Showing posts with label blog tour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blog tour. Show all posts

Monday, April 17, 2023

Blog Tour + Excerpt: Sisters of the Lost Nation by Nick Medina

This week, I'm starting things off with a blog tour for you all featuring Nick Medina's releases Sisters of the Lost Nation, a captivating and powerful story that will definitely leave you hooked. Below, you'll find some information about the book, author, and an excerpt from the first chapter to get you excited about this release. 

Author:  Nick Medina
Pub. Date: April 18th, 2023
Publisher: Berkley
Find it: | Amazon

"Part gripping thriller and part mythological horror, a young Native girl hunts for answers about a string of disappearances, all while being haunted herself.

Anna Horn is always looking over her shoulder. For the bullies who torment her, for the entitled visitors at the reservation’s casino…and for the nameless, disembodied entity that stalks her every step—an ancient tribal myth come to life, one that’s intent on devouring her whole.

With strange and sinister happenings occurring around the casino, Anna starts to suspect that not all the horrors on the reservation are old. As girls begin to go missing and the tribe scrambles to find answers, Anna struggles with her place on the rez, desperately searching for the key she’s sure lies in the legends of her tribe’s past.

When Anna’s own little sister also disappears, she’ll do anything to bring Grace home. But the demons plaguing the reservation—both old and new—are strong, and sometimes, it’s the stories that never get told that are the most important.

In this stunning and timely debut, author Nick Medina spins a tale of life as an outcast, the cost of forgetting tradition, and the courage it takes to become who you were always meant to be."


Day 1
5:04 p.m.

The house shook from the force of the slammed door. Grace, upside down on the sofa, one foot over the headrest and her head hanging over the edge of the middle cushion, stopped babbling into the phone and moved the receiver from her ear.

"Saw it again?" she said, and smiled at her big sister in a way that some might have found mocking, but which Anna interpreted more affectionately, as though the smile were part of an inside joke they'd shared for years.

"It was a raccoon," Anna said, panting, trying to believe her own words instead of the nagging doubt at the back of her mind telling her that what she'd seen was much more human than that.

"You only come home this sweaty when you think you've seen it."

"It was a raccoon," Anna insisted. "Maybe an armadillo."

Grace flicked her eyebrows and went back to babbling into the phone, speaking in a dialect of breakneck gibberish called "Idig." Anna knew how the language worked. The infix "idig" was inserted at certain points within each word to disguise it. "Ball" became "bidigall." "What" became "whidigat." "Hello" became "hidigellidigo." Grace and her best friend, Emily, had become fluent in the ridiculous language. Anna could interpret a word or two when she listened hard, but she wasn't quick enough to completely decode her sister's conversations. Their parents were even worse. They hadn't a clue what Grace was saying.

Grace had started speaking "Idig" a year before Anna first entered the condemned trailer. Anna loathed the sound of the cumbrous language. Partly because Grace chose to share it with Emily instead of her, and partly because it was so fake. It turned Grace into something fake as well, eliciting phony expressions, gestures, and laughs.

More upsetting was that Grace had started sneaking out through their shared bedroom window, coming and going through the night, sometimes staying out until dawn, never telling Anna where she was going or when she'd return. And Anna, hoping to win Grace back, never snitched, despite knowing deep down that she should.

"Dinner in ten. Grace, hang up the phone. Anna, check on your grandmother," Dorothy, Anna's mother, said from the stove.

Anna tossed her bookbag onto her bed. She could hear her father making a racket in the yard, the thin walls no match against his resonant voice. Her brother, Robbie, was out there with him, aiming at things in the trees.

Anna pushed aside the old bedsheet tacked up in the entryway between the former dining room and the kitchen where her mother was spooning Hamburger Helper onto plates. "Everything all right?" she asked.

Grandma Joan's eyes snapped open, and her head sprang forward. A glistening tongue slid over dry lips as bony shoulders hitched up to earlobes. "I fell asleep again. Don't even know what time it is," she said, her voice ragged in her throat.

Anna let the sheet fall behind her, thinly closing off the former dining room, cramped with a bed, an armchair, a small table, a slew of boxes, and a wheelchair in the corner. "You closed them again?" Though the day would only remain lit for a little longer, Anna moved the curtains aside to welcome a bit of life into the drab room.

"What's it matter?" Gran said. Her words, slow and slurred, leaked through the gap between her lips on the right side of her mouth, which drooped a half inch lower than the left side. Anna was almost used to her grandmother's new way of speech, but though it'd been six months since the stroke, she still wasn't used to that saggy piece of lip. Sometimes the droop made her angry. Sometimes she was just glad Gran could still speak.

"Sunlight helps you feel better," Anna said.

"Did you read that?"

"It's a fact." Anna swept breadcrumbs from the table next to Gran's chair, then dropped onto the edge of the bed just a foot away. "Good day or bad?" she asked.

"Hard to tell anymore. How was school?"

Anna sighed. "Eight more months."

The left side of Gran's mouth curled up in a show of support. Her left hand, wavering, reached for the top of Anna's head while the right one, marginally withered, remained still atop the armrest. Anna lowered her head. Gran's hand absently brushed through Anna's hair, as it had so many times when Anna was small. Knotty knuckles and crooked fingers swept well below Anna's shoulders, like always before, only now Anna's hair ended at her ears, not the small of her back. Still, Gran's hand brushed through the air in search of the braids that once hung there.

Excerpted from Sisters of the Lost Nation by Nick Medina Copyright © 2023 by Nick Medina. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Born in Chicago, Illinois, Nick Medina appreciates blues-based music, local folklore, and snowy winters. He has degrees in organizational and multicultural communication, and has worked as a college instructor. He enjoys playing guitar, listening to classic rock, exploring haunted cemeteries, and all sorts of spooky stuff. Connect with him on, Instagram (@nickmedinawrites), and Twitter (@MedinaNick).

Author photo by Ashley Suttor 2022

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Instagram 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Blog Tour: Strike the Zither by Joan He

That's right, I'm here with another blog tour stop for you all today! 

Today I am featuring Joan He's latest upcoming release Strike the Zither! I have been consistently impressed by Joan He's work and have no doubt that Strike the Zither is going to be just as creative and engaging as her previous work. As usual, below you'll find some information and a summary of the book, some information about Joan He herself, and some amazing things other people have been saying about Strike the Zither. And can we talk about how absolutely striking this cover is? I am really loving the overall design and colors used throughout. 
Huge thanks to Ellen Whitfield for her help with this blog tour and providing me with a copy of Strike the Zither!

Author:  Joan He
Pub. Date: October 25th, 2022
Publisher: Roaring Brook/Macmillian
Find it: Amazon | | Barnes & Noble

New York Times and Indie bestselling author Joan He shocked readers with the rich Chinese-inspired fantasy Descendant of the Crane, and stunned with the “cli-fi” (climate sci-fi) twists of The Ones We’re Meant to Find. Now she returns with a masterful, genderswapped reimagining of China’s most famous historical epic, Three Kingdoms, in her new novel STRIKE THE ZITHER (October 25, 2022, Roaring Brook Press). 
He is diversifying a YA market saturated by Eurocentric fantasy and Western canon by exploring a classic based on one of China’s most tumultuous eras in a way that is captivating for unfamiliar readers, and thrilling for lovers of the original tale. 
STRIKE THE ZITHER opens to a world of chaos in the year 414 of the Xin Dynasty, with a puppet empress on the throne and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves. Zephyr (a female reimagining of Chinese statesman Zhuge Liang) took control of her fate by becoming the realm’s most cunning strategists, serving under warlordess Xin Ren, whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But in a war in which one must betray to survive, there are more enemies than one – and not all of them are human. 
Filled with found family, adventure, and political intrigue, readers will be exported to another world where loyalty and betrayal come hand in hand."


Strike the Zither is a page-turner, full of unexpected twists, with an expansive, intricate world of sisterhood and subterfuge. He’s smooth, economical style is the perfect vehicle for this gripping political fantasy, marrying cat-and-mouse intrigue with a tenderness and emotional depth that heightens the stakes of every new reveal. A standout work from a remarkable author.” – Olivie Blake, author of The Atlas Six 

“A fierce reimagining of the Chinese classic: an ode to loyalty, family, destiny, and the complicated ways each of these elements bind or free the cunning strategist at the center of the tale. This riveting read is full of twists and surprises that shock and delight, building up to the epic conclusion that left me gasping.” – Judy I. Lin, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Book of Tea duology 

“Joan He takes no prisoners, and Strike the Zither is her latest triumph. An intricate, expansive epic that poses difficult questions and eschews easy answers, this book is as ambitious as its scheming, ruthless cast―and just like its narrator, delivers above and beyond.” – Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series and Little Thieves 

“Filled with twists and turns, Strike the Zither is a meticulously plotted, supremely satisfying story that explores identity, legacy, and loyalty in unexpected ways. This is Joan He’s best yet.” – Hannah Whitten, New York Times-bestselling author of FOR THE WOLF 

“Rich with intrigue and epic in scale. Strike the Zither grows tall on the heroic classics it draws from, yet beats powerfully with a heart of its own.” – Chloe Gong, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of the These Violent Delights Duet 

“Richly layered and highly creative, Strike the Zither offers a world brimming with war, love, and unforgettable characters. A truly magnificent book.” – June Hur, bestselling author of The Red Palace 

“In this tautly plotted, vividly reimagined tale of a beloved Chinese classic, He orchestrates an epic page-turner… Strike the Zither will keep you guessing―and gasping for more.” – June CL Tan, internationally bestselling author of Jade Fire Gold 

Strike the Zither reimagines the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms in a way never seen before, with intense twists and turns that pay homage to its inspiration while being refreshingly different. A brilliant exploration of destiny and identity!” – Xiran Jay Zhao, New York Times-bestselling author of Iron Widow


JOAN HE was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that storytelling was her favorite form of expression. She studied Psychology and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Pennsylvania and currently writes from a desk overlooking the Delaware River. Descendant of the Crane is her debut young adult fantasy. Her next novel, Strike the Zither, is the first in a duology and will be published on October 25, 2022. 

LINKS: Author Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Blog Tour + Excerpt: If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang

Blog tour season continues with my stop for Ann Liang's release If You Could See the Sun! I was captivated by the premise of this book and think it will be an incredible read for anyone looking for something that feels fresh and compelling. Below you'll find some general information about the book and author as well as an excerpt from the first chapter (and it's a long one!) to get you hooked! Thanks once again to Justine Sha and the publisher for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour. Happy reading!

Author:  Ann Liang
Pub. Date: October 11th, 2022
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Find it: | IndieBound | B&N | Amazon

In a YA debut that’s Gossip Girl with a speculative twist, a Chinese American girl monetizes her strange new invisibility powers by discovering and selling her wealthy classmates’ most scandalous secrets. 
Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible. 
When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price. 
But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life."


My parents only ever invite me out to eat for one of three reasons. One, someone’s dead (which, given the ninety-something members in our family WeChat group alone, happens more often than you’d think). Two, it’s someone’s birthday. Or three, they have a life-changing announcement to make. 

Sometimes it’s a combination of all the above, like when my great-grandaunt passed away on the morning of my twelfth birthday, and my parents decided to inform me over a bowl of fried sauce noodles that they’d be sending me off to Airington International Boarding School. 

But it’s August now, the sweltering summer heat palpable even in the air-conditioned confines of the restaurant, and no one in my immediate family has a birthday this month. Which, of course, leaves only two other possibilities… 

The anxious knot in my stomach tightens. It’s all I can do not to run right back out through the glass double doors. Call me weak or whatever, but I’m in no state to handle bad news of any kind. 

Especially not today. 

“Alice, what you look so nervous for ya?” Mama asks as an unsmiling, qipao-clad waitress leads us over to our table in the back corner. 

We squeeze past a crowded table of elderly people sharing a giant pink-tinted cream cake shaped like a peach, and what appears to be a company lunch, with men sweating in their stuffy collared shirts and women dabbing white powder onto their cheeks. A few of them twist around and stare when they notice my uniform. I can’t tell if it’s because they recognize the tiger crest emblazoned on my blazer pocket, or because of how grossly pretentious the design looks compared to the local schools’ tracksuits. 

“I’m not nervous,” I say, taking the seat between her and Baba. “My face just always looks like this.” This isn’t exactly a lie. My aunt once joked that if I were ever found at a crime scene, I’d be the first one arrested based solely on my expression and body language. Never seen anyone as jumpy as you, she’d said. Must’ve been a mouse in your past life. 

I resented the comparison then, but I can’t help feeling like a mouse now—one that’s about to walk straight into a trap. 

Mama moves to pass me the laminated menu. As she does, light spills onto her bony hands from the nearby window, throwing the ropey white scar running down her palm into sharp relief. A pang of all-too-familiar guilt flares up inside me like an open flame. 

“Haizi,” Mama calls me. 

“What do you want to eat?” 

“Oh. Uh, anything’s fine,” I reply, quickly averting my gaze. 

Baba breaks apart his disposable wooden chopsticks with a loud snap. “Kids these days don’t know how lucky they are,” he says, rubbing the chopsticks together to remove any splinters before helping me do the same. “All grow up in honey jar. You know what I eat at your age? Sweet potato. Every day, sweet potato.” 

As he launches into a more detailed description of daily life in the rural villages of Henan, Mama waves the waitress over and lists off what sounds like enough dishes to feed the entire restaurant. 

Ma,” I protest, dragging the word out in Mandarin. “We don’t need—” 

“Yes, you do,” she says firmly. “You always starve whenever school starts. Very bad for your body.” 

Despite myself, I suppress the urge to roll my eyes. Less than ten minutes ago, she’d been commenting on how my cheeks had grown rounder over the summer holidays; only by her logic is it possible to be too chubby and dangerously undernourished at the same time. 

When Mama finally finishes ordering, she and Baba exchange a look, then turn to me with expressions so solemn I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind: “Is—is my grandpa okay?” 

Mama’s thin brows furrow, accentuating the stern features of her face. “Of course. Why you ask?” 

“N-nothing. Never mind.” I allow myself a small sigh of relief, but my muscles remain tensed, as if bracing for a blow. “Look, whatever the bad news is, can we just—can we get it over with quickly? The awards ceremony is in an hour and if I’m going to have a mental breakdown, I need at least twenty minutes to recover before I get on stage.” 

Baba blinks. “Awards ceremony? What ceremony?” 

My concern temporarily gives way to exasperation. “The awards ceremony for the highest achievers in each year level.” 

He continues to stare at me blankly. 

“Come on, Ba. I’ve mentioned it at least fifty times this summer.” 

I’m only exaggerating a little. Sad as it sounds, those fleeting moments of glory under the bright auditorium spotlight are all I’ve been looking forward to the past couple of months. 

Even if I have to share them with Henry Li. 

As always, the name fills my mouth with something sharp and bitter like poison. God, I hate him. I hate him and his flawless, porcelain skin and immaculate uniform and his composure, as untouchable and unfailing as his ever-growing list of achievements. I hate the way people look at him and see him, even if he’s completely silent, head down and working at his desk. 

I’ve hated him ever since he sauntered into school four years ago, brand-new and practically glowing. By the end of his first day, he’d beat me in our history unit test by a whole two-point-five marks, and everyone knew his name. 

Just thinking about it now makes my fingers itch. 

Baba frowns. Looks to Mama for confirmation. “Are we meant to go to this—this ceremony thing?” 

“It’s students only,” I remind him, even though it wasn’t always this way. The school decided to make it a more private event after my classmate’s very famous mother, Krystal Lam, showed up to the ceremony and accidentally brought the paparazzi in with her. There were photos of our auditorium floating around all over Weibo for days afterward. 

“Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that they’re handing out awards and—” 

“Yes, yes, all you talk about is award,” Mama interrupts, impatient. “Where your priorities, hmm? Does that school of yours not teach you right values? It should go family first, then health, then saving for retirement, then—are you even listening?” 

I’m spared from having to lie when our food arrives. 

In the fancier Peking duck restaurants like Quanjude, the kind of restaurants my classmates go to frequently without someone having to die first, the chefs always wheel out the roast duck on a tray and carve it up beside your table. It’s almost an elaborate performance; the crispy, glazed skin coming apart with every flash of the blade to reveal the tender white meat and sizzling oil underneath. 

But here the waitress simply presents us with a whole duck chopped into large chunks, the head still attached and everything. 

Mama must catch the look on my face because she sighs and turns the duck head away from me, muttering something about my Western sensibilities. 

More dishes come, one by one: fresh cucumbers drizzled with vinegar and mixed with chopped garlic, thin-layered scallion pancakes baked to a perfect crisp, soft tofu swimming in a golden-brown sauce and sticky rice cakes dusted with a fine coat of sugar. I can already see Mama measuring out the food with her shrewd brown eyes, most likely calculating how many extra meals she and Baba can make from the leftovers. 

I force myself to wait until both Mama and Baba have taken few bites of their food to venture, “Um. I’m pretty sure you guys were going to tell me something important…?” 

In response, Baba takes a long swig from his still-steaming cup of jasmine tea and swishes the liquid around in his mouth as if he’s got all the time in the world. Mama sometimes jokes that I take after Baba in every way—from his square jaw, straight brows and tan skin to his stubborn perfectionist streak. But I clearly haven’t inherited any of his patience. 

Baba,” I prompt, trying my best to keep my tone respectful. 

He holds up a hand and drains the rest of his tea before at last opening his mouth to speak. “Ah. Yes. Well, your Mama and I were thinking… How you feel about going to different school?” 

“Wait. What?” My voice comes out too loud and too shrill, cutting through the restaurant chatter and cracking at the end like some prepubescent boy’s. The company workers from the table nearby stop midtoast to shoot me disapproving looks. “What?” I repeat in a whisper this time, my cheeks heating. 

“Maybe you go to local school like your cousins,” Mama says, placing a piece of perfectly wrapped Peking duck down on my plate with a smile. It’s a smile that makes alarm bells go off in my head. The kind of smile dentists give you right before yanking your teeth out. “Or we let you go back to America. You know my friend, Auntie Shen? The one with the nice son—the doctor?” 

I nod slowly, as if two-thirds of her friends’ children aren’t either working or aspiring doctors. 

“She says there’s very nice public school in Maine near her house. Maybe if you help work for her restaurant, she let you stay—” 

“I don’t get it,” I interrupt, unable to help myself. There’s a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, like that time I ran too hard in the school Sports Carnival just to beat Henry and nearly threw up all over the courtyard. “I just… What’s wrong with Airington?” 

Baba looks a little taken aback by my response. “I thought you hated Airington,” he says, switching to Mandarin.

“I never said I hated—” 

“You once printed out a picture of the school logo and spent an entire afternoon stabbing it with your pen.” 

“So, I wasn’t the biggest fan in the beginning,” I say, setting my chopsticks down on the plastic tablecloth. My fingers tremble slightly. “But that was five years ago. People know who I am now. I have a reputation—a good one. And the teachers like me, like really like me, and most of my classmates think I’m smart and—and they actually care what I have to say…” But with every word that tumbles out of my mouth, my parents’ expressions grow grimmer, and the sick feeling sharpens into ice-cold dread. Still, I plow on, desperate. “And I have my scholarship, remember? The only one in the entire school. Wouldn’t it be a waste if I just left—” 

“You have half scholarship,” Mama corrects. 

“Well, that’s the most they’re willing to offer…” Then it hits me. It’s so obvious I’m stunned by own ignorance; why else would my parents all of a sudden suggest taking me out of the school they spent years working tirelessly to get me into? 

“Is this… Is this about the school fees?” I ask, keeping my voice low so no one around us can overhear. 

Mama says nothing at first, just fiddles with the loose button on her dull flower-patterned blouse. It’s another cheap supermarket purchase; her new favorite place to find clothes after Yaxiu Market was converted into a lifeless mall for overpriced knockoff brands. 

“That’s not for you to worry,” she finally replies. 

Which means yes

I slump back in my seat, trying hard to collect my thoughts. It’s not as if I didn’t know that we’re struggling, that we’ve been struggling for some time now, ever since Baba’s old printing company shut down and Mama’s late shifts at Xiehe Hospital were cut short. But Mama and Baba have always been good at hiding the extent of it, waving away any of my concerns with a simple “just focus on your studies” or “silly child, does it look like we’d let you starve?” 

I look across the table at them now, really look at them, and what I see is the scattering of white hairs near Baba’s temples, the tired creases starting to show under Mama’s eyes, the long days of labor taking their toll while I stay sheltered in my little Airington bubble. Shame roils in my gut. How much easier would their lives be if they didn’t have to pay that extra 165,000 RMB every year? 

“What, um, were the choices again?” I hear myself say. “Local Beijing school or public school in Maine?” 

Evident relief washes over Mama’s face. She dips another piece of Peking duck in a platter of thick black sauce, wraps it tight in a sheet of paper-thin pancake with two slices of cucumber—no onions, just the way I like it—and lays it down on my plate. “Yes, yes. Either is good.” 

I gnaw on my lower lip. Actually, neither option is good. 

Going to any local school in China means I’ll have to take the gaokao, which is meant to be one of the hardest college entrance exams as it is without my primary school–level Chinese skills getting in the way. And as for Maine—all I know is that it’s the least diverse state in America, my understanding of the SATs is pretty much limited to the high school dramas I’ve watched on Netflix, and the chances of a public school there letting me continue my IB coursework are very low. 

“We don’t have to decide right now,” Mama adds quickly. “Your Baba and I already pay for your first semester at Airington. You can ask teachers, your friends, think about it a bit, and then we discuss again. Okay?” 

“Yeah,” I say, even though I feel anything but okay. “Sounds great.” 

Baba taps his knuckles on the table, making both of us start. “Aiya, too much talking during eating time.” He jabs his chopsticks at the plates between us. “The dishes already going cold.” 

As I pick up my own chopsticks again, the elderly people at the table beside us start singing the Chinese version of “Happy Birthday,” loud and off-key. “Zhuni shengri kuaile… Zhuni shengri kuaile…” The old nainai sitting in the middle nods and claps her hands together to the beat, smiling a wide, toothless grin. 

At least someone’s leaving this restaurant in higher spirits than when they came in. 

Sweat beads and trickles from my brow almost the instant I step outside. The kids back in California always complained about the heat, but the summers in Beijing are stifling, merciless, with the dappled shade of wutong trees planted up and down the streets often serving as the sole source of relief. 

Right now it’s so hot I can barely breathe. Or maybe that’s just the panic kicking in. 

“Haizi, we’re going,” Mama calls to me. Little plastic take-out bags swing from her elbow, stuffed full with everything—and I mean everything—left over from today’s lunch. She’s even packed the duck bones. 

I wave at her. Exhale. Manage to nod and smile as Mama lingers to offer me her usual parting words of advice: Don’t sleep later than eleven or you die, don’t drink cold water or you die, watch out for child molesters on your way to school, eat ginger, lot of ginger, remember check air quality index every day… 

Then she and Baba are off to the nearest subway station, her petite figure and Baba’s tall, angular frame quickly swallowed up by the crowds, and I’m left standing all alone. 

A terrible pressure starts to build at the back of my throat. 

No. I can’t cry. Not here, not now. Not when I still have an awards ceremony to attend—maybe the last awards ceremony I’ll ever go to. 

I force myself to move, to focus on my surroundings, anything to pull my thoughts from the black hole of worry swirling inside my head. 

An array of skyscrapers rises up in the distance, all glass and steel and unabashed luxury, their tapered tips scraping the watery-blue sky. If I squint, I can even make out the famous silhouette of the CCTV headquarters. Everyone calls it The Giant Underpants because of its shape, though Mina Huang— whose dad is apparently the one who designed it—has been trying and failing for the past five years to make people stop. 

My phone buzzes in my skirt pocket, and I know without looking that it’s not a text (it never is) but an alarm: only twenty minutes left until assembly begins. I make myself walk faster, past the winding alleys clogged with rickshaws and vendors and little yellow bikes, the clusters of convenience stores and noodle shops and calligraphed Chinese characters blinking across neon signs all blurring by. 

The traffic and crowds thicken as I get closer toward the Third Ring Road. There are all kinds of people everywhere: balding uncles cooling themselves with straw fans, cigarettes dangling out of mouths, shirts yanked halfway up to expose their sunburned bellies, the perfect picture of I-don’t-give-a-shit; old aunties strutting down the sidewalks with purpose, dragging their floral shopping trolleys behind them as they head for the open markets; a group of local school students sharing large cups of bubble tea and roasted sweet potatoes outside a mini snack stall, stacks of homework booklets spread out on a stool between them, gridded pages fluttering in the breeze. 

As I stride past, I hear one of the students ask in a dramatic whisper, their words swollen with a thick Beijing accent, “Dude, did you see that?” 

“See what?” a girl replies. 

I keep walking, face forward, doing my best to act like I can’t hear what they’re saying. Then again, they probably assume I don’t understand Chinese anyway; I’ve been told time and time again by locals that I have a foreigner’s air, or qizhi, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. 

“She goes to that school. That’s where that Hong Kong singer—what’s her name again? Krystal Lam?—sends her daughter, and the CEO of SYS as well… Wait, let me just Baidu it to check…” 

Wokao!” the girl swears a few seconds later. I can practically feel her gaping at the back of my head. My face burns. “330,000 RMB for just one year? What are they teaching, how to seduce royalty?” Then she pauses. “But isn’t it an international school? I thought those were only for white people.” 

“What do you know?” the first student scoffs. “Most international students just have foreign passports. It’s easy if you’re rich enough to be born overseas.” 

This isn’t true at all: I was born right here in Beijing and didn’t move to California with my parents until I was seven. And as for being rich… No. Whatever. It’s not like I’m going to turn back and correct him. Besides, I’ve had to recount my entire life story to strangers enough times to know that sometimes it’s easier to just let them assume what they want. 

Without waiting for the traffic lights to turn—no one here really follows them anyway—I cross the road, glad to put some distance between me and the rest of their conversation. Then I make a quick to-do list in my head. 

It’s what works best whenever I’m overwhelmed or frustrated. Short-term goals. Small hurdles. Things within my control. Like: 

One, make it through entire awards ceremony without pushing Henry Li off the stage. 

Two, turn in Chinese essay early (last chance to get in Wei Laoshi’s good graces). 

Three, read history course syllabus before lunch. 

Four, research Maine and closest public schools in Beijing and figure out which place offers highest probability of future success—if any—without breaking down and/or hitting something. 

See? All completely doable. 

Excerpted from If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang, Copyright © 2022 by Ann Liang. Published by Inkyard Press.


Ann Liang is an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne. Born in Beijing, she grew up travelling back and forth between China and Australia, but somehow ended up with an American accent. When she isn’t stressing out over her college assignments or writing, she can be found making over-ambitious to-do lists, binge-watching dramas, and having profound conversations with her pet labradoodle about who’s a good dog. This is her debut novel.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Instagram 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Blog Tour + Excerpt: Miss Del Rio by Bárbara Mujica

Hello, everyone! Today's I'm excited to share another blog tour stop (it's the season for blog tours if you hadn't noticed!) for Bárbara Mujica's latest release Miss Del Rio. I have always been a fan of historical fiction, and Mis Del Rio is a perfect fit for any historical fiction craving. Below you'll find some general information about the book, where to pick up a copy, a synopsis, and even an excerpt from the first chapter! Be sure to check it out. :) As always, thanks to Justine Sha for letting me be a part of this blog tour!

Author:  Bárbara Mujica
Pub. Date: October 4th, 2022
Publisher: Graydon House
Find it: Harlequin | IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Powell's 

In the tradition of Marie Benedict's The Only Woman in the Room and Adriana Trigiani's All The Stars in the Heavens, a stunning biographical historical novel set over five decades about Mexican actress Dolores del Río—the first major Latina star in Hollywood, member of Tinseltown's glamorous inner circle with notables such as Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich, and proud Mexican woman who helped pioneer Mexican cinema's Golden Age. 
She was known as the most beautiful woman in the world, but Dolores del Río was more than a pretty face. 
1910, Mexico: As the country’s revolution spreads, Dolores, the daughter of a wealthy banker, must flee her comfortable life in Durango or risk death. Her family settles in Mexico City, where, at 16, she marries the worldly Jaime del Río. But in a twist of fate, at a party she meets an influential American director who recognizes in her a natural performer. He invites her to Hollywood, and practically overnight, the famous Miss del Río is born. 
In California, Dolores’s star quickly rises, and her days become a whirlwind of movie-making and glamorous events. Swept up in Tinseltown’s glitzy inner circle, she takes her place among film royalty such as Marlene Dietrich and Orson Welles. But as her career soars to new heights, her personal life becomes increasingly complicated, with family tragedy, painful divorce, and real heartache. And when she’s labeled box office poison amid growing prejudice before WWII, Dolores must decide what price she’s willing to pay to achieve her dreams, and if her heart and future instead lie where it all began... in Mexico. 
Spanning half a century and narrated by Dolores’s fictional hairdresser and longtime friend, Miss del Río traces the life of a trailblazing woman whose legacy in Hollywood and in Mexico still shines bright today."


Chapter 1 

Durango, 1910 


Lola crouched beside the armoire the way her mother had told her. Something was going on, something awful. Everyone looked terrified. Even Mamá, usually so regal and poised in her bustled skirts and lacy, tight-sleeved blouses, was tense and angry. Nearly all the maids had disappeared. Where were they? Only Juana—loyal Juana—had stayed behind to care for her, but now there was so much work to do that Juana couldn’t spend the whole day in the nursery. She had to take over the kitchen and do the jobs of the laundress and the parlormaid and the chambermaid, too. There was no one around to sweep Mamá’s hair up into a bird’s nest, and the strange thing was that Mamá didn’t seem to care. She pinned up her thick brown mane herself without fussing when a whole lock came loose and fell defiantly over her shoulder. 

Lola began to whimper. 

“Chatita!” hissed Doña Antonia. “I told you to be quiet. Don’t make a sound! It’s dangerous!” 

She tiptoed across the bedroom where they were hiding and squatted beside Lola. “Maman, I have to pee.” 

“You can’t pee now. You have to be very, very still. They can’t know we’re here. And don’t call me maman! You’re going to get us killed!” 

“But, Mami, I have to pee!” 

Doña Antonia crawled toward the bed, grabbed the chamber pot from underneath, and dragged it back behind the armoire. “There, go ahead.” 

Six-year-old Lola picked up her dress and pulled down her bloomers. When she was done, Doña Antonia pushed the pot away. “I can’t empty it now,” she whispered. “Just leave it there.” 

Lola bit her lip. She knew better than to ask again what was going on. The tightness of her mother’s jaw, the way she rubbed her hands against her long black silk skirt, her hushed voice and edgy gaze—all these things told Lola that from now on she would have to sniff back her tears and not ask questions. 

Things had begun to change months ago. Now, she could no longer tear through the patio with Juana, screeching with laughter, while her dog, Siroco, yapped happily. She was no longer free to dance for hours to the music of the Victrola. She could not ride out to the country house in the landau with Mamá and Papá, or trot around the orchard on her milk-white pony. She had to stay where she was, be very still, and creep around on all fours like a baby so that nobody would know they were hiding in their own house. 

“How long do we have to stay here?” whispered Lola. She was tired of crouching by the armoire. The air reeked of piss, and the heat was stifling. 

“I think they’ve gone. I’ll send Juana out to the patio to check.” 

“Who’s gone, Mami?” 

“I thought I heard a noise…but…let’s see what Juana says. If she says it’s clear, you can play, but stay indoors and away from the windows. Holy Virgin, this is a nightmare.” 

A moment later, Juana entered the bedroom and assured them that no one was in the patio or the stables, and the doors were all secure. Lola sprang up, but Doña Antonia held on to her ankle. 

“Wait,” she whispered. She still looked worried. 

Lola squirmed. “Why? Juana says it’s alright!” 

Doña Antonia sighed. She looked wistful, but after a moment, she said, “Alright. Go play.” 

Lola had noticed that lately the grown-ups had been speaking in muffled voices. Her parents thought that Lola wasn’t listening, but she was. They tried to shield her from the truth, but they couldn’t. There had been stories about people just like them, the Ansúnsolo López Negrete family. Decent people who shared their idyllic existence in beautiful Durango, a city filled with elegant, colonial-style homes and wide streets upon which stylish carriages rolled day and night, a city that boasted a seventeenth-century baroque cathedral considered the jewel of northern Mexico. Decent people who came to her mother’s soirees, the men in top hats and tails, white boutonnieres in their lapels, the women in frilly, high-collared blouses. People whose children were learning French and believed Porfirio Díaz had saved Mexico from barbarism and superstition. Stories, for example, like what had happened the month before to the Pérez Lorenzo baby. 

She had pieced it together from scraps of speech and muffled sobs behind closed doors. Pablito had been playing in his room, attended by his niñera. Lola had seen the child often—a roly-poly two-year-old with soft brown curls and rosy cheeks, the spitting image of his father. His mother, Doña Mercedes, gave him a kiss and told the nursemaid to put him down for a nap. The weather was lovely, temperate and dry, and she had instructed the servants to set up tables outside on the veranda for her weekly card game. But the tables weren’t there, the potted dahlias she had ordered the kitchen girls to place on each one still sitting in rows in the patio, fuchsia, crimson, orange, and yellow blooms opening to the sunlight like tiny origami forms. Doña Mercedes glanced at her watch. The ladies would arrive soon. She breathed deeply and listened. Silence. Suddenly she felt her blood turn to ice. She spun around, darted up the stairs, and ran to the nursery. A scream of terror froze in her throat. The nursemaid had vanished. A ladder rested against the unbolted window. Pablito was propped up in his little chair, his head thrown back, his mouth and eyes wide-open. Someone had arranged the scene to produce maximum horror when his mother found him sitting there, his throat slit from ear to ear. 

Lola understood what had happened, but why did it happen? Could it happen to her? 

After the tragedy at the Pérez Lorenzo estate, her mother became increasingly anxious and angry. She stopped being meticulous about her dress and hair. She sent Siroco to the country to be cared for by a farm family. Often she and Lola’s father, Don Jesús Leonardo, locked themselves in the study for hours, leaving Lola to fend for herself or hang on to Juana’s skirts while the maid ironed in the laundry room. Lola was bored and she missed her dog, but after a week or so, she began to lose her fear. She had heard of no other murders of children. Besides, she knew that Juana would never abandon her the way Pablito’s niñera had abandoned him. Juana had come to work for the Ansúnsolos as a ten-year-old and had lived with the family her whole life. She’d been taking care of Lola since she was born. She wouldn’t just disappear through an open window. Anyway, her parents were dead. Where would she go? 

Sometimes Lola snuck away from the nursemaid and pressed her ear against the study door. She heard words like cash, accounts, liquidate, but she knew that her father had a high position at the Bank of Durango, so these were the kinds of words he always used. Then one day there were new words, words she hadn’t heard before: Pancho Villa. Lola didn’t dare ask her mother what these words meant, so she ran to Juana. 

“Oh, Pancho Villa is a very famous man,” explained the maid nonchalantly. “His real name is Doroteo Arango. He shot a man to protect his sister’s honor. Right there in rancho El Gorgojito, one of your father’s properties. Your father is a very rich man, you know, señorita. Anyhow, now Pancho Villa has become a protector of the people.” 

“Protector of the people? What does that mean?” 

“Nothing you need to know about, little one. Now go and play. Do you want me to turn on the Victrola so you can dance? Only don’t dance near the window. It’s too dangerous.” Juana stroked Lola’s cheek and dug into the pocket of her apron. She pulled out a brightly colored candy and handed it to her. “Don’t tell your Mami,” she whispered with a wink. 

Lola took the sweet and giggled. She felt safe with Juana. 

One evening, a few days after that conversation, Doña Antonia instructed Juana to give Lola her supper and put her to bed early. Lola fell asleep almost immediately, but suddenly awakened in the middle of the night. She looked around. Something was off. A luminescent moon cast a diffused glow over the room. Why wasn’t the window shuttered beneath the gauzy curtains? Shadows flickered on the dimly lit wall. The silhouette of a person seemed to form and then dissolve. Lola trembled. Her eyes darted around the room. She saw the armoire, the dresser, the shelf for her dolls and toys. She saw the crucifix above her bed, a small table and chairs where she often took her meals, and the cabinet where the Victrola sat. Everything was in place. The statue of the Virgin stood white and ethereal on the nightstand. But where was Juana? She wasn’t on the cot by Lola’s bed, where she usually slept. Lola began to whimper. 


“Shh!” Juana stepped out from the alcove, fully dressed, a frayed rebozo thrown over her shoulders. She was carrying a candle. Its glimmer made the shadows on the wall dance and twist like rag dolls. 

“Juana, I’m scared,” whispered Lola. “I think I heard a noise.” 

“No, you didn’t. Go back to sleep.” 

Another shadow appeared on the wall. Lola squinted hard. It wasn’t on the wall at all! It was a man standing in front of the wall! Lola couldn’t see his features, but she was sure this form was solid. The man took a step toward her. Lola screamed. 

Juana raised her hand and slapped the child across the face. “Shut up!” she snapped. 

Lola couldn’t believe the sting on her cheek. And she couldn’t believe the hatred in Juana’s voice or the cruelty in her eyes. Lola opened her mouth to say something, but Juana raised her hand again and the words stuck in her throat. A warm, sticky wetness oozed out of her body, covering her thighs and bottom, and then trickled down her leg. She had to scream. She had to call Papá. But she was paralyzed. 

Juana said something to the man in a language that wasn’t Spanish. Lola didn’t understand it, but she knew it was a dialect of Nahuatl. Juana sometimes spoke it with the other maids or at the marketplace. Lola knew what was going to happen next. The man was going to grab her by the hair and Juana was going to hold her down. Then they would slit her throat. They would place her head on the pillow soaked with blood, and Mami would find her dead in the morning, just as Pablito’s mother had found him. Once again, Lola opened her mouth to scream, but before she could hurl a bloodcurdling shriek to wake up her parents, she felt something warm and gooey and disgusting on her face. 

The man wiped his lips and Lola grabbed a sheet to wipe the spit out of her eye. “¡Viva Pancho Villa!” he hissed. The man grabbed the porcelain Virgin from the nightstand and smashed it against the edge. Then he snatched some silver knickknacks from the dresser. In a heartbeat, they were gone. They didn’t go out the window but ran down the stairs. Lola hardly heard them open the front door. They were careful. They didn’t slam the door. They didn’t want to wake up Papá, because Juana knew he had a gun and would use it. In her mind’s eye, Lola could see them seize the key to the front gate—Juana knew where it was hidden—and then cross the yard and exit. 

As soon as she could move her legs, Lola ran to her parents’ room. Doña Antonia took one look at her little girl and began wailing and shaking like a branch in a storm. She held Lola to her. “Oh my God,” she cried. “Oh, my dear God!” 

Lola’s father leaped out of bed and grabbed his hunting rifle. He lit a torch and surveyed the perimeters of the property, then came back inside, bolted the doors and windows, and went into the bedroom. He sat on the bed behind his wife and rubbed her shoulders. Doña Antonia was sobbing violently, but struggling to contain herself. When at last she’d steadied her hands, she rose and poured water into a basin. She washed Lola from head to toe, put a fresh nightgown on her, and rocked her like an infant until the child fell asleep. She placed her in her own bed and lay down beside her. 

“They’ve invaded our home,” she said to her husband. “We have no choice now. We have to leave.” 

Excerpted from Miss del Río by Bárbara Mujica. Copyright © 2022 by Bárbara Mujica. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.


Bárbara Mujica is the bestselling author of four novels, including Frida, which was translated into 17 languages. She is also an award-winning short story writer and essayist whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Miami Herald, among others. A professor emerita of Spanish at Georgetown University, she grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

LINKS: Author Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Blog Tour - New Release Spotlight: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore


Today I'm sharing my stop on the blog tour for the highly anticipated new release The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore! This story takes place in 16th century Russia and follows a version of the folkloric figure of Baba Yaga like I'd never quite seen her before. Gilmore's writing in this book shines and really makes this a historical fantasy you won't want to miss–and it's out today! The setting, prose, and atmosphere all make this book a perfect fall read.

Below you will find some information about The Witch and the Tsar, early praise from talented authors, and some additional information about the author herself.

Author:  Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
Pub. Date: September 20th, 2022
Publisher: Ace
Find it: | B&N | Amazon | Books-A-Million 

In this stunning historical fantasy debut, an isolated witch will risk all that she has to save her country and her people from dangerous gods and the twisted hearts of men. 
As a half goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar, and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves. 
As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth-century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan—soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine."

        Early Praise for The Witch and the Tsar 

“An utterly enchanting, wholly immersive debut that deftly reimagines the legend of Baba Yaga. This one is unmissable.”—Alexis Henderson, Author of The Year of the Witching 

“A rich and vivid tapestry of old Russia in an age when Tsar Ivan the Terrible grappled not only with political foes but with the legendary witch Baba Yaga and her command of magic and pagan gods.  An evocative journey into old Russian myth and history, and a poignant exploration of what it means to be both human and immortal.”– Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author of The Splendor Before the Dark 

“Weaves myth and history into a poignant tale of love and war and gods in the flesh, with impeccable imagery and a heroine whose strength and courage stayed with me long after the final page. Fans of The Witch’s Heart, Circe and The Bear and the Nightingale are sure to fall in love with Gilmore’s compelling debut.” – H.M. Long, Author of Hall of Smoke


Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the U.S., and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English/political science, and from Northwestern School of Law with a JD. She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is most happy writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded, lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel. Learn more online at

Author photo credit: Nicola Levine Photography, LLC 2021

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook