Welcome to the Skunk and Badger blog tour! This one is a little different from the books I usually feature on this blog but I couldn’t pass up on the illustrations in this book. Look and their faces!
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Title: Skunk and Badger
Author: Amy Timberlake
Illustrations: Jon Klassen
Format: eBook (NetGalley)
Publication Date: 9/15/20
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Categories: Middle-Grade Fiction, Animals
Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
No one wants a skunk.
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?
Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.
New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.
Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.
The illustrations are what caught my eye in the first place. I love the facial expressions of Badger and Skunk, the drawings really capture their personalities.
The characters Badger and Skunk are so different that living together comes with some challenges. Badger is set in his ways and Skunk is a flurry of energy. I like how the story shows how people with different personalities can learn to get along if they try.
This is perfect for middle grade readers but as an adult, I enjoyed it a lot too.
The ukulele scene had me! I live in Hawaii, so when Badger started belting out a Hawaiian tune, it made my heart melt and smile.
Skunk and Badger is so full of charm! I love how they eventually resolve their problems. It just goes to show that even with differences we are also alike in a lot of ways.
Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the Publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.
Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.
Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.
Thank you to Park Row and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.
Now let’s break it down!
My Attention: it had my attention
World Building: Koreatown, Los Angeles
Writing Style: beautiful, lyrical writing
Bringing the Heat: none
Crazy in Love: not a romance story
Creativity: I don’t usually enjoy flashbacks in a story, but it worked so well in this particular story as we see both journey of mom and daughter
My Takeaway: Everyone has a past – some stories we just don’t know until we dig for the truth. Also sometimes love looks different to people.
This is an introspective tale about a mother and daughter whose relationship isn’t close. It’s tense, and there are so many differences separating them. This is a painful story…you can feel the despair and loneliness that Mina Lee feels all her life from the moment she is separated from her parents. Mina has lived with trauma all her life and it has affected her and her daughter. Imagine, not having family? ☹️
This story goes deep. It’s not a happy story at all. It is heartbreaking – it doesn’t shy away from Mina’s suicidal thoughts. Mina experiences so much loss and struggle, her story broke my heart over and over. And then her daughter Margot who just wanted to be away from her…I could feel her struggle to love her daughter and yet not know how to love her the way Margot wanted her to. There is no bridge between them while Mina is alive. It’s only after her death that Margot starts to piece things together and heal as she faces the truths about her life and her mother.
Usually mystery stories don’t hold my attention, because it’s a slow build but in this story Mina’s life intrigued me since she was so private about her past.
The story touches on the struggle of immigrants, documented or not, as they assimilate in America. In this instance Mina and Margot make their life in Koreatown – Los Angeles, California. I love how the author brings issues of the Korean American experience to the surface. My parents are Filipino immigrants and in that sense I could relate to the story a lot. When the author touches on the language barriers, the job opportunities, the American “dream” and what it looks like for different people, it really resonated with me and made me think of my own parents. Do immigrants truly ever feel like they belong here?
The writing is beautiful. I was highlighting sentences like crazy.
This is a slow unfolding story – don’t go into it thinking it’s a fast paced story. The mystery of how Margot’s mom dies is why Margot starts digging yet she can only get the version the few people who knew Mina could tell her. And seriously, only one person knew Mina, Mrs. Baek and even then, she didn’t know Mina fully! Mina was secretive, because she didn’t want to love people and lose them again.
Margot has one friend, Miguel, who helps her out in Los Angeles, but though they seem close – even that relationship seems somewhat superficial. He’s there for her but Margot doesn’t seem to let people get super close to her as well. I’m glad she wasn’t totally alone, because that would have been even more tragic.
Mina’s lost everyone and then she dies? When the mystery is solved I felt like it was so unfair! How realistic was the conclusion though? I think that part threw me off a little. I did like Margot’s journey to the truth though, that’s the most important thing.
This story pummeled me in the heart. I found myself agreeing with Margot so many times because I grew up with immigrant parents as well. Mina’s story is absolutely heartbreaking and I wish so much she had a happier ending but real life is not like that. At least Margot has a chance to change things in her life and to heal. This is a moving, heartbreaking, eye-opening Own Voices story about the strained relationship between a mother and daughter as well as the search for identity.
Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
“Hot, heartwarming, and hilarious…This is a knockout.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Award-winning, highly-acclaimed author Adriana Herrera delivers the sexy, modern enemies-to-lovers romance you’ve been waiting for.
Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…
Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.
She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.
It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.
The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.
When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.
Thank you to Carina Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.
My Attention: it’s a quick read
World Building: Dallas, Texas with New York City nostalgia
Writing Style: flowed nicely, except for some typos (but this is an arc copy)
Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Crazy in Love: Julia and Rocco are crazy for one another
Creativity: I like the Dominican representation
My Takeaway: You can find love and make your own family in a new place away from home.
Julia is a confident, Dominican woman who is focused on the work she does with immigrant and refugee children. I liked her NYC pride even while living in Dallas. She’s doing her best to move on from her ex and making the most of life in a new city.
Rocco is trying to make a life in Dallas as an expat from NYC as well. He has a troubled past but he’s determined to live a good life and help his sister and niece as well. He and Julia connect on that level of being expats and for their love of family and friends.
Julia and Rocco are hot together. I mean their sex scenes were on fire! Their relationship grows steadily from co-workers, to friends, to lovers and more.
I like the Dominican culture representation because I don’t know much about it. But the author brought Dominican food to life and I was wanting to try everything they were eating in the book!
This copy is an arc so I hope the errors are fixed, but there were some typos that I had to reread to make sure and understand what the author was trying to convey.
This was a quick read and I wished I could connect to the characters more. I think I was hoping for more an enemies to lovers interaction but from the beginning they seemed like fast friends and not enemies at all. They are co-workers with Rocco being the person to evaluate her work, but still…they were friendly. I’d have love more tension between them.
This is a cute, workplace romance story between a sexy and smart Dominican woman and her co-worker. Seeing them get to know each other and flirt was fun and their sex scenes were hot! I love that they both valued family and friendship plus we get treated to Dominican and Latinx culture. Julia and Rocco are perfect for each other and they get their happy ending, as they should.
Check out this EXCERPT from Here to Stay:
I stepped into the elevator and shoved my phone into the pocket of my dress, took a moment to send a prayer to the employee discount that let me buy bomb clothes on a nonprofit worker budget, and did some mental math of what could be going on.
Was the program really in trouble? Could we actually get shut down?
Nope, I would not go there. I would not think about what it would be like to get on a plane back to New York dumped and unemployed. Not happening.
A distraction. That’s what I needed. Just as the door to the elevator was about to close, someone got in. The fact that I was eye level with the base of his throat was a good clue as to who it was, but when he opened his mouth and the now familiar knee-weakening baritone echoed off the walls of the elevator, I got my confirmation.
“Morning, Ms. Ortiz.” That voice could be used for interrogation tactics. Every muscle in my body loosened at the same time whenever I heard it.
I squeaked out a “Morning” and took my time lifting my head all the way up to look at the last person in the world I wanted overhearing my conversation with my mother.
Rocco Fucking Quinn, otherwise known as the “Team Leader” for the consulting firm looking to bag my job. The guy with the New York City-est name on the planet. I hadn’t exactly gotten personal with Mr. Quinn, but I picked up on that accent the first time we met.
“What’s good?” I really tried to sound polite, but my Queens jumped out in situations like this. I did not gulp, because I could not let this fucker see me sweat. I managed not to cut my eyes at him, but it was a close call.
I took him in, ramrod straight, every hair in its place, not a wrinkle in sight, and decided he could not be the proprietor of the laugh-choke from before. The man seemed to be completely lacking a sense of humor. I knew he must have teeth but I’d never seen them.
Yeah, definitely not him. That fact rallied my spirits a little bit as I stood close enough to pick up on how he smelled. Like the ocean and something woodsy. That was not helpful information.
Without saying another word, I ran my eyes over him. It struck me that he was not wearing something bespoke like pretty much everyone here. Don’t get me wrong, he still looked good enough to eat, but he was clearly on a budget. And at a place where everyone looked like they were heading to a New York Fashion Week photo shoot, it was sort of jarring. Still, the suit fit him well. And there was no question, this guy could wear the fuck out of a suit. I held back a whimper when I envisioned him in a Brioni or a Zegna. They’d have to put out a heat advisory for the building if that ever happened.
“I thought I could detect a familiar accent when I was coming down the hall.” His perfectly blue eyes twinkled at what I was certain was an expression of utter mortification on my face. He sounded pleasant enough, but he was also alluding to the fact that I was yapping on my phone. This wasn’t the first time he tried to be cute. Rocco Quinn seemed to like fucking with me. And it was only a matter of time before he stepped on my last nerve and I reamed him out.
Thankfully, just as I was scrambling to respond to his comment, the elevator got to my floor. I was planning to just leave him hanging and run off, but he was hot on my heels.
“Sounds like your mom misses you.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. Why did he have to act all fake nice?
I nodded without looking at him. “She does. Listen, Mr. Quinn—”
“You can call me Rocco.”
Nope, that was not happening. I was not letting this sexy bastard talk me into getting all chummy with him. I was already on thin ice as it was. He could keep his pheromones and his slick-as-fuck expressions to his damn self. I came to a dead stop a few feet away from the conference room door where my boss—and whatever shitty news she was about to give me—was waiting.
When I turned around, Rocco was looking down at me with an expectant smile. God he was handsome, that jet-black hair so dark it almost had a tinge of blue and those eyes, piercing. And I guess he had teeth after all, and of course they were perfect. Asshole. I shook my head hard when my traitorous brain started wondering what Pantone color his eyes would be.
Get your head in the game, Julia del Mar.
I straightened my back, determined to fight off the debilitating effects of those gleaming teeth and perfectly pink lips. I had to remember this niceness was probably his way of getting us to let our guard down. He was here to find ways to cut jobs. I was not about to mouth off and get myself fired, but I needed to get some things clear.
“Look.” I was proud of myself for not rolling my neck or pointing at his face. “I know you’re trying to be nice, but you make me nervous.” I pulled on the hem of my blue polka-dot dress and smoothed my yellow cardigan, avoiding eye contact at all costs.
“Why do I make you nervous?”
Uh, maybe because you’re here to close down as much of the foundation as you can.
I refrained from actually saying that because I had not been raised by a Puerto Rican man and Dominican woman just so I could act like I had no home training with the guy who could get me fired. But it was a close call.
“I’m sorry for saying that. You don’t make me nervous.”
Rocco Quinn didn’t just make me nervous. He made me want to run my hands all over that big-ass body and moon over his almost but not quite curly hair and blue eyes, in spite of the fact that I knew he was out here gunning for my entire program. And yet, I still wanted to kiss the hell out of him while I climbed him like a sequoia.
Adriana was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last fifteen years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.
When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a trauma therapist in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Her Dreamers series has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist and has been featured in The TODAY Show on NBC, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Library Journal and The WashingtonPost. Her debut, American Dreamer, was selected as one of Booklist’s ‘Best Romance Debuts of 2019’, and one of the ‘Top 10 Romances of 2019’ by Entertainment Weekly. Her third novel, American LoveStory, was one of the winners in the first annual Ripped Bodice Award for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. Adriana is an outspoken advocate for diversity in romance and has written for Remezcla and Bustle about Own Voices in the genre. She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective. Represented by Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary.
Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, K Pop, Entertainment Industry, Body Image, LGBT+, Romance, Parent Relationships, Celebrity, Singing Competition Shows
The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.
She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.
When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.
But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.
My Attention: full attention
World Building: SoCal
Writing Style: light hearted, humor
Bringing the Heat: 🔥
Crazy in Love: not so crazy, it’s a slow burn and love is love
Creativity: love how a girl who is not the right “size” for the entertainment industry inspires people around her
Triggers: emotional abuse, bullying, body image shaming, parental issues
My Takeaway: Love yourself and wear your crown! And love is love.
Skye Shin is awesome! She’s confident (but she had to work for that confidence), she stands up for what she believes in and she keeps going even when things get hard. I couldn’t help but cheer her on from start to finish. I love how Skye tackles body shaming straight on, even when it makes her cry (because people are trolls), but she knows she’s talented and it’s what should matter in this competition.
Yes to all the diversity – Skye herself is bi. There is also a f/f relationship with Skye’s new friends in the competition. The characters themselves are diverse since this is a Korean tv talent show so that was great.
Skye’s relationship with her mom is…typical, I feel, because I related SO MUCH. I’m Filipino American but all that body shaming and ideals is the same in my culture. It was sad to see Skye and her mom’s relationship because of the emotional abuse and Skye not knowing that it was emotional abuse. I kept thing, SAME. SAME. SAME.
I love the humor in the book! I found myself trying not to laugh out loud because it was late at night but this book made me feel happy.
Skye and Henry’s relationship is super cute. It’s a slow burn, and their flirting was fun. Henry is a hottie Korean model and she’s talented and overweight but really, they were just good people. Glad they had a happy ending!
Snowball made me miss my fur baby who was a husky also 😭, she’s been gone two years now and her name was Sky. I loved that Snowball was in this story it was just perfect for the whole mood of the book.
I read this book so quick and it left me feeling happy so it did it’s job! From the vibrant book cover to Skye with her confidence, she’s living her best life. This story is heartwarming, funny, sweet, a little sad and plenty inspiring.
Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Politics
Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.
All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.
With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.
I read this book in one night. And look at that cover! It might be my favorite cover of 2020 releases so far – it’s simple yet oh so vibrant with all that purple. Brilliant!
My Attention: read this in one sitting
World Building: amazing world building
Writing Style: flowed from beginning to end
Bringing the Heat: 🔥 there is maybe one scene with some heat
Crazy in Love: argh….Zahru and two brothers…a love triangle
Creativity: I love everything about this world, it’s magic, kingdom, the people in it
My Takeaway: Be your own hero!
Where do I start? I love Zahru – she’s fun, she’s daring, and kind-hearted. She thinks on her feet and is a good listener (she is a Whisperer who can communicate with animals). She loves her family, her friends and her home. I love her heart.
The characters from Hen, her best friend, to the Princes and the Princess – it’s an array of personalities and it was fun getting to know everyone!
The action – and there is plenty! There is politics involved with three royal sibling vying for the throne by way of a trial. But the drama between these siblings, my goodness – I love how different they were, how they had different goals and motivations and how confused I was about who would make the best ruler. But there is action to the very end!
Zahru is the hero of her story. This is such an inspirational story. Throughout the book people look down on her and though it hurts, she doesn’t let it get her down, she keeps moving forward because the race to the finish never lets up. But she digs deep within her to do the right things no matter what obstacle she is faced with. Her power, being a Whisperer seems weak and everyone tells her so – but her strength is kindness, listening and caring. I like that her strength isn’t magic…it’s connecting with people.
The world building is lush and vibrant. I love the magic system and the politics. I enjoyed learning about the history of Orkena and wonder what will happen in the next book.
The only thing that bugged me was the love triangle. It reminded me a bit of The Red Queen series and I was hoping it wasn’t going to go there…but there it is. It sets off in motion some events that make me want book two in my hands. But I do hope this triangle is nipped in the bud…we shall see.
This is a fun read with an exciting new world. Zahru comes off as the weakest link but her power and strength gets her through many dangers in this story. This is an amazing debut novel and I look forward to book two!
It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else.
But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good.
But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.
From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.
three Santa Maria
“Trouble,” Roxy says. She arches a brow at the kids by the van through the bug-spattered windshield, the ghost of a half-smile rippling across her face.
“You would know,” I shoot. “So would you,” she snaps.
Maybe we’re a little on edge. We’ve been in the car so long the pattern on the vinyl seats is tattooed on the back of my thighs.
The kids my mother is talking about, the ones sitting on the white picket fence, look like they slithered up the hill out of the ocean, covered in seaweed, like the carnival music we heard coming from the boardwalk as we were driving into town plays in the air around them at all times. Two crows are on the posts beside them like they’re standing guard, and they caw at each other loudly as we come to a stop. I love every- thing about this place immediately and I think, ridiculously, that I am no longer alone.
The older girl, white but tan, curvaceous, and lean, has her arms around the boy and is lovely with her smudged eye makeup and her ripped clothes. The younger one pops some- thing made of bright colors into her mouth and watches us come up the drive. She is in a military-style jacket with a ton of buttons, her frizzy blond hair reaching in all directions, freckles slapped across her cheeks. And the boy? Thin, brown,
hungry-looking. Not hungry in his stomach. Hungry with his eyes. He has a green bandana tied across his forehead and holes in the knees of his jeans. There’s an A in a circle drawn in marker across the front of his T-shirt.
“Look!” Roxy points to the gas gauge. It’s just above the E. “You owe me five bucks, Cookie. I told you to trust we would make it, and see what happened? You should listen to your mama every once in a while.”
“Yeah, well, can I borrow the five bucks to pay you for the bet? I’m fresh out of cash at the moment.”
Roxy cranes out the window and wipes the sweat off her upper lip, careful not to smudge her red lipstick. She’s been having real bad aches the last two days, even aside from her bruises, and her appetite’s been worse than ever. The only thing she ever wants is sugar. After having been in the car for so long, you’d think we’d be falling all over each other to get out, but we’re still sitting in the car. In here we’re still us.
She sighs for the thousandth time and clutches at her belly. “I don’t know about this, May.”
California can’t be that different from West Texas.
I watch TV. I know how to say gag me with a spoon and
grody to the max.
I fling open the door.
Roxy gathers her cigarettes and lighter, and drops them in- side her purse with a snap.
“Goddammit, Elle,” she mutters to herself, eyes flickering toward the kids again. Roxy looks at me over the rims of her sunglasses before shoving them back on her nose. “Mayhem, I’m counting on you to keep your head together here. Those kids are not the usual—”
“I know! You told me they’re foster kids.”
“No, not that,” she says, but doesn’t clarify. “Okay, I guess.”
“I mean it. No more of that wild-child business.”
“I will keep my head together!” I’m so tired of her saying this. I never had any friends, never a boyfriend—all I have is what Grandmother calls my nasty mouth and the hair Lyle always said was ugly and whorish. And once or twice I might’ve got drunk on the roof, but it’s not like I ever did anything. Besides, no kid my age has ever liked me even once. I’m not the wild child in the family.
“Well, all right then.” Roxy messes with her hair in the rear- view mirror, then sprays herself with a cloud of Chanel No. 5 and runs her fingers over her gold necklace. It’s of a bird, not unlike the ones making a fuss by the house. She’s had it as long as I can remember, and over time it’s been worn smooth by her worrying fingers. It’s like she uses it to calm herself when she’s upset about something, and she’s been upset the whole way here, practically. Usually, she’d be good and buzzed by this time of day, but since she’s had to drive some, she’s only nipped from the tiny bottle of wine in her purse a few times and only taken a couple pills since we left Taylor. The with- drawal has turned her into a bit of a she-demon.
I try to look through her eyes, to see what she sees. Roxy hasn’t been back here since I was three years old, and in that time, her mother has died, her father has died, and like she said when she got the card with the picture enclosed that her twin sister, Elle, sent last Christmas, Everybody got old. After that, she spent a lot of time staring in the mirror, pinching at her neck skin. When I was younger, she passed long nights telling me about Santa Maria and the Brayburn Farm, about how it was good and evil in equal measure, about how it had desires that had to be satisfied.
Brayburns, she would say. In my town, we were the legends.
These were the mumbled stories of my childhood, and they made everything about this place loom large. Now that we’re here, I realize I expected the house to have a gaping maw filled with spitty, frothy teeth, as much as I figured there would be fairies flitting around with wands granting wishes. I don’t want to take her vision away from her, but this place looks pretty normal to me, if run-down compared to our new house in Taylor, where there’s no dust anywhere, ever, and Lyle prac- tically keeps the cans of soup in alphabetical order. Maybe what’s not so normal is that this place was built by Brayburns, and here Brayburns matter. I know because the whole road is named after us and because flowers and ribbons and baskets of fruit sat at the entrance, gifts from the people in town, Roxy said. They leave offerings. She said it like it’s normal to be treated like some kind of low-rent goddess.
Other than the van and the kids, there are trees here, rose- bushes, an old black Mercedes, and some bikes leaning against the porch that’s attached to the house. It’s splashed with fresh white paint that doesn’t quite cover up its wrinkles and scars. It’s three stories, so it cuts the sunset when I look up, and plants drape down to touch the dirt.
The front door swings open and a woman in bare feet races past the rosebushes toward us. It is those feet and the reckless way they pound against the earth that tells me this is my aunt Elle before her face does. My stomach gallops and there are bumps all over my arms, and I am more awake than I’ve been since.
I thought Roxy might do a lot of things when she saw her twin sister. Like she might get super quiet or chain-smoke, or maybe even get biting like she can when she’s feeling wrong about something. The last thing I would have ever imagined was them running toward each other and colliding in the driveway, Roxy wrapping her legs around Elle’s waist, and them twirling like that.
This seems like something I shouldn’t be seeing, some- thing wounded and private that fills up my throat. I flip my- self around in my seat and start picking through the things we brought and chide myself yet again for the miserable packing job I did. Since I was basically out of my mind trying to get out of the house, I took a whole package of toothbrushes, an armful of books, my River Phoenix poster, plus I emptied out my underwear drawer, but totally forgot to pack any shoes, so all I have are some flip-flops I bought at the truck stop outside of Las Cruces after that man came to the window, slurring, You got nice legs. Tap, tap tap. You got such nice legs.
My flip-flops are covered in Cheeto dust from a bag that got upended. I slip them on anyway, watching Roxy take her sunglasses off and prop them on her head.
“Son of a bitch!” my aunt says, her voice tinny as she catches sight of Roxy’s eye. “Oh my God, that’s really bad, Rox. You made it sound like nothing. That’s not nothing.”
“Ellie,” Roxy says, trying to put laughter in her voice. “I’m here now. We’re here now.”
There’s a pause.
“You look the same,” Elle says. “Except the hair. You went full Marilyn Monroe.”
“What about you?” Roxy says, fussing at her platinum waves with her palm. “You go full granola warrior? When’s the last time you ate a burger?”
“You know I don’t do that. It’s no good for us. Definitely no good for the poor cows.”
“It’s fine for me.” Roxy lifts Elle’s arm and puckers her nose. “What’s going on with your armpits? May not eat meat but you got animals under there, looks like.”
“Shaving is subjugation.”
“Shaving is a mercy for all mankind.”
They erupt into laughter and hug each other again.
“Well, where is she, my little baby niece?” Elle swings the car door open. “Oh, Mayhem.” She scoops me out with two strong arms. Right then I realize just how truly tired I am. She seems to know, squeezes extra hard for a second before letting me go. She smells like the sandalwood soap Roxy buys sometimes. “My baby girl,” Elle says, “you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see you. How much I’ve missed you.”
Roxy circles her ear with a finger where Elle can’t see her.
Crazy, she mouths. I almost giggle.
About the AUTHOR:
Estelle Laure, the author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back believes in love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and she lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her family. Her work is translated widely around the world.
Dear Reader, Like Mayhem, I experienced a period of time when my life was extremely unstable. I can still remember what it was like to be shaken so hard I thought my head would come off, to watch the room vibrate, to feel unsafe in my own home, to never know what was coming around the next corner. I wanted to run. I always wanted to run. I ran to friends, but also movies and books, and although girls were more passively portrayed in movies like The Lost Boys back then, that feeling of teenagers prowling the night, taking out bad people, being unbeatable . . . that got me through it. I guess that’s what I tried to do here. I wanted girls who feel powerless to be able to imagine themselves invincible. And yes, I used a rape as the seed for that fierce lineage, not without thought. For me, there is nothing worse, and I like to think great power can rise up as a result of a devastating trespass. Please know I took none of this lightly. Writing this now, my heart is beating hard and my throat is dry. This is the first time I not only really looked at my own past, the pain of loss, the pain of the loss of trust that comes when someone puts hands on you without permission, the pain of people dying, the shock of suicide, and put all of it to paper in a way that made me feel victorious, strong, and warrior-like. It is also terrifying. I know I’m not the only one who had a scary childhood, and I know I’m not the only one who clings to stories as salve to smooth over burnt skin. I am so sick of girls and women being hurt. This was my way of taking my own vengeance and trying to access forgiveness. Thank you for reading and for those of you who can relate, I see you and you are not alone.
Category: Dystopian, Young Adult, Thriller, Suspense
Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
Don’t miss the exhilarating new novel from the author of Fat Girl on a Plane, featuring a fierce, bold heroine who will fight for her family and do whatever it takes to survive. Fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It series and Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave series will cheer for this fast-paced, near-future thrill ride. If you’re going through hell…keep going.
Seventeen-year-old coder Jinx Marshall grew up spending weekends drilling with her paranoid dad for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. She’s an expert on self-heating meal rations, Krav Maga and extracting water from a barrel cactus. Now that her parents are divorced, she’s ready to relax. Her big plans include making it to level 99 in her favorite MMORPG and spending the weekend with her new hunky stepbrother, Toby.
But all that disaster training comes in handy when an explosion traps her in a burning building. Stuck leading her headstrong stepsister, MacKenna, and her precocious little brother, Charles, to safety, Jinx gets them out alive only to discover the explosion is part of a pattern of violence erupting all over the country. Even worse, Jinx’s dad stands accused of triggering the chaos.
In a desperate attempt to evade paramilitary forces and vigilantes, Jinx and her siblings find Toby and make a break for Mexico. With seemingly the whole world working against them, they’ve got to get along and search for the truth about the attacks—and about each other. But if they can survive, will there be anything left worth surviving for?
Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for giving me a chance to read this eARC and inviting me to participate in this blog tour.
Jinx is living during the New Depression. An election recently took place and The Opposition leader, Ammon Carver, won the vote for president. It doesn’t seem like many people in Jinx’s life and in society approved of this choice, most were vying for the leader of The Spark, David Rosenthal, and there are rumors that the election was rigged – does that sound strangely familiar? 🤔 But not only that, they say Jinx’s dad is a major part of the chaos taking place. Jinx’s dad is Dr. Doomsday, a computer science professor and hacker who at one time created a worm that took down servers around the world. Her dad is also known for writing a survival guide book, which people laughed it, but maybe he knew something was coming.
When that “something coming” actually happens, and Jinx’s step-dad is accused of being the person behind it she and her family have to use Dr. Doomsday’s Guide to Ultimate Survival to actually survive life on the run. Will they succeed?
Everything I liked in this book was mostly in the beginning and the end. I liked the build-up of the story. We get a history lesson about this war brewing between The Opposition and The Spark, which sounds way too familiar to our current events right now. The tension between these two sides is very believable. A bombing event occurs and Jinx’s step-dad is the main suspect so Jinx and her family go on the run.
Jinx as a character really interesting. She’s a coder and loves video games and that’s all she really wants to do is play her video games. Her family is a bit broken. She has step-siblings, and she’s never on the same page with her step-sister. Jinx’s mother seems…cold. And her dad is nowhere around or not easily found So she is the main caretaker of her diabetic younger brother Charles. She has to do things in this story to keep her whole family alive by using the drills her father made her do from his survival guide. Jinx is a tough, smart girl and she is pushed to do things in this story to survive.
If you like dystopian stories, you will definitely like this one. It involves technology and coding. Jinx’s dad, Dr. Marshall, is well known for his computer theories, but he was very mysterious and elusive in this book. Jinx is trying to find him and I was like, what is with this guy? Help your kids! But of course, there’s more to it than that. There are some twists in this story that was really good and kept me on my toes.
The world building was good because it’s so close to our own, it’s something I can see happening with the collapse of banks, or how there is a sugar sale permit waiting list…that scares me. 😂 I was like, oh no, how would I get my sugary coffee drink if that happened?! But the whole world hasn’t collapse yet, there are still stores, it was supposed to be a booming town until the New Depression hit, so this world seems like something that could happen to us in the near future! 😱
I don’t know why but I lost interest in the middle of the story. Maybe it was moving too fast for me? It was definitely my mood though – it was a tiring week for me, so it was just a personal mood of mine and not anything against the story.
There is a relationship growing between Jinx and Navarro (the guy who was sent by Jinx’s dad to keep an eye on her) but I don’t know if it was needed. It’s not something I would miss if it wasn’t in the story.
Triggers: violence, bombing
If you like a fast-paced survival, dystopian story, you will like this one! It has lots of action, adventure, a family on the run, and twists that will surprise you.
Format: eBook (provided by author for an honest review)
Categories: Short Stories, Irish Mythology, Adult Fiction
Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
From a quest to find the Starbucks mermaid, to a god’s dream of saving the planet, this collection of short stories has an abundance of imagination as well as ingenuity and style. In serene and sparkling prose, David Jordan will introduce you to places and people that you have never encountered before, with a unique voice and vision that will satisfy story lovers everywhere.
Thank you to David Jordan, for providing me a copy of his new book, The Echoing Green and Other Stories.
I don’t read or feature many short story collections on my blog but I am always open to reading works by indie authors. And who would have thought that this book, The Echoing Green and Other Stories would pique my growing interest in Irish mythology. I’ve read a few books set in Ireland and featured Irish mythology lately, so what a coincidence that these short stories fit in with what I’ve been reading lately.
In this short story collection the stories are contemporary yet mixed with fantasy, psychology and mythology elements. In whole it felt like I was I was sucked into a dreamscape atmosphere, which I enjoyed!
The infusion of Irish mythology in a modern day setting is fantastic because I’m from somewhere so far away from Ireland, I don’t know a lot about Irish mythology. In this collection I learned new words and names like Fomorian and Goibhniu. I definitely googled a few of these names and words. I did recognize a few names so I wasn’t totally lost.
The writing is wonderful, it drew me in right away. I got a sense of the setting, and the characters which just a few lines.
My favorites of the collection are The Echoing Green and Dreamer’s Eve because it’s fluid and strange like how real dreams are. I mean, searching for the Starbucks mermaid? It’s clever and why not? I’m always searching for the Starbucks mermaid myself, almost daily haha! Gods and Monsters was another story I enjoyed for it’s psychological twist.
Nothing really…maybe that a few of these would make really good full stories? 🙂
The Echoing Green and Other Stories is a really quick read as it’s just only a little over hundred pages. I enjoyed the Irish mythology that is infused in the contemporary settings of each story. Overall this is a wonderful, creative collection of short stories and I’m glad I had a chance to read it. If you like short stories and mythology, definitely get a copy of this book!
‘In his pursuit of the occult, the Third Reich opened the Gate to a realm of magic and brought the world to ruin. The Gate was eventually closed, but They were already in our world and They were hungry.’
-The Lost History, Library of Avergard
Azure ‘Azzy’ Brimvine lives in a world decimated by magic, where humans have retreated underground from the overwhelming dangers of the surface. But Below is no safer than Above.
Magic borne plagues continue to eat away at the remaining human cities, a sickness that doesn’t merely kill, but creates aberrations from the stricken: people twisted by magic into something dark, dangerous, and powerful. It is an existence of fear and constant dread. When Azzy’s brother, Armin, is infected and cast out into the Above, she sets out after him, determined to be there for him no matter what he becomes.
The world Above is full of monsters, both wild and cunning, some more human than Azzy was led to believe. Armin is captured and bound for the Auction block of Avergard, a ruthless city of inhuman lords and twisted creatures. To reach him, Azzy must brave the perils of the Above and the chaotic life forms created by the Gate. To reach him, she must find allies and forge new bonds in this broken world.
And Azzy must reach him, before Armin’s new power is used to open the Gate once more.
Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Disclaimer: **I received this book free from The Parliament House in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
Princess Isabelle of The New Kingdom has lived her entire life in the confines of her palace. She spends her time hunting for the poverty-stricken Voiceless-people of the Old Kingdom who warred with her kingdom and ultimately lost-and dreaming of a world beyond the walls of her home. As the only remaining child of the king and queen, she is to be married off by her eighteenth birthday.
When Izzy witnesses the use of forbidden magic in the woods outside the palace, she is attacked, and saved by an unknown man. Soon after she discovers her rescuer is a Voiceless servant in the castle named Fray, she befriends him to seek out the magic users who tried to kill her. Fray agrees to help, but not before Isabelle discovers the servant boy harbors a secret the king has tried to bury-that he is a Gwylis, people of the old Kingdom who made a pact with the demons of the underworld for the power to transform into giant ferocious wolves. But to shift into a beast, Fray must be able to speak the words to do so. If he is to thwart the attackers from killing her entire family, Izzy needs to cure the ailment that took away his voice.
But curing Fray holds more danger than she ever thought possible. The lies of her parents and the risk of putting her own life on the line deems as destructive as falling for the servant boy. If Isabelle is to save herself and Fray, she’ll need to face enemy Gwylis, cross paths with usurper kings and princes, and decide what side she is on-human or wolf-or lose her kingdom forever.
Thank you to The Parliament House for giving me a chance to read an eARC of Unspoken.
Princess Isabelle, or Izzy, is not your conventional princess. Yes, she has to do her duty by making a promising marriage when she turns eighteen but thing young lady has a mind of her own. She was my favorite character in this book because she is spunky, sassy and lively. Her relationship with her best friend was so fun to see until some events take place to change that. But there was a lot of conflict Izzy had to sort out in this story as lies and truths are revealed bit by bit.
Now a very fascinating and intriguing part of the story was the Voiceless. The Voiceless cannot speak because of a curse. They communicate with sign language which Izzy picked up by hanging out in their community. We find out more about that curse and her family’s role in it. The world building seems comparable to other worlds that usually involve a rebellious princess and hidden magic. The New Kingdom opposes the presence of magic that was used in the Old Kingdom. So basically magic was taken away, or just repressed, by the rulers of the New Kingdom. The one aspect of the world building that stood out though was the shape-shifting in this story. It is different because words have to be spoken in order for someone to shift into a wolf. It is creative and it made sense then that people from the Old Kingdom had to be silenced.
There is a hint of a love triangle happening in this book but it was quickly obvious who Izzy was attracted to. I mean who are you going to go for, the seemingly perfect prince, Ashe, from a neighboring kingdom or the servant, Fray, who turns into a wolf? 😅🤷🏻♀️
I truly enjoyed watching Izzy coming to terms and dealing with the truth of her family and trying to undo the wrongs of the past. She remains vibrant throughout even her most conflicted times, she is a warrior. If you like a strong female lead, a creative story with shape shifters, magic and warring kingdoms then you will definitely enjoy Unspoken.