Book Review

Review | Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

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Her Every Fear
Author: Peter Swanson
Published: January 10th 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 333
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves–until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Review

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson is a mystery thriller novel set in London, England, and Boston, Massachusetts. Swanson is well-known for his gripping stories and has multiple awards to show for his talented work. I’ve read multiple books by Swanson, and I was always left speechless due to his fantastic plots and characters.

Her Every Fear centers around Katy, an anxious girl that is afraid to take chances due to significant trauma that she endured in the past, and Corbin, a boy with a dark past wanting to run away from his problems. Katy decides to take a leap of faith for the first time in a while, after accepting her cousin’s offer to house swap for six months. Katy is leaving London and heading to Boston for a change of scenery and to take some art classes at a local college. Her cousin Corbin was heading for London no matter where he stayed, but he thought swapping apartments with Katy would be a great opportunity to keep his head down low once he arrived in Europe. Katy doesn’t realize that by accepting her cousin’s offer, she’s placing herself in the hands of a dangerous man that is obsessed with ruining Corbin’s life. And what better way to mess with Corbin, than by threatening his cousin’s innocent life? Will Katy be able to handle another traumatic situation? And will Corbin be able to save his cousin when he’s a whole continent away?

I enjoyed the mystery of this book and the constant build-up to its climax. Each chapter had me holding my breath as I waited to find out what happened next. The stakes seemed to get higher and higher, and just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, Swanson threw in another plot twist to keep me guessing. I love feeling invested in a story, and Swanson can make you feel emotions for every character he creates, the good and the bad. I always know a book is brilliant if I can’t focus on anything else until I read the conclusion.

I love this book tremendously, but my one critique is that I wished the mystery surrounding the identity of the dangerous men wasn’t revealed so quickly. We learn at the beginning of the novel, who the killers and dangerous men are, leaving little to be revealed throughout the book. There was a lot of mystery surrounding other aspects of the book, so I was surprised when the bad guy of the story was revealed almost instantaneously.

My favourite character is Katy because I could relate to her struggles and anxiety. After being kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend and almost killed years before the book takes place, Katy is having a really hard time dealing with the trauma. She suffers daily, replaying the events over and over in her head. While her situation didn’t happen to me, I did suffer PTSD due to some personal events in my life, making me understand all of her emotions. I rooted for her to overcome her past, and while doing so, realized that Swanson portrayed her character perfectly. Her thoughts and actions weren’t farfetched, they were precise and expected from someone with her mental health issues. I loved how accurate and true Katy was as a character and as a person.

“One of the paradoxes of her anxious life was that in the midst of doing something slightly reckless, Kate often felt the most normal. It was as though her anxiety, always with her, was given a reason for existing.”

My least favourite character must remain a mystery because I don’t want to spoil the plot. I will say that this character has multiple names throughout the story and is perceived as an awful person. I believe that we are supposed to hate this character, which reaffirms Swanson’s ability to create real and complex characters.  I could not stand this person and their manipulative and psychotic attitude. They did not have emotion nor a conscience, making their actions very reckless and shocking.

I have come to love Swanson’s style of writing. He often writes in the first person, switching between characters every chapter so that we can see multiple points of view. Because his characters are often so complex, we need to know their inner thoughts to firmly understand the role they play. He even goes so far as to expose the killers’ thoughts by giving them a short chapter to speak their minds. His style of writing assures that we know facts from all sides of the story, not just from a single point of view. I find this style of writing to be quite effective in thrillers and mysteries which is Swanson’s genre of choice.

The people that will enjoy this book the most are those that love disturbing thrillers that will send chills down their spines. If they enjoy a slow-burn that leads to a huge climax, leaving them shocked and breathless, then I highly encourage them to pick up this book! Her Every Fear is not for the faint of heart. The people who are easily frightened should skip this story, as they will most likely have nightmares for weeks. Any thrillseeker needs to add this book to their list. They will not regret it.

I believe this plot would make an amazing movie. I was at the edge of my seat while reading this book, I can’t imagine how I would react watching a live-action version of this creepy tale. The sinister intent of a mad man up against an anxiety-ridden art student. The odds are stacked against her, but there is still a chance she can make it out alive. I would jump for joy if I saw a movie trailer that represents a similar story. Maybe one day, Peter Swanson will sell the movie rights of Her Every Fear, and I will get the chance to view it on the big screen. For now, I’m going to continue keeping my fingers crossed.

Overall, I enjoyed this book tremendously. I suspected I would because Peter Swanson is becoming a favourite author of mine. I recommend his books to all thriller lovers, and I will continue to do so because the world needs to know about his intense plots and disturbing characters. I rated this book a full five stars because it honestly blew me away from start to finish. I am thrilled to read more from Swanson in the future.

Peter Swanson is the Sunday Times and New York Times best selling author of seven novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Every Vow You Break. His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

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Honey Girl Blog Tour and Excerpt

HONEY GIRL
Author: Morgan Rogers
ISBN: 9780778311027
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Publisher: Park Row Books

BOOK SUMMARY: 

HONEY GIRL (Park Row Books; February 23, 2021; $17.99) by Morgan Rogers is a stunning #ownvoices debut, a charming, lyrical, and introspective romantic coming-of-age story about Grace Porter – millennial, Black woman, astronomy Ph.D. – who wakes up after a wild night in Vegas married to a woman she doesn’t know. 

Strait-laced and structured all her life, Porter now faces life without a plan for the first time ever. Between her disappointed military father, the competitive job market, and a consuming sense of aimlessness, finding and falling in love with her wife across the country seems to be the only right answer. But Porter’s problems are just as big in Brooklyn as they are anywhere else, and she realizes she’s going to have to face adulthood whether she’s ready or not.

Social Links:
Author Website
Twitter: @garnetmorgue
Instagram: @garnetmorgue
Goodreads

Buy Links: 
Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

BIO: 

Morgan Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer girls that are looking for their place in the world. She lives in Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she would love to write into a story one day. HONEY GIRL is her debut novel.

Excerpt

One

Grace wakes up slow like molasses. The only difference is molasses is sweet, and this—the dry mouth and the pounding headache—is sour. She wakes up to the blinding desert sun, to heat that infiltrates the windows and warms her brown skin, even in late March.

  Her alarm buzzes as the champagne-bubble dream pops.

  Grace wakes in Las Vegas instead of her apartment in Portland, and she groans.

  She’s still in last night’s clothes, ripped high-waisted jeans and a cropped, white BRIDE t-shirt she didn’t pack. The bed is warm, which isn’t surprising. But as Grace moves, shifts and tries to remember how to work her limbs, she notices it’s a different kind of warm. The bed, the covers, the smooth cotton pillowcase beside her, is body-warm. Sleep-warm.

The hotel bed smells like sea-salt and spell herbs. The kind people cut up and put in tea, in bottles, soaking into oil and sealed with a little chant. It smells like kitchen magic.

She finds the will to roll over into the warm patch. Her memories begin to trickle in from the night before like a movie in rewind. There were bright lights and too-sweet drinks and one club after another. There was a girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair and, yes, sea-salt and sage behind her ears and over the soft, veiny parts of her wrists. Her name clings to the tip of Grace’s tongue but does not pull free.

The movie in Grace’s head fast-forwards. The girl’s hand stayed clutched in hers for the rest of the night. Her mouth was pretty pink. She clung to Grace’s elbow and whispered, “Stay with me,” when Agnes and Ximena decided to go back to the hotel.

Stay with me, she said, and Grace did. Follow me, she said, like Grace was used to doing. Follow your alarm. Follow your schedule. Follow your rubric. Follow your graduation plan. Follow a salt and sage girl through a city of lights and find yourself at the steps of a church.

Maybe it wasn’t a church. It didn’t seem like one. A place with fake flowers and red carpet and a man in a white suit. A fake priest. Two girls giggled through champagne bubbles and said yes. Grace covers her eyes and sees it play out.

“Jesus,” she mutters, sitting up suddenly and clutching the sheets to keep herself steady.

She gets up, knees wobbling. “Get it together, Grace Porter.” Her throat is dry and her tongue sticks to the roof of her mouth. “You are hungover. Whatever you think happened, didn’t happen.” She looks down at her t-shirt and lets out a shaky screech into her palms. “It couldn’t have happened, because you are smart, and organized, and careful. None of those things would lead to a wedding. A wedding!”

“Didn’t happen,” she murmurs, trying to make up the bed. It’s a fruitless task, but making up the bed makes sense, and everything else doesn’t. She pulls at the sheets, and three things float to the floor like feathers.

  A piece of hotel-branded memo paper. A business card. A photograph.

Grace picks up the glossy photograph first. It is perfectly rectangular, like someone took the time to cut it carefully with scissors.

In it, the plastic church from her blurry memories. The church with its wine-colored carpet and fake flowers. There is no Elvis at this wedding, but there is a man, a fake priest, with slicked back hair and rhinestones around his eyes.

In it, Grace is tall and brown and narrow, and her gold, spiraling curls hang past her shoulders. She is smiling bright. It makes her face hurt now, to know she can smile like that, can be that happy surrounded by things she cannot remember.

Across from her, their hands intertwined, is the girl. In the picture, her cheeks are just as rose-pink. Her hair is just as pitch-black as an empty night sky. She is smiling, much like Grace is smiling. On her left hand, a black ring encircles her finger, the one meant for ceremonies like this.

Grace, hungover and wary of this new reality, lifts her own left hand. There, on the same finger, a gold ring. This part evaded her memories, forever lost in sticky-sweet alcohol. But there is it, a ring. A permanent and binding and claiming ring. 

  “What the hell did you do, Porter?” she says, tracing it around her finger.

She picks up the business card, smaller and somehow more intimate, next. It smells like the right side of the bed. Sea salt. Sage. Crushed herbs. Star anise. It is a good smell.

On the front, a simple title:

ARE YOU THERE?

   brooklyn’s late night show for lonely creatures

  & the supernatural. Sometimes both.

   99.7 FM

  She picks up the hotel stationery. The cramped writing is barely legible, like it was written in a hurry.

I know who I am, but who are you? I woke up during the sunrise, and your hair and your skin and the freckles on your nose glowed like gold. Honey-gold. I think you are my wife, and I will call you Honey Girl. Consider this a calling card, if you ever need a—I don’t know how these things work. A friend? A—

 Wife, it says, but crossed out.

 A partner. Or. I don’t know. I have to go. But I think I had fun, and I think I was happy. I don’t think I would get married if I wasn’t. I hope you were, too.

What is it they say? What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? Well, I can’t stay.

Maybe one day you’ll come find me, Honey Girl. Until then, you can follow the sound of my voice. Are you listening?

Excerpted from Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers, Copyright © 2021 by Morgan Rogers

Published by Park Row Books

Book Review

Review | The Reclaimed Kingdom by Dana Claire

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The Reclaimed Kingdom
Author: Dana Claire
Series: #1 The Syphon Series
Published: February 14th 2021
Publisher: Chamberlain Publishing House
Pages: 292
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis

Here’s the official blurb:

Under the cruel ministrations of its Queen, the Kingdom of D’Land is in peril. With King Harrison away in foreign lands and neighboring Kingdoms unwilling to intervene, there is no one to protect the people from poverty, harsh punishment, and unreasonable rules of law—except for the Band of Brothers. Struggling with the death of her mother and the legendary syphon powers she inherited, seventeen-year-old Dru wants nothing more than to escape her old life. Disguised as a lad, she joins the motley crew of good-hearted ruffians, pilfering from the rich to feed the poor and pay their taxes, and she becomes an integral ally—and friend. When her true nature is discovered, nothing changes among the lads—except for the way her close friend Hawkin begins treating her, protective and attentive, raising uncertainty and confusion within her. But Dru’s new world is overturned when she and the Brothers seize the treasures of a Prince who unknowingly threatens to reveal her identity. Together, Dru and her chosen family must find a way to reclaim her destiny and bring balance to the Kingdom through Dru’s powerful gift. If not, there may be no hope left for anyone and her power lost forever.

Review

Okay, readers, it’s official. Dana Claire is now one of my all-time favourite authors. I read Dana Claire’s debut novel right before its release day, and I fell in love with the characters. When Dana reached out to me so I could read and review an advanced copy of her newest release, I jumped for joy. It’s pitched as a Fantasy Romance, a female Robin Hood tale that fans of Graceling and From Blood and Ash will enjoy. I did more than enjoy this book. I fell in love with it. 

It’s been so long since I dived into a Fantasy book and The Reclaimed Kingdom had me hooked from the very first chapter. Dana Claire wielded magic when she crafted this story. I fell in love with Dru, our main badass female who will stop at nothing to defend her kingdom. She disguises herself as a lad to fight alongside the Band of Brothers, a group of men who tasked themselves to steal from the rich and give back from the poor.

I devoured this book in a day because I couldn’t wait a single moment to find out how this perfectly crafted story ends. Just when I thought these brave characters were safe, another quarrel happened, leaving me at the edge of my seat.

I never consciously held my breath while reading before. But I was so invested that I held my breath when the story intensified. I was feeling so many emotions. Each character made me care for different reasons. The character development, as well as the plot, was simply unreal. I couldn’t have asked for better.

This book needs to be made famous. Every fantasy lover needs to read it. Every reader that loves a strong female protagonist needs to read it. I will never stop recommending this book. Ever. I gave this beautiful, flawless book a 5-star rating. I can’t wait to see where this story takes us in the sequel. I can’t wait to see what Dana Claire comes up with next. Whatever it is, I am sure it is going to be magical. That’s just what Dana Claire does. She entrances me with these perfect stories, and after the last page, I am left bewildered and wanting more.

When author Dana Claire had several poems published as an elementary school student, she was hooked and writing became her passion. A shared dream of hers and her mother’s, she promised her dying mother that she would become a published author and that dream has been realized with The Connection.

Dana believes that a good story is made through strong character development; when readers become attached to the characters’ emotional state and are invested in their objectives. She believes that the beauty of reading is that one can live a hundred lives within the stories of books. Her own stories come to her in her dreams, and she wakes up with book ideas.

Dana’s family is very supportive of her writing and the creativity and sentiment driving it. Enjoying bicoastal living between Los Angeles and New York, Dana says she “lives the best romance in the world being married to the most amazing man she could ever ask for.”

Tour

We Could Be Heroes Blog Tour and Excerpt

WE COULD BE HEROES
Author: Mike Chen 
ISBN: 9780778331391
Publication Date: January 26th 2021
Pages: 336
Hardcover
$27.99 USD, $34.99 CAD

BOOK SUMMARY: 

An emotional adventure about two misfits who have extraordinary powers, but have forgotten who they were before. The vigilante and the villain must team up to stop a mad scientist who threatens the city, while trying to figure out who they really are.

Jamie woke up two years ago in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to who he might be, and also with the power to read other people’s memories. In the meantime, he’s become the Mind Robber, holding up banks for quick cash. Similarly, Zoe is searching for her past, and using her new extraordinary abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And occasionally beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.

When the two meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize they are each other’s best chance at discovering what happened to them. The quest will take them deep into a medical conspiracy that is threatening to spill out and wreak havoc on their city, and maybe the country. As the two get past their respective barriers, they’ll realize that their friendship is the thing that gives them the greatest power.

SOCIAL:
Author website: https://www.mikechenbooks.com/
Twitter: @mikechenwriter
Instagram: @mikechenwriter

 BUY LINKS:
Bookshop.org
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
IndieBound
Google Books
Apple Books
Kobo

BIO: 

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

Excerpt

Chapter 3

Jamie stopped, catching himself. He’d gone too far this time. Close eyes, deep breaths, count to five, and then open eyes to see the damage.

         Damn it. He’d really done it. He looked at the grout brush, then the lines between the countertop’s tiles, then back at the brush. Yes, he’d gotten the coffee stain out, but he’d also scrubbed too hard, wearing away some of the grout.

         Twenty minutes ago, he’d arrived home, throwing his cashfilled backpack on the futon cushion. It landed with a thump, startling Normal out of her cat tuffet next to the window. And though he stopped to give Normal a calming pet, his instincts took over, starting with a meticulous cleaning of the litter box, then a complete vacuum of the small apartment. Then organizing his stack of library books into a preferred reading order, putting away the neatly folded clothes in the laundry basket, cleaning the pour-over coffee carafe and kettle before brewing a fresh cup. As it settled, he noticed some drips of coffee had absorbed into the grout lines adjacent to his row of ceramic mugs, thus kicking off his quest for a completely clean and reset kitchen. All of the fear and concern and guilt from the day funneled into his end-to-end cleaning spree even though it wasn’t Sunday, the day he typically reserved for getting his home in order.

         But this. Flecks of dried grout stuck to the brush bristles, and Jamie squinted, examining them as if he tried to break into the memory of the synthetic fibers. He blinked when Normal mewed at him, snapping him back into the present. He had to slow down. He had to regroup. He’d gone too far this time, and though the counter looked clean, a closer examination showed a tiny degradation in the grout.

         Damn it. Jamie blew out a sigh and surveyed the room.

         So neat. So organized. In fact, it was nearly identical to when he’d woken up here, standing in the middle of a barely furnished apartment two years ago. On that morning, he had blinked as he came to, his eyes adjusting from blurry to focused, taking in the sun shining through the cheap tan drapes onto the futon in the middle of the living space. Once he’d realized where he was, it had dawned on him that he didn’t know who he was. He’d walked methodically through the semifurnished apartment, looking for triggers. Coffee table, bread, water, sink, bed, toothbrush. He knew what those were, their purpose, but none offered clues about himself. Even the mirror produced zero recognition; he didn’t know what history lay behind those eyes, what the story was behind the scar on his palm.

         So neat. So organized. In fact, it was nearly identical to when he’d woken up here, standing in the middle of a barely furnished apartment two years ago. On that morning, he had blinked as he came to, his eyes adjusting from blurry to focused, taking in the sun shining through the cheap tan drapes onto the futon in the middle of the living space. Once he’d realized where he was, it had dawned on him that he didn’t know who he was. He’d walked methodically through the semifurnished apartment, looking for triggers. Coffee table, bread, water, sink, bed, toothbrush. He knew what those were, their purpose, but none offered clues about himself. Even the mirror produced zero recognition; he didn’t know what history lay behind those eyes, what the story was behind the scar on his palm.

         And now? What he wouldn’t give for that blissful ignorance, free from knowing that the injured woman from today was all his fault.

         How could he have been so stupid, so reckless?

         As with each of his bank robberies, he’d taken his time, planned a strategy, even wrote out his script beforehand and memorized it. He still lacked in execution, but that was why he had checked out some acting books from the library. The whole goal, the entire focus was to get in and out as quickly, as cleanly as possible. That meant brain-stunning the people in the building in a very specific order under a very specific time frame, all while cackling like a cartoon character and reciting over-the-top lines in a not-quite-there American accent.

         If he controlled the entire situation, then no one got hurt and he did his job.

         Except when one of them had a medical condition.

         Jamie cursed at himself, cursed his fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude, cursed the whole damn situation. Not once, not a single time had he ever considered the possibility of a medical issue.

         He finally broke, forcing himself to move. A click on the remote control brought his small TV to life, flashing a news report about electrical surges throughout the city before turning to the bank heist. His fingers fumbled to hit the power button again, taking several tries before the screen thankfully went to black, leaving only the sounds of a hungry cat meowing to remind him that he hadn’t given her dinner or her nightly treat of coconut water yet. Jamie set the grout brush in the sink, and obliged the demanding cat.

         Seconds later, the room filled with a content rumbling of purrs.

         But even Normal’s happy noises failed to remove the trauma of the day. The sound of the woman’s head hitting the tile. The sight of the blood pooling. The desperate cries of her coworker.

         Don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it.

         Onward. Next task: the money. He grabbed the backpack and headed to the bedroom. The backpack’s large top zipper got caught as he tugged on it, and the stress of the day gnawed at his patience, skipping past his normal mode of meticulously fixing it and jumping right to forcing it free. On the underside of the zipper, the corner of a hundred-dollar bill clung in between the metal clasps.

         Jamie sighed, a sound soon mimicked by Normal yawning at his feet. “You have no idea,” he told the cat before reaching in and starting his post-robbery sorting process for cash.

         A buzzing sound rattled the room, causing a handful of loose coins on the end table to dance; it broke his focus, jolting his shoulders and neck in surprise. From the hallway, he heard Normal’s claws catch in the thin carpeting before dashing off to find a hiding spot from the abrupt noise.

         He picked up the phone, heart pounding that it might be someone on his trail. But a glance at his screen caused a sigh of relief. Reminder: Support Group. San Delgado East Side YMCA. Six o’clock.

         Right. The weekly support group—more specifically, San Delgado Memory Loss & Dementia Support Group.

         Not that Jamie cared about the giant gap in his personal life, the big cloud of nothing stemming from the moment he awoke in this apartment all the way back to, well, his birth. Something pulled him away from those thoughts whenever he even approached the matter, like staring into a bright beam of light until the intensity forced his eyes away. Every time. That avoidance happened so frequently it felt instinctive at this point, skirting whatever that was and whoever truly stood behind the impenetrable fog.

         It didn’t matter. No, the support group was for learning more about memory loss in general, to guard himself from any further memories vanishing.

         The irony of the Mind Robber dealing with all that didn’t escape him.

         He resumed unloading the cash, first putting the stacks by denomination from left to right, then counting and rubber-banding any loose ones complete with a Post-it note with the total on each makeshift bundle. In the closet sat a safe—something that had been absolutely terrible to get into his apartment. He pulled off the blanket hiding it and turned the dial. Left with click click clicks. Then right. Then left again.

         It opened up, revealing a larger version of the stacks assembled on his bed. Jamie took new bundles, two at a time, and neatly set them in the appropriate spots, making each tower of cash grow until the backpack and the bed were clear of evidence. A notebook leaned on the cash; Jamie pulled it out and opened it to the ledger he’d crafted, filling out the columns with the latest tally of earnings, anticipated expenses, safety-net cash and overall savings.

         At the top of that column was a little drawing he’d made of a palm tree and a beach. Based on today’s earnings, he was nearly 80 percent to his goal. Depending on the size of each haul, a few more robberies—especially if he remembered to ask for the stacks of hundreds specifically—would provide enough financial comfort to retire on a tropical beach at a much lower cost of living. He’d read that the coffee in the Caribbean was excellent.

         A comfortable permanence, as long as the Throwing Star didn’t track him down. That further complicated things, and Jamie wondered if he’d jinxed it all by invoking her during his bank performance. He gritted his teeth.

         So close to a fresh start. For him and Normal, and he wouldn’t let the Throwing Star jeopardize that.

         Normal gave an urgent meow, which translated in cat speak to “Where is my bed?” Jamie folded the blanket exactly and draped it over the safe, then put a small cat tuffet back on top of it. A gray-and-orange blur zipped by, and in one leap, landed on the tuffet, turning his trail of crime and/or source of income into the world’s most valuable cat bed.

         Jamie exhaled, and his mattress bounced as he flopped on his back, eyes glued to the ceiling but brain refusing to shut off. One blink and he saw the woman fall again. Every time he closed his eyes, the image reappeared, except each instance seemed to intensify in its color and sound, the sheer vibrancy of his mind seemingly taunting him.

         He could lift the memory out. He’d done it before as an experiment, including writing a note with steps and details as proof that he’d removed his immediate recall of the moment. It left him with what he presumed to be the same nausea that his victims experienced, and other than a few follow-up trials, he hadn’t done it for any practical purpose.

         A small price to pay to be relieved of the guilt.

         Jamie raised his hand, this time pointed at himself, and he closed his eyes, digging deep to flip through his own memories. Bright and fresh, full volume and movement, no haziness or missing pockets of moments. One wipe and it’d be gone.

         But what would that make him? A possible murderer without a conscience? He treated his villain persona and robberies as a job, an income. Not to hurt people, not with malevolence or sociopathic apathy.

         No.

         This memory had to stay.

         Jamie lowered his hand.

         There was a knock at the door, jolting him to his feet.

         He closed his eyes and stretched out with his mind, sensing the ghostly silhouette of a single form at his door.

         No one ever came to his door.

         “San Delgado police. Is anyone home?”

         The very idea of having law enforcement at his door caused Jamie’s hands to tremble and a thin layer of sweat to form on his forehead. He could brain-stun the officer and run. He could dive into the officer’s memories, see what happened, why he was here—maybe it was just a fundraiser for the Police Athletic League.

         Another knock rattled the door.

         If he brain-stunned the officer, that wouldn’t exactly be inconspicuous. You couldn’t just leave gawking, unresponsive police on your doorstep. And the officer’s location was probably tracked by SDPD, which meant that lifting memories and sending him on his way would only lead to more trouble.

         No, the only way out of this was through it.

         Jamie took a deep breath, put on a baseball cap with a logo of the local San Delgado Barons hockey team, then marched to the door. He opened it halfway to find the very serious, very professional face of a plainclothes officer. Despite the fact that he stood shorter than Jamie, his sturdy build made him far more intimidating.

         “May I help you?” Jamie held the door ajar. “Sorry,” he said, native English accent in full display, “I have a cat that tries to get out if I open the door all the way.” As if on cue, mews came from behind him and Jamie scooped up the pudgy feline. Mental note: she deserved extra coconut water tonight. “Be nice, Normal.”

         The detective tilted his head at the name, then chuckled, sunlight gleaming off the light brown skin of his shaven bald dome. “No problem. Sorry to bother you this evening. Detective Patrick Chesterton. I’m the lead on the Mind Robber case.”

         No reaction rippled through Jamie. Which was probably a reaction in itself. He waited, seconds stretching into vast chunks of time, and though he somehow managed to keep a polite expression on his face, the pounding in his chest might have given him away.

         “We get anonymous tips all the time about the Mind Robber. Some people even claim to be him. But this one was very specific. And since we know he left on a train heading eastbound about ninety minutes ago, I thought I’d check it out.” He glanced over his shoulder, eyes tracking past the courtyard and toward the parking lot. “Traffic is going to be hell getting back to the station.”

         Jamie told himself to laugh, though in a completely different way from the forced maniacal display of the Mind Robber. Calm, quiet, a little nervous—the natural kind of nervous anyone got when questioned by law enforcement. Normal must have agreed, as she continued mewing in his arms.

         “Well, aren’t you a nice cat?” the detective said, his voice softening. He reached up to pet Normal’s round head, but the cat replied with a hiss. Before Jamie could stop her, she swatted at Chesterton. The cat kicked out of his arms, and Jamie turned to see a streak of pudgy fur dashing for the bedroom.

         “Oh, I’m so—” Jamie stopped himself at the realization that the detective nursed a fresh scratch across the knuckles.

         If they weren’t going to get him for being the Mind Robber, what about assault via cat scratch?

         “I’m so, so sorry. Normal usually loves strangers.” That was a lie, or it might have been a lie. Normal never met anyone, regular or stranger, so the sample size on that remained small. “But she gets weird occasionally.” That part was true. Jamie held up his hand, palm out. “See this scar across my palm? Normal got me good one time.”

         Flat-out lie: Jamie had no idea where that scar came from, though whenever he focused on it for too long, a strange mix of nausea and embarrassment would flood over him.

         “It’s okay,” Chesterton said. “I had a cat growing up. They can be temperamental. I should know better than to do that. Anyway, the tip said that someone who fit the build and look of the Mind Robber was in this area. This block, actually.” He looked Jamie up and down. If Jamie decided to risk it, he probably could have poked into the detective’s memories and seen specifically what he was thinking, even the source of the tip. “Have you seen anyone who fits that profile?”

         In the courtyard, Jamie caught sight of the old couple across the way trying to get their mini schnauzer puppy to obey commands. They looked over at Chesterton, then Jamie, and Jamie offered a reassuring wave. Despite being a theoretical villain, he still wanted to be a good neighbor. “I, um, actually don’t watch the news much. I find it triggering.”

         “Ah, got it. He’s Caucasian. Around six feet tall. Thin build. Strong chin. That’s about it, really, though. His hood and mask obscure everything else.”

         “Well,” Jamie said. A response came to mind, and he debated whether or not he was being too clever. His arms extended and a wry smile came over his face a little too easily. Maybe learning to play a villain had turned the gesture into muscle memory. “That sounds like me.” The words came out smooth, just enough of a joking lilt that they threaded the needle between bullshit and levity. It came naturally, almost uncannily so.

         For a moment, nothing happened. Neither man blinked, and even Normal stayed quiet. The only noise came from squeaking brakes as a car pulled into the adjacent parking lot.

         Then the detective burst out laughing. “I like you,” he said, before reaching into his back pocket. Jamie’s hand moved into position, a subtle gesture that only he could detect should he need to brain-stun. His fingers raised ever so slightly in preparation when a buzz in his back pocket caused both men to stand at attention.

         “Sorry, just my reminder,” Jamie said after pulling out his phone. The device’s blinking screen gave him an idea. “My weekly support group. I, uh, need to get going.”

         “Oh, of course. Good for you,” he said. “It takes a strong person to seek out help.” Jamie’s head bobbed at the compliment, and the detective finished reaching in his back pocket. He held up a business card. “Do me a favor and call if you see or hear anything that strikes you as suspicious. About him or the Throwing Star. We’re no fan of vigilantes, extraordinary or not. You can’t just run around in a suit beating up people. I don’t care if they’re good or bad. You know, if either of them just called us first and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got these abilities,’ you can bet we’d have found a job for them.” Chesterton glanced at the cat scratch on his hand before letting out a short laugh. “I heard she tripped in the Metro station and let the Mind Robber get away,” he said with a headshake. “I guess ‘extraordinary’ comes in many forms.”

         All forms. That skepticism, if not admirable, at least provided some cover. “Right,” Jamie said, taking the card. “I’ll keep an eye out.”

         “Even if you hear anything about weird crimes in Hartnell City. Their PD asked us about the Mind Robber. Guess they’re seeing some strange activity too.”

         “Of course, Detective.”

         Jamie’s exhale was nearly as loud as the slamming of the door. He’d never been that close to getting caught before.

         Who could have possibly tipped the police? He’d wiped the memories of any OmegaCars driver that took him close by, and even then, he’d always walked the last few blocks, taking different routes each time. Could the Throwing Star have tracked him? Possibly, but she seemed more like the “punch in the teeth” than “call the cops” type.

         Questions circled as Jamie heard the roar of the detective’s car coming to life. Through the blinds, Jamie watched a dark blue sedan pull halfway across the parking lot before pausing for a handful of seconds and then finally rolling away. Chesterton was gone for now, but if he suspected anything, the best course of action would be for Jamie to act as any normal civilian would. In this case, it meant going exactly where the detective expected him to be.

         Normal meowed a farewell as Jamie grabbed a jacket—not his black hoodie—and locked the door behind him.

         It was almost time for the support group. Even if he didn’t want to go.

Excerpted from We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen, Copyright © 2021 by Mike Chen. Published by MIRA Books.

Book Review

Review | The Connection by Dana Claire & Giveaway

Blue Water Color Ornament Blog Banner copy 2


The Connection
Author: Dana Claire
Series: The Blood-Light Trilogy
Published: November 24th 2020
Publisher: Chamberlain Publishing House
Pages: 241
Genres: Science Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis

Beatrice Walker thought she lived in a normal world—that is until she learned she’s a living hostel for an alien energy source, and apparently the answer to preventing extinction.

Bea has no memory of her last moments with her mother. The week they’d gone missing is a complete mystery. Suddenly moved back to her hometown with her father, Bea has rekindled her friendship with her two best friends—and seems to have caught the attention of an arrogant, yet gorgeous boy named Cash Kingston. But there’s more to Cash than his annoying attitude and good looks. Cash isn’t human, and he’s now in charge of protecting Bea from those who know what she keeps safe inside her: the energy source that once belonged to his murdered girlfriend.

Tensions mount as Bea learns her energy source must be paired with the one Cash holds to protect both their planets from an imminent threat. But what Bea doesn’t realize is there’s more to her than being human a host, that her feelings for Cash are not just a prophetic plan that will save their planets, and that the fate of everything lies in her choices. 

Review

After the first chapter, I could tell that this book was going to resemble The Lux Series. The lux series is one of my all-time favourites, so I was genuinely interested in seeing where the author takes this story. I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed.

Beatrice thought she was a normal girl, until one day her world is turned upside-down. She is sought after by not only another alien-race but a secret government that her parents both worked for. In comes Cash, a hot alien that is hell-bent on protecting Beatrice no matter the cost.

I instantly fell in love with Cash and Beatrice. Their relationship gave me butterflies and at one point I shed a couple of tears. There was so much at stake throughout the entire book, I honestly couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Bea was sassy and fought against her life being taken over by protocols and orders. Cash was sarcastic and loved to ignite people’s anger for fun. They made a comical duo at times.

One thing I was not anticipating was the never-ending action. I loved how there was never a dull moment, as our main characters seemed to never catch a break. I found myself getting quite emotional while reading from Bea’s perspective. I was very surprised at how quickly the author was able to make me care.

I think this book was very well done. The only thing I wish it had was something extra to distinguish it from the young adult stories I have read prior. I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but the story has in a sense been done before.

I think it’s safe to say that Dana Claire has a way of getting under your skin because Beatrice and Cash have made it to my favourite characters list. I can’t wait to see what the author does next! I really hope it’s the sequel to this novel. That cliffhanger at the end makes me want to read book two as soon as possible.

I highly recommend The Connection to YA science fiction lovers. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy of The Connection for you and your bestie over on my instagram!! To head over to the giveaway post click here.

When author Dana Claire had several poems published as an elementary school student, she was hooked and writing became her passion. A shared dream of hers and her mother’s, she promised her dying mother that she would become a published author and that dream has been realized with The Connection.

Dana believes that a good story is made through strong character development; when readers become attached to the characters’ emotional state and are invested in their objectives. She believes that the beauty of reading is that one can live a hundred lives within the stories of books. Her own stories come to her in her dreams, and she wakes up with book ideas.

Dana’s family is very supportive of her writing and the creativity and sentiment driving it. Enjoying bicoastal living between Los Angeles and New York, Dana says she “lives the best romance in the world being married to the most amazing man she could ever ask for.” The Connection is her debut YA novel, the first volume in a planned trilogy.

Book Review

Reindeer Readathon TBR

I can’t believe it is finally December. The last few months of the year just completely flew by, leaving me scrambling to finish books that I want to get to in the year year, as well as continuing to create new ideas for the new year.

For the last month of the year, I decided to part-take in the Reindeer Readathon because I thought that the competitive atmosphere would get me reading as many books as possible. If you want to know more about the readathon you can check out my announcement post here. However, sign-ups for the readathon are now closed as it started yesterday.

So without further a do, here is my TBR list and the corresponding prompts:

Dasher (A book with a one word title): I chose Seizure by Kathy Reichs as I am currently re-reading this series because it was one of my favourites in middle school.

Dancer (A companion novel or sequel): I chose Malorie by Josh Malerman which I am really looking forward to because Bird Box is one of my favourite books.

Prancer (A book with a map in it): I chose Graceling by Kiersten Cashore because I want to re-read the series as the fourth book is releasing in January!

Vixen (A book with a fox on the cover): I chose The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken. This prompt was hard to choose a book for, as I don’t have many books with foxes on the cover.

Comet (A book you find intimidating): I chose Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. I am very intimidated by this book because I recently read The Bane Chronicles and I found it to be very boring, so I nervous to read this. But I want to read all the Shadowhunter books by publication date so I need to read it before getting my hands on Lady Midnight.

Cupid ( A book from a genre you love): I chose How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stores by Holly Black. I just finished The Queen of Nothing last month and I am obsessed with Carden and Jude, so I need to read this book ASAP.

Donner ( A book with something hidden inside): I’m choosing The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee because it has beautiful gold lettering on the actual hard cover not just the dust jacket. It also has mesmerizing end pages.

Blitzen ( A book with some sort of struggle): I chose Dear Martin by Nic Stone as it deals with racism that a black student on the honour role in his school experiences.

Rudolph ( A book where the main character doesn’t seem to fit in): I chose Fallen by Lauren Kate as I want to re-read this series to see if it holds up over time in my opinion. This book follows a girl named Luce as she goes to a boarding school for troubled teens and meets someone that she swears she’s met before. Luce has never felt like she belonged anywhere, so this book works perfect.

Christmas Star (Read a book over 500 pages): You can use a book that you already chose for this prompt so I’m choosing Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy as it is around 600 pages.

Sleighing It (Complete all the the challenges above to be able to re-do a challenge.): Once I complete all these challenges I am going to redo Comet (A book I find intimidating) and I choose The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. This is the buddy read for the readathon and I am very intimidated by it because I have never read a book from V.E. Schwab before and I know that she is so many people’s favourite author, so I am definitely afraid of the hype.

And those are all the books I plan to read for this amazing Readathon. I am apart of team Stocking, so I hope I can get as many points possible for my team! Happy reading everyone. If you are participating in this readathon, let me know in the comments your TBR! I look forward to chatting with you!

Movie Review

Cinema Sunday (9) | November 15th – 21st

I originally created Cinema Sunday last year so that each Sunday I could step away from books and do a review of a movie that I’ve recently watched instead. I love movies so much because they bring stories to life. If you want to participate in this blog meme, feel free to use my banner, and don’t forget to link back to my Cinema Sunday section on my blog! I can’t wait to see your posts! 

I’ve decided to change things up a bit though. Instead of doing one big review, I’ve decided to do mini-reviews for all the movies that I’ve seen during the week. You can put your own spin on Cinema Sunday, by doing one or multiple reviews. By simply talking about all the movies you’ve seen during the week. By talking about movies you can’t wait to see! I want everyone to feel like they have room to be creative. To make this blog meme work for everyone who loves movies and wants to talk about them.



Freaky (2020)
⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
I went and saw this movie in theatres and I had a blast. It’s Freaky Friday with an even freakier twist. There was so much gore and suspense but I was laughing at almost every scene. Vince Vaughn pretending to be a high school girl was absolutely priceless. I’m not going to lie, the usual tropes were very present, but I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t bother to care.


Peppermint (2018)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I can’t believe the ratings for this movie on rotten tomatoes. I thought it was incredible. Maybe it’s because I was obsessed with Jennifer Garner when she played a double agent in the TV series Alias, but watching her kick ass again made me so happy. Jennifer Garner is amazing, she can take on any roll. I have a hard time not loving a movie if she plays the main character. Oh, and this a tear-jerker, just saying.



6 Underground (2019)
⭐️⭐️1/2
This movie was all over the place. I never knew when it was the past or present being shown on screen. As soon as I thought I knew what was going on, I was thrown back into another time. I did however love the action and the interaction between characters. I do still wish that Dave Franco was more prominent in the film though.


What movies have you watched this week? Let’s chat about it all in the comments! And don’t forget to put your links to your Cinema Sunday post in the Link Wizard!!

Movie Review

Cinema Sunday (8) | November 8th – 14th

I originally created Cinema Sunday last year so that each Sunday I could step away from books and do a review of a movie that I’ve recently watched instead. I love movies so much because they bring stories to life. If you want to participate in this blog meme, feel free to use my banner, and don’t forget to link back to my Cinema Sunday section on my blog! I can’t wait to see your posts! 

I’ve decided to change things up a bit though. Instead of doing one big review, I’ve decided to do mini-reviews for all the movies that I’ve seen during the week. You can put your own spin on Cinema Sunday, by doing one or multiple reviews. By simply talking about all the movies you’ve seen during the week. By talking about movies you can’t wait to see! I want everyone to feel like they have room to be creative. To make this blog meme work for everyone who loves movies and wants to talk about them.



The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018)
⭐️⭐️⭐️
Oh my lord this movie had me terrified. It takes a lot for me to scream while watching a horror movie. But the Possession of Hannah Grace definitely succeeded. I do understand why some people hated this movie since it has all the horror tropes. But I have to give credit where credit is due. If a movie makes me scared shitless, I’m going to say it was a good movie.


Scooby-Doo (2002)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Scooby-Doo is such a nostalgic film for my boyfriend and for myself. We watch it twice a year and always find ourselves laughing and having a great time. There’s just something about this movie and the cliché script that makes us so freaking happy. I don’t know what I would think of this movie if I didn’t watch it as a child. I probably wouldn’t love it as much, but that’s what childhood favourites are all about. Giving fond memories of the joy you had watching it as a child.



What movies have you watched this week? Let’s chat about it all in the comments! And don’t forget to put your links to your Cinema Sunday post in the Link Wizard!!

Book Review

It’s Time for A Change…

Hello all, I hope you are doing well. I thought I would take the time to chat with you about a decision I’ve made in regards to my blog and other social media platforms that I use to talk about books.

I created Escape 2 Fiction in early 2017 when books were what I used to cope with the unhappiness in my life. I was literally escaping, which is why I chose that to be the title of my blog. I will always consider books as my saviour, because stories really got me through times where I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I no longer need to escape. I’m at a point in my life where I can finally say that I am happy where I am. I don’t see books as an escape anymore. I see them as wonderful works of art that I get to experience. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided it’s time to change. It’s time for my blog to grow as I have. I want to look at my blog and not see my past, but the person I am today.

I’ve decided to change my name to The Mermaid Reader. I live in the smallest province in Canada, surrounded by ocean waters and red sands. I am always in the water swimming through the waves, or on the sand reading a good book. The Mermaid Reader fits me better, since I have grown from the person I used to be.

I want to thank all of my readers for sticking by me throughout the years, I truly cherish each and everyone of you. I hope you will stick by me as I continue to grow into the reader and blogger that I want to be. Love you all

Jessica,
The Mermaid Reader

Readathon

Reindeer Readathon Announcement!

I am so excited to tell you all about this amazing readathon! I would like to say however that I am only a participant in the readathon, and I am choosing to do an announcement post so that you all can have a chance to sign up too!

The Reindeer Readathon takes place from December 1st to December 31st 2020. You will have a whole month of fun by reading and completely prompts to help your assigned team earn points and ultimately win the readathon. If you love a good competition, I highly recommend you join!

There are 5 hosts this year, which means 5 teams! Once you sign up for the readathon you will be assigned a team. Here are the hosts and their announcement videos.

Erik (Team Mistletoe) – https://www.youtube.com/c/BreakevenBooks
Hilary (Team Snowflake) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOat…
Donna (Team Nutcracker) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCatP…
Savy (Team Stocking) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9WS…
Amanda (Team Candy Cane) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvGZ…

Are you convinced that this is going to be an amazing end of the year readathon? Here is the sign-up form ! You can also head over to their twitter page to see more. And you can buy a Reindeer Readathon Bookmark!! It’s so cute!

Onto the prompts! There is a prompt for each one of Santa’s reindeer. And each prompt has a set amount of points that you can win for your team! Each time you complete a prompt you can submit your points here.

DASHER – 15 PTS A book with a one word title.
DANCER – 10 PTS A companion novel or a sequel (as in a dancing parter).
PRANCER – 15 PTS A book with a map in it.
VIXEN 25 PTS OR 20 PTS A book with a fox on the cover. (Alternatively, a strong female lead).
COMET – 30PTS A book you find intimidating.
CUPID – 10 PTS Read a genre that you love.
DONNER – 15 PTS A book with something hidden inside (under the dust jacket, chapter heads, art etc.)
BLITZEN – 20 PTS A book with some sort of struggle (internal struggle, war, battle etc)
RUDOLPH – 20 PTS A book where the main character doesn’t seem to fit in (outsider, misfit).

Bonus Prompts:
CHRISTMAS STAR: Read a book that has 500+ pages
SLEIGHING IT: Complete all Reindeer Challenges and Christmas Star to get this bonus, and then you can redo a reindeer challenge to win more points for your team!

There is also a group buddy read of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. Click on the link to join the group!

And thank you to the reindeer readathon sponsors that have made it possible to give 3 randomly selected members of the winning team a prize. As well as a prize to the winner of Trivia Night! Watch Eric’s video to learn more!
Zachary Ryan: https://www.amazon.com/Zachary-Ryan/e…
Maya Lemaire: https://www.mayalemaire.com
Furever Home Friends: https://fureverhomefriends.com/?fbcli…
Melty Magic Wax Melts: https://meltymagicwaxmelts.wixsite.co…

Here are some frequently asked questions about the readathon:
Q: Can I use one book for multiple prompts?
A: No. The reason for this is because we want it to be a little extra competitive!

Q: Can I do one prompt multiple times to gain extra points?
A: No. With the exception of the Sleighing It bonus, you can only do each prompt once.

Q: How many times can I get the bonus points?
A: You can redeem each bonus only once.

Q: How many times can I do the Sleighing It bonus?
A: Just once.

Q: Is the Christmas Star bonus its own prompt?
A: No. It must be applied to one of the books you used for a reindeer prompt. **TIP: If you want to aim for the Christmas Star bonus (which is awesome, by the way – go you!!), plan ahead! This means that you must choose a book for one of the reindeer prompts that is 500+ pages. Unfortunately, if you read a 500+ page book after you’ve already completed the prompts, you can’t count it for the Christmas Star bonus – sorry!

I really hope you join in on the fun! If you do let me know in the comments which team you were assigned too!