Where Dreams Descend – Blog Tour + Excerpt

by Janella Angeles

I was so excited when I got invited to be a part of this blog tour! I had seen this gorgeous book all over bookstagram – Owlcrate’s special edition is pure magic – and could tell right away that this book is special. I still can’t believe how quickly I read it!

Summary

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Musings

Before I even started this book, I read it was “a combination of Moulin Rouge and Phantom of the Opera with a dash of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus” (thanks, goodreads reviewer!) and I was hooked, though it meant my expectations were really, really high. The book delivers: it’s fun, it’s dark, and it’s showy. It captures this old timey glitz and glam of the circus and stage magicians – only this time with real magic, to make it even more enticing.

The characters we follow are brilliant and charismatic, though perhaps a twinge over the top? The headhopping was unsettling at first, though I’m assuming that comes from the formatting of the eARC I was given. Thankfully, the wordbuilding was so powerful I was willing to read on and was quickly hooked.

Kallia is incredibly stubborn and headstrong, but she’s also smart and has the talent to show for it. Since their society is incredibly sexist and women aren’t exactly allowed to do show magic, she has to fight for every minute she’s on stage. This made her a little hard to relate to, but then I realized I was criticizing her the same way we criticize ‘bossy’ women, and it hit me that her stubbornness was just pure determination. Gotta love a girl like that.

All in all, it’s a fun, solid debut, and I’m looking forward to the sequel!

Meet the author

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Excerpt

(Blogger’s note: the first line of the book seems oddly on point for our current world, don’t you think?)

Never come to Hellfire House without wearing a mask.

It was one of the rare rules in a joint without any. The only rule the master of the club did not mind following. He blended in with the sea of suits and white masks that arrived every other night, switching appearances from crowd to crowd. A bartender one moment, a dealer at the card tables the next.

Only his face remained the same, half-masked and haunting. Like a prince who relished the bloody crown on his head, and the ghosts that came with it. A face almost hardened by beauty, though glints of youth ran deep beneath soft black eyes. It always shocked new guests, to see him. The master of the House was rumored to be a dragon of a man. A monster. A magician who had no mercy for fools.

Only those who dared slur the word boy in his face understood how true those rumors were.

To the rest, he played the devil on all shoulders, leading patrons to his bar and game tables, guiding them toward his enchanted smoke lounge to drown in curated memories. The warmth of first love, the heady rush of triumph, the immense joy of dreams come true. The master kept a selection of sensations, and one hit of the pipes delivered magic the people came crawling to his house to taste.

They had no idea the show that was in store for them.

The master of the House sipped his short glass of scarlet whiskey in peace, tapping along the wide black strip over his brass knuckles. He’d long since manipulated his attire, sitting casually at a card table and savoring the mayhem. Raucous cheers erupted from the next table as dice rolled out across the surface. Smiling Hellfire girls in black blazers and masks of lace denied patrons begging for a dance. Loudest of all, the dealer’s crisp shuffling of the black cards with teeth-white numbers before she doled out hands to players at the table.

“No, no more,” one moaned. “I can’t.”

“Sure you can, chap.” A young man in a white thorn-edged mask cheerfully pressed him back in his seat. “We can’t leave. Haven’t even finished your drink, yet.”

His drunken friend’s mouth puckered under another gulp. “Think it’s true, the drink? Magician’s Blood, the menu said.”

“Think you have power, now?” Thorn Mask laughed, leaning back to appraise the club. “Here, you take your magic where you can get it. You wear a mask. You flip a card, smoke a memory. Or you look up . . . at her.”

The master’s fingers tightened around his glass, just as the lights dimmed. Dancers cleared the floor under the hush of music, shifting from smooth, steady beats to a racing rhythm loud as thunderous applause.

Right on cue.

The band’s worth of instruments he’d charmed for the night started up a wild entry tune of drums, the thick trill of trumpets. Chatter ceased and backs straightened as a beam of light speared toward the ceiling. A panel slid open over the dance floor.

And the chandelier descended.

Strings of crystals dangled along tiered rims of rose gold, cutting sharply into a jewel-set swing where a masked showgirl sat. A throne of glittering jewels, casting luminous lace across the walls and the ground and the audience taking her in. Her brown skin glowed against her corset, red as her gem-studded mask. Arms stretched out, she crossed and extended her legs in smooth lines all the way down, until her heels touched the lacquered black dancefloor. With the hint of a smile, she rose from her throne and stalked forward, thrusting a hand up with a snap.

Darkness engulfed the room.

Hoots and hollers rang at the drop of the beat, before a glimmer of her form reappeared in the shadows. The room pulsed at her command, matching the spike of heartbeats the master sensed throughout the club.

The smirk on his lips matched the girl’s as she arched her back to the raw stretch of the melody. She thrived under the attention, like a wildflower under the sun. A star finding the night.

His star.

“I’ll be damned.” The drunk at the card table breathed in awe, as the girl’s palms began brightening with a molten glow. “Nothing like an academy girl.”

“Worth the trip, right?” His friend clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“I didn’t know they could be magicians like . . . this.

The master smothered a dark scoff under a sip of whiskey. The girl showed off good tricks—improvised and bettered from his basic crowd-pleasers. Treating the ceiling like a sky and showering comets from it, casting an elaborate shadow show of dancing shades over the floor, shifting every candlelight in the room to different colors to the beat of the music.

But always the performer, she preferred to be front and center. Teasing her power just enough to make the audience want more of her magic, more of her.

He wet his lips as flames shot from her hands, arcing over her head and around her body. The fire’s melody bent to her every movement, and she gave everything to it. If she wasn’t careful, she’d overexert herself like she did most nights, never knowing when to stop. How to pull back.

Careful never was her strongest suit.

Sparks fell before her, sizzling on the ground. Unafraid, she sauntered down her stage of flames with slow swaying hips and a firelit smile.

“Magicians like this are best kept a secret,” Thorn Mask went on. “And besides, the work is far too scandalous for a lady. Only clubs will take them.”

“What a shame. Imagine going up against the likes of her at the competition.”

The master paused, drawing his gaze back to his glass.

“Not this again. That flyer was nothing but a joke.” Thorn Mask slapped the table with a groaning laugh. “A prank.”

The drunk sloppily patted around his coat, pulling from his breast pocket a dirty, scrunched ball of paper. “It’s real. They’re all over the academies, in Deque and New Crown and—”

“A prank,” repeated Thorn Mask, unfolding the flyer anyway. “It has to be. No one’s been to that city in ages, it would never open itself to such games.”

“That makes it all the more interesting, don’t you think?” As another roar of cheers erupted around them, the friend sipped his drink smugly. “Imagine if she entered, the city might implode.”

“Right. As if that would ever happen.” Thorn Mask leered. “Competition would eat a creature like her alive.”

“Because she’s . . . ?”

With an impish lift of his brow, the man in the thorny mask flicked the flyer off the table and returned to his forgotten spread of cards. “Let’s get on with the game, shall we?”

Before he could gesture at the dealer, the master suddenly appeared at their table, snatching the young man’s wrist in a biting grip. The man yelped as the force knocked over his drink, and sent a stream of hidden cards spilling out from his sleeves.

“What’s this?” The master bent toward the ground and picked up a couple, entirely too calm. “Cheating in my house?”

The man froze, recognition dawning at the brass knuckles alone. “Where did you—I-I mean,” he sputtered, patting frantically at his sleeve. “That’s impossible. Those aren’t mine, I swear.”

“Then where did they come from?”

Sweat dripped from his temple, his face paler than the white of his mask. “I emptied my pockets at the door. Honest.”

Honest. That was the best he could do? The master almost laughed.

“You want to know the price cheaters pay in my joint?” His question offered no mercy. Only deliverance, served on ice. “Memories.”

“No, please!” The man’s lip trembled. “I didn’t, I-I’ll do whatever you want!”

“This is what I want.” The master rose from the table with the jerk of his wrist. The cheat flew to the ground in a gasp as he gripped at the invisible chain-like weight around his neck. Sharp, staccato breaths followed the master as he dragged his prisoner toward the smoke dens.

The man screamed, but no one heard him. No one saw, no one cared. All eyes fell on the star of the show as she searched for a dance partner to join her. The drunken friend, noticing nothing amiss, raised his half-full glass of Magician’s Blood to his lips before waving his hand high like the others. The man thrashed harder, only to feel his cries smothered and deeper in his throat. His form, invisible at the sweep of the master’s hand.

With a disdainful glance, the master chuckled. “You’re only making this more difficult for yourself. One memory won’t kill you.”

At once, he paused. The lights blinked around them, the air grown still. Dim and hazy, as though locked in a dream.

He thought nothing of it until he caught the movements of the patrons—their arms raised and waving slowly, increment by increment. Their cheers dulled and stretched into low, gravelly roars, as if the sound were wading through heavier air. Against time itself.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

The sound of her voice slithered around him, stopping the master in his tracks. The man quieted. Sweat soaked his pale face, his chest heaving. The showgirl stood in their path, every stare in the room still locked on the spotlit floor where she’d been. As though she’d never left.

Impressive.

Her red corset glinted as she cocked her hip and pointed at the man on the floor. “I choose him.”

She could never let things be easy.

“Kallia,” he growled, warning.

She smiled. “Jack.”

“Pick another. He’s a cheater.”

Her lips pursed into a dubious line. “Then let me teach him a lesson. He’ll no doubt prefer it more.” She swung a leg over the man’s prone form so she stood directly above him. Invitation dripped from the crook of her fingers. “The music calls, darling. Let’s have ourselves a grand time.”

The man’s terror turned swiftly into awe, and he looked at her as if ready to kiss the ground she walked on. As soon as he took her beckoning hand, the room resumed its lively rhythm—a song snapped back in full swing. The cheers and hollers returned to their normal speed, exploding in delight as patrons found their lovely entertainer in their midst, her chosen dance partner in tow.

She bypassed the master, pressing a casual hand on his chest to move him. It lingered, he noticed. Unafraid, unlike most. Their gazes locked for a moment, their masked faces inches apart.

No one ever dared to get this close. To him, to her.

Only each other.

At the next round of cheers and whistles, she pushed him away, smug as a cat. Tugging the man close behind her, she sent fires onto the ground that illuminated her path and warded others from trying to follow them to the stage. Never once looking back at the master, even as he watched on after her.

His fist tightened, full of the cards from his earlier trick. They disappeared into mist, having served their purpose. Along with the flyer he managed to grab.

He didn’t even bother giving it a read. It died in the fire caged by his palm. Tendrils of smoke rose between his brass knuckles, and when he opened his fingers, nothing but ash fell to the ground.

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!

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 Audacity

by Laura Loup

Ok, this is BY FAR the funnest and funniest book I’ve read this year! It’s a laugh fest that will have you in stitches. Turn the dial up on space operas to the max, and you’d have the Audacity.

Summary

May’s humdrum life gets flung into hyperdrive when she’s abducted, but not all aliens are out to probe her. She’s inadvertently rescued by Xan who’s been orbiting Earth in a day-glo orange rocket ship, watching re-runs of “I Love Lucy”. 

Seizing the opportunity for a better life, May learns how to race the Audacity and pilots her way into interstellar infamy. Finally, she has a job she likes and a friend to share her winnings with—until the Goddess of Chaos screws the whole thing up, and Xan’s unmentionable past makes a booty call.

Musings

I don’t even know where to start with the review. Do you like relatable main characters who are thrown into insane situations? Check. Do you love non-creepy, totally healthy, absolutely adorable men-women friendships? Check. Do you love mad, off the hook, oddball scenarios taken in stride? CHECK. This book has everything!

(Also, were you a fan of the lesbian purple goddess who just won the world cup? Um, this book has one. It totally predicted the world cup.)

The Audacity is a book written with so much love. Love to the genre; love to Douglas Adams; love to a chaotic universe and those of us just trying to live through it. That love oozes out of every page and gets you stuck like glue. May is one of the spunkiest characters I have ever read and I see so much of myself in her. And Xan, her crazy alien friend with Day-Glo hair and a ship which really shouldn’t be able to fly with him at the helm, is the BFF you always wanted to have.

It’s a fun book, a fun-loving book, and a loving-fun book. You’ve got love triangles here there and everywhere making shapes that should only be visible in the fourth dimension. Character growth which reaches peak heights. An alien invasion of Earth for all the wrong reasons.

Basically, if you want to have a fun time in space, you need this book!

If Douglas Adams got punted into a sticky orange pool of feminism and made sweet love to Futurama, you’d have something approximating The Audacity. 

Fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will appreciate the style, fans of Futurama will love the blend of laugh out loud humor and feels, fans of Steven Universe will enjoy that Space is Very Gay. 

If you’re tired of the same old cynical, militaristic sci-fi and crave characters who genuinely care about each other and an image of life in the Universe that isn’t all gloom and doom, you’re going to have a good time in the Audacity. 

Lose Me Now in Hardcover!

Hello bookworms!

Last year I reviewed the amazing retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Lose Me, by M.C. Frank. And now the book is out in glorious hardcover! It includes an exclusive Wes story and Wes and Ari original art That I’m so excited to see!

“Jane Austen meets Hollywood bad boys in this hate-to-love romance.”

The golden boy. Wes Spencer, aka Mr. Darcy, has it all: the face of a Greek god, millions of adoring fans, a mile-long yacht and a bored attitude. The last thing he needs is a crew member on his new film set nearly dying in his arms.

The stunt girl. That’s me, Ari Demos. I just landed a coveted job as a stunt double in the new Pride and Prejudice movie adaptation starring actor slash phenomenon Weston Spencer. Cue high dives and complicated car stunts along the narrow cliffs of Corfu -one false step and I could lose not only my job, but my life.

I wanted nothing to do with the arrogant English boy. Waking up to his kiss was something other girls dreamed of, not me. The movie star is the last person I’d expect to save my life. Falling in love was never supposed to be part of the job. Fighting to stay alive was never supposed to be part of growing up.

“Today is not the day I die.”

Grab your copy quick!

If you’re not sold just yet, check out my review and see why I think you’re going to fall in love too: review

Battle Planet: Champion of Earth

by Andrew Gates

It’s been a while since I did a self-pub Saturday! Today, I’m bringing you an interview with one of my favorite self pub authors, Andrew Gates. You might remember him from such books as ‘Iris’ and ‘Hive’ – his incredibly epic Color of Water and Sky series. As that series ended, new ones begin: this young author has big plans for new books, and his latest Scifi novel, Battle Planet, is intended to release on the 23rd.

Summary

Battle Planet: The Champion of Earth by [Gates, Andrew]

Berlin in 1988. Rock music, revolution, gladiators in space.

Janice Milani was an ordinary American abroad in Berlin during the final days of the Cold War… until she was taken in the night by an alien captor. Now Janice, along with four other captives, suddenly find themselves on an alien world where sentient creatures from across the universe are made to fight in the Battle Arena for sport. Desperate to escape the arena and get back to Earth, the only way Janice can get home is to be crowned as champion of the games. And to do that, she will have to fight like she has never fought before.

An Interview with Andrew Gates

Let’s start at the very beginning. How on earth did you come up with the concept for Battle Planet?

Ha! That’s probably the best question. The biggest influence I had is a Marvel comics event series called Secret Wars, which came out back in the 80s. The premise is that superheroes and villains are kidnapped from earth and forced to fight each other by a being named the Beyonder. I think that premise in itself is just so cool. And with the recent success of the movie Thor: Ragnarok, I figured the timing for a story like this was good because there is clearly an interest in an outer space gladiator story. In fact, the villain in Battle Planet, Queen Jakani, was inspired by the villain from Thor: Ragnarok, Hela.

What prompted you to make it start in the 80’s, in Berlin? How is Janice’s character different from a woman from 30 years in her future – 2018?

It’s kind of a strange thing of mine, but I have never been a fan of stories set in the present day. The reason for this is that I find if you were to read a story any other time after the book comes out, it gets dated pretty quickly. And it’s not just books. To be honest it even bugs me when I watch a movie and it says “present day” in the movie because I know that if I watch this movie 10 years from now, it’s immediately dating itself. So instead I like to set things in period because you can read period stories at any time and it’s supposed to be dated. Doing this also allows the writer to take full advantage of everything that time period has to offer – that could be anything from grand geopolitical elements to something as trivial as music or fashion. This wasn’t so much of an issue for me when I was writing The Color of Water and Sky because that story is set in the future, but if you read my short story collection, Kangblabla!, I have five stories in that collection. Three of them are in the future, one of them is in the 90s and one of them is in the 70s. Nothing is set in the present day.

Tell us a bit about the Battle Arena. What kind of creatures find themselves there? And who watches the games, as a spectator? Take us there briefly?

Every type of creature finds themselves in the Battle Arena. Part of the fun in writing this is coming up with crazy ideas for creatures that might be in the arena. This was where I was really able to push the full limits of my creativity. There are creatures who can split apart and put themselves back together, creatures who can turn invisible, who have two heads or multiple limbs, creatures that are more tree-like than they are animal-like, creatures that are huge or tiny. And obviously, some creatures are more familiar to things we know on Earth than others.

The humans who are taken to the Battle Arena were taken there at complete random, which was something I thought was important because I wanted to get a unique cross section of humankind on this planet. The idea is that five random people are picked with no preference towards any single trait whatsoever. So obviously if that were to happen, you would get a totally random mix of genders, ages, races, nationalities, physical abilities, education and so forth. For example, of the five people taken in Battle Planet, two are Asian, one is European, one is North American and one is South American. There are three females, two males. The ages range from young kids to elderly.

That is also where the Cold War aspect of the story comes into play, because in this time-period, you have all these people from super polarizing political climates forced into a situation with one another where they need to work together and get along. These national identities and national experiences are what drives a lot of the characters and their trust or distrust for one another.

As for the spectators, they’re just there to have a good time and watch the games. They aren’t sickos or sadists necessarily who love to watch pain and torture in the gladiator games. For the spectators, watching people fight to the death is totally normal in the same way that ancient Romans would watch gladiator matches thousands of years ago. The competitors in the arena don’t view the spectators so nonchalantly though.

Was Janice you favorite character to write in this new book, or are there other characters waiting to steal the crown? Do you have favorites when it comes to the writing process?

I think more interesting than any individual character of Janice was the story as a whole. The shared experience that all five of these folks go through is really the most interesting part for me. And honestly, the character of Janice would be nothing if she weren’t working off of the other characters around her. The interaction between the different characters is really the payoff rather than one individual character standing out.

Though I will say, Janice has an excellent taste in music, which is basically just my taste in music expressed through her.

This is your first novel outside of your epic Color of Water and Sky series. How was the writing experience for you, writing in an entirely new world? When you started, were you still working on HIVE, the conclusion to your series, or had you already finished it?

I was still working on Hive at the same time, yes. Interestingly the idea of doing something new and the excitement around starting a different project led me to write Battle Planet extremely fast. This is easily the fastest story of this length I have ever written and I think it was because I was just so excited to get working on something new and different.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in crafting your books?

I’ve learned that writing a novel isn’t all that hard so long as you are confident in what you are doing. I think that is another part of the reason this story came together so quickly. When I first wrote Iris, that took me a LONG time. Granted, it was a longer book, but the pace at which I wrote was much slower and I would constantly go back and re-edit everything tons of times. I think, for most writers, this is true for their first couple of books. But now that I am more confident, I am writing much faster and not micro-editing everything all the time.

Will Battle Planet be the beginning of a new series, or stand entirely alone?

I am still trying to determine the answer to that question myself, but if I do end up writing a second one, it will likely be a prequel instead of a sequel. I think it would be really cool to do a story set in ancient times. There are definitely a lot of things about the Battle Planet that I intentionally left unanswered so there is certainly potential there if I wanted to do a prequel.

You have so many incredible books coming out this year. I’m really excited to get to read them all. Can you tell us a little more about what’s coming our way? What are you most excited about sharing with us?

April is an awesome month for me and I am doing that intentionally. I have had some projects that were basically ready to go that I have held off on until now because I want April to be a huge month.

One week after Battle Planet’s release, I’ll be releasing part one of a three-part series. The book is called Seas of the Red Star and the series is called Pirates of Vexa Prime. The book originally started as a co-authorship between me and MD Cooper, but a few things changed and now the story is 100% mine. The premise is really interesting. It’s about two starship pilots who are stranded on an ocean world, where 18th Century sailors live. The pilots have to get off world and back to their home without any tech and their only help comes from a society that still hasn’t even figured out combustion engines yet. It’s already up for pre-order here.

One week after that, the sequel to Seas of the Red Star will come out, called The Daltus Conspiracy. It is also up for pre-order here.

I also have a new short story coming out as part of an anthology put together by Keystroke Medium. The story is about a virus that has destroyed most of the human population and only those people in remote places are still alive. That will come out sometime in April or May, but I don’t know the exact date yet.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Mostly my readers are frustrated that the alien character names are so hard to pronounce.

Outside of writing, what does Andrew Gates get up to?

I’ve been super into Halo lately. I love watching movies too. Everything that Marvel is putting out recently has been top notch. I also like running (I’m doing a full marathon the day after this interview gets posted actually). I also write for a local running magazine called Run Washington Magazine. You can find all that stuff here.

Battle Planet: The Champion of Earth is slated to release on April 23rd, though you can preorder your copy now!

Starbound Cover Reveal!

I’ve kept you waiting this long, I won’t test your patience any longer. Without any further ado, allow me to present… Starbound!

Home is where the heart is. Or maybe the pizza.

There’s no better feeling than being back home after a long week exploring the galaxy, though being abandoned by one’s friends and left to fend off a glitching evil robot spoils it. All that’s left is to settle back into life, preparing Marcy’s wedding and job hunting. If only mysterious midnight SWAT teams and crop-circle crafting-sessions weren’t constantly getting in Sally’s way.

When an old foe returns, and Sally is the only person on the planet to recognize it, it’s up to her, her sullen ex, and an overly-excitable FBI agent to save the planet. But first they have to get the president safely out of his favorite sushi bar without starting the war of the worlds.

It’s hard maintaining a long-distance relationship when your crush is light years away and thinks you died of old age, but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet. Sally must save the planet, the universe, and herself – though maybe she’ll take a nap first.

 Book five of the Starstruck Saga releases on August 20th, 2019!