Thursday, May 28, 2015

Beginning of Throwback Thursday - The Violet and the Tom

Looking back, I have reviewed many books, but every now and then, I run across a book that sticks with me long after reading. And so, starting this week, I will not only be doing my weekly Wellness Wednesday post, but I will also be doing a Throwback Thursday post as well. I’ve been very busy with all the changes happening in my life recently, but with these changes, I’m hoping to become better about blogging regularly.

So today, I’m going to start with my review for The Violet and the Tom by Ocotillo.

5 stars
Originally reviewed in 2012

Loved it, loved it, loved it!! A wonderful story with a surprising twist on the master/slave genre. I absolutely loved this story and if I could give it more than 5 stars, I would. I was extremely surprised when I found out that this was a free online story because it was better than a bunch of stories I've bought lately. Definitely a story I will read again and again!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Free Children's Book - The Power of the Word

For those of you with young children, I just found out that a book I previously reviewed is currently available for free on Amazon. I’ve added the review here, as well as the link to buy the book if you desire.

4 stars

I had high hopes for Hugo the Happy Starfish when I heard that it was written in accordance with the IB PYP curriculum. I work with children of all ages, so I'm always looking for new books and experiences to share with them. And to have a series of books designed to teach kids about feelings? Perfect.

I enjoyed reading about Hugo's further adventures on his trip. In this book, we learn about empathy, and how words have the power to hurt. I thought it was very well written and illustrated. The book wasn't overly preachy, and I thought that the message was cleverly delivered. 

The only thing I didn't like was reading this book on my Kindle. I think if you read the paperback/hardcover edition, it would be great, but unfortunately, it doesn't work very well on Kindle. The pages and type were very small, and even when I adjusted the reading size to the highest setting, it was still small and hard to read, which can be a problem for young readers or when you're trying to show the pictures to children while reading the story.

All in all, I think this is a promising series that I would highly recommend. I would recommend buying the paperback/hardcover copy over the Kindle version, but the Kindle version is fine too. I will definitely be reading the other books in this series and using this in my classroom.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Friday, May 22, 2015

Job Hunt VBT

JobHunt Tour Banner


You don’t greet your new boss dressed like an underage rent boy. But when Jack Horwood—ace hacker and ex-MI6 operative—opens the door to Gareth Flynn, he's too busy to worry over details like that. And anyway, his potential new boss is his former Commanding Officer – the same guy Jack has had a crush on since he was seventeen. So he should understand, right? When he applied for the job in Nancarrow Mining's corporate security division, Jack had hoped for peaceful days repelling cyber attacks. Maybe a bit of corporate espionage on the side. His plans didn't include rescuing abused children, hunting pimps, or dealing with his overly protective and hot-as-hell boss, Gareth Flynn. Walking away is not an option. Jack never takes the easy way out. More than that, meeting Gareth raises old ghosts that Jack needs to put to rest. Rescuing kids. Taking risks. Saving the day. Jack can do all that – but deciding what to do about his attraction to Gareth isn’t the sort of cloak-and-dagger game Jack plays well. Yet Gareth, strong and smart and always on hand when needed, might be Jack’s salvation.

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Jackie, thanks so much for stopping by. How did you get started writing?
I can only assume that someone handed me a pen. I can't draw for toffee, but I love telling stories, so writing them down would have been the obvious way out. I do remember that I wrote my first "novel" when I was twelve. In exercise books. There're still around somewhere.

Who was the inspiration for your book?
A truly incredible, courageous girl who I shared a room with in the orphanage.

What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I'm a scientist with a bend for history, so my usual fare would be sci-fi, historical and thrillers / suspense with the odd bit of fantasy thrown in. I've never written a ghost story or something that involves intangible things like souls, but quite recently that's become something I'm thinking about.

Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
As a reader I give almost anything a try once, though I'm not fond of excessive, unnecessary violence or anything overly slushy. I do read the occasional story with merfolk, vampires, werewolves or shifters – I enjoy Sherrilyn Kenyon's books  a lot! – but it's not something I'd ever consider writing.

What are you up to right now? Do you have any releases planned, or are you still writing?
I've been treating Job Hunt very much like an apprenticeship. This means my current WiP pile is simply enormous because I've been holding back finishing stuff while Job Hunt went through production. Now that Job Hunt is out, I've got a raft of stories to finish and submit.

The sequel to Job Hunt – titled House Hunt – will go out first. After that, there's a novella, Leap of Faith, and a Job Hunt spin-off featuring Skylar Payne alongside Jack called FanBait. For next year, I'm planning the third Jack & Gareth book, Wayward, and that intriguing supernatural story that's tickling my brain.

Alright, now for some totally random, fun questions. Favorite color?
All the purples, from pale amethyst to deep wine.

Books that most inspired you?
In order of discovery: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, Irene von Trapezunt and The Eunuch by Johannes Tralow, and Ursula K. LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness.

You have one superpower. What is it?
Making people's dreams come true.

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
Eleanor of Aquitaine, my mum, Mr. Spock.

Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
Like me, Gareth loves to experiment with food and he cooks to de-stress and relax. He gets a kick out of looking after people. His planning skills are probably an awful lot better than mine.

Jack has a few of my habits, too  – or maybe I've acquired his. He definitely has been lumbered with my magpie taste in music. Long nights, too much coffee, carrying knives and ignoring rules when they're stupid all sound vaguely familiar to me as well.

My Review:
3.5 stars

JobHunt CoverThis was a very interesting book to read due to its unusual plotline. There were three separate plotlines intertwined with each other throughout the book, which made reading it exciting yet at times disjointed.

While there is a focus on the action of catching a pimp and the mystery of solving a case, the book also focuses on the characters, specifically Jack and his developing relationship with Gareth. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, especially Jack, though there is still a lot of mystery surrounding him that will likely be expanded on in future books in the series. The secondary characters are also relevant to the story and well developed, which I enjoyed, though there were quite a lot of people thrown at you, so it was sometimes difficult to keep track of everyone.

However, we didn't get to really know a lot about Gareth personally, which I would have liked especially since he is one of the main characters. This lack of character development made it difficult to form any kind of attachment to the character. Hopefully there will be more of a focus on him in future books.

The plot of the story was very engaging and interesting. However, due to the three separate major plot lines going on, the pacing was off at times, causing the story to drag, especially around the 20% mark. Because of this, I had a hard time staying involved with the story at first, but about 35% of the way into the book, I was able to get fully into the story and stay into it throughout the rest of the book.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed getting to know these characters. I could definitely tell this was book 1 in a series because most of the character development was touched on, with some in-depth explanations and background provided. Basically, enough to get the reader interested in the characters enough to read the next book. Also, while the mystery and action plots were resolved, there is also a further mystery exposed in the epilogue relating to the Nancarrow Mining mystery plot as well as character development. 

Even with its flaws, I was hooked by the end of the book and will definitely be reading the next book in the series to see where the author continues Jack and Gareth's relationship as well as the information exposed in the epilogue.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*

About Jackie Keswick:
Jackie KeswickJackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurrent dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She's worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop. Jackie loves stories about unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don't follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She has a thing for green eyes and tight cyclist's butts and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat. And she still hasn't found the place where the bus stops.

IndieSage PR

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rite of Summer VBT

There are terrors worse than stage fright. Like falling in love.

Violinist Stephen Ashbrook is passionate about three things—his music, the excitement of life in London, and his lover, Evander Cade. It’s too bad that Evander only loves himself. A house party at their patron’s beautiful country estate seems like a chance for Stephen to remember who he is, when he’s not trying to live up to someone else’s harsh expectations.

Joshua Beaufort, a painter whose works are very much in demand among the right sort of people, has no expectations about this party at all. Until, that is, he finds out who else is on the guest list. Joshua swore off love long ago, but has been infatuated with Stephen since seeing his brilliant performance at Vauxhall. Now he has the chance to meet the object of his lust face to face—and more.

But changing an open relationship to a triad is a lot more complicated than it seems, and while Evander’s trying to climb the social ladder, Stephen’s trying to climb Joshua. When the dust settles, only two will remain standing...

The man in the portrait was not classically handsome. His mouth was too full and his hair too red for that, his jawline perhaps a little too soft. But his eyes crinkled at the corners with secret mirth, as though sharing a very private joke with the viewer, and those lush and generous lips curled up at one corner. He sat in a smock and his shirtsleeves, a palette on the table behind him. His head tilted very slightly to the side, like he was listening to some secret, lively song. His eyes caught and held Stephen, grey as stormclouds over the cliffs, a hint of blue that was the clear sky breaking through, and a knowing look that struck some chord deep within that Stephen could not immediately name.

He wanted-

Well, he wanted a great many things. But never before had a portrait been responsible for a curl of longing or desire twisting its way up from the center of his being, some vague and wistful sense of thwarted desire focused on that arresting stare.

I wonder if he would look at me that way in life.

I wonder who he is.

A faint scuff of feet behind was all that gave Stephen warning before someone spoke, and he managed neither to whip around in surprise, nor jump like a child caught where he shouldn’t be. “He’s not a particularly good-looking fellow, to deserve such lengthy scrutiny.”

The voice was an unfamiliar one, a warm rich tenor that verged on a deeper range, a faint northern accent coloring the tone.

“I suppose not,” Stephen replied, pausing to allow his heart to slow before he introduced himself. “If you value men solely based on looks. But there is more life in his expression than in all the other portraits put together. Either the sitter was a man of uncommon vivacity, or the painter was exceptionally fond of him.”

He turned and looked at the man standing behind him.

His hair was shorter now, and he was dressed for dinner, his cravat impeccably tied and tucked into a cream waistcoat. The man from the portrait stepped in to the gallery, framed by a shaft of light that fell across the floor from the hall. His eyes had not been exaggerated. They had been perhaps underplayed, and that grey-blue gaze regarded Stephen with a peculiar intensity. He was a little taller than Stephen, his frame of very pleasing proportions, and had a controlled energy to his walk that suggested strength lying beneath the layers of wool and linen.

“Or he was his own painter,” the newcomer said, his lip quirking up in that selfsame knowing smile, “and both irredeemably prone to vanity and in desperate need of an honest friend to check him in his fancy.”

Tess, thanks so much for stopping by. So, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks so much for having me! This is my first book blog tour and my debut novel, so every aspect of this is thrilling.

I’ve always been in love with history, and I especially adore transitional periods like the Regency, or the Tudor era. There’s always so much going on in the background! I have a Masters degree in history, a day job that has odd and unpredictable hours and involves a lot of running about, and a wonderful 15-year relationship that’s singlehandedly responsible for my honest joy in stories that end with ‘happily ever after.’  (And two cats, which I understand came with my ‘introductory romance author kit,’ along with the caffeine IV and bottle of white-out.)

I live in a mid-sized town on the Atlantic coast and love it to bits, though the winter was brutal this year. For a while I was considering packing it all in and moving somewhere warm, and more importantly, dry.

One really nice thing about living where I do is that there are tons of outdoor activities for the summer. I geocache quite a bit, and there’s not much that’s as satisfying as finally tracking down a hidden cache that’s been eluding you for days. I want to write something with letterboxing as a main plot thread someday – letterboxing was the Victorian equivalent of geocaching and is just the perfect setup for some kind of romantic mystery – but it wasn’t a hobby yet in the Regency, which is the time frame for my current series. I’ll have to save that one for later!

What else? I grew up reading mountains of science fiction and fantasy, and always assumed that if I ever wrote something, it would be in one of those genres – but that’s another question!

How did you get started writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, primarily fanfic and original short stories, but I hadn’t seriously considered publishing at first. A friend of mine read a couple of pieces and strongly recommended that I look into writing something that would be publishable. I poo-pooed it at first, for that age old reason of self-confidence. There are so many amazing authors writing in Romance right now; how could I ever hope to sneak in? (Honestly I’m still not convinced, but it’s wonderful to have amazing writers like Tessa Dare and Katherine Cross to look up to for inspiration.)

It’s not the done thing to talk about fanfic as a stepping stone for writing professionally, I know! I do have some writing credits under another name from before I really got into romance fiction, but I do have to credit the fanfic community for a good part of my growth as a writer. There’s something intoxicating about the instant feedback you receive on stories, and the kinds of critiques on offer can vary from purely emotional reactions (which are so satisfying!) to fascinating structural analyses that you’d have to pay a professional editor big bucks to receive elsewhere.

I didn’t start out thinking about publishing professionally, and fanfic itself is a different beast, with different goals and internal tropes. I would never consider ‘filing the serial numbers off’ one of my fics and trying to get that in print; those stories are so intrinsically bound up in the communities they were written for that it wouldn’t work well. But for me, at least, starting off writing for fandom gave me the kind of writing workshop incubation that I needed in order to get off the ground as a pro. I love my guys and their amazing passion for storytelling, and I wouldn’t be here without them.

What was the inspiration for your book?
A book I stumbled on while doing research for my Masters. Called Mother Clap’s Molly House, it’s a collection of articles by Dr. Rictor Norton about the vibrant gay community in London, primarily in the 18th and early 19th centuries. I had no idea at the time that the social life back then was so similar to what I’d perceived as a late 20th century phenomenon – they had gay bars (‘molly houses’), their own slang, standard cruising areas, long-term relationships and (non-legally binding) marriages.

Since then I’ve been doing more research and digging on my own, but I always come back to Dr. Norton’s books and essays for the groundwork. Some of the love letters he’s found are unbearably heartbreaking – and just as many are ribald, goofy, gleeful and erotic. Once I had this window into that era, there was no turning back!

What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I’d love to try my hand at a proper mystery one day. Or maybe mystery with a touch of horror. I’ve dabbled a little bit in police procedurals, but it’s never been anything publishable, and I think I’d like to go the other direction and do something more supernatural, not in the romance genre. I absolutely adore Tanya Huff’s ‘Blood’ series of vampire-crime-fighter novels, and the balance she struck between supernatural mystery and police work was just fantastic. But then, I’m also a big, big fan of classic suspenseful horror, and I’ve had an idea for a proper ghost story sitting on my list of ‘to-do-somedays’ for a long time.

Let’s say ‘horror-suspense,’ and we’ll see if I get there!

Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
I can’t see myself writing hard SF any time soon. I love science fiction and read it all the time, but I don’t have the math and science background necessary to be able to write a clean, physics-consistent, science fiction story without stopping every paragraph to check all my data. I’m all for space opera, though, and anything that will let me get away with liberal applications of handwavium to smooth over the science bits.

As far as reading goes, the only fiction categories I don’t read are religiously-based sweet romances, and the other end of the spectrum, weapon-heavy military or political thrillers – the sort where every gun’s caliber and ammo count are listed off like a centerfold’s measurements. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those genres, they’re just not to my taste, and generally so far out of the realm of my experience that I don’t have a hook on which to hang sympathetic engagement with the characters. My favorite romances always include some kind of physical connection, and I tend to get a little foamy at the mouth when female virginity is held up as some kind of pure and enviable state.

Oh! On that note, I should add – rape fantasy in romance or erotica.  Unless the characters themselves are explicitly playing out a scene and have safewords involved, I have a very visceral reaction to forced sex narratives. I won’t ever write rape, and I seriously dislike reading it. Your Kink Mileage May Vary.

So, what are you working on right now? Got any releases planned, or still writing?
I’m always still writing! I have a manuscript out to my beta-readers now that I’ll be submitting to Samhain soon, and that’s a follow-on to Rite of Summer. The working title is She Whom I Love, and it follows Sophie – a secondary character from RoS – and her romantic (mis)adventures.

It’s a bit of a departure from RoS in that the main relationship is a triad with two women and one man, but the setting is still among the artists of London. Sophie is a struggling amateur playwright, Meg is the ingénue who dreams of serious roles, and James is a staymaker and patron of the arts. The romance is very much queer rather than love triangle or man-with-two-partners, and the heat level is about the same explicitly sensual level as RoS.

(If Rite of Summer is a look at the troubles that can come with triads and open relationships, She Whom I Love is the reverse of that, very much a love letter to healthy polyamory and ménage.)

I haven’t sold it yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my editor will love it as much as I do.

And along with that, I’ve started working another book for Treading the Boards, with the working title That Potent Alchemy. There’s a single hero and heroine in this one, and she is a secondary character who I absolutely fell in love with while writing She Whom I Love. Grace is a dancer and actress approaching her thirties, aging out of the ingénue roles, flexible in her gender identity, and unsure where to go from there. Isaac is a stage hand, and amateur pyrotechnician with a knack for finding himself in the wrong place at the right time. I’ve been looking forward to writing this one since I introduced Grace in She Whom I Love, and I hope I’ll be able to craft a story that readers will enjoy just as much as I’ve enjoyed the planning. 

Alright, now for some totally random, fun questions. Favorite color?
Green! Though for a long time, I insisted it was blue. There was a quiz that went around my junior high, about ‘what your favorite color says about you.’ All I remember was that having green for your favorite meant you were naïve and innocent, and I desperately wanted to be anything but that! Blue meant elegance, I seem to recall (though as anyone who knows me well will tell you, that doesn’t exactly fit either).

It took me something like 15 years to stop automatically saying ‘green and blue’ to answer this question. It’s amazing how little things can stick with you for so long.

Favorite movie?
What day of the week is it? I have so many, depending on my mood; I can’t choose! I’m going to do it by genre.

Favourite horror: The Woman in Black (Dan Radcliffe’s version).
Favourite sci-fi: Pacific Rim!
Favourite animated: Big Hero 6.
Best comfort movie of all time: Center Stage.

You have one superpower. What is it?
The ability to reach things on a high shelf! I’m only 5’2, and this world isn’t built for short people. I’ll take ‘flight’ if ‘leg stretching’ isn’t on offer.

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
Dinner party questions always tie me up in overthinking. I turn into a Regency hostess, trying to balance out conversational styles and choose people who would be interesting to see all together and who wouldn’t try to murder each other on sight, or have nothing to talk about…

Right. Okay. My ideal dinner party, with three guests. Amye Robsart (first wife of Lord Robert Dudley), Dana Scully, and Joan Watson.

Not much is known about the first Lady Dudley as a person, except in a handful of letters that she wrote to her property manager and to her husband, but her story has always fascinated me. The most current theory about her death is that she was afflicted with breast cancer which had metastasized and made her bones brittle, making it possible for her to break her neck just from falling down a short flight of stairs. The rumors about Queen Elizabeth I’s or Cecil’s hand in her death are hard to shake. I’d like to hear her story from her own lips.

Dana Scully and Joan Watson are there to be awesome and help us solve the mystery and win justice for the abandoned (and possibly murdered) wife of the Queen’s favorite, obviously. That’s a teamup I’d kill to see happen. Someone needs to write that fic, stat.

Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
There’s a little bit of me in each of them, I think; at least just enough for me to empathize with their choices. I wish I had Stephen’s exuberance or Evander’s easy charm, but that’s not happening any time soon.

If I had to choose, I’d say it would be Joshua. He’s not a glib charmer, and he’s happiest without the trappings of nobility – just a room of his own, his art, and someone to love him until the end of his days. (Not that a wealthy patron wouldn’t be lovely!)

At the same time, though, he’s struggling between his urges to save and help, and his need to protect himself from being hurt again. He and I both have that same unfortunate tendency towards being ‘fixers’ in our private lives, which can turn into co-dependence so easily. I do think Joshua’s a lot stronger and more stubborn than I am, however, and more self-defeatist. Not to mention I couldn’t draw a straight line without a ruler!

Come by on June 2nd, 7 pm Eastern Time, to join me in the chatroom for the release party! I’ll have giveaways and prizes as well as interviews and a social hour. I look forward to seeing everyone!

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Author Bio and Links:
Tess has been a fan of historical fiction since learning the Greek and Roman myths at her mother's knee. Now let loose on a computer, she's spinning her own tales of romance and passion in a slightly more modern setting. Her work in the performing arts has led to a passion for the theatre and dance in all its forms, and been the inspiration for her current books. Tess lives on the east coast, with her partner of fifteen years and two cats who should have been named 'Writer's Block' and 'Get Off the Keyboard, Dammit.'

Tess can be found reblogging over on, twittering at @TessBowery, and talking about writing in general and her books specifically over at

Riteof Summer on GoodReads

Buy Links:
Amazon     |     Nook     |     Publisher

Sunday, May 17, 2015

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

Today is the 11th Annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia. As you may remember, for the past two years, I’ve participated in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. However, due to how insane my life has been these past few months, with graduating and getting ready to both transfer and move, I’ve had to cut back on participating in hops and tours.
However, I still wanted to share this with y’all, as I think it’s great that so many people come together to spread awareness about a very serious issue in our world. I'll write a post about this and share it later this week or so, since I want to be able to put a lot of thought and time into my post, which I can’t at the moment. But in the meantime, go visit the blogs on this hop or the IDAHOT website or Facebook page to learn more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wellness Wednesdays: Turkey Chili with Corn and Black Beans Recipe

This is a recipe that I’ve made several times, and it’s been a big hit every time. I use an extra onion instead of red bell peppers in my recipe, as I’m not a fan of them, but I decided to leave the recipe as is so you can choose whether or not to add them. I’ve added notes in the directions from my experience making this dish, but feel free to mix it up, and let me know how it works out for you!

Turkey Chili with Corn and Black Beans
Wonderful way to warm up from the warm chili and HOT spices!

  • 20 oz. ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 can yellow corn
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can seasoned chili beans

1.      Brown turkey in large skillet or large, but shallow pot. After 1 minute, add onion, red bell pepper, and spices. (I recommend adding the spices first, then letting the turkey brown a bit more before adding the onion or bell pepper).
2.    Cook until turkey is no longer pink.
3.    Add canned ingredients and bring to a boil. (I recommend adding a second can of tomato sauce, and even the juice from the chili beans to give it a more liquid consistency and to add to the flavor, but you don’t have to).
4.    Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30-45 minutes or until onions and peppers are soft.
5.     If you have some wiggle room, garnish with light shredded jack and/or cheddar cheese, dollop of light sour cream, fresh cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, etc. (I personally prefer adding sour cream and jack cheese, but you can mix it up).

Nutritional Info:
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 212.6
  • Total Fat: 6.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 361.5 mg
  • Total Carbs: 21.1 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 6.1 g
  • Protein: 19.4 g