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Author D.J. Donaldson

A while ago, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Louisiana Fever, book 5 in the Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn Mystery series (according to Goodreads). You can find my review here. When I was asked if I would like to review Bad Karma in the Big Easy I nearly screamed. Yeah! I loved Louisiana Fever and I couldn’t wait to get Bad Karma. That review is coming shortly.

In the mean time, DJ Donaldson is having a special on his books on Amazon. For a limited time you can purchase them for $.99 each for Kindle. The links are below the picture of the books.

Bad Karma in the Big Easy

Best-Selling Author Serves Up Creole And Crime With

Bad Karma In The Big Easy! 

Astor + Blue Editions is proud to present a heart-pounding new thriller by D.J. Donaldson, Bad Karma in The Big Easy! Available at all major book retailers (ISBN: paperback 979-1-938231-32-2, ePUB 978-1-938231-30-8, ePDF 978-1-938231-31-5; Mystery, Thriller; paperback $12.99, ebook $5.99).

Best-selling mystery author D.J. Donaldson (New Orleans RequiemLouisiana Fever) invites readers back to the Bayou with his latest New Orleans adventure Bad Karma in the Big Easy.Plump and proud medical examiner Andy Broussard reunites with gorgeous psychologist Kit Franklyn as they face off with their most gruesome foe yet.

A killer lurks in The Big Easy, his victims found among the many bodies left in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But with the city’s records destroyed, and the police force in complete disarray, Broussard must take matters into his own hands. Soon, he and his courageous sidekick, Kit, find themselves on a dangerous and labyrinthine journey through the stormravaged underbelly of the ever-mysterious and intensely seductive city of New Orleans; leading them to a predatory evil the likes of which they’ve never encountered.

Written in his uniquely brusque style, Donaldson’s Bad Karmacombines hard-hitting, action-packed prose with a folksy, sweetly Southern charm. Add Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics and the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and the result is a first class forensic procedural within an irresistibly delectable mystery that will leave fans hungry for more.

Louisiana Fever

WHAT CRITCS SAY ABOUT LOUSIANA FEVER

“Delivers…genuinely heart-stopping suspense.” – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Broussard tracks the virus…with a winning combination of common sense and epidemiologic legerdemain.” – NEW ORLEANS TIMES PICAYUNE

“This series has carved a solid place for itself.  Broussard makes a terrific counterpoint to the Dave Robicheaux ragin’ Cajun school of mystery heroes.” – BOOKLIST

“A dazzling tour de force…sheer pulse-pounding reading excitement.” – THE CLARION LEDGER (JACKSON, MS)

“The autopsies are detailed enough to make Patricia Cornwell fans move farther south for their forensic fixes…splendidly eccentric local denizens, authentic New Orleans and bayou backgrounds…a very suspenseful tale.” – LOS ANGELES TIMES

“Keep(s) the reader on the edge of his chair and likely to finish in one sitting.” – BENTON COURIER (ARKANSAS)

New Orleans Requiem

WHAT CRITICS SAY ABOUT NEW ORLEANS REQUIEM

“Lots of Louisiana color, pinpoint plotting and two highly likable characters…smart, convincing solution.” – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)

“An…accomplished forensic mystery.  His New Orleans is worth the trip.” – NEW ORLEANS TIMES PICAYUNE

“The tension will keep even the most reluctant young adult readers turning the pages…” – SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Sleeping with the Crawfish

WHAT CRITICS SAY ABOUT SLEEPING WITH THE CRAWFISH

“Action-packed, cleverly plotted topnotch thriller. Another fine entry in a consistently outstanding series. ” – BOOKLIST

“With each book, Donaldson peels away a few more layers of these characters and we find ourselves loving the involvement.” – THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL (MEMPHIS)

“The pace is pell-mell.” – SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

“Exciting and…realistic. Donaldson…starts his action early and sustains it until the final pages.” – BENTON COURIER (Arkansas)

“A roller-coaster ride…Thoroughly enjoyable.” – BRAZOSPORT FACTS

“The latest outing of a fine series which never disappoints.” – MERITORIOUS MYSTERIES

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Don is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology.  His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound healing and taught microscopic anatomy to over 5,000 medical and dental students.  He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife and two West Highland Terriers.  In the spring of most years he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple’s backyard garden.

PRAISE FOR D.J. DONALDSON

“D.J. Donaldson is superb at spinning medical fact into gripping suspense.  With his in-depth knowledge of science and medicine, he is one of very few authors who can write with convincing authority.” – Tess Gerritsen, NY Times best-selling author of the Rizzoli & Isles novels

“With each book, Donaldson peels away a few more layers of these characters and we find ourselves loving the involvement.” – THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL (MEMPHIS)

“Donaldson has established himself as a master of the Gothic mystery.” – BOOKLIST

For more information about DJ Donaldson, make sure to check out his website.

And now, for a huge tease, here is an excerpt from Bad Karma in the Big Easy.

FROM GRANDMA O’S, KIT headed for her apartment in the French Quarter, relieved that Broussard didn’t attach much significance to her doubts about those pictures. But he was aware now that her word wasn’t always reliable when she vouched for what she knew. And that was bothersome.

Kit lived in an apartment behind a photo gallery on Toulouse Street. One of the perks of living there was it came with a parking space in an old wooden garage, three blocks away on Dauphine. Even on a normal night when the Quarter was full of life and lights, she kept one hand on her key ring Mace canister as she navigated from the garage to the gallery. Tonight, with no tourists in town and most of the shops and restaurants closed, there were many more dark doorways than usual, so as she walked, she felt isolated and vulnerable.

Turning onto Toulouse, where only a few of the streetlamps were working, she faced a shadowy gauntlet of black storefronts and dim recesses where danger might lurk. Picking up the pace, she moved quietly forward, into the waiting gloom, her Mace out and ready.

She’d walked about ten steps when she caught movement out of the corner of her left eye at the junction of the sidewalk with the building to her left. As she jerked her head down to see what it was, two rats the size of small nutrias scuttled across the sidewalk and into the street. Feeling a shudder ripple down her spine, she resumed walking. But as she swung her right foot forward, another rat ran into her path. She accidentally kicked it hard, the toe of her shoe sinking deeply into the furry body before she sent it squeaking into the air.

The rat hit the pavement two feet away and let out another squeal. It righted itself, sat up, and glared at her for a moment, before scuttling after its brethren.

At the Bourbon Street intersection half a minute later, the landscape brightened. In contrast to Toulouse, Bourbon was an oasis of life. That’s not to say it was anywhere near normal. Compared to its pre-Katrina status of permanent mayhem, the dark shops liberally dotted among those open for business gave it a struggling third-world look. Among the places bustling with activity was Bunny’s, a bar and grill that had been open around the clock for over a dozen years, including the hours during the height of Katrina’s fury when Bunny had to serve up burgers cooked on a camp stove

Looking at Bunny’s neon sign, Kit was reminded again that if she had only been able to get word down to Bunny’s while she was struggling to save Mrs. Lucas, she could have gotten help to squeeze that respirator bag. But there had just been no way… no way at all.

She changed direction and angled across the intersection, heading for the bar. As she drew near, she heard “Okie from Muskogee” playing on Bunny’s jukebox spill out the front door and into the street. After the dark isolation of Toulouse, Kit followed the sound like an ameba seeking light.

Inside, the place was dimly lit. Most of the tables and the seats at the bar were occupied. These days, Bunny’s customers consisted of a few regulars who lived in the Quarter and had refused to evacuate, supplemented by off-duty national guardsman and construction workers trying to repair the levees and put the city back together. The clientele was exclusively male. Seeing Kit in the doorway, they made her the focus of their attention.

Bunny came from behind the bar and headed her way.

“Hello Darlin,” Bunny said, embracing her. She let go and took a step back so she could see Kit’s face. “Can you feel the testosterone spotlight, babe… cause you’re standin’ in it.”

“I feel it.”

“How you doin’?” “Not too bad. Business looks good.”

Bunny leaned close and lowered her voice conspiratorially, “But they aren’t really havin’ fun. Guess too many of ‘em are away from home.”

Looking at Bunny with her double chin, it was hard to believe she had once been Bunny LeClaire, one of the hottest exotic dancers on Bourbon Street. But she had pictures of herself in costume all around the place to prove it. Kit was one of only a few who knew her real last name was Lefkowitz.

“Can I throw a burger on the grill for you?” Bunny asked.

“Can’t stay. Just stopped in to say hi and soak up a little civilization after coming down Toulouse.”

“Hope you’re careful walkin’ in those dark areas.”

“I try to be. A few minutes ago, I accidentally kicked a rat.”

“I’ve kicked a few in my time, mostly the two-legged kind and always on purpose as they hit the road.”

“Someday you’ll find the right guy.”

“They always seem right at first. Why is that?”

“Protective camouflage. Lots of predators use it to get close to their prey.”

Bunny picked up Kit’s hand and slapped it affectionately.

“Girl, you got a way of goin’ right to the heart of things. Protective camouflage… I have to remember that.”

“It’s not often I get a chance to leave the impression I’m clever. I better go before I ruin it.”

“Oh, that Westie breeder friend of mine in Mississippi called today. The litter we’ve been waitin’ for has been born. And there’s one healthy male unspoken for. If you want him, we should let her know ASAP.”

Bunny had been working on Kit for months trying to convince her to get a puppy to replace her dog, Lucky, who had died of old age in June. Kit had been resisting because she felt it dishonored Lucky’s memory to replace him so quickly. But after talking to the Hendrins and John Munson, she could no longer ignore the empty feeling growing inside her.

“Tell her I want him.”

Bunny’s eyes glistened with approval. “I’ll call her tonight.”

On the way out the door, Kit ran into an attractive redhead that lived in one of the two apartments above Bunny’s place.

“How’s the crowd?” the redhead asked.

“Not bad… all male, so get ready for a lot of stares if you’re going in.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

It was far from obvious, but the redhead was actually a man in drag Kit knew only as He Daisy. Daisy had many wigs, but usually favored the flaming red one he was now wearing. He wasn’t into soliciting men, but simply liked to dress as a woman. By trade, he was an artist who supplemented his trust fund income with sporadic sales of his paintings. Though he had an unusual lifestyle, he was a gentle, kind man Kit counted as a friend. “Does this color lipstick make me look like a tart?” Daisy asked.

“Not at all.”

“Too bad. I was hoping it did.” Daisy laughed. “Well, I’m going to get something to eat and go upstairs and work. You have a good one.”

As Kit walked back to Toulouse, crossed over, and went another half block   to the photo gallery fronting her apartment, she wasn’t sure at all that a little Westie puppy was big enough to fill the hollow space in her heart.

Tourists comprised most of the business that came through the doors of the Nolen Boyd gallery. No tourists equaled no business. So Boyd had decided to take a long European vacation while the city got back to where it could once again entice enough visitors for him to justify reopening.

Mace canister in hand, Kit walked past the dark front of the gallery and stepped up to the eight-foot tall, heavy cypress door leading to the back courtyard. She took a quick look around.

Seeing no one lingering or approaching, she quickly keyed the lock and opened the door.

The gallery and the adjacent building formed a long passage leading to the rear courtyard, where Kit’s apartment was located. The passage had a lattice ceiling on which a hundred-year-old wisteria had spread its branches. During the day, this made the passage a delightful, light-dappled avenue. But at night, the Wisteria would have caused it to be a very dark twenty-foot stretch were it not for the little lights Boyd had rigged along the left wall.

Above the big cypress door, Boyd had installed a coil of razor wire to keep anyone on the outside from climbing over the door. So as the door shut and locked behind her, the tension Kit felt from being on the Quarter’s dark streets flowed out of her.

Even though she was now safely home, she kept her Mace ready.

Walking toward the courtyard, which was brightly illuminated by a dark-activated mercury vapor light, Kit remembered how happy Lucky always was to see her, his little tail wagging furiously, his mouth open in an expression of pure joy. How she missed that little varmint.

But what to name the new one? Lucky II? That’s no good.

She reached the end of the lattice ceiling and stepped out from under it. Suddenly, she heard a sharp scratching sound from the lattice. Before she could turn to see what it was, a soft object hit the top of her head. Something heavy thudded into the ground behind her. At the same instant, the thing that had hit her seemed to be melting over her hair.

As she struggled to complete her turn to see what the hell was going on, the melting liquid slid down over her face… It covered her eyes… so thick she couldn’t see through it.

Down it went over her nose and mouth. And it was making a crinkling sound. She lifted her hands to wipe the stuff away.

That’s when she discovered it was not liquid.

It was a plastic bag.

Squeee! I can’t wait to get to this book! Make sure to check out Bad Karma in the Big Easy and the other books in this series. you will not be disappointed.

Afterparty Tour

 

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Afterparty by Daryle Gregory Tour

This looks like a great book and I just had to share.

(Excerpt from Goodreads) It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide.

Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.

A mind-bending and violent chase across Canada and the US, Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty is a marvelous mix of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, and perhaps a bit of Peter Watts’s Starfish: a last chance to save civilization, or die trying.

You can find Afterparty on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

If that has not been enough to make you go rushing out to purchase Afterparty, here is a teaser of the prologue and first chapter.

The Parable of the Girl Who Died and Went to Hell,
Not Necessarily in That Order

There was a girl who lived on the streets in a northern city. She was sixteen years old when she found God, and had just turned seventeen when God abandoned her.

She didn’t understand why He would turn His back on her now, after He had saved her life. She’d been living rough for two years. At night she navigated by bunk-finder apps, competing for space in the shelters with the thousands of other teenagers roaming the city. She did bad things to get by. She worked the crowded sidewalks, beaming her profile pic to the dashboards of the trolling cars, climbing into front seats and climbing out again fifteen minutes later. She stole, and she beat other teenagers who tried to steal from her, and once she did something terrible, something unforgivable.

When she thought of what she’d done, even glancingly, a black tunnel seemed to open up behind her eyes. Anything might trigger the memory: a word, the sight of an old woman, the smell of soup burning on a stove. On those days she thought the black would swallow her whole.

Then one night, at the end of a week of black days, she found herself in the Spadina station looking over the edge of the platform, measuring the short distance to the rails. She could feel the train coming, growling to her, pushing its hot breath down the tracks. The concrete rumbled encouragement to her feet. She moved up to the yellow line, and the toes of her sneakers touched air. The only way out of the black tunnel, she realized, was through it.

She felt a hand on her arm. “Hey there.” It was a friend, one of her first on the street, a tall black boy older than her by a few years who maintained a crazy rectangular beard. He said, “You doing anything?”

She didn’t know how to answer that.

She followed him up out of the station. A while later, an older man with hardcore prison tattoos picked them up in a rusting SUV and drove them a few miles to a strip mall. Most of the stores were empty. The man, who said he was a pastor, opened one of the doors and said, “Welcome to our little church.”

People began to filter in and take seats in the circle of folding chairs. The service began with singing, songs she didn’t know but that sounded familiar. And then the pastor stood in the middle of the circle for the sermon. He turned as he talked, making eye contact with the people, making eye contact with her, which made her uncomfortable. She couldn’t remember now what he’d spoken about.

At the end of the service, everyone stood up and formed a line in front of the pastor, their hands out, mouths open like birds. Her friend looked at her questioningly; it was her decision. She stood up with the others, and when it was her turn the pastor held up a piece of paper with a single word printed on it: Logos. “This is the word made flesh,” he said.

She wasn’t stupid. She’d eaten paper before, and knew that the ink could contain almost anything. She opened her mouth, and he placed it on her tongue. The paper dissolved like cotton candy.

She felt nothing. If there was anything mixed into the ink or the paper, it was too mild to affect her.

That night, as she lay on a bed in a shelter that the pastor had lined up for her, the black tunnel was still there. But there was something else, too: a feeling, as if she were being watched.

No: watched over.

She made her way back to the church the next day, and the day after that. The feeling of a loving presence grew like sun rising over her shoulder. The pastor called it the Numinous. “It’s knowledge,” he said. Proof that we are all loved, all connected.

Her problems weren’t solved. She still slept in restaurant bathrooms, and lifted snacks from gas stations, and gave blow jobs to men in cars. Still struggled with the black tunnel. But she could not shake that secret knowledge that she was loved. She could not yet forgive herself, but she began to think that someone else might.

One night, a month after that first church service, just a few days before her birthday, the cops swept through the park, and she was arrested for solicitation. Because she was underage, they would not release her until they found her parents. She wouldn’t help the police; the last thing she wanted was to let her parents know where she was. God, she thought, would provide a way out of this.

But as the days passed in the detention center, something was changing. God’s presence faded, as if He was moving away from her, turning His back on her. She began to panic. She prayed, and wept, and prayed some more. Then a female guard caught her creating her own sacrament, swallowing scraps of toilet paper, and thought she had smuggled in smart drugs. They took her blood and swabbed her tongue and made her pee in a cup. Two days later they transferred her to a hospital west of the city, and locked her up with crazy people.

On her second night in the hospital, a red-haired woman appeared in her room. She seemed familiar, and then suddenly the girl remembered her. “You let me sleep on your couch once.”

The woman stepped into the room. Her red hair, the girl saw now, was shot with threads of gray. “Wasn’t my idea,” the woman said. “But yeah.” It had been ten below, and the red-haired woman had found her shivering outside a gas station. The girl had thought the woman wanted sex, but no; she’d fed her pizza and let her spend the night, and the girl had slipped out of the apartment before morning. It was the kindest thing a stranger had ever done for her, until she met the pastor.

“What are you doing here?” the woman asked. Her voice was soft. “What did you take?”

How could she explain that she’d taken nothing? That they’d locked her up because she’d finally realized that God was real?

“I’ve lost it,” the girl said. “I’ve lost the Numinous.”

The woman seemed shocked at the word, as if she recognized it. Perhaps she was part of the church? The girl told her her story, and the woman seemed to understand. But then the woman asked questions that proved she didn’t understand at all: “This pastor—did he tell you the name of the drug? Where he got it? How long have you been in withdrawal?”

The black tunnel seemed to throw itself open, and the girl refused to say any more. After a time the red-haired woman went away, and the nurses came to her with pills that they said would help her with her depression, her anxiety. A psychologist brought her to his office—“just to talk.”

But she did not need antidepressants, or soothing conversation. She understood, finally, why God had withdrawn from her. What He was trying to tell her.

When she was full of God’s love, she couldn’t do what she needed to do. God had to step back so that she’d have the strength to do what she should have done months ago. So she could make the required sacrifice.

At her next meeting with the psychologist, she stole a ceramic mug from his desk. He never noticed; she was practiced at lifting merchandise. An hour after that, before she could lose her nerve, she went to the bathroom and smashed the mug against the edge of the stainless steel sink. She chose the largest shard, then sawed apart the veins in her left arm.

God, she knew, helps those who help themselves.

G.I.E.D.

  CHAPTER ONE

“So you want to leave us, Lyda?” Counselor Todd asked.

“It’s been eight months,” I said. “I think it’s about time, don’t you?”

Dr. Gloria shook her head, then made a note on her clipboard.

The three of us—Todd, Dr. Gloria, and I—sat in Todd’s closet-sized office in the NAT ward. Three chairs, a pressed wood coffee table, and no windows. Todd leaned back in his chair, flicking his smart pen: snick and the screen opened like a fan; clack and it rolled up again. The file on the screen appeared and disappeared too fast to read, but I could guess what document it was.

Todd liked to portray himself as a man of the people. A white man who favored work shirts that had never seen a day of work and work boots that had never touched mud. This in contrast to Dr. Gloria, who occupied the seat to his right. She believed in the traditional uniform of doctors: white coat, charcoal pencil skirt, femme heels that weren’t so high as to be impractical. Her nondigital clipboard and Hot Librarian glasses were signature props. I did not want her in this meeting, but neither Todd nor I had the power to keep her out.

“Lyda,” Todd said in a knowing tone. “Does your desire to leave now have anything to do with Francine’s death?”

Francine was the girl who had killed herself with Todd’s mug. I presented my I’m-not-quite-following-you frown.

“The transfer request was placed two weeks ago, on the day after she died,” Todd said. “You seemed upset by her death.”

“I barely knew her.”

“You broke furniture,” he said.

“It was a plastic chair,” I said. “It already had a crack in it.”

“Don’t quibble,” Dr. Gloria said. “It’s the display of anger he’s worried about.”

“I was mad at you doctors,” I said. “I told you to put her on antidepressants—”

“Which we did,” Todd said.

“Too Goddamn late. Jesus, her symptoms were obvious. I couldn’t believe no one had taken steps. Her parents should be suing the hospital’s ass off right now.”

“We haven’t been able to find them,” he said.

“Perfect. Homeless orphans can’t sue either.”

Dr. Gloria put down her clipboard. “Insulting everyone who works here isn’t going to help you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just—she was so young.”

“I know,” Counselor Todd said. He sounded suddenly tired. “I tried to talk to her.”

Todd could be an idiot, but he did care about the patients. And as the only full-time counselor on the ward, he worked essentially alone. The neuro-atypical ward was a lab for the hardcore cog-sci docs, the neuropsych researchers. They didn’t much care for talk therapy, or for talking therapists like Todd.

So as Todd became more isolated, he couldn’t help but grow attached to the people he spent the most time with: The patients had become, without him realizing it, his cohort, his troop. I knew that my degrees intimidated him. He suspected that because of my résumé I was more aligned with the neuropsych folks—which was true. But my highfalutin background also made him secretly desire my approval. Sometimes I used my power to get the lab to do the right thing for the patients, but I wasn’t above using it to get myself out of here.

Todd did his best to pull himself back to counselor mode. “Were you disturbed by Francine’s symptoms?”

“How so?”

“They were so similar to your own. The religious nature of her hallucinations—”

“A lot of schizos have religious delusions.”

“She wasn’t schizophrenic, at least not naturally. We believe she’d been taking a designer drug.”

“Which one?”

“We haven’t figured that out yet. But I was struck by the way she talked about God as a physical presence. That was how you used to speak about your angel.”

Dr. Gloria looked at me over her glasses. This was her favorite topic. I stopped myself from glaring at her.

“I’ve been symptom free for months,” I said to Todd. “No angels. No voices in my head. I didn’t think the antipsychotics you prescribed would work, honestly. My hallucination’s been so persistent, so long, that…” I shrugged. “But you were right, and I was wrong. I’m not too proud to admit that.”

“I thought they were worth a try,” he said. “When you showed up here, you were in a pretty bad place. Not just your injuries.”

“Oh no,” I said, agreeing with him. “It was everything. I was fucked up.” I’d been sentenced to the NAT after creating my own drive-thru at a convenience store. I swerved off the road at 60 KPH and plowed through the wall at three in the afternoon. My front bumper crushed a woman’s leg and sent another man flying, but nobody was killed. The owner told a reporter that “somebody up there was watching out for them.”

God gets the easiest performance reviews.

I said, “I feel like I’ve finally gotten a handle on my problems.”

I glanced up. I’d delivered this statement with all the sincerity I could muster. Todd seemed to be taking it in. Then he said, “Have you been thinking about your wife?”

A question as subtle as a crowbar. Counselor Todd trying to pop me open.

Dr. G said, “He noticed that you’re touching your ring.”

I glanced down. The wedding band was polished brass, six-sided on the outside. A friend of ours had forged a matching pair for us.

I placed my hands on the arms of my chair. “I think of her every day,” I said. “But not obsessively. She’s my wife. I miss her.”

Perhaps this struck him as an odd thing to say about a woman who had tried to kill me. Instead he said, “It’s interesting that you use the present tense.”

“She has been dead almost ten years,” Dr. Gloria said.

“I don’t believe that there’s a time limit on love or grief,” I said. A paraphrase of something Counselor Todd had told me very earnestly in my first month on the ward. I was detoxing then, vulnerable and wide open, sucking in Todd’s bromides as if they were profound truths. When you can’t get the heroin, take the methadone.

“And your child?” he asked.

I sat back, my heart suddenly beating hard. “Are you working through a checklist there?”

“You’re sounding angry again,” Dr. Gloria said.

Todd said, “You mentioned her only once in our therapy sessions, but according to your file…”

If he flicked open that damn pen I was going to leap across the table at him.

“I don’t have a child,” I said.

Dr. Gloria looked over her glasses at me, the Medical Professional version of an eye roll.

“Anymore,” I said.

Todd pursed his lips, signaling disappointment. “I’m sorry, Lyda, I just can’t sign off on this. I think you’re trying to get out of here so you can score, and you still haven’t addressed some key issues in—”

“I’ll take the chip.”

He looked up at me, surprised.

“The terms of my sentence give me the option,” I said. “All you have to do is sign. You know I’ve been a model patient.”

“But you’re almost done here. Two more months and you’re out. If you go on the chip, that’s a mandatory year of tracking. You won’t be able to leave the province without permission.”

“I understand that.”

He gave me a long look. “You know they can’t be spoofed, yes? Not like the old chips. Your blood alcohol levels will be sent to us every ten seconds. Anything stronger than aspirin throws up a red flag. And any use of a controlled substance, other than those prescribed to you, gets immediately reported to the police.”

“Any drug can and will be used against me,” I said. “Got it.”

“Good. Because the last time I brought up the chip, you told me I could shove it up my ass.”

“Well, it is very small.”

He suppressed a smile. Todd enjoyed being joked with. Made him feel part of the troop. And as the least insane person on the floor (if I said so myself), I was the person he could most easily talk to. The only question was, would he be insecure enough to keep me here, just so we didn’t have to—sob—break up?

Time to seal the deal. I looked at my feet, feigning embarrassment. “I know this may not be technically allowed after I leave, but…”

“This room is a safe place to say anything,” Todd said.

I looked up. “I’d like to keep in touch with you. If that’s all right.”

“I’m sure that would be fine,” Todd said. “If I sign on for this.” But of course he had already made up his mind.

 

The NAT ward was small, a population of twenty-five to forty, depending on the season. News traveled the floor with telepathic speed. Two of the residents believed they were telepathic, so who knows.

I was packing when Ollie appeared in my room. Five foot two, hair falling across her face. Quiet as a closed door. And like everyone on the ward, Severely Fucked in the Head.

She stared into the room, eyes pointed in my direction. Trying to work out the puzzle. That stack of shapes probably belonged to one thing, those horizontal shapes to something else. Once sorted, labels could be applied: bed, wall, duffel bag, human being.

To help her out I said, “Hi, Ollie.”

Her face changed—that slight shift of recognition as she assigned the label “Lyda” to an arrangement of red hair and dark clothes—then went still again. She was angry. I’d made a mistake by not telling her I was leaving. Not as big a mistake as sleeping with her, but enough.

At last she said, “Can I see it?”

“Sure,” I said. Ollie concentrated on the changes in the scene: The object that swung toward her in her visual field must be, logically, my arm. From there she found my wrist, and slid a finger along my forearm. Tactile information integrated more easily than the visual. She peeled back the Band-Aid, pressed the tiny pink bump. She was as unself-conscious with my body as with her own.

“So small,” she said.

“My new portable conscience,” I said. “Like I needed another one.”

Her fingers lingered on my skin, then fell away. “You’re going to look for that dead girl’s dealer.”

I didn’t try to deny it. Even on meds Ollie was the smartest person I’d ever met, after Mikala.

She closed her eyes, cutting out the visual distraction. She looked like a little girl. Told me once that her Filipino mother was 4’10”, her white Minnesota father over six feet, and she was still waiting for those Norwegian genes to kick in.

“You can’t know that it’s the same drug that hit you,” she said without opening her eyes. “There are thousands of countertop tweakers out there. Somebody just happened to whip up something with the same symptoms.”

The glories of the DIY smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and an internet connection could download recipes and print small-batch drugs. The creative types liked to fuck with the recipes, try them out on their friends. People swallowed paper all the time without knowing what they were chewing. Half the residents of the NAT ward weren’t addicts; they were beta testers.

“You’re right,” I said flatly. “It’s probably not the same drug at all.”

She opened her eyes. Now seeing right through me. “I can help you,” she said.

There was a certainty in her voice. Ollie used to do things for the US government, and the US government used to do things to Ollie.

“I don’t think they’re going to let you walk out of here,” I said. Ollie was not one of the voluntary patients. Like me, she’d been convicted of a crime, then sent here because the docs thought she was an interesting case. “Just stay here,” I said. “And heal.”

Heal. That was a NAT joke.

She said, “I can be out of here in two—”

“Nurse,” I said in a low voice, warning her. We residents did this a lot on the ward, like kids playing in the street calling “car.”

“Seconds,” Ollie finished.

Dr. Gloria and one of the day-shift nurses walked toward the room. “Ready?” the nurse asked me.

Dr. G looked at Ollie, then back toward me, a knowing smile on her face. “If you’re all done here,” she said.

I picked up my bag. “I’ve got to go,” I said to Ollie. I touched her shoulder on the way out. This is me, the touch told her. This is me moving away from you.

 

“She’s in love with you, you know,” Dr. G said.

“Hospital infatuation,” I said.

We stood on the sidewalk outside the hospital, waiting for my ride under a gray sky leaking sunlight. Dirty snow banked the sidewalk, peppered with black deicer pellets. Behind us, staff and visitors passed in and out of the revolving doors like ions through a membrane.

I folded up the plastic bag that contained my prescription and jammed my hands into the pockets of my thin jacket. It had been early fall when I went in, and my street clothes had failed to evolve while in storage. But I was not about to go back inside that building, even to stay warm. I was a free woman—tethered only by the plastic snitch attached to my vein, broadcasting each taste of my bloodstream to the ether.

Dr. G had followed me out. “You’d be better off staying with her and finishing your sentence inside,” she said. “Less temptation. You were staying clean, Lyda.”

“Edo’s making NME One-Ten.”

“You don’t know that.”

“All Francine could talk about was ‘the Numinous.’ That is no fucking coincidence. Edo broke his promise.”

“He never made that promise,” she said.

“Yeah, well, I made a promise to him.”

“Listen to yourself,” Dr. Gloria said. “You’re pissed off. Have you considered that you’re overreacting to the girl’s death? You have a blind spot for little lost girls.”

“Fuck off.”

“Lyda—”

“I’m responsible for the drug that killed her.”

“Even if the substance is the One-Ten, which is doubtful, that doesn’t mean that it’s Edo Vik.”

“Then I guess I have to find out who is making it.”

A car pulled up to the curb, a decrepit Nissan hybrid. The cost of the gas had to be enormous. The driver jumped out of the car, ran to me with arms out. “Lyda!”

Bobby was a could-have-been-handsome white boy, twenty-three years old, with stiff black hair and almond eyes, so maybe a little Asian in the mix. A former ward-mate, and batshit crazy. But a good kid. More importantly, he lived in Toronto, and he owned a car.

I let him hug me. The price to pay for the ride.

“You look all healthy,” he said. Hanging from a leather thong around his neck was a small plastic treasure chest, one of those aquarium accessories with Real Working Hinge. He never went anywhere without it.

“Where are we going?” he asked me.

“Take me to my dealer.”

He blinked in surprise. “Uh, are you sure?”

“Relax. I just want to talk to him.”

“You just got out of the ward. Don’t you want to go home?”

“I don’t have a home. That apartment is long gone.”

“Oh, then maybe a hotel?”

“I’m getting cold out here, Bobby.”

He opened the passenger door for me, then hustled around to the other side.

Dr. Gloria said, “I can’t protect you if you don’t listen to me.”

“Then stay here.”

“Oh, you don’t get away that easy.” Dr. Gloria’s wings unfurled from her back with a snap, and the world vanished in a blaze of heavenly radiance. I winced and looked away.

“Lo, I am with you always,” she said. I opened one eye. She pulsed like a migraine aura, throwing off megawatts of holy glow. Then her wings convulsed, and she was airborne.

Safe Keeping

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Safe Keeping by Barbara Taylor Sissel

4 stars

(Excerpt from Goodreads) My son is a murderer…. So begins this chilling and emotionally charged mystery from highly acclaimed author Barbara Taylor Sissel.

Emily Lebay had always thought of her family as ordinary. Sure, they’ve endured their share of problems, even a time of great trouble; what family hasn’t? But when a woman’s body turns up in the dense woods near their home, and Emily’s grown son Tucker is accused of murder, Emily is forced to confront the unfathomable, and everything she believed about her life is called into question.

This isn’t the first time Tucker has been targeted by the police; a year ago he was a person of interest when another woman was found dead in the same stretch of woods. Still, neither Emily nor her daughter, Lissa, can reconcile their Tucker with these brutal crimes. Terrified, convinced there’s been a tragic mistake, Emily and Lissa set out to learn the truth about Tucker, once and for all. And while his life hangs in the balance, what they discover proves far more shocking than their darkest fears.

The Lebay family is one huge dysfunction after another. Roy, the father, has severe PTSD from Vietnam. This leads to him having issues with Tucker, his son. Tucker has problems of his own. His former girlfriend, Miranda, was found murdered last year in woods by his parents house. He was a person of interest but never convicted of the murder. Now Jessica has turned up dead in the same area and since she was Miranda’s friend and an acquaintance of Tucker, he is the suspect in this murder.

Emily, Tucker’s mother, doesn’t believe that Tucker could have killed Jessica. Emily and her daughter Lissa decided to prove that Tucker is innocent even if Roy has washed his hands of Tucker. But there is a lot more to this story than they originally thought. There are many skeletons in this family’s closet and they are going to surprise you.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. There was a lot more to it than I thought there was going to be. It’s amazing how the different characters try to struggle through life and coping with the different situations in it. It always amazes me how things can happen in the family dynamics and not everyone knows what is happening. How can Emily be so blind to what is happening with her children? And Roy, what the heck? I can understand some of his behavior but that doesn’t excuse the crap he did/does at all.

I was completely surprised by the ending but I think it did well wrapping up the book. This is one book that I think you will be pleasantly surprised by. It’s one that I recommend that you read.

I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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The Newfoundland Vampire (The Newfoundland Vampire – 1) by Charles O’Keefe

4 stars

(Excerpt from Goodreads) Like every other geek alive, Newfoundland native Joseph O’Reily secretly wants to be a superhero. At thirteen he fantasized about being a vampire, and ten years later he’s still fantasizing – but mostly about a beautiful redheaded woman who has eyes only for him. The one thing different about Joseph’s adult fantasy is that, amazingly, it comes true one night when he goes to a local university pub. Cassandra Snow, literally the woman of his dreams, invites him to her place for an evening of personal pleasure. Of course he’s not going to say no. But when strange things start happening afterward, Joseph quickly learns that not all dreams should come true. Cassandra has plans for him – forever. And those plans don’t include daytime activities. An animal lover and recent vegetarian, Joseph wrestles with all the weird changes he’s experiencing after his encounter with Cassandra. Eternal youth and amazing power come at a price that is perhaps higher than he can afford. The constant hunger for blood and the secrets Cassandra harbors test his resolve and his mental and physical limits. And then there’s the fact that a two-hundred-year-old vampire is after his head – literally. Joseph’s night vision improves dramatically, giving him a glimpse of the darker side of the world and the terrible evil of vampires who walk among humans. As he tries to balance his regular life with the new reality of his vampire existence, he is determined to hold onto his personal convictions and what he values most – his humanity.

Joseph is a geeky young man that happens upon sexy Cassandra Snow, vampire. After a night of passion, Cassandra turns Joseph into a vampire without his consent to fight her psycho ex husband, John Snow. John comes around every couple years and kills off Cassandra’s lovers to get revenge on her.

Joseph, now a sexy vampire with a moral dilemma, can we say vegetarian, decides to make the best of a bad situation and starts training with Cassandra and being a superhero.

I loved Joseph. He is your typical geeky, dungeon and dragon’s guy that is super shy around women. I loved how he handled the transition to vampire, so much better than most stories. Cassandra on the other hand just irritated me. Although strong, she is a manipulative twit. I was really hoping Joseph would come to his senses and kill her to be done with her.

This is a great vampire story, a fresh take on the over worked idea. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series to see what happens to Joseph next.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

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I have been asked to be part of this tour and I am so excited. This looks like a great story. I will have a review posted later.

Summary:

(From Goodreads) As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant.

But it’s harder to hide now that M.T.’s a senior. Her school’s National Honor Society wants her to plan their trip abroad, her best friend won’t stop bugging her to get her driver’s license, and all everyone talks about is where they want to go to college. M.T. is pretty sure she can’t go to college, and with high school ending and her family life unraveling, she’s staring down a future that just seems empty. In the end, M.T. will need to trust herself and others to stake a claim in the life that she wants.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience as a (formerly) undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that affects over one million children in the U.S. But while the subject matter is timely, it is M.T.’s sharp, darkly funny voice and longing for a future that makes this story universally poignant.

Author:

Maria E. Andreu is the author of the novel The Secret Side of Empty, the story of a teen girl who is American in every way but one: on paper. She was brought to the U.S. as a baby and is now undocumented in the eyes of the law. The author draws on her own experiences as an undocumented teen to give a glimpse into the fear, frustration and, ultimately, the strength that comes from being “illegal” in your own home.

Now a citizen thanks to legislation in the 1980s, Maria resides in a New York City suburb with all her “two’s”: her two children, two dogs and two cats. She speaks on the subject of immigration and its effect on individuals, especially children. When not writing or speaking, you can find her babying her iris garden and reading post apocalyptic fiction.

For more information about Maria or The Secret Side of Empty make sure to check out Maria’s website.

To purchase the book on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

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Cold City (Repairman Jack: The Early Years – 1)
By F Paul Wilson
4 stars

(Excerpt from Goodreads) The first of three Repairman Jack prequels, revealing the past of one of the most popular characters in contemporary dark fantasy: a self-styled “fix-it” man who is no stranger to the macabre or the supernatural, hired by victimized people who have no one else to turn to.

We join Jack a few months after his arrival in New York City. He doesn’t own a gun yet, though he’s already connected with Abe. Soon he’ll meet Julio and the Mikulski brothers. He runs afoul of some Dominicans, winds up at the East Side Marriott the night Meir Kahane is shot, gets on the bad side of some Arabs, starts a hot affair, and disrupts the smuggling of preteen sex slaves. And that’s just Book One.

This is the start to Repairman Jack. He is a 21 year old that has just moved to New York after dropping out of college. He lives off the grid and is just getting into the business. You can see how Jack is stumbling into his calling and just starting to use the black rages.

I have yet to start the Repairman Jack series although I do have the first book. It was recommended that I start with these first so I have a foundation for Jack. I fell in love with him. He’s tough, no nonsense, and takes care of business. I got sucked into the story and was up late trying to finish it. I can’t wait to see where Jack goes from here but I’m glad that I started with these books before getting into the Repairman Jack series. I can’t wait to get started on Dark City.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

War of Wings VBT

The battle for Paradise is about to begin…

In the beginning Heaven was perfect. All of the angels lived in complete harmony and bliss. Gabriel skated through existence on the many simple pleasures Heaven had to offer, Michael led the worker angels proudly, and Lucifer was the highest of the cherubim as well as the minister of music right under God. With one question everything changed. When God’s highest angel placed reason over faith to corrupt Heaven, a secret movement separated loved ones into two sides. After Lucifer discovered the power of the seven deadly sins and used them to empower angels, the two sides violently collided in the first war of all time, The War of Wings.

War of Wings, the new fiction novel, tells the story of the fall of one-third of the angels from Heaven and everything that led up to it through two love stories destined to collide. With Lucifer, the highest cherub angel beginning a revolution in Paradise, author Tanner McElroy presents a unique tale of the trials, tribulations, and journey of four angels of various ranks in the hierarchy of Heaven.

Gabriel and Michael formed the resistance for God but Arrayah, the mesmerizing virtue angel of humility, came into the picture with a secret that may unhinge everything. Can the love of one save the others or will holding on too long cause the demise of many?

Author

Tanner McElroy lives in Dallas, Texas where he is already working on the second novel in the series, “War of Wings: The Reign,” and finishing up a non-fiction debut “The Stitches,” about his experience with baseball and heartbreak. A former professional baseball player with the Texas Rangers, McElroy is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, Romance Writers of America and the Writers’ League of Texas.

My Review

The War of Wings by Tanner McElroy

5 stars

This is a story of how the angels become the fallen. Everything in Heaven is perfect. Nothing dies, when someone eats some fruit the tree automatically bears another fruit, and the area is perfect, except for Gabriel. He doesn’t like how everything is perfect and has an obsession for making things less perfect. He coasts through his existence. Skipping out of work he is assigned to, eating and fighting too much, and is generally lost. Michael is trying to get him to come around but Gabriel fights him as well. But when Michael has a vision of pending doom in Heaven and Gabriel is the savior of angels, Gabriel can’t find it in himself to want to be part of the vision.

Then there is Lucifer. He is an angel one step below God and believes that through his performances and actions God will place him on the same level. But when the rumor of the Son of God starts, Lucifer can’t handle that. In a fit of jealousy and rage, he starts questioning God and believes he has found the truth of Gods betrayal to the angels. He finds the newly created planet he calls Terra and gathers an army to battle angels in heaven for their freedom from God.

I absolutely loved this book. I got sucked in right away by Gabriel. I couldn’t help feeling for him. He feels lost and doesn’t really know his place in Heaven so he slacks off and would rather play than be useful. Then there is Michael, basically a big brother to Gabriel trying to get him to start growing up but not succeeding. Lucifer was an angel you couldn’t help feeling partially sorry for but in the end it was all his pride and jealousy.

Anyone will like this book. Although it is about the angels the book was not too preachy, which is a bit sticking point to me. There is beautiful imagery and a great story. This is one book that you don’t want to miss out on.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Get a copy of War of Wings on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

For more information, be sure to check out Tanner McElroy’s website.

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