Archive for December, 2016

Favorite Reads of 2016

Happy Holidays! 2016 has been a Twilight Zone of a year, but I hope you’ve had some good moments in spite of that. I have. Some highlights were finding out my third book, The Sower Comes, won a book award, and hearing that the Secrets and Shadows boxed set had become a bestseller in the UK. I’ve had some nice opportunities, like releasing Sunset Empire and telling ghost stories on the Astoria Trolley on Halloween.

My blog will be taking a hiatus for a few weeks so I can focus on my family, but I’m looking forward to 2017. My goals are to finish a book called Riverbound I’m co-writing with a friend, and to finish editing a vampire novel for another author. I’m also excited about two upcoming book events. More on all that in January. In the meantime, there’s a giveaway for Sunset Empire on Goodreads. I hope you’ll enter if you haven’t already.

born-a-crimeWhat are you reading right now? I just started Trevor Noah’s biography, Born a Crime. It’s a fascinating and timely read which I highly recommend. It’s about him growing up in South Africa during apartheid, and his mother having to keep him hidden since he was bi-racial and interracial relationships were illegal. If they’d gotten caught, his parents would have been thrown in jail, and he would have been taken away and put in an orphanage. Here’s the book description:

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

the-firemanI also recommend one of my favorite reads of 2016, The Fireman, by Joe Hill. It’s about a plague that causes the infected to spontaneously combust. What I found so compelling about the book was the way society unraveled in the face of an end of the world pandemic. Here’s the book description:

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

three-dark-crownsWhat to read in 2017? I meant to read Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake, but I’ve run out of time. That will be top of my to-read list. Here’s what the book is about:

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

end-of-the-watchI haven’t yet read Stephen King’s End of the Watch either, so I’m going to have to rectify that. This book is the third of a trilogy. I love everything Stephen King writes, but this series has been a favorite. Here’s a description:

The spectacular finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers—In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding, supernatural suspense that has been his bestselling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

Do you have any recommendations for my reading list?

Hope your holidays are wonderful, and all the best to you in the new year.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016

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Perfect for a Cold Day

It’s frigid on the Oregon coast today. Icy winds and snow, which turned into freezing rain, then hail, then more rain. The snow actually stuck for a little bit, until the rain started. Now it’s just cold–which means it’s the perfect weather for staying inside and eating comfort food, right? Right. Yummy food, warm slippers, and a good book. Perfection.

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When I was in college, I babysat for this family with two young boys. Their Scottish grandmother came to visit and she made melt-in-your-mouth shortbread. It was to die for. I’ll never be able to make shortbread as good as hers, because she was magical and I am only a muggle. Nevertheless, I can share a simple recipe with you, so you too can partake.

This is really easy. Melt two cups of butter in a large bowl (if you use a glass bowl, you can do this in the microwave). Then stir in one cup of powdered sugar and three cups of flour. Mix it well and pour the batter into an ungreased 9″ x 9″ pan.

Even out the surface (I like to use a fork to make a pattern). Then sprinkle sugar on the top, or, alternatively, chocolate chips. If you go with chocolate chips, you’ll want to spread them with a knife after they melt during baking, and then let them cool.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Then cut the shortbread into squares and serve them warm. Easy, amazing, and perfect for a cold day.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016


Sunset Empire Launch!

Thrilling news! Sunset Empire is finally (finally!) available as both an ebook and paperback on Amazon. I’m so excited to share this book with you, because it’s really a love letter to the north coast of Oregon, blending fantasy with history and showcasing some of my favorite legends and sites from the area.

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I’m also elated to share that it is included in the Secrets and Shadows box set, a young adult collection with ten fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi novels from New York Times Bestselling, USA Today Bestselling, #1 Amazon Bestselling, and award-winning authors. This week Secrets and Shadows became a #1 Amazon Bestseller in the UK. I’m so grateful to all our readers who made this happen.

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A few things about Sunset Empire:

  • Stay tuned for giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads. I’ll also be giving away a Sunset Empire-themed prize when we reach 1,000 likes on my author page on Facebook.
  • I’m currently looking for reviewers for Sunset Empire, so if you’re interested and willing to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, message me with your email address. I’ll send you a free ebook.
  • Subscribers to my blog are eligible for a free short story or chapter. If you’re interested in receiving one, contact me with your email and I’ll pass that along.
  • If you order Sunset Empire now, it will arrive before Christmas.

Here’s a description of the book, and another excerpt. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Description:

She may be guilty of arson, but she didn’t kill the burned girl haunting her.

After her house burns down, Elyse Pthan is forced to move to Astoria, Oregon to live with the strict grandmother she never knew. Rebelling against her grandmother’s rigid rules, Elyse discovers the terrible heritage her mother kept hidden. Her family may be responsible for the 1922 fire that nearly destroyed Astoria, the death of a girl who longs for vengeance as she haunts the tunnels beneath the city, and mysterious disappearances spanning hundreds of years.

Helping her uncover the truth is Phantom, an enigmatic and surprisingly attractive boy, considering his scars, his talent as a pickpocket, and his status as the local social outcast. A boy with a hidden weapon and a dark heritage of his own, that could turn him from friend to hunter.

Excerpt:

Phantom had been tracking the beast when he heard the first scream. It was coming from somewhere within Shively Park. He started running toward the sound, praying he wasn’t too late.

The creatures were growing bold. The one he was following had left its usual territory in the woods southeast of the city, and ventured alarmingly close to the Astoria Column, a popular place for tourists and locals alike. He wondered if the beast had been spotted by any of the visitors who had climbed the column’s spiral staircase for a view of the Columbia. He doubted it. On a sunny day, you could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean from that vantage point, but the day was overcast with a misty rain. In low light, the creatures camouflaged themselves so well against the backdrop of the forest, most people wouldn’t recognize them for what they were until it was much too late to get away.

Phantom had never seen one out in the open, but he knew they crossed roads sometimes because he’d seen deer carcasses outside the monsters’ traditional hunting zones. He’d even spent the night in a tree before, observing the creatures’ nocturnal activities. They liked the dark. At night, they had no need for camouflage. Darkness shielded them from detection, allowing them to move freely without fear of hunters like himself.

Running silently down the path toward the old bridge, Phantom could hear glass breaking. Someone, a girl, by the sound of her screams, was making a whole lot of noise. That was bad. She was about to attract the wrong kind of attention.

He couldn’t see the creature, but it was close. He could smell it. The air was thick with the pungent smell of death.

Phantom checked his weapon and then left the path, trying to stay hidden in the thick brush. He padded uphill so he’d have a better view of the bridge. He would need a clear visual of the beast to take aim.

He crouched down in a clump of ferns, behind a tree. Peering around the trunk of the tree, he could see her—the new girl, Elyse. What was she doing here? He thought back to his encounter with her at the battery and then later in the alley. She certainly had a knack for finding trouble.

She retrieved something from her pack and cradled it in her hands, before hurling it at the bridge like she was pitching a baseball. He cringed as the tea cup shattered, and looked around frantically, trying to spot the beast.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it coming—a blur of dark fur that seemed to blend in with the forest. The girl was poised, ready to launch another cup at the wall, when she seemed to suddenly realize something was wrong. She whirled around, a look of sheer terror on her face.

Phantom took aim at the dark shape bearing down her and released the bolt. To his horror, he missed.

Want more Sunset Empire? Get it here. Happy reading!

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016