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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Spotlight: Midnight Cravings by Joelle Sterling

Title: Midnight Cravings (Eternal Dead, #1)
Author: Joelle Sterling
Genre: Horror/ Coming of Age
Tour Dates: April 29 – May 19
Tour Organizer: B3 Tours

Synopsis: The first book in a new trilogy is a supernatural fest with teenage witches, vampires, and zombies in an urban setting.
With her acne under control, the braces off, and a new haircut, Holland Manning has discarded the nerdy girl image for a bold and edgy look. This is the year that she’s finally going to snag her long-time crush, football star Jarrett Sloan. But being realistic, how can a bookworm like Holland compete for Jarrett’s attention when Chaela Vasquez, his uber-gorgeous ex-girlfriend, is going full throttle to get him back?
Holland’s mom claims to be a witch, but her spells go awry and sometimes even backfire. Holland warily asks her mother to cast a love spell on Jarrett, and not surprisingly, the spell doesn’t work. But something strange is happening at home. Night after night, Holland awakens to flitting shadows outside of her bedroom window and eerie whispers, causing her to suspect that her mother may have mistakenly opened a pathway that unleashed something unspeakably sinister.
Discovering her own powers of sorcery that have been lying dormant, Holland sets off on a dangerous mission to vanquish the nest of teenage vampires that are picking off the students at her school, one by one.

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Holland Manning’s hand wandered to the nape of her neck. She cringed as she touched

the area where her newly shorn hair came to a point. She felt utterly naked—completely

vulnerable with short hair. Hair that once hung to her shoulders, now abruptly stopped at her jaw

line on one side. The other side had been raggedly hacked at the top of her ear.

She’d asked for a layered cut—an asymmetrical bob.

“No problem,” the stylist had reassured her when Holland gave her a picture of singer,

Rihanna. The stylist did a hack job. A first grader using a pair of safety scissors could have done

a better job than that so-called professional.

Staring in the mirror, Holland winced as she analyzed her reflection. She tried to focus

on her good points. Her skin was smooth and flawless, showing no signs of her long battle with

acne. And with her braces finally off, straight teeth were a major improvement. Sadly, neither of

these enhancements could deflect attention away from her scraggly hair. Allowing her hair to be

hideously butchered like this was total self sabotage.

Holland zoomed in on her nose, which had always been a problem area, and her nostrils

seemed more pronounced, flaring unattractively. Her chin looked particularly elongated and


Oh, God! Angst-ridden, she closed her eyes. She envisioned streamlined nostrils and at

least an inch of chin surgically removed.

Chaela Vasquez and lots of other girls at school had gone under the knife to enhance their

looks. If Holland’s mom could afford it, she’d get some work done on her nose. Not a full nose

job—more like a mini procedure. A few tiny snips to her nostrils would make a huge difference.

Glancing in the mirror, she turned her face to a different angle. There was no

improvement, she still looked gross! Getting her hair cut was the worst decision she’d ever

made. This horrendous style magnified her worst features. Heartsick, she fought the urge to cry.

There was no time for tears; summer break would be over in less than a month, and she needed

to come up with a solution.

Frustrated, she grabbed the swath of hair that hung limply in her face. This piece of hair

had no purpose. She grabbed a pair of scissors and considered cutting it. With lots of gel and

hairspray, perhaps she could give herself a mini-mohawk. Bad idea. Creative hairstyling was not

one of her strengths. Imagining a far worse hair disaster, she put down the scissors, and released

the handful of hair.

Trying to blend in with the popular girls…the cool kids with perfect hair and impeccable

fashion sense, Holland had attempted to step up her game, but now she wished she’d never

bothered. She should have been content staying under the radar. Now, with such a noticeably bad

hair cut, she could count on lots of negative attention.

Holland wouldn’t be able to handle kids pointing fingers at and laughing at her. To

become the butt of cruel jokes would totally destroy her.

Her best friend, Naomi was taunted every day. For some unknown reason, she never

went to her parents or asked any authority figure at school to intervene. She bravely endured the

heckling and jeering and withstood all the cruel pranks that were played on her. Now Naomi’s

off the hook. Somehow, her parents found out what was going on, and had her transferred to an

all girls’ academy.

It was painful to think about how cruelly Naomi was treated at school. No one should

have to live like that. Thankfully, Naomi’s new school had a zero tolerance for bullying.

Holland returned her attention to the mirror. Hoping to find some redeeming qualities,

she scrutinized her hair once again. Nothing had changed, and was terrifying to imagine how

Chaela Vasquez and her groupies would react to her on the first day of school. God, I wish I

could crawl into a hole and hide there forever.

All of her problems would be solved if she could go to the academy with Naomi. But that

was out of the question, her mom could barely afford their regular monthly bills. Private school

tuition was out of the question. Maybe she’d consider the idea of home schooling me—at least

until my hair grows back.

Way to go, loser, she chided myself as she imagined her heartthrob, Jarrett Sloan’s

appalled expression when he took a look at her stupid hair.

Holland noticed her mother standing in the doorway, observing her. Her expression was

hard to read, but Holland could feel her emotions: a mixture of pity and concern. To no avail, her

mother had tried to talk Holland out cutting her hair.

“I thought I’d look edgy,” Holland said in an apologetic tone.

“It’s not that bad, Holland,” her mother replied, wearing a weak smile that failed to

reassure. “It’s not like you lost a limb. It’s only hair…it’ll grow back.” Her words were followed

with a headshake, which Holland interpreted as an unspoken, ‘I told you so.’

“Do you know any hair-growing spells? Something that works really fast?” Holland

giggled as if she was joking, but the desperation in her voice spoke volumes.

“Well… I suppose I could do some research. Or I could ask one my coven sisters,” her

mother said as she turned to go to her work area that was once the family dining room.

Her mother belonged to an online witch’s coven. She spent more money than she should

on occult paraphernalia. Their modest home was overrun with candles, weird herbs, crystals,

vintage jewelry, and all sorts of witchery tools. She’d recently launched a website, offering

love and money attraction spells. Business was not exactly booming, but Holland’s mother was

confident that word of mouth buzz would eventually send traffic to her site.

For as long as Holland could remember, her mother had dabbled in the occult, boasting

that she and her daughter were the last descendants of a long line of witches. Holland had never

taken her mother’s claims seriously. There was no proof that either of them had any special


Last year, her mother was into astrology and numerology. Before that, she was reading

auras and tea leaves. Her mother was such an embarrassment with her various new age interests,

and lately she’s been getting a lot worse. Her interest in witchcraft was becoming an obsession—

an expensive obsession. Her mother was spending so much money on the tools of her trade, she

was neglecting important bills.

Still, in her desperation to get her hair back, Holland was willing to try anything—even

one of her mother’s half-baked spells.

While her mother researched spells, Holland mixed a potion of her own: L’Oreal, copper-

blonde hair color. Grabbing the long hank of dark brown hair that hung in her eyes and down to

her cheek, she squirted the contents of the plastic squeeze bottle.

The end result, was streaked hair that didn’t look too bad. After flat ironing the front of

her hair and applying gobs of hair gel to close cropped parts on the back and the right side, she

miraculously ended up with spiked hair that looked sort of awesome.

Impressed with the results, she beamed at her reflection.

After a couple more approving glances in the mirror, she galloped off to show her mother

her stunning hairdo.

In the dining—slash—work room, Holland was greeted by the sight of her mother sitting

cross-legged on the dark tile floor. The table and chairs were pushed against the wall. She sat in

the center of chalk-drawn circle.

It was on the tip of Holland’s tongue to blurt out that she didn’t need the spell anymore,

but her mother was already mumbling a chant—something repetitive and indecipherable. Her

eyes were closed while four white candles burned inside the circle.

Holland gave a little sigh.

Geeze, Mom! This is seriously overkill, she wanted to say, but her mother was so deep

into the spell, she didn’t have the heart to tell her that she no longer required her witchcraft


In a moment of panic, Holland’s eyes darted to the curtains. She was instantly relieved

to find them closed. The neighbors didn’t need to witness this embarrassing spectacle. They’d be

freaked out if they could see her mother right now.

It was bad enough that whenever her mother went out to the grocery store, the dry

cleaners, or wherever, she’d walk up to total strangers and pass out her card, attempting to drum

up business. It was so embarrassing the way people recoiled after her mother announced that she

was a witch, and she could cast love and money spells. People sort of automatically assume that

being a witch is synonymous with being a devil worshipper.

She hoped that her mother’s witchcraft obsession would end soon. Holland would be

ridiculed endlessly if the kids at school found out that my mother was a witch for hire.

Holland gazed at her mother again, and decided that it was only fair to respect her efforts.

She was after all, acting on her daughter’s behalf. Giving her mother some space and privacy,

Holland quietly slipped out the front door.

At the end of the block, she veered off the main street, and zipped onto the dirt path,

taking the short cut to Naomi’s house.

Naomi and Holland used to share the same social status at school: unimportant and

invisible. Holland and Naomi had both always been more interested in having their noses stuck

in a book than keeping abreast of the latest fashion trends. They were both on the D list as far as

popularity went. But at some point during ninth grade, Naomi had dropped down to the F list.

For no apparent reason other than the fact that she was a super smart, straight A student, she

became a target for bullies.

With Naomi going to a new school, Holland would be utterly alone. It was clearly time

for her to make an attempt to fit in with other students—the cool crowd. Though she hated to

admit it, Holland was seriously considering dumbing down this year.

Copyright 2012

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