Book Showcase: VAMPIRE WEEKEND by Mike Chen

VAMPIRE WEEKEND by Mike Chen book cover, gray and reddish-black background with an illustrated image of a woman with short hair in blackVampire Weekend by Mike Chen
ISBN: 9780778386964 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369722485 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488218217 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0B4BPKPZW (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09VLBFGPX (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 352
Release Date: January 31, 2023
Publisher: Graydon House/HarperCollins
Genre: Fiction | Coming-of-Age | Family Life | Urban Fantasy

Being a vampire is far from glamorous…but it can be pretty punk rock.

Everything you’ve heard about vampires is a lie. They can’t fly. No murders allowed (the community hates that). And turning into a bat? Completely ridiculous. In fact, vampire life is really just a lot of blood bags and night jobs. For Louise Chao, it’s also lonely, since she swore off family ages ago.

At least she’s gone to decades of punk rock shows. And if she can join a band of her own (while keeping her…situation under wraps), maybe she’ll finally feel like she belongs, too.

Then a long-lost teenage relative shows up at her door. Whether it’s Ian’s love of music or his bad attitude, for the first time in ages, Louise feels a connection.

But as Ian uncovers Louise’s true identity, things get dangerous–especially when he asks her for the ultimate favor. One that goes beyond just family…one that might just change everything vampires know about life and death forever.

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Read an Excerpt:

CHAPTER 2

VAMPIRE POWER MYTH #2: We can bite into anything.

In movies, veins pop like a balloon hitting a nail. But in reality? Kids constantly bonk into sharp objects and get light scrapes. Construction workers work around nails and metal, but somehow buildings go up without anyone bleeding out. I worked in a hospital, so I saw this firsthand.

In practical terms, biting someone for blood was not easy. Newly turned vampires don’t exactly have functional teeth. A gradual sharpening takes place over the course of a week, but we’re not the instant kill machine from movies.

The so-called “vampire attacks” in the news? Sounded like algorithm-driven clickbait to me. And that was exactly how I thought about it—or didn’t think about it—when I got to work.

Because today was a blood day. And blood days were literally life and death for me.

Not that I gave off that vibe. Instead, I went about my business, pushing my janitorial cart into the blood bank of San Francisco General Hospital. The automatic door shut behind me, my cart’s squeaking wheels announcing my arrival to Sam, the department’s night manager, and some staffer who looked more on break than actually working. They leaned over a monitor, attention pulled away by whatever was on the screen. Which worked to my benefit.

Some vampires worked with blood volunteers—usually fetishists who gladly let someone feed off them, likely thinking it was a kink or a new obscure fad diet rather than real vampire sustenance. That still involved the wholly unhygienic and socially awkward process of drinking from a live human. Underground dealers also existed, pumping blood from their arms into a bottle for an in-person transaction.

Me? I went with blood bag theft.

Which, to be fair, I held zero guilt over. Did you know that hospitals waste about 25 percent of blood bags every year? Thus, my weekly pickup during my janitorial rounds hardly made a dent. It all fell within the normal range of lost, misplaced, or expired. In fact, the managers viewed me as helpful for bringing the soon-to-expire bags to disposal. If some happened to make it into my backpack along the way, no one was the wiser.

This, of course, assumed that there were actually blood bags to take.

Today, the usual inventory of expiring blood bags was empty.

As in, nothing on the shelves. Nothing to deliver. Nothing to steal.

Nothing to feed from.

In fact, even the main storage units for in-date blood bags appeared low.
Any stress from the Copper Beach audition evaporated, as things do when food sources suddenly disappear.

I paused the music on my phone and pulled the earbuds out. Some things required a little more professional behavior. I began scouring the other storage possibilities when I overheard the words the vampire community feared the most.

“I swear, it’s a vampire.”

Eric constantly preached that if humans did discover us, racists would find new reasons to fearmonger, while scientists would capture us for all sorts of poking and prodding. Given that we’d all managed to abide by this for centuries, it seemed like a pretty good suggestion to follow.

My hands squeezed the cart’s handle tighter as I listened.

“That’s ridiculous,” Sam said, shaking his head.

“No, think about it.” The man turned, the tag on his scrubs revealing the name Turner. “After everything we know about viruses these days, who would actually drink blood? Only vampires.”

“Okay, look,” Sam said, rubbing his cleft chin. “You’re assuming someone drank this guy’s blood—”

“Police said he’s missing about ten ounces of blood. Same as the other two attacks.”

“Alright. Let’s assume someone—or something—drank ten ounces from that poor guy. They said his neck looked chewed, dozens of stitches needed. If you’re gonna believe something ridiculous, go with a werewolf.”

Suddenly, that headline didn’t seem like simple clickbait. Ten ounces. Roughly the same amount my body needed daily, though half that offered cranky survival. So that was the typical amount a vampire needed to sustain until the next feeding. And the chewed neck like a werewolf bite? That was a real concern, not because werewolves were real (they’re not), but because biting into a human was not easy.

In theory, you first had to properly locate the carotid artery, then make sure it was easily accessible by positioning the head and neck the right way. Then you needed a well-placed bite—millimeters of accuracy here, from an angle where things are hard to see. I challenge any human to try and bite precisely into a piece of Red Vines stuck on a loaf of sourdough to gauge its difficulty. This was in addition to the fangs’ fairly mediocre ability to puncture.
Biting humans was messy. Factor in an especially scared nondonor human and tools to make the process smoother and, well, the result could easily be mistaken for werewolves.

With the hospital’s blood shortage, their conversation ratcheted my anxiety enough for me to mutter, “Oh shit.”

That little phrase pulled Sam and Turner away from the screen. Their desk chairs creaked as they turned my way, the headline—San Francisco’s Latest “Vampire Attack” Victim Stable In Hospital—now clearly visible on their monitor.

If there was a fixer working in the community, they weren’t doing a great job.

“Oh, hi, Louise,” Sam said. “Need anything?”

Blood bags. A safe community, one without rogue vampires possibly revealing ourselves to humans. While I was at it, someone to play in a band with—human or vampire—though right now neither seemed to be working out.

“No pickups today,” I managed as I pushed the cart through. “What pickups?” Sam asked, his thick eyebrows furrowing. “Expiring blood to pick up on second Fridays. You know,” I said, switching to a very bad generic European accent, “because I’m a vampire and I need to drink it instead of biting people on the neck.” That joke always worked, but doubly so today. Both men laughed, and I almost held up claw hands for emphasis. But no, that joke belonged only to me and Marshall. “I knew it,” Sam said, “you’re the vampire attacker.” “I thought you suspected a werewolf,” Turner said, an Irish lilt to his gravelly voice. “Sorry, boys. It’s a little more boring than that. Management tallies these and I don’t want to piss them off.” That was a lie; I knew they didn’t because otherwise I’d never get away with my theft.

“Right, right. Let me go check in on that.” Sam stood and went to the computer on the far desk, his leg catching his chair enough to kick it over a foot. “You’re right, our last delivery was low. Must not be as many donors. There’s a note saying this might be a thing for a few weeks but it doesn’t say why.”

Just like that, my food supply went from “comfortably fed” to “empty.”

“Cool, cool, no worries,” I said despite the onslaught of emerging worries. I built my whole life around a job that provided blood—and that dried up? Maybe in a parallel universe, I might have my own recording studio with session time paid in blood bags. But here?

I loaded my email as soon as I stepped into the hallway. My fingers mashed over the virtual keys, autocorrect pulling all the wrong words and constantly changing blood to brood, which I supposed was fitting for a vampire. The message went to the local Red Cross chapter’s volunteer manager, a request for shifts as a Volunteer Transportation Specialist.

Basically, someone who drove donated blood around.

I’d actually trained for the role when I was in between hospital gigs, but never took any actual shifts since most of them were during the day—which wasn’t impossible with proper precautions, but still uncomfortable, and required a lot of extra effort, in addition to messing up my sleep cycle. Circadian rhythm still applied to vampire life.

But this was different. If the supply saw shortages, I’d need alternatives just like the early days when I first started and had no clue what I was doing.
Which really wasn’t my fault. Because no guidebook existed for this life, and the woman who made me only came around a few times to check on me before disappearing forever. Despite the physical transformation to vampiredom creating several months of fuzzy memories, I still clearly pictured her during that last visit: a tall, pale woman with long brown hair in peak late-70s punk styling.

She’d brought weekly bottles, introduced me to a few Southern California sources for no-questions-asked back-alley blood, gave a very uncomfortable primer on feeding off farm animals in emergencies and offered a very dramatic lecture on the importance of not revealing ourselves to humans in any way. Yet, all of those came during surprise drop-ins and sudden departures, and even her final visit was nothing more than a quick hello before “You’ll figure the rest out. You’ll be fine.”

In fact, she never bothered to tell me her name. Or maybe she did and I just forgot it in my fugue state. Whatever the case, I’d have to rely on those lessons now, to ride out any shortages. I spent the rest of my shift trying to recall how many bags remained in my fridge, and how best to ration them. Hours came and went, a low-level panic setting my night to fast-forward all the way until I stepped into an empty parking garage.

Then my phone buzzed. Multiple buzzes, actually. Though I hoped it was something about the Red Cross volunteer gig, that seemed impossible, given the late hour. No, a quick look showed another text from Eric. And this time, I bothered to read it.

I’ve received a few notes tonight about tomorrow evening’s agenda. I share your concerns, but there is a plan to address this. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our community.

Something was definitely up. A blood shortage, someone attacking humans in the wild, texts about “health and safety.” A second message loaded up, words pushing the first message off the screen.

If you want to learn more, please come to the event. In the meantime, I encourage you all to download our new community app to stream the discussion. Do NOT discuss the media’s ‘vampire attack’ headlines with anyone, not even jokingly. Blood will be served. Reply to RSVP for in person attendance.

Did I want to learn more? Of course. Did I want an app that both invaded my privacy and knew I was a vampire? No. Did I want to get involved with the vampire community?

Not really. Especially given my history with Eric. But I needed blood, and this was a source, however fleeting.

Besides, maybe Eric had forgotten about our last encounter. Still, I refused to download his stupid app. On principle.

Count me in, I typed in a reply text, complete with a little white lie. By the way, I had trouble downloading the app. Maybe later.

On most work nights, I came home just before dawn, changed from scrubs to sweats, let my dog out, and drank blood. Today, that last part remained a sticking point. Lola greeted me as usual, a pitter-patter that told me she needed a potty break. I left the back door ajar for her to go into the small backyard, then checked my blood bag supply in the fridge.

If I’d been more responsible, thorough, careful, and whatever other descriptions my parents threw at me decades ago, I’d have a managed stockpile. Instead, three bags remained, a supply for about four or five days. I could stretch it to a week, though I’d be a grouchy, tired mess. After that? Movie vampires went on killing rampages when they needed blood, but in reality, it meant fatigue and delirium.

And if that went on long enough? Death by starvation.

No wonder someone got desperate enough to bite humans.

I grabbed a mug from the cabinet, white ceramic with a faded photo of a white schnauzer printed on it; Aunt Laura’s old teacup, now used for blood. Mostly empty shelves stared back at me from the fridge, daring me to make a choice.

Did I take one now? Did I really need to drink or could I wait?

Lola returned from the backyard, hopping over the threshold with her short corgi legs, and her nails clacked on the floor as she ignored my mood and waddled past. The jingling of her collar faded as she went down the hall, and I told myself to do the smart thing. I shut the fridge door and left Aunt Laura’s mug on the counter, then followed my dog.

Light flooded the space in my music room as I flipped the wall switch, illuminating everything from the guitars hanging on the walls to the drum kit and keyboard rig sitting in opposite corners. But no dog waited for me. Instead, her collar jingled from across the hall.

The bedroom.

The hour or so before bed normally saw me noodling on a guitar, playing with different pedal effects combinations or trying to work out a lingering melody while Lola stayed at my feet. But as I stood between the two rooms, a crushing fatigue washed over me, something that I knew had nothing to do with appetite.

I peeked in on Lola, the hallway light showing enough that I could see she’d skipped the circular dog bed on the floor to leap straight onto my spot. Usually she’d wait till I fell asleep to pull that off, and perhaps she took advantage of my vulnerable state today. She stretched her little legs into the air, then craned her neck to look at me with ears up, yawning before settling back down.

Maybe she just knew what I needed today.

Instead of going back into my music room, I stepped inside and shut the door, leaving the bedroom in a complete UV protected blackout state as I crawled under soft sheets. I stayed still, the quiet silence of a moment without vampires, without humans, without blood shortages, just a happy corgi resting against my stomach and worries in my head.

Excerpt from Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen.
Copyright © 2023 by Mike Chen.
Published with permission from MIRA Books.
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Photo of Mike Chen, an Asian man wearing a black sweater standing in front of a gray wall with block windows
Mike Chen photo by Amanda Chen

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

Connect with the author via: Instagram | Twitter | Website

 

This book showcase and excerpt brought to you by MIRA Books

 

Guest Post: Baer Charlton – SECRETS OF THE GOLD

Good day, my bookish peeps. I’m preparing for my winter hibernation by ordering a new bookish blanket and some loose-leaf oolong teas. I’m also trying to select from the 2000+ titles on my TBR list books to read over the next few months. Growing up, I could always be found in a corner somewhere reading a book. I usually attended my younger brothers’ football and baseball games and carried a book to read. Many of my younger brothers’ friends are shocked to learn that they have a sister until my brothers described me as the girl sitting in the bleachers reading a book or the girl in the corner with a book. Amazingly, most of these adults remembered “the girl with the book” from their childhood game-playing days. It’s kind of funny what we remember and what we end up associating with certain memories. Today’s guest is Baer Charlton, author of Secrets of the Gold, and he’ll be discussing his writing origin story and childhood memories. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say and follow the blog tour to learn more about this book and its author. Thank you, Mr. Charlton, for stopping by today, the blog is now all yours.

Banner with Guest Post in a script font under a line and with a stack of books over the word "guest"

When and why did you begin writing?

Stick with me here. This is about the mystery of the human spirit and condition.

I grew up a Forest Service brat. The youngest of four. The summer I was almost four, my brothers and sister had tied me out over a fire ant nest. I had swollen up like a beach ball enough to shred the hand-me-down shorts and t-shirt. The hospital was two hours away.

About halfway there, I had returned to normal size and was drowning in my father’s t-shirt and boxer shorts. I remember the day because mom bought me a new pair of shorts and t-shirt. New. For me. I’m sure I kept smelling the newness.

As we sat in the coffee shop, I realized the only time mom was ever alone and I wouldn’t have to compete with my siblings was when she was setting type or printing on her small printing press. So I asked her to teach me how to set type. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to read. Each letter is an icon. The combined icons make up the icon of a word. And so on and so on. By the time I was in kindergarten, I was picking my way through the books on the bottom shelves of my parent’s library. When I reread The Hunchback of Notre-Dame several years later, it was a different story, but just as captivating.

Setting type and then printing on a hand-operated printing press is tedious to mind-numbing. Five hundred business cards, one at a time, has you standing at the press for a long evening. Over the years, this produced thousands of hours of just my mother and I, quietly surrounded by the sound of the ka-chink-a-rattle, and the smell of ink. We talked about many things. Nothing was off the table. In either my life or hers.

But we also talked through stories. The notes mom wrote in a cribbed font on yellow three-by-five cards. The small stack eventually grew to a little more than an inch thick. It was bound in two printers’ rubber bands of vulcanized rubber, so they never break. One was red and the other blue.

A few years after she passed from cancer, my father handed me the stack, saying he was pretty sure she had wanted me to have it. I knew exactly what it was.

I took it home and placed it in the back of the top drawer of my new desk.

A few years later, I was cleaning out the desk for the new computer with a “real” hard drive. In the back of the top drawer, I found the old friend.

The red band came off the stack and right onto my left hand. The blue on the right hand. It was as automatic that day as it had been fifteen years before. I could hear the birds outside and smell the ink on the press, and what was left of the White Shoulders mom would dab judiciously behind her ears for church.

As I cracked open the packet, a tiny piece of yellow paper fell onto the floor. I stared at the single word hand-printed in Uncial Romana, our favorite font. I realized this word was the total of my inheritance. And the boot on my butt. The word “publish” wasn’t about the stack of stories, it was about the one I would tell on my own.

Three months later, Rider Magazine published the first of many stories and articles. It was a start. ♦

Secrets of the Gold

by Baer Charlton

November 7 – December 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton

Concealed in his jacket are ingots of gold; he just doesn’t remember why.

A young girl running from an abusive foster home kidnaps an older biker with a mystery for a past.

Leaving the mining town in Colorado and crossing state lines, anything can happen.

What neither is looking for or expecting is friendship.

But in the cold of the desert night, life lessons can go both ways—even if they are not about a million dollars in gold.

Growing up is hard enough, even without the shooting.

Praise for Secrets of the Gold:

“kept me spellbound”

“you will have a very hard time putting this book down!”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Coming of Age, Female Sleuth
Published by: Mordant Media
Publication Date: March 2022
Number of Pages: 374
ISBN10: 1949316203
ISBN13: 9781949316209 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781949316216 (eBook)
ASIN: B09TZF6ZXB (Kindle edition)
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Author Bio:

Baer Charlton

Baer Charlton is an Amazon Best-Selling author and a Social-Anthropologist. His many interests have led him worldwide in search of the unique.

As an internationally recognized Photo Journalist, he has tracked mountain gorillas, been a podium for a Barbary Ape, communicated in sign language with an Orangutan named Boolon, kissed a kangaroo, and had many other wild experiences in between. Or he was just monkeying around.

His love for sailing has led him to file assignments from various countries, as well as from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean aboard a five-mast sailing ship. Baer has spoken on five continents, plus lecturing at sea.

His copyrighted logo is “WR1T3R.” Within every person, there is a story. But inside that story, even a more memorable story. Those are the stories he likes to tell.

There is no more complex and incredible story than those coming from the human experience. Whether it is a Marine finding his way home as a civilian or a girl who’s just trying to grow up, Mr. Charlton’s stories are all driven by the characters you come to think of as friends.

Catch Up With Baer Charlton:
www.BaerCharlton.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @BaerCharlton
Twitter – @baer_charlton
Facebook – @WR1T3R

Tour Participants:

Click here to view Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton Tour Hosts

Join In:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Baer Charlton. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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Spotlight Post: THE HUNDRED WELLS OF SALAGA by Ayesha Harruna Attah

The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah
ISBN: 9781590519950 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781590519967 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781978649132 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07CWGHDNS (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Other Press
Release Date: February 5, 2019



Based on true events, a story of courage, forgiveness, love, and freedom in precolonial Ghana, told through the eyes of two women born to vastly different fates. 

Aminah lives an idyllic life until she is brutally separated from her home and forced on a journey that transforms her from a daydreamer into a resilient woman. Wurche, the willful daughter of a chief, is desperate to play an important role in her father’s court. These two women’s lives converge as infighting among Wurche’s people threatens the region, during the height of the slave trade at the end of the nineteenth century.

Through the experiences of Aminah and Wurche, The Hundred Wells of Salaga offers a remarkable view of slavery and how the scramble for Africa affected the lives of everyday people.



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Read an excerpt from The Hundred Wells of Salaga here.




Praise for The Hundred Wells of Salaga

“A skillful portrayal of life in pre-colonial Ghana emphasizes distinctions of religion, language, and status…[Attah] has a careful eye for domestic and historical detail.” —The Guardian

“Compelling…rich and nuanced…Attah is adept at leading readers across the varied terrain of 19th-century Ghana and handles heavy subjects with aplomb. Two memorable women anchor this pleasingly complicated take on slavery, power, and freedom.” —Kirkus Reviews

“An alluring story…a novel with the power to open eyes and hearts while filling minds with plenty of food for thought.” —Shelf Awareness

“Analogous to Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning Nervous Conditions, this spacious work will appeal to readers of African and historical fiction.” —Library Journal




Meet the author



Ayesha Harruna Attah grew up in Accra, Ghana and was educated at Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University, and New York University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Asymptote Magazine, and the 2010 Caine Prize Writers’ Anthology. Attah is an Instituto Sacatar Fellow and was awarded the 2016 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship for nonfiction. She lives in Senegal.






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Book 106: SWEET MERCY Review


Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock
ISBN:  9780764210464 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781441261496 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00B85M16C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 1, 2013
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

When Eve Marryat’s father is laid off from the Ford Motor Company in 1931, he is forced to support his family by leaving St. Paul, Minnesota, and moving back to his Ohio roots. Eve’s uncle Cyrus has invited the family to live and work at his Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge.

St. Paul seemed like a haven for gangsters, and Eve had grown fearful of living there. At seventeen, she considers her family to be “good people.” They aren’t lawbreakers and criminals like so many people in her old neighborhood. Thrilled to be moving to a “safe haven,” Eve is blissfully unaware that her uncle’s lodge is a transfer station for illegal liquor smuggled from Canada.

Eve settles in to work and makes new friends, including an enigmatic but affecting young man. But when the reality of her situation finally becomes clear, Eve is faced with a dilemma. How can she ignore what is happening right under their very noses? Yet can she risk everything by condemning the man whose love and generosity is keeping her and her family from ruin?


Eve Marryat is a young woman with fervent beliefs. She lives her life in black and white and has tremendous problems accepting that the world has lots of grey areas. She strongly believes that prohibition is good for everyone, criminals are always evil, and that all wrongs must be punished. After witnessing a gang-related shooting on the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota and her father’s job loss, Eve and her parents move to Mercy, Ohio. Eve’s father has been given a job working with his older brother at the Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge. Eve and her mother are also given tasks to help in the operation of the lodge. Eve presumes that Mercy, Ohio is a long away from the societal ills she experienced in Minnesota and begins to enjoy her life at the lodge. She has a boyfriend for the first time in her life and is surrounded by family and new friends in an idyllic setting. Regrettably reality intrudes on Eve’s rosy world and she must ultimately decide if she can accept the shades of grey within the lives of her loved ones or destroy her family’s refuge.

Ms. Tatlock paints a vivid picture of rural life during the Depression era. She doesn’t sugarcoat the unpleasantness but rather presents it as is without prejudice. Eve may be a typical teenage girl in the 1930s but she seems to lack guile and have a certain naïveté about life and the real world. She has judged the gangsters in Minnesota and deemed them corrupt and evil. She has judged her older sister’s behavior and found it lacking in morality. Now she is faced with judging those she has become very close to, namely her uncle Cy. It is in small town Mercy, Ohio that Eve learns not to be so quick to judge and accept people for what they are, warts and all. Sweet Mercy is a coming of age story where the main character, Eve Marryat, learns acceptance without prejudice and the true meaning of mercy. I found Sweet Mercy to be an engrossing and fast read (my only interruptions were caused by severe migraine headaches). The characters are all easy to relate to and realistic. The setting of the lodge and Mercy, Ohio makes for an ideal backdrop for Eve’s story. If you enjoy reading uplifting historical fiction, then add Sweet Mercy to your reading list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and Book Blasts & Blog Tours. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 265: WAKE Review

Being a teenager is difficult. Being a teenager trying to start over is double hard. Willa Kirk is only 18 years old but is trying to restart her life in her old hometown in the middle of her senior year at high school. Jem Harper is trying to deal with the stigma of being known as the “cancer guy.” All he wants is to get better and get through the school year. These two teens are the heart and soul of Wake by Abria Mattina.

There’s some typical teenage angst in Wake but not much of it is because of Willa or Jem. These two start with an antagonistic relationship that quickly develops into an antagonistic friendship. They are both outsiders trying to strike a balance with their families and school. Jem is recovering from cancer treatment and a bone marrow transplant. Fortunately the cancer is in remission, unfortunately all of the medications he’s on cause him to continually suffer from extreme nausea. His diet is limited to soup, Jell-O, and smoothies and he often has difficulties with these items. Jem has had a truly rough year. His family relocated from Ottawa to Smiths Falls (a small town) and he was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the move. His entire persona in this new town is as the “cancer guy.” His friends from his hometown aren’t quite sure how to deal with his diagnosis but they’re too far away to be a support system.

Willa’s situation is somewhat similar to Jem’s in that she is also dealing with being the new kid without really being the new kid. She grew up in Smiths Falls but her family had moved out of the province. Now she’s dealing with the death of her older sister, Tessa, and some bad decisions that resulted in a brief psychiatric hospitalization. Her parents can’t quite deal with her problems since they came so quickly after Tessa’s death, so she’s shipped off to stay with her older brother Frank.

Much of the story takes place over the course of six months and is told in alternating voices by Jem and Willa. The same time periods are presented in alternating perspectives which add to our understanding of Jem and Willa. The reader is allowed to see the development from both points of view and provides a better understanding of both characters. There are also a few chapters told from the perspective of Jem’s sister Elise and brother Eric toward the end, along with one chapter by Frank early in the book and these provide additional insight into the action within the story.

Wake is filled with secrets revealed, self-acceptance and love. Jem is fortunate that he has unconditional love and support from his family but he still needs to be seen as an individual that has something to offer. Willa doesn’t really have the support of her family although her brother Frank is trying. She is dealing with a lot of guilt over her past actions and wants to be accepted for who she is, warts and all. There’s a lot going on in Wake and Ms. Mattina does a fantastic job at providing the reader with the information necessary to see the big picture. I didn’t like this story initially as I couldn’t really see, or appreciate, where it was going, but by the time I was a little more than one-third of the through I was hooked. I wanted to see what was going to happen, if anything, between Jem and Willa. This isn’t a traditional YA coming-of-age story nor is it a traditional teen love story; it is a little of both and so much more.  

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Book 231: IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOONLIGHT – THE AWAKENING Review

Naomi Roberts appears to be a typical teenager. She’s eager to study abroad and broaden her horizons. Her grandmother wants nothing more for Naomi to stay in Germany, but she grudgingly accepts that Naomi will be leaving to go study in the United States. Before she leaves, she tells her of their family’s secret and cautions her to look out for anything unusual. J.J. Biddell provides a coming-of-age tale with a twist In The Shadow of the Moonlight – The Awakening.

Naomi isn’t sure about her grandmother’s story of werecats, but she feels sure she has nothing to worry about. She acclimates to the US and begins her studies. She even finds new friends in fellow student, Alice, and a town resident, Sammy. She also finds a new love interest in an instructor, Roman. Naomi maintains contact with her mother and grandmother, but is beginning to enjoy her new found freedom in the US.

But all is not as easy and joyous as it should be. Naomi and Roman have a great relationship. Naomi and Alice have a great friendship, but there’s something just a little off with Sammy. And just when Naomi is beginning to think that things couldn’t get any better, she begins to feel strange and out-of-sorts. In due time she comes to learn that her grandmother’s tale of werecats isn’t so strange or bizarre. A mysterious stranger appears and tries to teach Naomi what she needs to know about being a werecat. One lesson she doesn’t want to accept is that she must break off her relationship with Roman, especially now that she’s pregnant.

This was a hard story for me to read for a variety of reasons. First, I was reading from a digital copy and the print was bright red and couldn’t be changed. Second, there were numerous errors in syntax and semantics, not to mention typographical errors. The author is German, yet the bulk of the action is taking place in the US, and it reads like someone that has read a guide book as opposed to someone familiar with US customs, language and academics. The story isn’t bad and I can’t say that it was badly written as it was translated, so I presume that this is just a poor translation. 

In addition to these problems, there were glaring plot problems such as Naomi being raped but never knowing about and it being glossed over and only mentioned in passing. Why is Naomi’s grandmother overly protective but her mother rather laid back? I can accept that she’s concerned about the possibility of Naomi being a werecat but her actions seem a bit much. The story in the prologue doesn’t seem to be beneficial other than to say that werecats were despised as evil and possibly satanic, but that was in the 16th century and appears to have no relevance to today. How did both Sammy and Kai know that Naomi was coming to the US and coming to Maine specifically? I finished reading the story with more questions than answers. I wish I could say I enjoyed reading In The Shadow of the Moonlight – The Awakening, but the errors (grammatical, typographical and linguistic), were simply too much for me to overlook. 

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 156: TENDERFOOT Review

Amy Tupper has provided a slightly different coming-of-age story in Tenderfoot. Julianna, or Jules, is starting college when she notices that her sight has changed. She can read the text in a book from across the room. She can also hear through walls and her sense of taste has gone completely wild (she can actually picture the surroundings of an animal when eating meat and diary products). If that wasn’t weird enough, she can also “hear” the thoughts of others, okay not everyone but just one person . . . Nicholas “Nick” Grimm. Jules learns that Nick is a troll or faery and basically her protector. He was also her mother’s protector and her grandmother’s protector. Nick has been protecting the special women in her family for generations. 


College is hard enough without throwing all of the faery items into the mix but add some romance and Tenderfoot raises the ante. Jules learns to handle college, even the boring aspects. Jules also must come to grips with her “romance” with Andrew, another freshman and fencer extraordinaire. Tenderfoot realistically explores the drama and angst of college while adding first love and Swedish faery lore into the mix. Jules doesn’t weave spells, she can’t fly, and she doesn’t have superhuman strength. She does have grit and determination and is a likable character. 


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 154: DARKHOUSE Review

Is it normal to have had imaginary friends and an overactive imagination? Perry Palamino lives with these questions in the paranormal/horror story Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1) by Karina Halle.


In some ways Darkhouse seems to be a coming-of-age story with Perry learning to deal with her differences. The problem is that Perry apparently sees dead people and always has. Her younger sister, Ada, the fashionista, makes reference to Perry scaring her with this ability as a young child. Although Perry is 22 years old and gainfully employed — as a receptionist at an advertising agency, she feels unsure of herself and where she needs to be and go in life. To make matters worse, she was an extremely troubled teen and dabbled in drugs, alcohol and even cutting to help deal with her inner pains. Perry now feels that she owes her parents some normalcy. But Perry isn’t “abnormal” she just has an ability that others don’t have and can’t quite understand . . . the ability to see ghosts.


During a trip to the coast to visit family, Perry decides to explore an old, defunct lighthouse. Of course she’s exploring it late at night and no one knows where she’s gone (wouldn’t be as dramatic otherwise). She’s spent the day photographing nature and still has her camera, which is a good thing, because her dreams (or rather nightmares) have just come to life. Fortunately she is able to film some of her ghostly encounters but she also encounters Declan “Dex” Foray, a cameraman/producer of webcasts. Perry has the opportunity to write about this incident when Ada is down-and-out due to a virus and unable to post to her fashion blog. Perry’s ghostly encounter video becomes viral and Dex returns with the offer to host a webcast on ghost hunting. 


What follows are a series of unfortunate encounters with an elderly woman that only Dex and Perry can see, and this serves to heighten the fear factor when they return to the lighthouse. Is the lighthouse haunted or is it simply evil? Are Dex and Perry “crazy” or simply in touch with energies other’s can’t see or feel? Where will these abilities lead them? Ms. Halle has crafted a dark story filled with horrifying moments. For me this was simply an okay read (I didn’t connect to this story). Darkhouse is well written and the characters are believable with all of their idiosyncracies and eccentricities. If you’ve read Darkhouse and are looking for more paranormal/horror, then note that Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2) is now available.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”