Month in Review: March 2014

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I managed to do tons of stuff in March. After the slower month of February, it was necessary to catch up on reviews and stuff, but I went above and beyond my intial goals for March, so that’s great.

I read and reviewed 30 books in March 2014, which is as many as in January and February combined.

March 2014

  1. By My Choice by Christina Blackthorn
  2. Forever Doomed by MaryAnn Kempher
  3. Nightcrawlers by Tim Curran
  4. Diaries of the Damned by Alex Laybourne
  5. Devil in the Corner by Patricia Elliott
  6. How to Clear Your Home of Ghosts and Spirits by Debi Chestnut
  7. Haunted Rock & Roll by Matthew L. Swayne
  8. Fighting Malevolent Spirits by Samantha E. Harris
  9. Finding Fire by K.R. Robidoux
  10. Marrow’s Pit by Keith Deininger
  11. Bird of Prey (Sémya Slotin #1) by Danielle-Claude Ngontang Mba
  12. The Plot Thickens (Sémya Slotin #2) by Danielle-Claude Ngontang Mba
  13. The Unholy by Paul DeBlassie III
  14. Blood Relations (Family by Choice #1) by Caroline Frechette
  15. The Soured Earth by Sophie Weeks
  16. Community Service by Dakota Madison
  17. Learning to Swim by Annie Cosby
  18. Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas
  19. Mara (Unusuals #1) by Veronica Bane
  20. Brothers in Arms (Family by Choice #2) by Caroline Frechette
  21. Miyuki (Unusuals #2) by Veronica Bane
  22. Dark Energy by John O’Riley
  23. Passion, Power and Privilege by Cara Addison
  24. Waking the Dead by Heather Graham
  25. A Special Love by Krissy Bells
  26. DarkFuse #1 by Shane Staley (Editor)
  27. The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle
  28. Zenith (The First Book of Ascension) by Dirk Strasser
  29. The Serpent’s Fate (Vigilati #3) by J.K. Hogan
  30. Equinox (The Second Book of Ascension) by Dirk Strasser

I made progress on my challenges. In total, for the Netgalley challenge, I read 20 out of 22 books, which means I reviewed 10 Netgalley books in the last month. I finished 60 books total for the 100 books in a year challenge, I read 6 young adult books for the Everything YA challenge, making my total 12 books in that challenge. On top of that, I read another 8 horror novels for the Horror Reading Challenge, giving me a total of 18 books. I’d originally picked 16 (highest number) for this challenge, which means I completed this challenge. Yay!

On the downside though, I didn’t finish any books for the Dystopia challenge. Oh well, you can’t have it all, I suppose.

I hosted starter day parties for several tours.

On top of that, I hosted spotlight stops for several interesting titles.

And several release day parties and cover reveal parties.

I also hosted excerpts from several books, and guest posts.

And this month, I also participated in Bloggiesta. What have you been upto this month?

Book Review: Equinox (The Second Book of Ascension) by Dirk Strasser

MOM030_Equinox_AWTitle: Equinox (The Second Book of Ascension)
Author: Dirk Strasser
Genre: Fantasy
Age Group: Young Adult and up
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Publisher Website
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Can you see the story breathing?

The Keep

The most beautiful city on the great Mountain

The pinnacle of Maelir culture

The home of the Inner Sanctum

The place where secrets hide

 

The fate of the Mountain hangs in balance at the time of Equinox, and even the Keep can no longer remain untouched. The Maelir are desperate to defend it, the Faemir to demolish it, the windriders to claim it. But unknown to them all, a dark force has already emerged from the chaos to seize power.

As Atreu and Verlinden strive to decipher the power of the Talisman that has defined Atreu’s Ascent, Teyth and Valkyra are locked in a desperate battle that neither of them can win. At a time when darkness and light are in perfect equilibrium, when Maelir and Faemir must find a way to break the deadlock and avoid annihilation, the world’s fate lies in the Book of Ascension.

Last week, I reviewed the first book in the Books of Ascension series by Dirk Strasser, Zenith. You can read my review here. Today I’m tackling the second book, and I’ll get to the third book in April.

What Zenith seemed to lack in action for the first half of the book, is made up by Equinox. At the start, we learn about the fate of the Mountain, and how it’s endangered, and about how a dark force has ascended that allies with no one, not with the Maelir or the Faemir, and might unite them to fight against a common enemy, if they manage to set their differences aside.

Atreu and Verlinden try to uncover the power of the Atreu’s talisman, whereas his brother, always more fighter than than scholar, is locked up in a battle he can’t possibly win. Their only hope, and the hope of the world, can be found in the Book of Ascension.

There’s more action in this book, and Atrue goes through a tremendous amount of character developement. The Atreu we see at the end of this novel, is nowhere near the innocent lamb we encountered at the start of the first book. As the book draws closer to the end, the inevitable becomes clear, and each brother must continue down their own path, and fulfill their own destiny.

Giveaway

 

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Book Review: The Serpent’s Fate by J.K. Hogan

TSF_EbookCoverTitle: The Serpent’s Fate (Vigilati, Book 3)

Author: J.K. Hogan

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Can a traumatized veteran-turned-mercenary who is tormented by voices in his head be saved by the love of a wayward single mother with demons of her own? Afflicted by PTSD from serving in Afghanistan, and tormented by a childhood trauma, transient veteran Matthieu Rousseau struggles with the choices he’s made in his life. Estranged from his family, Matthieu drifts from one mercenary job to the next, until one thing stops him. Fate.
In hiding from her abusive ex-husband, musician Fate Callahan lives in New Orleans with her seven-year-old daughter. She remains in constant fear of being found, and her worst nightmare comes alive when a dark, dangerous stranger tells her he’s been hired to locate and kill her—but wants to save her instead.
Fate and Matthieu find themselves on the run together, fleeing from the hitmen and an unseen evil worse than anything else they’ll face. While just trying to stay alive, they become entangled in the battle between the Vigilati and the Lochrim; an archaic sect of witches and the evil creatures they are bred to fight. Unbeknownst to Fate and Matthieu, they are more deeply connected to the Vigilati than either of them could ever imagine.
They must join family and allies of the Vigilati to help save the human world, possibly saving each other along the way. Matthieu teaches Fate how to trust in love again, while she gives him back the one thing he never thought he deserved—family.

The Serpent’s Fate is a story that deals with a strong plot, and strong characters, and mixes them up in an intriguing, fascinating way. On the one hand, we’ve got Matthieu, who suffers from PTSD and the scars of an abusive childhood. His strength was in never giving up, never backing down. Fate, the other main character, is equally strong. She has a smilar strength as Matthieu, a way of never giving up, no matter what life throws at her.

The mythology in this book was pretty awesome. There’s the Vigilati vs. the Lochrim, and that battle has been raging for centuries. There are dark paranormal forces at work that manage to manipulate Matthieu and Fate, and turn their fears into realities. I never quite knew what to expect from the villain, and that made it intriguing.

The writing was great, and held up suspense and tension for most of the book. The romance was interesting too, although this is the kind of book that would’ve been interesting, with or without the romance. I’ve always said I have trouble reviewing books I really enjoyed, and the same goes for this one. There’s nothing more I can say except that, if you like paranormal romance, you should definitely give this book a try.

Book Tours: Book Excerpt from The Ganthoran Gambit

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I’m hosting an excerpt from space opera “The Ganthoran Gambit”. I hope you enjoy the excerpt!

Book Excerpt

Discipline averts disasters, Billy Caudwell, or, rather, the part of his mind that was the long-dead Garmaurian First Admiral; Teg Skarral Portan, knew.

The south wall was on the point of collapse, and Billy knew that if it fell, the Zulus could roll up the entire British position. What had been a stalwart defensive position would become a rat trap, with the British and Native soldiers being hunted down and butchered like fugitives.

“Major Pulleine!” Billy called for his second-in-command.

“Sir!” Pulleine fired his pistol into the body of a Zulu, who had just broken through the barricade.

“Hold on here! When you hear the bugle play a long note, withdraw everyone twenty yards, then get the riflemen into two ranks!” Billy ordered.

“Sir!” Pulleine leapt back into the battle at the south wall.

“Bugler, with me!” Billy ordered the tall, skinny, dark-haired boy who was no older than he was.

Running back to the lines where the Natal Infantry stood in reserve, Billy could see that the soldiers, on all four walls, were heavily engaged in the hand-to-hand. The tactic of setting rifles next to spear men was paying off. The Natal Infantry were fighting like demons. Their long spears and shields were holding the Zulus at bay for the riflemen to load and fire, or to add weight with their bayonets. But, already, the area behind the fighting line was littered with dead and injured. The north wall was holding as were the upper parts of the eastern and western walls. With the south wall in dire threat, the lower parts of the eastern and western walls were also coming under increasing pressure.

“Bring your men forward, into a horse-shoe line,” Billy indicated to the officers of the two waiting Spear Companies.

This was the last throw. The three hundred men he had not yet committed to the battle. All around him: rifles banged, metal clanged against metal, and men screamed in pain or shouted in defiance as they struggled hand-to-hand in the life or death battle. The reserve of Natal Infantry was brought forward and shaken into a rough semblance of a line. Stepping forward, Billy took the dark brown shield from one Infantryman and buried the butt into the ground.

This was it.

There would be no retreat from this point. If it came to the worst, then they could form a final, last stand, rally square around this shield.

“Thirty men, reinforce and hold those corners, and the wall!” Billy ordered the Spear Company commanders, “Hold those corners at all costs!”

“Yes, sir,” an officer said.

“Major Pulleine!” Billy called, trying to make his voice heard above the clang of metal the crash of shots and the screams of the wounded.

“Sir!” emerging from the press of struggling and fighting bodies, Major Pulleine trotted over to Billy’s position.

“We need to get this lot sorted out quickly!” Billy said.

“Yes sir!”

“Get thirty good bayonet men together, when we go in, you and me are going to cut a path through to that breach in the wall!”

“Yes sir!”

Watching the battle at the south wall, Billy could see that the redcoats and the Natal Infantry were holding doggedly on to their ground. It was a bitter, brutal fight, with no love lost between the Natal Infantry and the Zulu warriors. The Natal Infantrymen were pushing their spear points forward, into the press of Zulus just beyond the barricade wall. Again and again, they thrust their spears forward and found targets amongst the bodies of the attackers. But, many of them had already fallen to the spears and clubs of the Zulus. As he watched, a Natal Infantryman, with a red bandana around his forehead, reeled backwards from the barricade with a spear pushed all the way through his body. He staggered back a couple of steps, and then fell over onto his side.

A few feet to the right of the fallen Natal Infantryman, a British corporal was pulling a dead rifleman back from the barricade. The corporal, dragging the body backwards by the webbing, grabbed the Martini-Henry rifle from the fallen man’s lifeless hand and, with the speed and skill of a professional pickpocket, cleared out the dead man’s ammunition pouches. Casting the body aside, the corporal handed out the bullets to three other riflemen, before handing the rifle, and more bullets, to a Natal cavalryman.

With the thirty Natal Infantrymen now sent to each corner of the new line, and engaging with the Zulus at the barricade wall, it was almost time for Billy to play his gamble.

“Sir!” Major Pulleine called out, “I’ve got thirty bayonet men!”

“Well done, Major!” Billy praised his second-in-command, as the group of thirty redcoats formed a rough semi-circle in front of Billy.

The bayonet party was the worst looking bunch of miscreants and rogues Billy had ever seen. Most of them were wounded, but as he looked into the eyes of many of them, Billy could see that they would relish a fight. Many of them were men that enjoyed killing simply for the sake of it, and, for a moment, Billy shuddered. But, then again, this was what he needed. This was going to be a nasty close-quarter fight; a fight that these men would revel in.

“Right lads! We’re going to blast a path open to that breach, and then we’re going to seal it!” Billy began, “When we charge, you ignore everything else and you follow me and Major Pulleine! We go for that breach!” Billy’s voice was filled with anticipation, “Any way you can, you get to that breach in the south wall! There’s no room for Marquis of Queensberry rules here!”

From where he was standing, Billy could see the wicked smiles crossing the smeared and dirty faces of the chosen redcoats. This was what they wanted to hear. For many, the Army had been rules and regulations, drills and marching, even the fighting had been done in ranks and files, volleys and routines. Now they were about to be let loose in a no-holds-barred brawl.

“Any way you can,” Billy repeated, “do you understand me!?”

“Sir,” came a few muttered responses.

“I said, do you understand me!?” Billy shouted.

“YES, SIR!!” The bayonet men chorused happily.

“Very good, now make sure the rifles are loaded!”

“Right then, wait for the command, and, good luck everyone!” Billy said.

With the Natal Infantry and the Bayonet Group in place, Billy was now ready.

“Bugler, one long note, now!” Billy ordered.

The bugler, with regimentally correct flourish, set the instrument to his lips and began to blow.

“COME ON, LADS, FALL BACK!!” An officer’s voice yelled, as the soldiers started to dash back to Billy’s new position.

“MOVE YOURSELVES!!” the NCO bellowed as the redcoats and Native troops scampered back.

It took no more than four seconds for the first of the soldiers to reach Billy’s new line.

“Right!” yelled Billy, “Two ranks of rifles, front rank kneel!…Two ranks of rifles, front rank kneel!….Make sure you’re loaded!…Two ranks of rifles, front rank kneel!..,” Billy began the orders which were quickly taken up by the other officers and NCOs, who quickly began to shake a new position from the confusion.

Men with rifles were sorted and barged into two new firing lines, whilst the spear carrying Natal Infantrymen were pushed and shoved into the spear line behind the rifles. The Zulus, stunned by the disappearance of the defenders in front of them, took a few seconds to realise that part of the barricade was now un-manned. With a choice of clambering over the barricade to get at the defenders, or trying to tear it down; which would allow others access to the interior, the Zulus attempted both at the same time. Some started to climb over the collection of wagons, boxes, furniture, sacks, and equipment, whilst some tried to drag the materials down. In the press of bodies close to the barricade, and encumbered with shields, spears and clubs, the Zulus took no more than a few seconds to get the first man onto the barricade.

When the first man clambered up onto the east wall, a young redcoat lieutenant, who was moving back; the last man to leave the barricade, shot the invader down with his pistol. The Zulu, dropping his shield and weapons, clutched his chest and fell backwards into the press of bodies behind him. And, as the lieutenant sprinted for the new line, Billy saw several wounded men trying to crawl back to the new position. But, it was already too late for them.

That is the price of command, Billy thought to himself as one injured Natal Infantryman stretched out his hand to his comrades.

The scampering soldiers had no time to lift the wounded. That was just the way it was. The lines had to be formed quickly, or the Zulus would overwhelm the whole position. The two lines of riflemen stretched in an outward curve from the east to the west wall of the barricade. The horse-shoe shape that Billy had ordered for the Natal Infantrymen was being mirrored by the line of riflemen. Billy knew that he could not use a straight line, because he needed to scour Zulus from the lower parts of the abandoned east and west walls. A straight line would have had the tendency to fire straight ahead; ignoring the flanks. Glancing at the riflemen in the firing lines, Billy could see quite a mixed bag of units.

There were redcoats and various mounted volunteer units, some of Durnford’s Natal cavalry, with tan uniforms, who had acquired Martini-Henry rifles. Some of the cavalrymen still had their rifled carbines in their hands, with a few precious cartridges still left in their ammunition pouches. As Billy glanced, a redcoat with a blond moustache was passing a handful of cartridges to a Natal Infantryman with a Martini-Henry.

Every bullet is going to count here, Billy thought as he turned back to the barricade.

All of the riflemen were filthy. The smoke and powder residue had laid down a carpet of soot and grime onto their face and hands. The sweat from the constant exertions of fighting had carved channels through the dirt, and more than one forehead was smeared from the rubbing of stinging eyes. Some of them were injured. More than one uniform was torn or ripped. Bandages adorned faces, heads, arms hands, and, in some cases, legs. One man in the front rank was unable to stand or kneel, owing to a wound to his leg, yet he was still able to fire his rifle from the seated position.

The Native troops had fared no better, with an equally impressive collection of injuries and battle scars.

One of the Natal Infantryman was leaning heavily against his spear, whilst a comrade wound a dressing around his chest that was already starting to soak through with blood. The Infantryman winced with the pain, but refused to leave his post. If he was going to die, then he would die standing up with his comrades.

Looking at the barricade, the Zulus were starting to scramble onto the south and east walls, whilst some of their comrades were already starting to pull or push material down to allow passage.

“Front rank!…Aim!” Billy ordered and watched as the rifles were raised to their shoulders, “FIRE!” Billy bellowed.

In a great plume of rifle smoke, the front rank disappeared.

On the barricade, many of the Zulus that had managed to climb onto the wall were scythed down. The handful that had survived the first volley were jumping down onto the British side, when Billy let loose the volley from the second rank. The Zulus on the British side of the barricade were cut down mercilessly, as were many of their comrades who had just climbed onto the walls. But regardless of their losses, the Zulu warriors were clambering up onto the barricade.

“Rear rank!…Aim!…FIRE!!” Billy shouted as the volley roared again, “Pulleine, take over!”

“Sir!”

“Front rank!…Aim!…FIRE!!” Major Pulleine bellowed as another volley hurtled downrange to smash into the Zulu ranks.

“Rear rank!…Aim!…FIRE!!” Pulleine continued the litany of death; the relentless volleys that were chopping the Zulu intruders to ruins.

Billy waited, watching the situation closely, the inside part of the wall was now littered with dead and injured Zulus.  Feverishly, he strapped a Zulu shield with a broken shaft to his left arm. Zulu bodies were strewn over the top of the barricade. On one wagon, a dead Zulu lay, his head and left arm hanging down beside the wheel. A wounded Zulu was trying to clamber back over the barricade to safety, away from the relentless hail of lead and destruction. Crawling slowly over the top of the barricade, he was hit by another bullet, which flung him back onto the British side of the wall. With a great roar, a section of the south wall, about two metres wide, collapsed outwards.

This is it, Billy thought to himself, and lifted up a short-stabbing assegai from a dead Zulu just behind him.

“Both ranks!” Billy took over from Pulleine’s litany, “Aim!” Billy called as the Zulus started to swarm into the position, “FIRE !” he bellowed one last time.

The final volley shattered through the sound of fighting that was going on at the walls still held by the British. The “zulu-zulu-zulu-zulu” chant was drowned out by the massive volley, which chopped down almost every Zulu within the position.

“CHARGE!!” Billy screamed, raised the stabbing assegai above his head and started running towards the south wall.

Behind him, he heard the screams and war cries of the Natal Infantry; who, fleeter of foot than the red-coats and other Europeans, surged forward behind their red-haired colonel.

The Zulus who had survived the volley, and were already shocked and stunned from the ferocity of the rifle fire, suddenly found themselves faced with almost four hundred screaming and charging Natal Infantrymen, followed by the riflemen and their viciously sharp bayonets. For some of the Zulu survivors, it was too much to ask of them to stand and fight this onslaught, and they began to turn and run. For some, the great swarm that had just broken into the position, their fighting spirit was still intact.

For Billy Caudwell, the battle was now focussed on the metre of Zulu front line that was taking shape before him. Nothing else mattered except for the two warriors who were standing in his way. Both were carrying black shields and wearing black loin cloths, although one was considerably taller than the other. They both carried the short-stabbing assegai, and had a strange crown-like circular hair style, that Billy had first thought was a forage cap of some kind. Seeing the European officer hurtling towards them, the taller of the Zulus was starting to go into a half crouch, projecting his shield in front of him to receive the shock of the expected attack. With his face set in grim determination, the taller Zulu was ready to make a fight of it. The shorter of the two warriors appeared less confident and more anxious. He too set himself in the half crouch, but shuffled nervously from one foot to the other.

He could see from his peripheral vision that more Zulus were flooding in through the gap in the collapsed wall. However, the Zulus were in no kind of formation to receive the British charge. The Zulus were still clustered around the entrance. Also in his line of sight was a ragged formation of screaming and shouting Natal Infantrymen; shields before them, and spears ready to plunge into Zulu flesh. Major Pulleine was about three metres to Billy’s left, and half a pace behind. With a pistol in his left hand, and a straight-bladed sabre in his right, Pulleine was racing towards the Zulu line as it began to spread out from the entrance to the position.

With his blood, and heartbeat, banging in his ears, and his breath coming in gasps, Billy Caudwell hurtled towards the enemy. Looking back at the moment after it had occurred he would scarcely be able to believe that he had led a charge straight into the teeth of a force of armed Zulus. But, the part of his mind that was Teg Skarral Portan, knew that this was the time for him to be seen leading the charge. If Billy Caudwell went forward screaming like a demented banshee, then the rest of his soldiers would follow him.

And, Billy Caudwell had timed it just right.

With a contingent of Zulus crammed into the single entrance way, and smaller groups having just clambered over other parts of the barricade, Billy Caudwell would have the numerical advantage. Billy Caudwell also had the advantage of momentum. When the two bodies of warriors met, it would be the British who would be moving forward, and the Zulus who would be standing still.

With five more powerful strides, and one last great roar of defiance, Billy Caudwell crashed into the two Zulus he had set as his targets.

He was heavier than the Zulus; more muscular, more compact, and slightly more mobile. Billy barged into the taller of the two Zulus with a huge clatter. The shock of the impact registered in his shoulder from the shield strapped to his arm. Swinging the assegai back-handed, Billy felt the satisfying jolt in his arm as the blade of the stabbing spear smashed into the skull of the smaller, more timid warrior; opening the side of his head and shattering the bones beneath. Silently, the smaller warrior’s legs seemed to fold up beneath him as he fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. The larger warrior, however, was still very much alive and fighting. Having been barged over, the Zulu had tumbled onto his backside under the momentum of Billy’s charge. And, just about to rise to his feet, the taller Zulu had been pinioned by a spear from one of the Natal Infantrymen behind Billy.

A look of astonishment on his face, the Zulu looked down at the spear shaft protruding from below his ribcage, and then up at Billy Caudwell who swiftly used the assegai blade to smash down onto the crown of his head.

With an incoherent scream, the Natal Infantryman twisted the spear shaft in his hand and drew the blade free from the Zulu’s intestines. With a wide-eyed gasp, the Zulu arched his back and fell backwards.

The Natal Infantryman was in the process of spitting upon and cursing his dead enemy, when a red-coated rifleman barged past them and plunged into the fray. The sheer momentum and violence of the attack had caught the Zulus by surprise, but many were still offering frantic and desperate resistance. From the feeling of invincibility and victory at having breached the British barricade, the Zulus now found themselves fighting for their lives. However, many of the Zulu warriors had been bypassed by the charge, and found themselves isolated from their comrades.

To his left, Billy saw the red-coated rifleman; with a blond moustache, as he used his bayonet to pierce a Zulu who was trying to strike him with a longer throwing spear. Having been stabbed in the chest, the Zulu screamed as his legs gave way beneath him, and the blond soldier pushed him down with the bayonet. The blond soldier, however, failed to see the Zulu behind him with the war club, and was struck on the back of the head by the new assailant. Wearing his helmet had saved the blond soldier’s life, but he fell to the ground, on his knees, dazed by the blow. With the British soldier’s helmet having been knocked off in the attack, the Zulu assailant was about to finish the blond soldier with the weighted club, when a bayonet plunged into his ribs from the right. With a scream the Zulu dropped his shield and curled over to the right where the bayonet had pierced him. With a grim face, the Natal Infantryman who had bayoneted him twisted the rifle and withdrew the blade.

The blond soldier, still dazed, grabbed his own fallen rifle as another two Zulus appeared from the press of bodies. Standing over the fallen red coat, the Natal Infantryman; who Billy recognised as the one the blond soldier had given ammunition to previously, jabbed at one Zulu with the bayonet and threatened the other, who was standing behind him, with his rifle butt. For a few tense moments, the two Zulus feigned attacks trying to distract the Natal Infantryman; who, standing side on to both of the Zulus, tried to protect the blond red coat. The Zulu to his left was equipped with a zebra hide shield and a short-stabbing assegai, whilst the one to his right carried a white shield and a war club,

It was the blond soldier who broke the stand-off. Rather than the Zulus trying to confuse and distract the Infantryman, the Infantryman had drawn the attention of the two Zulus away from the blond soldier. Having retrieved his rifle, and still on his knees, he still had sufficient mental faculties to recognise an enemy. With a half-hearted and confused lunge; holding his bayonet-tipped rifle in his right hand, he managed to pierce the upper thigh of one of the Zulus.

The Zulu, taken completely by surprise, toppled over clutching his leg. The Zulu with the war club, seeing his comrade injured, took his eyes from the Infantryman for the fraction of a second that the man with the red bandana needed. With the Zulu distracted, the Infantryman moved quicker than a striking rattle-snake and plunged the bayonet straight into the Zulu’s heart. The Zulu, who was killed instantly, collapsed onto the bayonet and almost dragged it from the Infantryman’s hands. However, with a deft twist of the blade, the Natal Infantryman drew the bayonet free.

Meanwhile, the Zulu with the bayonet wound to his thigh was struggling to rise to his feet to finish off the blond soldier. Withdrawing the bayonet from the first Zulu, the Infantryman continued the backward stroke and smashed the rifle butt into the injured Zulu’s face. The Zulu, having just risen, was catapulted backwards onto his back, his ruined nose and mouth spurting blood, teeth and gore.

And, before he could react, the Infantryman had reversed his rifle and thrust the bayonet deep into the Zulu’s throat. With the three enemies dispatched, the Infantryman calmly and gently started to help the blond soldier, unsteadily, to his feet.

Making a mental note of the Infantryman’s courage, Billy returned to the battle which had sent the Zulus reeling back towards the barricade. Dropping the short-stabbing assegai, Billy drew the heavy Pryce pistol from his holster. The riflemen and the Natal Infantry were working well together. The Infantrymen with the longer spears could hold the enemy at bay whilst the riflemen could load and reload their weapons. However, this was a hand-to-hand fight, and the discipline and training of the rifleman with a bayonet was putting the redcoats roughly on a par with the Zulu warrior and his short-stabbing assegai.

The Natal Infantrymen, still hyped-up by their success in defending the wall and pushing the Zulus back, were fighting like demons. Their lifelong fear of the Zulu warrior had been shattered by the repetitive volleys of the British riflemen. They had watched the Zulus retreat; many of them for the first time in their lives, and they wanted to kill the men who had spread terror and destruction through their tribes for generations. The seemingly almighty and invincible Zulu Impis could be humbled, and the Natal Infantrymen wanted their share of the blood and glory.

With their shields and spears, they pushed and stabbed at the Zulus, forcing them into a smaller and smaller space within the confines of the British position. On the north wall and upper east and west walls the “zulu-zulu-zulu-zulu” chant was still trying to drown out the sound of battle.

The walls were holding, and on the lower parts of the east and west walls, the redcoats and Natal Infantry were rapidly pushing the Zulus back over to their own side of the barricade. The crucial point was now the gap in the south wall. In one fluid movement, Billy shoved his pistol between two struggling Natal Infantrymen, and began firing.

Draw back the hammer, squeeze the trigger and feel the recoil, draw back hammer, squeeze trigger, recoil, draw back hammer, squeeze trigger, recoil.

Billy began to empty the pistol at point blank range into the horde of Zulus.

Beside him, Major Pulleine was doing the same thing. On the third shot, Billy barged the two exhausted Infantrymen out from in front of him, and fired the fourth bullet directly into the face of a Zulu with a white ostrich feather head-dress. The Zulu warrior’s head exploded like a ripe watermelon; spraying blood, brains and gore onto everyone within a few feet of him. The fifth and final shot went into the throat of another Zulu, who had a leopard-skin headband. Having killed the leopard-skin warrior, the bullet then passed through to the warrior behind him, lodging in his chest. Both warriors fell backwards, creating a gap in the Zulu line for Billy to exploit.

“GET THEM!!” Billy turned to the bayonet men who were following him.

The men following Billy needed no second invitation. With bayonet points to the fore, they plunged into the gap that the pistol fire had created. A gap of about two metres wide by one metre deep had been carved in the Zulu lines by the two pistols.  This gap gave the bayonet men room to manoeuvre with blade and rifle butt. The hard, tough, experienced bayonet fighters went in hard and started driving the Zulus back further. Billy now plunged into the fray and found a large Zulu with a black shield in front of him. Reacting instinctively, Billy lifted his right leg and kicked the Zulu, who had raised his war club, squarely in the groin.

The Zulu doubled over instantly, allowing Billy to smash the pistol barrel onto the back of the Zulu’s head. With the warrior falling forward, Billy shoved the Zulu backwards with his right hand into the path of another warrior.

“Nice one, sir!” The corporal behind him exclaimed in admiration, as Billy pushed his bayonet into the stomach of another warrior.

The warrior collapsed over the bayonet blade, forcing the corporal to kick the body free with a loud curse. With the blade free, he swung the rifle butt at another Zulu, catching him on the lower jaw. Meanwhile, Billy had stepped over the fallen Zulu and was challenging the next warrior. The warrior moving forward, with a brown shield, raised the assegai to deliver a downwards strike to Billy’s head and shoulders. Thankfully, the move was clumsy and easily read by the part of his mind that was Teg Portan. Raising his left arm; with the shield strapped to it, Billy easily blocked the downward blow and swung backhand with the pistol he was carrying in his right hand. The cold metal of the gun barrel connected with the Zulu’s jaw, shattering it and sending him sprawling backwards into the path of more warriors.

Beside him, Billy saw Major Pulleine swinging his sabre towards a Zulu. A warrior with a long spear had tried to skewer the Major with an upward thrust from behind the shield. The Major had parried the blow with his blade, and had then smashed the sabre’s hand guard into the Zulu’s face. With the Zulu reeling, Pulleine had raised the sabre and brought the blade down through the top of the warrior’s head. The blow had finished up with the blade roughly between the Zulu’s eyes. Pulleine had then kicked the Zulu over to retrieve his blade, before moving onwards.

Dropping the pistol; which was held round his neck by a lanyard, Billy grabbed a fallen assegai. And, armed with a bladed-weapon once more, he stomped onwards through the carnage. Another warrior stood up to him; a big man with a top knot hair style, lots of strange necklaces, and a black shield. His shield came forward first; trying to knock Billy over. But, Billy was the one moving forward, and the Zulu was stationery.

With the momentum behind him, Billy shoved back at the Zulu who tried to stab him in the midriff with his stabbing assegai. Once again, Teg Portan had read the blow, and Billy parried it with the assegai in his right hand. And, before the warrior could use his vastly superior upper body strength to push Billy’s assegai aside, the red-haired teenager drew back his head and head-butted the Zulu squarely on the bridge of the nose. With a spray of blood and mucus, the Zulu lurched backwards; his eyes beginning to tear over and obstruct his vision. The Zulu then felt Billy’s assegai plunge painfully into his abdomen. With a grunt, the Zulu double over, dropping his shield. And, at that moment, Billy twisted the blade and drew the weapon upwards; ripping open the Zulu’s body cavity.

“I’ll bet your mother didn’t teach you that one!” Billy cursed the dying Zulu and moved on.

For the first time, Billy felt warm blood on his hands as the Zulu died with his intestines flowing out from his body. This was the kind of fighting where you saw the enemy’s eyes up close, felt the blood as it was spilled, and smelt your enemy’s last breath as he perished. The part of his mind that was Teg Portan had now become dominant as Billy stepped over another Zulu corpse, looking for more blood to spill.

Around him, the clang of metal on metal, the shouting and screaming associated with the fierce battle, was suddenly heightened as the Bayonet Group tore a path through the Zulus and headed for the breach in the south wall. Billy was oblivious to his surroundings; the sounds of battle, the smell of blood, sweat, and fear. Everything was focussed on the few feet of fierce battle in front of him.

Next to him, on his right, a bayonet slammed forward, over his shoulder, catching a Zulu with a white headband just below the collarbone. The Zulu screamed and fell sideways onto a redcoat from Billy’s Bayonet Group. Caught off balance, the redcoat received a blow to his shoulder from a war club from the Zulu in front of him.

By sheer instinct, the redcoat rammed the rifle and bayonet forward; catching the Zulu in the midriff, before losing the rifle in the press of bodies and reeling back, clutching his shattered upper arm. To his left, a rifle banged. The Zulu was hit in the chest at close range, throwing him backwards against two of his comrades.

Seeing the opportunity, Billy barged in, the shield forward, and the assegai held back at his waist. A war club was suddenly swung at him. Instinctively, the left arm was raised, with the impact from the club being absorbed by the toughened animal skin hide. With the Zulu committed to the blow, his midriff was defenceless.  And, once again, Billy thrust his right arm forward, using his legs and shoulders to drive home the thrust and felt the heavy assegai blade slide smoothly through skin and muscle. The Zulu grunted, and fell away from Billy and onto a Natal Infantryman with an assegai buried in his chest.

Again, Billy stamped forward over the fallen bodies. Another Zulu in the press of bodies appeared in front of Billy. He was an older man with one good eye. The injured eye looked glassy and milky beneath the brown head dress. With yellowing teeth, he smiled an evil grin at Billy Caudwell. And, as he smiled, the old Zulu rammed his shield forward, whilst, at the same time swinging the stabbing assegai downwards at Billy’s head. Through sheer animal reflex, Billy barged forward, meeting the blow from the shield with his own shielded left arm. Raising his right arm, Billy met the downward slash of the assegai with his own blade. The two blades clanged heavily, and sparked as they clashed.

The shock from the blow ran up Billy’s arm, but he held firm, pushing the attacking blade away from him. With his arm forced away, the old warrior’s eyes widened with terror as Billy’s assegai blade returned and slashed into the side of his neck. Opening the arteries on the Zulu’s neck, blood splashed in three surging pumps before the old warrior’s eyes flickered, closed, and he fell to the ground.

His right arm sheeted with blood, Billy stamped forward again and was challenged by a massive warrior with a war club. The huge, rotund warrior was in a white loin cloth with a matching shield and headband. Beside him lay two dead Natal Infantryman, and a third was about to join them after sustaining a fatal blow to his skull. Yelling, the massive Zulu swung the war club and clambered over a fallen redcoat to reach Billy. On the attack, Billy stormed forward to meet this giant of a man. The Zulu’s legs were as thick as tree trunks and his chest like a great barrel. Billy raised his shield arm, and caught the blow. To Billy, it felt like his arm had been hit by a moving bus as he was sent sprawling to the ground.

The Zulu having launched the blow was now over-balanced and received a rifle butt to the side of the head from a bare-footed Native cavalryman. The giant Zulu lurched forward, shook his head, and smashed his shield into the cavalryman who was swept off his feet. Billy, well aware that sitting on his backside in a melee was not a safe thing to do, promptly clambered to his feet as the Zulu strode towards him.

Once again, the part of his mind that was Teg Portan came to his rescue. The Zulu steadily approached Billy, his massive body rippling with every step. Billy darted forward to meet the giant, his shield raised. The giant, seeing the young teenager darting towards him raised his war club and struck downwards. Anticipating the blow, Billy had ducked at the last moment and twisted to his left, brushing against the huge white shield carried by the Zulu.

Having gotten past the shield, Billy slashed at the giant’s huge legs with the blade of the assegai. The blade connected with the rear of the giant’s knee; slashing tendons and blood vessels alike.

With a searing pain in his right knee, the giant bellowed like a wounded ox and collapsed to the ground, where an instant later two redcoats plunged their bayonets into his broad, muscular back. For a moment, the huge Zulu lurched and shuddered on the ground, and then fell still and silent.

Turning again, Billy encountered a small wiry Zulu with an assegai. The small, wiry man stabbed at Billy. But, Billy easily caught the blow on his shield and fended it away, whilst jabbing his own assegai upward. The upwards blow caught the wiry Zulu just behind the chin. The viciously sharp blade passed through the skin of the neck, through his tongue, the roof of his mouth and into the base of his brain, killing him instantly.

However, as Billy tried to retrieve the blade form the falling Zulu, he felt a sharp, searing pain in his left arm. For a split-second, he saw the blade of a long throwing spear being withdrawn from the tear in his uniform sleeve. Billy yelped and let go of the assegai buried in the wiry Zulu’s head. Beside him, another rifle banged and the spear blade fell away as the holder was flung backward. Grabbing his left arm with his right hand, Billy stumbled clear of the melee; losing his helmet in the process, and lurched forward onto the ground, next to the huge Zulu he had disabled only a few seconds before.

“Go on, lads, into them!” a British voice called and three pairs of booted feet in blue trousers ran past him.

“You all right, sir?” the man with the same voice said, crouching down next to Billy.

Unable to speak, Billy nodded his head and waved away the red-coated figure, who was a Sergeant in the 24th.

“You! Over there! Come ‘ere and give this Officer a hand!” the sergeant yelled.

Rolling over onto his back, Billy could see the bright African sun against the blue sky, and for a moment, it dazzled him. Taking a deep breath, Billy winced as the burning pain shot from his arm across to his shoulder.

“It’s the colonel!” another voice called and helped Billy sit up.

“We’d best tell Major Pulleine,” the sergeant said.

“NO!” Billy shouted, “No sergeant, it’s just a scratch, just let me rest a minute and help me get up,”

“Looks like a bit more than a scratch, can you still move your arm and wiggle your fingers, sir?” the second voice asked.

Focussing on the figure, Billy saw that it was a young private in a red uniform.

“Come on then, sir, upsy-daisy!” the sergeant said as strong arms helped Billy onto his feet.

“Looks like we’ve get them beat, sir,” the NCO said.

For a moment, Billy felt light-headed, and wanted to vomit.

“Take a couple of deep breaths and you’ll be fine, sir, and let me have a quick look at that arm?” the Bandsman asked.

“No! Thank you private,” Billy said gulping down some fresh air, “It’s just a scratch…there are injured men that need your attention more than I do,”

“Very good, sir,” the Bandsman replied and dashed off to find injured men in the battle line.

“You gonna be all right, sir?” the sergeant asked.

“Yes, I’m fine, sergeant. Now carry on with your duties,” Billy replied, still catching his breath and wishing that the sergeant would go away.

“Sir,” the sergeant responded, saluted and dashed off to find his men.

Looking around him for the first time, Billy could see that the sergeant was indeed correct in his evaluation of the military situation.

The north wall was still holding, as were the upper parts of the east and west walls. A few fugitives were being hunted down behind the wall as the redcoats and Natal Infantrymen resumed the battle over the one-metre barricade. The scrimmage for the south wall was still in full swing. Bayonets and spears were tearing into the dwindling Zulu numbers, whilst at the same time, redcoats and Natal Infantrymen were stumbling free from the press of bodies with their injuries. The riflemen not engaged at the front of the battle had resumed shooting down any Zulus who were trying to clamber onto the barricade.

At the breach in the south wall, Billy could see a huge “V” of cleared ground, strewn with dead and injured, that drove through the heart of the Zulu “blister” around the gap. Major Pulleine and the Bayonet Group were hacking, slashing, stabbing, and clubbing their way through anyone that got in their way. Already, he could see Zulus shrinking and cowering away from the savage ferocity of the attack. Rifle butts, bullets, and blades were dividing the Zulu formation next to the breach, whilst riflemen and Natal Infantry supported the Bayonet Group spearhead. Some Zulus were trying to re-cross the wall to escape the savage onslaught, but sharp-eyed riflemen quickly spotted them and shot them down.

On either side of the “V”, the front line of riflemen and Natal Infantry was gradually pushing the Zulus back. The front line was actually three deep in Natal Infantrymen and redcoats who were hacking, slashing, stabbing, and shooting at the mass of Zulus they had pinned against the south wall. However, the Zulu toe-hold on the British side of the barricade was dwindling with every passing second. And, as the Zulu position shrunk, the trampling feet of the riflemen and Natal Infantry passed over the carnage and horror of the hand-to-hand fighting.

The bodies of the dead and injured lay like a carpet on the ground behind the front line as the riflemen and Natal Infantrymen drove forward. Some writhed and shrieked from the wounds to their riven bellies, whilst others moaned in their pain, and many more simply lay still. A few figures were trying to crawl away from the hideous carpet of bodies. The redcoats and Natal Infantry found help from the British bandsmen, whilst the Zulus found that a bayonet or a bullet would end their suffering.

The air rang with the clash of metal, the bang of shots, and the screams and shouts of battle. Still, the fight raged on. Turning to the west wall, Billy could see that it was almost entirely reclaimed by the British forces. At one point, Billy saw a huge dark-haired redcoat corporal lift a dead Zulu from the ground and throw the corpse bodily at three warriors who were attempting to climb back onto the barricade. The three intruders were swept away by the dead flesh and the corporal’s strength. Meanwhile, the corporal’s comrades and the Natal Infantrymen were jabbing, stabbing, and shooting at the Zulus who clung on to the other side of the barricade.

Suddenly, from the south wall, there erupted a great cheer. Turning swiftly, Billy could see that Pulleine and the survivors of the Bayonet Group had reached the breach. They had divided the Zulu contingent and had cut them off from reinforcement. Redcoats were piling forward and forming up at the breach with spear-carrying Natal Infantrymen. And, within seconds, the first ragged volley was reaching out to the Zulus beyond the south wall.

The Natal Infantrymen at the breach were jabbing and stabbing at the Zulus, who were struggling to clamber onto the barricade on either side of the breach.

And, it was these ragged volleys and jabbing spears that finally convinced the Zulus on the south wall that the battle was over.

Finding themselves attacked from their flanks, the Zulus around the breach started to turn and run. And, when one group began to run, it was like the entire Zulu attack peeled away from the front of the barricade.

Seeing the warriors on their flanks running convinced others that this was not the time or place to die needlessly whilst others saved themselves. Within seconds, the entire Zulu contingent facing the south wall was disintegrating as the warriors began to run. Within fifteen seconds, the entire south wall, outside the British position, was clear of Zulus. The eastern and western walls were also starting to see the Zulus disengage and flee back to the river, or back to the dongas. With jeers and rifle shots following them, the Zulus who had come so close to breaking into the position and overwhelming it were now retreating in disarray. To Billy’s amazement and relief, the Zulus on the eastern and western walls were peeling off. A few die-hard Zulus tried to carry on the fight, but were soon silenced by blades and bullets.  With the eastern and western attacks folding up, the Zulus at the north wall soon found themselves without the traditional support on their flanks. Then, they too began to run.

It’s over, Billy thought as he held on to his injured left arm.

The riflemen and Natal Infantrymen on the north wall began to cheer and celebrate, but there was still the problem of several hundred Zulus trapped down by the south wall. It was a problem that solved itself very quickly. Having seen their comrades on the other side of the wall flee, the warriors trapped within the British position either tried to climb back over the barricade, or they began to throw their weapons down.

In the brutal hand-to-hand, it took the British several minutes to realise that the enemy were capitulating, and dozens of surrendering warriors were cut down in the confusion. The officers, realising what was happening, called their men back and allowed the Zulus to throw down their shields, spears and clubs.

Once again, the British position rang to the sounds of cheers and celebrations, as the defeated and captured Zulus sat down, dejectedly, and covered their heads with their hands and arms.

In the deepest shame.

The Ganthoran Gambit

Book IV The Ganthoran GambitBilly Caudwell, the teenage First Admiral of the Universal Alliance Fleet, has successfully completed the Time Warrior Ritual and stands as Emperor-elect of the Ganthoran Empire.

However, he has little time to savour his triumph. Even as Billy emerges from the Time Warrior Arena, the four remaining Frontier Fleets have mutinied against him under the influence of a mysterious and anonymous shadow Emperor. A sociopathic Frontier Fleet General has occupied the Empire’s capital city, wreaking a terrible vengeance upon his enemies and the civilian population.

With the shattered remains of a Frontier Fleet and a weakened Alliance contingent, Billy Caudwell has to take the biggest gamble of his life. With the fate of an empire at stake, Billy has to risk everything to prevent decades of war and bloodshed.

Author Bio

The author, William J.Benning was born in Dumfries (south west Scotland) in 1963. With his 50th birthday fast approaching, Benning has decided to grow old disgracefully. An intensely private individual, Benning recently returned to his home town seeking inspiration for his passion of creative writing. At age 18, Benning left home to take an Honours Degree in Psychology at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. He has some very fond memories, and many nights of vague recollection – which are, on the whole, probably best forgotten (!) – from his student days. After graduating, Benning had a career “false start” moving into the world of Pest Control Management. However, after several unhappy years, he switched tack and took further qualifications in Personnel Management, carving out a successful and enjoyable career in Human Resources as well as Learning & Development. Throughout his career, Benning has worked to support the activities of the British Red Cross.

From his early days as a First Aid Volunteer, he enjoyed working for the organisation which gave him further skills and built his self-confidence. Progressing within British Red Cross, Benning became a First Aid Instructor (Trainer), Assessor and Lecturer plus becoming invoved in training other Trainers and Assessors. Having returned to Dumfries to further his writing career, Benning now lives alone, but has been adopted by four members of the Canine Community. With four dogs in his life – and a newly arrived litter of Tibetan Terrier pups – plus a newly published novel, life is never going to be dull for Benning. William likes his sci-fi, but is also keen on military history and speculative fiction. Among his fiction favourites are Harry Turtledove, the late George MacDonald Fraser, Bernard Cornwell and Clive Cussler. William collects Edinburgh Crystal and has a terrible weakness for malt whisky. He has published his novel First Admiral with Malachite Quills in 2012.

Links

www.clockworkquills.com
http://www.wjbenning.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/FirstAdmiralSeries

Buy your own copy of the First Admiral series here: http://www.clockworkquills.com/the-first-admiral-series.html

Cover Reveal Party Saving Liam

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We’re happy to host the cover reveal today for M/M contemporary romance “Saving Liam”. To celebrate the cover reveal party, there is also a giveaway for a $10 amazon gift card.
Without further ado, here is the cover:
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About The Book

Title: Saving Liam
Author: DP Denman
Genre: M/M contemporary romance

You do what you have to do to survive. For eighteen-year-old Liam Newman that means living the life of a gay porn star, a job he loathes. He isn’t a star. He’s a prisoner and his warden is the man who saved him from the cold Vancouver streets.

Justin has been Liam’s next-door neighbor for two years and has had a crush on him for just as long. Oblivious to Liam’s porn career, he ‘s content to mind his own business about Liam’s turbulent relationship until the truth stumbles drunk into his apartment one night and he realizes something must be done.

When Liam’s boyfriend turned producer decides rent boys make more money than porn stars Liam’s nightmare takes a horrible turn. Justin must find a way to rescue him before it’s too late.

Author Bio

DP Denman writes character-driven m/m romance about survivors. Her stories are real and intense but always resolve in the type of ending that makes readers want to start the book all over again. She is from the Pacific Northwest and bases all of her stories in Vancouver, British Columbia, a city that is dear to her heart.

In her spare time she is a dedicated gay rights activist fighting for those who have been marginalized and abused. To that end, 25% of the royalties from every book go to support LGBT charities.

http://www.dpdenman.com

https://twitter.com/dpdenman

https://www.facebook.com/dp.denman

http://dpdenmanauthor.blogspot.com/

dpdenman.tumblr.com

Giveaway

Win a $10 amazon gift card to celebrate the cover reveal.

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Book Tours: Book Spotlight China Red

China RedTitle: China Red
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Author: Ralph Sanborn
Publisher: iUniverse
EBook: 292 pages
Release Date: April 8, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-47598-293-0

Heroin, called “China Red” on the street, is being smuggled into the United States. Zhou Jing—who fancies himself a fifteenth-century Chinese warlord, is using Muslim Uighers in western China to produce the heroin. In exchange, Zhou arms, trains, and provides security from the Chinese government for the Uighers.

Caleb Frost is a professional assassin in a deep cover, black operations team that specializes in wet work. His team includes two ex-Navy SEALs and a Greek beauty and former New York City escort. Funded by the US government, the team operates autonomously in total secrecy. China hires Caleb’s team to destroy, with prejudice, the smuggling operation in the US.

Zhou’s partner is a brilliant, psychopathic killer—a Harvard Business School graduate named Wrath. He founded the Visigoths MC, a hard riding, vicious motorcycle gang which protects, delivers, and collects payment for the heroin shipments. When matters become personal and Caleb’s sister Rebecca is kidnapped, the team’s task gets messier. It becomes more than an “assassination engagement” for Caleb—it becomes a bloodthirsty vendetta.

 “This tornado of a thriller drags the reader into a world of guns, bombs, swords and death and won’t let go.”
-Rob Swigart, Author of The Delphi Agenda

“China Red plunges the reader into a world of evil intrigue and high adventure. You won’t be able to put it down.”
-Antoinette May, author of The Sacred Well, Pilate’s Wife,
and Haunted Houses of California

 

iUniverse

About Ralph Sanborn

Ralph Sanborn was raised in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and earned a degree in psychology from St. Lawrence University. He has lived in several different countries and worked in a variety of manufacturing and software enterprise marketing capacities. He currently lives in Northern California with his wife, Susan, and their two dogs.

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Bloggiesta Spring 2014 March 27 – March 30

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It’s time for Bloggiesta! This is my first time participating, and I’m totally psyched about it. I might even participate on two of my blogs, just because I’m crazy like that.

Anyway, if you want to participate in Bloggiesta as well, then head over here and sign up!

Here’s my goal list for this spring Bloggiesta, which runs from March 27 – March 30.

  • Write and schedule five reviews for April.
  • Add page with my books, and links to my author website.
  • Sign up for some more blog tours I got invites to.
  • Upload all blog tours promo posts for April that I signed up for, so far.
  • Make progress on Netgalley. Get five reviews scheduled for Netgalley books I read a long time ago, but never got around to reviewing.
  • Start setting up Month in Review post.
  • Update reaching challenges.
  • Visit 20-30 participants in the Bloggiesta challenge.
  • Update review archives. Add reviews for March.
  • Add reviews March to I Heart Yearly Reads.
  • Cross-post March reviews to Amazon, Goodreads, B&N and Netgalley.
  • Add album on Facebook page with book covers for March reviews and links to reviews.
  • Do the same for January and February.
  • Reply to emails for the last few weeks (I’m terrible at this, and keep forgetting to check my email for this blog).

Are you participating in Bloggiesta? What are your goals?

Book Review: Zenith (The First Book of Ascension) by Dirk Strasser

MOM030_Zenith_AWTitle: Zenith (The First Book of Ascension)

Author: Dirk Strasser

Genre: Fantasy

Age Group: Young Adult and up

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Momentum Books

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Can you see the story breathing?

Imagine

A mountain so great it takes a year to travel from base to summit

A sun so powerful it drives you into madness if you look at it

An ascent so vital it determines the fate of the world

A summit so precious it holds the key to the divine

The world of the great Mountain is unstable. Giant pillars erupt from the surface and yawning chasms form unpredictably underfoot. Since the Maelir first stood on its slopes in the distant past, they have sought to still its anger and control its power. Each year, twin brothers are chosen to make a perilous journey to the summit. If they survive they will be witness to Zenith, and the secrets will be revealed to them.

When Atreu and Teyth embark on their Ascent, their Talismans lead them onto conflicting paths that will ultimately set brother against brother. And this time the Ascent itself is in peril as unknown forces that have long craved the power of Zenith will stop at nothing to make it their own even if it means destroying the very thing that sustains all life the Mountain itself.

This book was a little tough to get into, but once I got past the introductory scenes, and Atreu and Teyth set off on their journey, I couldn’t stay away from it. Atreu and Teyth are twins, which is rare, and which means they’re chosen to make a dangerous journey to the summit of the Mountain. If they survive, they’ll be witness to Zenith – and all secrets will be revealed to them. Until then, they must look down and avoid Zenith at all costs once that time of the day approaches, or soething terrible will happen. This journey is called the Ascent, and Atreu and Teyth each receive a talisman to lead them onto their path. But their paths lead them astray from the other, in opposite directions. In the mean time, a war is brewing in the land, and dark forces gather to steal the power of Zenith.

We follow Atreu for the most part, after he sets off on his solo-journey after saying goodbye to his brother. He’s a complex character to understand, and while not the most heroic of the two brothers, he has a strange form of courage in his heart, that may ultimately help him find his goal. Along the way, Atreu meets some individuals – some good, some bad, some helpful, some threatening – and learns a lot about life, the secrets of his world, and the secrets of his own heart.

Zenith is a mix of fantasy, mysticism, spiritualism, and action. It takes a while to get used to the pace, which seems to go slow at first, but picks up after Atreu starts his own solo-journey, and to the whole mysticism-vibe that lingers above the book. The writing is solid, and it’s a good set up for what’s to come next, in the sequel.

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Book Review: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle

17934486Title: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall

Author: Vaughn Entwistle

Genre: Paranormal Mystery, Historical Fiction

Rating:  3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem,” and he immediately becomes one of the most hated men in London. So when he is contacted by a medium “of some renown” and asked to investigate a murder, he jumps at the chance to get out of the city. The only thing is that the murder hasn’t happened yet—the medium, one Hope Thraxton, has foreseen that her death will occur at the third séance of a meeting of the Society for Psychical Research at her manor house in the English countryside.

Along for the ride is Conan Doyle’s good friend Oscar Wilde, and together they work to narrow down the list of suspects, which includes a mysterious foreign Count, a levitating magician, and an irritable old woman with a “familiar.” Meanwhile, Conan Doyle is enchanted by the plight of the capricious Hope Thraxton, who may or may not have a more complicated back-story than it first appears. As Conan Doyle and Wilde participate in séances and consider the possible motives of the assembled group, the clock ticks ever closer to Hope’s murder, in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle.

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall initially captured my interest because it features Arthur Conan Doyle as the main character. If you don’t know who he is, then you’ve probably either lived under a rock for the past century, or you’re just no fan of mysteries. Arthur Conan Doyle is the author of the Sherlock Holmes books, only the greatest detective the world has ever known. Another notable character in the book is Oscar Wilde – Picture of Dorian Gray, anyone? Give me two famous authors fighting paranormal mayhem together, and I’m hooked.

Unfortunately, the book was a bit of a let-down. It started out way too slow. By the time we get to Thraxton Hall, where the real action begins, we’re already one hundred pages into the book (or around that number, I didn’t check). To shortly recap the story, Arthur Conan Doyle gets a message from a medium who asks him to help her solve a murder. Except it’s a murder yet to happen, and it’s her own murder. Conan Doyle refuses at first, but then changes his mind, and drags Oscar Wilde along on an adventure of a lifetime, to the first ever meeting of a secret society interested in the supernatural. They’re meeting at Thraxton Hall, a famous gothic manor with plenty of secrets to hide.

If it weren’t for how the first half of the book was so excruciatingly slow, I would’ve really liked this book. It has an awesome premise, and heck, what’s not to like about two famous authors fighting the supernatural? But like I said, it starts off slow. All suspense is drained by the time we actually get to the suspense part. And then there’s Oscar Wilde. He’s portrayed here as a person who can’t make up his mind. He’s a stereotype, a cliché, too over the top to be real. Arthur Conan Doyle acts and behaves like a real person, but Wilde doesn’t.

Other things that annoyed me: the constant use of long, complicated sentences and words just to make the book sound Victorian. It was a good idea to make the book sound Victorian given the time and setting, but this was the main reason why the narrative dragged so much for the first part of the book. And how Arthur Conan Doyle is constantly referred to as Conan Doyle. Not Arthur. Not Doyle. Conan Doyle. This distanced me from the main character, and made it difficult for me to feel any connection to him.

All in all, a good read if you like paranormal mysteries and/or if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes. It could use some work though, and be warned, you’ll have to bite through the first tediously long chapters if you want to get to the good part.

Release Day Party Raven’s Blood

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We’re happy to celebrate the release for paranormal romance novel “Raven’s Blood” today. Happy release day!

To celebrate the release, we’re also hosting a giveaway. Three lucky winners will each receive an eBook copy of “Raven’s Blood”. Scroll down to participate.

Book Excerpt

Connor was shocked when Raven took off. She skipped the overgrown trail and headed straight into the trees. He followed her, awed by her graceful movements. If he’d been human, he never would have been able to keep up with her. With each step she seemed to gain strength.

Connor finally caught her arm. “Slow down some, little nymph.”

“Why?” she asked with a radiant smile. “Are you having trouble keeping up with me?”

Connor stepped in closer to her body and leaned in until she was trapped against a tree by his much larger body. Her gasp made him smile. She had obviously noticed his erection pressed against her belly. “Vampires get excited by the chase,” he said. “It weakens my self control.”

Her eyes widened. “I thought you said you didn’t want an unwilling partner.”

“I don’t,” he said. “That’s why I would have to lay you down on the ground and lick every inch of your sweet body until you begged me to take you.”

Her pulse quickened and Connor couldn’t resist the temptation to lean forward and run his tongue across it. That made him even harder and he hadn’t thought that was possible. Damn, but she seemed to be considering letting him do it. The green tint to her cheeks seemed to deepen. Never in a million years would he have guessed that green tinted flesh would be a turn on. This hadn’t happened before, so he assumed it had something to do with her proximity to nature. He suddenly wondered if other parts of her body flushed green when she was excited. Damn, he really would love to strip her naked and find out.

Finally, she let out a shaky breath. “Sorry, I’ll move slower.”

He released her and adjusted his jeans. “We need to stop for a minute so I can get things under control,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” she said nervously. “I wasn’t trying to do that to you.”

“You never are,” he said mostly to himself.

About the Book

RAVEN'S BLOOD FRONT COVERFollowing the death of her wood nymph mother at the hands of vampires, Raven worked hard to build a life for herself in one of the few remaining human settlements. Her life takes a frightening turn when she finds herself an unwilling guest in a vampire settlement, but things are not anything like she expected them to be. Still, she cannot help but feel that her attraction to the vampire leader is a betrayal to her mother’s memory and her human friends.

From the moment Connor first laid eyes on Raven she has thrown his entire world off-balance. In order to prove his strength as a leader, he has no choice but to take her up on her offer to trade her freedom for that of her human friends. Having begun his life as a slave, he has no interest in keeping the wood nymph captive. As a man, he has no desire to feel this overwhelming attraction to a woman who hates him and his kind.

As Raven spends more time with the vampires, her feelings for Connor grow even stronger and Connor finds that she may be the one thing he cannot live without. Unfortunately, a new danger emerges that could threaten the survival of vampires and humans alike. As Connor struggles to unravel the mystery of the attacks from a new species of vampire, a madman will go to any lengths to get Raven’s blood.

Author Bio

Author PicCassandra Lawson is an author and homeschooling mother of three from the San Francisco Bay area. She has always had a very active imagination and loves making up stories. When she is not writing she enjoys baking, spending time with her family, listening to music, or curling up with a good book.

Links

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Author_C_Lawson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cassandralawsonauthor
Blog: http://cassandralawson.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7103612.Cassandra_Lawson

Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J369IK0/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00J369IK0/

 Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ravens-blood-cassandra-lawson/1118929069?ean=2940149365500

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ravens-blood/id828176593?mt=11

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/412188

Giveaway

Win one of 3 eBook copies of “Raven’s Blood” to celebrate the release day!
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