blog tour

#TheWriteReads Presents: Crossing in Time (Between Two Evils #1) by D. L. Orton Blog Tour

Howdy ho, fellow readers! Your friendly first chapter reviewer here with a new book that seems fairly apt for the times, Crossing in Time (Between Two Evils #1) by D.L. Orton (Rocky Mountain Press, 2015). Right from the start, this seems like a whopper of a story, and I have questions.

The prologue starts out in what seems like a post-apocalyptic nightmare, where Isabel is forcing herself to buy a gun from a skeevy creeper in the parking lot of a burned-out Walmart somewhere out west in view of the Rockies. Instead of money, she’s got a backpack full of spices- pepper, dry mustard, you know the kind- and the parking lot she’s in is full of other makeshift businesses. She goes through with the purchase, not without Skeevy Creeper Gun Dude nearly murdering a stray dog and making some gross lecherous comments towards her (BECAUSE OF COURSE). The prologue ends with Isabel looking at the wasteland around her and asking herself, “Oh my God, Diego, what have we done?”

Wait- Diego? Who’s Diego??? And what on earth did they do?!?!!???

As the first chapter starts, ten months before the apocalyptic hellscape of the prologue, we meet up with an earlier version of Isabel, who is somewhere in her early 40’s. Life seems normal as she’s coming out of what seems like divorce proceedings in downtown Denver, until she twists her ankle catching her heel in a grate and is rescued by a man who seems familiar- yup, you guessed it, Diego. The two of them had a romantic relationship that ended several years ago; neither one of them seem completely over the other, but now that they’ve reconnected, Isabel reluctantly agrees to have dinner with him.

*record scratch*

How on earth did they get from business casual in downtown Denver to the apocalyptic nightmare scenario in the prologue in just ten months? (Although, looking around at the world right now…*nervous laughter*) Dystopian/apocalyptic fiction isn’t usually my thing, and I don’t think I could mentally handle it right at this moment, but I’m deeply curious as to what the heck happened. This is a strong, strong beginning, and I have a feeling that D.L. Orton had a LOT of agents requesting full manuscripts after seeing these first pages!

There’s time travel here (which I love), and romance, and this is something that’s going to stay on my kindle so I can read it further when my exhausted brain can manage it better and more fully, but this is an intriguing beginning, and if you’re into dystopian love stories (I did not know that was a genre!), this just may be the book for you. I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s reviews so I know exactly what I’ll be getting into and when I can handle more.

Plus, check out that gorgeous cover. I love the swirl of bluish light!

Thanks to Dave from #TheWriteReads and D.L. Orton for including me on this tour!

Visit D.L. Orton’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

Follow TheWriteReads and TheWriteReadsOnTour on Twitter here.

blog tour · fiction · science fiction · YA

#TheWriteReads Blog Tour Presents Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

Hey guys! Welcome to the latest stop on TheWriteReads’ Blog Tour for Catalyst (The Catalysts #2) by Tracy Richardson (Brown Books Publishing Group, 2020). I’m your friendly first chapter review guide, so buckle up and I’ll introduce you to our narrator, but you’re going to want to don your tinfoil hat before we take off.

Meet Marcie. Upon first glance, she may seem like your average young woman, set to spend the summer helping her mother on her archaeological dig at Angel Mounds with her brother Eric and his girlfriend Renee. Not a bad way to spend a summer, right? But Marcie’s…different. She’s had some experiences with things not of this world, including a one-time connection with the spirit of a Native American girl that she was never able to recreate, but that always left her open to more, and wondering.

Almost the second Marcie steps foot onto the dig site, she recognizes that something’s up, something that not everyone is aware of. Zeke and Lorraine, two of the grad students, seem to be able to communicate with her just by thought, something that jars her and sets her on edge, especially because Zeke leaves her feeling uneasy. There’s something about them that’s maybe not quite right. It might be a long summer at this dig site…

Okay, I’m definitely intrigued. While I’ve never been a huge reader of paranormal books, when I was young, one of my favorite reads was The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts, about a young girl who can move objects with her eyes and who eventually comes across other kids like her. That’s the kind of paranormal stuff I enjoy reading about, and with Marcie being able to both communicate with spirits and hear other people’s thought communication toward her, I want to know more.

This first chapter invites a whoooooooooole lotta questions: What exactly is being dug at this dig site? What’s the deal with Zeke and Lorraine? Where did they come from and what’s their story? Are they dangerous? How can they communicate via thoughts, and why Marcie and no one else? What makes that possible? What’s the extent of their powers, and of Marcie’s? Are there more than just these varying ways of paranormal communication? Is there a how-to at the end of this book? (Yes? Please say yes.)

My reading time right now is so much more limited than usual, but this is definitely one I’ll be coming back to when I’m not trying to get through other stacks of books. From the blurb, this novel also pulls in environmental themes, which is *so* important, and I’m glad to see this cropping up in various genres of fiction. I’m curious as to how it plays out and if it manages to inspire the reader to be more proactive about caring for the environment without verging too far into the dystopian. Guess I’ll find out when I’m able to dive in further, but if you’re intrigued by characters with special powers (and seriously, aren’t we all, at least a little? Who doesn’t want to read minds and move things with their eyes and maybe fly?), Catalyst may be the escapist fiction you need right now.

Thanks to Dave at TheWriteReads and Tracy Richardson for including me on this tour!

Visit Tracy Richardson’s website here.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Follow The_WriteReads on Twitter here.

fiction · horror · YA

#TheWriteReads Blogtour Presents: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Welcome to the latest stop on TheWriteReads’ blog tour for Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis (Penguin, 2020). Harrow Lake is a young adult thriller, and you’re going to want to turn on every light in the house before you crack the spine on this one- or start reading long before it gets dark.

The book begins with an interview with Nolan Nox, famed horror movie director, whose daughter had gone missing a year before. Fall back in time and the story is now narrated by Lola Nox. After finding her father having been stabbed, Lola is unceremoniously shipped off to Harrow Lake, Indiana, to the home of a strange, distant grandmother she’s never met before, the mother of Lola’s own mother, who left, then disappeared, when Lola was five. Harrow Lake, the filming site of Nightjar, Nolan’s most famous film, is a spooky town. Collapsed mines that led to hundreds of deaths have provided the town myriad legends, including one resident-turned-mine-dwelling-cannibal, Mr. Jitters. Refusing to believe in stories, Lola begins to comb Harrow Lake for information, hoping to get to know the mother she barely remembers, but her search is impeded at every step.

Creepy townfolk. Eerie abandoned, caved-in mines with a collapsed church inside. A grandmother that seems half-mad on her best days. A mysterious figure who always seems to be watching Lola. Tiny hand-carved wooden insects that skitter and chatter on their own. Ominous shapes that move behind the wallpaper. NO INTERNET OR PHONE SERVICE. It’s every horror movie you’ve ever watched packed into one spine-chilling book, and Lola will need to gather all her wits about her if she wants to really learn the truth about Harrow Lake and what happened to her mother.

EEK. This was SUPER creepy. I haven’t read horror in years, but I loved it as a kid, and I deeply loved horror movies when I was young, so this was a flashback to my younger days. The hand carved wooden ‘jitterbugs’ in Lola’s mother’s room creeped me the HECK out, as did the constant references to Mr. Jitters. Harrow Lake seems about the worst vacation destination ever, and the weirdo townspeople add the perfect touch. Kat Ellis has really created a terrifying place- not quite Children of the Corn weird, but Gatlin and Harrow Lake could be sister cities.

Ms. Ellis really knows how to keep the reader guessing. It’s cliched to say that there are twists and turns on every page, but it’s the absolute truth here. Weirdness abounds in Harrow Lake and Lola, who is trapped there, is constantly thrown off by someone’s odd behavior, a strange noise, the phone lines not working, something else terrifying happening in the woods. It’s a mark of good horror writing for the reader to have their guard up THIS often because the terror never stops, and I don’t know how many times I said some version of, “OMG, just get on the road and WALK back home!”

The ending is as twisty as it gets, with a majorly satisfying conclusion that I found to be absolutely brilliant (and will remember Lola’s friend’s tactic should I ever need to use it!). Harrow Lake is a wild ride through a town I never, EVER want to visit. I’ll stay at home, where there are no collapsed-mine-mass-graves-with-creepy-cannibal-monster-people. But if you enjoy edge-of-your-seat horror that will keep you guessing until- I’m not at all exaggerating here- the very last pages, you’re going to want a copy of Harrow Lake.

Harrow Lake is set for release on July 9th, 2020.

Thanks to Dave at #TheWriteReads, NetGalley, and Kat Ellis for including me on this tour!

Visit Kat Ellis’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

(If you dare! *spooky laughter*)

blog tour · fiction · time travel

TheWriteReads On Tour Presents: A Different Time by Michael K. Hill

I fully blame my mother’s stash of time travel romances (so popular in the 80’s and early 90’s!) for my love of a good time travel story, and when I heard about TheWriteReads‘ latest blog tour book, A Different Time by Michael K. Hill (Tangent Press, 2019), the young teenager in me that used to sneak books from the downstairs coat closet leaped up and begged to join in, and who am I to say no when a story deals with communicating with the past???

Keith Nolan has been a little more than down on his luck for a very long time. His parents both died young, leaving him alone, fending for himself in this big lonely modern-day world. His job pays the bills, but it’s not exactly fulfilling, and his social life consists of a single guy friend with whom he eats takeout food and plays video games. No girls to speak of, Keith’s a little too shy and awkward for that. One of the few things in life that does bring him joy is spending his weekends combing flea markets for the comic books that will complete the collection of Uncanny X-Men his father left him. But when he finally manages to complete his collection, Keith is stunned by the realization that he never planned for what to do with his life beyond that. Enter Lindsey…

Or, not exactly. Lindsey, an artist and a dreamer, is trying to figure out her post-high school life in 1989. Her impatient mother isn’t willing to let her take her time, and her skeezy stepfather isn’t making Lindsey’s home situation any easier. Desperate for someone, anyone, to talk to, Lindsey pulls out an old camcorder and begins to record a video journal in the hopes of talking out her problems and getting her life in order.

The discovery of an old VHS-C tape at a flea market has Keith running for the VCR and an adapter tape, because merely touching the tape sends tingles running up his arm. And as the tape plays and Keith watches Lindsey, somehow, some way, the two realize they can communicate with each other. It doesn’t make sense to either of them, but Keith knows this is something special, something life-changing…if only he can track down Lindsey’s other tapes. But how? And will he be too late?

While it’s not traditional time travel, it’s still close enough to make my time travel-lovin’ heart squeal with joy. Keith is a sympathetic character from the start. In the beginning, we see him as a young boy, surrounded by the love of his parents on a birthday trip to New York where he’s saved from being run down in the street by the woman who turns out to be his favorite children’s book author, and the next thing we know, he’s a new adult, still aching over the loss of his parents who died on his fourteenth birthday. It’s easy to ache along with him and root for him as he searches (in some vividly disgusting situations!) for Lindsey’s other videotapes.

Lindsey is just as sympathetic. Still reeling from her parents’ divorce and subsequent move from Hawaii to California, Lindsey is so many of us in the years after high school, unsure of which way to go and which path to take. Her mother has, for all purposes, abandoned her emotionally in favor of focusing on her new and extremely skeezy husband (there’s a content warning here for an attempted assault, along with what skews toward emotional abuse from her mother, so please beware if you’re sensitive to these subjects), and Lindsey’s sadness and confusion make her a character you’ll desperately want to find a happily ever after.

What Keith and Lindsey discover together through the tapes is close to instalove, but it’s magical and spellbinding and otherworldly. Some of the best descriptions of the entire book come when Keith is desperately tearing through flea market dumpsters in a frenzied search for Lindsey’s other tapes. Do NOT eat while you’re reading this section; the phrase “garbage juice” alone should tell you enough of a reason why, and I was applauding Mr. Hill’s ability to create a scene I could practically smell from my comfortable reading place in my (better-scented!) home. It was entirely grotesque, incredibly entertaining to read, and it ended up being my favorite part of the book because of how easily I was transported right into those dumpsters alongside Keith.

This had a completely different ending than I expected it would, which pleased me quite a bit; I love when I think I have everything figured out, but it turns out that I was wrong and the ending is actually far more interesting than the one I was expected. The concept of being able to communicate with someone in the past has intrigued me for years, I even adored it in my childhood- if you’re familiar with the book Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, that book involved both time travel and communicating with the person with whom Charlotte switched places via letters strategically hidden in a bedpost- but the concept of being able to speak to someone through old VHS tapes was a new (and deeply intriguing!) one to me, and A Different Time has now got me wondering what time travel books will look like in the future when characters travel to and communicate with people of this era. Youtube videos? Files on old jump drives? There are so many possibilities here!

What a fun and ultimately charming book Mr. Hill has written. I’m so happy I got the chance to be a part of this blog tour, and if you’re a fan of books with elements of time travel and a little bit of the supernatural, A Different Time is worth YOUR time.

Thanks for stopping by on this blog tour- huge thanks to Dave at TheWriteReads and Michael K. Hill for allowing me to take part- and I hope you’ll check out some of the other stops!

Visit Michael K. Hill’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

blog tour · fiction

Blog Tour: Bloodrush by Ben Galley

Hey guys! I’ve got something pretty wild up on the block today: I’m part of TheWriteReads and TheWriteReads OnTour blog tour for Ben Galley’s Bloodrush (BenGalley.com, 2014). If you’re not familiar with Ben Galley, fear not! Check out this bio:

Ben Galley is an author of dark and epic fantasy books who currently hails from Victoria, Canada. Since publishing his debut The Written in 2010, Ben has released a range of award-winning fantasy novels, including the weird western Bloodrush and the epic standalone The Heart of Stone. He is also the author of the brand new Chasing Graves Trilogy.

I love helping to promote these hardworking authors (writing books is no joke!), and as I wasn’t sure if Bloodrush would be in my wheelhouse, I signed up to do a first chapter review. Opening the book on my kindle was, much to my surprise, a fascinating and nostalgic trip back to my childhood, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s discuss what’s going on in these beginning pages.

Following a brief yet creepy prelude about how the old magic and old darkness still exists today, barely covered by our ego-filled technology and new-world shininess, Bloodrush begins with death- the death, the murder, of Lord Karrigan Bastion Hark, that is, Prime Lord of the Empire of Britannia, perpetually disappointed father of thirteen-year-old Tonmerion. Merion is posturing among the adults in the room, attempting to cover his lack of confidence with the surgeon and the constable, until the bastard lawyer Witchazel shows up to drop a bomb about Father’s will. To his shock, Tonmerion won’t be inheriting his father’s assets until his eighteenth birthday; instead, he’s being exiled to his aunt’s. Lilian Rennevie, an undertaker, lives in the New Kingdom, in middle-of-nowhere Fell Falls, Wyoming, forty miles from the nearest town.

As one might expect, Merion is less than thrilled, but his friend, Rhin, an armor-wearing, winged faerie with over two hundred years of life experience under his belt who has been on his side since Merion was 9, is more optimistic. Rhin is up for adventure, and it’s his friendship and trust that Merion clings to as he grimly acquiesces and turns toward this unexpected future in America.

author Ben Galley

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began clicking my kindle buttons to open Bloodrush. Even the title sounds outside my usual reading norms, but I’ll give anything a try, and I’ve got to say, this book is deeply intriguing. Ben Galley placed me smack in the middle of that macabre first scene, with Merion’s father lying dead, and Merion confused, unsettled, frightened, and desperate to seem more grown up and in control than he truly feels. His writing flows beautifully; even as I paused to take notes, I never once left the world Galley had constructed, and the first chapter left me wanting to know more about Merion’s future. What kind of adventures will he and Rhin find in America? Who IS this Aunt Lilain? Who killed Merion’s father, what will the repercussions of that be, and what’s going to happen when Merion turns eighteen?

Back when I was younger, The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper was a perpetual favorite. I read this book, along with the others in the series, over and over again, and this first chapter of Bloodrush flooded me with a wave of nostalgia for these books of my childhood: both are stories of young boys learning their lives have changed in an instant, both are stories of young boys on journeys of sorts, both stories have magical undertones. It’s not often that I pick up a book that makes me feel the same awe I felt reading a favorite book as a kid, and although it’s been years since I lost myself in a fantasy novel, I’m very much looking forward to reading the rest of this book. Faerie-infused Old West? Much like with Sarah Gailey’s saddled hippos in the American South, I’m intrigued.

Ben Galley’s Bloodrush seems to be, from the first chapter, solidly written fantasy (one scene in particular caught my attention, where Tonmerion stares at his father’s blood drying on a set of stairs, while clutching tickets for his passage to America. What a striking visual contrast between his past and his future. This was an image that I sat with for a few moments, and to which I keep returning for its poignancy ). At some point in my future, I’m definitely going to work the rest of this book into my reading schedule, because I need to know what happens next. From the title, I expected blood and gore from the beginning; instead, I found a captivating story of a young boy set upon an unexpected new path, one rife with uncertainty, but with plentiful adventure ahead.

If epic and/or dark fantasy is your bag, baby (or if you’re looking to expand your reading genres!), check out Ben Galley’s other books:

Huge thanks to TheWriteReads and Ben Galley for including me on this epic blog tour!!!

Check out Ben Galley’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.