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TOUR PRESENTED BY SOURCEBOOKS
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Furyborn
by Claire Legrand

The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.

*  *  *
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / TBD / IndieBound

FURYBORN Book Trailer: Meet the Blood Queen - YouTube
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   1
Rielle
“Lord Commander Dardenne came to me in the middle of the night, his daughter in his arms. They smelled of fire; their clothes were singed. He could hardly speak. I had never seen the man afraid before. He thrust Rielle into my arms and said, ‘Help us. Help her. Don’t let them take her from me.’”
—Testimony of Grand Magister Taliesin Belounnon, on Lady Rielle Dardenne’s involvement in the Boon Chase massacreApril 29, Year 998 of the Second Age
Two years earlier
Rielle Dardenne hurried into Tal’s office and dropped the sparrow’s message onto his desk.
“Princess Runa is dead,” she announced.
She wouldn’t describe her mood as excited exactly, but her own kingdom, Celdaria, and their northeastern neighbor, Borsvall, had lived in a state of tension for so many decades that it was hardly noteworthy when, say, a Celdarian merchant ship sank off Borsvall’s coast or patrols came to blows near the border.
But a murdered Borsvall princess? That was news. And Rielle wanted to dissect every piece of it.
Tal let out a sigh, set down his pen, and dragged his ink-smudged hands through his messy blond hair. The polished golden flame pinned to his lapel winked in the sunlight.
“Perhaps,” Tal suggested, turning a look on Rielle that was not quite disapproval and not quite amusement, “you should consider looking less thrilled about a princess’s murder?”
She slid into the chair across from him. “I’m not happy about it or anything. I’m simply intrigued.” Rielle pulled the slip of paper back across the desk and read over the inked words once more. “So you do think it was assassination? Audric thinks so.”
“Promise me you won’t do anything stupid today, Rielle.”
She smiled sweetly at him. “When have I ever done anything stupid?”
He quirked an eyebrow. “The city guard is on high alert. I want you here, safe in the temple, in case anything happens.” He took the message from her, scanning its contents. “How did you get this, anyway? No, wait. I know. Audric gave it to you.”
Rielle stiffened. “Audric keeps me informed. He’s a good friend. Where’s the harm in that?”
Tal didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to.
“If you have something to say to me,” she snapped, color climbing up her cheeks, “then just say it. Or else let’s begin our lesson.”
Tal watched her a moment longer, then turned to pick up four enormous books sitting on the shelf behind him.
“Here,” he said, ignoring the mutinous expression on her face. “I’ve marked some passages for you to read. Today will be devoted to quiet study. And I’ll test you later, so don’t even think about skimming.”
Rielle narrowed her eyes at the book on the top of the stack. “A Concise History of the Second Age, Volume I: The Aftermath of the Angelic Wars.” She made a face. “This hardly looks concise.”
“It’s all a matter of perspective,” he said, returning to the papers on his desk.
Rielle’s favorite place in Tal’s office was the window seat overlooking the main temple courtyard. It was piled high with scarlet cushions lined in gold piping, and when she sat there, dangling her legs out into the sun, she could almost forget that there was an enormous world beyond the temple and her city—a world she would never see.
She settled by the window, kicked off her boots, hiked up her heavy lace-trimmed skirts, and rested her bare feet on the sill. The spring sunlight washed her legs in warmth, and soon she was thinking of how Audric blossomed on bright, sun-filled days like this one. How his skin seemed to glow and crackle, begging to be touched.
Tal cleared his throat, breaking her focus.
Tal knew her far too well.
She cracked open A Concise History, took one look at the tiny, faded text, and imagined tossing the book out the window and into the temple courtyard, where citizens were filing in for morning prayers—to pray that the riders they had wagered upon in today’s race would win, no doubt. Every temple in the capital would be full of such eager souls, not just there in the Pyre—Tal’s temple, where citizens worshipped Saint Marzana the firebrand—but in the House of Light and the House of Night as well and the Baths and the Firmament, the Forge and the Holdfast. Whispered prayers in all seven temples, to all seven saints and their elements.
Wasted prayers, thought Rielle with a slight, sharp thrill. The other racers will look like children on ponies compared to me.
She flipped through a few pages, biting the inside of her lip until she felt calm enough to speak. “I’ve heard many in the Borsvall court are blaming Celdaria for Runa’s death. We wouldn’t do such a thing, would we?”
Tal’s pen scratched across his paper. “Certainly not.”
“But it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, does it? If King Hallvard’s councils convince him that we killed his daughter, he will declare war at last.”
Tal dropped his pen with a huff of annoyance. “I’m not going to get any work done today, am I?”
Rielle swallowed her grin. If only you knew how true that is, dearest Tal.
“I’m sorry if I have questions about the political climate of our country,” she said. “Does that fall under the category of things we’re not allowed to discuss, lest my poor vulnerable brain shatter from thestress?”
A smile twitched at the corner of Tal’s mouth. “Borsvall might declare war, yes.”
“You don’t seem concerned about this possibility.”
“I find it unlikely. We’ve been on the edge of war with Borsvall for decades, and yet it has never happened. And it will never happen, because the Borsvall people may be warmongers, but King Hallvard is neither healthy nor stupid. We would flatten his army. He can’t afford a war with anyone, much less with Celdaria.”
“Audric said…” Rielle hesitated. A twist of unease slipped down her throat. “Audric said he thinks Princess Runa’s death, and the slave rebellion in Kirvaya, means it’s time. That the Queens are coming.”
Silence fell over the room like a shroud.
“Audric has always been fascinated with the prophecy,” Tal said, his voice deceptively calm. “He’s been looking for signs of the Queens’ coming for years.”
“He sounds rather convinced this time.”
“A slave rebellion and a dead princess are hardly enough to—”
“But I heard Grand Magister Duval talking about how there have been storms across the ocean in Meridian,” she pressed on, searching his face. “Even as far as Ventera and Astavar. Strange storms, out of season.”
Tal blinked. Ah, thought Rielle. You didn’t know that, did you?
“Storms do occur out of season from time to time,” Tal said. “The empirium works in mysterious ways.”
Rielle curled her fingers in her skirts, taking comfort in the fact that soon she would be in her riding trousers and boots, her collar open to the breeze.
She would be on the starting line.
“The report I read,” she continued, “said that a dust storm in southern Meridian had shut down the entire port of Morsia for days.”
“Audric needs to stop showing you every report that comes across his desk.”
“Audric didn’t show me anything. I found this one myself.”
Tal raised an eyebrow. “You mean you snuck into his office when he wasn’t there and went through his papers.”
Rielle’s cheeks grew hot. “I was looking for a book I’d left behind.”
“Indeed. And what would Audric say if he knew you’d been in his office without his permission?”
“He wouldn’t care. I’m free to come and go as I please.”
Tal closed his eyes. “Lady Rielle, you can’t just visit the crown prince’s private rooms day and night as though it’s nothing. You’re not children anymore. And you are not his fiancée.”
Rielle lost her breath for an instant. “I’m well aware of that.”
Tal waved a hand and rose from his chair, effectively ending all talk of the prophecy and its Queens.
“The city is crowded today—and unpredictable,” he said, walking across the room to pour himself another cup of tea. “Word is spreading about Princess Runa’s death. In such a climate, the empirium can behave in similarly unpredictable ways. Perhaps we should begin a round of prayers to steady our minds. Amid the chaos of the world, the burning flame serves as an anchor, binding us in peace to the empirium and to God.”
Rielle glared at him. “Don’t use your magister voice, Tal. It makes you sound old.”
He sighed, took a sip of his tea. “I am old. And grumpy, thanks to you.”
“Thirty-two is hardly old, especially to already be Grand Magister of the Pyre.” She paused. She would need to proceed carefully. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were appointed as the next Archon. Surely, with someone as talented as you beside me, I could safely watch the Chase from your box—”
“Don’t try to flatter me, Lady Rielle.” His eyes sparked at her. There was the Tal she liked—the ferocious firebrand, not the pious teacher. “It isn’t safe for you out there right now, not to mention dangerous for everyone else if something set you off and you lost control.”
Rielle slammed shut A Concise History and rose from the window seat. “Damn you, Tal.”
“Not in the temple, please,” Tal admonished over the rim of his cup.
“I’m not a child. Do you really think I don’t know better by now?” Her voice turned mocking. “‘Rielle, let’s say a prayer together to calm you.’ ‘Rielle, let’s sing a song about Saint Katell the Magnificent to take your mind off things.’ ‘No, Rielle, you can’t go to the masque. You might forget yourself. You might have fun, God forbid.’ If Father had his way, I’d stay locked up for the rest of my life with my nose buried in a book or on my knees in prayer, whipping myself every time I had a stray angry thought. Is that the kind of life you would like for me too?”
Tal watched her, unmoved. “If it meant you were safe and that others were safe as well? Yes, I would.”
“Kept under lock and key like some criminal.” A familiar, frustrated feeling rose within her; she pushed it back down with a vengeance. She would not lose control, not today of all days.
“Do you know,” she said, her voice falsely bright, “that when it storms, Father takes me down to the servants’ quarters and gives me dumbwort? It puts me to sleep, and he locks me up and leaves me there.”
After a pause, Tal answered, “Yes.”
“I used to fight him. He would hold me down and slap me, pinch my nose shut until I couldn’t breathe and had to open my mouth. Then he would shove the vial between my lips and make me drink, and I would spit it up, but he would keep forcing me to drink, whispering to me everything I’d ever done wrong, and right in the middle of yelling how much I hated him, I would fall asleep. And when I would wake up, the storm would be over.”
A longer pause. “Yes,” Tal answered softly. “I know.”
“He thinks storms are too provocative for me. They give me ideas, he says.”
Tal cleared his throat. “That was my fault.”
“I know.”
“But the medicine, that was his suggestion.”
She gave him a withering look. “And did you try to talk him out of it?”
He did not answer, and the patience on his face left her seething.
“I don’t fight him anymore,” she said. “I hear a crack of thunder and go below without him even asking me to. How pathetic I’ve become.”
“Rielle…” Tal sighed, shook his head. “Everything I could say to you, I’ve said before.”
She approached him, letting the loneliness she typically hid from him—from everyone—soften her face. Come, good Magister Belounnon. Pity your sweet Rielle. He broke first, looking away from her. Something like sorrow shifted across his face, and his jaw tightened.
Good.
“He’d let me sleep through life if he could,” she said.
“He loves you, Rielle. He worries for you.”
Heat snapped at Rielle’s fingertips, growing along with her anger. With a stubborn stab of fury, she let it come. She knew she shouldn’t, that an outburst would only make it more difficult to sneak away, but suddenly she could not bring herself to care.
He loves you, Rielle.
A father who loved his daughter would not make her his prisoner.
She seized one of the candles from Tal’s desk and watched with grim satisfaction as the wick burst into a spitting, unruly flame. As she stared at it, she imagined her fury as a flooding river, steadily spilling over its banks and feeding the flame in her hands.
The flame grew—the size of a pen, a dagger, a sword. Then every candle followed suit, a forest of fiery blades.
Tal rose from his desk and picked up the handsome polished shield from its stand in the corner of the room. Every elemental who had ever lived—every waterworker and windsinger, every shadowcaster and every firebrand like Tal—had to use a casting, a physical object uniquely forged by their own hands, to access their power. Their singular power, the one element they could control.
But not Rielle.
She needed no casting, and fire was not the only element that obeyed her.
All of them did.
Tal stood behind her, one hand holding his shield, the other hand resting gently on her own. As a child, back when she had still thought she loved Tal, such touches had thrilled her.
Now she seriously considered punching him.
“In the name of Saint Marzana the Brilliant,” Tal murmured, “we offer this prayer to the flames, that the empirium might hear our plea and grant us strength: Fleet-footed fire, blaze not with fury or abandon. Burn steady and true, burn clean and burn bright.”
Rielle bit down on harsh words. How she hated praying. Every familiar word felt like a new bar being added to the cage her father and Tal had crafted for her.
The room began to shake—the inkwell on Tal’s desk, the panes of glass in the open window, Tal’s half-finished cup of tea.
“Rielle?” Tal prompted, shifting his shield. In his body behind her, she felt a rising hot tension as he prepared to douse her fire with his own power. Despite her best efforts, the concern in his voice caused her a twinge of remorse. He meant well, she knew. He wanted, desperately, for her to be happy.
Unlike her father.
So Rielle bowed her head and swallowed her anger. After all, what she was about to do might turn Tal against her forever. She could allow him this small victory.
“Blaze not with fury or abandon,” she repeated, closing her eyes. She imagined setting aside every scrap of emotion, every sound, every thought, until her mind was a vast field of darkness—except for the tiny spot of light that was the flame in her hands.
Then she allowed the darkness to seep across the flame as well and was left alone in the cool, still void of her mind.
The room calmed.
Tal’s hand fell away.
Rielle listened as he returned his shield to its stand. The prayer had scraped her clean, and in the wake of her anger she felt…nothing. A hollow heart and an empty head.
When she opened her eyes, they were dry and tired. She wondered bitterly what it would be like to live without a constant refrain of prayers in her thoughts, warning her against her own feelings.
The temple bells chimed eleven times; Rielle’s pulse jumped. Any moment now, she would hear Ludivine’s signal.
She turned toward the window. No more prayers, no more reading. Every muscle in her body surged with energy. She wanted to ride.
“I’d rather be dead than live as my father’s prisoner,” she said at last, unable to resist that last petulant stab.
“Dead like your mother?”
Rielle froze. When she faced Tal, he did not look away. She had not expected that cruelty. From her father, yes, but never from Tal.
The memory of long-ago flames blazed across her vision.
“Did Father instruct you to bring that up if I got out of hand?” she asked, keeping her voice flat and cool. “What with the Chase and all.”
“Yes,” Tal answered, unflinching.
“Well, I’m happy to tell you I’ve only killed the one time. You needn’t worry yourself.”
After a moment, Tal turned to straighten the books on his desk. “This is as much for your safety as it is for everyone else’s. If the king discovered we’d been hiding the truth of your power all these years…You know what could happen. Especially to your father. And yet he does it because he loves you more than you’ll ever understand.”
Rielle laughed sharply. “That isn’t reason enough to treat me like this. I’ll never forgive him for it. Someday, I’ll stop forgiving you too.”
“I know,” Tal said, and at the sadness in his voice, Rielle nearly took pity on him.
Nearly.
But then a great crash sounded from downstairs, and an unmistakable cry of alarm.
Ludivine.
Tal gave Rielle that familiar look he so often had—when she had, at seven, overflowed their pool at the Baths; when he had found her, at fifteen, the first time she snuck out to Odo’s tavern. That look..
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Title: Trusting You And Other Lies
Author: Nicole Williams
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 293
Pub Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books For Young Readers/Penguin
Book Source: publisher via NetGalley
My Rating: 2 of 5 stars



**POSSIBLE SPOILERS**

Synopsis: Phoenix can't imagine anything worse than being shipped off to family summer camp. Her parents have been fighting for the past two years—do they seriously think being crammed in a cabin with Phoenix and her little brother, Harry, will make things better? 

On top of that, Phoenix is stuck training with Callum—the head counselor who is seriously cute but a complete know-it-all. His hot-cold attitude means he's impossible to figure out—and even harder to rely on. But despite her better judgment, Phoenix is attracted to Callum. And he's promising Phoenix a summer she'll never forget. Can she trust him? Or is this just another lie?
             - - -
Sigh.

So many bad books this year. Bad for me, at least.

• CLASSISM. So, basically, if you don't aspire to get a college degree, you suck at life. The MC is constantly judging her love interest for not being "into" college. Listen, if you can afford college or get scholarships, great for you, but not everyone can go to/wants to go to college. Some people have other plans! School isn't for everyone and I honestly resent when people are looked down upon or considered less-than because they choose not to go to college. One point against the MC and the author.

• Another point against Phoenix comes with the fact that she specifically SAYS she is oh-so-independent and doesn't "do" boy-crazy, but then she does. She acts like a fool over Callum and honestly, it kinda pissed me off. Phoenix is so incredibly insecure—which is fine—but she lies to herself SO BADLY about it. She actually has this fake-cocky thing going on and it's pretty gross and makes her wholly unlikable. Get this: she finds out that Callum isn't a virgin, right? He's 18. He's been with other girls. SHOCKER! So she gets all upset and sad about it, like he fucking cheated on her. I HATE IT WHEN GIRLS DO THIS. HATE HATE HATE. This little situation in the book brings me to my next point...

• CALLUM. So, he follows Phoenix's little pity party up with this:

“Have you ever eaten a porterhouse steak?” ... “A porterhouse steak is like the best damn thing in the world.” ... “Have you ever eaten packing popcorn? The worst thing ever.” ... “You are the porterhouse. All those other girls, any other girl, they're packing popcorn.”

STEAK... and... PACKING POPCORN?????? YES! He, A) compared her to a literal piece of meat, and B) used his little analogy to trash every other girl he's ever been with. Why do you have to lessen every other person you've slept with just to make this little twat feel better about herself? It's frankly, rude, but also extremely condescending. But Phoenix? She eats it right up. It makes me sick. I hate you both. Go away.

• If you haven't caught on by now, I cannot stand the MC. MOST. UNLIKABLE. CHARACTER. EVER. She's a spoiled brat. She's judgmental AF. She's insecure but pretends not be with this uppity, annoying attitude. She talks about how she is THE BEST SISTER of life all through the book, then proceeds to treat her little brother like crap. She also doesn't understand why her parents sent her to the camp because she is finicky and can't appreciate nature AT ALL. She spends the entire book trying to make everyone else live up to what SHE wants from them. Just ew.

The only thing I actually liked about this book was the actual setting. I enjoyed the camp atmosphere and wish that the characters within it had been better.

Overall? Good setting, bad characters. Mediocre (at best) storyline. Not for me. I don't recommend it at all.
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Almost Impossible
by Nicole Williams


Fans of Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and Jenny Han will delight as the fireworks spark and the secrets fly in this delicious summer romance from a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

When Jade decided to spend the summer with her aunt in California, she thought she knew what she was getting into. But nothing could have prepared her for Quentin. Jade hasn't been in suburbia long and even she knows her annoying (and annoyingly cute) next-door neighbor spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

And when Quentin learns Jade plans to spend her first American summer hiding out reading books, he refuses to be ignored. Sneaking out, staying up, and even a midnight swim, Quentin is determined to give Jade days--and nights--worth remembering.

But despite their storybook-perfect romance, every time Jade moves closer, Quentin pulls away. And when rumors of a jilted ex-girlfriend come to light, Jade knows Quentin is hiding a secret--and she's determined to find out what it is.

*  *  *

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
• Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / TBD / IndieBound

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                    Chapter 1

Anything was possible. At least that’s what it felt like.
    Summer seventeen was going to be one for the record books. I already knew it. I could feel it—from the nervous-excited swirl in my stomach to the buzz in the air around me. This was going to be the summer—my summer.
    “Last chance to cry uncle or forever hold your peace,” Mom sang beside me in the backseat of the cab we’d caught at the airport. Her hand managed to tighten around mine even more, cutting off the last bit of my circulation. If there
was any left.
    I tried to look the precise amount of unsure before answering. “So long, last  chance,” I said, waving out the window.
    Mom sighed, squeezing my hand harder still. It was starting to go numb now. Summer seventeen might find me one hand short if Mom didn’t ease up on the death grip.
    She and her band, the Shrinking Violets, were going to be touring internationally after finally hitting it big, but she was moping because this was the first summer we wouldn't be together. Actually, it would be the first time we’d been apart ever.
    I’d sold her on the idea of me staying in the States with her sister and family by going on about how badly I wanted to experience one summer as a normal, everyday American teenager before graduating from high school. One chance to
see what it was like to stay in the same place, with the same people, before I left for college. One last chance to see what life as an American teen was really like.
    She bought it . . . eventually.
    She’d have her bandmates and tens of thousands of adoring fans to keep her company—she could do without me for a couple of months. I hoped.
    It had always been just Mom and me from day one. She had me when she was young—like young young—and even though her boyfriend pretty much bailed before the line turned pink, she’d done just fine on her own.
    We’d both kind of grown up together, and I knew she’d missed out on a lot by raising me. I wanted this to be a summer for the record books for her, too. One she could really live up, not having to worry about taking care of her teenage
daughter. Plus, I wanted to give her a chance to experience what life without me would be like. Soon I’d be off to college somewhere, and I figured easing her into the empty-nester phase was a better approach than going cold turkey.
    “You packed sunscreen, right?” Mom’s bracelets jingled as she leaned to look out her window, staring at the bright blue sky like it was suspect.
    “SPF seventy for hot days, fifty for warm days, and thirty for overcast ones.” I toed the trusty duffel resting at my feet.It had traveled the globe with me for the past decade and had the wear to prove it.
    “That’s my fair-skinned girl.” When Mom looked over at me, the crease between her eyebrows carved deeper with worry.
    “You might want to check into SPF yourself. You’re not going to be in your mid thirties forever, you know?”
    Mom groaned. “Don’t remind me. But I’m already beyond SPF’s help at this point. Unless it can help fix a saggy butt and crow’s-feet.” She pinched invisible wrinkles and wiggled her butt against the seat.
    It was my turn to groan. It was annoying enough that people mistook us for sisters all the time, but it was worse that she could (and did) wear the same jeans as me. There should be some rule that moms aren’t allowed to takes clothes from the closets of their teenage daughters.
    When the cab turned down Providence Avenue, I felt a sudden streak of panic. Not for myself, but for my mom.
    Could she survive a summer when I wasn’t at her side, reminding her when the cell phone bill was due or updating her calendar so she knew where to be and when to be there? Would she be okay without me reminding her that fruits and vegetables were part of the food pyramid for a reason and
making sure everything was all set backstage?
    “Hey.” Mom gave me a look, her eyes suggesting she could read my thoughts. “I’ll be okay. I’m a strong, empowered thirty-four-year-old woman.”
    “Cell phone charger.” I yanked the one dangling from her oversized, metal-studded purse, which I’d wrapped in hot pink tape so it stood out. “I’ve packed you two extras to get you through the summer. When you get down to your last
one, make sure to pick up two more so you’re covered—”
    “Jade, please,” she interrupted. “I’ve only lost a few. It’s not like I’ve misplaced . . .”
    “Thirty-two phone chargers in the past five years?” When she opened her mouth to protest, I added, “I’ve got the receipts to prove it, too.”
    Her mouth clamped closed as the cab rolled up to my aunt’s house.
    “What am I going to do without you?” Mom swallowed, dropping her big black retro sunglasses over her eyes to hide the tears starting to form, to my surprise.
    I was better at keeping my emotions hidden, so I didn’t dig around in my purse for sunglasses. “Um, I don’t know? Maybe rock a sold-out international tour? Six continents in three months? Fifty concerts in ninety days? That kind of
thing?”
    Mom started to smile. She loved music—writing it, listening to it, playing it—and was a true musician. She hadn’t gotten into it to become famous or make the Top 40 or anything like that; she’d done it because it was who she was. She was the same person playing to a dozen people in a crowded café as she was now, the lead singer of one of the biggest bands in the world playing to an arena of thousands.
    “Sounds pretty killer. All of those countries. All of that adventure.” Mom’s hand was on the door handle, but it looked more like she was trying to keep the taxi door closed than to open it. “Sure you don’t want to be a part of it?”
    I smiled thinly back at my mom, her wild brown hair spilling over giant glasses. She had this boundless sense of adventure—always had and always would—so it was hard for her to comprehend how her own offspring could feel any different.
     “Promise to call me every day and send me pictures?” I said, feeling the driver lingering outside my door with luggage in hand. This was it. Mom exhaled, lifting her pinkie toward me. “Promise.”
    I curled my pinkie around hers and forced a smile. “Love
you, Mom.”
   Her finger wound around mine as tightly as she had clenched my other hand on the ride here. “Love you no matter what.” Then she shoved her door open and crawled out, but not before I noticed one tiny tear escape her sunglasses.
    By the time I’d stepped out of the cab, all signs of that tear or any others were gone. Mom did tears as often as she wrote moving love songs. In other words, never.
      As she dug around in her purse for her wallet to pay the driver, I took a minute to inspect the house in front of me.
      The last time we’d been here was for Thanksgiving three years ago. Or was it four? I couldn’t remember, but it was long enough to have forgotten how bright white my aunt and uncle’s house was, how the windows glowed from being so
clean and the landscaping looked almost fake it was so well kept.
      It was pretty much the total opposite of the tour buses and extended-stay hotels I’d spent most of my life in. My mother, Meg Abbott, did not do tidy.
      “Back zipper pocket,” I said as she struggled to find the money in her wallet.
      “Aha,” she announced, freeing a few bills to hand to the driver, whose patience was wilting. After taking her luggage, she shouldered up beside me.
      “So the neat-freak thing gets worse with time.” Mom gaped at the walkway leading up to the cobalt-blue front door, where a Davenport nameplate sparkled in the sunlight.
      It wasn’t an exaggeration to say most of the surfaces I’d eaten off of weren’t as clean as the stretch of concrete in front of me.
     “Mom . . . ,” I warned, when she shuddered after she roamed to inspect the window boxes bursting with scarlet geraniums.
      “I’m not being mean,” she replied as we started down the walkway. “I’m appreciating my sister’s and my differences.
      That’s all.”
      Right then, the front door whisked open and my aunt seemed to float from it, a measured smile in place, not a single hair out of place.
      “Appreciating our differences,” Mom muttered under her breath as we moved closer.
      I bit my lip to keep from laughing as the two sisters embraced.
      Mom had long dark hair and fell just under the average-height bar like me.   Aunt Julie, conversely, had light hair she kept swishing above her shoulders, and she was tall and thin. Her eyes were almost as light blue as mine, compared to Mom’s, which were almost as dark as her hair. It wasn’t only their physical differences that set them apart; it was everything. From the way they dressed Mom in some shade of dark, whereas the darkest color I’d ever seen Aunt Julie wear was periwinkle—to their taste in food, Mom was on the spicy end of the spectrum and Aunt Julie was on the mild.
      Mom stared at Aunt Julie.
      Aunt Julie stared back at Mom.
      This went on for twenty-one seconds. I counted. The last stare-down four years ago had gone forty-nine. So this was progress.
      Finally, Aunt Julie folded her hands together, her rounded nails shining from a fresh manicure. “Hello, Jade. Hello, Megan.”
      Mom’s back went ramrod straight when Aunt Julie referred to her by her given name. Aunt Julie was eight years older but acted more like her mother than her sister.
      “How’s it hangin’, Jules?”
      Aunt Julie’s lips pursed hearing her little sister’s nickname for her. Then she stepped back and motioned inside. “Well?”
      That was my cue to pick up my luggage and follow after Mom, who was tromping up the front steps. “Are we done already? Really?” she asked, nudging Aunt Julie as she passed.
      “I’m taking the higher road,” Aunt Julie replied.
      “What you call taking the higher road I call getting soft in your old age.” Mom hustled through the door after that, like she was afraid Aunt Julie would kick her butt or something.
      The image of Aunt Julie kicking anything made me giggle to myself.
      “Jade.” Aunt Julie’s smile was of the real variety this time as she took my duffel from me. “You were a girl the last time we saw you, and look at you now. All grown up.”
      “Hey, Aunt Julie. Thanks again for letting me spend the summer with you guys,” I said, pausing beside her, not sure whether to hug her or keep moving. A moment of awkwardness passed before she made the decision for me by reaching out and patting my back. I continued on after that.
      Aunt Julie wasn’t cold or removed; she just showed her affection differently. But I knew she cared about me and my mom. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t pick up the phone on the first ring whenever we did call every few months. She also wouldn’t have immediately said yes when Mom asked her a few months ago if I could spend the summer here.
      “Let me show you to your room.” She pulled the door shut behind her and led us through the living room. “Paul and I had the guest room redone to make it more fitting for a teenage girl.”
      “Instead of an eighty-year-old nun who had a thing for quilts and angel figurines?” Mom said, biting at her chipped black nail polish.
      “I wouldn’t expect someone whose idea of a feng shui living space is kicking the dirty clothes under their bed to appreciate my sense of style,” Aunt Julie fired back, like she’d been anticipating Mom’s dig.
      I cut in before they could get into it. “You didn’t have to do that, Aunt Julie. The guest room exactly the way it was would have been great.”
      “Speaking of the saint also known as my brother-in-law, where is Paul?” Mom spun around, moving down the hall backward.
      “At work.” Aunt Julie stopped outside of a room. “He wanted to be here, but his job’s been crazy lately.”
      Aunt Julie snatched the porcelain angel Mom had picked up from the hall table. She carefully returned it to the exact same spot, adjusting it a hair after a moment’s consideration.
      “Where are the twins?” I asked, scanning the hallway for Hannah and Hailey. The last time I’d seen them, they were in preschool but acted like they were in grad school or something. They were nice kids, just kind of freakishly well
behaved and brainy.
      “At Chinese camp,” Aunt Julie answered.
      “Getting to eat dim sum and make paper dragons?” Mom asked, sounding almost surprised.
      Aunt Julie sighed. “Learning the Chinese language.” Aunt Julie opened a door and motioned me inside. I’d barely set one foot into the room before my eyes almost crossed from what I found.
      Holy pink.
      Hot pink, light pink, glittery pink, Pepto-Bismol pink—every shade, texture, and variety of pink seemed to be represented inside this square of space.
      “What do you think?” Aunt Julie gushed, moving up
beside me with a giant smile.
      “I love it,” I said, working up a smile. “It’s great. So great.
      And so . . . pink.”
    “I know, right?” Aunt Julie practically squealed. I didn’t know she was capable of anything close to that high-pitched.
      “We hired a designer and everything. I told her you were a girly seventeen-year-old and let her do the rest.”
      Glancing over at the full-length mirror framed in, you bet, fuchsia rhinestones, I wondered what about me led my aunt to classify me as “girly.” I shopped at vintage thrift stores, lived in faded denim and colors found in nature, not ones manufactured in the land of Oz. I was wearing sneakers, cut-offs, and a flowy olive-colored blouse, pretty much the other end of the spectrum. The last girly thing I’d done was wear makeup on Halloween. I was a zombie.
    Beside me, Mom was gaping at the room like she’d walked in on a crime scene. A gruesome crime scene.
    “What the . . . pink?” she edited after I dug an elbow
into her.
    “You shouldn’t have.” I smiled at Aunt Julie when she turned toward me, still beaming.
    “Yeah, Jules. You really shouldn’t have.” Mom shook her head, flinching when she noticed the furry pink stool tucked beneath the vanity that was resting beneath a huge cotton-candy-pink chandelier.
    “It’s the first real bedroom this girl’s ever had. Of course I should have. I couldn’t not.” Aunt Julie moved toward the bed, fixing the smallest fold in the comforter.
    “Jade’s had plenty of bedrooms.” Mom nudged me, glancing at the window.            She was giving me an out. She had no idea how much more it would take than a horrendously pink room for me to want to take it.
    “Oh, please. Harry Potter had a more suitable bedroom in that closet under the stairs than Jade’s ever had. You can’t consider something that either rolls down a highway or is bolted to a hotel floor an appropriate room for a young

woman.” Aunt Julie wasn’t in dig mode; she was in honest mode.
    That put Mom in unleash-the-beast mode.
    Her face flashed red, but before she could spew whatever
comeback she had stewing inside, I cut in front of her. “Aunt Julie, would you mind if Mom and I had a few minutes alone?
You know, to say good-bye and everything?”
    As infrequently as we visited the house on Providence Avenue, I fell into my role of referee like it was second nature.
  “Of course not. We’ll have lots of time to catch up.” Aunt Julie gave me another pat on the shoulder as she headed for the door. “We’ll have all summer.” She’d just disappeared when her head popped back in the doorway. “Meg, can I get  you anything to drink before you have to dash?”
    “Whiskey,” Mom answered intently.
    Aunt Julie chuckled like she’d made a joke, continuing down the hall.
    I dropped my duffel on the pink zebra-striped throw rug.
   “Mom—”
    “You grew up seeing the world. Experiencing things most people will never get to in their whole lives.” Her voice was getting louder with every word. “You’ve got a million times the perspective of kids your age. A billion times more compassion and an understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around you.  Who is she to make me out to be some inadequate parent when all she cares about is raising obedient,  genius robots? She doesn’t know what it was like for me. How hard it was.”
    “Mom,” I repeated, dropping my hands onto her shoulders as I looked her in the eye. “You did great.”
    It took a minute for the red to fade from her face, then another for her posture to relax. “You’re great. I just tried not to get in the way too much and screw all that greatness up.”
    “And if you must know, I’d take any of the hundreds of rooms we’ve shared over this pinktastrophe.” So it was kind of a lie, the littlest of ones. Sure, pink was on my offensive list, but the room was clean and had a door, and I would get to stay in the same place at least for the next few months. After living out of suitcases and overnight bags for most of my life, I was looking forward to discovering what drawer-and-closet living was like.
    Mom threw her arms around me, pulling me in for one of those final-feeling hugs. Except this time, it kind of wasa final one. Realizing that made me feel like someone had stuffed a tennis ball down my throat.
    “I love you no matter what,” she whispered into my ear again, the same words she’d sang, said, or on occasion shouted at me. Mom never just said I love you. She had something
against those three words on their own. They were too open,
too loosely defined, too easy to take back when something
went wrong.
I love you no matter what had always been her way of telling me she loved me forever and for always. Unconditionally. She said that, before me, she’d never felt that..
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Save the Date
by Morgan Matson


Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

*  *  *

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
• Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
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Morgan Matson grew up in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College in Los Angeles but halfway though a theater degree, she started working in the children's department of Vroman's Bookstore and fell in love with YA literature.







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Title: Where I Live
Author: Brenda Rufener
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Pub Date: February 28, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Book Source: publisher via edelweiss
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars



**POSSIBLE SPOILERS**

Synopsis:  LINDEN ROSE HAS RULES FOR SURVIVAL.

1. Prevent the in-class nap.
2. Never carry too many belongings.
3. Avoid looking the part.

Her rules guarantee no one discovers her secret–that she’s homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her best friends, Ham and Seung, have formed a makeshift family, and writing for her school’s blog prevents downtime. When you’re homeless, free time sucks. Despite everything Linden’s burdened with, she holds on to hope for a future and a maybe romance with Seung.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea’s life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay attention. And attention is the last thing Linden needs.

To put a stop to the violence, Linden must tell the story. Even if it breaks her rules for survival and jeopardizes the secrets she’s worked so hard to keep.
             - - -
Yet another "on the fence" book for me. Sigh. This is the year for ON THE FENCERS with me.

Alright, let's start with a quick rundown of the story. Basically Linden is a homeless teen. She is in hiding, sort of, right in front of everyone's eyes. She sleeps in her high school or outside of it in the dugout on the baseball field. She gets food from friends or she doesn't really eat. She bathes in the school bathroom/locker room. She carries her life in her backpack. This book is not only about her struggle with homelessness and trying to stay in school and make something of herself, but also the everyday struggles of high school and life as a teen.

Let me start with the bad:

• The plot was everywhere! I think I got whiplash from this book. I honestly think the messiness is due to the fact that there are too many themes in this book. It's like the author had so many great ideas, but instead of doing a couple books, she goes and puts ALL THE THINGS in one book. So, we not only deal with Linden and her struggles with being homeless, but we also have a reporter (?) at the school asking random questions, a gay-best-friend with WAY too many issues, a crush on the other-best-friend, who happens to be Korean-American and struggles with Korean/Asian stereotypes, and abusive relationship, possible love triangle, family drama, bullying, and on and on and on. It is just TOO MUCH. I feel like having too many things mushed together just made the book messy and it felt like no single thing got enough attention, you know? If anything, I felt that this book was MORE about the abusive relationship sidestory than the actual main plot, which was supposed to be Linden dealing with her homeless situation and being an orphan.

• As I mentioned before, this book does cover a lot of bullying issues. Racism, sexism, homophobia. Linden's gay friend (I can't remember his name) was bullied for being gay. He also had this weird obsession with the female student that was IN the above mentioned abusive relationship. Between this and the bullying, he was an angry guy. He wanted revenge and decided to take a really negative approach and get "revenge"... well, this is never a good thing. It didn't turn out well, but mostly my issue is with the fact that he countered bullying WITH bullying—not average bullying either, it got physical and not in a fist-fight type of way. It was just wrong and made him a completely unlikable character. I dealt with bullying in school, big time, so don't take this the wrong way, but I had ZERO sympathy for him by the time the book was over.

*** SPOILERS BELOW! ***

• There was a part in the book where Linden thought one of her friends was dead. Without going into too much detail, I will explain why this event bothered me. Alright, so, there was a school event. One of her friends was "attacked" and injured and was unconscious, yeah? SHE THINKS HE IS DEAD! Well she decides to run away instead of doing something about it. You aren't the one who hurt him, but you witnessed what happened, yet you run off? I get it, she was scared because of the police possibly finding out she was homeless. Buuut, as far as I am concerned DEATH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOMELESSNESS! Hello?! I just didn't get it. On top of that, the fact that she even thought he was dead was VERY unrealistic. The situation was so unbelievable it was almost comical. Very very eyeroll worthy, to be honest.

Moving on to the good:

• No one talks about homeless teens. It's rare in YA fiction. I think I've read only one other book in YA where this issue was highlighted ( Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala), but that is LITERALLY it. So, obviously I admire this author for even going there. Poverty is a real, never-ending issue, for adults and teens alike. Following Linden through her day-to-day struggles is humbling. Will she have enough to eat? Will she have to steal food? Will she have to sleep outside on the ground or can she break into the school that night to stay warm and dry? Will she be able to bathe before classes? Will she have time to clean her meager clothing in the bathroom sinks at school? Will she be able to dodge police and a possible-social-worker at school? Will someone find out? Literally, any moment someone can find out. 
“If I want my life to matter, these eyes can't see who I really am.
Who I'm striving hard not to be.
The homeless girl hiding in front of them.”
These are things the average teen NEVER has to worry over.

• I honestly really admired Linden as a character. I think her personality was great and, although she was going through something not ALL teens do, she was very relatable. I felt a lot of sympathy for her while reading through her story. Even though she had to do questionable things—like steal food from friends—she never forgot any of the things she did. She always kept a mental tally of what she "owed" people, whether it be a tangible thing or an intangible thing.

• The romance was important. I think a lot of people didn't like that a romance was present in a book with more serious themes, but I feel differently. I think that Linden deserved to have a romance! Seung was a wonderful love interest for her! He was sweet, caring, but also put his foot down when it mattered in the friendship as well as the romantic relationship. Their dynamic was great and I felt that the falling in love aspect was realistic and sweet. I was extremely happy with the way things were wrapped up.

Overall, I think this book is important and I did enjoy it for the most part. It definitely had A LOT going on, but while this is so, the issues covered are relevant and they were mostly well done. I recommend it if you enjoy a book with diversity and important themes PLUS a little fun and romance to boot.
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The Queen's Rising
by Rebecca Ross


When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

*  *  *
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
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    I watched him begin to gather his things, my heart stumbling over the desire to ask him how he had hurt himself, the desire to ask him to stay longer. But I swallowed those cravings, let them slide down my throat as pebbles.
            “I should go,” Cartier said, easing his satchel over his good shoulder. The blood continued to weep beneath his shirt, slowly spreading.
            “But your arm…” I almost reached for him again.
            “It’ll be fine. Come, walk me out.”
            I fell into step beside him, to the foyer, where he gathered his passion cloak. The river of blue concealed his arm, and he seemed to relax once it was hidden.
            “Now then,” he said, all stern and proper again, as if we had never stood on chairs and laughed together. “Remember to have your three approaches prepared for the patrons.”
            “Yes, Master Cartier.” I curtsied, the movement ingrained within me.
            I watched him open the front door; the sunshine and warm air swelled around us, laced with scents of meadows and distant mountains, stirring my hair and my longings.
            He paused on the threshold, half in the sun, half in the shadows. I thought he would turn back around—it seemed like there was more he wanted to say to me. But he was just as good at swallowing words as I was. He continued on his way, passion cloak fluttering, his satchel of books swinging as he moved to the stables to fetch his horse.
            I didn’t watch him ride away.
            But I felt it.
            I felt the distance that widened between us as I stood in the foyer shadows, as he rode recklessly beneath the oaks.

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Rebecca Ross was born and raised in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, her lively Australian Shepherd, and her endless piles of books. She loves coffee, the night sky, chalk art, maps, the mountains, and growing wildflowers in her yard. And a good story, of course.







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Title: The Secret History of Us
Author: Jessi Kirby
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 288
Pub Date: August 01, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Book Source: publisher via edelweiss
My Rating: 2 of 5 stars



**POSSIBLE SPOILERS**

Synopsis: A near drowning…a coma for days…and then…

Olivia wakes up to realize she doesn’t remember. Not just the accident—but anything from the last four years. Not high school. Not Matt, the guy who is apparently her boyfriend. Not the reason she and Jules are no longer friends. Nothing.

That’s when it hits her—the accident may not have taken her life, but it took something just as vital: her memory. The harder she tires to remember things, the foggier everything gets, and figuring out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

But then there’s Walker. The guy who saved her. The one who broke her ribs pumping life back into her lungs. The hardened boy who keeps his distance despite Olivia’s attempts to thank him.

With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t even remember living.
             - - -
The Secret History of Us... oh man, what can I say? Not a fan.

I loved the premise of Olivia losing basically her whole memory of high school. I always love a book with memory loss because there is always some huge thing hiding within those lost memories.

BUT... in this book, it was too obvious WHAT that hidden thing was. I like a little actual mystery IN MY MYSTERY STORIES. Basically, Olivia wakes up with a chunk of her memory missing. She angsts over her boyfriend (who has no personality, BTW... kind of like Olivia herself), decides she likes another guy, finds out the thing, then lives HEA. THE END. All of the MIDDLE pieces were just boring fluff. I honestly expected more.

The characters had very little personality. The author spent too much time on the silly details of Olivia's memory loss and the fact that she was mentally stuck in middle-school than actually building up the characters a bit. They were just bland, thus making the story more bland. There wasn't any real emotion in this book, and I feel like better character development could've given us some of that. Perhaps the process of Olivia reconciling the person she was before the accident with the person she (according to her friends and family) should be now, would've been a little more impactful if we really understood who she was and how she felt. Not only was she hiding her feelings from her friends and family, but from the reader as well. There just wasn't ENOUGH.

Now, the only reason I gave this a two star instead of one was because, ultimately, the author did wrap things up nicely. I enjoyed the ending. It was a bit abrupt and maybe should've been built-up to better, but it was good. I liked that Olivia sort of stood up for herself and the person she was in that moment.

I have read a book similar to this. I have to mention it, because while I was reading this one, I found myself comparing the two. If you want something with a similar premise, but executed to perfection, check out One Moment by Kristina McBride. I read if a few years ago, and it blew me away. It has a VERY similar theme to this book, only 100x better.

Overall, this book was a fail for me. I can't really recommend it because it was just lackluster. Slow, boring, dull, etc. No real character development and no real storyline. It was kind of gimmicky and just not for me.
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Out of Left Field
by Kris Hui Lee


There’s no playing it safe in love or baseball in this sparkling debut, perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Kasie West.

Marnie has never had a hard time fitting in with the guys. It would take a lot more than their goofy antics to keep her from joining them at the neighborhood sandlot to do what she loves best: play ball.

An added perk of hanging out at the sandlot? Spending time with Cody Kinski, their high school’s star pitcher and Marnie’s best friend. Sure, he can be stubborn and annoying. He also knows how to make her laugh and respects her skills on the mound. And when he gets nailed in the arm by a bone-fracturing pitch, Marnie becomes the team’s best chance at making it to the playoffs. Except no one told the guys they’re supposed to be on her side. With her own team against her, Marnie begins questioning her abilities.

And when fate throws her a curveball, can she play without losing the game, Cody, and her belief in herself?

*  *  *
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
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SEVENTEEN YEARS OF EXISTENCE HAVE TAUGHT me many lessons—some relevant to survival, others not so much—but one that I have come to fully understand is that there are three kinds of idiocy.
The first is what I call Mundane Idiocy. This is the type of idiocy that happens when you, say, walk into a dark room thinking you can manage without the lights, and then you stub your toe on a table. It happens to the best of us.
The second kind is Voluntary Idiocy. Sticking your tongue to a frozen pole or prodding a beehive with a stick or eating fourteen brownies in one sitting would fall under this category. Discretion is advised.
And finally, the last level of idiocy has been achieved by only one person, and his name is Cody Kinski.
Here I am, in the bleachers of my high school baseball field on a brisk May night—crickets chirping in the darkness beyond the bright stadium lights, the scent of french fries hitching a ride on the gentle breeze. I’m on the tips of my toes, waiting in anticipation like all my fellow game goers. Usually the excitement at high school baseball games never gets higher than the occasional collective gasp after a great hit followed by an anticlimactic defensive play, but our team is far from what you’d call usual. And this particular game is miles from being typical.
It’s the bottom of the seventh. The last inning. There are two outs and two strikes. Kyle’s on first. Cody’s at bat. We’re down five to four, and even though, to me, it feels like our chances of turning it around are borderline zero, everyone else seems to have an ounce of belief left in them.
The pitcher’s given name is Santino Acardi, but in our neck of the woods, he is commonly known as Douche Face.
There are only two things you need to know about this olive-skinned, curly-haired, smarmy bastard: (1) no one on this planet knows how to wear a condescending, selfrighteous smirk like he does, and (2) every time he and Cody get within two hundred feet of each other, the apocalypse seems imminent. I mean, they’re two of the best pitchers in our entire region. They have both been playing on varsity since freshman year, on teams with a notorious rivalry. It’s the kind of clash that’s going to put an end to the world as we know it.
Basically every time Cody has been up at bat during this game, Santino has thrown at least one brushback pitch past Cody’s face. It is only thanks to Cody’s lightning-fast reflexes that he hasn’t been knocked unconscious. Santino has been pulling this stunt since freshman year. He suffers from an oversize ego. Jock stuff—you know the deal.
Standing behind home plate, bat raised over his shoulder, eyes focused on Santino, Cody looks beyond prepared. He’s ready for anything. And he should be, considering Santino’s brushbacks are consistent. Parents, classmates, and residents from around the neighborhood cheer for Cody all across the home-team bleachers. Iron-Arm Kinski, they call him. He was first dubbed that when he was eight by his Little League coach. His killer fastball got him that name, but Cody is one hell of a hitter too. He’s not a god, but sometimes he doesn’t seem to be entirely human.
On the mound, Santino winds up his pitch. Every part of his body, from his long legs to his muscular arms, displays his power.
Then it comes. The ball launches out of Santino’s hand at Major League speed. 
Right toward Cody’s head.
But he must not be as prepared as he seemed.
Does he move out of the way?
No.
He stands there like a moron, like there’s not some sadist on the mound. It’s only at the very last second that his left arm flies up to shield his head.
The ball smashes into Cody’s left forearm. His bat clatters to the ground, and it’s like everyone from here to the moon and beyond gasps. Cody clutches his arm to his chest as his face twists in pain. It’s a look I recognize to mean I’ve broken a bone, and I’m in some real fucking pain.
Fire from the pits of hell radiate from the glare Cody shoots Santino, and if I were Santino, I’d want to jump on the next flight out of the country. All of Cody’s fury and hatred—three years in the making—engulfs his face, his whole body. Cody has never been the kind of guy to be provoked by cheap shots, which I’ve learned in the eleven years I’ve known him, but right now, not even I can predict his next move.
But even though he might want to react, Cody doesn’t get the opportunity. Jack Chizz, our coach, runs out to home plate as the ump calls, “Time!”
Joey, our guy on deck and Cody’s best friend, follows Chizz. The three of them—Chizz, the ump, and Joey—gather around Cody, blocking my view of what’s happening.
Santino’s cronies in the outfield crowd together too, but unlike those huddled around home plate, they seem unconcerned about what their overlord Santino has done. And Santino, for all the emotion he’s showing, might as well be standing in line at a grocery store. I’m surprised he isn’t shooting off fireworks and confetti of triumph over his good aim.
The buzzing energy is gone, and it's replaced by silent anticipation. And then: “WOOOO! WAY TO GO, CODY!” This is Sara, who’s standing next to me. To everyone else, it probably sounds like a cheer of encouragement. But Sara is no overzealous cheerleader.
She’s teasing him.
“You’re an asshole,” I tell her, trying to keep a straight face. Under the florescent lights, her normally tawny skin seems lighter. Her grin widens as she claps loudly. “Bringin’ ’em to state!”
“Oh my gosh,” I mutter, but I can’t help but laugh a little. Sara, like me, has more than a decade of history with Cody, which entitles her to be a complete asshole to him in this very serious and stressful moment.
Cody, who has gotten some breathing room, takes off his batting helmet to reveal his disheveled dark brown hair. He then takes a moment out of the time-out to nonchalantly scratch his forehead with his middle finger in our direction. Those eleven years of friendship work in Cody’s favor too—he gets a pass on being nice.
Cody drops his hand and listens intently to what Chizz is saying. At first, they both seem rather calm, given what’s happened, but then Chizz says something else, and Cody goes ballistic. His eyes bulge in rage, and his uninjured arm flies in all directions. Cody points to first base. Chizz points a commanding finger toward the dugout. 
“Don’t be an idiot, Cody,” I mutter. “Go to the hospital.”
As if he can hear me, Cody kicks his bat to the side and stalks toward first. Chizz objects, but Cody shrugs him off. The interaction looks dramatic from here, which is so unlike Cody. He has always been a quiet, modest guy, but being on the field changes him. Out there, he’s the confident jock everyone expects him to be.
Everyone cheers as Cody takes his base. I wonder if they can see him wince in pain with every step. Proud, stubborn bastard.
As the game resumes, so does the crowd’s excitement. They’re exhilarated by Cody’s perseverance (or, as I would call it, idiocy).
The count: two outs, zero strikes, with Kyle on second, Cody on first, and Joey at bat.
Tufts of Joey’s blond hair stick out from under his batting helmet as he steps up to the plate and takes a few practice swings. This is a guy who walks into closed glass doors and trips on perfectly tied shoelaces, but I swear he has magic powers when he’s on the field. He will move mountains to catch a foul ball and has been known to belt homers at the exact moment they’re needed. You’d never know it though, because he can be a real baby sometimes. A few months ago, he was reduced to an inconsolable teary mess after he found out his ex-girlfriend is a lesbian. No one would have guessed at the time that the crying weenie he was then is our best hope for bringing in a miraculous run to tie up the game now.
On the mound, Santino winds up again. One of his trademarks is his sidearm pitching style. That’s why he’s one of the best; he’s unique. I feel like a traitor, but I must admit that I admire his skill.
He throws the first pitch against Joey: foul tip. Strike one.
Second pitch: the ball and bat connect, and the crowd gasps. It’s a foul over the first baseline. There’s a collective sigh. Strike two.
The count: two outs, two strikes, five to four. The hopelessness settles in deeper.
On the third pitch, Joey smacks the ball with an echoing clink! and he runs. Screams of excitement follow him.
The ball soars toward the fence. It looks like it will be a home run between left and center field. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of luck you can only dream about.
The ball hits the back fence and bounces onto the grass where two fielders race to snatch it up.
Kyle’s past third, on his way to home, and Cody’s passing second.
The ball is traveling from the outfield to shortstop.
Kyle’s foot lands on home plate. It’s now five to five.
Cody’s foot hits third.
From the dugout, Chizz shouts at Cody to stop where he is.
The ball is at the shortstop. And Cody’s going home.
“Idiot!” Sara and I both shout.
But it’s no use. The ball and Cody race toward home.
The throw to the catcher is off by a foot. He steps away.
Cody dives, headfirst, arms outstretched.
He collides with home plate and becomes buried under a plume of sand and the catcher.
“Safe!” the ump shouts. “Safe!”
The shouting and cheering intensify as our team hops over the dugout wall and dog piles Joey, who brought in the runs. Santino and his team look like they’re about to commit fifteen different types of manslaughter.
And there, still on the ground in the fetal position clutching his arm, ladies and gentlemen, is the third and final category of idiocy: Cody Kinski.

..........................................................................................................................................................



Kris Hui Lee is a contemporary YA author who also doubles as a graphic designer. In 2015, she was a finalist in the Pitch Wars writing contest hosted by Brenda Drake. When not writing or designing, she can be found cuddling with a dog on the floor. Learn more at krishuilee.tumblr.com


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Power of Five
by Alex Liddell


Four elite fae warriors. One mortal female. A magical bond they can’t allow—or resist.

Orphaned and sold to a harsh master, Lera’s life is about mucking stalls, avoiding her master’s advances, and steering clear of the mystical forest separating the mortal and fae worlds. Only fools venture into the immortal realms, and only dark rumors come out... Until four powerful fae warriors appear at Lera’s barn.

River, Coal, Tye, and Shade have waited a decade for their new fifth to be chosen, the wounds from their quint brother’s loss still raw. But the magic has played a cruel trick, bonding the four immortal warriors to... a female. A mortal female.

Distractingly beautiful and dangerously frail, Lera can only be one thing—a mistake. Yet as the males bring Lera back to the fae lands to sever the bond, they discover that she holds more power over their souls than is safe for anyone... especially for Lera herself.

Power of Five is a full-length reverse-harem fantasy novel.

*  *  *

Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, Romance
• Publisher: Danger Bearing Press 
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Purchase: Amazon / B&N

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Shade’s neck bobs and he catches my wrist, the few inches of air between us suddenly thick. Crackling. His mouth opens slightly, the elongated canines near and sharp and glistening with danger. My chest tightens, my breath suddenly gone from my lungs.
“You . . . have long lashes,” I say, leaning closer. “Girls would kill for those.”
“I have many long things,” Shade breathes, his hand cupping the back of my head, tangling in my hair. “Patience, it seems, is not one of them.” 
I open my lips to respond, only to find Shade’s mouth covering mine, his lips soft and warm enough to heat a whole palace. My own mouth yields in answer, and Shade’s kiss deepens, the hand in my hair tightening until my whole scalp tingles. Sings. Stars.
Shade pulls away slowly, his canines gently scraping my lower lip as I moan softly into him.
My heart pounds, the warmth between my legs a downright flame, and I try to catch my breath. “Did you plan that?” I demand.
Shade grins, makes a noncommittal sound, and turns back into his wolf, demonstratively making a circle on my bed before curling up with his tail over his nose. His body manages to press against my back, his rhythmic breathing soothing and steady.
“Why do you do that?” I ask when I can speak again. “Stay in your wolf form so much?”
No answer.
“Being a wolf to avoid talking to me while lounging around on my bedding is a dirty, cowardly trick.”

Shade snorts, buries his head deeper beneath his paws, and settles into a calm sleep punctuated by soft snores that turn into whimpers when I shift out of reach. Frowning, I move closer, resting my hand on the sleeping wolf’s flank. The whimpering stops, the rhythmic rise of his chest and his twitching eyelids speaking of a dream-filled slumber.

..........................................................................................................................................................



Alex Lidell is the Amazon Breakout Novel Awards finalist author of THE CADET OF TILDOR (Penguin, 2013). She is an avid horseback rider, a (bad) hockey player, and an ice-cream addict. Born in Russia, Alex learned English in elementary school, where a thoughtful librarian placed a copy of Tamora Pierce’s ALANNA in Alex’s hands. In addition to becoming the first English book Alex read for fun, ALANNA started Alex’s life long love for YA fantasy books. Alex is represented by Leigh Feldman of Leigh Feldman Literary. She lives in Washington, DC.

WEBSITE • GOODREADS • FACEBOOK • TWITTER • INSTAGRAM





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According to Audrey
by Happy LaShelle


Cautious and introverted, seventeen-year-old Dove spends most of her free time pursuing her one true passion: painting. The twinkling lights of Balboa Island, the ferryboat to the peninsula, the fire pits on Big Corona Beach…these have long been the subjects of her canvases as she daydreams about finding an Audrey Hepburn-film kind of romance.

A hotshot jock is exactly not the type of guy she’s been looking for—but when Leo Donovan drops his cool act to show his vulnerable side, Dove begins to question everything. But first she’ll have to navigate her way through claim-staking mean girls and disapproving parents—and still keep her focus on attending the art school of her dreams.

Being in love turns out to be more complex than the average silver-screen classic. Can Dove follow her heart (and Audrey’s cues) to create her own perfect Hollywood ending?

*  *  *

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
• Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing 
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Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / TBD

..........................................................................................................................................................




A crisp breeze blew off the ocean, crackling the embers of the fire. Night had come, with its darkness slowly surrounding us. I huddled in closer to the flames, trying to escape the cold air.
Behind me, someone’s feet sifted through the sand. I turned my head as a heavy plaid blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Leo bent down toward me. “You’re too close to the fire,” he said, grabbing my elbow and pulling me backwards. “When the wind changes, the flames could burn you.”
And there it was. Three.
The flannel shirt he’d thrown on was unbuttoned, and the wind flapped it open a little, revealing his red Angels jersey. He sat down beside me, leaving a large gap of empty space between us.
Time to be friendly. “So, you like the Angels.” My own comfort level surprised me. It came out as a statement, not a question.
He laughed. “Favorite team. I’ve had this shirt for like three years. Got it with my dad at Angel Stadium.”
“Kai says you’re really good—that you’ll probably be drafted next year.” As soon as the sentence left my mouth, I wished I could take it back. I squirmed. Now he would think I’d been discussing him with everyone.
Leo shrugged, unfazed. “Yeah, I definitely hope to go pro.” Nothing seemed to embarrass him.
On the other side of the fire, two people had started to make-out, their bodies practically entwined. I couldn’t help glancing in their direction every few seconds. How could they just ignore everyone around them like that? They barely ever came up for air. I looked away, half of me annoyed and judgmental, the other half admiring the sheer boldness of it.
Leo looked sideways at them as they continued on, still oblivious to their audience. He tilted his head in their direction. “Does that bother you?”
“What?” I knew exactly what he was referring to, but his gutsy question surprised me.
His face stayed serious. “Them kissing like that.”
I threw him my best casual expression and shrugged my shoulders. “No.” I stared out at the ocean, my thoughts churning along with the waves. He sure was sure of himself.
 “What are you thinking about?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper as he bent his head toward me.
I looked down, burying my feet deeper into the sand. “There’s something about the beach at night—the coldness of the sand, the water, the darkness. I don’t know—it’s kind of magical.”
Leo looked out toward the rushing water and pushed his hair out of his eyes with one hand. I watched as his palm trailed down the back of his head, stopping to clasp the back of his neck. “Damn. I was hoping maybe you were thinking about me.”

I turned to take in his face. His right eyebrow fell lower than his left as his intense stare burned into me. I pursed my lips and held back a smile, not daring to tell him. I was.

..........................................................................................................................................................




Happy LaShelle is a writer, mom of three, and wife to a Basque baker who brings home loaves of crusty sourdough everyday. She lives near the mission bells in sunny Santa Barbara, but loves the cold, rainy banks of London's Thames River just as much as the sandy shores of her Newport Beach hometown. She studied History at UCLA and enjoys taking pictures of old stuff. Because everything has a story.

WEBSITE • GOODREADS • FACEBOOK • TWITTER • INSTAGRAM






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