Review of Ahead of the Darkness by Simone Nicole

Ahead of the Darkness



From Goodreads:

It has been a long, long time since I’ve seen your little face, chérie. Not once did you visit. That really hurt; after all, it was thanks to you I was convicted. That’s not something you forget.

I thought it was time— a visit was due. Seeing as you wouldn’t come to me, I thought it only right I come to you. Sadly, you weren’t home, but your furry feline was more than accommodating . . . I’ll be seeing you soon, mon chérie. I’ll always find you . . .

For six years, a letter has dictated Amelia’s future. She’s running from a past that refuses to stop, always trying to get one step ahead. Amelia is clever and resilient, and refuses to slip up. Relying only on herself, she’ll be anything and anyone she needs to survive. But everyone slips up . . . eventually. You can’t always stay ahead of the darkness


Mia is on the run from her past. Hunted for the past six years, she doesn’t stay in one place very long, and changes her identity with each new location. She works jobs that pay cash to get by, until the next place she hides out in the open. Mia refuses to let anyone know the truth or form any real relationships. The result is a very lonely existence. And that loneliness is not just about companionship– Mia is alone with her fear, her sorrow and her secrets.

I really liked the way Simone Nicole handled this part of the storyline. I’ve read way too many books where the main character holds onto secrets of their past, and *YAWN* runs before anyone can figure it out. Usually something lame like– I’m poor. Or I’m unlovable. Or ______ <– insert zero self-esteem reason here.

Not so in this book. For Mia, keeping secrets is not just about protecting herself while on the run… every single person she’s loved has been killed by the very person who is after her.

Enter Drew


Drew has a past of his own and recognizes almost immediately that Mia is hiding something, but he doesn’t push her. Their relationship slowly builds, and for the first time in so many years, Mia follows her heart. She lets herself wonder and feel and oh God, does this woman deserve some happiness.

The chemistry between Drew and Mia is crazy good! I also loved the pace, realistic dialogue and I LOVE ME SOME JULES!!! Jules works at the same bar as Mia. He’s hot, funny as hell  and is the cause of Possessive Drew. Yeah, I wrote that as a proper noun.

At one point while reading Ahead of the Darkness I realized that every single thing Drew said had me swooning. I can honestly say that’s never happened before. Drew is hilarious, has a killer accent and isn’t afraid to call Mia out on her crap. He’s also quiet. Reserved. And he watches. Again, I loved the way Simone built his character. It allows the reader to wonder– what’s he thinking? What will he do about this? And before long, we know…

There’s nothing or no one who will hurt his girl.


Oh God indeed.

Ahead of the Darkness is a fantastic debut novel by Simone Nicole.


It’s on sale RIGHT NOW for $0.99 on Amazon!!





profile Simone

About this author

Self-confessed chocoholic and undiagnosed crazy person, Simone can be found climbing Himalayan mountaintops like a ninja, sky diving backwards and rubbing shoulders with billionaires. She is also full of crap, but can read backwards and upside down, the one plus of being dyslexic. Simone loves all things Disney and alcoholic, and is rarely seen not reading, writing or wearing lipstick, usually of the red variety.

Review of Under Different Stars by Amy Bartol, Character Profile + HUGE Giveaway


Title:   Under Different Stars (Kricket #1)

Author:   Amy A. Bartol

Genre:  YA Dystopian


Under Different Stars_book cover


All she wants is a home, but can she find one…UNDER DIFFERENT STARS Kricket Hollowell is normally not one to wish upon stars; she believes they’re rarely in her favor. Well versed at dodging caseworkers from Chicago’s foster care system, the past few years on her own have made Kricket an expert at the art of survival and blending in. With her 18th birthday fast approaching, she dreams of the day when she can stop running and find what her heart needs most: a home.

Trey Allairis hates Earth and doubts that anyone from his world can thrive here. What he’s learning of Kricket and her existence away from her true home only confirms his theory. But, when he and Kricket lie together under the stars of Ethar, counting them all may be easier than letting her go.

Kyon Ensin’s secrets number the stars; he knows more about Kricket’s gifts than anyone and plans to possess her because of them. He also knows she’s more valuable than any fire in the night sky. He’ll move the heavens and align them all in order to make her his own. When everything in their world can be broken, will Kricket rely upon love to save her under different stars?

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Water swirls around me as I open my eyes. I shiver, realizing I’m in Trey’s arms. He’s standing chest deep in crystal blue water with Wayra pacing on the bank only steps away. Clutching Trey closer to me, my cheek remains on his shoulder. Watching a bead of water slip down his powerful neck, I hear Jax say, “She’s waking up.”

Trey, cupping his hand in the water, pours some of it over my hair. It drips down the sides of my face, cooling me. “Let’s get her out. I’ll get the visor and we can check her vitals.”

As Trey wades out of the pond with me in his arms, I try to lift my head from his shoulder. It makes me dizzy so I lay it back. It’s then I notice that I’m only in my bra and underwear. A blush creeps into my cheeks as I hug Trey tighter to me. Wayra meets us on the bank, draping a blanket over us. Trey sits down with me on his lap. He leans against a tree trunk holding me securely to his chest. Peeking at his face, he seems angry as he smoothes my hair back from my face.

Hurrying over with the visor that looks like grandma goggles, Trey sets them on my eyes. Everything is green as I gaze around at the water in front of us. Flashing green lights and readouts occupy the peripherals of the glasses, but the information is running faster than I can possibly read it.

“Ho!” Jax exclaims next to me.

Immediately, Trey’s arms tighten on me as he barks out, “What? How bad is it?”

“Naw, it’s not bad…it’s just…Kricket…” Jax breathes, like he’s in awe. “Look at this brain activity…it’s massive.”

“What do you mean?” Trey asks with relief in his tone.

Jax grins. “She’s lighting everything up. Look at her frontal lobe…it’s off the charts.”

“What does that mean? Is she healthy?” Trey growls.

Jax nods enthusiastically. “She’s healthy! We didn’t fry her with heat stroke, that’s for sure. Or, if we did, she’s got more brain activity than anyone I’ve ever seen to compensate for it,” he replies, sounding seriously geeked about it.

“Those things aren’t broken, are they?” Trey asks speculatively.

“No…here.” Jax pulls them off my face. “Wayra, come here.”

Wayra walks over and Jax puts the glasses on his eyes. “See! He’s normal, well, normal for him. See how it doesn’t light up in these areas?” he points out to Trey.


“Now watch this,” he says, taking the glasses off of Wayra, he places them back on my face. “See? It’s like Christmas in Chicago with all those lights,” Jax says proudly.

“So that means she’s smart?”

Jax beams. “Yeah, she’s smart! She’s brilliant! There’s no telling what she can do.”

“If she’s so smart, why did she run until she almost popped? Why didn’t she just tell us she needed to rest?” Wayra asks derisively.

“Personality flaw,” Trey replies. “She’s going to show us that she’s not weak.”

“She’s sitting right here,” I murmur, pulling the glasses off my face and handing them to Jax.


I’m so thoroughly impressed with this book that it’s difficult to put into words.


First, what is dystopia?

an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly

Honestly, the world building and original ideas Amy came up with could easily put this book in either the sci-fi or fantasy genres. It was that well done. I’m all with my swoony romance… but I read just as much sci-fi and dark fantasy to say that I could put this novel up against any of the novels I’ve read.

Captivating from page #1, I want to know more, more, more! Why is she on the run? Where is her family? How is she surviving on her own?

This incredibly intense story unfolds at the PERFECT pace. From slowly discovering and accepting that she isn’t human, to figuring out who to trust, and plotting how the hell to get herself out of all this craziness.

When Kricket first arrived on Ethar (I want to go ga-ga over how they traveled, but I don’t want to spoil one of the coolest scenes I’ve ever read!), we discovered this new planet with Kricket. Amy described it’s beauty in such a way that I could vividly picture it; Redwood-like trees as tall as skyscrapers, weird and terrifying creatures, the night sky.

And, of course, it’s a totally advanced civilization. Their technology was incredible! Kricket couldn’t figure out half the gadgets. It was ALMOST as funny as Trey & gang trying to figure out the American slang Kricket used.

Yet, the society’s views on “class” and women is backwards. This is all unacceptable to Kricket. But, being the survivor she is, she bides her time, played nice, and formed alliances where she needed to.

I am so glad Amy picked the scene above as the excerpt for the blog tour. It was a turning point for me…

“Ho!” Jax exclaims next to me.

Immediately, Trey’s arms tighten on me as he barks out, “What? How bad is it?”

They put the medical visor on her while still on Earth. She checked out fine. But now, on their home planet of Ethar and “under different stars”, her brain activity goes crazy. Loved that twist! Had me wondering just how special Kricket was. Turns out– pretty special.

She is young but very mature, intelligent, and has a few gifts that help her go from pawn to player.

I fell in love with Kricket immediately. Despite the fact that she’s been in the foster care system since she was five and brutally abused– she’s so strong, compassionate, fiercely loyal to the only two friends she has on Earth, and is the definition of a survivor! BOOYAH!

She also has understandable and significant trust issues, and a deep-rooted fear of abondonment that comes out at times when she is desperately trying to be or remain independent.

This is an exchange between Kricket and Trey:

“It will take a very hard, very determined personality to survive what is ahead for you without help.”

“Got it,” I growl through clenched teeth, anger flaring up in me at the sympathy in his voice.

“You’re tough?”

“I’m stone.”

“Stone can be broken.”

Tilting my head toward him, I meet his eyes. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’m used to holding on to nothing as tight as I can.”

I was so emotional by this point, I had to set my Kindle down for a while after I read that. This poor girl. Pushing away the only 3 people she knows on the planet. Why? Because she refuses to accept help. Worse! Be pitied. It’s not even about having a wall of protection… she’s got no wall. It’s raw. All of it; Pain, abuse, multiple disappointments, being just another number is the system. And this is why I absolutely love Amy’s writing– Instead of giving up and wallowing in it all, Kricket keeps it fresh. A reminder. She uses her past to build HERSELF up and strive for a better future.

That said, accepting help and depending on Trey is setting herself up for another blow. Plus, she can take care of herself.

Up until this point they shared a few tender moments. But it was this part when Trey’s professional, all-business military badass front came down a little. Said a different way, he likes her. A lot.

Did someone say badass?

I’m going to get my swoon on because, well, I have to.

Character Profile

Trey Allairis: Mr. High-ranking Cavar military alien badass!

“Request permission to carry her down, sir.” Wayra says, staring at me.

“Denied,” Trey scowls with a clipped tone…


That’s right, Wayra–you fool. Request denied! It’s just so delicious. On top of Trey’s all-around alien hotness, with his black hair and violet eyes, these military commands took it to another level for me… “REPORT!”, “DENIED!”, “ENGAGE!”, “POSITIONS!”  *oops, that last one was me…. 😉

Trey in his tripped out, camo gear that changes with his environment like a chameleon! Flanked by Jax and Wayra! Guns poised on their shoulders– ready to kick some serious ass.

***Just a little side note here: OMG! Even the way Trey used voice command on his military vehicles was hot***


Yes. He’s hot–literally– his alien body holds it’s warmth even in freezing water. *shivers* Yeah… time for a snuggle session.

First sight

“…My eyes pause for a moment on his neck, seeing thick, black tribal tattoos covering one side of it… But I lose my breath when my eyes connect with his. His irises are a lovely shade of violet, a similar color to mine.”

As Trey gets to know Kricket, his one-track “I must complete my mission” mind starts to shift. Just enough to see her as more than a mission. Just enough to wonder if it’s not just the Alameeda that she needs protecting from. And just enough that, for the first time in his life, Trey may very well risk it all… for Kricket.

Kyon smirks. “She’ll be the death of us both. I’d be doing you a favor by pulling the trigger. Don’t you know that you should eliminate what you can’t have? She’s a priestess. She’s in your head, Trey.”

“My head, my heart, my blood,” Trey responds immediately.

“That’s unfortunate for you, because she belongs to me. I own her…”

Moving on to Jerkface. I mean Kyron.

Talk about a delusional, self-absorbed, entitled ass!! OMG! The ways I hate this guy! Yes, folks, Amy created another villain we will all love to hate. I just know he’ll make a real play for Kricket’s heart in future books. That and one of Kricket’s abilities is to be able to tell when someone is lying. So when Jerkface says, “I have feelings for you.” She knows he speaks the truth. UGH.

author pic


I live in Michigan with my husband and our two sons. My family is very supportive of my writing. When I’m writing, they often bring me the take-out menu so that I can call and order them dinner. They listen patiently when I talk about my characters like they’re  real. They rarely roll their eyes when I tell them I’ll only be a second while I finish writing a chapter…and then they take off their coats. They ask me how the story is going when I surface after living for hours in a world of my own making. They have learned to accept my “writing uniform” consisting of a slightly unflattering pink fleece jacket, t-shirt, and black yoga pants. And they smile at my nerdy bookishness whenever I try to explain urban fantasy to them. In short, they get me, so they are perfect and I am blessed.

                               CONNECT WITH AMY








1st place: KINDLE FIRE + ebook of Under Different Stars

2nd place: Kindle Cover + $50 Amazon Gift Card

3rd place: $50 Amazon Gift Card

GIVEAWAY Under Different Stars


Giveaway administered by Amy A. Bartol

Winners will be notified via email and if winner does not respond within 5 days another winner will be selected

Amazon ships most Kindle e-readers worldwide, however, it is up to the participant to ensure the country they reside in is listed as one of the countries Amazon ships to. If a winner is selected and Amazon does not ship to their country, another winner will be selected.

Before entering this giveaway please check:

HYPERLINK “”To ship Kindle Fire outside the U.S. view important information specific to your country.

Review of Undertow by Amber Lynn Natusch + Giveaway


How far does a girl have to run to escape a lifetime of pain and loss at the hands of Alaska’s notoriously unforgiving Bering Sea? Twenty-seven-year-old Aesa Fredriksen thought landlocked Columbus, Ohio would suffice, and it does until the fear of regret drives her to return to Dutch Harbor in a final attempt to make amends with her nearly estranged father. Intent on salvaging the wreckage of their relationship, she reluctantly agrees to join him—the only family she has left—as he heads out to fish for king crab, forcing her to brave the very waters that pulled him away from her as a child. The waters that stole her mother’s life.
When the day finally arrives for the Norwegian Queen to sail off into an uncertain future, Aesa can’t help but fear the worst. Beyond the violent swells and impending storms, there is far more than death and danger awaiting her on her journey: love awaits her too.

Decker, a young but seasoned member of her father’s crew, is a force of nature as strong as Aesa, He’s her perfect match, and even she can’t deny it. But he too is a man of the sea, and with memories of tragedy and abandonment etched so deeply into her mind, can she overcome her demons and let him in or will she drown in her darkness, forever caught in its undertow?




Find out more about Amber Lynn Natusch

website, Twitter, Facebook


First, let me say that I am a huge fan of Amber’s work. Her Caged series is one of my all-time favorite urban fantasy series. That series (like Undertow) was so incredible well written, but it was Amber’s ability to write such deep and relatable characters that moved Caged to that next level for me.

Undertow– Wow. I will start with the setting; Dutch Harbor, Alaska. At first I thought, oh no! King crab fishing? *cue theme music for Deadliest Catch* But, I loved that this contemporary romance novel had such an unusual setting. I’ve read romance novels set all over the world… never near or on a crab boat. And let me tell you, I could not put Undertow down! This novel was a page turner from beginning to end with nail-biting suspense and such cringe-worthy scenes that even though I know what happened– I won’t read those scenes again. They felt THAT real to me. And I loved all the characters THAT much. *shivers*

Nine years ago Aesa ran from all she’d lost, her father, and the Bering Sea that did nothing but take from her. She returns with the intent to mend the broken relationship with her father, but is not anywhere near ready (emotionally) to walk into her childhood home and face it all. On the surface she seems ready– she’s a doctor now, she’s got a handle on her anger, and she’s matured. Part of what makes her so relatable is that old wounds bring her right back to where she was emotionally nine years ago. Aesa has a death grip on her anger. If she’s angry then she doesn’t have to feel pain. And she thinks her anger is justified.

Aesa is cold at times, neurotic about order, and keeps everyone at arm’s length. Where they are safely on that side. Where she won’t be hurt. Where there is no fear. Where it doesn’t matter if that person leaves and never comes back.

But it does matter; Decker matters.

Decker has a past. He’s learned from it, and it doesn’t define him. He is a fisherman through and through, but  unlike anyone Aesa has ever met. And by anyone, I mean he is the first person she’s let past her walls in nine years. And now that he’s there, there’s no way in hell Decker is going to let Aesa push him away to protect herself.

“You can’t live your life through the eyes of the past forever. You’ll never be able to move forward with that fear tethered to you, holding you back. Whatever it is that haunts you, you need to learn to either accept it or push past it. You’re too strong to let it bring you down. Don’t drown yourself in the sorrows of what has been.”

I’d recommend this book to anyone. I wasn’t surprised that I loved Undertow as much as I did, given how over-the-top in love I am with Caged. And just a quick side note: Fans of Caged, Amber gave a shout-out to creatures that react to a full moon. WHOOT! Or at least my Team Cooper heart took it that way. 😉



1 winner will receive a $50 amazon gift card + plus an ebook copy of Undertow

2 winners will each receive a $25 amazon gift card + plus an ebook copy of Undertow

ALN author picAbout Amber Lynn Natusch  If you’re dying to know more about me, allow me to put you at ease. I’m a sharp-tongued, sarcastic cancer, who loves vegetable smoothies, winter storms, and the word ‘portfolio’. I should NEVER be caffeinated, and require at least eight hours of sleep to even resemble a human being. At thirty-four, I just now feel like I can keep a straight face while saying the word “rectum” (which is actually a huge lie because I just laughed out loud while reading this to my husband). I live with my iPod firmly affixed to my body, drive too fast, and laugh/cry at inappropriate times. I’m obsessed with urban fantasy… When I discovered that genre, I knew I had found my tribe. Now I write in that world because that’s what the voices in my head tell me to do. And they are very, very loud.