I received this book complements of NetGalley and the publisher, William Morrow and Custom House.
The blurb for this book drew me in and it was promoted as “Paper Moon meets Badlands.” I have to add my own spin on that. To me, it was more like “Where The Crawdads Sing” meets John Steinbeck.
I’ve read a lot of books this year and this one is landing at the top of my “best books” ever list! I don’t think I’ve met such horribly flawed characters.
A baby girl without a name, unwanted, discarded at birth like a piece of garbage, who never knows acceptance or love through the many foster homes is the main character. “The policeman who had found her as an infant had supposedly named her Katherine, but the only time she heard her name spoken was when a teacher called roll or a social worker handed her off to a new foster family.“
At thirteen, she ran. She has one tiny piece of paper that tells her of an aunt who lives in Pecan Hollow and that’s where she blindly heads. Starving, she steals food from a gas station, then attempts to steal a bag of food from a Mustang parked outside when she gets caught. Instead of Manny turning her over to the authorities, he takes her in. She struggles when he asks her name and finally tells him it’s Kit. He feeds her. He grooms her for his wants and needs. Like in Paper Moon, she distracts the victims while Manny steals. She finally knows what it feels like to be loved, wanted, and useful.
But Manny’s petty theft escapades soon escalate to more and they became known as the Texaco Twosome for the string of armed robberies across the state. As Kit grows and develops into a teenager, her infatuation for Manny grows. He has not made any sexual advances toward her, and that is his one redeeming quality.
That eventually changes and Kit gets pregnant. Manny insists on an abortion. I don’t want to reveal too much about this story, but Manny gets caught in an armed robbery while Kit escapes. She arrives in Pecan Hollow at her aunt’s house with nothing but a baby inside her. It’s here she puts down roots.
Kit is tough. And her daughter, Charlie, refers to her mom as “bat-shit crazy.” Kit cannot feel pain. She only knows she is wounded when blood flows. But the pain that rests in her heart makes up for the lack of physical pain.
This story is well-written, gripping and I absolutely devoured it. The plot twists and thriller ending left me reeling. Kudos to this author for such a tremendous debut novel. While Caroline Frost is a new author to me, I can promise I will be reading everything she writes! She’s that good!
The book is set for release in February, 2022 but is available now for pre-order.
I might add that this author doesn’t have a lot of followers on Twitter, but seems to really appreciate each one, so you might consider following her.
I am so pleased and excited to share an awesome new book release with you from a fellow Wild Rose Press author, Dan Rice! Take a look at this fabulous cover!
But I am going to let Dan tell you about it!
Thanks for having me as your guest today, Jan. I’m super excited about my new book and I hope your readers will be too!
Dragons Walk Among Us is about the friendship between the protagonist Allison Lee and her squad. I imagine them as typical high schoolers with lives and interests and conflicts young adult audiences will identify with. For example, Allison is infatuated with cross country star Jason, who sees her only as a friend, if a good one. Unbeknownst to Allison, her close friend Haji harbors a ginormous crush on her.
The card-carrying members of Allison’s squad are Dalia, her BFF, and Haji, the editor of the school’s online newspaper. The three of them are inseparable, although Allison seeing or perhaps hallucinating mythical creatures threatens their bond. While the story is 100% Allison’s, Dalia and Haji are significant players in the novel’s plot. As such, I give each unique interests, while allowing for enough overlap for great friendships.
Let’s take a closer look at Allison. She is more introverted than her squad but isn’t painfully shy. This one trait differentiates her quite a bit from her more outgoing friends. Her passion is photography in all its forms. In fact, she photographs many of the sporting events Haji covers for the school newspaper. Allison’s also concerned about the environment and photographs local climate protests that Dalia organizes. Right away, you can see how their interests are different yet intersect. I hope this makes their friendship seem realistic.
Of course, there are other ways I differentiate the characters. Allison is biracial and, at one point, suffers abuse for her appearance. Dalia dyes her hair neon pink and sports a nose ring. While the two girls are cross country runners, Haji refuses to run even when in danger, citing flat fleet––okay, he runs eventually because he’s not a dunce. In terms of how they speak, Dalia is typically upbeat, while Allison is a bit more subdued. Haji, being obsessed with all things sports-related, often uses terminology and sayings derived from athletics.
I hope the realistically portrayed friendship between Allison and her squad adds an extra layer of depth to Dragons Walk Among Us, making the characters irresistible to readers. In the end, after all, no matter how fantastical and well told the tale, it’s the characters we remember.
Shutterbug Allison Lee is trying to survive high school while suffering the popular girl’s abuse. Her life is often abysmal, but at least her green hair is savage. Her talent for photography is recognized by the school paper and the judges of a photo contest.
While visiting her friend Joe, a homeless vet, Allison’s life irrevocably changes after an attack leaves her blind. All her dreams as a photojournalist are dashed as she realizes she’ll never see again. Despair sets in until she is offered an experimental procedure to restore her vision. But there are side effects, or are they hallucinations? She now sees dragons accompanying some of the people she meets. Can she trust her eyes, or has the procedure affected her more than she can see?
Dalia resumes talking about strategies to solve the equation, but I barely register a word. My gaze is lured back to Dr. Radcliffe like a particle inexorably pulled into a black hole. My eyes widen, and my jaw slackens. Furrowing my brow, I blink, desperate to clear the mind-boggling absurdity from my vision.
Projecting from Dr. Radcliffe’s body is a shimmering golden dragon, the European variety complete with sparkling golden scales, talons, and green wings. The dragon fades and flashes in and out of existence. The tail, the bulky body, and leathery wings pass through the wall as if all are insubstantial. This is insane asylum madness. I must be hallucinating, or maybe it’s my prosthetic eyes. Not a single person, and there must be at least fifteen people in the library, notices the beast. On top of that, the dragon doesn’t make a sound. There is no way an animal of that size can be silent in such a confined space.
I don’t know if I should hope it’s my eyes or not. If it’s not my eyes, I’m a nutter. If it is my eyes…it’s too terrible to consider.
I draw a shuddering breath and chew on my lower lip. The hairs on the back my neck stand up straight, and my body tenses like prey ready to flee a predator. I want to look away from Dr. Radcliffe and the craziness glimmering all around him, but I can’t.
I tear my gaze away from the professor, but I still glimpse the dragon’s glimmering golden light in my peripheral vision.
Dalia stares at me in evident exasperation. “Did you hear anything I just said?”
My gaze shifts back to Dr. Radcliffe and the draconic projection surrounding him. A student walks straight through a foreleg. My mouth drops open.
“What is it?” Dalia asks and turns in her seat to face Dr. Radcliffe. She turns back to me. “Do you know him?”
“Know who?” I shift my gaze to Dalia, long enough to catch her puzzled look, then look at Dr. Radcliffe.
“That old man you’re staring at,” Dalia says. “Are you okay? Is he the one who attacked you?”
I stare at my friend. “What? No. How would I know? I don’t have any memory of that. That’s Dr. Radcliffe. He knows my dad.”
I see golden scales and a red cardigan right behind Dalia. I look up and feel like my prosthetics are going to pop out of my head. Behind Dalia is Dr. Radcliffe and the twinkling winged beast.
“Oh my God,” I whisper.
A spectral golden forefoot with foot-long white talons passes straight through Dalia’s chest.
“What?” Dalia says. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Dr. Radcliffe stares at me from behind rimless spectacles. He is holding a thick book at his side. I try to meet his gaze, but my eyes keep flicking up at the looming dragon’s head, staring down at me with yellow eyes split by black pupils.
“You’re Raymond Lee’s daughter,” Dr. Radcliffe says. “Wait. Don’t tell me. Alice.”
I shake my head. Dalia faces the professor.
“Hello, Dr. Radcliffe,” Dalia says. “Allison was telling me all about you.”
“Oh, that’s right. Allison. How could I forget? And who are you, young lady?”
“What a lovely name. Your hair. Pink like a dahlia,” the professor says and hefts the book he holds. “Well, I will let you young ladies get back to it. Good day.”
Dan has wanted to write novels since first reading Frank Herbert’s Dune at the age of eleven. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he often goes hiking with his family through mist-shrouded forests and along alpine trails with expansive views.
Dragons Walk Among Us is his debut novel. He plans to keep writing fantasy and science-fiction for many years. You can explore his blog at https://www.danscifi.com.