MAYHEM blog tour + Excerpt!

by Estelle Laure

This book is so unique and atmospheric I’m not even sure how to put it into words. Part of me feels like the pacing was all over the place, but how then was I so hooked? It’s a little gem of a book, something so unique I won’t stop thinking about it for ages.

How do I tell her I don’t want to be an innocent anymore? Innocents get hit. I want to hit back.

Summary

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

Musings

I think the reason the story is so strong is that it all rests on the power of the well-written characters, which is surreal to me because, at the end, I’m still not sure I even know Mayhem. Perhaps this is because she’s still getting to know herself? Elements of abuse, domestic violence, drug use, murder, and suicide are included in this story, but never did they feel like a gimmick. The characters are shaped by these events and are striving to grow from them.

This book feels like historical fiction of women, witches, and witchcraft, yet it’s got this soothing 80’s beach vibe. Didn’t think that would go together, did you? I didn’t. But it creates this amazing aesthetic that sucks you right in.

All in all, I can’t thoroughly put into words how I feel about this book, because my critical brain is picking at details, while the rest of me is soothed by the magical lyricism. I think we need more books like this, ones which defy genre, build up young women, and stick with you forever.

It deals with some intense subject matter (domestic violence, sexual assault) so be forewarned going in. 

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What books do you love that seem to transcend genre? 💧⁣ ⁣ Blog tour post! I just finished Mayhem and it was unlike anything I could ever have expected. This book is so unique and atmospheric I'm not even sure how to put it into words. feels like historical fiction of women, witches, and witchcraft, yet it's got this soothing 80's beach vibe. It creates this amazing aesthetic that sucks you right in.⁣ ⁣ Blurb:⁣ ⁣ It's 1987 and unfortunately it's not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy's constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem's own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren't like everyone else. But when May's stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem's questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.⁣ ⁣ In short, it’s magical. It deals with some intense subject matter (domestic violence, sexual assault) so be forewarned going in. I think we need more books like this, ones which defy genre, build up young women, and stick with you forever.⁣ ⁣ Thank you @wednesdaybooks and @estellelaurebooks for this amazing book! Full disclosure, my physical ARC didn’t reach me in time so this is a photomontage.⁣ ⁣ #mayhem #estellelaure #wednesdaybooks #blogtour #yafiction #summervibes #prettybooks #booksandflowers #booksandroses #youngadultbooks #youngadultfiction #alwaysreading #mustread #roses #rosesofinstagram #abandonedplaces #summervibes #magicalrealism #bibliophile #bookstagram #booklover #bookaddict #bookaholic #summertime #su

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Chapter 1 Excerpt

“Trouble,” Roxy says. She arches a brow at the kids by the van through the bug-spattered windshield, the ghost of a half-smile rippling across her face.

“You would know,” I shoot. “So would you,” she snaps.

Maybe we’re a little on edge. We’ve been in the car so long the pattern on the vinyl seats is tattooed on the back of my thighs.

The kids my mother is talking about, the ones sitting on the white picket fence, look like they slithered up the hill out of the ocean, covered in seaweed, like the carnival music we heard coming from the boardwalk as we were driving into town plays in the air around them at all times. Two crows are on the posts beside them like they’re standing guard, and they caw at each other loudly as we come to a stop. I love every- thing about this place immediately and I think, ridiculously, that I am no longer alone.

The older girl, white but tan, curvaceous, and lean, has her arms around the boy and is lovely with her smudged eye makeup and her ripped clothes. The younger one pops some- thing made of bright colors into her mouth and watches us come up the drive. She is in a military-style jacket with a ton of buttons, her frizzy blond hair reaching in all directions, freckles slapped across her cheeks. And the boy? Thin, brown,

hungry-looking. Not hungry in his stomach. Hungry with his eyes. He has a green bandana tied across his forehead and holes in the knees of his jeans. There’s an A in a circle drawn in marker across the front of his T-shirt.

Anarchy.

“Look!” Roxy points to the gas gauge. It’s just above the E. “You owe me five bucks, Cookie. I told you to trust we would make it, and see what happened? You should listen to your mama every once in a while.”

“Yeah, well, can I borrow the five bucks to pay you for the bet? I’m fresh out of cash at the moment.”

“Very funny.”

Roxy cranes out the window and wipes the sweat off her upper lip, careful not to smudge her red lipstick. She’s been having real bad aches the last two days, even aside from her bruises, and her appetite’s been worse than ever. The only thing she ever wants is sugar. After having been in the car for so long, you’d think we’d be falling all over each other to get out, but we’re still sitting in the car. In here we’re still us.

She sighs for the thousandth time and clutches at her belly. “I don’t know about this, May.”

California can’t be that different from West Texas.

I watch TV. I know how to say gag me with a spoon and

grody to the max.

I fling open the door.

Roxy gathers her cigarettes and lighter, and drops them in- side her purse with a snap.

“Goddammit, Elle,” she mutters to herself, eyes flickering toward the kids again. Roxy looks at me over the rims of her sunglasses before shoving them back on her nose. “Mayhem, I’m counting on you to keep your head together here. Those kids are not the usual—”

“I know! You told me they’re foster kids.”

“No, not that,” she says, but doesn’t clarify. “Okay, I guess.”

“I mean it. No more of that wild-child business.”

“I will keep my head together!” I’m so tired of her saying this. I never had any friends, never a boyfriend—all I have is what Grandmother calls my nasty mouth and the hair Lyle always said was ugly and whorish. And once or twice I might’ve got drunk on the roof, but it’s not like I ever did anything. Besides, no kid my age has ever liked me even once. I’m not the wild child in the family.

“Well, all right then.” Roxy messes with her hair in the rear- view mirror, then sprays herself with a cloud of Chanel No. 5 and runs her fingers over her gold necklace. It’s of a bird, not unlike the ones making a fuss by the house. She’s had it as long as I can remember, and over time it’s been worn smooth by her worrying fingers. It’s like she uses it to calm herself when she’s upset about something, and she’s been upset the whole way here, practically. Usually, she’d be good and buzzed by this time of day, but since she’s had to drive some, she’s only nipped from the tiny bottle of wine in her purse a few times and only taken a couple pills since we left Taylor. The with- drawal has turned her into a bit of a she-demon.

I try to look through her eyes, to see what she sees. Roxy hasn’t been back here since I was three years old, and in that time, her mother has died, her father has died, and like she said when she got the card with the picture enclosed that her twin sister, Elle, sent last Christmas, Everybody got old. After that, she spent a lot of time staring in the mirror, pinching at her neck skin. When I was younger, she passed long nights telling me about Santa Maria and the Brayburn Farm, about how it was good and evil in equal measure, about how it had desires that had to be satisfied.

Brayburns, she would say. In my town, we were the legends.

These were the mumbled stories of my childhood, and they made everything about this place loom large. Now that we’re here, I realize I expected the house to have a gaping maw filled with spitty, frothy teeth, as much as I figured there would be fairies flitting around with wands granting wishes. I don’t want to take her vision away from her, but this place looks pretty normal to me, if run-down compared to our new house in Taylor, where there’s no dust anywhere, ever, and Lyle prac- tically keeps the cans of soup in alphabetical order. Maybe what’s not so normal is that this place was built by Brayburns, and here Brayburns matter. I know because the whole road is named after us and because flowers and ribbons and baskets of fruit sat at the entrance, gifts from the people in town, Roxy said. They leave offerings. She said it like it’s normal to be treated like some kind of low-rent goddess.

Other than the van and the kids, there are trees here, rose- bushes, an old black Mercedes, and some bikes leaning against the porch that’s attached to the house. It’s splashed with fresh white paint that doesn’t quite cover up its wrinkles and scars. It’s three stories, so it cuts the sunset when I look up, and plants drape down to touch the dirt.

The front door swings open and a woman in bare feet races past the rosebushes toward us. It is those feet and the reckless way they pound against the earth that tells me this is my aunt Elle before her face does. My stomach gallops and there are bumps all over my arms, and I am more awake than I’ve been since.

I thought Roxy might do a lot of things when she saw her twin sister. Like she might get super quiet or chain-smoke, or maybe even get biting like she can when she’s feeling wrong about something. The last thing I would have ever imagined was them running toward each other and colliding in the driveway, Roxy wrapping her legs around Elle’s waist, and them twirling like that.

This seems like something I shouldn’t be seeing, some- thing wounded and private that fills up my throat. I flip my- self around in my seat and start picking through the things we brought and chide myself yet again for the miserable packing job I did. Since I was basically out of my mind trying to get out of the house, I took a whole package of toothbrushes, an armful of books, my River Phoenix poster, plus I emptied out my underwear drawer, but totally forgot to pack any shoes, so all I have are some flip-flops I bought at the truck stop outside of Las Cruces after that man came to the window, slurring, You got nice legs. Tap, tap tap. You got such nice legs.

My flip-flops are covered in Cheeto dust from a bag that got upended. I slip them on anyway, watching Roxy take her sunglasses off and prop them on her head.

“Son of a bitch!” my aunt says, her voice tinny as she catches sight of Roxy’s eye. “Oh my God, that’s really bad, Rox. You made it sound like nothing. That’s not nothing.”

“Ellie,” Roxy says, trying to put laughter in her voice. “I’m here now. We’re here now.”

There’s a pause.

“You look the same,” Elle says. “Except the hair. You went full Marilyn Monroe.”

“What about you?” Roxy says, fussing at her platinum waves with her palm. “You go full granola warrior? When’s the last time you ate a burger?”

“You know I don’t do that. It’s no good for us. Definitely no good for the poor cows.”

“It’s fine for me.” Roxy lifts Elle’s arm and puckers her nose. “What’s going on with your armpits? May not eat meat but you got animals under there, looks like.”

“Shaving is subjugation.”

“Shaving is a mercy for all mankind.”

They erupt into laughter and hug each other again.

“Well, where is she, my little baby niece?” Elle swings the car door open. “Oh, Mayhem.” She scoops me out with two strong arms. Right then I realize just how truly tired I am. She seems to know, squeezes extra hard for a second before letting me go. She smells like the sandalwood soap Roxy buys sometimes. “My baby girl,” Elle says, “you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see you. How much I’ve missed you.”

Roxy circles her ear with a finger where Elle can’t see her.

Crazy, she mouths. I almost giggle.

The Audacity 2: Time Warp

By Laura Loup

Happy Pride month! And happy release to book two of my favorite gaylien series, The Audacity by Laura Loup. I discovered this series last year and instantly fell in love with May and Xan, every day human turned rocket racer and blue-skinned Thuntian with a mysterious past turned I Love Lucy binge-watcher. Now the sequel is out, and it’s even more hilarious than the first.

Summary

May’s career as an interstellar rocket racer is just ramping up. She’s got a stunning ship, her best friend Xan for a co-pilot, and a rocket-full of winnings. But obscenely good luck can’t last forever, and May has been racing in a stolen ship. When Xan’s arrested by a tea-sipping, goddess-possessed pink robot for a crime he can’t bring himself to explain without baking analogies, May’s career is over. With the help of an adventure biologist and her freshly un-dead girlfriend, May and Xan must find a way to change the past before the goddess of Chaos squashes everything May loves.

Musings

There’s just so much to love about this series: anyone who’s a fan of Douglas Adams and the absurd of the cosmos will feel at home among these pages, laughing at the zany space adventures and the narrator’s deft turn of phase – and occasional meta joke. Book 2 does not disappoint: it’s got everything you love from the first book and is sure to make you roar with laughter.

But the series has so much heart, too. The developing relationship between Xan and May isn’t one you see often (if at all), where May is openly Asexual/Aromantic while Xan is on the other side of the spectrum. Are they a couple, or a couple of besties? It doesn’t seem to matter to them. They are fully loving and supportive of each other which only makes me love them more.

We also meet Xan’s sister, Aimz, a hilarious StarTaxi driver who’s rather miffed her brother hasn’t been around for a millenia. Xan’s past is coming to bite him in the rear – we finally learn how he acquired the Audacity, and what happened to planet Thunt. It’s not pretty. Loup somehow manages to balance absurdity and a deep examination of mental illness as a result of trauma in the same go, which is difficult to achieve and amazing to read.

Tie this all together with a planet-saving-or-destroying adventure, a mad goddess enraged from the last book, a reanimated corpse, busted translators, and revealing swimwear, and you’ve got a wonderful book to devour. I can’t wait for book three!

Sword of Seven Sins

By Emily Colin

Hello, dear readers. How are you doing? Are you on lockdown in your country, your state? Are you with people or completely alone? I hope that you are hanging in there. It’s hard, but we can get through this together.

All this extra time has given me a moment to catch up on my book reviews, so let me proudly present – Sword of the Seven Sins!This is the most intense book I’ve read while under quarantine, binging it in just two days. It’s got amazing characters and a fast plot that will keep you up all night! An edge-of-you-seat, unputdownable roller coaster of a book. With So. Many. Feels.

Summary

Eva Marteinn never wanted to be a killer.

Raised in the Commonwealth, where citizens live and die by the code of the Seven Sins, Eva is sickened by the barbaric punishments the High Priests inflict. She sees the Bellators of Light, the Commonwealth’s executioners, as no more than conscienceless killers.

When she’s Chosen as the first female bellator—and can’t refuse, on threat of exile or disgrace—Eva is devastated. But she turns out to be inordinately gifted at the very role she abhors…no thanks to her mentor, Ari Shepherd, who alternates between ignoring her and challenging her to impossible tests.

Ari’s indifference conceals a dangerous secret: He’s loved Eva since they were children. When Eva falls for Ari too, she knows they should do anything to avoid each other. Love is forbidden. Lust is a death sentence. But as mentor and apprentice, they’re bound by the blood oath they swore the day of Eva’s Choosing.

Balanced on a razor’s edge of desire and betrayal, the two uncover a secret that could overturn the Commonwealth itself. Now Eva must make an impossible choice: Turn her back on Ari, and remain loyal to the only home she’s ever known—or risk everything on the slim hope of freedom, and stake her life on the boy she’s come to love. 

Musings

This book took me completely by surprise: I assumed it would take place in some sort of medieval setting, but instead, it’s in a dystopian, close-knit future society with 1984-level surveillance and a police-state run by the sword.

Imagine a society based on the Christian sins and virtues – but without belief. When a bastardization of morals are used to keep citizens in check. Eva and Ari live in the commonwealth of Ashes in a dystopian tomorrow, stumbling in love though the consequence is death. Here, if you are caught breaking one of the seven (deadly) sins, you’re lucky to get out alive, though the punishment is public and demeaning.

Eva is the first woman to be brought into the ranks of the commonwealth’s equivalent of police enforcers. Much to her dismay, I should add – she’s a computer wiz. It’s not like she has much say in the matter (ironically the day they are assigned their roles in society is called Choosing Day, despite them having no choice), and any complaint could see her badly punished.

To make matters worse, she is falling for her mentor, Ari. But imagine a society where love is a concept undefined from Lust: any feelings towards him make her a sinner. No matter how innocent their teenage love, they’re disgusted by their own feelings. Despite this, they have undeniable chemistry: both characters are complex and wonderfully fleshed out, and seeing them together is a blessing. You can’t help but hope that they love can prevail.

Of course, everything they know about their world is a lie – but I won’t say anything more here. No spoilers, I promise. And the author is STILL hiding things from us, so you know I can’t wait for the sequel!

Expected publication: July 6th 2020 by Blue Crow Books

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⚔️ COVER REVEAL! 🗡 QOTD: which ‘sin’ are you most guilty of this week? Isolation has brought out the glutton in me! 🍰 Happy Monday, friends! One week down of quarantine for me, not sure how many more to go, but I’m keeping my spirits up with good books. I’m so thrilled to be a part of the SWORD OF THE SEVEN SINS cover reveal by @emily_colin! This is the most intense book I’ve read while under quarantine, binging it in just two days. It’s got amazing characters and a fast plot that will keep you on the edge of your seats! BLURB: In a society governed by the Seven Sins, where attachment is forbidden and lust is punishable by death, reluctant teenage assassin Eva Marteinn must make an impossible choice: Remain loyal to the only home she’s ever known—or stake her life on the boy she’s come to love. 🗡 Imagine a society based on the Christian sins and virtues – but without belief. When a bastardization of morals are used to keep citizens in check. Eva and Ari live in the commonwealth of Ashes in a dystopian tomorrow, stumbling in love though the consequence is death. I adored these two complex characters, who spring off the page! You can’t help but root for them and feel their incredible chemistry: it hits the shelves July 6th and I’m already excited for the sequel! How is this Monday treating you? Please, if you need anyone to talk to, don’t hesitate to drop me a DM! ❤️ #swordofthesevensins #coverreveal #emilycolin #fantasybooks #youngadultbooks #yafantasy #bookreview #booksandflowers #rosesofinstagram #pinkroses #dystopian #indieauthor #authorsofinstagram #houseplants #alocasia #bibliophile #bookphotography #bookish #bookstagramfeature #booklover #bookaddict #bookaholic #igreads #instabooks #bookalicious #yalovin #bookstragram

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This Vicious Way

By Madeline Dyer

(The Dangerous Ones #2)

Readers of this blog know that I’m a massive fan of Madeline Dyer, and have been for a few years now. I’m always excited when she releases a new book in the Untamed universe, this dark, end-of-humanity dystopia where those that are left are divided between the Enhanced, a majority where mankind takes drugs to become superior, and the untamed, the small remnants of society who are determined not to give up what makes them human.

This Vicious Way is her newest release, in the Dangerous Ones spin-off series. And it’s of the best books Madeline Dyer has written to date: fast-paced, thrilling, with unforgettable characters and twists you will never see coming!

Summary

REVENGE IS NEVER EASY…

Aged five, Inga was snatched from her sister’s arms by Bridie’s Assassins, a group of Untamed rebels who believe the way to win the War of Humanity is to use more Untamed children as soldiers. For seven years, Inga’s life consisted of violence, exploitation, and death as they shaped her into their most deadly weapon. Then she escaped.

Now twenty-one, Inga has spent the last six years seeking revenge on the assassins—using the skills they taught her against them—and trying to find her family. She knows the Gods and Goddesses are behind her, because with every assassin she murders, Inga’s gifted with a vision of her cousins, Keelie and Elf. And soon—very soon—Inga is sure she will find her family again. She’s just got to kill all the assassins first.

But when she discovers her own sister is now leading the assassins, Inga’s resolve is tested. Sure, she will stop at nothing to get the life she deserves—even if it means putting other Untamed in danger and losing herself—but can she kill her own flesh and blood?

Musings

It’s always hardest to write a review about a book I adored because most of my thoughts are just muddled screaming nonsense of just “read it read it read it!” which I am urging all my friends to do with this book right now.

Whether you’ve read the Untamed series or not, this book still manages to grip you from the first page. It’s perfectly self-contained, though certain familiar characters make a return. It’s not a spoiler to say that Keelie from A Dangerous Game plays a role, and seeing her from a different perspective was really cool. Vice versa, being inside Inga’s head after having met her in the main series was a fascinating change.

Inga is violent. Not in the uninhibited way Keelie was in ADG, but in the cool and calculated way an assassin behaves. This is, at its core, a revenge story: a girl’s childhood is stolen away, and she will kill all of those responsible for making her into the killing machine is today. She’s brutal in a way the other Untamed characters haven’t been yet, and it makes the read all the more engrossing.

This book was a wild ride start to finish. I can’t wait to see who we’ll meet next in this series!

Every Wrong Right

by M.C. Frank
Outlaws, #2

You know that I’m a sucker for a good retelling. I love books that take a story we all know and love and turn it on its head, bringing depth to the characters we thought we understood and making a classic more complex. There’s a wonderful safety and warmth in these stories, and authors who manage to shift our expectations are to be commended.

Such as author M.D. Frank, who has embraced the task of revisiting the tale of Robin Hood and turning it into a story of assassins, betrayal, torture, and revenge. It’s brilliant, making Maid Marian so much more than a swooning princess, turning her into something bold and new. And her Robin Hood? Swoon. Worthy.

I should shut up and just let you check out my review. And take a minute to swoon over this gorgeous cover with me!

Summary

In the second installment of the Outlaws series, there are more deadly secrets, more pining and more danger to be found.
You’ll discover the answers to many of your questions from book one, and new ones will keep you at the edge of your seat.
Will Robin Hood find out the truth about Ru?
Will Robin and Ru kiss?
Will they finally share the truth about their origins?
Will they stay alive?
Will every wrong be made right?

Musings

Unlike the first book, this book was fast – it takes place over the course of around 24h, and would be perfectly adapted a television episode if this series was ever made into a show (which you know I would LOVE). It centers around a high stakes mission that the band of Outlaws leads in the heart of the castle, with a daring escape and a dangerous fallout.

Ru and Robin’s past becomes clearer, flashbacks filling us in as we go along, giving us more information about how they were split and Ru’s transformation into a little killing machine. We also learn more about her relationship with her father and the other men in the castle – including her future husband. This girl just cannot catch a break, and my heart weeps for her.

Her loyalties are put further to the test as her brother is once again waved in front of her eyes. Yet she cannot deny the positive change Robin is striving for. Whose side is she on – and who will she choose? I just can’t wait for the next book!

Expected publication: April 7th 2020

Tweet Cute Blog Tour + Excerpt!

by Emma Lord

Are you tired of everything being so gloomy? Do you need a break from stress and anxiety? Well, Tweet Cute is the adorable little book that will set your heart fluttering and warm again. I hadn’t realized how much I just needed a book like this in my life until I had finished it, and breathed a breath of fresh air. It’s hot tea and a warm bath for the soul.

Summary

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account. 

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. 

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built. 

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Musings

I just can’t get over how cute and sweet this book was. There are stakes, but there’s nothing but people with good intentions on both sides. There are complex relationships and flawed people, but there was heart in every single one of them.

It’s lighthearted, so if you need something more down to earth, it might not be your best match. But if you need something sweet to lift the soul? Tweet cute is the book for you. It’s fun, it’s witty, and so darn lovable.

And hey, it’s out today!

Excerpt

JACK

“Look.” I glance into the classroom, where Ethan is thoroughly distracted by Stephen and no longer keeping an eye on us. “I may have . . . overreacted.”

Pepper shakes her head. “I told you. I get it. It’s your family.”

“Yeah. But it’s also—well, to be honest, this has been kind of good for business.”

Pepper’s brow furrows, that one little crease returning. “What, the tweets?”

“Yeah.” I scratch the back of my neck, sheepish. “Actually, we had a line out the door yesterday. It was kind of intense.”

“That’s . . . that’s good, right?”

The tone of my voice is clearly not matching up with the words I’m saying, but if I’m being honest, I’m still wary of this whole overnight business boom. And if I’m being honest, I’m even more wary of Pepper. If this really is as much of a family business as she claims it is—to the point where she’s helping run the Twitter handle, when even I know enough about corporate Twitter accounts to know entire teams of experienced people get paid to do that—then she might have had more of a hand in this whole recipe theft thing than she’s letting on.

The fact of the matter is, I can’t trust her. To the point of not knowing whether I can even trust her knowing how our business is doing, or just how badly we need it.

“Yeah, um, I guess.” I try to make it sound noncommittal. My acting skills, much like my breakfast-packing skills, leave much to be desired.

“So . . .”

“So.”

Pepper presses her lips into a thin line, a question in her eyes.

“So, I guess—if your mom really wants you to keep tweeting . . .”

“Wait. Yesterday you were pissed. Two minutes ago you were pissed.”

“I am pissed. You stole from us,” I reiterate. “You stole from an eighty-five-year-old woman.”

“I didn’t—”

“Yeah, yeah, but still. You’re them, and I’m . . . her. It’s like a choose your fighter situation, and we just happen to be the ones up to bat.”

“So you’re saying—you don’t not want me to keep this up?”

“The way I see it, you don’t have to make your mom mad, and we get a few more customers in the door too.”

Pepper takes a breath like she’s going to say something, like she’s going to correct me, but after a moment, she lets it go. Her face can’t quite settle on an expression, toeing the line between dread and relief.

“You’re sure?”

I answer by opening the container she handed me. The smell that immediately wafts out of it should honestly be illegal; it stops kids I’ve never even spoken to in their tracks.

“Are you a witch?” I ask, reaching in and taking a bite of one. It’s like Monster Cake, the Sequel—freaking Christmas in my mouth. I already want more before I’ve even managed to chew. My eyes close as if I’m experiencing an actual drug high—and maybe I am, because I forget myself entirely and say, “This might even be better than our Kitchen Sink Macaroons.”

“Kitchen Sink Macaroons?”

Eyes open again. Yikes. Note to self: dessert is the greatest weapon in Pepper’s arsenal. I swallow my bite so I can answer her.

“It’s kind of well-known, at least in the East Village. It even got in some Hub Seed roundup once. I’d tell you to try some, but you might steal the recipe, so.”

Pepper smiles, then—actually smiles, instead of the little smirk she usually does. It’s not startling, but what it does to me in that moment kind of is.

Before I can examine the unfamiliar lurch in my stomach, the bell rings and knocks the smile right off her face. I follow just behind her, wondering why it suddenly seems too hot in here, like they cranked the air up for December instead of October. I dismiss it by the time I get to my desk—probably just all the Twitter drama and the glory of So Sorry Blondies getting to my head.

“One rule,” she says, as we sit in the last two desks in the back of the room.

I raise my eyebrows at her.

“We don’t take any of it personally.” She leans forward on her desk, leveling with me, her bangs falling into her face. “No more getting mad at each other. Cheese and state.”

“What happens on Twitter stays on Twitter,” I say with a nod of agreement. “Okay, then, second rule: no kid gloves.”

Mrs. Fairchild is giving that stern look over the room that never quite successfully quiets anyone down. Pepper frowns, waiting for me to elaborate.

“I mean—no going easy on each other. If we’re going to play at this, we’re both going to give it our A game, okay? No holding back because we’re . . .”

Friends, I almost say. No, I’m going to say. But then—

“I’d appreciate it if even one of you acknowledged the bell with your silence,” Mrs. Fairchild grumbles.

I turn to Pepper, expecting to find her snapping to attention the way she always does when an adult comes within a hundred feet of disciplining her. But her eyes are still intent on me, like she is sizing something up—like she’s looking forward to something I haven’t anticipated yet.

“All right. No taking it personally. And no holding back.”

She holds her hand out for me to shake again, under the desk so Mrs. Fairchild won’t see it. I smile and shake my head, wondering how someone can be so aggressively seventeen and seventy-five at the same time, and then I take it. Her hand is warm and small in mine, but her grip is surprisingly firm, with a pressure that almost feels like she’s still got her fingers wrapped around mine even after we let go.

I turn back to the whiteboard, a ghost of a smirk on my face. “Let the games begin.”

Captive: A Poetry Collection on OCD, Psychosis, and Brain Inflammation + Excerpt

by Madeline Dyer

It’s not often I review poetry collections, but Madeline Dyer’s makes for an exception as it is an exceptional read. Being a fan of her YA Dystopian series ‘Untamed’ (reviewed quite a few times on this blog) I knew alrighty that she had a talent for vivid imagery, but this collection puts that talent on full display. It’s astounding, and, frankly, terrifying: it details a slow descent into darkness, madness, chronicling the ways your brain can turn against you.

Summary

I just want to get better and see the stars and believe in hope again.

Captive, Madeline Dyer’s first poetry collection, is based on the therapy writings she produced when she was experiencing psychosis and OCD due to Autoimmune Basal Ganglia Encephalitis, a rare type of brain inflammation caused by the immune system attacking the brain. While her communication skills and cognitive abilities diminished due to the effects of the inflammation, she was able to share her thoughts and emotions via the written word, a process that gave her great comfort when she otherwise felt possessed.

Captive provides readers with a glimpse of her tormented mind during this dark time of loneliness, loss, and fear.

Musings

It’s not every day you get to see directly into someone’s mind. Dyer’s poetry chronicles the evolution of her disease, Autoimmune Basal Ganglia Encephalitis, a type of brain inflammation which presents itself in her mind as OCD and psychosis. How terrifying must it be to be trapped inside your mind as it feeds you lies? To know what’s happening but unable to do anything about it? To reach out for help and have no one believe you?

You need no longer wonder. This book is so raw and personal you can’t help but feel angry and afraid, hopeful and heartbroken. More than a person recounting these things to you, Dyer uses poetry to connect with you deeper. The poems are varied in style and tone, but are so well connected, they have a real thread between them. Reading the collection is an experience, almost like being a part of a performative art piece.

I don’t think it’s extreme of me to say that it’s like holding the piece of someone’s soul, laid bare. An absolute must read.

Excerpt: Looking Through Water

Tear-stained and bleary,
the shapes of the world
merge and the wrens
are flying,
too many of them
inside my head
scratching sand into my brain

and I want to escape it all
and swim up, up, up,
until my head breaks the surface
where the sun is warm
and the sky is blue
and the birds aren’t out to get me
and my mind isn’t broken.

But my eyes are heavy,
too heavy.
They weigh my mind down,
anchors from my skull,
and everything is too blurry
and I wake in the night
because I can’t see
and my eyes are inside out.

Looking Through Water, Madeline Dyer, Captive,

Captive is available on Amazon.

Hood – an Outlaws novella

By M.C. Frank
Outlaws Series, book #0

Still in the spirit of sharing novellas, a new one has hit my radar and I’m excited to share it with you. M.C. Frank has been prolific lately: after her magnificent prequel to Salt for Air, Ice Mermaid, we now have a prequel for Everything I Do, her incredible Robin Hood retelling. And wow, what a prequel!

Cover of Hood. Robin looks pensively towards the reader.

Summary

We are probably going to die today,” said John.
“I’m aware,” Robin replied. “But then again, we’re constantly going to die.”
“So what you’re saying is,” Alis hissed behind them, “that you’re used to being about to die.”
“More or less,” Will Scarlet replied, rare laughter in his voice. “The excitement is gone.”

Meet Robin Hood’s band of outlaws. Their story starts with Christmas, a lost love, a hungry town and a robbery.
In this Outlaws novella, Robin Loxley is a tortured young man mourning the loss of his title, his lands and his first love. Tonight, with the help of his close friends, he will get a new name that will live in history, a cat that could care less that Robin happens to be the most brilliant archer in medieval England, and a chance to prove himself by rescuing a lady from a fire.
But this is no ordinary lady…
And that is no ordinary fire…

Musings

Taking place on Christmas (perfect timing!), not too long before the events of Everything I Do, we get the inside scoop on how the little band of Outlaws made a name for themselves. And speaking of names – why is he called ‘Robin Hood’, by the way? This is wonderful insight for those who have already started the Outlaws series, but also makes a great invistation into the series for those who are only just now discovering it. And clocking in at 90 pages, this isn’t a short novella!

Unlike in Everything I Do, the perspective of Hood belongs solely to Robin himself. I felt a tonal shift compared to the novel: much more introspective, like when the author wrote her No Ordinary Star series. Absolutely beautiful. We follow Robin as he tries to find his new place in the world, after escaping the prison with his friends: trying to do what’s right, save the people of Nottingham from a terrible villain, keep them from starving on christmas day… while at the same time, trying to save himself. The trauma of his time in the prisons, starving to death, and the loss of his love. As a result, the author weaves high tension moments with quiet scenes that pack an emotional punch.

It’s definitely a loving introduction to the band of merry men, whether you have read the first book or not. It feels essential to the series, like it could have been in an extended version of Everything I Do. There’s no more loving squad than Alis, Little, Tuck, John, and Robin. If you love Good vs Evil type stories, classics brought back with depth, and of course, a great dose of adventure, then you need this book!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZZJ4JC5/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48716534-hood

November Novella Palooza!

Hello, bookworms! it’s been a while since my last post, hasn’t it? Things have been busy in my neck of the woods, though I never want to stop posting reviews. So I hope you’ll all forgive me, and stick with me as I bring you through some fun, short reads for you today. That’s right, I’m going to talk about novellas!

Why novellas? Well, it seems, by some twist of fate, that many authors I adore have written something short and fun and released them this very week. So why not celebrate them all?

Ice Mermaid (Salt for Air #0.5)

by M.C. Frank 

Blurb

“Darius.” It came out choking from his chapped lips, and his head jerked as he tried to look up into her face.
“What now?”
“‘S my name. Darius. Thank you.”
Of all the humans drowning around her, she had to be stuck with the one who bothered to mind his manners as he was dying. She bit back a laugh. “Well, good to know. Stay alive, Darius.”
“Death feels so warm,” he whispered, those brown eyes hooded as they looked into hers. “Didn’t know there were mermaids in heaven. Ice mermaids…So beautiful. Jewels for eyes, pearls for hair.”
Behind them, the great ship that had the words “Titanic” painted on its bow was cracking as it tilted into the freezing waters of the ocean.

Lorelei gave a frustrated sigh and tightened her hold on him.

Ice Mermaid is a Salt for Air novella about a mermaid who witnesses the sinking of the Titanic. It’s not necessary to read it before Salt for Air in order to understand the series, but it definitely adds to it.

Musings

M.C. Frank has done it again: and somehow, this time, in short-form brilliance.

When a passing mermaid witnesses firsthand the sinking of the Titanic, even she is moved by the immense loss of human life. What do you do in the face of such a catastrophe but latch on to one person, try to save just one – no matter the personal cost.

I loved this look into the Mermaid side of Salt for Air. In the first book of the series, we have a human perspective: in this prequel, we follow a character who is later quite important in SFA, a mermaid. We get to understand the upcoming war which plays a key part in the plot for SFA, but is in the background of this short.

The author’s signature style comes into play, beautiful, lyrical, and contemplative all at once. The importance of love and mortality in our own human nature is brought to the forefront, and makes for an excellent little philosophical quandry, if you’re into that. And if you’re not? It’s just a sweet, romantic moment.

This novella works great as a prequel since it doesn’t require any previous knowledge of the series to truly enjoy it. As a matter of fact, it makes for a perfect hook into the series: if you read this novella, beware, you’re going to want to read Salt for Air right away, so plan your reading time accordingly!

Get it FOR FREE right here!


Sip (The Audacity’s Horrific Horror’s, #1)

by Laura Loup

Blurb

Vampires, aliens, gore, and pyramid schemes await!

In a haphazard grab at eternal life for the short-lived May, Xan gets reeled in by a killer pyramid scheme. Will either of them survive? No. The answer to that is no, they won’t.

You’re about to enter a side of the Audacity you haven’t seen before. A dark side. Ghastly, gruesome, dreadful, and at times even spooky. We’re here to peek our heads through a tiny rip in the fabric of space and time and peer into an alternate reality wherein horrible horrors await our wholesome heroes and the only explanations are unexplainable.
If you’re squeamish, turn back now!
Rest assured dear readers, none of what follows is canon.

Musings

Now, I haven’t read this novella yet! All I know is I probably need to save it for Halloween itself, to really get the mood right. Sometimes you gotta plan these things just right to get the most out of it. I just adore Laura Loup’s writing (such obvious love for Douglas Adams!) that I know I’m going to love it, and you are too! Also, #Gayliens.

Preorder now to read on Halloween with me!


When We Were Young (Rose Haven #0.5)

by Elin Annalise

Blurb

It has been eight years since Emma last saw Oscar, the love of her life. Eight years since their messy breakup. She never wanted to see him again and relive that pain, but then she finds his photo album among her boxes of college things.

Oscar never met his parents. They died the day he was born, and the only connection he has to them is through the photo album his grandmother gave him. A photo album he thought he’d never see again.

When Emma returns the photo album to him, Oscar discovers it’s not just the album that’s been missing from his life for the last eight years. But can Emma ever forgive him for what he did?

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG is a prequel short story to Elin Annalise’s upcoming novel WHAT WE HAVE, the first book in the Rose Haven series.

Musings

While I haven’t read this one yet, it’s come to me recommended by awesome friends who tell me it’s a super sweet romance! Elin Annalise is a debut romance author who is releasing this prequel before the release of the first Rose Haven novel, adding some excitement for the upcoming book. I’ve been told it’s the perfect book to go with a cup of tea, one that will really make you smile.

Preorder now before its release tomorrow!


Head Over Heels (Starstruck #5.5)

by S.E. Anderson

Blurb

Guillotines, Ghouls, and Ghosts, Oh my!

Paris, 1793. Things go terribly wrong while trying to help Marie Antoinette, an old friend of Zander’s, escape the guillotine. Sally suddenly finds herself without a body and lost rolling through the streets of Paris, in need of a neck and a stiff drink.

Vienna, 1769. Zander’s undercover investigation into the disappearances of the Holfburg Palace staff takes a dramatic turn when the young archduchess starts stalking him. Armed with only some salad dressing and elaborate dance moves, he must solve the mystery before time runs out – all while helping the future queen of France deal with a teenage crush.

This short and spooky adventure takes place some undetermined time after the events of Starbound, but has no bearing on the next books in the series.

Musings

I’m a bit biased on this one… because it’s MY novella! Yup, this Starstruck short had a surprise release Saturday, and I’m hoping everyone is really going to love it. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s just for my wonderful funs, for being so, well, wonderful.

It’ll be free until Halloween, then available for kindle. Who knows, maybe I’ll make us a paperback someday!

Get Head over Heels for FREE!

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

By Adrienne Young

Adrienne Young has done it again! I can’t get enough of her Viking fantasy novels. They’re wonderful and enthralling and have the most badass women in fiction, ever. 

Summary

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Musings

Fair warning, this book can be quite brutal. The author makes it very clear that absolutely anyone can die at any time. So many of your favorite characters will not make it until the end. That is just the brutality of war. One clan has learned to grow past it, to no longer want it – and another, with a power-hungry leader, want to take the opportunity to rule. After the events of Sky In the Deep, the newly merged tribes know war is the last thing they want – but they know how to fight. 

Halvard, the cute little brother from book one, has done a serious glow up. Ten years later and he’s tagged to be the next chief of the clan, a boy raised in peace to despise war. The book follows his growth as he learns to accept his new role and lead his people through a time no one wants for anyone. It is a heavy burden and he must learn not to shoulder it alone. 

But the Girl the Sea Gave Back is Tova, the other protagonist of this book, and she’s a mystery even to herself. An outcast in the Svell clan for being a Kyrr, she also has the ability to read runes and see the future. But what she can’t she is her own beginnings. This mismatch of identity and basically abuse at the hands of the people who sheltered her drives her growth in this novel. But Tova’s personal story almost takes a step back as we explore the greater story of immident war. The question that arises then is: what role does fate play in our lives? Is everything set in (rune) stone? Is war inevitable or inadmissible?

I absolutely loved how we returned to the world of Eelyn and Fiske but saw a completely different side of it. Old favorites return and we see how the end of their war has changed them. How people grow during times of peace. How a peaceful people prepares for a war they do not want. How, on the other side, power corrupts. 

It’s even stronger than Sky in the Deep. I loved it so much! 

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🌊 If you were blessed with a divine ability, what would it be? ☀️ Hello bookworms! Im so excited to be a part of the The Girl the Sea Gave Back Blog tour! If any of you are fans of Vikings, then you need this book. Adrienne Young @adrienneyoungbooks is an insanely talented author, and she weaves together an exciting novel that really transports you back in time. We follow character from Sky in the Deep, her first novel, but both are standalones and can be read without the other (even though I highly recommend them both). I loved this book even more than the first! 💨⛰✨ Short blurb: For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse. When her clan decide how they choose to survive, Tova must set in motion a series of events that could change her world forever. 🌊 💨🌙 Thanks to @titanbooks, I got to ask the author the same QOTD. Here’s what she said: I would probably want the ability to breathe underwater. I am really fascinated by the sea and sea life and I often have dreams where I’m under water and I’m not holding my breath. 🐟 🐠 🦈 The Girl the Sea Gave Back comes out TOMORROW! I’m so excited to be a part of the tour, a massive thank you both to Titan Books and Adrienne Young for letting me be a part of it. This intense Viking novel will have you on the edge of your Sea all the way until the end. It’s exhilarating! ✨🔥🌊 #thegirltheseagaveback #adrienneyoung #sea #ocean #booksandnature #booksandsea #bookstagram #blogtour #booktour #amreading #vikings #sunset #travel #france #marseillemaville #bookworm #mustread #titanbooks

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