Recent Reviews...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: The Hunt by Megan Shepherd




The Hunt (The Cage #2) by Megan Shepherd
Genre: Young Adult (Science Fiction/Romance)
Date Published: May 24, 2016
Publisher: Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins

They’ve left the cage—but they’re not free yet.

After their failed escape attempt, Cora, Lucky, and Mali have been demoted to the lowest level of human captives and placed in a safari-themed environment called the Hunt, along with wild animals and other human outcasts. They must serve new Kindred masters—Cora as a lounge singer, Lucky as an animal wrangler, and Mali as a safari guide—and follow new rules or face dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, Nok and Rolf have been moved into an enormous dollhouse, observed around the clock by Kindred scientists interested in Nok’s pregnancy. And Leon, the only one who successfully escaped, has teamed up with villainous Mosca black-market traders.

The former inhabitants of the Cage are threatened on all fronts—and maybe worst of all, one of the Hunt’s Kindred safari guests begins to play a twisted game of cat and mouse with Cora. Separated and constantly under watch, she and the others must struggle to stay alive, never mind find a way back to each other. When Cassian secretly offers to train Cora to develop her psychic abilities—to prove the worthiness of humanity in a series of tests called the Gauntlet—she’ll have to decide fast if she dares to trust the Kindred who betrayed her, or if she can forge her own way to freedom.


The Hunt is the second book in The Cage series by Megan Shepherd. This is a series that must be read in order. You're given multiple point of views through this book, so you know where each character ended up after the failed escape attempt of book one. I feel like the characters are in a stronger form of survival mode now. They're thinking of home, and how to get back, and how to just survive. They're not just going with the flow anymore. There was some action and you get a good look at many things going on within this world(s), but I also found myself drifting at times.

The kindred get more and more interesting. For all the striving at perfection, they sure do seem to be just as flawed as humans. More so in many ways for some.

There is a death that surprised me. I didn't see it coming just yet. I don't think it was a pointless death even though it was definitely sad. I'm a little mad at Cora at the moment, because of her mindset in the end. I feel like she made a decision or two out of selfishness. I thought she'd matured past that at this point. On the other hand, this shows that she's flawed, and I love imperfect characters.

Have you read the first book yet?

Check out my reviews on Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter Series!

author
Megan Shepherd was "born" into the book world, growing up in her parents' independent bookstore in Western North Carolina. She is the author of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER trilogy (Balzer+Bray/2013), and THE CAGE trilogy (Balzer+Bray/2015). When Megan is not writing, she can usually be found horseback riding, day dreaming at coffee shops, or hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. She is represented by Josh Adams at Adams Literary.

To learn more about Megan Shepherd and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Book Review of Bad Boys After Dark: Dylan by Melissa Foster





Bad Boys After Dark: Dylan (Bad Boys After Dark #2) by Melissa Foster
Genre: Adult (Contemporary Romance)
Date Published: December 21, 2016
Publisher: World Literary Press

The Bad Billionaires After Dark are a series of stand-alone romances that may also be enjoyed as part of the larger Love in Bloom series. 

Indulge your inner vixen with these sexy billionaires!
Meet the Bad Boys... Four fiercely loyal, sinfully sexy, uber alpha brothers, about to fall head over heels for their leading ladies.

Everything's naughtier after dark...
Sinfully sexy bar owner Dylan Bad has a thing for needy women. He’s a savior, a knight in shining armor, and his mighty talented sword has no trouble bringing damsels in distress to their knees. Enter Tiffany Winters, a gorgeous cutthroat sports agent who looks like sex on legs, f**ks like she’s passion personified, and wouldn’t let a man help her if she were dangling from a ledge and he was her only hope. One night and too much tequila might change their lives forever. The question is, will either one survive?


Dylan is the second book in the Bad Boys After Dark series by Melissa Foster. Dylan Bad isn't quite the alpha his brother, Mick, is, but he has his moments. He's a little more in tune with his sensitive side and doesn't feel the need to mask it with the tough act. Although he can turn it on and off if he so chooses, and like his brother, he's quite the naughty boy. Tiffany is the opposite in many ways. She's a tough girl, or at least that's what she wants the world to think. She wants everything on her terms. Everything. She's a love 'em and leave 'em girl. Together, they both challenge each other. And a challenge it is. Tiffany's life is her career, so learning to put someone else ahead of that is very hard for her, and even harder for her heart. They were funny, steamy, cute, and oh so entertaining.

The ARC of Bad Boys After Dark: Dylan by Melissa Foster was kindly provided to me by Tasty Book Tours for review. The opinions are my own.



With her phone pressed to her ear, Tiffany Winters ducked out of the rain and into the Kiss, an eclectic Manhattan bar, to return calls and take care of a mountain of text messages that had piled up during her dinner meeting. She listened to her client’s wife explain why she didn’t want her husband traveling too often to endorse a hotel chain Tiffany was planning on pitching to him next week. Her client had already nixed any mention of his family in the advertisements, and reducing his travel would make it an even harder sell.
“I hear your concern, Allison,” she said as she sat on a barstool. “If you and Matt decide this isn’t the right thing for your family, we’ll turn our efforts in another direction.” As a sports agent, dealing with significant others was part of the job, a part Tiffany enjoyed and other agents rued. Sure, some wives assumed their husband’s success granted them the power to be overly demanding. Ass kissing was part of the game. Sometimes she wished she could give the meeker wives lessons in how to be tough. Teach them to have balls as big as their husbands’ and come right out and say what they meant instead of beating around the bush with bullshit hypotheticals. She reminded herself often that not every woman grew up in a testosterone-laden house with two competitive older brothers and a father who won the Heisman in college and went on to play pro sports—a house where mincing words didn’t cut the mustard.
“You missed the wedding.”
The deep male voice drew Tiffany’s attention from her phone call to the fine specimen of a man standing behind the bar. He looked like he’d just stepped off a Hot Guys in Suits Pinterest page. His tie hung loosely around the collar of his white dress shirt, which was open three buttons deep, revealing a smattering of dark chest hair, a rarity nowadays, when so many men manscaped every inch of their bodies. Tiffany preferred a man to look like a man, which included hair in all the right places. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, exposing heavily corded forearms, and his jacket hung casually from two fingers over his left shoulder. Her fingers itched to send the last few buttons—and that jacket—flying to the floor. The guy’s chiseled jaw and dark eyes were movie-star classic, and his dark hair was thick enough to hang on to. She’d had a long, hard day, and he looked like he could provide a long, hard, pleasure-filled night.
Perfect.
Holding his gaze, she spoke into the phone as he laid his jacket across the bar, giving her the impression he wasn’t the bartender, but rather a guest who’d happened to wander back there. “Allison, I’ll see what else I can come up with and get back to you. Right. Okay, hon. Thank you.” After ending the call, she responded to the stud behind the bar. “Wedding? Who gets married at a bar?”
“My brother, for one.” He nodded across the room to a group of men and women who were holding their glasses up in a toast.
She zeroed in on one she recognized as her tall, dark colleague. “Mick Bad is married?” The high-powered attorney was a workaholic like her, and he’d been unattached two months earlier, when they’d worked together on a deal for one of her clients. She’d never understand couples who claimed to fall in love practically overnight. Love was a crutch for weak people who needed someone else to lean on. Except Mick Bad had never needed anyone to lean on. She wondered if his new bride was pregnant.
“The one and only.” Hot guy’s eyes took a long, luxurious stroll down her body, lingered on her breasts, then roamed north, hovering around her mouth, before finally meeting her gaze. He flashed a wolfish grin full of sinful promises.
“Dylan Bad at your service.”
Pushing thoughts of her newly married colleague’s expedient nuptials aside, she focused on his very available brother. A definite player, which was fine with her. She had no time—or interest—in anything but a quick hookup, and the six-two or -three stud had already shot to the top of tonight’s fantasy list.
“What’s your pleasure?” he asked with more than a hint of innuendo.
You. Naked, with your head buried between my legs, to start.
“Surprise me.” She watched him turn to prepare her drink and checked out the way his dark slacks hugged his perfect ass. It had been a long time since she’d found a man this attractive. But Mick Bad’s brother? That spelled trouble.



Check out my review of the first book in this series!


Check out my reviews of other books by this author!


author
Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes contemporary romance, new adult, contemporary women’s fiction, suspense, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her books have been recommended by USA Today’s book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the World Literary Café and Fostering Success. When she’s not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on Fostering Success. Melissa has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine.

Melissa hosts an Aspiring Authors contest for children and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family.

Visit Melissa on social media. Melissa enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups, and welcomes an invitation to your event.

To learn more about Melissa Foster and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Star-Crossed Series Reviews & Excerpts!





ProtoStar (The Star-Crossed Saga #1) by Braxton A. Cosby
Genre: Young Adult (Science Fiction/ Romance)
Date Published: September 26, 2011
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing

What Would You Choose, Love or Duty?

On the brink of civil war, the Torrian Alliance continues with its mission to obliterate Star-children across the universe in order to suppress an intergalactic evil. Following the recommendations of his council, King Gregorio Derry reluctantly agrees to send his only son William on a mission to restore honor to his family name. William seeks to complete his assignment, the elimination of a Star-child named Sydney on planet Earth, but when the assassination is delayed he begins to realize an emotional connection with his target. With conspiracy threatening his home planet, and a hidden menace on Earth seeking to secure a vested interest, William finds himself torn between irrevocable duty and sacrificing everything he stands for to defend Sydney. As William and Sydney struggle to overcome their impossible circumstances, they start to wonder if the connection of two Star-Crossed lovers will be enough to save them from certain doom. Check out my review!!

PROLOGUE
Seventeen Years Ago . . .
Sarah stood atop the mountainside, looking out into the sky. The expanse of rich darkness and scattered stars reminded her of home. She desired to return there someday, but knew that she couldn’t. Things had been set in motion. There was no way to turn back now, even if she tried.
Still, something within her body felt wrong.
 Is this the right place, right time? she thought.
Maybe the details got skewed, blended together, lost amongst all the immaculate planning. Even they were known to be wrong sometimes. She hoped against all hope that they weren’t. But stars never lie. She gazed into the sky. Their configuration—constellation after constellation, linked like a chain, with the Star of David perched in the center—was picture perfect. This had to be it. All she had to do now . . . was wait.
And wait she did.
Hours passed as the moon slid by. Just as her mind began to fill with doubt, it finally happened. The ground underneath her shifted, rocking her from side to side, up and down, as the stars burned brightly. She braced herself, running down from the mountain the best she could. Her old bony legs wobbled, struggling to keep her upright as she negotiated the uneven layers of rock and grass.
A loud crashing noise like the banging of cymbals lit her ears on fire as the sky parted, sending a tiny bright shard screaming across the black canvas, growing larger as it drew nearer.
Her eyes snapped to the road—the projected point of impact. But one detail had been missed.
Unaccounted for.
Someone else was there.
A vehicle sped down the dusty road, on a straight collision course with the object, which continued to grow larger and larger as time ticked on.
Sarah waved her hands as wildly, screaming, “Hey, you have to stop!”
But her screams went unnoticed. She gasped as the object crashed to the earth, tearing the car into pieces. She squinted, filtering the heat from the explosion as she moved in closer to examine the wreckage.
 A gaping hole where the roof used to be greeted her, revealing the charred remains of another passenger. Sarah scanned the rest of the vehicle for survivors, finding only the shell of the driver white-knuckled to the steering wheel.
Her heart dropped.
The muffled sound of a baby crying tickled her ears, urging her to examine the object in the passenger seat more closely. It resembled a meteor, covered in craters and black ash that sent her into a coughing panic. A small crack in the outer shell provided just enough space for her to look inside.
She grabbed the door handle with both hands—wrinkled fingers trembling as she ripped the car door free—tossing it by the wayside. With a sigh of relief, she peeled back the shell. Black smoke stung her eyes while her hands burned from the heat. But Sarah ignored them both, pressing forward with her mission. Nothing would stop her now. With wet eyes, she smiled, finally finding what she had so desperately been looking for—a baby girl.

Supernova (The Star-Crossed Saga #2) by Braxton A. Cosby
Genre: Young Adult (Science Fiction/ Romance)
Date Published:  June 28, 2015
Publisher: Cosby Media Productions

WHAT YOU CHOOSE, BECOMES YOU…
Against everything he had known as truth, William has made the choice to protect Sydney from the forces seeking to destroy her. But just as these two Star-Crossed lovers are beginning to explore their relationship and search for answers to the mysteries of Sydney’s existence, she advances to the next stage of her Star-child evolution—Supernova—and struggles not only to control her new powers, but also the emotions for her new love. William seeks to find the truth behind Sydney's erratic behavior, while overcoming the new threat headed to Earth to destroy them. With new villains and old allies on the horizon, and chaos brewing on William’s home world, will self-sacrifice prove to be the only way for him to achieve victory and defend his love, or is there another way?
The follow-up to the debut Award-winning novel PROTOSTAR!

Supernova is the second book in the Star-Crossed Saga by Braxton A. Cosby. This almost felt like a coming of age time for Sydney, and I guess in a way it was. She's developing powers that she has no control over just like her feelings and emotions. She's all over the place emotionally, and she spends a lot of the time apart from William.

William is in the middle of it all. He has to let her develop and make her own decisions, which is very hard for him as well as Noella and Henry. Then add in the fact everyone wants to kill them. It's no wonder Sydney's going a little batty.

The pacing was a little slow this time around in places, but I really love the story. Sydney and William's relationship is hard to predict right now. Just when you think all is well, something happens to throw a wrench in things. Star-Crossed couldn't be a more perfect name for this series.

Supernova by Braxton A. Cosby was kindly provided to me by Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours for review. The opinions are my own.


William helped Sydney up alongside a cliff overlooking the city and settled her comfortably along the edge. The blue sky slowly blended in between the black of night above and reddening dusk below. He slipped his arm around her and pulled her close. She snuggled up against him and gazed at the horizon. Home. The place where she had lived out her make-believe life for the last seventeen years looked smaller than ever from up there. And now, standing on the brink of annihilation, all the irrelevant within it ironically seemed larger than life.
If we could only stay this way forever, she thought. Time with William made everything last forever. “With a little bit of luck, we may actually win this fight, William.”
“Luck?” William asked. “We don’t need luck. I try not to put any stock on something that I can’t see, hear, or feel.”
“Oh, yeah? Then what about love?”
“I know that’s real. I feel that with every breath of my being. And no one can take that away from me.” William’s grip tightened around her shoulder. “Nor replace it.”
“So, I guess I’ll throw away my rabbit’s foot then,” she mumbled in jest.
“Sydney, I want you to do me a favor. Please do not deny me this one request.”
“Depends on what it is . . . but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t find a way to give you what you requested. I’d give you anything right now.”
“When the fighting starts,” William began, “I need you to stay away. Don’t come anywhere near the battle. If anything were to happen to you, it would destroy me. And if I thought for a second that you were not safe, it’d break my focus. I wouldn’t be half a man, or any bit of a soldier if I wasn’t confident that you were unharmed. I asked Henry to watch over you. Can I trust you do that for me?”
She took a long fleeting breath. “Yes, William. You have my word to keep safe. But please, I don’t want to talk about fighting . . . dying, or anything else tonight. Let’s just watch the stars and the rest of the world and be at peace. The way it should be. If this is the last of anything for us, I want to savor it by remembering absolutely nothing but the sound of our heartbeats.”
Her eyes filled with tears and spilled over as she sobbed, watching the sun finally fade out of sight.

***

Henry, Jasmine, Arrion, and Noella wore solemn faces as they spread out along the front porch when William and Sydney pulled up on the driveway.
William squeezed Sydney’s hand as the engine cut off and they met everyone on the porch. “You have an update for me, I take it?”
“It’s time, son,” Henry said.
“How do you know?” Sydney asked.
“We got word from Bill over an hour ago. He didn’t want to interrupt you guys. Dodge’s space fold initiated in Earth’s orbit a little before then. Bill estimates we have a little over two to three hours before Dodge completes the transition and lands on the surface. Bill sent a message to him with the location where the fighting will take place. With any luck, he’ll heed our request and come straight to the spot,” Arrion said.
“Don’t consider luck here, Arrion. He’ll show for sure,” William said.
Sydney looked up at William. “So, I guess this is it, huh?”
The terror in her voice made it impossible to look back at her. His heart swelled. “I need a minute with Henry,” he said.
Noella came to Sydney’s side and walked her around back. Arrion and Jasmine followed.
Henry pressed his shades along the bridge of his nose. “What’ll it be, slick? How long do you think it will take you to wipe this guy out? The bets are mounting up.”
The false confidence in Henry’s voice was laughable, making William’s throat tighten. “Don’t know? Wish I did. Do you remember the plan?”
“Yeah, I do. Sydney will be safe. I won’t let her out of my sight. I got June and Ward polished up and ready to go.”
“June and Ward?” William asked.
“The Cleavers. You know, Leave it to Beaver?” William stared at him, lost. Henry huffed. “Forget it. I got the guns in the house.”
“I also need to tell you something else, Henry. Once we kill this menace, I think I may have found a way for me to live with Sydney and not harm her anymore. It will require me to do the one thing I dread the most. I need you to be strong for her.”
“I got an idea what that entails—the classic love story ending. I’ll do my best.” Henry tipped his hat. “Let’s just get throughthis first.”
 “Right . . . Oh,” William said with a nod. He reached into his back pocket and held out an envelope. “And please, give her this when I leave.” He handed it to Henry.
Henry took it. “Sure thing.”
“Well . . . so long.” He turned to walk away.
Henry called out to him, “William, wait.” William met his gaze. “I’m placing all my best on you, son.”
William smiled widely. As he rounded the corner of the house, he caught Noella and Sydney nestled together underneath the tree. Half-dried streaks of tears from reddened eyes ran along their cheeks. He warily approached, grief stricken by the reality that this could be the last time he’d witness such a scene.
Noella crooned some familiar song—definitely not of Earth origin—while she braided Sydney’s hair. Something struck a chord within William. He recognized the melody more than the words. As he faded back to the past, the keys played on, each line breaking through the haze. Finally, there it was.
The same song that his mother had sung to him when he was a child to fight away nightmares had somehow traversed space and time to comfort him once more. He pulled up short to appreciate the sound. The vision of his mother materialized before him. Her majestic elegance pierced his soul. The words from her mouth merged in unison with Noella’s, and just like back then—for the moment—peace consumed him.  


Solstice (The Star-Crossed Saga #3) by Braxton A. Cosby
Genre: Young Adult (Science Fiction/ Romance)
Date Published:  November 20, 2016
Publisher: Cosby Media Productions

What You Believe, Can Destroy You! William and Sydney have sacrificed everything to fortify their love, so much so that William dares to brave the depths of space to find a cure for their deadly Supernova bond, leaving both her and Earth vulnerable to Torrian Alliance attack. But with a full scale rebellion in play on Fabricius, the reality of Sydney’s execution from Torrian hands is diminished, only eclipsed by the certainty of a more threats – The Third Faction and The Dagmas Clan – lead by Dominic and his insurgent recruits. With overwhelming odds mounting against them, William makes a desperate attempt to find the last of the endangered Star-children only to be captured by a new menace, where he is forced to compete in the dreaded Gauntlet of sport. Allies surge to free Fabricius, seeking alliances across the galaxy while Sydney tries to keep her identity hidden and trains to master the third phase of her Star-child evolution: Solstice. With Sarah’s mysterious return home with clues to unlock the future, Noella’s training and Bill’s symbiotic development hope is restored, but will it be enough to unite the galaxy and destroy evil for once and for all?

Solstice is the third book in the Star-Crossed Saga by Braxton A. Cosby. This was more of what I consider a typical science fiction novel, which is the type that I mentioned in my review of the first book that I usually can't get into. So, needless to say, it was very hard for me to get into this book and stay focused. I don't fault the book for that though. I enjoyed it more when it was concentrated mostly on Sydney and William early in the series and less on the whole universe. They were separate through almost the entire book, so I missed their interactions. We get multiple point of views from many different characters. Sadly, I lost interest through many of their perspectives as well. I love the action, but the logistics and stuff behind the upcoming fight(s) just doesn't interest me to such a large extent as was given. But, I know a lot of people get into that, so I think many will enjoy that aspect.

Just because I couldn't get into this book as much, doesn't make it a bad book. I'm not saying that at all. The story is a good one, and I love how everything was wrapped up. I think true Science Fiction fans will love it!

Solstice by Braxton A. Cosby was kindly provided to me by Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours for review. The opinions are my own.


Sydney and Noella walked hand in hand along the small winding path leading to the top the Mount Dothan. The dusking sky painted a sheet of orange and red light across the woodsy terrain around them, giving the impression of wading through a sea of fire. Amid the grim moment of the day and the burning sensation rising in Sydney’s throat, the tone seemed fitting. Silence accompanied them, and it wasn’t until the pair hit the peak that Sydney finally broke the ice. “So what do your people call this ceremony?” she asked.
“The time of the harvest. It’s the moment when a fallen soldier is said to join the being of the sky. I think humans refer to it as God,” Noella said, her tone as flat as the expression on her face.
“Sounds cool,” she replied as she surveyed the surroundings; a patch of flatland that housed a family of hawks who watched cautiously from above in a lone cedar tree. From here, every inch of Madisonburg could be observed without the need of telescope or binoculars. A bed of dandelions and weeping willows greeted them in the center of the field.
“This way. I’ll show you where I buried his body,” Noella said.
She could see that Noella was visibly shaken, slowly unravelling before her eyes. Her hands trembled as her eyes began to redden. She wondered how long it’d take, amazed at how Noella had not said a word since Arrion’s death a few weeks ago, only morning him in silence, which she explained was customary on Fabricius. She had done the deed all by herself, refusing to allow Sydney to assist in his burial. From scouting the plot of land to digging the hole, Noella insisted that it was protocol on her planet for a lone fellow soldier to be assigned the arduous task of preparation. Seeing as though William had departed soon after, there was no better candidate left for the job.
She took Noella by the hand and drew her close, giving her the most delicate and firm hug she could muster. Noella stood motionless, sinking into her friend’s embrace. After a few seconds, she released her, unable to make eye contact. “I’m here for you,” she murmured.  
“Thanks, Syd,” Noella replied, her voice ragged.
She finally looked up at her and gave a nod, following Noella’s lead over to the place where Arrion’s body lay. Surprisingly, the disturbed clay seemed more settled than she expected, dried from the sun and already showing signs of life as Bermuda grass had slowly began to encroach along the edges. A makeshift tombstone had been erected, fashioned from metallic fuselage scraps of the Daedallus, with only Arrrion’s name and handle tatted along the surface, minus dates to hide his identity to hikers in hopes that most consider it a memorial to a lost pet if they stumbled upon it.
Noella knelt next to the grave, slid her backpack from her shoulders and began to open it. Searching her bag, she retrieved a small oval-shaped disk and a satchel filled with purple powder. “These are crushed lilacs pedals. We must first prepare the path for Arrion’s ascension by sending tribute to the sky.” She stood and sprinkled a few handfuls over the grave until a thin layer had materialized before them. “On our planet we usually use the oil of a Tonosia Tree, which is a lot thicker substance and is used for sterilization. Sarah thought it’d be a good idea to use lilacs as a substitute because it was a similar color.”
“It’s beautiful,” she replied.
“I will now begin the ceremony.” Noella placed the disc in the center of the burial site, depressed a red button on the top and came to her side. The two joined hands as the disc began to spin and dig into the hardened clay. Noella pointed a hydrogen phaser at the site and fired a stream of fire upon it that scorched the sheet of crushed pedals. The disc disappeared beneath the flames and Noella broke out into song, in an alien dialect that Sydney could not understand. It was less about the words and more the moment that choked at her, forcing the tears to flow freely down her face. She squeezed Noella’s hand as she crooned on. By the time Noella had finished, a small fissure had opened in the place where the disc had entered and a cloud of embers swirled into the air; a mix of red, orange and yellow. It lifted high into the sky and faded into the clouds.
Noella dropped to her knees in a whimper. “It is finished.”
Sydney came beside her and held her close. “It was… beautiful.”
The two sat in silence with only sobs to drown out the sounds of the forest.  

author
Multi-Award Winning and #1 Amazon Bestselling author Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer who transitioned his ideas on pen and paper to pixels and keyboards. He tells stories that evoke emotions and stimulate thought. PROTOSTAR: BOOK 1 OF THE STARCROSSED SAGA and THE SECT: THE WINDGATE are currently Young Adult/New Adult series he created. He has written over 10 novels, including his new Superhero adventure book, THE CAPE is book three of the Dark Spores Series. He lives in Georgia with his amazing wife and a highly energetic Morkie named StarKozy.

To learn more about Braxton A. Cosby and his books, visit his website.You can also find him on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Playing Catch Up! Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts




Playing Catch Up has really been helping me through my ever growing TBR list. I'd like to welcome all other blogs to participate too! If you do, be sure to post your links in the comments section. I'd love to see your Playing Catch Up Reviews, and I'm sure others would too!! *wink*

Want to know more about Playing Catch Up? I'll tell you all about it here!

Seeds of Summer (Seasons of the Tallgrass #2) by Deborah Vogts 
Genre: Adult Fiction (Christian Fiction/Contemporary Romance)
Date Published: June 2, 2010
Publisher: Zondervan

When opposites attract, sparks fly--like an electrical malfunction. That's what happens when former rodeo queen, Natalie Adams meets the new pastor in Diamond Falls.

Upon the death of her father, Natalie returns to the Flint Hills to raise her two half-siblings and run the family ranch, giving up her dreams for the future. She soon realizes her time in college and as Miss Rodeo Kansas is not enough to break the bonds that held her as a girl. Jared Logan, a new pastor in Diamond Falls, is set on making a good impression to his first congregation, but finds that change doesn't come easy for some people. In fact, most in his congregation are set against it. Natalie and her troubled family provide an outlet for his energy and soon become his personal mission project. Having raised her stepbrother and sister from an early youth, Natalie's self-sufficient nature isn’t inclined to accept help, especially from a city-boy do-gooder like Jared Logen. Though attracted to him, there's no way she'd ever consider being a pastor's wife. Bible studies and bake sales just aren't her thing.

Jared repeatedly comes to Natalie’s rescue, forcing her to see him with new eyes. At the same time, Jared’s plan to plant Christ’s word in Natalie’s heart backfires when he loses his own heart to this wayward family. When problems arise in his congregation, he must face his greatest fears—of letting down God, his congregation, or those he loves. His time with Natalie has shown him the importance of standing by those you love, a lesson he chose to ignore in order to please his father years ago. This is put to the test when Natalie faces a battle of custody of her half-siblings against the mother who abandoned them twelve years ago. Natalie’s fight for the children turns into a fight for custody of her heart as she learns the true meaning of unconditional love. In turn, Jared must decide which dreams are his own—and whether Natalie is part of those dreams. 

Seeds of Summer is the second book in the Seasons of the Tall Grass series by Deborah Vogts. Natalie and Jared are pretty opposite in almost every way. Natalie is broken. Jared has it all together. Well, for the most part. Poor Natalie has had a lot of responsibility thrust upon her..not to mention the loss that she and her family are coping with with the death of their father. She's a strong woman though. She's a survivor, and she'll do anything for her siblings. I love the sense of community in this book. The setting and people make it sound like a lovely place to live. This is an entertaining and light read. I've enjoyed both books in this series so far. My fingers are crossed that this author writes more!

Prologue

Fear and anticipation gripped Natalie Adams’ stomach as she waited on that Las Vegas contestant stage. But she continued to smile. Always smile for the judges. Her cheeks threatened to crack at any second from the building tension.

Mama’s pet name for her had been Princess, but Natalie planned to take that title one step further and be queen. She’d spent most of her life preparing for this moment, the moment she could be crowned Miss Rodeo America, and she was ready. Her hard work had paid off in the horsemanship division of the competition, and despite her dad’s complaints, and her penchant for a good pair of boots, her fashion budget hadn’t put them in the poor house.

The competition narrowed down to two contestants — Miss Rodeo California and herself representing Kansas. Natalie could hardly breathe. Her mind spun with the possibilities of what this might mean. A year of touring, more scholarships, meeting and helping people. She’d be a national representative for the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association for an entire year — a sport she felt most passionate about.

Oh, how she wished her mother were hhere to share this moment with her. She might finally break free.

With a nervous laugh, she squeezed the hand of the other contestant, willing the emcee to announce her name. The heat from the large spotlights radiated against her skin, and Natalie feared she might melt away in her red leather gown.

“And the new Miss Rodeo America is . . .”

It happened so fast.

The roar from the crowd couldn’t compare to the cameras flashing all around her as last year’s queen crowned the woman standing beside her.

I will not cry, I will not cry, I will NOT cry. Natalie continued to smile as she hugged the new Miss Rodeo America, her own heart breaking.

She stepped back to stand with the other three ladies, while the winner walked the stage and waved at the hundreds of onlookers in the hotel showroom. When the celebration ended, the contestants and Natalie were escorted off the stage and back to the dressing room. The Miss Rodeo America song continued to boom in her ears like a bad television commercial.

Her dad grabbed her hand and enclosed her in a suffocating hug. He led her to a quiet spot and smiled down at her. “You did good out there. If your mother were alive, she’d be real proud of you.” Natalie’s breath caught in her chest as a tear streaked down her father’s weathered cheek. Then his expression sobered and returned to what she’d known her entire life.

“You had your chance and you did your best,” he said. “Now it’s time to get back to the real world . . .”



Chapter 1




FIVE MONTHS LATER

Metal scraped against metal, waking Natalie from a restless sleep. Again, the screech came from outside. With a reluctant groan, she forced herself from her cotton sheets and fumbled in the dark to find her boots.

What was out there? And why wasn’t Jessie barking?

She slipped her bare feet into leather ropers, then hurried from the bedroom down the stairs, hoping she wouldn’t rouse her younger siblings. An instant foreboding caused her to grab the shotgun her dad always kept behind the back door. Natalie loaded it with a couple of shells before heading to the porch — just in case. As her eyes adjusted to the outside darkness, she distinguished the faint outline of a truck backed up to the barn entrance. She crept through the barnyard.

“Who’s there?” Her voice wavered as she clutched the wooden forearm of the aged Winchester, prepared to fire a warning shot at the moon if necessary.

A small beam of light darted inside the old limestone barn, then disappeared.

“Tom, is that you?” Natalie eased her finger closer to the trigger. Silence. Then the hollow clamor of feed buckets knocked to the ground as though someone had tripped over them.

Natalie held her breath. Her heart thumped wildly against her chest as she thought about the recent thefts in the county. If only her dad were here.

But he’s not, and you’re in charge. Slow, mechanical breaths helped her to see this might be nothing more than their hired hand returning from a night at the bar. She knew little about Tom Walker, but the idea that he’d been out with friends on a Friday night was more probable than not.

A tall figure edged from the shadows. Natalie recognized the pale shock of curls highlighted by the luminous night.

“Hey there, don’t shoot.” The ranch employee rested his hands on his head. “I was only putting some stuff away in the barn.”

“Working kind of late, aren’t you?”

“Just got back from a rodeo.” Tom’s voice grew louder as he approached. “Sorry if I frightened you.”

Natalie lowered the shotgun, then gazed up at the sky, relief lodged in her throat. “You could’ve turned on the barn lights. At least then I wouldn’t have thought someone was sneaking around out here.”

“Didn’t want to wake the house.”

In the faint moonlight, she caught the glint of an uneasy smile on the man’s face. “How’d you do?”

“Tough night for steer wrestling.”

Natalie knew all about rodeo and tough nights. “There’ll be others.”

He dropped his arms, and she noticed Jessie at his side. No wonder the faithful border collie hadn’t barked. Suddenly aware of how she must look, she combed her fingers through her wayward locks. Dressed in baggy shorts, a torn T-shirt, and a pair of pink boots, she held little resemblance to her former title as Miss Rodeo Kansas, or of a rancher either.

And that’s what she was now — a twenty-two-year-old ranch owner in the Flint Hills of Charris County, Kansas. She shook her head, confounded by the turn of events her life had taken in the past week. “Well, I’m sorry for interrupting your work. I’ll let you get back to your business.” Hoping he wouldn’t sense her despair, she turned toward the house. As she did, an engine revved in the near distance. Tracing the noise, she saw a truck tear from behind the barn, its headlights aimed for the lane.

Staggering backward, she almost dropped her father’s shotgun but somehow managed to bring the wooden stock to her shoulder. “Hey, you there,” she called out. “Stop or I’ll shoot.”

The truck vaulted onto the dirt road and spun gravel as it sped away. Speechless, Natalie lowered the gun and whirled toward the hired hand, expecting him to go after the culprits sneaking around her father’s barn.

Then she acknowledged the panic in the man’s eyes.

“What were you and your buddies doing in there?” Her brows crinkled, and she instantly thought the worst. Dark barn, suspicious behavior. Had they been doing drugs, or were they stealing?

“It’s not what you think.” The hostility in the air pricked her skin as the man stepped closer. He stood a half-foot taller than her own five-foot-eight.

Natalie gripped the shotgun, her palms damp with sweat. Did she have the guts to shoot a man? She aimed the barrel at his chest. “Is this how you’re going to honor my father? By stealing from him? He’s not been dead a week.”

“The boys and I — we were just having some fun — talking was all.” His gentle voice caressed her.

Natalie recognized the seduction of his lie — the flicker of deceit in his eyes. “In the dark?”

“No law against talking in the dark.” He reached in her direction, much too close for her comfort.

She shoved his lanky body back with the metal barrel and thought of all the work they needed to accomplish the next day unloading and sorting cattle. Could she and the kids get along without his help if she fired him? Could she trust him to tell the truth?

His lips pulled into a pout. “Come on, Miss Adams. I’ve been with your dad for nearly six months. He trusted me. We weren’t doing nothing wrong . . . honest.”

Natalie searched the man’s eyes for a hint of sincerity. “Swear on your mama’s grave?” Even as the words came from her mouth, she knew she was a fool to trust him.

“Better — I’ll swear on your daddy’s.”

Natalie’s throat swelled as hot tears threatened to fall. Her good judgment now clouded with grief, she eased the barrel toward the ground and shook her head in embarrassment. “I guess the stress is getting to me. Sorry for being so jumpy.”

Tom nodded in understanding. “No need to apologize. A person can’t be too careful these days — especially a young woman like yourself. It’s good I’m around for protection.”

Natalie disregarded his remark, finding no comfort in it. Her gut twisted at the vulnerable position her father’s death had placed her in as Tom drifted back to the darkness of the barn. With a weary sigh, she studied the moon above. Like a shooting star, her life had changed in an instant and no matter how much she wished it, not even the crickets or the moaning bullfrogs could set it right again.

Returning to the house, she peeked in on her twelve-year-old brother, asleep in his upstairs bedroom. His tranquil face reflected no worries, no hint of strain from their recent ordeal.

Oh, that her rest could be as peaceful.

When Natalie opened the door to her sister’s bedroom, she failed to make out a form under the covers. A flick of the light revealed Chelsey’s bed hadn’t been slept in. She glanced about the room, and then noticed the splay of curtains caught in a warm breeze from the open dormer window.

Natalie darted back to Dillon’s room.

“Where’s Chelsey?” She jiggled her brother’s leg and watched the young boy rouse from a deep sleep.

Dillon rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed. “What?”

“Chelsey’s not in her room. Do you have any idea where she might be? Out with friends? A party somewhere?”

Her brother shook his head, then yawned. “I heard her talking on the phone to Lucas earlier. Maybe she’s with him.”

Natalie’s mouth grew taut. Nothing good ever happened past midnight, and it was now close to two. She hoped the reckless teenagers weren’t in a ditch somewhere.

A loud thump from Chelsey’s room caused those thoughts to evaporate.

Natalie rounded the hallway to find her fifteen-year-old sister crumpled on the bedroom floor.

Chelsey raised her head, her eyes glazed. “Hey, sis.” Her words came out slurred as she tried to stand. “Did ya miss me?”

Check out my review of the first book in this series!


author
Deborah Vogts is an author for Zondervan and writes contemporary inspirational fiction. Seeds of Summer, her second book in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series is set to release May 2010. The first book, Snow Melts in Spring is available in stores now.

In writing the Seasons of the Tallgrass series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God's great beauty rests on the Flint Hills prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Deborah and her husband have three daughters and live in SE Kansas.

To learn more about Deborah Vogts and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads.