Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Book Review: Total Surrender

Total Surrender (Sin Brothers, #4)After three amazing books in this series, what a disappointment!

So if you’ve been reading this series, you know the setup. The Sin brothers were created in a lab to be raised as soldiers. They have special abilities. They kick ass. They escaped five years ago and ever since then have been searching for a way to disable the kill chips embedded near their spines. They’ve been searching frantically for three books now and the clock is ticking.

SEVEN DAYS TO GO…

Jory is in a cell. Piper is a computer hacker trying to disable his kill chip. Why is it so much trouble? Apparently, when he was shot, one of the bullets nicked the chip and now it won’t respond to wireless communications. Great start!

But it didn’t take long at all for the problems to begin. Most notably, the chemistry between Jory and Piper was way off. In the other three books I felt it right away, but for these two it simply wasn’t working. Part of this might have been situational. Jory was locked in a cell, using “psychological tricks” to get Piper’s cooperation. (I put that in quotes because I wasn’t convinced by them.) Piper, meanwhile, was convinced Jory was a traitor to her country AND at the same time she was desperate to gain the love and respect of her father — the commander.

TIMING

The biggest problem with this book was timing. With seven days left to live, I felt that the tone of the book was not nearly immediate enough. It got worse when we started counting down the hours. They kept talking when it was time to act, and having sex when it was time to act… and I couldn’t get into it.

The timing was off in another sense too. Piper had to choose between her father and Jory in this book, something that could have been a terrific conflict in another situation but here I struggled with it. She spent the first half of the book waffling, during which time I had trouble buying any romantic attraction on her part. She just wasn’t in the right place, emotionally speaking. I think this is a big reason that the chemistry was off, and the reason why she rubbed me the wrong way. She wasn’t unlikeable, exactly, she just didn’t seem like the right girl for Jory at the right time.

The attraction between these two was so poorly timed that I skipped the sex scenes!

OTHER PROBLEMS

There was a plot twist late in the book that I found both implausible and utterly unnecessary. It never went anywhere.

Piper had a boyfriend at the start of this book who turned out to be a distraction in a book where there was already too much being packed in a short space of time.

The sappiness in this volume got to me more than in the other books. Not sure if there was more of it or if it came down to another timing problem — ie “Will you shut up about how much you love one another already and work on not dying?”

REDEEMING QUALITIES

There was another plot twist relatively early on that I loved and that could paves the way for more books in this world. This was probably the #1 thing that kept me reading to the end.

CONCLUSION

I’m not giving up on this author. Despite the rocky conclusion, this series remains an excellent example of steamy military suspense and I would totally recommend it. Prolific authors are bound to have a dud now and again. Plus, it’s always possible that the chemistry issues between Jory and Piper were my own problem. (I did my best to explain them so you could decide if they’ll be a problem for you.)

Book Review: Blind Faith

Blind Faith (Sin Brothers, #3)This series just doesn’t quit! I can’t remember the last time I got so hooked. I can’t even say that the books are super unique … to tell you the truth, I saw almost every twist coming. But I didn’t care because I so enjoyed the ride. This book was like chocolate … you just want to eat it up. And sure, there’s Creme Brulee and sometimes that’s good too, but for pure comfort, you can’t beat chocolate.

That’s what this series is for me…chocolate. Really good quality chocolate.

Nate and Audrey’s story was just as good as the first two. The four brothers are still in danger, there’s a chip that’s going to explode in a couple of weeks and they’re youngest brother is missing. I cannot wait for the final book in this series! I almost cried when I saw it wouldn’t come out until march!

I highly recommend.

Book Review: Sweet Revenge

Sweet Revenge (Sin Brothers, #2)As soon as I finished the first book in this series I dashed off to read #2 (hence the reason my review of #1 was so short :) )and it was just as good! This time it’s the oldest of the four brothers, Matt, who finds a soft, sweet girl to love.

The four Dean brothers were created in a lab and raised to be killers. They escaped as adults, wanting nothing more than family and a normal life. But they have a kill switch implanted near their spine that is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Plus, they still don’t know what happened to the youngest of them, Jory.

I am really enjoying how each of these stories can stand on its own and yet at the same time it builds the bigger story arc. For that reason, I would recommend reading in order.

These books are fast-paced, fun, and steamy. The author has captured the perfect man and pretty much duplicated him four times — he’s strong, capable, loyal, ruthlessly protective, and dominant. If that’s the kind of romantic hero you like, this series is definitely for you!

Book Review: Forgotten Sins

Forgotten Sins (Sin Brothers, #1)
I loved this book! I read it all in one go. I could not put it down. It was fun, adventurous, suspenseful, and the romance was steamy! And okay, so an enhanced soldier waking up with amnesia isn’t the most original idea in the world, but I honestly didn’t care. This story was fast-paced and well-written. I immediately connected to the characters and can’t wait for more. I highly recommend!

Madison’s Song Cover Art Vote!

I could use some help deciding on the cover art for my upcoming dark fantasy novel, Madison’s Song. I’ve already settled on an image, but I’ve got 6 different color schemes to choose from, plus 6 different fonts! I would really appreciate feedback — just tell me which one you like best. If you like one color scheme better but another title font better, that’s a valid opinion/option!

Note: The images on the left are full front/back cover. The images on the right are front only, and are honestly more important since that’s largely what I’ll be using. :)

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FREE EBOOK: Cassie Scot #1

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Twilight Times Books is offering Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective,, book #1 in the Cassie Scot series, for FREE in Ebook format on Monday, March 2nd as part of “Read an Ebook Week.”

Click here for mobi (Kindle-friendly) format.

Click here for Epub format.

Click here for .pdf format.

Or click here to look at all the free ebooks Twilight Times Books is giving away!

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BLURB:

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

AWARDS:

2013 Global Ebook Award for Contemporary Fantasy (Silver)

The Next Generation Indie Award for Paranormal (Finalist)

THE COMPLETE CASSIE SCOT SERIES

If you enjoy Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, please check out the rest of the series!

Clare’s Song

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BLURB:

Clara was born with a veil, and the ability to see into the future. This much she knows. What she doesn’t know is what other gifts will be revealed when she turns eighteen in a few months. While her grandmother has been diligent in her efforts to prepare her for the inevitable changes to come, Clara can focus on precious little besides the devilishly handsome man she met at her coming out ball. Secure in the knowledge that she has a bright future ahead of her, the future Clara discovers is one that she could never have conjured in her wildest dreams.

EXCERPT:

Chapter One

Charleston, SC

August, 1861

By midnight at Hibernian Hall Clara had danced six dances. Joseph Gibbs had tripped on the hem of her skirt, bless his heart, and ended up on his knees as if seeking divine intervention for just one night of social grace. Leland Montague had simply atrocious breath; evidently he had an unseen rotting tooth, making her continuously look the other way for a breath of fresh air. Walter Wragg didn’t speak a word during the entire dance, blushing profusely when she so much as looked him directly in the eye. Albert Tradd held her entirely too close, causing her father to intervene and have a few choice words with the young dandy on the balcony. Ashby Calhoun, her last dance partner, had bragged incessantly of his family’s wealth, his travels abroad, and what a great catch he would be for any of Charleston’s Southern belles.

Her coming out ball certainly was not turning out as planned.

Clara shuddered at the mere thought of being trapped in a loveless marriage with the offerings thus far. Spinsterhood had never looked more tempting.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_ClarasSongKitty Margo was a former hairstylist, human resource assistant and phlebotomist before venturing into the ranks of the self employed with a commercial cleaning company. This allowed her the free time to pursue writing. She has seven books available now and is close to finishing her eighth.

She is a Twilight fanatic who frequently dreams of being bitten by Edward Cullen. Hey, he’s a vampire so the 30 year age difference doesn’t matter!

Visit her at www.kittymargo.com or on her Facebook page. Emails can be sent to kittymargo@hotmail.com.

Website www.kittymargo.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kitty-Margo/605060432867441?ref=bookmarks

Twitter @kittymargo

 

 

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Movie Review: Annie

If you’re going to remake a movie like Annie, you’ve got to do it big! So when I first saw previews for this movie, my instinct was doubt. Then, when I saw the scenes between Will Stacks (Jamie Fox) and Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) I thought it could be good to see the story updated. Though set in the 1930′s, there are certainly timeless elements to the idea of a ruthless billionaire’s heart being thawed by an optimistic girl with no parents.

So the question is: Did they do it big?

Answer: Almost.

This movie came frustratingly close at times to being great, but ultimately I can see why reviews are only so-so. (I didn’t read them in advance. I stubbornly refused, wanting to make my own decision.) Among other things, Little Orphan Annie was in the foster care system rather than an orphanage, a nice modern update. Billionaire Will Stacks was a cell phone tycoon with a smart home that catered to his every whim. They even updated and deepened the relationship between these two characters. Annie was unable to read, a nice new tidbit that made her situation feel more real. Stacks had a bit of backstory as well. I particularly liked how they got together in the first place — not a random pick but a calculated move to win a mayoral race. Annie, street-smart as she was, knew what he was after right away and drove a hard bargain.

This story remained a musical in this version, a decision I was uncertain about throughout, although I did like hearing the familiar, well-loved songs from the original alongside a couple of new songs.

The big problem with this movie is that they didn’t own it. While Annie came across as genuine, most of the other characters felt like charicatures of themselves. This was never more true than with Mrs. Hannigan, played by Cammeron Diaz — a worse casting choice I have rarely seen. She overplayed the bitter, drunk to the point of absurdity and never for a moment made me believe it. I assume she got the role because she’s a big name, but she failed to portray any depth of character, which made her eventual redemption arc difficult to swallow.

Rose Byrne as Grace did an adequate job, but some of her lines were painful and I felt like she didn’t believe them when she delivered them. (Not that I could entirely blame her.) Ultimately, this character managed to portray even less personality than she did in the original. And Jamie Fox (William Stacks), though he did a good job with the direction he was given, was just a little too exaggerated … especially with the whole spitting food out thing.

If there’s one thing that defines modern times and modern acting it’s a genuine delivery. This has been slow in coming. Exaggeration is a stage actor’s tool, necessary to relay a sense of emotion to a crowded theater that can’t see the fine details on his face. But as the cameras have zoomed in, honesty is becoming more and more the norm in dramatic films. Musicals still do tend to the absurd, perhaps in part because it is absurd to randomly jump into song and dance. And I think the makers of this movie knew that, because they actually pointed out the fact more than once (and not in a way I found satirically funny — it just called the flaw to attention).

All of which brings me back to my original assertion: If you’re going to redo a movie like Annie, you’ve got to do it big. You’ve got to mean it. You’ve got to own it. And I’m afraid the writers, directors, and actors did not do that in the 2014 version of the show.

It’s not bad. If you love the story, maybe just wait to rent it.

Book Review: Black Hole Bounty

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BLURB:

Destiny is written in the stars? Maybe, but when you’re in a black hole you make your own damn destiny.

It’s not every day you get abducted by an alien general, but then, Jerusa Whichab isn’t having an average day. Earth is fading from view and she’s got a decision to make – cooperate with her despotic, yet unnervingly attractive captor or receive an injection of goo. General Toyeb can’t be trusted, and his body-healing, mind-blowing Theta waves leave her panting for more. But what choice does she have if she’s to stay alive?

None, if enemy bounty hunter Berwyck dal Korth has his way. Intent on capturing Jerusa, he performs a binding ritual to ensure she cannot escape him – a ritual with unforeseen side effects for both of them. Forced into hostile proximity, Berwyck and Jerusa battle to subdue their rising attraction, but will they conquer their desire – or succumb?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review: 

Black Hole Bounty defied my expectations. I mean, in some ways it was what I expected – it is a romantic alien abduction story after all — but it managed to throw me for several loops and even at the end, I can’t honestly say for sure I know where the rest of the series is going. I just know I want to find out!

I was quickly drawn into this story because of its light, conversational, and easy narrative voice. It actually made me think a little of my own Cassie Scot series (in narrative style only :) ).

The story itself began with Jerusa being kidnapped by aliens … they need her. Well, they need her blood to cure a disease. Apparently, one of her ancestors wasn’t exactly human and so many generations later, neither is she.

I was concerned about the story a bit during the first half. I did not like General Toyeb, the man who kidnapped her and who I originally thought would be the main romantic interest. I also thought Jerusa was a bit too trusting. But as I said, the story defied my expectations. It took a major right turn halfway through and the second half just kept getting better and better, leaving me wanting more by the end!

Among other things, I like the creativity of the world building, the thought the author put into the alien biology, and the fact that though there is romantic interest here, the aliens are not human.

I believe this is a new author. And I think one to watch!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Sienna spent her adolescence staring at the dark skies over the Caribbean coast of Panama, dreaming up romantic adventures she now delights in writing down. She reads, writes and revels in romance, and she’s attracted to off-beat, sexy characters—in fiction and in real life! These days she lives a long way from the Caribbean, but when she drags her husband and children to Hermitage Castle to gaze at the stars, the vast beauty of space makes her feel at home. Who knows, maybe an alien will pop down and invite them on a ride?

You can find out more about Sienna and her books on her website: www.siennabronwyn.com.

Zoom down with a message on FB: https://www.facebook.com/sienna.bronwyn or

Tweet to her @Sienna_Bronwyn

Buy links:

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Hole-Bounty-Sienna-Bronwyn-ebook/dp/B00MU46IM8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408465287&sr=8-1&keywords=black+hole+bounty

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-hole-bounty-sienna-bronwyn/1120161444?ean=2940150734760

http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&cPath=30&products_id=933&zenid=885456d5a9caf51600fa6e792b90cac9

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Holiday Parade: The Case of the Dispatched Detective

Today I’m featuring another great gift idea by author Stephanie Osborn, fellow Twilight Times author.

This is not your father’s Sherlock Holmes…

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is a science fiction mystery in which brilliant hyperspatial physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers there are alternate realities, often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, finds Continuum 114, where Sherlock Holmes was to have died along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. In a Knee-jerk reaction, Skye rescues Holmes, who inadvertently flies through the wormhole to our universe, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to go back without causing devastating continuum collapse, Holmes must stay in our world and adapt. Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of – and possibly sabotage – Project: Tesseract. Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes’ new “Watson” – or more? And what happens next?


“…This is a really bad time for me to leave console at the moment, hon.”

Caitlin shot her a hard, annoyed look.

“You can’t be considering it,” she said flatly. “All hell is breaking loose here. I don’t care if the President needed you five minutes ago! You have to stay here!”

“Chill, Cait,” Skye tossed an aside to her friend, phone held absently to the side of her face with her shoulder as she tried to read the scribbled note Timelines handed her, around annotating her clipboard. “I’ve got more to do than I can shake a stick at now. I’m…what?” she said, staring at the note. “Software! Check the focus subroutine! Make sure it’s initiating at the correct point in the program! The last thing we need now is a software glitch causing a delay in timing. If that’s happening, no wonder the induction element’s hosed! Hardware, make sure the circuit’s clear! Holmes, I’m sorry, I can’t make it right now. I don’t have time to catch my breath down here.”

* * *


Holmes listened closely, not only to Skye’s direct comments, but also to her asides and commands, and to what he could hear of the remarks made to her. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and informed Jones and Smith.

“It appears matters are not going well in the Chamber.” He punched the speaker button on the phone so the other men could hear. Then he returned his attention to the sounds coming from the phone. “Skye, what is happening?”

* * *


Skye watched as her teammates fought with the recalcitrant apparatus. One of the Hardware console members, Chad Swann by name and a longstanding friend of Skye’s, moved into the center of the room to check the circuitry of the monoliths. Skye grabbed her clipboard, flipping to the malfunction shutdown checklist, where she scanned the list, trying to determine the seriousness of their
situation.

Vaguely she heard Holmes’ query, but didn’t have time to devote to it. Still, she managed to find two spare brain cells to rub together, and replied abstractedly, “We’re having a malfunction in the induction element system. We can’t keep it focused…”

“Skye, we need you to make a call! Shut down, or put it in a holding pattern and troubleshoot?” Caitlin interrupted. Skye juggled phone and clipboard, trying to assess the checklist for priority red malfunction modes.

“Holmes, I’ve gotta go,” she said into the phone. “I need to figure out how serious this is—”

“DR. CHADWICK! We’ve got a GRAVITON SPIKE!” Sequencing shouted.

* * *


Smith and Jones watched as Holmes’ expression grew more and more grave as he listened to the sounds on the other end of the line. They heard Skye’s attempt to break the conversation, and Holmes was about to answer in the affirmative when they overheard the exclamation from Sequencing.

Holmes paled as they heard Skye shout, “Chad!! Get out of there! NO! EMERGENCY SHUTDO—”

The line went dead.

Instantly the entire building shuddered hard enough to knock books off shelves and send Skye’s chalk tumbling from its rack on the blackboard, smashing into dusty white shards on the tile. The three men grabbed for heavy furniture to avoid being flung to the floor.

* * *


When the quake subsided, the three men sat staring at each other, shaken. Holmes felt almost lightheaded, his grey eyes wide.

“What happened?” Jones demanded. “Did that earthquake have anything to do with Project: Tesser—”

“Emergency shutdown,” Holmes snapped out, leaping to his feet. “Graviton spike.” He didn’t fully understand the significance of the graviton spike, but from his reading of Skye’s quantum mechanics text, which perforce contained a significant amount of particle physics, he knew what a graviton was, and strongly suspected it was connected to the quake. “I am going down to the Chamber,” he declared in a tone brooking no argument. “The two of you may come, or stay.”

* * *


“Is your authorization in?” Jones turned to Smith.

“Your duty officer entered it into the system when I arrived this morning,” Smith observed.

“Good. We’re coming, Holmes,” Jones declared.

But Holmes was already out the door and down the hall, headed for the elevators at a dead run.

Jones and Smith sprinted behind.

~~~

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is available in print and ebook (all formats), and the first four books of the series have been released in a collected ebook edition, The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Book 5, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, is a 2014 new release. All of them are suitable for gift-giving!