Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book Release : Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

Shadow on the Crown
by Patricia Bracewell

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (December 31, 2013)

Kindle Edition
File Size: 948 KB
Print Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (February 7, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

About the book:

A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen.

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.

Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the perfect antidote to Tudor fatigue, Shadow on the Crown is packed with nonstop action, romance, and plenty of deliciously creepy Gothic flavor.

*Read and reviewed in March 2013*

Ethelred II, the Anglo-Saxon English king's wife had just died and he needed a new wife to please his counselors/advisers. There were two girls he could arrange to marry, one girl from the north and one from the south. Based on his careful analysis, an alliance from the south seemed far better than the north's. So King Ethelred II asked Richard II, Duke of Normandy to hand over his sister Emma, which at the time of request was only 15 years old. Richard II was hesitant at first to give up his young sister. After weighing things, he knew there's no other choice... he had to let Emma marry the English king because saying no to Ethelred II would mean war. 

So Emma went to England to marry the English king (age could be somewhere between 30-35?) but people from England aren't too happy about it. One English noble, Elgiva (the girl from the north) wanted to be a queen and she's determined to do everything to take Emma's crown. Emma knew that if she lost the crown, her life is doomed in England. 

I totally loved this book and I found myself researching more about Queen Emma's life just to satisfy my curiosity. Shadow on the Crown was an easy read. The story flowed just right. The book didn't look like a historian work - in a positive way. There's some kind of simplicity in the stories, I didn't doubt any of the author's fictional tales. The characters, the English setting at the time and even the character's dialogue felt authentic. It's not hard to imagine the places and people those time period. Even, Emma's romantic relationship to one of the characters (fiction) felt real. Oh I love Emma, she's a very smart girl. She could have not survived the whole queen stuff if she's not smart. Just imagine a queen at the age of 15! 

Shadow on the Crown is the first book to a trilogy about Emma of Normandy. There are too many things to learn in this book as it is rich in historical facts. I thank the author for introducing Queen Emma to me and I can't wait to read book #2! 

Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What are you reading?" is a fun meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey. This is where we share the books we have read the last week and our reading plans for this week.

Lauren Grahame has spent her whole life thinking something special was going to happen. She didn’t know what it was, she just knew it would one day be hers. But she learned the hard way that special wasn’t on offer.

So, after divorcing her cheating husband, Lauren searched for nothing special and she thought she found it when she landed a job as a waitress in a biker bar in Carnal. It was perfect: a nothing job in a nowhere bar in Nowheresville.

Then Tatum Jackson walked in. Part-owner of the bar, he took one look at high-class Lauren and wanted nothing to do with her. And he made this known, loudly.

Tate’s angry insults seared in her brain, Lauren decides the feeling is mutual and she doesn’t want anything to do with the gloriously handsome Tate Jackson. The clash of the bartender and barmaid begins but, even though Tate makes his change of mind clear (in biker-speak, a language Lauren is not fluent in), Lauren is intent on going her own way.

Until a serial killer hits Carnal and Lauren finds out Tate isn’t a bartender, he’s a bounty hunter. He stakes his claim for Lauren before he goes on the hunt for a killer but Laurie doesn’t speak biker nor does she understand bounty hunters and Tate comes back from the hunt to find his old lady has moved on.

Life throws curveball after curveball at Laurie and Tate. As secrets are revealed, women are brutally murdered, and Lauren tries to find her inner biker babe.

Next to read:

As the elves face extinction due to a natural crisis, their belligerent king is bent on self-preservation. It falls to reluctant hero Daniel to go in search of the White Fairy – his last hope for answers and his people’s last chance for a future.

An unforgettable cast of fairy tale creatures come together in this ground-breaking epic fantasy. With never-before-seen storytelling techniques, Fairydust is packed full of ingenious, inventive layouts and concepts which reflect the twists in the rich, fast-moving plot.

Fresh from his acclaimed thriller debut End from the Beginning, Taylor once again blends heart-stopping action, gut-wrenching passion and side-splitting humour – this time held together with a sprinkling of fairy dust. Join him for a journey the like of which the world has never seen before.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Book Spotlight: Vignettes & Postcards by Erin Byrne

Vignettes & Postcards, Writings From the Evening Writing Workshop At Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Paris 
by Erin Byrne

Paperback: 113 pages
Publisher: Something Other Press; 2nd edition (2012)

About the book:

Vignettes & Postcards is an exquisite collection of stories by writers from all over the world who gathered at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in the fall of 2011. Since its doors opened in 1951, writers and artists have come to Shakespeare and Company from every corner of the globe for sanctuary, community, and inspiration. Anyone who has spent time there-from the thousands of tumbleweeds who have worked there in exchange for a place to stay to the many famous authors who have at one point called it home-knows that something other happens when writers gather there and begin to create. These stories shimmer with this quality.     Vignettes & Postcards: Writings from The Evening Writing Workshop at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Paris, Fall 2011 presents twenty-six stories in a variety of genres-short fiction, personal essay, interview, travel, and poetry. The book is an anthology from the workshop "Leaping Into the Void," taught by award-winning writer Erin Byrne. Taste rough grains of cinnamon that scratch the tip of your tongue; feel the weight of a pen in your hand during a moment of pure inspiration; hear the pealing of bells from high up on an Italian hillside; consider the secret rebellion of fashion; and find yourself inside the dragon dream of Sylvia Plath. Tumbleweed or not, every reader who opens its pages will savor Vignettes & Postcards.

About the author:

Erin Byrne writes essays, short stories, poems, and screenplays.  Her work has won numerous awards, including Travelers' Tales 2012 Silver and 2013 Bronze Grand Prize Solas Awards for Travel Story of the Year.  Erin's work appears in a variety of publications including World Hum, Best Travel Writing anthologies, and Vestoj.  She is occasional guest instructor at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris, and is co-editor of Vignettes & Postcards, an anthology of writings from her workshop there.  Erin is also writer of The Storykeeper, an award-winning film.  www.e-byrne.com

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review: Darker Side Endings by Kelvin Kettle

Darker Side Endings 

Author: Kelvin Kettle
File Size: 249 KB
Print Length: 104 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Kelvin Kettle; First editon edition (July 9, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

Note: I received a review copy of this book free from the author, Kelvin Kettle. The review posted below is based on my personal thoughts while reading the book.

Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

The book is a compilation of eight short stories. Loved them especially SPIKES and DATE MISTAKE. It would be better if the author turn those two into full length novel. Husband read' them and thought all had weird/dark endings and then I reminded him of the title and then he was like 'OH!'. LOL. 

If you are into short stories with dark-ish endings... pick up this book! 

Read other positive reviews here.

About the book:

DON'T BE AFRAID. YOUR JOURNEY TO THE DARK SIDE AWAITS (Warning: Adult content. Not intended for young readers)...8 short horror/suspense stories, each with a dark theme. Readers who take themselves on this terrifying journey will be hooked from the first story to the very last.

The stories:  SPIKES--Inspector John Quint is assigned to a brutal murder case in Boston, Massachusetts. The suspect is a beautiful dangerous woman who dresses in black leather. Will Quint be able to capture her before she strikes again?./ SHANGLIN FOREST--A forest ruled by grizzlies, where Shanglin is King. Where many years ago, blood was shed. And where four crazy hunters will soon shed blood in the forest once again./ THE BLACK EGG--Where did it come from? Is it from another world? When the black egg hatches, terror is unleashed./DATE MISTAKE--When Jake goes out on a blind date with his friends sister, it turns out to be the deadliest mistake of his life./ AMANDA IN RED--She is only visible to Robert. Every time he sees her, she gives him a frightening warning. Who is she? And why is she wearing a blood stained white dress?/ THE STUDENT--Carl Stone was accused of murder in the past, and now he is going to be taught a deadly lesson./PRETTY LADY--James must answer the invitation from the pretty lady in white, or lose her forever./ THE DEVILS ALTAR--Five friends who love to party. Five friends who think that the devils altar will be the ultimate partying destination. Five friends who are in for a terrifying night from hell.

About the author:

Hello! I live in Mapleville, Rhode Island with my wife and cat. Mapleville is a quiet little town.

I have been writing short stories for many years and I love to entertain my readers. I always try to think of stories to write that will capture the interest of my readers right away and not want to put it down.

I tend to have a dark side when it comes to story telling. It is just as much fun for me to write a story as it is for my readers to read it. I never know what dark and twisted turns I am going to take.

If you like a variety, then I think you will enjoy my collection. Won't you join me?

Guest Author: Carrie Cross

My Inspiration for the Skylar Robbins Teen Mystery Series

By Carrie Cross

I’ve devoured books since discovering Goodnight Moon as a young child, and when I was four years old I decided I wanted to write. My first “book,” Blackie the Little Black Dog and the Flying Washing Machine (composed in crayon), was surprisingly never published. But I’ve written ever since, inspired by a variety of disparate authors. Many of my favorite books were those I read as a ‘tween. All-time #1 fave? Judy Blume’s, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Others include Harriet the Spy, Happy Hollisters mysteries, The Secret Garden, and Zipha Keatley Snyder’s, The Changeling and The Velvet Room. My current influences are Lee Child, Deb Caletti, Sarah Dessen, and Ayn Rand. The series I’m writing features an intelligent thirteen-year-old sleuth named Skylar Robbins, similar to Nancy Drew, but more modern, quirky, and fun. Skylar is rational, independent, and smart, like Ayn Rand’s heroes and heroines. As in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, Skylar Robbins is the brave, strong-willed protagonist in each book, although every mystery is it’s own separate entity that picks up where the prior novel leaves off.

The initial seedling of inspiration for Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills--the first book in the series--occurred when I was six. My parents decided we needed to move into a bigger house, and we looked at an ancient fixer-upper in Santa Monica canyon. While playing hide-and-seek with the little girl who lived there, I discovered secret passageways and hid inside little closets that opened into other rooms. I never forgot that house and later wondered, “What if there were clues or coded messages hidden in those secret passageways?” And the idea for the Skylar Robbins mystery series blossomed.

I’m an only child, and when I was a young girl I spent a lot of time creating scenarios to act out by myself or with a friend. In middle school we liked to experiment with witchcraft. My friends and I would cook up love potions out of witchy ingredients like peaches, candle wax, and 7-Up, and mutter spells while we flushed burning scraps of paper down the toilet. Truthfully, we weren’t surprised when our spells didn’t have any effect on the cute boys in our class.

But what if they had?  

This thought was another nugget of inspiration for the Skylar Robbins series. What if a rational teenage sleuth grudgingly agreed to cast spells with an odd classmate in an abandoned garden--and the witchcraft actually started to work? What if their incantations gave the school bully a serious illness? Or enabled them to grow something unbelievable from seeds they found in a dank cave on the beach at midnight? Imagine the look of horror on that brainy detective’s face when the unimaginable happened. What would that do to a smart 13-year-old who was brought up to believe that there is always a logical explanation for everything? I decided to start fireworks by pairing up this practical sleuth with a feisty teen witch who started to convince her that magic could actually work. And then I lit the fuse.

The Mystery of Shadow Hills inspired several of its beta readers to buy detective tools, and a group of sixth-graders in Oregon even started their own detective agency. Ten of them use the secret codes and detective skills they learned from Skylar to solve mysteries and crack cases at their school. I hope the Skylar Robbins series will continue to inspire readers to use their brains to look for clues, solve problems, and have fun in creative ways. Please stay tuned. Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels comes out next June.

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills 

Author: Carrie Cross
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Ward Design LLC DBA Teen Mystery Press; 1 edition (July 30, 2013)
Amazon Link

About the book:

Thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins plans to become a private detective like her grandfather. Stuck at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s Malibu estate for the summer, Skylar brings her detective kit, portable spy tools, and her journal for taking notes in secret code. She had no idea how dangerous the next eight weeks would prove to be. On the first day of summer school an odd classmate named Kat passes a note in backward writing, introducing Skylar to the secret world of witchcraft. Practical Skylar didn’t believe in magic—until the spells they perform in an abandoned garden actually begin to work. Skylar finds herself accepting the increasingly risky challenges made by her new BF, and when Kat tells her that a mysterious group is doing wicked things up in Shadow Hills at night, she can’t help but investigate. Her classmates are nervous and rumors are flying. The teen sleuth uses the tools in her detective kit and faces her most embarrassing fear to find the truth. If Skylar survives the summer, her life will be changed forever. 

Follow Carrie on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teendetectiveskylar, on Twitter @Carrie_Skylar and at visit www.skylarrobbins.com for more information.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Wishing you all a 

Merry Merry Merrrrry Christmas ! ! !

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Guest Author: Dr. Alma Bond

If Marilyn Monroe Were Still Alive Today…
By Dr. Alma Bond

As a practicing psychotherapist for over 37 years and the author of 21 books, I have devoted my writing career to studying important female cultural icons such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Maria Callas, Hilary Clinton and others.

Writing about icons is like living many lives. We are here for so short a time, and really know only a sliver of reality. My little fragment of existence gets a bit claustrophobic at times. Writing about people I admire and would like to be greatly expands my life. My newly published novel, Marilyn Monroe: On the Couch, for example, is the closest I can ever get to being a famous movie star, which was an ambition of mine when I was a child.

I often ask myself, “what if Marilyn Monroe had not killed herself and was still alive today?” Based on my expertise as psychoanalyst, my extensive research, and my writer’s imagination, I wanted to share with readers of Booklingly Yours what I believe her future would have been like:

I think Marilyn may well have remarried Joe Dimaggio, who, when you discount her fantasies, was the real love of her life.  He was the best friend and sex partner she ever had, and they loved each other to the bitter end. What a tragedy that wife beating is common in Sicily, which was Joe’s heritage, and why he felt justified in beating her up when she allowed her “crotch to be visible all over New York” in the shooting of the famous subway wind-blowing scene! He learned better, and pleaded with her to remarry him, saying “I don’t blame you for divorcing me.  I would have done the same.” She left him because she couldn’t tolerate physical abuse, as it brought back terrible memories of the brutality she had suffered in her childhood. I am sure Joe learned his lesson and never would have raised a hand to her again.  He would have taken care of her, babied her, and become the father figure she yearned for all her life and never knew was there all the time for the taking.

She never would have had children, as her endometriosis and repeated abortions destroyed her uterus. I don’t believe she would have adopted a child, as she knew in her heart that she was too much a child herself to take on the responsibility. But she loved Joe’s son, Joe, Jr, as her own. If he had married in her lifetime and had children, Marilyn would have made a superb grandmother, in which she would have played with them, showered them with toys and pets, and then gone home. I suspect the Dimaggios would have divided their time between New York, where Marilyn would perform on Broadway, and San Francisco, which was Joe’s true home. They might have bought a house in the Village, where Marilyn at long last would have had the home she craved and never really had.

I believe if she were alive today at age 87, she would still be an extremely beautiful woman, as her older half-sister Berniece Miracle is. More important, she certainly would have continued to develop as an actress, and become more confident in her art. She would have become a great tragedienne, as Lee Strasburg predicted she would, and played the roles she always wanted to, such as Grushenka, in "The Brothers Karamasov." I think she would have made perhaps the greatest Lady Macbeth of all time. I also think she would have made the best Blanche Dubois ever, in "A Streetcar Named Desire." She was made to play Blanche. What woman ever lived who could have understand her better? Marilyn herself said that she was looking forward to becoming a great character actress like Marie Dressler when she grew old,.

Marilyn was a genius in many ways, both as an actress and an intellectual. Her IQ was 169. She had a fabulous library of thousands of books, including classics such as those by Fyodor Dosteovsky and Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy. I think if she had lived she would have settled down in her library greedily devouring the many books she had no time for in her busy life as an actress and addict.

What about her addictions to pills and alcohol? They surely were a substitute for the love she lacked as a child and never allowed herself to enjoy as an adult. As the beloved wife of Joe Dimaggio, she would have had less need for her addictions. I believe he would have made her go into a 12-step recovery program, and because she loved him she would have listened, as when he  took her out of Payne Whitney and placed her in a more amenable psychiatric setting. Because she had a reason to get well, she would have stuck with the program. I think, too, that she would have gone into psychoanalysis with an analyst like the one in my book, "Marilyn Monroe: On the Couch," who truly understood her and would not have spoiled her and broken all the rules of psychoanalysis because she was a celebrity, as her psychiatrist, Dr. Greenson, did.

She would have left her promiscuity behind her, as she and Joe enjoyed great sex, and she knew that infidelity was the one thing he would not have put up with in his wife.  Also, as she became better known as a great actress, she would have had no need for a “casting couch” to be given parts.  As she matured, she could have selected and starred in any play she choose. I suspect she eventually would have portrayed all the great Shakespeare heroines, and been wonderful for example as Portia and Kate.

If only! If only! How sad that Marilyn Monroe did not live long enough to develop her potential as a loving wife and great actress.  The world is forever depleted by her loss.  Such a genius comes along only once in a lifetime, and we will never see her like again.

Marilyn Monroe: ON THE COUCH

Author: Dr. Alma Bond
Kindle Edition
File Size: 485 KB
Print Length: 228 pages
Publisher: Bancroft Press (September 30, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

About the book:

There is much written, rumored, told, and retold about Marilyn Monroe, but the most unusual and remarkable fact about her is this: In person as well in her films, she appeared to be outright luminous--enveloped by a glow, like a firefly in the dark. 

Even Laurence Olivier, who costarred with Marilyn in the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, saw it. Though he seemed to dislike her intensely, he had to admit that, in all her scenes, she lit up the screen. 

But exquisite as it can be, luminosity can be a kind of camouflage. It can hide the truth underneath. 

What exactly was Marilyn illuminating in the atmosphere that surrounded her? Her beauty was certainly stunning, dazzling--blinding, even--but what did it hide? 

Marilyn, more brilliant than many understood, knew well the difference between looking upon the light and seeing beyond the glow. Men do not see me, she said. They just lay their eyes on me. 

Psychoanalyst and longtime woman's biographer Dr. Alma Bond imagines, in detail, a several-year stretch during the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Marilyn, an exceedingly fragile figure, submits to analysis on the couch of Manhattan psychoanalyst Dr. Darcy Dale and, following her return to Hollywood, corresponds with her. 

Brilliantly, entertainingly, and movingly, Marilyn Monroe: On the Couch shows just what lay beneath Marilyn's radiance. Dr. Dale, a fictional stand-in for the author, Dr. Bond, sees Marilyn Monroe as few ever have, both inside and out, and transfers those insights to readers. It's impossible to imagine anyone providing a better, more complete, intimate, and unforgettable understanding of this truly remarkable, iconic, and even pivotal figure in film and sexual history.

For more information, visit: www.almabondauthor.com

Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: The Prodigal by Michael Hurley

The Prodigal 

Author: Michael Hurley
Paperback Edition
Paperback: 358 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 28, 2013)
Amazon Link

Kindle Edition
File Size: 678 KB
Print Length: 359 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1482694271
Publisher: Ragbagger Press (May 28, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

Note: I received a review copy of this book free from the author, Michael Hurley . The review posted below is based on my personal thoughts while reading the book.

Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

My thoughts:

Beautiful story.

This is a tale told by Aidan Sharpe, a 40-something very successful lawyer, probably the best in town, had a wife, money and everything. In one single mistake (stupid mistake), he lost everything... his job, wife, money, and even some friends. As an advice of someone dear to him, he went to Ocracoke Island and there he met a lot of people who would teach him what it means to really 'live' his life.

I liked that this book has a male character lead, Aidan was easy to get along with. When he lost his job, it was very hard for me to accept that he just walked away after that one stupid mistake. Been around lawyers for more than 10 years and they always find ways to make people forget things. They are good at erasing memories... It was when he started his journey to this Ocracoke island I started to really love his character. Rebuilding his life in a remote town suddenly became enticing to me. I mean there are times I would get tired of everything's going on around me and I'd go on vacation somewhere I'd be on my own. Though it would take a lot of courage to do the things he did. Oh well, he lost everything so he didn't really have any choice but to take that path. Love Aidan, I could picture him in my mind and every character  made a wonderful contribution in the story. One of the best reads for this year. 

About the book:

Pride, betrayal, forgiveness . . . and the eternal sea.  The Prodigal tells the mystical tale of four people on Ocracoke Island whose destiny is tied to an abandoned schooner, thought to have been lost at sea more than a century ago, that one day drifts ashore.  Marcus O'Reilly, a renegade Catholic priest, must confront his inner demons.  Ibrahim Joseph, a Bahamian fugitive, must face his past.  Aidan Sharpe, a fallen lawyer, struggles with self-doubt and his growing affection for Molly McGregor, a fearless towboat captain who cannot find the courage to love.  They will all be drawn into a 2,000-year-old mystery that unfolds with the reappearance of the ship.

About the author:

Michael Hurley and his wife Susan live near Charleston, South Carolina. Born in Baltimore in 1958, he studied English at the University of Maryland and law at St. Louis University. 

Michael's first book, Letters from the Woods, was a collection of essays, self-published in 2005, based on wilderness canoeing expeditions with his children. It was selected as a finalist in the Nature category for ForeWord magazine's Book of the Year award. In 2013 Hachette Book Group published his memoir, Once Upon A Gypsy Moon, under their Center Street imprint. 

The Prodigal is his first novel.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blog Tour/Book Review: Weak At The Knees by Jo Kessel

Weak at the Knees

Author: Jo Kessel
Kindle Edition
File Size: 460 KB
Print Length: 293 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1490397604
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: J.K. Publishing; First Edition edition (September 17, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

Note: I received a review copy of this book free from Pump Up Your Book. The review posted below is based on my personal thoughts while reading the book.

Ratings: ★ ★ 

My thoughts:

Okay, this one is a DNF. It was THAT interesting at first, liked Danni and because she seems to be a nice and honest woman, thought we'd get along. Problem is, she became something opposite to 'nice and honest' soon after her best friend died. It slowed down just after that, like I was listening to a friend's boring life story. 

It's hard to like a book when you don't like the main character . . . . sorry DNF. There are others who enjoyed the book, click here to read positive reviews. . . 

About the book:

“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.” Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning. The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one. Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible. Only she must resist, because he has a wife - and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man. But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul? Weak at the Knees is Jo’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story about love, loss and relationships, set between London and the heart of the French Alps. Due to descriptive sex scenes, this book is not appropriate for younger readers.

About the Author

Jo qualified as a Barrister before moving into journalism, working for the BBC before reporting and presenting for ITV on holiday, consumer and current affairs programmes. She writes for several national newspapers in the UK including the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and the Express and was the anonymous author for the Independent's hit column: Diary of a Primary School Mum. Jo is married with three children and lives in London. Weak at the Knees is her second novel. Find out more at www.jokessel.com.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Book Spotlight: One Helluva Gig by Kevin R. Doyle

One Helluva Gig

Author: Kevin R. Doyle
Publisher: Vagabondage Press
Pages: 62 
Amazon Link


"One Helluva Gig" chronicles several years of the life of newspaper reporter Frank Peters who comes to prominence through a series of associations with the major recording star, Rob Jeffers, who Peters first interviewed when Jeffers was still paying the college circuit.

When Jeffers dies midway through his stratospheric career, Peters own career takes a downward spiral that ends with him working for a tabloid newspaper chasing years of supposed sightings of Jeffers, still alive. As Peters is sent once more to the middle of nowhere to investigate a Jeffers sighting, he discovers something unexpected - not only about the dead singer, but also about himself.

Chapter 1:


If you’re of a certain generation or older, then you pretty much remember when and where you were when you heard the news that Rob Jeffers had bit the big one. For many, it’s one of those events—like hearing about the Challenger explosion or 9/11—that’s seared into the memory cells, never to be expunged. And if you’re someone like myself, of that certain age and happening to be one of Rob Jeffers’s true-blue fans, then you probably also remember—or maybe you don’t—how you went about commemorating the news of his death. 

For me, that part’s a little fuzzy. I vaguely recall that my personal paean to Jeffers had something to do with Margaritas, a hot tub, and, I think, two or three of my closest female friends. I also remember that the night was clear, and one could see what seemed like a million stars winking in and out, no doubt a celestial tribute to Jeffers. 

I do clearly remember waking up about two days later, skin grungy, hair itchy, and mouth tasting like an old jock strap. After I managed to get myself awake and together, I sat down on my couch and thought about what it meant that Rob Jeffers had passed on. 

At some point in the day, I glanced at my answering machine and saw that I had something like twenty messages flashing at me. 

I thought about answering them but assumed, rightly as it turned out, that most of them would be from friends who wanted to commiserate about the events of the last few days. Quite possibly, one of those little flashes indicated a query from my editor as to where the hell I’d been the last forty-eight hours, but what the hell? Not really  wanting to talk to anyone, I wandered into my spare room, sat down on the carpet, and stared at the music I’d collected over the years. 

I had albums, tapes, and CDs from all the greats, near-greats and never-heard-ofs: The Beatles, Frampton, Led Zeppelin, and Boston. On and on, the parade marched across the shelves, racks, and cubbyholes of the room. 

Finally, in one corner sat the collected works of Rob Jeffers, set off from the others in a special hand-made case. From his very first album, Me All by Myself, which produced a grand total of one single Top 40 hit, to a recent three-disc release of all his number ones, I had nearly everything that the man had ever produced. 
Reaching over, I pulled an old vinyl album out from one side of the rack and a CD from the other: Jeffers’s first and last productions. I placed the two albums on the floor and stared down at the covers. 

Through the course of his career, the man had shared one noted quality with the King himself. Like Elvis, Jeffers was known and identified by the stages of his appearance. However, where Presley had two stages—young Elvis and fat Elvis—Jeffers had three: young Rob, middle Rob, and bald, fat Rob. 

At least Elvis, despite his struggles with his waistline, had kept most of his hair. Jeffers, by the time he hit his forties, had lost all but a few straggling locks. He’d compensated by growing a truly remarkably ugly beard. 

Also like Elvis, a small collection of “Rob Jeffers lookalikes” had recently begun to emerge, eeking out marginal livings appearing on local cable shows, opening up supermarkets and car dealerships, and performing at low-end weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. And I could only imagine that most of those lowlifes would now, with the man’s passing, begin raking in more than they could have ever imagined. 

My phone rang again. This time, guessing who it must be, I struggled to my feet and went into the other room to answer. 

“Yeah?” I said, speaking for the first time since my excursion in the hot tub. The croak in my voice amazed even me. 

“Peters? Where the hell have you been?” 

The man himself. City editor Harlan P. Jurgan. I thought about answering him, but knew from experience that I wouldn’t get a word in. Sure enough, barely taking a breath, the man kept on ranting. 

“We just had one of the biggest deaths in the world, and the person naturally expected to cover it—that would be you, Peters— is freakin’ AWOL. What do you mean dropping the ball at a time like this?” 

“Hey, Harlan,” I managed to interject. “Calm down, guy. You found my pre-done obit didn’t you?” 

“Hell, yes. After about half an hour of digging through that shithole filing system you have. But that’s not the same as having you, the original guy, writing up some fresh human interest crap. This was Rob Jeffers, you know.” 

I sighed, a plethora of possible excuses zipping through my head. None of them sounded original, authentic, or satisfactory enough to satisfy old Harlan P. So, in the extremity of the situation, I did what any good reporter learns early on is the most efficient manner, at least in the short term, of dealing with his city editor. 
I hung up.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blog Tour and Giveaway! The Next America: Moving Beyond a Fragile Economy by Don A. Holbrook

The Next America: Moving Beyond a Fragile Economy

Author: Don A. Holbrook
Publisher: Don A. Holbrook
Pages: 304
Language: English
Genre: Nonfiction/Business & Economics
Format: Paperback, eBook & Audio Book
Purchase at AMAZON

The economic chaos of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis that has created so much destruction of wealth for regular Americans is far from over. This book examines problems and possible solutions within national, international, and local realms that will help us navigate these times and set a course toward calmer waters. While some clamor for more taxes to cover our government's programs, The Next America shows how we can restructure our tax code so it positively affects all aspects of our communities: education, businesses, innovation, political transparency, environmental issues, investments, and more. Concerned citizens and economic players alike will be inspired and motivated to act to reestablish the American Dream during this transitional time. The Next America believes an informed citizenry can create a solution to hold our elected officials accountable for real change that will be robust and beneficial to all American’s not just the elite few at the top, without moving away from our free market and capitalism based economy.


From reading the newspaper, watching television, or listening to the radio, it should be clear that the unsettling situation America finds itself in today has presented us with several conundrums. We are concerned about where our nation is headed, how to make a living, how to prepare for retirement, how to create a better life for our families today, and how to leave our posterity with an inheritance of economic opportunities.

The global economy has created more chaos and hardships than most of us have previously experienced. Not since the Great Depression have folks been so beleaguered by so many tumultuous problems. Even more devastating is the degradation of our main pillar of humanity, our core: the family unit. With the massive amount of unemployment and underemployment that has arisen in this perfect economic storm, many of us have burned through our benefit claims, extensions, and options. We face loss of income and also hope and self-dignity. These immense problems have made many of us rethink our values and dreams. In the worst of cases, we have given up the ideal of aspiring for a better life—not only for ourselves, but also for our children. The economic pressures are not the only problems in this perfect storm. We face burgeoning pressure from religious zealots who are not tolerant of religious differences. We face environmental calamities, both natural and man-made. In addition, the resources that we depend on to fuel our global economy, such as energy, are peaking in costs and diminishing in availability.

To further frustrate and annoy our already overloaded psyches, we have a complete lack of trust in our governmental systems. People are weary of the either/or partisan politics and government’s failure to look out for our best interests.


Rafflecopter Code for Kindle Fire HD Giveaway

Pump Up Your Book and Don Holbrook are teaming up to give you a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
• By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
• One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
• This giveaway begins December 2 and ends December 27.
• Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, December 30, 2013.
• Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book Spotlight: Black Earth: End of the Innocence by David N. Alderman

Black Earth: End of the Innocence

Author - David N. Alderman
Publisher - David N. Alderman
Pages - 364
Amazon Link


On the evening of his high school graduation, Nathan Pierce collapses on stage. Plagued with visions of a strange girl intent on killing herself, he wonders if his mental instability is a consequence of the deadly car accident he was in days earlier.

Heather Rhodes, wracked with guilt because of the fatal wreck, finds she is unable to forgive herself and begins to question her own beliefs. While the death of a newborn weighs on her heart, on her mind is the strange gift she was able to use to protect her and Nathan in the accident...a gift that Heather wonders may have just been a figment of her imagination.

Cynthia Ruin, aka The Pink Rabbit, decides that her high school graduation night should be used for partying, not walking down the football field. At a nightclub in Scottsdale, Cynthia finds more than she bargained for when a stranger from her past decides to exact his revenge on her for a prior rejection.

All three come to realize that their current problems are nothing compared to the stars that are falling from the sky. During the global crisis, the President of the United States makes it her personal mission to keep the country on the right track to becoming a world superpower, while a hostile entity known only as Absolute threatens her administration.

Meanwhile, word starts to spread that the falling stars may not be stars at all....


Her shimmering white hair flowed in waves behind her, as if the strands were banners that were moving with the rhythm of the dark wind. It was too much for one person to handle, immortal or human. The air felt dead around her, the chilly night whipping at her with intense prejudice, as if its single desire was for her to die, and die horribly at that. The feeling of hopelessness was now threatening to consume her whole being, and so she would allow it, if she could. But nothing would be able to consume her this night. Nothing seemed able to rescue her from this internal agony.

She peered over the edge of the skyscraper, taking in the busy city below. Vehicles of different shapes and sizes were milling around the grid of streets. They all looked like blurry, chunky dots in her tear-filled eyes. She wiped the liquid drops from the corners of her pupils as they transformed into crimson flower petals and were swept away with the wind to start the long trek down toward the hapless beings below. She cupped her fragile, trembling hands over her face and took a deep breath. The smell of roses filled her senses with a sudden beauty that made her heart smile slightly.

So, it has all come to this, she thought. This is the end. The end of this beautiful planet. The end of everyone’s life on it. Hopefully the end of my own life. She glanced down at her wrists, the red scars fresh in her skin, the incident mostly fresh in her mind. Trying to kill herself with the razors hadn’t worked. She rubbed her neck, which was still slightly sore from trying to hang herself. Even throwing herself in front of that semi hadn’t worked. She glanced down at her bare knee and scanned the bruise for a moment, not surprised that it was almost completely healed.

A violent gust of wind swept through, chilling the skin underneath her short, white dress. She wrapped her arms around herself, shaking her head. I can’t do this! “I can’t do it!” She sobbed, falling to her knees there on the roof of the tallest building in Phoenix as flower petals swept across the space in front of her with manic intensity.

Her mind flashed back to clips of her evil mother, Evanescence, or the Great Witch, as she had heard some call her. She was a breed of evil that the world, this world anyway, had never seen. She had given birth to Pearl, but that was where the connection to the two ended, at least in Pearl’s mind. Pearl had been born at the ripe age of eighteen. Nobody else on Earth had been born at such an age, and she quickly reminded herself that this was indeed Earth. This wasn’t Heaven and it wasn’t Hell…yet, anyway. It was about to be hell on Earth, and she didn’t want to be here for that. She didn’t want to see the slaughter, the fire and brimstone, the end of the world. The end of this world.

The visions she had in her mind of the ways those on Earth were going to perish were gruesome and morbid, and had prompted her to try and end her life, unsuccessfully. She didn’t know if she could be killed by another, but even if she could, she didn’t want to put that guilt on anyone else. Neither did she want to die by her mother’s own enchanted hands. She knew the witch would torture her, listen to her own daughter squeal with erratic horror just before ripping her tender heart out.

This is why Pearl had to do what she was setting out to do. She had to escape this horrible planet. She wanted to be with her father. She wanted to go home.

She wiped the blur from her eyes and peered off the edge of the building again. The end was so near. What better time to meet her creator? Before the whole planet became swallowed in darkness, she could go be with the one who had actually formed her, despite what her mother tried to make her believe.

She stepped up to the edge, the wind threatening to knock her off balance. She certainly didn’t want to tumble down the side of the building. That would be painful. She wanted a quick, easy way out. A way out of my responsibilities? Perhaps. But staying here was not an option at the moment. Not with what she knew was about to occur on this poor planet. This poor, defenseless planet. They don’t stand a chance.

She heard a loud bell ring in the distance. She listened for a moment, keeping her balance on the ledge, until she was able to count eight chimes in all. She then closed her eyes and tipped her body forward.

For a long moment, she felt herself caught in a gust of air, as if she was flying. The feeling was spectacular, but then the tremendous pull of gravity yanked at her dress, at her skin, at her very soul, and beckoned her toward the streets below. As she fell, she smiled at the thought of being in Heaven tonight.

Her face swept through some of the rose petals she had cried earlier as their floral scent added a beautiful irony to her coming death. The sounds of the streets grew louder and louder. Someone shouted something about her falling through the air. Then the noise ceased altogether…

Chapter 1 
Thursday, May 22, 2008   -   8:01 p.m.
Gilbert High School Graduation Ceremony
Gilbert, Arizona

Nathan’s eyes opened. Massive pain coursed through the wound in his forehead. Noise crept into his senses, and he suddenly realized where he was. He scrambled to move his arms, legs, even his hands. People were pulling him up, standing him to his feet too quickly for his brain to catch up.

The blurriness left his eyes and the whole graduating class came into focus. Hundreds of seniors in their black and gold gowns were staring, gasping, standing in awe of his collapse. The teachers who were holding him up helped him to take a seat in one of the folding chairs on the stage reserved for the faculty themselves.
He bent his head down into his hands and tried to come back to reality. The girl…and the building ledge…and the darkness—it was all too real. As if he was there. As if he was the girl. Okay, that’s disturbing.
“It’s okay, folks. It looks like Nathan Pierce is going to be alright.”

He turned his head and saw Principal Carter at the podium. He was smiling at the audience with intense nervousness. He adjusted his blue tie. “We’ll have medical personnel take a look at Mr. Pierce to make sure he’s doing okay, and then we will continue with the names.”

One of the teachers, one Nathan didn’t recognize, walked over and handed him his rolled-up graduation certificate. “You dropped this.”

He took it from her, and that’s when he noticed his hand shaking uncontrollably. His eyes met those of the aging woman, and he found himself staring into her eyes for a moment—her calm, blue eyes. He wondered if he knew her from somewhere, somewhere other than school.

“Take heart, Nathan. You have been chosen for something great.”


Her gaze suddenly shifted behind him. He turned to follow it and spotted two paramedics approaching the stage. The female of the two moved in on Nathan as he turned back and saw that the teacher with the calm eyes was nowhere in sight. A cold stethoscope was slipped down his black gown and buttoned shirt, pressed cold to his chest. He shivered with the chill of the metal.

“My name is Janelle.” Then she motioned to the other paramedic who was opening up a large black case to the side of them. “This is my partner, Michael.”

Michael smiled and pulled a small flashlight from the case, shining it into Nathan’s eyes. “Looks a little glazed.”

The woman glared at Nathan while she listened to his heartbeat. “It’s important that you be honest with me, okay?”

He nodded.

“Have you taken any drugs today at all?”

He shook his head slowly. Drugs?

She continued glaring at him but spoke to her partner. “Elevated heart rate.”

He took his turn to glower at Nathan now. Nathan found he had to turn away from the both of them, as if he was actually guilty of something.

Janelle held onto his arm. “Are you experiencing any pain?”

“My head hurts.”

She reached up and pulled his forehead toward her as she gently moved his brown bangs out of the way and peeled back a black bandage, revealing a stitched gash that was still healing. “Where did this come from?”

Michael nudged her arm. “He was the one in the paper. The one I told you about.”

Her gaze went soft and she replaced the bandage with nimble fingers. “Sorry.”

Nathan tried to smile, but it came off as more of a grimace. “It’s okay.”

They dumped their tools into the trauma bag and stood to their feet. “Take it easy, okay? Don’t do anything overactive tonight. Just enjoy your graduation, and then go home and rest. That cut is still a long way from healing.”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

They left him there. He looked out as the crowd began to seat themselves again, commotion stirring in the football field as everyone started chatting with each other. He could hear some of the students laughing in the midst and it made him feel embarrassed. How could he have passed out in front of the whole Gilbert High School senior class? Stupid.

“Now, now. The paramedics have cleared Nathan, so we will continue with the ceremony.”

The names were being called again. Nathan sat in his chair, burying his aching temples in his hands as his mind replayed his vision over and over again. Who was this strange girl who kept showing up in his thoughts when he passed out? What was her name? Where did she come from?

The pain in his head was agonizing, and he found himself wishing he would pass out again so he wouldn’t have to feel it. The hammering made it to where he could barely open his eyes to watch the next set of students approach the stage and grab their diplomas, some sneaking glances at the now infamous boy who had collapsed on stage the night of their high school graduation.


Pine Shadows Christian Summer Camp
Hume, California

Heather tried her hardest to worship and not think about the accident. She kept her eyes closed and didn’t bother with thoughts of those who were around her. She focused all of her concentration on God, on singing her heart out to him.

Your mercy stirs my heart to sing, a melody I was taught in creation’s womb…

Heather’s voice, though, only merged with the sounds she already had echoing through her head: the sound of crunching metal, of shattering glass, of chaotic destruction. These things were louder than the rest of the camp attendees who were singing the song.

Though the stars fall to the earth, and darkness plagues the land, Your love will remain…

The memory of the newborn being crushed in the metal jaws of that vehicle almost made her throat lurch. She took a deep breath and raised her hands above her head, determined to worship. She had gone the last couple days without letting the accident affect her on an uncontrollable level, but now the music was playing, fiddling with her very soul. She felt guilt coating her heart like a can of spilled motor oil. She wanted to worship her God so badly, but it was so difficult with this guilt, with this memory, with this burden.

The flowers of the field will sing Your praise, and all the world will dance for You…

The burns on her face started to feel warm. She knew it was the heat from the bonfire in front of her, but the idea of the fire alone was enough to send a shudder of fear through her body. She hated fire more than anything in the world, and being this close to one that the camp personnel had put together was a little too close for comfort. She continued to worship, continued to try focusing on the one thing that mattered, but it was pointless. Her mind and heart were outweighing her soul with grief and anxiety and fear.

Her eyes shot open and she found herself shoving past Kari Preen and Evelyn Sun on her way to the back of the crowd. As eyes turned on her in curiosity and general concern, she rushed toward the back of the circular clearing to the small gravel pathway.

The cool forest air hit her like a sack of campy potpourri, the scents of the pine trees and the bonfire sweeping across her. She started in a fast walk toward the forest area, hoping to find some privacy. The last thing she needed was one of the nosy adult counselors, or worse, Ryan, poking into business that wasn’t theirs.

The trees rustled their massive pine branches, knocking needles and cones to the forest floor. It was almost as if they were dancing to the music, worshiping God in their own uncanny way. She remembered a Bible verse from her childhood, something about the rocks singing out to God. She pulled a small flashlight from her pocket and shined it around her, finding a nice clearing near the edge of the first line of trees. She took a seat on a massive log and suddenly found herself struggling to hold back the tears.

She didn’t feel like she should be allowed to participate in the worship services, let alone hear the songs. She felt like a freak, one whom God himself didn’t want anything to do with.

She had done her fair share of crying over the last week and wanted to do it no more. She was tired, still having nightmares of the horrible car crash, of the newborn who was now dead. Why would God want to take someone out of this world so soon? Why would he allow something so heinous to happen to someone so small, defenseless and innocent? And why in the world would God allow Heather herself to have performed the act, to have steered their car into the other vehicle? To commit an act of murder?

She had asked herself these questions many, many times already and only wanted to shut her mind off now. It was time to try and move on, but she didn’t feel like she could. Only she knew what had really happened. When her vehicle had hit the SUV with the mother and child on board, something had released from Heather, something definitely not of this world. A strange shield had gone up over her and Nathan and had protected them from the accident, had at least protected them from getting killed. He ended up with a wound to the head and she wound up with these airbag burns that covered a third of her face.

She touched part of the wound, feeling the irregularities in her skin that were scarring over. She held her hands out in front of her and stared at them for a long moment, wondering what powers they held. Was it magic? If not, then was it an alien power? There were no such things as aliens, right? If it wasn’t magic or an alien power, than what was it? Had it been her imagination? No! If it was her imagination, then she and Nathan, along with that crazy driving instructor, would all be dead right now.

The rest of the camp was ringing out in a more upbeat song now, one that she liked to consider one of her favorites. She listened to the chorus for a moment, trying her best to worship in her own little way, in her own little corner of the forest.

You, oh Lord, give me light to battle the shadows,
You, oh Lord, give me healing with the pain,
You, oh Lord, give me shelter in the storm,
Oh Lord, I live to give glory to your name!

She turned her hands over and stared some more. She had tried a couple times in secret to release the protective shield again, but had had no luck. She wondered if it had been a one-time gift from God to protect her and Nathan. Then why wouldn’t he allow her to protect the ones in the other car as well? The newborn deserved to live far more than any of them, in her opinion anyway. And that innocent mother…she didn’t deserve this horrible curse, did she?

Her heart sank at the thought that, despite the topic of the song, there was no shelter for her, there was no healing, and there was no light to help her fight the internal shadows she struggled with.

The singing stopped. She readjusted the chopsticks in her chignon and started walking back toward the camp, flashlight in hand. She made her way around a patch of poison oak, her thoughts wandering to Nathan. She missed him. Little did he know how she felt about him. It was something she was heavily regretting while she was this far from him.

Her foot snagged a rock and she fell toward the ground, but before she hit the dirt, a bright violet light appeared from her hands, stopping her freefall. She quickly pushed herself off of it and stood to her feet, stumbling back in surprise as it disappeared into a thin purple mist.

She stared down at her palms again. There was nothing unusual there. Was it her imagination? Was there something in the air causing her to hallucinate? No, she hadn’t hallucinated in the car accident. She knew that for a fact.

She took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, making her way toward the camp again. She focused her gaze down toward her palms and tried to imagine the shield appearing before her, but nothing came from such a frivolous activity.

She reached the campground as a large crowd of teenagers piled out of the bonfire area. That was her queue that it was dinner time.

A young boy, Heather’s age with curly black hair and a chubby face, made his way toward her with a confused look. He was wearing a white shirt that said, “Allergic to stupid people.” Heather rolled her eyes.
“Hey, why did you leave in the middle of worship? You almost knocked Kari over on your way out.”

She shrugged. “I just had to get some fresh air, Ryan, that’s all.”

He eyed her suspiciously. “Something wrong?”

They started walking side by side toward the cafeteria. Ryan reached over and grasped Heather’s fingers in his. She yanked them away and then pulled her hands into the sleeves of her brown hoodie.

“I’m fine! Don’t worry about it. I just had to clear my mind of some things.”

“Like what?”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s personal.”

He kicked a small pebble. It bounced along the road in front of them and hit a young girl in the ankle. She swung around, cast him a scowl, and then jogged ahead to catch up with her friends. “Why is everything personal with you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I get the feeling that you just don’t trust me.”

“Ryan, I really don’t feel like talking about this right now, okay? Can I just have dinner in peace, please? I have a lot on my mind, especially with the car accident, and I don’t really feel like talking about it. Not just to you, but to anyone.”

He nodded. “The accident, huh? I forgot about that.”

She sighed. Of course you forgot about that, she thought, you forget about everything unless it pertains to you. “It’s just not something I’m ready to talk about yet.”

“I understand. You probably feel self-conscious about your burns, huh?”


“You know. The burns on your face.”

“Yes, I know about the burns on my face. What do you mean I’m self-conscious about them?”

“Well, I mean if I had burns that bad on my face, I would feel a little embarrassed around people too. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I mean, I respect you for not wanting to bandage them up. They’re kinda like battle wounds, know what I mean?”

Heather shook her head, marching ahead of him.

“What? What did I say?”


Devil’s Hideout Nightclub
Scottsdale, Arizona

The music swept around her like a colorful mist, moving her body with its rhythm, pushing her across the dance floor of the small nightclub.

She danced her way to the bar, where she slapped her purse down and took a seat on one of the tall stools. What a night! She pulled out her cell phone and scanned her text messages. Most were from friends who were walking the graduation stage at school tonight. They were jealous, of course, of her ability to party while they dressed in black gowns that made them look like television judges and sat in the sweltering Arizona heat, waiting for their names to be called. One text even called her a loser. That was Crystal, though, and she was an idiot anyway.

Cynthia, or Sin, as she was known around school, erased or replied to the messages, stating simply that she was having more fun than they were and they were just jealous of her awesomeness. A couple of the messages were for favors, but she wasn’t in the mood for that tonight, not yet anyway. She decided to leave those texts alone and reply to them later, at her own leisure. She stuck the phone back in her purse and turned to the bartender, a middle-aged man dressed in a white shirt and black vest.

“Can I get a Screwdriver please?”

His blue eyes met hers. “ID?”

She fished in her purse and took out the fake ID she had purchased a few nights earlier. He snatched it from her and scanned it for a full minute. Then he glared at her. She straightened out her shoulders and hoped that the black mini-skirt and fancy hairstyle would buy her a few years. She knew she wasn’t thin like those girls who end up on the cover of Maxim and could probably lose a few pounds. But she carried herself in a very alluring and confident manner and knew the attitude washed off on others she came into contact with. Normally she wouldn’t wear so much makeup, like the red lipstick (usually she opted for black or purple), but she wanted to look older tonight, not gothic like she did around school.

He handed the ID back to her. “Don’t think so.”

She took the card and feigned ignorance. “What are you talking about?”

“There’s no way you’re twenty-one.” He leaned against the bar and drove those striking blue eyes into hers. “It would definitely be in your best interest to leave this place in the next five minutes before I have to involve my manager.”

On a different night she would let the issue slide, but this night was different. This was her graduation night, and if she was skipping the grad ceremony to party, she sure as hell wasn’t going to let this guy dampen her spirits.

She threw the ID at him. It hit him in the face and fell to the countertop. “You’re going to serve me a Screwdriver or I’m going to have you fired.”

He stared into her eyes for a moment and she found she had to look away; his gaze was so incredibly intense. He finally took her ID and disappeared into the nightclub. She could only assume he was going to find his manager, and when he did, the real trouble would start.

She turned back toward the crowd and had a sudden urge to get back to dancing, but she wanted to get just a little bit of alcohol into her system first, to lighten up. She had been cooped up in the classroom for twelve years; tonight was a celebration of her newfound freedom and the beginning of her real life.

“Excuse me?”

She turned around. Another bartender, a skinny female with blonde hair and large breasts, approached her with a drink on her tray. “One of the gentlemen in the back of the club wanted you to have this.”

Sin smiled. “What is it?” She grabbed the highball glass.

“A Twisted Screw,” the bartender replied as she hustled back behind the counter to make some more orders.

Sin smiled. It was free and the bartender hadn’t even bothered to card her. She took a quick look around the club, trying to see who had been thoughtful enough to give her this gift. Nobody stood out in her vision. She decided she better do away with it as soon as possible before that prude bartender came back to ruin her fun.

She closed her eyes and drank it down, letting the liquid coat her throat and enter her stomach with a cool, fruity taste. She finished it off as fast as she could and then slammed the glass down on the counter of the bar.

The bartender with the blue eyes was making his way back toward her with a suited man in his wake. She stood up from the stool and lost herself on the dark dance floor, realizing this may be her only chance to have fun in this place tonight.

She closed her eyes and let the music take her where she wanted to go. She wanted to get away from Gilbert, away from Arizona. She was glad to be done with school and glad to be done with having to live with her mother. That woman was a pest if Sin ever knew one.

Her eyes suddenly grew heavy, and her body was doing moves she didn’t even know she knew. She felt the soft vibrations of the music pulse across her skin, pulling the hairs from her arms, tugging at the very bottom of her skirt. She felt good, she felt high. The drink must have been a bit more alcoholic than she thought because her body was starting to relax so much that she felt like she was floating. Awesome!

She tried to open her eyelids, but they wouldn’t budge more than a slit. It was through this slit that she noticed a tall, dark silhouette invading her space. She felt his cold hands touch her stomach and realized they felt good against her warm body. She let him close in on her, pushing his body against hers with the rhythm of the music.

She felt free, as if she was flying, as if she was soaring through the clouds in the night sky. She suddenly felt an incredible urge to rip her clothes off, right there in the club. But that would mean she would have to stop dancing, and she didn’t want to do that.

The figure ran his hands up and down the sides of her body, and she felt a static tingling across her skin, especially, suddenly, between her legs, and realized she was beyond horny now. She must be super drunk, she thought, but she could only remember, barely remember, having one drink, that Twisted Screw…how ironic is that?

The music became louder and the rhythm started to slow down, or was that her breathing? She felt her body relax, her muscles loosen and slip almost completely out of her control. The man was pulling her now, pulling her toward the edge of the dance floor? She tried opening her eyes, but they wouldn’t budge at all. Her eyelids felt like pieces of heavy, rain-soaked cloth. Her legs started to buckle, and she felt the stranger pulling her up, swinging her arm around his neck to support her. Why couldn’t she even stand? Wasn’t she floating through the clouds?

The buzzing she was feeling moments ago only intensified, like an electrical current running through her legs, her thighs, her pelvis—she wanted to get laid at this very moment, but somehow she couldn’t perform the simple act of opening her eyes. She would open her legs, but she wasn’t lying down yet, right?

The music was starting to fade, and she used all of her strength to open her heavy eyes, just enough to catch a glimpse of red tapestry blur across her vision. She wasn’t on the dance floor anymore, she knew this much. She caught another glimpse of the blurry stranger. Something in her memory suddenly triggered an alarm, but she couldn’t tell why. Her brain wasn’t cooperating. She found herself falling into a black hole of sorts. She felt something soft behind her and realized she was lying down. Finally, time to get that tingling taken care of.

She spread her legs as something hard began to stir underneath her skirt, something more than the electric buzzing. She welcomed it at first, would beg for it if she could speak. The buzzing had been slow and steady, but this motion was turning into something rough, a little too rough. It was like a jackhammer being thrust through the center of her legs, and she didn’t like that at all. She tried to reach down to grab whatever was doing it and felt a sudden pressure pin her arms down above her head.

She tried to struggle but found that she couldn’t even move. That movement in her crotch was unwelcome now. She wanted the buzzing back, wanted to be able to open her eyes. She felt her mind slurring with images of the dance floor, images of the bartender with the bright blue eyes. She tried to speak, but her tongue only allowed her a moan. She felt the hammering between her legs getting harder and rougher. She wanted to cry, but she couldn’t bring out enough strength to do it.

Suddenly, she heard loud shouting that rang in her ears like a basket of firecrackers going off. She wanted the music back, the sweet music. The rough jabbing stopped abruptly, and the intense pressure on her arms lifted. She dropped them down to her legs and fumbled around to pull her skirt down. She heard something being knocked around. The shouts were muffled, like the Peanuts characters from her childhood. She felt the black hole coming back to suck her in and felt everything inside of her die.

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