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Happy New Year, Everyone!

Happy New Year, everyone!

2015 was fantastic for both me and my husband. We were really busy, worked really hard, and you must have noticed that I was unable to give as much time to the blog and commenting here and on friendly blogs as much as I wanted which I truly missed.
Nevertheless, we've never been happier!

To all my friends, readers and authors, 
thank you so much for staying with me!

I might not show it enough but I truly love you all and appreciate every little thing you do for me!

Huge hugs from both me and Alex,
We are wishing you the very best, deliriously happy and fulfilling year.

Lots of love,
Alex and Karina

Some of the best things which happened on Nocturnal Book Reviews in 2015 happened this month:

My Top Reads of The Year 2015 Edition

Christmas With Elizabeth Hunter, April White, Susan Illene, Mary Hughes and Tracey Sinclair
who all wrote free Christmas shorts for the blog

This year I managed finally to catch up on longstanding series reading.

I'm up to date on Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher 
and I finished Jacqueline Carey's epic fantasy series.
I'm also almost up to date with J.D.Robb's In Death series, which believe me is no mean feat.

All in all this year was great fun, full of strong reads, and I will most likely to continue the same way in 2016.

Alright, I've gotta go. My cake has just been taken out of the oven, and we are better get ready for the party. I was told to expect lots of Mojitos.

Hugs to you all xxx

My Top Reads of The Year: 2015 Edition

Hey, ladies and gents! These are all the books which rocked my world in 2015. Not all of them were published this year as you can see, but I count them as my top reads anyway.

Best Contemporary Romance

NOTHING BETWEEN US featured another unexpected threesome in this remarkable series, and the complexity of the main characters just completely blew me away. What a book! TRADE ME made me cry, it was so thoughtful and sincere. THE ONE IN MY HEART had an unusual, bittersweet twist. DUMPLIN' made me laugh, and ASKING FOR IT tackled a very controversial, difficult topic with much insight and unexpected scorching heat.

Best Paranormal Fantasy / Dystopian

Much awaited THE MIME ORDER left me at a loss for words, it was brutal, complex and beautiful. MENAGERIE was a very difficult read, but I was on the edge of my seat all the time, and I applaud the author for tackling the issue of racism in such a fascinating way. At last, LAND OF THE BEAUTIFUL DEAD was freaking awesome. Not surprisingly, R.Lee Smith is in my top reads of the year three years in a row already!

Best Historical Fantasy

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE was an absolute delight, with this unexpected darkness in the main heroine and a wickedly attractive villain. LAIR OF DREAMS completely immersed me in its gorgeous world, and I didn't want to leave. At last, A CURIOUS BEGINNING was such a delight to read, from its banter to a kick ass adventurous, insanely smart heroine, that I can not wait to read more of this author!

Best Historical Fantasy Romance

While I loved Grace Draven's story, it's Elizabeth Hunter's A VERY PROPER MONSTER which reduced me to tears, it was so heartbreakingly wonderful.

Best Urban Fantasy

VISION IN SILVER and DEAD HEAT were read by me in the beginning of this year and both were absolutely amazing. CHANGES just broke my heart, it must have been one of the hardest scenes I've read in urban fantasy, and I'm still thinking about it. SWEEP IN PEACE and MAGIC STARS were the usual Andrewses' brand of badassery, which I sadly didn't see in Magic Shifts. At last, DECEPTION, a very strong urban fantasy, introduced a great new turn in the series, and I loved it.

Best Mystery / Thriller

NON-STOP TILL TOKYO was a wicked ride with an incredible female protagonist. I really want K.J. to continue writing about her. ECHOES was a wild card which totally paid off. Fantastic book about hackers! At last, RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER was deliciously atmospheric. Yum!

Best Fantasy Romance

CAPTIVE PRINCE, PRINCE'S GAMBIT and LORD OF THE WHITE HELL. Surprisingly all of these are M/M fantasy romances, and they are absolutely gorgeous. There is actually very little sexual content. It's more about incredible tension and anticipation between the characters amidst some gripping world-building. Honestly, read them! You'll thank me afterwards. *grinning*

Best Fantasy

I loved, loved, loved UPROOTED! It was beautifully written, and I've no doubt read it again and again over the years. COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES started a bit shakily, but holy Mother of God, it sure rocked my world at the end. MISTBORN made me realise the genius of Sanderson. Honestly, that book kicked ass philosophically, action-wise and by its sheer enormous world-building. THE IMMORTAL HEIGHTS made me cry with its absolutely epic ending. At last, if I could take phrases from THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA and hang them on my walls, I totally would. Alas, they are not PG-rated. That book was hilarious, full of sarcasm and at the same time heart-breaking, without even mentioning the cleverness of the plot itself.

“You've got that motherly concern in your eyes, Jean. I must look like I'm hammered as shit," said Locke.

"Actually you look like you were executed last week.”
Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora

Best Science Fiction

Both DARK HORSE and SHIFTER PLANET were incredibly well written and had kick ass heroines who saved the day with a flair, and both were from my favorite authors debuting in a totally new genre for them. I loved these books!

So any of these made it into your list of best reads of the year?

Merry Christmas, Ladies and Gents!

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, everyone!

May all your wickedest wishes come true. Have a wonderful time with your loved ones.

Hugs from both of us, me and the hubster. We are having diner with Alex's dad and our farm volunteers today. Alex has made Peking duck, and it's delicious.

I'll be drinking muscatel and thinking of you all. Go read some lovely books or watch fab movies.

Here are some links to pretty cool free Christmas stories
and of course there are freebies which you can find on this blog:

*grinning and raising glass*

Christmas With... Susan Illene + Giveaway!

An Unexpected Gift
By Susan Illene

The sun set hours ago and all Brandi could think about was getting home safely. Not many people braved the streets at nine o’clock on Christmas Eve and certainly not in this weather. Her headlights fought to penetrate the heavy snow swirling in front of her car. She was used to this kind of thing after living in Alaska her whole life, but this blizzard was worse than most. It reminded her of a previous storm—one she did not want to relive again.
Brandi gripped the steering wheel harder as her vehicle briefly lost traction on the road. Conditions were getting worse and she still had several miles to go. How was she ever going to make it? If she’d had the money to replace her tires, she would have, but funds had been tight lately. That was the whole reason why she was coming home so late. She’d worked overtime at the mall in the hopes of catching up on her bills.
A porch light glowed up ahead at a recently built tavern. The place could have come straight out of the Middle Ages with its white-washed walls, dark-wood trim, and a thatched roof that somehow defied all types of weather. It sat on the outskirts of Fairbanks. Brandi had passed it a hundred times, but she’d never had any desire to stop there. Something about the tavern didn’t sit right with her. The place had an otherworldly quality to it that couldn’t be normal.
Tonight, though, it stood out like a beacon—a refuge where she could wait for the winter storm to pass. Any reservations she might have had about the tavern were dwarfed by her need to get off the road. Brandi pulled her car into the lot, managing to find an empty space without too much snow packing it. She zipped her coat up to her neck and pulled her hood over her head before pushing the door open. A cold rush of wind hit her face as soon as she got out and snow stung her eyes. Shivering, she hurried for the entrance. Bars usually weren’t her scene, but she’d make an exception tonight.
Warmth greeted her when Brandi stepped inside. She stomped the snow off her boots on the welcome mat and took a look around. Two large, lit fireplaces set at each end of the tavern made it feel cozy, along with a full house of patrons. The interior appeared just as old-fashioned as the exterior: the same white-washed walls and wooden trim as well as heavy beams running across the ceiling. Most of the lighting came from lanterns set on the tables and concealed electric lights behind the bar.
Her nose twitched at the myriad of scents—wood-smoke, beer, and sweat. There was also a hint of pine coming from the Christmas tree near the door. Overall, the atmosphere was jovial as friends talked and laughed with each other.
Brandi felt awkward and out of place. She avoided meeting anyone’s eyes as she searched for somewhere to sit. All the tables were taken and though she caught a few offers to join others, she ignored them. The voices sounded friendly enough, but something wasn’t quite right. Some sixth sense that told her that she didn’t belong and should leave.
She told herself it was only because she’d avoided being in social settings for so long that she’d forgotten what it was like. Not because she might have seen a flash of overly-sharp teeth on one man or pointed ears on another. If not for the weather, she might have run out of there right then. Instead, she headed for an empty stool near the end of the bar. The storm would pass in an hour and then she could go. She just had to keep calm and avoid drawing attention until then.
A bartender with a thick beard and eyes that reminded her of a wolf appeared to take her order. She managed to mumble a request for whatever was on tap. A moment later he brought her an overflowing mug of room-temperature ale. Brandi grimaced as she sipped it, but she didn’t dare complain.
“You’re a brave little mortal to come in here alone.” This came from a dark-haired man sitting in the next stool over.
She froze. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
Before Brandi could question him further, he took his drink and left for a nearby table where two women sat. It was then she realized a few too many people were staring at her. Some of them had eyes far too dark to be human. Others stood out because of the vibe of danger surrounding them.
Dear God, had she just walked into a supernatural bar? Ever since sups had made themselves public, Brandi had made a point of avoiding them, but tonight she’d been too tired and scared of the roads to worry about it. Why hadn’t she listened to her instincts when she’d first come into the place?
A tall blond woman who carried herself like she was ready for battle any minute headed toward Brandi. She had the urge to shrink into herself, but she kept her back straight and met the woman’s eyes. They were dark without a hint of color. The kind she’d heard vampires had. It was only her long blond hair falling loosely to her waist that softened her features. Brandi’s hair was almost the exact same shade, but she kept hers cut to shoulder length.
“You didn’t read the sign by the door, did you?” the female vampire asked.
“The sign?” She hadn’t noticed a sign, but she hadn’t been looking for one, either.
“Humans enter alone at their own risk.”
“Oh, I…” Brandi gave a panicked look to the front door. Could she possibly make it through the crowd without anyone stopping her? Patrons who’d appeared friendly when she’d first arrived now looked hungry. Very hungry.
“I’m Kariann,” the vampire said, giving her a smile that didn’t look quite as scary as the others.
“I’m Brandi,” she whispered.
“It’s nice to meet you, Brandi.” Kariann nodded her head. “I’m going to give you a break since it is Christmas and help you out.”
She swallowed. “Help me out? How?”
“If you want to be safe in here, you need a protector. I’ve got just the guy for the job.” Kariann’s eyes flashed with a hint of mischievous humor. There was a joke in there that Brandi had to be missing.
“I’ll just go.” She slid off her stool.
“Nonsense. You can’t leave in this weather.” Kariann took hold of Brandi’s arm and guided her toward the back corner of the room. “I’d feel guilty if something happened to you.”
“Yeah, because staying here with vampires and…other things is so safe,” Brandi said, dragging her feet in the hope it would slow Kariann down.
She’d escaped dying once before, but ever since then she’d been subconsciously waiting for round two. Not that she’d imagined getting killed by supernaturals. Her fears ran more toward winter storms and slick roads. Had she traded one kind of death for another?
“Don’t worry,” Kariann reassured her. “Part of my job is to keep the peace between humans and supernaturals. Just be glad you didn’t come on a different night when I wasn’t here.”
Brandi glanced down at the vamp’s hand on her arm. “Yeah, you’re very convincing.”
“Oh, good. You’ve got a little fire in you. That should help.”
They stopped in front of a small table where a solitary man sat. Long black hair hid his downturned face, but when he looked up, Brandi’s heart leaped into her throat. He was the most beautiful and frightening man she’d ever seen. He had pale skin with an olive tint, square jaw, large nose, and silver eyes that swirled in lazy movements like a snake’s. She had the impression he could kill her in two seconds flat and go on about his business without ever thinking of her again. Kariann wanted this guy to be her protector? She was doomed.
“This is Kerbasi,” she introduced. “He’s older than Babylon and cranky as hell, but if you stay with him no one will mess with you.”
“You can’t be serious.” Brandi would have felt safer standing in front of a speeding train. Hell, Kariann suddenly didn’t seem that bad—or any of the other patrons in the place for that matter.
“Exactly my thoughts,” Kerbasi said, scowling up at them. “I did not come here to babysit a human.”
“I’m not staying with him.” Brandi shook her head.
Kariann made an exasperated noise. “He’s forbidden from killing humans. No one else in this bar can say the same.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” That was like handing someone a plate of food and promising it wasn’t poisoned. Except that once they brought the idea of poison up, there was no getting that thought out of one’s head.
A malevolent smile crossed Kerbasi’s face. “It’s not my ability to kill that people fear. It’s my ability to inflict pain over long periods of time without causing death that worries them.”
Brandi felt her knees turn weak. He was more than a little proud of himself for that.
Kariann leaned down until her nose practically touched his. “You are going to watch her, be nice to her, and make sure she gets home safe.”
His eyes narrowed. “I’ll do no such thing.”
“Yes, you will, or I swear by all that is holy I’ll fill your home with sex toys and tell everyone you’ve been visiting brothels.”
Brandi’s gaze ran between them. What kind of threat was that? She was rather certain there weren’t any brothels in Fairbanks, but it wasn’t like she’d ever had a reason to ask.
“You wouldn’t,” Kerbasi said through gritted teeth.
Kariann smiled. “You know I would. It might even be good for your image.”
“I could kill you where you stand.”
“Promises, promises.”
The man with ancient eyes turned his attention to Brandi. He studied her in a way that made her think he could see every one of her secrets. Did he have that kind of power? She couldn’t begin to guess what kind of supernatural he might be. Her heart started beating so hard in her chest she suspected the entire room could hear it, even above the din. She stumbled back a step and bumped into another patron’s chair. The woman sitting there turned, her eyes darkening. Kariann growled at her and pulled Brandi away.
Kerbasi let out a martyred sigh and relaxed his shoulders. “Very well, but only because I find her interesting.”
“Good.” Kariann shoved Brandi into a chair. “Then I’m sure you two will get along just fine.”
The female vampire sauntered off without another word. Brandi avoided meeting Kerbasi’s gaze and stared at the table instead. There was a glass on it that looked like it only contained water. Why would he come to a bar if he wasn’t going to drink any alcohol?
“I don’t bite,” Kerbasi said after a few minutes passed. He sounded tired and bored.
Brandi hesitated. “Then what do you do?”
“Torture,” he paused to study his fingernails, “when the occasion calls for it.”
A shudder ran through her. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
He shrugged. “I prefer to focus my attention on supernaturals. Humans are too frail.”
Kariann appeared with a fresh mug of ale for Brandi. She set it down on the table and then smacked the back of Kerbasi’s head. “Stop scaring her, guardian. You’ve been out of the torture business since last year.”
He rose from his seat with a murderous expression. Brandi scraped her chair back. No way was she going to get between these two psychos. He took hold of Kariann’s arms and a moment later they both vanished in a bright flash of light.
The tavern became still and quiet. Not wanting to look but knowing she must, Brandi turned her head. Most of the patrons stared at her or whispered to their companions. Was this what it felt like to be cornered by predators? Before she could formulate a plan, a hand fell on her shoulder. It squeezed hard and jerked her from her chair.
“My friends told me coming to Fairbanks would be fun. It appears they were right,” said her assailant. She gaped at the pale face of a man with black eyes and sharp protruding fangs. He couldn’t have been much older than her at thirty, but since he was a vampire his looks might have been deceiving.
She kicked and flailed, but he was too strong for her. Nothing could break the grip he had on her arms. He must have had shins of steel too because he didn’t even flinch when her boots struck him. Brandi saw her life flashing before her eyes as he leaned down, moving his mouth toward her neck. She tried to stretch away and push at his chest, but he didn’t budge.
Then he caught her gaze and her muscles went limp. For reasons she couldn’t understand, she had no will to fight anymore. A tear slid down her cheek. It was over. Brandi didn’t have to worry about how or when she’d die anymore. She had her answer.

Christmas With... Mary Hughes + Giveaway!

Christmas With...

Thank you to Karina and Nocturnal Book Reviews for having me here today to help celebrate the holiday season!
Small-town Meiers Corners police detective Elena O’Rourke Strongwell and her master vampire husband, Viking Bo Strongwell, are celebrating this Christmas with a trip to Mexico to find her mother’s relatives. USA born and bred, this is her first trip to Mexico, but it won’t be her last!

Christmas With... Tracey Sinclair!

A Dark Dates Christmas
by Tracey Sinclair

This might never happen. But since it’s Christmas, let’s pretend that one day it actually might…

It was the morning of Christmas Eve when the call came that I had been dreading.
‘No. Please, no,’ I begged, desperately. ‘This can’t be happening. Please let it not be true…’
There was a weary sigh from the other end of the line.
‘Oh, for goddess’ sake, Cass. Stop being so dramatic. I told you Katie wasn’t feeling well and that we might have to cancel.’
‘Can’t you just dose her up on Lemsip and magic potions and come anyway? What’s the point of being a witch otherwise?’ I asked, plaintively.
‘Yeah,’ deadpanned Medea. ‘Because ditching my sick fiancée on Christmas Eve so I can come get drunk with you is a sure-fire way to set us up for harmonious holiday.’
OK, she had a point there, but I was panicking.
‘Look, Cass, you’re being ridiculous. How bad can it be?’ She paused, thinking about her question. ‘OK, yeah. Forget I asked that.’

So: backtrack. Normally, I spend at least part of my Christmas volunteering for the local homeless charity Crisis. I don’t have any family, and only recently acquired what you could call close friends, so it never seemed much of a sacrifice. But after what by anyone’s standards was a very rough year, I had decided in a spirit of defiance to try and shake off my habitual winter gloom and celebrate the festivities for once. I had salvaged my conscience with a hefty donation to the charity – my business, the vampire-human dating agency Dark Dates, had held a fundraising evening at the start of the month. I’d worried that my colleague Medea might point out that, given all the trouble we’d been through lately and the impact that had on our coffers, we were in no condition to be giving money to anyone else, but of course she didn’t. She’d been with me last year when we trawled the homeless community of London looking for a rogue vampire that was preying on rough sleepers, and having seen up close the horrors of winter on the streets she was more than happy to contribute to the cause. She was letting me down now though, damn her! Because I’d put aside my normal Grinch-like tendencies, closed the office a day early and decided to hold a dinner party – well, as close to a dinner party as I get, which involves buying a load of party food from Marks & Spencer and getting everyone so drunk they don’t notice I haven’t actually cooked anything.
In a daring mood and with more faith than I possibly should have in the peaceful spirit of the season, I had planned to capitalise on the uneasy détente between the two men in my life and invite them both to the celebration. Cain, the immortal hunter who claims he is an earthbound angel, my on-off lover and the closest thing I have ever really had to a boyfriend (current status: very ‘on’) and Laclos, one of London’s oldest and most powerful vampires, and a man with whom I have, in the ‘off’ stages of mine and Cain’s relationship, enjoyed the occasional dalliance. So that was already complicated, and made even more so by the fact that while Laclos was open about his interest in, and pursuit of, my affection, he had also made it very plain that he wasn’t immune to Cain’s charms, either. Unsurprisingly, their relationship could be antagonistic, but since they’d been forced by circumstance to be something akin to allies in recent months – and had managed to regularly be in the same room without resorting to physical violence – I had been hopeful we could get through one night of civilised discourse. But without the presence of Media and Katie as a buffer (not that that was the only reason I had invited them, of course – they the aforementioned newly acquired close friends), I was starting to realise that my idea of pushing two such disparate men into my Disney version of Christmas was the height of festive folly. I was about to host a party where the only attendees were me and a couple of blokes I’d had sex with. How could it possibly go wrong?

Christmas With... April White!

 The Gift


 April White

                         *This story takes place between Changing Nature and Waging War.

     “Let’s explore the closets.” Olivia, my very tiny friend from school had come to visit her aunt, Sanda, but it was really just an excuse to see me and Connor. He and his family still lived in Jeeves’ flat above the garages, but since he was currently sequestered in a makeshift lab on the property with Mr. Shaw, she and I had found a shady spot on the lawn to sip lemonade and catch up on each other’s news.

     “It’s too hot to go inside.” I wasn’t grumpy, just lazy. Natasha, Connor’s big red dog, was on her back next to me, getting the mother of all belly-scratches, and I didn’t want the blissed out dog face to turn into sad eyes if I stopped.

     “I’ve heard the closets at Elian Manor are even better than the attics at school.”

     “I wouldn’t know. This isn’t really my house.” I said it without thinking, but Olivia’s startled reaction made me add, “I didn’t grow up here.”

     “This is your family’s manor house. Your roots are here and your people have always lived here. It's your history.” Olivia sounded shocked that I could think anything else.

     “My history is all over the map because we moved all the time. The only thing I really have in common with Elian Manor is my name.”

     Olivia pushed Rocky off her lap and stood up to brush grass from her shorts. “Oh. My. God. I can’t believe you haven’t claimed every inch of this house - it’s like a giant playground. Come on, I want to dress up, so we’re going to start with the closets.”

     “That sounds as much fun as a stick in the eye.” I grumbled halfheartedly, giving Natasha an extra scratch behind the ears. But I stood up to follow her anyway.

     “Oh shush! Under all that badass, you’re still a girl who likes pretty things, despite … whatever that is.” She waved her hand dismissively at my @T @T Walker T-shirt, which so perfectly suited my geekiness I couldn’t believe she didn’t love it.

     “Hey, don’t knock the nerd just because you’re like a little china doll.” It was so easy to tease Olivia about her diminutive size. She had just turned sixteen, but was about as tall as Connor’s eleven-year-old brother, Logan. Instead of the glare I expected, she smiled sweetly in a way that was much scarier.

     “See the open window on the third floor?” I followed her gaze and nodded. “If I get there first, you have to play dress up with me as long as I want. If you win, we’ll come back down here and lounge with the beasts.” She indicated Connor’s pack of dogs that had attached themselves to us since she arrived. “But no staircases. Go!” I had exactly one second to register what she meant before Olivia was running across the lawn.

     Olivia was fast, but my 5’10” legs were longer and I beat her to the house. I had already mapped a way to the second floor, so I was up on a window ledge before I realized she was taking a different route. I paused just long enough to see her climb a drain pipe like a monkey, which she could do since she weighed about as much as one, and I realized she was going to beat me unless I pulled off something truly spectacular.

     I made it to the second floor with no problem and was about to leap across to my no-fail ledge, but then Olivia shut a window on her way past, and no-fail became sure-fall  . I changed direction practically mid-leap, which threw off my balance enough that when I grabbed up, my hand slipped off the stone. Olivia lunged down to snag my wrist, and when we finally tumbled inside the third floor window, we were both red-faced and sweaty.

     “You didn’t tell me we were playing by roller derby rules.”

     “Sorry about that.” Olivia didn’t look sorry, but I forgave her. I knew I’d have gotten much worse if  I’d been racing Ringo. “I figured you were going to win by a mile and wanted to give myself a fighting chance. Besides, it’s paybacks for the doll comment.”

     I laughed. “You get a reprieve because you saved me from a gorse bush.”

     She gave me an evil little grin then, and sang in a sing-song voice. “I get to dress Saira up.” It was hard to be mad though. Her brand of cute made babies and puppies look like trolls.

     “Almost falling off a manor house doesn’t scare me. Olivia’s nefarious dress-up plans - those scare me.”

     “No, it’s going to be fun!” Olivia opened a wardrobe door and poked her head inside.

     We were in one of the box rooms of the third floor. There were apparently several that had always been used to store clothing, accessories, and whatever supplies a Clocker might need, according to Ringo. He had explored the house from top to bottom, of course. This room was decorated like a dressing room, with a big Persian rug on the floor and a tufted leather bench in the middle of it. There were long mirrors on the doors of the wardrobe Olivia had opened and she leaned back to stare at me.

     “This is better than St. Brigid’s!”

     The pure joy on her face almost made the prospect of playing dress-up bearable, and I got up to poke around one of the other wardrobes.

     The clothes seemed to be organized by decade. Olivia was in a wardrobe full of crinoline and silk, and I guessed that was probably an Edwardian one. She pulled out a hanger with a long pink confection that belonged on top of a wedding cake, and held it up in front of her at the mirror.

     “I have to try this,” she breathed in awe.

     “Just be glad you’re so tiny that you don’t need a corset.” I shuddered. There was a special place in hell for corsets, which were approximately as comfortable as being crushed in a vise, and only marginally worse than underwire bras.

     I poked through some Victorian cloaks, and tried on a men's silk top hat. It was too bad Halloween wasn’t an English tradition, because I could have totally rocked an Abe Lincoln look.

     An hour later, Olivia had modeled a couple of centuries worth of dresses, and had even convinced me to put on a long wine-colored velvet gown. It was cut like the midnight blue dress Archer had made for me in 1888. Olivia ooh’d and ahh’d, but after one long look in the mirror, I took it off and didn’t let her put me in another dress.

     The midnight blue dress was a part of the week I'd spent falling in love with the son of a nobleman-turned-theology-student. Archer had taught me who my family really was in Ringo's attic flat in Victorian London. For that matter, I felt more connected to that flat than I ever did to Elian Manor, and it's where I had to leave the dress behind after my father died and my mother was nearly killed. The dress also represented the last really happy moment I’d spent with Archer when he was still mortal, before Wilder had infected him and changed his life forever.

     My immortal Archer was downstairs, asleep in the windowless keep, and I wished he was sitting on the bench, enjoying the sunlit fashion show. I shoved the thought firmly back into the same box I put my other unattainable wishes - the ones like knowing what a normal childhood was like, or growing up with a dad.

     I was putting away the last hat when I knocked the lid off a big wooden hatbox. I pulled it forward to replace the lid and was surprised to find how heavy it was. I carefully lifted it down off the shelf and peered inside.

Christmas With... Elizabeth Hunter!

Chapter One

Ava leaned into the sofa, shifting the unwieldy bulk of her eight-months-pregnant body further into the embroidered cushions that decorated the couch. Malachi’s eyes were trained on the television in a corner of the room, the black and white image glowing in the dim sitting room. The fire crackled in the hearth and early snow fell outside the window. A peaceful scene. Idyllic on a cold winter night. 
But the jostling in her belly was just a bit much.
“Calm down in there,” she muttered.
Malachi’s hand drifted over to her, running a comforting hand down her arm and then lower over the swell of her stomach. He lifted the edge of her wool sweater and laid his skin against hers.
Instant relief.
The pulse of his power flowed over her like a warm wave. Spreading from her abdomen and up her torso, she felt her body calm, then the ache eased. The tension in her belly relaxed and the jostling slowed down.
She heard the last of the old dialogue on the classic Christmas film fade out and Malachi heaved a sigh.
“Really?” he said.
“What?” She blinked at him innocently. “Didn’t they teach you that at the scribe academy? Everyone knows that every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings. Common knowledge, Mal.”
He tried not to smile, but she saw the peek of his dimple through the beard he’d been growing since they arrived in the old farmhouse outside of Prague.
“You’re ridiculous.” He swung his legs up and stretched out, resting his head in her ever-shrinking lap. Then he turned his head to the side, lifted her shirt, and pressed a kiss to her belly.
Beautiful man. Ava’s heart felt like it could burst when he did things like that. And he did. Often.
All Irin men were tactile by nature, feeding off the energy Irin women contained. They couldn’t touch the humans they protected without hurting them. Touch was reserved for family, friends, and lovers, and before he’d met Ava, Malachi hadn’t felt an Irina touch in hundreds of years. Since then, he’d been making up for it.
And once she’d gotten pregnant… 
Well, if she hadn’t derived so much mental ease from physical contact, she’d have been tempted to call him clingy. He was constantly with her. Leaving him to visit the small market in the village or run into the city with some of her Irina sisters was almost impossible. Malachi didn’t want Ava out of his sight.
But the Irina needed Irin men just as much. The energy Malachi drew from her with his touch allowed Ava’s mind to rest. Before she’d met him, she’d been a case study in anxiety. Socially isolated. Jittery. The energy she’d built up in her system, believing herself only human, had slowly been driving her insane. 
Ava would never reject her mate’s touch. They were, as bonded mates, truly two halves of one whole. And soon they’d be adding to their small family. Before Malachi, Ava never thought being a mother was even a possibility.
He glanced up and saw the tears in her eyes. “What is it?”
“You know me. I cry at the drop of a hat these days.” She shook her head. “Nothing to worry about. Happy.”
He reached an intricately tattooed arm to touch her face. “If they are only happy tears, that is acceptable.”
“Acceptable, huh?”
“Yes.” He pinched her chin. “I am your mate. Anything other than total happiness is unacceptable.”
“We need to talk about your dictator voice, Mal.”

Christmas With... Feature 2015 Schedule!

Hello, everyone and welcome!

I am really happy to announce that it's that time of the year again for our Christmas With... Feature to commence :)
For those of you unfamiliar with this blog, here is what happened in 2012 and 2014.
This time I asked a wonderful bunch of authors again to share with us Christmas stories from very much beloved characters, and the result is pure magic.

I am touched and honored to host these lovely stories, and I hope you will all enjoy them and maybe find new authors for yourself while you are at it.

Here is what's going to happen in the next 5 days:

Elizabeth Hunter is with us on Dec 20th,
April White comes next on Dec 21st,
then we'll meet with Tracey Sinclair on Dec 22nd,
Mary Hughes on Dec 23rd,
and finish with Susan Illene on Christmas Eve, Dec 24th.

I will add the links as the posts go live, but please don't hesitate to share the stories with your friends and comment to thank these wonderful ladies for their generosity.

Elizabeth, April, Tracey, Mary and Susan,
thank you so much!
May the holiday fun begin!


You are welcome to share the schedule pic above with the link to this post on social media, peeps.

Friday Mini Reviews #58: J.D. Robb, Sela Carsen & Nalini Singh

Loyalty in Death by J.D. Robb ( In Death #9)


Synopsis from Goodreads
New York cop Eve Dallas returns to face her most ingenious foe--a "secret admirer" who taunts her with letters... and kills without mercy.

An unknown bomber is stalking New York City. He is sending Eve Dallas taunting letters promising to wreak mass terror and destruction among the "corrupt masses." And when his cruel web of deceit and destruction threatens those she cares for most, Eve fights back. It's her city ... it's her job... and it's hitting too close to home.

Now, in a race against a ticking clock, Eve must make the pieces fit--before the city falls.
Audible US/UK | Amazon US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository

This is a book about a secret terrorist group which has its roots in the past. Very interesting to see what happened in the times of unrest in this futuristic world, plus I really enjoyed the villain. Roarke kicked major ass here, and so as Eve (which goes without saying). We also met Peabody's lovely, naive younger brother.
* * *
Эта книга о супер секретной террористической организации, чьи корни уходит в недалёкое прошлое метяжей и разгрома. Было интересно взглянуть на прошлое такого интересного футуристического мира, плюс мне здесь оень понравился злодей. Роарк надавал всем чертей в стиле Бонда, Ив как обычно вела себя шикарно, и мы также познакомились с милым и наивным младшим братом Пибоди.

 Runespell by Sela Carsen (Legends and Lore)


Synopsis from Goodreads

In most fairy tales, the prince rescues the princess. It's not often she gets to return the favor.
Mai Westenra is pulled into a centuries-old quest for vengeance and magic, never realizing that she'll find love in the midst of danger.
Tyr Halvarsson has waited lifetimes to be rid of his curse. Resigned to his immortal half-life, one selfless act of humanity can redeem him. Or kill him.
Together, Mai and Tyr must work against time and magic to perform the runespell that will save their lives and give them a chance at love that lasts.
Amazon US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository

This is a short novella heavy on Scandinavian mythology, but also atmospheric and cute. The setting is lovely and feels Christmas-y, and both main characters are not prone to dramatics. Mai to my utter delight kicked butt majorly, and reminded me of fairy talish heroines from Michelle Diener's books.
* * *
Это короткая повесть, основанная на скандинавских мифах. Она полна характера, заснеженных пейзажей и капельки рождественского настроения. Главные герои не склонны к излишней драматизации и очень милы. Особенно мне понравилась май, которая лихо спасла задницу главного героя и напомнила своим стилем героинь Мишель Дьенэ.
 Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling #2)


Synopsis from Goodreads
Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous - aching need & exquisite pleasure.

Audio US/UK | Amazon US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository

I admit I enjoyed the world-building in this book much more, but liked the main characters more in the first book. Really digging Faith's talent, which reminded me of Minority Report, and the whole conspiracy and the evil council are fascinating. Will be reading more!
* * *
Я признаюсь, то мне больше пришлось по вкусу построение мира в этой книге, ем роман главных героев. Саша и Люкас в первой книге были более интересными. Талант Фэйт очень был хорош и напомнил мне Minority Report c Томом Крузом. Заговор и вся схема Совета были выстроены круто. Буду читать дальше!
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In case of zombie apocalypse

Hey, guys! I feel like I should say this just in case :)
If you'd like to sponsor a fellow book addict who sometimes can't sleep at night worrying that she won't have enough books to read if internet goes down in the event of zombie apocalypse (I'm convinced it's one of the top five ways to go for human race) you can donate through Paypal to olivesandacorns at gmail dot com or buy a book through any of the links provided with my reviews which will send me a small percentage from the sale. All proceeds will go towards my enormous TBR. I will also shelter you on the remote farm in Portugal when zombie apocalypse starts provided you survive getting there. There will be books, yay?
Thank you! Love you all

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