Monday, February 28, 2011

Mansuetude, A House of Veadra short

Post Fall of the House of Veadra. Spoilers abound (though nothing you shouldn’t have seen coming)

mansuetude: n, mildness; gentleness. [from the Latin mansuescere – “to tame by the hand”]


“Astra, darling?” Juliana gestured for Marcus, her bodyguard turned lover, to open the door wide enough for her wheelchair. Having gotten no response from her baby sister, the former queen rolled herself further into the dimly lit office. “If you don’t answer me right this minute, I’m going to have Marcus find Zed and drag him up here.”

“’m here!” a faint, familiar voice called out from behind the massive mahogany desk.

Juliana kissed Marcus’ smooth cheek and waited until he had closed the door behind him to move towards the desk. She traced her fingertips across the gently curved corners. She had loved the desk, the feeling of power that came from sitting behind it. She flicked the switch on the ornate glass lamp, but there was no sign of Queen Astra of Avedra.

Something tapped one of her chair’s wheels. Juliana glanced down. Small, bare, cyan-tipped toes were curled around the wheel’s spokes. “What are you doing under your desk, little sister?”


Juliana resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Summoning a bit of her flagging reserves of magic, she zapped the toes with a tiny jolt of electricity. Astra yelped; the foot disappeared under the desk. A blonde head appeared a moment later. Violet-tinged brown eyes, the same eyes every Veadra daughter inherited, glared up at her.

“What are you hiding from, Az?”

“The Council of Peers. I may have walked out of the meeting after telling all of them to screw themselves.”

“Why would you do that, Astra? I know it was your third meeting with them, but you cannot simply walk out when you disagree with something they have to say.” Juliana sighed and tapped the top of her sister’s head disapprovingly. She remembered her third day as queen and how stressful it had been, but she’d never walked out of a meeting or lost her temper. If Astra was going to be the monarch Juliana knew she could be, she needed to control her impulses.

“If you had heard…” A growl rumbled in Astra’s chest. She shook her head, wrinkled her nose. “They’re lucky I didn’t have Zed shoot them.”

Juliana grinned. Her sister’s Commandant of the Royal Forces did come across as the “shoot first, ask later” type of person and he was apparently quite devoted to the queen. Though she didn’t know what all had transpired between Zed and Astra during her captivity, Juliana had a sneaking suspicion that the newly-starred General Zed Browe would be performing all of the Prince Consort’s duties by year’s end.

“Duke What’s-his-name from Lower Previn brought up the fact that I do not have a Consort or an heir. He claimed our neighbors and potential enemies would perceive a single, heirless queen as weak.” Astra crawled out from under the desk, brushed dust off her tiered blue skirt. “He wants the Peers to start ‘vetting’ potential candidates. Most of them agreed with him.”

“Those bastards!” Juliana gripped the arms of her chair so tightly her knuckles turned white. Her thin lips curled back in a sneer. She regretted leaving her cane in her rooms; there were a few Peers who needed to have the sense beaten back into them.

“Whoa! Calm down before you blow a gasket, Jules.” Astra was shocked at the anger swirling around her sister. The most level-headed and compassionate of the Veadra sisters, Juliana was normally the picture of mansuetude. Astra found it amusing that she, the hot-tempered sister, had to restrain Juliana.

“Anyone who would dare call you weak is a blind, ignorant fool,” Juliana declared fiercely. Her sister was the only family she had left and she would defend Astra with her last breath. “Don’t they know that you’re the only reason the country remains intact?”

Astra wrapped an arm around her sister’s shoulders and perched on the arm of the wheelchair. She propped a bare foot against the side of the desk so they didn’t tip over. Her guards already thought she was an insane, danger-magnet. The last thing she needed to do was call them in because she was pinned beneath her invalid sister and a wheelchair. She’d finally outgrown her “Disastra” nickname and was in no hurry to see it revived.

“I didn’t do it singlehanded, Jules. Zed and his men did most of the work. They didn’t let me do much on our journey here.” Astra’s lower lip puffed out at the memory. She’d spent five years as a member of the Royal Foreign Army yet the squadron of men had kept her hidden away like a weak, defenseless child.

“They had to protect you, darling. Without you, there would have been no one to fight…” Juliana swallowed back a sob. Though he’d been dead for weeks, she couldn’t bring herself to say her husband’s name. She didn’t miss the sister-killing, throne-stealing bastard one bit, but the memory of his last day was unbearably painful. She’d almost lost Astra and Marcus.

“I don’t need protection!”

The guard stationed just outside the door coughed. Astra glared at the door. Why did putting a crown on someone’s head automatically turn them into a fragile creature that needed to be sheltered? Why was she weak because she didn’t have a husband? Couldn’t they remember how the last royal marriage turned out? Ashamed by her last thought, her cheeks flushed guiltily. She patted Juliana’s hand, prayed her sister couldn’t read her thoughts.

“Honestly, Az, all you need to do is stop playing coy and tell Zed you want him to be your Consort. That’ll take care of the Peers and those disgustingly sappy looks you two keep giving each other at every meal.”

Astra Veadra, Queen of Aveda, former member of the Royal Foreign Army, and savior of her homeland, fell off the wheelchair.

Review of The Liberation of Alice Love

The Liberation of Alice LoveThe Liberation of Alice Love by Abby McDonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could not put this book down. No lie.  After several duds, The Liberation of Alice Love restored my faith in reading for pleasure.

The opening paragraph was unexpectedly wonderful and had me hooked. How can you not be hooked with it starts with a vibrator?  A vibrator, people!  It seemed that the book started a little slow and bogged with mundane (at the time) details, but it soon became apparent that the buildup was necessary. The identity of the thief was a brilliant surprise.

This book did an excellent job of showing how identity theft affects a person and how much of a mess is left to clean up. Alice's heartbreak at being betrayed is written so well that you feel it too. I admit that after the first third of the book I wanted to check my bank statement and credit report.  I might have even locked my file cabinet.

Alice herself is a great character. She's perfectly flawed and engaging enough that you appreciate the way she slowly changes. Rather than let the setbacks ruin her life, she wallows for a moment then sets out to reclaim her life. She's strong but not unbelievably so.

The cast of secondary characters are all well-developed and each sparkle in their own way. The sister was my favorite with her hidden depth and her evolving relationship with Alice. I thought the romance might have been more of a focal point in the story, but it is so nicely woven into the tale that it works.

I found this to be a delightful story of a woman reclaiming her life after betrayal and theft but deciding the same old routines no longer work. Her struggles, self-doubt, and eventual resolution are immensely relatable. Who doesn't want the chance to live a more exciting life - even for one night?

Though the middle dragged slightly for a few chapters and I would have liked to see more of the romantic side of the story, I utterly loved this book and cannot wait to pass it along.

Think I was kidding about the vibrator?  I wasn't.  Here's how it starts:

"It began with a vibrator. A smooth, stainless steel, jewel-encrusted vibrator that—according to the ribbon-trimmed user manual—cost over seven hundred pounds. Even Alice, who valued her orgasms as much as the next woman, had to wonder what delirious pleasures it could possibly deliver to justify that kind of expense."

See... how can you pass that up?

Disclaimer: I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 18, 2011

On Ghosts

It may come as no surprise that I adore ghosts stories. I'll read them, watch stories of true hauntings (Celebrity Ghost Stories is my not-so-secret addiction), and even watch dorks  people hunt ghosts on scripted live television.  You might find all this odd because I really don't like horror movies.  I generally don't like to be scared... you could say that I'm scared of being scared (but don't say that because it just sounds silly).

Like Viola, I am always looking for haunted hotels or vacation destinations, I just do it for a very different reason.  She has a whole business devoted to helping people scare the hell out of themselves on vaction.  I have a list of places I am never going to stay.

I didn't just wake up one morning and decide to start the list. Ooohh no. There was a reason. A very good reason. A few years ago we went on a weekend getaway to Galveston and booked a room at a wonderful bed and breakfast. It was charming and the owners were lovely and we were so glad to be out of the city. We spent the day exploring Galveston, had dinner, and were utterly exhausted when we returned to the room. I was looking forward to sleeping in the soft, bed.

Neither of us got much sleep that night (and no, not for fun reasons). The light switch in the bathroom flipped on and off all night. No, the light didn't flicker, the switch flipped. The A/C should have been running constantly because we had it on "fan" to circulate air. Uhh... no. It went off and on. JT got up to turn it on to "Max." As soon as he turned back around to return to bed, the dial turned to "off." Which was okay, I suppose, because the room was cold. There were soft moans, and tugs on the blankets, an armoire door that opened and wouldn't stay shut, and the general feeling that we weren't alone in the room.

The next morning, we went down the main staircase (which we had missed earlier because our room had an outdoor staircase and entrance) and JT saw a couple of framed articles on the B&B's ghosts. Damn. I resolved right then and there to always do research before staying anywhere. The other guests shared their stories over breakfast and we laughed about it. We stayed there another night, experienced the same things, and I swore I would never stay anywhere "haunted" again.

So, in a way, that's how I came up with Viola's Spirited Stays. I figured if I was making lists of where not to stay, there were crazy people who would want to do the opposite.

What about you? Have you stayed anywhere haunted? Had a paranormal experience of your own? Do you love ghosts are terrified of seeing one?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Forsaken by Shadow by Kait Nolan

Forsaken By ShadowForsaken By Shadow by Kait Nolan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novella. The world created and debuted in this novella is absolutely fascinating; I can't wait to learn more about the Mirus and explore Kait Nolan's playground. The characters are strong and surprisingly well-developed for a novella. Embry is both the typical strong, kick-ass PNR female, but her emotions draw you in and you feel some of her pain. My only complaint was that the transition to the flashback scene was a little jolting and I found myself scrolling forward to make sure I hadn't missed anything, but once I realized what was going on, it was easy to dive back into the story.

For wonderfully fast-paced, descriptive action, brilliant characters, and an exciting new world I highly recomment this novella to anyone wanting to dip their toes into indie books.

Looking to buy your own copy (do it!  do it!)?  Here's the link to it at Amazon and BN

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 2002 - Olivia, Viola

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 2002

For only the second time in her life, Olivia Ashwood had her radio turned up as loud as it would go. She wasn’t concerned about a noise complaint. It was a Thursday night, but her dorm was practically empty. Everyone was out. She should have been out. She’d been looking forward to it for three weeks; she’d even found the perfect dress for the evening with the perfect pair of cute matching sandals. Instead of indulging in pasta and sinfully rich dessert at her favorite downtown restaurant, she was stuck in her dorm with Fiona Apple, leftover Chinese takeout, and her flannel pajamas.

The insistent, annoying vibrations coming from under her pillow dragged her out of her pity party. She fished her cell phone out of the tangle of blankets and bedding, scowled at the still-vibrating machine. Her sister’s name flashed on the screen. Irritation sparked. What mess had Viola gotten into this time?

“What, Vi?”

“While I am really, and I do mean really, proud of you for embracing your inner emo, I’ve been knocking on your door for three minutes. Think you can open up?”

Olivia’s fluffy bunny slippers made no sound on the carpeted floor as she stalked across the small room to fling open the door. Viola offered a strained smile; her shoulder brushed Olivia’s when she stepped inside. She carefully dropped her backpack onto the bed and moved towards the stereo.

“I’m cool with Fiona and if you wanna switch to Alanis, that’s fine. You pop a Sarah McLachlan in there, though, and I’m out of here. This is officially a tear-free zone.” Viola skipped to the next song on the CD before turning to her stunned sister. She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before impulsively yanking Olivia into a tight bear hug.

“What are you doing here? Vi… Vi, honey, I need to breathe…” Olivia croaked when her sister’s arms tightened painfully around her ribs. She greedily sucked in oxygen and blinked the clear the spots from her vision.

Viola shrugged, plopped onto the edge of the bed next to her backpack. She busied herself with unzipping the bag and piling items on the quilt. “You didn’t take me up on my offer to chop off Eric Granger’s balls and feed them to him, so this is plan B. You’ve got the angry chick music so I brought the rest of the party favors. Chocolate.” She handed Olivia a large, red heart-shaped box filled with gourmet chocolates.

A small smile crept onto Olivia’s face. “Thanks, kiddo.”

“I’ve got two more. By the end of the night neither of us is going to want to see another piece of chocolate.” Viola pulled a bottle of wine out of the backpack and set it on Olivia’s nightstand along with two plastic wine glasses. “A little something to numb the pain.”

“Viola!” Olivia clucked her tongue disapprovingly. She held out her hand expectantly. “Let me see it.”

“See what?”

“The fake i.d.”

“What fake i.d.?” Viola offered up her most angelic face. As usual, it had no affect on Olivia.

“The one Sebastian had a vision about two weeks ago. I thought he took it away from you.”

Viola grinned. “He did. It’s okay because I didn’t really like the picture on that one.”

“Vi…” Olivia crossed her arms, arched an eyebrow.

Viola rolled her eyes, untied her knee-high black boots, and shoved them under the bed. “It’s not like I’m going to use to go on a bender or anything. All the best bands play in bars and stuff, I just need the i.d. to get in and see them. I swear.”

“And the wine?” Olivia uncrossed her arms and reached for the bottle. It was a surprisingly decent merlot. She retrieved her corkscrew from the nightstand drawer.

Viola’s grin brightened. “Stole it from Sebastian. He bought it for his date with Amy. I left a note on his steering wheel this morning, he’ll understand that it’s for a good cause.” She poked Olivia’s calf with her toes. “Open it up already.”

Olivia eyed her speculatively. “One glass for you and you’re staying the night. The last think you need is a DUI. We just got that social worker off our back.”

“Figured you’d say that. I brought a change of clothes and something to sleep in. Forgot my pillow, though.”

“I’ve got that bag of bathroom stuff you left last time. You should be set.”

Olivia uncorked the wine and filled both plastic glasses. She grabbed the remote for the stereo and settled on the bed with her sister. Propped up by pillows, they were hip-to-hip; Olivia’s bunny slippers looked normal next to Viola’s pink skull-and-crossbones toe socks. Olivia picked an oval-shaped chocolate from the open box balanced on their thighs.

Viola glanced around the room. All of the cutesy pictures of Eric, Olivia’s boyfriend since the previous summer, were gone along with the ticket stubs and mementos that had been stuck to the bulletin board. Her eyes fell on the box of conversation hearts on Olivia’s desk.

“Sebastian dropped off his present, huh?”

Olivia snorted into her wine glass. “Just like every year. You think he’ll ever remember that we hate those stupid candies?”

“Nope,” Viola responded. “I found my box of heart-shaped chalk in my backpack this morning. It is kind of sweet, I guess. Would be sweeter if it was something I’d actually eat, though.”

“You didn’t dump them in the trash again, did you?”

“No way, I learned my lesson last time. He sulked for a week.” Viola giggled impishly. “It took me ten minutes, but I changed my name in the little ‘to’ box so that it said ‘Duke’ and stuck it in Duke’s mailbox on my way home from school.”

Olivia’s jaw dropped. Laughter bubbled in her chest. She set her wine glass on the nightstand and slapped a hand over her mouth. “You mean Duke found a box of candy conversation hearts in his mailbox that said, ‘To: Duke, From: Sebastian’?”


Olivia’s shoulders shook with silent laughter. “I’d love to hear that phone call.”

“Me too.” Viola sighed wistfully. “I’m sure I’ll hear the highlights later, but it won’t be the same.”

They ate and drank without speaking. Viola’s toes twitched in time with the music. Olivia slowly chewed a raspberry crème filled chocolate and stared at the blank spot on her wall where a picture of Eric in a Santa hat had once been tacked. Tears stung her eyes.

“I just wanted a normal relationship, you know?” Olivia swallowed the chocolate and licked a dab of crème off her lip. Her head drooped so that her ear hovered over Viola’s shoulder. “I didn’t use my gift on him; I didn’t want… I wanted to have the kind of relationship everyone else has, one where I didn’t know what he was feeling before he knew he was feeling it. I wanted to be surprised.”

Viola clenched her teeth so hard her jaw ached. She regretted letting Sebastian talk her out of slashing Eric the Bastard’s tires and breaking his nose. As an older sister Olivia was annoying and nosy as hell, but she was also the kindest person Viola knew. She didn’t deserve to be dumped the day before Valentine’s Day in front of her entire Organic Chemistry lab.

Olivia choked back a sob and gulped her wine. “I guess I was surprised all right.”

Viola pressed Olivia’s head onto her shoulder and brushed a loose strand of blonde hair off her sister’s flushed cheek. “He’s a jerk and a moron and should have been grateful you even bothered to speak to him. It’s not your fault he was too stupid to see how wonderful you are.”

“I really, really liked him, Vi. I was falling in love with him.” Fat tears rolled down her cheeks and onto Viola’s black long-sleeved t-shirt. She sniffled, squeezed her eyes shut. “I was… God, Vi… tonight I was going to…”

Viola growled. Not only did she not want to her about her sister’s sex life, but she really wanted to break every bone in Eric the Bastard’s body. She kissed Olivia’s forehead and carefully slid out from under her. While Olivia wiped her eyes and blew her nose, Viola climbed on top of the desk and expertly disarmed the smoke alarm.

“What are you doing, Vi?” Olivia frowned. “Where did you learn to do that?”

“Matt taught me.”

“Which one’s Matt?” Olivia tried to keep up with Viola’s friends, but the younger girl never brought them by the house and rarely spoke on the phone in front of others. The only one she knew fairly well was Viola’s best friend Aaron. “The one with the tongue ring?”

“Nah, that’s Joe. Matt’s the one with the nose ring and the shaved head.” Viola hopped off the desk and dug a cheap plastic lighter out of her pocket. “I borrowed this from him after school.”

Olivia’s eyes widened comically. She knew Viola ran with a different crowd but had always trusted her sister to use common sense. “I’m not smoking with you, Vi! You’re not smoking with you, either! When did you pick that up?”]

Viola blinked, flicked the lighter. “Uh… never. Like I’d do something that stupid. Do you know what it would do to my times? Not to mention Coach would kill me deader than dead. Plus, the smell would make it pretty impossible to be stealthy when Tracking.”

“Oh,” Olivia sighed, feeling like an idiot, “okay. What’s the lighter for then?”

“Grab your big glass bowl. We’re going to burn everything you have that reminds you of the bastard.”

Olivia refilled both wine glasses. She grabbed a bottle of water while Viola prepped the mini-bonfire. She felt a small tear in her heart heal when Viola touched the lighter to the edge of a photograph. They held hands as the flames engulfed paper, photos, and a couple of cut-up t-shirts. By the time the pile was nothing more than ashes, Olivia still hurt but didn’t feel like wallowing in misery.

“Thanks for this, Vi. It was perfect. Very sweet, in a you kind of way.”

“Nada problemo, sis.” Viola shrugged off Olivia’s praise. “Just promise that the next time a guy breaks your heart you’ll let me punch him in the face.”

Olivia grinned, slung an arm around Viola’s shoulders. “It’s a deal.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Review of "Possession" by Rosalie Stanton

With all this cold weather, I haven't had the motivation to do much of anything but read. I thought I'd share another of my favorite e-books with the rest of you.

PossessionPossession by Rosalie Stanton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don't be put off by the cliche-ish "oh the ____ turned us into sex fiends" premise. Rosalie Stanton is a master at making you forget all pre-conceived notions and fall in love with her characters. Since there is already a good synopsis, I will just tell you what I loved about this book: the characters and the amazing sex scenes. On every page you feel like you are right there with them because they are so brilliantly developed and have such clear voices. As for my other favorite? Well, you'll just have to read and enjoy. I do wish there had been a little mire action of the non-steamy kind, but that didn't detract from my love for this book at all.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2 Print Copies of "Daughter of Deception" Giveaway at Goodreads

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Daughter of Deception (Family Lies Book 1) by Kara Thorpe

Daughter of Deception

by Kara Thorpe

Giveaway ends February 28, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Friday, February 4, 2011