Blog Tour: The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1) by Ashia Monet + Wallpapers

Once upon a time, a young girl lost her family and discovered a new one.

Woohoo, it’s time for another blog tour! But first of all, let me tell you how sorry I am to deliver this post in such late timing. Yesterday was my stop for The Black Veins Blog Tour which hosted by the lovely CW @ The Quiet Pond! Thank you, CW, for selecting me as one of this tour’s participant! The first time I heard about this book was when CW announced about this blog tour and I immediately knew that I 👏 NEED 👏 TO 👏 READ 👏 IT 👏 What makes this book a lot more wholesome is the fact that it’s Ashia Monet’s debut and she’s also publishing it independently! Say whaaat! We support badass, strong, and independent authors in this house! Okay, I’m going to stop rambling now and share more details about the book along with my review and of course, some free wallpapers inspired by The Black Veins from yours truly! ✌

The Black Veins by Ashia Monet

In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for.

Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities?

She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.

Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.

Title: The Black Veins | Series: Dead Magic #1 | Author: Ashia Monet | Genre: FantasyYoung Adult | Publication Date: July 17, 2019 | Format: eARC | Source: Author | Links: AmazonApple BooksBarnes & NobleIndigo

These trigger warnings below are written at the beginning of the book:

[su_spoiler title=”→ Trigger Warnings!” style=”simple”]
→ Discussion of deceased parents, siblings, and potential parental and familial death
→ Description of mild bloodshed in violent scenes 
→ Mention of drugs and drug use, primarily marijuana 
→ Gun use Supernatural horror in the form of monsters, primarily found in Chapters 6, 12, and 25 
→ Car accident in Chapter 19 
→ Discussion of anxiety disorders and panic disorders primarily found in Chapters 22, 23, and 25 
→ Racial n-word slur, ending in-a, found in Chapter 21 (before you drag me, yes, I am Black) 
→ Mild anxiety attack in Chapter 25 [/su_spoiler]

And while there lies a story in where the melody has come from, more interesting is the story of where it is going.

quick thoughts

I recommend this book if you’re into:
⇾ Urban fantasy
⇾ Diverse and POC all around
⇾ Character-driven story
⇾ Adventureous quest
⇾ Teens actually act like teens
⇾ SUPERPOWER ✨

Things to be considered before picking up this book:
This book contains a lot of triggering contents. Check trigger warnings above.

more thoughts

The Black Veins is an outstanding fantasy debut from the indie author, Ashia Monet, full of action packs and dangerous quests yet balanced with strong bonding and relationship among its characters. The story started with our main character, Blythe Fulton, controlled by an unknown voice in her head to sleep-walk to her roof. Lucky for Blythe, her father grabbed her at the very last second before she jumped. A little later, we get informed that the Fultons are a magician family, and Blythe was one of the seven guardians that hold a great power (even though she can’t do any magic yet). We also get informed that a war was about to happen between two governments, The Black Veins and The Trident Republic. This war doesn’t really have any correlation to Blythe, whatsoever, but that was before she heard the voice inside her head that lured her to the roof and The Trident Republic was suspected to be the mastermind behind it. That was before her family got kidnapped and her best friend got hurt right in front of her eyes. Now, this war becomes personal and Blythe will do anything to save her family.

And while there lies a story in where the melody has come from, more interesting is the story of where it is going.

I rarely said this, but I found that almost all of the characters in this book to be loveable, yes, even the ones who were not being so kind. Each cast is so interesting and unique and even though it’s pretty obvious that Blythe is the lead in this story, it certainly didn’t feel like it because instead of solely focusing on her (well, the story is still focusing on her journey to save her family), we got many strong appearances from the other characters as well! And Monet did this so flawlessly. Each character got enough screen time for us to get to know them more, whether it’s their personality, backstory or just some random things that they like or dislike, and personally, it made me feel like I’m the part of the gang too! I could be… um, the Guardian of Books? Guardian of Ice Coffee? Where do I sign up to apply as one? Anyway, I love the fact that the relationships in this book are always changing. Someone can initially dislike the other but end up loving them and it was a great way to show how these characters developed along the process.

Kindness is underrated. We’re all focused on being self-sufficient, on being ‘strong’, but people like you? People like you are the reason the world is a place worth living in. You’re not dumb. You’re kind. You help each of us. Without you, we’d go down from one hit when we’re inches away from the finish line. You’re the one that helps us get back up again. You’re Support.

Image result for happy cry gif
me, being proud of my guardian children

Also, not to mention the wonderful concept of the magical world in this story. The universe that Monet’s created was magnificent. I don’t think I would do justice if I have to explain it because you really need to read this story by yourself to understand what I’m referring to, but The Black Veins universe feels familiar yet brand new to me. Instead of throwing massive details all at once about how this universe works, Monet managed to reveal fun detail as we go through each page, which to be honest, I really enjoyed!

final thoughts

I was truly had a good time with The Black Veins. It was a dynamic and character-oriented story with excellent diverse representation in a well-crafted universe that won’t be so easy to forget. I’m definitely looking forward for the sequel and see where the story goes next!

★★★★

Thank you to the author for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review and thank you CW @ The Quiet Pond for hosting this blog tour!

about the author

Photo of Ashia, smiling into the camera.

Ashia Monet is a speculative fiction author whose work almost always includes found families, diverse ensemble casts, the power of friendship, and equal parts humor and drama. Some of her favorite things are The Adventure Zone, Ariana Grande, and the color pink. You can follow her on Twitter @ashiamonet and Instagram @ashiawrites.

Twitter | InstagramDead Magic Series Twitter

wallpapers

I was having so much fun designing these two wallpapers! I really wanted to include a portrayal of every Guardian, but soon I realized it’s going to be impossible without the wallpapers turning into a chaos design! This one is inspired by Blythe Fulton and her endless courage to save her family. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Desktop WallpaperPhone Wallpaper

Are you a fan of urban fantasy? Do you think about adding this book into your next reading list?

Blog Tour: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim ft. Excerpts, Wallpaper & Giveaway!

My whole life, I’d been told what I couldn’t do because I was a girl. Well, this was my chance to find out.

It’s finally here! Today is my stop for #SpinTheDawnTour that hosted by Shealea @ Shut Up, Shealea on Caffeine Book Tours! Thank you, Shealea, for selected and trusted me as one of the lucky bloggers that got to participate in this wonderful tour! I’m so excited for my stop because today, I’m going to e̶m̶o̶t̶i̶o̶n̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ share my review (well, more like a gush), some excerpts from the book (that will make you add it immediately to your own TBR), some wallpapers that I designed in honor of this debut release and of course (🥁🥁🥁) the international giveaway! So, stay tuned ’til the end of this post!

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined. 

★★★★★

Title: Spin the Dawn| Author: Elizabeth Lim | Genre: FantasyYoung Adult | Publication Date: July 9, 2019 | Format: eARC | Source: NetGalley | Read for: Goodreads Reading Challenge 2019, Year of the Asian Reading Challenge 2019 (current progress) | Links: Amazon Book Depository (Affiliate)

[su_spoiler title=”→ Trigger Warnings!” style=”simple”]Death, death of loved ones, sexism, violence.[/su_spoiler]

Ask me to spin the finest yarn or thread, and I can do it faster than any man—even with my eyes closed. Yet ask me to tell a lie, and I will stumble and falter to think of one.

Quick Thoughts

One of my immediate reaction when I finished Spin the Dawn is that it was truly a magnificent fantasy retelling, even for someone who doesn’t read as much fantasy such as myself! So, if you’re usually not a fan of fantasy tale, but you’re looking forward to expanding your reading and going out of your comfort-reading-zone, I couldn’t recommend this enough!

More Thoughts

Spin the Dawn is a mesmerizing fantasy retelling of Mulan mixed with Project Runaway from debut author, Elizabeth Lim. Starring Maia, a young girl who born into a family of tailor and aspired to be one. Not just any regular tailor, but the best tailor in A’landi and eventually become the imperial tailor. Here’s the deal. Girls are not supposed to be tailor, just because. So, fighting this sexist tradition while also trying to save the remains of her family after the war, the day an imperial messenger came to her house to invite her unwell father to become the imperial tailor, Maia stepped in and disguised herself as her only remaining brother, Keton and her journey started.

This is where it would begin. Where I would restore the honor to my family’s name. Where I would prove that a girl could be the best tailor in A’landi.

Oh my gosh, how do I even started? I just freaking love everything about this book! Starting with the plot itself and how this book pitched, I’m always in for everything competition and quest-related, especially when it involves a badass female protagonist with a noble mission. This book divided into three main parts, the trial, the journey, and the oath. All three delivers a very different atmosphere and intensity, yet everything blends in and completed each other perfectly.

During the first part, I couldn’t help but amazed with the incredible worldbuilding, thanks to Lim’s magical hands. As I mentioned previously, fantasy is not something I usually read because I often stuck just when the story started, because I was getting overwhelmed with every little detail thrown in my face in such a short amount of time. But with Spin the Dawn, Lim really took her time to build a realistic yet magical universe. I can practically imagine everything so vividly, while also take pleasure in Lim’s enchanting proses and words. Character-wise, Maia is a strong main character that you couldn’t help but root for. Her tragic past and her pure ambition turned her into a character that won’t be so easy to forget.

Although I wish that the first part could be longer, as I found myself to enjoy the competition between Maia and the other eleven tailor master, the initial encounter between Maia and Edan, and the glimpse of interaction involving Lady Sarnai and Emperor Khanujin himself, the second part delivered more action pack to the story and it was intense. I enjoyed Maia’s journey and how her relationship with Edan started to grow stronger. My favorite thing about this part is that we got to learn how the magic works in this story, including how it works on Edan. The back and forth witty banter between these two made me swooning too hard!

“Will you be able to find your way back?” “To you, always.”

The third part is obviously the hardest to read, that lead us into the ending that made me internally scream “I need the second book right at this very second!!!”. Overall, I just had a freaking good time with this book and I couldn’t recommend it enough. The compelling and magical universe of Spin the Dawn combined with such strong characters and even stronger plots mixed with a solid #ownvoices rep, will give you a one of a kind reading experience.

About the Author

Image result for elizabeth limElizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.

Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Author Website (and newsletter)GoodreadsInstagramFacebook Twitter

Excerpts

[su_spoiler title=”→ Read excerpts!” style=”simple”]I had three brothers once.

Finlei was the oldest—the brave one. Nothing frightened him, not spiders or needles or a flogging from Baba’s cane. He was the quickest of us four children, fast enough to catch a fly with only his thumb and a thimble. But along with his dauntlessness came a craving for adventure. He despised having to work in our shop, having to spend the sun’s precious light sewing dresses and mending shirts. And he was careless with the needle, his fingers constantly bandaged from pricks and his work marred with uneven stitches. Stitches I would unpick and redo to save him from Baba’s lectures.

Finlei didn’t have the patience to become a tailor like Baba.

Sendo had patience, but not for sewing. My second brother was the poet in the family, and the only weaving he loved was of words, especially about the sea. He would tell stories about the beautiful garments Baba could sew, with such exquisite detail all the ladies in town clamored to buy them—only to find they didn’t exist.

As punishment, Baba made him sit on the pier behind our shop, unraveling thread from silkworm cocoons. Often I stole out to sit with him, to listen to his tales of what lay beyond that never-ending horizon of water.

“What color is the ocean?” Sendo would ask me.

“Blue, silly. What else?”

“How will you be the best tailor in A’landi if you don’t know your colors?” Sendo shook his head and pointed at the water. “Look again. Look into the depths of it.”

“Sapphire,” I said, studying the ocean’s gentle crests and troughs. The water sparkled. “Sapphire, like the stones Lady Tainak wears around her neck. But there’s a hint of green … jade green. And the foam curls up like pearls.”

Sendo smiled. “That’s better.” He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and hugged me close. “One day, we’ll sail the seas, you and I. And you’ll see the blue in all the world.”

Because of Sendo, blue was my favorite color. It painted the white of my walls when I opened my window each morning and saw the sea glittering in the sunlight. Sapphire or cerulean. Azure. Indigo. Sendo trained my eyes to see the variations in color, to appreciate the dullest brown to the brightest pink. How light could bend something into a thousand possibilities.

Sendo’s heart was for the sea, not for becoming a tailor like Baba.

Keton was my third brother, and the closest to me in age. His songs and jokes made everyone laugh, no matter what mood we were in. He always got in trouble for dyeing our silks green instead of purple, for carelessly stepping on newly pressed dresses with dirty sandals, for forgetting to water the mulberry trees, and for never spinning yarn fine enough for Baba to knit into a sweater. Money slipped through his fingers like water. But Baba loved him best—even though Keton didn’t have the discipline to become a tailor.

Then there was me—Maia. The obedient daughter. My earliest memories were of sitting contentedly with Mama as she worked the spinning wheel, listening to Finlei, Sendo, and Keton playing outside while Baba taught me to roll Mama’s thread so it wouldn’t tangle.

My heart was for becoming a tailor: I learned to thread needles before I could walk, to make a line of perfect stitches before I could talk. I loved my needlework and was happy learning Baba’s trade instead of going out with my brothers. Besides, when Finlei taught me to spar and shoot arrows, I always missed the target. Even though I soaked up Sendo’s fairy tales and ghost stories, I could never tell one of my own. And I always fell for Keton’s pranks, no matter how often my older brothers warned me of them.

Baba proudly told me I was born with a needle in one hand, a pair of scissors in the other. That if I hadn’t been born a girl, I might have become the greatest tailor in A’landi, sought after by merchants from one coast of the continent to the other.

“A tailor’s worth is not measured by his fame, but by the happiness he brings,” Mama said, seeing how disappointed Baba’s words made me. “You will hold the seams of our family together, Maia. No other tailor in the world can do that.”

I remembered beaming at her. Back then, all I wanted was for my family to be happy and whole like this always.[/su_spoiler]

Wallpaper

Desktop WallpaperPhone Wallpaper
The credit of original images goes to Fabian Struwe, Daniel Leone & Jackson Hendry

International Giveaway

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But wait… There’s More!

It’s only Day 3 of #SpinTheDawnTour, so don’t forget to check other’s fun posts! You can see the completed schedule below! There will also a fun Twitter on the last day of the tour, so make sure to join if you want to have a fun, spoiler-free discussion with the others!

Tour Schedule (Spin the Dawn) This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is invite-spin-the-dawn.png

Are you planning to pick up this book for your next read this summer?

After the Green Withered by Kristin Ward

So, it’s Day 8 of the #UltimateBlogTours for After the Green Withered by Kristin Ward that hosted by the wonderful Dave aka TheWriteReads! Today is my stop and I’m excited to share my initial thought about this dystopian book! Also, you can check out the other posts from many amazing bloggers on #AfterTheGreenWithered and #UltimateBlogTours on Twitter!

After the Green Withered by Kristin Ward

They tell me the country looked different back then. They talk of open borders and flowing rivers. They say the world was green. But drought swept across the globe and the United States of the past disappeared under a burning sky.

Enora Byrnes lives in the aftermath, a barren world where water has become the global currency. In a life dominated by duty to family and community, Enora is offered a role within an entity that controls everything from water credits to borders. But it becomes clear that not all is as it seems. From the wasted confines of her small town to the bowels of a hidden city, Enora will uncover buried secrets that hide an unthinkable reality.

As truth reveals the brutal face of what she has become, she must ask herself: how far will she go to retain her humanity?

Title: After the Green Withered | Author: Kristin Ward | Publisher: Independently Published | Genre: DystopianScience Fiction | Publication Date: May 18, 2018 | Format: eBook | Source: Author + Dave @ TheWriteReads (Thank you!) | LINKS: Book Depository (Affiliate)

My initial thought about this book is the massive info-dumping in the prologue. While this is highly informative and could be useful to help readers to understand the backstory of how the Earth ended up like how it told in the story, I personally struggled to get through it since it felt very technical and textbook-y, but I’m glad this writing style is over at the end of the prologue and continued with a totally different take on the first chapter.

The first chapter felt like a totally different book. While it’s full of narrative with no dialogue, I was completely surprised that I get to enjoy it. While the issue is far from light, the story was told cleverly by Ward as it was incredibly descriptive and easy to follow, especially for a slow reader like me. Not going to lie, many aspects of this first chapter made me nostalgic as it reminds me of a lot of popular books and movies back then. The general storyline was very Divergent, as we introduced to Enora, the main character who lived with her parents and was about to graduate and pick her job. The government-controlled universe was very Hunger Games as it really reminds me of the big ol’ Capitol. And the water-currency system was very In Time (2011), except it’s water and not time. Even the barcode system on the wrist was almost similar!

I’m really intrigued to see where this story going and how it’s going to end. 

Are you a fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic book? Have you read After the Green Withered?

Losing Normal by Francis Moss

Hey everyone! I’m back with another book review post. This time, I got the opportunity to be a part of Losing Normal by Francis Moss blog tour, which organized by Xpresso Blog Tours. This blog tour will be consist of author interviews, excerpts, guest post and also review post and you can check out the post from the other hosts hereI received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. When I read the book summary, I knew I can’t resist it since I’m a big fan of dystopian fiction. And here’s my review!

Losing Normal by Francis Moss

Everyone we love, everything we know, is going away… and only an autistic boy can stop it.
 
Alex knows exactly how many steps it takes to get from his home to Mason Middle School. This is normal.
 
Alex knows the answers in AP math before his teacher does, which is also normal.
 
Alex knows that something bad is coming out of the big screen in his special needs class. It’s pushing images into his head, hurting him, making him forget. Alex pushes back, the screen explodes, and nothing is normal any more.
 
Giant screen televisions appear all over the city. The programming is addictive. People have to watch, but Alex cannot.
 
Sophie, the sentient machine behind all this, sees the millions and millions of eyeballs glued to her and calls it love. To Sophie, kids like Alex are defective. Defectives are to be fixed… or eliminated.

★★★

Title: Losing Normal | Author: Francis Moss | Publisher: Encelia Press | Genre: DystopianScience Fiction | Publication Date: October 23, 2018 | Format: eBook | Source: Xpresso Book Tours | LINKS: AmazonBook Depository (Affiliate)

[su_spoiler title=”→ Trigger Warnings!” style=”simple”]Abuse, death, fertility, violence.[/su_spoiler]

If you know me, I’m always all in when it comes to dystopian/post-apocalyptic story. If you don’t, well… know you do, right? 💁‍♀️ Losing Normal is not quite a post-apocalyptic story. It’s rather a toward-apocalyptic story if that makes sense? Apparently, our technology keeps evolving and it’s about time where the sentient machine (in this case, an artificial intelligence called Sophie) is taking over the world by controlling the human mind through screens. Little did she (or it?) know, not every human being can be controlled the way she wanted to. And here comes Alex, the autistic teenager that fights back this technology.

Few things that I like about this book:

✅ Autism representation. I’ve been trying to do more exploration with my readings and that includes to read more diverse characters. This book has a good representation of autism on Alex, its main character. We are able to see how Alex mind works and how his autism affected his actions. And not just his actions, but basically the whole story.

✅ A super dynamic story. Everything happened really fast and full of actions. This is the kind of book that will bring you from one scene to another without really allowing yourself to take a breath. It’s that intense.

✅ Solid messages and values. This book illuminates current issues that have been happening in our society. The using of technology might be very useful in our life at the moment, but we can’t deny that we are also experiencing side effects like technology addiction. The AI take-over is something that can happen to use in the future and I think it’s great for the author to increase awareness on this particular area, even when this book is labeled as a work of fiction.

Few things that I don’t like about this book:

❌ Too fast + technical. This is probably just my issue, but I was struggling to follow the story as the writing is full of computer-based and technological terms that I’m not completely familiar with. This becomes even harder because the story went super fast and I feel overwhelmed to keep up with everything that happened.

❌ Lack of characters depths. Because this story is very plot-driven, it didn’t give as much attention to its characters. With its multiple POVs, which I usually have no problem with, it was a challenge to follow the story, because there are no particular differences between these two characters/POVs. I can’t really sense their personality differences since the writing made them sounds like almost the same person.

However, if you’re a fan of technology gone bad & taking over the Earth, or just a binge-watcher of Black Mirror, I believe you’d enjoy this story. It’s a decent piece that will constantly put you on the edge!

About the Author

Francis Moss has written and story-edited hundreds of hours of scripts on many of the top animated shows of the 90s and 00s. Beginning his television work in live-action with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, he soon starting writing cartoons (“a lot more jobs, and also more fun”), staff writing and freelancing on She-Ra, Princess of Power, Iron Man, Ducktales, and a four-year stint on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, writing and story-editing more episodes than you can swing a nuchaku at.

One of his TMNT scripts, “The Fifth Turtle,” was the top-rated script among all the 193 episodes in a fan poll on IGN.COM. A list of his television credits is at IMDB.COM.

Francis, in partnership with Ted Pedersen, also wrote three middle-grade non-fiction books: Internet For Kids, Make Your Own Web Page, and How To Find (Almost) Anything On The Internet. Internet For Kids was a big success, with three revised editions and twelve foreign language versions. He’s the sole author of The Rosenberg Espionage Case.

After high school where he grew up in Los Angeles, Francis had one dismal semester at a junior college, and then enlisted in the Army. He became a military policeman and served in Poitiers, France, falling in love with the country, taking his discharge there and traveling around Europe (including running with the bulls in Pamplona) until his money ran out.

He attended the University of California, Berkeley and became active in the civil rights and anti-war movements, still managing to earn a BA and an MA in English lit (“the major of choice for wannabe writers”).
Francis is married to Phyllis, a former music teacher and active viola player. They have a son, a daughter and one grandson. They live in Joshua Tree, California.

Website | Goodreads

Giveaway

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Are you a fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic book? Have you read Losing Normal?

Sugar Lane Vol.1 by Harlow Hayes

Sugar Lane Vol.1 by Harlow Hayes

Published by Harlow Hayes Books on November 19, 2018. Classified as Suspense & Women’s Fiction. Received via RABT Book Tours & PR as an eARC.

The night of Christmas Eve changes everything for Rhema Clark, a 36-year-old housewife living on quiet Sugar Lane. One day she is hosting a birthday party for her 9-year-old son, Julian, the next she is watching her neighborhood become the backdrop for the perfect murder. 


To gain power, Rhema inserts herself into the lives of the residents of Sugar Lane. She knows they have secrets, but none of them run deeper than her own. On the outside she is a kind and caring neighbor, but on the inside, something sinister lurks beneath. The media storm surrounding this murder could destroy her secret life and expose her for what she is. 


But will her lust for power override her desire to keep her secrets?

[su_spoiler title=”→ Trigger Warnings!” style=”simple”]Abuse, blood, death, fat phobia, violence.[/su_spoiler]

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Artsy Draft receives a small commission for any purchases made through the links above.

★★★★

[su_heading size=”14″ margin=”5″]REVIEW[/su_heading]

This is probably one of the most evil book that I’ve ever encountered. Now you might be confused. Four stars yet it’s evil? That’s right. I never thought I’d like it during the first few pages. Because man oh man, it’s full of negativity and I couldn’t stand it! The summary wasn’t lying, though. Our main character was sinister since the first scene. You know those feeling when you saw something really bad happened in front of your eyes? You try to look away because it makes you uncomfortable, yet you can’t control yourself and end up keep looking back at it? That’s exactly what I felt, at least during the first half of this book.

Hannah was a monster, and she knew because a monster could always recognize another monster.

My favorite part of this novelette is definitely its characters. The plot was interesting, though. But I don’t see them as a very special and mind-blowing one.  It was pretty good, but the characters make it great. I love the fact that even with its short pages, Hayes can generate such a complex character. And not just one (and maybe more on the next book, who knows?!). Hayes wants us to see these characters for their evil acts and the sinister-being within them, yet she also successfully deliver something… very human. I’m not good with words and I’m not sure how to explain that previous sentence without spoiling everyone. So, you really need to check this book by yourself. All I gotta say is I can’t wait to read the next book and find out Rhema’s dark secrets. Final thought? 4 out of 5 stars.

[su_accordion][su_accordion] [su_spoiler title=”Read Excerpt” style=”fancy”]“Please wait! I have another coupon,” said the woman standing in the checkout line, rummaging through her purse. “I’m so sorry,” she said, looking back at Rhema and the ten other people that stood in line behind her.

Rhema stood calm, but internally, she raged. The sound of the registers opening and closing was beginning to overwhelm her senses, and a pounding headache was eating at her brain. She reached into her purse and grabbed an Excedrin. Christmas was a week away, and a store trip
that should have taken fifteen minutes had now become forty. She had fought her way through the aisles with her shopping cart, her list crumpled in hand. She felt the sweat dripping from her back as she hurried past the lackadaisical shoppers blocking the aisleways. Now the checkout line was backed up.

“It’s all right. I’m in no hurry at all,” she said, sarcasm dripping from her lips. She wanted to strangle the woman. The woman should have had what she needed, out and ready to go before she got to the front of the line. They had all been standing there so long she thought she could see wrinkles forming on her hands. Rhema stared hard at the woman, taking particular notice of her pregnant belly. Four little hooligans ran around her, pulling items from the checkout shelves. One ran back and forth through the exit doors, blocking exiting shoppers.

Rhema had seen them earlier, running and screaming up and down every aisle, terrorizing the last-minute shoppers, making demands. Rhema smiled inside, knowing that she would never be that woman, who she figured to be a halfwit. That was the only excuse for allowing her children
to walk all over her. She was one of the stupid ones, letting everyone else run their lives. Rhema had made up her mind: She hated her.

Rhema looked into her cart and saw the condensation around her tub of ice cream. It was melting, and she couldn’t stand melted ice cream.

Take the tub and throw it at the woman’s head. The thought made her feel better while she waited. Her mind ran through the list of things she had to do. She had been roped into doing so much that now she was the stupid woman. It was the holidays, and she wondered why people thought that she didn’t have better things to do with her time. She had been pressured into
helping her neighbor with her oldest daughter’s wedding and the younger one’s graduation party after getting ambushed one morning in her driveway on the way to the mailbox. Mrs. Kelly, struggling to get a rug into her car, had asked Rhema for help. Rhema had seen her struggling,
but she’d hoped that her presence had gone unnoticed.

“Rhema, I’m so glad to see you. Could you come help me with this?” Mrs. Kelly asked. Rhema walked over to help, but she resented her asking. Her husband, David, was the only reason she was being so nice. David had just scolded her the day before for not being friendly to the neighbors.

“Why do you have to act so cold?” he’d asked. “I like this house and this neighborhood for Julian, and I don’t want to have to pick up and leave because you’re acting weird and can’t make any friends.”

Rhema didn’t like him either, or that’s what she told herself anyway. I am only staying for Julian. That was what she believed. The truth was something else. Deep down, she loved David, and even on their worst days, he was the best in bed, and that was hard for Rhema to give up, so she stayed.

“I can help the next customer here!” a cashier yelled out. Rhema was next, but a handful of people with fewer items at the end of the line beat her to it. Her face turned red as she squeezed the handle of her shopping cart, knuckles white. She was ready to ram the woman in front of her, and her children.

“Here it is!” the woman shouted. The people in line sighed in relief.

Rhema placed her items on the conveyor belt and took her money out of her purse. She was elated. It was finally her turn. She had stood in line so long, feet hurting in her six-inch boots and needing to pee, but it would have to wait; public restrooms weren’t appealing to her. But at least relief was coming soon. It was the only thing keeping her going. She looked up from her wallet, and her smile went back to a frown. Standing at the register was the store manager and the cashier.

“Sorry, ma’am, we have to change out the drawers.”

Rhema burned with anger, furious at the delay. She imagined jumping the counter and stabbing the man in the eye with her car keys.

When she finished at checkout, she rushed to her car. Feet throbbing, she loaded the groceries, fighting the frigid cold. Her mind ran nonstop as more things were added to her to-do list. The wedding, the graduation party, and then there was Christmas, but today was Julian’s birthday, and after nine o’clock that was one thing that she could scratch off of her list. There was a
moment of peace as the cold wind flickered past her face. Rhema reached into the shopping cart to grab the last bag. When she picked it up to place it in the back, she heard the ruffling rip of the plastic bag, and the container of ice cream fell out and splattered on the ground, covering her three-hundred-dollar boots in chocolate vanilla swirl.

“Fuck!” she screamed, stomping her feet like a child as the sludge of dirty half-melted snow and ice cream splattered further up her boots. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”

“Hey! Watch your mouth. My children don’t need to hear that filthy language,” a woman on the other side of the parking aisle scolded.

Rhema turned to see a woman ushering her brood of children down the parking aisle, noses snotty and red, their bodies so layered with winter clothing they looked like miniature Michelin men.

“I swear, the nerve of some people. Using filthy language like that in public. What a disgrace.”

“What’s wrong with her, Mommy?” one of the smaller children asked.

“Don’t pay her any mind, honey. Just trash.”

She stared at Rhema with scorn, as if she were untouchable, but Rhema knew different. Everyone was touchable. People with money had a false sense of security. They believed that they could say anything to anyone and get away with numerous slights and outright disrespect toward people they believed were less than them. She was an entitled woman, just like the
woman in line. They could do and say whatever they wanted because their money allowed it.

Rhema remembered looking down at their rings as she shopped, their hands glistening on the cart handles. Three- and four-carat diamond rings, sparkling, screaming their status in the world. Rhema looked down at her own ring, just as large in size, but she knew that she was nothing like them.
She had ice cream on her boots, and she had to pee. Rhema knew she couldn’t threaten the woman’s safety, but she could make her uncomfortable. She pulled her hands up from her sides and felt an amazing sense of power as she used her two long, slim middle fingers give the
woman something that she wasn’t expecting. The woman gasped and pushed her children on toward the store, and Rhema stomped what she could of the ice cream off of her boots and got into her car.

She sat there for a moment, collecting her bearings. Looking in the rearview mirror, she saw that she had left the shopping cart sitting behind her SUV. Another delay. She wanted to ram it into the car of the woman that reprimanded her. Reaching for the car door, she got an idea and stopped. Popping the hatch open, she grabbed her wallet, stepped out, and walked to the trunk. Behind the mound of groceries was David’s hunting bag. Rhema reached over the shopping bags and grabbed it. As she unzipped it, her body tingled with excitement. She reached in, grabbing the large Buck hunting knife that rested at the bottom. She slipped the knife in her boot and closed the hatch, gripping the shopping cart and her wallet. She walked over to the cart return, right next to the car of the reprimander. Rhema pushed the cart into the crammed space and walked closer to the woman’s 2016 Range Rover. She fumbled with her Gucci wallet in her hand and let it fall into the greasy slushlike snow.

Rhema looked around to make sure there were no eyes on her. She bent down to pick it up, and once she was down and out of view, she slid the Buck knife out of her boot, removed it from its sleeve, and stabbed it into the back driver’s side tire. As the air slowly deflated, a smile stretched
across Rhema’s face. She placed the knife back in its sleeve and stuffed it back into her boot before standing. She wiped the water from her wallet, walked back to her car, and drove home.[/su_spoiler] [/su_accordion]

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[su_heading size=”14″ margin=”5″]AUTHOR[/su_heading]

Harlow Hayes was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana and is the author of fiction and non-fiction books. She has always had a passion for writing and storytelling in its many forms. When she’s not immersed in her writing, she enjoys reading both fiction and non-fiction, watching classic movies, and listening to jazz with her dad. She is the author of 27 Revelations and You Got to Believe: A Guide to Managing Negative Influences and Expectations As You Prepare to Self-publish Your Book. She currently lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

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