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Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw – Release Day Book Review #TeamMina

Book cover and bat toy

About the Book

Mina is staying with her sister in New Orleans for Fang Fest 1995. She’s thrilled to land a job in a horror movie mansion, reconnecting with her sister while they scare the tourists. When Mina stumbles upon a body at work, she’s dragged into a murder investigation. Someone is replicating New Orleans’ darkest myths, and Mina must discover the truth before she becomes the latest victim.

Book  Quote “Welcome to the Mansion of the Macabre, your horror movie tour will start  momentarily “

About the Author

Amy McCaw is a YA writer and blogger. She’s the author of Mina and the Undead, a YA murder mystery set in 1995 New Orleans.

Her main interests are books, movies and the macabre, and her debut novel has elements of all of these. If Amy’s not at a book event or reading, she can usually be found scribbling away in her writing room, surrounded by movie memorabilia and an out-of-control signed books collection. Unsurprisingly, she’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and has gone to conventions to meet James Marsters more times than she cares to admit.

Amy also loves travelling and has a particular affinity for America. She’s visited 29 states, 13 Man Vs Food restaurants and many bookish locations, including the cities where Twilight, Interview with a Vampire and Vampire Diaries were set.

If you want to talk with Amy about books or 90s movies, you can find her on Twitter.

Twitter – @yaundermyskin

Blog – www.yaundermyskin.co.uk

Website – http://www.amymccaw.co.uk

Represented by: Sandra Sawicka

What I Thought

Page one of the book

All I had to hear was vampires and the 90s and I was so here for this book. One of the books I remember loving from my teens was The Secret Vampire by LJ Ross so I definitely channelled my past teenager when settling down to read this.

As someone who has always been fascinated by the idea of, but never actually made it to New Orleans, I loved the fact that this is where it was set. We get to see it through Mina’s tourist eyes as well as via the people she is visiting who have been there a while.

I love the fact that at its core this is a story about two sisters who have been estranged and I enjoyed the dynamic between Mina and Libby.

It has a strong cast of supporting characters with Della, Jared, Lucas and Mansion of the Macabre boss Thandie each providing a valuable contribution to the story.

There was a good game of spot the influence to play but the fact that it was set in the 90s made it feel relevant rather than gimmicky. Some of my favourites, Buffy, Lost Boys and Interview with a Vampire make an appearance and I’m sure there is lots I’ll have missed that demand a second read through.

During the first read you will be busy trying to find the clues to the unfolding mystery. Who, or what, is killing people in the style of New Orleans myths and will Mina or one of her new friends be next? There’s also a familial mystery to solve too and the two overlap in surprising ways.

Vampires and convent myth

I was slightly sad that the myth with the vampires and the convent didn’t lead to shoehorning the ‘Show him your/you’re cross’ joke.

This is a gentle introduction to horror with enough pace and tension to keep you racing through but not too much blood and gore to make you need to put the book in the fridge.

At the launch event where author Amy was interviewed by YA horror author Dawn Kurtagich, Amy did say she has more of Mina’s story to tell. So do me a favour and now it’s out go get yourself a copy.

A huge thanks to uclan publishing and Amy for the gifted e-copy for the purposes of an honest review. I picked my print copy up from my local bookshop yesterday and I love the VHS look of it. Cover design by Becky Chilcott, and yes I did try to remove the ‘label’ on the back 🤦‍♀️😂.

Back showing old fashioned price sticker

Do check out what the rest of #TeamMina thought by following the hashtag and go and take the character quiz on Amy’s website to find out which character you’d be. I think we should fangs Katherine Korr who perfectly sums the book up in the quote below.

Author  Quote by Katherine Corr saying fans of Dracula, Buffy and Anne Rice will like this

A Bowl of Cherries by F.E. Birch – Release Day Author Guest Post

Happy Release Day to A Bowl of Cherries by F.E. Birch, a writer I have known for a number of years.


I am excited to delve into these tales when they arrive but in the meantime she has agreed to share an insight into her writing process.

About the Book

There’s nothing cosy about these crimes.

Succulent rich stories of the dark and unknown that might terrify, horrify, or deliciously delight. Thirty-two previously published and prize winning tales that contain themes of death, destruction, abuse and emotion, each one a veritable stride into a unique and different world.
From the psychologically disturbed, the raging mad, the vulnerability of victims, and desperately needy, there’s not much that isn’t covered in the dark genre for those that like their stories to be troubling, distressing and quirky. NOT for the faint of heart, this comes with a triple X warning!


“A delightfully dark rollercoaster, dipping into a selection of slickly written shorts.” — Robert Scragg, author of All That is Buried


“A patchwork quilt of daring fever dreams, stitched together with effortless, bewitching prose. Highly recommended.” — Rob Parker, author of Far from the Tree


Order here for Kindle
Order here in paperback

About the Author


FE Birch is one writing pseudonym of a writer that first put pen to paper at the age of five but really took it seriously from 2004. She has had over 150 short stories published and/or placed in competitions, a ‘faction’ book published by Harper Collins and her first crime novel is currently out on submission. A Bowl of Cherries is a self-published collection of 32 shorts that will steal your breath and make sure you never look at cherries in the same way again.

Author Guest Post – Planning the perfect crime … short!

I’m not an expert on flash fiction, or short story writing, I only know what works for me. 

I like the short story form as they are quick reads, often intense, emotional, and leave you with a taste that lingers. When you live a busy life like I do, and I read slowly, it takes ages to read a novel and sometimes I just want a satisfying fast read. 

When I’m writing I often start with a prompt or series of prompts. It could be someone I’ve noticed, or something that’s happened that I store up for future use. An idea forms, and it could be a character, a feeling, a setting, or a plot. Something has to happen. I was always surprised when people talked of short stories that were thousands of words. To me they are mini novels, novellas, or short novels. A story can be told effectively in a paragraph, if it’s done right, or three hundred words, or three thousand. My longest short story is five thousand. I don’t know if I could keep the momentum of a short story for longer than that. 

I wasn’t sure if I could write a novel, but I have, and that is a totally different process. 

I think a story has a limit and as you start to write, the story flows and ends when it needs to. If I have to write to a word count, say two thousand words, I know I have space to add characters, add settings, scenes, sensory detail, that add to the story, but it mustn’t be seen as filler. If I only have 100 words then it has to clipped, tight, in and out, no messing about. 

It’s easier when I don’t have word count to work with because as I type the story ends itself then I can edit the rubbish and mould the rest. I like that. 

I sometimes write a couple of paragraphs that might be a set of ideas rather than stories and then I store them for future use to prolong, to make into something more. If I write a character I like, I can revisit them, give them more of a story, build up a ‘happening’ , take something very short and turn it into something darker, something more enticing, or sinister. Then others are just right as they are. 

It’s as individual to the writer as it is to the reader. I like to be provoked as both, so for me anything goes, and the rules are your own to make. I know I’m not to everyone’s taste. 

There aren’t too many avenues for the stories I like to write and read and there are no mainstream magazines to submit to that take stories like mine. Nothing I write would fit People’s Friend! 

Competitions and anthologies have been kind to me over the years and given me an outlet, but again, it’s difficult to find them on the shelves of bookshops, unless they are written by famous authors. 

Whilst I’m waiting for a publishing deal for my novel, I’ve pulled some of my best stories together for Bowl of Cherries. All different, all quick reads, all dark and twisty. All short.

Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston – Once Upon a Con Series Book Review/Once Upon a Retelling


Happy Release Day to the third, and 🤞🏻 not the last book in the Once Upon a Con series by Ashley Poston.

Bookish and the Beast Synopsis


In the third book in Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, Beauty and the Beast is retold in the beloved Starfield universe.

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.


About the Author

Ashley Poston was born and raised in rural South Carolina, where you can see the stars impossibly well.When she’s not inventing new recipes with peanut butter, having passionate dance-offs with her cat Pepper 🐈 , or geeking out all over the Internet and at comic cons, she writes books and is the author of the Once Upon a Con series and Heart of Iron Duology.


What I Thought

She’s done it again.


I could just leave my review there… but I won’t. I adore this series, it makes my geeky heart sing.


First up I want to let you know that these can be read as standalones. Each book focuses mostly on new people although, I would highly recommend reading them all to get full immersion.


We did meet Vance in book two, as the quintessential bad boy and it looks like he’s continued down that slippery slope into beastly ways since we last saw him. But like Jessica in book two, author Ashley allows us to delve beneath his Hollywood celebrity persona to see the real person underneath. He’s only really let his guard down like that once before but that’s easier when you are wearing a mask and not fearing the story getting to the press.

Rosie Thorne is a book geek like many of us, a sniffing the pages, stroking the spine, reading way past her bedtime type. In this story she gets to experience every book lover’s dream and nightmare. A huge library 😍, and a destroyed book 😭.


I loved unpicking all the little nods to Beauty and the Beast and there are a number of references to the Disney version but with much less Stockholm syndrome.


Like Elle in book one, Rosie has lost her mother but for her it is much more raw and this exploration of grief is explored sensitively.


As ever the diversity in terms of LGTBQIA+ characters is incorporated without fuss or rigmarole – best friend Quinn’s pronouns are introduced and used naturally, and before their gender identity. The challenge to get Quinn a place as Homecoming Royalty and to take it away from our Gaston type character is a welcome sub plot. The adult characters – Rosie’s father and Vance’s godfather are used well and who doesn’t love a dog named Sansa – Queen of the book!

If you are in need of mid pandemic pick me up this tale of two people ‘quarantined’ in a small town will be just the curse breaker.


Once Upon a Retelling/Fan Fiction


Retellings are my bookish jam. I love a new angle on a tale as old as time 😂. There’s something about reading a new yet familiar story.


Beauty and the Beast is one that has been explored many times before. I’ve even already written a post about its retellings (although there are more than I have listed here).


The reason I like the Once Upon a Con series so much is that they take fantasy based tales and bring them into ‘real life’. Switching the genre to contemporary really works to bring fresh life to these much loved stories.


One genre bending set of retellings I’d also highly recommend are The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. Retelling Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White in a sci-fi update. Utter bliss. Her origin story for Alice’s Queen of Hearts – Heartless is 💔😭.


Now considering how much I love a retelling – or a film/tv adaptation – it may surprise you to learn that I’ve never really got into fan fiction – neither reading nor writing it. I always feel like I should but I guess never having been in those circles I don’t really know where to start. So please do share your recommendations below. Harry Potter or YA books preferred.


If we get our wish and Ashley Poston comes back to the Once Upon a Con series what retelling would you like to see next? Personally I’d love to see a Snow Queen/Frozen one, set at a winter based con and featuring siblings – or maybe I should fan fic it?


Thanks once again to Quirk for the gifted copy and for the giveaway copy I gave out on Instagram. Once my finished copy arrives my ARC is going to the second place person in my little Quiz. You still have until the 18th to submit your pre-order receipts to get a copy of a Once Upon a Con short, ‘Once a Princess’. Mine arrived yesterday so I know what I’m reading later.


Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for my Starfield Special.

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