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Rockstar Tours: ARMADAS IN THE MIST (Christian Klaver), Guest Post & Giveaway! ~US ONLY

December 2nd, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the ARMADAS IN THE MIST by Christian Klaver Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out
my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: ARMADAS IN THE MIST (The Empire of the
House of Thorns #3)

Author: Christian Klaver

Pub. Date: December 6, 2022

Publisher: CamCat Books

Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 332

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&NiBooks, KoboTBD, Bookshop.org

The Black Shuck’s forces gather just
beyond the mist . . .

Captain Justice Kasric knows how
complicated family can be. The escalating Human-Faerie war has scattered and
wounded her siblings and transformed her parents beyond recognition. After
narrowly escaping yet another dangerous clash, fifteen-year-old Justice has had
enough. She’s determined to defeat the Black Shuck, the mysterious leader
controlling the Faerie invasion of London, but if Justice hopes to stand a
chance at victory, she’ll have to do the impossible: reunite her family and
lead them against the looming Faerie Armada.

With her mother and brother at the
helm of the enemy fleet, and the prophesized Seven Virtues slipping out of
reach, Justice more than has her work cut out for her. Even if she can save
England, the cost may be higher than she’s willing to pay.

 

 

Grab the first 2 books in the Empire of the House of
Thorns series now!

 

 

Guest Post:

Top 6 Influences that went into Shadows Over London:

 

Emma Bull – War for the Oaks – There’s a very visible through-line from Faerie trickster Phouka to Avonstoke and also from her flavor of sinister and dangerous Faerie to mine. This influence outweighs the other influences all put together. It’s a great read fun and emotional and I challenge you to come up with a better, more lovable group of misfits to root for than these folks.

 

Roger Zelazny – Chronicles of Amber – when you think about families with intricate politics, steeped in alliances and betrayals, Amber takes the cake. It is strongly enmeshed in the male POV, but it’s still one of the more compelling first-person points-of-view in fantasy for me. Pure gold.

 

Philip Pullman – Golden Compass – Confession Time: I actually listened to the audio version of this (a full cast) and the woman reading for Lyra just blew me away. So much fun and sass and compassion. Rebel on a wonderful scale and for all the right reasons. A lot of Lyra’s traits found their way into Justice.

 

S. Lewis – Chronicles of Narnia – Just for a sense of pure childlike wonder, these are old, but classics for a reason. The very first chapter with the crunch of snow and emerald light slanting through the woods are all facets of how it felt for me, as a child, when I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

 

Tanith Lee – Book of the Beast – Lee was a brilliant writer, with more poetic and lyrical imagery packed into every paragraph than most authors get in an entire book. Any time the Faerie, and their magic, turned dark and sinister, it made me think of Lee. Foreboding stained glass windows and monstrous trees that overtake London in subtle, unseen ways all harken back to the gothic feel of Lee, for me.

 

S. Forester – Horatio Hornblower Series – A lot of the fascinating little nautical details from Hornblower found their way into this series just as a reflection of my pure love for Hornblower. He would probably cringe at ‘Flugelstan’ as a nautical term, but I stand by it!

 

 

About Christian Klaver:

Christian
Klaver has been writing for over twenty years, with a number of magazine
publications, including Escape PodDark Wisdom Anthology,
and Anti-Matter. He’s the author of The Supernatural Case Files of
Sherlock Holmes series, but has written over a dozen novels, both fantasy and
sci-fi, often with a Noir bent. He’s worked as book-seller, bartender and a
martial-arts instructor before settling into a career in internet security. He
lives just outside the sprawling decay of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife,
Kimberly, his daughter, Kathryn, and a group of animals he refers to as The
Menagerie. He’s also a part of the Untitled Writer’s Group based in Ann Arbor
for the past decade or so with a bunch of equally starry-eyed dreamers and social
misanthropes.

Website | Twitter |
Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a finished copy of ARMADAS IN THE MIST, US Only.

Ends December 20th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/21/2022

Mythical
Books

Guest Post/IG Post

11/22/2022

Jazzy Book
Reviews

Excerpt/IG Post

11/23/2022

Books
and Kats

Excerpt

11/24/2022

Living in
a Bookworld

Excerpt

11/25/2022

Two Chicks on
Books

Excerpt

11/26/2022

@jaimerockstarbooktours

IG Post

Week Two:

11/27/2022

A Dream Within
A Dream

Excerpt

11/28/2022

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

11/29/2022

@froggyreadteach

IG Review

11/30/2022

OneMoreExclamation

Review/IG Post

12/1/2022

Locks, Hooks
and Books

Review

12/2/2022

YA
Books Central

Guest Post/IG Post

12/3/2022

Sadie’s Spotlight

Excerpt/IG Post

Week Three:

12/4/2022

Books
a Plenty Book Reviews

Review

12/5/2022

The Momma Spot

Review

12/6/2022

Fire and Ice

Review

12/7/2022

Rajiv’s Reviews

Review/IG Post

12/8/2022

Brandi
Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

12/9/2022

Lifestyle of
Me

Review

12/10/2022

A Court of
Coffee and Books

Review/IG Post

Week Four:

12/11/2022

Emily Ashlyn

IG & Facebook Review

12/12/2022

popthebutterfly

Review/IG Post

12/13/2022

The Real World
According To Sam

Review/IG Post

12/14/2022

History
from a Woman’s Perspective

Review

12/15/2022

A
Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic

12/16/2022

@ReadsReaders

YouTube Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours: MOTHER OF THE RIVER (Emily McPherson), Guest Post & Giveaway! ~INT

November 22nd, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the MOTHER OF THE RIVER by Emily McPherson Pre-Order  Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check
out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: MOTHER OF THE RIVER (Protectors #1)

Author: Emily McPherson

Pub. Date: March 7, 2023

Publisher: Eyebright Books

Formats:  Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

Inspired by traditional Irish
Mythology, Mother of the River tells the story of a 17 year
old girl in search of her missing mother when she stumbles upon a forgotten
legend.

Ianthe was only six years old when her mother vanished and the strange statue
appeared in the river near her home. Now, eleven years later, the statue stands
as a memorial and a place where Ianthe often visits to tell her mother about
her life. But when an old acquaintance returns to town and suggests the statue
isn’t just a statue, the presence of a mythical creature comes into question,
and Ianthe begins to wonder what really happened all those years ago.

 

With her best friend Fintan by her side, Ianthe searches for a lost legend and
discovers fantastical dangers, family secrets, and the magic of Ireland. But
finding the myth may not be enough to mend the past. And finding the truth just
may threaten her future.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know
where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far- Irish
proverb

Book Teaser Trailer:

 

 

 

@therealemilymcpherson #booktok #youngadultbooks #fantasybooks #femaleprotagonist #irishmythology #motheroftheriver ♬ Fallen down – Slowed – 「Incørrect」

 

Guest Post:

A Day in the Life of Emily McPherson

 

My daily schedule only recently changed as we (finally) got my son into services for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). So, this is a new day in the life.

 

My husband works from home and wakes up at a normal-person hour while my son and I avoid the morning hours like the plague because mornings are gross. We roll out of bed at the very reasonable hour of 10 AM, then I rush like a mad woman to get him to pre-k by 11 while he moves at a sloth-like pace. After I drop the kiddo off at school, I usually grab some coffee or, as my husband and I call it, get-shit-done juice (ie. passionfruit tea) because something about it makes me extremely productive for the day.

 

I get home and say hi to the pugs. Then I have four blissful, uninterrupted hours where I ruin the peace and drive myself absolutely crazy with writing, editing, marketing, and reading. I tend to save my writing and editing for Saturdays when I have an entirely husband- and kid-free day, giving me plenty of time to dive into the world of my characters. Weekdays are more focused on reading and marketing, and as marketing is not my forte, a lot of my time allotted for that is spent on research and trial and error efforts. After my four hours is up, I pick my son up from school and take him to our local special need services building where he has play-based therapies for two more hours. (I know. It’s a long day for such a small human, but he loves it, and he has Wednesdays and weekends off.) So, I have an additional two hours of book-related anxiety during that time as well. Yay!

 

When the three of us are finally home for the day, we like to relax with a book or play with stuffed animals, bubbles, alphabet cards, or whatever else the kiddo wants to do. Thursdays have been dubbed “Thirsty Therapy Thursdays” in our house as my husband and I have our individual therapies that day and could usually use a drink after discussing what trauma made us the stereotypically depressed Millenials we are today. So, if it’s Thursday, I make myself a drink in my new Christmas cup that looks like a tree ornament, making it a merry, magical drink!

 

We live in a fairly small space and don’t have a dining room (or space to put a table), so dinner is always served on the couch with a movie or show. Our son refuses to sleep until my husband and I go to bed, but he usually heads into his bedroom and plays on his tablet while the grown-ups watch The Crown, Dead to Me, Hell’s Kitchen, iZombie for the third time, or Down to Earth. After a few kid-free (though not necessarily uninterrupted) episodes, we get ready for bed, make sure the dogs have water for the night, and go to bed where I plot my next six books just to forget all my brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning ideas by morning.

 

All-in-all, it’s a pretty good life. I’m grateful for all I have and who I have, and I wouldn’t change anythi–well, a dinner table would be nice.

 

 

About Emily McPherson:

Emily
McPherson is an author for young adult readers with several fantasy projects in
the works. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, she strives to normalize
seeing characters of the rainbow on the page without harmful stereotypes. She
is an Irish dancer with a slight obsession with mythological creatures. She
lives in Connecticut with her husband, son, and – the real mythological
creatures – her two rescue pugs.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon GC, International.

Ends December 10th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/21/2022

For
the Love of Kidlit

Guest Post

11/22/2022

YA Books Central

Guest Post/IG Post

11/23/2022

A Dream Within A Dream

Guest Post

11/24/2022

The Momma Spot

Excerpt

11/25/2022

Jazzy Book Reviews

Excerpt/IG Post

11/26/2022

Books and Kats

Excerpt

Week Two:

11/27/2022

Books a Plenty Book Reviews

Review

11/28/2022

Fire
and Ice

Review

11/29/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

IG Review/TikTok Post

11/30/2022

A Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop pic

12/1/2022

100 Pages A Day

Review

12/2/2022

Kim”s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

12/3/2022

beersbooksboos

Review/IG Post

Week Three:

12/4/2022

@froggyreadteach

IG Review

12/5/2022

@enjoyingbooksagain

IG Review

 

Rockstar Tours: A WILDERNESS OF STARS (Shea Ernshaw), Excerpt & Giveaway! ~US ONLY

November 21st, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the A WILDERNESS OF STARS by Shea Ernshaw Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out
my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: A WILDERNESS OF STARS

Author: Shea Ernshaw

Pub. Date: November 29, 2022

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 400

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, Audible, B&NiBooks, KoboTBD, Bookshop.org

Deluxe edition with special
embellishments on first printing only!

In this magical romance from the #1 New York Times bestselling
author of Long Live the Pumpkin Queen, an illness cursing the
land forces a teen girl astronomer to venture across the wilderness in search
of the stars’ message that will, hopefully, save them all.

When all is lost, look to the stars.

Vega has lived in the valley her whole life—forbidden by her mother to leave
the safety of its borders because of the unknown threats waiting for her in the
wilds beyond. But when Vega sees an omen in the sky—one she cannot ignore—she
is forced to leave the protective boundaries of the valley. Yet the outside
world is much more terrifying than Vega could have ever imagined. People are
gravely sick—they lose their eyesight and their hearing, just before they lose
their lives.

But Vega has a secret: she is the Last Astronomer—a title carried from
generation to generation—and she is the only one who understands the knowledge
of the stars. Knowledge that could hold the key to a cure. So when locals spot
the tattoo on Vega’s neck in the shape of a constellation—the mark of an
astronomer—chaos erupts. Fearing for her life, Vega is rescued by a girl named
Cricket who leads her to Noah, a boy marked by his own mysterious tattoos.

On the run from the men hunting her, Vega sets out across the plains with
Cricket and Noah, in search of a fabled cure kept secret by the astronomers.
But as the line between friends and protectors begins to blur, Vega must decide
whether to safeguard the sacred knowledge of the astronomers…or if she will
risk everything to try to save them all.

 

 

Excerpt:

ORION, Gamma Ori

+06° 20’ 58”

A hundred years ago, the first Astronomer looked up at the night sky and made note of what she saw: horseshoe nebulas and spiral galaxies and dying star clusters. But she did not yet know what lay hidden in the shadowy darkness between stars. She was not a seer, a fortune-teller, as was common in the old world but rarely talked about now. Instead she used the circular glass rings of her telescope to make sense of the dark; she used physics and chemistry and science. She drafted charts and measured distances and sketched formations like Pleiades and Andromeda onto wax paper.

Maybe if she had believed in fate. If she had listened to her gut—that hollow twisting beneath her lowest ribs—she might have feared what she didn’t understand.

She might have known that the shadow concealed more than dust and particles of broken moons.

She would have looked closer.

And seen.

CHAPTER 1

Mom is dying, and we both know it.

She’s been sick for almost a month, the consumption shredding apart her insides, clouding her eyes and making it impossible for her to breathe without an awful rasp.

On the roof of our small house, I lie flat on my back, breathing in the cool, windless spring air—the night sky a riddle of stars above me—but inside the cabin, through the open window, I can hear Mom dozing fitfully: fever making her sweat and toss and mumble in her sleep.

I press my palms against the roof beneath me, as if I could push away the awful sound, push away the sickness inside her. I count the constellations, naming them in my mind—a ritual that Mom insists I repeat night after night so I won’t forget—and it calms me, the pattern of unaltered stars, their position always right where they should be. Unlike Mom, who is slipping away. Beyond the row of blue spruce trees on the far side of the summer garden, above the valley wall, I trace Clovis and Andromeda with my fingertip. I find Orion, the hunter from Greek mythology, and Rigel, a bright blue-white supergiant shimmering near the horizon. Each one tells a story. Each one has some secret to be shared, if I have the patience to look.

I follow the simple line of Aries, the golden-fleeced ram, my finger making a slight arc through the midnight sky. Sometimes I let myself fall asleep on the roof, to be closer to the stars; sometimes I stay awake all night, searching for something up there that might bring me hope.

I search for something that isn’t there.

An owl lets out a low, somber cry from the toolshed; the wind slides across the roof, stirring my long, dark hair, curled slightly at the ends, sending gooseflesh across my scarred, copper skin. And I wonder if it’s all for nothing. All the knowledge I keep safe inside me—patterns and sequences and the names of constellations—all of it useless if I never leave these valley walls.

Heat rises behind my eyes, but I push it down, counting the stars of Leo, the lion, killed by Hercules with his bare hands and placed in the sky. Stories threaded and stitched in the starlight. But I wonder what stories will be told about me: The girl who stayed safe in her valley. Who never left. Who died like her mother, taking all her knowledge with her.

I wipe at my eyes, hating the tears, willing the stars to show me something—begging. But the sky sits just as it always has—unaltered, unchanged—and I know I’ve been forgotten by the stars, by the ancient gods. Abandoned. They do not see me as I see them.

I press a hand to my ear, a soft ringing in my eardrum, an ache so small that it’s hardly there—scratch, scratch, like an insect in my skull—but when I swing my gaze back to the sky, blinking away the wetness, a thin, rainless cloud slides along the valley walls, pushing north . . .

And something catches my eye.

Tiny. Flickering.

In the darkness, in the space between stars . . .

A light. Small at first. Where none should be.

To the east.

I scramble to my feet, tugging my sweater close across my chest, squinting up at the unusual light. Light that shouldn’t be there.

It glows a shimmering whiteness, but its position in the sky makes no sense. I blink and recenter my gaze—as Mom taught me—but when I scan the horizon, it’s still there. There. Only a flicker at first—like a dying ember in a campfire—but after a moment it grows brighter, rising above the treetops.

Not a falling star.

Not a comet.

Something larger. A shiver skips up into my throat—a knowing—like the telltale scent of moisture in the air, hours before a single raindrop has fallen from the sky.

I’ve stared at this patch of horizon countless times, and seen nothing: only darkness and tiny pine-needle pricks of ordinary starlight. But when I rub my palms against the hollows of my eyes, then look again to the east . . . I find it. Still there.

A star . . . where no star had been the night before.

My heart begins to ram against my rib cage, thoughts crashing and tumbling over one another, wanting to be sure. And then I see it: the star isn’t alone.

There are two.

One fainter than the other, smaller, but they rest side by side: twin stars shivering an amber light from the middle of our galaxy. And as they rise higher above the horizon, they appear so close, it feels as if I can almost reach up and pluck them down, hold them in my palm like an August firefly, golden and pulsing, then carry them inside to show Mom.

Two delicate orbs.

Them.

A hum of excitement and disbelief vibrates up into my chest, behind my eyes, and I swing myself down from the roof, perching my foot against the wooden post, then landing on the front porch with a thud—something I’ve done hundreds of times—then dart through the front door into the cabin.

A fire still burns in the stone fireplace, the scent of cloves and rosemary heavy in the air from the herbs drying above the fire, and I drop to the floor beside Mom’s bed, taking her skeletal hand in mine. My fingers tremble, and her eyes flit open, damp and bloodshot.

“I saw them,” I say softly, voice catching on each letter, as if I might choke on them. “On the eastern horizon . . . two twin stars.”

Mom’s eyes struggle to blink, her skin the color of sun-bleached bones, but her hair is still long and dark and wavy at the ends. Freckles sit scattered across her nose, and her mouth is the same shape as mine, like a bow tied from rope. I see myself in her—but she has always been braver, fearless, mightier than a winter storm. And I worry that the things that bind me to her, to our ancestors, don’t live as strong in my bloodstream.

But now, as I stare down at her, she is half the woman she once was, weak and addled with sickness. And I’m afraid of what’s to come.

She tries to push herself up, to crane her head to the window—she wants to see the stars for herself—but her elbows buckle and her dust-thin body falls back to the mattress, teeth rattling. I place a cold cloth, dampened with river water, on her forehead to wipe away the sweat. “Are they—” She coughs, pinches her eyes closed, starts again. “—in alignment with the pole star?”

I nod, tears dripping from my eyes.

“Sister stars,” she mutters, a small twitch at the corners of her pale mouth—an almost smile—something she hasn’t done in weeks. “It’s time.” She squeezes my hand and her eyelashes flutter, her sight almost lost completely. She only sees shadows now, waves of dark.

“We can leave in the morning,” I answer, my nerves like fire in my veins—we will finally be leaving the valley. I will finally be going beyond its sheer cliff walls.

But she shakes her head and swallows. “No.”

A small fire burns in the fireplace, but the cold night air still catches at the back of my throat. I already understand what she means: I can see it in the dampness of her eyes, the tight pinch of her mouth. She will not be leaving the cabin. Or the valley.

She wants me to go alone.

“I can help you to walk,” I urge, feeling the anxiety clotting in my chest like mud. We will go together, like we’ve always planned. She and I. Venturing beyond the valley walls at last.

But she only blinks, tears rolling down her cheekbones. “I’ll be too slow.” She coughs and clutches a hand to her trembling mouth, and more tears fall from her chin. “You already know everything,” she whispers, eyes straining to see me through the winter fog of her vision. “You don’t need me.” Her eyes flutter. “Go to the ocean,” she instructs, words I already know, that she has told me so many times, they are like a song in my ears, repeating, repeating, without end. “Find the Architect. Don’t look back, Vega.”

I grip her hand tighter, as if I can already feel the miles, the space widening between us. “I’m not leaving you here.” She won’t be able to bring up water from the river or even pull herself out of bed. If I leave, she’ll die quickly. Of thirst and pain. She’ll die alone.

Her jaw clenches along her cheekbones, and I can see the woman she once was: strong, toughened by the land, by the years, some of that fight still left in her. “There’s no time,” she says forcefully, straining against the words before sinking back against her pillow.

I lift my eyes, wet with tears, to the window, where the twin stars hover against the dark. I knows she’s right. Time is already slipping away, hour by hour—the twin stars won’t be visible forever. Days from now, they will arch away, out of sight, and it will be too late.

Another hundred years before they come into alignment again.

I think Mom knows I won’t leave her, senses I won’t let her die alone in the cold of the cabin. She knows I’ll stay as long as she’s alive.

Because in two days’ time, the evening after a rainstorm drenches the valley, she lets the consumption tear apart the last of her lungs, her heart, her eyes. She stops fighting. “Leave the valley, Vega . . . ,” she sputters near the end, fingers twitching, then mumbles something about black feathers falling from the sky, birds dropping to their death—fevered words.

I brush the dark hair from her face, feeling like my own heart is about to give out, and I watch her features pinch tight, freckles massing together on her forehead while the sunset burns sapphire and pale and colorless through the small cabin windows. At last I hear the air leave her lungs. Feel the slack in her hand.

And just like that, she’s gone. A soundless letting go.

She gave up. She let herself die.

To make sure I’d leave.

To make sure I’d live.

I bury my mother before the morning sunlight breaks through the treetops and sparks across the blades of grass. I do it swiftly, before her body has time to stiffen, wrapping her gently in the cornflower-blue bedsheet, then stitching it closed with a needle and thread. I carry her down the hill from the old cabin and place her in the ground.

For a moment, I feel like I might be sick, the dimmed night sky whirling and tilting above me, but I stumble the five paces from her grave down to the river’s edge and wade in up to my knees, feeling the strength of Medicine Bow River carving its slow, ancient path through our protected valley, walled in on two sides.

I know what I have to do.

The stories of my ancestors like a ticking clock against the soft place at my temples.

In the cold river, I scrub away the dirt from my hands, my fingernails, wishing I could strip away the hurt rupturing inside me like a dying star. But it’s marrow-deep, cut into me now. I take another step toward the fast-moving center of the river, the water glacier-cold and deep, and I dig my toes into the gravelly river bottom, feeling the weight of the planet beneath me, anchoring me so I don’t drift away. Without gravity, we’d all float up into the stars light as dove feathers, Mom would say. We’d spend nights out here beside the river, peering through her telescope—the one she built herself with plates of glass fastened at perfectly measured angles. She’d tell me to recite the names of constellations and orbiting moons and comets always breaking through our atmosphere in dazzling trails of light. You need to know the sky as well as the valley; you need to be able to chart a course using only the stars to navigate, she’d explain. She taught me the shape and structure of the night sky. She made sure I’d never forget, even after she was gone.

With my shaking hand, I reach toward the moonlight, freckles making a pattern from my thumb all the way up along my forearm, and I try to see her in my own skin—I am made of her, after all. The same cells and atoms, blood of my blood. But it isn’t enough. She was brown eyes flecked with green, fingernails always cut short, dirt pressed into the creases of her knuckles. She was both the soil and the sky, a kaleidoscope of parts.

My knees give out and I sink into the icy water, sitting cross-legged on the river bottom, water up to my throat, tears shedding down my cheeks. The cold could kill me; the roaring current could drown me. But I don’t feel any of it. I tilt my head back while tears break against my eyelids, and in the pale twilight sky, I find the southern pole star, dim and flickering just above the treetops—the navigational point that will always guide me home, no matter where I am, the star that connects all the others.

“The sky belongs to you now,” Mom had whispered right at the end, fighting to keep her eyes open, coughing and then spitting up blood. But even the anatomy of stars are woven with memories of her. It’s all her. This valley and the cliff walls and the starlight that drapes over me like a ruthless, unmerciful hand. But through the awful blur of tears, I find the twin stars again—Tova and Llitha—sister stars, caught in their own kind of gravity. Bound to each other. The old folklore stories say the sisters were banished to the night sky by their father after they refused to marry two underworld princes. Now they are two points of light hovering in the east. Whispering their ancient words, summoning me closer—to a place beyond the valley where I’ve never been.

To an ocean, at the edge of everything, across forbidden land.

All my life, Mom had warned of the world outside our valley—it’s dangerous and cruel, she would say. But we are safe here, far from it all. We remained in our isolated valley, studying the sky, marking our charts and maps, where no one knows our names . . . or who we are descended from.

But now she’s gone and the twin stars gleam in the night sky.

Now . . . I have to leave, travel to a place where my ancestors have never been. As if it were that easy. As if my legs could carry me beyond this valley when they can barely carry me back up to the cabin from the river.

My body shakes, hands milk-white and numb, and I push myself up from the water—my long cotton nightdress clinging to my skin, the front hem stained with dark, ruddy soil from digging. It will need to be scrubbed, set to soak. Or maybe I’ll just burn it, bury it, leave it behind. What use will it be out there, anyway. Beyond the walls.

I stagger back up to the shore, arms hanging wet and limp at my sides, and collapse onto the grass. The night sinks away, and the sun begins to rise, bright and terrible and unforgiving.

I could walk the day’s journey to Mr. and Mrs. Horace’s place—our closest neighbor, our only neighbor—and tell them Mom has died. I could sit at their kitchen table while Mrs. Horace brings me flattened corn cakes and hot tea, then touches me with her worrying hands, straightening the hem of my shirtsleeves, fussing with my long, coiled hair. Mr. Horace will stand at the door as if there were some way to set this right with nails and hewn boards—the only remedy he knows. But they would not want me to leave the valley. A girl of only seventeen shouldn’t be on her own, I imagine Mrs. Horace saying. They will insist I stay with them, sleep in the narrow loft of their timber house. They’re good people, but I cannot make a life among their stock of goats and cattle and dogs.

I rub my hand across the back of my neck, searching for a reminder—for courage—and I feel the smooth skin that is marked by ink. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there—Mom had the same mark, a tattoo that assures me of who I am: my mother’s daughter. Linked, bound to each other even after her death.

You’re descended from brave women, she used to tell me, as if she knew someday it would come to this. I scrub at the corners of my eyes, not wanting to feel the tears, when a flock of starlings tear away from the sagging oaks near the riverbank.

Something’s startled them.

They screech angrily, wings beating away toward the west, but in between the sound . . . I hear the distinct thud of hooves against the hard ground of the road.

I turn, gazing up the hill, where the road winds along the valley, and a plume of dust furls into the air.

Someone is coming up the road.

My eyes flash to the cabin, body still shaking from the cold of the river. I could run up the hill and duck inside, feel into the top chest of drawers for the old revolver Mom kept hidden there, load it like she taught me, then wait at the window with the barrel pointed up the road. Or I could hide. The tree line is only a few paces from the river; I could be inside the sparse oaks within a few seconds. I could make my way up the ridge to the Horaces’ place and be there by sundown.

But instead my legs don’t move. My insides too numb, my chest too heart-shattered.

The sound of a horse, of a wagon, rattles up the road, vibrating at every stone and divot, echoing up across the valley, becoming its own kind of disjointed birdsong.

I lift a hand over my eyes, straining to see, lungs stilled—the cold writhing down my joints—and when the horse appears over the last rise, drawing the old box wagon behind it, I let out a long, shaky breath.

Salty lines of tears spill down my face, the relief sudden and heavy in my chest.

After almost a month away, Pa is home.

We stand over Mom’s grave—my hair dripping with river water.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” Pa manages, kneeling down to rest a sun-darkened hand against the dirt. His chin dips, reddish-brown beard quivering, and he wipes at the corners of his eyes, catching the tears before they fall. I look away, not wanting to see the pain in his eyes.

“She’s been sick since you left,” I tell him, biting back the sob waiting at the top of my rib cage, the hurt like floodwaters inside me, almost too big to contain.

Pa nods at the dark soil, the morning wind singing through the cattail reeds beside the river. “Nothing you could have done.”

We stand this way for a time—silent, staring at the place where her body now rests—as if each of us is cycling through our own pain. Finding ways to tuck it away. Pa is a quiet man, more comfortable with uncrowded roads and the silence of an evening spent alone, than with consoling words. An owl lets out a somber cry from the woodshed, just as the sun breaks through the trees, inching higher in the sky. And at last Pa pushes himself up, knees creaking, eyes still damp at the corners, and we start back for the house, each of us silent. I can meet Pa’s stride now, nearly as tall as him, legs like reeds and arms swinging at my sides. Almost as tall as a tree, Mom liked to say, braiding my oak-brown hair down my back, her fingers brushing the dark ink of the tattoo at my neck—the tattoo she gave me years ago.

At the cabin, Pa lights his pipe and eases himself into one of the porch chairs—chairs he himself made when I was small. I still remember the smell of wood shavings, mottled dust, a sweet nutty scent. Normally, when Pa returns to the valley, I ask him to tell me a story from the outside, about distant towns and foreign people and the unusual places he’s seen: two-story buildings and deep, calm lakes as warm as bathwater and strangers with eyes as blue as the June sky. They are good stories, tales I sometimes think can’t be entirely true—Pa’s cheeks grinning, eyes shimmering with some faraway memory. My knowledge of the world has been shaped by Pa’s stories. And also by Mom’s warnings.

But I don’t ask for a story now—I ask something else. “Where will you go, after here?”

It’s been nearly a month since he was last in the valley—when the snow still insulated the ground and hung from the eaves of the old cabin—but now spring has crept in over the land, turning it green and soft, the approaching of a gentler season: long, sunlit days, crisp carrots from the ground, frogs singing from the mucky banks of the river in the evening. Something I won’t be here to see.

“North,” he answers, his tired, creased eyes focused out over the valley, to the slow-moving river winking under the morning sun. “To the market.”

“When will you leave?”

“Tomorrow.” He releases a puff of tobacco smoke into the air. “I need to be back on the road in the morning.”

Beside the porch railing, I run a hand down Odie’s neck—Pa’s mare, a black-and-white appaloosa who has found a patch of clover sprouting up in the shade of the porch deck. Pa never hobbles her with leather straps around her ankles, or ties her to a tree when he’s here. He says she has no reason to wander; all the good pasture is near the house.

“How far away is it?” I knit my fingers through Odie’s coarse mane, then down to her black velvet nose.

“A week’s journey, maybe a few days more. Depends on the roads.” Smoke puffs from Pa’s nose, wheeling up into the night sky, and he touches the wiry strands of his beard, his mustache.

I cut my eyes away to his wagon—sitting near the shed—with its tall wooden sides and flat top. Painted along the wood slats are black, swooping letters—much more elaborate than the straight, perpendicular letters that Mom taught me to write when I was younger. But the words on Pa’s wagon are meant to draw people near, to catch their eyes, to entice them to trade a coin or two for what he sells inside.

Pa’s Cure-All Tonic Elixir, it reads, and a small blue medicine bottle has been painted beside the words with silver stars erupting from the top. Beneath this is a list of the ailments that Pa’s tonic will cure: headache, heartache, cough, fever, hair loss, tooth loss, arthritis, lethargy, dizziness, sleeplessness, drunkenness, toe aches, warts.

I shift my gaze back to Pa, his eyes drowsy and distant. I think of summers past when Mom and Pa and I would sit on the porch and watch the sun fade while we peeled baskets of peas and listened to Pa’s stories. A time lost to us now. I clear my throat, stuffing down the tears. “I’m coming with you.”

But Pa immediately shakes his head, not even considering it. “The road isn’t a safe place for you.”

I lower my hand from Odie’s muzzle. I know Pa doesn’t understand why I need to leave. He doesn’t know the stories that Mom whispered to me at night when he was away. The women in our family have kept our secrets for a hundred years, she would tell me softly, as if she didn’t even want the stars to hear. They are dangerous secrets; they put us at risk. So we keep them to ourselves. “I’m stronger than I look,” I say, shoulders straightening back, my left hand scraping along my neck, fingers tracing the tattoo.

Pa’s brow tugs downward as he eyes me, his expression hidden beneath the wiry strands of his overgrown beard. “No,” he answers sharply. “You need to stay in the valley, where you’re protected.”

“Mom wanted me to leave—” I say, clenching my teeth. Mom and I spent most of our life in the valley alone—the two of us with our stories and constellations and a language only we understood—while Pa spent his life out on the road.

He removes the pipe from his mouth, exhaling, a softness to his eyes—a sadness—like he understands the need I feel, but he thinks I’m being foolish. A girl who doesn’t know what she’s asking for. “Your mother has taught you many things, but she hasn’t prepared you for what’s out there.” He taps the toe of his dusty-brown boot against the worn boards of the deck.

I turn away from him, feeling the threat of tears against my eyelids, and lift my eyes to the sky—to the place in the east where I saw the twin stars, now lost to the morning sunlight. The owl, who had been perched on the woodshed, extends its broad winds, and tears away over the river, beyond the valley walls.

“I’ll go on my own,” I say.

“You don’t have a horse.”

“I’ll walk.” I had planned on walking anyway, marching out of the valley on foot.

He exhales through his nose, eyes clicking up the road. “It’ll take you a week just to reach the nearest outpost. And your feet will be raw as hide by then, blistered down to the bone.” There is a growl in his voice, a grittiness, as though he’s recalling the harsh, unending stretch of roads beyond the valley. Recalling long, hot days when he pushed the wagon on, exhausted, throat coated in dust. And he doesn’t wish the same for me.

I kick at a small rock and it skitters under the porch. Odie lifts her head, wide-eyed, before resuming her methodical chewing of the clover and bunchgrass.

Pa rests the stem of the old pipe at the corner of his mouth, mustache twitching, the fragrant smoke—cloves and cinnamon—coiling up into the rafters of the porch roof. “It’s easy to think the world beyond what we know is better than what we have, but trust me, Vega, your life here is safer than anything out there.” He leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees, gazing out at the road—this day has already worn him thin, down to bone. “She kept you isolated here for a reason.” He tamps out the tobacco in his pipe onto the rough boards of the deck, letting the burnt leaves fall between the cracks, then stands up. “I’m sorry, Vega, I can’t take you with me.” He gives me a quick nod, his shoulders bent forward, bearing the grief of Mom’s death heavy in his tired frame, and before I can say anything else, before I can protest, he walks down the porch steps and strides out toward the river, toward Mom’s grave.

My heart should sink—I should feel the hard slam of despair and hopelessness landing in my gut. But instead I feel something else: a new story weaving itself together like starlight along the dark night of my skin. The story of what comes next.

What I have to do.

Pa is asleep in his wagon, nighttime once again folded over the valley, and Odie stands beside the porch, head dipped low, huge eyelashes twitching softly like reeds of grass.

I press my fingertips to the glass beside Mom’s empty bed, nervously counting the constellations out of habit, reciting them in my mind: Crux, Perseus, Leo Minor, and even Cepheus—a broad formation of stars that has always looked like a bow and arrow to me, even though Mom said it was named after the mythical king Cepheus, husband to Cassiopeia, father of Andromeda. My reflection peers back in the glass, the swooped shape of my nose, my ears set low, skin like amber—it’s all her. Reminders of Mom everywhere. Through my reflection, I stare out at the twin stars to the east, like lanterns burning in the sky. My ancestors spent their life waiting for them to appear—Tova and Llitha—for a sign that it was time to leave the valley. They watched the sky each night, studied it, and waited. A hundred years have passed since the twin stars last swung this far on their orbit across their galaxy, and found themselves close enough for us to see. A rare event. One that almost seems impossible—one I started to think might never happen. Only a folktale passed down by the women in my family, a story that had lost all meaning. But the stories were right.

And at last the waiting has ended with me.

I drop my hand from the window, my fingerprints left on the glass—the last part of myself I will leave behind.

I already know what I will do.

I move through the house, gathering a loaf of bread and hard biscuits, preserved blackberries in glass jars that clink and rattle in the burlap sack. I eye the shelf of books near the fireplace: an old book of Scottish poems, a wild foraging cookbook, and several about astronomy. Mom said books were rare, hard to come by. But I know the astronomy books by heart, their pages useless to me now, and I have no need for the others beyond the walls of the house. So I leave them all behind.

I pull my favorite sweater over my head, the color of wheat and flax—the one Mom has mended dozens of times over the years, the one that once belonged to her, and her mother before her—then grab my gray canvas coat from the hook by the door. I fold the quilt from Mom’s bed, tucking it under my arm, then pick up the lit candle. My lungs breathe heavy, doubt scratching at my skull. I can still feel her within these walls where I drew my first breath: where I learned to chart the stars, to read while sitting at the small wood table pressed against the corner, where Mom and I have carved our names into the low bench—like the white heron stacks pebbles beside the river to mark its territory, to warn other birds that this is its home. Mom taught me how to survive, to make fire and cut my own hair and mend my own shirts.

But I have to do this—it has to be absolute; otherwise I might change my mind.

I need there to be nothing left to return to.

I lower the candle to one of Mom’s pillows, and the flame catches instantly. It springs across the sheets to the curtains, igniting on the pile of stacked firewood beside the stove. It lunges up the log walls, turning hot and ashy in minutes. How voracious fire is. How unstoppable. It destroys without thought.

With the burlap sack over my shoulder, I shove my feet into my boots, not bothering to lace them, and walk out onto the front porch, feeling the flames growing hot and angry behind me. Like something coming alive, devouring my childhood, my entire life in this cabin. Leaving nothing. I fight the urge to run to the river with a pail and bring back buckets of water, dousing the flames.

There’s no turning back now.

The sky is still dark, a belt of clustered stars running from north to south. But when I lower my gaze back to the wagon, Pa is awake, a hand held over his brow. Odie has backstepped away from the porch railing, dust rising around her hooves, ears jumping forward and back, frightened of the snapping flames.

“Vega . . .” Pa peers past me at the cabin, at the flames now licking through the doorway. “What did you do?”

Bravery is not summoned overnight; it takes several almost moments until the one that finally sparks a need bright enough that you’re willing to burn your old life to the ground.

“My home is gone—” I say down to him from the edge of the porch. “I should probably go with you now.”

My name—Vega—means dweller in the meadow. Mom would say that my name was a reminder that this valley was my home, that I was safe here, like a bird tucked into the cavity of its nest.

But with smoke curling up into the dawn sky behind me, flames chewing apart the cabin where I was born, I leave the valley behind.

For most of my life, I have feared the unnamable longing that has pricked at me like a briar caught in wool—a curiosity about what lay beyond the valley. The world out there is wild and savage and unkind, Mom would tell me, eyes trained up the road. We won’t leave until it’s time.

Low, mangy oaks dig their pointed limbs into the side of the wagon, shrieking against the wood, but Pa coaxes Odie on with a soft click of his tongue. In the back of the wagon, the glass jars filled with Pa’s tonic rattle a constant chorus of clinks and clangs—a sweet smell emanating from the wood crates.

The valley walls shrink away around us, and we emerge into the flat rangeland rolling out endlessly into the distance—a stretch of road dotted with bull snakes and dry scrub brush and rocky terrain known to hobble good horses. But this view isn’t new—I’ve seen it before, when Mom and I would make the rare trek to the Horaces’—though this time it’s a length of land that I’m not merely seeing from a distance, but that I will be entering into. My chest feels tight, anxious, but I refuse to glance over my shoulder and see the smoldering embers of the cabin behind us. I’ve made my decision.

Don’t look back, Mom told me once. You’re not going that way.

We slip free of the crowded oaks, and the sun becomes a scowling eye, bright and watchful. I wish we were traveling at night so I could see the stars, the comfort they bring, the reminder that no matter how far I travel, I can always use them to chart my way back to the valley.

We pass the Horaces’—a modest farmhouse set back between four shaded elm trees, with a low creek running through the land behind it. The barn is another forty yards beyond the creek, and the Horaces’ livestock of goats and sheep and cattle have gathered near the fence, watching us. Odie slows her gait, head craned toward them, but Pa snaps the reins to prod her forward. My body vibrates, a wave of nausea rising in my belly—I’m now farther beyond the valley than I’ve ever been.

Pa makes a grumbling sound, low and disapproving: He thinks this is a bad idea, taking me with him, letting me leave the valley. But he stays quiet. Maybe he knows there are reasons tucked inside me that he doesn’t understand—the whispered words shared only between Mom and me. Or maybe he can’t bear to leave me in the burnt-out remains of the cabin. So we travel in silence across the open plains while the hours tick by, the sound of the creaking wagon becoming an ache in my ears, watching birds fly in slow patterns overhead, crows and ravens out looking for unfortunate field mice and jackrabbits.

It’s stark, unwelcoming land, and I push down the knot tightening in my stomach the farther we travel from the valley. From Mom buried in the ground. From everything I’ve ever known.

Because I don’t have a choice.

When we finally leave the long expanse of rangeland and move into the clotted hills, it’s well after dark. A coyote lopes through the elms beside us, fur the color of gunmetal, paws thrumming against the soft earth. It follows us for a time, eyes darting at me as if in warning. Turn back, it cautions with its golden eyes, before it finally slips back into the briars and woodland.

It must be near midnight when we emerge through the scraggly oaks and Pa slows the wagon. “It’s called Soda Creek,” he says, nodding ahead at the barren wash, not even a trickle down the center. “It ain’t much now, but in a week or so, it’ll be flooded from spring rains. Muddy and violent, not safe to cross. We came just in time.”

Pa urges Odie through the low, dry channel and up the other side, the wagon cutting back into the trees along a shallow ridge. My eyes have grown heavy, my throat dry from the dust, and I crave sleep with the same sort of immediacy I used to crave the cool river on an unbearably hot summer day. The wagon heaves up the last rise, and we find ourselves atop a ridge, overlooking a long, open prairie. Pa pulls Odie to a halt. “We’ll camp here tonight.”

“Shouldn’t we keep going?” I press, not wanting to stop. Every hour a hammer in my eardrum, knowing there are so few left.

“It’s not safe to travel at night.” He lumbers down to the ground and begins unhitching Odie from the harness.

Ahead of us, I can see all the way down to the valley beyond—a long stretch of grassland framed by more hills in the distance.

And situated in that prairie landscape is a town.

I lie folded in Mom’s quilt watching sparks from the campfire pirouette up among the stars, comforted by the unaltered arrangement of the night sky, the placement of the Milky Way and star clusters exactly where they should be—while the dry, sparse landscape around me feels entirely foreign, smelling of strange plants and far-off winds. Just beyond the firelight, I can hear creatures moving among the dark, the flash of their eyes through the low oak trees. An eerie, ghostly feeling against my skin.

Even though sleep tugs at me, and I crave a long night’s rest, I worry that we’re traveling too slow. It took us an entire day, and we’ve only just reached the outskirts of a town in the distance.

How long will it take me to find the Architect? Days? A week? A man I’ve never met. He could be anywhere. Impossible to find if he’s in hiding, if he doesn’t want to be found. He might even be dead. But Mom always assured me that if one Architect died, there would be another to take his place. The lineage would never be lost. Just as she taught me the stories of our past to ensure they wouldn’t be forgotten, the Architect would do the same.

Somewhere out there is an Architect—and he will know the way to the sea.

I just need to find him.

Briefly I let my fingers stray to the back of my neck, tracing the lines of the tattoo, then drop my hand back to my lap and continue counting the stars above me, marking their names in my mind. “You can see Bellatrix tonight,” I say softly to Pa, pointing a finger to the west, just above the treetops. “It’s the third-brightest star in the Orion constellation.”

Pa lifts his head from the campfire, where he’s placed a cast-iron pot filled with water and dried pinto beans to boil, and looks up at the sky.

Bellatrix means female warrior,” I add, lowering my hand. “Some stars are easier to locate, like Orion’s belt or the pole star. But Mom said you have to observe all the constellations if you want to know the full story.” From a single point in the sky, you should be able to map the rest of the universe.

Pa makes a paltry sound, like he doesn’t want to think about Mom, the grief tucked away in his barrel chest. Maybe he feels guilty he wasn’t there when it happened, knelt beside her bed, a hand to her pale, hollowed cheek, a chance to say goodbye. But he has never been a constant in our lives—he is like the wandering coyote, better suited for long, dusty roads than a life within permanent walls, only stopping in the valley every month or so, when his route brings him close. Yet it’s also what I admire, envy, about him: his freedom, the ease with which he comes and goes.

His life wasn’t built around Mom—not like mine was. He didn’t wake each morning to the soft murmur of her recounting the mass and luminosity of stars, or fall asleep to the sound of her laugh, deep and forceful like a man’s—that I swear made the slatted roof of the cabin tremble like she was the winter wind itself. She had a gravity about her, and she was more complex—like a series of strange, unending riddles—than Pa will ever know.

He dips his head and resumes stirring the pinto beans, adding a little salt and unknown herbs. Odie wanders among the oaks, nibbling on bunchgrass, tail swishing through the night air. “When we reach the next town,” he says, eyes still low, “don’t talk about this to anyone else.”

“About what?”

“The stars, constellations, all the things your mom taught you.”

My eyes trace the carefully stitched seams of Mom’s quilt—a blanket that was once her mother’s, passed down to her after Grandma died. And now it belongs to me.

“They won’t understand,” he adds, flashing me a look to be sure I’ve heard him, that I understand. Like he’s still considering taking me back to the valley and leaving me there, letting me sleep in the smoldering ash of the cabin. Where I’d be safe.

“I know.” My mouth flattens, a stone rolling around in my chest. I grew up discussing the geography of stars every evening—the row of planets in our solar system, the constellations that spun across the axis of our sky each night—knowledge that Mom was carving into my bones, into my mind, because it needed to be remembered. But out here, she warned, our knowledge means something else. It threatens to unearth a past that some would like to remain hidden—forgotten. While others covet it in a way that makes my very existence dangerous.

Again, the nagging fear creeps up inside me, the old warnings scratching at my insides, telling me that I shouldn’t have left the valley, I shouldn’t be out here in the wild of this unprotected terrain. But I don’t say any of this to Pa—I’ll reveal no weakness to him, the doubt that keeps wanting to surface as I peer out into the dark of the forest surrounding us. I keep it tucked inside me. Unspoken.

After we eat, I lie on my side, the quilt tucked up to my chin, and I stare out through the clearing to the small town beyond. There are no lights, no stirring noises in the distance, only the rooflines visible against the dark horizon.

I’ve never seen a town, but I’ve imagined the way homes might sit crowded together, people living side by side, neighbors only a few steps away.

The fire sputters beside me as Pa snores, but an anxious knot twists and contorts inside my gut, making it impossible to sleep.

What if I can’t find the Architect in time? What if I’m too late.

Excerpt from Shea Ernshaw’s A Wilderness of Stars reprinted with permission from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Excerpt originally posted on Gizmodo.com

 

 

About Shea Ernshaw:

Shea Ernshaw is a NYT bestselling author and winner of the Oregon Book
Award. Her books have been published in over nineteen countries, and her novels
A History of Wild Places, The Wicked Deep, and Winterwood were Indie Next
Picks. She lives in a small mountain town in Oregon, and is happiest when lost
in a good book, lost in the woods, or writing her next novel.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

 

 

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of A WILDERNESS OF STARS, US Only.

Ends December 20th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/21/2022

YA
Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

11/22/2022

Kait Plus Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/23/2022

Wickedbeebooks

Review/IG Post

11/24/2022

Eye-Rolling
Demigod’s Book Blog

Review/IG Post

11/25/2022

Nerdophiles

Review

11/26/2022

Karen
Dee’s Book Reviews

IG Review

Week Two:

11/27/2022

A Dream Within
A Dream

Review/IG Post

11/28/2022

pluvioreads

Review/TikTok Post

11/29/2022

@froggyreadteach

IG Review

11/30/2022

OneMoreExclamation

Review/IG Post

12/1/2022

@lexijava

Review/IG Post

12/2/2022

The Book Nut

Review

12/3/2022

My.Bookish.Mind

IG Review/TikTok Post

Week Three:

12/4/2022

A Backwards
Story

Review/IG Post

12/5/2022

@readerofthewrittenword

IG Spotlight

12/6/2022

onemused

IG Review

12/7/2022

Celia’s
Reads

Review/IG Post

12/8/2022

Book Briefs

Review/IG Post

12/9/2022

@thebookishfoxwitch

IG Review

12/10/2022

A
Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic

Week Four:

12/11/2022

Momfluenster

IG Review/FB Post

12/12/2022

A Court of
Coffee and Books

Review/IG Post

12/13/2022

Satisfaction
for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post

12/14/2022

@drew_ambitious_reading

IG Review/TikTok Post

12/15/2022

The Book Review
Crew

Review/IG Post

12/16/2022

popthebutterfly

Review/IG Post

 

Blog Tour: Midnight at the Shelter (Nanci Turner Steveson), Plus Giveaway! ~US ONLY

November 18th, 2022 by

Welcome to the Midnight at the Shelter Blog Tour!

Follow along as we celebrate the release of Midnight at the Shelter (November 1, 2022) with behind-the-scenes looks from author Nanci Turner Steveson, plus 5 chances to win a copy!

Dream Team!
by Nanci Turner Steveson

Imagine if you got to pick a cast for the movie version of Midnight at the Shelter. It’s a midnight rescue mission story and the characters are all dogs. You’ve got MahDi as the main character who has a tragic past, three legs, and needs to figure out a way to save the dogs trapped in a shelter from an uncertain future (aka: euthanasia) against all odds. We spent a good bit of time coming up with an all-star cast for the canine players in the story and here we go! After you read the book, if you have better ideas, shoot me an email!

MahDi — Harrison Ford
A little cranky, quiet, but always in charge and ready to save the day

Ozzie — Graham Norton
Comic relief, tiny but mighty

Koda — Robert Downey Jr.
Lovable, adorable, slightly goofy, handsome

Domino — Alan Rickman’s ghost
I mean, there couldn’t be another pick

Lilah — Zendaya
Lovely, loyal, needs to be rescued

Leroi — Whoopi Goldberg
Checkered past but loyal to the end, will do anything for anyone as long as it doesn’t interfere with her waiting for Murph to come home

Tootsie — Betty White’s ghost
Charming, says what’s on her mind especially when it’s about herself, loves to be dolled up, everyone loves her, a little out-to-lunch

Quinn — Dame Judi Dench
A Quaker, older with a lively and successful past, loyal to a fault, easily hurt

Luna — Emilia Clarke
Sweet, loving, easily startled, adorable

Hero — Denzel Washington
I mean, isn’t he everyone’s hero?

Hickory — Jeff Bridges
A little rough around the edges, looking for his place in the world

Daisy — Edith Piaff’s ghost
French, musical, fancy but loves a good romp

Peabody — Greg Davies
Because of his size and goofiness, not the gas part

Holly — Drew Barrymore
A little lost, looking for family, loyal to the end, adorable

Squirt —  Marcel the Shell
Always smiling, cute, full of life, feisty, trusting


About the Book

BuyGoodreads

Written with a distinctively doggy voice, great humor, and plenty of heart, this novel from acclaimed author Nanci Turner Steveson is a perfect pick for readers looking for a touching animal story in the vein of Because of Winn-Dixie or Marley & Me.

Rescue dog MahDi is happy helping his human partner, “MomDoc,” with the important work at her vet clinic and the local animal shelter. The two of them make a good team, caring for the town’s pets and matchmaking rescue animals with the families who need them.

When the shelter is suddenly down a staff member, the animals have to deal with a new caretaker: Huck, an unpleasant man who seems to have no problem threatening the animals he’s supposed to care for. As more dogs crowd into the shelter than are going to new homes, MahDi begins to worry that if MomDoc isn’t around, there is no telling what Huck might do.

With three perfectly good legs, the heart of a true leader, and his pack mates by his side, MahDi is willing to risk everything to save his shelter-friends from an uncertain future.

Praise:

“Each dog’s story illustrates one of the many ways dogs come to need new homes and how wonderful rescue animals can be.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Alternating dogs’-eye views propel this immersive pack story from Steveson… Themes of love, hope, and belonging resound throughout, balancing the sometimes-dark content.”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author


Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Nanci Turner Steveson grew up in Connecticut, England, and Texas, always with a book in one hand, the reins of a pony in the other. She wrote her first “novel” at the age of nine about a wild horse named Liberty. Nanci works with the Off Square Theatre Company as a stage manager and youth-performer shepherd. She is a reading fairy to book-hungry children and a riding instructor. The mother of two grown sons, Nanci lives in a meadow at the foot of the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with her Arabian horse and a 100-pound rescue dog named Story. She is the founder of the Literacy for Hope project, dedicated to getting books into the hands of the homeless.


GIVEAWAY

  • Five (5) winners will receive a hardcover of Midnight at the Shelter by Nanci Turner Steveson
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 11/27 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below
  • Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 


Blog Tour Schedule:

November 14th Mama Likes This
November 15th YA Book Nerd
November 16th Pragmatic Mom
November 17th Teen Librarian Toolbox
November 18th YA Books Central

Rockstar Tours: THE YEAR OF THE BEAR (Douglas J. Lanzo), Guest Post & Giveaway! ~US ONLY

November 17th, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE YEAR OF THE BEAR by Douglas J. Lanzo & Ambassador International Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my
post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About The Book:

Title: THE YEAR OF THE BEAR

Author: Douglas J.
Lanzo

Pub. Date: November 1, 2022

Publisher: Ambassador International

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback,
eBook

Pages: 316

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

A remarkable story of a bear and the
coming-of-age journey of a teenage boy.

Thirteen-year-old Jason is on the
cusp of manhood, striving to fi nd his place at school and at home—especially
after his mother has abandoned them and his father is left to deal with his own
anger. When Jason and his father encounter a bear while out hunting, they shoot
and kill it, not realizing that they have left a cub without its mother. When
Sasquot of the Penobscot Tribe, a part of the Bear Family, discovers what they
have done, he decides that Jason needs a lesson in caring for God’s creatures.
Thus begins a year that Jason will never forget as he begins to care and train
the cub in order for it to survive. As Jason forms a bond with the bear, he, in
turn, learns valuable lessons for life.

“Fans of classic, enthralling
adventure (and I’m one) are in for a rare treat.”-
Josh Lieb New York Times best-selling and Emmy Award-winning author of I am a
Genius of Unspeakable Evil
 and I Want to Be Your Class
President

 

Why did I write and publish hundreds of poems during the Pandemic?

At the outset of the Pandemic, I prayed that I would publish poems in literary journals that would glorify God with poems that would uplift and inspire people in our nation and around the world.  Literally with a matter of weeks, my poetry exploded.

Prior to the Pandemic, I had published very modestly perhaps a dozen at most poems in various Church publications and a single poem in a truly professional literary journal.  Two and a half years later, I have published 271 poems in 47 literary journals, including the Asahi Shimbun, among the largest and oldest print newspapers in the world, and 6 poetry anthologies, including many that were bestsellers, on 5 continents.  I found a poetic voice, a gracious and undeserved gift, and simply trusted God to help me find the literary vessels to carry them to readers globally.

As a novelist, poet, high school and collegiate runner and person of strong faith, since my childhood I have been inspired by Eric Liddell, the great Scottish missionary and runner whose principled refusal to run an Olympic 100-meter race on a Sunday was chronicled in Chariots of Fire.  As a boy, I recall playing Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire music many times over on a grand piano in our Church’s music room, inspired by the larger-than-life story behind it.  And as a high school and college Division 1 runner, I recall the music of Chariots of Fire pumping up my Harvard teammates and me for big races.

The Chariots of Fire soundtrack is a tribute to the extraordinary feat that Liddell accomplished and how he accomplished it.  Surpassed in pure 400 meter running talent by a number of his 1924 Olympic competitors, Liddell simply honored God and God honored him back.  And this is exactly what a masseur wrote and presented in a message to Liddell the morning of his historic 400 meter final in Paris, writing: “In the old book it says: “He that honors me I will honor.”  Days after pulling out of the 100-meter heats because they were held on a Sunday, Liddell won the gold-medal in a huge upset over the talented field, shattered the world record and besting his personal record by 2 full seconds.

When asked why he ran, Liddell stated: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Liddell he ran for exactly the same reason why I write and love to do so.   The joy that he described in his running resonates with me.  I feel a joy and feeling that I am doing what is pleasing to God when I use my author’s voice to heal, uplift, comfort and inspire readers.  I feel that it is a noble pursuit to share poetic tributes of giants who came before us, great men and women like Eric Liddell, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II, each of whom blazed a glorious path for us to tread.

I also feel part of my purpose as a writer is to use my poet’s voice is to highlight cases of injustice and to espouse righteous causes.  Some recent examples of this are my poems extolling the virtues of the Ukrainian people in bravely fighting to preserve their sovereignty, freedom and very existence, poems supporting those struggling for freedom in Hong Kong, poems, including my “We Are Mahsa” poem, decrying injustices to women and repression in Iran and Afghanistan, and poems paying tribute to civil rights pioneers.  I feel that freedom of speech is paramount and that writers should have the courage to make their voices heard even where rogue states and actors may potentially exact a high price for it, as recently witnessed in the cowardly, on-stage attack against Salman Rushdie.

 

 

About Douglas J. Lanzo:

An award-winning and featured
inspirational author published in Vita Brevis Press’ bestselling 2021 poetry
anthology and Café Haiku’s upcoming 2021 Fifth Poetry Anthology and featured in
WestWard Quarterly’s Winter 2021 issue, since 2020 Douglas’ poetry has found
homes in thirty-eight literary publications across the U.S., Canada, England,
Wales, Austria, Mauritius, India, Australia, and The Caribbean. A graduate of
Harvard College and Law School, where Douglas enjoyed writing editorials for
The Harvard Crimson and articles for various other Harvard publications, he has
published professional legal articles throughout his career. A General Counsel
by day and writer by night, Douglas resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with his
wife and twelve-year old identical twin boys, fellow published poets, enjoying
nature, traveling, biking, tennis, and chess.

Website | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

1 Winner will receive a finished copy of THE YEAR OF THE BEAR, US Only. 

Ends November 29th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/14/2022

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/14/2022

@jaimerockstarbooktours

IG Post

11/15/2022

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

11/15/2022

Mythical Books

Guest Post/IG Post

11/16/2022

Jazzy Book Reviews

Excerpt

11/16/2022

A Dream Within A Dream

Guest Post

11/17/2022

For
the Love of Kidlit

Excerpt

11/17/2022

YA Books Central

Excerpt

11/18/2022

Rajiv’s
Reviews

Review/IG Post

11/18/2022

Kim”s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

Week Two:

11/21/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

IG Review

11/21/2022

Fire
and Ice

Review

11/22/2022

Lifestyle of Me

Review/IG Post

11/22/2022

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

11/23/2022

Girls in White Dresses

Review/IG Post

11/23/2022

A Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic

11/24/2022

Brandi Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

11/24/2022

Two Points of Interest

Review

11/25/2022

@froggyreadteach

IG Review/Read Aloud

11/25/2022

One More Exclamation

Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours: The Dream Heist (Christina Farley), Excerpt & Giveaway! ~INT

November 17th, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE DREAM HEIST by Christina Farley Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out
my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: THE DREAM HEIST

Author: Christina Farley

Paperback Pub. Date: November 15, 2022

Publisher: Everbound Press

Formats: Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 317

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, AudibleB&NiBooksKoboTBDBookshop.org

“A high action adventure with
swoon-worthy romance and a mystery that will keep you turning the pages all
night long!” — Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling
author

Your dreams are no longer safe…

Eighteen-year-old Aria Hale loves her
job at her father’s dream therapy company where she enters dementia patients’
dreams to save their memories. But when their lab is ransacked, two technicians
are murdered, and her father is kidnapped, everything changes for her.

Determined to find her father, Aria
and her friends embark on a harrowing hunt across continents using the dreams
of their enemies to guide them. But this dangerous journey plunges her into a
world she never bargained for: deception, intrigue, and even love. As she races
to save her father and hunt down her enemies, she soon realizes she’s in fact
the one being hunted. And her dreams are the greatest danger of all.

In the vein of Inception meets The
Bourne Identity
THE DREAM HEIST propels readers into a
fast-paced adventure that will send them racing to the very end.

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1 

Mission Prep 

Orlando, Florida 

My hands shake as I check the final calculations and enter them into my sleep pod. If  only I could ignore the hollow dread that has locked itself into the pit of my stomach.  I want to chalk it up to nerves. After all, entering people’s dreams is cutting-edge science, and though Dad and I have been working on the Dreamscape for the last four years, I’m always  hoping that this time we will make a breakthrough. Or perhaps it’s because with every Dream  Walk, we get that much closer to saving the lives and memories of our patients.  No, I sigh. If I’m being honest, this is all about saving Grams’ memories and her mind.  Ever since she came down with dementia, and now watching it worsen, I’m determined to do  whatever it takes to retrieve or at least save as many memories of hers as I can. Maybe that’s  selfish. Maybe my love for her is getting in the way of everything. But right now I don’t care. I  just want results.

“You look green, Aria.” Tony chuckles at me from where he preps his sleep pod. “Or  maybe purple. It’s hard to tell in this lab’s crappy light.”

“Mornings and I don’t get along,” I grumble, smoothing down my forest green scrubs.  They hang on me, wrinkled and disheveled like they hate mornings, too. “Especially before I’ve  had breakfast. Can’t wait to go back to sleep.”

“Sleeping on the job,” Tony says. “The ultimate career choice.”

I grin. We’re the only team members at MaxLife who are interns and still seniors in high  school. But the whole experience has really pushed us to the limit, and it’s totally been worth the

lack of sleep. Sure, we might have to get to work at 4:30 am, but what high schooler gets a  chance to enter people’s dreams for a job?

“Buenos días, team,” Javier, our team leader, says as he strides into the room. He checks  the Dreamscape board on the wall, reviewing the clients scheduled throughout the day. “Looks  like today’s going to be a busy one. Tony and Aria, you’re just here for our first session,  correct?”

“Unfortunately, high school calls,” I mutter.

“Right,” Javier says, distractedly still staring at the board. “Looks like for this morning’s  patient, our number one goal is to detect any unusual brain functions. Of course, I wouldn’t be  too upset if we found that infamous Vault we’ve been looking for.”

“Dude. It doesn’t exist.” Tony adjusts his long dreads so they don’t get tangled in the  heart monitor cords. “Your Vault of Memories is as real as a pink-striped unicorn.” “I refuse to believe that.” I tap in my MaxLife employee code into the sleep pod. “We  just need more time and I know we can find it.”

Sun pads into the sleeping lab in red cashmere slippers while reading her tablet. Knowing  her, she’s doing one final check on the brain’s data before we enter the patient’s dream. Sometimes it’s annoying how over-the-top thorough she is, but then that’s why Dad hired her as  our fourth team member.

“Patient 145’s brain appears perfectly healthy.” She drums her manicured nails on the  edge of the tablet. “No sign of decomposing or atrophy. Don’t you find that strange?” “What about this patient hasn’t been strange?” I say. “I can’t remember a time when we  weren’t given a patient’s medical history before a mission. Something’s up.”

I glance over at my dad—well, Dr. Hale while we’re working—and adjust my scrubs for  the tenth time. He’s in the adjoining room with our technicians. They’re partitioned off by a glass  wall, studying the wall full of computer screens, each one that hoists our brain waves and images  our brain sends in from the Dreamscape.

MaxLife’s number one rule is complete patient privacy. It prevents us from knowing the  patient’s name or getting personally involved due to the intrusive nature of the procedure. But  Dad’s never withheld a patient’s medical history from us before.

“Every case is different.” Javier shrugs, but lines form along his forehead. “Maybe since  this client is so different, we’ll finally get our breakthrough. Stay focused on the job and make  this mission a success.”

“You are traveling through another dimension,” Tony calls out in his best Rod Serling voice. “One of dreams and imagination!”

He hums the Twilight Zone music as his clear sleep pod lid encloses his body. “See you  kids in the Twilight Zone.”

“Keep it professional in there,” Javier orders before Tony’s lid clamps shut. “Twilight Zone.” Sun huffs. “How are we supposed to make progress when no one takes  our missions seriously?”

Chuckling, I climb into my own pod, glad Tony is with us. He always knows how to calm  my nerves. My body sinks onto the soft, padded contours. These sleek white pods are  specifically designed for each team member with swooping upward sides in case we thrash about  during the dream, protecting us.

And yet, as I strap on my pulse tracker and attach the patches to my heart monitor, my  eyes seek my dad. Could he be hiding something?

“You might be right about this Vault.” Sun sets down her tablet and narrows her eyes at  me. “Just don’t do anything stupid, Aria. Got it?”

“Stupid?” I put on my most innocent face. “I never do anything stupid.”

She lifts her eyebrows, shooting me an I-totally-don’t-believe-you look. I cringe,  remembering our argument after the Dream Walk last week when I decided to not follow  Javier’s orders. She doesn’t understand that Grams doesn’t have time to wait around for  protocols and orders because every day she loses more memories.

Which is why time is so important.

“Okay, maybe the elevator wasn’t the best choice,” I concede. “Next time, we can borrow  your brother’s jet. Then we could’ve kept up with the Dreamer for sure.”

Her lips quirk. “Behave yourself, Aria, and I’ll consider asking him.”

“Deal.” I blow her a kiss as my pod’s cover rises over me.

I slip my Neuro-Read sleep mask, strapping it around the back of my head so it can read  a complete assessment of my brain waves. Between the sleep mask and my heart monitor, the techs can read my EEG’s, EOG’s, and ECG’s to measure my brain waves, eye movements, and  heart. It transfers my thought processes into the Dreamscape Network and converts them into  visuals. Dad calls it our brain connector.

Once I’m in a dream state, the technicians will connect my brain waves and the three  others on my team into our client’s dreams. Basically, it inserts our team’s consciousness into the  dreamer’s consciousness. We can’t read each other’s thoughts, but we’re able to interact and  think just like a normal dream.

As if any dream is normal.

“Sleep induction enacted, Ms. Hale,” a woman’s melodic voice vibrates through the pod.  Javier named her Celeste. “Sweet dreams.”

Within moments, the Sound Oasis kicks in, emitting the cry of seagulls and crash of  waves to my ears. Beneath these noises, a thrumming hum trickles through. It’s this noise that  will induce my brain waves into sleep mode. I count down, waiting for sleep to come. 10, 9, 8, 7…

 

 

About Christina Farley:

CHRISTINA
FARLEY is the author of the bestselling Gilded series, THE PRINCESS AND THE
PAGE, and THE DREAM HEIST. Prior to that, she worked as an international
teacher and at a top secret job for Disney where she was known to scatter pixie
dust before the sun rose. When not traveling the world or creating imaginary
ones, she spends time with her family in Clermont, Florida with her husband and
two sons where they are busy preparing for the next World Cup, baking
cheesecakes, and raising a pet dragon that’s in disguise as a cockatiel. Visit
her online at ChristinaFarley.com.

CONNECT WITH
CHRISTINA

Join
Christina’s Newsletter: Exclusive access to videos, writing tips, giveaways and
book updates: https://tinyurl.com/ypb9pm9a

Join
Christina’s VIP Reader Club: Weekly update with insider news, exclusive
content, and giveaways! https://tinyurl.com/mryncvmf

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Tumblr | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon GC, International.

Ends November 29th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/14/2022

@kelzstarr_bookstarr

Review/IG Post

11/14/2022

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/15/2022

pluvioreads

TikTok Unboxing Game
& Review

11/15/2022

@jael_and_jenessa_reads

Review/IG Post

11/16/2022

Jazzy Book Reviews

Instagram Unboxing
Game & Review

11/16/2022

A Dream Within A
Dream

Excerpt

11/17/2022

A Blue
Box Full of Books

Instagram Unboxing
Game & Review & LFL Drop Pic

11/17/2022

YA Books
Central

Excerpt/IG Post

11/18/2022

Book Reviews by
Taylor

Review, Instagram
Review, Instagram Unboxing Game

11/18/2022

Fire and Ice

Review

Week Two:

11/21/2022

xbookwormcafe

Instagram Unboxing
Game & Review

11/21/2022

mindyourshelf

IG Review

11/22/2022

@jacleomik33

Instagram Unboxing
Game & Review

11/22/2022

@ashe_and_ink

Instagram Unboxing
Game & Review

11/23/2022

celiamcmahonreads

Instagram Unboxing
Game

11/23/2022

One More
Exclamation

Review/IG Post

11/24/2022

Book
Reviews by Alison

Instagram Unboxing
Game & Review

11/24/2022

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

11/25/2022

Momfluenster

Instagram Unboxing
Game & TikTok Unboxing Game

11/25/2022

#BRVL Book Review
Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt

 

Rockstar Tours: BRIARCLIFF PREP (Brianna Peppins), Excerpt & Giveaway! ~US ONLY

November 15th, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the BRIARCLIFF PREP by Brianna Peppins Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out
my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: BRIARCLIFF
PREP

Author: Brianna Peppins

Pub. Date: November 15, 2022

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Pages: 400

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&NiBooks, KoboTBD, Bookshop.org

Set at a luxe, aspirational boarding
school inspired by the author’s beloved alma mater Spelman College, this debut
is a captivating celebration of the friends we choose, the family we protect,
and the love we owe ourselves.

It’s fourteen-year-old Avielle “Avi” LeBeau’s turn to do what
everyone in her family has done: leave home to attend Briarcliff Prep―a
Historically Black Boarding School (HBBS). And as scared as she is to say
goodbye to her parents and move to Georgia, she knows her fearless big sister
Belle will be there to show her the ropes.

Before long, Avi settles into life at Briarcliff. New friends (and foes),
challenging classes (at times too challenging), and maybe a cute
tutor-turned-something-more (if her brothers don’t get in the way). Meanwhile,
Belle does what she always does: she runs the campus’s social scene, especially
now that she’s dating Logan, the pride and joy of Briarcliff’s sibling school
Preston Academy.

But something about Logan doesn’t sit well with Avi, no matter how many times
Belle reassures her Logan is a good guy. And when Avi stumbles across the
truth, her relationship with Belle is put to the test. If Avi reveals what she
knows, their sisterhood might never recover. But if she doesn’t, she might lose
Belle forever.

Debut author Brianna Peppins deftly balances a celebration of sisterhood,
self-discovery, and Black joy with an empathetic exploration of teen dating
violence in this novel that is, at its heart, a love letter to Black girls.

 

Excerpt

1

Avielle LeBeau tried to focus on the last paragraph of  her creative essay in the back seat of the packed black Nissan  Rogue as she, her sisters, and their mother sped down the  highway. They followed closely behind an SUV carrying her  father and brothers. Avi wanted her words on the laptop in  front of her to be all-consuming, but a new distraction popped  up every two seconds.

If it wasn’t her little sister’s loud crunching of white cheddar  popcorn beside her or the nonstop tapping of her big sister’s  acrylic nails on her phone screen in the passenger seat, then  it was their mom belting off-key to another song on the radio,  tearing away any semblance of Avi’s focus.

Avi peeled her sweaty thighs from the leather seat, leaning  forward to aim the air vent directly at her face, but the August  sun beaming through the window, and her combined anxiety,  rendered it useless.

With a huff, Avi sat back again, staring at the words, trying to stop her eyes from darting to the GPS screen on the  dashboard. She had, maybe, two minutes before they reached  the tail end of South Carolina and crossed the state line into Georgia. Avi steadied her hands on the keyboard, instead  pulling up the Briarcliff Prep website. Weirdly enough, the  same thing that had her ready to pull her hair out doubled as  a calming force.

Tomorrow morning, Avi would be joining the ranks  as a young Black woman of prestige, honor, and distinction at Briarcliff Preparatory School for Girls. For years,  she’d dreamed of starting her freshman year of high school  in Georgia, being back with her older siblings and joining  the Cliff News as a creative writing columnist. Her dreams  remained steady, but for the last week or so, a creeping fear  of homesickness . . . failure . . . or maybe just general unease  lay constant in her chest. She ran an anxious hand up and  down her chestnut brown arms before remembering to triple  check that her inhaler was in the pocket of the blue duffel bag  lying at her feet.

The Briarcliff home page read “Number 1 HBBS” and featured a slideshow of smiling students playing instruments in  class, dressed in costumes on Halloween, lounging in dorms,  and playing volleyball. For a moment, Avi paused, seeing  a picture of her big sister, Belle, and her dance team, the  Cheetahnaires, posing in sequin lavender and gold unitards  at a basketball game. Dancing wasn’t Avi’s thing like it was  Belle’s, but maybe she’d make friends just as quickly by joining the school’s paper—if they’d have her.

“We made it,” their mom, Toni, beamed as Avi pulled  her AirPods out of her ears. Belle aimed her camera out the  window, catching the peach on the giant blue “Welcome to  Georgia” sign for her vlog.

Avi saw her mother’s chin jut up and felt her piercing upturned eyes (eyes they’d all inherited) staring at her in the  rearview mirror. She fixed her face just a second too late. “Is your writing not going well?”

Absentmindedly, Avi pulled at an escaped brown coil from  her high puff. “It’s fine; I just can’t concentrate.” “Concentrate on what?” Belle squinted, and her left dimple  deepened in her mahogany skin. “I thought you said you finished your sample for the Cliff News a week ago?” “I mean, I did, but it still needs to be—”

“I thought it was really good, personally,” Paisli interrupted,  leaning forward in the back seat. As she moved, the Target  bags full of new twin XL mattress pads, shower caddies, and  velvet hangers crowding her crinkled.

Avi faced her in wide-eyed outrage. Her twelve-year-old  sister had the face of an angel—the nosiest little angel walking  on earth. “And who said you could read it in the first place?”

“It was printed and sitting on your bed like a nice present,”  she said, smirking. “Felt like an invitation.”

Avi cut her eyes at Paisli but suppressed a retort, knowing her little sister’s snippy attitude was a result of being “left  behind.” She remembered feeling like that when Belle left  for her freshman year at Briarcliff Prep three years ago. And  again, last year, when the twins, Moe and EJ, prepped to leave  for Preston Academy, Briarcliff’s brother school. Maryland had  seemed dull in comparison, and Avi desperately wanted to be  in Georgia with her older siblings then. She’d yearned to experience the sisterhood and embrace experiences her mother  bragged about at her alma mater. More than anything, Avi wanted to step foot on Briarcliff’s campus and see what all the  hype was about.

But her fairy tale was beginning to fade. The immediacy of  it all, the idea of her parents leaving her there tomorrow . . .  it had her feet freezing, while she simultaneously broke out in  sweats.

She pushed the edge of her clear-rimmed frames up the  bridge of her nose with one hand and fanned her pits with the  other. “I— Can we all just roll our windows down and be quiet  for like ten minutes?”

“No, honey.” Mom shook her head, and the pressed curls  shaping her face flowed. Though she did lower her window.  “You get nervous. That’s okay. Happens to the best of us, but  this is exciting! You’re about to start your freshman year of  high school at a Historically Black Boarding School.”

“The best one,” Belle added.

“And there aren’t too many people who can say that. You’ll  be surrounded by young intellectuals that not only look like  you but have similar experiences, too!”

“Plus, you have nothing to worry about with your essay.  I read it, too, and it was . . . compelling. You got a gift, doll.” Avi felt the corner of her lips twitch. But that was easy for  Belle to say. She didn’t have an insecure bone in her body. “You even convinced Auntie Char to send Kai,” Paisli said. “I did not,” Avi said, glaring back at the little brat this time.  “Kai talked to Moe and EJ about Preston and convinced  Godmommy Char himself. Preston was his choice.” “And Briarcliff was yours,” her mom said pointedly. Avi was sick of being the topic of discussion, so she did  what she always did to evade unwanted attention—allow her  sister to talk about herself.

“Belle, what was your top school other than Spelman and  Southern U?”

Belle’s soft brown eyes lit. “Either NCAT or Hampton. I  haven’t really narrowed it to three, but Spelman’s my priority.” At the sound of her collegiate alma mater, their mom  reached over to give Belle’s full cheek a stroke. “And the  double major is in Dance and what?” she asked, picking up  Avi’s slack.

“Dance Performance and Choreography and Comparative  Women’s Studies with a minor in Communications or  .  .  .”  Belle launched into the different major and minor combinations she’d been contemplating, her sister’s first-day jitters  forgotten.

Avi stuffed her AirPods back in her ear, thankful old reliable still worked. She already knew of Belle’s plans to be in a  position similar to Ashley Everett, Beyoncé’s dance captain,  and eventually start a business specializing in entertainment  event planning.

She swiped her finger across the touchpad on her laptop  and the screen lit. This time, she didn’t hesitate to click the Cliff News link. For the past few months, her secret pastime  had been to stalk old articles, poems, and short stories posted  in the creative writing section of Briarcliff’s newspaper. Egypt  Mack, the second term president of the paper, stared back at  Avi from the screen. Her smile felt like a welcome, and Avi  was ready. It was fun to imagine her writing one day posted  on this very website. To have someone looking at her story  or poem and finding the inspiration to create. According to  Belle, they only picked the best writers, and there was one opening available for the freshman/sophomore creative writing column.

In no time, she found her favorite article, titled “The  Transition.” It was from last May’s edition of the Cliff News by  now-graduated senior, Rochelle Harris. The journey it took  Avi on in only 1,500 words was awe-inspiring. She closed  Briarcliff’s site and enlarged her own essay once again. Belle  and Pai liked it, but Avi wasn’t in love with her words yet. She  would stick this ending if it was the last thing she did.

Avi and her family filled two tables in the outside sitting  area of a rest stop about two hours out from Grandma Sugah’s. Kai, Avi’s lanky godbrother, sat beside her on the bench.  Their moms had been roommates back in college and ran  Truehart Publishing together today. It was fate handing Avi  her first friend when they were born a month apart. While it  was true Avi didn’t convince him to attend Preston, there was  no denying she’d planted the idea in his head.

He brushed the sides of his hair, careful to avoid disturbing  the short curls atop his head. Antonio, the youngest of the six  LeBeau siblings and Paisli’s twin, sat on the other side of him  emulating the action.

“You didn’t even reach out to Jasiri?” Avi asked about Kai’s  soon-to-be roommate.

“I know all I need to from his bio. He’s from Atlanta, makes  beats, and listed ‘music producer’ as his career aspiration.  What else is there to know?”

“You wanna be a court justice,” Avi said, smirking. “What  if you have nothing in common?”

“And you’d want to know if he’s a night or morning person.  Also, if he’s the showering type,” Mom said, unwrapping a  piece of chocolate from her purse.

“Or things like if he’ll think he can just use your stuff ’cause  it’s in the same room. Like your toothbrush, for example,”  Belle said, camera out, snapping off-guards of everyone.

Kai looked sick at the thought but shook his head. “As long  as dude doesn’t watch me in my sleep or mess with my food,  I’m good. We can figure out the details later.”

“Aye, you’re just lucky they didn’t try to put you in a triple  like they did us freshman year,” EJ said from across the bench. His twin Moe didn’t bother to take his eyes off the screen.  He was playing with the lighting on a frame he’d shot for his  and EJ’s newest short film. “Yeah,” he said stroking the peach  fuzz on his chin. “I was pissed when I found out they gave us  a triple last year.”

“Didn’t you guys get a triple in Newton again?” Antonio  asked.

“True. But Q’s tough. We asked to keep it the same.” The twins’ physical similarities were startling, from the  strong jaws they’d inherited from their dad to the tone of their  vibrant, dark skin. Getting their braces off earlier this summer  only added an unneeded boost to their egos. The only real  physical tell for those who didn’t know them was the short  fade Moe kept and EJ’s ever-growing high-top fade. “Newton’s the livest dorm on campus,” EJ said. “If you’re  cool with the RBs, you can pretty much do what you want.

Plus, the emergency exit door on the ground floor is faulty, so  it’s easy to . . .”

EJ’s voice faded as their mom’s head snapped away from  Belle’s camera with raised brows.

“. . . to come back to the dorm before curfew.” EJ’s phone  rang then, and a photo of his girlfriend, Noemie, crossed the  screen. He gladly answered, leaving the table.

“Avi, you’re lucky, too,” Paisli said from Belle’s lap. She was  way too big to be sitting there, but Belle wrapped her arms  around her baby sister’s waist. “You get to be in Hollingsworth  like Mommy and Belle were,” she pouted. “Zazie seems really  nice, too. And I love her TikTok.”

“Two more years and we’ll be there with them,” Antonio  said cheerfully.

“Wait. How did you find Zazie’s TikTok?” Avi asked. Zazie  was a Chicagoan with an affinity for photography and dreams  of being an astronaut. But Avi only received her new roomie’s  IG handle yesterday. How would Paisli know that she seemed nice?

“I found it after I found her Instagram. If I look hard enough,  I can find anything. Ooh,” she said, grabbing her phone from  the table, “somebody just delivered a package to the front  door.” She zoomed in further. “He has a blue mohawk and  tattoos on his scalp. Look, Tony!” she said facing the phone  toward her twin.

But their father, Ellis, snatched it out her hand, appearing  out of nowhere. He’d been across the lot, chatting it up with  some man he just met from Minnesota who saw the blue crabs  on their Maryland license plates.

“I already told you, Pai. The new security system is just that. A security system,” he said sternly. “If you use it to  people-watch, the app comes off your phone.” He pretended  to hand it back to her, only to snatch it away again with a  broad smile plastered on his bearded face. The left dimple  each of his kids inherited shone bright. He dropped the phone  in her lap, and placed his large hands on Avi’s shoulders, whispering, “Come talk to me,” in her ear.

Avi sighed, annoyed, but she saw this coming. When they  first parked, Dad had strode to their car to open Mom’s door.  As she stood on her toes to kiss him, Avi heard her name slip  from her mother’s lips.

“Do you wanna start?” he asked when they were feet away  from their chattering family.

Avi’s brow arched. “I would, but I’d hate to admit to some thing you have no idea about.”

“Fine.” He chuckled. “The first is good news. Your Uncle  Jovahn is coming to help us move you guys in tomorrow.” That was one of the positives about this move to Georgia.  Living this close to Sugah, maybe visiting Auntie Naima’s  bridal boutique, and seeing Uncle Jovahn, too. He was her  father’s youngest brother and in his last year at Morehouse.  Growing up, Jovahn spent holidays and most summers in  Maryland with them. Over time, he’d come to be much more  like a big brother than an uncle.

“Secondly,” Dad said in a serious tone.

Avi fought the urge to roll her eyes. “Here we go.” “Yeah, here we go,” he nodded. “I’ve been waiting for you  to say something to me, but tomorrow’s the day. Your mama,  Belle, and even Moe—who literally pretends not to care  about anything—have been tellin’ me you’re stressed about

Briarcliff? Not that I haven’t noticed you hiding in your room.”  He leaned on the bench in front of her, and the cologne on his  skin lingered. “Tell me what that’s about? I thought I was the  only one falling to pieces about you leaving me.”

Avi took a moment to think, wanting to answer honestly.  Her feelings were a jumbled, conflicting mess. The idea of  starting her first year of high school tomorrow filled her to the  brim with excitement. Avi knew it would be no Glee or High  School Musical experience, though she couldn’t deny the two  weeks she’d spent binging The Facts of Life, hoping to some

how prepare herself. No matter how unprepared she felt, the  urge to follow in her family’s footsteps was . . . compelling. Still, another part of her—the louder, aggressive part— wanted to road trip back to Maryland with her parents,  Antonio, and Paisli tomorrow and leave all the worrying  behind.

“I dunno.” Avi shrugged. “You and Mommy let me decide if  I wanted to go to Briarcliff or not. I’ve never made a big decision like this before. What if I picked wrong? There’s nothing  wrong with a regular high school in Maryland, and I didn’t  even consider them. What if I end up hating Zazie? She seems  nice enough now, but that could be fake. What if I don’t even  get past the first-round picks for the Cliff News? What if I get  homesick? What if—”

“Whoa, Avi.” He chuckled, though his eyes filled with concern. “Have you ever considered a positive ‘what if’? What if  you love it? What if you find your best friends? What if you  become an even better writer? That’s what I’ve been thinking.” He touched a finger to her chin. “Listen, Belle came back even smarter and more business savvy with her YouTube  page, that a professor helped her start.” Freshman year, Belle’s  music professor encouraged her to post her solo violin mashup  performance at the Winter Orchestra Showcase. What started  as a series of violin covers had branched into choreography  videos and vlogs that gained a decent following.

“And your brothers have matured profoundly in one year  at Preston. I’m still shocked,” he said with a hand to his chest.  “EJ studies under that vocal coach and earned his spot as the  scarecrow in their production of The Wiz last year. And Moe’s  always talking about how much that film club professor is  teaching them. Even encouraged him to send in his short film  to that festival last year. And he got third place.

“As much as I’d like for your mama and me to take all  the credit,” her dad continued, “I can’t. It takes a community,  and you’re entering a new one tomorrow. Look, I see your  storyboards. I see you practicing and honing your craft. The  regret and guilt you’ll feel for not trusting yourself, your talent, and your instincts will overpower any comfort you’d get  by us loading up the car and driving home right now. Tell me,”  he said, crossing his arms over his chest, “if we go to those  schools tomorrow and drop off Belle, EJ, Moe, and Kai, and  tell you it’s okay for you to come home with us, would you  hop in?”

She shook her head. “No.”

He smiled again. “You didn’t even hesitate, baby. This is  going to be good for you. You’re gonna find your place, and  everything will fall in line.” He leaned down to kiss her fore head. When he pulled back, Avi saw her cedar brown eyes mirrored in his. “You can go back,” he said nodding toward  their table, pulling his vibrating phone out of his pocket. When  she was feet away, he called to her with the phone to his ear,  “Avielle, your tuition is already paid. So, take what I said to  heart.”

 

About Brianna Peppins:

Brianna
Peppins is the author of young adult contemporary novels, including Briarcliff
Prep and As Long as We’re Together. She was raised in PG County, Maryland and
graduated from Spelman College with a B.A. in Psychology. When not writing,
Brianna takes special interest in spending time with her loved ones, social
justice issues and is a self-proclaimed movie aficionado.

Website | Twitter |
Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of BRIARCLIFF PREP, US Only.

Ends December 6th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/1/2022

Kait Plus Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/2/2022

Author Z. Knight

Excerpt/IG Post

11/3/2022

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

11/4/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

IG Review

11/5/2022

@jennareadstuff

IG Review/TikTok Post

Week Two:

11/6/2022

A Dream Within
A Dream

Review/IG Post

11/7/2022

Fire and Ice

Review/IG Post

11/8/2022

Two Chicks on
Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/9/2022

pluvioreads

Review/TikTok Post

11/10/2022

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

11/11/2022

Brandi
Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

11/12/2022

Jeff_of_allmedia

IG Review

Week Three:

11/13/2022

zaineylaney

IG Post/TikTok Post

11/14/2022

Two Points of
Interest

Review

11/15/2022

YA
Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

11/16/2022

Stacialovestoread

Review/IG Post

11/17/2022

@booksrn_rashi

IG Review

11/18/2022

brittreadsalattebooks

IG Review

11/19/2022

OneMoreExclamation

Review/IG Post

Week Four:

11/20/2022

@froggyreadteach

IG Review

11/21/2022

onemused

IG Spotlight

11/22/2022

The Real World
According To Sam

Review/IG Post

11/23/2022

@ReadsReaders

YouTube Review/IG Post

11/24/2022

The Book View

Review/IG Post

11/25/2022

Fall
Between the Pages

TikTok Review/IG Post

11/26/2022

Confessions
of a YA Reader

Review

Week Five:

11/27/2022

@thechattybookworm

TikTok Review/IG Post

11/28/2022

Momfluenster

IG Review

11/29/2022

@drew_ambitious_reading

IG Review/TikTok Post

11/30/2022

popthebutterfly

Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours:  THE GREAT CAPER CAPER (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #5) (Josh Funk & Brendan Kearney), Excerpt & Giveaway!~US ONLY

November 14th, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE GREAT CAPER CAPER by Josh Funk & Brendan Kearney Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: THE GREAT CAPER CAPER (Lady
Pancake & Sir French Toast #5)

Author: Josh Funk, Brendan Kearney (Illustrator)

Paperback Pub. Date: November 15, 2022

Publisher: Union Square & Co.

Formats: Hardcover

Pages: 40

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, B&N, TBDBookshop.org

 In the fifth adventure of the Lady
Pancake and Sir French Toast series, our delectable rhyming friends find their
home covered in darkness and embark on a Las Veggies heist—perfect
for fans of The Food Group series.

When Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast awake one morning to near-darkness, they
are aghast. Who would steal the fridge light? And what if the fridge is—gasp—dark
all the time? Not to worry. Our trusty heroes are on the case. Will they be
able to bring the fridge back to its bright self, or will they have to live in
semi-darkness…forever?

Praise for the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast Series:

“Readers will giggle their way through this refrigerated fantasyland.”—Publishers
Weekly

“A must purchase.”—School Library Journal, starred review

Don’t miss the other books in the series:
Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast
The Case of the Stinky Stench
Mission Defrostable
Short & Sweet

Excerpt:

 

 

 

 

About Josh Funk:

Josh Funk is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast
series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe
Case of the Stinky Stench
Mission DefrostableShort
& Sweet,
 and The Great Caper Caper. His other works
include, How to Code a Sandcastle, Lost in the LibraryAlbie
Newton
, and more. Josh lives in Massachusetts and invites you to learn more
about him by visiting joshfunkbooks.com.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

 

 

 

 

About Brendan Kearney:

Brendan
Kearney
 is the
co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady
Pancake and Sir French Toast
The Case of the Stinky StenchMission
Defrostable
Short & Sweet, and The Great
Caper Caper
. Brendan also is the author-illustrator of ForestThe
Night the Moon Went Missing,
 and Fish. He currently lives
in the UK with his family and invites you to learn more about him by visiting
brendandraws.com.

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads
| Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of THE GREAT CAPER CAPER, US Only.

Ends November 29th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/14/2022

yabookscentral.com

Excerpt

11/15/2022

@enjoyingbooksagain

IG Review

11/16/2022

Kim”s
Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

11/17/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

IG Review

11/18/2022

YA Book Nerd

Review/IG Post

Week Two:

11/21/2022

@froggyreadteach

IG Review/Read Aloud

11/22/2022

A
Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic

11/23/2022

Books With A Chance
Of

Review/IG Post

11/24/2022

@carlysunshinebooks

IG Review

11/25/2022

One More
Exclamation

Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours: SHADOW OF DEATH (Diane E. Samson), Guest Post & 2 Giveaways! ~US & INT.

November 11th, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the SHADOW OF DEATH by Diane E. Samson Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About the Book

Title: SHADOW OF DEATH (A Gems of Fire Companion Novel)

Author: Diane E. Samson

Pub. Date: October 27, 2022

Publisher: Diane E. Samson

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 292

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle

Read for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited
Membership!

A homeless prince, a grueling mission, an unlikely hope

When unspeakable tragedy strikes Prince Jack’s family, he’s
left with one desire: vengeance. Now living in exile and serving a foreign
king, Jack perfects his talent with the sword. He’s sent to the desert for spy
and assassin training, dreaming of the day he’ll use these skills to drive a
dagger into Ingvar’s heart.

Jack plunges into his training and finds a new family of
sorts, whose morally gray members rid the city of vile criminals. But as the
desert Lord Anwar readies for battle, allegiances shatter, blood runs in the
streets, and the shadow of death looms near. During a last effort to complete
his seemingly impossible mission, Jack chances upon a slave girl with a
Northern accent and eyes so familiar that he makes a hasty vow.

He always thought he’d defeat his nightmares by becoming one.
Could that nightmare fade into a new dream? And could that strange slave girl
be at the heart of it all?

 

Read the original series now for FREE
with a Kindle Unlimited Membership!

 

Guest Post:

Shadow of Death—Deleted scene

 

Jack patted his young chestnut horse on the neck as he snorted at the rushing river Alpin.

“Easy, now, Avery.” As his mother had predicted, the lords of Sunderland had been kind. Old Lord Wallace at Hemmington had even gifted Jack this mostly unbroken colt, a three-year-old chestnut named Avery, meaning wise ruler in the old language. His sire had been one of Sunderland’s fastest horses years ago and his dam was smart and spirited. The colt jumped to the side again and rolled his eyes. He was itching for a run. Jack checked him yet again. It would take this horse some time to live up to his name. He squinted into the setting sun. At least they were almost there.

Avigail trotted Griffin next to them. The warhorse didn’t give Avery a glance. Jack’s mother rode tall in the saddle and stared straight ahead, deep sorrow pouring off her like cold rain. Yet she held her chin high among the Hemmington guards who accompanied them to Sunderland’s capital, Karfin. He would do the same.

As dusk fell, long turrets rose up to meet the horizon. Guards led them through the outer gate and back toward Karfin, which sat up high against the white mountain. The Alpin river circled in front of the castle, wrapping around its front like a blue-green snake. Few villagers paid attention as they wove through the dusty path. A woman swept the porch of a shop while a blacksmith closed his door for the night. Cows mooed in the distance as the farmers threw out the evening hay. It was all so ordinary. Yet so foreign. Everything depended on this reception. They dismounted at the lowered drawbridge. Servants came for their horses while others lit torches outside two enormous doors at the top of a long set of stone steps.

Avigail strode with sure steps across the wooden bridge. Jack stayed a half-stride behind her, his hand on his hilt.

“I am Queen Avigail of Oclen, and we’re here to see the king,” Avigail announced as they paused before the two guards.

One guard glanced at Jack’s hand. “Very well, but you’ll have to disarm before you go before His Majesty.”

Jack’s grip tightened. No. Blood ran from his face.

The guard held out his hand for the sword. Avigail nodded. “It’s all right, Son. We’re safe.”

Jack’s heart pounded as he clenched the sword’s hilt. How quickly one of these guards could strike. In one swing they could impale his mother, just like his father. His brothers. He stumbled back, panting. Oh gods I’m going to faint. One of the Hemmington guards, Reimar, rested a strong hand across his back. “Let the prince keep his sword. He’s been to Hades and back. I’ll vouch for him.” His gaze met Avigail’s.

The Karfin guard’s eyes widened. He searched behind them, presumably for the rest of their party.

“They’re not coming,” Jack said through his teeth, the guard’s hand steady on his back, kindness in his touch. Jack forced air into his lungs, drew his sword and handed it to Reimar. “It’s just us. We mean no harm.” The world stopped spinning.

Jack didn’t know what kind of ice ran through his mother’s veins that she didn’t break down right there, but she looked as though she could walk through fire. And maybe she would, he realized with a jolt. For him, her only living son.

The guard lowered his head. “I meant no disrespect, but I must follow orders.”

“Of course. Prince John understands.” His mother’s voice rang out, like she was proud of him. Proud? He’d nearly passed out.

Chains clanked behind them as men raised the massive drawbridge for the night. Gears squealed and Jack felt like someone was tightening a cord around his chest. Now they couldn’t escape if they needed to.

The guards swung open the massive doors and led them in and to the right down a dim stone hall which followed along the side of the mountain in a semi-circle corridor to the throne room. At a signal, the guards there opened the massive doors.

A long aisle stretched down to a raised dais holding an empty chair. After a few minutes a man walked in, a dark cloak flowing behind him. “Queen Avigail, what an unexpected surprise.”

He trotted down the stairs and kissed her cheek. He offered his hand to Jack. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Lord Seamus, right-hand to the king.”

“And I’m Prince John.” His voice faltered. Was he even a prince?

Seamus’s quick gaze shot to Avigail, who gave him a frozen smile. “We need to speak to the king.”

“It’s urgent?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Seamus signaled to a servant to send word to the king. He glanced at Reimar, then to Jack’s empty sheath. “Is that the prince’s sword?” He winked at Jack. “Return it.”

He handed Jack his sword.

Jack twirled it once in his hand and slid it into his sheath on his hip. At once his shoulders relaxed.

Seamus smiled. “I thought so. You can’t separate a man from his sword.”

A side door creaked open and an older man ambled in. He raised his eyebrows at Avigail and shuffled over. “My dear, so nice to see you.” He kissed her cheek and glanced at Jack.

Avigail held out her hand, “my son.” Her lower lip quivered.

Jack bowed.

King Vilipp frowned. “Come and sit.” They walked toward a table with twelve chairs. “Are you hungry? I can send for food.”

“No, thank you.”

Jack’s stomach dropped when he pulled out a chair. This room reminded him of his father’s council room. The heavy wooden furnishings, the fireplaces large enough to walk in, the tapestries and the oil paintings of landscapes and ancestors riding great steeds. He bit the inside of his cheek and glanced up to find Seamus watching him.

“Avigail, what can I do for you? You were always kind to my Adelaide.”

“Yes, we were friends.” His mother inhaled and swallowed. Quick words fell from her lips as she explained the coup against her family. Seamus rose and retrieved a napkin when tears finally rolled down her cheeks as she described how quickly her other sons had been killed.

“It happened in a blink. If it hadn’t been for John, I would have been killed as well.”

“Father said to protect Mother and run. So I did.” But I wish I’d stayed and fought.

Seamus’s gaze fell steady on him as if he could read his mind. “You did well, son.”

The king reached forward and touched her hand. “I’m so sorry. The day Adelaide died, everything changed for me. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Anything you need, name it, and it’s yours.”

“I want their heads.” Jack blurted out.

“John.” She squeezed his hand. “Revenge never brought anyone back.”

Jack snapped his hand back.

“I choose to believe there is still good in this world.” His mother’s eyes filled with tears.

Vilipp glanced to his advisor.

Seamus leaned forward. “Are you asking us to march to Oclen, young prince? We had a treaty with your father in case of foreign invaders, but not this, I’m afraid.”

Jack leaned back in his seat. Yes? No? What would his father have him say? He forced his dry tongue to work. “I am now the rightful king of Oclen. If I had an army, I would avenge my family and take back the kingdom.”

“No. Enough men have died. And I won’t have my last son ride to war. He’s not of age to make that demand. We only ask for a place to live in exile.” Avigail’s chin dropped, her strength spent. “Please.” Her gaze rested with Vilipp.

Exile. Humiliation. Jack pressed his lips together. They’d live here forever, and Lord Ingvar would get away with it. It wasn’t right.

“And what of the treaty?” Jack asked, heat climbing up his neck. “Will you uphold it with that traitor Ingvar?”

King Vilipp glanced at Seamus who shook his head. “No. I’ll have word sent to Ingvar that our treaty is void.”

Avigail squeezed his hand. “Thank you.”

“It’s the least I can do. Live here freely, as one of us.” Vilipp rose. “Seamus, see that rooms are prepared. It’s past time I retire for the evening.”

Avigail and Jack stood and bowed.

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Avigail whispered.

Jack’s heart sank. With those words, his mother had allied with another land. They were never going back. He touched the hilt of his sword.

Seamus walked them out and instructed servants to prepare rooms, clothes and baths. He kissed Avigail’s hand. “Welcome to Sunderland, truly.” He bowed his head to Jack. “And John, spar with me tomorrow.” His dark eyes dropped to Jack’s hip. “That’s a nice sword. I’ll look forward to seeing what you can do with it.”

Jack raised his chin. “You can call me Jack.” Not prince. Not king. Just Jack.

“I’ll see you in the morning, then Jack.”

 

 

About Diane:

Diane E. Samson grew up on acreage
just north of Kansas City, Missouri, with horses and dogs in the backyard. She
later pursued her love of words and earned a degree in magazine journalism from
the University of Missouri-Columbia. After graduation she worked as a reporter,
managing editor, freelance writer and in public relations. After moving around
the country, she’s recently returned to the Kansas City area where she lives
with her husband, children and golden retriever.
 

She’s written fiction off and on
her whole life. Gems of Fire is her first series about a girl traveling a
journey of self-discovery in a world of powerful gems, supernatural forces,
epic battles and of course, handsome heroes.

Sign up for Diane’s Newsletter!

Website
Facebook  | Twitter  | Instagram | TikTokGoodreads | Amazon
|
BookBub

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive signed paperbacks of Gems of Fire & Shadow of Death, US Only.

1 winner will receive the eBooks of the Gems of Fire series, International.

Ends November 22nd, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/7/2022

Jazzy Book
Reviews

Excerpt/IG Post

11/7/2022

Mythical
Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/8/2022

Books
and Kats

Excerpt

11/8/2022

Two Chicks on
Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/9/2022

A Dream Within
A Dream

Excerpt

11/9/2022

Book Sniffers
Anonymous

Excerpt/IG Post

11/10/2022

The Page
Ladies @jacleomik33

IG Review

11/10/2022

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

11/11/2022

Rajiv’s Reviews

Review/IG Post

11/11/2022

YA
Books Central

Guest Post

Week Two:

11/14/2022

Celia’s
Reads

Excerpt/IG Post

11/14/2022

@just_another_mother_with_books

IG Review

11/15/2022

@thechattybookworm

TikTok Review/IG Post

11/15/2022

Books
a Plenty Book Reviews

Review

11/16/2022

Fall
Between the Pages

IG Review/TikTok Post

11/16/2022

Brandi
Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

11/17/2022

Fire and Ice

Review

11/17/2022

The Momma Spot

Review

11/18/2022

A
Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review-LFL Drop Pic

11/18/2022

Emily Ashlyn

Review/IG Post

 

Rockstar Tours: CHUPACARTER (George Lopez & Ryan Calejo), Plus Excerpt & Giveaway! ~US ONLY

November 9th, 2022 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the CHUPACARTER by George Lopez & Ryan Calejo Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out
my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About the Book:

Title: CHUPACARTER

Author: George Lopez, Ryan Calejo, & Santy Gutiérrez (Illustrations)

Pub. Date: August 30, 2022

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 267

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindle, Audible,
B&NiBooksKoboTBD, Bookshop.org

With his signature laugh-out-loud humor, world-famous
comedian George Lopez launches a fantastical middle grade series inspired by
his own colorful childhood and Latinx folklore.

In this illustrated contemporary fantasy, twelve-year-old Jorge is lonely and
resentful after being sent to live with his grandparents. His first day at his
new school doesn’t go well after catching the attention of his belligerent
principal and the school bullies, so Jorge might be a little desperate for a friend.

But the only kid who shares his interest in junk food and games turns out to be
a young chupacabra—a legendary monster whose kind is known for being
bloodthirsty livestock killers. The truth is, Carter is anything but
savage—he’s kind, a good listener, and has great taste in sneakers. Being
friends with a mythical creature should be amazing, but when local cattle turn
up dead and his principal suspects the truth, Jorge is torn. Should he trust
that his friend is innocent and protect him from exposure, or reveal his
dangerous existence and change the world forever?

Reviews:

“ChupaCarter is an uproariously good time, full of humor,
heart, and unexpected friendships.”
—Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of Valentina Salazar Is Not a
Monster Hunter

“A narrative punctuated with wisecracks and flavored with Spanish
phrases and slang…Frights and fun in equal measure.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Gutierrez’s lively b&w illustrations expertly render Jorge and
Carter’s occasionally over-the-top, adrenaline-filled adventures.
Actor/comedian Lopez and Calejo offer a rollicking tale brimming with Latinx
folklore and culture about finding one’s home in the unlikeliest of places that
never takes itself too seriously.”—Publishers Weekly

“Some good and gross humor…in this fantasy-infused tale.”—School
Library Journal

 

Book Trailer:

INSERT YOUR EXCERPT OR REVIEW HERE!

 

About George Lopez:

George Lopez is a New York Times bestselling
author, stand-up comedian, actor, and talk show host. He made waves as the
star of the most successful English-language prime-time television series about
Latin Americans in recent history. His successful stand-up comedy showcases his
idiosyncratic point of view and impeccable comedic timing. He lives in Los
Angeles.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads |
Amazon

 

 

 

 

About Ryan Calejo:

Ryan Calejo is an award-winning author
born and raised in south Florida. His critically acclaimed Charlie Hernández
series has been featured on half a dozen state reading lists and is a two-time
gold medal winner of the Florida Book Awards.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RyanCalejo.

Simon & Schuster Webpage | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

Giveaway Details: 

2 winners will win a finished copy of CHUPACARTER, US ONLY.

Ends December 6th, midnight EST.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/1/2022

Mythical
Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/2/2022

A Dream Within
A Dream

Excerpt/IG Post

11/3/2022

Author Z. Knight

Excerpt/IG Post

11/4/2022

Kait Plus Books

Excerpt/IG Post

11/5/2022

Two Chicks on
Books

Excerpt/IG Post

Week Two:

11/6/2022

Jazzy Book
Reviews

Excerpt/IG Post

11/7/2022

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

11/8/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

IG Review/TikTok Post

11/9/2022

YA
Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

11/10/2022

onemused

IG Post

11/11/2022

Lifestyle of
Me

Review

11/12/2022

Log Cabin
Library

Review

Week Three:

11/13/2022

Jeff_of_allmedia

IG Review

11/14/2022

Locks, Hooks
and Books

Review

11/15/2022

@just_another_mother_with_books

IG Review

11/16/2022

The Page
Ladies @jacleomik33

IG Review

11/17/2022

A
Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review

11/18/2022

Nerdophiles

Review

11/19/2022

Brandi
Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

Week Four:

11/20/2022

Eye-Rolling
Demigod’s Book Blog

Review/IG Post

11/21/2022

Books With A Chance
of Traveling

Review/IG Post

11/22/2022

Satisfaction
for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post

11/23/2022

@froggyreadteach

IG Review/Read Aloud

11/24/2022

OneMoreExclamation

Review/IG Post

11/25/2022

@ReadsReaders

YouTube Review/IG Post

11/26/2022

Emily Ashlyn

Review/IG Post

Week Five:

11/27/2022

@thebookishfoxwitch

IG Review

11/28/2022

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

11/29/2022

Two Points of
Interest

Review

11/30/2022

The Real World
According To Sam

Review/IG Post

 

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