This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria: BLOG TOUR – Excerpt

Today I’m participating in yet another blog tour post from Inkyard Press! Thanks again to Inkyard Press for providing me with an eARC of THIS GOLDEN FLAME. Today I am sharing an excerpt from this fascinating new YA fantasy featuring ace rep! Which by the way, is OUT NOW!

THIS GOLDEN FLAME BY EMILY VICTORIA

On Sale Date: February 2, 2021

9781335080271, 1335080279

Hardcover

$18.99 USD, $23.99 CAD

Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy / Epic 

Ages 13 And Up

384 pages

SYNOPSIS

An Ember in the Ashes meets Mask of Shadows in Emily Victoria’s #ownvoices debut YA fantasy, This Golden Flame, in which asexual Karis, a servant to the mysterious Scriptorium, accidentally awakens long-dormant automaton Alix, initiating an epic adventure full of magic, rebellion, and finding where you truly belong.

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible?she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father?their nation’s greatest traitor?once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

1

KARIS

The hallways of the Tallis Scriptorium are always so black at night. Statues and busts loom out of the dark and ribbed columns stretch down from the roof like pale fingers. I’ve taken my sandals off, twined their laces together, and hung them off my shoulder where they can’t make any noise, and the cold of the floor leeches through the soles of my feet. I pull my himation tighter around me, the rustling of the cloak a bare whisper. If this were day, I would hear the quiet scratch of reed pens against parchment in the study rooms to the east, the droning buzz of a master’s lecture from the hall. But in the night, it’s so stiflingly quiet. Like a tomb.

Even after seven years I’m still not used to it. To the quiet. The dark. Back on Heretis, the island I grew up on, there was always noise, always light, even in the run-down streets my brother and I haunted, where not many could afford oil for their lamps. Here on Tallis, the black is deep and somber, every door locked and every shutter latched firmly shut, as if the masters fear thieves who might lurk out there in the wilderness and the night.

If only they knew the thieves were already inside.

I slink down the shadowy hall, my eyes straining to navigate the black, even though it isn’t really the dark that’s a risk. Being out of bed this late would earn me a lashing, but at least that’s all I’d get. The true risk is in anyone dis- covering what I stole: the ledger currently clasped to my chest, its leather cover warm beneath my fingers. I can’t even say what the punishment for this would be, because as far as I know no one’s ever been impudent enough to try it.

At least not before me, and I prefer the term reckless.

I reach the west hall. Giving a quick glance up and down the silent corridor, I lift the latch on the closest window, wincing as it squeaks. I push the shutters open and night air brushes my skin.

The chilled marble of the windowsill stings against my legs as I swing over and drop into a crouch in the deep shadows by the edge of the building. From far off I can make out the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs, the sharp tang of seawater hanging in the air. I take a deep breath, trying to trap the taste of it in my lungs.

I look across the dark courtyard to one of the smallest buildings. Despite its size, it’s all marble with a full colonnade around its edges and elaborate moldings of masters and ledgers and automatons in the frieze running along the edge of its roof, darkened now with shadows.

The Hall of Records.

The second watch rings across the complex. I allow my- self a smile. Perfect. There shouldn’t be a patrol anywhere near here right now. I take off across the courtyard, bare feet pounding the packed dirt, not slowing until I slip past the colonnade. Bars of moonlight glow against the floor, stretching from the pillars that surround the open atrium I stand in. The back of the space is lost in the gloom, but it’s impossible to miss the glimmer of gold, too vivid and bright to be anything but Scriptwork.

I pad silently over, avoiding the strips of moonlight and sticking to the shadows. As if the night sky will tell on me. Details swim from the dark: olivewood doors stretching high above my head, framed with brass and cut with flourishes and curls; the seal of bronze plastered to their center; and the rune carved deep into the metal, a tangle of thick golden strokes, bent around each other as if in a knot. A lock rune. The most complicated rune on this island.

I run my fingers over the ridges of the lines, warm and tingling beneath my skin despite the night air. The truth is, I’m not even supposed to know Scriptwork, at least no more than what’s needed to climb automatons and make rubbings of the runes. The actual work of study is done by the masters and the aristoi scholars who come to study on Tallis. We orphans are only here for grunt labor. The Scriptmasters barely believe we can think for ourselves, never mind do something like this.

Lock runes are tricky. You have to understand which strokes engraved into the seal are part of the base rune and which have been added by that particular Scriptmaster. Then you have to replicate it perfectly in a ledger, all in the right order. Runes have rules, some of which haven’t even been discovered yet, and we were certainly never al- lowed to study them.

But just because a crotchety old master wasn’t going to teach me didn’t mean I wasn’t going to learn.

The light’s just enough to let me see the ledger as I flip it open to the last page, the golden glow spilling over the rough stretch of parchment. I pull out the stub of charcoal from my belt pocket. Once I draw a line, there’s no changing my mind. I’ll have to sneak the ledger back eventually, and lines will only mean evidence, since trying to tear a page out will just be more obvious. If this doesn’t work, I’ll have taken all this risk for nothing.

Only then I think of Matthias. It’s been seven years since they shipped my older brother away, all because he tried to defend me against them. Because they decided he would be too troublesome to keep. Behind these doors is the only record on the whole of this island that can tell me where he was sent.

And I am getting through tonight.

I dash off the first of the lines on the page. It comes off black and bold and perfect.

That’s when I hear voices. Low. Serious.

A patrol.

There shouldn’t be a patrol here, not at this time of night. Which means I’m either not as observant as I think or I’m real unlucky.

As soon as they enter the courtyard, I won’t be able to get back to the window, not without them noticing. A hint of panic thrums beneath my skin, telling me to leave now, while I still can. But then I look down at the parchment, the rune already started. They can’t catch me if I’m already inside the Hall.

As soon as I have the idea, I know it’s a terrible one. I suppose that fits me perfectly.

I bend over the ledger and keep going. The lines unfurl across the parchment as the rune takes shape, each line in the proper order and form. Excitement curls around my heart, even as the voices come closer. I’m doing it.

The rune is finished. I look up at the seal on the door, waiting for the golden line to cut it in half, to let me through.

Nothing happens.

The seconds pound through my head. No. I look down at the page, at this rune that looks exactly like the one on the door. I’m sure I did it right. Why isn’t it working?

One of the soldiers speaks again, their voice close. Too close.

I’m out of time.

I bite down my curse and dash away from the glow of the rune, toward the courtyard. Maybe I can still get across. I’ve just reached the colonnade when the soldiers step into view through the main gates. There are two of them, a man and a woman, their red chitons dark enough it’s hard to make them out. Short gladius swords are strapped to their hips. They’re coming closer.

There’s one other way to my quarters, through a door I can possibly sneak to by circling the back of the buildings. A door that always stays unlocked because it’s used by the patrols themselves to get inside.

I jam the ledger into a fold in my himation and run, sticking close to the wall that surrounds the Scriptorium complex. I can see the door I need ahead, nestled at the back of the acolytes’ quarters.

I’m reaching out when it swings open toward me. I stumble back, off balance, and a hand from behind me clamps around my upper arm.

I jam my elbow back at whoever has me, but they’re quick. An arm scoops me around the waist and jerks me behind the closest pillar, right as another two soldiers step out the door. I snap my head up at whoever has me, and catch a glimpse of a trainee’s red sash. Of tousled dark hair and deep green eyes, currently narrowed to order me to shut up.

Dane.

I go still, both of us hidden in the narrow space between the pillar and the building. It throws me back, to years ago, when I wasn’t the only one sneaking out at nights. When this picture of him and me was as natural as breathing.

The footsteps fade away.

I let out a breath. That was close. I know I shouldn’t, but I look back the way I came. Maybe now that Dane’s here, I could try again. Maybe he’d come with me.

But he doesn’t even give me the chance to ask. Before I can open my mouth, he grabs my hand and pulls me through the door. Our footsteps hush over the floor, two sets this time, and even though I can practically feel the exasperation wicking off of him, see the tension in his neck, I feel strangely relieved. At least he’s here.

He doesn’t stop until we reach the small linen storeroom near my quarters, piled high with coarse chitons. There’s a thin crack in the shutters, letting in just enough moonlight that I can see him. His hand is pressed over his eyes, obscuring most of his face, as if that’s enough to hold back whatever he’s thinking. Under different circumstances, that would have made me laugh.

“Karis.” His voice is that dangerous sort of calm that, as far as I know, is only reserved for me and only when I’ve done something incredibly reckless. “What in all of every- thing were you thinking?”

I fold my arms over my chest. “You don’t even know what I was doing.”

He drops his hand and glowers at me. It’s an expression I haven’t seen in a while. Not because I haven’t been doing reckless things. But because he hasn’t been around to no- tice. “I got back after the rest of the patrol and I saw you near the Hall of Records. I know what you were doing.”

I wince. I hadn’t even considered that the patrol might have been spread out. It was careless.

“What were you even hoping to achieve without a ledger?” He’s facing the moonlight. I’m not. I doubt he can make out my expression, but my silence must speak volumes.

He groans. “You didn’t.”

I reach into my himation, the cloth looped about my shoulders and waist, and pull out the ledger. “I’m going to return it.”

Dane shoves his hands through his hair, growling at the ceiling. “Of all the ill-thought, hardheaded, impulsive…”

Dane’s my best friend. My only friend really. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stand around while he verbally berates me to the roof. “You couldn’t have expected me not to try.”

“Try to do what? What exactly were your plans for this?”

He catches my wrist and holds it up, forcing me to look at the bronze bracelet suckered there like a malignant growth. A copy of the one he wears. That every orphan brought to this island wears.

And he’s right. I hate it, but he is. Even if I’d figured out the rune and written it perfectly, even if I’d gotten in and found exactly where Matthias had been sent, I would still be trapped here. Because of this hunk of metal around my wrist, this perfect circle with no clasp. As long as it’s attached to me, going anywhere near the beach will burn my bracelet’s identifying rune into their scrolls. They’d know exactly where I was and what I was doing. And there’d be no running from them then. There’s only one ledger that can unlock the bracelets, and it’s always with the head Scriptmaster. Not even I can steal that.

I meet Dane’s eyes over my hand, and for a moment I’m so achingly tired. I almost want to apologize, to tell him he’s right. Because maybe he is. Maybe I don’t want to spend my entire life fighting a battle I can’t win, when I couldn’t even open a door. Maybe the masters were right about me and I am exactly what they judge me to be.

Only then I think of Matthias. Of the way he looked the last time I saw him, the day he was dragged away. Me screaming. Him calling out my name as his hand was ripped from mine.

The truth is, it isn’t in me to quit. Not now, not ever. There are things I will not—cannot—concede, and my brother is at the top of that list.

So I don’t say anything, just stare Dane down, and in the end he’s the one who looks away, dropping my hand. A part of me is naive enough to believe it might be because he understands.

“You’re lucky I was on patrol,” he finally says.

“I know,” I whisper. It’s the most I can give him. It must be enough because he lets out a breath, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Did it work?” he asks. “The rune?”

I don’t want to say it and make it more real. But I lie to so many people in my life, and I won’t lie to him. “No.” I swallow, staring down at the floor. “It didn’t.”

I can feel his eyes on me and when he speaks, his voice is gentler. “I’m sorry.”

I raise my head to look back at him and force a smile. As impish and real as I can make it. “I know that, too.”

He rolls his eyes, but that crooked grin, which doesn’t belong to the soldier but to the street brat, to my friend, is already stealing over his face. I’ve missed that smile. “Yes, well, now that I’ve saved your sorry hide, I need to get back. And you should go to bed.”

He must have forgotten the ledger, hidden in the dark. I rub my fingers over it and for a moment I’m tempted not to say anything. To let him leave and to give it another try. Maybe I would have, if I had any idea where I went wrong with the rune. Maybe I would have if Dane wasn’t standing right there.

But he is. I don’t know how he managed to get away from his patrol for this long, but I do know that if anything happens tonight, he’ll be implicated in it. And I wouldn’t do that to him. The risks I take, I take on my own.

I hold the ledger up. “I need to get this back.” When I left, Master Kaius was snoring into his wine, but even he’ll notice a missing ledger when he wakes up. The masters would tear this Scriptorium apart to get it back.

Dane looks at the book between us, and then he takes it. “I’ll slip it into his study. At least if I get caught in the halls, I’ll have an excuse.”

I wasn’t expecting that, not even from him. “Dane…”

He’s already taken a step away, but he looks over his shoulder, and maybe more of the street boy still exists than I thought because trouble darts across his deep eyes. He comes back to me and pecks a kiss on my forehead. “Go to bed, Karis, before someone notices.”

Then he’s gone, disappearing back into the shadows of the hall, and the only evidence he ever stood here is the soft tread of his fading footsteps.

I failed. The knowledge sits like a thorn in my chest, prickling at the tender flesh of my heart. I was right there, I had the ledger in my hands, and I failed.

I drag my feet as I walk through the hallways, silently following the other acolytes in my group. Master Vasilis strides down the hall at our head, his robe billowing around his legs as he leads us to whatever work site he’s chosen today to re-catalog for the umpteenth time. All in the hopes that something will have changed that will unlock the secrets of the automatons.

The Scriptorium, which rules Eratia, flaunts itself as a leader among the nations in knowledge, but for the past two hundred years all the Scriptmasters have been obsessed with is recovering what they lost—reanimating and con- trolling the automatons littered over the islands.

It’s mind-numbingly pointless. If it hasn’t happened yet, it isn’t going to happen. The power of the automatons is dead. And right now, with the knowledge of my failure sit- ting heavy in my heart, I’m spitefully glad the Scriptorium is never going to get what they want either.

Outside, it’s barely dawn, pale colors stretching across the sky. Despite the early hour, the yard is already busy with the organized chaos of morning drills, men and women scattered about the yard. I look for Dane, even though I know he’s smart enough to take care of himself.

There are so many sparring pairs, it takes me a moment to spot him. Despite the chill in the air, his skin’s flushed and sweaty, and his sword flashes in the sun as dust flies around his sandals. Fatigue sits like a stone behind my eyes, but Dane looks as awake as ever. He lunges out fast and his opponent, a boy named Erys, jerks back and trips over his own feet. He falls in a tangle of flailing limbs. Dane lets out a whoop and jogs a few paces of a victory lap before helping Erys to his feet and slapping the other boy on his back.

I can’t help the grin that cracks across my face. Some- one’s having fun.

As if Dane can sense my attention on him—which I’m half convinced he can—he turns and sees me. He flashes me a smile that’s all secrets and all mine, and for a moment I almost forget how much the last few years have changed us. I wave back, ignoring the odd looks some of the nearby soldiers throw my way. As if it’s unnatural that someone like Dane would pay attention to someone like me. I wonder how many of them remember that Dane came here as an orphan, too. Before he picked up sword-fighting like he’d been doing it his whole life. Before he was allowed to join the militia ranks and became a favorite of his master and his squad. Before he grew from a gangly child into some- one who fits in perfectly.

Dane is good-looking and the worst thing is, he knows it. Knows exactly the effect he has on other people, especially on girls. At least girls besides me.

I’ve never felt that way about him. Actually, I’ve never felt that way about anyone. It’s not as if I think Dane is bad-looking. Objectively speaking, he’s quite nice to look at. There are plenty of people on Tallis who are nice to look at. I just wouldn’t ever want to kiss one of them over it. Whatever it is that makes my group mates sigh and go misty-eyed, I’ve never felt for myself.

I know all that about myself and most of the time I’m fine with it. But right now, under all these stares…there’s a part of me that wonders if I’m the strange one.

The drill sergeant, Master Adalis, gives a sharp whistle, raising her eyebrows at Dane. Looking only mildly abashed, he readies himself for another spar. I jog after the tail end of my group, slipping out through the front gate.

The island spreads before me, all pale craggy rocks and waving grasses. Stiff stalks poke at my calves and dust settles into every itchy space in my sandals. Orchids, just now blooming, open their delicate, purple petals to the sky. I lift my face to the thin rays of sun, ignoring the chatter of the other students, none of it directed at me.

I wonder what Matthias would think of this island. Even though he has low vision, he was always an adventurer, certainly more than I was. Maybe that was just because he was older. Or maybe that was just him. Back when we were young, I’m sure he knew every corner of our parents’ weaving shop and our tiny yard, where we used to pluck figs from the tree and eat them crouched in the shade on hot days, or separate lentils into bowls for dinner. When we were on Heretis, every run-down building we took shelter in was a chance for him to poke his fingers into the nooks and cracks. Our childhood was one of small spaces and I’m sure he’d have loved the wide-open possibilities of Tallis.

“Acolyte Karis.”

I snap back to attention just in time to hear the snickers. My cheeks burn as I see Master Vasilis standing in front of me. Behind him I can make out the curving edge of the eastern side of the island, where it turns sharply into white cliffs. We arrived at our work site and I didn’t notice.

Master Vasilis glowers down his aquiline nose at me. “Tell me, Acolyte Karis, what has so riveted your attention that you ignored my instructions?”

I almost want to tell him, just to see his face when he learns I stole a ledger. But if I said that, I might as well go walk off that cliff. So I bite down the impulse and mumble, “Nothing, Master.”

“Nothing? Well then, your wandering thoughts must simply be in need of a task. Attach the pulley system to the automaton.”

My group mates snicker again and I don’t understand why until I turn to the behemoth of a creature standing not five feet from us.

In the seven years since I arrived on Tallis, I’ve gotten plenty used to automatons. Back home on Heretis, there were only two on the outskirts of the city, and since Matthias and I always stayed near the central agora, where thieving was the easiest, I never actually saw them. Only heard the tales from the other street kids.

Here on Tallis, there are close to a dozen, leftover from the days when this island was a guard post. The things are massive. Monstrous. Great hulking bodies made of Scriptstrengthened bronze, most of it tarnished a dull green be- cause there aren’t enough of us to keep them all polished, thick arms and legs made from interconnecting plates meant for bashing and breaking, tiny heads placed atop for no reason I can see except to provide a point of normality to creatures that don’t look normal at all. When I came to this island, I screamed the first time I saw one. And though the years have taken that blinding edge of fear away, the things still give me the shivers. Even though they’re the pride of Eratia, the proof for the Scriptorium that once we were more powerful than anyone.

This automaton looks like any of its frozen kind, except for one thing: it’s at a tilt, its upper body leaning out over the cliff’s edge as if stilled in the moment before it was to dive into the water below. The ocean glints from up here, deceptively bright and beautiful. But I know there are rocks just beneath those waves. One wrong misstep on the climb up and I’ll be taking a quick trip to a long sleep.

One of my fellow acolytes, Demetrius, steps forward and shoves the pack with the pulley system into my hands. I meet his smug eyes. The others crowd behind him— Jocasta, Petros, Thetis—whispering as they sneak glances at me. There’s not a scrap of kindness in any of their faces, even though once there was. In Jocasta’s, especially. Of everyone, she was maybe the one I could have made friends within those early days. She was the one willing to reach out, who would smile when she passed me in the halls. Only I didn’t want friends.

And I don’t need their kindness.

I jut out my chin as I swing the pack onto my back. My gaze tracks up the automaton, trying to find the best route. Its tarnished and dented skin is littered with runes: reach, lift, bend. Hard lines carved into the hard metal. They aren’t lit—they haven’t been lit since Master Theodis, the greatest villain of the ages, triggered the Great Lapse that made all the things still. But they’re as close to handholds as I’m going to get.

I grab the lowest rune and haul myself up. I stick to the back of the thing’s thigh, where at least its body is between me and the fall, but the runes down here are far and few between.

Sweat prickles from my palms and slides down my spine. My arms ache from the sheer effort of pulling myself up the steep incline. I grit my teeth and push on. I refuse to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing me plummet to my death.

I’m almost to its back. I reach for another rune and my fingers slip. I scramble for a new hold, any hold, but it’s too late. My balance tips and I fall, screeching. The world tumbles over itself, flashing water and sky and cliff side. My body slams into rock, a steep slope turning my free fall into a desperate tumble, until with a bone wrenching thud, I stop.

I choke on air, my chest heaving, as I stare up at the bright blue sky. A hazy din of panic screams in my ears, and agony burns under every bit of my skin, like hundreds of scratching insect legs. I’m…alive. A strangled laugh tears from my throat. I’m alive.

My shaking fingers probe the ledge I’m on, slick with salt spray and barely larger than I am. This little outcropping of rock that saved my life. If it didn’t involve flipping over, I might have kissed it. Gritting my teeth, I heave myself up to my elbows.

There’s a crack in the cliff side, a few feet farther down the ledge. Its edges are lit with a faint glimmer of golden light.

I blink slowly, my aching head still sluggish. Is that… Scriptwork?

“Master, she isn’t dead.”

My group mate, Archus, has stuck his head out over the edge of the cliff side. Master Vasilis appears next to him, and even though I can’t hear his sigh, I see it in the way his shoulders heave. As if my nearly dying is some great inconvenience.

“Well, I suppose someone ought to grab a rope and throw it down,” he says.

There’s some shuffling up above and then the frayed end of a rope is thrown down. Every bit of me feels battered and bruised, and I have no idea how I’m going to climb all the way back up. But I do know that if I don’t do it, no else is going to come down here and get me. So, with a growl, I grab the rope and drag myself to my feet.

Excerpted from This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria, Copyright © 2021 by Emily Victoria. Published by Inkyard Press.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Victoria lives on the Canadian prairies with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, works at her public library, and has just finished her Masters of Library and Information Studies.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Author website: https://www.avictoriantale.com/

Twitter: @avictoriantale

Instagram: @avictoriantale

BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/this-golden-flame/9781335080271 

Powell’s: https://www.powells.com/book/-9781335080271 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/this-golden-flame-emily-victoria/1134633347 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335080271

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/This-Golden-Flame-Emily-Victoria-ebook/dp/B07ZXCWTYF/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1603379509&sr=8-1 

Chapters: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/this-golden-flame/9781335080271-item.html?ikwid=this+golden+flame&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=3

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ww/en/ebook/this-golden-flame

We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen: Blog Tour – Excerpt

We Could Be Heroes  

Mike Chen

On Sale Date: January 26, 2021

9780778331391

Hardcover

$27.99 USD, $34.99 CAD

336 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:

An emotional adventure about two misfits who have extraordinary powers, but have forgotten who they were before. The vigilante and the villain must team up to stop a mad scientist who threatens the city, while trying to figure out who they really are.

Jamie woke up two years ago in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to who he might be, and also with the power to read other people’s memories. In the meantime, he’s become the Mind Robber, holding up banks for quick cash. Similarly, Zoe is searching for her past, and using her new extraordinary abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And occasionally beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.

When the two meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize they are each other’s best chance at discovering what happened to them. The quest will take them deep into a medical conspiracy that is threatening to spill out and wreak havoc on their city, and maybe the country. As the two get past their respective barriers, they’ll realize that their friendship is the thing that gives them the greatest power.


Today I’m here to share an excerpt from this fun, fresh superhero story that you definitely need to add to your TBR!!

Chapter 3

Jamie stopped, catching himself. He’d gone too far this time. Close eyes, deep breaths, count to five, and then open eyes to see the damage.

Damn it. He’d really done it. He looked at the grout brush, then the lines between the countertop’s tiles, then back at the brush. Yes, he’d gotten the coffee stain out, but he’d also scrubbed too hard, wearing away some of the grout.

Twenty minutes ago, he’d arrived home, throwing his cashfilled backpack on the futon cushion. It landed with a thump, startling Normal out of her cat tuffet next to the window. And though he stopped to give Normal a calming pet, his instincts took over, starting with a meticulous cleaning of the litter box, then a complete vacuum of the small apartment. Then organizing his stack of library books into a preferred reading order, putting away the neatly folded clothes in the laundry basket, cleaning the pour-over coffee carafe and kettle before brewing a fresh cup. As it settled, he noticed some drips of coffee had absorbed into the grout lines adjacent to his row of ceramic mugs, thus kicking off his quest for a completely clean and reset kitchen. All of the fear and concern and guilt from the day funneled into his end-to-end cleaning spree even though it wasn’t Sunday, the day he typically reserved for getting his home in order.

But this. Flecks of dried grout stuck to the brush bristles, and Jamie squinted, examining them as if he tried to break into the memory of the synthetic fibers. He blinked when Normal mewed at him, snapping him back into the present. He had to slow down. He had to regroup. He’d gone too far this time, and though the counter looked clean, a closer examination showed a tiny degradation in the grout.

Damn it. Jamie blew out a sigh and surveyed the room.

So neat. So organized. In fact, it was nearly identical to when he’d woken up here, standing in the middle of a barely furnished apartment two years ago. On that morning, he had blinked as he came to, his eyes adjusting from blurry to focused, taking in the sun shining through the cheap tan drapes onto the futon in the middle of the living space. Once he’d realized where he was, it had dawned on him that he didn’t know who he was. He’d walked methodically through the semifurnished apartment, looking for triggers. Coffee table, bread, water, sink, bed, toothbrush. He knew what those were, their purpose, but none offered clues about himself. Even the mirror produced zero recognition; he didn’t know what history lay behind those eyes, what the story was behind the scar on his palm.

So neat. So organized. In fact, it was nearly identical to when he’d woken up here, standing in the middle of a barely furnished apartment two years ago. On that morning, he had blinked as he came to, his eyes adjusting from blurry to focused, taking in the sun shining through the cheap tan drapes onto the futon in the middle of the living space. Once he’d realized where he was, it had dawned on him that he didn’t know who he was. He’d walked methodically through the semifurnished apartment, looking for triggers. Coffee table, bread, water, sink, bed, toothbrush. He knew what those were, their purpose, but none offered clues about himself. Even the mirror produced zero recognition; he didn’t know what history lay behind those eyes, what the story was behind the scar on his palm.

And now? What he wouldn’t give for that blissful ignorance, free from knowing that the injured woman from today was all his fault.

How could he have been so stupid, so reckless?

As with each of his bank robberies, he’d taken his time, planned a strategy, even wrote out his script beforehand and memorized it. He still lacked in execution, but that was why he had checked out some acting books from the library. The whole goal, the entire focus was to get in and out as quickly, as cleanly as possible. That meant brain-stunning the people in the building in a very specific order under a very specific time frame, all while cackling like a cartoon character and reciting over-the-top lines in a not-quite-there American accent.

If he controlled the entire situation, then no one got hurt and he did his job.

Except when one of them had a medical condition.

Jamie cursed at himself, cursed his fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude, cursed the whole damn situation. Not once, not a single time had he ever considered the possibility of a medical issue.

He finally broke, forcing himself to move. A click on the remote control brought his small TV to life, flashing a news report about electrical surges throughout the city before turning to the bank heist. His fingers fumbled to hit the power button again, taking several tries before the screen thankfully went to black, leaving only the sounds of a hungry cat meowing to remind him that he hadn’t given her dinner or her nightly treat of coconut water yet. Jamie set the grout brush in the sink, and obliged the demanding cat.

Seconds later, the room filled with a content rumbling of purrs.

But even Normal’s happy noises failed to remove the trauma of the day. The sound of the woman’s head hitting the tile. The sight of the blood pooling. The desperate cries of her coworker.

Don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it.

Onward. Next task: the money. He grabbed the backpack and headed to the bedroom. The backpack’s large top zipper got caught as he tugged on it, and the stress of the day gnawed at his patience, skipping past his normal mode of meticulously fixing it and jumping right to forcing it free. On the underside of the zipper, the corner of a hundred-dollar bill clung in between the metal clasps.

Jamie sighed, a sound soon mimicked by Normal yawning at his feet. “You have no idea,” he told the cat before reaching in and starting his post-robbery sorting process for cash.

A buzzing sound rattled the room, causing a handful of loose coins on the end table to dance; it broke his focus, jolting his shoulders and neck in surprise. From the hallway, he heard Normal’s claws catch in the thin carpeting before dashing off to find a hiding spot from the abrupt noise.

He picked up the phone, heart pounding that it might be someone on his trail. But a glance at his screen caused a sigh of relief. Reminder: Support Group. San Delgado East Side YMCA. Six o’clock.

Right. The weekly support group—more specifically, San Delgado Memory Loss & Dementia Support Group.

Not that Jamie cared about the giant gap in his personal life, the big cloud of nothing stemming from the moment he awoke in this apartment all the way back to, well, his birth. Something pulled him away from those thoughts whenever he even approached the matter, like staring into a bright beam of light until the intensity forced his eyes away. Every time. That avoidance happened so frequently it felt instinctive at this point, skirting whatever that was and whoever truly stood behind the impenetrable fog.

It didn’t matter. No, the support group was for learning more about memory loss in general, to guard himself from any further memories vanishing.

The irony of the Mind Robber dealing with all that didn’t escape him.

He resumed unloading the cash, first putting the stacks by denomination from left to right, then counting and rubber-banding any loose ones complete with a Post-it note with the total on each makeshift bundle. In the closet sat a safe—something that had been absolutely terrible to get into his apartment. He pulled off the blanket hiding it and turned the dial. Left with click click clicks. Then right. Then left again.

It opened up, revealing a larger version of the stacks assembled on his bed. Jamie took new bundles, two at a time, and neatly set them in the appropriate spots, making each tower of cash grow until the backpack and the bed were clear of evidence. A notebook leaned on the cash; Jamie pulled it out and opened it to the ledger he’d crafted, filling out the columns with the latest tally of earnings, anticipated expenses, safety-net cash and overall savings.

At the top of that column was a little drawing he’d made of a palm tree and a beach. Based on today’s earnings, he was nearly 80 percent to his goal. Depending on the size of each haul, a few more robberies—especially if he remembered to ask for the stacks of hundreds specifically—would provide enough financial comfort to retire on a tropical beach at a much lower cost of living. He’d read that the coffee in the Caribbean was excellent.

A comfortable permanence, as long as the Throwing Star didn’t track him down. That further complicated things, and Jamie wondered if he’d jinxed it all by invoking her during his bank performance. He gritted his teeth.

So close to a fresh start. For him and Normal, and he wouldn’t let the Throwing Star jeopardize that.

Normal gave an urgent meow, which translated in cat speak to “Where is my bed?” Jamie folded the blanket exactly and draped it over the safe, then put a small cat tuffet back on top of it. A gray-and-orange blur zipped by, and in one leap, landed on the tuffet, turning his trail of crime and/or source of income into the world’s most valuable cat bed.

Jamie exhaled, and his mattress bounced as he flopped on his back, eyes glued to the ceiling but brain refusing to shut off. One blink and he saw the woman fall again. Every time he closed his eyes, the image reappeared, except each instance seemed to intensify in its color and sound, the sheer vibrancy of his mind seemingly taunting him.

He could lift the memory out. He’d done it before as an experiment, including writing a note with steps and details as proof that he’d removed his immediate recall of the moment. It left him with what he presumed to be the same nausea that his victims experienced, and other than a few follow-up trials, he hadn’t done it for any practical purpose.

A small price to pay to be relieved of the guilt.

Jamie raised his hand, this time pointed at himself, and he closed his eyes, digging deep to flip through his own memories. Bright and fresh, full volume and movement, no haziness or missing pockets of moments. One wipe and it’d be gone.

But what would that make him? A possible murderer without a conscience? He treated his villain persona and robberies as a job, an income. Not to hurt people, not with malevolence or sociopathic apathy.

No.

This memory had to stay.

Jamie lowered his hand.

There was a knock at the door, jolting him to his feet.

He closed his eyes and stretched out with his mind, sensing the ghostly silhouette of a single form at his door.

No one ever came to his door.

“San Delgado police. Is anyone home?”

The very idea of having law enforcement at his door caused Jamie’s hands to tremble and a thin layer of sweat to form on his forehead. He could brain-stun the officer and run. He could dive into the officer’s memories, see what happened, why he was here—maybe it was just a fundraiser for the Police Athletic League.

Another knock rattled the door.

If he brain-stunned the officer, that wouldn’t exactly be inconspicuous. You couldn’t just leave gawking, unresponsive police on your doorstep. And the officer’s location was probably tracked by SDPD, which meant that lifting memories and sending him on his way would only lead to more trouble.

No, the only way out of this was through it.

Jamie took a deep breath, put on a baseball cap with a logo of the local San Delgado Barons hockey team, then marched to the door. He opened it halfway to find the very serious, very professional face of a plainclothes officer. Despite the fact that he stood shorter than Jamie, his sturdy build made him far more intimidating.

“May I help you?” Jamie held the door ajar. “Sorry,” he said, native English accent in full display, “I have a cat that tries to get out if I open the door all the way.” As if on cue, mews came from behind him and Jamie scooped up the pudgy feline. Mental note: she deserved extra coconut water tonight. “Be nice, Normal.”

The detective tilted his head at the name, then chuckled, sunlight gleaming off the light brown skin of his shaven bald dome. “No problem. Sorry to bother you this evening. Detective Patrick Chesterton. I’m the lead on the Mind Robber case.”

No reaction rippled through Jamie. Which was probably a reaction in itself. He waited, seconds stretching into vast chunks of time, and though he somehow managed to keep a polite expression on his face, the pounding in his chest might have given him away.

“We get anonymous tips all the time about the Mind Robber. Some people even claim to be him. But this one was very specific. And since we know he left on a train heading eastbound about ninety minutes ago, I thought I’d check it out.” He glanced over his shoulder, eyes tracking past the courtyard and toward the parking lot. “Traffic is going to be hell getting back to the station.”

Jamie told himself to laugh, though in a completely different way from the forced maniacal display of the Mind Robber. Calm, quiet, a little nervous—the natural kind of nervous anyone got when questioned by law enforcement. Normal must have agreed, as she continued mewing in his arms.

“Well, aren’t you a nice cat?” the detective said, his voice softening. He reached up to pet Normal’s round head, but the cat replied with a hiss. Before Jamie could stop her, she swatted at Chesterton. The cat kicked out of his arms, and Jamie turned to see a streak of pudgy fur dashing for the bedroom.

“Oh, I’m so—” Jamie stopped himself at the realization that the detective nursed a fresh scratch across the knuckles.

If they weren’t going to get him for being the Mind Robber, what about assault via cat scratch?

“I’m so, so sorry. Normal usually loves strangers.” That was a lie, or it might have been a lie. Normal never met anyone, regular or stranger, so the sample size on that remained small. “But she gets weird occasionally.” That part was true. Jamie held up his hand, palm out. “See this scar across my palm? Normal got me good one time.”

Flat-out lie: Jamie had no idea where that scar came from, though whenever he focused on it for too long, a strange mix of nausea and embarrassment would flood over him.

“It’s okay,” Chesterton said. “I had a cat growing up. They can be temperamental. I should know better than to do that. Anyway, the tip said that someone who fit the build and look of the Mind Robber was in this area. This block, actually.” He looked Jamie up and down. If Jamie decided to risk it, he probably could have poked into the detective’s memories and seen specifically what he was thinking, even the source of the tip. “Have you seen anyone who fits that profile?”

In the courtyard, Jamie caught sight of the old couple across the way trying to get their mini schnauzer puppy to obey commands. They looked over at Chesterton, then Jamie, and Jamie offered a reassuring wave. Despite being a theoretical villain, he still wanted to be a good neighbor. “I, um, actually don’t watch the news much. I find it triggering.”

“Ah, got it. He’s Caucasian. Around six feet tall. Thin build. Strong chin. That’s about it, really, though. His hood and mask obscure everything else.”

“Well,” Jamie said. A response came to mind, and he debated whether or not he was being too clever. His arms extended and a wry smile came over his face a little too easily. Maybe learning to play a villain had turned the gesture into muscle memory. “That sounds like me.” The words came out smooth, just enough of a joking lilt that they threaded the needle between bullshit and levity. It came naturally, almost uncannily so.

For a moment, nothing happened. Neither man blinked, and even Normal stayed quiet. The only noise came from squeaking brakes as a car pulled into the adjacent parking lot.

Then the detective burst out laughing. “I like you,” he said, before reaching into his back pocket. Jamie’s hand moved into position, a subtle gesture that only he could detect should he need to brain-stun. His fingers raised ever so slightly in preparation when a buzz in his back pocket caused both men to stand at attention.

“Sorry, just my reminder,” Jamie said after pulling out his phone. The device’s blinking screen gave him an idea. “My weekly support group. I, uh, need to get going.”

“Oh, of course. Good for you,” he said. “It takes a strong person to seek out help.” Jamie’s head bobbed at the compliment, and the detective finished reaching in his back pocket. He held up a business card. “Do me a favor and call if you see or hear anything that strikes you as suspicious. About him or the Throwing Star. We’re no fan of vigilantes, extraordinary or not. You can’t just run around in a suit beating up people. I don’t care if they’re good or bad. You know, if either of them just called us first and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got these abilities,’ you can bet we’d have found a job for them.” Chesterton glanced at the cat scratch on his hand before letting out a short laugh. “I heard she tripped in the Metro station and let the Mind Robber get away,” he said with a headshake. “I guess ‘extraordinary’ comes in many forms.”

All forms. That skepticism, if not admirable, at least provided some cover. “Right,” Jamie said, taking the card. “I’ll keep an eye out.”

“Even if you hear anything about weird crimes in Hartnell City. Their PD asked us about the Mind Robber. Guess they’re seeing some strange activity too.”

“Of course, Detective.”

Jamie’s exhale was nearly as loud as the slamming of the door. He’d never been that close to getting caught before.

Who could have possibly tipped the police? He’d wiped the memories of any OmegaCars driver that took him close by, and even then, he’d always walked the last few blocks, taking different routes each time. Could the Throwing Star have tracked him? Possibly, but she seemed more like the “punch in the teeth” than “call the cops” type.

Questions circled as Jamie heard the roar of the detective’s car coming to life. Through the blinds, Jamie watched a dark blue sedan pull halfway across the parking lot before pausing for a handful of seconds and then finally rolling away. Chesterton was gone for now, but if he suspected anything, the best course of action would be for Jamie to act as any normal civilian would. In this case, it meant going exactly where the detective expected him to be.

Normal meowed a farewell as Jamie grabbed a jacket—not his black hoodie—and locked the door behind him.

It was almost time for the support group. Even if he didn’t want to go.

Excerpted from We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen, Copyright © 2021 by Mike Chen. Published by MIRA Books.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: https://www.mikechenbooks.com/ 

Twitter: @mikechenwriter

Instagram: @mikechenwriter

BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org

Barnes & Noble 

Amazon

IndieBound

Google Books

Apple Books

Kobo

2020 & 2021 Releases to Haunt Your TBR

I’m looking into the future and I see spooky, creepy, horrifying, thrilling reads ahead.

Here’s a post for all of you who want some more spooky books in your life! Basically this is almost every horror/thriller/mystery/dark fantasy book releasing soon or in the next year that I’m excited for.

Also I’m only covering books with covers right now but there are plenty I’ll talk about maybe one day without covers that would be on this list or whenever those covers get revealed. Let me know in the comments.

👻 Now let’s get spooooooky. 👻


2020 RELEASES

Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell

The Bone Witch meets Sherlock Holmes in this thrilling historical fantasy about a girl with the ability to raise the dead who must delve into her city’s dangerous magical underworld to stop a series of murders. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED: Necromancy is always fun to read about. I’m kind of big on reading magical books right now.

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Okay I was mostly sold on this being described as having an enemies to lovers romance which is one of my fave tropes. But I do like the idea of the Seven Deadly Sins especially since I watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (and reading the manga) which does some cool stuff with the Sins.

Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett

Sadie meets The Girls in this riveting debut psychological thriller about a lonely college freshman seduced into joining a cult—and her desperate attempt to escape before it’s too late. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Any book comped with SADIE get added to my TBR quickly. Also I’ve you haven’t been following me you might not know but I love cult stories. It’s just a topic of high interest for me and I cannot wait to see what this story does with that story element.

Ruinsong by Julia Ember

In Julia Ember’s dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
A Sapphic Phantom of the Opera?? I’m sold. I also am suprt fortunate enough to have an ARC of this, so I can’t wait to dig into this story.

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black

This new installment in the Folk of the Air series is a return to the heart-racing romance, danger, humor, and drama that enchanted readers everywhere. Each chapter is paired with lavish and luminous full-color art, making this the perfect collector’s item to be enjoyed by both new audiences and old. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I adored The Folk of the Air trilogy and yeah I get this is kind of a fanservice-y novel but who cares? I want more Jude and Cardan content especially Cardan living in the mortal world.

The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Everyone has a label, whether they like it or not–and Emma was always known as a good girl. But appearances are never what they seem. And the truth behind what really happened to Emma may just be lying in plain sight. As long-buried secrets come to light, the clock is ticking to find Emma’s killer–before another good girl goes down. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I don’t really know but I’m down to read a good sounding thriller and I also love the cover. It’s so minimalistic.


2021 RELEASES

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Sapphic enemies to lovers in a haunted small town. That’s all that needs to be said honestly.

In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland

A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
This novel sounds so cool! I also love that the author is transparent about this story having so many queer characters. The premise sounds unique and dark.

Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I’m always won to read magic witch books. It’s just a given. I believe this also has sapphic leads and romance between the main characters which is a rivals to lovers.

Darling by K. Ancrum

A teen girl finds herself lost on a dangerous adventure in this YA thriller by the acclaimed author of The Wicker King and The Weight of the Stars—reimagining Peter Pan for today’s world. (FULL SYNPOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
One of the many Peter Pan retellings we’ll be seeing in 2021 and this one and the other I’ll mention later has a thriller-y twist to it. I have enjoyed the hell out of the authors two other books and I have no doubt that this one wil be just as compelling.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I’ve heard so much acclaim towards the author’s debut, THE SILENCE OF BONES and the premise of this one is completely compelling and freshly diverse take on the murder mystery genre.

Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman who desires a law career must be in want of a case. So when seventeen-year-old Lizzie Bennet hears about a scandalous society murder, she sees an opportunity to prove herself as a solicitor by solving the case and ensuring justice is served. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I’m a slut for Pride & Prejuice anything, I want to see that Lizzie x Darcy content. Also this is the first in a Jane Austen inspired murder mystery series?? Where do I sign to get this in my hands immediately?

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN MEETS THE ADDAMS FAMILY IN THIS HAUNTING STORY OF ONE GIRL’S ATTEMPT TO RECONNECT WITH HER MONSTROUS FAMILY. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERSTED:
Monster girls, monster families, monsters everywhere!!! The spirit of Halloween exudes in this book. Bonus for cool cover.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

A dark, twisty modern fairytale where three sisters discover they are not exactly all that they seem and evil things really do go bump in the night. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I’m actually not wanting to read too much into the premise because I like to not know much about some stories. This sounds like one where it’s best to not know much. Obviously I LOVE the cover so there’s that vain interest involved as well lol.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
The other Peter Pan retelling with thriller elements as I mentioned earlier. The idea of Peter Pan but with more suspenseful elements captivates me.

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

Deadly, fierce, magnetically addictive: this Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut is a thrilling journey where dangerous magic reigns supreme and betrayal lurks beneath every word. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
GOD this book is a fresh breath of air for the witchy, magical book genre. As much as I love those kind of books, they can be uhhhh super white. The roots are often hard to define but a lot of it is based on Caribbean, African lore and customs.

Mark of the Wicked by Georgia Bowers

A young witch tries to unravel the mystery of who is framing her for dark magic in Georgia Bowers’ creepy YA debut fantasy, Mark of the Wicked. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I love the premise even though it sounds a little basic if its done well enough I’ll be impressed.

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue

Maeve’s strangely astute tarot readings make her the talk of the school, until a classmate draws a chilling and unfamiliar card—and then disappears. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Not gonna lie, the cover is so fun to me and it was an instant cover to TBR add.

She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

An electric romance set against a rebel art scene sparks lethal danger for two girls in this expertly plotted YA thriller. For fans of E. Lockhart, Lauren Oliver and Kara Thomas. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
This is inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray but make it sapphic. It’s sounds fresh and modern and I love the idea of a Dorian Gray retelling set in sunny California.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
It’s an OwnVoices Native murder mystery story? How could I not be interested?

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

A gorgeously gothic, deeply romantic YA debut fantasy about two enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion, with no escape from the monsters within. (FULL SNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Y’all its enemies to lovers wit a Gothic romance compared to Crimson Peak. This should not be a surprise.

The Project by Courtney Summers

The next pulls-no-punches thriller from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Courtney Summers, about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister from a cult. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
COURTNEYS SUMMERS. CULT. I’M SOLD.

That Weekend by Kara Thomas

That weekend changes everything.

What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory, but as she’s learning, everyone has secrets – even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I just discovered this when the cover was revealed. I have to say my intrigue comes from this sounding so eerily similar to a WIP I had at one point lol

The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon

To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Ever since I became entranced by The Folk of the Air, I wanted more fae stuff and this promises that but with more queer characters.

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

In a YA thriller that is Crazy Rich Asians meets One of Us is Lying, students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead and they’re the prime suspects in her murder. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
This is a dark academia but with Asian rep and I’m so interested in that aspect alone.

The Obessesion by Jesse Q. Sutanto

A classic sort of love story…except somebody might wind up dead. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I recommend reading up on the full synopsis because it tells so much more than I could describe. It sounds dark as hell for YA novel.

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino

The demon will stop at nothing to stay free, manipulating ink to threaten those Tess loves and dismantling Eliot’s strange magic. Tess is plagued by terrible dreams of the devil and haunting memories of a boy who wears Eliot’s face. All she knows is to stay free, the demon needs her… and he’ll have her, dead or alive. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Demons and haunted, forbidden books? An absolute terror if I had to live through that, but since its a story I can manage.

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Another Phantom of the opera retelling this time with a much more fantastical element that it seems removed from that story but the premise is very much, PHANTOM.

Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller

Stay up all night with this modern day Rebecca! Perfect for fans of Truly Devious—a haunting story about a new girl in an old town filled with dark secrets . . . that might just kill her. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Haunted house and spooky old town filled with secrets?? Say no more.

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

From New York Times best-selling author Lexi Ryan, Cruel Prince meets A Court of Thorns and Roses in this sexy, action-packed fantasy about a girl who is caught between two treacherous faerie courts and their dangerously seductive princes. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
Okay this could be medicore maybe because it sounds basic with it being not only another enemies to lovers but also there’s a love triangle. However I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and take a chance on this fae book.

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

New York Times –bestselling author Goldy Moldavsky delivers a deliciously twisty YA thriller that’s Scream meets Karen McManus about a mysterious club with an obsession for horror. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
If I had to join a mysterious club it would be this one that’s named after the baddest horror bitch ever, Mary Shelley.

Our Last Echoes by Kate Alice Marshall

Kara Thomas meets Twin Peaks in this supernatural thriller about one girl’s hunt for the truth about her mother’s disappearance in Kate Alice Marshall’s most commercial book yet. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
TWIN FUCKING PEAKS!!!!

The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters

Natasha is angry. Della has little to lose. They are each other’s only hope. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I loved GHOST WOOD SONG from this author, and I cannot wait to read her next novel which sounds as darkly magical as GWS.

(Me) Moth by Amber McBride

A debut YA novel-in-verse that is both a coming-of-age and a ghost story. (FULL SYNOPSIS HERE)

WHY I’M INTERESTED:
I love the idea of a horror novel but told in verse. I’ve been wanting to read more verse novels and this sounds so cool and unique.


Wow there are so so many books here!!! Sorry that this took a while to post but wow! I hope y’all liked this post and if you want more like this in the future please let me know!!!

Happy Halloween to those who celebrate it and have a great weekend!! 🎃

Top Ten Tuesday – Spooky Non-Fiction

This is a Top Ten Tuesday post, which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Click here form more on this weekly meme and for future topics

What’s spookier than fiction??? NON-FICTION mwahahaha because it’s R E A L. And there’s nothing you can do about it’s realness.

Okay moving on from that terrible intro, today’s topic is Halloween freebie and I’ve been wanting to discuss more non-fiction so I’m recommending two I’ve read and eight others on my TBR.


My Little Occult Book Club by Steven Rhodes

You may have seen this artist’s shirts on websites before. They say things like “EASY BAKE COVEN”, “LET’S SUMMON DEMONS”, or “LET’S SACRIFICE TOBY” and they have very 80s/90s vibes with kids that parody the kids games with that of the occult, paranormal and spooky. Which is the same vibe of this art book that features darkly funny illustrations that have hints of nostalgic book value. It makes for a fun coffee table book and I highly recommend it!

Cursed Objects by J.W. Ocker

I got this from my library recently and it was a fascinatingly delightful read! These details of course, cursed objects, real life objects from all parts of the world that have caused misery, pain, haunting, and d e a t h. Sorry for being morbid but I do find this subject interesting and also terrifying seeing as one of these objects is in my state!!! This is also illustrated like the previous book recommended but does have some words and stories about each object. I think this makes for a great history read as well. So I recommend this one for a quick read.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

This is a pretty well known true crime book from a well known true crime author Ann Rule about Ted Bundy, whom she actually knew before anyone ever knew the truth about him. I actually have read a little bit of this, at least the first few chapters where she actually talks about how she worked at a crisis center where she met Ted. However I know that she goes further into the story of the infamous serial killer and his life, the women and girls that he murdered and so on. It’s a heavy read and a big book so it may take me a while.

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix

There’s this really cool YouTube video that talked about old school paperback horror covers which I’ll link here. From that video I found out about this book which also talks and shows off some of the grotesque, weird, horrifying covers from 70s and 80s horror paperbacks. I got this just recently from a Kindle deal and I cannot wait to see what’s in store!

Beneath the Moon: Fairy Tales, Myths, and Divine Stories from Around the World by Yoshi Yoshitani

I’ve had small peels at the gorgeous art featured in this book from Yoshi Yoshitani and it just looks so stunning. Maybe less on the spooky side but I think it works for this list because it’s about folklore and myths from around the world, as the title says. I believe the art also was used for tarot cards.

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin

I’ve had this on my Kindle for a long while. I’m always fascinated with books that critique and analyze trends in media and this details on why media in particular is maybe a little too fascinated and sensationalized dead girls. I can’t wait to see what this talks about, I saw something that it talks about Twin Peaks, which is a favorite of mine but nevertheless has some pretty problematic elements in it and I can see why it’s easy to critique one particular element from it.

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson; Nightmare Flower by Elizabeth Engstrom; The Women of Weird Tales: Stories by Everil Worrell, Eli Colter, Mary Elizabeth Counselman and Greye La Spina

A 3-in-1 section!!! MONSTER, SHE WROTE, specifically focused on women who wrote horror & speculative fiction such as Mary Shelley, Octavia Butler, VC Andrews, Angela Carter etc. Then the other two are companions to MONSTER, SHE WROTE with stories and authors that were mentioned in MSW. I love things like this about women who wrote in this genres but were maybe overlooked during their time because of so many reasons and now we can look back see their influence in horror and the speculative genre.

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

What’s more horrifying that ghost or ghouls? Men who get jealous of a woman’s success and tries to take credit for her contributions to film! This nonfiction tale is the story of Millicent Patrick, one of Disney’s first female animators and the woman who created the design for the Creature of the Black Lagoon and how unfortunately one jackass tried to make everyone forget about her. But I’m glad that a book like this exists to give Millicent Patrick the credit she deserves. It also has me questioning everything about how women especially throughout history have been overlooked or intentionally forgotten due to the patriarchy™️.


Well that’s that for my Top Ten! Let me know if you’ve read any spooky, scary non-fiction recently and what you’d recommend or if you’ve read of any of these! Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween week!!! 🎃

F Is For Friday – September 25 2020

How to participate in the meme:
1. Credit the creator of this tag and link back — Nomadic Worlds
2. Answer the four questions to the best of your ability.
3. Most important of all, enjoy yourself!

Questions:
F – Feature your latest book obsession (it doesn’t have to be your current read)
I – Indicate which book/s you are looking forward to reading this weekend.
F – Favorite quote of the week/day
F – Five things you’re happy or grateful for this week.


Before I get started I just want to talk about the injustice that has been given to Breonna Taylor this week. It’s so infuriating and frustrating to see this Black woman get no ABSOLUTELY NO justice for her death. After all this time with people who used her murder as a meme, as a martyr and some people just as a means to make themselves look better. It’s a fucking disgrace. It’s painful. I am just so angry for her and her loved ones. So today I’ll like everyone to keep in mind the system in America where we have allowed police to kill Black citizens.

I’m going to link the Louisville Bail Fund and also update this post with some petitions and places to donate. But I know that can never be enough to help mend the amount of injustice that has taken place. Black Lives Matter. Black Women Matter.


F – Feature your latest book obsession (it doesn’t have to be your current read)

My latest bookish obsession is actually my current read which is MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia! I’m slowly reading through this and savoring it because it’s such a good gothic story that embraces the genre while also being a critique of colonialism and white privilege and I’m probably going to have a raving review for it in October! I have yet to finish but I am adoring the writing, the characters particularly our heroine Noemí Taboada (she is a boss ass bitch!!) and the atmosphere. I am also finding the best fan art for it on Twitter!

I – Indicate which book/s you are looking forward to reading this weekend.

I’m still working on finishing MEXICAN GOTHIC but I do hope to fit in some books I have gotten from the library such as BURN OUR BODIES DOWN, GIRL, SERPENT, THORN and A WICKED MAGIC. As you can tell I’m in spooky mode when it comes to reading!

F – Favorite quote of the week/day

The most appropriate quote for this politically tumultuous time comes from a most recent watch of ENOLA HOLMES on Netflix (which I recommend!) Sherlock Holmes is talking about how politics bore him and this character, Edith tells it to him straight why that’s such a white male privileged take!

“Because you don’t know what it is to be without power. Because you have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well.”

F – Five things you’re happy or grateful for this week.

All the things I’m grateful for this week have been film and show related. Media has such a strong grasp on me right now.

1) ENOLA HOLMES – As mentioned above I recently watched this and it was quite delightful. I may do a full review on it just for fun. Not a perfect film by any means but it was still very enjoyable and it just made me feel a little better. Millie Bobby Brown knocks it out here and she’s going to be starring in another YA novel adaptation that she’s producing which is so cool.

2) BRIGHT STAR – Another film that I’m working on reviewing because it was so beautiful and I just discovered it by randomly looking for period drama as on Amazon Prime! This is a gorgeous but also sad film about John Keats and his short lived romance with his muse, Fanny Brawne. There’s so much I want to discuss about this film but if you’re looking for an underrated biopic, this is one that you should watch!

3) PRIDE & PREJUDICE (just everything P&P) – I will sometimes get in a kick for everything P&P and I recently watched the 2005 film and the 1995 miniseries again and they always cheer me up! I know that the debate between which of these adaptations is the best always comes up but I like them both for their own reasons! I do prefer the 2005 version in terms of filmmaking and the 1995 for being a more straight and thorough adaptation of the novel. But anyways look at them!!!!

4) SUCCESSION – I started this show on Sunday (the day of the Emmy’s when it won some awards) and it is something. The way I’m going to describe will most likely turn some people away from watching because at first I was apprehensive of watching it because it’s exactly what I’m about to tell you it is: rich white people doing rich white people things. But make no mistake that this is a darkly humorous and satirical comedy about these kind of privileged white people, so you’re able to laugh at these people screwing up and failing because they’re terrible people! You don’t want any of them to succeed and I think the show is so much better for not trying to find ways to redeem them. The show actively is telling you to not root for them. It’s somehow so brilliant in a time when the privileged keep doing stupid shit.

5) THE OWL HOUSE – Easily one of my favorite and in my honest opinion one of the best children’s animated series right now! The first season just ended at the end of August but I highly recommend it if you want creepy, witchy autumn vibes right now. It’s just a good and engaging show. I have a full review wrote up for in October so be on the lookout for that one 👀.


Have a happy weekend and happy reading 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – What’s on My Fall 2020 TBR 🍂

This is a Top Ten Tuesday post, which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Click here form more on this weekly meme and for future topics

Here in the Northern hemisphere it’s the first of FALL!! While I live in the state where I don’t actually get to experience the glory that is fall weather. The crispy crunchy leaves, the breeze in the air, there is actually a little bit of a breeze today so I’m taking that as a good start to fall.

With the weather as it typically is here, I have to use books to get that vibe of fall coziness and some spooky stuff mixed in.

This fall here are some of the books I would like to most get around to reading! This is a mix of upcoming releases and books that I would just really like to read before fall is over with or at least before the end of the year!


THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE BY V.E. SCHWAB

I have yet to read a book from this author and I know I should get on that but I’m really fascinated by this story’s synopsis surrounding a girl who makes a Faustian deal to live forever and the consequences that of course come with that decision.

THE POPPY WAR BY R.F. KUANG

This is one of the most hyped series on my Twitter timeline. It feels like everyone has read this and I do own it and the sequel THE DRAGON REPUBLIC. It sounds so epic and dark and just everything I kind of want to read right now.

HOW THE KING OF ELFHAME LEARNED TO HATE STORIES BY HOLLY BLACK

I’m so excited for this that I’ll probably retread The Folk of the Air trilogy to get even more hyped for it. I’m all here for this bit of fanservice Holly Black is giving us!

Another super popular series on Book Twitter. Plus an adaptation coming on the way! It’s been described as kind of like The Godfather and has a unique fantasy story along with it. So ready to start this series!

LEGENDBORN BY TRACY DEONN

If not one of my most anticipated reads of the year, LEGENDBORN promises a lot.It’s epic fantasy with a Black girl at the front and center inspired by Arthurian legend!! It sounds cool and I’ve been following the author on Twitter and she’s just so passionate about this story and I love to see it.

PLAIN BAD HEROINES BY EMILY M. DANFORTH

This is from the author of THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST and I’ve been surprised that there’s not too many people talking about it. I actually haven’t looked too much into it, I think it’s dark academia apparently??

A DEADLY EDUCATION BY NAOMI NOVIK

LOVED Spinning Silver so much and I’ll gladly read anything Naomi Novik writes. This is dark academia x fantasy vibes and a magical school setting with a strong and morally grey female character.

A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN BY ROSEANNE A. BROWN

Another diverse YA fantasy that sounds like my jam! This one is also getting an adaptation. I also follow the author on Twitter she is so sweet and I love what she said about her story. This promises a great enemies to lovers romance which I’m all about!

THE VANISHING HALF BY BRIT BENNETT

I really hope to at least read this one before the year is over. The premise is intriguing and timely and I’ve heard great things about it.

KINGDOM OF THE WICKED BY KERRI MANISCALCO

Yet another popular author who has a popular series (STALKING JACK THE RIPPER) that I have yet to read. I did put SJTR on my library holds so maybe I’ll get it before this one but I was intrigued by this one mostly because of the enemies to lovers romance and it has something to do with the Seven Deadly Sins.


That’s it for what I want to read this fall! Let me know down below if you have any of these on your TBR or if you have already reof these yet.

Top Ten Tuesday – Floral Horror Covers

This is a Top Ten Tuesday post, which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Click here form more on this weekly meme and for future topics

Today’s topic is a Cover Freebie!! Freebie topics are always fun and easy and I had many ideas for this but I was led to this idea since it’s close to spooky szn 🎃!!! I wanted to share a a trend I’ve noticed recently (not saying it hasn’t probably been done before) when it comes to horror books: floral horror. Basically these are horror books that feature flowers/plants. I am going to admit that I am using the word “horror” loosely for some of these books which maybe would fit more into murder mystery or dark fantasy but let’s just pretend it’s all under the same umbrella of horror. Just for my sake 😉

I think this is an interesting trend because a pretty cover doesn’t typically go together with what most people associate with horror but I think that may be the intent of the artist and/or publisher. To attract people who like pretty covers to read horror stories. I like both so these appeal to my taste. Then again we did get a movie like Midsommar which is both pretty and disturbing.

Flowers can be deadly. Literally. There are flowers than can kill you.

I tried to look into the covers and see if the artists were going for metaphors or deeper meaning with the flowers in the covers. Some actually did, some seem to be for more ~ aesthetic~ purposes which is honestly fine. I did some deep dives on the internet and looked up what some of flowers meant. However I have also learned that I could not identify different types of flora if my life depended on it. Like I know what a rose and a sunflower looks like. But other than few other flowers, IDK. I’m not an expert on these things. I just think they’re pretty.


WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power / Cover by Aykut Aydoğdu & Regina Flath – OUT NOW

Definitely the most attention grabbing one is this gorgeous yet horrifyingly creepy cover of WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power. It’s so pretty but if you think about it too long it’s kind of terrifying and twisted. This is how the author described the cover/story in an interview for the cover reveal.

Girlhood is its own kind of horror. Girls grow up steeped in it, in that slow-burning fear, in that sneaking sense that our bodies aren’t our own. In writing Wilder Girls, I wanted to take that horror and make it something else. Something you can touch. Something you can fight against, if you want, or keep tucked inside. Wilder Girls is about agency; it’s about hope; it’s about the things girlhood tries to drive out of us. I’m so proud to be sending it out into the world with this stunning cover – I hope you enjoy it.

HORRID by Katrina Leno / Cover by Tran Nguyen – Release Date: September 15 2020

It should not be a surprise that this cover is on this list because this one of my favorite covers for this year. But at the same time I’m not sure if the black flowers have any sort of deeper meaning. It just looks horrid but in a good way. I can’t wait to read this horror that’s inspired by Stephen King and Agatha Christie.

HOUSE OF HOLLOW by Krystal Sutherland / Cover by Aykut Aydoğdu – Release Date: April 2021

Of course the same artist for WILDER GIRLS goes absolutely hard on another YA horror. This one gives me Midsommar vibes and the insects and blood make it even more creepy and chilling. The artist definitely does pretty body horror very well. “Beautiful, unsettling, haunting” as described by the author. Which is a perfect description!

THE FOREST OF STOLEN GIRLS by June Hur / Cover by Pedro Tapa – Release Date: April 2021

This book is a historical murder mystery that takes place in Joseon Korea on Jeju Island. So I looked up what kind of flowers exist on Jeju Island. I found out that Jeju Island is most known for canola blossoms (which are a gorgeous yellow), cherry blossoms, red azalea, and rhododendron blossoms. I don’t know if any of the flowers on the cover are these variety of flowers but I’d like to think they are. But regardless this is such a lush cover that would be fill in with colors like a coloring book page. But use of flowers with the two girls sort of hiding or disappearing within the flowers may represent secrets lurking.

WHAT BIG TEETH by Rose Szabo / Cover by Corey Brickley – February 2021

I’ll be honest and say I don’t have much to say about the floral aspect of the cover design here since I think the most obvious draw is the face with fangs. BUT THERE ARE FLOWERS in the background. This is a horror story and it’s about a family with “monstrous” secrets. Mwahaha.

IN THE RAVENOUS DARK BY A.M. Strickland / Cover by Natalie C. Sousa – Release Date: May 2021

The author, via me looking at their Twitter, feed helped me figure out that the flowers are poppies and that this book is inspired by Greco-Roman culture and mythology. So with those little tidbits in mind, I did a quick Google search. Poppies in Greco-Roman myths were used as offerings to the dead and often represent eternal sleep. Cool. Also it’s a skull made from flowers!!!

PRIDE & PREMEDITATION by Tirzah Price / Cover by Dan Funderburgh & Corina Lupp – Release Date: March 2021

LOOK ANOTHER SKULL MADE OF FLOWERS!!! I can assume these are lillies, tulips etc. I don’t really know but it just looks pretty. Also this is a Pride & Prejudice murder mystery retelling so I’m in for a treat when I get my hands on this book!

MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia / Cover by Tim Green – OUT NOW

The only adult title I have on here, I know, but I really think this is a beautiful cover. Also one book I can’t wait to read soon. Of course there’s the yellow flowers that the main character is holding. Then there’s the wall decor which is very stylish and gothic. But it also may represent the feelings of entrapment which is a common theme of horror/gothic tales.

CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas / Cover by Mars Lauderbaugh – OUT NOW

As described by the author in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “Lady Death and the marigolds represent Dia de Muertos, the holiday during which Cemetery Boys takes place. This cover is the perfect mix of beauty, magic, mystery and unapologetically Latinx!” So glad to see that the flowers do play an important role in the story here. It’s also a book on my immediate TBR. I just got my copy in the other day!!

WATCH OVER ME by Nina LaCour / Cover by Pippa Young – Release Date: September 15 2020

It’s pretty!! And it’s a ghost story! I have no idea what these flowers are but again it’s pretty and I’m actually very hyped for this book!


That’s that for my Top Ten! Let me know what you think and share your own posts if you joined in! Also let me know if you know anymore about these flowers than I do lol.

Also check out these artists. They are all amazing. They’re indivual work is so impressive my favorites are Tran Nguyen’s, Pedro Tapa, and Aykut Aydoğdu.

Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine / Blog Tour: Review + Excerpt

ROAD OUT OF WINTER

Author: Alison Stine
ISBN: 9780778309925
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Many thanks to the publisher for letting me participate in this blog tour and granting me access to the ARC for this title.

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter. So opens Alison Stine’s moving and lyrical cli-fi novel, ROAD OUT OF WINTER.

With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other.

Chapter One

I used to have dreams that Lobo would be arrested. The sheriff and his deputies would roll up the drive, bouncing on the gravel, but coming fast, too fast to be stopped, too fast for Lobo to get away through the fields. Or maybe Lobo would be asleep, and they would surprise him, his eyes red, slit like taillights. My mama and I would weep with joy as they led him off. The deputies would wrap us in blankets, swept in their blue lights. We were innocent, weren’t we? Just at the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time, involved with the wrong man—and we didn’t know, my mama didn’t know, the extent.

But that wasn’t true, not even close. 

I sold the weed at a gas station called Crossroads to a boy who delivered meals for shut-ins. Brown paper bags filled the back of his station wagon, the tops rolled over like his mama made him lunch. I supposed he could keep the bags straight. That was the arrangement Lobo had made years ago, that was the arrangement I kept. I left things uncomplicated. I didn’t know where the drugs went after the boy with the station wagon, where the boy sold them or for how much. I took the money he gave me and buried most of it in the yard.

After his station wagon bumped back onto the rural route, I went inside the store. There was a counter in the back, a row of cracked plastic tables and chairs that smelled like ketchup: a full menu, breakfast through dinner. They sold a lot of egg sandwiches at Crossroads to frackers, men on their way out to work sites. It was a good place to meet; Lisbeth would come this far. I ordered three cheeseburgers and fries, and sat down.

She was on time. She wore gray sweatpants under her long denim skirt, and not just because of the cold. “You reek, Wil,” she said, sliding onto the chair across from me.

“Lobo says that’s the smell of money,” I said.

“My mama says money smells like dirty hands.”

            The food arrived, delivered by a waitress I didn’t know. Crinkling red and white paper in baskets. I slid two of the burgers over to Lisbeth. The Church forbade pants on women, and short hair, and alcohol. But meat was okay. Lisbeth hunched over a burger, eating with both hands, her braid slipping over her shoulder.

“Heard from them at all?” she asked.

“Not lately.”

“You think he would let her write you? Call?”

“She doesn’t have her own phone,” I said.

            Lisbeth licked ketchup off her thumb. The fries were already getting cold. How about somethin’ home made? read the chalkboard below the menu. I watched the waitress write the dinner specials in handwriting small and careful as my mama’s.

“Hot chocolate?” I read to Lisbeth. “It’s June.”

“It’s freezing,” she said. 

And it was, still. Steam webbed the windows. There was no sign of spring in the lung-colored fields, bordered by trees as spindly as men in a bread line. We were past forsythia time, past when the squirrels should have been rooting around in the trees for sap. 

“What time is it now?” Lisbeth asked.

I showed her my phone, and she swallowed the last of her burger.

“I’ve got to go.”

“Already?”

“Choir rehearsal.” She took a gulp of Coke. Caffeine was frowned upon by The Church, though not, I thought, exclusively forbidden. “I gave all the seniors solos, and they’re terrified. They need help. Don’t forget. Noon tomorrow.”

The Church was strange—strange enough to whisper about. But The Church had a great choir; she had learned so much. They had helped her get her job at the high school, directing the chorus, not easy for a woman without a degree. Also, her folks loved The Church. She couldn’t leave, she said.

“What’s at noon?” I asked.

           She paused long enough to tilt her head at me. “Wylodine, really? Graduation, remember? The kids are singing?”

“I don’t want to go back there.”

“You promised. Take a shower if you been working so my folks don’t lose their 

minds.”  

“If they haven’t figured it out by now, they’re never going to know,” I said, but Lisbeth 

was already shrugging on her coat. Then she was gone, through the jangling door, long braid and layers flapping. In the parking lot, a truck refused to start, balking in the cold.  

I ordered hot chocolate. I was careful to take small bills from my wallet when I went up to the counter. Most of the roll of cash from the paper bag boy was stuffed in a Pepsi can back on the floor of the truck. Lobo, who owned the truck, had never been neat, and drink cans, leaves, and empty Copenhagen tins littered the cab. Though the mud on the floor mats had hardened and caked like makeup, though Lobo and Mama had been gone a year now, I hadn’t bothered cleaning out the truck. Not yet.

The top of the Pepsi can was ripped partially off, and it was dry inside: plenty of room for a wad of cash. I had pushed down the top to hide the money, avoiding the razor-sharp edge. Lobo had taught me well.

I took the hot chocolate to go.

In the morning, I rose early and alone, got the stove going, pulled on my boots to hike up the hill to the big house. I swept the basement room. I checked the supplies. I checked the cistern for clogs. The creek rode up the sides of the driveway. Ice floated in the water, brown as tea. 

No green leaves had appeared on the trees. No buds. My breath hung in the air, a web I walked through. My boots didn’t sink in the mud back to my own house in the lower field; my footprints were still frozen from a year ago. Last year’s walking had made ridges as stiff as craters on the moon. At the door to my tiny house, I knocked the frost from my boots, and yanked them off, but kept my warm coveralls on. I lit the small stove, listening to the whoosh of the flame. The water for coffee ticked in the pot.

I checked the time on the clock above the sink, a freebie from Radiator Palace. 

“Fuck,” I said aloud to no one.

Excerpted from Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine, Copyright © 2020 by Alison Stine. 
Published by MIRA Books

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

So here are in the middle of an influenza pandemic and during one of the hottest years ever and I happen to be reading a story about a post apocalyptic society set in an endless winter. Honestly its quite the experience. Just the cool down I needed. So I cranked my AC down to a chilling temperature to get that feel of wintery apocalyptic dread that ROAD OUT OF WINTER delivers on.

This is one of those reads where I felt a bit out of my comfort zone since lately I’ve been reading YA contemporary, so going from that to a climate change apocalypse sci-fi for adults is a stark difference.

Plus this has the fun little addition of having a cult! Cults are very much my thing and I have to say that the one in this story is so well done. It added to the psychological element of this book that slowly creeps on you and it’s characters.

And I adored Wil! She’s a Bi female lead who sells weed to get by. I appreciate this hustle. I also appreciate and was delightfully surprised by this fact since I had no idea it would be here but it was and it was refreshing that the queer rep was well executed. Her character arc is so well done and nuanced. Along with most of the characters the story’s setting and tone help to bring out Wil’s darker and grittier side. The sides of humanity that come out when we are trying to survive.

My biggest draw to any story like this is the survival element and how it affects the characters psychologically. Surviving something makes us act in different ways. These parts where things go bad made it feel so real. Because societal collapse is a very real thing that could happen as soon a tomorrow.

I highly recommend you check this out for yourself if you’re willing to dive into a bleak, gritty story that is hard hitting and hard to put down once you really get into it. It does take its time but I thought it was worth it despite the slow build up.

ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Buy Links: 
Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Social Links:
Author Website
Twitter: @AlisonStine
Instagram: @AliStineWrites
Goodreads

F is For Friday – August 28 2020

How to participate in the meme:
1. Credit the creator of this tag and link back — Nomadic Worlds
2. Answer the four questions to the best of your ability.
3. Most important of all, enjoy yourself!

Questions:
F – Feature your latest book obsession (it doesn’t have to be your current read)
I – Indicate which book/s you are looking forward to reading this weekend.
F – Favorite quote of the week/day
F – Five things you’re happy or grateful for this week.


F – feature your latest book obsession

This is kind of hard for me to answer right but uhhh I guess the library? Which I’m always obsessed with because 1) its the library which means free books 2) I work at one. I’ve been getting more books from the library lately since there has been some great releases. Maybe I’ll do a library haul in the future (?)

I – Indicate which book/s you are looking forward to reading this weekend

Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine is my weekend read. I have a blog tour coming up for it so yeah I should definitely get on it. It’s a bleak, winter, near future dystopian. Perfect read for a summer full of sweltering heat and pandemic illnesses. There’s a few other books that I have my eye on that I may pick up but it’ll depend on my mood.

F – Favorite quote of the week

I discovered this on the Twitter timeline and I had to retweet. It’s been stuck with for a while so I might as well share. I feel like its super fitting for the time we’re living in and how much of a bizarre summer it’s been.

I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again

GEORGIA O’KEEFFE

F – Five things you’re happy/grateful for this week

1) MY MOM
2) MY DAD
3) MY PETS
4) PEOPLE WHO WEAR MASKS
5) PEOPLE WHO AREN’T RACIST, HOMOPHOBIC, XENOPHOBIC, SEXIST, OR JUST ANYONE WHO IS NOT BIGOTED. 🙂


Thanks for reading if you did and I appreciate you! Have a good weekend 🙂

Candid Convo #1: What the Hell Have I Been Doing This Year?

Welcome to this thing I’m doing now.

I’ve had this idea in my head since March/April and then the Covid-19 pandemic started. I thought about starting this anyways around that time because I wanted a way to vent about things and talk about various, non-bookish things and maybe even get ~personal~. But I put it off not only due to the pandemic but also with the murder of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter movement, I felt that it was absolutely not the time or place for me do this kind of thing. I’ve been focusing my time, energy and money on BLM and social justice causes. I’ll link a carrd down below if you want to know more about the current events happening in the world.

Then there’s the fact that this has been yet another bad mental health year for me, especially with depression. Not that the world being on fire helps but its especially been a struggle for me this year to do the things I’m SUPPOSED TO DO for this blog: read and blog.

Not that I haven’t been doing either of those things. I’ve been offered to join blog tours (cool!!!) and read ARCs but at the same time it’s taken away from me being able to read books I want to read for my own pleasure and amusement and not just obligated reading. In the near future I’m going to go more into this topic so be on the look out for that post.

I have been trying to keep up with other bloggers’ content this year as well but I’m deeply sorry if I haven’t been social or engaging as much as I wish I could be. I’ve been meaning to share a lot of new bloggers I’ve discovered this year on my blog and also just be more interactive but alas ~mental health~.

Since COVID-19 has disrupted my life as much as everyone elses’, I’ve been working (which is a whole other candid convo), watching shows and films, playing video games (especially Animal Crossing: New Horizons), and listening to music to try to keep my sanity. With all the media I’ve been taking in this year, I’ll have plenty of non-bookish things to review and discuss with y’all soon lol.

While this year I haven’t focused on books as much as I would like too, I do have some blog post ideas that have been lingering for a long while. Some that may take a while to come into fruition but we’ll get there when we get there.

Thanks for reading if you did, let me know what you think of this, and just whatever is on your mind. 🙂


I’ve you want to know about what I’m up to or talking about follow me on my Twitter where I’m pretty much on all the time.

ISSUES GOING ON IN THE WORD