Happy World Book Day!

UNESCO World Book Day Quote on  open book, "Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home." Anna Quindlen

Happy World Book Day, my bookish peeps. Since none of my giveaways last month during my blogiversary were international, I’ll be offering a special international giveaway in honor of World Book Day. I’ve chosen Kindred by Octavia Butler as the book to be given away. This book is very special to me, for a variety of reasons, but namely it was one of the first books I read about a person of color experiencing slavery written by a contemporary author of color and first published in 1979, the year I graduated from high school. Yes, I know I’m dating myself with that information, but this is just one of those books that I find myself rereading and I want to share my joy with one of you.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
ISBN: 9781472258229 (paperback)
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Publication Date: May 03, 2018

Octavia E. Butler’s ground-breaking masterpiece, with an original foreword by Ayobami Adebayo.

‘The marker you should judge all other time-travelling narratives by’ GUARDIAN

‘[Her] evocative, often troubling, novels explore far-reaching issues of race, sex, power and, ultimately, what it means to be human’ NEW YORK TIMES

‘No novel I’ve read this year has felt as relevant, as gut-wrenching or as essential . . . If you’ve ever tweeted “All Lives Matter”, someone needs to shove Kindred into your hand, and quickly’ CAROLINE O’DONOGHUE

————

In 1976, Dana dreams of being a writer. In 1815, she is assumed a slave.

When Dana first meets Rufus on a Maryland plantation, he’s drowning. She saves his life – and it will happen again and again.

Neither of them understands his power to summon her whenever his life is threatened, nor the significance of the ties that bind them.

And each time Dana saves him, the more aware she is that her own life might be over before it’s even begun.

This is the extraordinary story of two people bound by blood, separated by so much more than time.

————-

PRAISE FOR OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

‘Unnervingly prescient and wise’ YAA GYASI

‘Butler’s prose, always pared back to the bone, delineates the painful paradoxes of metamorphosis with compelling precision’ GUARDIAN

‘Octavia Butler was a visionary’ VIOLA DAVIS

‘One of the most significant literary artists of the twentieth century. One cannot exaggerate the impact she has had’ JUNOT DIAZ

‘An icon of the Afrofuturism world, envisioning literary realms that placed black characters front and center’ VANITY FAIR

‘Butler writes with such a familiarity that the alien is welcome and intriguing. She really artfully exposes our human impulse to self-destruct’ LUPITA NYONG’O

This book is being offered via Book Depository, so please check to make sure this company ships to your country before entering. I can not be held accountable or responsible if you win and then we find out that, oops, your country is one that Book Depository does not ship to after all. Please click HERE to see if your country is on the list of countries and regions Book Depository does ship to BEFORE you enter.

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on 04/30/2021 and the winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on 05/01/2021. If the winner doesn’t respond within 48 hours, another winner will be selected. Void where prohibited by law.

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Book Showcase: A BEGINNING AT THE END by Mike Chen



A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen
ISBN: 9780778309345 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780778388289 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781488055355 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488208003 (audiobook – digital)
ISBN: 9781094097435 (audiobook – MP3 on CD)
ASIN: B07Y8NQ5PF  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07QKD5TT1 (Kindle edition)
Publisher:  MIRA Books
Release Date: January 14, 2020


How do you start over after the end of the world?



Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.

In post-apocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.

Krista, Moira, Rob, and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose.

Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going. 






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Read an Excerpt


Prologue




People were too scared for music tonight. Not that MoJo cared.

Her handlers had broken the news about the low attendance nearly an hour ago with some explanation about how the recent flu epidemic and subsequent rioting and looting kept people at home. They’d served the news with high-end vodka, the good shit imported from Russia, conveniently hidden in a water bottle which she carried from the greenroom to the stage.

“The show must go on,” her father proclaimed, like she was doing humanity a service by performing. She suspected his bravado actually stemmed from the fact that her sophomore album’s second single had stalled at number thirteen—a far cry from the lead single’s number-one debut or her four straight top-five hits off her first album. Either way, the audience, filled with beaming girls a few years younger than herself and their mothers, seemed to agree. Flu or no flu, some people still wanted their songs—or maybe they just wanted normalcy—so MoJo delivered, perfect note after perfect note, each in time to choreographed dance routines. She even gave her trademark smile.

The crowd screamed and sang along, waving their arms to the beat. Halfway through the second song, a peculiar vibe grabbed the audience. Usually, a handful of parents disappeared into their phones, especially as the flu scare had heightened over the past week. This time nearly every adult in the arena was looking at their phone. In the front row, MoJo saw lines of concern on each face.

Before the song even finished, some parents grabbed their children and left, pushing through the arena’s floor seats and funneling to the exit door.

MoJo pushed on, just like she’d always promised her dad. She practically heard his voice over the backup music blasting in her in-ear monitors. There is no sophomore slump. Smile! Between the second and third songs, she gave her customary “Thank you!” and fake talk about how great it was to be wherever they were. New York City, this time, at Madison Square Garden. A girl of nineteen embarking on a tour bigger, more ambitious than she could have ever dreamed and taking the pop world by storm, and yet, she knew nothing real about New York City. She’d never left her hotel room without chaperones and handlers. Not under her dad’s watch.

One long swig of vodka later, and a warmth rushed to her face, so much so that she wondered if it melted her face paint off. She looked off at the side stage, past the elaborate video set and cadre of backup dancers. But where was the gaffer? Why wasn’t anyone at the sound board? The fourth song had a violin section, yet the contracted violinist wasn’t in her spot.

Panic raced through MoJo’s veins, mental checklists of her marks, all trailed by echoes from her dad’s lectures about accountability. Her feet were planted exactly where they should be. Her poise, straight and high. Her last few notes, on key, and her words to the audience, cheerful. It couldn’t have been something she’d done, could it?

No. Not her fault this time. Someone else is facing Dad’s wrath tonight, she thought.

The next song’s opening electronic beats kicked in. Eyes closed, head tilted back, and arms up, her voice pushed out the song’s highest note, despite the fuzziness of the vodka making the vibrato a little harder to sustain. For a few seconds, nothing existed except the sound of her voice and the music behind it— no handlers, no tour, no audience, no record company, no father telling her the next way she’d earn the family fortune—and it almost made the whole thing worth it.

Her eyes opened, body coiled for the middle-eight’s dance routine, but the brightness of the house lights threw her off the beat. The drummer and keyboard player stopped, though the prerecorded backing track continued for a few more seconds before leaving an echo chamber.

No applause. No eyes looked MoJo’s way. Only random yelling and an undecipherable buzz saw of backstage clamor from her in-ear monitors. She stood, frozen, unable to tell if this was from laced vodka or if it was actually unfolding: people—adults and children, parents and daughters— scrambling to the exits, climbing over chairs and tripping on stairs, ushers pushing back at the masses before some turned and ran as well.

Someone grabbed her shoulder and jerked back hard. “We have to go,” said the voice behind her.

“What’s going on?” she asked, allowing the hands to push her toward the stage exit. Steven, her huge forty-something bodyguard, took her by the arm and helped her down the short staircase to the backstage area.

“The flu’s spread,” he said. “A government quarantine. There’s some sort of lockdown on travel. The busing starts tonight. First come, first serve. I think everyone’s trying to get home or get there. I can’t reach your father. Cell phones are jammed up.”

They worked their way through the concrete hallways and industrial lighting of the backstage area, people crossing in a mad scramble left and right. MoJo clutched onto her bottle of vodka, both hands to her chest as Steven ushered her onward. People collapsed in front of her, crying, tripping on their own anxieties, and Steven shoved her around them, apologizing all the way. Something draped over her shoulders, and it took her a moment to realize that he’d put a thick parka around her. She chuckled at the thought of her sparkly halter top and leather pants wrapped in a down parka that smelled like BO, but Steven kept pushing her forward, forward, forward until they hit a set of double doors.

The doors flew open, but rather than the arena’s quiet loading area from a few hours ago, MoJo saw a thick wall of people: all ages and all colors in a current of movement, pushing back and forth. “I’ve got your dad on the line,” Steven yelled over the din, “His car is that way. He wants to get to the airport now. Same thing’s happening back home.” His arm stretched out over her head. “That way! Go!”

They moved as a pair, Steven yelling “excuse me” over and over until the crowd became too dense to overcome. In front of her, a woman with wisps of gray woven into black hair trembled on her knees. Even with the racket around them, MoJo heard her cry. “This is the end. This is the end.”

The end.

People had been making cracks about the End of the World since the flu changed from online rumors to this big thing that everyone talked about all the time. But she’d always figured the “end” meant a giant pit opening, Satan ushering everyone down a staircase to Hell. Not stuck outside Madison Square Garden.

“Hey,” Steven yelled, arms spread out to clear a path through the traffic jam of bodies. “This way!”

MoJo looked at the sobbing woman in front of her, then at Steven. Somewhere further down the road, her father sat in a car and waited. She could feel his pull, an invisible tether that never let her get too far away.

“The end, the end,” the sobbing woman repeated, pausing MoJo in her tracks. But where to go? Every direction just pointed at more chaos, people scrambling with a panic that had overtaken everyone in the loading dock, possibly the neighborhood, possibly all New York City, possibly even the world. And it wasn’t just about a flu.

It was everything.

But… maybe that was good?

No more tours. No more studio sessions. No more threats about financial security, no more lawyer meetings, no more searches through her luggage. No more worrying about hitting every mark. In the studio. Onstage.

In life.

All of that was done.

The very thought caused MoJo to smirk.

If this was the end, then she was going out on her own terms.

“Steven!” she yelled. He turned and met her gaze.

She twisted the cap off the water-turned-vodka bottle, then took most of it down in one long gulp. She poured the remainder on her face paint, a star around her left eye, then wiped it off with her sleeve. The empty bottle flew through the air, probably hitting some poor bloke in the head.

“Tell my dad,” she said, trying extra hard to pronounce the words with the clear British diction she was raised with, “to go fuck himself.”

For an instant, she caught Steven’s widemouthed look, a mix of fear and confusion and disappointment on his face, as though her words crushed his worldview more than the madness around them. But MoJo wouldn’t let herself revel in her first, possibly only victory over her father; she ducked and turned quickly, parka pulled over her head, crushing the product-molded spikes in her hair.

Each step pushing forward, shoulders and arms bumping into her as her eyes locked onto the ground, one step at a time. Left, right, left, then right, all as fast as she could go, screams and car horns and smashing glass building in a wave of desperation around her.

Maybe it was the end. But even though her head was down, she walked with dignity for the first time in years, perhaps ever.


Excerpt from A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen. 
Copyright © 2020 by Mike Chen. Published by MIRA Books. 
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.






Meet the author

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 Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and his website

Book 149: DREAMS UNLEASHED Review

Every now and again I enjoy reading books that might loosely be classified as paranormal or science-fiction. I don’t always enjoy these genres but I don’t dislike them either. For me the sci-fi and paranormal genres are like candy, I have to be craving it in order to enjoy it. Well I wasn’t really in the mood for paranormal/sci-fi when I began reading Dreams Unleashed by Linda Hawley but I can say that I’m glad I read this book. 


Dreams Unleashed is a little difficult to describe because after reading it I’m unsure as to what was a dream and what was reality for the main character, Ann Torgeson. The underlying premise is that Ann has special paranormal skills that ultimately allow her to “remote view.” These skills permit her to work as a “spy” for the CIA through the Air Force at a young age. Fast forward 25 years, Ann is now in her early 40s, a widow and mom, and working as a technical writer for a company in Washington state. She is having vivid dreams that seem all too real. She is told that her dreams are being brought into reality because of her special paranormal skills. She dreams of an object that has been lost for years but wakes up with it in her possession. Talk about spooky and strange . . .  The action toggles between Ann’s dreams and reality as well her past and the present. By the end of the story I was asking the question “what was real and what was a dream?” 


Ms. Hawley has crafted a unique story that grabbed my interest and didn’t let go until the very end. Some of the future action (set in the year 2015) may seem a bit farfetched but it isn’t completely outside the realm of possibilities and therefore becomes acceptable. If you’re up for a read that forces you to think outside of the box and you like stories with a paranormal/sci-fi slant, then you definitely want to read Dreams Unleashed. The biggest drawback to reading this book is that it is book one in a trilogy so you’ll have to wait to read about what happens in future books.


DISCLOSURE:  I received this book free from the author for review purposes. I was not paid, required nor otherwise obligated to provide 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 135: THE SKIN MAP Review

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Release date: May 31, 2011 (paperback)


C. Christopher “Kit” Livingstone is an average 20-something male. He is employed and has a girlfriend, and he isn’t happy with either one. Kit’s life changes when he meets his great-grandfather and is taught about ley lines that provide for inter-dimensional time travel — different times and alternate universes. Unfortunately he tries to impress his girlfriend, Wilhelmina “Mina” Klug with ley line travel. Mina gets taken to early 17th century Prague whereas Kit is taken to 17th century England. What follows is a wild adventure of discovery and intrigue. Mina finds her place by becoming a successful merchant as co-owner of a bakery and coffeehouse and even earns a royal warrant. Kit is still floundering while trying to understand the importance of ley lines, the “skin map” that depicts and decodes these ley lines, and his role in decoding the information. 


This story is told from multiple points of views, namely Kit, Mina, Lord Burleigh and Arthur Flinders-Petrie. The reader travels to Macau, ancient Egypt during the times of the pharaohs, early 20th century Egypt and the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb by Henry Carter and Lord Carnarvon, and alternate 17th century European civilizations. The mystery lies in the ultimate purpose of the ley lines and the search for the Well of Souls, something that only Mr. Flinders-Petrie apparently knew and had coded into symbols tattooed onto his body. There are hints given to myths and mysteries but nothing is ever spelled out.


Although Kit’s role seems to be pivotal to this story I found all of the other characters much more interesting. Mina is determined to make the best of a bad situation and quickly adapts to living in the 16th century. Mr. Flinders-Petrie is the key and we’re allowed a glimpse of his life and travels in Macau and ancient Egypt. I enjoyed reading about the various adventures each person has and even learning about the theories behind the ley lines and their importance in the hypothetical omniverse. The Skin Map is well-written but it moved a little too slow for my tastes, not to mention leaving too many questions to be answered in, presumably, the remaining books. I enjoyed this book but I doubt if I’ll be reading any more in this series, it simply wasn’t that captivating.


Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not paid, required nor 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.”