Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Blog Tour + Review + Excerpt + Giveaway: Raven by Ashley Suzanne

Title: Raven
Author: Ashley Suzanne
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publish Date: June 25, 2014
Review Source: eARC

If I would have known then what I know now.

If I would have known that having my heart broken at thirteen by my one and only friend, Garrett Rhodes, would never compare to the empty feeling at sixteen when I buried my mother.

If I would have known that changing schools in my senior year would throw all that back in my face.

If someone would have told me that when you drink a fifth a night and get in bar fights at twenty one, I’d end up in jail … again.

Maybe … just maybe … I wouldn’t be in the hell storm I’m living in these days. Letting my past dictate my future, allowing the best of the best male MMA fighters bully me day in and day out and knowing no matter what I do, Garrett will always be the only man that understands me. I didn’t have to live this way. One day changed the course of my life forever.

Through all this mess, the one thing that I’ve found that keeps me centered … martial arts. And I’m damn good. If only someone would give me a chance to prove my worth.

All I can do now is make the best of it and try to not let the fight consume me. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, you’re gonna wanna get in our next contender’s pants … show some love for our hometown legend, The Switch Hitter!”  I snort at the name, expecting to walk out and see a fighter carrying a baseball bat.  What do ya know?  No bat in sight.  Extra reinforcements might not have been a bad idea since I’m on fire and ready to bust the bricks off this clown.
Waiting for the emcee to call my name, I think of all the crazy things in my life that have led me to this point.  I’ve experienced more than any one person should by the age of barely twenty-two—few happy moments surrounded by almost constant anguish.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?  “Being escorted to the cage by the most badass entourage I’ve seen tonight, all the way from Corbin, Kentucky … the newest fighter this side of the Mississippi … The Raven!”  At least my name makes sense.  Ravens are known for being alone, having no problem flying solo.  That’s what I’ve done for the past four years anyway.  
After my announcement, the crowd erupts into cheers that I can hear loud and clear, even over the song streaming out of my iPod through my ear buds.  Bouncing back and forth on the balls of my feet, I crane my neck side to side, examining the mass of people.  It’s a good sized crowd for this venue.  I sometimes wonder if these guys come to watch the fights for the love of the sport or because they like to see the ring girls walking around, barely dressed, carrying signs to designate what round we’re in.  Oh well, they paid their cover and that money, if all goes according to plan, will be in my pocket later tonight.
With my coaches leading the way, I follow, bobbing my head to Down with the Sickness by Disturbed, mentally preparing myself.   I run over everything I’ve been taught over the last year—how to get out of a submission hold, finding opportunities to take my opponent down, remembering not to be a cocky asshole.  
 It took a lot of convincing for Zan to let me fight tonight.  He’s not the kind father figure he portrays himself to be.  He says he loves and supports his “children”, but deep down he’d rather me not get in that cage.  I know damn well if I blow my first match, it’s going to be a long time, if ever, until he puts me on another card.
“You ready for this?” Zan asks, pulling out one of my ear buds.
Smirking, I eye up my competition that’s already inside the cage—a small, tiny thing that doesn’t look to have much muscle mass.  I got this.  Standing on the opposite side of the mat surrounded by coaches, glancing in my direction, the slightest tinge of fear flashes across those brown eyes, similar to mine.  Physically, I’m not very intimidating—weighing in at average weight for my class with an average stature to match, but the menace written across my face is an entirely different situation.
Since my first introduction into the world of mixed martial arts, it’s all I can think about.  It may be cliché, but I live, breathe and sleep MMA.  It’s the one place I have any control.  Nobody can take a match from me unless I allow them to, and my opponent isn’t going to walk away with anything … maybe disappointment, but I’m taking the purse.  I already know I want it more; I can taste the victory and it’s going to be as sweet as I imagine it to be.
Stepping into the steel cage, I shrug my midnight blue robe off, right into the hands of my coach.  Wearing standard MMA gear and my hair pulled back tight, I walk straight to the official who checks my taped hands.  Once cleared, I step back to Zan who pops my mouth guard in for me, pats me on the shoulder and whispers in my ear, “It’s only you two.  If you want it, make it happen.  If not, we can leave right now.”
“Don’t worry, Z.  I wouldn’t bring you all the way here to disappoint you.”
Zan and the other coaches walk out of the cage and the door slams shut, leaving only me, my opponent and the official inside.  Meeting them in the middle, the ref goes over the standard rules for the fight.  Both of us nod, bump fists and the bell dings, indicating round one is under way.
Pacing myself and testing Switch Hitter’s skills, I toss a few jabs in the air, needing to know if we’re on compatible levels.  Weight class isn’t everything in the MMA world.  Sometimes the smallest contender can be the best fighter.  Without even flinching, my advances are shut down and every punch is dodged while some are tossed in my direction as well.  None land.  I may have to reevaluate my plan.  This isn’t going to be as clean as I thought. 
It doesn’t take long before hands are wrapped around my legs.  I try my hardest to center myself and stay on my feet, but I’ve been hit in just the right spot.  I position my body to flip and mount, like I’ve been taught, but I’m not quick enough.
Before I know it, a strong forearm, stronger than I assumed, is wrapping around my neck, pulling back to cut off my air supply.  Rear naked choke, shit.  Taking a few deep breaths, I try to calm my overheated and exhausted body and find a way to maneuver out of this situation.  From the corner of my eye, I see Zan signaling me to tap.  Not yet.  If I’m going to go down, the officials are gonna have to call a medic in here—quitting isn’t an option.  Dangerous or not, it’s how I’ve been taught.
The phrase that’s been drilled into me for months dances around in my head.  Don’t let the fight consume you.
Well, I’m consumed and I’m not giving up.  I’ll figure a way out.  I always have, I always will.  


Most people think the Raven relates to a bad omen, but that's not the case.  She gets by easier knowing the only one she needs in her corner is herself... Rian

Sometimes when you set down to write a review about a book the words just come freely to you.  This book has some many elements in it that I don't know where to begin.  Don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing, it is actually a good thing here.  

Rian Fields basically grew up with it being just her and her mom until she is 17 and in high school.  Upon her junior year her mom marry's Tom, the town drunk.  This is where her life takes a drastic turn in a single afternoon.

When Rian was younger her best friend was Garrett Rhodes.  They became friends when he moved into town when his fathers was stationed in the military there.  Garrett instantly became Rian's protector while at school each day, and she loved him dearly for it.  Then one day just before Rian entered into junior high, Garrett's dad got reassigned to another town about an hour away and Rian lost Garrett.  

After jumping in and trying to protect her mother, Rian ends up having to move to Corbin to live with her mother's sister Elain.  This is the second time in Rian's life when she has had to deal with loss, the first being losing Garrett several years before.  Unfortunately for Rian her pain and loss will not end here.

When I read the first part of this book I thought Raven was a male MMA fighter.  As I read through the beginning of the book I got confused because I was based around Rian and she in fact was a girl.  So I was instantly curious as to how Rian and the Raven were connected.  This is where I really found myself being pulled into the story.  As I continued I was amazed at the inner strength that Rian possess and her ability to deal with all the pain and troubles that are thrown her way.  The representation of the Raven in this book is very fitting for Rian's character.  Overall it is a very good story and to be about a female MMA fighter makes it even more worth reading.  I will say that this is a hard review for me to write solely because I don't want to say to much because if I do it will create spoilers for you, and I desperately don't want that to happen because it will take away the emotional aspect of the book for you as a reader, but when I say it is good, I mean it is GOOD!!!!

Ashley Suzanne is a married mother of three little boys as well as a daughter, aunt, sister, best friend, birth mother, blogger, book whore and author.  Ashley is a native to the suburbs of Detroit, with most of her family living in Kentucky and New York.  
You can usually find Ashley sitting in bed, with her laptop, playing on Facebook, pretending to write, entering giveaways (she’s also a swag whore) or on a football field with her oldest son, Tyler.  Yep, not only is she a football fan, she’s a football mom!
When she’s reading, it’s typically something to do with romance, contemporary being her favorite genre.  She’s a total fan-girl over a few authors; Pamela Ann, SE Hall, Madeline Sheehan, Jasinda Wilder, Maya Banks, CM Stunich, Nicole Jacquelyn and Riley Rhea to name a few.
Ashley has no pets, unless you count her children and she is a little OCD.  Her favorite color is pink.  Her favorite drink is cherry vodka and coke and double chocolate brownies are a must.


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