Promo Blitz for Never Too Far

Title: Never Too Far
Author: Thomas Christopher
Genre: YA/SciFi/Dystopian
Publisher: Self/Kalmaha Press
Release Date: May 10 2012
Blurb/Synopsis:
A harrowing story of love and survival. In a future of scarce resources, where the possession of gas and diesel is punishable by death, a teenage boy and a pregnant girl must save their impoverished family. They risk their lives on a terrifying journey to sell stolen fuel on the black market.

*****

Chapter One

Joe slung the rifle strap over his shoulder and pointed, but his older brother Frank didn’t say anything.“Don’t you see it?” Joe said. “Right there. Across the river.”Frank stepped back suddenly.“We need to get out of here,” he said. “Someone might still be there.” He looked across the river again. “What’s it doing out here?”“It looks abandoned,” Joe said.

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“We got to check it out.”

Joe moved forward but Frank grabbed his arm.

“No we don’t,” Frank said. “Besides, you can’t go walking up to it like any old piece of junk. It isn’t something you leave lying around, either. They’re coming back for it, for sure.”

“All the more reason why we should go see it.”

“That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying we shouldn’t mess with it.”

“Well, I’m going,” Joe said.

At the river’s edge, Frank snatched the rifle from Joe.

“I’m leading the way,” Frank said.

Joe was about to grab the rifle back when Frank jammed the last shell into the open breech. He used his maimed hand, the one missing three fingers, and locked the bolt in place. Joe figured there was no sense in arguing now. It would only make Frank more upset.

After they waded across the shallow river, they crouched low and crept up the rocky embankment to the old road. Frank raised his head to take a look, and then Joe poked his head up too.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Frank said. “It’s definitely an Arbyter.”

Joe couldn’t take his eyes off it. He had never seen a real Arbyter before. What he knew about them came from Frank when he was in the city of Chikowa over a year ago. He said he saw Arbyters patrolling the streets all the time. The way Frank described them made Joe think of a beast on wheels, one with two dark windows in front like menacing eyes and a big machine gun on top like a horn.

“I’ll go,” Joe said.

“No, you won’t,” Frank said. “I’m going. Stay behind me.”

For a moment Frank seemed afraid to go near the vehicle, which was flipped on its side. He stood with his legs spread and the rifle pointed at it as if he thought it might spring to life at any second. He shuffled forward. His wet shoes scraped on the dirt road. When he got close enough to touch the armored underbelly, he stopped. He nudged his foot against the scratched and dented metal. Then he stepped back, ready to fire, ready for it to finally awaken and show its true self. When it didn’t move, he took his maimed hand off the rifle and motioned toward Joe.

“Come on,” he whispered. “Stay behind me.”

Joe shot to his feet and hurried to Frank who was rounding one of the Arbyter’s huge front tires. Joe couldn’t resist brushing his fingers along the tire’s thick tread or touching the fang-like spokes in the grill on his way past. But the very second he turned the corner and saw the top of the Arbyter, he pulled up short. It was much stockier than what he imagined. It looked like the head of a giant iron bull. The dark eyes staring out from the squat cab were cracked and pitted from bullet fire, and the machine gun’s long thick barrel was wedged tight in the ground.

Frank hung the rifle over his shoulder, climbed on the machine gun, and heaved himself up on the Arbyter’s side. Once he got to his feet, he jabbed the rifle tip through an open window, or perhaps it was an open door. Joe didn’t know because he couldn’t see that high.

“Come up and look inside,” Frank said. “I’ll keep an eye out.”

Joe didn’t hesitate. He scampered onto the machine gun and crawled up near Frank’s feet. Painted on the Arbyter’s door was the symbol of the Guardian Party, the ruling government in Chikowa. The symbol was a seven-pointed red star with a white ring in the middle and a red circle inside like a bull’s eye.

“See if there’re any dead soldiers in there,” Frank said.

Joe got on his stomach and ducked his head inside the open window. He braced himself for a gory sight, but he didn’t see any of the dead soldiers Frank was afraid of. Instead, he saw some kind of reddish-black substance splashed all around. He reckoned it was probably blood. He looked over the instrument panel, gazed at the cracks in the tinted windshield, and then craned his neck to look behind the seats. Nothing was there as far as he could tell.

On his way out he gripped the steering wheel and even jiggled it once before he abruptly let go.

After he sat up, he said, “No bodies, but there’s blood.”

“They must’ve evacuated already.”

“What do you think happened? Do you think it was attacked?”

“If it was, we wouldn’t be standing here.” Frank looked around like he was expecting someone to be there. “Let’s get down.”

Frank shouldered the rifle and shimmied down onto the machine gun. Joe was about to follow him when he thought of something.

“Hey,” he said. “I bet it still has fuel.”

He scooted to the back end of the Arbyter to look for the fuel plate. As soon as he found it, he pried it open, unscrewed the cap, and stuck his nose into the open cylinder. He took a big whiff. The smell of the fumes made his eyes water. It still had fuel. He couldn’t believe it. He stared at Frank standing on the ground below.

“Get down from there,” Frank said.

“How much do you think it’s worth?”

“How should I know? I don’t even know how much is in there.”

Joe was going to find out. He looked into the woods and spotted a big fallen limb. He leapt off the Arbyter, forgetting how high up he was, and stumbled hard to his knees. But the drop barely fazed him. He ran to the fallen limb, planted his foot on its barrel, and snapped off a long thin branch.

“What are you doing?” Frank said. “Are you crazy?”

Back at the Arbyter, Joe clambered up to the fuel tank. He dipped the stick into the opening and fed it down the pipe as far as it would go. The smell rushed up into his nose again. He pulled the stick out to find it half-soaked with diesel.

“There’s like half a tank.”

“Let me see that,” Frank said.

Joe handed the stick down to Frank.

“You know how much this is worth?” Frank said.

“I already asked you that.”

“It was at ten thousand shekels when I was in Chikowa.”

“So you were lying.”

“So what? That might not even be right.”

“You think that’s close, though?”

“It’s got to be. This is like gold.”

“Why don’t we sell it, then?”

“Don’t be nuts. We get caught with this, we’ll be executed. It’s illegal to have. You know that. Forget about it.” Frank threw the stick into the woods. “Put that cap back on and get down from there.”

“I’m serious,” Joe said.

“Get it out of your head because it’s not happening.

“I could do it.”

“What did I just say? No way.”

“But you went.”

“And look what happened to me.” He shoved his maimed hand up at Joe. “You aren’t going. I’m not going. Nobody’s going. Got it?”

Once they crossed the river, they walked through the wooded bluffs and down into the valley where Joe’s family farm stood. Even though it didn’t look much different from any other farm Joe had seen, he knew it was a ramshackle wreck. The stark buildings were aged and weathered. The splitting wood was streaked gray and black. Off to the side of the barn was a rickety fence that held the little livestock they had left—a wooly goat, two spotted hogs, some chickens, and the horses, Lester and Sam. Beyond that was a field of limp corn and a garden of scraggly vegetables. The house leaned to one side as if it was constantly trying to hang on against a fierce wind. Broken windows were covered in plastic or scraps of wood. It was a wonder anyone lived there.

*****

About the Author

Thomas Christopher grew up in Iowa and attended the University of Northern Iowa.
After living in Seattle and Montana, he went to Western Michigan University, where he received his MFA.
His short stories have appeared in The Louisville Review, The MacGuffin, Redivider, as well as other places. He was awarded an Irving S. Gilmore Emerging Artist Grant and was a finalist for the Matthew Clark Prize in Fiction.
He lives in Wisconsin with his wife Jessica and their son Holton.
Places to find Thomas

ARC Review of Deep Autumn Heat: (Star Harbor #1)

Book Cover

Purchase on Amazon: Deep Autumn Heat: A Loveswept Contemporary Romance

Deep Autumn Heat: A Loveswept Contemporary Romance (Star Harbor #1) by Elisabeth Barrett

Book Description

In this sexy new Star Harbor romance series, featuring the too-tempting Grayson brothers, a celebrity chef turns up the heat for a local café owner—and things start to sizzle.

Lexie Meyers decides there’s nothing sweeter than watching Sebastian Grayson’s perfect, wicked mouth devour her coconut cake. He’s hot, he’s hungry, and he’s sizing her up like she’s the best thing on the menu. But she’s been burned in the past and flings just aren’t her thing. Too bad Sebastian can’t resist a challenge.

Worldly, famous, and notorious with the ladies, Seb had planned a weekend of fishing and relaxation with his brothers. Until Lexie, with her kissable lips and frosty “get lost” attitude, makes him want to forget his culinary empire and create some magic with her. After he fires up his charm—including challenging her to a televised cook-off to break through her resistance—it’s now hotter in the bedroom than it is in the kitchen and Lexie isn’t sure whether she’s lost her mind . . . or just her heart.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Here Comes the Bride, The Wedding Chase, and About Last Night

Book Review

Take two talented chefs, combine them lots of lust and passion, mix in a bit of mystery and suspense, add a dash of scrumptious food descriptions,  and then top off with the hope for love and you have a delicious, mouth-watering read.

woman chef saying ok

Deep Autumn Heat is the first in a series about the four Grayson brothers “former resident bad boys” who return to Star Harbor, a small resort town outside of Boston.  The opening scene sets the foundation for this series by describing four brothers who will each be featured in a separate book.  Although the opening wasn’t exciting and didn’t grab my attention, it does work to provide relevant background information about these four brothers, especially Seb Grayson who is featured first. I tend to prefer openings that establish immediate conflict, whereas this first scene is all about character development.

This is a story about following your dreams, finding passion in your life, and taking emotional risks, in the ultimate quest for a happily ever after. The book’s central focus is on the tension laden relationship between Seb Grayson and Lexie Meyers.  If you like an ample amount of seduction and romance in your romantic suspense reads, then this book should meet your expectations.  Rising complications throughout the story revolving around a legendary coconut cake and an abusive ex-boyfriend provide suspenseful moments and keep the plot moving along at an effective pace.  The story takes place during fall and is sprinkled with images of autumn, hence the connection to the book’s title.  I think this season is appropriate to the plot, since the changing color of the leaves symbolizes the growth both Seb and Lexie must undergo to find the fulfillment missing from their lives.

leaf

Seb is a renowned chef living in New York, who has returned to Star Harbor, his hometown, for an annual get together weekend with his brothers.  He extends his stay after he meets feisty Lexie Meyers, owner of a local diner/bakery, who acts immune to his fame and charm. I really enjoyed their first scene together when she smoothly and efficiently puts the cocky and arrogant Seb in his place.  Although Seb can be considered the book’s hero, I really felt that Lexi was the protagonist. She is featured in more scenes, and her POV provides greater depth to her character. Her emotional growth over the course of the book is also more predominant than Seb’s.

Lexie has the characteristics to make her a likeable character. She is a dedicated chef running her own successful restaurant/catering business.  Unlike Seb, whose growing empire has forced him out of the kitchen and into an administrative role, Lexie is a hands-on employer who doesn’t hesitate to step in and do whatever job is needed at the time.  She is industrious, passionate about food, and has a kind and compassionate side that is illustrated when she learns someone in the community has been deceiving and threatening her. She is personable and well-liked in her community. Even Seb finds he can take a few lessons from her kitchen.

Yet, no one is perfect, and, although Lexie appears strong and confident in her work environment, inside she has deep-seated fears about love and relationships. Her one and only past relationship was disastrous and terrifying. Understandably, she doesn’t want to experience that pain again. Barrett does a great job of honing in on just how much she has been hurt. Her reluctance to get involved with someone else is realistic and justifiable.

Lexie thought she was happy being single and focused on her growing business until the handsome, black-haired, green-eyed Seb Grayson enters her restaurant and shakes up her contented world.

 photo lettingyouknowyourhot_zps4df1ef5f.gif

Being around Seb leaves her breathless and flustered as she tries to deny the intense attraction sparking between them. She begins to get worried even after their first encounter together:

“I’ll see you later, Lexie Meyers,” he said letting her name play on his lips. He removed his hand from her shoulder, letting his fingers trail down her arm. When she shivered involuntarily, he smiled. A slow, masculine smile that spoke of dark promises. As if he knew she couldn’t take her eyes off of him, he turned and sauntered lazily toward the door.”

*****

“For her own sake, she hoped he didn’t come back.” 

Although Seb is confident about his looks and success, Lexie’s rebuff has both surprised and intrigued him, and she now becomes a challenge.  There is much more to Seth than his first impression.  For example, at first, I thought Seb may be a pompous jerk because of his behavior the first time at the diner, but later he proves that he can be sensitive, caring, and sincere. I think he just became so used to women falling for him that he hasn’t had to put any real effort into getting a woman’s attention.

Seb isn’t one to be in a committed relationship, and even though he knows Lexie’s not the type to go for a casual fling, he still pursues her. I also initially thought Lexie was just a sexual conquest for him. However, his POV gradually reveals the warring emotions of lust and protectiveness he has toward her. His conflicting feelings cause him to send Lexie mixed signals, and for much of the first part of the book, they simply dance around –trying to find a way to get close, only to end up backing away from each another.
 photo dancing_zps0cb8f10b.gif

I like the creative means Seb uses to get close to Lexie, all of them revolving around food, of course. One of the best scenes in the book is the culinary cook-off where Seb and Lexie compete against each other to see who can prepare the best crab cakes.

 

cook off

Bassett is very descriptive in describing Lexie’s thoughts and actions as she works under pressure to create a winning dish. And by the end of the scene, I was craving crab cakes! I’m still looking too.

Although their minds try to resist the other, their bodies ultimately betray them and eventually they give in to their insatiable desire for one another.  These scenes are intense, steamy, and explicit.  They seem to need that physical intimacy each time before they can share their vulnerabilities with each other:

“I’ve wanted you since the first morning I saw you. I think I made that fairly obvious, despite out hiccups.”

“I’ve wanted you too, “ she whispered. “Even though I was trying to fight it. But I don’t know that I’m ready for this.”

“Well I have news for you, Lexie. This,” he said, gesturing between them with a large hand, “this does change everything. You’re mine now.”

“I’m no one’s,” Lexie said, her chin jerking up in defiance.

“You’re mine,” he repeated, one hand encircling her forearm. “And I take care of what’s mind.”

This conversation between Lexie and Seb encapsulates their passion, intensity, and fears about loving each other.

The book has a unified plot that wraps up nicely in the end even though the outcome of the two major mysteries is fairly predictable. However, I can overlook that since the evolving relationship between Lexie and Seb dominates the book.

The main aspect of the book that I found problematic is in the attempt to tie in a fabled story with this plot. As a prelude to the beginning, Bassett features a poem about pirates and their treasure called “The Legend of Lorelei.” I am a pirate junkie, so I was excited to see how the author would integrate this legend into the plot. Toward the end of the book a connection is revealed, but it was not as strong or as developed as I expected.

 photo somedisappointment_zps2ef6d413.gif

It could have easily been omitted and not affected the storyline.

This is a great summer read, with a plot that is not overly complicated and lots of sexual tension and romance to keep you engaged.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Disclaimer: All quotes used in this review have been taken from the book’s pre-published version and may be changed or omitted from the final, published copy.

 Rating

Good-Read-icon

About the Author

author

Elisabeth Barrett lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and spends her days teaching, editing, writing sexy contemporary romance, and enjoying time with her sometimes-bearded husband and three spirited children. She is constantly perfecting her home-work-writing juggling act, but in her free time she loves to hike open space preserves, grow orchids, bake sweet things her husband won’t eat, and sing in grand choruses. (From Goodreads)

Author Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

recipe box 50

Once I finished this book, I really wanted to have a piece of the famous coconut cake described in the book.

coconutcake2

After searching online, I found a promising recipe on how to make a homemade coconut cake. It does not look complicated (the simpler the better for me), so I’m going to give it a try:

Incredible Coconut Cake Recipe 

If you have a Coconut Cake recipe that you would like to share, please leave me a comment!