Category Archives: book tour
by Tracy Barrett
Sixteen-year-old Clancy Edwards has always been “the good girl.” Ever since her mother died in a skydiving accident when Clancy was young, Clancy’s father has watched her like a hawk. Between her dad’s rules and her boyfriend’s protectiveness, she’s longing for an escape this summer. Then she meets Denny.
Denny is a new skydiving student and college freshman. Clancy lets Denny think they’re the same age–and that she’s old enough to make decisions for herself. But the lies snowball, relationships are damaged, and suddenly Clancy isn’t the person she wants to be. If only making choices were as simple as taking a leap out of a plane. Before Clancy can make things right, one last act of rebellion threatens her chance to do so–maybe forever.
Jumpers try to avoid reserve rides, even though every instructor reminds students, “When in doubt, whip it out.” It’s not only the expense of paying a rigger to repack the reserve. Reserves open fast, and the hard opening can give you whiplash, but it’s not the discomfort either. The main thing is that jumpers are superstitious. If you dump the reserve and it malfunctions too, you’re sunk. Nowhere to go. Reserves just about never malfunction, and the odds against both the main and the reserve malfunctioning are astronomical, but still. . . .
So my mom had tried everything to clear the main. She did exactly what you’re trained to do, exactly what I’d heard my dad and Leon and Noel and Randy and Louisa and Patsy tell their students: “If the pilot chute or the main canopy gets stuck, you have to break the burble.” So she flipped over. It didn’t work, so she flipped back to cut away, so the canopy would fly away cleanly. She had no way of knowing that the AAD would fire at precisely the wrong moment, making the two chutes—the main and the
reserve—snag each other, and that neither one would open.
I watched to the end, seeing the pink canopy and the white one wrap around each other, making a big nasty barber pole that didn’t slow my mom down enough to make a difference. Then, when Angie dropped the camera, the ground came up, up, up to the camera lens, and then—whomp. And the screen went black. Was that the last thing my mom saw? The ground coming up, and then nothing? What did she think about in those last seconds? Did she think of me? Of my dad?
After I went to sleep, I saw it over and over again, only sometimes she cut away sooner and sometimes she cut away later. But no matter what she did, it ended the same way, with the camera thumping on the ground and the sounds of screaming and crying.
I woke up when my dad got home, and I wanted to ask him to come sit by my bed until I fell asleep again. I wanted to tell him about how Theo was acting weird and how confused I was about Denny—about whether he was just a DZ friend or whether he was interested in me (and whether I was interested in him), and what I should do about it if he was. Or I was. I wanted to confess that I’d driven the car on Travis day and had done just fine.
I couldn’t. He’d ground me forever. Anyway, he wasn’t the sit-by-the-bed-until-you-fall-asleep kind of dad, and even if he were, once I got started, I’d tell him about watching the video. And seeing that we hadn’t talked about my mom’s death ever, not even once, I couldn’t do that.
Copyright © 2018 by Tracy Barrett
About the Author
Tracy grew up near New York City, and went to college in New England and graduate school in California. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Classics-Archaeology from Brown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study medieval women writers and won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Work-in-Progress Grant in 2005. She taught Italian and other subjects at Vanderbilt University for almost thirty years. She has two grown children and lives in Tennessee with her husband and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of FREEFALL SUMMER and Swags (signed bookplate and a silver skydiving pendant) by Tracy Barrett.
The Leading Edge of Now
by Marci Lyn Curtis
Just when Grace is beginning to get used to being an orphan, her estranged uncle suddenly comes forward to claim her. That might have been okay if he’d spoken to her even once since her father died. Or if moving in with Uncle Rusty didn’t mean returning to New Harbor.
Grace once spent the best summers of her life in New Harbor. Now the place just reminds her of all she’s lost: her best friend, her boyfriend and any memory of the night that changed her forever.
People say the truth will set you free, but Grace isn’t sure about that. Once she starts looking for it, the truth about that night is hard to find — and what happens when her healing hurts the people she cares about the most?
There’s a moment when I do not breathe, when my heart rate goes volcanic, when the distance to Rusty’s house seems so wide and so impassable that it will take me hours to scramble back.
Owen is staring at me, eyebrows crashed together like he’s trying to solve a particularly difficult crossword puzzle. It’s an expression I know well, seeing as how I’ve spent half a lifetime watching him stand in the garage, gazing at his projects as though he were unraveling the greatest mysteries of the universe.
I want to turn around and run.
I want to slap him.
I want to burst into tears.
What I do, though, is stare at him. He looks the same now, only different. While his dusty blond hair has been cut short, his eyes are the same — still clear emerald-green, big and serious, with lashes as long as palm fronds. He’s probably grown a full two inches since I last saw him, and he’s broader across the chest. On his right forearm is the small diagonal scar he got back in the third grade, when he tried to build a birdhouse for an endangered owl. I always considered that scar one of the things that made Owen Owen. But now it looks misplaced, inappropriate. I have to resist the urge to try to scratch it off. I close my eyes, like maybe I can erase his presence that easily. But he smells so familiar — like sawdust and coffee and soap — that this particular action only makes him more real.
I open my eyes again.
Owen plucks the headphones out of his ears. “Grace,” he says slowly, like he’s trying to remember how my name is pronounced.
Now would be the proper time to speak. But I’m pretty sure that my mouth has been blown apart and then reattached backwards and inside out, a couple of miles north of my vocal cords. So I just continue to look at him.
A few decades pass.
I clear my throat. It sounds like an old, brittle floorboard, creaking under bare feet. “You’re here,” I say, which is quite possibly the stupidest thing I could’ve said to him. Twenty-some-odd months of dreaming about getting even, and now all I can do is state the obvious.
About the Author
Marci Lyn Curtis is the author of young adult dramedies THE ONE THING and THE LEADING EDGE OF NOW. She lives near Tampa, Florida with her husband. You can find out more about Marci on her website (marcilyncurtis.com), on Twitter (@Marci_Curtis), on Instagram (@marcilyncurtis), or on Facebook (marcilyncurtis).
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3 winners will win a finished copy of THE LEADING EDGE OF NOW, US Only.
by AJ Banner
Beware of friends with secrets…
Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone’s evening. After an awful night, your friend’s battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.
Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can’t shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.
Bestselling author A. J. Banner keeps readers on a razor-sharp edge in this intricately plotted novel of psychological suspense…in which nothing is as it seems.
3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
If you like a story where absolutely everybody is a suspect, then this is the novel for you. Even the narrator thinks she herself is to blame at some point.
The morning after Marissa and Nate’s dinner/engagement party, Marissa wakes up to find that her best frenemy and next door neighbor Lauren is dead. Did she fall or was she pushed from the cliff down to the rocks below? Marissa does her best to investigate who might have had a reason to want Lauren dead–and before ling she finds out there are plenty of potential killers.
Marissa is a likable enough main character, though she makes some decisions that left me scratching my head. There is a wide cast in this novel, and it seems all of them have something to hide, even down to Nate’s 9 year old daughter.
At times I might have felt the author was throwing in TOO many red herrings; it’s a bit tiring trying to keep up with every side character’s personal problems. Most questions do get answered by the end, but it felt more like tying up loose ends than integrating their plot lines into the story.
When the killer was revealed, I was definitely surprised, although the climax fell a little flat for me. I wish we would have gotten to see a bit more of the culprit throughout the whole of the book.
This is another good thriller offering, and you will devour it quickly just like I did.
About the Author
Born in India and raised in North America, A. J. Banner received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous novels of psychological suspense include The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife, a USA Today bestseller. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and six rescued cats.
Connect with A. J. Banner
One commenter will win a copy of After Nightfall. US/CAN only. Leave me a comment telling me your best friend’s name! Ends 9/7/18.
Blood Will Out
by Jo Treggiari
Ari Sullivan is alive—for now.
She wakes at the bottom of a cistern, confused, injured and alone, with only the shadowy recollection of a low-pitched voice and a gloved hand. No one can hear her screams. And the person who put her there is coming back. The killer is planning a gruesome masterpiece, a fairytale tableau of innocence and blood, meticulously designed.
Until now, Ari was happy to spend her days pining for handsome, recent-arrival Stroud Bellows, fantasizing about their two-point-four-kids-future together. Safe in her small hometown of Dempsey Hollow. But now her community has turned very dangerous—and Ari may not be the only intended victim.
On being inside the mind of a killer
One of the major decisions I made when I started to plot this book was to write the killer’s chapters in the first person. I wanted to get inside their head as much as possible and I wanted the reader to as well. This achieves two things. One is that the reader is forced into close contact with the killer, their thoughts and motivations—a scary place to be—and the other is that the reader is therefore a step ahead of the main character, and that builds tension.
I did a lot of research into serial killers although there is much we do not know about them. I concentrated on Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy. I noted some of the similarities between them- the way these killers stalked their prey, presented different faces to people, had sometimes suffered abuse as children, and were capable of kindness as well as horrific cruelty and violence. Ed Gein for instance, nursed his mother. Ted Bundy was a social activist and even authored an anti-rape pamphlet (!), John Wayne Gacy entertained children at birthday parties…as a clown! Dahmer had good friends in high school. I really tried to understand them although that was an almost impossible task. I have to say it was a nightmarish six months. I had a very hard time keeping my happy life separate from all the awful things I was discovering; the depths that people can fall to.
I absorbed that background material and then wove my own creation. I knew I couldn’t write from that character’s POV unless I found some spark of humanity, something that allowed me and the reader to latch onto them in some way; to care if at all possible. Beginning their story in childhood let me imagine a triggering event and an evolution in their life. We were all children once. It was a tightrope walk because I also did not want the reader to forget that this was a monster I was writing.
About the Author
Jo Treggiari was born in London, England, and raised in Canada. She spent many years in Oakland, California and New York, where she trained as a boxer, wrote for a punk magazine, and owned a gangster rap/indie rock record label. Her novel Ashes, Ashes, a YA post-apocalyptic adventure published by Scholastic Press, was a multiple award nominee and bestseller. Her acclaimed novella Love You Like Suicide, appeared in the Fierce Ink Press anthology Becoming Fierce: Teen Stories IRL and as a limited edition of the long-running zine Cometbus. Her most recent YA is Blood Will Out, a psych-thriller, published by Penguin Teen (2018). She has a second yet-to-be-named thriller coming from Penguin in the summer of 2019.
– 2 winners will receive a Copy of BLOOD WILL OUT By Jo Treggiari.
The Girl on Camera
by Morgan Dun-Campbell
New Adult Mystery
Reality TV is about to get real…
“Are you ready to win the heart of the nation? Compete with seven other contestants for the cash prize? Change your life forever?”
Twenty-six-year old Rory Stevens is thrilled to be selected as one of eight contestants for new reality show: The Retreat.
However, on the second day of filming – during a televised broadcast from the show’s host – all power shuts off with no explanation: leaving the contestants, quite literally, in the dark.
Completely stranded, it is now up to Rory and her seven companions to figure out what is happening.
And then one of them disappears…
For fans of Naomi Alderman, Dave Eggers and John Marrs.
The screen is frozen. There’s a very faint noise, a high-pitched screech, barely audible, that seems to come from the TV.
‘What the hell’s happening?’ Carl cries. Adam looks to him and instantly shhhes him, obviously he can hear the noise too.
We wait a few seconds, each of us holding our positions.
The TV switches off. Completely black screen.
The faint whining noise stops.
All the lights switch off, simultaneously.
Cabin Two, previously bright, is now lit only by the rectangular pools of daylight that come in from the four windows, angled evenly around the room. Even in the afternoon, the room is now surprisingly dark and patterned with shadows.
But it’s too quiet.
Something else has happened.
I realise that we’ve become accustomed to the gentle hum of central heating, the hum from Cabin One, Two, and Three.
But now it is eerily silent, as though The Retreat itself was just a moment ago a living thing, and now it’s died and left us. Something has left us at least, we no longer have the comfort of electricity to rely on, we’re human beings who have been spoilt by laptops and power showers and overhead lighting and central heating and now we’re soft and vulnerable and can’t exist without our twenty first century accessories, in our natural states.
If the power doesn’t come back soon, we’ll be freezing tonight.
Now, an almost suffocating silence.
‘Again,’ Carl says, his voice a whisper, as though we might miss a vital clue. ‘Just what on earth is happening?’
I lean in ever so slightly towards Adam. I clear my throat, and say softly, ‘looks like we’ll have to cancel the leaving party altogether.’
‘Don’t touch me,’ Jess spits at me. I have my hands on her upper arms, stood behind her, trying to both offer comfort and restrain her – last thing we need is her venting her anger on the TV, breaking it somehow, and cutting off our one connection to the outside world.
‘Jess, you need to calm down,’ I say, ‘otherwise you’re going to work yourself up into a state. You have to accept the fact that for the moment at least, it’s out of your hands. He’s there and you’re here. Be reasonable.’ She pulls out of my grip, darts a couple of steps forward and spins on her heels to face us all, the back of her head inches from the TV.
‘Reasonable?’ She repeats. ‘Why am I here?’ She yells at us, her tone accusatory. ‘We don’t know what this place is. We’ve never even heard of this show before. We’re idiots, that’s what. We’ve been had and now we’re stuck here in a prison.’
‘Please, Jess, calm down,’ I say. She starts crying loudly. I note that Adam is studying Jess intently, really letting the weight of her words sink in.
But – Jess is starting to question the validity of the show, and that’s ridiculous. We all went through it.
The auditions. The stay at the hotel. The forms. The limos. The cameras.
That can’t be staged – it just can’t. It’s too complicated.
We’re on national television and we just happen to be the first to try out a brand new show that no one’s ever heard of before, and now all the power has switched off.
… I wish I hadn’t mentally phrased it like that. It makes it sound like madness.
For a brief moment, my mind flickers back to that moment when I clicked on the Apply Now link on my computer screen, blindly trusting this message that had popped into my life out of the blue – no, not from the blue, but from somewhere else, somewhere hidden and secret and suddenly deeply unsettling, now I look around at this dusty cabin, no power, wooden and cold and basic. This does not look like the premise for a televised show in the slightest.
No – of course it is. What about that show Mariah mentioned, Fearless? They’re supposed to be gritty.
‘Jess, the cameras could come on again any minute now,’ Carl says, words gentle, as though she’s a patient in a psychiatric ward who could switch personalities at any moment. ‘Do you really want to be broadcast live to a nation as a crying, irrational state?’ He gestures to Jess, her hair ruffled and sticking up all over the place like she stuck her finger in a wet plug socket, her minimal mascara now running in two lines down her red puffy face.
‘Oh god,’ she says, sniffing and taking a deep gulp. She looks to me. ‘I’m a terrible mother, aren’t I?’
‘What? No,’ I insist. ‘This whole – mess is completely out of your hands. You were left in the dark about anything to do with…’
‘Tony,’ she finishes for me, her eyes glaze over. ‘No, I’m like one of those awful mothers you read about in the papers who leave their baby in the car seat on a hot summer’s day so they can try on that new pair of designer shoes –’ she covers her mouth, eyes wide. ‘What if social services are watching?’
‘Nobody’s watching,’ Mariah says.
It’s at that moment that I spot Freddie.
He’s sat hunched over, huge arms resting on his legs, the elbows propped on the knees, his hands clasped together in a prayer position under his strong chin, an index finger pressed against his bottom lip. He stares at the floor, his lips a thin white line, and his eyes are alive in a way they’ve never been before, with an intensity so strong, I’m surprised he doesn’t have Superman-like vision that’ll burn a hole in the floor.
He’s completely motionless and I’ve never seen him like this. He’s usually animated, watching whoever’s speaking with heightened curiosity like a dog, making sure he’s at the heart of the action.
It’s like he’s switched himself off. Along with the cameras.
‘So… that’s it? Show’s over? Cancelled early for low viewing ratings? What?’ Mariah snaps. ‘I packed my skimpiest, tightest, and coldest wardrobe, so I could die of pneumonia with a bunch of nobodies and get eaten by woodland animals?’ She gestures to her current outfit. White denim shorts, V-neck blue sequinned strappy top, she shivers.
‘There are slightly more pressing matters than a wardrobe malfunction,’ Adam murmurs. Jess is shaking her head, wide eyed, in a state of shock presumably.
‘Let me out,’ she cries.
Nice Guy Freddie gets up.
‘Everyone sit down,’ he says. The words are neutral, but his voice is steady and strong, and this deliverance makes me uneasy.
‘So. We’re all in agreement,’ Freddie says, still speaking in his new, blank voice. ‘We all heard about this show from an email.’ Everyone round the circle nods. We’re sat on the sofas.
‘I’ve heard stories like this,’ Lexxi cries, her eyes wide, her knees jiggling, restless as she previously was with excitement, but now that excitement comes from a place of fear. ‘You know. The stuff people agree to online. Meet me behind this dodgy alleyway if you want a part in the new Tom Hanks movie! Then they get thrown into the back of a van, and shipped to the Middle East.’
‘How is that relevant?’ Carl says. He also seems different now the cameras are off. No longer easy-going, he’s now wound tight and stressed. Perhaps fame is more of an addiction for him that he realises. With those cameras off, his chances of being back in the limelight are jeopardised.
About the Author
Morgan Dun-Campbell lives in London. She has an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing and Publishing, has participated in two Arvon literary writing courses, and has worked as an intern for numerous publishing houses, including Penguin Random House and Bloomsbury. The Girl on Camera is her first novel.
You can find The Girl on Camera on Goodreads
You can buy The Girl on Camera on Amazon
The winners will receive 5 prize bundles including a signed copy of the book The Girl on Camera, a bookmark, and a small box of Celebrations (UK and US only).
An Anthology by Various Young Adult Authors
YA Short Stories
In partnership with We Need Diverse Books, thirteen of the most recognizable, diverse authors come together in this remarkable YA anthology featuring ten short stories, a graphic short story, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print.
All it takes to rewrite the rules is a little fresh ink in this remarkable YA anthology from thirteen of the most recognizable, diverse authors writing today including Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, Melissa de la Cruz, and many more, and published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books. This collection features ten short stories, a graphic short story, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print. It will give readers the opportunity to discover how the next chapter is up to them.
Careful–you are holding fresh ink. And not hot-off-the-press, still-drying-in-your-hands ink. Instead, you are holding twelve stories with endings that are still being written–whose next chapters are up to you.
Because these stories are meant to be read. And shared.
Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play. This collection will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.
4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Featuring a collection of short stories written by diverse authors and about characters that seem to be rarely featured in the majority of YA books, Fresh Ink offers something for everyone.
A couple of standout stories were: “Don’t Pass Me By” by Eric Gainsworth. In this tale, a Native American boy celebrates his background in a time where most like him seemed to be trying to hide it. It was beautiful to see him claim himself and stand up for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t say anything. “Meet Cute” by Malinda Lo–a love story, or a beginning of one. This was exactly as its’ title suggests. Two girls meet at a convention and get to know each other through unconventional means. The dialogue felt real and appropriate for the age of the characters. “Catch, Pull, Drive” is about a transgender swimmer, and how just one person standing up for what’s right can really make a difference in a life.
This anthology is perfect for this point in time, where more and more teens are feeling free to be who they really are and express it to the world. Inclusion is important, and no matter your race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity, you will find a story you like in Fresh Ink.
Lamar Giles, Nicola Yoon, Malinda Lo, Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Eric Gansworth, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, Sharon G. Flake, Schuyler Bailar, Aminah Mae Safi
“I absolutely love this mix of established and newer talents, and I’m really intrigued and excited by the mixed formats.” –BookRiot
“A powerful and varied collection…”—Booklist, starred review
“The stories are distinct in themes, subjects, genres, and formats, creating an inclusive, authentic, and incredible collection”—School Library Journal, starred review
3 winners will win a finished copy of FRESH INK US Only.
Tear Me Apart
by JT Ellison
The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apartis the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.
One moment will change their lives forever…
Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.
Who knows the answers?
The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.
With vivid movement through time, Tear Me Apart examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.
I remember the day she arrived so clearly. What quirk of fate led her to me? I wondered about this for years. If only I had stepped right instead of left at the corner, or taken the stairs instead of the elevator at the hospital, perhaps ordered chicken instead of steak for my last meal with my father before his death, the principles of chaos—the butterfly effect—would have altered the course of my life enough that she wouldn’t have appeared. But I did step right, and I took the elevator, and I had the steak, and she did appear, and I will never recover from her.
It’s my eighth Turkey Tetrazzini Tuesday. I push the food around on my tray, not hungry. The meds they give me make me in turns nauseous and lacking in appetite and dinner is at five, anyway, only a few hours away. If I feel better then, I’ll eat.
Everyone else is happily communing with the glob of gray matter on their plates. They don’t know any better. Half are drooling in their trays, the other half are tracing the voyage of little green men through the gravy or wadding the tinfoil wrapping from their rolls into bouquets they hang on their bedsteads to keep away the government spies. Suffice it to say we don’t have anything common. I have no exciting diagnosis. I haven’t committed a crime. I’m just depressed. Like, suicidal ideation with three attempts under my belt depressed. Yes, it’s the bad kind.
I wander back to my room, glancing in the doors of the rest of the ward. Occasionally, the occupants leave out fun things to play with. Magazines. String. Cards. I’m not picky, anything to break the tedium. I’m out of luck today. The rooms are spotless. Beds are made, towels hang straight and even, the whole ward smells of Pine-Sol. The janitors have been through. They will have pocketed anything of worth.
I bail on the reconnaissance mission and swing by my small hole for my cigarettes. Four times a day, I am allowed to stand in a tiny six-by-six hutch off the back steps and smoke. I can see the sky and the huge brass padlock that, if opened, would give me my freedom, allow me to step into the parking lot and disappear into the world, but nothing else. Sometimes, I wonder if cigarette privileges are worth it. It must be how cows feel, penned in day after day, never able to cross to the other field.
My room, 8A, is white. White as week-old snow, the kind of white that isn’t crisp and clean, but dirtied, institutional. You won’t see the exact shade anywhere else. White walls, white bedding, white linoleum. White gowns. White long-sleeved jackets with shiny silver buckles if we’re naughty.
Normally, we’re all double-bunked, but I haven’t shared in a month, not since the last roommate was sent home. As much as I hate her for getting out, I’ve found I enjoy the silence of having my own space. Being alone always frightened me before. I despised the dark and its creeping pulchritude. Now, I crave its simplicity. Its emptiness and solitude. Caring about fear is too hard anymore.
I stop in the doorway. There is someone in my room.
Her hair is dark and cascading, freshly washed; she reeks of the squeaky-clean scent of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. The hospital passes it out to all new inductees in their plastic “welcome” bucket.
She sits on the bed, head cocked to the side, her back to the door, staring out the four-by-two wire mesh screen window, which looks at the parking lot—bleak gray asphalt and a never-ending parade of cars. It’s a strange torture, this taste of freedom they give us. We are fish in the aquarium; we can see the rest of the world passing by, disinterested people living uninteresting lives.
This intrusion into my private space infuriates me, and I slam back out to the nurses’ station. There is a nurse named Eleanor Snow who runs the ward, but we all call her Ratchet because she is a bitch. No one said we had to be original.
Ratchet is calmly doing an intake form. Probably for my new roommate. Her serenity infuriates me further. I don’t get serenity. My mind never quiets and allows me to sit, smiling, as I fill in forms.
I snarl at her, “Who is in my room?”
“Your new roommate. I suggest you go introduce yourself. And keep your hands to yourself. You don’t want me to cut your nails again.”
I shudder. I don’t, and she knows it.
“You didn’t ask my permission to move someone in.”
“We don’t have to. Now scat. I have work to do. And eat your dinner, or I’ll talk with Dr. Freeman about your lack of eating.”
“Be sure to tell him the meds he gives me make me puke.”
I storm off. It’s the only power I have, not eating. They force the drugs in me, tell me when to sleep, shower, and shit; make me sit in a circle with the other drooling idiots to share my story—you’ll feel so much better after you’ve talked it out, dear. No. No!
To hell with the cigarette break. I head back to 8A, and the girl is still sitting in the same spot, her head cocked the same way. She has long hands. They prop her up, to the sides of her hips, as if they are grounding her to the world.
I make noise, and she doesn’t turn. I step in front of the window, looming over her so she’ll look at me. I snap my fingers under her nose, and she barely flinches.
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes standalone domestic noir and psychological thriller series, the latter starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the international thriller series “A Brit in the FBI” with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the Emmy Award-winning show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband.
Connect with J. T.
by Victoria Helen Stone
A double life with a single purpose: revenge.
Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.
But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.
Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.
Just as he did to her.
3 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Jane has learned from a young age not to rely on anybody. So when she finally does find her person, her best friend, they become close as sisters. And then Jane loses her to suicide. So Jane decides to make someone pay.
Her target is pastor’s son Steven Hepsworth. Steven is as white bread as it gets–working in an office, single, preys on women. Steven had a relationship with Jane’s friend, and treated her horribly, which Jane thinks is to blame for her suicide. Jane gets to work seducing him, and she’s fun to watch.
It’s always interesting to me when the narrator of a story knows exactly what kind of person they are, but they embrace it instead of trying to change. Jane is not a good person, in fact she is a self described sociopath. She uses her lack of emotions to her benefit, and it has seemed to work for her in her life so far.
I wish there would have been a bit more thrill in this book. I didn’t feel much of a sense of danger or suspense–the mystery basically lies around finding out the truth about Steven. Jane knows what she is doing, she plans meticulously, and therefore there is never a point where the reader thinks she might fail or get caught.
One issue I had with this book is that at times, it seemed like the author was going out of her way to make sure that the reader knew how bad of a guy Steven was. So much of the stuff he says and does is excessive, to the point where it felt like it was being forced.
I liked the end of this book, if only because it was unexpected. From the way Jane was talking throughout the whole rest of the book, I would have thought she would have taken a different course of action. Jane Doe was a quick read, and Jane is an interesting character, but the rest of the book didn’t have the depth I hoped for.
About the Author
Victoria Helen Stone is the nom de plume for USA Today bestselling author Victoria Dahl. After publishing more than twenty-five novels, she is now taking a turn toward the darker side of genre fiction. Born and educated in the Midwest, she finished her first manuscript just after college. In 2016, the American Library Association awarded her the prestigious Reading List Award for outstanding genre fiction. Having escaped the plains of her youth, she now resides with her family in a small town high in the Rocky Mountains, where she enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and not skiing (too dangerous).
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Everything Under the Sun
by Jessica Redmerski
Thais Fenwick was eleven-years-old when civilization fell, devastated by a virus that killed off the majority of the world’s population. For seven years, Thais and her family lived in a community of survivors deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. But when her town is attacked by raiders, she and her blind sister are taken away to the East-Central Territory where she is destined to live the cruel and unjust kind of life her late mother warned her about.
Atticus Hunt is a troubled soldier in Lexington City who has spent the past seven years trying to conform to the vicious nature of men in a post-apocalyptic society. He knows that in order to survive, he must abandon his morals and his conscience and become like those he is surrounded by. But when he meets Thais, morals and conscience win out over conformity, and he risks his rank and his life to help her. They escape the city and set out together on a long and perilous journey to find safety in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Struggling to survive in a world without electricity, food, shelter, and clean water, Atticus and Thais shed their fear of growing too close, and they fall hopelessly in love. But can love survive in such dark times, or is it fated to die with them?
“Why are you so angry, Atticus?” My voice was soft and concerned now.
He blinked, but offered no response.
“I’ve seen men fight before,” I went on, “but I’ve never seen a man as angry at the world as you are. The way you beat that man in your room”—I shook my head with despondency—“the one just now; Atticus, you’re just so full of rage and hate. Why?”
He snorted, as if he’d found my question ridiculous.
“Why?” he mocked incredulously, holding out his hands, palms up. “I’ll tell you why, Thais: at every turn someone wants to rob or maim or kill us; we can’t sleep, night or day, without the thought in our heads as we close our fucking eyes that we might not wake up.” He gestured his arms wildly, his features constricted with indignation. “We’re covering our shit up like animals, sleeping in ditches, watching over our shoulder every second of every day for the chaos to grab us by the ankles and pull us down with it—and you ask why?”
I sat against my quilt, unable to stand to hear this truth. And as if his movements depended on mine, Atticus fell into a crouch in front of me, bouncing on the toes of his boots. I never looked away from the pull of his gaze, trapped by the intensity of it.
“I haven’t slept since you arrived in Lexington City,” he went on. “When I saw you that day, clutching your sister as she was ripped away from you; when you lay on the sidewalk, begging me to help you—it did two things to me, Thais”—he held up two fingers, and then dropped them between his legs—“it fucking killed me; the things I had to do, the part I had to play in not only your fate, but the fate of every girl in those ropes—it fucking killed me! It killed what little was left of my humanity!” His voice had risen with his heated words, his memories, but then he paused to calm himself, lowering his head but for a moment.
I remained motionless, speechless, but my heart began to ache and fill up at the same time. I listened raptly to every word, my heart breaking as he spoke them.
“It killed me,” he repeated. “But then something reached into Hell, grabbed me by the throat and pulled me back. I died that day in the street, Thais Fenwick; I died and then there I was, looking down at you with the eyes of the man I used to be, and I wanted to help you. I still fought with myself after that, but I wasn’t going to let you die or be raped or forced to marry a man you didn’t love—I didn’t know what to do, but I was going to do something, goddammit.”
I sighed. I wanted to hold him, but all I could do was sigh.
About the Author
Jessica Redmerski is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, international bestseller, and award winner, who juggles several different genres. She began self-publishing in 2012, and later with the success of THE EDGE OF NEVER, signed on with Grand Central Publishing/Forever Romance. Her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Jessica is a hybrid author who, in addition to working with a traditional publisher, also continues to self-publish. Her popular crime and suspense series, In the Company of Killers, has been optioned for television and film by actor and model William Levy.
She also writes as J.A. Redmerski.
You can buy Everything Under the Sun here on Amazon.
3 winners will each win a signed paperback copies of Everything Under the Sun, along with signed bookmarks and postcards (United States and Canada only).
What Blooms from Dust
by James Markert
Just as Jeremiah Goodbye is set to meet his fate in the electric chair, a tornado tears down the prison walls, and he is given a second chance at life. With the flip of a coin, he decides to return to his home town of Nowhere, Oklahoma, to settle the score with his twin brother Josiah. But upon his escape, he enters a world he doesn’t recognize—one that has been overtaken by the Dust Bowl. And the gift he once relied on to guide him is as unrecognizable as the path back to Nowhere.
After one jolt in Old Sparky, Jeremiah sees things more clearly and begins to question the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murders he was accused of. On his journey home, he accidentally rescues a young boy who follows him the rest of the way, and the pair arrive at their destination where they are greeted by fearful townspeople. When the Black Sunday storm hits the very next day, the residents of Nowhere finally begin to let the past few years of hardship bury them under the weight of all that dust.
Unlikely heroes, Jeremiah and his new companion, Peter Cotton, try to protect the townspeople from themselves, but Jeremiah must face his nightmares and free himself from the guilt of flipping the coin on those men who died.
Filled with mystery and magic, What Blooms from Dust is the story of finding hope in the midst of darkness and discovering the beauty of unexpected kindness.
4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
It’s best to dive into this novel without any preconceived notions, because it’s unlike anything I have ever read. I hesitated to even assign it to one specific genre, because it encompasses more than just simple historical fiction. There are many elements which come together to make this tale wonderful.
It’s 1935 in the middle of Dust Bowl America: specifically, a tiny town called Nowhere, Oklahoma. The story of how the town got its’ name is interesting in itself and a big part of the background, but the people of the town are its’ heart and soul. Twins Josiah and Jeremiah Goodbye parted ways when Josiah called the police to report his twin for murder. Through a twist of fate or luck, Jeremiah was able to break out of jail while in the electric chair, and make his way back to Nowhere.
But the town has more problems than an escaped convict; dust storms have been blowing through daily, the people are starving, and there seems to be no end to the despair everyone feels. Through the return of Jeremiah and the strange, quiet boy he adopted along his journey, the citizens of Nowhere begin to see that there might just be some point to this life.
I can’t say enough about the characterization of this novel. The town features a wide, offbeat collection of residents, but through the author’s fantastically descriptive language, the reader comes to know and form a creative picture in the mind for each one. Jeremiah Goodbye and his family are the main characters, and we get to form a bond with every one of them.
It’s hard to say what I like about this novel so much without giving away the plot points. The story is at times a tough one to read; you can’t help but think about how helpless you would feel if you and your own children were stuck in the same situation. You can’t fight the climate, after all. Though the suffering the characters are going through never gets any easier, you can at least tell that they have a sense of hope by the end. And hope is what got so many people through those difficult times.
About the Author
James Markert lives with his wife and two children in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a history degree from the University of Louisville and won an IPPY Award for The Requiem Rose, which was later published as A White Wind Blew, a story of redemption in a 1929 tuberculosis sanatorium, where a faith-tested doctor uses music therapy to heal the patients. The Angels’ Share is his second novel, and he is currently working on his next historical, All Things Bright and Strange. James is also a USPTA tennis pro, and has coached dozens of kids who’ve gone on to play college tennis in top conferences like the BIG 10, the Big East, and the ACC.
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