The chosen have all sent in essays explaining why they should be picked and explaining their worst nightmares. The chosen will all have to face the ultimate test of a lifetime with hopes of seeing the secretive movie that Blake is working on.

If you were a horror fan, would YOU send in your essay in hopes of being picked for the show, and meeting your favorite director? If this was the only way for you to get over nightmares that have haunted and plagued you for years, would you attempt to join in on the fun even though you are a novice when it comes to understanding the multitudes of characters that Blake has created?

Eighteen year old Ivy Jensen gets the most "air" time as it were. We know what happened to her family six years ago. We know about her likes are, and the fact that she's not necessarily a fan of horror movies. Ivy isn't necessarily a kick ass character, or one that you would necessarily connect to if you were to follow her every move throughout the story. The one thing that Ivy is, however, is a survivor who saw too much at such an early age. She sees an opportunity to face her fears and ends of part of the Dark House with hopes of understanding the person responsible for haunting her.

A large majority of those chosen (Natalie, Shayla, Parker, Garth & Frankie) are Justin Blake fanatics. They can name all the villainous characters like they were members of their own families. They come from all walks of life, and have their own unimaginable nightmares to deal with. In the end, the characters that stand out for me besides Ivy, are Parker, and Natalie.

There is a mystery character named Taylor who I haven't mentioned until now. Taylor only appears briefly, and only then to warn the group when it's already too late. We know absolutely nothing about her, except that her essay appears at the end of this story, and that apparently she did arrive at the same time as the others. Where did she come from, and where did she go exactly? Was she part of a previous installment of the Dark House? Is she part of the Dark House creators? Inquiring minds demand to know!

Welcome to the Dark House alternatives stories between six of the characters but you really have to pay attention to the breaks since there is absolutely no formatting to be found anywhere. Perhaps the book, now released, will prove to be better with chapter breaks clearly marked. With my edition, the breaks were capitalized, and therefore the only warning that the POV was changing. I truly believe in keeping notes while reading. It made things easier for me to guess who was actually speaking next. There were times that I really couldn't separate the characters voices from the other. Hoping this improves in the sequel.

I am also hoping that Stolarz will eventually reveal who the clever geniuses are who created the Dark House. How many people are actually involved? Are the drivers involved? Is the director ultimately involved or someone more clever and devious? Are there some otherworldly characters running the entire thing? One obviously needs patience in order to get to the bulk of these questions.

Author - Laurie Faria Stolarz
Title - Welcome to the Dark House (Dark House # 1)
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Released: July 22, 2014
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Format: E-Book 368 pages

Thursday, July 24, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3.5) by Maggie Stiefvater

**I received this book from NetGalley / Scholastic Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved?

*My Thoughts*

If you've read the first three novels in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, (which I truly hope you have) then please continue reading this review. If not, please consider this your ONLY warning that there might or might not be mild spoilers involved.

"I am a werewolf in L.A." Cole

Maggie Stiefvater's Sinner is a standalone novel that features two of the more intriguing characters from The Wolves of Mercy Falls series; Cole St. Clair and Isabel Culpeper. Both Cole and Isabel have had their turn in the spotlight along with Grace and Sam, but this time out, it is THEIR romance that gets the chance to shine, or crash and burn.

Traveling to Los Angeles where dreams became nightmares, Cole is hoping to become an entirely different person while not allowing himself to fall back into substance abuse hole that drove him to fall out of the public's eye for 2 years. He wants to redeem himself after he nearly lost everything. He agrees to star in a reality based TV show, while writing new music for a possible album. Along the way, he reunites with a former band mate Jeremy, becomes friends with Leon who is more of a father figure than his own father, all while keeping his mind on the prize; Isabel.

By reading the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, readers learned that Cole was turned into a wolf by Beck along with Victor, his former drummer in the band Narkotika. Sine then, Cole has learned how to quickly shift into a werewolf and back again unlike Sam and Grace. Cole has had an interesting life as the lead singer of Narkotika which lead to fame and fortune before crashing to earth like a meteorite. One thing that has never left Cole, however, is the reality of what he did when he was out of control.  

Six months after the tragedy that forced her to move from Mercy Falls to Los Angeles, Isabel works in a chic store and studies her way towards one day becoming a doctor. Isabel was introduced as Jack's sister in Linger and was also one of the protagonists in Forever. Isabel was the driving force that allowed Sam to find a cure for being a werewolf. Isabel is disengaged from everyone, and has no real friends. She is a hard case, and a bit on the abrasive side. So, when Cole shows up at her work, she is perhaps a bit shocked than anything else.

The romance between Cole and Isabel is a rollercoaster ride filled with emotional turmoil, angst, silly and crazy mistakes, and perhaps a bit of insecurities on both sides. As a friend told me while discussing this story, Cole's transformation into werewolf replaced his addiction to drugs. Whenever he finds himself deep in depression, he quickly finds a way to shift hoping the wolf would take his worries away. So basically, he's changed one addiction to another.

For fans of Shiver, Linger, and Forever, Grace Brisbane and Sam Roth both appear like a blip on your radar screen, and then they are gone. This is perfectly acceptable and fine with me since they had their own books, and their story was told. Steifvater gave us an interesting yet unresolved ending, so therefore they didn't need to be focused on this time around. Sinner's ending is pretty much as expected, and more of a contemporary romance novel than one steeped in the paranormal.

Author - Maggie Stiefvater
Title - Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls # 3.5)
Published by Scholastic Press
Released: July 1, 2014
Genre: Paranormal
Format: 368 pages

*Gizmos Book Reviews* On The Fence by Kasie West

**I received this book via Edelweiss / HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


She's a tomboy. He's the boy next door…

Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she's got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she's falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

*My Thoughts*

On the Fence is a contemporary coming of age story that features Sixteen year old Charlotte "Charlie" Reynolds who lost her mother at an early age. Charlie is a tomboy at heart who excels at sports and there's no reason for her to want to be or do anything else since she hasn't exactly had a female role model to guide her in life's little journey.

Charlies finds a job working at a local boutique after yet another speeding ticket pushes her single father, who is a Police Officer, into putting his foot down. Having had no clear guidance or real female friends except for her sporting teammates, Charlie's eyes open to a whole realm of possibilities including new clothes, makeup, and friends who are actually female.

Personally, I loved the fact that West didn't make Charlie completely over. I loved that she can still play sports, while also being feminine without feeling like a freak. It's perhaps the perfect message to teenaged girls that they are allowed to be whomever they want, and to not worry about useless tools who say otherwise.

Charlie has the joy of having three older brothers (Jerum, Nathan, & Gage) who may, or may not be a bit overzealous in their protectiveness of Charlie, while playfully torturing her at each and every turn. No worries though, Charlie can dish it out, as well as she can take it. Their protectiveness is a bit sweet on one side, and perhaps a little too much on the other. Of the three brothers, Gage is perhaps the one that shines the brightest.

Braden Lewis, the boy next door neighbor, is the person who has been friends with the family for years, and as Charlie says, he is her fourth brother since he pretty much spends most of his time at the Reynolds household. He knows Charlie pretty well as you discover during their conversations over the fence. Braden and Charlie's friendship to romance development was nearly perfect, and I believe readers will have fun with the snark and banter between the characters.

I have to give West credit. Building a fatherly figure who lost his wife, and is forced to raise a teenaged daughter without anyone to really ask, takes a whole lot of understanding of the struggles that dads face. We seem to mainly focus on the mothers side of the equation, without realizing that there are good fathers out there as well. To my feminist friends, not all men are nasty, evil, rapists, or need killing. Single dads need not get disrespected and put down. They need encouragement and acknowledgement for the jobs they do day in and day out.

I'll jump on the Kasie West bandwagon now since apparently she has the right spark to make readers feel emotionally attached to her characters. I love the fact that West writes true to the heart stories that are fun, entertaining, and have characters that you just know will either break your heart, or make you crazy in anticipation of how they will finally discover true romance.

Author - Kasie West
Title - One the Fence
Published by HarperTeen
Released: July 1, 2014
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: E-book 304 pages

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* One Past Midnight by Jessica Shirvington

**I received this book from NetGalley / Bloomsbury USA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


Above all else, though I try not to think about it, I know which life I prefer. And every night when I Cinderella myself from one life to the next a very small, but definite, piece of me dies. The hardest part is that nothing about my situation has ever changed. There is no loophole.

Until now, that is... 

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life - a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted... But just what - and who - is she really risking?

*My Thoughts*

One Past Midnight (aka Between the Lives), is the story about Eighteen year old Sabine. Sabine lives the life of two very different people but maintains all the memories and experiences she's faced along the way. Sabine version # 1 lives in Roxbury (part of Boston), Massachusetts with her parents and adorable little sister Maddie who I just wanted to cuddle and not stop. She has her best friend Capri, and occasionally helps her parents out in their Pharmacy. Except for missing Maddie like crazy, she really isn't all that eager to return to Roxbury when her 24 hours are up in the other reality.

Sabine # 2 lives in Wellesley (also a part of Boston), Massachusetts with her mother. She has two older brothers Ryan, and Lucas, best friends Miriam and Lucy, and a boyfriend Dex who is to die for. In other words, Sabine # 2 has a much easier life than Sabine # 1. She doesn't want for anything, except perhaps a better relationship with her brothers. And, she's already been accepted to Harvard. She is also lucky in that neither world has ever crossed.

Every 24 hours Sabine shifts between the lives. In one reality, she can speak flawless French, while in the other, she has to becareful of letting on to anyone that she's living parallel lives. Sabine has been trying for years to see if things would change from one life to the other. When she accidentally breaks her arm in reality # 1, Sabine starts to experiment with ways to stay in reality # 2. When her experiments go off the rails, and she's sent to a mental hospital by her parents, she meets the one person who will change her outlook on living and making a choice between the realities; Ethan.

This book has been labeled as a psychological thriller in some circles, science fiction in others. I prefer this as more of a science fiction story since Sabine travels between realities. That is something that doesn't necessarily happen in Psych Thrillers. I also must say that the last part of this book went through me like a knife cutting through water because of the content that was written.

Sabine's relationship with Ethan is very emotional, and really the reason I have only positive things to say about the story. I will fully admit to crying at one point in the story, and no, I will not say which part. Ethan's arrival into Sabine's life could not have come at a better time for either character. He opens her eyes, let's her understand that it doesn't really matter that she has separate lives or not, and she gives him someone he can be himself around..Ethan truly believes that Sabine just has to live her lives as fully as she is capable of, and the best of her being. He also opens up her eyes to her so called relationship with Dex that people believe is just perfectly adorable. The romance between Dex and Sabine is definitely one that will be a crowd pleaser.

I think certain content in this story may be a bit much for a younger crowd to handle, but I leave that up to the parents. Any time you have a situation where someone starts thinking about suicide, or harming oneself, there should be someone alongside to explain why this character feels it necessary. There is also a very abrupt scene where Sabine faces a harsh reality. One needs to definitely talk these situations out, and explain that this isn't normal behavior for anyone.

One Past Midnight is definitely an entirely different world from her Violet Eden series. Sabine is definitely NOT Violet. She is still human regardless of the fact that she shifts between realities. One shouldn't go into this story looking for similarities. One should just enjoy the authors writing, and bask in the fact that we are living in an age where we have so many awesome writers putting out enjoyable stories for us.

Author - Jessica Shirvington
Title - One Past Midnight
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's
Released: July 22, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: E-Book 352 pages

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles # 1) by Mary E. Pearson

**I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

*My Thoughts*

The Kiss of Deception is the first novel in The Remnant Chronicles trilogy. Mary Pearson has written a novel that tells the story from several different points of view including Morrighan Princess Arabella (Lia), "Rafe", and Kaden.

The story beings just like the synopsis says. Lia, unwilling to be a participant in an arranged marriage to a prince that she knows nothing about and failed to respond to her request to meet first, runs away with her hand maiden Pauline to a remote village of Terravin. There, Lia takes up several jobs including barmaid. She truly wants to find someone to love in her own way, and not be forced into accepting a life that others have chosen for her. Unfortunately for Lia, there are numerous outside forces that really don't much care what Lia wants.

Each character in The Kiss of Deception has their own faults, and yes, charms that drove the story. While I wasn't exactly impressed with Lia's decisions or choices at the beginning of the story, she slowly chipped away at my cold heart until I was left curious as to what Pearson has up her sleeves next for her. I absolutely adored Lia's determination, grit, and strength by the time I got to the end of the story. The more you learn of Lia's difficulties and struggles she faced at home, the more I agreed with her decision to run away.

Normally in high fantasy, there's a bit of romance that is just enough to satisfy my curiosity, without making me skip ahead. As an individual who loathes 3-way love triangles with a passion, I was a bit leary about how Pearson would pull it off so that I didn't tear my hair out of my head. I have to say, the 3-way is not your normal romance. This "triangle" actually works in a twisted sort of way which, yes, surprises me.

I really do prefer "Rafe" to "Kaden" even though both were deeply involved in deception, and keeping their real identities hidden from Lia until later in the story. Rafe, to me, is a fated soul, while Kaden is trying to overcome his feelings for Lia. If you read between the lines, you knew Rafe was curious and perhaps a bit jealous that Lia ran away instead of accepting her fate. Rafe's determination to find Lia against extreme odds, ends with a definite connection that I hope doesn't get thrown away for Kaden's sake.  

High fantasy is awesome at creating an entire new world that stretches our imaginations, and doesn't skip the fact that these kingdoms are far away. The Kiss of Deception remains true in that regards. A large part of the storyline involves traveling for days, or months at a time, and there are challenges along the way. Lia is forced into traveling a very large distance away from her home, and along the way, the ability to survive against brutal weather, barbarians who want to see her dead, and strange creatures that appear along her journey, makes her story more compelling to follow.

There are characters in The Kiss of Deception that I adored like Pauline and Berdy, while loathing a whole slew of others because they are just plain evil in nature. I, personally, do not like rage acts of violence against any women. I do understand that fantasy is just that, fantasy and not real life. It still annoys and puzzles me that we are still required to deal with harsh scenes where a character suffers from abuse, or rape.

In the end, I do believe this series has a whole lot of potential, and I am definitely eager to read the follow up book called The Heart of Betrayal releasing in 2015. I would love to know more about the Scholar, and Chancellors dislike for Lia. I want to know more about Gwyneth and I would like to know more about her "gift" that was kept under wraps by Lia's mother.

Author - Mary E. Pearson
Title - Kiss of Deception
Series - The Remnant Chronicles # 1
Published by Henry Hold and Co. (BYR)
Released: July 15, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

*Gizmos Book Reviews* Honor's Knight (Paradox # 2) by Rachel Bach

**I received this book from NetGalley / Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**


Devi Morris has a lot of problems. And not the fun, easy-to-shoot kind either.

After a mysterious attack left her short several memories and one partner, she's determined to keep her head down, do her job, and get on with her life. But even though Devi's not actually looking for it -- trouble keeps finding her. She sees things no one else can, the black stain on her hands is growing, and she is entangled with the cook she's supposed to hate.

But when a deadly crisis exposes far more of the truth than she bargained for, Devi discovers there's worse fates than being shot, and sometimes the only people you can trust are the ones who want you dead.

*My Thoughts*

Honor's Knight, the second installment in the Paradox trilogy, continues Paradoxian mercenary Devi Morris's story. The story picks up right where Fortune's Pawn left off and that is a good thing since Fortune's Pawn left us with an interesting cliffhanger that left me glad I had the next book at my disposal.

Devi Morris has maintained that if she obeys orders, climbs the ladder quickly, and keeps an eye out for the prize, she will one day become one of the elite Devastators. Since becoming a security officer on the Glorious Fool to manage that goal, she has discovered a whole new reality, new threats, and more danger than she can shake a stick at. As the story starts, she can't remember important things because of Rupert's memory wipe in order to save her life. Because of the memory wipe, every time she looks at Rupert, she gets nauseous and can't remember that he is more than just the ships cook.

At the same time, she experiences hallucinations; the virus that she picked up on the xith'cal space ship causes parts of her body to turn black, and it grows with Devi's intensity. She sees glowing things that only her and the daughters of Maat are able to see. Because of what she has at her disposal, she is also the main link to defeating a force that can't be seen until they are attacking the ship, or planet you are on. She also has to survive alien factions that want to kill her on sight.

Never fear my dears, Devi doesn't let a little things like forgotten memories, or ancient enemies, or being a major target by several different parties get her down. She strives ahead, picks up a new security partner, is targeted yet again by the attacker who got away, and learns more about the creation of Maat's daughters and why they are important to Caldswell's fight he's been waging for decades.

There is a moral question to think on as well. How far would you go in order to save a planet, a species, a galaxy of humans who are under attack? Would you willingly sacrifice your own daughter in order to save billions? How far would you go to prevent this from happening, and would you have the strength, courage, and determination to do what is right, and not what is popular? Would you be willing to sacrifice yourself in order to keep what's in your veins away from people who want you dead?

I'm happy to report that there IS no letdown when it comes to Honor's Knight. There is still plenty of pulse pounding and heart racing action that puts Devi in a class of her own. There are questions as to who the real bad guys are, and who is on Devi's side fighting with everything she has available to her, but all shall be revealed my impatient readers. Normally, I have issues with sequels because they don't explain things well enough, and thus leaves more questions for the final novel in the series. Honor's Knight is definitely on par, or better than it's predecessor.


Author - Rachel Bach
Title - Honor's Knight (Paradox # 2)
Published b Orbit
Released: February 25, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Format: E-Book 358 pages

*Gizmos Reviews* Black Rook Tour Giveaway and Excerpt by Kelly Meade

Welcome to Gizmos Reviews stop on the Black Rook Blog Tour!
I hope you give this book a shot! I absolutely adored it. You can find my review posted

Don't forget to check out the tour wide giveaway at the bottom, along with the rest of the lovely bloggers who have stops during the month of July!

Thanks everyone for stopping by!

Black Rook, Cornerstone Run Trilogy #1
By Kelly Meade

Available July 15th from Intermix
ISBN 9780698165441

She never saw this coming… 

Brynn Atwood is a low-level Magus whose unpredictable precognitive powers have made her an outcast among her people—and an embarrassment to her highly-regarded father. After a frightening vision in which her father is murdered by a loup garou man, Brynn decides to prove herself by finding the killer, and stopping them at any cost.

Her target is Rook McQueen, the son of a small-town loup garou Alpha. Despite being the youngest of three, Rook is first in line to inherit the role of Alpha, a duty he isn’t sure he’s capable of fulfilling. When Brynn finally meets Rook, she doesn’t expect the attraction that draws her to him—and him to her.

No longer believing him a murderer, Brynn and Rook strike an alliance to find her father’s real killer. But when his older brother is targeted by an unknown enemy, Rook will have to choose between his growing feelings for Brynn and his duty as the future Alpha of his community.

Cornerstone Run is a paranormal romance trilogy, set in a world of hidden loup garou, their mystical Magi enemies, and the occasional vampire. The small, reclusive town of Cornerstone, Pennsylvania, houses an almost entirely loup garou population—one of only thirteen towns around the country that serve as a sanctuary for their nonhuman inhabitants, where the loup garou are free to be themselves. When a neighboring sanctuary town is attacked by a vicious, unknown enemy, the three sons of Cornerstone’s Alpha must stand together to protect their people—and the women who steal their hearts.

Cornerstone Run Trilogy:

Black Rook: July 15, 2014 -
Gray Bishop: October 21, 2014 -
White Knight: January 1, 2015 -

Excerpt – Chapter 1

Brynn Atwood observed the entrance to McQueen’s Auction House, as she had done for the past few minutes while she gathered the courage she needed to leave the safety of her rental car. A steady stream of vehicles entered the parking lot and ejected browsers and buyers, all eager to view today’s auction and visit with acquaintances seen only during these once-a-week sales. Not Brynn. She was certainly the only person who’d showed up today intending to prevent a murder.

Walking alone into a town populated with and run by loup garou wasn’t the smartest thing she had ever done in her twenty-four years, but it certainly counted as the bravest. If she managed to achieve her goal, even her father would have to admit to her courage and to the validity of her visions. He didn’t trust in her seer ability, nor did he believe that her vision of him being murdered by a loup garou would come true.

“Surely you know I would never put myself into a situation that would result in such a calamitous outcome,” her father, Archimedes Atwood, had said the previous day. And as with every chilly encounter between them in the last few months, he’d spoken with the impatience of a strict teacher correcting a belligerent child. “Perhaps some of your visions have come true on occasion, but do not use me to distract attention from your own disgrace. I have no more time for this nonsense.”

Her visions were always nonsense.

Archimedes was a Prime Magus in the Congress of Magi, one of four, as well as a powerful practitioner of elemental magic. He’d never hidden his disappointment over Brynn’s uncontrollable precognitive powers—powers he had yet to acknowledge were real—or her inability to one day claim his spot on the Congress. She was too weak, a failure as a Magus. She couldn’t even manage to keep her job as a Congress tutor for more than two years. All she had left were her infrequent visions, in whatever time or manner they chose to come.

And worse yet, he had all but accused her of fabricating this vision and the need to save him in order to make up for the shame she’d brought to their name when she was fired. She didn’t want the vision to be true. She wanted her father alive for many years to come.

She would figure out how to save him on her own. She would prove her value.

Brynn climbed out of her car and surveyed the quickly filling parking lot. In any new situation, her best first step was to observe her surroundings, study others, and discover the way to best fit in. She had never before attended a public auction of any sort; she knew only that antiques and other goods were bid upon and purchased, sometimes at outrageous prices. Some patrons walked into the building carrying their own boxes, clearly expecting to purchase items. Others entered carrying only cups of coffee or soda, or small children.

The variety of patrons surprised her: young and old, scruffy and well-kempt, couples and singles and large groups, and families. Some drove up with pickups and vans; some parked expensive cars in the narrow, crowded lot. Everyone seemed at ease.

I must stick out like a smoking vampire in daylight.

Standing there like a fool would only garner her unwanted attention. Subtlety was the route to accomplishing her task. Brynn forced her feet to carry her forward, past other vehicles, toward the main entrance. Everyone seemed to be entering the large, barnlike building through those glass double doors. A few people came back to the parking lot from the side of the building, which indicated a back entrance/exit, as well. She’d tried to find blueprints of the layout before her arrival, but getting any sort of in-depth information on Cornerstone, Pennsylvania, was next to impossible.

The town had a small population of six hundred forty-one residents, and Brynn could guess that about ten percent were human. Cornerstone was founded by a run of loup garou nearly two centuries ago, and was one of a dozen similar safe havens around the country. Much like the Congress of Magi and a few surviving nests of vampires, loup garou runs required secrecy and anonymity to survive in the modern world. The weekly auctions at McQueen’s brought outside income to the town without the interference of tourism or industry, and it kept them from appearing too insular to the outside world.

Her father stubbornly refused to have any faith in her abilities, but Brynn’s visions of the future came true without fail, and the most recent had led her here to McQueen’s Auction House. Led her to the loup garou she’d seen standing over her father’s broken body. The man her careful research told her was named Rook McQueen.

The boy, she corrected.

As a general rule, her people did not trust technology. The Magi trusted tradition and magic above all else. Growing up an only child with few friends, Brynn spent hundreds of hours on her computer—a gift awarded by her father on her twelfth birthday, as a means to keep her mind occupied beyond the limited resources of their home’s physical library. Only weeks before, she had spoken to him of her first vision. In the middle of reading a book, she had seen a clear image of a baby bird falling from a nest. It disturbed her so much that she’d fled into the backyard in time to see it happen. She scooped the tiny robin up and climbed the tree where she spotted the nest, returning the lost baby to its siblings.

She was so proud when she told her father about it that night—not only the bird, but the premonition. Her very first display of a Magus power. “Manifestations of a child’s overactive imagination,” he had scoffed. “Do not bother me with these small things, daughter.”

The computer became her gateway to the outside world, a link to knowledge far beyond the borders of her home in Chestnut Hill. And like the young sleuths in the slim novels she’d loved so much, Brynn taught herself how to research and investigate—skills that had served her well these last few days as she raced to identify her father’s killer.

One of three sons of Thomas McQueen, the auction house’s owner, Rook was two years younger than herself, a recent college graduate, and the former lead singer of a popular local rock band—not exactly the portrait of a killer, loup garou or otherwise. And yet the brief glimpse of him in her vision, skin marked with tattoos, human teeth bared, and hands covered in her father’s blood, showed him capable of violence, as all loup garou inevitably were.

She would not allow her father to become Rook McQueen’s victim. Archimedes Atwood was too important, not only to herself but to the Congress of Magi. The Magi were small in number, and they relied on their leaders to protect them from their enemies, including the volatile, deadly loup garou. And as an elemental Magi, he was among the most powerful. Few others shared his ability to manipulate fire. Their people needed him, so Brynn needed to protect him. She had to find a way to prevent her father’s murder before it occurred.

The biggest blank in her research was Rook’s relationship to the run’s Alpha. Brynn had no access to the Congress’s files on the loup garou, and she couldn’t directly ask her father for the name of Cornerstone’s Alpha—her father had no idea she’d identified his would-be assassin, or that she was in central Pennsylvania doing reconnaissance on said assassin, instead of at the family home wallowing in her professional disgrace.

A random loup killing her father carried a very different meaning than a loup from within the higher ranks of the run’s Alpha family—the latter could easily be considered an act of war against the Congress of Magi. A foolishly begun war, as the Magi and loup had maintained an uneasy peace for the last sixty years.

Concentrate, foolish girl, before you get yourself killed. This isn’t one of your novels, this is real.

Brynn smoothed her palms down the front of her green t-shirt and tugged at the hem. She stopped, recognizing the nervous gesture, a habit from the two years she’d worked as a Congress tutor, which required skirts and blouses and high heels. The t-shirt, denim shorts, and Keds combination she’d chosen for today’s mission had been partly for comfort in the August heat and partly to blend in. The final piece of her costume was the Magus pendant hidden behind the t-shirt, which would act as a sensory mirror and hide her natural scent—any loup sniffing her for signs of “other” would smell a common human female, instead of a Magus. The auction attracted dozens of human buyers, but the people who ran it and worked there were still loup. The pendant was her only real protection against their sense of smell.

The stolen pendant, you fool. Plucking it from her father’s office had nearly given her fits, and her father would be apoplectic when he discovered it was missing—yet another reason to finish her task and return home posthaste. Maybe, just maybe, she could prevent this vision from coming true. She had to try.

Nerves twisted her stomach into a tight ball that nearly squeezed the air from her lungs. The thump of music and drone of voices greeted her as Brynn pushed open the door and stepped inside McQueen’s Auction House.

Avesta, protect me, your loyal daughter.

Plea to the Magi’s patron sent, Brynn forced her anxiety into the background and paid closer attention to her surroundings. The entrance was spacious, with a short hallway and a brightly painted “Restrooms” sign on her immediate right. On the left was a bulletin board covered in layers of posters and flyers advertising yard sales and on-site auctions. Past it was a roped-off stairwell going up to parts unknown. A handsome young man in cowboy boots and a matching leather hat leaned near the stairwell, sipping from a Styrofoam cup, as though he lived solely to hold up that particular wall.

His intent gaze landed on her, and she didn’t have to search for the copper flecks in his brown eyes to know he was loup garou. Brynn’s insides froze, but she forced out a calm, flirty smile. She knew she was attractive enough to gather a few second glances, and he was what she might hesitantly call beautiful—if a man could be considered so—with a slim nose and perfectly symmetrical features. However beautiful, this man was also her enemy. His body was fit, impeccably toned, and even at ease he thrummed with the power of his caged beast. He also wasn’t Rook McQueen, so although he was quite pleasant to look at, he did not hold her interest.

He tilted his head in a friendly gesture, then winked. Brynn blushed and ducked her head, a reaction she did not have to fake. Male attention of any sort nowadays left her insides squirrely, a sense of bitter panic residing where her confidence had once dwelled. She also needed to remain inconspicuous while here, and flirting with a local cowboy was not the way to stay alive.

Brynn followed an elderly couple out into the main room. She slipped over to her left, out of the flow of traffic, and absorbed the scene of orderly chaos. An elevated pair of cash registers stood near the entrance, with lines on each side. The customers in line traded personal information for a large index card with a number written in black marker. Cards in hand, the customers went to one of many places in the cavernous room.

Dozens of tables of merchandise were set up along the perimeter of the room, three rows deep, and at the center of it all was a dais, two stools, and a microphone. Directly behind the dais was a long row of antique furniture and four glass cases. Rows of mismatched chairs covered the rest of the floor space, facing the dais. At least half the chairs were marked by either sitting bodies or empty boxes waiting for their owners. In the far back of the room, close to Brynn’s position, was a food counter advertising sandwiches and chips and cold sodas, and it produced the bitter scent of over-brewed coffee. Opposite Brynn was another set of propped-open double doors, and a steady stream of people moved in and out of a second room that seemed crowded with boxes.

Someone jostled past on a waft of coffee-scented air, alerting Brynn to the competing odors in the room. The food counter fought with the tang of human body odor, as well as the musty stink of old paper and leather. A damp smell, like rain, hung over everything else, reminding her that even though she was surrounded by human beings, nonhumans also mingled. Every loup in the room posed a threat to her safety.

Brynn walked along the back wall, out of the heavier flow of people, alert for her prey. She spotted three other men who set off her loup alarms. Each wore a black t-shirt and jeans, just like the man outside in the cowboy boots.

McQueen employees. They must be.

One of them lingered near the dais, chatting with an older woman in a purple caftan, giving her his full attention while still managing to observe the room. He had a strong facial resemblance to the loup in the entrance, and a stronger resemblance to the photo she’d found of Rook. Each could easily be one of Rook’s two brothers. Brynn swallowed hard, mouth dry. If two of the three McQueen brothers worked here, maybe Rook did, as well. He could appear at any moment.

Your brother may one day murder my father.

The thought saddened her. Rook wasn’t just a potential murderer. He was also a brother and a son, and his family would miss him if he were gone. They would also fight to protect him the moment they considered her a threat.

You can’t think about that now, foolish girl.

Brynn inhaled a steadying breath. She palmed her right hand in her left, the fingers of her left hand smoothing over the gold band of the ring she wore on her right index finger. The top of the ring appeared to be a piece of costume jewelry, a blue gem the size of a nickel. A blue gem filled with a paralytic poison, developed decades ago to specifically target the loup garou’s nervous system. One tap of the ring would send a dose of poison down the ring’s band to her hand, and one firm handshake with any loup would put enough on his skin to kill him within an hour. No one would suspect such an innocuous item to be a deadly weapon, which was exactly the reason she’d stolen it from her father’s study.

As a small child, she had once overheard him boasting to another Magus of using the ring to drug an unsuspecting loup garou, and they were none the wiser. She had thought this made her father particularly clever, and the moment had stayed with her. Brynn Atwood might walk alone into a loup sanctuary town, but she wouldn’t walk in unarmed.

She had a single dose of the antidote hidden in her car in case she accidentally poisoned someone—no sense in leaving that to chance. She might be willing to kill to protect her father and she would defend herself if attacked, but she would not hurt an innocent loup.

If loup could be considered innocent. Her father would scoff at the notion.

She had considered her plan a dozen different ways before engaging. She didn’t rush blindly ahead. She rarely undertook any sort of action without having first clearly considered the potential outcomes. The only action guaranteeing her vision never came true was her removing Rook from the equation. Murdering him first. That was, however, a last resort action that almost guaranteed her own death at loup garou hands, as well as bringing the full power of her father’s anger down on their run.

She preferred the plan where she observed, gathered information, possibly discovered who the run Alpha was so she could introduce herself, and then took steps to prevent her vision that left all involved happy and healthy—her father especially.

Awareness prickled up her spine just as a male voice said, “You look a bit lost, miss.”

Brynn turned, not terribly surprised to find the cowboy from the entrance watching her. The cup was gone, but he still wore the silly leather hat, which cast a shadow over his eyes. It didn’t hide his beauty, though.


“I was supposed to meet someone here, but I don’t see them yet,” she said, the rehearsed lie falling easily from her lips.

“That explains it, then.” His tone was light, his voice lyrical and calming, but it still held a hint of danger. And challenge.

“Explains what?”

“Why you looked like you were casing the place.”

She laughed without forcing it, finding actual humor in the comment. “Do you often have problems with armed robbers staging stickups here?”

“No, but we’ve caught a few thieves over the years, trying to break in and steal items before they go up for sale.”

“Are you saying I look like a thief?”

“You just looked a little lost, that’s all. This your first time here?”

“It’s that obvious?”

He lifted his left shoulder in a shrug. “My father owns the place, and I’ve worked for him since I was a kid. I know all of the regulars, and most of the semi-regulars. New faces are easy to spot, especially faces as pretty as yours.”

Two things solidified for Brynn then: this man was definitely one of the McQueen brothers, and he was definitely flirting with her. Inbred disgust at the loup’s attention seized her, and she barely managed to stall a physical reaction.

He jumped, then his hand went to his jeans pocket. Brynn’s rising alarm calmed when he whipped out a vibrating cell phone and checked a message. “Damn,” he said as he tucked the phone away again. “Work calls.”

“Don’t let me keep you.”

“I hope your friend shows soon. In the meantime, take a look around. We’ve got a lot of great stuff today.”

“Thank you.”

“My pleasure.”

He eased past her and walked straight up the center aisle of chairs to the dais, directly to the other man she suspected of being a McQueen. She watched them from the corner of her eye, but the other man gestured at the furniture behind the dais. They didn’t seem to be talking about her. She’d just had a conversation with her target’s brother and no one suspected a thing.

Don’t get cocky. Things could still go badly in a moment’s time.

She pushed away the voice of reason. A little more confident now, Brynn gave herself permission to look around. It was her first auction, after all. She wandered to the other side of the room, as much to make a show of belonging as to check out some of the items for sale. She’d always assumed auctions were full of dirty antiques and shiny glass baubles, but the table nearest her was covered with books. Boxes and boxes of books—hardcovers, paperbacks, textbooks, in all genres and on all subjects. The reams of knowledge in those boxes made her chest ache for the satisfaction she used to get from teaching.

Until last month, when she was fired from her tutor position and found herself with zero standing among her people, and with no hope for her future.

Maybe after this you’ll find a new calling as a Congress investigator.

Smiling at the ridiculous notion, she picked up a thick copy of the annotated works of Homer and smoothed back the torn corner of its dust jacket. Nostalgia for school and learning settled heavily in her chest, so heavily it tried to force up tears. She’d briefly considered returning to school and earning a new degree, since history and education hadn’t served her very well. Briefly. If the Alpha reacted badly to her presence in his town, or Rook took issue with her allegations, she’d never get the chance to reconsider her education more thoroughly.

She’d never get the chance to do a lot of things. Her father once said that loup justice was swift and merciless.

She put the book down and pinched the bridge of her nose, damming the tears and steeling her nerves. She would not cry, not here in public. Not when she needed to accomplish a job that required her full attention.

A flash of movement caught her attention, and Brynn turned her head toward the entrance. Her gaze drifted up. Above the entrance, probably accessible from that roped-off staircase, was a large window and a room behind. Two men stood at the window, talking and gesturing, in what looked like an office. Probably the manager’s office, which gave him a bird’s-eye view of his business.

The shorter of the two men captured and held her attention. Hints of a tattoo peeked out from beneath the sleeve of his black t-shirt. Metal glinted in his right earlobe, and another tattoo—or possibly the same—crept down his ear to his neck and disappeared into the collar of his shirt.

Even in profile, Brynn knew him. Fear and rage collided in a storm of cold and heat, and she clenched her hands into tight fists.

Rook McQueen. Her father’s future killer.

Blood rushed hot in her veins, and her heart thumped harder. He wasn’t just a face in a vision any longer. He was real.

“Ma’am?” The strange male voice alarmed Brynn into spinning around too fast. Her elbow clipped the voice owner in the chest and he grunted. Brynn’s stomach bottomed out. The man from the front of the room, her second McQueen brother suspect, frowned darkly, and she saw her own death there.

“I’m so sorry,” Brynn said. “Are you all right?”

“Fine. I’m sorry to bother you, but do you drive a white Dodge Neon?”

She blinked at the odd question about her rental car. “Yes, I do.”

“Someone reported that they backed into your car. You may want to come with me and exchange insurance information.”

“Oh for Av—God’s sake.” Brynn mentally slapped herself for the near slip. Using “Avesta’s sake” in the presence of a loup garou was as obvious as wearing a t-shirt that said “Yes, I’m a Magus Spy. Kill Me.”

“Small lot, so it happens once in a while,” the man said. Up close, she better saw the resemblance to the cowboy-wannabe in his narrow nose and hooded eyes. However, the slight roundness in his cheekbones and higher forehead showed a more pronounced similarity to Rook. And he was definitely older than the other two. “The auction doesn’t start for another forty minutes, if you’re worried about missing something.”

“No, it’s fine,” Brynn said, even though it wasn’t. The coincidence unnerved her, but she had no choice except to see how this played out.

He stepped to the side. “After you.”

She walked to the end of the row of chairs and made her way back toward the auction house entrance, keenly aware of her shadow’s presence, and that she’d just turned her back on one of her people’s greatest enemies. 

Author Bio
Raised on a steady diet of Star Wars, Freddy Krueger and “Fear Street” novels, Kelly Meade developed a love for all things paranormal at a very young age. The stealthy adolescent theft of a tattered paperback from her grandmother’s collection of Harlequins sparked an interest in romance that has continued to this day. 

Black Rook is the first novel in her Cornerstone Run series, a paranormal romance trilogy from Berkley Intermix that also includes Gray Bishop and White Knight. It follows three loup garou brothers who will do anything to protect their town, their family, and the secret of their existence—and maybe fall in love in the process. 

Writing as Kelly Meding, Three Days to Dead is the first book in her Dreg City urban fantasy series. The series follows Evangeline Stone, a paranormal hunter who is resurrected into the body of a stranger and has only three days to solve her own murder and stop a war between the city’s goblins and vampires. Additional books in the series, As Lie the Dead, Another Kind of Dead, and Wrong Side of Dead, are available in both digital format and mass market paperback from Bantam. Book five, Requiem for the Dead, is available digitally through all platforms. 

Trance begins the story of the grown-up children of the world’s slaughtered superheroes who receive their superpowers back after a mysterious fifteen-year absence, and who now face not only a fearful public, but also a vengeful villain who wants all of them dead. Trance and Changeling are available now in both digital format and mass market paperback from Pocket Books. Tempest and Chimera are available in digital format only via Pocket Star. All four MetaWars books can also be purchased as a digital bundle. 



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