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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman - Excerpt

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm super excited to be able to share an excerpt of Sara Ackerman's latest, Radar Girls! But first, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

An extraordinary story inspired by the real Women’s Air Raid Defense, where an unlikely recruit and her sisters-in-arms forge their place in WWII history.

Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and saltwater to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top-secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out air strips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies.

But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side-by-side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling in love with out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.

This inspiring and uplifting tale of pioneering, unsung heroines vividly transports the reader to wartime Hawaii, where one woman’s call to duty leads her to find courage, strength and sisterhood.

And now, a little peek at Radar Girls:

2

The Bust

Their shack, as Daisy referred to the house, was nestled in a cluster of bent ironwood trees, all by its lonesome. Set back far from the beach to protect it from a direct blast of onshore winds, it still took a constant battering and the salty air and elements had done a fine job reclaiming it. Windowpanes had been blasted opaque, you could see through the back wall, and flowers had taken up residence in the gutters. The siding had gone from forest green to pale green to peeling gray, the roof turned to rust.

When he had first started working up at the ranch, Daisy’s father had somehow persuaded Mr. Montgomery to sell him the small parcel of beachfront property for the price of a bag of sand. Most likely because it was in no-man’s-land between Waialua and the ranch. And because her father had been the best horse trainer in Hawai’i and everyone knew it.

She flung open the front door and ran inside. “Mom?” she called.

All quiet. She tiptoed across the lauhala mat in the living room, avoiding the creaking floorboards. Her mother spent much of her life in one of two states—sleeping or staring out to sea. The bedroom door was cracked and a lump lay under the blankets, pillow over her head. There was no point in trying to wake her, so Daisy ran back outside, hopped on her bike and rode for the stables.

The air was ripe with burnt sugarcane and a scratchy feeling of dread. She bumped along a dirt road as fast as her old bike would carry her. That plume of black smoke above Schofield caused her heart to sink. So many Japanese planes could mean only one thing. An attack or invasion of some kind was happening. But the sky remained empty and she saw no signs of ships on the horizon.

By the time she reached the stables, she had worked out what to tell Mr. Silva—the only person at the ranch who was even close to being a friend—and beg that he help her find Moon. Whether or not he would risk his job was another story. Jobs were not easy to come by, especially on this side of the island. Daisy counted herself lucky to have one. When she rounded the corner by the entrance, she about fell over on her bike. Mr. Silva’s rusted truck was gone and in its place sat Mr. Montgomery’s shiny new Ford, motor running and door open.

As far as old Hal Montgomery was concerned, Daisy was mostly invisible. She had worked for him going on seven years now—since she was sixteen—but she was a girl and girls were fluffy, pretty things who wore fancy dresses and attended parties. Not short-haired, trouser-wearing, outdoorsy misfits. And certainly not horse trainers and skin divers. Nope, those jobs belonged to men. There was also the matter of her father’s death, but she preferred not to think about that.

Should she turn around and hightail it out of there before he caught sight of her? He’d find out eventually, and he would be livid. Daisy pulled her bike behind the toolshed and slipped around the back side of the stables, peering in through a cloudy window. The tension in the air from earlier had dissipated and the horses were all quiet. A tall form stood in front of the old horse—Ka‘ena—she was supposed to ride. It was hard to tell through the foggy pane, but the man looked too tall and too thin to be Hal Montgomery.

Horsefeathers! It was Walker, Montgomery’s son. A line of perspiration formed on the back of her neck and she had the strong urge to flee. Not that Daisy had had much interaction with Walker in recent years. He was aloof and intimidating and the kind of person who made her forget how to speak, but he loved Moon fiercely. Of that she was sure. Just then, he turned and started jogging toward the door. His face was in shadow but it felt like he was looking right at her. She froze. If she ducked away now, he would surely catch the movement. She did it anyway.

She had just made it to her bike when Walker tore out of the tack room with a wild look in his eye. He had a rifle hanging across his chest, and he was carrying two others. He stopped when he saw her. “Hey!” he said.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Montgomery.”

He wore his flight suit, which was only halfway buttoned, like he’d been interrupted either trying to get in it or trying to get out of it. His face was flushed and lined with sweat. “Don’t you know we’ve been attacked? You ought to head for cover, somewhere inland.”

He was visibly shaken.

“I saw the planes. What do you know?” she said.

“Wheeler and Schofield are all shot up, and they did a number on Pearl. Battleships down, bay on fire. God knows how many dead.” His gaze dropped to her body for a moment and she felt her skin burn. There had been no time to change or even think about changing, and she was still in her half-wet swimsuit, hair probably sticking out in eleven directions. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I was worried about the horses,” she said.

“That makes two of us. And goddamn Moon is not in his stall. You know anything about that?”

Taking Moon had been about the dumbest thing she could have done. But at the time, it seemed a perfectly sane idea. The kind of thinking that got her into plenty of trouble over the years. Why hadn’t she learned? She looked at the coconut tree just past him as she spoke. “I have no idea. Perhaps Mr. Silva has him?”

“Mr. Silva went to town last night to see his sister,” he said.

She forced herself to look at him, feeling like she had the word guilty inked onto her forehead. “Looks like you have somewhere to be. You go on, I’ll find Moon. I promise.”

Her next order of business would be scouring the coast and finding that horse before Walker returned. There would be no sleeping until Moon was safely back at the stables.

“I sure hope so. That horse is mighty important to me,” he said.

Tell him!

She was about to come clean, when he moved around her, hopped in the car and slammed the door. He leaned out the window and said, “Something tells me you know more than you’re letting on, Wilder.”

With that, he sped off, leaving her standing in a cloud of red dirt and sand.

In the stables, the horses knew the sound of her footsteps, or maybe they smelled the salt on her hair. A concert of nickers and snorts erupted in the stalls. Daisy went to the coatrack first, and slid on an oversize button-up that she kept there for chilly days. It smelled of hay.

“How is everyone?” she said, stopping at each one to rub their necks or kiss their noses. “Quite a morning, hasn’t it been?”

Peanut was pacing with nostrils flared, and she spent a few minutes stroking his long neck before moving on. Horses were her lifeblood. Feeding, grooming, riding, loving. She only wished that Mr. Montgomery would let her train them—officially, that was. Without being asked as a last resort by Mr. Silva when everyone else had tried. Lord knew she was better than the rest of the guys. When she got to Moon’s stall, all the blood rushed from her head. The door had been left open and two Japanese slippers hung from the knob. She had hidden them in the corner under some straw—apparently not well enough.

Damn.

Just then she heard another car pull up. The ranch truck. A couple of the ranch hands poured out, making a beeline to the stables. Mr. Montgomery followed on their heels with a machete in his hand and a gun on his hip. Daisy felt the skin tighten on the back of her neck. His ever-present limp seemed even more pronounced.

When he saw her, he said, “Where’s Silva?”

No mention that they were under attack.

“In town,” she answered.

“What about Walker?”

“Walker just left in a big hurry,” she answered.

One of the guys had his hunting dog with him. It was a big mutt that enjoyed staring down the horses and making them nervous, as if they needed to be any more nervous right now. Daisy wanted to tell him to get the dog out of there, but knew it would be pointless.

“The hosses in the pasture need to be secured,” Mr. M said.

“Do you need my help?” she offered.

“Nah, you should get out of here. Get home. Fuckers blew up all our planes and now paratroopers are coming down in the pineapple fields. Ain’t no place for a woman right now.”

Daisy wanted to stay and help, but also wanted to get the hell away before he noticed that Moon was not here. “Yes, sir.”

He stopped and sized her up for a moment, his thick brows pinched. “You still got that shotgun of your old man’s?”

“I do.”

“Make sure it’s loaded.”


On her way home, Daisy passed through Japanese camp, hoping to get more information from Mr. Sasaki, who always knew the latest happenings. A long row of cottages lined the road, every rock and leaf in its place. The houses were painted barn red with crisp, white trim. On any given Sunday, there would have been gangs of kids roaming the area, but now the place was eerily empty.

“Hello?” she called, letting her bike fall into the naupaka hedge.

When she knocked and no one answered, she started pounding. A curtain pulled aside and a small face peered out at her and waved her away. Mrs. Sasaki. She was torn, but chose to leave them be. With the whispers of paranoia lately, all the local Japanese folks were bound to be nervous. She didn’t blame them.

This time when Daisy ran up to the shack, her mother was sitting on the porch drinking coffee from her chipped mug.

She was still in her nightgown, staring out beyond the ocean. When she was in this state, a person could have walked into their house and made off with all of their belongings and her mother would not even bat an eye.

Daisy sat down next to her. “Mom, the Japanese Army attacked Pearl Harbor and Wheeler and who knows where else.”

Her mother clenched her jaw slightly, took a sip of her coffee, then set it down on the mango stump next to her chair. “They said it would happen,” she said flatly.


“This is serious, mom. People are dead. Civilians, too. I don’t know how many, but the islands are in danger of being invaded and there are Japanese ships and planes all around. They’re telling us to stay inside.”

A look of worry came over her mom’s face. “You should go find a safer place to stay, away from the coast.”

“And leave you here?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“I’m not leaving you.”

Her mom shrugged.

She knew Louise couldn’t help it, but a tiny part of Daisy was waiting for that day her mother would wake up and be the old Louise Wilder. The mother of red lipstick and coconut macaroons, of beach bonfires and salty hugs. The one who rode bikes with her daughter to school every day, singing with the birds along the way. The highs and lows had been there before, but now there were only lows and deeper lows.

After some time, her mother finally spoke. “Men, they do the dumbest things.”

“That may be true, but we’re at war. Does that mean anything to you?” Daisy said, her voice rising in frustration.

“Course it does, but what can we do?”

She had a point. Aside from hiding in the house or running away, what other options were there? Used to doing things, Daisy was desperate to help, but how? Their home was under attack and she felt as useful as a sack of dirt.

Louise leaned back. On days like these, she retreated so far into herself that she was unreachable. You could tell by looking in her eyes. Blank and bottomless. Mr. Silva always said that you could see the spirit in the eyes. Dull eyes, dull spirit. That Louise looked this way always made Daisy feel deeply alone. The onshore winds kicked up a notch and ruffled the surface of the ocean. She knew she should stay with her mom, but more than anything, she wanted to go in search of the horse. Moon meant more to her than just the job. She loved him something fierce.

Only one thing was clear: their lives would never be the same.

Excerpted from Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman, Copyright © 2021 by Sara Ackerman. Published by MIRA Books.

About the author: USA Today bestselling author Sara Ackerman was born and raised in Hawaii. She studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she's not writing or teaching, you'll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at www.ackermanbooks.com and follow her on Instagram @saraackermanbooks and on FB @ackermanbooks.

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing the excerpt today! Radar Girls is officially out next Tuesday from Mira. 


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Sleepless by Louise Mumford

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Louise Mumford's debut, Sleepless!

Thea is a lifelong insomniac. When her lack of sleep causes a three car pile up, the same day she receives a notification about trials for a new sleep app, she decides it's time to do something about it. 

Morpheus promises to fix everything. It's a six week trial that's supposed to not only solve sleep problems but everything from weight loss and stopping smoking, too. And Thea just barely makes it into the trial. 

At first, everything seems fine. A little odd, but fine. And Thea is starting to sleep. Just a little, but it's making all the difference. 

And then Thea starts to suspect something is off about the trial. They're sequestered on an isolated island with no cell service. And the company isn't researching just sleep solutions. In fact, it soon becomes clear that Morpheus can control a person's sleep as well. 

Louise Mumford's debut is a pretty terrifying read!

So let's start with the fact that I do have insomnia. A double dose in fact. The stress induced kind that keeps you up all night, watching the clock and doing the math, "If I can fall asleep now I can still get x amount of sleep."

But I did a sleep study a few years ago, on sleep meds. As it turns out, my brain doesn't actually enter deep sleep. 

So all that's to say that I'm exactly the kind of person who would jump at exactly the opportunity Thea is given in Sleepless! The promise of an app that can solve all your sleep problems, to a person who is in severe lack of sleep...

Morpheus doesn't really come across as too good to be true. So it's easy to see how Thea and the others would easily be manipulated. It all seems so very scientific. And the participants are under the company's complete control. But it seems logical: they're housed in a facility on an island, provided clothes, a schedule, healthy foods (no caffeine, for example), and they're monitored along the way. 

All in the name of science. 

All for the testing and improvement of an app that promises to be truly revolutionary. 

Obviously it is actually too good to be true. But I don't want to give anything away! Suffice it to say the true twists in this book are not the ones you expect. 

Through no fault of the book, I happened to have a pretty bad flare up on my insomnia this week. Which meant more time for me to dive into Sleepless! And yeah, it does make a perfect up-all-night read!

As mentioned, this is Mumford's debut novel. I loved every minute of this one and can't wait to see what she'll do next!

Sleepless is out now from HQ. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Falling by T.J. Newman

Happy Book Birthday Week to T.J. Newman whose debut, Falling, released Tuesday!

For Bill Hoffman the day started off as a pretty average workday. A pilot, he completed all of his checklist, ready for what should be a routine flight. Except, as Bill soon finds out, there's nothing routine about this day at all. 

On the ground, Bill's family has been taken hostage by a man who now expects Bill to choose. Crash the plane and save his family, or let his family die and save the plane. 

And it's a decision Bill is determined not to make. But the man on the ground isn't working alone and even with the help of a trusted flight attendant, Bill isn't sure they can cover all the possible avenues of danger they could face in the air. 

Falling is an absolutely harrowing and page-turning read!

Newman herself is a former flight attendant and this debut was a really HOT deal. Diving into the book, it was easy to see why. (She's also, I want to note, a former bookseller!)

From the very first page, Newman does a great job setting up the characters and the danger that they're facing. The story alternates between multiple perspectives, both in the air and on the ground, including the bad guys themselves. 

Newman also gives the book a serious air of authenticity, but stresses that while that was intentional, there's definitely not enough info to serve in any way as a how to! Whew!

Falling is everything a blockbuster read or movie needs—high stakes, lots of action, and characters worthy of carrying it all. And, as you'd might expect, there are indeed plans to adapt the book for the big screen!

I had pretty high expectations for this one given how much hype the publisher has been putting behind it (I even had the chance to virtually "meet" Newman and hear her talk about the book). And I have to say, it was everything that I hoped it would be!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Beresford by Will Carver

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Will Carver's latest, The Beresford

The Beresford is almost too good to be true! Fully furnished apartments with a very reasonable deposit and affordable rent—it's exactly what Blair needs, considering how desperate she is to move out of her parents home. 

But what Blair doesn't realize is that the very day she moves into the Beresford, someone is murdered. 

Blair's new neighbor, Abe, is nice and helpful. But Abe is also a murderer. Not out of habit! It was an accident. But now he's faced with trying to get rid of a body without attracting attention. 

The Beresford has a dark history but neither Blair or Abe has any idea just how dark it really is. 

This book is delightfully wicked! (Admittedly, I have dark tastes.)

This is my first read by Carver and I wasn't expecting the thread of humor that runs through this one. It was quite a pleasant surprise!

This is the kind of book that really makes me glad that I'm not currently renting! And of course that whole saying, if it's too good to be true...

Not that anyone in their right mind would actually imagine what's really going on in The Beresford!

Carver's writing is tight and the atmosphere is fabulously creepy! This one is highly entertaining and perfect for a hot and balmy summer afternoon of reading!

The Beresford is out now in the UK and will be out in paperback in the US in November.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Girl Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Happy first day of July! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the second book in Eva Björg Ægisdóttir's Forbidden Iceland series, Girls Who Lie

Two boys out playing on the Grábrók lava fields stumble over a body and Elma and her fellow CID officers are called to investigate. 

From the start, they're certain the body is that of Maríanna, a woman who went missing seven months ago. And they're also certain that this wasn't an accident. But Maríanna's story is complicated and it quickly becomes clear that the suspect list isn't a short one. Worse yet, Maríanna's own daughter, Hekla, is suspicious in her own right. 

But the truth to this murder lies hidden in the past and it's up to Elma and her team to unravel the clues if they're to discover the person behind it all. 

As mentioned above, this is the second book in the series, following Ægisdóttir's debut, The Creak on the Stairs. Which I am ashamed to say that I have not yet read! (Don't worry, I will very soon!)

I've been pretty up front about the fact that Nordic Noir as a whole was one of the things that's helped me cope with the continuing Covid Times. There's a very clear style to the writing, even when many of the titles are translated, as is the case with Girls Who Lie. And a little shout out to Victoria Cribb who does a truly wonderful job with the translation here. 

(I've sung the praises of translators before. Theirs is a job that consists of way more than simply translating words! They have to maintain the author's voice while also translating in such a way that the narrative reads smoothly—not always an easy task considering there are turns of phrase and speech that don't necessarily translate easily into another language!)

In addition to the style that's unique to Nordic Noir, there's also the sense of place. And in this Ægisdóttir truly excels! Iceland itself is more than the setting for this story. It takes on an almost character-like aspect from the very beginning of the book. It's details like Elma's observation of the landscape as they're traveling to the crime scene. And the note that the boys who discover the body thought it was a dark elf (Icelandic lore is some of the most fun I've ever read!). 

And the characters themselves are so carefully crafted! Maríanna's story is heartbreaking. We meet her when she's just given birth and it's clear that she's suffering from postpartum depression. She never does connect with her daughter and, as a single mother, the two of them exist in an atmosphere that is hard to read. 

Elma, on the other hand, really thought that she'd be living the quiet life in her new position. Boy was she wrong! But her new job does allow her to spend more time with her family, particularly her nephew. 

Small details like that make it clear that Ægisdóttir is putting a lot of thought and consideration into every aspect of her writing! And Girls Who Lie really is the whole package, because the plot and pacing are fabulous!

I loved every bit of this book! Ægisdóttir is absolutely one to watch and one I highly recommend, right alongside two of my other Icelandic favorites, Ragnar Jónasson and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir! I cannot wait to read more from this author. She's a welcome addition to my auto-buy list!


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

Happy Tuesday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Heather Young's The Lost Girls

The Evans family have been residents of Williamsburg, Minnesota for decades. Their house was a primary residence for some time, then a summer home, and then primary residence once again. 

In 1935, sisters Lucy, Lilith, and Emily have returned with their parents for their annual summer trip. And almost everything is the same as it has been every summer. But this year, Lilith is older. And this year, Emily disappears. 

Decades later, Lucy is the only one left and she's decided it's finally time to tell her side of the story. One last thing before she dies and leaves the estate to her grandniece, Justine. 

Justine's life hasn't been easy. First, moving place to place with her wanderlust mother. Then, for a while, settled with the father of her children. But he left and her new boyfriend, supportive and loving, maybe isn't as safe as she'd thought. 

The house and estate she inherits from Lucy is a bit of a saving grace. But her inheritance is more than just a house and money. It's the story of a lost girl that has haunted the family for so very long. 

The Lost Girls alternates between Lucy's story and Justine's, so dual narrative and dual timelines. 

I really enjoyed the rich detail and emotion of this book. From the start, I had so much empathy for Justine and her situation. 

Here we have someone who longed for a chance to put down roots. And her life had so much upheaval that she swore she'd never do the same to her own children. And yet, when the story begins, she's faced with the decision to do just that or stay in a situation that's clearly untenable. That only becomes clearer to the reader, and the Justine, as she justifies her decision to herself in considering just what kind of life the three of them would face if they stayed where they were. 

And yet, the home in Minnesota that seemed like such a saving grace, taxes the little family in ways Justine couldn't have predicted. And that's without considering the mystery of Emily's disappearance, Justine's own mother, and Justine's ex, all of which are hurdles to be faced in their own right. 

Emily's story—told by Lucy—is truly tragic. And it's a shadow over the book as a whole. The reader is aware, from the beginning, that whatever the truth might be, it's an awful one. And it's weight has been a burden on the little hamlet as well as the family as a whole, even when Justine wasn't necessarily aware of it. 

But more than Emily's story and the mystery that surrounds her disappearance, this is a family drama. The relationships between women—Lucy and Lilith, Justine and her daughters, and Justine and her own mother—play a large part in the overall narrative. 

Having read The Distant Dead first, I was probably a bit more prepared for Young's overall style. While both books ostensibly seem like suspense/thrillers, they're the kinds of books that tug at your heartstrings with characters facing the dark reality of the world and ultimately trying to find hope in that reality. 

The Lost Girls is out now in the UK from Verve Books and in the US from William Morrow. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro

Readers, I am so excited to be part of the Random Things tour for V. Castro's latest, The Queen of the Cicadas (La Reina de las Chicharras). 

Belinda has returned to Texas to attend her friend's wedding. And thought she'd helped choose the site for the ceremony, she didn't realize it was a place linked to a legend that has haunted her since childhood. 

Decades ago, a migrant farmworker was brutally murdered in Alice, Texas. Milagros, like many, sought freedom from her small town life and fled across the border in search of new opportunities. Her aim was to send money back home until her entire family could join her in the States. Even the hard work and horrible conditions would have been bearable were it not for the unwanted advances of the landowner's nephew. And the horrific treatment she experienced at the hand of his wife. 

And so Milagros planned to leave for California, where it was rumored that another worker was set on unionizing the farm hands. Surely it would be a future better than the one that she faced in Alice. 
 
But Milagros never left the farm. And the locals weren't interested in bringing her killer to justice. So Mictecacíhuatl, the Aztec goddess of death, intervened on her behalf. And so many years later, Belinda is determined to see that Milagros's fate is never forgotten. 

I have to say, this has been one of my most highly anticipated reads of the month. I was actually attending a virtual panel at StokerCon, listening to Violet Castro speak about her latest, when I got the email about the tour. And let me tell you, the happy dance that I did on my end was epic!

Thankfully, the book lived up to my extremely high expectations!

The book begins with Belinda at the wedding. It's being held in a tiny town in Texas at a grand old house. And, as it turns out, it's a house with a dark past. 

Dilapidated and falling down when Hector, the current owner, bought it, it's been restored to it's former glory. But the story that brought it's ruin has never been forgotten. 

And it's a story that Belinda is familiar with. One she'd heard as a child at a sleepover decades ago. 

But now, at a bit of a crossroads in her own life, and finding herself at the scene of the crime, so to speak, Belinda decides that she's going to dig into the story more. 

The book fluidly transitions between Belinda's narrative and the past, and so it's the readers who witness Milagros's story first hand even as Belinda is recounting it to the wedding party or researching it present day. 

Milagro's tale is heartbreaking. And the vengeance that takes place in her name is chilling, indeed! Not just because most of it involves bugs. Castro does not skimp on the detail, making this read both atmospheric and creepy as all get out!

Drawing inspiration from urban legends and myth, The Queen of the Cicadas is more than a little reminiscent of Candyman, so it really wasn't surprising to read that it was one of the influences for the story. But beyond that, this is a tale that is rich with Castro's own San Antonio upbringing and filled with Aztec and Latinx influences!

What was surprising, and super cool, was finding out that La Reina de las Chicharras is wholly made up by Castro herself. Because of course, as I was reading, I admit that I had started searching the internet for the story only to find nothing except reviews of the book. And as a horror fan, I love when an author can so convince me that their creation is REAL in every sense. 

I fear my review really doesn't do this book full justice, but I have to say that I feel like this is the the kind of horror that's been missing from my reading, especially of late. I predict that this is going to be V. Castro's year! And that The Queen of the Cicadas will be the first of many must reads for horror fans. (Note, this is her novel debut, but her novella, Goddess of Filth, released this earlier year. She's also published many short stories and has a forthcoming collection due out from Flame Tree as well.) 

Now you'll have to excuse me, I've got to run out and get some of her backlist while I wait for more from Castro to come!

The Queen of the Cicadas is available now in the US and UK from Flame Tree Press!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The High-Rise Diver by Julia von Lucadou

It's Sunday and I'm a stop on the Random Things tours today for Julia von Lucadou's The High-Rise Diver

Riva Karnovsky was at the top of her game when she surprised everyone and quit her high-rise diving gig. 

Plummeting from the highest buildings in their city, Riva was a sight to behold. Pulling up at the last minute, soaring through the skies for all her adoring fans to see. 

Hitomi was one of those viewers. But now she watches Riva in a different capacity. Because in their world, nothing is private. No one has personal space. Everything is recorded, fodder to be analyzed by people who can make decisions about just every aspect of your life. 

Julia von Lucadou's debut is a gripping look at what a future where government control gone wrong could look like. And I have to say, it's terrifying in it's possibility!

Riva's story is only ever seen through Hitomi's eyes. A psychologist who spends part of her day tracking and studying Riva's every move, Hitomi doesn't have much of a life herself when we meet her. In fact, she elects to spend nights at work so as to be seen as more efficient, essentially earning points that will reflect well on her down the line. 

In their society, productivity can land you a bigger apartment. A direct reward for your efforts. But it also locks a person into a situation where they cannot pursue the things that make them happy. 

The High-Rise Diver illustrates just how something that sounds good at the outset can actually become an insidious kind of evil. And I think, for someone like me, it comes down to control. No one in this book has control over their own lives!

Like I said, it's pretty terrifying!

The High-Rise Diver seems, at first, like a quiet book. But in fact, it's the kind of book that digs its hooks into you and forces you to see things through an affected lens. Because that's what this book does—it affects you. And once you've finished, it stays in your thoughts long after!

The High-Rise Diver is out now in the US and the UK from World Editions!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Let's Fly by

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Giles Fraser's Let's Fly

End of term, 1979, Nick Hunter had planned to travel with his girlfriend. But after she breaks up with him, he decides to move to London and start a band. 

They're living a little rough, squatting in an empty house in Notting Hill. And the band itself is short lived. But then one of their songs is used in a movie soundtrack leaving Nick more money than he'd ever imagined. 

It's a lucky break that, years later, turns out not to be so lucky at all. 

Cut to 2017, Nick is up to his eyes in debt when his wife is kidnapped. And if Nick can't come through with the kidnappers' demands, he'll lose everything. 

Let's Fly is perfectly paced and plotted, the kind of book that you can sink into on an evening and read straight through before you know it!

Nick is an average guy. When we meet him, though, he admits that his luck has run out. Or, better yet, that he didn't recognize his luck when he had it. 

High school Nick is a bit sheltered. He's grown up in a boarding school, surrounded by other boys of upper middle class households. He's into music, so much so that he met his girlfriend at a show. And plans to travel via rail to see and explore new things before having to do the adult thing. 

But she disappears, leaving only a note of apology. Which is what causes Nick's life to take the track that it does. And who knows what would have happened had he not moved to London when he did. 

Maybe his life over the next almost four decades would have been dramatically different!

Let's Fly is a fun thriller, perfect for readers who like to see everyday folks forced to face extraordinary circumstances (in other words, great for fans of Harlan Coben in particular!).

Let's Fly is available now in the UK. 


Friday, June 18, 2021

One Last Time by Helga Flatland

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Helga Flatland's One Last Time

Anne has been on her own for a while. A mother of two children, she had to learn early on to be strong and self-sufficient after her husband suffered a series of strokes that left him debilitated. Now her children are grown and her husband lives in a home with constant professional care. 

And Anne has just been diagnosed with cancer. 

Sigrid has always had a complicated relationship with her mother. And now she has a complicated relationship with her own daughter, Mia. But Anne's diagnosis changes things. 

Told from both Anne and Sigrid's perspectives, One Last Time is a story about life and relationships—specifically relationships between mothers and daughters. 

Sigrid has held on to a lot of heartache over the years. She blames her mother for things, a lot of them stemming from her mother's caring for her husband, Sigrid's ill father. Interestingly, she remembers things differently than Anne, which is part of the trouble between them. 

Meanwhile, Sigrid, who had her daughter very young, is faced with her daughter about to start college and reuniting with her birth father. The newly forming relationship between daughter and dad is one that strains the entire family. 

The parallels between Sigrid and Anne's experiences and the differences in the way they recall and latch on to parts of their own shared story and experience make this book so utterly real. 

Anne's diagnosis, rather than being the main focus of the book exclusively, is the driving force that brings the three generations of women together. It's the thing that finally makes them confront some of the issues that have been weighing over them for so long. And it's easy to see, as a reader, parallels in our own lives as well even if we haven't experienced exactly the same things as Anne, Sigrid, and Mia have. 

Helga Flatland's book is at times heart wrenching, but it's also eye opening in that it might make you reevaluate some of your own feelings about family. 

One Last Time is out now in the UK and will be out in the US in October from the fabulous folks over at Orenda!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Fragile by Sarah Hilary

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm part of the Random Things tour for Sarah Hilary's latest, Fragile!

Nell and Joe are on the run, living rough. But one night, Joe takes off with another woman. Nell followed him, saw him leave with her, saw him disappear into a building, and that was it. 

Determined to find Joe, Nell manages to get hired on as housekeeper at the house where she last saw Joe. But there's no sign of him. In fact, it's just a man living in a house filled with boxes and dust. But Nell's new position gives her an opportunity to dig further and the secrets this house holds are darker than she'd expected. 

As Nell searches for traces of Joe, someone else is searching for Nell. 

Sarah Hilary breaks from her DI Marnie Rome series with this taut and suspenseful stand alone!

Nell has secrets. Secrets she's trying to escape.

She grew up in a foster home where she made herself useful. Cleaning, helping with the little kids, that sort of stuff. From her perspective it wasn't a happy existence, but it had its good points. Namely, Joe and Rosie. 

But something happened to Rosie. And Meaghan, the woman who fostered them, isn't going to forget. 

In her attempts to hang on to the things she cares about—in this case, Joe—Nell lands herself in a situation that isn't what she expected. 

Teasing out truth from lies, staying one step ahead of the Meaghans of the world, and, above all, taking care of the things that are important to her, take all of Nell's energy. 

Interestingly, though, we're given both Nell's and Meaghan's perspectives in the narrative. And while the beginning of the book sets up Nell as our heroine and Meaghan as the bad guy, that set up becomes murkier as the story takes off. 

This is twisty—and somewhat bleak—psychological suspense of the highest order!

Fragile is available now in the UK. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Hunting Wives by May Cobb

Sophie O'Neill is anxious to fit in amongst the Texas elite. Specifically Margot Banks's group. 

She follows Margot online way before she has a chance to meet her. And then, surprisingly, when they do finally meet, Margot invites her to go shooting. 

Every Friday, Margot and her friends get together to drink and shoot skeet. And sometimes they go hunting afterwards. Not hunting game in the traditional sense. Hunting for young men they can flirt with. And sometimes more. 

But when a dead body turns up on Margot's property, Sophie's world is turned upside down. Now it's up to her to find out who is responsible, or she could find herself facing murder charges!

May Cobb's latest is like a combination of Real Housewives meets Girls Gone Wild. 

Sophie and her husband have moved from the big city to a small Texas town in hopes it'll be a better environment to raise their son. They spend weekends at the farmer's market. Sophie has a garden that takes a lot of attention. And they have barbecues with one of Sophie's childhood friends on the regular. 

But Sophie has been closely following Margot Banks's every move. She's even tried to force their paths to cross on a few occasions. And when it finally happens, she's determined they're going to be friends. 

Sophie is obsessed with Margot. So much so that she's pretty much willing to do anything the queen bee says. And that's where Sophie starts to get in trouble. 

I can't say that Sophie is a main character I particularly liked. She's pretty determined to follow a path that the reader outright knows will be her downfall from the very beginning. And not only does she follow that path, she's pretty wasted the whole time she's on it. Some A+ decision making there. 

The Hunting Wives is a quick read. One it's hard to turn away from as Sophie's life becomes a train wreck of epic proportions. 

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review!

The Hunting Wives is out now from Berkley! 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Happy Friday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Threadneedle!

Anna has grown up with a magic she isn't allowed to use. 

Raised by her Aunt, Anna has been drilled endlessly on the danger of magic. It's why, when she's sixteen, she's to be bound to the Binders. In their eyes, magic is a sin. 

But Anna longs for more! And when Selene brings Effie and Attis on her next visit, Anna finally has her chance. 

Introduced to the wider world of the magic around her, Anna begins to finally come into her power. But the further she becomes drawn into magic, the more clear it becomes that there is something dark in her past. 

Threadneedle is great witchy fantasy fun!

First, the world building in Threadneedle is fabulous! The atmosphere of Anna's London is so imbued with magic through Thomas's words, but it's woven very subtly into the story.

Anna is a stubborn teen. She's lost her mother and her father and has been raised by an aunt who isn't affectionate or seemingly caring at all. One of the things Anna wants most is to practice real magic, but her aunt keeps her under such tight constraints that she knows it's likely never to happen. 

But then her mother's friend Selene arrives and Anna finally experiences a bit of freedom. More than that, she meets others who definitely don't feel the same way about magic as her aunt. 

The magic system in Threadneedle is a really cool one! In fact, it was probably my favorite thing about the book. And again, Thomas's descriptions were fabulous here!

Threadneedle is the first in the Language of Magic trilogy. It'll be really interesting to see what happens in the next installment.




Monday, May 24, 2021

The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax

Every month, an unlikely group of friends gets together at their local bookstore to talk about books. Sara, Judith, Jazmine, and others pick a new book each month and then spend an evening together, eating and drinking, and talking about said book. 

Judith, a middle-aged woman with grown kids and a husband who takes her for granted; Jazmine, a sports agent and single mother; Sara, who works part time at the bookstore to kill time while her husband is out of town for work. They would seemingly have nothing in common. 

Even newbies to the group like Erin, the young assistant who recently started working for Jazmine, and Dorothy, Sara's mother in law, find friendship and hope in the group. 

Each is facing different challenges in life but with their books and their reading friends by their sides, they find they can overcome just about anything. 

I love, love, love Wendy Wax's work. And I really love when her books revolve around books. Like this one!

But in addition to the books, it's the characters that really get me. Here, Wax has created a number of fully realized characters with their own unique stories and voices to tell them. 

And it's the connections between these women that I especially loved!

As I mentioned, this is a motley group. And there are more to the group than just the ones I've mentioned, including Jazmine's best friend, Judith's best friend, a pair of twin siblings, a fashion designer, an EMT, a golfer, and the bookstore owner herself (hopefully I got them all!). While the narrative does alternate between just Sara, Erin, Judith, and Jazmine's perspectives, Wax does a truly fabulous job of giving voice to each of the other members of the group as well. And that's a pretty big accomplishment! Developing even one main character can be a challenge for some. Never a challenge for Wax, however!

The whole group is a bit of a found family. A support system, working behind the scenes that comes through for each and every one of our narrators in the ways that they need them to. Which is saying something considering that in both Erin and Judith's positions, their own family and friend groups fall a little bit down on the job!

I've been purposely hazy about the actual plot points for each of the narrators. This is because I kind of dove into this one with very little knowledge of the book. Wax is an auto read for me, so I didn't read the book description at all and I truly enjoyed the journey of getting to know the characters without any teasers to get me started. 

The Break-Up Book Club is a fizzy and fabulous feel good read about female friendships and connections. 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

I want to add a little note here, because the intro to the book was a harsh reminder of the events we're still going through to some extent. My most heartfelt condolences to Wendy Wax. I truly hope that the people in this book are based, at least in part, on the friends that she has around her in her own real life. And I truly hope that for anyone who has struggled in any way through these times. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Jackie Kabler's The Perfect Couple

Gemma and and Danny have been married just under a year. They recently moved from London. Danny has started a new job. They're perfectly happy! 

Or so Gemma thought. 

After returning from an overnight trip, it appears that Danny has gone missing. He'd promised that he would be there when she got home. He also promised he'd cook dinner. It's not unheard of that his job in IT would require him to work late hours. But he doesn't come home Friday. Or Saturday. And so Gemma goes to the police. 

Unfortunately, Danny looks a little familiar to the cops. Because they have two dead bodies, both of whom look an awful lot like Danny. Fearing they have a serial killer on their hands, they know that they need to find Danny before it's too late. But there's something strange about Danny's case. Like the fact that there's almost no sign of him in Gemma's home. And the fact that Gemma herself is the only person who seems to have heard from Danny at all in recent weeks...

The Perfect Couple is a whirlwind of a read!

I think we've been somewhat conditioned now not to entirely trust a narrator, especially when the book is told in first person. And that is one of the things that makes this book so interesting!

We meet Gemma as she's returning home from an overnight trip to a spa. She's a journalist and she'd been tapped to review the new resort. It was just an overnight trip and she says she got an email from her husband just the night before. 

Email. Because he has no phone. Because his new job hasn't provided one for him just yet. So no one really has any reliable way to get in touch with him!

Meanwhile, there's a secondary storyline from the perspective of the police. 

They aren't initially interested in a missing husband. He's a grown man and there are all kinds of reasons he may have left. But when they see his picture, they immediately take note. Because they've already got two dead bodies on their hands!

So is Gemma a killer? The police certainly have concerns!

I loved that Kabler plays with the reader's minds in that way. Can we trust Gemma or not? I'm not going to tell!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here

For more on the author and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Final Twist by Jeffrey Deaver

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Jeffrey Deaver's latest, The Final Twist!

Colter Shaw is on a mission. He was just sixteen when his father died. But in the decade plus since, he's become determined to uncover evidence against BlackBridge—making his father's one time mission his own. Course Colter believes that BlackBridge is responsible not only for decades of crimes, but for his own father's death and his brother's disappearance. 

It all began with a letter. A letter his father left years ago, leading Shaw on a hunt for other clues squirreled away by the man before his death. But as the clues take him from one location to another, Colter himself becomes an inevitable target. Until he gets help from the last person he expected.

It was my fault for not realizing this was the latest in a series. Oops!

The Final Twist apparently picks up immediately after the second book in the series, The Goodbye Man. And there's definitely some character development and back story that you should have in hand before diving into this third Colter Shaw title (book one is The Never Game).

Shaw is something of a private investigator. And he was raised in a family of survivalists. To put it in a very tongue-in-cheek way, he and his family all have a certain set of skills. 

And now he's putting his skills into resolving something that's been hanging over his family for some time. 

While I wish that I had started with book one, and would caution other readers to do so, I will say that this is the kind of book you expect from one of the masters of the genre. With his usual whiplash pacing, tight chapters, and cliffhangers that force you into that just-one-more-chapter mindset that keeps you up all night (a signature of Deaver's style), The Final Twist is sure to please longtime Deaver fans and fans of the series in general. 

The Final Twist is out now in both the UK and here in the States. 


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley - Excerpt

Next week marks the release of Kate Bromley's debut rom-com, Talk Bookish To Me. And thanks to the publisher, I have a sneak peek to offer up to you today! 

But first, here's a bit about the book from Graydon House: 

Kara Sullivan is definitely not avoiding her deadline. After all, it's the week of her best friend's wedding and she's the maid of honor, so she's got lots of responsibilities. As a bestselling romance novelist with seven novels under her belt, she’s a pro and looming deadlines and writer’s block (which she definitely doesn’t have) don't scare her. She's just eager to support Cristina as she ties the knot with Jason.

But who should show up at Cristina and Jason's rehearsal dinner but Kara's college ex-boyfriend, (the gorgeous and infuriating) Ryan? Apparently, he’s one of Jason's childhood friends, and he's in the wedding party, too. Considering neither Kara nor Ryan were prepared to see each other again, it's decidedly a meet-NOT-cute. There is nothing cute about this situation, and a bit of notice to mentally prepare would’ve been nice, Cristina! However, when Kara sits down to write again the next day, her writers' block is suddenly gone. She has to wonder what’s changed. Are muses real…? And is Kara's muse...Ryan?

Talk Bookish To Me is being compared to Beach Read and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. So of course I cannot wait to dive into this one!

And now you can get a taste as well!

One

“Wait, was I supposed to bring a gift?”

I turn my gaze from the floor to the well-dressed man standing beside me. There are only two of us in the elevator, so he must be talking to me.

“I think it’s a matter of personal preference,” I answer. “I’m the maid of honor so I had to be excessive.”

His eyebrows bob up as I adjust my grip on the Great-Dane-sized gift basket I’m carrying. The cellophane wrapping paper crinkles each time I move, echoing through the confined space just loudly enough to keep things weird. Because if everyone isn’t uncomfortable for the entire ride, are you even really in an elevator?

I’m low-key ecstatic when the doors glide open ten seconds later. With my basket now on the cusp of breaking both my arms and my spirit, I beeline it out of there and stride into the rooftop lounge where my best friend is hosting her pre-wedding party, drinking in the scent of heat and champagne as I maneuver through the sea of guests.

Like most maids-of-honor, I flung myself down the Etsy rabbit hole headfirst and ordered an obscene amount of decorations for tonight’s event. Burlap “Mr. & Mrs.” banners dangle from floating shelves behind the bar as twinkle lights weave around the balcony railings like ivy. Lace-trimmed mason jars filled with pink roses sit on every candlelit cocktail table. Cristina and I worked with the tenacity of two matrimonial Spartans to get everything ready this morning, and it’s clear that our blood, sweat and tears were very much worth it.

It’s then that I spot Cristina mingling near the end of the bar. Beautiful, petite and come-hither curvy, I’d hate her if she weren’t one of my favorite people ever. Her caramel hair spills down her back and her white high-low dress sets her apart from the crowd in just the right way—she’s a princess in the forest and we’re her adoring woodland animals. I’m her feisty chipmunk sidekick to my core.

I place my gift on a nearby receiving table and give a little wave when I catch her eye. She’s waiting for me with a huge grin when I arrive at her side.

“Hey, lady!” she says, pulling me in for a hug. “Look at you, rolling in here looking all gorgeous.”

We step apart and I stand up a bit taller. “Why, thank you. I feel pretty good.”

It’s also very possible that Cristina is just so used to me dazzling the world with yoga pants and sweaters every day that my transformation seems more dramatic than it is.

“Were you able to get any writing done this afternoon?” she asks, handing me a glass of champagne from off the mahogany bar top.

I get a twisting knot in my gut at the mention of my writing, or lack thereof. Having been dying a slow literary death for almost a year, I’m never without some stomach-turning sensation for long. The final deadline for my next romance

novel is officially a month away and if I don’t deliver a bestseller by then—

“Okay, you’re making your freak-out face,” Cristina interjects. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

I inhale a shallow breath and force a smile. “It’s fine. I’m good.”

“Let’s switch gears—are you sure it’s not weird that I’m having a pre-wedding party? Was booking the salsa band too much since I’m having one at the wedding, too?”

Beyond grateful for the booming trumpet and bongos that are drowning out my own thoughts, I turn to the corner and find the ten-piece group playing with addictive abandon. Cristina’s relatives, who are essentially non-trained professional salsa dancers, dominate the dance floor, and rightfully so. Cristina’s brother, Edgar, once tried to teach me the basics but I’m fairly confident I looked like a plank of wood that was given the gift of limbs. Cristina recommended dance lessons. Edgar suggested a bottle of aguardiente and prayer.

“The band is amazing,” I say as I swing back around, “and of course people have pre-wedding parties.” I’ve actually never heard of a pre-wedding party. An engagement party, yes. A bachelorette party, absolutely. But what’s going down tonight is basically a casual reception days before the mega-reception.

“Jason and I just have so many people coming in from out of town, plus we wanted the bridal party to get acquainted. We figured a little get-together would be fun.”

“I’m all for it. Who doesn’t want to pre-game for a wedding a week in advance?”

“I know I do,” Cristina says, lifting her own champagne and taking a sip. “Everyone is here except Jason and some groomsmen. Can you believe that creep is late to his own party?”

“Should you really be calling your fiancé a creep?”

“He’s my creep so it’s okay.”

“Valid point.”

“Picture please! Will you girls get together?”

I look to my right and find a teenage boy with wildly curly hair pointing a camera at us. He’s dressed in all black and looks so eager to take our photo that I can’t help but to find him endearing.

“Absolutely! Big smile, Kara.” Cristina throws her arm around my waist and after we withstand an intense flash, the young man is gone before my eyes can readjust. “That was Jason’s cousin, Rob. He wants to be a photographer, so I hired him for the night.”

“That was thoughtful of you,” I say, still recovering from my momentary blindness. “By the way, where is Jason?”

“He’s still at home. Two of his groomsmen are driving up and he wanted to wait for them since, apparently, grown men can’t find their way to a party by themselves.”

“Driving in Manhattan is intimidating. He probably didn’t want them to get lost.”

“Right, because neither of them has GPS? Jason should be here.”

I’m honestly shocked that Jason isn’t here. I love Cristina and Jason both to death but they’re one of those couples that rarely go out socially without each other. Even when I invite Cristina over to my apartment for a wine night, she asks to bring Jason. I’ve always thought it was a bit much, but I guess it works for them.

“Okay, forget everyone else, let’s toast.” I clear my throat and hold up my champagne. “When we were both waitressing at McMahon’s Pub in grad school, I had no idea it would lead to nine amazing years of friendship. Now I’d be lost without you. Here’s to you having a magical night. I’m so glad I’m here to celebrate with you.”


We smile and tap our glasses together, the ding of the crystal echoing my words.

I take a sip and the bubbly drink slips easily down my throat. Still savoring the sweetness, I ask, “So, who are these mystery groomsmen Jason’s waiting for?”

“One is named Beau and I can’t remember the other one. They’re two guys he grew up with when his family lived in North Carolina.”

“North Carolina? I thought Jason was from Texas?”

“He spent most of his life in Texas, but he lived in North Carolina until he was ten. He somehow kept in contact with these two through the years.”

“That’s nice, him staying friends with them for so long.”

“Yeah, it’s adorable, but they still should have gotten their asses here on their own.” Cristina is poised to elaborate when her gaze locks on something across the room. She tries and fails to look annoyed instead of excited.

“I’m guessing the groom has arrived,” I say, glancing over my shoulder. My suspicions are confirmed as I see Jason making his way toward us, smiling at Cristina like a fifth grader saying “cheese” on picture day. He’s tilting his head and everything.

“There she is! There’s my incredibly forgiving future wife.” Jason leans down and kisses Cristina before she can verbally obliterate him. He gives me a quick kiss on the cheek next and then shifts back to his fiancée’s side, sneaking an arm around her waist and pulling her to his hip.

“So, I’m going to go ahead and disregard all the semi-violent text messages you’ve sent me over the past hour. Bearing that in mind, how’s everything going?”

Cristina looks up at him, feigning disinterest. “It’s going great. Since you weren’t here, I talked to several nice men. Turns out, pre-wedding parties are a great place to meet guys.”

“I’m so happy for you.”

“I appreciate that. Four contenders, specifically, really piqued my interest.”

“Are they taller than me?” Jason asks. “Do they make a lot of money?”

“Obviously. They’re way taller and all of them are independently wealthy.”

“Nice. Kara, did you meet these freakishly tall and rich men?”

“I did and spoiler alert, I’m engaged now, too! Double wedding here we come!”

Jason smiles and pulls Cristina in even closer, his gaze holding hers. “I guess this is where being late gets you. I’m sorry I wasn’t here. Do you forgive me?”

“Don’t I always?”

He leans down and gives her another picture-perfect kiss.

It’s official. I’m dying alone. Just putting that out there.

“Now, where are these friends of yours? Oh! Let’s set one of them up with Kara!” Cristina looks at me with a dangerous matchmaker gleam in her eyes.

“Actually, I already mentioned Kara, and one of my buddies said he went to college with her.”

Went to college with me?

Jason looks towards the entrance and waves. “Hey, Ryan! Come over here!”

And then I go catatonic. I can’t move. I stand stock still, looking at Cristina like she sprouted a third arm out of her forehead and it’s giving me the middle finger.

Someone walks past me and a soft breeze ghosts across my overheating skin. I stare in a state of utter disbelief as Ryan Thompson steps into view beside Jason.

“It’s been a while, Sullivan,” he says, his voice as steady and tempting as ever.

My champagne glass falls from my fingers and shatters against the floor.

“Kara?” Cristina’s voice rings with concern as she nudges us away from the broken glass that’s now littered around our feet. She grasps my elbow, but I don’t feel it. She could backhand me across the face with a polo mallet and I wouldn’t feel it. My mind is spiraling, plummeting inwards as I come to grips with the realization that Ryan is standing two feet away from me.

Dressed in a navy suit, a crisp white button-down and brown dress shoes, he’s come a long way from the sweatshirts and jeans that were his unofficial uniform in college. His dirty-blond hair is on the shorter side, but a few wayward strands still fall across his forehead. Ten years ago, I would have reached up and brushed them aside without a thought. Now, my hand curls into a tight, unforgiving fist at my side.

If we were another former couple, seeing each other for the first time in a decade might be a dreamy, serendipitous meet-cute—a Nancy Meyers movie in pre-production. We’d have a few drinks and spend hours reminiscing about old times before picking up right where we left off. It would be comfortable and familiar as anything, like a sip of hot chocolate at Christmas with Nat King Cole crooning on vinyl in the background.

But we are not that kind of former couple, and I’m convinced that if Nat King Cole were here and knew my side of the story, he would grab Ryan by the scruff of his shirt and hold him steady as I roundhouse-kicked him in the throat.

It’s a tough pill to swallow but Ryan looks good. Like, really good. His face is harder than it was when he was twenty-one and the stubble on his chin tells me he hasn’t shaved in a few days, making him seem like he just rolled out of bed. And not rolled out of bed in a dirty way, but in a “I just rolled out of bed and yet I still look ruggedly handsome and you fully want to make out with me” kind of way.

The bastard.

“Ryan,” Cristina says, always the first to jump in, “Jason mentioned that you and Kara went to college together.”

“We did.” His eyes don’t move from mine for even a second. “It’s got to be what, ten years now?”

“Yeah, it’s been a long, long time,” I say quickly, turning to face Cristina. “I think I may have mentioned him before. Remember my friend from North Carolina?”

If someone were to look up “my friend from North Carolina” in the Dictionary of Kara, they would find the following:

My friend from North Carolina (noun): 1. Ryan Thompson. 2. My college boyfriend. 3. My first real boyfriend ever. 4. My first love. 5. Taker of my virginity. 6. Guy who massacred my heart with a rusty sledgehammer and fed the remains to rabid, ravenous dogs.

Cristina is well versed in the dictionary of Kara and recognition washes over her. “No way,” she says, her voice dropping.

“Yes way,” I answer happily, overcompensating.

Now’s it’s Cristina’s turn to panic. “Wow. Okay, wow, what a small world, huh?” She grabs Jason’s hand in an iron grip, making him wince as she blasts an over-the-top smile. “Well, we should give you guys a chance to catch up. My abuelita just got here so Jason and I are going to say hello.”

“Your abuelita died two years ago,” I hiss.

“I know, it’s a miracle. See you two later!” She drags her soon-to-be husband away before he can get a word out.

I watch them go, sailing away like the last lifeboat as I stand on deck with the string quartet, the cheerful Bach melody only further confirming that this ship is going down.

Excerpted from Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley, Copyright © 2021 by Kate Bromley Published by Graydon House Books.

About the author: KATE BROMLEY lives in New York City with her husband, son, and her somewhat excessive collection of romance novels (It’s not hoarding if it’s books, right?). She was a preschool teacher for seven years and is now focusing full-time on combining her two great passions – writing swoon-worthy love stories and making people laugh. Talk Bookish to Me is her first novel.

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing the excerpt today!

For more on Kate Bromley and her work you can check out her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

Talk Bookish To Me is officially out on shelves May 25, but you can preorder a copy: Harlequin - Bookshop - Barnes & Noble - Books-A-Million