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Author Chat with Maureen Johnson (NINE LIARS), Plus Excerpt & Giveaway – US Only

December 2nd, 2022 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with author Maureen Johnson (NINE LIARS)!

Read on to learn more about her, her book, and a giveaway!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Maureen Johnson

Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen young adult novels, including the Truly Devious series, the Shades of London series, Suite Scarlett, and 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Her collaborative books include Ghosts of the Shadow Market (with Cassandra Clare), as well as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), which was also a hit feature film on Netflix.

Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide and have been published in more than thirty countries.

The bestselling author is also active in social justice issues and politics both online and IRL. She initiated and organized an open letter in support of trans and nonbinary communities that was signed by more than 2000 North American writers, including Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Roxane Gay, and Neil Gaiman, as well as publishers and other members of the literary world. She co-hosts the podcast, Says Who? with Punk Planet creator Dan Sinker and edited the collection How I Resist, the entire advance of which was donated to the ACLU.

She has written for publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Guardian and CrimeReads. Her CrimeReads essay, “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village” has garnered upwards of 450,000 views since its publication.

Maureen Johnson grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from the University of Delaware and has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University.  She lives in New York City with her husband and dog.

Website * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook

 

 

 

About the Book: Nine Liars

Stevie Bell solved the case of Truly Devious, and now she’s taking her detecting skills abroad when she becomes embroiled in a mystery from 1990s England. Another pulse-pounding and laugh-out-loud stand-alone mystery from New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.

Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.

Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.

The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.

Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.

 

 

 

~Excerpt~

Dear Miss Bell,

I have been reading about your recent success in solving cold cases, like the ones at Ellingham Academy and at Camp Sunny Pines. There is something going on in my town and I need your help getting to the bottom of it. My neighbor has been killing people in an industrial dryer and putting their remains in our community garden. I have tried to dig up the garden myself but I am not permitted inside due to a legal matter, and it is very hard to do with a small shovel. Can you come here and help me to…

Stevie Bell stopped reading.

It was a quiet October night in Minerva House. At the farmhouse table in its cozy common room, she sat with her friends. Janelle Franklin and Vi Harper-Tomo were side by side working on their laptops.

“You finished your Stanford essay, right?” Janelle asked Vi.

“Almost,” Vi replied.

“Are you using that same one for Tufts?

Vi looked up. They had gotten a new pair of white glasses over the summer and had cropped their hair and bleached it to almost the same shade, with a fade of blue down the back of their head. They were wearing a massive blue-and-silver fuzzy sweater that sort of matched their hair. Janelle had embraced the fall palate in an orange sweater and a vibrant kente cloth head wrap in gold, red, and green.

“No,” Vi said. “I’m writing one in Japanese for Tufts, and I’m not done with that one either.”

“Let me know when you’re finished so I can input it into the spreadsheet.”

Janelle and Vi had become a couple from the moment they’d met at the start of last year. They had decided that they didn’t want to go to the same school, probably, but they wanted to go to schools that were close to each other. In true crime talk, they had done a geographical profile of the unsub—worked out exactly what they wanted from their schools, and targeted the regions, then the programs. Every night, Janelle updated the spreadsheet that tracked where they were in their mutual application process.

Next to this, Nate Fisher was also typing away furiously, his face a scowl of concentration. Nate was one of Stevie’s closest friends—lanky, the kind of pale the Victorians would have classified as consumptive, with his never cool T-shirts and his wrong-sized pants hiding an athletic build. A fringe of overgrown brown hair half-shaded his eyes as he bent over his computer. He was usually her companion in avoiding things, but tonight he was letting her down. His fingers hadn’t stopped moving all night.

Stevie was supposed to be working. She had six articles to read tonight for Modern American Political History.  When your class only had five people in it, you couldn’t get away with not doing the reading. You can only vamp so long about the media in general until your teacher raises a practiced eyebrow and puts the imaginary cone of shame on your head.

She looked at the article on her screen: “Defining Bias: How We Interpret What We Read.”

The sound of Nate’s typing echoed in her ears. He had headphones on and his fingers were flying. She had never seen him work this hard. Nate was a writer—he had gotten into Ellingham on the strength of a novel he wrote and published in his early teens. Since that time, he had been running from deadlines and the concept of writing in general like it was an angry bear on an electric bike. Where had he found all this focus?

Maybe from the fact that it was October. Senior year. How had she gotten here?

Well, time does that. The clock ticks steadily on.

Time was ticking right now. She had to read. This was the shortest of the six articles. She knew that because for the last hour, she had scrolled through all six, looking at how long they were and figuring out what to read first. Then she would go to the little kitchen off to the side of the common room and get some more water, or a hot chocolate, or she went to pee, or she walked to her room to get a hoodie, or she walked to her room to get her slippers, or she just stared at the moose head with the holiday lights on it that was mounted above the fireplace.

The rest of her time she looked at her phone, which was how she’d found this new message about the shovel and the industrial dryer.

Time to work. Okay. She would do it this time. She would read. Her sightless gaze dribbled down the first paragraph….

She tapped Nate under the table with her foot.

“What?” Nate said, pulling off his headphones.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” Stevie said. “Go over to the dining hall and get some cake?”

Nate glanced at his screen, looked back at his friend, and sighed.

“Fine,” he said. “But only because I love cake.”

Stevie sagged with relief when he agreed. She had been dangerously close to almost reading three entire sentences.

© 2022 Maureen Johnson

 

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC:  What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

As a kid, I was a lover of detective mysteries. When I say lover, I mean an obsessive fan. I set out to make a detective—one that could then appear in various mysteries, working on different cases. I have dreamed of fictional detectives all my life! That’s how Stevie Bell was born. In Nine Liars, I’m taking her to England, to solve a murder in an English manor house.

The manor house murder is a classic puzzle from the golden age of mystery for a reason—you have a set cast of suspects and a contained staging area for the puzzle to play out. Country houses are small enough in the grand scope of things to give the problem limits, but big enough and weird enough to have lots of hidey-holes and passages and things like that. There’s also an air of unreality to them. It feels like a backdrop, not a place people would really live. That’s part of the appeal of this kind of mystery novel; it’s not meant to feel like a real crime, like people are being hurt. It’s Clue. It’s a revolving cast of professors and butlers and strange relatives who want to know about the will. In Nine Liars, I wanted to play with that a little—it’s a group of actors, it’s a game, it’s a murder in the woodshed. But then the story continues to the present. The clues are still scattered around. The events in the woodshed had a real impact. And to solve it, Stevie must go back to the stage where this all went down.

 

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

I love them all. And there are two casts of friends in this book—the present day cast with Stevie, and the group of friends from Cambridge in 1995. This is a full-on murder mystery, but so much of this book is about friendship, about being in a group.

 

YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?

The novel, but the title is organic. The story is about a theater group of nine people who called themselves The Nine. It also signifies the closed cast, the suspects. And they’re all faking, putting on a front in some way—they’re acting, they’re covering up secrets. They’re all lying. But why? And what about? That’s for you to find out!

 

YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

I worked very hard to get everything that happened at Merryweather right. I plotted out the house and the grounds—I spent a week or so sketching out the floorplan of the house, right down to the location of every door—and laid out the grounds carefully. This meant I did a lot of research into manors and gardens. So much work on gardens. So all of those scenes in 1995—I did a lot of fine embroidery to build the place, present a group of people, and build a puzzle.

 

 YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?

I think the design is amazing. I’ve loved all of the Stevie Bell covers, but this one is particularly gorgeous. It has a lot of details. The more you look at it, the more you can see the twisted banister in the falling leaves.

YABC:   Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?

Without spoiling anything—there is a character who comes out in this book. It’s been a long time coming, with the seeds planted in all the other Stevie books. I spent a lot of time thinking about when and how they wanted to do that.

 

YABC:    Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

David is always a bit hard to handle.

 

YABC:   What do you do when you procrastinate?

Cook. Or clean. If I suddenly make four types of soup and a cake and I’ve decided to bleach a ceiling, it means I need to write.

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

Right now, I am working on a separate mystery called Death at Morning House. But I am also working on Stevie Bell mysteries six and seven!

 

Title: NINE LIARS

Author: MAUREEN JOHNSON

Release Date: December 27, 2022

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Genre: Young Adult

Age Range: 14-17; grades 9-12

 

 

 

~ Giveaway Details ~

One (1) winner will receive a copy of Nine Liars (Maureen Johnson) ~US ONLY

 

*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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: 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.

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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

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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

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12/5/2022

@readerofthewrittenword

IG Spotlight

12/6/2022

onemused

IG Review

12/7/2022

Celia’s
Reads

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12/8/2022

Book Briefs

Review/IG Post

12/9/2022

@thebookishfoxwitch

IG Review

12/10/2022

A
Blue Box Full of Books

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Week Four:

12/11/2022

Momfluenster

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12/12/2022

A Court of
Coffee and Books

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12/13/2022

Satisfaction
for Insatiable Readers

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12/14/2022

@drew_ambitious_reading

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12/15/2022

The Book Review
Crew

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12/16/2022

popthebutterfly

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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: 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: 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

 

Spotlight on Beneath the Wide Silk Sky (Emily Inouye Huey), Excerpt & Giveaway ~ US/CAN Only

October 20th, 2022 by

Today we’re spotlighting Beneath the Wide Silk Sky (Emily Inouye Huey)

Read on for more about Emily, her book, and a giveaway!

 

 

 

Meet Emily Inouye Huey:

Emily Inouye Huey is the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Her family was evacuated from their homes and farms in California and Washington. Her grandparents met and married in Wyoming’s Heart Mountain Relocation Center, and her father was born in the camp hospital. When the war ended, the family was sent to Utah, where they started over and where Emily still lives, now with her husband and four children.

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. You can visit her at emilyhuey.com or on Instagram at @emily_inouye_huey.

Website * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook

 

 

 

About Beneath the Wide Silk Sky:

Stunning, devastating, poignant: debut author Emily Inouye Huey paints an intimate portrait of the racism faced by America’s Japanese population during WWII. Perfect for fans of Ruta Sepetys and Sharon Cameron.

Sam Sakamoto doesn’t have space in her life for dreams. With the recent death of her mother, Sam’s focus is the farm, which her family will lose if they can’t make one last payment. There’s no time for her secret and unrealistic hope of becoming a photographer, no matter how skilled she’s become. But Sam doesn’t know that an even bigger threat looms on the horizon.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese airplanes attack the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. Fury towards Japanese Americans ignites across the country. In Sam’s community in Washington State, the attack gives those who already harbor prejudice an excuse to hate.

As Sam’s family wrestles with intensifying discrimination and even violence, Sam forges a new and unexpected friendship with her neighbor Hiro Tanaka. When he offers Sam a way to resume her photography, she realizes she can document the bigotry around her — if she’s willing to take the risk. When the United States announces that those of Japanese descent will be forced into “relocation camps,” Sam knows she must act or lose her voice forever. She engages in one last battle to leave with her identity — and her family — intact.

Emily Inouye Huey movingly draws inspiration from her own family history to paint an intimate portrait of the lead-up to Japanese incarceration, racism on the World War II homefront, and the relationship between patriotism and protest in this stunningly lyrical debut.

Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

 

 

 

~Excerpt~

 

Even filtered through the trees, white morning light glared on the truck’s windshield. I edged closer to Charlie, until I could feel his warmth on my side. Though the half-cab truck was so cold that his breath made puffs of mist, he whistled as he drove Kiki and me to school, as if last night’s fight had never happened. On my other side, Kiki used the passenger-side window as a mirror, smearing crimson lipstick on her mouth. I sighed, sending a filmy haze into the air in front of me.

The truck lurched, making a horrible screeching sound, and I had to brace my hands on the dash. Kiki’s lipstick jerked, painting a red streak across her front teeth.

“Jeez!” Kiki glared at Charlie.

Charlie regripped the steering wheel and grimaced. “Sorry. Pothole. This dang road . . .” When it rained or snowed, the roads in Japantown could turn into pure mud.

“Here, we’re almost to the pavement,” Charlie said as we neared the Mercantile. Hiro’s father, Mr. Tanaka, owned the shop, with its bright red door and windows cluttered with pasted signs. It stood on the edge of Japantown, the only shop in our neighborhood.

Charlie made the turn from the unnamed dirt road onto Farmers’ Freeway, a paved street that would take us toward the center of the island, where the school was located and where all the white families lived. As the truck settled back into its rhythmic creaking, Charlie grinned. “I guess it’s kind of like a roller coaster. Maybe we should charge for tickets.”

“You’re in a good mood,” I said, settling back into my seat. Next to me, Kiki cleaned her teeth with a handkerchief.

Charlie shrugged and looked back at the road. “Sure. Why not?” “I thought you’d be . . . crabbier, I guess. After last night, I mean.” “Hmph.” On my other side, Kiki leaned forward and cocked her head at Charlie. “Yes, he does seem happier, doesn’t he?”

Charlie glanced at her and cleared his throat, shaking his head so slightly that I might have missed it. Then he shrugged. “Just feels like today’s going to be a good day.”

Kiki smirked. “Right. I’m sure that’s what it is.”

“What? What’s going on?” I asked.

Kiki’s lips parted, and for a second, she seemed close to telling me. Then she shrugged and leaned back. Facing the window again, she examined her curls, making sure every pin was in its proper place.

I sighed and turned. “Charlie?”

“It’s nothing,” Charlie said.

“But, Charlie—”

“Drop it, Sam.” There was an edge in Charlie’s voice, and I sat back, stung. Charlie had a secret? I was the one he shared things with, just like he was the one I confided in. Why did Kiki know? And why wouldn’t he tell me?

I shifted, so Charlie and I were no longer touching. Thick silence fell in the cab. When I dared to look over, Charlie’s eyes were filled with something I couldn’t decipher. Was it fear? I couldn’t understand how this new look fit with the cheerfulness Kiki had teased him for.

Excerpted from Beneath the Wide Silk Sky by Emily Inouye Huey, Copyright © 2022 by Emily Inouye Huey

Published by Schoalstic Inc.

 

 

 

 

Title: Beneath the Wide Silk Sky      

Author: Emily Inouye Huey

Release Date: October 18, 2022

Publisher: Scholastic Press

ISBN-10: 1338789945

ISBN-13: 9781338789942

Genre: Historical Fiction

Age Range: YA / 12 and up

 

 

 

*GIVEAWAY DETAILS*

Three (3) winners will win a copy of Beneath the Wide Silk Sky (Emily Inouye Huey) ~US/CAN ONLY!

*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Spotlight on Liberty Biscuit (Melanie Sue Bowles), Excerpt & Giveaway ~ US/CAN Only

October 18th, 2022 by

Today we’re spotlighting Liberty Biscuit (Melanie Sue Bowles)

Read on for more about Melanie, her book, and a giveaway!

 

 

 

Meet Melanie Sue Bowles:

When Melanie Sue Bowles stumbled across the quote, “The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose,” she loved it so much that it became the steadfast philosophy by which she has lived her entire adult life. Unwanted, elderly, and abused horses became her purpose, and she and her husband Jim began Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary with one horse in need on five acres of land in rural Florida. Their facility grew to hundreds of acres in first Arkansas, and then North Carolina, where rescued animals were allowed to roam as natural herds. Over the years, Melanie and Jim have intervened on behalf of over 300 downtrodden horses, many of them coming to the sanctuary to live out their lives in peace and dignity. Their story has been featured on PBS and in three books Bowles has written about the Sanctuary’s animal residents. Bowles comes from a large family, many of whom own horses and love all animals as much as she does, including nieces, nephews, and grandchildren who helped inspire the characters in Liberty Biscuit.

Website * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook

 

 

 

About Liberty Biscuit:

Does a family mystery stand in the way of saving Kip’s best friend?

Katherine Pearl Baker—“Kip” for short—is the only child on her family’s rural peach farm. She longs for a pet to ease the loneliness. Unfortunately, her father has an angry opposition to all animals—horses in particular. Why he dislikes them is a confounding mystery.

Hiding in the woods on the Fourth of July, Kip encounters a bedraggled donkey with one eye and a floppy ear. Immediately smitten and compelled to protect him, she feeds him biscuits and takes him home. When it is discovered the donkey fled an abusive owner, Kip’s father finally relents, reluctantly allowing him to stay.

Kip is elated when her grandfather agrees to help her foster the donkey, who she names “Liberty Biscuit,” along with two emaciated horses removed by the local sheriff from the same home, as the cruelty case goes to court. While caring for the animals, Kip’s happiness is overshadowed by a shocking discovery in a trunk in the family farm’s hayloft—a faded photograph of her father as a boy that reveals secrets long kept.

A court order to return the horses, and even worse, Kip’s beloved Liberty Biscuit, to the owner who had starved and beaten them, throws Kip’s world into turmoil. She knows she must find a way to keep them, or she will have betrayed the best friend she has ever had. But saving the animals means risking the complete unraveling of her family as she exposes the long-buried truth about a tragic accident and a hurt like she’s never known before.

Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

 

 

 

~Excerpt~

 

Chapter Two

That apparition turned out to be this raggedy little donkey who insisted on keeping some part of his body touching mine. It was as though he thought I might disappear if we were separated and he wasn’t going to risk it.

As odd as it may sound, I’d already developed quite an affection for him. Our time together amounted to under two hours, but I felt we were tethered to each other by more than the braided wisteria vine. He seemed to need me, and I’ll admit, I liked the way being needed felt.

The donkey and I stood at the edge of the woods staring at the house while a flutter of butterflies knocked around in my stomach. I’d spent the long walk home trying to think of a way to sell Daddy on the idea of finally letting me have a pet.

I suppose someone smarter than me would’ve taken another stab at this old argument with, say, a hamster or a lizard. Not me. I had the audacity to launch my attack with a three-hundred-pound donkey who looked like he’d been through the ringer. Go big or go home.

 There wasn’t any movement from behind the wide row of windows in our kitchen. I wondered if Mama was in her office. Grandpa Joe must’ve finished working in the garden and gone inside. I shifted my eyes up the gravel drive toward the equipment barn. The bay doors were closed. That meant Daddy had finished working and was probably in the house getting cleaned up for company and our cookout.

 I draped my arm over the donkey’s back. “I don’t know how it happened, in so short a time, but I sure do love you.” I spoke the words quietly. “And I sure do wanna keep you.” The donkey shuffled forward and pressed his cheek against my hip. “Now listen to me . . . we’re gonna face some fierce opposition.” I leaned down to look into his good eye. “You hear me? But if you behave yourself and act like a gentleman, we just might have a shot at this. In other words, just stand there, quiet-like.”

Truth be told, I doubted we actually did “have a shot,” but the moment called for a positive outlook. The donkey looked back at me and blinked his one eye several times. “Daddy’s not a bad sort,” I continued. “In fact, in all ways I’d say he’s the best daddy in the world. He’s A+ across the board. Except when it comes to keeping pets. And anything to do with horses. Then he gets a D-.”

The donkey gave me a nudge.

“I know. You’re not a horse. But you’re in the equine family and Daddy will regard you as a nuisance, just the same.”

Looking back at the house, I took a very deep breath and held it as long as I could. As I let it out, I whispered, “It’s now or never . . .”

###

“What in the world!” Mama’s face suddenly appeared in the kitchen window.

I smiled and wiggle-waggled my fingers in a casual wave as though a donkey attached to my hip were an everyday occurrence.

“Oh, Kip,” she said through the open window. Except the words came out more like a groan. Her brow was furrowed. “Where did you find a donkey?”

Before I could answer, Mama turned and walked briskly toward the back door. “The poor thing looks like he’s starving,” she said when she joined us in the backyard.

“He is starving, Mama.” My tone of voice was urgent. “I found him in the woods.” I looked at her with pleading eyes and added, “He needs me.”

Mama reached out to run a hand down the donkey’s neck. He turned to smell her arm. Then he licked her. Mama and I both couldn’t help but chuckle. He must have realized she was the source of those peach biscuits.

“Isn’t he the sweetest thing, Mama? I just love him. Couldn’t we keep him?”

“Oh, Kip. If it was just up to me . . . but I don’t know what Daddy will say.”

Mama hadn’t seemed to agree with Daddy’s no-pet policy over the years, but it was also a topic she backed away from. She never tried to change his mind. I always wondered why.

“Daddy says he’ll be calling the sheriff to come get some stray livestock off his property.”

Mama and I quickly turned to see Daddy standing on the porch. His hands were stuck on his hips and his eyes were fixed in an unpleasant stare. I found it curious that he was speaking in the third person. I considered doing the same. Kip found this donkey in the woods and she’d like to keep him. She thinks he’s precious. But then quickly decided it wouldn’t be the wisest way to win Daddy’s heart.

“Daddy,” I began. Mama put her hand on my arm, quieting me.

“Charles, just wait a minute,” she said.

“Wait for what, Elise?” Daddy dropped his hands to his sides and came down the steps.

“Daddy, please,” I said. Mama gripped my arm and gave me a gentle shake, once again silently asking me to be quiet.

Wait, Charles, to make a decision until we’ve discussed this like a family,” Mama said crossing her own arms over her chest in a show of conviction. I was surprised, but proud she was standing up for me.

“Discussed this!” Daddy said as his eyebrows shot nearly up into his hairline. “There’s nothing to discuss. This animal either belongs to someone or he’s been abandoned. Either way, he’s not staying here.”

I had hoped my positive outlook would create a favorable outcome. I knew Daddy wouldn’t be pleased, but I thought there might be a blink of consideration. A blip. I would have taken a blip.

“Well, if he belongs to someone,” Mama said, “they haven’t taken very good care of him.”

“He may have been missing for weeks,” Daddy coldly reasoned. “Or longer, by the looks of him.”

“I agree we should call the sheriff to see if someone has reported him missing. But if he is homeless, or he comes from a home where he was neglected, I think we should talk about allowing Katherine to keep him.” Now Mama stuck her hands on her hips.

“I would like to keep him, Daddy,” I said.

Daddy was already shaking his head. “You know how I feel about pets.”

“Look how good he is,” I said, trying not to sound like I was whining. “He won’t be any trouble, Daddy.”

“The expense,” Daddy said.

“He can graze the orchards,” said Mama. “We have hundreds of acres of free food.”

“He needs to be seen by a vet. He looks half-dead and wormy. And he needs his hooves trimmed. All of that costs money.”

“I’ll bet Grandpa Joe will know what to do,” I said. “We don’t need a vet. Grandpa Joe knows everything about horses. And he can teach me to trim his hooves.”

“Donkeys are nothing but trouble. Mischief. And what about the mess? The manure?”

“I’ll watch over him, and I’ll clean up after him. I promise.”

Suddenly, as though he’d just been standing around waiting for the perfect opportunity, the donkey lifted his tail and made an awful grunting sound. Then manure plopped to the ground near Daddy’s feet. I bit my lip and turned my face away to hide my smile. Mama put her hand over her mouth while her shoulders shook with muffled laughter.

Then Mama exclaimed, “Fertilizer! For the garden.” There was a touch of awe in her voice as though the donkey had performed a magic trick. And then she reached for Daddy’s hand. “He really is very sweet, Charles.”

Just then, the donkey swung around, pointed his backside directly at Daddy and lifted one hoof in an agitated way.

“Sweet?” Daddy said, backing away.

I tugged on the makeshift lead rope to move the donkey forward so he had to put his foot down. “You’re not making this any easier,” I growled in his good ear.

“He can sense you don’t like him,” Mama told Daddy.

“And he’d be right,” Daddy said. “If he doesn’t have a home, Sheriff Ronnie can take him to auction.”

I gasped. “Daddy, no! The auction is a horrible place. All the animals are so scared.” I wrapped my arms around the donkey’s head. He shut his eyes and leaned against me. “He’d just end up going to slaughter. Please, Daddy.”

One day last summer, Grandpa Joe and I had stopped at the livestock auction. He wanted to look at the horses. But we both became upset over the way the animals were treated and how the horses were all so nervous and skinny. We overheard a man say that most of them would “go to slaughter.” I remember feeling sick. Grandpa Joe said it hadn’t been like that when he was a young man and involved in the horse world. He blamed overbreeding and irresponsible people who didn’t make a commitment to their animals. He grumbled about it the entire ride back home. We both said we’d never go back.

“Listen to me, Kip—” Daddy began.

Suddenly, the donkey lifted his head in a most dramatic way, drew himself up to his full height, such as it was. He stomped a front hoof, just once, while taking a deep breath. Then he let out a mighty and agonized bray. It was even louder than when he’d come crashing out of the woods earlier.

“EEE, EEE, EEEEE-HAAAW!” And then he did it again. And again. And again.

And then, at the very moment the donkey finished trumpeting his final syllable, Mama, Daddy, and I were all shocked to hear another sound. A sound we hadn’t heard in a long time. And it was coming from the porch.

Grandpa Joe was laughing.

 

Title:   Liberty Biscuit

Author:  Melanie Sue Bowles

Release Date: October 18, 2022

Publisher: Trafalgar Square Books

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Age Range: 9-13

 

 

 

*GIVEAWAY DETAILS*

Three (3) winners will win a copy of Liberty Biscuit (Melanie Sue Bowles) ~US/CAN ONLY!

*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*

 

 

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Spotlight on Grave Things Like Love (Sara Bennett Wealer), Excerpt

October 13th, 2022 by

Today we’re spotlighting Grave Things Like Love (Sara Bennett Wealer)

Read on for more about Sara, her book, and and a first look!

 

 

 

Meet Sara Bennett Wealer

 I grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (the “Little Apple”), where I sang in all the choirs and wrote for my high school newspaper. I majored in voice performance at the University of Kansas before deciding I had no business making a career as an opera singer. I transferred to journalism school, where no one cares if you can hit a high C or convincingly play a Valkyrie, and became a reporter covering everything from house fires to Hollywood premieres.

These days, I write event scripts and marketing copy while the sun is out. By night, I write YA. My most recent book, NOW & WHEN is also available from Delacorte Press. I live in Cincinnati with my husband, two daughters, two dogs and four cats, and I still sing sometimes when my schedule allows. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me at the ballet, or obsessively watching ballet on Instagram and TikTok.

Website * Instagram * Twitter 

 

 

 

About Grave Things Like Love:

Elaine’s home is a bit . . . different. It’s a funeral home that has been in her family since the 1800s—and the reason people call her Funeral Girl. Everyone assumes Elaine will take it over someday—everybody except Elaine. When Xander, a newcomer with a passion for ghost hunting, arrives in town, Elaine feels an instant spark. He’s daring and spontaneous. With Xander, she feels herself transforming from Funeral Girl to Fun Girl. But not everyone is thrilled to see her changing, least of all her childhood best friend, Miles. After Xander convinces Elaine to ghost hunt at the funeral home, they discover it might be haunted by a kindred spirit—the daughter of the original owner. And this spirit has a message, one Elaine is certain can give her the advice she craves about what to do with her life—and which boy deserves her heart.

Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

 

 

 

~Excerpt~

 

“Hey.” Miles pulls me to him, and it feels so good. I rest my head on his chest, and for the first time since I don’t know how long, I let myself relax.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t mean to leave you alone. I just . . . things have been hard for me, too.”

“Then why don’t you talk to me?” I ask. “I want to help. Whatever is bothering you, you can tell me about it.”

“See, I don’t think I can.”

“Why, Miles?”

“Because it’s you. You’re my problem.”

I lift my head and study his face, the one I’ve known since grade school. He’s the same old Miles, but there’s something more in his expression now, something guarded.

“How am I your problem?”

He closes his eyes.

“When you said I sucked at hiding how I feel, I figured it was obvious. I feel like it’s been obvious since maybe about seventh grade, but you somehow have never seemed to see it.”

Warning lights start flashing in my head like some demented Christmas display.

“Miles, don’t.”

This “it” he’s talking about: I did see. I saw it, and I felt it, and it scared me because this it is not supposed to be happening between us.

“I have to say this,” he says. I can see myself reflected in the clear blue of his eyes, and even though I want to look away, I can’t. “I have to tell you that I love you. I’ve tried to keep it inside for years now. And for the past whole month I was working up my courage to tell you. I’ve been feeling like things need to change.”

“They don’t.”

“That’s not what you said before.”

Before I was talking about Pax and Skye—a science fiction show. Right now we’re talking about real life. My life. And I’ve been counting on this part of my life—Miles and me as best friends—to stay the same.

“Miles, come on—”

“I have to at least try.”

He reaches under my chin and tilts my face toward his. His fingers creep up to my cheek in the gentlest of caresses. His hand moves to the back of my neck, leaving an agonizing trail of warm tingles in its wake. Slowly, almost tentatively, he pulls me in until his lips find mine.

 

Title: Grave Things Like Love

Author: Sara Bennett Wealer

Release Date: Oct. 11, 2022

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genre: YA

Age Range: 12-18

Spotlight on Undercover Latina (Aya de León), Excerpt & Giveaway ~ US/CAN Only

October 12th, 2022 by

Today we’re spotlighting Undercover Latina (Aya de León)

Read on for more about Aya, her book, and a giveaway.

 

 

 

Meet Aya de León

Aya de León is the Afro-Latina author of several suspense novels for adults, as well as The Mystery Woman in Room Three, an open-source online novel about two undocumented Dominican teens who uncover a kidnapping plot to stop the Green New Deal. She teaches creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley, and is active in movements for racial, gender, and climate justice. She lives in Northern California.

Website * Instagram * Twitter * Facebook

 

 

 

About Undercover Latina:

In her debut for younger readers, Aya de León pits a teen spy against the ominous workings of a white nationalist. Fourteen-year-old Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín hails from a family of spies working for the Factory, an international organization dedicated to protecting people of color. For her first solo mission, Andréa straightens her hair and goes undercover as Andrea Burke, a white girl, to befriend the estranged son of a dangerous white supremacist. In addition to her Factory training, the assignment calls for a deep dive into the son’s interests—comic books and gaming—all while taking care not to speak Spanish and blow her family’s cover. But it’s hard to hide who you really are, especially when you develop a crush on your target’s Latino best friend. Can Andréa keep her head, her geek cred, and her code-switching on track to trap a terrorist? Smart, entertaining, and politically astute, this is fast-paced upper-middle-grade fare from an established author of heist and espionage novels for adults.

A Latina teen spy goes undercover as a white girl to stop a white supremacist terrorist plot in a fast-paced middle-grade debut from a seasoned author of contemporary crime fiction.

Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

 

 

 

~Excerpt~

 

 

ONE

A grown man is no match for a teenage girl on a skateboard. Even if he’s wearing sneakers and athletic gear. We called this guy El Rubio, because of his pale blond hair, and I was supposed to grab the briefcase from him. ­ Then I’d skate the two blocks from the hotel lobby to where my parents were waiting with the car running, and we’d get away clean.

El Rubio was suspicious of adults, so Mami, Papi, and the other grown-ups were out of the question for this mission. My brother was only ten, so he would attract too much attention; El Rubio would expect parents somewhere nearby. Besides, his legs were too short to outrun a grown man. But I’m fourteen: long-legged and old enough to be in the lobby by myself. Besides, teenage girls are rarely seen as threats.

I flipped through the brochures in the bright hotel lobby. I was wearing long shorts and a touristy Puerto Rico T-shirt, as though my own mother wasn’t Puerto Rican. My curly hair was pulled back in a ponytail and I chewed gum. I had my earbuds in like I was listening to music, but really it was Mami’s voice. “­ The housekeeper says he’s on his way down.”

I reread the brochure for waterskiing. My back was to El Rubio when he exited the elevator. His gaze moved past me and landed on the young man sweeping the marble floor: Hector, a member of our team.

Mami and Papi were letting me take an active role on a mission, but not without a chaperone.

El Rubio walked to the reception desk and asked the clerk to get his briefcase from the safe. I strolled to the other end of the desk, brochure in my hand. El Rubio checked on Hector from time to time. Hector kept sweeping. ­

The clerk came back with the briefcase, and that’s when I struck. I leaped forward and grabbed the case just as the clerk was handing it over, and then I raced out through the lobby door. “She’s got the case,” Hector’s voice rang out in my headphones. “Made it out clean.” I jumped on my skateboard and tore down the hotel driveway.

I had nearly gotten to the street when El Rubio came running out after me.

He was way behind me, but an unexpected obstacle appeared. Two men in business suits, overdressed for the muggy San Juan morning, happened to be getting out of a dark vehicle on the sidewalk in my path. ­ They were clearly expecting to go from air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned rooms.

“Stop her!” El Rubio yelled to them. ­

They stood up outside the car and cut me off.

These guys were with El Rubio? I skidded to a stop on the skateboard.

Suits and all, the two guys came running toward me.

I did an about-face and kicked hard to get the board speeding fast in the other direction. I’d have to circle back to meet my parents.

But there was a problem. This new terrain turned from smooth paved roads to the oversize blue cobblestones of Old San Juan. On the uneven ground, I wobbled and almost fell.

¡Carajo! I jumped off the skateboard and snatched it up. Now I had the board in one hand and the briefcase in the other. Instead of being a swift teen girl, I was an encumbered teen girl. With both hands full, I couldn’t tap the microphone to call in my location to my parents—at least not while I was running. Hector said I had gotten out clean, but had I?

 

UNDERCOVER LATINA. Copyright © 2022 by Aya de León. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

 

Title: Undercover Latina

Author: Aya de León

Release Date: October 11, 2022

Publisher:  Candlewick Press

ISBN-10:  1536223743

ISBN-13: 9781536223743

Genre: Middle-Grade Novel

Age Range: 10-14

 

 

 

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