Stacking the Shelves & Sunday Post

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I am linking up again this weekend with Tynga at Tynga's Reviews for Stacking the Shelves and Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer for Sunday Post to share all of the books I picked up lately, share my posts for the past week, and also share what's coming up soon!   

For Review:

Freebies from Amazon:


From Giveaways:

Life Lately:
I've been a bit of a slacker when it comes to this link-up lately.  I missed two of them in a row!  I made sure I got this one typed up early so I wouldn't miss it again. lol!  I included all of the books I've gotten over the past couple weeks.

We had a really nice Christmas this past weekend.  We celebrated at my mom's house on Christmas Eve, Our house Christmas Day, and then my father in law's house on Monday.  Lots of celebrating!  Our little one must have been really good this year because "Santa" definitely spoiled her.  I'm glad we have a tradition of donating her old toys before Christmas because I have no idea where we would have put it all.  Actually I'm still not sure where to put some of it. lol!

I am going to be trying some reading challenges in 2017 for the first time ever.  I'm really excited about it and shared a post earlier this week about it.  One of the ones I am most excited about is "Beat the Backlist" it's all about reading those books that have been on your TBR list waiting for you.  I also want to read a little more of a variety next year.  So far I've primarily focused on romances, so I think it's time to mix it up a bit.  I have lots of fantasy titles to read and a few thriller/mysteries too.

Recent Posts:

Coming Up Next:
Long Shadows by Kate Sherwood - Review
Top Ten 2017 debuts I'm excited for
Love Unexpectedly by Lauren Layne - Pre-Release Blast
Private Practice by Samanthe Beck - Review
Undisputed by Aimee Nicole Walker - Review

What have you been reading lately? Did you join any Reading Challenges for 2017?

My favorite book covers of 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

I am definitely guilty of being the type of person that gets drawn in by a book's cover.  I blame it on the artist side of me.   I'm a big fan of pretty titles and covers that aren't too "busy".  I've actually never read any of the books on my list but I've seen them around Goodreads and thought I would share some of my favorites from 2016. 

Have you read any of these?  What are your favorite covers for the year?

My 2017 Reading Challenges

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The only Reading Challenge that I've ever tried has been the Goodreads Challenge, and I have surpassed my goal two years in a row, so I decided to try a couple other challenges while I was at it.  My Goodreads goal for 2016 was 200 books and I have currently read 285 books!  With my migraines getting worse I am afraid to go any higher, so I am going to stay at a Goodreads goal of 200 books again for 2017.

 One of my biggest goals in 2017 is to read more books on my backlist.  I have a bad habit of pushing them off in favor of new releases and end up not getting to them at all.  I also still want to read a lot of new releases...because, who doesn't, really?  I found two challenges that I'm hoping will keep me motivated:

The Beat the Backlist Challenge is focused on knocking off titles that have been on your TBR for a while, or even ones that get pushed aside for new releases. This challenge doesn’t have levels or a set number of books you need to read. You set your own reading goal, pick the books. and read at your own pace.  This challenge will run from January 1st, 2017 to December 31st, 2017.  Books must be released prior to 2017.

Hosted by: The Novel Knight
Hashtag: #BeatTheBacklist
Goal: 50 books
Progress: 14/50

You can sign up for the challenge HERE

Here is my list on Goodreads for the challenge:

I added a tentative list below because I feel like it's REALLY satisfying to cross things off when I finish them. lol!  But some of these may change!  Also, these are all books that I own or that I can get from Kindle Unlimited.  I tried to get a nice mix of genres.
  1. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - Review
  3. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
  4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer Review
  5. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer Review
  6. Cress by Marissa Meyer
  7. Winter by Marissa Meyer
  8. Heartless Marissa Meyer
  9. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  10. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  11. A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
  12. #Junkie by Cambria Hebert - Review
  13. #Rev by Cambria Hebert - Review
  14. Wolfsong by T.J. Klune Review
  15. Aced by Ella Frank and Brooke Blaine - Review
  16. Locked by Ella Frank and Brooke Blaine - Review
  17. Fierce & Fabulous by Elizabeth Varlet
  18. Dark & Dazzling by Elizabeth Varlet
  19. Road-Tripped by Nicole Archer
  20. Adorkable by Cookie O'Gorman
  21. Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
  22. Secret by Kindle Alexander
  23. The Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz - Review
  24. Time to Die by Caroline Mitchell
  25. The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell
  26. Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk
  27. Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton
  28. Follow You Home by Mark Edwards
  29. Strong Enough by Cardeno C.
  30. Dance with Me by Heidi Cullinan Review
  31. Country Mouse by Amy Lane
  32. Beyond the Surface by Felice Stevens Review
  33. Second to None by Felice Stevens Review
  34. Memories of the Heart by Felice Stevens
  35. A Stolen Kiss by Kelsey Keating Review
  36. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  37. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  38. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  39. Hell & High Water by Charlie Cochet
  40. 3AM Kisses by Addison Moore
  41. Winter Kill by Josh Lanyon
  42. We are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun
  43. The Last of the Firedrakes by Farah Oomerbhoy
  44. Accelerate by Tracy Wolff
  45. Roped in L.P. Dover
  46. Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay
  47. Stranded by HelenKay Dimon Review
  48. A Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles
  49. The Firebird's Tale by Anya Ow
  50. Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

Hashtag: #2017NewReleaseChallenge
Goal: Level 4 - (101-200 books per year – New Release Enthusiast)
I'm shooting for about 125 books!
Progress: 48/125

You can sign up for the challenge HERE

Here is my list on Goodreads for the Challenge:

Progress: (I will list them as I complete them)
(links take you to my Goodreads review)

  1. Afraid to Fly by L.A. Witt
  2. A Stolen Crown by Kelsey Keating
  3. Embers by Kate Sherwood
  4. Working It by Christine D'Abo
  5. Rescued by Love by Melissa Foster
  6. At Close Range by Laura Griffin
  7. Planned Seduction by Jess Dee
  8. Fake Engagement Real Temptation by Joya Ryan
  9. Something to Dye For by Aimee Nicole Walker
  10. At Attention by Annabeth Albert
  11. Danced Close by Annabeth Albert
  12. Dating Ryan Alback by J.E. Birk
  13. Not In My Wildest Dreams by Jamie Hollins
  14. An Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles
  15. Love Story by Lauren Layne
  16. Single Malt by Layla Reyne
  17. Darkness by Kate Sherwood
  18. Home Fires by Kate Sherwood
  19. Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
  20. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
  21. Cask Strength by Layla Reyne
  22. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
  23. Hard Wired by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
  24. Risky Behavior by L.A. Witt & Cari Z
  25. Traveler by L.E. DeLano
  26. Summer Stock by Vanessa North
  27. Dyed and Gone to Heaven by Aimee Nicole Walker
  28. Lucky by Carina Adams
  29. Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
  30. Geekerella by Ashley Poston
  31. His Last Defense by Karen Rock
  32. At First Blush by Beth Ellyn Summer
  33. Surrender the Dark by Tibby Armstrong
  34. Wedlocked by Ella Frank & Brooke Blaine
  35. The Return of the Earl by Sandra Schwab
  36. On Point by Annabeth Albert
  37. The Thing About Love by Julie James
  38. Faking It by Christine D'Abo
  39. Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski
  40. Back Piece by L.A. Witt
  41. Barrel Proof by Layla Reyne
  42. Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer
  43. Cry Wolf by Greta Stone
  44. Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
  45. Save the Date by Annabeth Albert & Wendy Qualls
  46. Love and Vandalism by Laurie Boyle Crompton
  47. Cold Summer by Gwen Cole
  48. Wolf in King's Clothing by Parker Foye

Are you doing any reading Challenges in 2017?

Review: The Christmas Tree by Allyson Charles

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Title: The Christmas Tree
Author: Allyson Charles
Genre: M/F Romance
Series: Pineville, #2
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Publication Date: November 22nd 2016
Find It Here: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble


It was one little fender bender. Sadie was only in picturesque Pineville, Michigan, for a day, trying to handle the ramshackle house her grandmother left her and juggle the sale of her failing design business at the same time. Her debtors don’t care that it’s almost Christmas. But then neither does the big bad contractor whose truck got squashed.

Colt McCoy might be the least festive person she’s ever met. He’s gruff, rude, and way too upset about a minor accident. Of course, he is nice to look at, with dimples hiding in his scruffy beard and a body like a lumberjack’s. And Sadie will have plenty of time to enjoy the view, since their community service sentence has put the two of them in charge of Pineville’s jinxed Christmas tree.

But as their squabbles over ornaments turn to laughter, anyone can see Colt and Sadie have something electric. The hard part is guessing if they’ll light each other up—or just keep blowing the fuse . . .

My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

My Review:
The Christmas Tree by Allyson Charles is a sweet holiday romance that will really get you in the Christmas spirit.  It is part of the Pineville series, but can be read as a standalone.  I did not read the first book in the series and didn't feel like I was missing anything at all.

When we first meet Colt, I have to admit that I thought he was a giant jerk.  As the story continues you start to see a little more about why he is the way he is and he really grew on me.  I liked Sadie right away (even if I did want to grab her and shake her a few times).  She's a little OCD and definitely a people-pleaser, so I could relate to her in that way.

This book was a little bit of everything; enemies to lovers, holiday fun, witty banter, with a little bit of angst/drama added in.

*  I received this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own. *

Find It Here:

Top Ten Best Books of 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I am linking up today at The Broke and the Bookish's link up "Top Ten Tuesday".  They have a different topic every week and it's a lot of fun to meet some new bloggers and find a bunch of new books to add to my list!  This week's topic is: Top Ten Best Books of 2016 (regardless of publishing date).

I had to look back through my Goodreads Challenge to find my highest ratings for the year.  It's hard for me not to overthinking things, so I listed the ones that I can remember sticking with me for a while.  A lot of mine happened to be published before 2016, but I didn't read them until this year.  I was on a big time MM Romance kick if you couldn't tell. LOL!  I'm really excited to see everyone else's lists!

(all links go to Goodreads description)

Have you read any of these? What were some of your favorites from 2016?

Excerpt & Giveaway: In Your Arms by Shannyn Schroeder

Monday, December 26, 2016


For Your Love #2
Shannyn Schroeder
Releasing Dec 27th, 2016
Zebra Shout


Sean O'Malley has never tried to hide who he is. He shows it in the motorcycle thrumming between the legs of his tight jeans…the shaggy hair that falls in his gorgeous eyes…the wicked gleam in his smile when he asks Emma out for a drink. Sean is a rebel, a bad boy, and a ton of fun: exactly the kind of guy she's sworn off forever.

Emma isn't just the prim kindergarten teacher she appears to be. And somehow Sean can tell. As soon as he pulls up to her overheated car he knows that a fast bike and a cold beer will fix her rotten day better than compliments or a bubble bath. Her straitlaced exterior and her wild heart light him up. But Emma wants to escape her past and settle down—and if her desk jockey dates don't understand where she comes from, at least she doesn't worry about them bringing her back.

One weekend of intense connection can't change the paths Sean and Emma have chosen. But with a little space to be themselves together, maybe the rest of the world can wait...


A little more than ten minutes later, she was on her way back. The sight of her knocked the wind from him. Snug jeans and fitted tank top covered her, and she had a sweatshirt tied at her waist. She’d traded the heels for a pair of sneakers. Her hair was now completely down and long brown waves flew around in the breeze. For a moment, he considered that she’d lied about it being her mom’s place because he didn’t know any moms who dressed like that. But her bag was overstuffed, he assumed with her clothes.
He pushed off the bike. “That was fast.”
She offered a crooked smile. “I really need a drink. The radiator hose was the last in a line of things ruining my day.”
“Hop on and you can tell me all about it over a beer. Or wine. Or whatever.”
“Tonight’s a whiskey night.”
Sean liked the sound of that. They mounted the bike and she put the helmet on. Before he started the engine, he asked, “Any place in mind?”
“No. You pick.”
Since he normally didn’t drink in the area, he drove closer to his neighborhood and parked beside his favorite dive bar. It was dark and relatively quiet. They could shoot pool or play darts or just listen to music. He helped Emma off the bike and locked his helmet down. Then he led her into the bar and directly to a corner table.
“This okay?” he asked before sitting.
She glanced around. “Fine.”
She swung her bag over her head and plopped it on the free chair between them.
A waitress came to the table. “Hey, Sean. Haven’t seen you in a while. You could give a girl a complex.”
When he chose the bar, he hadn’t thought about Amanda possibly working. “Hi, Amanda.”
He became acutely aware of Emma watching Amanda and him. He prayed Amanda wouldn’t say anything else.
She smiled broadly and looked at Emma. “What can I get for you?”
“A shot of Jack and light beer.”
“Miller,” Sean added.
“Bottle or tap?”
“Bottle,” both he and Emma said.
Amanda tucked a tray under her arm. “That question was for the lady. I’m pretty sure I know how you like it.” Then she spun on her heel and walked off.
Emma’s mouth eased into a small smile. He wanted to believe she was just being friendly.
“So how long did you two go out?”
“Uh . . .”
Emma waved a hand. “Forget I asked. It was obvious though. You might want to rethink bringing dates here if you’re going to run into your ex.”
He searched for the words to let her know that Amanda wasn’t exactly an ex when Amanda reappeared with their drinks. She set them down quietly without comment, thank God.
Emma picked up her beer and took a swig. “Well, you obviously didn’t screw her over too badly, or you’d probably be wearing your beer.”
“It’s not like that. We had a good night together. Maybe two. Doesn’t quite give her ex status.”
Sean pointed to the shot and asked, “So what makes this a whiskey night, other than your brother screwing up your car?”
“Work stuff.”
“What do you do?”
Emma grabbed the shot and slammed it back. When she set the glass back down, he noticed a butterfly tattoo peeking out from the tank top on the back of her shoulder. She looked at him. “I’m a teacher.”
He froze. He hadn’t expected that. One look at the suit she’d worn and he’d assumed some kind of office job, secretary or something. She was a teacher. He laughed as she took a gulp of beer.
“What’s so funny?”
“I can’t imagine any teacher I ever had doing a shot of Jack in a bar like this.”
A dark look passed over her face, but then she covered it with a smile. “I guess we all have some surprises.”
He reached over and brushed her hair off her shoulder. “I can guarantee I never had a teacher as hot as you. I never would’ve gotten out of school otherwise.”
Emma snorted at him and then took another drink of beer. “You already got me to the bar, buddy, no need for compliments.”
Sean’s hand slid away. He didn’t know how to read that. Women usually liked some sweet talk. “Being honest. If you were my teacher, I’d spend all my time imagining you naked.”
“Show me a good time and you might not have to imagine it.” Her voice was low and a little husky.
“You mean rigging your car to get you to safety, giving you a ride on my bike, and buying you a drink wasn’t enough?”
She laughed. That too was a low, sexy sound. “I might be easy, but not that easy.”

Don't miss the other FOR YOUR LOVE titles!

Shannyn Schroeder is the author of the O’Leary series, contemporary romances centered around a large Irish-American family in Chicago and the Hot & Nerdy series about 3 nerdy friends finding love. Her new series (For Your Love) will release this summer with the first title Under Your Skin. When she’s not wrangling her three kids or writing, she watches a ton of TV and loves to bake cookies.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Holiday with a Twist by Shannon Stacey

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Title: Holiday with a Twist
Author: Shannon Stacey
Genre: M/F Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: November 21st 2016
Find It Here: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

After a messy breakup, Leigh Holloway is ready to start her life over. Until her parents put the family home on the market and call her back for one final, memory-making Christmas. The last thing she wants to do is deprive her mom of the perfect holiday, so she'll lie her way through the visit and worry about her future in the New Year. Too bad the only bar in town is owned by a guy she seriously wronged in high school.

Leigh's best friend broke Croy Dawson's heart, and Croy knows it was Leigh's fault. They've never liked each other, but Croy isn't cruel: he'd never turn away a pretty woman in need of some family-Christmas fortification. He doesn't expect her to drink just enough candy-cane martinis to tell him her secrets—and he definitely doesn't expect to get caught up in her holiday madness.

Despite the surprising love and laughter, Croy and Leigh can't escape the truth: he can't walk away from his family obligations and she has a life and career to reboot. But anything is possible if your holiday comes with a twist…

My Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

My Review:
Holiday with a Twist was a cute, quick, holiday read.  I've really enjoyed a lot of Shannon Stacey's other books and I'm also a huge fan of holiday romances, so I knew I wanted to check out this one.  I didn't think it was a bad story by any means but I also don't think there was anything super memorable about this one that I will remember it in a month or so.  Does that make sense??  Nothing wowed me, I guess.  The characters and the story didn't have enough time to develop.

The book starts with a warning that it ends around 80% and includes an excerpt of another story.  I really wish Shannon Stacey would have used that last little bit to make a stronger HEA for the two of them.  Everything just felt too easy and rushed, which sometimes happens with novella length stories.  I think an epilogue would have been a great way to make their story a little bit stronger.

I thought the two MCs had some really cute moments together tho, and I'm glad there wasn't any unnecessary drama added in.  I also really enjoyed some of the secondary characters.

If you are looking for a super quick holiday romance fix then this may be the book for you.  Overall I think this one was just "okay" for me.  I wanted just a little bit more

**  I received a copy of this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  **

Find It Here:

Review: Guarding Mr. Fine by HelenKay Dimon

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Title: Guarding Mr. Fine
Author: HelenKay Dimon
Series: Tough Love, #3
Genre: M/M Romance
Publisher: Loveswept
Publication Date: February 14th 2017
Find It Here: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

As an agent with the CIA’s special activities division, Seth Lang lives for risk—and yet he’s stuck playing bodyguard to the U.S. consul general in Munich. Although Seth’s last assignment nearly killed him, babysitting some desk jockey in a suit sounds way too easy. But when he lays eyes on the new top man, tactical expert Rick Fine, Seth’s thrilled to see just how hard this job is going to get. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Quiet has a body worth guarding—and he requires hands-on attention day and night.

Dispatched to a German consulate to expose the murder of his predecessor, Rick finds himself in an extremely vulnerable position. He needs a man like Seth—in so many ways. This mission will inevitably plunge them both into jeopardy, but each new threat only brings them closer. Rick just hopes that he can keep his deepest, darkest secret hidden—or else risk imperiling a relationship they’re both fighting for their lives to protect.

My Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars

My Review:
Guarding Mr. Fine is the third book in HelenKay Dimon's Tough Love series, and I have to say that I've loved all three books.  What's not to love about tough alpha guys?! lol!  I would probably consider this book a standalone, but I think it would be more enjoyable to read from the beginning of the series.  I wouldn't read the second book without reading the first one though, I feel like those two should be read in order so you understand more of what's going on.  This book has a completely different plot then the others.

Seth is part of a military group that deals with terrorists, but is now assigned as a bodyguard to the U.S. consul general in Munich.  Before starting his new post he heads out to a bar to find someone to "blow off some steam with" and hooks up with a sexy man with blue eyes.  They don't exchange names, so both of them are surprised when Seth shows up to find the U.S. consul general is none other than his hot hookup from the bar, Rick.

Both these men come from difficult childhoods.  Seth's has left him with the need to always be moving and not have any attachments.  Rick is a special agent who has primarily worked behind the scenes gathering intel, while Seth is the type that is always in the middle of the dangerous scenes.  Rick is keeping a big secret from Seth, that he is afraid to reveal without spoiling things between them

These two has amazing chemistry and their were plenty of smoking hot scenes.  I love steamy scenes, but I really like when they don't completely overwhelm the plot and I feel like HelenKay Dimon achieved that well.  The plot kept moving and it didn't feel like there were any big lulls.  The storyline introduced quite a few suspects so you were always guessing, who it was going to be.  I really enjoyed their sarcastic banter back and forth and the power struggles.  They had me giggling a couple times.  The only thing I would say that seemed strange was the boss' matchmaking.  Why?  It just seemed a bit weird to me.

**  I received an ARC of this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  **

Find It Here:

If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy:

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I'm linking up again this week at The Broke and the Bookish's link up "Top Ten Tuesday".  They have a different topic every week and it was a lot of fun last week meeting some new bloggers and also finding some new books for my TBR list!  This week's topic is: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree.

(links lead to Goodreads descriptions)

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Or is there another book you would recommend?

Review & GIVEAWAY: Bette & the Beast by Liza Penn

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bette & the Beast

Liza Penn
(Hotel Ever After, #1)
Publication date: September 13th 2016
Genres: New Adult, Romance

Synopsis: Bette owns Fairhaven’s only bookstore…but only barely. She’s struggling with bills, but she refuses to sell to the hotel mogul Richard Dickson because he only wants to tear down the beloved store and replace it with a hotel. Can these two find a compromise and save the bookstore?

My Rating:
3.5 out of 5 stars

My Review:
This was my first time ever reading anything by Liza Penn.  I am a big fan of fairytale retellings, so when I saw this one I knew I had to request it.  If you couldn't tell from the title, this one is loosely based off of Beauty and the Beast.  This was a really quick read at only about 75 pages.

Liza Penn definitely has a knack for writing some steamy scenes!  There were only a couple of them but they were sizzling.  I would consider this an insta-love/lust romance.  I have to say that I didn't think that Richard was much of a Beast at all tho.  We were also introduced to some great secondary characters, who will have their own love stories in this series.

This book has no cheating, a HEA, and no cliffhanger (just a little bit of a lead in to Zelda's love story).  Each story is a new take on a classic fairytale.

**  I received an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own. **

Author Bio:
Liza Penn is the pseudonym of an author living with her family in the piedmont of the Carolinas. She writes the Hotel Ever After books for fun and values her privacy.

Book Blitz & HUGE Giveaway: The Elf by Max Dune

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Elf
Max Dune
Publication date: October 18th 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
This Christmas…it’s war. Grab your weapon and join the fight in this modern Santa Claus retelling with a dark twist. Fans of Guardians of the Galaxy and Avatar will be riveted by The Elf‘s action, humor and romance!
Elves are dying in the North Pole, and none of their scientists can find a cure. They believe it’s a virus, unleashed by a powerful enemy. All signs point to Jack Frost, who’s been biding his time from afar. Watching. Waiting. Plotting. One brave elf, to save his kind, will venture out to meet evil in the eye. But he uncovers a mystery more dangerous than he could have ever imagined. Now Lucian must join a group of warriors and fight. Fuego; a flame-wielding pyro. Tiktok; a brilliant bomb expert, Yuriko; a deadly ninja assassin. And Bullets; a hot-headed gun aficionado. These unlikely heroes must learn to work together and defeat the rising evil. Or Christmas will soon be lost…forever.
“Where are you going?” I taunt. “There’s nowhere to hide.”
Jack Frost doesn’t answer. Under the canopy of winter-crystallized trees, he crawls across the snow. His tall, muscular body leaves a trail of berry-red blood behind him. He looks desperate to put distance between us.
I begin to whistle softly and draw closer to admire my handiwork. Broken nose. Swollen eye. An arrow buried deep in his leg. Ah, such a beautiful sight to behold. I turn to Blitzen, my most loyal of companions, and smile. “Thank you, friend. Without you, I wouldn’t have made it.”
Blitzen gives an affirmative snort, staying close to our sleigh and supplies. His strong legs and zesty spirit had kept me alive for the last two weeks. The Artic is a cold house for the unwary. Nothing in it ever stirs. Nothing moves. Nothing sings. Yet he had guided me through it, his hooves detonating like muffled grenades as they crunched the powdery snow. We’d traveled over timeworn mountains, through tomblike valleys and flash-frozen rivers. I plan on rewarding Blitzen with his favorite food once we’re back in Santa’s Village. It’ll be agaric mushrooms for life. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
First things first though: I cock my crossbow.
Upon hearing that sound, Frost forces his knees and elbows to move faster. He fights for his life like a desperate wild animal at death’s door. The expression of terror on his face is absolutely priceless. I wonder if he’ll start begging soon. Even if he does, it won’t do him any good. I won’t hesitate to pull the trigger and send one final bolt into his black heart.
For my friends…for my parents…
“Mmm,” I utter, savoring the moment. “This is even better than I imagined.” As I loom over him, a sudden wave of fury grips me. I violently plant my boot in his shoulder, prompting a muffled groan from him. Through gritted teeth I hiss, “And I’ve imagined this a lot.”
I remove my foot. Frost rolls over onto his back and gazes up at me in defeat. “Don’t do this, Lucian. Please.”
Ah, finally.
“Do you think begging is going to help? It didn’t help my parents or the other elves. They died just the same, all shaking, bleeding, and crying…and all because of you.” I point the loaded crossbow at his chest. “Now it’s your turn to die.”
“Wait!” He lifts up a trembling hand. “I can grant you great powers, unimaginable abilities, even immortality! Y-you could be the most powerful elf who’s ever lived!”
“Power?” I scoff. “I don’t want power. This is all I want.”
“Revenge won’t bring your parents back.”
I consider his words for a moment and do see the truth in them, but the rage inside pushes me on. “No, but it’s going to feel pretty good.” My finger slides the safety off.
Frost’s eyes widen.
Suddenly a deep, loud sound echoes all about us, seemingly coming from every direction. They disturb the serene beauty of this frozen, crystal paradise where Frost is meant to meet his doom. Puzzled, I lower my crossbow and search for the source. My eyes scan through the tall, gray trees, their skeletal wooden arms knocking against one another in the slight breeze, but I catch nothing in my gaze except the clear, blue skies beyond. What the heck’s going on? Confused, I dart my eyes in every direction. And why is that annoying buzzing getting louder?
Beep! Beep! Beep!
A sense of déjà vu hits me.
Wait! That sound… Isn’t that…?
The beeping continues to assault my ears for several more moments, muddling my senses.
“No!” I wail when I finally remember. “No! Not yet!”
My desperate cries prove futile, though, as my crossbow melts in my hands. Its liquefied remnants splash at my feet. It doesn’t take long for the surrounding trees to follow suit, forming charcoal-gray puddles on the ground. Blitzen, too, begins to disintegrate where he stands. His fur, flesh, and bones dissolves into a paste and seep into the ground
“No!” Without wasting time, I jump on Frost, wrap my hands around his cold neck, and begin to viciously choke him. “I’ll kill you with my bare hands!”
Rather than panicking or pleading for mercy, he only laughs in my face, knowing full well it’s too late. His flesh quickly melts like hot wax until my fingers are kneading the remaining mess.
I punch the ground with my fists again and again, even as they start melting away. “Come on! I just needed another minute!”
As I beg for more time, I feel my bones softening, becoming more pliable, like iron morphing into licorice. Soon I am unable to hold my weight, and I topple over, falling to the icy ground.

Author Bio:
Max Dune is a Southern writer who spent most his childhood watching TV, devouring comic books and weaving magical worlds in his head. In his mid-twenties, he decided to follow his true passion. He has since created a number of short stories, novels, screenplays and TV pilots. To be alerted to future books and giveaways, please sign up for his newsletter at

Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground