REVIEW: Clean Sweep


Ilona Andrews
Clean Sweep (Innkeeper chronicles #1)
Science Fiction
December 2, 2013

Blurb from

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina.


And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night….Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

Wait – this was a short story? With it’s exceptional level of character development? It’s cool, shown-and-not-told worldbuilding? It’s engaging plot and perfect pacing?

Oh yeaaah… I almost forgot. It’s an Ilona Andrews book. Those are just givens.

I know, I know, I’m the last person on the planet to read this. Would you even believe I wasn’t really aware of Clean Sweep till fairly recently? Yeah, yeah, wipe that raised brow off your mug. Never a better time for the age-old wisdom…better late than never.

Before we get too far, you can still read this amazingly not-at-all-like-a-short story page turner for free on the author’s site, but I prefer to read uninterrupted on my Kindle these days and the price was certainly a bargain for the quality I got. Plus – maybe payment will induce the authors to keeeep writing. They’re in the process of writing and sharing the second story online now, but I’m determined to wait for a Kindle copy one day.

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REVIEW: Shades of Treason


Sandy Williams
shades of treason (anomaly #1)
Published by author
science fiction
JulY 1, 2015

Blurb via

Lieutenant Ramie Ashdyn is an anomaly, a person whose genetics makes her stronger and smarter than the average human. She’s pledged her life to protect the Coalition, an alliance of thirteen planetary systems, but when a top-secret operation turns bloody, she’s charged with treason and the brutal executions of her teammates.


The Coalition needs the information Ash’s team stole on their last mission, so they send in Commander Rhys “Rest in Peace” Rykus to get it. He’s the man who’s responsible for turning Ash into an elite soldier… and he’s a man who isn’t, never was, and never will be in love with the woman he trained. Or so he tells himself.


Ash wants nothing more than to clear her name and be the woman her former instructor wants her to be, but the enemy who killed her teammates did more than frame her for treason and murder: they telepathically silenced her mind, preventing her from saying anything that might point to the truth about what happened.


Now Ash is trapped and set to be executed, the truth dying with her. Unless she can prove her innocence. But taking that path could destroy the Coalition she’s sworn to preserve and protect…

My attention to the book world is not what it used to be, so it’s probably only by sheer luck that I happened to notice a few months ago that Williams would soon be publishing a new book. I was a pretty on board fan of her previous series, the Shadow Reader books (I reviewed book one here & three here), with a few reservations. Williams definitely has a style I like, though, so I was glad to get the opportunity for a new read. All I can say is viva la Pre-Order! When it showed up in my kindle, I believe it was only a couple of short days later and I was done. And it was good.

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REVIEW: Before Jamaica Lane


Samantha young
before jamaica lane (dublin street #3)
contemporary romance
january 7, 2014 (reprint EDITION)

Blurb via

Despite her outgoing demeanor, Olivia is painfully insecure around the opposite sex—usually, she can’t get up the nerve to approach guys she’s interested in. But moving to Edinburgh has given her a new start, and, after she develops a crush on a sexy postgrad, she decides it’s time to push past her fears and go after what she wants.


Nate Sawyer is a gorgeous player who never commits, but to his close friends, he’s as loyal as they come. So when Olivia turns to him with her relationship woes, he offers to instruct her in the art of flirting and to help her become more sexually confident.


The friendly education in seduction soon grows into an intense and hot romance. But then Nate’s past and commitment issues rear their ugly heads, and Olivia is left brokenhearted. When Nate realizes he’s made the biggest mistake of his life, he will have to work harder than he ever has before to entice his best friend into falling back in love with him—or he may lose her forever….

When the urge for a new-to-me contemporary romance comes calling, I dutifully open my Kindle store and look for something either familiar (an author I’ve read before) or one I’ve seen repeatedly pimped out on my Twitter feed. This time I went with a previously read author, Samantha Young, whose On Dublin Street was a big hit for me personally. My reading has been greatly affected these last few years by mood and whatever is going on in my life, otherwise I’m sure I’d have read some the sequels for ODS before this past weekend. Interestingly enough, thanks to a sinus infection that just wouldn’t quit, rendering me to a near couch zombie state in which only the occasional Sprite could rouse me from, it felt like a good time for a pick-me-up. Continue Reading

Cover Spotlight: My Book Cover Designs

Some of you may know/remember that I’ve done a few banner graphics for a handful of fellow book bloggers. The work can be seen in the gallery section of my site. More recently I’ve done a few book covers as well. Book cover designing is one field I considered when going into design in college. I never took my college’s illustration courses, however, and decided to go into a broader section of study design-wise. I’ve never said what my day job is exactly, let’s just say it’s as far from designing book blog banners and book covers as one can get. It’s why I really enjoy doing the banners and covers when people ask me to. Book lovers are incredibly fun to work with. The chance to be truly creative just seems to grow more with them.

SpecFic2014A month or so ago, my friends over at The Book Smugglers asked me to do a cover for Speculative Fiction 2014, and it came with a challenge direction-wise – they needed a papercraft style space theme. The video they included as an example of papercraft was gorgeous. And intimidating! I’d never done papercraft before. Why in the heck did I say I’d do this project? After taking, I admit, far too long to get going on it, something just clicked one day and out the cover came. I went back to a medium I used to love, watercolor pencils, for the moon and planets. The rocket ship was inspired by the classic Buck Rogers design and so many others like it on the interwebs. I picked out fun papers to assemble it with at a local craft store, where I also purchased paper mâché stars. The stars themselves were the usual brown craft paper, but I colored over them with the watercolor pencils, sans water that time of course.


The planets were the most fun part for me. As you can see, there was even a red one that didn’t get used let alone have any water applied. Still – fun! (I highly recommend watercolor pencils for the kiddos, by the way!) I shot pictures of the stars with my iPhone 6. A background created in Photoshop plus some placement of things and fonts in Photoshop finished it off. Oh, and Photoshop helps make your planets perfectly round, too. Just sayin’. And that, in a nutshell, is how that cover came to be.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 4.39.04 PMOh, and one other thing – there’s a book on Amazon with a cover that I did and my name is in it and it’s got a Forward written by one of my most favorite fantasy authors and squeeeee!

Kind of exciting, that. Wink.

Another friend has asked for help with some of her covers and below are the ones I’ve worked with in the past year. Shirley Anne Edwards writes young adult books and these were how I interpreted her work into a cover format. They’re a little gritty and somewhat dark to match the themes in her work. Shirley always has a lot of great feedback to give me and it’s fun working out with her how her covers and other designs should be.



And one other thing….

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 4.41.51 PMYou can also find these books on big sites like Amazon and my name is in them and it’s pretty cool and squeeeee!


So this is how I have fun with design lately. I have to thank both The Book Smugglers and Shirley Anne Edwards for giving me a chance to make something visually interesting for them! Is it too much of a copout to say what a relief it is, too, just to be able to make something fun that the client is so happy with, without any red tape, hassles or other such grief? Again – book lovers are so much fun to work with! Hopefully I’ll get to do more book cover projects in the future.

Demolition is a Beautiful Thing

I would hazard a guess that most homeowners eventually want to renovate their humble abodes one day. I’ve been dreaming and wishing and somewhat planning to Cinderella our house for, well, years. While we’re not exactly wanting to get to the ball, we’d at least like to get to the reception. Know what I mean? Thanks to the house flooding the week of Thanksgiving 2014, we’re finally *SOB* getting started.


Living Room/Dining Room/Office/Kitchen Before:

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno

The living room is, shall we say, eclectic? When hubby saw what colors I’d chosen for the house ten years ago, all he really said was, “You’d better not want to repaint anytime soon.” Aww, way to go, sport! The support was shining through that day. Let’s just say this and the results in other rooms were born of merely two weeks to try and prepare for meager renovations back in the day: paint, new carpet…hmm, that’s pretty much it. Honestly, I thought these bright colors were a huge improvement considering all the dark wood trim, the wallpaper that was everywhere before and…. *shudder* …the paneling. I wasn’t glomming HGTV back then and I wasn’t scouring any sites like Houzz either. It was just me, the paint chip display at the hardware store and a huge lack of imagination. Plus the reality that any serious renovations would be a long time coming.

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno

The dining room was taken up a lot by this gas fireplace monstrosity. Back in the day, this was a different homeowner’s living room. When the people just prior to us bought the house, that fireplace was fire engine red, from what we were told. We can’t blame them for painting it a more…err…reasonable color. But we never used it, never liked it and it’s too bad hubby and I weren’t there when the workers busted it up and took it out. Otherwise we’d have cracked open some champagne and christened that the day all our dreams came true. Over a fireplace? YES. It was in our way, presciousss!

By the way, those were asbestos tiles in here. Good times.

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno

From the dining room you can waltz right into our old office space. That chair rail level paneling, it follows you every damn where.

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno

Ah, yes, the kitchen. My little box of baking and cooking and hair pulling over the lack of functionality and counter space. You’ll notice the dishwasher is across the kitchen from the sink. Feel free to side-eye that. The fridge space, to the very right in the top pic (couldn’t get it totally in the shot) is way too small for 99% of today’s refrigerators. We know because we had to replace ours late last year and it came down to which of the beasts would FIT. Then there’s, yep, lack of counter and storage space. There’s way too much stuff on said counters, but there was nowhere else to put it. I even have some kitchen stuff stored in both bathroom storage closets.

Wait, it looks like there’s a lot of cabinets in here? True, there are for sucha  small kitchen. But they’re mostly box cabinets with a lot of wasted space that my short arms and height can’t reach. The one cabinet where I stored pots and pans I could only use half of. The rest was back in a deep corner that even hubby could barely reach back into. So there you go – big lack of functionality.

In essence, no, there’s nothing wrong with these spaces. It’s been a very good house to us. Despite the busted pipe and resulting flood. And the multitude of other homeowner problems. It just doesn’t work for how many modern families live. The flow is…well, there was no flow. There was no one room in the house that could hold a party of people comfortably. There were always small groups here or there, separate. The kitchen was a joke at those times – it’s the heart of a lot of homes these days, and people like to gather there. I like to think it’s because they know the one that’s working their butt off to feed them is likely there and wants some company, too!

Living Room/Dining Room/Office/Kitchen Demolition:

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno: Framing In

So…does this look like the old living room, dining room, office and kitchen? When I said we were doing open concept, I meant it. The old living, dining and office spaces are going to be the new living space. The old kitchen is becoming the dining room. We did have to have some header beams for structural support, and while they couldn’t be wedged up into the attic because of how the trusses there are built, I don’t mind them at all. Cuz look at ALL THE SPACE. We may wrap the beams one day in wood as a nice accent detail. Maybe. All the places we had wood detail, like the door and window trim? Painting it.

Want to see where the kitchen is going? Sure ya do!

Kitchen Before:

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno

Uh…that’s a porch.

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno: Framing In

And now it’s closed in! Already having a slab and roof saved us a lot of money. Know who’s idea it was to move the kitchen here and enable us to get a BIGGER kitchen? Hubby.

I love him.

After 23 years, I think I’ll keep him. He’s also going to rebuild the deck as soon as possible to wrap around the new kitchen.

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno: Framing In

So inside the new kitchen, soon, will be our stove/oven on the right wall with a window and sink (where that square shape is) on the left wall. Upper and lower cabinets and a long-ish counter on the left as well. Shaker style cabinets. White on top, a dark, stormy blue-gray on the bottom. My next post will detail some of the finishes we’ve picked out.

2015 Kitchen & Living Reno: Framing In

This is the wall opposite the sink wall and there will be floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets here with the fridge built in somewhere in them as well. The little bit of torn up wall you see on the very right is the old exterior wall and will soon come down so that the new kitchen and living space can hug each other all they want.

Soooo…we are excited! It’s not how we planned to renovate. We were going to turn kiddo’s current rom into the office first, fix up the guest room to be her new big girl room and THEN do the kitchen and living room. Houses don’t tend to let you have plans, though. You have to go with their flow, especially when busted pipes and floods happen. If you’d like to follow the pictorial progress of the whole shebang, here’s a handy link to the Flickr folder they’ll all be in.

Updates, House Debates and Reading Greats

Updates: technically, I haven’t been doing much with this blog in so  many forevers, it would take to infinity to do updates because…wait the heck a minute. No it wouldn’t. I haven’t been reading much of anything for a while now! Except…I have! I finally read some books recently! Any updates I have would be how 2014 was the Year of Reading Distractions. Updates that are, frankly, depressing for me to think about, so I’m going to truly treat 2015 as a year for the proverbial Fresh Start and do just that – start the hell over with reading. And just hope that no further Depressing Things try to barge their way in. So that’s it for updates! Take that Depressing Things!

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