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Quote of the Week by Russell Baker

Posted: 27 Nov 2016 12:00 AM PST

Quote of the Week
by Russell Baker

"The Bad Boy Bargain" by Kendra C. Highley

Posted: 25 Nov 2016 12:00 AM PST

The Bad Boy Bargain
by Kendra C. Highley

The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra C. Highley is currently on tour with Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

More books by this author: Matt Archer: Bloodlines (read my blog post), Matt Archer: Redemption (read my blog post), and Unstrung (read my blog post).

Baseball player Kyle Sawyer has many labels: bad boy, delinquent, ladies' man, fearless outfielder ... Only one of them is actually true. But then sweet ballet dancer Faith Gladwell asks him to help wreck her reputation, and everything goes sideways.
Faith knows a thing or two about love, and what she had with her cheating jerk of an ex wasn't it. When he starts spreading rumors about her being an Ice Queen, Faith decides it's time to let a little bad into her life.
Lucky for her, Kyle Sawyer - dark, dangerous, totally swoonworthy Kyle Sawyer - is landscaping her backyard over Spring Break. Shirtless. And if she can convince him to play along, "dating" Kyle will silence the rumors.
But Faith's plan threatens to expose Sawyer's biggest secret of all ... and that's a risk he's not willing to take.
Disclaimer: This book contains drop-the-book-and-fan-yourself kisses ... and touches. Fall in love with a bad boy at your own risk.

Chapter One
Badass, troublemaker, girl magnet—familiar words always followed Kyle from his locker to his senior English classroom. Or from the cafeteria to the parking lot. Or from the locker room to the baseball field. Anywhere he went, the whispers followed.
Today, it went something like, "Ooh, I know who we should vote most likely to drop out before graduation," as he walked by. Or, "I heard he banged two girls at once at North Texas last weekend. College girls, man!" Or, "Dude, I heard MLB scouts are coming to the games to watch him play."
He wished that last one were true.
Kyle zipped his hoodie up tighter, acting like he couldn't hear a word. The dark red hoodie and a pair of headphones were pretty thin armor, even if he did encourage the stories…the lies. Suttonville High was a big enough maze of suck without letting the truth out.
And no way, no how, was he showing any sort of weakness ever again.
"Dude! Wait up!" a guy called.
For a second, Kyle stiffened. Old habits died hard. But he recognized the voice and let his shoulders relax. Cade Adams, unlike the hundreds of rich, snobby kids crowding the halls, was worth waiting for. He slowed his stride until Cade caught up, looking disheveled. For an amused moment, he wondered if Cade was running from a pack of zombified football players, then he noticed the pleading look on Cade's face. The same one he'd ignored from a half dozen other guys.
He shook his head. "Nope, still not going."
"It's supposed to be a great party," Cade said, running a hand over his hair to coerce it back into shape. It was a little too long, and curls kept springing up on his head. "First night of spring break, man. All the seniors are going."
"Everyone except me," Kyle said, quickening his pace.
"Come on," Cade pleaded. "I need to be your wingman. Just once. Your leftovers would be a feast to us mere mortals."
That's what half the baseball team said, too. But if he let someone be his wingman, they'd find out really quick that he wasn't what everyone assumed. "Sorry, not my scene."
"Fine. Okay, I get it." Cade's crooked smile didn't do much to hide his disappointment. "Just…think about it."
He strode off, breezing through the hall filled with students in designer clothes as if his Iron Man T-shirt, wild hair, and faded jeans didn't matter to him. And it didn't—at some point last fall, Cade had become cool. Either that, or he'd stopped caring what any of them thought.
Lucky bastard.
Kyle stalked to chemistry, praying he'd pass today's test. Being dyslexic turned the periodic table into a medieval torture device, even if his teacher was good about giving him tutoring on the down low. He couldn't let anyone know he actually cared about his grades, aside from passing to play baseball.
"I heard he's going out with some girl at Texas Woman's," a girl whispered to another as he walked in, as if he couldn't hear them.
"Wish I knew for sure if anyone here has a chance," said the other girl, a pretty senior who had a reputation of being a man-eater. "Because I'd ride that pony all over town."
Kyle's ears flamed up. To hide his discomfort, he rolled his neck, getting a little satisfaction out of the wary stares after the vertebrae cracked. That's right, the scary kid just cracked his back. You puny humans shouldn't try that at home.
The bell rang and he sank into his desk, adopting his typical pose of "I'm only here because the truant officer made me show up today" with his legs stretched out in the aisle. Mrs. Moody, the chem teacher, rolled her eyes. She saw right through him. And if she could, how much longer would it be before everyone else did?
During the test—in which chemical compounds morphed into ancient Hebrew right before his eyes—he couldn't shake the conversation with Cade. He felt bad about letting the guy down, especially since he hadn't been much of a friend the last few years, but he hated those parties because of the baggage that rode on them. Namely, his reputation.
Because who at Suttonville would believe that the resident delinquent, skateboard-riding, drag-racing, smart-mouthed chick magnet Kyle Sawyer was actually none of those things?
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"The Bad Boy Bargain is everything you'd want in a book: an intriguing story, lovable characters, a swoon-worthy guy, some humor, and a whole lot of heart....This was a sweet and heartwarming page-turner that I could not put down. I'm always a fan of Kendra C. Highley's books, but this one is a new favorite!" ~ Erin Fletcher, Author, All Laced Up
"This sweet, adorable romance ticked all the boxes for me. It was a quick, entertaining read that left me with so many good feels. I'll definitely be checking out more of this author's work in future." ~ Siobhan Davis, My YA & NA Obsession
"Lies, fear, trust, and love all come together in this great read. What will happen with Kyle starts to feel something for Faith? Will she want to know everything about him, or is this truly just a game of revenge? I have a love of YA. I could read the genre every single day. This book does not disappoint. The characters are well developed and the story plays out perfectly. I couldn't help but fall for Kyle and be sympathetic to all he and Faith were going through. Great story!" ~ Michelle Dare, Once Upon an Alpha
"I absolutely loved this book. It's well written and kept me hooked right from the start. I probably shouldn't have started reading it so close to bedtime because I was struggling to put it down and it was the first thing I reached for when I woke up. It ticks all the right boxes for me and I would definitely recommend it especially if you like your sweet teen romance novels." ~ Danielle Duncan, Chapters Through Life
"With refreshingly realistic characters, a good foundation and moral to the story, I highly recommend The Bad Boy Bargain to young adults and adults who want to remember the first stirrings of a crush." ~ Erica Chilson, Wicked Reads

Guest Post by the Author
5 Things You Didn't Know About Me
1.  I played classical violin from third grade through my freshman year in college. I was good enough to make (last chair) it into the orchestra at the University of Oklahoma, but quit because I was stinking up the place compared to the music majors. J
2.   I'm left handed, but I bowl, golf, and pitch a ball with my right hand. If I try to do those things with my left hand, it feels totally wrong. Weird, right?
3.   My first date with my husband was in 1988. He was fifteen and I was sixteen, and our date was to watch Die Hard - in the theater.
4.   If I had money to burn, I'd buy a 1969 Mercury Comet ... not because it was the coolest car ever, but because it's the first car I remember riding around in with my mother. It was white, with red interior, and those cars remind me of her (she passed in 1990).
5.   My husband and I plan to retire to Orlando. Yes, we are retiring to Florida ... it's a cliché until you know why. My husband's dream has been to drive boats back and forth between resorts and parks at Disney World when he retires. I'm going to be a greeter. That way, I can wear Mickey Mouse ears all the time and that makes me happy!

About the Author
Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to four self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most important job. She believes in everyday magic, extraordinary love stories, and the restorative powers of dark chocolate.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card, a paperback copy of Defying Gravity, and bookmarks from Finding Perfect, Defying Gravity, and The Bad Boy Bargain (US only).


"The Nearly Girl" by Lisa de Nikolits

Posted: 24 Nov 2016 12:00 AM PST

The Nearly Girl
by Lisa de Nikolits

The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Fans of A Prayer for Owen Meany and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest will love this clever, fast-paced and enjoyable thriller.
Like a modern-day Joan of Arc, Amelia Fisher attempts to carve out a 'normal life', showing us how mythic the idea of 'normal' really is.
With a poetic genius for a father, an obsessed body builder for a mother, and an enchantingly eccentric group seeking the help of an unorthodox therapist, what could possibly go wrong?
A chance discovery propels Amelia and fellow therapy attendee, Mike, with whom she is in love, into a life-threatening situation instigated by the crazed doctor's own dark secret but Amelia's psychosis saves the day.
Told with warmth, humor and populated with vividly original characters, this sprint-paced novel has it all, from restraining orders to sex in office bathrooms, and a nail-biting ending.
A novel about an unusual family, expected social norms and the twists and turns of getting it all slightly wrong, the consequences of which prove fatal for some.

Book Video

Amelia lay still. Mike was next to her, snoring slightly.
Amelia wondered how much time had passed since she and Mike had vanished. She wondered how Dr. Carroll had covered up their disappearance but she was sure his story was airtight. She wondered if anybody was worried about them and looking for them. She hoped Ethel was out of hospital and she tried to send messages to Nana with her mind, telling her to look for them.
Amelia's eyes were wide open and she was trying to make little growling noises in her throat and eventually she was able to make a sound.
She graduated to trying to form words. Ma….. Ma….. Mak….. Mak!
Mak? The word was hardly decipherable but she was grateful for the utterance.
Mike? She growled the guttural utterance as quietly as she could but there was no reply.
Amelia lay on her back and she closed her eyes and concentrated very hard on trying to roll over. It seemed impossible to do in one big motion and she broke it down, first just trying to move her right arm across her chest. When she achieved this gigantic feat, she was drenched in sweat and she felt exhausted.
She wasn't sure why but the sedative was metabolizing in her system in a different way to the others, it seemed to be leaving her bloodstream much faster. She was worried that Dr. Carroll would notice and administer the next dose before the current one had worn off.
She was about to roll over onto her stomach when she heard a noise. Alarmed that Dr. Carroll had returned, she flopped over onto her back, and adjusted herself into the same position as he had left her.
No sooner had she done this, than the doctor pushed his way into the room.
He sat down on the floor and heaved a great sigh.
You two have caused me an inordinate problem, he said. Really and truly you have. Why did you have to come here? Why?
He sat cross-legged and put his head into his hands.
I don't know what to do with you, he said, his voice muffled. I have to get rid of you but I don't know how to do it. I'm not a violent man, I'm not. I never thought it would come to this.
He rubbed his face. I could kill you very easily, that part is not the problem. It's the disposing of the bodies. Hmm…
He fell into deep silence. If your bodies were ever found, the drugs in your system would lead you right back to me. But it's very tough to dispose of bodies. Much harder than you would think. They make it look so easy in the movies but I wouldn't even know where to start. Although, that said, I could drive north for a few hours, find a couple of side roads and dump you in the swamps. But I'd have to wade into them, carrying you, and you are both so heavy and there are snakes in those waters and frogs and god knows what, so no… that won't work.
Oh, this is such a problem. I wonder if I should disappear instead. But why should I have to give up everything I have worked so hard to achieve? Why should I be the one to lose everything just because two nosy parkers poked their nosy noses where they shouldn't have?
What about fire… I could try to burn you both, but bodies don't burn entirely in fire and how and why and where would you have set yourselves alight? I don't think I would be able to create a scenario in such a way that it would be believable to anyone.
There's dismemberment of course. I could dismember you in the bathtub but the blood, ugh, blood. And I would have to buy saws and knives and plastic and containers and from what I've read, the evidence of blood is very hard to rid of. And how would I get rid of the body parts? I am back to square one. Disposal.
A lover's pact? Suicide? Yes… but I'd need to get you both into a motel which would be a logistical nightmare. Slitting your wrists would be easy but I'd also have to make sure enough time passed for all the drugs to clear out of your system. And how am I supposed to carry you two lugs into a motel without being seen?
He gave a great sigh. I have to prepare dinner for my family. I don't care about you two. You can starve to death for all I care.
He got up. I'm one of the top two percentile of brilliant geniuses, he said. I will think of something.

Praise for the Book
"In her latest novel, The Nearly Girl, Lisa de Nikolits takes us deep into the complex workings of an extraordinary mind. Amelia Fisher, the protagonist of de Nikolits's latest offering, reminds readers of the importance of passion and adventure in a world that wishes to keep our wilder urges contained. Like a modern-day Joan of Arc, Fisher's attempts to carve out a 'normal life', take her to the fringes of social acceptability – showing us how mythic the idea of 'normal' really is. Through a story that surprises, page after page, The Nearly Girl will take readers on an unexpected adventure – where the lines between the rational and irrational are blurred. From hoarding to the fear of public speaking, this psychiatric thriller excavates the phobias, idiosyncrasies and character oddities that make us human at the core." ~ Andrea Thompson, author of Over Our Heads
"Playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote in 1881, 'The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children.' Lisa De Nikolits updates this cautionary observation in her latest book, as the reckless life choices of a young woman and her schizophrenic, acid-dropping mate are visited upon their daughter. Beautifully told, The Nearly Girl softens its sting with convivial depictions of Toronto bohemians, before revealing the ugly aftermath of people shipwrecked upon the foolish choices of youth. The Nearly Girl is as bleak and beautiful as the Rosedale Ravine after a hail storm." ~ Elaine Ash, editor of Walking the Dunes with Tennessee Williams
"A fast paced and illuminating story where endeavoring to conform to society's perception of normal, exposes the masks of illusion. Amelia Fisher's unconventional upbringing with an LSD addicted poet father and an emotionally distance body building mother leads her to attending sessions with a crazy doctor. Whose unorthodox method called D.T.O.T. - 'Do the Opposite Thing' has significant repercussions on his patients including Amelia. A chance discovery propels Amelia and fellow attendee, Mike with whom she is in love, are plunged into a life-threatening situation instigated by the doctor's own dark secret. Hidden twists abound with growing tension culminating in a surprising ending." ~ Mandy Eve Barnett, published author and freelance writer
"The Nearly Girl is completely mesmerizing! Lisa de Nikolits' tale of family dysFUNction is chock full of comedy, drama and page turning suspense. Anyone who has ever felt alienated by the unwritten rules and norms of society will find a kindred spirit in Amelia, the 'Nearly Girl' daughter of a female bodybuilder and a tortured poet, who believes that rainy days are just perfect for picnics on the beach and who fears that getting on the right bus will lead her to a dead end. Told with warmth, humor and populated with vividly original characters, The Nearly Girl illustrates the importance of keeping the magic in an increasingly corporate, cookie-cutter world." ~ Heather Babcock, author of Of Being Underground and Moving
"Amelia Fisher is a brilliant, beautiful, charming, young woman who should have the future and world brightly gift-wrapped in her slender hands. However, she has to reconnect with her acid-dropping, addle-headed father, Henry, a man she hasn't seen since childhood. Then there is her cognitive therapy group led by the unconventional Dr. Carroll, a man whose methods are either genius, or deeply damaging. This sprint-paced novel has it all from restraining orders to sex in office bathrooms, and a nail-biting ending! Lisa de Nikolits' skill is proven in this dynamic rapid page-turner which enchants and delights readers with suspense and unforeseen twists and surprises!" ~ Michael Fraser, author of The Serenity of Stone

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
When Megan meets Henry, it's love at first sight. But love isn't always perfect. Henry is a poet who uses LSD, he's slightly unhinged, eccentric, and mentally unstable. Megan's parents Ethel and Ed are very supportive, especially when Megan gets pregnant. But when her daughter Amelia starts behaving like Henry from an early age, Megan withdraws and becomes obsessed with body building. They call Amelia the "Nearly Girl" because she nearly gets things right but can also get them so wrong. Fast forward to Amelia at twenty-two, when she meets Mike in a group therapy session run by Dr. Frances Carroll, whose mantra is to "do the opposite thing". The members of this group of misfits each purport to be in therapy for one reason, but we find out each one has a much deeper problem. They all fall victim to Dr. Carroll's unorthodox therapy - in more ways than one. But, when Amelia discovers a shocking truth about her therapist, who will believe a mental patient?
The Nearly Girl gives us a heartbreaking look at those who suffer from mental illness and how it impacts the lives of those around them. Much like its quirky characters, this book offers a whole lot more than what you see at first glance. Based on the cutesy cover and the light-hearted beginning of the book, I wasn't expecting a thriller. But The Nearly Girl is a unique combination of literary fiction, humor, romance ... and thriller. With its truly beautiful writing and memorable characters, this book is sure to appeal to many different types of readers.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has lived in Canada since 2000. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the USA, Australia and Britain.
Lisa de Nikolits is the award-winning author of five novels. Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror won a 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women's Issues Fiction and was long-listed for a ReLit Award. West of Wawa won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and was a Chatelaine Editor's Pick. A Glittering Chaos tied to win the 2014 Silver IPPY for Popular Fiction. The Witchdoctor's Bones launched in Spring 2014 to literary acclaim and wide readership. Between the Cracks She Fell launched in Fall 2015 and was well reviewed by the Quill & Quire and was on the recommended reading lists for Open Book Toronto and 49th Shelf. Between the Cracks She Fell was also reviewed by Canadian Living magazine and called "a must-read book of 2015". Between the Cracks She Fell won a Bronze IPPY Award 2016 for Contemporary Fiction. All books have been published by Inanna Publications.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card (US only) or one of three ebook copies of The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits (US only).

Plus, enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win one of two signed copies of The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits (closes 12 December; open to US, CA, GB, and AU).


"The Haunting of Hotel LaBelle" by Sharon Buchbinder

Posted: 23 Nov 2016 01:00 AM PST

The Haunting of Hotel LaBelle
by Sharon Buchbinder

The Haunting of Hotel LaBelle by Sharon Buchbinder is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

The past meets the present when a curse turn-of-the-century man meets a feisty modern day woman.
When hotel inspector, Tallulah Thompson, is called in along with her pug, Franny, to investigate renovation delays, she meets an extremely annoyed and dapper turn-of-the-century innkeeper. The only problem is he's in limbo, neither dead nor alive, and Tallulah and the pug are the first to see him in a hundred years.
Cursed by a medicine woman, "Love 'em and Leave 'em Lucius" Stewart is stuck between worlds until he finds his true love and gives her his heart. When he first sees Tallulah, he doesn't know what he's feeling. Yet, her stunning beauty, and feisty attitude pull him in.
With the fate of Hotel LaBelle on the line, Tallulah with the help of a powerful medicine woman turns Lucius back into a flesh and blood man. She and Lucius team up to save the hotel, but Tallulah can't help but wonder if he will ever let go of his past love and learn to love again.

Book Video

A book flew at his head—and sailed through him, bouncing off the wall and landing on the floor.
Mouth agape, the woman stared from him to the book and back to him again. "You're a ghost."
"Not exactly. Shall we start over?" He leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. "After a hundred years of being invisible to everyone except you, I'd like to know who you are and what you're doing here."
"Of course. Why not? Could today get any weirder?" She sank into the desk chair, shook her head, and sighed. "My name is Tallulah Thompson. I'm a hotel inspector, hired by the current owner as a consultant to find out why the renovations are delayed and what he needs to do to fix it. He's teetering on the brink of bankruptcy."
"What tribe are you?"
She jerked her head up and those doggone lapis lazuli eyes of hers sparked as if she'd strike him with lightning and kill him with one look. "No one asks that. It's not politically correct."
"Well, I guess you haven't been talking to the right people. And I don't know what you mean by that last part. I've never been involved in politics."
"Nowadays, it's considered rude to ask about another person's national origins." She threw her hands up. "Why am I giving a ghost an etiquette lesson? What am I thinking?"
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"The heroine and hero are fully realized characters who readers will root for and the narrative is descriptive and fast paced ... Buchbinder knows how to pull readers into the reality she's created." ~ Karen Sweeny-Justice, RT Book Reviews
"This is quite a good ghost story, with several twists & turns ... It's an interesting story, well developed, & I liked it." ~ Alberta, Manic Readers
"Sharon Buchbinder pens a hauntingly lovely paranormal romance story ... If you love your paranormals to be a little more on the unusual side with a twist, this is a definite must read as it combines history, heartache, mystery and mystical happenings." ~ Pauline Michael, the Night Owls Review Team

Guest Post by the Author
Dogs as Characters: Pros and Cons
As an author, unless your book is titled A Dog and His Best Friend, It's a Dog's Life, or Me and My Owner as told by Rusty to A Ghost Writer, you might want to consider the advantages and disadvantages of using a pup in your book. Here's a list of considerations and my experiences.
Pro: Cute and Lovable: If you need to make a curmudgeon a tad more lovable, adding a dog to the mix to show how he or she changes is a good move. This was used effectively in As Good As It Gets. In the beginning, the writer/curmudgeon tosses his neighbor's Yorkie down a trash chute. (Cue the horrified gasps in the audience.) By the end of the movie, the curmudgeon has spoiled the dog with unlimited bacon and he and the neighbor have joint custody of the pooch. Smooth move!
Con: Too Cute and Lovable: If the dog has too much time on scene as an adorable canine, it may be time to cut back his or her screen time. This is also true if he's a bad dog—unless the book title is CUJO. The dog must remain in the background, not the foreground of the story.
Pro: Humor/Tension Breaker: I write paranormal romantic suspense, so there tends to be a lot of tension in my books. The plot races forward, but everyone needs a break from time to time. In The Haunting of Hotel LaBelle, Franny the pug in her so-ugly-she's-cute way provides an icebreaker between the heroine, Tallulah Thompson, who is alive and the hero, Lucius Stewart, who is stuck in limbo. At times, Franny acts as go-between, clown princess, and snorer in chief. When I needed to write something funny about her, all I had to do was look at my pug, Agent Frank.
Con: Humor/Tension Breaker: A little bit of potty humor goes a looooooong way. Unless your book is aimed at ten year olds and under (see also children's books) this kind of humor can make a reader throw the book across the room or use it to clean up after their dog!  
Pro: Watch Dog/Rescuer: You don't need a Saint Bernard to do this. Remember Lassie? Always barking about little Timmy falling down the well? Where the heck were Timmy's parents, anyway? Nowadays we'd be calling Child Protective Services, but back then the dog was the best guardian for little Timmy. In my book, Desire and Deception, a Weimaraner, which is a loyal-to-the-death family dog, latches onto the wrist of an armed psychopath and enables the heroine to save herself.
Con: Always on Watch Dog/Rescuer: Unless your book is titled Lassie Lives Again, most readers will tire of the too-stupid-to-live (TSTL) heroine who cannot make it through the day without being rescued by her Teacup Yorkie. Seriously, Timmy was a child. And always in trouble. A romance heroine is usually over the age of 18. She should be smart enough to avoid open wells and dark cellars.
Pro: Investigative Helper: With their acute senses, dogs make excellent investigative assistants. They also can get into spaces and places where humans can't go. In Some Other Child, Winston the Weimaraner, goes out early in the morning to do his business and returns with a blood encrusted handkerchief, the first of many clues to come in this mystery.
Con: Lead Detective: A very popular children's show features a large blue dog who gives the audience clues to solve a puzzle. This is great for younger readers, but not so great for adults. My advice: never let the pooch be the lead detective in a romantic suspense novel.
Bottom line: Dogs make great characters. However, unless the main character in your book is the dog (and books like that are puplentiful), an author takes a risk using a dog as a character in his or her book. Remember, like any other secondary character, the canine companion can outshine the main character and upstage his or her owner. Let your heroine and hero be the stars and keep the pooch out of the limelight.

About the Author
Sharon Buchbinder has been writing fiction since middle school and has the rejection slips to prove it. An RN, she provided health care delivery, became a researcher, association executive, and obtained a PhD in Public Health. When not teaching or writing, she can be found fishing, walking her dogs, or breaking bread and laughing with family and friends in Baltimore, Maryland, and Punta Gorda, Florida.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of ten ebook copies of The Haunting of Hotel LaBelle by Sharon Buchbinder.


"The Phantom of the Earth" by Raeden Zen

Posted: 26 Nov 2016 01:37 PM PST

The Phantom of the Earth
(Books 1-5)
by Raeden Zen

The Phantom of the Earth (Books 1-5) combines the first five books in the series: The Song of the Jubilee, The Gambit with Perfection, The Synthesis and the Animus, The Descent into the Maelstrom, and The Restoration of Flaws
You can read an excerpt below. Make sure you check out the fantastic concept art on the Home page and the Settings page of the author's website. Here's an example:

Livelle city-state

Herbert's Dune meets Banks' The Player of Games in The Phantom of the Earth, a spellbinding science fiction epic set deep underground after the fall of civilization on Earth's surface.
Here are the five thought-provoking postapocalyptic stories that lovers of science fiction can't stop talking about, gathered together in one volume for the first time. The futuristic theories, conspiracies, political maneuvering, and characters within these visionary tales will stay with you long after you finish.
In the Great Commonwealth of Beimeni, a subterranean civilization in North America, expansion long ago gave way to peace and prosperity in the face of the history's most devastating plague. Immortality is the reward for service and loyalty in Beimeni, a place where the physical blends with the metaphysical and power consolidates in the hands of those with a genetic edge. The fissures first spread slowly, then swiftly, until now the Great Commonwealth finds itself on the brink of economic devastation, challenged by forces from within that know its secrets and its crimes.
At the center of the conflict lie the Selendias of Piscator, founders of the resistance with an uncanny connection to the zeropoint field, and the Barão Strike Team, three researchers tasked with finding a cure to the Reassortment Strain, the plague that nearly wiped humanity from the Earth. Traveling from the uninhabitable but pristine surface to the habitable but inhospitable underground, this is a story about dedication to dreams, battle for survival, discovery and connection, song and celebration, undoing past misdeeds, and sacrifice for the greater good.

Equation of Extinction
The Second Hundred Years' War had concluded. So had human dominance of the Earth's surface.
The Earth has orbited the sun 368 times since then, replenishing much of the renewable surface.
Nonrenewable resources, plentiful for most of the Earth's history, had disappeared prior to the war, prior to the Reassortment Atmospheric Anomaly, which wiped humanity from the surface.
No one truly knows how the Reassortment Strain escaped containment, or what its intended purpose was. A zeropoint attack upon the Western Hegemony's synbio laboratories and defense network destroyed all records of the strain, while 340 scientists on the team that designed it were stored in stasis near absolute zero. Now all but one of those scientists, Dr. Kole Shrader, are dead.
The Reassortment Strain still thrives in Earth's atmosphere and bedrock. It's a synthetic organism that was designed with the 4 traditional bases of DNA and their mirrored versions; it contains 8 nucleotides and 39 amino acids, and functions in ways unpredicted by science. After it escaped containment, it learned to live off sunlight and nitrogen and spread rapidly over the Earth's atmosphere and in its soil. It recodes portions of its genome every few minutes and does so with many more combinations given its characteristic of chirality. It only kills transhumans.
Reassortment was born out of the Second Hundred Years' War. A century of battles fought for possession of asteroids and minor planets throughout the Solar System, which held the last vestiges of nonrenewable resources, came to its inevitable end—the Reassortment Atmospheric Anomaly and Death Wave. The Reassortment Strain killed more efficiently than any transhuman weapon, silencing more than twenty-five billion transhumans in less than one year.
The survivors, who lived and worked beneath Antelope Canyon in the self-sustained and contained Livelle Laboratory, had mistakenly believed they had survived the plague. But a new war for survival had only just begun.
Early setbacks in the newly founded Livelle city-state, mainly from Reassortment scares in the underground, led to unprecedented and unpredicted expansion. Transhumans used mineral crushers, traveling deep inside the continent of North America to escape the strain. They formed a country called the Great Commonwealth of Beimeni some 2,500 meters deep, spreading civilization coast to coast, to the Arctic, and to Central America.
Scientific discoveries abounded, including rapid evolutionary advances, resistance to extreme heat and pressure, growth acceleration, and age reversal, among others; humanity, which had come so close to extinction, used the same synbio technology that created the Reassortment Strain to design a human genome with a theoretically infinite life span.
It also birthed a new conflict, with stakes as high as the one Before Reassortment. For unless a cure is found, the pressure from the weight of the Earth above, the burn from radioactivity driven outward from the planet's core, and the seepage of Reassortment throughout the underground—an equation of extinction—threatens to finish what the Death Wave started 368 years ago …
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"The Phantom of the Earth Omnibus Edition is actually five distinct (but related) books [...]. This makes it an incredibly long read but a very rewarding one, having made my way through a few days ago. [...] Like great science fiction, there has been great attention to detail to make this underground world 'habitable'. Anyone could write something where it is basically just how earth is but with some underground elements. Certainly a lot of research went into working out the kinks of how humans could really survive underground. I second other reviewers that there was a good deal of scientific accuracy here. A lot of detail went into how people live underground, with issues dealing with food sources, water, etc. I really enjoyed that aspect. There is also a good deal of science going on with the genetic engineering side. It is interesting to note that the author actually consulted over 15 nonfiction science sources in order to make sure things were accurate, as well as actual scientists. Because of these themes, the author makes good use of synthetic biology and quantum physics. I was never very good at science, but I actually learned a lot about these topics from this book." ~ cookiecountess
"I appreciated the author's commitment to scientific accuracy. He clearly consulted scientists and engineers about the subject matter, which emphasizes biology and genetic engineering. This made the story engrossing and gave the dystopian world a realistic edge over other series. I also admired the author's attention to detail! Spread out over five books, there are a lot of characters and locations to remember. However, this complexity adds to the credibility of his creation and helps make this the best science fiction book I've read recently. I would recommend The Phantom of the Earth to any dystopian fiction fan; it may very well become your next favorite series." ~ Amazon Customer
"This is an outstanding story of the future of the earth after a virus has made the surface uninhabitable. The story is brilliantly told, and contains support material that enhances the realism of the story. This omnibus set includes five books and 1649 pages. Unfortunately, the drama is so compelling it is most difficult to stop the reading at any point. The trans humans of this future world have many features we don't have, but the story and appendices get us to an understanding of how the evolution has taken place. For me, a physics major, the high point was the scientific accuracy of the many elements used to create the world under the surface, and to create the material goods and human skills that make this world habitable. While I may rave about the accuracy of this future world, be assured that the story depends on human frailties that can be found in the most advance humanoids. Reading this series is a tremendous undertaking, but you will savor and enjoy every minute of it." ~ Kayak Jay
"There is no doubt that this series is a must read for all the lovers of science fiction and I wouldn't be surprised if I see it on the big screen someday. It is perfectly written, not just for the writing style and quality of words, but because it keeps just the right amount of suspense through all five books, which is pretty hard to do without boring the reader on the way. I absolutely loved the series and I can't wait to read more about this author. Hopefully, some spin off of The Phantom of the Earth will be released soon." ~ Vanessa Kings

About the Author
Raeden Zen is a speculative and supernatural fiction author. When he isn't writing, you can find him hanging out with his family and friends, reading, eating exotic foods, enjoying movies, swimming, procrastinating with social media, or watching sports. He lives in New York City.


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