Have someone you want to celebrate for National Book Lovers Day and National Women's Day? Looking for a great gift idea? Have I got some great bundles to share with you!
Either use the menu at the top of the page and click on 'Bookish Creators' or click the link below!
Be sure to follow check out the rest of the stops on 'The New Girlfriend' blog tour! Thank you Bookouture and Sheryl Browne for including me in this tour! Purchase links below!
Wow.. 'The New Girlfriend' by Sheryl Browne is a wild ride. The kind where you need a scorecard just to keep up with all the moves being made and the lies being told.
Opening with a bang.. or in this case.. practically the screech of metal and the weight of shock and disbelief, Cassie's only son is killed. Just a few short months later, a stranger appears on her doorstep.. claiming to be his girlfriend and bearing a baby in her arms that is clearly her grandchild.
In the wake of her loss, Cassie is struggling to cope with the changes that have come at her full speed ahead. The idea that her neurosis drove her son out of the house.. leaving her somehow at fault for his death.. paired with what appears to be a serious relationship he never shared with her or his stepdad, Adam.. has her reeling.
Attempting to do what she can for her grandson and his mother, she begins to get cryptic texts in threatening tones referring to a big secret she's been keeping. Someone knows what she's been hiding, a potentially life altering act that she'd do anything to protect.
Honestly, this story throws a lot at you. Many of the characters are embroiled in their own nest of secrets, each with something big to lose. While Josh, Cassie's son, actually seems like a basically good guy.. he's far from perfect himself and the result is a handful of people who all might have reason to be involved at least peripherally in anything bad that might have befallen him.
I really only found one of the characters to draw any investment from me.. any concern for their well-being, and that was Adam. He's a kind, genuine man.. who seems to try to do his best for pretty much anyone who enters his sphere of existence, even if they aren't entirely kind to him. And I'm pretty sure the author intended it to be that way.
It definitely feels as if the other characters are meant to have somewhat ambiguous moral codes to begin with. Most of them seem to make their decisions from a selfish place with little regard to the collateral damage they might cause. I don't think Browne means for us to feel sorry for them, even if the things they deal with are a bit soul-crushing at times.
The author did a great job at keeping the ball moving.. so your eyes never lingered too long on any one possibility. Though in the end.. the answers are compounded. I was vindicated in my beliefs to a point, but surprised by the addition of some other parts to the puzzle. There was one plot point that felt out of place, unnecessary.. as if it was thrown in simply for a 'gotcha' moment, but the story as a whole is a solid read if you enjoy a good mystery.
Sheryl Browne writes psychological thriller and edgy contemporary fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and awarded a Red Ribbon by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.
To find out more about Sheryl and her novels or follow her, use the links below.
'Poe Dameron Free Fall' by Alex Segura is more than just a story of a young man coming of age under the rule of the New Republic.. more than the story of one of the greatest pilots to grace the stars. The title to me.. sometimes referring to a very literal sense.. but also in the midst of an emotional free fall.
At sixteen, he's already full of hunger for adventure and challenge.. but after numerous arguments with his father, former Pathfinder.. Kes Dameron and a close friend of the family.. L'ulo L'ampar, he's desperate to get out and see what he can do. Happening across a group of scoundrels at a local bar who are in even more dire need of him than he thinks he is of them, he takes a leap of faith that will change the course of his life completely.
With his mother, A-Wing pilot Shara Bey, already lost to him.. he's a boy on the verge of adulthood who feels little more than distance between he and his father. He's struggling to decide what kind of man he's going to be.. what kind of man he wants to be.. torn between the memories of a woman he sees as a hero and the realities of his farmboy life on Yavin 4.
It's hard to say I blame him for taking the kinds of chances he does. In his position, anyone might strike out on their own with little thought to the cost of their actions.. yet deep down there's a consistent pull visible within him to do the right thing. Even caught up as he becomes, fearful at times, he makes an effort to be a good man.. and the decisions that so much as walk that morally gray line, are choices he revisits. He makes second guessing himself into a hobby at times, but I got that. The uncertainty in his own ideals.
There are definitely glimpses here in his youth.. of the man he would yet become. The seemingly fearless pilot and hero in his own right known for pulling half-baked plans out of thin air that actually usually work.. is already beginning to develop in this story.
I enjoyed getting to know how he found himself amongst the Spice Runners of all things, since they certainly don't hold the same moral codes he obviously does. Though, what I love about Poe is he isn't afraid to get a little gray if need be.. there are just limits to how far he's willing to go.
He's already a hothead and that gets him into more than his fair share of trouble, but it also just further endears him to me. After all, he's not so unlike that 'other' famous pilot in the Star Wars universe.
During his adventure, we get to meet a young Zorii as well. A character who clearly had some kind of serious history with Poe when she appeared in The Rise of Skywalker, it was exciting to get to experience her backstory firsthand. I loved learning not only where she came from.. and how she came to be who she was.. but also what they were to each other and what her motivations might have been in the film.
The book is filled with page-turning action, vividly described space chases, and battles great and small. Segura did an amazing job of allowing the reader a peek behind the misdeeds of the spice runners to the people beneath.
What a great addition to the Star Wars canon. I can't wait to read more..
'Lore' by Alexandra Bracken is easily one of my most anticipated releases of 2021, so I was thrilled to get the sample chapters for an early glimpse.
I've long been a fan of mythology from around the world. I love the classic tales and legends and I love the more modern works that have either emerged as actual retellings or just borrowed some of the amazing characters and developed whole new worlds to experience.
'Lore' falls into that last category.
The story is about a girl named Lore and a punishment put into place and structured like a game that has existed for over a thousand years. As the book opens, those involved are on the 212th cycle.. as every seven years the Agon takes place.
Nine Greek gods, having dared to rise against Zeus.. led by Athena.. and having failed, are forced to walk the earth as mortals. For seven full days, they're hunted by the descendants of ancient hero bloodlines. Those who succeed in capturing and killing one of the nine, seize their divine power and immortality for themselves.. until the next cycle.. that is.
As Lore's roommate and best friend Miles says..
"..every seven years this ... hunt happens. And the location changes-- sort of like the Olympics, only with more murders?"
I love Lore. She's got a vicious angry streak to be sure, but she's not a bad person. She's the last of her family line and she's actually stepped away from the ancestral oath. In hiding herself, first a childhood friend she believes is dead finds her, then a gravely wounded goddess.. Athena herself, shows up on her doorstep and drags her back in.
There's a lot on the line here. A fact the author drives home in early scenes as she unapologetically ends one of my favorite characters pretty much on sight. The game is brutal and no one is pulling any punches, least of all the new gods.
Obviously, only reading a few chapters doesn't let me get very far into the story or the character building that I expect to see, but I'm already intrigued by Castor and the chemistry between him and Lore. Though whether he's to be friend or foe in reality, is yet to be distinguished.
Even Athena is amusing. She doesn't deal all that well with human needs. She's disdainful of them at best and that's certain to be a mixture that will make me laugh here and there.
I can't wait to read more of this book, I just know it's going to be great. Imagine the destruction that lies ahead..
'Where the Veil Is Thin' anthology edited by Alana Joli Abbott and Cerece Rennie Murphy, includes Seanan McGuire, C.S.E. Cooney, & More
'Where the Veil Is Thin' is a rather dark faerie anthology edited by Alana Joli Abbot and Cerece Rennie Murphy and featuring other names like Seanan McGuire, C.S.E. Cooney, David Bowles, Minsoo King, and many more.
The stories contained with in are far from the whimsical tales of children, but they're born of tales from around the world. Some benevolent, others.. well, some things just barely out of sight.. existing on the periphery of our world.. are best left there.
I eagerly began this collection, in part.. because I'd never read anything from Seanan McGuire, but I'd heard great things about her. The introduction at the forefront of the book.. however, from Jim C. Hines, absolutely set the atmosphere as he spoke of harmless stories we learn as children.. things like the trading of a tooth for money under our pillows in the night, then drew those ideas together with what many of us have become accustomed to reading as adults.. the risks included when we engage in a fairy bargain. And.. let's face it, that's exactly what the tooth fairy trade-off is.. a bargain.
It's funny that as I've read dark fae stories over the years and learned some of the rules, incur no debts with thanks and apologies, don't enter into bargains if you cannot fully see all the possibilities left out of the structure of wording, and never eat things provided by them.. especially across the veil in their world.. I never really sat back and connected them with those childhood experiences.
The first couple of stories were admittedly, mildly interesting perspectives on the old tales, but the anthology did indeed begin to pick up when I reached McGuire's offering.
'See A Fine Lady' was such an unorthodox story right from the start. Set in our very modern world, not just the urban space.. but literally a Target store, an employee sees a most extraordinary thing. Attempting to get closer, to convince herself she isn't crazy, things only become more bizarre. A seemingly simple decision made leads to a much more complex situation.
My favorite story in the collection is 'Or Perhaps Up' by C.S.E. Cooney. I had never heard of her before, but Wikipedia states she's best known for her fantasy poetry and short stories and has won the Rhysling Award for her poem 'The Sea King's Second Bride' and the World Fantasy Award--Collection for 'Bone Swans.
It feels almost tragic that I've never read anything penned by her before, as she writes with an ethereal mixture of hope and despair that tugs right at my heart. I seldom become so invested in a short story as I did with this one. She managed within just a few pages to make me care deeply for each of her characters and I love the world she created. This story and this author were an unexpected gem buried within the pages for me.
"We re-labeled all traditionally "family" holidays as "Feasts of the Forsaken," in which any friend estranged from blood-ties or too far distant to claim them could come celebrate with us."
Another highlight was 'Don't Let Go' by Alana Joli Abbott which delves into a side of Nordic lore I don't see often and mixing it seamlessly with Celtic legends I knew well. The story which seems to start off so lightly, progresses into a darkness with a glimpse of shadow and then small, subtle movements until you are desperately hopeful and fearful at once.
There are plenty of wonderful stories in this anthology and if you enjoy short stories, you should definitely pick it up. I have a couple of others that really stood out for me.. like 'The Loophole' by L. Penelope and 'The Seal-Woman's Tale' by Alethea Kontis. One is surprisingly sweet and the other borders on the horrible in spots, but both will leave an indelible impression on the reader.. and I loved them.
For the third and final day of 'The Hollow Gods' release celebration here at Betwixt The Sheets, the brilliant author--A.J. Vrana took some time out of her very busy schedule to grant me an interview.
Click the image to the left or use the 'Interviews' button at the top of the page to get some insight into her world!
The Lost King
The Hollow Gods
Kai found himself standing barefoot in the woods. The faint smell of smoke wafted from somewhere nearby, voices shouting, closing in. Crimson blood soaked the mud and snow around him. Gradually, Kai realized he was surrounded by death. Animal limbs and entrails were strewn across the tainted earth. Alongside them lay mangled wolves, maimed and disfigured, the hinges of their jaws ripped open in grotesque snarls of agony. As he walked amidst the carnage, the smoke grew stronger, cinders rising to the sky as the smog thickened in his lungs.
The bloody trail led into a village. It smelled of Black Hollow, but there were no roads or cars, no buildings made of brick, and no alleyways to hide in. Houses were aflame, roofs collapsing as wood turned to ash. At the mouth of the tiny settlement was a pyre, ropes encircling a black, charred mass. It was shaped like a human, the outline of the skull still visible amidst the blaze, her mouth agape—frozen in a silent, eternal cry of terror.
A shrill call drew him back towards the red-soaked earth. A raven crawled, his wing broken and his leg writhing, towards the body of a dead child. The boy was pristine—midnight hair stark against his waxy skin, parted grey lips and glassy, lifeless eyes giving him the appearance of a porcelain doll. The raven bobbed his head as he curled his talon around the boy’s swollen fingers—that one, pearl black eye gleaming before he plunged his beak into the corpse’s abdomen, tunneling his way inside. A satisfied rattle echoed from the scavenger’s bubbling throat as he devoured all he found, his slick form gradually disappearing as he burrowed into the hollowed cadaver.
The boy’s chest wall swelled, bulges pulsating under the flesh. His head lulled to the side, his jaw slackening with each undulating distention. The convulsions faded out, an eerie stillness following the possession before an arm jerked, a leg twitched—and finally, an aberrant gasp for air ripped through the boy. As if pulled by puppet strings, he flowed upright in one smooth motion, his hand twisting as the puppeteer grappled for control. Grasping the boy by his chin, the hand snapped the jaw back into place, teeth clamping together with a click...click...click. His neck jerked this way and that, snapping in and out of place before it grew accustomed to the new range of motion. Slowly, the head turned towards Kai, tilting to a near right angle—wide, pitch-black eyes boring into his soul.
THE HOLLOW GODS
Published: July 28, 2020
Publisher: The Parliament House
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror, Magical Realism
Age Group: New Adult / Adult
When I knew I wanted to do a three-day celebration for the launch of 'The Hollow Gods,' I asked author -- A.J. Vrana if she thought she could pin down Kai and coerce him into answering some questions for her.
I love watching interactions between writers and their creations. I find them fascinating, as the characters can be so stubborn at times, yet you get a chance to see a bit more of them than you might otherwise within the story itself. Turns out Kai is exactly as we'd think he'd be...
Be sure to keep reading for the interview with Kai and the poster giveaway below!
CHARACTER ARTIST: VALENTINA REMENAR
The Hollow Gods
Black Hollow is a town with a dark secret.
For centuries, residents have foretold the return of the Dreamwalker—an ominous figure from local folklore said to lure young women into the woods and possess them. Yet the boundary between fact and fable is blurred by a troubling statistic: occasionally, women do go missing. And after they return, they almost always end up dead.
When Kai wakes up next to the lifeless body of a recently missing girl, his memory blank, he struggles to clear his already threadbare conscience.
Miya, a floundering university student, experiences signs that she may be the Dreamwalker’s next victim. Can she trust Kai as their paths collide, or does he herald her demise?
And after losing a young patient, crestfallen oncologist, Mason, embarks on a quest to debunk the town’s superstitions, only to find his sanity tested.
A maelstrom of ancient grudges, forgotten traumas, and deadly secrets loom in the foggy forests of Black Hollow. Can three unlikely heroes put aside their fears and unite to confront a centuries-old evil? Will they uncover the truth behind the fable, or will the cycle repeat?
Kai, why don’t you clean your damn cabin?
Are you fucking kidding me? Have you tried keeping a deserted cabin in the ass-crack of the woods clean? It doesn’t even have all its windows! I’ve got raccoons raiding the pantry for peanut butter and squirrels shitting on the kitchen table. Besides, have you looked at any cleaning supplies lately? That chemical shit’s expensive, and I’m going to need some high-grade bleach to get the bloodstains out.
Do you feel remorse for literally murdering people, because frankly in your shoes, I would not. And do you ever feel remorse for literally murdering BUNNIES, because frankly in your shoes, I STILL WOULD.
I couldn’t give less of a diarrheic shit about killing bunnies. Have you seen those fuckers reproduce? They will literally destroy ecosystems. Consider me nature’s equalizer. As for the humans…come to think of it—same rules apply.
On the subject of busses—I’ve been told that the reason I hate them so much has to do with the cleaning solution used on the fabric bits of bus seats. I think this is BS and busses are actually just evil. What’s your take?
If you think my cabin’s dirty, what do you think they’re trying to cover up on buses with those cleaning solutions? Those tubular monstrosities with their satanic flatulence and bug-eyed faces (what the fuck are those headlights?!) can die in a goddamn fire. There’s no such thing as a smooth bus ride. Every bump in the road feels like a two-by-four paddling my ass, and my brain feels like a scrambled egg on a hot skillet from the rumbling and chattering. Being trapped on a moving, closed-off hellscape with no air circulation and a dozen other mouth-breathers is hard no, thanks. Definitely evil.
What would your DREAM Starbucks order be, if you could have unlimited modifiers and it was free?
Listen, I’ve never been to a Starbucks. That’s where busy people with money go when they don’t have the brain cells to function, so they can guzzle black bean juice and pretend to be sentient again. Do they have whisky? Wait—you said unlimited modifiers, right? Can I get black bean juice with whisky? Ah, fuck it, just give me the whisky.
…Also, what the fuck is a S’mores Frappuccino? Asking for a friend…
If you were going to get a tattoo, what would it be?
My hunting knife, on the inside of my forearm. That way, every time I punch someone, I can feel like I’m hitting them with my favourite pointy object.
Who does your haircut, Kai?
Half the assholes in America can’t deal with quarantine hair, but I’ve been in “cabin quarantine” since I was sixteen. After giving yourself a few bald spots with an electric shaver (stolen, of course), you get the hang of it. That, or you find a drunk barber at your nearest dive bar and dare them to give you a haircut after seven shots of tequila. Results may vary.
Kai, what did trees ever do to you? There’s no need for bodily violence against them. And please, leave the squirrels alone.
I am literally being stalked by a tree. STALKED. It’s almost like you’re blaming the victim here. Are you going to ask what I was wearing next? Tell me the trees can’t help themselves? And fuck the squirrels. Bastards shit on my table all the time.
Workout routine, because damn.
Tip one: Don’t have any money. Anything you want, you gotta fight someone for it.
Tip two: Don’t live in town. That way you gotta walk a long way to get to everyone you beat up every day.
Tip three: Get really drunk on an empty stomach, then try to find your way home. If any trees get in your way, crush ‘em with your abs.
Tip four: Get possessed by a malicious spirit. Keeps you on your toes. Nothing firms up the glutes like a bus barreling at your hallucinating ass at 40 miles an hour.
What’s a physical scar you have with the funniest backstory?
Clipped my ass on a bent nail during a back-alley hookup. 2/10. Would not recommend.
What’s your favourite band?
Something loud and screamy. Think Deftones or Chevelle.
What did you do to get that nasty cut on his hand?
Refer to workout question. I think his name was Fred. Or Jake. No—Clint? Some dumbass with unimaginative parents.
If my Kai (from Marrow Charm) and you got into a battle royale arena match, what random item would you turn into an unconventional weapon.
A raccoon. Fuckers know how to scrap, especially when there’s bologna on the line.
Boxers or briefs?
If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?
Sir, do you think you are more dummy or thicc?
Hey—I’m a complex individual, thanks. I can be equal parts both.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Like, what would you never tell anyone about that brings you true joy?
Wait—if I wouldn’t tell anyone about it, then by definition I can’t answer this question. I promise my guilty pleasure is not being covered in hamsters, though. I’m a man of simple tastes.
What’s your spirit animal?
*squints* Did Cosmopolitan send you?
What’s your ideal date?
Split a bottle of whisky. Use the empty bottle to start a bar brawl. Make out atop the comatose bodies. Grabs some ice cream after.
What do you hate most about yourself?
You mean besides the demonic possession? I don’t know, I’m a little emotionally constipated, but I can’t really afford a therapist. Maybe that’s why I keep waking up next to all those—wait, what are we talking about? Yeah, demonic possession. Next question.
What is something you appreciate about yourself?
What’s there not to appreciate?
What’s your take on the following examples of Cosmo’s weirdest sex tips?
You’ve got to be careful, or that door’s going to hit you when I open it. Also, haven’t we already established my cabin is filthy? You really shouldn’t be on your knees.
Bits? What happened to the whole package? Did the “goddess” smite it?
I know I said we’d get ice cream after the bar brawl, but my face has five orifices and only one is suitable for tongues and ice cream, thanks.
For…digestion…right? Look, if the goal is to make me think you’re food, just rub on some steak juice.
Easy there, Hannibal Lector.
A. J. Vrana is a Serbian-Canadian academic and writer from Toronto, Canada. She lives with her two rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter, who nest in her window-side bookshelf and cast judgmental stares at nearby pigeons. Her doctoral research examines the supernatural in modern Japanese and former-Yugoslavian literature and its relationship to violence.
When not toiling away at caffeine-fueled, scholarly pursuits, she enjoys jewelry-making, cupcakes, and concocting dark tales to unleash upon the world.
Title: The Skald’s Black Verse by Jordan Loyal Short
Series: The Dreadbound Ode (#1)
Publication Date: Re-Release Available August 6, 2020
Genre: Epic Grimdark Fantasy
Age Group: Adult
When a soldier’s murder sparks rebellion in the tiny village of Skolja, Brohr’s past marks him as the prime suspect. Haunted by his brother’s ghost, and drawn into a web of dark pacts and tangled loyalties, Brohr must choose between the path of vengeance set before him, and a chance to forge his own fate.
From the shadows, an all but extinct race of alien demigods have begun the end game of their millennia-spanning war, and one has chosen Brohr for his closing gambit.
But Brohr’s grandfather harbors a dark secret that will change everything.
Above it all, a dread portent looms in the sky, spelling the death of Brohr’s world. With doom spiraling toward them, Brohr must lead an unlikely rebellion, unearth disturbing family secrets, and tame the raging ghost that haunts him. Can Brohr lead his people out of darkness, or will he succumb to his own terrifying bloodlust, and destroy the very people he has sworn to save?
Don't want to wait to read it? You can buy it below on Amazon or head to the author's site and click the link to read a sample chapter right now!