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One day in Sosnowiec, with the war still in place, an announcement was made for families to report to the soccer stadium for a new identification system. But that was a lie. They weren’t given new ids; they were brought to concentration camps to either get killed or work like a slave. Zofia and her brother, Abek, were sorted to the right. But the rest of their family, they went left — they were killed right then and there.
Now that the war is over, Zofia is looking earnestly for her brother. Before they got separated, she promised him that they will meet again and complete their alphabet — A to Z, Abek to Zofia. But when she comes back to Sosnowiec with the help of a Russian soldier, Abek is not there, contrary to what they have agreed on. She then receives some news that she might find him in a resettlement camp in Germany. That same night, she steals money from the same soldier who helped her and hops on a train from Poland to Germany, with high hopes of finding Abek and finally bringing him home.
I was disappointed in this book. I wasn’t able to finish reading it so I switched to an audio version. I was thinking, maybe if I shake things up, I might appreciate it more. Still, that was not enough for me. The story is okay; it was Zofia’s character that irritated me. She’s just too much — too naive, too stubborn, too hopeful. I’ve read several books before with young female leads and they have just the right amount of everything, not like this. I was trying to admire her fighting spirit, but it was overflowing that I found it to be some kind of toxic positivity. The book was not terrible though; it was just not for me.
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I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak; Ears, but I mustn’t hear; Eyes, but I mustn’t see.
1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.
As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.
But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly. June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.
Inspector Han orders Damo Seol, a servant girl working for the Capital Police Bureau, to assist him while investigating Lady O’s corpse. This is Korea in the 1800s, under the Joseon dynasty, where men are not allowed to touch women, even dead ones, except for family members. This gruesome murder initially thought to be related to power is more than meets the eye, as more secrets unravel and more people get involved. Seol is a bit overwhelmed by Inspector Han’s kindness, as he’s the only one who treats her more like a thinking person instead of a good-for-nothing slave. But when the evidence to this murder points to him, will Seol remain loyal to her dear inspector?
June Hur’s The Silence of Bones crescendoes from a seemingly plain narrative to a nerve-racking murder mystery. It is a feminist read with the protagonist carrying just the right amount of grit and not trying too hard. Culturally rich and engaging, this book takes the extra mile in showing, not just telling, what was happening in Korea back then. But more importantly, it also shows what real friendship is like, and how seeking acceptance outside and not within can be deadly. While entertaining, there are moments when the plot seems elementary and the writing needs to be refined. A heart-wrenching and a hair-raising story about family, loyalty, and betrayal, The Silence of Bones is sure to keep you wide awake at night.
Trigger warnings include graphic injuries, class discrimination, sexism, violence, murder, torture, and suicide.
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JUNE HUR (‘Hur’ as in ‘her’) was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, except for the time when she moved back to Korea and attended high school there. Most of her work is inspired by her journey through life as an individual, a dreamer, and a Christian, with all its confusions, doubts, absurdities and magnificence. She studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto, and currently works for the public library. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.
Her debut novel THE SILENCE OF BONES (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 2020) is a murder mystery set in Joseon Dynasty Korea (early 1800s), and also a coming-of-age tale about a girl searching for home. It was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of the top debuts of Winter/Spring 2020.
She is represented by Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC.
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Rick Blakely is enjoying being back on the family’s Texan ranch. After ten years in the Navy SEALs—and another working through the damage they caused—he’s grateful his days are no longer filled with chaos and danger.
His “peace and quiet” ends the second the new vet pulls up to the ranch. Emily Conner has driven him up a wall since grade school, and their fights are legendary in these parts. Fate must be laughing at his expense—something he’ll be discussing with the man upstairs just as soon as he can tear his eyes away from Em’s very fine ass…
When Emily agreed to go out to the Blakely Ranch, she prayed fervently that her former nemesis was: A) not in residence, B) mute, or C) ugly as sin. Rick, of course, is none of these things, and she’s torn between wanting to throttle him and tear off his clothes to see whether what’s underneath is just as hot. Which will not happen. The man is nothing but trouble.
The town is taking bets. Rick and Em are either going to end up in jail or in bed. Likely both. How many bottles of tequila, visits from the sheriff, and family meddling it takes to get there is a whole other question…
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More weight disappeared, and he let out a laugh. “Missed the hell out of you Stitches.”
“That’s hard to believe since I haven’t heard a word from you since you left for college.”
“I knew if I kept in touch, I never would’ve been able to stay away.”
Confusion clouded her eyes and he knew the sooner he could manage the overdue explanation he owed her, the better.
“Now that were going to be around one another from time to time, I hope we have a chance to get reacquainted and talk about what happened all those years ago.”
Emily stroked the horse’s nose and then wrinkled her own. “I’m more than happy to leave the past where it is. I also don’t know that I’m interested in keeping company with someone who used to tug my pigtails.” She pulled her long braid over her shoulder and twirled the end. “You also insulted me within a minute of meeting and told me I looked like a horse.”
“I can’t believe you remember that.”
“It would be impossible not to, since it was the first thing you ever said to me. My sweet little-innocent heart was all but crushed by your mean words.” Emily pressed her hands to her chest and sighed. “It’s a miracle that I survived the experience.”
He rocked back on the heel of his boot and let out a chuckle. “You hauled off and punched me in the stomach and then told everyone I smelled like a stinky cow, so you weren’t crushed for long.” He lifted her silky braid. “I thought your honey blond hair was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen, and my horse was my favorite thing, so…”
She blinked. “You trying to tell me you were being nice?”
“No, since I hated your know-it-all attitude and prissy ways and wanted nothing more than to put you in your place.” Sensing a shift in the energy, he leaned in and heard her sharp intake of breath. “Do you still know best, Emily?”
Her eyes widened…and darkened. Yes. Countless things had changed in the years they spent apart, but the current of energy they’d always seemed to share was the same. Maybe even a bit more potent, if he wasn’t mistaken.
After a long, tense moment during which Rick seriously contemplated kissing the hell out of that sweet mouth, Emily smoothed out his shirt and stepped back. “Not as often as I used to.”
“Well, that’s good news.” Maybe he’d finally get the chance to prove to her that he knew best. About them. He let her braid slip through his fingers and then traced the small scar on her chin. “I never thought you’d follow me into that fallen down shack to see if the ghost sightings were true.”
She lifted her chin. “You suggested I wasn’t brave enough to confront the apparitions. Had I known the floor was all but rotted, I would’ve kept my big mouth shut and stayed home.” She tagged the lead rope off the tie bar and held it out.
“Live and learn, that’s all we can do.” He took the rope she offered and felt the mare press her head into his hand. “Patience, girl. All the good things in life take time.”
Emily gave him a world-class eyeroll and he threw her a cocksure smile in response, knowing the time he’d spent getting his mind and soul back together had been worth it. They were two hard surfaces that ground against each other, creating the type of resistance that produced a spark capable of ignition.
Sometimes it worked in their favor and other times, not so much.
I live in Southern California and write stories about sassy, smart women and the alpha men who fall for them. When I’m not writing, I take care of my daughter and try to take long walks. I believe in the power of a big glass of wine, the right pair of shoes, and a large dose of sarcasm.
1 winner will receive a $15 Amazon GC, International. Click here to enter.
The present reckons with the past in Attraction, Ruby Porter’s debut novel.
Three women are on a road trip, navigating the motorways of the North Island, their relationships with one another and New Zealand’s colonial history. Our narrator doesn’t know where she stands with Ilana, her not-quite-girlfriend. She has a complex history with her best friend, Ashi. She’s haunted by the spectre of her emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend. And her period’s now weeks late.
Attraction is a meditative novel of connection, inheritance and the stories we tell ourselves. In lyrical fragments, Porter explores what it means to be and to belong, to create and to destroy.
Praise for Attraction
‘Attraction peels back the landscape to reveal deeper truths. The writer is right inside her material – a road trip that delivers a political and sexual coming-of-age narrative. The book is a slow-burning fuse that brims with intensely felt experience. Porter is an exciting new talent.’ ― Lloyd Jones
‘Attraction abounds with sharp imagery, inter-generational relationships and the natural, historic and domestic environments of modern New Zealand. Ruby Porter is a gifted new writer.’ ― Patricia Grace
‘Attraction is an exquisite story…The prose is emotive and artistic…Attraction is impossible to put down…It is a brilliant, beautiful novel.’ ― Booksellers NZ
‘A coming-of-age story that is full of evocative sketches of the North Island’s landscapes.’ ― Traveller magazine
‘Tackling a complex, fraught topic – the very essence of what it is to be a New Zealander – with courage, style and insight. ― Stuff New Zealand
‘Not a word is wasted. Imagery is of the sharpest level. There is so much to love about this angry, meditative novel that reading it is almost an act of catharsis.’ ― The AU Review
‘Porter’s style is spare, immediate and pared back…[A]n intriguing new voice.’ ― Overland Literary Journal
That kind of drowning feeling. The air is all around your face, if you could only breathe it. Ilana said, —The first breath you take again always hurts.
She is an experienced drowner and I am just starting out.
—This wave, she says. Yelling, —Come, no, here by me.
She gets it right. Knows exactly where to stand for the wave to pick her up and throw her. Carry her. She can surf some right back to the shallows. I keep getting hurled below. See the Gisborne sun rippling through all that green. And I’m not sure whether I’ve opened my eyes underwater, or if I never had a chance to shut them.
Ilana grabs my arm but I duck when the wave comes.
Then she tells me about the first time, when she was seven.
Her mum’s dinghy capsized and whenever she came up for breath she hit the hull instead. She says the sea was holding her down, not ready to let her go. And then it turned and it pushed her up, shot her face first, full of air. She’s the one who keeps pulling me up today.
When I look at her, I think: the ocean will never again be so in place. It shudders and slurps and turns—no two molecules will be together for long. No two molecules will find each other again. Or at least, it’s unlikely.
Then Ashi joins us.
Ashi doesn’t catch as many waves as Ilana, but she catches some. I keep surfacing to see them tumbling into the spray together. Sometimes, Ilana puts her hand on Ashi’s arm as they wade back out deep.
—What is it? Ilana says to me.
Water is furling itself on the horizon, creeping forward.
—Stay here, she says. —It’s a big one.
I’m sucked in before it’s even broken. This time I can hardly see. The ocean floor has been tossed into the wave—I blend with the sand and the seaweed and the dappled sun. Then I feel the break, and know I’m being pushed deeper.
For me it isn’t slowed down, like Ilana said, but sped up. A flash of light, greeny brown, something above the surface. The whir. The spin. The sea gasping, in and out, one giant lung that expands and compresses. When you’re beneath it, the ocean is the only thing that breathes.
Levin is a place with too much sky. It is a bulging blue belly that presses down on you, holding you to the spot. Maybe that’s why no one ever gets out. This is a town where people come to die. The retirement villages have names like Somerset and promises like Your Ticket to Freedom at an Affordable Price. The cry of ambulances sounds all through the night. It has a Salvation Army store and a SaveMart, a Paper Plus and a Postie Plus, a re-branded Hoyts cinema that plays movies two weeks after they finish their run in Auckland. It has boy racers and a whole lot of meth. It doesn’t have much else.
Helen says Grandad Wayne became an artist when he moved here. The basement, separated from the garage by a door, from the hallway by a staircase, was his. No one else could enter. He was working on something down there, or at least he would say, —I’ve got work to do, before descending into concrete, each night after dinner. He wouldn’t say anything else.
When he died, all they found was junk. He’d been to a lot of auctions, always looking for a bargain, looking to rescue some perfectly usable piece of gardening equipment or kitchenware or roll of carpet or three-legged table.
—It just needs a length of wood nailed in, he’d say. Or, it just needs a lick of paint. Or, it just needs an engine replacement.
—Probably destroyed it all, Helen said, meaning the art. —It’s probably where you get it from, your painting.
I thought that was hopeful. But how would I know? I was too young to remember any of it. Grandad died when I was four, only three weeks after Stuart.
We pull up to number thirty-one. Francine helps us unlock, unload. Bo jumps from the back and runs straight into the garden.
—He’s a good dog, she says, —just underworked. Ask Mike from next door to tow your car to the mechanics, he’ll help you out. Whatever you do, don’t use Grandma’s guy.
—You’re not staying? I say.
It’s one of those granite questions. It looks light until you try to pick it up.
—No, she says. —No, I’m going to keep making my day trips, once a fortnight. Like I always have.
She touches the place where her cross is, beneath her shirt.
—Last time I came, she says, —Mum didn’t recognise me. She thought she was talking to Helen. I had to keep reminding her, showing her the photo of me on the bedside table.
When someone can recognise your photo but not your face.
The Tinder match who stares in the supermarket, trying to place you over the agria potatoes and Chinese garlic. The person you added on Facebook, years ago, after meeting one time at a party. Your own mother.
She picks at a skin of paint, scaling on the garage door. —Of course I want to be there for her. But why make it so uneven? Why is it that we’re more there for people in death than in life? I don’t want to be. I want my memories to be balanced.
The sensor light catches in her eyes.
—But I pray for her, I pray for her every minute of every day.
Ruby Porter is a tutor of creative writing at the University of Auckland. She has been published in Geometry Journal, Aotearotica, Spinoff and Wireless, and a selection of her poetry is available on NZEPC. In 2018, she also won the Wallace Foundation Short Fiction Contest.
1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon GC courtesy of Rockstar Book Tours, International. Click here to enter.
Title: Beneath The Surface Author: Abbi Cook Release date: April 14, 2020 Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon
I was born and bred to be a killer. It’s all I’m supposed to be. I take no prisoners. Until Lily. For her, I make an exception. But only for a week. When I walk in, time starts ticking down to zero. Her father has seven days to save her. Until then, she’s mine. Mine to have. Mine to take. Mine to keep.
He leans in close to me and takes a deep breath in, letting it out slowly as an ominous hum reverberates in the space around us. “I don’t know what you’re doing, little girl, but trust me, you don’t want to tease a man stuck out alone in the country.”
“You’re not alone. I’m here.”
Cason’s gaze travels down my body and back up again to meet mine. His lids heavy, he looks at me hungrily. “You’re playing with fire here, Lily. You’re going to get hurt.”
My knees shake at how intimidating he sounds, but I press them together and flash him my best fuck me smile. “I’m not a child, Cason. It’s not like I don’t know things.”
“And what do you think this is? Do you think if you get me to fuck you that I won’t want to kill you when the time comes? Is that what you’re thinking?” he asks in a low voice, his warm breath drifting over my ear with each word he practically hisses out before he steps back away from me.
My heart sinks at how callously he dismisses my plan, but I can’t let him see how frightened I am at this very moment. This can work. I know it can. I just have to see it through.
So I take a step closer to him, close enough that I can feel the heat coming from him through that black T-shirt that fits so perfectly over his toned body. I look up into his dark eyes and swallow hard. “What I was thinking was I didn’t want to be alone, Cason.”
The words hang in the sliver of space that separates us as I wait for him to respond. He just needs to say yes and I can do this.
He looks down at my T-shirt, and then his hand touches my hip, sending need dancing through me. “I’m not one of those boys you tease to get your own way, Lily. This is your one last chance to go back to your room and pretend this never happened because if I let you come in, the word no doesn’t exist in here.”
Every word drips with a threat of something he thinks I can’t handle, but I don’t care. Whatever he is inside that room, at least I’ll be alive there at the week’s end.
Abbi Cook grew up wondering if she was different because she always wanted to know more about the villain than the hero in the stories she read. When she got older, she found there were others in the world like her and devoured their writing, loving every dark word. She’s written her own tales for years, but in 2019 she decided it was time to take the next step and publish them. She’s never looked back since that day.
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Title: BEYOND THE SHORE AND SHADOWS (Lena #2) Author: Chantal Gadoury Publisher: The Parliament House (May 2021) Genre: YA Little Mermaid Retelling Formats: Paperback, eBook Find it on: Goodreads
A Merrow with a Choice A Man Who Loved Her And an Evil that could destroy them both The Sea Is Calling. . .
Lena is a merrow in possession of the Magick Skal, the shell once owned by the Queen of the merrows. And now, Lord Jarl knows her secret and wants it for himself.
After running away from the Lundby-Wyatt Inn, leaving behind everything she was familiar with, Lena finds herself in the company of the warm and kind Soren Emil.
When the villagers turn against her and Soren, they’re forced to leave the burning Bror Boghandel behind and escape to a forgotten cottage on the edge of the shore, where no one will find them. Lena knows she must get the shell back to the sea and destroy it, before it falls into the hands of Lord Jarl, or worse, his apprentice, Jace Wyatt.
With the help of some unruly pirates, Lena and Soren journey to the sea, a place Lena never thought she’d return to. There, she will have to face not only the Sea King’s army, the Fosse-Søfolk, but the impossible choice to sacrifice her own life, or the life of the man she loves.
A Legend A Magical Shell A Girl Who Dreamed Of Something More…
Lena, a Merrow girl, lives in the Skagerrak sea with her father, Carrick and her brother, Javelin who tells her of the legend of the Merrow Queen murdered by her human lover when greed takes over. But what’s worth spilling the queen’s blood? Gifted from Poseidon, himself, a magic shell gives any human the ability to control both land and sea.
When Javelin is called to join a clan of Merrow soldiers bent on protecting their waters from human invasion, Lena resists Merrow law and ventures to the shore with no choice but to swim to land.
With newfound legs, Lena is whisked away on a new adventure with new friends and new trouble. Everyone seems to want something from her as intrigue lurks around every corner.
Trying her best to hide who she is and remain safe from the dangers of the human world, will Lena finally find where she belongs, or will she be swept into a strong and stormy current by lust, greed, and jealousy?
Chantal Gadoury is an Amazon Best Selling Author who is originally from the countryside of Muncy, PA. Chantal likes anything Disney, plays a mean game of Disney trivia, enjoys painting and has a interest in British History. Chantal first started writing stories at the age of seven and continues that love of writing today. As a recent college graduate from Susquehanna University, with a degree in Creative Writing, writing novels is a dream come true.
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Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits begins as four Moroccans illegally cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain. What has driven them to risk their lives? And will the rewards prove to be worth the danger? There’s Murad, a gentle, unemployed man who’s been reduced to hustling tourists around Tangier; Halima, who’s fleeing her drunken husband and the slums of Casablanca; Aziz, who must leave behind his devoted wife in hope of securing work in Spain; and Faten, a student and religious fanatic whose faith is at odds with an influential man determined to destroy her future. Through the diverse stories of these deeply sympathetic characters, Moroccan writer Laila Lalami sensitively evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco.
Praise for Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits
“[Lalami] is a captivating storyteller who drops us onto an inflatable boat ferrying illegal immigrants from Morocco to Spain. Lalami skillfully limns the dark recesses of the Muslim world and creates true-to-life characters, including Murad, a tout who hustles tourists; Halima, a battered wife fleeing her alcoholic husband and the slums of Casablanca; and Faten, a student and religious radical. With subtlety and grace the author explores the emotional complexities of the culture they’re trying to escape—one that bears more resemblance to ours than we may imagine.” — People
“Moroccan-born Laila Lalami’s thrilling debut novel follows four desperate people—a fanatical student, a gentle hustler, an abused wife, and a husband searching for decent wages—fleeing Morocco in a flimsy boat across the dangerous Strait of Gibraltar in a death-defying bid for freedom in Spain, a narrative journey that . . . Lalami handles with a keen sense of history, hope, and panache.” — Elle
“Laila Lalami’s debut novel is an absolute treasure. With realistic, clear, wonderful writing, she fully explores her characters—flaws, strengths, and all.” — Bust
“Lalami’s story lines are evocative, her characters arresting, the settings vivid, and her voice pure and penetrating, ensuring that these striking tales of unsanctioned journeys and urgently improvised lives are at once timely and timeless.” –– Booklist
“This intense portrait of a gorgeous, once-powerful civilization stands in stark relief to the modern society Lalami skillfully depicts with gritty realism . . . impressive: This could well be the preamble to an important body of work.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Laila Lalami’s compelling work of fiction provides an anatomy of hope and struggle. Building with quiet urgency, these tales of a group of travelers gradually transform into the story of a nation and a profound moment in history.” — Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent and The Language of Baklava
About the Author
Laila Lalami herself was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States, a background that informs her nuanced understanding of the human condition. She is a winner of the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the National Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program, and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently a tenured professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Even more importantly, she is a champion for African stories and own-voice narratives.
Thanks to Kelly Doyle of Algonquin Books for reaching out to me to be a part of this tour. For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.