Spotlight & Excerpt: Girl on the Ferris Wheel + Giveaway

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Girl on the Ferris Wheel
Julie Halpern, Len Vlahos
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: January 12th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

In Girl on the Ferris Wheel, Julie Halpern and Len Vlahos expertly tackle this quirky and poignant romance that explores what first love really means—and how it sometimes hurts like hell.

Tenth graders Eliana and Dmitri could not be more different. He’s an outgoing, self-confident drummer in a punk band called Unexpected Turbulence. Eliana is introspective and thoughtful, and a movie buff who is living with depression.

Dmitri quite literally falls for Eliana when he sees her in gym class and slams into a classmate. The pair then navigate the ins and outs of first love. Exciting, scary, unexpected, and so much more difficult than they ever imagined. They say opposites attract, but they soon realize that there is so much they just don’t understand about each other. It begs the question: How long can first love possibly last when you’re so different?

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Excerpt:

Dmitri
School days after gig nights are the worst, especially if the gig was on a Sunday. As if Mondays need any new reasons to suck. My mother’s already yelled up the stairs three times—the first two in English, the last one in Greek—for me to get out of bed. It’s not until Yia Yia, my grandmother, pokes her head into the room that I finally stir. She’s wearing the same plain gray dress she always wears. One of these days I’m going to sneak into her closet to see how many of these dresses she owns. She either has like fifteen, or she wears the same one over and over again. Inquiring minds want to know.
“Dmitri-moo.” Her accent is thick, but her voice is sweet. “Don’t make you mother work so hard. Nico ees downstairs already, you go too, nαι?” I like it that Yia Yia speaks to me in English. I know more than enough Greek to converse with her, but she works hard at trying to fit in, to be more American, and I appreciate it. She definitely works harder than my parents.
“Dmitri!” My mother’s voice rattles the window. “Ελλα εδώ τώρα!” Come here, now!
“He coming!” my grandmother shouts. “Give boy a chance!”
“Thanks, Yia Yia,” I say through a yawn. She turns, winks at me, and leaves the room.
I reach for my phone and scroll through the texts from last night. “Great gig!” “You guys killed it!” “The drums never sounded better!” I flop my head back on the pillow and smile.
When I hit the kitchen dressed and ready to go, my brother, Nico, two years younger, is already at the table reading a book. Nicky always has his face buried in a book. I swear it’s why he needs glasses. This one is something called The Last True Love Story.
“How was the gig?” he asks, looking up.
“Great,” I answer. “There were a ton of kids there. What are you reading?”
Nicky kind of smirks. He does that like he’s in on a joke and no one else knows the punch line. “You’d like it. It’s got a punk rock theme with a kick-ass girl bass player.”
“Yeah?” I ask, intrigued.
“Language!” my mother barks at my brother’s use of the word “ass.” She’s emptying the dishwasher.
“When did you learn curse words, Mitera?” Nicky taunts.
“Enough. Read you book and eat you breakfast. What you want, Dmitri? What I cook for you?”
“You don’t have to make me breakfast, Ma. I can handle it myself.” I open the cupboard and reach for the cereal.
“I like to help!”
“Let the boy get his own breakfast.” I didn’t hear my father come in. He’s dressed in a suit, the same gray suit he wears every day. I wonder if he and Yia Yia shop at some secret gray clothing store just for Greeks. “You out too late again last night.”
“Sorry, Dad, but the gig went long. And then, you know, we had to pack up and stuff.”
“Gig.” He spits the word like an olive pit. “You concentrate on school work. In two years you apply to colleges. You need scholarship money.”
I pour some Cap’N Crunch in a bowl but don’t answer. How can I tell my dad I have no intention of going to college? What good will college do if all I want is to play music? He’s either gonna have a heart attack or ground me for life when he finds out. Probably both.
Nicky looks up from his book and glances at me. He knows my post–high school plans but has been sworn to secrecy. We make eye contact, he shrugs his shoulders and goes back to his punk rock love story.
“Hurry,” my mom says to my father, “you going to be late for work.”
“I never late for work!” my father answers with pride. It’s actu- ally true. My father has never been late for anything in his entire life. It’s weird, like he’s some kind of time lord. We can leave our house at four thirty to go someplace an hour away, and somehow we still arrive by five. Just. Weird.
I take the drumsticks out of my back pocket—I always carry sticks in my back pocket, because, well, you never know—put them on the table, and sit down. I prop my phone against a small vase of flowers my mother likes to keep fresh, and plug in the earbuds.
“What is this?” my father asks, an annoyed look on his face. “I’m going to watch a movie.”
“A movie?” he bellows. “Our people did not invent physiki,
mathematics, and drama for you to watch movies at the breakfast.” “It’s ‘at breakfast’ or ‘at the breakfast table,’” I correct him. “And actually, Dad, they kind of did. Streaming content on a phone is the perfect blend of science and art, don’t you think? Aristotle would be proud.” I’m not sure if my dad understands that I’m tweaking him. His sense of humor is more slapstick than subtle. He laughs himself stupid at old Mel Brooks movies. I have to admit, I kind of do, too. “It’s okay,” I assure him. “This is for school.”
“You watch movies . . . for school?” His annoyance blends with confusion.
“Yeah, for my film studies class. We’re getting grounded in clas- sics before we start to learn how to make our own movies.”
“Movies in school,” he half says, half mutters. “How this coun- try become superpower is mystery to me.”
“Hurry,” my mother admonishes again, “you going to be late!” Mom creates a constant aura of free-floating energy that attempts to consume all in its path, like something from a science-fiction story.
“Baaaah,” my father grumbles, as if the mere thought of being late is ridiculous.
“What movie?” Nicky asks.
“North by Northwest. It’s kind of long, but Mr. Tannis says the way Hitchcock framed certain shots to create tension was groundbreaking.” I shove a spoonful of the Cap’n in my mouth and add, “I’m liking it.”
Yia Yia enters the kitchen, takes her favorite teacup—fake por- celain, blue with a noticeable chip—and pours a small serving of thick black coffee. Yia Yia drinks more coffee than a cop. “When you boys get girlfriends?”
Nicky and I groan in unison.
“What? They not have Greek girls at you school?”
Nicky just shakes his head and goes back to his book.
“Yia Yia,” I answer, “between my band and school, I don’t have
time for girlfriends.”
Yia Yia smiles, this time like she’s in on a joke no one else under-
stands. At least now I see where Nicky gets it. “Time and love are like river. Sometimes they take you where you do not know you need to go.”
Great. My Greek grandmother could have a second career writ- ing fortune cookies.
The truth is, I’ve never had a girlfriend. I did have one date in the eighth grade: Jessica—long hair, straight bangs, and a really nice laugh. We went ice skating, which meant that she did twirls in the middle of the rink while I hugged the wall. I might be the only boy in Minnesota who doesn’t know how to skate, let alone play hockey.
Anyway, when we got hot chocolate and hot pretzels after, she talked about books and current events like she was a college stu- dent or something. I was intimidated. I’m not dumb, but I didn’t think I was smart enough for her.
It was really soon after that I got into the band.
It’s not that I haven’t noticed girls since then, but really, it’s eas- ier to just focus on the band. There’s less drama this way. Well, mostly.

 

Author Bio:

Julie Halpern is the award-winning author of seven young adult novels, one novel for adults, and one picture book for young readers. In her imaginary spare time she enjoys traveling, making cosplay for her kids, and eating baked goods. Julie lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Caldecott-winning author and illustrator Matthew Cordell, and their two children.

Len Vlahos dropped out of NYU film school in the mid ’80s to play guitar and write songs for Woofing Cookies, a punk-pop four piece that toured up and down the East Coast, and had two singles and one full-length LP on Midnight Records. After the band broke up, he followed his other passion, books. He is the author of The Scar Boys, a William C. Morris Award finalist and a #1 Indie Next pick, and Scar Girl, the book’s sequel. Len lives in Denver with his wife and two young sons, where he owns the Tattered Cover Book Store.

 

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Dirty Deeds + Giveaway

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Dirty Deeds: An Urban Fantasy Collection
Devon Monk, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Faith Hunter, R.J. Blain
Publication date: January 12th 2021
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

When the going gets tough, the tough get their hands dirty. Join NY Times Bestselling author Faith Hunter, USA Today Bestselling author R.J. Blain, and National Bestselling authors Diana Pharaoh Francis and Devon Monk on a wild romp where the damsels bring the distress and what can go wrong will go wrong.

Venture into a thrilling spinoff tale from the world of Jane Yellowrock; join vacationing gods in what appears to be a quiet, ordinary town; visit a supernatural hotel where the bedbugs could very well eat you; and dive into the zany, deadly world of the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series.

In this collection of all-new urban fantasy novellas and other stories, no job is too big or too small — if the price is right.

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Excerpt:

From Faith Hunter’s Bound into Darkness:

Sometime between books 13 and 14 of the Jane Yellowrock Series…

Liz
Liz Everhart finished the email, tucked her cell into a back pocket of her jeans, ignored the weird buzz of blood-curse taint that still pulled at her flesh, and tried to decide who she wanted to call for backup on this gig. Finding a lost dog sounded easy on the surface, but it could involve hiking up and down mountain ridges, maybe camping overnight, and then hauling a seventy-pound, possibly wounded dog back to civilization. That wasn’t something she wanted to do alone. Liz dialed her twin, Cia, and discovered she was spending the weekend with her boyfriend, so help on that quarter was out. Her other sisters were covering the family business, Seven Sassy Sisters’ Herb Shop and Café. That left asking Jane Yellowrock, who she didn’t particularly like, and who was way too busy being some big hoo-ha in the vampire world. Or she could ask the man who had been avoiding her for weeks. Yeah. Him. She thought about being rejected again. Or, not so much rejected, as suddenly, inexplicably ignored.

Staring out over the vineyard, watching her older sister, Molly, work, she remembered the various comments he’d made a month ago, ones that suggested he was now totally disinterested. She didn’t know what had happened, except that he’d been in some pretty dangerous situations protecting Jane Yellowrock. Maybe he really thought the danger to “civilians,” as he called people who were not part of Yellowrock’s vampire-human-witch clan was too great for her to handle.

Come to think of it, his apparent disinterest had come almost immediately after her bout with viral pneumonia. He’d been there for her while she recuperated, then he’d pulled back. Son of a witch! That was it. Because she’d nearly died, he thought she couldn’t keep up with the danger. If she hadn’t caught him looking at her a couple of times, she would have believed he’d changed his mind about them being together and become oblivious to her. He thought she was weak which might be worse. Stupid man.

Down the hill, Molly stretched hard and blew out. She’d been hired to talk to the vines to help them grow. Molly was an earth witch and, when she talked to plants, she actively pushed her earth magic into the soil, into the roots, encouraging them to good health, to seek out proper nutrients. She gave them a boost of life. Liz wasn’t an earth witch like Molly, but even she could tell the land here was well cared for, happy, and productive, in part due to Molly “talking to the vines.” Yellowrock and her consort, George Dumas, should have a good crop come harvest time. Aaaand she was wasting time.

Liz trudged back up the terraced incline to the big inn where Yellowrock Clan wine label originated, and which housed the Yellowrock Clan itself: a mixed para clan that did crazy stuff trying to keep the human versus para war from erupting here like it had in other parts of the world. Politics. Liz hated politics. Wasn’t real fond of vamps. But Yellowrock’s adopted clan-brother, Eli Younger, the man who had been avoiding her, lived here. That ornery man made it worth the trip from Asheville.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Full Moon in Leo + Giveaway

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Full Moon in Leo
Brooklyn Ray
Publication date: October 1st 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance

Small-town magic, two heavy hearts—one unforgettable winter solstice

Cole Morrison left Jewel’s snow-covered fir trees ten years ago. But after a disastrous family Thanksgiving, Jewel seems like the only place left to go. When a run-in with a gorgeous stranger leaves him with debt to pay, Cole’s escape from his past turns out to be much more than a lonely Christmas vacation.

Jesse Carroway, the local Jewel witch, has been running his family’s successful, small-town Apothecary ever since his grandmother passed away. When Cole stumbles into his shop and accidentally wrecks a good portion of his inventory, Jesse does the only thing he can possibly think of—offers Cole a job and himself some help for the upcoming holiday rush.

Cole’s clumsy with candles and doesn’t trust easily, but soon Jesse gets a peek at the guy behind his bad-boy reputation. As the nights lengthen toward Yule, Jesse wonders if magic is to blame or if Cole might’ve fallen into his life for a reason…

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Excerpt:

FULL MOON IN LEO—1

Cole looked closely, searching for another hint of familiarity, and came away with none. Finely sculpted bones pressed against the stranger’s skin, carving a sharp jaw into a heart-shaped face. Dark hair was swept back, sheared close to the skin on the sides and kept longer on top. A high-necked sweater clung to his lean frame, the sleeves bundled in his palms. Cole hadn’t realized he’d been staring until he met wide eyes looking back at him from behind silver reading glasses.
“Jesse, do you want soy or almond milk?” Tara said.
Once Jesse turned his gaze to the floor, Cole cleared his throat.
“Who’s that?” Jesse’s voice came out hushed, but The Crow’s Nest was too small for privacy.
“Oh, that’s Cole.” Tara swiveled around the glass case to look at him. “Hey!” Cole immediately whipped toward the window, pretending to busy himself with birds or trees, something, anything else. “Cole, come on, don’t be like that.”
Fucking hell. He turned to face them and forced a pained smile. “Yeah, hi. It’s—I’m Cole.” He braved a longer look at Jesse, whose freckled cheeks were tinged pink.
Tara pointed at him with her pen. Her grin widened again. “He’s an out-of-towner. Old friend of mine; we used to hang out when we were kids.”
“Oh.” Jesse’s throat bobbed when he swallowed. “That’s—”
“It’s been a while, ten years, honestly. He could be a serial killer for all I know.”
Cole rolled his eyes, but a laugh snorted out of him anyway. “Tara.”
“Great, awesome, thank you for making this interaction entirely too awkward to deal with,” Jesse hissed, bashful smile masked by a nervous adjustment of his glasses. He grabbed the hydroflask from the counter and darted out the door. “See you around!”
Cole watched him through the window, how he walked with his shoulders back, his profile crisp and pronounced. Jesse tipped his chin and met Cole’s eyes for a fleeting moment, mouth twisted into a crooked smile, before he stepped past the window and was gone.
“Wait, Jesse!” Tara held a paper bag in one hand, craning over the desk. A group of customers arrived and she paused, biting her lip before she narrowed her eyes at Cole. “C’mere.”
Cole frowned. “No.”
“Come on, I need a favor!” She flashed a smile at the customers. Hi, yes, oh are you visiting? Welcome to Jewel. What can I get for you today? Another pointed glare at Cole. Her lips formed silent words. Please, come on.
Cole shook his head.
Once Tara finished taking orders, she shook the bag at him. “You’ve ghosted me for a decade. You owe me.”
“So, you are mad.” Reluctantly, Cole walked to the counter.
“Of course, I’m mad. Are you kidding me? Ten years, asshole?” She chuckled under her breath. “Not, like, mad mad.”
“Mad enough to extort me for it.”
“Emotional extortion.” She gestured to the bag. “Can you take this to Jesse? He runs the apothecary next door.”
“The guy you just royally embarrassed me in front of? No, Tara, come on—”
“Excuse me, but my best friend vanished into thin air ten years ago and I still bought him breakfast,” Tara said matter-of-factly. She rushed around the barista station, steaming this and pouring that. “He’s real sweet, okay? Just a little skittish.”
“And he runs an… an apothecary? He’s—”
“Cute? Yeah, I know. He makes wreathes, candles, lotions, potions, all of it. Local witch, local sweetheart, local bachelor.” She set her palms on the counter and tilted her head, blowing a strand of hair off her brow. “In case you were wondering.”
Cole didn’t know what to say to something like that. He blinked, surprised, and scoffed. “Still playing matchmaker, Foster?”
Tara scoffed back at him. “Maybe. You scared of a cute guy, Morrison?”
Cole rolled his eyes.
“I’ll sweeten the deal. I’m making almond muffins tomorrow.”
“Another free breakfast?” He shook his head, trying and failing to suppress a grin. Some things never changed, and Tara, thank fucking god, was who she’d always been. Haughty and confident and strong in every way Cole never could be.
But this tasted like forgiveness. Like beginnings, maybe. An olive branch he could actually hold onto.
Tara balanced mugs on a black tray. “Free breakfast and a free latte. Deal?”
Cole snatched the paper bag off the counter. “Deal.”

 

Author Bio:

Brooklyn Ray (they/them) is an award-winning author of Queer Paranormal Romance and Erotica. They’re a fan of fresh brewed tea, long walks through the woods, and evenings spent reading sexy books. They write about witches, necromancers, and other magical creatures, and moonlight as a tarot and palm reader in the Pacific Northwest. Find them on Instagram @brooklynrayauthor

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Edit: You can head over to See Sadie Read to see my review of Full Moon in Leo.