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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Shadow by Sylvain Reynard Review

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel trilogy comes the hotly anticipated follow-up to The Raven, a sensual novel set in Florence featuring the dangerously intoxicating coupling of Raven and William…

Raven Wood’s vampyre prince has returned, pledging his love and promising justice for every wrong done to her. In the wake of their reunion, Raven is faced with a terrible decision—allow the Prince to wreak vengeance against the demons of her past, or persuade him to stay his hand. But there is far more at stake than Raven’s heart... 

A shadow has fallen over the city of Florence. Ispettor Batelli will not rest until he uncovers Raven’s connection to the theft of the priceless art from the Uffizi Gallery. And while the Prince hunts a traitor who sabotages him at every turn, he finds himself the target of the vampyres’ mortal enemy. 

As he wages a war on two fronts, he will need to keep his love for Raven secret, or risk exposing his greatest weakness...


I’m interested in the way literature can help us explore aspects of the human condition – particularly suffering, sex, love, faith, and redemption. My favourite stories are those in which a character takes a journey, either a physical journey to a new and exciting place, or a personal journey in which he or she learns something about himself/herself.
I’m also interested in how aesthetic elements such as art, architecture, and music can be used to tell a story or to illuminate the traits of a particular character. In my writing, I combine all of these elements with the themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the transformative power of goodness.
I try to use my platform as an author to raise awareness about the following charities: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation, WorldVision, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and Covenant House. For more information, see my Charities page.


The Shadow (The Florentine, #2)

4.5 stars

I really liked The Raven, but for me, The Shadow is even better. The plot picks up exactly where it left off. If you enjoyed the art and history intermingled with vampire fantasy and carnal desire featured in The Raven, you're in for more of the same depth. Features that I didn't notice as much from the first book but loved in this one mostly include the action and twists.

There is a war brewing. The reader has to try to deduce who is bad or good. Also, several little important clues have been dropped in both books about the background and connections of Williams. Raven's past and relationships play big parts too.

A female lead that keeps her wits while being in love and doesn't give in to the physical perfection the vamp blood could give her is enduring. Including actual historical figures as characters is brilliant for this storyline. Watching the mystery of William slowly unravel is alluring.

The Shadow speaks to the reader's interests in intelligence and romance. It's a great mix. I’m very much looking forward to the next novel in the series.

***copy given in exchange for an honest review***


Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

FIGHTING SILENCE by Aly Martinez #TopReads2015 Interview

Sound is an abstract concept for most people. We spend our lives blocking out the static in order to focus on what we believe is important. But what if, when the clarity fades into silence, it's the obscure background noise that you would give anything to hold on to?

I've always been a fighter. With parents who barely managed to stay out of jail and two little brothers who narrowly avoided foster care, I became skilled at dodging the punches life threw at me. Growing up, I didn’t have anything I could call my own, but from the moment I met Eliza Reynolds, she was always mine. I became utterly addicted to her and the escape from reality we provided each other. Throughout the years, she had boyfriends and I had girlfriends, but there wasn't a single night that I didn’t hear her voice.

You see, meeting the love of my life at age thirteen was never part of my plan. However, neither was gradually going deaf at the age of twenty-one.

They both happened anyway.

Now, I'm on the ropes during the toughest battles of my life.
Fighting for my career.
Fighting the impending silence.
Fighting for her.

Every night, just before falling asleep, she sighs as a final conscious breath leaves her.

I think that's the sound I'll miss the most.

Each book in this series can be read as a standalone.


Which Page brother has given you the most trouble while writing?
Oh, this is easy. Flint. That man killed me. He was so cranky and crotchety all the time. It’s funny, every book, one of the characters is difficult. In Fighting Shadows, Ash was super simple, but Flint was a huge challenge. He was a judgmental asshole in the beginning…how do you make that endearing? HAHA!

Did the plot go exactly as planned or did you make some big changes while writing this series?  Anything that would shock us readers?
Ha! Nothing ever goes as planned. When I first plotted this series, Till wasn’t deaf. And up until the end of Fighting Silence, Flint wasn’t in a wheelchair. Yep. That totally came out once I started writing. At first they were just three poor kids trying to make it in an unforgiving world.

My plots change significantly as I write. I’m not a big outliner. And because of this, sometimes the characters do and say crazy stuff. I’ve given up trying to force them to bend to my will.

This series deals with MMA and disabilities.  What type of research did you do on both?
I had to do significant research on Till’s hearing loss. Honestly, when I’m writing, I do my best not to get into too many details when it comes to the medical stuff. Why? Because I’m not a doctor. I’m a romance author, and regardless of how much research I do, it would be impossible to get it 100% accurate. I try to be mindful of that.

As for the boxing element, the research was easy. I grew up on boxing. My father is a professional boxing trainer. I called dear old dad and got all the answers I needed. He even helped create some of the storyline for Fighting Silence to make it more accurate to professional boxing.

You mentioned awhile back that you have plans to write a couple of M/M books.  Can us gives us an update? 
Mmm, M/M! I am currently working on The Spiral Down. It is a M/M spin off of The Fall Up, based on Levee’s best friend Henry Alexander. I can’t wait to dip my toes into the incredible world of gay romance. Assuming all goes well with Henry, I have a few more up my sleeve.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Names are hard for me. Most of the time, I pick the names first and then build the character’s appearance around it. For the Wrecked and Ruined series, I went pretty tame with names. However, with On The Ropes, I wanted something different and I wanted to stick with the stone theme of Slate’s name. So we got Till, Flint, and Quarry.

What projects are you working on for 2016?
Next up for me is The Spiral Down. (My first M/M!)
After that I’m working on a book called, What If She Does. The guy in this book is a very different kind of hero for me. It should be interesting HAHA!


Food- Japanese. And I’m dieting right now so just thinking about this deliciousness is making my mouth water.

Exercise- If I exercise do I get Japanese food? HAHA!

Time of Year- Spring! I live in South Carolina so I love the warm weather before it become sweltering.

Color- It used to be orange when I was growing up. But I think that was just because it was different. I’ve always loved to stand out. Now that I’m older…I’d have to say blue.

Ice Cream flavor and topping- OMG. Of course you had to ask this question. I’m probably going to lose readers because of my answer. But I have to be honest, right?
I actually don’t like ice cream at all. HAHA! I’m more of a brownies, cake, and cookies kind of girl.

The Guys


“Too easy. Twice baked cheese potatoes,” Till said with a grin.
“Yes! Mine too. Shit, now I’m starving.” Quarry said, rubbing his stomach. “You think you can get Eliza to cook some tonight?”
“Not likely. We had ‘em last night.” Till’s grin grew. 
Quarry arched his eyebrow incredulously. “Seriously? I live ten minutes away. You couldn’t even give me a heads up she was cooking them? Asshole,” he mumbled under his breath.
Flint shook his head at his brothers. “You know he’s only giving you shit because you didn’t save him any of Liv’s brownies.”
Quarry crossed his arms over his chest, “Yeah well, I won’t be saving him any of the chocolate cake she was making when I left, either.”
Till’s jaw fell open as he gasped in shock. “The one she made for Blakely’s birthday?”
“Yep. That’s the one.” Quarry shrugged.
Flint smirked. “You two should really just work out a trade—Eliza’s cheese potatoes for Liv’s chocolate cake. And while I’m at it, I’d like to offer Ash’s rainbow cupcakes into the mix. I need some damn cheese potatoes too.”
Till leaned forward to catch Flint’s gaze. “Oh, that reminds me, I bought you a case of Ramen noodles at Costco last night.”
Flint curled his lip. “I’m gonna be sick.”


“I’ve taken up running since I retired. It’s miserable, but,” Till patted his stomach, “with all those cheese potatoes Eliza makes me, I have to do something to stay in shape.” He laughed.
Flint and Quarry glared.
“I’m more of a weights kind of guy,” Flint said. “Actually, I lifted an entire tray of Ash’s cupcakes a few days ago.” He shrugged innocently.
Till and Quarry glared.
“I hate exercise almost as much as I do both of these dickheads. But it’s a bit of a requirement for a boxer. It also means I can eat an extra piece of cake tonight so…whatever.” The corner of Quarry’s lips lifted, popping his dimple.
Till and Flint glared.

Time of Year

All three of the guys blinked blankly.
“Time of the year? Like season?” Till clarified.
“Yeah, I’m gonna need to skip this question, ya know…cause I’m not a bitch and all,” Quarry said crossing his arms over his wide chest.
Flint rolled his eyes. “You’ll have to excuse them. Summer. I love being outside.”
Quarry smirked and turned to face him. “Because it’s warm enough to get it on in the weeds with Ash?”
Flint punched him hard on the shoulder.
“Son of a bitch!”


“Red,” Till answered quickly.
“Neon green,” Flint said with a wide shit-eating grin.
“Oh sweet baby Jesus,” Quarry groaned at Flint’s answer. “I’d have to say pink.”
“Pink?” Flint and Till asked in unison.
“Well, maybe it’s only my favorite color after last night. Little surprise from Liv.” Quarry flashed a mischievous grin and then winked.
“Jesus,” Till breathed, shaking his head.

Ice Cream flavor and topping  

“Funny, I had a little chocolate syrup last night, too.” Quarry barked a laugh.
“Please ignore him. And publish nothing he says. Nothing. He likes chocolate. We all do.” Flint said with a charming smile before once again punching Quarry.
Till cleared his throat. “Not me. I like vanilla. With a little whipped cream.” He waggled his eyebrows and inched toward the door. “And so does Eliza.”
“Dude, she’s like my mom!” Quarry cried.
“Oh gross.” Flint grumbled.

Till laughed loudly as he rushed from the room.

aly martinez.jpg

Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, Aly Martinez is a stay-at-home mom to four crazy kids under the age of five, including a set of twins. Currently living in South Carolina, she passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a glass of wine at her side.
After some encouragement from her friends, Aly decided to add “Author” to her ever-growing list of job titles. Five books later, she shows no signs of slowing. So grab a glass of Chardonnay, or a bottle if you’re hanging out with Aly, and join her aboard the crazy train she calls life.



Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

KAGE by Maris Black #TopReads2015 Interview

KAGE is one of my top reads for 2015.  Author Maris Black agreed to an interview.  Kage even stopped by for a bit!  Also keep reading for a preview of the upcoming SSU Boys novel Dual Threat.

My name is Jamie Atwood, and I’m an addict. I never thought I’d say such a thing. Never had a problem being overly-attached to anything in my life. I came from a perfectly middle-class family, made good grades, and had a hot cheerleader girlfriend... but the truth is, nothing ever really moved me. So how did a guy like me become an addict? 

I met Michael Kage. 

Kage is an MMA fighter. A famous one. I like to think I helped him get that way. 

He’s charming as hell, with looks to rival any movie star and talent to back it up. So why did he need to hire me as an intern Publicist? Simple. He has a darkness in him– like a black hole so deep it could swallow him, and me, and everyone we know– and that’s not good for business. 

The first time I met him, I felt the pull. I think the addiction began at that very moment. And even if I’d known then what I know now, I would have fallen for him. How could I not? 

For me, Kage is everything.


When you started Kage, did you already know how sexual the storyline would get or did it evolve over time?

I planned a very sexual storyline from the start, and I knew Kage would be a kinky bastard with deep-seated issues revolving around his dark past. I knew there would be hot, rough sex, and a strong element of obsession, and I knew book one would be an excruciating slow burn with lots of sexual tension.

Like all of my novels, most of the plot points and several complete scenes of the story were already solidified in my head before I ever started typing. However, each story does morph over time as the characters take on a life of their own. For instance, I never envisioned Kage and Jamie making out in the condom aisle of a drugstore, and the hot scene in Jamie’s mom’s pantry was a big surprise. Conversely, the first scenes I wrote in the entire trilogy were the weight cutting scene from book 2, the final scene from book 2, and the final scene from book 3, and those survived largely intact until the very end.

When you walk into a bookstore, where do you head first?

Honestly, I haven’t set foot in one in ages, but if I were to visit one, I would first try to find a M/M section. Then I’d search in vain for the out-of-print eighties novel Dearest, which at the time was the creepiest book I ever read. It was about a dude who mummifies his girlfriend. I’m 99% certain this book was not a figment of my imagination.

If you could choose one superpower, what would it be and why?

I think I would have to go with time travel. Who wouldn’t like to be able to right past mistakes, or win the lottery by devious means? I would drink more water, finish college a lot faster, and refuse to let my granny fix my hair in Shirley Temple ringlets the night I met the cutest boy in the county. Gah! Couldn’t I have at least looked in a mirror before I left?

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

I spend a lot of time choosing the main characters’ names. Occasionally I will choose a name specifically for meaning, but often I’m just looking for a name that fits the character. In the case of Michael Kage, I dreamed his name and woke up with it on my tongue. I’m sure it was a subconscious nod to Johnny Cage and Mortal Kombat. Even the initials — MK. Crazy, huh?

What are some day jobs that you have held? Did any impact your writing? If so, how?

Well, after graduating college with an English degree, my first day job was doing literally everything at a small newspaper: articles, photography, obituaries, layout. Hell, I even delivered the damn things.

Then I was a respiratory therapist. My first novel, Owning Corey, is set in the small town hospital where I worked, though the names of the places are changed. The locals could probably recognize things in that book if they read it— which I’m sure they would never do.

I also trained and worked as a graphic artist for several years, which makes me just audacious enough to design my own book covers.

What projects are you working on for 2016? Do you have an excerpt from an upcoming book you can share please?

My next release is the Kage Trilogy audiobooks on January 26th, through Audible Studios. Works in progress are book 4 of the SSU series, a follow-up to the Kage Trilogy, and an unrelated story about young love and second chances that I’m really excited about. Then at least two more SSU books, spinoffs from Kage, and a music related series that’s been in the works for a long time. Some of these projects may never see the light of day, as I am criminally vulnerable to impulse.


Movie Villain-
Maris: Alex De Large from Clockwork Orange is one sexy sociopath, and so timelessly cool.

Kage: Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid (1984). “No mercy!” Fuck yeah. I don’t know if I’d beat him or sleep with him. Probably both. At the same time.

Type of Music-

Maris: I have obsessed over songs in almost every genre, but nineties alternative will always make me FEEL more than anything else— think Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, Type O Negative, Soundgarden. I think whatever is playing during those borderline teenage-adult years sort of brands itself onto our souls, or at least in my case it did. Right now I like a lot of moody pop, hybrid stuff, some rap.

Kage: Anything that gets me pumped. That one time I used Teleport 2 Me Jamie by Kid Cudi as my walkout song. Not my usual style, but damn it said exactly what I wanted to say to my baby. I knew he’d be listening.

Fast Food Restaurant-

Maris: I really don’t eat fast food that much. If they had Indian fast food, I’d be all over it. Or Iranian. Yum.

Kage: I don’t put that shit in my body, and you shouldn’t either. Mike Dolce is the best dietitian in MMA. If you want to straighten out your diet, he’s a good place to start.

Cleaning Product-

Maris: Clorox wipes. I keep them in every room in my home.

Kage: I use Classic Erotica’s Before & After, because a clean toy is a happy toy.


Maris: I write by this: “You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.” —George Singleton
But I should live by this: “Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.” —Henry David Thoreau

Kage: “Show no mercy!” —Johnny Lawrence, The Karate Kid
I know I used that already, but it’s so me. Except when it comes to Jamie. He’s my weakness.



SOMEONE once said, As soon as you stop wanting something, you get it. Or at least I think somebody said that. Maybe that mop-haired blond guy from the sixties who made the obnoxious pictures of tomato soup cans? Anyway it sounds familiar, and lord knows it’s true. It’s exactly the philosophy I’ve decided to employ to lure Emilio Madero back into my bed.

Our short but tumultuous relationship has stalled, and I’m at a loss as to how to get it going again. I already made the first move, took him home to meet my family, and even lost my virginity to him, which was a huge deal for me. A lot of guys would probably laugh at me for being so old fashioned, but I don’t live my life to please anyone else. If I make bad choices, the only one who’s going to regret it is me— Andrew Dalton— and as anyone who knows me will attest, I don’t do regret. That attitude, along with my borderline irrational aversion to guns and the unshakable belief that I can do most anything I put my mind to, can be blamed on my parents. They have always made sure I had everything I needed, and pretty much everything I wanted as well, but they made me earn it with good grades, impeccable manners, and a solid work ethic.

But this boyfriend thing has me floundering like hell. The tools I’ve used to get everything in my life so far aren’t working. Grades and manners mean nothing to Emilio. He doesn’t care that I haven’t made below a B on an Algebra test, or that I aced my essay on The Swimmer by John Cheever. He also doesn’t care that I helped my mom bake cookies last Sunday for the residents of my great-grandmother’s nursing home. Apparently, he also doesn’t care that my family has money. I don’t know what Emilio does care about, or what could possibly make him want me like I want him. The only thing that’s gotten his attention so far is spreading my legs for him, and even that hasn’t been enough to keep him from losing interest.

Right now he’s standing across the gym, cutting up with a few of the senior football players and looking totally lickable as he strips off his sweaty t-shirt. Powerful muscles ripple beneath his brown skin as he balances first on one foot then the other to remove his socks. After slinging them into his locker, he starts to unlace his pants. I’ve never had a particular affinity for Latino guys, but something about him makes me want to go ass-up every time I see him. He’s so powerful, so masculine, and so rough.

“Coach was being a dick today,” one of the guys comments, earning an animated reply from Emilio.

“I know, right? He definitely had a bug up his ass. I think it’s that time of the month.”

Emilio’s fingers loosen the pants laces enough to reveal a distracting amount of skin below the belt, and I may as well have stars for eyes and a cartoon heart pulsing out of my chest. Subtlety is beyond my grasp when I look at him, and that’s a really bad thing considering he’s in the closet. I need to be careful not to give him away against his will. I mean, I’m not stupid. I know that his reluctance to let anyone know he’s gay is the reason he’s been ignoring me for weeks. Ever since we had makeup sex on an empty football field in a strange town the night before our first football game, he’s been a ghost. It hurts, but only an asshole of the highest magnitude would out someone who didn’t want to be outed. Even if that someone is okay with using me to get off in private and then acting like we’ve never met in public.

I slam my locker door and turn to head into the shower room to wash the sweat and grime of practice from my skin, but just as I spin around, I catch Emilio looking at me. His liquid brown eyes hang on me for a suspended second, and the raw longing I see in his gaze gets that cartoon heart of mine going even faster than before. Emilio blinks in slow motion, and his tongue slips out to wet his full bottom lip, giving it a tantalizing sheen. Then one corner of his mouth tips up into a teasing almost-smile.

He’s actually acknowledging me?

Just as I open my mouth to say something— please let it be something cool— Emilio turns back to the other guys and laughs. His little smile wasn’t meant for me after all, and now he’s back to ignoring me again, as if we’ve never touched, or kissed, or made love like we were the only two people in the world.

Which brings me back to my new motto. Obviously wanting the guy is not working, so I’m officially putting Operation: Fuck You into effect. Starting today, Emilio Madero is going to learn just how ruthless I can be when I don’t want something.

My name is Maris Black (sort of), and I'm a Southern Girl through and through.
In college, I majored in English and discovered the joys of creative writing and literary interpretation. After honing my skills discovering hidden meanings authors probably never intended, I collected my near-worthless English degree and got a job at a newspaper making minimum wage. But I soon had to admit that small town reporting was not going to pay the bills, so I went back to school and joined the medical field. Logical progression, right? But no matter what I did, my school notebooks and journals would not stop filling up with fiction. I was constantly plotting, constantly jotting prose, constantly casting the people I met as characters in the secret novels in my head.
Yep. I can blame my creative mother for that one!
When I finally started writing fiction for a living, I surprised myself with my choice of genre. I'd always known I wanted to write romance, but the first story that popped out was about a couple of guys finding love during a threesome with a woman. Then I wrote about more guys, and more guys, and more guys. I was never a reader of gay fiction, and I'd never planned to write it. The only excuse I have for myself is: Hey, it's just what comes out!

I adore the M/M genre, though, with all my heart. It feels sort of like coming home. I can’t quite explain it. I’ve always had openly gay and bisexual friends and relatives, the rights and acceptance of whom are very important to me, so it feels great to celebrate that. But there’s also something so pure and honest about the love between two men that appeals to me on a romantic level and inspires me to write.
Thank you, men. :-)

I currently live in Nashville, TN with my devoted husband (who just happens to be my biggest fan), my three eccentric children, and a hairless cat named BLU. Life is good.


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Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents