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Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review: The Troop by @TheNickCutter

Publisher: Armadillo Books
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Format: e-ARC
Source: publisher via Netgalley

Troop leader Dr. Tim Riggs takes his group of boy scouts to an isolated island. With no way to get off the island until Sunday morning, Riggs tucks his kids in and decides to sit on the porch for a bit before turning in. A stranger approaches and right away Riggs knows there is something off with this guy but to keep his kids safe he invites him in hoping to help him. What happens next will terrify and disgust the reader.

The Troop is told from many viewpoints giving the reader an inside look into the fallout of a bio-engineered nightmare that ensues on the island. The five boys, all 14, are a bit stereotypical but only adds to the story. Kent, the jock and obvious leader of the group and Newton is the exact opposite with being overweight and a mama’s boy. Max is the middle man and always looking to help anyone out and Ephraim is a ticking time bomb at times. Rounding the group out is Shelley who is unusual and harder to put a finger on why he is so different. Together this group is dynamic and with the infection raging these personalities became heightened.

With the alternating telling of the events on the island and what happens off the island via government research notes, recordings and witness statements, the reader is privy to all aspects of this infections and the results of their experiment.

This is truly a horror novel and will have your stomach turning and wishing you could close your eyes. Squirm worthy and a must for anyone that loves the horror genre.


Book Spotlight: The Accidental Prophetess by Michelle Lam

Author: Michelle Lam
Publication Date: February 24, 2014

Natalie Richards (27) knows how to make a video go viral. It’s her job, after all. But when she’s fired over her latest video — an ad for dish soap, of all things — she complains. Loudly. In public. It’s not her fault that those words were written down decades earlier. Within minutes she’s abducted, whisked underground, and proclaimed to be a long-lost prophet destined to save the world.

The threats against world peace are real. But then again, so is the need to breathe fresh air and have a decent haircut. Not to mention the two deliciously handsome men that seem to have secrets of their own. A cult is a cult, no matter how sexy the head of security might be … right?

"I’d been holding my breath for a long time. I know how these things go. Okay, in retrospect, I realize that all of this knowledge has been gleaned from spy novels and CSI shows. But still, knowledge is knowledge. A girl gets abducted. Put in a car. Then there’s a damp rag held over her mouth. She slumps and wakes up in the trunk. Or doesn't wake up at all. I put that thought quickly out of my mind and pressed my lips firmly together. When the rag came, I would pretend to faint, and then when the car stopped, I’d make a run for it. It was a decent plan, considering the circumstances.
“We haven’t used the chloroform rag since child locks were invented,” said the neckless hulk of a man squashed in on my left. “You can breathe normally.” His partner snorted, but regained his composure quickly.

I let out my breath as nonchalantly as I could and devoted my time instead to memorizing our route. We were rolling through Manhattan behind tinted windows. I needed a Plan B. I dismissed the thought of trying to get help -- the windows were too dark for anyone to see inside, and I doubted trying to wrench a door open would work. So I stared intently out the window, committing everything to memory. After several turns I was hopelessly lost. I’ve lived here for two years, but I’ve spent the best part of those two years in front of my computer, setting up media marketing campaigns for my job.

My name is Natalie Richards. I am a marketing executive and I am really good at my job. Too good, actually, because I got fired today right after my latest video -- an advertisement for dish soap, of all things -- went viral. But I’d known my video would be good. It had just the right amount of sarcasm and pop culture references. Sometimes you just know when things are going to turn out, you know? I had maneuvered my boss to sign an agreement beforehand into giving me a large percentage of the advertising space. He wanted the ad space now that the video was viral, so he fired me. I fully intend to fight him on that one, but first I need to get out of this car.

“I kinda miss the damp old rag,” the man to the left was saying. “Delivering people now is getting boring. I feel like a taxi driver.”

“Taxi drivers don’t usually poke guns into people’s ribs,” I said, before thinking to check my tongue.

“That’s true. But most people don’t try to stun gun me.”

“Really?” I was genuinely surprised. When I had moved here from Rochester at least three people had told me to carry one for protection in the big bad city. “Why not?”

"Most people just get in the car,” the partner said. “They take one look at us and that’s all it takes. But the last few have tried to fight us. Maybe we’re losing our touch. What do you think, Mike?” Mike just shrugged.

I looked at both of them. Mike looked like he had been more menacing a decade or two ago. Now, if you put a red suit on him, he would make an excellent Santa Claus. Well, maybe the leather jacket would have to go. I switched my gaze to his partner. He was leaning back in the seat, with his thin arms crossed over his chest. His fists were curled into tight balls and tucked under his arms, pushing his biceps out. He periodically glanced down to survey their size. Great. I was stuck between a tired Santa and his insecure elf.


Michelle is an author from a small town in Manitoba, Canada. She is a part-time stay-at-home-mom of two little toddlers and a part-time English teacher for a group of rowdy 6th graders. She writes at night when the world (mostly her household, really) is asleep. She has traveled and taught in Thailand and Indonesia and currently lives in Vietnam. She loves to read, try new restaurants, and spend time with her family and friends.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest Post +Giveaway: Hearts by @TheMarkDEvans

I would like to welcome author Mark D. Evans to my blog today! He has written such an amazing short story as his guest post today. It is very appropriate for the month of February, so much so he was so excited about it that he politely asked if he could share it on his website first (I could hardly say no to that face, no can I?). Thank you Mark!

by Mark D. Evans

          “Undo what evil you have lain, or my bidding will be done!” Claudius looked down upon the black-haired man at his feet. His wrists were held by two soldiers on each arm, his torso forced forward and streaks of blood surrounded his knees from being dragged on the stones.

          Valentinus looked up from beneath his own long curls that dripped with sweat. The robes that had once covered him were now in tatters. “I will never undo what is so rightly deserved,” he said calmly, fighting back the pain.

          “So be it,” replied the emperor. He glanced up from under his crown of golden leaves at the guards and dipped his head in a single nod. From around the perimeter of the open-air court, ten Roman soldiers marched slowly toward the centre where Valentinus was being held down. As they closed in, the soldiers holding the sorcerer’s arms stepped to the side, pulling on his arms and forcing him up to his feet. He was being stretched, his bare chest feeling like it was about to tear apart down the middle. The three guards facing him­—slowly marching toward him—raised their clubs. Each had been carved from a single trunk of oak, shaped and sanded. The knots in the wood were pronounced, rising out from the bludgeons here and there in small, sharpened burls. They were heavy things, their weight forcing the muscles and tendons of the guards' arms to tense and stand defined while they kept the weapons aloft.

          All ten guards marched to a stop. They could have been brothers, no one would know with the helmets they each wore. Valentinus looked through the slit in that of the guard not more than a few feet in front of him, and searched the loyal, steadfast eyes.

          And then Valentinus smiled.

          The guard twisted his torso, the muscles of his broad shoulders and thick arms sliding beneath the skin as the club was swung. He grunted with the effort required before his weapon struck Valentinus's side with a loud, dull smack. His ribs cracked and a sharp knot stabbed him between two of them.

          Forgetting the pain was no longer an option. He roared. His body wanted to fall to the ground as the club was removed, but the soldiers holding his arms didn’t allow it, pulling on him and keeping him upright for the next blow that he hadn't even seen coming. Striking him from behind, another sharpened knot punctured him above the waist. With the pain came a searing light, and with the light came flickers of memory.
One Day Prior

          Valentinus bore down on the young beauty under him. Her gentle cries were those of pleasure and as what little air between them grew hot, so too her cries grew louder.

          A rumbling came from the grand hall outside the chamber. Valentinus heard it, but he was good at his craft and knew that anything outside this room was of no concern to the naked brunette writhing beneath him.

          Like thunder the heavy doors opened with the force of ten guards, and through them as they parted strode the emperor himself, the barbarian Claudius the Second. Valentinus looked around, antagonising the emperor with his nakedness, infuriating him with her’s. She was, after all, the emperor’s daughter.

          “Guards! Seize him!”

          Valentinus grinned a wide grin and held out his arms as the guards charged. The emperor’s daughter was in a confused state of shocked fear and explicit pleasure as Valentinus performed his ultimate manoeuvre, bringing his hands together. The clap boomed, stunning the guards for an instant by its impossible loudness. But they had a duty to perform and continued forward, grabbing Valentinus’s hands and separating them, spreading his arms wide before pulling him off the bed. Off of the emperor’s daughter.

          Claudius’s eyes betrayed him as he looked on with horror. The beauty of his defiled daughter was gone and she writhed now not in pleasure, but in pain. She clutched at her heart, clawing at her chest as if trying to dig it out. Her eyes bulged and her mouth widened. No sound escaped except that of distraught choking. Her back arched and her body convulsed in a final display of violent animation. Then she stiffened and collapsed to the side, sliding off the sheets and hitting the paved floor with a heavy, moist slap.
Two Days Prior

          “I present, my emperor, Valentinus,” said Judge Asterius.

          “I am humbled,” said the handsome man with long, black curls, bowing to the formidable ruler and making the women of the court swoon.

          “And he can do as you say?” asked Claudius.

          “My liege, my dear Antonia had been blind from birth.”

          “I know, Asterius.”

          “Look, now, my emperor.” Asterius stepped aside, revealing behind him his daughter. Her head was dipped, her blonde hair braided down her back. “Be gracious, my daughter, and present yourself.”

          Antonia lifted her head, her bright blue eyes dazzling. The court gasped as she stepped forward with no fear of tripping and looked straight into Claudius’s eyes. The emperor himself found it hard to suppress his astonishment.

          “You, Valentinus. Do you proclaim to have done this?”

          “Yes, your excellency. It was I who healed the Judge’s daughter.”

          “With magic? Do you confess to performing miracles?”

          “I confess to the ability to heal, your excellency.”

          “Do you not follow the supposed Son of God?”

          Valentinus dared to meet the emperor’s eyes. “I keep my options open.”

          Claudius paused in deep thought, but not for long. “Your answers are not entirely to my liking, but I have need for you. You shall be accepted in my court, and you will heal my daughter of her muteness.”

          Valentinus smiled knowingly. “It will be my honour, your excellency.”
Three Days Prior

          “You cannot say such things under my roof!” Judge Asterius yelled at the young Valentinus through the bars. “Is your arrest for crimes against the empire not enough that you spout arguments for Jesus Christ?”

          “Do you deny the good he did?”

          “What good?”

          “Do you not believe in the miracles, Judge?”


          Valentinus tutted. “If only I could show you. If only there were someone in need of healing on whom a miracle could be performed, you would see that such gifts do exist.”

          Asterius glared at the man. “Are you trying to suggest you possess these gifts?”

          Valentinus did nothing but stare through the bars of his chamber with a sly grin.

          “Speak now.”

          Still, the young sorcerer stayed silent.

          "Very well. A test shall then be performed. Either you convince me of the existence of such divinity, or I will slay you here as you stand."
One Week Prior

          “Valentinus, my love. My heart has only ever beaten for you.”

          Their eyes were locked on each other’s, neither even daring to look away, fearful of losing even the briefest moment of connection. Valentinus was sat on the ground, his lifelong lover Decima lying on his lap, their hands together and their fingers entwined like ivy. They were two magical souls that were meant to be forever as one. Their love had always conquered any diversity, and this would be its final test.

          Could their love conquer death?

          Around them their village burned. Claudius’s army had rampaged through it in the early hours of dawn, the village folk under suspicion of siding with the Goths. And now Decima was in Valentinus’s arms for the last time. The arrow had pierced her heart. Blood soaked through her white robe, spreading like a lake bursting its banks.

          “My heart,” croaked Decima, “is yours.”

          Her eyes glazed over and rested past Valentinus’s shoulder, somewhere in the distance behind him. He sobbed, a tear falling and mixing with his beloved’s blood, before he looked to the heavens and roared. “I will take my revenge!” He looked back down into the dead, soulless eyes of everything that had ever mattered to him. “I will be with you soon, my love. For you, I will invoke the spirit of Cupid and destroy the heart our enemy holds most dear.”

One Week Later

          Valentinus stared up at the blue sky. The sun was in the corner of the world and it made half of the court glow. It lit up the red puddle in which he laid. He was unable to get up. He was unable to move. Every bone in his body had been broken; cracked, smashed or pulverised. Through meticulous effort his consciousness had only left him fleetingly. His resolve was such as to see this through to the end, though he couldn't ignore the chill in his body despite the radiant light.

          “Heal, damn you!” spat Claudius. “Heal yourself, or you will die.”

          “That is a choice I've already made, the only one I could make, for if two souls cannot be together in life..." Valentinus croaked his words with strong defiance, his implication clear.

          With streaming eyes, Claudius bent over the puffed, battered, split face of the two-faced Christian. “Will you revive my daughter?” he shouted.

          Finally, Valentinus saw in his enemy the pain that he himself had suffered. “I will die, and be remembered a Saint."

          Claudius roared and drew the sword from his waist, lifting Valentinus’s limp head from the floor by his wet black hair, thrusting his blade down through the air between them before swinging up, separating head from body in a violent and blood spurting arc of heart-broken anger.

            This was the fourteenth day of the second month, two-hundred and sixty nine years Anno Domini.

MARK D. EVANS was born near London, England. He graduated university with a degree in something not even remotely connected with writing and went on to become a successful consultant. Then he threw it all away to chase his dream of being an author, via a considerable amount of travelling. Today, his life largely resembles that of a nomad, and he can currently be found typing away in a tiny flat in north London, sustained by coffee.

He is the author of two short stories, one of which made it into a Kindle Top Ten.

His latest work is his debut novel, No Shelter from Darkness, which is the first book in his series, The Cruentus Saga.

Mark also runs his own blog ( and a third site devoted to The Cruentus Saga (

Website  /  Facebook  /  Twitter

“Her hands began to shake as she looked down wide-eyed at the blood-soaked cotton that covered her.”

London emerges from the Blitz, and every corner of the city bears the scars. In the East End—a corner fairing worse than most—thirteen year-old Beth Wade endures this new way of life with her adoptive family. She also suffers the prejudice against her appearance, an abiding loneliness and now the trials of adolescence. But with this new burden comes a persisting fatigue and an unquenchable thirst that ultimately steals her into unconsciousness . . .

What happens next is the start of something Beth will fear more than the war itself.

She begins to change in ways that can’t be explained by her coming-of-age, none more frightening than her need to consume blood. The family who took her in and the former best friend who’s taken refuge in their house can never know.

Aware of the danger she poses to everyone around her, Beth has never felt more alone.

But someone else knows Beth’s secret . . . someone who understands just how different she really is. He alone can decrypt her past and explain her future. But he’s been sworn to destroy her kind, and as Beth grows ever more dangerous, he’s forced to take sides.

Can Beth keep all of the secrets? Can she trust a man sworn to kill her?

And can she stop the vampire within from taking her humanity?


Mark has graciously offered to giveaway 2 ebooks (International) and 1 print book (US only) of his book No Shelter from Darkness. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!
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