Friday, October 20, 2017

"Never Apart" by Romily Bernard

Never Apart
by Romily Bernard

Never Apart by Romily Bernard

Never Apart by Romily Bernard is currently on tour with Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

How many times would you die for love?
What if you had to relive the same five days over and over?
And what if at the end of it, your boyfriend is killed ...
And you have to watch. Every time.
You don’t know why you’re stuck in this nightmare.
But you do know that these are the rules you now live by:
Wake Up.
Now, the only way to escape this loop is to attempt something crazy. Something dangerous. Something completely unexpected. This time ... you’re not going to run.
Combining heart-pounding romance and a thrilling mystery Never Apart is a stunning story you won’t soon forget.

Chapter 1
I'm going to die again.
Ander's hand tightens around mine like he can hear my thoughts. Or maybe it's just because he can hear my breathing: too fast, too ragged. We're running and running, and I can't go much farther. My lungs are burning. My knees are buckling.
"C'mon!" Ander tugs me closer and I slip, lose my shoe in a puddle. The rain's coming harder now, the grass turning to mud, but we don't stop. We can't.
Finn is drawing closer.
"Don't look back," Ander says.
I do. I can't help it. I can hear him.
Finn's breathing's gone ragged, too. He sounds like a dragon in the dark. He's driving us into the swamp, hunting us.
I'm going to die again.
Low tree branches whip my face, rip hair from my head. Ander grunts and staggers sideways, rights himself. I squeeze his hand, pump my shaking knees harder. He matches me stride for stride. We splash through a pocket of swamp water, and Ander shoves me left, toward a tangle of dead cypresses.
One ... two ... three ... four ...
Finn splashes in four seconds behind us and Ander twists sideways, hauls me to the ground. Mud, thick and rotten-smelling, cushions our fall. Ander rolls left, tucks us close to a thicket of overgrown briars. It's a hot summer night, but the swamp water's cold. I can't stop shivering. I clutch Ander's arm with one hand, my knife with the other, and for the first time I'm glad there's no moonlight. Finn will never see my blade coming.
Ander crouches over me as Finn draws closer ... closer ...
Away from us.
Finn slogs deeper into the water and stops, listening. Ander holds me tighter, and I crush my mouth against his T-shirt.
He's going to hear you. He's going to hear you.
Finn turns right, splashes farther into the swamp. His footsteps drift right and then left and then right again, and I swallow a sob, taste the rain running down my face. He's looking for our hiding spot.
I'm going to die again.
"Don't be afraid," Ander whispers. "If we Fall again, I will find you."
This is what Ander always says: I will find you.
This is what Ander never says: so will Finn.
Because Finn always finds us. Always. It's in my head like a mantra, like there are rules — and there are no rules or, at least, there aren't any rules that I know beyond this: It's always the three of us.
We always find each other.
Ander and I can run, but Finn always follows, and we always die.
"Not this time," I whisper, which means this time I can't miss. This time I have to kill Finn first. I lean forward even as Ander tries to press me back. He's afraid for me. He should be afraid of me. When did I become capable of murder? When Finn killed Ander the tenth time? The twentieth?
He always finds us — and he'll find us soon, even if we stay hidden. He knows we're here.
Another sob wobbles in my throat, and I chew it down, fingers tightening around the wet knife handle. I place my free hand against Ander's chest. For a heartbeat, he resists.
"You promised," I breathe, and somewhere in the dark, Finn stops. He hears us. "You promised," I repeat, lifting my voice a little louder because it will bring Finn closer and force Ander to keep his word.
In every lifetime, he has died and I have watched. In every lifetime, he has fought Finn and we have lost. This time? This time I will fight and Ander will watch and maybe the pattern will finally break.
And maybe we will live.
My heart swings like a pendant on a string. We will live.
Finn sloshes closer, and I force myself to stand. He's a shadow against the trees, liquid dark churning through the shallow water. I manage three steps sideways and then three more, drawing Finn away from Ander. He follows until I pause.
I fight like total crap, but I'm good at being Finn's lure. He's given me lots of practice. I wait and wait and he studies me and studies me and then —
"Grace," Finn breathes.
And I charge. I hit him low, ramming my shoulder into his chest as his fingernails dig into my arms. Finn plows me into the mud, and I jam the knife in deep. Deeper. Finn swears. I stagger.
My hand slips. I lose the knife as Finn tips sideways. He seizes my wrist and I kick him, grabbing for the blade handle and missing.
No, I didn't miss. I can't find it.
We're grappling in the mud, then hands dig under my arms, yank me to my feet.
"Run!" Ander drags me forward and I stagger, feel Finn's fingers snatch at my bare leg, hear him hiss my name.
"Go!" Ander shoves us deeper into the swamp. We push past thicker trees and into colder water. This far in, it's even darker and the mud is deeper and Finn is cursing. He's to our right? Our left? I twist and trip, crash against a tree coated in wet moss.
"I can't," I gasp, and Ander doesn't argue. He presses his face into my neck and breathes me in like I'm not covered in sweat and tears and mud, like we're on a date and I am what he's always wanted. "You know how this ends," he whispers into my rain-soaked skin.
I don't answer. I can't. Won't.
My eyes search the shadows as my hands search for Ander. I find his fingers and knot them in mine.
"It's like he didn't even feel it! Maybe I missed? How could I have missed?"
"Because we always miss and Finn never does. Grace" — Ander gives me the tiniest shake — "you know how this ends."
I dig my fingers into his T-shirt, and tears leak down my cheeks. They're even warmer than the rain.
There's a splash to our right, and a shadow moves closer. Finn.
"When I jump him," Ander whispers, "I want you to run. Do you understand?"
Of course I do. We've done this over forty times. I understand how it works, how it ends, how much I love the boy I'm about to watch die.
"I love you," he whispers.
"I love you, too."
Ander pushes away from me in one smooth, silent movement. We've gotten good at that, but Finn still tenses. He heard us. He's gotten good at this, too.
I shrink against a rotting tree trunk, taste mud when I swallow. Once upon a time, we were all friends and now ... now ...
"Go, Grace," Ander says as Finn swings around. "Don't look back. Go."
Ander rushes him. One stride. Two strides. Connect. They go down with a splash and I'm ready to run, but running would mean leaving Ander to die, and I can't. I can't do it anymore. I can't watch this anymore.
Ander spins Finn around and there's the horrible smack of flesh on flesh. Finn staggers and I'm moving before I even realize it. I smash my fist into Finn's face and he tilts sideways, stumbles.
Ander lunges. Finn twists. The knife lifts.
Ander drops.
His knees hit the water. His head rolls back. I cannot catch him as he falls.
"Ander —"
Finn grabs for me and I stumble away, my bare foot plunging into a hole. Pain spikes up my leg. I yank sideways. More pain. I falter, color spraying behind my eyes, and when I open them again, I'm on my knees.
Get up! Get —
I feel him.
His chest under my palm. His T-shirt twisted in my fingers. I struggle to turn, shivering from the cold mud and the colder water, as Finn limps toward me. It makes tiny waves lap at my forearms and thighs. I shove up and we look at each other — really look at each other.
I see a boy barely past seventeen with Ander's blood on his shirt. Again.
He sees a girl barely past seventeen with Ander's blood on her hands. Again.
I'm coated with mud and drenched with rain. I look like I crawled from a grave, and it's so damn fitting I want to laugh.
"Please," I force through cracked lips. "Please don't do this."
"So many lifetimes," Finn says, drawing closer. "So many Graces and yet you all cause so much damage. How is that possible?"
I don't understand. I swallow, swallow again. All I taste is blood and all I smell is rot. "Please," I try again. "I don't understand! We used to be friends! Why does this keep happening? Why do you keep doing this?"
Finn shakes his head like he hates it when I lie, only I'm not lying.
"I don't understand," I whisper.
Finn lifts my dirty knife. "We all have to pay for what we did."
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Thrilling, romantic, and full of surprises, Never Apart kept me on the edge of my seat, desperate to uncover what was happening to Grace - and whether she’d ever find a way to stop it. A journey of love and loss, heartbreak and hope, this is a haunting story that sticks with you long after you turn the final page." ~ Megan Miranda, NYT Bestselling author of All the Missing Girls
"Utterly captivating. This book had me under a spell from the first page. A beautifully written story of love, loss, and the fragile threads that bind us to one another." ~ Natalie D. Richards, author of Six Months Later
"Impossible to put down ... An infinitely readable story that twists and turns in all the right places, then hurtles toward a shocking conclusion. I fell in love with Bernard's complex characters, her exquisite imagery, and her masterfully-timed reveals." ~ Elle Cosimano, award-winning author of Nearly Gone and Nearly Found
"All I can say is: WOW!" ~ Pintip Dunn, NYT Bestselling author of Forget Tomorrow
"I just can't express enough how in love I am with this book. It dealt with so many problems so well and the story just kept me reading me until the the end." ~ Emily Fiaretti, Emily's Book Life

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
Grace and Ander are stuck in a never-ending loop of alternate realities in which they run from Finn, Grace watches Ander die, and all three once again Fall. Now, in her forty-second Fall, things are very much like Grace's own life. Her twin brother Jem is there, as is her dog Visa. But she's popular (not her usual shy self), Finn is her friend, and this Ander is not her Ander - he doesn't know about what's been happening to them. Grace decides she's had enough, and it's time to change the course of events.
The story begins at a cracking pace and never lets up. Grace's current day accounts of her Falls are interspersed with glimpses of her original life. We see how every decision she has made impacts her life and the lives of those around her. The tension builds, as we slowly piece together what happened in the past to put all of their futures on hold.
Absolutely riveting.
Warnings: underage drinking, violence.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"If we Fall again, I will find you."
"She didn’t sound like my mom. The words were rusted, like she resurrected them from some part of her I didn’t even know existed."
"He was my second heartbeat."
"... the past wants to be heard and sometimes you have to wait until it’s done with you."
"We have a word for losing parents: orphan. We have a word for losing spouses: widow. There is no word for losing a twin."
"It was hard being lonely. It was harder saying good-bye."
"It’s better to be born and live a little than to never exist at all, right?"
"They are real. Haven’t you ever met a character who’s more real than someone standing next to you?"
"Finn’s eyes are so sad it makes that slow smile look accidental—a rainbow in spilled gasoline."
"I didn’t have me without him."
"Underneath my skin, I was a landslide. No matter how hard I smiled, I could still feel the cracking."
"The moon is a yellow smile in the distance, dribbling pale light through the leaves."
"You can be with someone for a year and feel nothing. You can be with someone for a week and feel everything. Time is not an accurate measurement for love."
"The sky was everywhere, a vaulted ceiling of stars."

About the Author
Romily Bernard
Romily Bernard graduated from Georgia State University with a literature degree. Since then, she's worked as a riding instructor, cell-phone salesperson, personal assistant, horse groomer and exercise rider, accounting assistant, and, during a very dark time, customer service representative. She's also, of course, now a YA novelist. So don't let anyone tell you a BA degree will keep you unemployed. Romily currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her debut novel, Find Me, won the Golden Heart Award for YA Romance from the Romance Writers of America in 2012.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a hardcover copy of Never Apart by Romily Bernard (US only).


Thursday, October 19, 2017

"The Well" by P. W. Creighton

The Well
(Passing Strange Book 1)
by P. W. Creighton

The Well (Passing Strange Book 1) by P. W. Creighton

The Well, the first book in the new Passing Strange series by P. W. Creighton, is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Bad Reputation.

For Fourteen-year-old Aidan Reynolds, the archaeological dig at the Parrish Cove historical society is the only thing making the summer interesting.
That is until he meets Maddie, an unusual girl who has just moved to town and is convinced that there is more to the local legends surrounding the historical society than even he knows.
While Aidan may not believe her, the strange artifacts that are recovered from the dig force them into exploring the dark, twisted history of Parrish Cove and its strange doctor ... a man who vanished over a century ago.
Together, they uncover a town secret that has been forgotten for centuries, and discover that there are some things that should stay buried.

The officer started us back into the plaza at a rapid walk. His clomping steps on the brick walkway, and the heavy jingling of his belt gave an air of strength. Although Maddie was glued to my side, I could feel her gaining confidence with each step. We were probably running from a dog again.
“Here,” I said, and started us back down the alley past the Custom House.
“Did you see the animal?” The officer asked.
“Yeah,” Maddie responded.
“No,” I corrected with glance at her. “It was fast.”
The officer clicked on his huge flashlight, casting a blinding light down the alley ahead of us. He quickly turned the light down the side alleys as we passed them to check for motion. It only lasted a moment before he swept the back ahead of us over the dumpsters and piles of cardboard lining the alley. The beam was so bright that it was possible to illuminate the brick walls on both sides.
Everything changed the moment we emerged into the park.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Guest Post by the Author
Finding the Perceived Reality in Mythology
Perception is a very curious thing. I’ve always found it fascinating, both from a psychological standpoint and from just being a casual observer. Yeah, philosophy class was always one of my favorites. Perception impacts everything we do both on an individual level and a cultural level.
The most entertaining aspects of perception are what continue to hold on for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, permeating everything that we do and everything that we create. Sure, many look at "ancient cultures" in some form of reverence or astonishment, but that influence is still felt today. It is our perception of those myths that gives them such power and such weight.
Taking a quick glimpse at any "ancient" culture whether it be Egyptian, Haitian, Slavic, Celtic, or so forth. We spend countless hours theorizing what the origins of these cultural myths could be. We wonder how the artifacts that we’ve found show that influence, creating a reverence for these same myths. And then based on our own current perception of these myths, we impose what we believe these myths mean and how they may have originated. All while being conscious of the fact that we are viewing these myths through our own perception.
Let’s take a modern urban legend, a modern myth: Slenderman. Slenderman is a contemporary urban legend, a creepypasta that originated in 2009. It is a faceless tall-man in black suit that abducts kids. A forum author wrote a story and created a photograph of the character in 2009. After the story was passed around the depths of the Internet for a while, it began to take on a life of its own, well beyond that of the creator.
It was the uninformed individual’s perception of the character that allowed the story to become a contemporary myth with countless stories attributed to the legend, and ultimately resulting in a string of violent acts in 2014 and a near fatal stabbing of a 12-year-old girl in Wisconsin after they perceived this myth as reality.
The most frightening aspect of our world isn’t the origins of the cultural myths that we create or study. It is that our own reality, our own perception, is completely subjective. It is only through a large consensus that we agree on what reality is.
What you see is not what someone else sees nor how it is perceived.

About the Author
P. W. Creighton
Born in California, P. W. Creighton has spent most of his life traveling throughout the US, drawing inspiration from his many adventures and turning that strange reality into fiction.
Over the years, he has found himself in many unusual situations, ranging from hanging off an 80 foot cliff-face in New York, to sailing off the coast of Salem, Massachusetts. He has hosted archaeological excavations and even reported from the middle of a police stand-off.
When a teacher asked him in the second grade what he wanted to be when he grew up, he didn't have an answer. To be honest, he still doesn't know. He just lets his characters make that decision.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three signed print copies of The Well by P. W. Creighton (US only).


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Cold as Ice" by Julie Mulhern

Cold as Ice
(The Country Club Murders Book 6)
by Julie Mulhern

Cold as Ice (The Country Club Murders Book 6) by Julie Mulhern

Cold as Ice is the sixth book in Julie Mulhern's Country Club Murders series set in the 1970s. Also available: The Deep End (read my blog post), Guaranteed to Bleed, Clouds in My Coffee, Send in the Clowns, and Watching the Detectives (read my blog post).

The Country Club Murders by Julie Mulhern

Cold as Ice is currently on tour with Great Escapes Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Ellison Russell’s life resembles a rollercoaster ride. And rollercoasters make her ill. Her daughter Grace has a crush on a boy Ellison doesn’t trust and she’s taken to hosting wild parties when Ellison goes out for the evening. Worse, the bank which represents Grace’s inheritance from her father may be in trouble.
When a meeting with the chef at the country club leads to the discovery of a body, Ellison can’t afford cold feet. She must save the bank, find the killer, and convince Grace (and herself) that powerful women don’t need men to rescue them.

Check out the Guest Post by the Author (below) to read an excerpt and the inspiration behind it.

Praise for the Book
"I loved that the book takes place in 1974 when there were no cell phones, computers, etc. It was a nice change of pace. I am looking forward to reading the other books in this series, but do not feel that I was missing any important information because I hadn't. This book can definitely stand alone and I truly enjoyed it." ~ Sunny
"This is the first book I have read by Julie Mulhern and certainly won't be the last. I now need to go back to the first book in the Country Club mystery series and read them in order. Ellison is a typical seventies mom, a widow with a typical teenage daughter. Great story, fast paced, funny and a dead body." ~ sonnysmom
"This was the first book in the series I have read but it will not be the last! The characters were quite entertaining and the whodunit was very well written. I will certainly read the previous books in the series now, and look forward to reading the next in the series." ~ Karen Kenyon
"Every Country Club Murder is better than the last. I read this one in an afternoon; there was no stopping this story. I can't wait for the next one, because Anarchy." ~ G. Smith
"Julie Mulhern keeps honing her craft as a writer. I enjoy each of her Country Club mystery series installments more than the pervious. Her books are funny, well written and you can't put them down. When reading one of Mulhern's books, I keep telling myself, 'Just one more page' until I'm at the end, and I've lost a night's sleep. Cold as Ice is her best yet!" ~ Charlotte Wilson

Guest Post by the Author
Excerpt from Cold as Ice and My Inspiration for the Scene
If, by chance, you’re the parent of a teenager, I hope your son or daughter is an angel - the kind of adolescent who does their homework without being asked, the kind that empties the dishwasher because there are clean dishes inside and not because you nagged, the kind who never misses curfew and never considered having a party.
I did not raise angels. On the upside, my girls give me lots of inspiration. One of them (I won’t tell which one) inspired this scene in Cold as Ice.
Anarchy slowed the car to a crawl. I looked for the house flooded with lights and people.
I was hosting an enormous party.
And if the police cars and scattering teenagers and empty beer cans littering my lawn were any indication, the party was a good one.
“She’s grounded until she’s thirty.”
Anarchy snorted and pulled into the drive, parking at the bottom. The rest of the driveway was already filled with haphazardly parked vehicles.
I didn’t wait for Anarchy to open my door. I was out of the car before he’d even turned off the ignition.
I charged up the drive in full Mother mode. Four friends to spend the night? Where was Grace? When I was done with her she’d wish for Mother.
“Ma’am?” A uniformed officer actually thought he could stop me.
My steps didn’t slow. “My house.”
He wisely got out of my way.
I pushed on the front door. It didn’t budge.
Apparently the teenagers who remained in my house had decided their best course of action was to lock the door and wait out the police.
Too bad for the geniuses behind the door, I had a key. I inserted the gold Schlage and turned. The door swung open onto a world gone mad.
A mob of children holding beer cans stared at me with horrified expressions on their young faces. “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” blared from the stereo in the family room, loud enough for me to feel the bass rumble through the floor. The boys’ room wasn’t the only place people were smoking. Far too many children held cigarettes. My house smelled like a dive bar.
I stepped inside. “Where. Is. Grace?”
No one said a word.
“Out.” I pointed toward the front yard.
No one moved.
I let my gaze travel. “I know who you are.” I’d known most of the kids in my front hall since they learned to toddle. “If you’re not out of here in one minute, I’ll call your fathers.” I paused, slowing my voice to deadly intent. “And send them bills for this mess.”
The little delinquents flew out the door.
I felt a presence at my back and glanced over my shoulder. Anarchy stood behind me. “Wow.” His voice was mild.
Wow? Maybe that was an appropriate response for a homicide detective who was accustomed to witnessing gruesome crime scenes, but as the unexpected hostess for this party, the words scrolling through my brain were much stronger. My fingers curved into talons and I stalked forward. At least thirty teenagers still lingered in the living room. And why wouldn’t they? That was where most of the liquor was—had been. A group of five or six kids were spinning an empty bottle of eighteen-year-old Glenfiddich. The bottle had not been empty when I left.
They saw me and leapt from the floor.
“Out.” I pointed toward the door.
Maybe it was the look on my face. Maybe it was the police detective standing behind me. They ran.
I strode toward the kitchen. The island was cluttered with empty beer cans and glasses doing double duty as ashtrays. Three boys perused the contents of my refrigerator, a fourth pumped a keg.
The growl in my throat was visceral.
“Ellison, keep everything in perspective. No one’s dead.”
“Yet.” Maybe not the smartest thing to say to a homicide detective.

About the Author
Julie Mulhern
Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym, and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean - and she's got an active imagination. Truth is - she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog, and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

Enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of five ebook copies of The Deep End by Julie Mulhern (US only).