Book Review: Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn @AvaMorgyn @YABoundToursPR

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Check out my stop on the Resurrection Girls
and enter to win a copy below!
 
Resurrection Girls
by Ava Morgyn
Genre: YA Magical Realism
Release date: October 1st 2019

Summary:

Olivia Foster hasn’t felt alive since her little brother drowned in the backyard pool three years ago. Then Kara Hallas moves in across the street with her mother and grandmother, and Olivia is immediately drawn to these three generations of women. Kara is particularly intoxicating, so much so that Olivia not only comes to accept Kara’s morbid habit of writing to men on death row, she helps her do it. They sign their letters as the Resurrection Girls.

But as Kara’s friendship pulls Olivia out of the dark fog she’s been living in, Olivia realizes that a different kind of darkness taints the otherwise lively Hallas women—an impulse that is strange, magical, and possibly deadly.

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Purchase links:

Advance Praise:

“Ava Morgyn’s passion and tenderness shine like a candle,
guiding readers through the darkness of Olivia’s story. Her compelling
characters are made all the more real by the eerie undertow
of myth. A beautiful, deeply emotional debut!”
–Sarah Porter, author of VASSA IN THE NIGHT
 and NEVER-CONTENTED THINGS
“Resurrection Girls is a powerful examination of grief and loss,
captivatingly woven with magic and ultimately hope. A
compassionately rendered debut.”
–Emily Duncan,
NYT Bestselling author of WICKED SAINTS
“RESURRECTION GIRLS is a heartbreak of a book, where love and
loss writes letters to the strange things that lurk in the darkness.
It’s a stunning story that blends the inexplicable and the beautiful
with the bittersweet.”
–Rin Chupeco, author of THE BONE WITCH
and THE NEVER TILTING WORLD
 
“A raw, poignant, unflinching examination of grief and healing
wrapped up in a compelling story. Resurrection Girls is a brilliant debut.”
–CJ Redwine, NYT Bestselling author of
THE SHADOW QUEEN and the RAVENSPIRE series
“The lovely, assured prose draws on ancient archetypes and a
lingering sense of dread to pave the way for a strange but satisfying
conclusion … Morgyn’s supernaturally tinged debut is a
heartbreaking but hopeful exploration of death and grief.” 
Kirkus Reviews

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My Review

As we inch towards the time of witches and ghosties, Resurrection Girls gives off an appropriately creepy vibe with an attention to death and the still-living who are faced with death. Accident and suicide play a part in the dynamics along with a strange compulsion for two teenaged girls to become penpals with men who have no hope of long life.

This tale is far more than that, though, as it delves into a family and how each individual member copes with the nearly unbearable grief after a child dies. There’s no real coming together here; the loss of Olivia’s little brother has fractured this family and Olivia and each of her parents have spent the past few years growing further apart and more mired in their devastation. When Kara and her mother and grandmother move in across the street, Olivia finally has something else to think about with this new friend and the oddities that seem to swirl around the new family.

You might think that this is a very depressing book with its emphasis on grief and the inability to recover but, in fact, it’s really a look at the journey to find peace as well as Olivia’s personal redemption helped along by Kara and a dose of…could it be magic?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

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Excerpt:

In the beginning, the dead are always with you. It’s almost as if they aren’t even gone, as though you could round any given corner and see them there, waiting. For months after Robby died, I heard his voice, his laughter catching in his throat, the sound of his footfalls down the long hall upstairs. I could feel his towheaded locks soft against the pads of my fingers still, and imagine his quiet breathing in the night. It was all there, floating around me, able to be summoned forward at any given moment. Like a balloon, I had Robby’s memory, his soul, on a string.

But that only lasts as long as the pain is fresh. You bleed memories for a while. And then one day you find you’ve bled them all out. And the sharp sting of loss has waned into a dull ache.

It’s the little things that go first. The way light would play across his face at a certain angle. The expression he made when he pouted. The smell of him in the morning. You go to summon some detail up from the depths and it’s no longer there. The dead drift away.

And then even the dull ache disappears, and only numbness holds in its place. You stop trying to recall details because the futility of it is worse than the grief. It’s no longer the loss of the person you mourn, but the loss of the haunt. And the absence is all that is left when you reach for your pain.

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About the Author

Ava Morgyn is a long-time avid reader and writer of young adult fiction. She studied English Writing & Rhetoric at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX, and now lives in Houston—city with the most rain, best food, and worst traffic—with her family. When she isn’t at her laptop spinning darkly hypnotic tales, she can be found making fairy houses, talking to her crystals and plants, hunting for delicious new vegan recipes, or bothering her dog. She also blogs regularly about the devastating journey of child loss at ForLoveofEvelyn.com.
 

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Follow the tour here.

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GIVEAWAY:

One hard copy of Resurrection Girls

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Review: Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. by C.A. Gray @AuthorCAGray @AnAudiobookworm

Audiobook Tour: Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. by C.A. Gray

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Author: C.A. Gray

Narrator: Matthew E. Berry

Length: 6 hours and 16 minutes

Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing

Released: July 17, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism


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Workaholic insurance attorney Luke Darringer has it all: money, looks, ambition. Sure, he hasn’t taken a vacation in over a decade, and his personal life is almost nonexistent – but that’s a small price to pay in order to maintain strict control, and minimize his vulnerabilities.

But then Luke’s firm, with the help of his cheeky administrative assistant Charlotte, strong-arms him into becoming the first-ever client of the new Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. The new company promises fantastical vacations to wealthy clients, as well as controlled therapeutic experiences to individuals suffering from various forms of mental illness, such as autism and PTSD. They’re a potentially huge client for Luke’s firm, but they need liability insurance before they can get off the ground. Luke expects he’ll have a quick little canyoneering adventure like he did back in his college days, and then get right back to the grindstone.

But Luke’s adventure doesn’t quite go the way he planned. Eli, the entrepreneur in charge, assures Luke that the glitches are nothing to worry about, and they’ll have things under control again in no time. Instead, Luke soon finds himself in a wilderness of questionable reality, where he is responsible not only for his own safety, but also Charlotte’s, Eli’s, and that of a nonverbal autistic boy whose vulnerability strikes a bit too close to home. Forced to confront his past and his deepest fears, Luke must decide whether to rewrite history and become the man he’s always wanted to be – or whether instead he is doomed to repeat it.

Buy Links

Buy on Amazon


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By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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Narrator Bio

Matthew has been very active in his career as a radiologic technologist, but something was nagging at him. His urging to be involved with the written word. The medical journals he wrote did not fill the desire for the kind of words he wanted to be a part of. He had always considered himself a writer. But one that often had difficulties completing the story. So, how else could he be involved? Matthew began listening to audiobooks and decided in 2017 that he was going to give it a try.

He now has 9 audiobook projects on sale at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes with two projects in the works.

TwitterFacebookInstagramSoundcloud

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I’ve been enjoying Ms. Gray’s audiobooks for a while now so tackling this one was a given but I actually had another reason for wanting to read it. Back in the day, when I was in the corporate world, my career was very much like Luke’s except that I wasn’t an attorney. I was an insurance casualty underwriter, tasked with deciding whether my company would agree to insure a particular client, and that frequently involved my visiting to see the operations for myself. Mind you, we didn’t deal with entertainment or high tech but the core process is pretty much the same.

That said, my predisposition to like this book was spot on. At the same time, I was surprised at what the story turned out to be because I was expecting something like a high tension thriller when, in fact, it’s more of a look at how life shapes a person and what forces come into play in our personal growth once we allow ourselves to be open to change and to face our pasts. This is no boring psychological study, though; watching Luke get the benefit of what Dreamscape Adventures has to offer is heightened by a fast-paced adventure with plenty of twists to keep you guessing.

Matthew E. Berry is a new narrator to me and I found him quite accomplished with different voices (including female) and he helped me connect to the characters. His pacing and his dramatic intonations were also good and, for me, he was a real asset to the story.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by C.A. Gray. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Giveaway

Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

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Aug. 27th:

Viviana MacKade

Nesie’s Place

Aug. 28th:

Hall Ways Blog

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Aug. 29th:

Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

T’s Stuff

Crossroad Reviews

Aug. 30th:

Buried Under Books

Country Road Reviews

What Is That Book About

Aug. 31st:

Momma Says To Read or Not to Read

My Creatively Random Life

Audiobook Ebook Fascination

Sep. 1st:

Jazzy Book Reviews

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

Sep. 2nd:

Locks, Hooks and Books

The Book Addict’s Reviews

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Book Review: Witch Wish by Jacqueline Seewald

Witch Wish
Jacqueline Seewald
Black Opal Books, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-626949-45-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Val Williams believes she will never be as pretty or popular as her older sister Ailene. When Ailene dumps her on an unfamiliar road after an argument, Val decides to ask directions of the only person she sees—an old woman engaged in a garage sale. Val purchases a music box that the old woman claims has magical qualities and will grant Val one wish. In a fit of pique, Val wishes that that her sister would stop being so perfect. When Ailene starts acting oddly, breaks up with her boyfriend, stops talking to her friends, starts dating a “bad” boy, and cuts classes, Val is troubled. She begins to fear she caused all this to happen by making her wish and suffers a guilty conscience. How she goes about setting matters right makes for some unusual complications and surprises.

“Be careful what you wish for” should have been Val’s mantra but, of course, she didn’t really mean for anything to go wrong for Ailene when she picks up that old woman’s music box and inadvertently wishes Ailene wasn’t so perfect. On the other hand, it’s not easy to live with a sister who is truly the golden child and is obnoxious on top of everything else. Could this music box really be magical?

At its core, though, this is a story about a family in a world of hurt and each member of the family contributes to that condition, the inability to get along with each other or be the kind of peaceful, loving family we all want. On the surface, Ailene is the one who is most disruptive and certainly she is incredibly self-absorbed and can be downright cruel to her younger sister but, in reality, she’s not the real issue.

As Ailene seems to be falling apart, Val takes the first wobbly steps towards seeing her own self-worth and her sister’s true vulnerability, the cracks in her facade. Tangentially, Val’s friend has her own family dysfunction to deal with that eventually involves everyone in the Williams family as they work to protect Toni and her sister, Kathy.

While Val finds her inner strength, the rest of her family each have their own “awakening” and, as a reader, I took comfort in going along with them on their journey. Val, in particular, became a young woman I’d like to spend more time with.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2018.

Book Review: The Catalain Book of Secrets by Jessica Lourey

The Catalain Book of Secrets
Jessica Lourey
Toadhouse Books, December 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9908342-1-2
Trade Paperback

The Catalain women share more than a bloodline. Each woman, whether the eldest, now a great-grandmother, or the youngest, a teenager not yet understanding her inborn powers, has a particular magic. Sometimes it seems as small as an overdose of charming sexuality, sometimes a capability to see the future, and sometimes, as we see as the story opens, it is the power of persuasion strong enough to cause murder. The problem is, the one murdered won’t stay dead. And the twelve-year-old murderer, though innocent in intent (remember the power of persuasion aspect) has lived almost her whole life consumed by guilt.

Each woman in this story has her own chapters, so readers are brought into the plot with varying viewpoints. First is Velda, where the story begins, then Ursula, who is central to the murder. Next comes Ursula’s daughters. Jasmine, who, due to a traumatic incident in her childhood totally refutes her magic, and Katrine, who ran all the way to England to escape it. Lastly in this story, although certainly not the least, is Tara, Jasmine’s daughter.

Danger gathers around these women as a swarm of serpents awakens in an earthen hideout and prepares to take over the city to complete a twenty-five year cycle. It will take all the Catalain women and their collective powers to finally put the murder to rest  and save their family.

Well-written, with intriguing characters, I think you’ll find this a fine story to while away an evening or two.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: Beulah’s House of Prayer by Cynthia A. Graham—and a Giveaway!

beulahs-house-of-prayerBeulah’s House of Prayer
Cynthia A. Graham
Brick Mantel Books, July 2016
ISBN 978-1-941799-33-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Some storms bring destruction. Others bring salvation.

In 1934 the tiny town of Barmy, Oklahoma, is in desperate need of a miracle. The cows are hungry, the rain won’t fall, most of Main Street is boarded up. Young aspiring trapeze artist Sugar Watson is dumped unceremoniously into this bleak setting with little money and only one thing on her mind—escape. Beulah Clinton, a Holy Ghost preacher, has dedicated herself to helping the distressed in this ragged little wasteland, and Sugar soon finds herself thrown in with Marigold Lawford, the simple-minded widow of the richest man in town, and Homer Guppy, a boy trouble follows like dust after a wind.

Despite Sugar’s immediate distaste of Barmy, Beulah’s patience, Marigold’s kindness, and Homer’s unconditional love make her reconsider the meaning of home.

On Black Sunday, the worst dust storm in history brings with it a choice: Sugar must decide whether or not to return home, leaving the hospitality—and love—of Barmy’s inhabitants. A stunning Depression-era literary novel with a touch of magical realism, Beulah’s House of Prayer captivates until the very end.

When I first began hosting stops on blog tours, it was because I wanted to participate in the broader community of people who love books and want to spread the word. A side benefit is that I’ve been introduced to a lot of authors and books I probably wouldn’t know anything about without these tours and some of them have really blown me away. When I reviewed Cynthia A. Graham’s Beneath Still Waters back in February, I knew I’d found a real gem and I feel even more strongly about that now that I’ve read Beulah’s House of Prayer.

Once again, Ms. Graham takes us back to earlier times, to a period significant in our past, and she pulled me right into the center of this dusty town called Barmy and into the lives of a collection of people who completely stole my heart, each in his or her own way. Beulah is an elderly woman who has decided to settle in this town that she believes needs her ministry and her first “parishioner” is a boy named Homer who will go to nearly any lengths to show the town what a delinquent he can be. Homer has reasons to be the way he is, particularly considering his parentage, and it’s easy to understand and sympathize with his deep-seated pain and the way he copes. Beulah is out to save this young man before the devil wins his soul and nothing will stand in her way; Homer has no idea how this old woman is going to impact his life.

Marigold Lawford has also been trampled by life and she has her own way of getting along, mainly just by accepting the lousy hand she’s been dealt. When Beulah offers her a place to sleep. Marigold has no real options and moves in but she’s soon joined by 15-year-old Sugar Watson who’s landed in town with a few dollars and a coffin holding her circus performer father. And thus begins a story of desperation and love and redemption.

I can’t speak highly enough of Ms. Graham and her ability to write her story and her characters with a passion that drew me in till I felt surrounded by this town and its inhabitants. In her beautiful use of language, she made me experience the dust and the overwhelming destitution as well as the hope that never quite dies, and Beulah’s House of Prayer will be joining Beneath Still Waters on my list of favorite books read in 2016. I hate that I have to wait to see what this wonderful author will offer us next 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.

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Goodreads

Purchase Links:

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Beulah’s House of Prayer blends the stark reality of
Steinbeck and the grace and imagery of Willa Cather
into a beautifully-rendered story of struggle and faith
in Depression and Dust Bowl era Oklahoma a place
where ‘communion is the wheat I grow and the blood
I sweat.’  Steeped in metaphor, this moving novel is at
once compelling and poetic. It is the kind of story that
often finds its way onto the big screen. One heck of a good
read!” —Dixon Hearne, author, From Tickfaw to Shongaloo
and Delta Flats: Stories in the Key of Blues and Hope

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About the Author

Cynthia A. GrahamCynthia A. Graham is the winner of several writing awards, including a Gold IPPY and a Midwest Book Award for Beneath Still Watersand her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. She attained a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writers’ Guild, the Missouri Writers’ Guild, and Sisters in Crime. She is the author of two works of historical mystery: Beneath Still Waters and Behind Every DoorBeulah’s House of Prayer is her first foray in the land of magical realism.

Connect with Cynthia

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, September 6th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, September 7th: SJ2B House of Books
Friday, September 9thBuried Under Books
Monday, September 12thMockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, September 15thKahakai Kitchen
Monday, September 19thFictionZeal
Wednesday, September 21stWrite Read Life

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Beulah’s House of Prayer
by Cynthia A. Graham, just leave
a comment below. The winning

name will be drawn on Monday night,
September 12th. This drawing
is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Review: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie AsterThe Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Scott Wilbanks
Sourcebooks Landmark, August 2015
ISBN 978-1-4926-1246-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Annabelle Aster has discovered a curious thing behind her home in San Francisco–a letterbox perched atop a picket fence.  The note inside is blunt—trespass is dealt with at the business end of a shotgun in these parts!—spurring some lively correspondence between the Bay Area orphan and her new neighbor, a feisty widow living in nineteenth-century Kansas. 

The source of mischief is an antique door Annie installed at the rear of her house.  The man who made the door—a famed Victorian illusionist—died under mysterious circumstances. 

Annie and her new neighbor, with the help of friends and strangers alike, must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and somehow already did.

I’ve never been a true fan of magical realism in my reading maybe because I have a more “literal” mind. I suppose, in a way, that’s why I enjoy the mystery genre so much, being focused on a search for truth. On the other hand, I adore dark fantasy so maybe I’m offbase about my usual meh feeling towards magical realism. I just know I generally don’t like it enough to finish a book because I get distracted and bored by the flighty storylines and the, well, weirdness. All of which begs the question—why did I want to read this one?

Truthfully, I was drawn in by the lovely cover and by the description because I like the premise of communication between two time periods (and this reminded me of a favorite movie, “The Lake House”). Also, there’s a murder (see, there’s my mystery element). So, I raised my hand to volunteer, so to speak, and I’m very glad I did.

Mr. Wilbanks has a sure touch when it comes to characterization. Each of the main characters—Annie, Elsbeth, Christian, Cap’n, Mr. Culler, Danyer—is so vividly drawn that I felt I actually knew them. It’s all in the details, such as Elsbeth’s bitter loneliness wrapped up in her no-nonsense attitude and her willingness to accept what’s right in front of her even when she doesn’t understand how it can be. In just a few words, the author paints a picture of her that’s so compelling, you just have to keep reading. Then there’s Christian who stutters badly around everyone except his best friend, Annie, and who has gaping holes in his memory but he also sees what Annie sees through her magical door.

As for the murder, I’m not going to say a word beyond this—getting there is all the fun.

So, will I give magical realism more of a chance in the future? I honestly don’t know but, if I do, it’ll be because that unknown author has the same kind of whimsical, funny, entertaining way of telling a story as Scott Wilbanks…and I’ll read whatever he puts forth next 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

An Excerpt from
The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Lister

ONE
Pray for Me, Father

May 16, 1895
San Francisco, California
Mission Dolores Basilica

Randall—­

I’ve not forgotten our quarrel, but I’m asking you to put that aside for the sake of scholarship and the friendship we once shared. You were right, I fear. I meddled in something beyond my understanding.  The time-­travel conduit works—­I’ve shaped it as a door—­but not, I suspect, by science or my own hand. You are the only person who won’t think me paranoid should I put words to my suspicion. Something slumbers within it. Something with designs of its own.

Words have power. You know that better than anyone. And I am beginning to suspect the ones the shaman spoke—­and which I foolishly copied into my journal’s companion piece, my codex—­were an invocation.

Please come soon, I beg you. Or don’t come at all. And if you don’t come, then pray for me, Father. Matters are coming to a head, and my instincts say this will not end well.

David Abbott

Cap’n—­adolescent con artist extraordinaire, picker of any lock, leader of Kansas City’s notorious sandlot gang, and unofficial mayor to all its throwaways—­plucked a wilted lettuce leaf from her hair as she peered through a break in the pile of rubbish where she was hiding.

Fabian didn’t look so good, she thought, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. He was lying in the mud, his legs bent at odd angles, and was staring down the length of his outspread arm, his mouth opening and closing in a creepy imitation of a fish on the chopping block. She couldn’t make out the words, but it was clear Fabian was telling her to flee.

He wasn’t going anywhere. Danyer had made sure of that. Whether it was a first or last name, Cap’n didn’t know. He just went by Danyer. He was Mr. Culler’s hatchet man, and he didn’t fight fair. Danyer wasn’t interested in fair, though; he was interested in results, and Fabian had failed. Cap’n knew it was a bad idea to let failure go unanswered in their line of business, but she never imagined it would come to this. Fabian was a moneymaker for Mr. Culler, after all.

Danyer towered over him, a granite block with meat-­hook arms, his legs straddling Fabian’s belly. As his boots rocked in the muck, Danyer’s duster swept back and forth across Fabian’s chest. His voice reminded Cap’n of a humming turbine—­deep and dangerous—­as he read from the letter they’d filched. “‘Please come soon, I beg you—­’” Danyer crumpled the paper, lobbing it into the air. It bounced off Fabian’s cheek and into the mud. “Where’s the journal?” He squatted, grabbing Fabian’s chin with his sausage fingers before slapping him lightly across the cheek. “Hmm?”

Cap’n said a quick prayer for her friend and started backing up. But it was too late. She stepped on a stick that lifted a crate at the base of the rubbish heap just a fraction of an inch, and she could only grit her teeth as a tin can toppled from its perch, tinkling down the pile of debris while making a sound like a scale played on a badly tuned piano.

She froze as Danyer pivoted to stare at the pile of rubbish. He turned back to Fabian, speaking warily. “And where’s Cap’n?” he asked. “Where’s your pet pickpocket?” She watched him slap Fabian’s cheek one more time, the muscles in her legs tensing as he turned and started to walk toward her hiding place. Five feet out, Danyer lunged, but all he got hold of was the remaining head of lettuce as she bolted from the mound, racing down the alleyway in a flurry of muslin, freckles, and carrot-­colored pigtails.

Three blocks later, she rounded a corner, waiting. When the crack of the gun echoed down the street, she ducked into a drainage pipe to collect herself. A cockroach crawled over her foot, its antennae waving. Fabian admired cockroaches, she remembered. He said they were survivors. Suddenly, a whimper broke from her throat, and she ground the bug into a mosaic of chitinous shards before huddling in on herself, sobbing. And just as suddenly, she sat upright, her mouth set in a grim line while she ran the back of her hand across her nose.

Tears were for kids, and she needed to make a plan. When Fabian turned up dead, and there was no doubt he would, Danyer would want to tie up some loose ends—­namely her. She wasn’t too worried about that. She knew every hidey-­hole in Kansas City, and the gang would watch her back. She regarded what was left of the cockroach, one of its severed legs agitating as though not realizing the body it belonged to was already dead, and nodded to herself. It was time to put the shoe on the other foot, she decided. Something had to be done about Danyer and his boss.

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About the Author

Scott WilbanksScott Wilbanks graduated summa cum laude from The University of Oklahoma and went on to garner several national titles in the sport of gymnastics. Scott’s husband, Mike, is a New Zealander by birth, and the two split their time between the two countries while Scott is at work on his next standalone novel.

Find Scott:

Website  //  Twitter  //  Facebook  //  Goodreads

Book Review: The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla

The Patron Saint of UglyThe Patron Saint of Ugly
Marie Manilla
Mariner Books, June 2014
ISBN 978-0-544-14624-2
Trade Paperback

After chomping at the bit for months, finally, at long last, I get to tell you: I have read 2014’s Best Novel and it is The Patron Saint of Ugly. Created, crafted and chronicled by the magnificent Marie Manilla, this written work of art will capture your mind, tug your heart-strings and enrich your very essence. This is Garnet’s story, and what a tale it is. The intricacy of layers within, akin to hand-made lace: have been painstakingly woven to be lovely, seemingly delicate; but actually quite strong.

Growing up in Sweetwater, WV, Garnet has simple desires and dreams; to be like everyone else. Things that come so easily to others: quick conversations, best friends, flirting; all seem elusive to the girl covered in port-wine stains; looking as if a globe exploded, scattering land masses and constellations randomly over her entire body. But, this isn’t a simple story of an ugly duckling and inner beauty. Rather, it is a narrative of a family comprised of Old World Sicilians, blue-bloods able and willing to trace lineage all the way back to the Mayflower, small-town socialites, bad people, despicable people, heart-ache, hope and unconditional love.

As she begins, and throughout her memoir, Garnet’s tone is generally light; however, an undeniable sense of foreboding lurks. There is little to no doubt that Garnet’s words are most honest and sincere; just as surely as the reader realizes: Garnet is not telling us everything. As she relaxes in her role of story-teller, the whole, sordid truth begins to seep out; foreshadowing was very subtle, yet tangible. I actually got butterflies in my stomach when Garnet explained why she no longer ate penny candy. I didn’t want to keep reading, but I couldn’t stop. Sometimes, I really, truly, did not want to turn the page…..but I had to. A feeling of dread would swell up inside of me; I anticipated something bad, but the truth was never, ever, what I expected.

Continuing to provide the unexpected, Ms. Manilla’s wisdom shines as she allows Garnet to share her story orally, via recorded cassettes: pure genius. Living as an outcast, in the shadows, Garnet is privy to many secrets. Coupled with her uncanny observing skills, she simply must serve as narrator. Of course, the ladies closest to Garnet have well-guarded, deep secrets, too. Bits and pieces divulged in stolen moments, whispering into the recorder are poignant, heart-felt and sometimes…down-right shocking.

I love absolutely everything about this unique, sad, hopeful, strong, sweet story. Ms. Manilla’s craft is unparalleled, evoking tears, laughter and hope.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2014.