I froze. Roark took deep breaths, forcing himself to calm down until the bloodthirst in his eyes dissipated. Then, he inched toward me slowly. “I get it now. Marius sensed what I couldn’t. Why anyone would give up their throne for just one taste of your blood. Why you have more seekers than any other girl in Europe.”
“What?” I held my breath as he closed the distance between us, his dark shadow impaling my body.
“You’re a fucking symphony. You taste like four seasons. Like Aphrodite herself. You’re a goddess. A siren. There’s immortality in your blood. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I thought back to that day in Kenneth’s manor. The invisible power I’d wielded.
“You’re human and beyond human,” responded Roark, cupping my cheeks, eyes shifting between each of mine.
I pressed my hips to his while leaning my chest away. Something was rearing. Combusting inside me. Aiming for my hand. Before Roark could lean in to kiss me, I raised my hand, retorting, “Beyond human…like this?” I opened my palm to reveal a fireball. Like a flaming white diamond the size of a golf ball. Even as I exhaled, Roark joined his hand with mine, extinguishing the fire right before he pressed his lips to mine, driving all other thoughts from my mind.
Thank you to St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books for the invitation to participate n the blog Tour for 'Mayhem' by Estelle Laure!
Continue below for the synopsis, a letter from the author regarding her book, and my interview with her!
Estelle Laure, the author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back believes in love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths.
She has a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and she lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her family. Her work is translated widely around the world.
MAYHEM by Estelle Laure; On-sale: July 14th, 2020
The Lost Boys meets Wilder Girls in this supernatural feminist YA novel.
Synopsis: It's 1987 and unfortunately it's not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy's constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem's own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren't like everyone else.
But when May's stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem's questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good.
But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.
From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.
Like Mayhem, I experienced a period of time when my life was extremely unstable. I can still remember what it was like to be shaken so hard I thought my head would come off, to watch the room vibrate, to feel unsafe in my own home, to never know what was coming around the next corner. I wanted to run. I always wanted to run.
I ran to friends, but also movies and books, and although girls were more passively portrayed in movies like The Lost Boys back then, that feeling of teenagers prowling the night, taking out bad people, being unbeatable . . . that got me through it.
I guess that’s what I tried to do here. I wanted girls who feel powerless to be able to imagine themselves invincible. And yes, I used a rape as the seed for that fierce lineage, not without thought. For me, there is nothing worse, and I like to think great power can rise up as a result of a devastating trespass.
Please know I took none of this lightly. Writing this now, my heart is beating hard and my throat is dry. This is the first time I not only really looked at my own past, the pain of loss, the pain of the loss of trust that comes when someone puts hands on you without permission, the pain of people dying, the shock of suicide, and put all of it to paper in a way that made me feel victorious, strong, and warrior-like. It is also terrifying. I know I’m not the only one who had a scary childhood, andI know I’m not the only one who clings to stories as salve to smooth over burnt skin. I am so sick of girls and women being hurt. This was my way of taking my own vengeance and trying to access forgiveness.
Thank you for reading and for those of you who can relate, I see you and you are not alone.
☆★☆ Interview with Estelle Laure ☆★☆
If you had to describe Mayhem Brayburn in three words, what would they be?
Furious, curious, perceptive.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite and why?
I honestly have a lot of favorites and many of them are toward the end and would require spoilers, but let’s just say THE ONE WITH THE BIRDS is my very favorite. Earlier on I love when Mayhem first finds her friends, the dynamics and the wildness of the boardwalk and how certain they are that they’re just the coolest. If you’re lucky enough to really bond with a group of people it’s as good as falling in love and just as seductive. I could feel that feeling again as I was writing and it felt wickedly good.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I would LOVE to do a second book about Mayhem and her friends and family. I think there’s a huge amount of potential in them all, and they were a thrill to spend time with.
What would you hope readers might take away with them upon reading Mayhem?
I hope they’ll feel invincible and empowered, mostly, but I also hope they’ll feel seen for some essential and possibly hidden piece of themselves. Mostly, I hope they have a really good time reading it.
What books, articles, or authors influenced you the most or made you think differently?
In life in general? Tons. I think overall Stephen King, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, John Steinbeck, Shirley Jackson, Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, Sylvia Plath, and a whole slew of poets have had the most effect. In particular Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath (again), and Gwendolyn Brooks. I could write a book just about all the ways in which they’ve influenced me as a person and are responsible for my education. Oh, and I would be remiss if I did not also mention Stephenie Meyer. If there had not been Twilight I don’t know that I ever would have started writing in earnest.
Admittedly, I read the Angelbound Lincoln series out of order.. but I really enjoyed both the pre-quel and the third book. So, I expected to love one that centered on the Thrax prince himself.. even more.
'Lincoln,' book two in the series, somehow didn't read as smoothly to me as either of the others.
The second installment follows Prince Lincoln, a part-angel demon killer, as he comes into his own. He has fallen for a quasi-demon girl named Myla.. but his people see anyone demonic as the enemy.. and the PITA neighboring kingdom of Acca is determined to win the right to hunt her.
In an effort to protect her, he's been a first class jerk to keep her at a distance from him, but as time has passed.. he's only become more enamored and more aware that the precariousness of her situation continues to grow.
As I've said before.. Bauer has done a wonderful job with the world building. The races she employs in her stories are a quirky, but fascinating combination of beings.. the magic bases are interesting, and the villains are nothing if not persistent.
Still, this book felt off for me. Perhaps I've just grown tired of the first person storytelling style, but I think Prince Lincoln's voice just doesn't resonate well with me at times. I enjoy him when he's causing the villains problems, but when he's mooning about over his girl.. it's all rather dull. There's just not a lot of depth there with any of the characters.
Furthermore, while he seems to be able to spend ample time describing the most minute detail about Myla, there's a lot of story developing throughout the book.. and those pieces feel very rushed. It's like a bare minimum of words were used to get the most information into the shortest span of time possible so that he could go back to talking about his feelings.
There are a ton of interesting characters in the book.. and they really don't see a lot of page time either. They're tools of convenience to further plot or deliver information to the reader, but they aren't allowed to crystalize into anything solid. In fact, the story may be a bit dialogue heavy.. relying on that and inner monologues to explain what's happening, instead of really letting the reader experience it first hand.
I do have a couple of favorites though, Walker.. his Ghoul friend and Night, his spell casting mare.. are both fascinating. Myla is fine, same with Queen Ophelia. The sense of humor is there.. even if it doesn't actually make me laugh. Most of them are pretty likeable.
All in all, it was still a fun read. Very light and nothing wrong with the writing. It just felt weaker to me than the other two.
[TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on 'Arms of the Ocean' blog tour brought to you by Parliament House Press, Jamie Webster, M. Dalto, and Xpresso Book Tours!
Arms of the Ocean
Interview with Jamie Webster & M. Dalto:
Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
Jamie: Well there's this party later in the book to celebrate Tris' arrival in Inara. It's one of my favourite parts and one turning point in the story.
MB: There are so many good bits of dialogue between Tris and Imri that I can’t wait for people to read.
Tell me something only you know about Tristaine.
Jamie: Tris is definitely a dog person.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?
Jamie: Hidden characters. It's funny how you'll be like ok here's all the characters that are in my book. Then you start writing and someone else pops up and you just have to go with it.
MB: Character relationships seem to develop like this as well.
Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied Arms of the Ocean?
Jamie: I find that I need music in order to focus on writing. I think the music helps quiet my inner editor. I had recently discovered Hamilton when I started writing this story with M. While writing Arms of the Ocean, I listened to Hamilton and The Astonishing by Dream Theater back to back.
MB: I listen to music as I write, but it can only be songs I already know- anything new and I’ll get too distracted. The title for AOTO was actually inspired by a song.
What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
Jamie: I suspect this story will end up being a trilogy. I see Imri, Tris, and the gang journeying to The Realm in the next book. What about you M?
MB: We definitely left the end of AOTO open with purpose.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
Jamie: Editing. I do not enjoy that process in the slightest. Not because of what I needed to cut, but it changes the way you look at your story. For me, to switch to editing mode, I'm looking at the literal words for the most part and then asking questions about what doesn't make sense.
MB: Editing here, too, but more so because it means I have to almost rewrite my entire draft. I’m a fast-drafter so my writing is always minimalistic at first while I hash out the plot, so it’s the editing process that makes me flesh out those bare bones.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Jamie: Oh man, this is always a loaded question because I love so many books and series that it's hard to say. All time I'd have to say Lloyd Alexander. His stories are what made me even start reading fantasy.
MB: Sarah J. Maas and Cassandra Clare will always have a special place in my heart. George R. R. Martin and Diana Gabaldon as well.
JAMIE WEBSTER - WEBSTERLITERARY.COM | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER
M. DALTO - AUTHORMDALTO.WORDPRESS.COM | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | FACEBOOK
A Spectacle of Souls
"You must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me. I cannot save myself as much as I wish to, I am bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin and it's there. In the walls."
'Mexican Gothic' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a wonderfully dark story filled with twisting paths and wicked antagonists. I absolutely loved it.
Centering around wealthy Mexican socialite, Noemi Taboada, the story follows her to a creepy old mansion in the countryside in response to a desperate sounding letter from her recently-wed cousin Catalina. The missive is fraught with anxiety and implores the family to send someone to save her. Her father doesn't really take it seriously and neither does she, they both think the girl is on the dramatic side, but he asks her to go for a visit to assuage his mind in any case and see if she does indeed need help.
Upon her arrival, what she finds is a seemingly menacing new husband.. not the classy, charismatic Englishman Catalina seemed to be marrying, a chilling patriarch who appears to be obsessed with racial traits and uncomfortably interested in Noemi, and a household run with a rigidity that is unlike anything she's ever experienced. Having come from the city.. a glamorous debutante with her choice of parties and dates to accompany her.. regardless of her sometimes inconsiderate behavior, High Place is definitely a culture shock.
Francis, brother to her cousin's new husband, seems to be the only one who might be trustworthy. Unlike Virgil, Francis is rather soft-spoken, gentle, and seems to want only to help her. Though he too may be hiding dark familial secrets and as the house begins to invade Noemi's dreams, she digs deeper.. trying to get to the bottom of what's happening in an attempt to help her cousin.
"Noemi felt suddenly like a girl who had her knuckles rapped, and this made her raise her chin and stare back at the woman in the same way she had stared at the nuns at her school, armored with poised insurrection."
Honestly, the family is messed up. Howard, the patriarch.. is the most unpleasant person to experience. Even sitting at a meal with him.. trying to have a regular discussion, it's pretty plain that his views are so removed from polite society.. I'd want nothing to do with him. The moment he appeared in the story.. I disliked him.
The house is managed by Florence, Howard's niece, and she's almost equally unpleasant. Her demands of structure seem outrageous and the friendliest emotion she seems to manage is disdain.
I really believed I knew early on what the origin of the family was going to be.. but I was wrong. It's an incredibly unorthodox story and I love that it wasn't explained in a big 'gotcha' reveal.. so much as a slow, dawning understanding. For me personally, I felt I was sort of battered over the head with the symbolism a bit too frequently, but it's plausible that zealotry could manifest in that way.
"In a sense all dreams foretell events, but some more clearly than others."
Initially, I thought the book started out a little slowly, but as I read on I came to believe it was a methodical pace designed to put the reader in that carefree, rich party girl headspace. It gave me a chance to settle in, frown at the main character, and be dismissive of what was ahead because it didn't feel pressing. Likewise, my first impressions of the Doyle family only encouraged that thinking. I found them rude and cold, but not necessarily frightening.
Moreno-Garcia does a fantastic job of making sure the reader is exactly where she wants us to be. She's unafraid to use truly disturbing themes and manages to convey graphic scenes without the usual accompanying language. She's a gifted writer and now I find myself curious about one of her previous works, 'Gods of Jade and Shadow,' as well.
If you're thinking about picking this up and you like gothic horror, this is for you. There's plenty of mystery and extremely uncomfortable interactions to keep you turning the pages even before you understand what has occurred.
'The Bone Jar' by S.W. Kane is the first book in the Detective Lew Kirby series, a story that circles around the discovery of an elderly woman's body in an abandoned asylum on the banks of the Thames. As DI Kirby and his partner start digging into the details of the woman's death, a second body turns up in the river nearby.
Secrets begin to unfold regarding hidden rooms, secret experimentation, and the legends that places like Blackwater Asylum so often develop.. that there's a force about them. Ghosts of the past. Or at least, an inescapable vortex that seems to draw others to their doom.
When Kirby meets with Connie Darke, an urban explorer whose sister died in an unexplained accident on the asylum grounds, his queries spur her own obsessions with the truth and she grows determined to help him find answers.
There are several questionable characters that pop up throughout the investigation, some of them tight-lipped and severe.. others wild and brash. Each one is richly portrayed, their distinctive quirks making them easy to keep track of even with a wide suspect pool.
To start with.. there's Raymond Sweet, the former resident of the asylum who ends up living on the property for decades after it closes. He's an unusual man, but he seems almost sweet in his strange way. There's the hot shot developer who ends up losing Sweets plot of land to him via squatters rights litigation, the missing urban explorer whose cell phone is found at the scene of the crime, the heir to Marsh House just in from Perth, the daughter of the deceased who is more than a little rough around the edges, and plenty of others.
Nearly everyone has secrets they're keeping, some of which are devastating and not all of them even relate to the case. In fact, while Kirby is trying to track down the killer, he's fielding calls from his parents about something his mom has been hiding. Admittedly, I found her reveal a little odd, but the story was still great.
I loved the dark, gritty setting. The description of the property throughout the book is so vividly stark. The asylum has stood on the grounds for years and it feels as if its affected almost everything within its reach.
Kane did a fantastic job of balancing character and story development with well-paced scenes filled with action or suspense. It's definitely worth the read.
"Everyone knows how much I love you.
All your gestures have become my gestures.
Have become my gestures."
'Everyone Knows How Much I Love You' by Kyle McCarthy follows a thirty year old writer named Rose as she navigates parallels between her past and present with the best friend she betrayed in high school.
After moving to New York, she ends up reconnecting with that former friend, Lacie at the suggestion of someone they both know. When she's as drawn to Lacie during their meeting as she'd been in school, Rose manages to convince Lacie to let her move in.
Though the pair have an unpleasant history, they grow close again and at least on Lacie's end.. things seem to be almost like they were before. Almost. Though it's questionable as to whether or not that's ideal.
"I did swerve. But it wasn't a flinch. It wasn't a mistake. There was a column of rage in me, a crackle of blue flame, clarifying."
Soon after moving into Lacie's home, Rose takes a job tutoring wealthy kids on their SAT scores. Her spare time is spent working on her novel, a story about the details of the betrayal all those years ago. Enamored with the friend they share, Lacie's boyfriend.. the past and present begin to merge.
Rose is an intelligent, introspective character. She's artistic, but seems to struggle constantly with her self-image.. and that plays a huge role in her ability to understand those around her. It's ironic, that she envisions Lacie as being this woman who moves through life having such impact on the people she comes into contact with and never realizing it, when Rose herself carries that same sort of mysterious charisma. The behaviors differ, but the results are similar.
"Home. I wanted so badly to believe in the myth of us, in the myth of all female friendships, the deep ones, the lasting ones: that they were more true than romance, more fun than children. That they were a place to live: home."
I really enjoyed the external conflicts between the characters in play, but even more.. I enjoyed the 'appearance' of inner conflict. I say 'appearance'.. because its actual existence is extremely questionable. There's definitely the comprehension of right and wrong, but often a lack of investment in those feelings and it's interesting to watch evolve.
All the characters we really spend any quality time with know how to wield their skills to manipulate others. Some do so almost benevolently, while others are just careless with them. Putting things in motion without thought of the outcome, only to be unhappy or upset when they do inevitably lead to some sort of collision in their personal lives.
There are also those who know exactly what they're doing. They enjoy the feeling of power it gives them and they like to think they don't mean for things to play out in certain ways, but they still have the urges to do it all over again.
"A man who is involved with a woman who burns is not interested in nice or trust, no matter what he says, no matter if he writes I don't understand."
As a behavioral study, their social circle is fascinating and despite some less realistic consequences, I hate to admit their actions are not so uncommon. I could see people I've known.. relationships I've witnessed.. in this novel. And it's hard not to say at the end of the day, that most things probably turned out as they should have, knowing everything that took place along the way.
If you enjoy thought provoking stories that delve into the complexities of relationships of all kinds, particularly where envy and longing plays a role in the machinations from all sides.. you should give this novel a read.
The Marriage Game
“You’re sitting at my desk.” She put the pot on the reception desk and folded her arms.
Sam shuffled his papers, spreading them across the polished wood surface for no reason other than to keep his gaze off her distractingly perfect breasts. “I didn’t see your name on it.”
“Just look at your lease. You’ll see it written across the top, or can’t you read big words like Patel?”
“I don’t recall seeing any identification,” he countered. “For all I know, you could have just walked in off the street. You’re certainly not dressed like you’re running a business.”
Eyes blazing, she glared. “What’s wrong with how I’m dressed?”
“An apron and a pink tracksuit with Juicy written across the ass are hardly serious business attire and they certainly don’t scream swipe right on desi Tinder.”
Sam didn’t know if there was such a thing as Tinder for people of South Asian descent living abroad, but if it did exist, he and Layla would definitely not have been a match.
Layla gave a growl of frustration. “You may be surprised to hear that I don’t live my life seeking male approval. I’m just getting over a breakup so I’m a little bit fragile. Last night, I went out with Daisy and drank too much, smoked something I thought was a cigarette, danced on a speaker, and fell onto some loser named Jimbo, whose girlfriend just happened to be an MMA fighter and didn’t like to see me sprawled on top of her man. We had a minor physical altercation and I was kicked out of the bar. Then I got dumped on the street by my Uber driver because I threw up in his cab. So today, I just couldn’t manage office wear. It’s called self-care, and we all need it sometimes. Danny certainly didn’t mind.” Danny certainly didn’t mind.”
“Who’s Danny?” The question came out before he could stop it.
“Someone who appreciates all I’ve got going here…” She ran a hand in and out of her generous curves. “… and isn’t hung up on trivial things like clothes.” She tugged off the apron and folded it on the crock-pot.
“I’m not hung up on clothes either,” Sam teased. “When I’m with a woman I prefer her to have no clothes at all.”
“You’re disgusting.” Layla grabbed her crock-pot and donuts and marched into the small kitchen at the back of the office.
Sam heard cupboards bang. Cutlery clatter. Angry mutters and a huff. A few minutes later Layla marched back out with a bowl of dal in one hand and two donuts circling her finger like rings.
Only when she sat down and proceeded to eat one of the donuts off her finger did he realize he hadn’t done any work since she walked in.
“Donuts and dal are not two foods that naturally go together,” he pointed out.
Layla took a giant bite and licked her lips. “Do you not have work to do? Or are you just going to sit there and look pretty?”
'The Silent Wife' is the tenth book in the Will Trent series by internationally bestselling author, Karin Slaughter, slated for release on August 4th, 2020. Her previous novel, 'The Last Widow,' was a #1 Sunday Times bestseller. She's sold over 35 million copies across 120 countries worldwide.. and believe it or not, this is the first of them I've read.
You have to forgive me, her first novel was being published in 2001.. at a time things in my life were getting just a bit wild. That only really began to come to a halt last year and now I'm just getting to a lot of great authors who were breaking at a time reading was just not happening. That being said, I've heard a ton of praise for her work and she absolutely lives up to the hype.
The story follows Will Trent, a GBI investigator with demons of his own to wrangle, as he ends up at a state prison to look into a murder that occurs there during a riot. While he and his co-workers are beginning to piece together what might have happened and who may have been involved, another prisoner reaches out with information to trade.
Claiming his innocence, the prisoner offers them a plethora of details in exchange for his request that they investigate a death that seems to mimic one he was accused of eight years earlier. He insists that the young woman who was brutally attacked and left for dead is the work of another and that he believes he has proof the attacker is still active.
Slaughter's pacing is superb. She does a wonderful job of shifting between non-linear timelines and multiple narrators, giving the reader both the backstory and the current lay of the land simultaneously. Both timelines move with a steady, parallel rhythm that continues forward smoothly. Transitions are seamless, characters have their own distinct voices, and they're all fascinating in their own right.
I definitely have a soft spot for characters like Will and I can see why he'd be part of a series with such longevity. I'm certainly interested in going back and reading some of the other titles. His childhood was rough and his relationships as an adult have mostly been toxic too. It's easy to see how badly he could have turned out, if not for second chances and a grim determination to make something of himself. He's still a little broken.. and he's not the only one.
His girlfriend Sara has had some tough moments too. She didn't get the difficult start Will did, but there's absolutely a point in her life where everything changed for her.. and those changes have affected her daily life in long term ways. Through it all, she remains compassionate and incredibly likeable.
None of Slaughter's characters are infallible. In fact, most of them feel very real. I found myself comparing them to people I know. Some of them try the reader's patience far more than others, however, and I had several theories as I made my way through this book. Ultimately, I enjoyed every step of the journey. I'm pretty solidly versed in procedural information and she still pulled out a few things I'd never heard before.
There may be some triggers here if you're sensitive to violence. The assaults are vicious. The premeditation and methodology are the stuff of nightmares. But wow, what a read.
If you want to pick up an intriguing mystery/suspense novel that will hold your interest all the way through, 'The Silent Wife' is a good choice.