Saturday, 30 April 2016

NetGalley Readathon: Friday recap



Day 5 recap! 

You know if you wake up early, like say over 1 hour before the alarm goes off, then you have time to read! So I finished the last 30% of Fading Starlight before work!

Fading Starlight - Kathryn Cushman

Later that day did I start Dasiy in Chains by Sharon Bolton. Sometimes I just go for the books that I want to read and don't care about the date the books being released. Manged 25% before it was time to sleep!  

Daisy in Chains - Sharon Bolton

Thoughts:  Been a good reading week, however, I will be nice when it's over, not that I mind reading just NG books, but I have other books waiting to be read and I feel a bit guilty about having just picked books from one source this week. Not to mention the ones that I have bought that I want to read.

But, on the plus side, if I don't get approved for more books should the review for Daisy in Chains get me back to 95% on NetGalley. I thought the review for Fading Starlight would do that, but no, I was still on 94%. *sigh*

Goodnight Release Blitz by Susie Tate

Friday, 29 April 2016

NetGalley Readathon: Thursday recap



Day 4 recap! 

Manged 70% of Fading Starlight

Fading Starlight - Kathryn Cushman 

Thoughts: Working and reading is a bitch! Yesterday was the first day I worked this week and it really shows when it came to my reading. Fading Starlight isn't even a thick book, but I only managed to read a little after work before I fell asleep and then I managed most of the reading in the evening.  

So, working and reading is a bad combination! 

Sugar & Other Luxuries by Everly Scott



Title: Sugar & Other Luxuries
By: Everly Scott
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Cover Design: Mayhem Cover Creations
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Chick Lit
Katherine Humphries wants to find the love of her life. As a recovering perfectionist who hasn’t been on a date in five years, finding love is harder than she thought. Faced with beginning her twenty-sixth year of life insecure and living in Los Angeles where men and women either ignore or insult her curvy existence, Katherine decides to make dating her bitch. She’s not changing her curvy body. She won’t put down the dessert. And she isn’t going to apologize for any of it. Her first night out ends nothing like she’d planned. When a flirty and rugged New Yorker asks for her phone number, Katherine freezes. She’s ready to give up before heartbreak happens. That is, until she meets a polyamorous, fairy-godmother-wanna-be, Hunter. The self proclaimed Queen of Pleasure coaches Katherine on badass, dating etiquette. Hunter’s first rule? Don’t fall in love. The second rule? Perfection doesn’t exist. But when a bet with a sexy and sensitive music teacher changes her perspective on the dating game, Katherine learns that breaking badass rule #1 before loving every inch of herself might spell trouble. On the other hand, breaking rules might be exactly what Katherine needs to discover the true power of a woman’s body, the sugary sweetness of indulgence, and whether saying yes to her dream life against the wishes of advice-slinging friends will lead to heartache or harmony.
Amazon UK - http://goo.gl/0YNGGA
Amazon CA - http://goo.gl/8x4AoU
Chapter One
I spent the first half of my twenties accusing myself of being a feminist fraud for wanting a boyfriend who thought I was perfect. I had been a good girl, a maniacal, career-focused, intellectually stimulated woman who leaned-in, took a seat at the table, and made my voice so heard I had become hoarse. But none of that seemed to matter in the Los Angeles dating world. Looking for love had led me into the defined biceps of guys who thought I might turn into an acceptable companion if, and only if I changed something about myself. If I lost fifteen pounds. If I didn’t say “fuck” so much. If I made more money. Less money. Had a smaller nose. Didn’t always want to eat pasta. If I didn’t have a belly. At some point between learning how to flirt in high school chemistry class and stumbling furiously toward the eve of my twenty-sixth birthday, I had given up. Stopped dating completely. Packed away the dresses, heels, and the innuendo. Vowed to focus on myself. Sharing a chocolate chip cookie sundae with a guy who wouldn’t be afraid to caress an arm, thigh, or hip bigger than a size two, five, or eight only happened in my imagination. A male sundae-lover definitely didn’t exist in a Los Angeles gym. I went to the gym once. My childhood best frenemy, Jenna, convinced me that the gym helped women burn energy, melt fat, and meet men. The entire experience mirrored meditation, she’d told me. “Don’t complain about being fat. Complain about things you can’t change.” I went alone, without telling her that I had decided to test out her theory. Bad idea. With my phone, tiny polka dotted towel, and headphones in hand, I entered the world of adult, organized, physical activity. It smelled like stale water. I flashed my electronic guest pass at the laser scanner, kept my focus towards the back of the big square room, and moved quickly past the cardio machines, knowing that if I tried to run or elliptical or spin bike myself, I’d be exposing my newbie status. A tsunami of terror hit me, hard. I had no idea what to do in a place like this. I quickly looked for a place to fit in, a place to disguise myself. A group of women crowded around one weight machine like it was a pan of brownies and they had PMS. It seemed like the magic potion. It was the Miss Universe of the gym, and if they had to have it, so did I. Jenna’s directions echoed in my mind. “Stretch first. You don’t want to pull a muscle. Touch your toes or something.” So I leaned against the wall and touched my toes. Except touching my toes was more like leaning my elbows against my bent, trembling knees. I bent over a little farther, and the back of my thighs burned. A couple of bones crackled, but I had a good view of the magical machine. “Totally worth it,” I whispered to myself, rubbing my hamstrings. A woman in a full face of makeup, with boob-length blonde hair taught me how to use the contraption without knowing it. I continued touching my knees. Step 1: adjust the weight on the machine. Step 2: pull the level that makes the thigh pads fly apart. Step 3: sit down. Step 4: clench thighs together. Step 5: Repeat. A lot. It seemed easy enough. The blonde sitting on the machine made it look like thigh clenching was a way of life. Real women learn to walk, talk, read, and thigh clench. So when she was done, and the crowd of women had busied themselves with other gym work like butt extenders, and arm pumpers, I approached my machine like we had an intimate relationship. “Looking good,” I said, patting the seat. I adjusted my weight and assumed my clenching capacity would be 50 pounds. I didn’t want to look like a complete wimp. I pulled the lever, sat down, and tried to squeeze my thighs together. Nothing moved. The more I tried to pull my knees toward each other the more everything stayed in place. At that moment, I understood why the weight lifting men grunted. I closed my eyes and pressed my knees against the pads. A grumble vibrated inside of my stomach. Roar like you’re a queen. Queen of the fucking jungle, I thought. My best attempt at roaring resulted in a throat clearing sound, a thankfully silent fart, and yet again, a complete lack of movement. I lowered the weight down to twenty-five pounds and did two of rapid squeezes. The weights slammed together, alerting everyone within ten feet of me that I worked hard. I pumped iron. Made my body fat cry. A woman with a bright orange towel draped around her neck walked back and forth in front of me. Sighing and pacing. Her orange shoes squeaked each time she spun to walk in the opposite direction. She was hunting me. Staring. My knees hovered in mid-thrust, incapable of meeting in the center, already too shocked by this new range of motion. Orange bang and I had been subjected to watching my shameful attempts at exercise long enough. My inner thighs tingled, and damp sweat bubbled under my butt. I would sacrifice my time on the clencher before Orange Bang threw me to the floor in an exercise-induced rage. I rubbed my inner thighs before getting up. “She’s all yours,” I said. Orange Bang looked at me, her head now between her legs because she could actually touch her toes, and mouthed thanks. She wiped down the seat before she took her turn. I stood in the middle of the gym, scanning to find my next work out option. A thick film of steam covered the floor to ceiling windows of the gym. Bathroom mirrors after a hot shower had nothing on these shining beauties. Men were everywhere. And only one of them had a belly that hung over his shorts. He was diligently at work, doing squats all the way across the length of the gym floor. Squat. Step. Squat. Step. I was relatively inexperienced when it came to exercise protocol and gym etiquette, but I was pretty sure squats could be done in one location. A trainer, dressed in the gym’s collared uniform shirt, stood in the corner scribbling on a clipboard. The squatter smiled through open teeth, and kept his eyes glued to the clipboard – his finish line. A man, who could have been a football player, or model, or a professional Hulk impersonator, fumbled with the weight control on a machine that looked like a horse and carriage. Right next to me. He set his desired weight, somewhere way at the bottom of the weight stack, and then jumped into the empty space fit for a human’s body – the horse section of the horse and carriage. He rested in a squatting position, his legs bent at an awkward angle. It already looked painful to me, and he hadn’t moved yet. He placed the handles on his shoulders, and unbent his knees, until they were completely straight. He let out a guttural sound that, to me, suggest he tore something. I squinted, but couldn’t look away. He pressed his chin into his chest, took a deep breath, and bent down again. This was it. My next victim. It seemed simple enough, as long as I stuck with what I had found to be my twenty-five pound limit. The man, finished with his grunting and growling, stepped out of the machine, and looked my way. “You next?” he asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “Yeah. I do these all the time,” I said, not moving from my spot in-between the thigh clencher and the horse and carriage. “I’ve got a couple sets left. Let’s rotate.” He patted the machine, raised his eyebrows, and then poured water into his mouth from a water bottle he held a foot away from his face. I had no idea what he was talking about. Rotating sets sounded more like baking cakes than exercising. Instead of being clueless and admitting it, I was clueless and nodding. “Yep,” I said. “Rotations.” I cracked my fingers on my right hand one by one. I assumed he would simply move on to the bigger and better things this place had to offer, maybe returning to the horse and carriage when he was done with a different machine. Pulling the levers down to rest on my shoulders turned out to be impossible. I leaned against the back of the machine looking for switches or hooks or buttons that would make it do what I’d seen happen for the Hulk a few seconds ago. I refused to read the instructions. No one at the gym read the instructions on anything since I got there, and I wasn’t going to be the first one. You are a lion, I thought. A lion goddess. Jenna will be jealous because you will look like a fucking lion goddess. And then I roared at myself. Out loud. While the levers of the machine were still in the air and I, stood there, obviously not lifting weights. “Get off for a second. I’ll adjust it for you,” the hulky-man said. And then he laughed softly. My face felt like it had caught on fire. I had been discovered. “Why are you still here?” My undercover mission was prematurely aborted. I got off the machine. “You didn’t happen to hear any roaring, did you? Cause, if you did, I think it was that lady over there with the orange towel.” He shook his head. “If you did these all the time,” he said, “you’d probably know that you gotta pull this handle back here. It raises the height and loosens the shoulder rest.” He rattled the metal, pulled what had to be fifteen different handles, and slapped the machine. “We’ll just have to adjust it again when it’s my turn.” “Thanks,” I said. I needed to make a quick recovery if I was going to survive this encounter with any dignity. “I meant, I come here a lot, but I never use this machine,” I said. He dropped the weight from twenty-five to ten. I adjusted the underwire in my sports bra. “You know, if you want to lose weight quickly you have to focus on your diet more than exercise,” he said, as if he were talking through me. I got off the machine, made some excuse about having to use the bathroom, and walked to the water fountain near the entrance. We were separated by half a wall, a couple of mirrored pillars, and hundreds of sweaty people, but what he said felt like it lodged itself in between my ribs. Jenna had been so wrong. No one designated wanna-be Hulk as the king of the gym universe. He didn’t know if I was there to lose weight. He didn’t know what I ate on a regular basis, if I was actually healthy or not. He didn’t know anything about me, and yet, out of his mouth came an ice cold dagger. But neither the Hulk or Jenna could know that the gym had gotten under my skin. So I stuck around. I played with a strange arm contraption, choked back tears of embarrassment, waved some free weights in the air, and accidentally hit the max speed button on my archenemy the treadmill before I ran out of the gym basically screaming. When I came home sticky and red skinned, I looked in my own mirror for an entire hour. Sat and stared. It seemed like I had grown larger than I was when I left for the gym. I removed my faded white shirt and saw rolls of flesh that had in no way been taught a lesson by an ab-ripper. Without the support of my sports bra, my breasts were sagging and young, a complexity I still can’t understand. And under my yoga pants there were seas and valleys, mountains, craters, and hills that were either created by nearly twenty-six years of a delicious diet, or a poor genetic makeup. I sat for the entire hour, inspecting my body, centimeter by centimeter, wondering how anyone could unveil me, explore me, and touch me without seeing this history of a rebellious body. At the end of the hour, I was naked and alone and unchanged. I texted Jenna. Me 7:05 PM: Liar! Meditation does not exist at the gym. There are no magical fixes. I have boobs and thighs and arm bulges and cheeks and I hated the entire experience. Keeping my body the same. Thanks. Jenna 7:10 PM: Hahaha, you actually went? Okay chubs. If you say so. I knew my best frenemy was an asshole, but the longer I sat in front of the mirror, the more I solidified my belief that someone out there could love a stomach that wasn’t the countertop, washboard, six pack, bikini ready bombshell type. Jenna had to be wrong. Somewhere, there’s a single guy who would love a woman even though she despised the gym. He would probably have three sisters and would adore his mother. He might eat large portions of healthy lettuce wraps and protein shakes when in public, but at home would nurture gnocchi in pesto creams, butter sauces, and béchamel toppings. He’d indulge in garlic breads and steaks and brownies and ice cream cakes. When entertaining a lady, he would not stare at her disapprovingly if she went back to the kitchen for a second taste. And he certainly would not recommend that she accompany him on his next trip to the gym. I wasn’t so desperate for designated exercise time that I was willing to justify paying hundreds of dollars a month to attend the sweatiest, most judgmental place on earth at four in the morning on a Thursday. I didn’t want to go running at four in the morning on a Thursday either. And doing crunches to an online workout video wasn’t my idea of an enthralling way to spend a Friday night. I wouldn’t have wasted a Monday night on that. I’d rather paint, or browse make up blogs, or learn how to play an instrument. Anything other than the gym, honestly. I hoped that I could find a man willing love the naked woman sprawled exhausted and overwhelmingly bootylicious on the floor of her bedroom. I had only encountered the opposite of him. Then again, I didn’t bother to spend time in many different places – I went to my makeup studio, I went to the mall, to the bank, to buy groceries, the park– but surely the most enticing and rare of the male species must have gone to places like these too. If he did, he must have been hiding from me. I was absolutely against the online dating world – if not for any larger reason than that upon meeting my initially two-dimensional friend, he might have found that my picture didn’t accurately portray who I was in person. Maybe he would expect my body to be similar to a nutritionist or a gymnast instead of a hardcore foodie or a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur. I was always in the mood for a good, thin crust, fresh mozzarella covered pizza. Anyway, the body-type mix up was possible despite video chatting and selfie-sending. Honestly, no one ever looks like themselves on Skype. And so, on the eve of my twenty-sixth birthday, in a gym induced state of fatigue, I threw both middle fingers in the air. Fuck Jenna, Orange Bang, the Hulk, and the gym. “Victory,” I screamed. I stood in front of the mirror, middle fingers still up, swaying, spinning, and posing for no one but myself. After many years of contemplation and in the face of all the things that men and women might have considered my cosmetic deal breakers, I decided to find new public places to spend some time, places that embraced bodies like mine. A place where I could find my person. My tribe. I committed to participating in a new social activity every weekend, even if I was uncomfortable or terrified. Promised myself I would stay for at least an hour. Pinky swore I would talk to or maybe even flirt with at least one guy during that time. One place, one hour, and a couple of weekends to find the love of my life. Or maybe to find a couple of men who showed potential. At least, that was the plan.
Chapter Two
I walked into the cooking class alone on the first Saturday evening in February. My twenty-sixth birthday. The day I had casually titled Find My Soul Mate Date. It was raining outside, a cruel and unusual punishment for Angelenos. The windows of the corner restaurant speckled with condensation. A sign informed the public that the restaurant was closed for a private event, but it was written on a chalkboard positioned inside the closed door. Helpful, right? As I got farther into the room, the door behind me opened and closed, and hungry groups of people hummed and grumbled while retreating back into the damp night. I brushed past empty tables for two or four, and targeted the ten people already in the back of the restaurant, not including the chef who wore a floppy, white hat covering the very top of what could only be a charmingly bald head. I wondered how many people in the group already knew each other before that night. It definitely crossed my mind that all ten of them came in a huge party bus, and that I would be the intruder, the odd woman out, the one oblivious goldfish in a pond of stunning family of koi. Initially, I thought a cooking class would be a perfect event to find a man who appreciated a curvy body. But as I pried each foot off of the ground and then forced one in front of the other, I saw that of the ten people, only two males were present. One of them attached his pinky to the brightly polished pinky of a woman in a short black dress. Taken. Under no circumstances should a woman attempt to attract a man who obviously operates under the spell of another woman. Even I knew doing that brings bad dating karma. So I immediately diverted my attention to the other male. He was surrounded by a group of three women, and none of them looked particularly attached to him. I was interested, and terribly sweaty. I made it my mission to sneak into a conversation with the only seemingly single man in the room. With about ten minutes until eight, we had time to mingle. The ten people were standing in subgroups of six and four, and I turned slightly to the right to angle myself at the single man. The more I focused, the more clammy my palms got. There was no ring on his left hand, and he had very nice facial hair - the kind that required special grooming tools and more time to perfect than the amount traditionally expected for a man to spend. I approved. When I was about five feet away, I made eye contact with the woman standing next to the single man. I smiled. The extra fat on my stomach wiggled up and down with each bang of my heel against the floor. Looser clothes were on the list of necessary items for my next night out. While draping my coat over my right arm and sliding it in front of my stomach, I continued smiling. Looking friendly had to give off good vibrations. Standing just slightly outside of the circle their bodies had formed, I leaned forward, glancing at each person’s face. “Hello,” I said, which sounded way too professional and not at all fun. Who ruins saying hi? I waved, hoping it would lighten up my manly hello. Sweat formed in my armpits, lubricating my skin in the most unpleasant way. I made sure that my hand was the only part of my arm that moved. “I’m Katherine,” I said through a forced smile. The woman standing next to the single man grabbed the hand I waved with and shook it. My arm flailed wildly as she pulled it up and down. Mission accomplished. Sweat droplets fell from my armpit and slid down the side of my torso, settling somewhere near my belly button. Pull yourself together. You’re not meeting the fucking President. “My name is Mindy, and this is my brother Zander,” the woman said as she pointed to the single man. All signs pointed to Zander’s potential. He had a sister, and she was friendly. Progress. I moved to shake Zander’s hand and I made a quick but complete once over. Brown eyes. Trimmed mustache. Crooked bottom teeth. Tousled black hair. Tight green shirt. Black suit jacket. Dark jeans. Converse. Maybe twenty-eight. Skinnier than the average guy. Cute. “Nice to meet you,” he said. It looked like he was winking but I didn’t know for sure so I acted like he wasn’t and decided that I needed to say something interesting to Zander. That was my self-imposed requirement before meeting the other two people in the circle. “So what brings you here on a Saturday night?” I said and then immediately regretted. It didn’t get any cheesier than that. No, the first thing out of my mouth was even worse than cheesy, it was strangely forward. Not even cute-forward. Just bizarre. No one says that tired line except cougars who know they sound like an extra from a one season sitcom. I continued picking myself apart for asking that question while Zander made conversation. “My sister loves cooking. I live on the east coast so we don’t get to spend much time together. While I’m visiting I try to hang out as much as possible. Quality time, you know?” He grinned. His sister was chatting furiously with the other two women from the original group of four. I told myself to go for it. It. Zander. Flirting for the first time in five years. Because I had already been cheesy and strange, so I thought the night had to be up from here. “And,” he hesitated a little, leaning forward, “I don’t ever turn down good food.” He smiled a one-sided grin. And we have a winner, everybody! That was all I needed him to say. Before I had the chance to convince myself that I totally wasn’t Zander’s type I was blurting out things like, “I could show you around sometime,” and “Maybe I could take you to see the Hollywood sign?” Determination goes a long way, I guess. He stared straight at me as stupid words fell out of my mouth. I stood there squeezing my arms into my sides, feeling shocked at my ability to be bold, and worrying that in about two seconds I’d be shot down. I wasn’t worried because I’d be getting shot down from Zander in particular, but because I didn’t want to be shot down at all. No one likes to be told they suck. The possibility of rejection, of someone saying right to my face that they didn’t want to get to know me, or even have a one night stand with me (not that a one-nighter was the goal, even though hell, it might be nice) was enough to make me run straight out into the rain and down the street to the closest gym. Really, any kind of rejection, even a remotely polite one, might as well scream “You’re not good enough,” or “You don’t look like that girl on T.V. and you probably eat a lot so taking you out to dinner would be too expensive.” I worried that if someone told me that I might want to change myself. I resisted the sudden urge to bat my eyelashes and flip my hair because I wanted this guy to like me for me and not for whatever horrible impression of a runway model I could come up with on a fifty-four degree winter night in the back of an empty restaurant on Pico Boulevard. “That’s nice, really. But, no need to show me around,” he says confidently. I knew it was coming. There was no chance that we had made a connection in the first place. I should have walked right back out into the rain when I saw there were only two guys here. I could have pretended I was a hungry customer turned away by the chalkboard announcement. I wanted to break eye contact with him but he smiled and then I couldn’t look away. “I’m from here originally. Born and raised. I work in New York now, but I’ll always be a California boy at heart. Actually, I could probably show you a thing or two about L.A.,” he says. He nudged my arm and walked over to his sister who had joined the pinky partners’ group. I touched the spot on my arm where his elbow brushed my skin. I had become a giddy teenager in less than ten minutes. “Everyone find your kitchen companion,” the man with the chef hat said. “It’s going to be a delicious night.” He walked around to the front of the kitchen where his counter top was, and explained in a thick Italian accent that the class would be making Fettuccini Alfredo. “Pasta and sauce from scratch,” he said, “because that is the only way.” After everyone was paired up, Zander with his sister of course, myself and the second half of the pinky partners were the only two people standing alone. Her male companion found himself partnered with a woman with giraffe legs. He drooled and stood there staring, right at eye level with her breasts. I looked at him, and then back at the woman he came with. I sighed. “Men,” I said under my breath. The kitchen assistant dropped a ball of dough on my work stand, slapping the dough once on its puffy top before she moved to the next pair of amateur cooks. My partner’s name was Hunter and the pinky partner was her husband. She told me they have an open relationship, and patience is not in his nature. It was going to be a long night. We began rolling out our own sections of pre-kneaded dough just like the chef instructed. “So,” Hunter said, moving her rolling pin in short bursts, “Anyone special in your life? A lover, I mean, not a best friend or a sassy grandma or anything.” Her eyes fixed on me, expectant. I told her I didn’t, and that I was in the market for a six-foot-two businessman who had a thing for bigger women. “Oh please. You’re not a bigger woman,” she said, almost too quickly in my opinion. I laughed it off and put more pressure on the rolling pin. “Honestly Hunter,” I said, putting too much upper arm strength into the task, “you and I both know that out here anything bigger than a size 5 is a bigger woman these days.” Holes began to peek through my dough, which looked more like lace than like pasta. Hunter rolled her eyes. “It’s true,” I continued. “ They call size eights plus sized models, and if any woman dares to call herself curvy but has a little extra stomach, then she’s not the hot kind of curvy she’s just fat.” “Honey,” Hunter said, throwing a flour-covered hand in the air. “A little confidence goes a long way.” “Do you know how long it took me to get into this dress?” I asked. “Same amount of time it took me to get into this thing,” Hunter said, pushing her breasts together with her arms. “Impossible,” I replied. “I’m a 10, the dress says it’s a 10, but it wanted to act like a 5 tonight,” I said, pulling the dress down at my thighs. Smudges of flour polka-dotted along the hemline. “My dress has multiple personalities.” Hunter shook her head. “Poor thing,” she said while laughing. “All the best ones do.” The chef spun around quickly in our direction. “All the best what?” he asked. He peered down his nose at our workstation, and held my dough up for the class to see. It hung in the air; the weight of the mass opened the holes up even more. “Attention class! This dough here, is not the best. Don’t. Do. This.” I could have sworn it wasn’t that bad stretched out on the counter. Even though there were only ten other people there, my face went red as he explained that my lack of technique resulted in a poor product. “Stop all the talking. You are not focused,” he added. I glanced around the room to gauge everyone’s reaction to the chef’s tirade and there he was. Zander. He looked at me and mouthed the words: I like it. He shrugged his shoulders. I felt sweat seep from the pores in my hands. The rolling pin slid easily against my palms. The chef handed my dough back to me, and I crumpled it up to start over. The chef shook his head. “You are not a natural. It will take more work,” he said. Zander watched and laughed silently. With my crusty ball of dough in hand, I swung it through the air in a halfhearted attempt to hurl it at Zander’s head. I quickly slapped it back onto the counter, and blew him a small kiss. Zander held up his flattened dough and swirled it in the air like a pizza. “The biggest and most important rule of my kitchen, this kitchen, or any kitchen is: do not play with the food,” the chef said as he wandered over to Zander’s station. He said something directly to him that I couldn’t hear. I was staring long and intently enough that I should have been able to read their lips, but I couldn’t. The chef walked away and Zander whispered in his sister’s ear. In that instant I was already jealous of their relationship. If he were that interested in me, wouldn’t he have looked at me first? After all, we were having an across the room food fight when he got busted. His attention should have been directed at the last person of contact before the interruption. And there I went. My imagination exploded in a fury of fake memory montages: my first date with Zander, quickies before work, meeting the family, Thanksgiving dinners. We had absolutely no relationship and I was already acting like we had to decide which set of parents to visit on Christmas. If Zander would have shown up here alone like me, maybe then we could have been partners. Maybe I could have practiced this flirting thing without adding in the complications of jealousy. I was still watching him when Hunter began to tell me about how she and her husband met. She mentioned something about Palm Springs in the summer time and a business trip to get away from his ex-wife who was adamantly against the open relationship lifestyle. But when Zander’s eyes met mine and I had absolutely no idea what Hunter was talking about anymore. He winked. I was sure of it. “After going through all of that,” Hunter said, “I knew for sure he was supposed to be my husband. If we could get through something like that and still be in love. And I mean he really supported me through it all, then I could explore a non-traditional relationship for him.” “Definitely,” I said, pretending to be completely up to speed with the conversation. “Who knew I would love it so much?” Hunter burst into laughter. “Well, honey that’s life.” I nodded, the other half of my consciousness sill across the room lost in whatever Zander was doing with his hands. My hands had given up on rolling my useless crumbly ball of dough into anything edible. So Hunter made the fettuccini. I asked Hunter if she thinks she has found true love. She handed me a hand held pasta cutter and a sheet of dough. “Do that.” She pointed to the screen at the back of the class, magnifying the intricate work of the chef. Hunter slipped her section of dough through the slicing machine as she looked at me and asked, “is dough only pasta after you cut it?” “Not sure,” I said. Hunter raised her eyebrows, and plopped the long noodle into a pot of boiling water. “So you’re the type who likes to speak in riddles?” I asked. “A little bit.” We dropped the fettuccini into boiling, salted water, and the chef taught everyone how to make Alfredo sauce with butter, Parmesan cheese, and a little heavy cream. “No garlic or onion or any extra seasoning. Not authentic,” he said. I let Hunter do most of the work. My job was to stir. Wooden spoon in my hand, I stirred and stirred to meld the ingredients into one united sauce, and to keep it from burning. My hand sweat made the spoon slide around in my grasp. The damp hands could have been a result of nerves or a product of the sauce’s tiny sauna. Both were equally possible. I stirred while I looked at the back of Zander’s head wondering if he was too handsome. I wondered if he lived too far away, or was too skinny, or too rich, or too smart to be interested in someone like me. I consoled myself with the idea that he could simply be a nice guy. The nice guy who said nice things to the sort of chubby girl who came to the cooking class alone. I laid the spoon handle against the side of the pan and then wiped my palm against my shirt. “I’m sorry if I’m being too intrusive,” I said to Hunter, who still hadn’t told me the status of her belief in one true loves. “I thought we were sharing stories.” “I haven’t heard very much about your story yet.” “Well,” today’s my birthday-“ “And you’re by yourself?” She looked surprised. “That’s usually a thirty-something thing to do.” “How do you know I’m not thirty-something?” “Honey, because I’m thirty-something. You’re still a baby.” “I’m twenty-six today, thank you.” “Exactly.” “I’m twenty-six today, and I’m-” I lowered my voice. “I’m trying to meet people, kind of the old fashioned way. I felt like I needed to do it on my own. Be responsible for my own happy ending.” I tapped the top of the sauce with my spoon. “So here I am.” Hunter directed her attention to Zander, and then back to me. Then she did it a couple more times, raising her eyebrows the whole time. Hunter asked if I was interested in the guy with the black suit jacket. “You know, the guy who likes to play with his food,” she said. “I know you want to go talk to him. In my opinion, he’s a little immature for you, but if that’s what you like…” I stirred the sauce again, my eyes fixed on the pot. “Oh come on, you’ve been staring at him the entire time. I thought you were going to slip your fingers into the pasta machine.” The pasta machine was highly frowned upon by the chef, but was there in case anyone was inadequate with slicing by hand. “Practice. Practice. Practice.” The chef clapped after every pause. He stopped to hover over every station, inspecting the sauce’s aroma. An intense heat flooded my cheeks and I wondered if I had in fact been that obvious. “Look, Zander seems alright but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one night,” I said. “I just want to eat this pasta and head home.” The chef stopped at our station, adjusted his hat, and yelled with a wide-open mouth. “Practice!” He clapped twice. Hunter dropped the freshly drained fettuccini into the alfredo sauce and inhaled deeply. “Sweetie, don’t be sorry when that cutie walks right out of here and you never see him again. Mine likes to be curious and all,” she said, gesturing to her husband who was chatting with the giraffe girl and not even attempting to learn about making fettuccini alfredo, “but I know who means the most to him.” She smiled and dropped fresh pasta into boiling water “True love?” I asked. “Our own kind of true love.” At the end of the class everyone was sitting around eating fettuccini with slices of bread and drops of olive oil and the scent of Italy rising from the pots seated on multiple stoves. I shoved my elbow into Hunter’s side when I saw that Zander was walking over to our station. “Oh my God,” I said as I shoved a forkful of pasta into my mouth. “Swallow that pasta! You don’t want to look like a pig, do you?” She giggled after asking and I assumed it was to take away the sting of calling me a pig. “Asshole,” I muttered to her. She ignored me. I swirled the fettuccini around my fork and asked Hunter if she thought it was pasta or dough now. “Both.” She shrugged and I swallowed. I shoveled in another bite hoping I would still be chewing when he reached our station. He started talking before he made it all the way to where I was sitting. “How’d yours come out? Mine was a little dry,” he said, attempting to replicate the chef’s accent. All I could manage with my mouth fully occupied by creamy starch and cheese was a clumsy head nod. “I take it that nod means your food was molto magnifico,” he said with some kind of waving hand gesture. “Your horrible job on the rolling must have been the secret.” “Did you have too much wine or do you always speak in tiny spurts of Italian?” I asked. Hunter butt-bumped me from her spot at the counter, and then cleared her throat. I took another bite of the fettuccini, a little smaller this time, hoping that having something to do with my mouth would excuse any moment of silence in case the small talk grew stale. As I looked up from my plate, I noticed Zander’s eyes weren’t focused on my face. He wasn’t even staring at my chest like I expected. His eyes were glaring at the area directly underneath my chest, and I couldn’t be sure what his conclusion about that area was. I had a feeling it could be something like: This girl should really stop with the forklift of cheese and cream ‘cause I can see right where it’s headed, and it’s not pretty. I stood up immediately to help disguise the bounding rolls. I smiled and took another bite. Bigger this time. “My sister and I are leaving now, but I thought maybe I could get your number,” he hesitated, for what I could only explain as an attempt to read my reaction. “In case I forget something about L.A. and need a tour guide or something.” He smiled and his eyes traveled from my face back down to my stomach, and all the way to my feet. I didn’t know if he was intrigued or appalled. “I think its sweet that you’re asking, really, but you really don’t have to do that,” I said. I put my plate down and wondered if his sister put him up to this. She probably said, “Zander, that poor girl looks so lonely. And I can tell she likes you. She could have a fun time with a successful, attractive guy for once. Show her a good time and then go back to New York. No harm done.” I could just imagine it happening. If I could read lips I probably would have recognized the exact moment it happened too. “Don’t have to do what?” Zander asked as he fumbled with his cell phone. I pressed my tongue into the corner of my lips and wished I was still chewing so I could buy myself some time to respond without having to tell him the ugly truth. I couldn’t tell him that I was too afraid to give him my number because if he never called all of my fears would be staring me in my big, hope-filled face. I couldn’t tell him that I didn’t want him to call out of pity, or because he just wanted a girl he wasn’t attracted to for a friend so that the relationship would never get messy and complicated. I must have stood there thinking for too long because he shifted his weight to his left side and asked, “So do you have a boyfriend or are you just not interested after all?” His gaze stayed on my face this time. All at once I could see my heart breaking before it happened. If we actually started a relationship his friends would ask him when he started being into bigger chicks. They’d tell him he could do better. His mother would disapprove. His sister would tell him she didn’t mean for us to actually date, she just wanted us to have a little fun. He would go back to New York and would decide that he’s too nice of a guy to dump me. So we would have a long distance relationship, and then he would run into a model on her way to a photo shoot. He would cheat on me and they would fall in real love. And it would all be because I was never meant to be with someone that far out of my league anyway. “Its none of that Zander. I actually have to go. It’s getting so late. Great job on the dough though!” I turned around, grabbed my coat and my plate of pasta, and ran out of the kitchen and into the cold, sprinkling night.
Everly Scott loves Italian food, yummy candles, and love stories. She recently made the switch from teaching college writing to hogging all of the writing time for herself. But, when she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out on Twitter, Instagram, and her website, or learning how to powerlift, kind of. Eventually. 10 Random Facts About Me: 1. I am the proud owner of Bachelors Degrees in Honors English Literature and Creative Writing and an MFA in Writing. 2. Sunny (and dehydrated) Los Angeles has been my home base since birth. I’ve never lived anywhere else. 3. I love dogs, especially my own fuzzy Shih Tzu baby, but I am not the biggest fan of dog beaches. 4. I am utterly in love with my high school sweetheart. Not in a creepy, still crushing on him kind of way, but in a we-are-married-and-more-in-love-than-ever kind of way. 5. I may or may not be addicted to pasta. 6. I also may or may not be addicted to Dateline, 20/20, and Investigation Discovery. Don’t judge me. 7. Beyonce is #lifegoals. 8. I used to sing. A lot. In choirs, at weddings, and funerals, and football games. And in the shower. Actually, I still sing. Mostly in the shower. 9. When I was a kid I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then I realized I was allergic to cats, hated science and really sucked at math. Dreams crushed. 10. Tattoos. I love them. I have three, and if I could be covered from head to toe in beautiful art, I would! Okay, maybe not head to toe. Maybe just from collar bone to toe.

CJ Lyons Last Light Blog Tour

Welcome to another exciting tour with Novel Publicity. Today, I'm excited to share with you, my review of Last Light, by CJ Lyons! Also, make sure you check out the rafflecopter, because Novel Publicity & CJ are giving away scented candles, signed hardbacks. . . AND a KINDLE PAPERWHITE!

About the Books

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons. For fans of Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, and Jeffery Deaver:

"Everything a great thriller should be--action packed, authentic, and intense." ~#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child

After leaving the FBI, life should be easy, right? Wrong--not if you're Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal Pittsburgh soccer mom who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she's injured, Lucy sacrifices her career with the FBI in order to keep her family safe. What is she now that she's no longer a FBI Special Agent? she wonders as she begins her new job with the Beacon Group, a private consulting firm that specializes in cold cases and bringing justice to forgotten victims.Lucy fears she's traded being a kick-ass law enforcement officer for being a civilian mother hen shepherding a team of amateurs. What is she now that she's no longer a FBI Special Agent? she wonders as she begins her new job with the Beacon Group, a private consulting firm that specializes in cold cases and bringing justice to forgotten victims.

Lucy fears she's traded being a kick-ass law enforcement officer for being a civilian mother hen shepherding a team of amateurs. Her fears appear justified when she's partnered with TK O'Connor, a former Marine MP struggling with her transition to life back home, and sent to rural Texas to investigate a case that's more than cold, it's already been closed with the killers behind bars for the past twenty-nine years. But...who really killed Lily Martin, her infant daughter, and husband? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? What price will Lucy pay when she fights to expose a truth people will kill to keep buried? LAST LIGHT is the seventh Lucy Guardino novel, but they can be read out of order. If you enjoy captivating suspense, intelligent storytelling,strong and vulnerable characters, and a freight-train pace, then you'll love this adrenaline rush of a heart-pounding thriller. Join the millions of readers who've fallen for CJ's Thrillers with Heart and grab your copy of LAST LIGHT today!

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Learn More about the Author, Anne Zoelle 

Pediatric ER doctor turned New York Times bestselling thriller writer CJ Lyons has been a storyteller all her life—something that landed her in many time-outs as a kid. She writes her Thrillers with Heart for the same reason that she became a doctor: because she believes we all have the power to change our world. In the ER she witnessed many acts of courage by her patients and their families, learning that heroes truly are born every day. When not writing, she can be found walking the beaches near her Lowcountry home, listening to the voices in her head and plotting new and devious ways to create mayhem for her characters. 

To learn more about her Thrillers with Heart go to www.CJLyons.net 

Connect with CJ on her website, Facebook, or Twitter. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 28 April 2016

NetGalley Readathon: Wednesday recap



Day 3 recap! 

Finished Lost Among the Living, a very, very good book! 

Lost Among the Living - Simone St. James 

Started and DNF'd Devour by Kurt Anderson!

Devour - Kurt Anderson 

Started The Last Days of Night and read 10% of the book and it's good. But I will put the book on hold since it's not released until 20 September and I have more important books that I need to finish. Like 2 blog tour books! 

The Last Days of Night: A Novel - Graham Moore 

Thoughts: I did request a book yesterday, but I blame peer pressure. And, my weakness for mystery books...Arrowood looks so interesting...

Arrowood: A Novel - Laura McHugh 

I also got The Last Days of Night yesterday LOL! You know, one review one book and get 1-5 books granted...;) 

I did however finally DNF'd a book instead of forcing myself through it. I keep on telling myself to DNF books, but a part of me want's to finish things and sometimes that part wins...

Cover Crush: The Eve Duncan series by Iris Johansen











Erin over at Flashlight Commentary is the one that came up with the cover crush idea and I loved it so much that I decided that every Thursday would I post a cover that I really love. 

Check out this week's cover crush over at Flashlight Commentary and 2 Kids and Tired Books!

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This week's Cover Crush is for book 19-21 in the Eve Duncan series by Iris Johansen. I loved the cover for Shadow Play and I requested the book from Netgalley despite not having read any of the previous books and it turned out the book was really, really good!

I quite love the colors and the motive in all three of them and it's really hard to pick one favorite of them. They all represent the books so well, or at least the two first do. The third hasn't been published yet...




Veil of Deception by Michael Byars Lewis‏ Blog Tour

Veil of Deception

by Michael Byars Lewis

on Tour April 18 - May 31, 2016

 

Veil of Deception 

For years, Air Force Captain Jason Conrad flew and instructed in the supersonic T-38. Despite his decline into a self-destructive lifestyle, he was considered one of the best instructors on the base. Following a terrifying jet crash, Jason finds himself on a very short list of people on their way out the door. It is a surprise to everyone when he is assigned to the home of the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center. Jason should have known that in a ‘one mistake Air Force’ where you ‘do more with less’, everything would not be what it appears. Attached to a secret project with a shadowy contractor, Jason is caught between two complications; an overbearing, retired general determined to see him fail; and an aggressive television reporter who wants him in prison. When a ghost from the past shows up and a beautiful, yet mysterious woman enters his life, Jason soon discovers his special project has more secrets than anyone knows about . . . and it could cost him his life.


Genre: Thriller 
Published by: SATCOM Publishing 
Publication Date: April 2016 
Number of Pages: 458 
ISBN: 0991476425, 9780991476428 
Purchase Links: 
Amazon iBooks Barnes & Noble SmashWords Goodreads

Don't Miss the Veil of Deception Trailer:

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1 April 14, 2001 SHERRI DAVIS APPROACHED THE ENTRYWAY, already regretting her decision. After filling out paperwork and release forms for thirty minutes, she stood hidden behind the filthy curtain covering the doorway, the knot in her belly growing tighter. She pulled a small section of the worn fabric to the side. Colored lights blinked rapidly, and several spotlights locked on the mirrored ball above the stage, creating hundreds of dancing reflections around the large room. “It doesn’t hurt, ya know,” a voice said over the loud music. Turning her head, Sherri spied a girl in her late teens standing next to her. “You look nervous. It’s your first time, isn’t it?” the girl said to Sherri. “Yes,” she said, releasing the curtain and facing the woman. In the dark hallway, Sherri could barely make out the girl’s features, though her heavy eyelashes and straight black hair were clearly prominent. It was the young girl whose locker was next to hers. “It’s not like sex. Doesn’t hurt the first time.” Sherri nodded. “Got any advice?” “Have fun sweetie, that’s my advice,” the girl said. “Go out there and relax. You’ll do fine.” “Relax,” Sherri replied. “Right.” “Honey, once those assholes start handing you twenties to sit on their lap, you’ll relax,” the girl said. “Now get on out there and bring home the bacon,” the girl said as she patted Sherri on the rear. Sherri noticed the pat was a little too soft and lingered a little too long before the girl retreated back down the hallway toward the stage entrance. Sherri sighed heavily, her hands pressing the pleats of her skirt. She cupped her breasts for a quick adjustment and pulled her shoulders back. Her transition from the dark hallway to the work area was dramatic. The mist spewing from the smoke machine burned her eyes, and her ears pulsed each time the deep bass vibrated through the speakers. Her steps were short and deliberate, as if she had a choice in these five-inch stiletto heels. She gave up the security of the doorway, crossed her arms in front of her breasts and meandered between the tables, dodging a waitress carrying a tray full of beers. The girl, nineteen at most, took the stage like a veteran and danced around the pole while a variety of wishful male suitors watched her every move. Sherri scanned the crowd. The darkness of the bar, the mist, and the flashing lights made it difficult to see anything in detail. The music made her head hurt. Unable to see the two men she was looking for, she began to worry she might be wasting her time. “Hey, baby,” an overweight, drunk businessman said as he reached out and tried to grab her arm. “Not tonight, sweetie,” Sherri replied, pulling away, never making eye contact. She gave the bald drunk the brush-off with her right hand. He shook his head and walked off toward another girl; alcohol making him more optimistic than he had a right to be. While she looked the part—plaid miniskirt and a white button-down tied in front of her push-up bra—she realized she wasn’t acting the part. She sensed her movements through the bar were awkward. Relax. Standing in place, she tapped her foot to the music and rhythmically swayed her body. Sherri closed her eyes and started a slow, seductive dance in place. Her hips swayed like sea oats blowing in the ocean breeze. It didn’t take long before the men nearby stared at her instead of the stage, waving twenty dollar bills at her. Feeling more confident, she moved around the bar again. She had to work fast, as she was scheduled to make her stage debut in half an hour. After a couple minutes meandering through the crowded bar and refusing three more requests for lap dances, she saw the first subject. He had come out of the men’s room and returned to a table located away from the stage. His name was Ahmed Alnami, a Saudi Arabian living in and moving around the United States. Now he was in Pensacola, sitting at a table with Saeed Alghamdi, his partner now getting a lap dance from one of the girls. Alnami sat at the table where he took a long swig of his beer and gave his partner a big smile. Weren't these two supposed to be devout Muslims? Why were they here? Sherri recognized her opportunity and approached the table. She leaned toward Alnami, her breasts at eye level, right in front of him. He stared in her eyes, looking fearful. Not the fear of danger. The innocent fear, like a teenage boy about to lose his virginity. “Hey, big boy,” she cooed, “are you lonely?” Alnami continued to stare, clearly unsure what to do. Sherri smiled and pointed at her eyes. “Honey, you need to change your focus from here, to here,” she said as she moved her hands to her breasts. Alnami’s face beamed. “Yes, please to sit,” he said in broken English. Sherri sat on his lap. He was a small man; Sherri was taller than he. No wonder he was smiling—a blond Amazon had landed in his lap. She reached over and ran her hand through his hair. It was oily and hadn’t been washed for a while. Wiping her hand on the back of his shirt, she cringed, yet forced a weak smile. Alnami lunged his face forward and buried it in her breasts. Sherri pushed him back. She wanted to punch him, but that would undo all she’d accomplished. “Settle down, big boy, we need to get to know each other first.” “This is what I want,” he said, pointing at his partner, whose lap dancer was grinding aggressively into him. “Oh, you’ll get that and more,” she replied. “We’ve got to do some talking first.” “What is this talking?” he said in a louder voice. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of bills. The smile faded and his eyes bulged. “I want boobies! I want the grind-a-grind!” The teenage innocence disappeared, and the self-absorbed arrogance of the immature adult surfaced. He started to push her off his lap. Sensing she was losing her opportunity, she grabbed his head and shoved his face back into her breasts. “Better?” She pulled his face from her bosom, and the big smile had returned. “Yes please.” “Now, before I give you the grind-a-grind, we’ve got to get to know each other. What’s your name?” “Ahm—” He paused. “Keevin. My name is Keevin.” “Kevin? Okay, Kevin will work for now. My name is Bambi. What do you do, Kevin?” “I do fine. Thank you, Bom-bi.” Sherri cringed. This was painful. “What’s your job?” “Oh, I train to be pilot.” Interesting. She shifted herself on his lap and ran the fingers of her left hand along the buttons of his shirt. “Are you out at the Navy base?” “Yes.” His eyes remained focused on her breasts. “How long are you in town?” “Two more weeks.” Sherri thought for a moment. The two Saudis had already been in Pensacola for two weeks. Obviously, they weren’t students, and they weren’t flying with the Navy, but they were there to fly something. “You must be really smart,” she said. “Not everybody gets to fly airplanes.” “I am one of Allah’s warriors,” Alnami said, his voice rising. “Allahu Akbar.” Sherri studied Alnami. “What is Allah having you do?” She bit her lower lip, realizing she might have pushed the conversation too far, too fast. His eyes moved from her breasts back to her eyes. His nostrils flared as he bared his yellowing teeth. “No more talk of this!” Alnami shouted, unnoticed by the rest of the room. “I want grind-a-grind from you!” He pulled a fifty out of his pocket and waved it at her. Sherri sighed, realizing she would not get any more information unless she took it to the next level. That was not going to happen. She took the bill and stuck it in her bra. She rose from his lap and posed in front of him, hands on her hips. He’s done talking. It’s time to get out of here. She slowly swayed back and forth, running her hands along the sides of her hips up to her breasts. The dancing must have been good, because she noticed his partner staring at her while still getting his lap dance. Sherri leaned forward, nearly rubbing her breasts from his knees to his head, her body barely missing contact with his. She said in his ear, “How about you and me leave this place?” Alnami’s smile grew bigger. “Yes, please!” Pushing herself away from him, she moved behind his chair and ran hands down the front of his chest. “Okay, I’ve got to go clock out and change clothes. I’ll be back here in fifteen minutes. Don’t move.” “I not move. Don’t change your clothes! You sexy momma!” Sherri forced a weak smile. “Okay, baby. Whatever you want.” She left the table and headed to the entryway with the dirty curtain. She walked through the dark hallway, entered the dressing room, and pulled the door behind her, shielding her eyes from the steady light. As her eyes adjusted, she walked to her locker and gathered her things. Standing in front of one of the mirrors, she pulled off the blond wig, and her deep red hair fell to her shoulders. Pulling out a brush, she touched it up from where the wig had pressed it down or tangled it. She then grabbed her tan overcoat and slipped it over her shoulders. Retrieving her clothes from her locker, she knew making a quick exit was more important than comfort. A few of the other girls gazed at her with curiosity and envy. “Sorry, ladies, I’m not cut out for this,” she said. She turned and walked out the back door of the strip club. Reaching the exit, she glanced left and right as she walked out the door. The light by the back door was burned out, making the parking lot dark. She clutched her purse tightly and gripped the can of mace in her coat pocket as she walked to her rental car, a shiny new red Toyota Celica. She grabbed her keys and cell phone from her purse and climbed in. Kicking off the stiletto heels, she cranked the engine and pulled on to Highway 98, dialing on her cell phone as she drove. The phone answered on the first ring. “Did you get it?” the voice asked. “No, I didn’t get that far. Alnami was getting a little too friendly.” “I told you this might happen. Did you find out anything?” “They’re here two more weeks, and they’ll be flying next week, but I don’t know what and I don’t know why. Sorry, it’s the best I was willing to do under the circumstances.” “Okay,” the voice replied. “Get back here tomorrow. I’ve got something else for you.” “Like what?” She was more interested in getting some rest at this point. “Our informant in New York wants to meet with you ASAP.” “All right,” Sherri said begrudgingly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” As she hung up the phone, the car lurched forward. The phone slipped from her fingers, falling to the floorboard as her body slammed into her seat belt. She glanced in the rearview mirror as a car slid back and accelerated toward her again. “What the hell?” she said, assessing the situation. She put both hands on the wheel, and her foot pressed the accelerator as the car made contact with the red Celica a second time. As she reached the Pensacola Bay Bridge, the vehicle behind her changed lanes. She struggled as it maneuvered to strike her car in the left rear fender in an attempt to spin the car. She accelerated again, making the assailant miss his mark. Traffic was light this time of night, but there were enough vehicles to put between her and her attacker. The mystery car pulled behind her, two car lengths back. She managed to accelerate away from it, but still had a good two miles to go on the bridge. Every time she passed a vehicle, the car followed her. Who the hell was attacking her? Could it be Alnami? No, she hadn’t been gone long enough. He would still be waiting for her inside the strip club, probably constructing ridiculous fantasies in his head. It was a dark, starless night, and the rise in the bridge was a half mile away. This hump in the bridge allowed larger boats to enter and exit Pensacola Bay from the Gulf. Once on the other side, she would be in civilization again. Vinyl and glass shards flew everywhere inside the vehicle as bullets pierced the back window of her car and hit the passenger side of the dashboard. She screamed and let go of the steering wheel, her foot coming off the gas for an instant. “Holy shit!” Her eyes darted back and forth as her car veered toward the rail to her right. Grabbing the steering wheel, she pressed the accelerator once again as she jerked her car away from the side rail. “Oh, God,” she said, “why the hell are they shooting at me?” She swerved to put another car between them, then pushed the accelerator to the floor. The innocent car she just passed bumped into the guardrail, sending sparks flying. It spun around as the assailant hit the car from the rear, then continued on. The dark sedan accelerated and closed the distance between them. She felt trapped as her Celica could not gain any more speed. Another burst of machine-gun fire. Sherri screamed as the bullets struck the rear of her vehicle. At the bottom of the hump, she checked her rearview mirror. Shattered glass and bullet holes in the rear window were all she could see. There was no sign of the vehicle chasing her. Her heart raced as she hoped they’d stopped their pursuit. Based on the lights in the distance, she estimated she’d reach the end of the bridge in less than a minute. With a quarter mile to go until she reached the end of the bridge, the car shuddered. Sherri’s gaze shifted to the front of her car, and her shoulders slumped. She beat her fist against the steering wheel as smoke rose from under the hood and the car started decelerating. The speedometer read 80 mph at this point, but the car no longer responded to her foot pressing the accelerator. She pushed it all the way to the floor, but nothing. In her rearview mirror, she noticed the assailant closing in behind her. The car had closed within three car lengths when another round of bullets hit her vehicle. Her heart raced as she reached the end of the bridge and the Celica slowed to 55 mph. “Shit! If I break down on this bridge, I’m done,” she said as she pumped the accelerator. “Who the hell are these guys?” The Celica slowed to 25 mph now, and other cars quickly caught and passed her. Searching for her assailant in the mirror, she saw the dark-colored sedan make a U-turn at the end of the bridge and head toward Pensacola. In front of her, red-and-blue lights danced on top of a parked car. Sherri had driven into a speed trap, and her assailants had turned and run. “Yeah!” she shrieked. “Take that, asshole! You’d better run!” A faint nervous smile eased across her face as she glided the unpowered vehicle into the right lane and onto the side of the road. The car came to a stop, and as soon as she put it in park, her body began shaking as the adrenaline faded. Leaning forward on the steering wheel, she started sobbing. She had almost been killed. A myriad of thoughts raced through her head as the police car pulled in behind her. The officer walked up and tapped on the window with his flashlight. Her finger pushed the button aft, lowering the window, and she covered her eyes as he shined the light in her face. “Driver’s license and registration,” he said. “No problem,” she replied. Automatically, she dug in her purse for her driver’s license. When she reached into the glove box for the rental agreement, she glanced in the passenger’s side mirror and saw the dark outline of the officer’s partner approaching the other side of her vehicle. You think he’d say something about the smoke coming from under the hood, she thought, or the blown-out back window. She stopped digging and glanced back at the officer who spoke to her. Is he wearing jeans? With a quick glance back to the passenger-side mirror, she saw his partner approaching the vehicle was wearing—shorts? Wait, how could this guy not have noticed the bullet holes? “Hey, what agency are you guys with?” she said as she turned back to the cop. Before she could react, he jammed a long stick through the window and pressed it into her neck. The electric shock was fast and intense, then—blackness. Chapter 2 April 15, 2001 A SMALL SLIVER of glistening sunlight cut through the dark hotel room, illuminating its small interior. Dust particles danced through the piercing beam like fireflies on a clear summer night. The light pried into his consciousness while the grinding gears of a construction vehicle outside ripped it open. Jason Conrad buried his face in a pillow and moaned as his head felt ready to explode. He recognized this place, barely. The hangover reminded him that his recent lifestyle choices had their consequences. It didn’t take long for his body to tell him he needed to relieve himself. Sitting up, he swung his feet off the bed and glanced next to him, rubbing the sides of his throbbing temples with his fingertips. The blonde lay strewn out, nude on top of the sheets. She had every appearance of being attractive from here, but he struggled to remember her face. He definitely could not remember her name. Jason tiptoed to the bathroom, as much to protect his pounding head as not to wake the blonde. After relieving himself, he washed his hands and face and brushed his teeth. When he left the bathroom, she was sitting up in the bed, watching him. She is pretty. Now, what is her name again? “Good morning, sexy,” she said. She sounded much more awake than he did. “Hi,” Jason said. She was too bubbly for early morning. “I can’t believe you’re up,” she said in a strong Texas drawl. “Yeah.” “Am I still beautiful?” Jason grinned. “Absolutely.” “You’re quiet this morning. You wouldn’t stop talking last night.” Vague memories of the night before pushed themselves into his consciousness. He crawled back into the bed, and she leaned over and kissed him. “Oh, you brushed your teeth. I’ll be right back,” she said, climbing out of bed and walking to the bathroom. Jason studied her figure. She had all the right equipment. He could see why he would have been talkative. Now he wished he didn’t drink as much. He realized this was a night he would have liked to remember. Yesterday started off well. As flight lead of a four-ship of T-38s, they’d done a flyover for a Texas Rangers game. It was a great TDY, or temporary duty, to Dallas, with per diem. The flyover during the national anthem at the Ballpark in Arlington was uneventful, and they landed at Naval Air Station Fort Worth, formerly known Carswell Air Force Base, right afterward. When they finished securing their jets, a limousine arrived to pick them up outside Base Operations. One of the Rangers’ owners provided the limo for their ride to the stadium. It contained a cooler full of beer and a tray of cheese and crackers to tide them over until they arrived at the stadium in Arlington. It was a tight fit with eight sweaty, cocky T-38 instructors, but they didn’t care. They were amazed at the red carpet treatment and relished every minute of it. The pilots were treated like rock stars in the owners’ VIP suite, with all the food and alcohol they wanted. After the game, the limo drove them to the West End in Dallas. Jason and his buddies found themselves in Gators, a piano bar/restaurant with dueling white grand pianos and a rowdy crowd. He remembered meeting her at Gators. What is her name? Jason rolled over on his back and stared at the ceiling. What have I become? Is this the life I want to live? The nameless faces of his women over the years skipped through his thoughts. He felt empty. Like every other one-night stand, she crept back into his head. What happened to the one who’d slipped away six years ago? Whatever happened to Kathy Delgato? The door to the bathroom opened, and the blonde sauntered back into the room. She took the time to brush her hair and put on lipstick. Posing at the end of the bed, she riveted her eyes at him wantonly. “Oh, good, you’re still awake.” She traipsed around the bed to the window and opened the curtain, standing nude in front of the window. “I can’t help it,” she said with a wry smile, turning to face him. “I’m an exhibitionist.” “Clearly.” “What time do you fly back?” She posed seductively in front of the window. Jason glanced at the clock. Red digital numbers displayed eight thirty-three. The pilots planned to leave the hotel at noon. “I need to be at the base at eleven,” he lied. “Oh,” she said, sauntering toward him. “Do I…” He paused. “Do I need to get you a ride home?” Jason couldn’t remember how they made it back to the hotel. “No silly. I drove us, remember?” No, and I can’t remember your name either, so please don’t ask. “Well,” he said, glancing at the clock, “we have some time.” The blonde smiled and crawled back onto the bed. Jason stopped hating himself as she wrapped her arms around him. Even drunk, he had done very well. SHERRI SHIVERED from the cool breeze as she lay on her back. Fading in and out of consciousness, she tossed her head from side to side. Various colors edged their way into her brain as she awoke. She writhed in place, and the ground shifted slightly. Her muscles ached, but the sun on her face was irritating. When she tried to open her eyes, her hand shielded them from the brightness. The smell of saltwater filled her nostrils as waves crashed onto the shore. She was at the beach. The sun glared as she struggled again to open her eyes. The sky was a bright blue, and seagulls called out to her as they bobbed and weaved ten feet overhead, floating rather than flying. Her body ached. Rolling her head to the right, she saw nothing but white sand and sea oats. To the left was more of the same, but with a stinging sensation as she turned her head. Sherri managed to roll over on her left side and prop herself up on her elbow. Her joints were stiff and her skin covered with goose bumps. Her head hurt as she tried to figure out how she ended up here, wherever here turned out to be. Shifting her weight, she managed to sit up on her knees and check herself out. Nothing was broken, and she didn’t notice any injuries other than the neck pain, stiff joints, and sore muscles. She realized she still wore the schoolgirl outfit from the strip club the night before. Checking her bra and panties, she found everything in place and Alnami’s fifty-dollar bill still tucked in her bra. What the hell happened? Someone chased her on the bridge and shot up her car, but she managed to escape. The cop. He did something to her. When she placed her hand on the left side of her neck, the pain shot through her body again. The cop shocked her with something. Only he wasn’t a cop. Who were those guys? They had to be working together. She was an easy target and nobody is that bad of a shot to miss her for that long. Whoever it was, they were sending her a message. The thoughts made her head hurt as she shielded her eyes from the sun, which was inching its way above the horizon. Sherri rose to her feet and realized she had no shoes. She inspected her clothes, what little she wore. Rolling off the white stockings, she tossed them in the sand and untied her white shirt to cover her belly. She buttoned up her shirt and felt a little more comfortable. She slowly brushed the sand off her thighs, waist, and arms. Placing her hands in her deep red hair, she desperately tried to shake out the sand. It would take days, she determined, if not weeks, to get all of the sand out. She searched around her immediate area: no purse, no phone, and no car keys. When she started on this story, Sherri never realized she would experience something like this. She always enjoyed the sense of accomplishment from hard work. As an investigative reporter, she put herself in many compromising situations, but this had been the worst. Being shot at wasn’t something new, but being shot at with automatic weapons was a twist. Even in Sarajevo, she hadn’t faced such firepower. There she’d been dodging sniper fire. Sherri tried to analyze the events, but her head ached, and she realized she was dehydrated. She scanned the beach. The closest people to her were an elderly couple using metal detectors a hundred yards to the east. To the west, more people in the distance, the silhouettes of condos and hotels, and the familiar water tower of Pensacola Beach. She guessed it was about three miles away. Leaving the solitude of the sea oats and sand dunes of this isolated portion of the beach, Sherri trudged toward the water, then west, toward civilization.

Author Bio:

Michael Byars LewisMichael Byars Lewis, is a former AC-130U ‘Spooky’ Gunship Evaluator Pilot with 18 years in Air Force Special Operations Command. A 25-year Air Force pilot, he has flown special operations combat missions in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. His first novel, SURLY BONDS, won three awards—2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards: Silver Medal Finalist 1st Novel (Over 80,000 words), 2013 Readers’ Favorites: Bronze Medal (Fiction-Intrigue), and the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Awards: Winner (Military Fiction). Michael has an extensive social media footprint on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest. Michael is currently a pilot for a major U.S. airline.

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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

England, 1921. Jo Manders husband Alex, was shot down over Germany three years before and disappeared. In need of money to support her and her sick mother did Jo agree to be a paid companion to Alex wealthy albeit condescending aunt Dottie Forsyth. Now they are returning home to England, to the Forsyth family's estate in the Sussex countryside. Jo has never visited the place before and she realizes there that she doesn't know much about her husband's origin, and there seem to be a something with the place, something not at peace...

This is the kind of book that I love to read. A historical mystery with a paranormal touch. I quickly connected with the story and with the characters and I enjoyed this historical mystery very much. The one thing that bothered me a bit was that I think the blurb I read one Goodreads gave away too much. So, I would advise any reader to be careful with reading about the book on Goodreads. Especially if you want to be kept in the dark about certain things in the story. Sometimes I think the less one knows about the story the better it is. And, that is why I will not reveal too much of what is going in the book. However, what I will address some of the aspects of the book that I enjoyed very much.

Like for instance that the book is well written, and this is one of few books with an instalove couple that I enjoy reading. I think it's because Simone St. James manage to portray both Jo and Alex so good that they come alive. You feel for Jo as she tries to live without Alex and the flashbacks to when they met and married each other are lovely. And, then we have the mystery of the book. The things Jo sees in the house isn't necessary terrifying, but it's awfully intriguing and thrilling to read about. I wasn't surprised over some turns in the story, but I nevertheless found the book to be very engrossing.

I will keep and eye out for more books by Simone St. James!

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy for an honest review!