Showing posts with label excerpt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label excerpt. 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 

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 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Blog Tour + Excerpt: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais

Today, I am excited to be participating in the blog tour for Bianca Marais' recent release The Witches of Moonshyne Manor, a delightful story about a coven of witches that will fulfill all your witch-y desires. For my stop, I'll be sharing some general information about the book and the author, as always, as well as an excerpt from the first chapter that will hopefully get you hooked and excited to read the rest of the book! Let's go ahead and check it out. :)

Author:  Bianca Marais
Pub. Date: August 25th, 2022
Publisher: MIRA
Find it: | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | Kobo | AppleBooks | Google Play | Libro.FM | Indigo | Target

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat. 
Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation. 
But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems. 
The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies. 
Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life."



Saturday, October 23rd 


     Half an hour before the alarm will be sounded for the first time in decades—drawing four frantic old women and a geriatric crow from all corners of the sprawling manor—Ursula is awoken by insistent knocking, like giant knuckles rapping against glass. It’s an ominous sign, to be sure. The first of many. 
     Trying to rid herself of the sticky cobwebs of sleep, Ursula throws back the covers, groaning as her joints loudly voice their displeasure. She’s slept in the buff, as is her usual habit, and as she pads across the room, she’s more naked than the day she was born (being, as she is, one of those rare babies who came into the world fully encased in a caul). Upon reaching the window, the cause of the ruckus is immediately obvious to Ursula; one of the Angel Oak’s sturdy branches is thumping against her third-floor window. Strong winds whip through the tree, making it shimmy and shake, giving the impression that it’s espousing the old adage to dance like no one’s watching, a quality that rather has to be admired in a tree. Either that, or it’s trembling uncontrollably with fear. 
     The forest, encroaching at the garden’s boundary, looks disquieted. It hangs its head low, bowing to a master who’s ordered it to bend the knee. As the charcoal sky churns, not a bird to be seen, the trees in the wood whisper incessantly. Whether they’re secrets or warnings, Ursula can’t tell, which only unsettles her further. 
     That infernal billboard that the city recently erected across from the manor property—with its aggressive gigantic lettering shouting, ‘Critchley Hackle Mega Complex Coming Soon!’—snaps in the wind, issuing small cracks of thunder. A storm is on its way, that much is clear. You don’t need to have Ivy’s particular powers to know as much. 
    Turning her back on the ominous view, Ursula heads for the calendar to mark off another mostly sleepless night. It seems impossible that after so many of them—night upon night, strung up after each other seemingly endlessly—only two remain until Ruby’s return, upon which Ursula will discover her fate. 
    Either Ruby knows or she doesn’t. 
    And if she does know, there’s the chance that she’ll want nothing more to do with Ursula. The thought makes her breath hitch, the accompanying stab of pain almost too much to bear. The best she can hope for under the circumstances is that Ruby will forgive her, releasing Ursula from the invisible prison her guilt has sentenced her to. 
    Too preoccupied with thoughts of Ruby to remember to don her robe, Ursula takes a seat at her mahogany escritoire. She lights a cone of mugwort and sweet laurel incense, watching as the tendril of smoke unfurls, inscribing itself upon the air. Inhaling the sweet scent, she picks up a purple silk pouch and unties it, spilling the contents onto her palm. 
    The tarot cards are all frayed around the edges, worn down from countless hours spent jostling through Ursula’s hands. Despite their shabbiness, they crackle with electricity, sparks flying as she shuffles them. After cutting the deck in three, Ursula begins laying the cards down, one after the other, on top of the heptagram she carved into the writing desk’s surface almost eighty years ago. 
    The first card, placed in the center, is The Tower. Unfortunate souls tumble from the top of a fortress that’s been struck by lightning, flames engulfing it. Ursula experiences a jolt of alarm at the sight of it for The Tower has to signify the manor; and anything threatening their home, threatens them all. 
    The second card, placed above the first at the one o’clock position, can only represent Tabitha. It’s the Ten of Swords, depicting a person lying face down with ten swords buried in their back. The last time Ursula saw the card, she’d made a mental note to make an appointment with her acupuncturist, but now, following so soon after The Tower, it makes her shift nervously. 
    The third, fourth and fifth cards, placed at the three o’clock, four-thirty and six o’clock positions, depict a person (who must be Queenie) struggling under too heavy a load; a heart pierced by swords (signifying Ursula); and a horned beast towering above a man and woman who are shackled together (obviously Jezebel). Ursula whimpers to see so many dreaded cards clustered together. 
    Moving faster now, she lays out the sixth, seventh and eighth cards at the seven-thirty, nine and eleven o’ clock positions. Ursula gasps as she studies the man crying in his bed, nine swords hovering above him (which can only denote Ursula’s guilt as it pertains to Ruby); the armored skeleton on horseback (representing the town of Critchley Hackle); and the two bedraggled souls trudging barefoot through the snow (definitely Ivy). Taking in all eight sinister cards makes Ursula tremble much like the Angel Oak.    
    Based on the spread, Ursula absolutely should sound the alarm immediately, but she’s made mistakes in the past—lapses in judgment that resulted in terrible consequences—and so she wants to be a hundred percent certain first. 
    She shuffles the cards again, laying them down more deliberately this time, only to see the exact same shocking formation, the impending threat even more vivid than before. It couldn’t be any clearer if the Goddess herself had sent a homing pigeon with a memo bearing the message: Calamity is on its way! It’s knocking at the window, just waiting to be let in! 
    And yet, Ursula still doesn’t sound the alarm, because that’s what doubt does; it slips through the chinks in our defenses, eroding all sense of self until the only voice that should matter becomes the one that we don’t recognize anymore, the one we trust the least. 
    As a result of this estrangement from herself, Ursula has developed something of a compulsion, needing to triple check the signs before she calls attention to them, and so she stands and grabs her wand. She makes her way down the hallway past Ruby’s and Jezebel’s bedrooms at a bit of a clip before descending the west wing stairs. 
    It’s just before she reaches Ivy’s glass conservatory that Ursula breaks out into a panicked run. 

Excerpted from The Witches of Moonshyne Manor @ 2022 by Bianca Marais, used with permission by MIRA Books.


Bianca Marais cohosts the popular podcast The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing, aimed at emerging writers. She was named the winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies in 2021. She is the author of two novels, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh, as well as the Audible Original The Prynne Viper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and fur babies.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blog Tour: Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine -- Excerpt!

Author:  Alison Stine
Pub. Date: September 1st, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Find it: HarlequinAmazon, Books-A-Million, B&N, Powell's
*Please note that some of the links used are affiliate links!

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter. So opens Alison Stine’s moving and lyrical cli-fi novel, ROAD OUT OF WINTER (MIRA Trade; September 1, 2020; $17.99). 

With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other."


Chapter One 

I used to have dreams that Lobo would be arrested. The sheriff and his deputies would roll up the drive, bouncing on the gravel, but coming fast, too fast to be stopped, too fast for Lobo to get away through the fields. Or maybe Lobo would be asleep, and they would surprise him, his eyes red, slit like taillights. My mama and I would weep with joy as they led him off. The deputies would wrap us in blankets, swept in their blue lights. We were innocent, weren’t we? Just at the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time, involved with the wrong man—and we didn’t know, my mama didn’t know, the extent. 

But that wasn’t true, not even close. 

I sold the weed at a gas station called Crossroads to a boy who delivered meals for shut-ins. Brown paper bags filled the back of his station wagon, the tops rolled over like his mama made him lunch. I supposed he could keep the bags straight. That was the arrangement Lobo had made years ago, that was the arrangement I kept. I left things uncomplicated. I didn’t know where the drugs went after the boy with the station wagon, where the boy sold them or for how much. I took the money he gave me and buried most of it in the yard. 

After his station wagon bumped back onto the rural route, I went inside the store. There was a counter in the back, a row of cracked plastic tables and chairs that smelled like ketchup: a full menu, breakfast through dinner. They sold a lot of egg sandwiches at Crossroads to frackers, men on their way out to work sites. It was a good place to meet; Lisbeth would come this far. I ordered three cheeseburgers and fries, and sat down. 

She was on time. She wore gray sweatpants under her long denim skirt, and not just because of the cold. “You reek, Wil,” she said, sliding onto the chair across from me. 

“Lobo says that’s the smell of money,” I said. 

“My mama says money smells like dirty hands.” 

The food arrived, delivered by a waitress I didn’t know. Crinkling red and white paper in baskets. I slid two of the burgers over to Lisbeth. The Church forbade pants on women, and short hair, and alcohol. But meat was okay. Lisbeth hunched over a burger, eating with both hands, her braid slipping over her shoulder. 

“Heard from them at all?” she asked. 

“Not lately.” 

“You think he would let her write you? Call?” 

“She doesn’t have her own phone,” I said. 

Lisbeth licked ketchup off her thumb. The fries were already getting cold. How about somethin’ home made? read the chalkboard below the menu. I watched the waitress write the dinner specials in handwriting small and careful as my mama’s. 

“Hot chocolate?” I read to Lisbeth. “It’s June.” 

“It’s freezing,” she said. 

And it was, still. Steam webbed the windows. There was no sign of spring in the lung-colored fields, bordered by trees as spindly as men in a bread line. We were past forsythia time, past when the squirrels should have been rooting around in the trees for sap. 

“What time is it now?” Lisbeth asked. 

I showed her my phone, and she swallowed the last of her burger. 

“I’ve got to go.” 


“Choir rehearsal.” She took a gulp of Coke. Caffeine was frowned upon by The Church, though not, I thought, exclusively forbidden. “I gave all the seniors solos, and they’re terrified. They need help. Don’t forget. Noon tomorrow.” 

The Church was strange—strange enough to whisper about. But The Church had a great choir; she had learned so much. They had helped her get her job at the high school, directing the chorus, not easy for a woman without a degree. Also, her folks loved The Church. She couldn’t leave, she said. 

“What’s at noon?” I asked. 

She paused long enough to tilt her head at me. “Wylodine, really? Graduation, remember? The kids are singing?” 

“I don’t want to go back there.” 

“You promised. Take a shower if you been working so my folks don’t lose their minds.” “If they haven’t figured it out by now, they’re never going to know,” I said, but Lisbeth was already shrugging on her coat. Then she was gone, through the jangling door, long braid and layers flapping. In the parking lot, a truck refused to start, balking in the cold. 

I ordered hot chocolate. I was careful to take small bills from my wallet when I went up to the counter. Most of the roll of cash from the paper bag boy was stuffed in a Pepsi can back on the floor of the truck. Lobo, who owned the truck, had never been neat, and drink cans, leaves, and empty Copenhagen tins littered the cab. Though the mud on the floor mats had hardened and caked like makeup, though Lobo and Mama had been gone a year now, I hadn’t bothered cleaning out the truck. Not yet. 

The top of the Pepsi can was ripped partially off, and it was dry inside: plenty of room for a wad of cash. I had pushed down the top to hide the money, avoiding the razor-sharp edge. Lobo had taught me well. 

I took the hot chocolate to go. 

In the morning, I rose early and alone, got the stove going, pulled on my boots to hike up the hill to the big house. I swept the basement room. I checked the supplies. I checked the cistern for clogs. The creek rode up the sides of the driveway. Ice floated in the water, brown as tea. 

No green leaves had appeared on the trees. No buds. My breath hung in the air, a web I walked through. My boots didn’t sink in the mud back to my own house in the lower field; my footprints were still frozen from a year ago. Last year’s walking had made ridges as stiff as craters on the moon. At the door to my tiny house, I knocked the frost from my boots, and yanked them off, but kept my warm coveralls on. I lit the small stove, listening to the whoosh of the flame. The water for coffee ticked in the pot. 

I checked the time on the clock above the sink, a freebie from Radiator Palace. 

“Fuck,” I said aloud to no one. 

Excerpted from Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine, Copyright © 2020 by Alison Stine. Published by MIRA Books


ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

First Chapter Tuesday: Jade War by Fonda Lee & The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman

First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach. This is meme in which bloggers share the first chapter of a book that they are currently reading or thinking about reading soon. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Vicki's blog, or simply check it out to find more new books to read!

This week's Top Ten Tuesday post was a freebie topic, and honestly, I haven't the slightest idea of what to do, so I'm taking this as an opportunity to jump in with a another First Chapter Tuesday! Today I'm featuring two books I'm planning to jump into soon: the first is Jade War, the highly anticipated sequel to the gritty and thrilling fantasy Jade City, and the latter is The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, a book that's been sitting on my shelf for far, far too long--it's time to rectify that!

Jade War (Green Bone Saga #2) by Fonda Lee
Jade War (The Green Bone Saga, #2)Excerpt:


Heaven Awaiting

"It was madness to rob the grave of a Green Bone. Only someone with little regard for his own life would consider it, but if one was that sort of person, then tonight was the moment of opportunity. The cool, dry days of late winter had not yet given way to the incessant rain of spring, and low clouds obscured the rising moon over the tops of the trees in Widow’s Park. The streets of Janloon were unusually quiet; out of respect, people were forgoing their usual activities and staying home, hanging ceremonial spirit guiding lamps in their windows to honor the passing of Kaul Seningtun—national war hero, patriarch of the No Peak clan, the Torch of Kekon. So even though Bero and Mudt had taken the precaution of carrying no light, there was no one to take notice of their arrival at the cemetery."

I honestly don't even need this excerpt to make me excited to read this book...but it sure does help! Really looking forward to continuing this journey. I hope to get started in the next week or so!

Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange SchoolExcerpt:

First Term
I: A New Bug

"A week after mother found her sleeping on the ceiling, Amy Thomsett was delivered to her new school. Like a parcel.

When the down train departed from Exeter St. Davids, it was crowded with ruddy-faced farmers, tweedy spinsters and wiry commercial travellers. Nearer the end of the line, Amy had a compartment all to herself.

She first saw Drearcliff Grange through the train's smut-spotted windows. Shifted from seat to seat, she kept the school in sight as long as possible.

Amy hoped the name was misleading. It wasn't."

I've been meaning to read this book for years now, so I think it's time I finally get to it! It sounds like everything I love and that intro has me hooked!

What do you think? Would you keep reading these books? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!) 

*Excerpts are taken from the novel itself; I do not claim to own any part of the excerpt.