Friday, 29 October 2021

REVIEW - FEMLANDIA BY CHRISTINA DALCHER

 

  

Title: Femlandia
Author: Christina Dalcher
Publisher: HQ
Genre: General (Adult) Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: 19th October 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
The United States has sunk into total collapse.

Men in positions of power have wrecked the economy and left women to suffer and pick up the pieces.

Miranda Reynolds has lost her husband, her job and her home. There’s only one place left that she and her daughter Emma can go. Femlandia.

Femlandia is a female-only community. A utopia for women. There’s a reason Miranda never joined before. Now she has no choice.

With what Miranda knows about Femlandia’s founder, she’s right to be wary. While life outside the gates is fraught with danger, there’s something just as sinister going on within. 

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REVIEW
As I have read and loved VOX and Q both amazing, thought-provoking books by Christina Dalcher, I was eagerly awaiting her next book release. I have seen two different covers for this book, both have pinks and reds heavily featured on them, representing the female orientated community called Femlandia which is central to this book. I have to be totally honest that I do much prefer the HQ publishing cover. I prefer the harsher lines and the subtle X depicted within the cover. I feel this cover is a stronger representation of the tough, hardened by their encounters with men, women that live in Femlandia. The other cover by Berkley also suits the book in its own way but its perhaps softer in representations, using the feminine facial profile and the two lonely figures (representing Miranda and her daughter Emma). It refers more to the women creating a happy male free existence living in peace and harmony together. The genres I have seen listed for this book are General (Adult) Fiction, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy, but I personally think it is so much more. It is Futuristic, it’s Speculative Fiction, and I would also say it has some elements of horror in there too. I think it will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

The main three central, most important characters in this book are Win, her daughter Miranda, and Miranda’s daughter Emma. The world has literally been brought to its knees and it’s a survival of the fittest scenario. Miranda’s husband of 20 years, Nick has always enjoyed spending money and living the good life, all that was required of his wife Miranda was to look pretty on his arm and take care of their daughter, Emma. When the money dried up, and those that invested on Nick’s recommendations grew angry, Nick took the what would be viewed as some as, the easy way out and committed suicide, leaving Miranda and Emma with the angry friends and neighbours. However, when everything goes to nothing, when stores have no produce to sell, and neighbours are choosing to make suicide pacts with their partners as they can no longer face life as it is now, Miranda has two choices. She can be like some of her neighbours and give in shooting first her daughter Emma and then herself or she can gather what little supplies she does have and make the journey to a place she never dreamt she would ever consider going to, Femlandia. Miranda’s mother Win created Femlandia with another young women called Jen. Femlandia is a community of only women, most of whom have had bad experiences with men. Some of the women have fled domestic abuse, rape, molestation and other such abuse metered out by the men in their lives.

Miranda had a falling out with her mother Win when she shockingly discovered the truth behind her own father’s suicide. Miranda doesn’t like Jen, the “perfect daughter” that Win always wanted her to be. Miranda had been a daddy’s girl, loving pretty dresses, playing with dolls. As Miranda got older. she wanted nothing more to meet the love of her life, marry him and have children. Miranda grew into a “lady that lunched” with a small group of similar minded friends. Win was sorely disappointed, she wanted a strong, forthright, daughter who dressed in pants or dungarees, refused to play with dolls, who would grow into being an independent woman who refused to rely on a man to look after her. When it became blatantly obvious that there was no way Miranda would be the person her mother wanted her to be, Win turned her attention onto Jennifer Jones. Jennifer Jones, didn’t play with dolls, she eagerly took the part in Win’s “act” playing the daughter Win wanted Miranda to be. Miranda was happy enough at the time to step back and let Jen be the “perfect daughter.” Jen became the person to help

It shows how desperate things have become for Miranda that she would even consider travelling to Femlandia in the hope of being able to have some safety and a future for her daughter Emma.
It’s not an easy journey, especially when Emma is about to be attacked by a group of men. Miranda has to make a split second decision, to aim and fire the gun that belonged to her husband Nick, that he had left for her with his suicide note. By the time the two women reach Femlandia, Emma has strangely regressed to being mute, communicating only via a sign language that Miranda taught her as a child. The same sign language that was the basis of the way Miranda communicated with the chimpanzee at the zoo where she worked.

When Miranda and Emma reach Femlandia they are given no special treatment for being the daughter and granddaughter of the woman that founded the community they are about to enter. It turns out both females have been hiding a secret from each other, perhaps that is one of the reasons that they eventually being eagerly welcomed into the female only society that is surrounded by barbed wire topped electrified fencing.

Though initially life seems almost idyllic within the boundaries of Femlandia, Miranda soon begins to see the negatives of her decision to join the society of women. Emma seems to be quickly, and easily spirited away from Miranda. The relationship between Jen and Emma becomes ever closer, with the pair having their own routines and secrets. The irony of Jen stealing away another member of Miranda’s family from her is one Miranda sadly accepts as the price of the safety of her daughter.
It’s made quite clear by Jen that she is in charge and that what she says is taken as “law” within Femlandia. Miranda is presented with a long list of expectations and rules that have to be fulfilled in order to stay in Femlandia. Rulebreakers are punished, and Miranda ends up being first fairly gently admonished, then upon a second offence she is disciplined more harshly and threatened that another infraction will result in her being set out of Femlandia. There are lots of secrets being held within the community, Miranda tries to discuss things with her old friend and ex lady who lunched Sal, but it seems Sal is Femlandia through and through and just accepts what has to be has to be. In fact, Sal warns Miranda not to rock the boat. It turns out all those years ago Win really did underestimate her own flesh and blood because Miranda refuses to just accept what she is told and goes in search of the answers to the many questions she has about the truths behind Femlandia and its occupants. It does eventually turn out to be the case that not everyone is truly 100 percent happy with how they are living within Femlandia and they end up kind of championing Miranda, and when a choice has to be made, and Miranda puts her mother daughter relationship and her own life on the line she ends up receiving a little help from slightly unexpected people.

I could seriously go on and on about the world building, the society, its rules and the fantastic characters in this book forever but of course I can’t and I also do not want to reveal anything that would spoil the natural unfolding of this book when you read it for yourselves, because, yes I definitely recommend reading it!

I felt immediately pulled in and intrigued by what direction this book was going within its first few pages. The book held me tight until the very end and the epilogue. I’ll be totally honest the “final showdown” between Jen, Win and Miranda had me guessing which way it was going to go. It’s difficult to talk about without giving away spoilers but I thought it was going to go down more of the route of Win & Jen being like two sides of the same coin and always being together in life/death in this stark new apocalyptic world.
My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were, Wow! Its was a great read, but then I thought more about the book, the final showdown between Miranda and Jen…..and I couldn’t help mulling it over and over. In fact that’s why it’s taken me longer to eventually sit down and write my review.

So summing up, and I know this may seem like I am being super picky but I truly feel like I would have preferred the book to not have the epilogue, as it felt like it was a bit rushed and almost like a list of tied up loose ends readers may have had. The epilogue like it existed to just answer the questions readers would wonder about, which could have been left open to each individual readers own interpretation. Yes, it’s good on one hand for the author to wrap everything up as they see it but on the other without an epilogue, I can’t help wishing that there perhaps could have been a book 2, part 2 or a novella, which dealt with how things continued on in Femlandia. I honestly felt that I didn’t need all the information in the epilogue, or perhaps not as much of it, I wanted to be left pondering what I thought may have happened. Having said all of that I truly, highly recommend reading this book. It would be a fantastic book club read, there are so many discussions that are raised by it. I can imagine different readers having a lively debate about the characters as well as the themes of the different types and levels of abuse. I honestly cannot wait to see what is going to come next from this author. I am finding myself drawn more and more to this type of speculative fiction, I adore reading and discovering the different characters thought processes for their individual actions and decisions.



Wednesday, 27 October 2021

REVIEW - TOTALLY SPOOKED - A SHIFTER SPEED DATING ROMANCE BY ZOEY INDIANA

 

Title: Totally Spooked
Series: A Shifter Speed Dating Romance
Author: Zoey Indiana
Genre: Sci-Fi, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: 6th October 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
Blindfolded speed dating for shifters, what could go wrong?

I spent years fighting alongside some of the best males I've ever known. One mission went wrong and I watched as my twin brother died in my arms. Now, I've settled into a less dangerous job developing new sonar technology for the military.

My life looks perfect, but I can't get rid of this feeling I'm missing something. My family and friends keep pushing me to date, hoping I'll finally find someone to keep me busy. I don't want Mrs. Right Now… I need my fated mate. My beast drives me to find her, so I keep agreeing to blind dates that end badly.

But when a friend shows up on Halloween with an invite to a shifter speed dating event, I can't pass on this chance to find my fated mate.

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REVIEW
I really fancied a lighter read so when I saw this novella, with its Halloween theme I thought it was perfect timing and I decided to give it a go.

The main character is Felix, is a fox shifter, he has been working alone doing research on his boat the Foxy Lady. Jaden, an old friend who had been in the military with Felix tells him about a Speed Dating event. Felix is reluctant to begin with but allows himself to be coerced into going. Felix has heard all about finding that perfect mate but is not 100% sold on the idea of finding “the one” at such an event.

The event is well organised by human women and there are certain rules in place for the Speed Dating, all the humans there are aware of shifters, which is quite unusual as shifters are not widely known about. The participants also have to wear blindfolds, and have a limited time with each prospective date. Naturally for the protection of both shifter and human there are “bouncers” at the event on hand to intervene should there be any sign of trouble.

Felix meets a woman called Luna who is eager to find her true mate with a shifter as her sister has found hers. In fact, she walked in on her sister and her mate which is how she learnt about the existence of shifters.

This is a quick, quite light read, that has some rather racy, steamy sections, though it does have a plot line and I think as the series goes on it will become more interesting and the plot
will become more apparent and prominent.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this novella, was that it had felt a little too rushed. I wanted the plot to unfold a little more before the steamy scenes. The novella was a good introduction to the series, that I read in one reading session.

Summing up, I am interested in reading more of this series, in fact I have bought the next novella’s so will definitely be reading more at some point. I find the idea of the Speed Dating for Shifters plot line interesting and hope there will be a bit more background on the individual characters before and after they meet their true mates. The novella just left me wanting more story, more about what the characters had been through. Those parts felt like they had been a little rushed as if to get to the steamy sections.



 

Monday, 25 October 2021

BLOG TOUR - SISTER OF THE GREAT WAR BY SUZANNE FELDMAN

  

Title: Sisters Of The Great War
Author: Suzanne Feldman
Publisher: MIRA books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Womens Fiction
Release Date: 26th October 2021

BLURB supplied by Harlequin Trade Publishing
Two sisters. The Great War looming. A chance to shape their future.

Sisters Ruth and Elise Duncan could never have anticipated volunteering for the war effort. But in 1914, the two women decide to make the harrowing journey from Baltimore to Ypres, Belgium in order to escape the suffocating restrictions placed on them by their father and carve a path for their own future.

Smart and practical Ruth is training as a nurse but dreams of becoming a doctor. In a time when women are restricted to assisting men in the field, she knows it will take great determination to prove herself, and sets out to find the one person who always believed in her: a handsome army doctor from England. For quiet Elise, joining the all female Ambulance Corps means a chance to explore her identity, and come to terms with the growing attraction she feels towards women. Especially the charming young ambulance driver who has captured her heart.

In the twilight of the Old World and the dawn of the new, both young women come of age in the face bombs, bullets and the deadly futility of trench warfare. Together they must challenge the rules society has placed on them in order to save lives: both the soldiers and the people they love.

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EXCERPT

Baltimore, Maryland

August 1914



Ruth Duncan fanned herself with the newspaper in the summer heat as Grandpa Gerald put up a British flag outside the house. If he’d had a uniform—of any kind—he would have worn it. People on the sidewalk paused and pointed, but Grandpa, still a proper English gent even after almost twenty years in the U.S., smoothed his white beard and straightened his waistcoat, ignoring the onlookers.

“That’s done,” he said.

Ruth’s own interest in the war was limited to what she read in the paper from across the dining table. Grandpa would snap the paper open before he ate breakfast. She could see the headlines and the back side of the last page, but not much more. Grandpa would grunt his appreciation of whatever was in-side, snort at what displeased him, and sometimes laugh. On the 12th of August, the headline in the Baltimore Sun read; France And Great Britain Declare War On Austria-Hungary, and Grandpa wasn’t laughing.

Cook brought in the morning mail and put it on the table next to Grandpa. She was a round, grey-haired woman who left a puff of flour behind her wherever she went.

“Letter from England, sir,” Cook said, leaving the envelope and a dusting of flour on the dark mahogany. She smiled at Ruth and left for the kitchen.

Grandpa tore the letter open.

Ruth waited while he read. It was from Richard and Diane Doweling, his friends in London who still wrote to him after all these years. They’d sent their son, John, to Harvard in Massachusetts for his medical degree. Ruth had never met John Doweling, but she was jealous of him, his opportunities, his apparent successes. The Dowelings sent letters whenever John won some award or other. No doubt this was more of the same. Ruth drummed her fingers on the table and eyed the dining room clock. In ten minutes, she would need to catch the trolley that would take her up to the Loyola College of Nursing, where she would be taught more of the things she had already learned from her father. The nuns at Loyola were dedicated nurses, and they knew what they were doing. Some were out-standing teachers, but others were simply mired in the medicine of the last century. Ruth was frustrated and bored, but Father paid her tuition, and what Father wanted, Father got.

Ruth tugged at her school uniform—a white apron over a long white dress, which would never see a spot of blood. “What do they say, Grandpa?”

He was frowning. “John is enlisting. They’ve rushed his graduation at Harvard so he can go home and join the Royal Army Medical Corps.”

“How can they rush graduation?” Ruth asked. “That seems silly. What if he misses a class in, say, diseases of the liver?”

Grandpa folded the letter and looked up. “I don’t think he’ll be treating diseases of the liver on the battlefield. Anyway, he’s coming to Baltimore before he ships out.”

“Here?” said Ruth in surprise. “But why?”

“For one thing,” said Grandpa, “I haven’t seen him since he was three years old. For another, you two have a common interest.”

“You mean medicine?” Ruth asked. “Oh, Grandpa. What could I possibly talk about with him? I’m not even a nurse yet, and he’s—he’s a doctor.” She spread her hands. “Should we discuss how to wrap a bandage?”

“As long as you discuss something.” He pushed the letter across the table to her and got up. “You’ll be showing him around town.”

“Me?” said Ruth. “Why me?”

“Because your sister—” Grandpa nodded at Elise, just clumping down the stairs in her nightgown and bathrobe “—has dirty fingernails.” He started up the stairs. “Good morning, my dear,” he said. “Do you know what time it is?” “Uh huh,” Elise mumbled as she slumped into her seat at the table.

As Grandpa continued up the stairs Ruth called after him. “But when is he coming?”

“His train arrives Saturday at noon,” Grandpa shouted back. “Find something nice to wear. You too, Elise.”

Elise rubbed her eyes. “What’s going on?”

Ruth pushed the letter at her and got up to go. “Read it,” she said. “You’ll see.”

Ruth made her way down Thirty-Third Street with her heavy bookbag slung over one shoulder, heading for the trolley stop, four blocks away, on Charles. Summer classes were almost over, and as usual, the August air in Baltimore was impenetrably hot and almost unbreathable. It irritated Ruth to think that she would arrive at Loyola sweaty under her arms, her hair frizzed around her nurse’s cap from the humidity. The nuns liked neatness, modest decorum. Not perspiring young women who wished they were somewhere else.

Elise, Ruth thought, as she waited for a break in the noisy traffic on Charles Street, could’ve driven her in the motor-car, but no, she’d slept late. Her younger sister could do pretty much anything, it seemed, except behave like a girl. Elise, who had been able to take apart Grandpa’s pocket watch and put it back together when she was six years old, was a use-ful mystery to both Father and Grandpa. She could fix the car—cheaper than the expensive mechanics. , For some rea-son, Elise wasn’t obliged to submit to the same expectations as Ruth—she could keep her nails short and dirty. Ruth wondered, as she had since she was a girl, if it was her younger sister’s looks. She was a mirror image of their mother, who had died in childbirth with Elise. Did that make her special in Father’s eyes?

An iceman drove a sweating horse past her. The horse raised its tail, grunted, and dropped a pile of manure, rank in the heat, right in front of her, as though to auger the rest of her day. The iceman twisted in the cart to tip his hat. “Sorry Sister!”

Ruth let her breath out through her teeth. Maybe the truth of the matter was that she was the ‘sorry sister.’ It was at this exact corner that her dreams of becoming a doctor, to follow in her father’s footsteps, had been shot down. When she was ten, and the governess said she’d done well on her writing and math, she was allowed to start going along on Father’s house calls and help in his office downstairs. Father had let her do simple things at first; mix plaster while he positioned a broken ankle, give medicine to children with the grippe, but she watched everything he did and listened carefully. By the time she was twelve, she could give him a diagnosis, and she remembered her first one vividly, identifying a man’s abdominal pain as appendicitis.

“You did a good job,” Father had said to her, as he’d reined old Bess around this very corner. “You’ll make an excellent nurse one day.”

Ruth remembered laughing because she’d thought he was joking. Her father’s praise was like gold. “A nurse?” she’d said. “One day I’ll be a doctor, just like you!”

“Yes, a nurse,” he’d said firmly, without a hint of a smile. It was the tone he used for patients who wouldn’t take their medicine.

“But I want to be a doctor.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. He hadn’t sounded sorry at all. “Girls don’t become doctors. They become nurses and wives. Tomorrow, if there’s time, we’ll visit a nursing college. When you’re eighteen, that’s where you’ll go.”

“But—”

He’d shaken his head sharply, cutting her off. “It isn’t done, and I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

A decade later, Ruth could still feel the shock in her heart. It had never occurred to her that she couldn’t be a doctor because she was a girl. And now, John Doweling was coming to town to cement her future as a doctor’s wife. That was what everyone had in mind. She knew it. Maybe John didn’t know yet, but he was the only one.

Ruth frowned and lifted her skirts with one hand, balancing the bookbag with the other, and stepped around the manure as the trolley came clanging up Charles.


Excerpted from Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman, Copyright © 2021 by Suzanne Feldman. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Suzanne Feldman, a recipient of the Missouri Review Editors' Prize and a finalist for the Bakeless Prize in fiction, holds an MA in fiction from Johns Hopkins University and a BFA in art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her short fiction has appeared in Narrative, The Missouri Review, Gargoyle, and other literary journals. She lives in Frederick, Maryland.
 
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Author Website
Twitter: @suzanne21702
Facebook: @SuzanneFeldman
Instagram: @suzannefeldmanauthor
Goodreads  
 

 

Friday, 22 October 2021

REVIEW - AWAKENED - DIABLO LAKE BY LAUREN DANE

 

Title: Awakened
Series: Diablo Lake
Author: Lauren Dane

Publisher: Carina Press, Harlequin
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: 26th October 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
It’s autumn in Diablo Lake and the town is buzzing with preparations for Halloween, Samhain, Collins Hill Days, and the wedding of the newly elected mayor and her wolf shifter fiancĂ©.

Ruby Thorne can’t think of a better time of year to come back for good and open the health clinic she’s been planning for the last six years. Her connection to the town and its veins of magic have snapped back into place, flooding her with a power eager to jump to her call.

She has a sense of rightness. This witch is exactly where she’s supposed to be. So it’s not much of a surprise that he comes back into her path just like he was meant to…

Damon Dooley has spent the last few years learning how to run the pack at his older brother’s right hand. There’s been upheaval. Outrage. Violence. Old rules have created a silence so crushing it’s collapsed the fabric of not just the wolf shifters, but the town as a whole.

And yet, Ruby has returned. Man and wolf agree she needs to be in their life regularly, and before long, things move from serious to something magically deeper.

Bound to one another heart and soul, both committed to what’s best for Diablo Lake, Ruby backs Damon as he pushes for much-needed change. But when something falls into Ruby’s lap and she learns the whole, terrible truth, secrets need to be spilled. How—and by whom—becomes the only question.
 

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REVIEW
I had initially been a little worried about remembering relevant things and the names of those that live in Diablo Lake, but honestly, I needn’t have worried at all. From the minute Ruby steps in to support her best friend and soon to be married Aimee against her soon to be bitchy mother-in-law, Scarlett Pembry I felt pulled back into both the world and lives of the Diablo Lake residents.

Ruby Thorne has returned home to her witch family in Diablo Lake, she is now qualified and ready to open the health clinic that’s been in planning for six years. Ruby is happy to be home, in fact it feels amazing.

Ruby had been dating Damon Dooley before she left Diablo Lake and they both agreed to put an end to their “romance” before she left, giving them both options to date other people rather than trying a long distance relationship. Though they parted on really good terms and it had been a mutual decision the can’t help but feel a little awkward around each other when they bump into one another in Diablo Lake. The universe seems to be throwing the couple in the direction of each other, as when Ruby wants somewhere to live, it is Damon that as part of his real estate business shows her the homes available. There are three properties to choose from and choosing where to live is important as Ruby needs her “witchy” side to feel at home and comfortable. It also seems that Ruby is in demand with both Dooley and Pembry pack hoping she will choose to live on their land. Having a witch on your land can be very advantageous to either pack.

This book has all the warm cosy witchy, shifter pack vibes with some romance and pack politics thrown in. What with all that and the upcoming wedding of the newly elected Mayor Aimee who is marrying the Pembry Pack Alpha, Macrae. Then there’s the traditions of Halloween, Samhain, and Collins Hill Days to be observed and celebrated Diablo Lake is certainly bustling. Ruby is also busy with Katie Faith getting the newly opened health centre up and running.

The younger, newer Alpha’s and their younger pack members want to create and keep a truce between the two packs. They want to modernise the laws and the way punishments are dealt with and talked about. There’s one particular law that both Alpha’s want to get rid of, but there is a lot of negativity and obstructions being thrown in the path to doing this. It is of course the “queen of mean” Scarlett Pembry at the bottom of not wanting the law changing, which eventually has people, particularly Ruby wondering what Scarlett and the older members of her family have to hide!

I adore the nods to normal life that Lauren Dane includes in her books, such as one of the characters shopping and using a trolley that has a wonky wheel. It seems even paranormal beings have inadequate trolleys! I loved the way the other male shifters, Jace, Macrae and twin brother Major had an easy camaraderie and thoroughly enjoyed teasing Damon and Ruby. I also thought the way the possibility of Ruby’s beloved grandmother Pearl perhaps beginning to succumb to the onset of dementia was handle truthfully, realistically and sensitively. I loved how Pearl Thorne, cheekily, unashamedly flirted with her grand-daughter Ruby’s fiancĂ© Damon. The author takes you through a whole range of emotions and character journeys whilst reading the book. There’s so much going on in Awakened, the romance of the wedding and rekindled love, old feuds still being held onto, cantankerous shifters not willing to change and accept help from the new health centre. The girls get togethers are always funny, referred to as “Nip, Stitch & Bitch” meetings. I really like the feelings of belonging and family within the book too. The endearing yet at the same time comedic interactions between shifter Damon and Ruby’s dogs make great reading.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that I had really enjoyed re-visiting Diablo Lake and its residents.

Summing up despite it being “years” since reading the first two books, I found that I easily slipped back into the world of Diablo Lake and loved reading this book. I do really hope that Lauren Dane writes and releases more books in this great shifter/witch, magical series.

Monday, 18 October 2021

BLOG TOUR - LIES MY MEMORY TOLD ME BY SACHA WUNSCH

  

From the thrilling voice of Sacha Wunsch comes a heart-stopping psychological mystery in a world where memories can be shared—but maybe not trusted.


Title: Lies My Memory Told Me
Author: Sacha Wundsch
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: 19th October 2021

BLURB supplied by Harlequin Trade Publishing
Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. That’s where Nova comes in. She can pick up the slack for them—and she doesn’t mind. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift, and its value outweighs its costs.

But Kade says Nova doesn’t even know the costs. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and he’s strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling like there’s something she’s forgotten.

But there’s danger around every corner, and her own home might be the most dangerous place of all.

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EXCERPT

Prologue

The platform was a hundred and fifty feet up.

I tried not to look down.

I hadn’t even known I was afraid of heights until the moment I stood up there.

The stranger came up to me, grinning. “You’re going to love it,” he said.

I swallowed.

My entire body was sweating, most notably my palms, slipping as I tried to grip the safety harness.

Was I really going to do this?

No. I was going to get unclipped, turn around, and simply climb back down what felt like the millions of stairs stretching below me.

And then, just as I started to turn, someone pushed me off the platform.

I screamed as I dropped, nothing but air beneath me.

And then… I started to glide.

The scream kept coming a few seconds more, but my heart did a flip before it could reach my mind. I was soaring. Over the treetops. Whizzing along the zip line at high speeds. It was the best thing I had ever felt.

I had never been this free. Which made sense, I was essentially flying, after all.

Giggling was very much not in my nature, but there I was, giggling anyway. I closed my eyes to get a better sense of the wind on my face, but when the sweet scent of fresh-blooming flowers greeted me, I opened them again. Sure enough, the trees several yards below my feet were blooming some kind of large purple flower.

I sucked in a breath, wishing I could inhale the whole scene, wanting to appreciate it as much as I could—savor it—know­ing it wouldn’t last forever, and landed gently on the other side.

I did not have to be pushed off the second platform—barely able to wait my turn to jump again. I soared from platform to platform, wishing nothing more than for this to go on for­ever, grinning all the way, and realizing only at the last sec­ond that the final landing platform wasn’t a platform at all, but a deep, cooling pool.

I sucked in a breath, and with a final burst of adrenaline, I splashed into the crystal-clear water.

TWENTY MINUTES EARLIER

“Come on, open it,” Mom said, her smiling beaming.

I held the small, beautifully wrapped box, unable to imag­ine what it was. My parents knew I wasn’t really that into jewelry, and neither were they really, but what else could be in such a small box?

I tore into it and flipped the lid open.

Which confused me even more. It wasn’t a ring or a pen­dant, just a small metal disk.

Dad sensed my confusion. “Give it a second,” he said, beaming even brighter than Mom.

In a blink, a form emerged, a hologram above the disk. There was no sound, but it looked like the person in the ho­logram was gliding through the tops of trees high in the air.

“This is…really cool,” I said, and meant it, but couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something.

Mom was practically bouncing on the couch. “We wanted to do something special for your birthday.”

“Thank you” was all I could really think to say. The disk was pretty cool, but what the hell was with their enthusiasm?

“You’re welcome Nova,” Dad said. “But this isn’t the whole thing. It’s the experience of it that’s the real gift.”

“The experience of it?”

Mom had gotten up and gone to the desk by the front door. She picked up another box, this one unwrapped, and pulled something from inside.

“Here, you put this on,” she said, handing me a clunky set of headphones plugged into a small handheld device about the size of a phone.

“The disk goes in there,” Dad said, and showed me how to open it, setting my new present inside.

And then I experienced my first ever zip line.

As the experience ended, I blinked my eyes open, a hun­dred percent sure I’d be soaking wet, but I was sitting right back in my living room. The sensation was a bit disorienting, but my parents were staring at me like they were about to explode.

“What was that?” I asked, grabbing the hem of my shirt, which I couldn’t quite comprehend being dry.

“That was Enhanced Memory,” Dad said, but the look on his face said so much more—like if he’d had feathers, they’d be plumaged out like the most badass peacock of the bunch.

“What did you think?” Mom asked, clasping her hands like she had so much energy whizzing through her body she had to do something to hold it in.

“Well obviously it was amazing, but by the way you two are acting, you already know that.” I couldn’t help but grin. They were just so cute sitting there all proud of themselves. “But seriously, what is this? What is Enhanced Memory?”

I’d seen 3D movies and had even tried virtual reality once, but this was way beyond either of those. This was next level.

“It’s simple,” Dad said. “The headphones are equipped with dozens of…well, let’s call them electrodes for sake of ease, though really, they’re more advanced than that.”

“Okay,” I said, mostly with him still, although knowing Dad it wouldn’t be long until the science-y droning took hold and steered him right off the layman’s term trail.

“And these,” he said, taking the disk out of the machine and holding it up, “are Memories.”

“Memories.”

Mom nodded. “We discovered a way to extract memories and reproduce them.”

“Wait, you guys created this?”

Mom nodded, her smile huge and eyes wide. “This is what we’ve been working toward all these years.”

My mouth dropped open. I knew my parents had been working on some kind of project for a long time, but I guess I hadn’t really been that interested in what it was.

Mom laughed at my stunned expression while Dad came over to give me one of his signature kisses on the top of my head.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Mom said, beaming.

I mean, they were scientists and science was basically the last thing I wanted to pay attention to, so I never really asked many questions.

But this was way beyond science. This was…actually kind of awesome.

A smile crept across my face. I couldn’t wait to try it again.

Excerpted from Lies My Memory Told Me by Sacha Wunsch, Copyright © 2021 by Sacha Wunsch. Published by Inkyard Press.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sacha Wunsch grew up dividing her time between the family farm in Canada and traveling to numerous fictional worlds. She was a bookseller before discovering her love of writing mind-twisty novels - which has proved an excellent job since she gets to blame all the TV she watches on her love of storytelling. She now splits her time between the city and the lake, and still travels to made-up worlds as often as she can.
 
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