Monday, December 22, 2014

The Beginner's Bible

The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Bible StoriesThe Beginner's Bible: Timeless Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some stories cross over well into this brightly illustrated adaptation that has been watered down for kids. Some, on the other hand, are disturbingly reduced and lose the moral nuance that make the stories worthwhile to begin with. My five year old liked it, and we finished it in three nights. If you're looking for a fast way to familiarize kids with some of the less interesting tales of the Bible, with none of the pesky details that might set them off to having ideas and thinking, then this is a good starter.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sneezy the Snowman

My son came home with a couple books this year following his annual school Christmas party. I feel fairly confident they aren't formally calling it a "Christmas Party" these days, it's probably the "Winter" or "Holiday" party, but it's the Christmas Party. Maybe next year I'll send Yule Logs (Swiss Rolls) to keep it inclusive.  Anyway, one of the books he came home with was Sneezy the Snowman by Maureen Wright.
It has cute illustrations and a nice message about trying again when met with catastrophe after a fun afternoon's work. Stories about being solution oriented thinkers are generally good, but the whole "if you're uncomfortable, just eat ridiculous amounts of ice cream" message probably isn't particularly healthy, and I say this from two feet in the fat acceptance no-body-shaming camp. Really, that much ice cream is not the solution. A different jacket might have been.
Also, when reading it aloud, it feels like a book that teeters at the edge of needing a rhythm and rhyme scheme, yet doesn't achieve one. For this, I can't rate it well. My son received it as a gift. He likes it because
I want to like this story because the notion of a sentient puddle asking to be rebuilt puts me in mind of the 2013 Doctor Who Christmas Special, and I do like children's stories that edge up on the creepy, but alas, the ice cream thing just kills it for me.
the snowman sneezes and is cold. It's a funny notion. I suppose from an inclusive standpoint, it gives kids an opportunity to think about people who struggle to get by in the environment into which they were born, for instance, people with grass and pollen allergies. Let's face it, a snow man should be able to handle the weather that matches his natural body temperature.

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen and Giveaway


M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
I Heart Robot
Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won’t belittle her musical aspirations.
Q-I-99 aka ‘Quinn’ lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.
Tyri and Quinn’s worlds collide when they’re accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn’s love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?
add to goodreads
Title: I Heart Robot
Publication date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Suzanne van Rooyen
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Tyri

If today were a song, it'd be a dirge in b-flat minor. The androids cluster around the coffin, their false eyes brimming with mimetic tears. They were made to protect and serve their human masters, to entertain and care for us. Now, just one generation later, we toss them in the trash like nothing more than broken toasters.
The androids huddle in a semicircle, four adults and a child droid with synthetic curls. They all look so human; their grief real even if their tears aren't. The two male-droids are even good looking in that chiseled, adboard model kind of way. They're a little too perfect. With their machine strength, they lower the cardboard box into the dirt and the child droid begins to sing. His exquisite voice shatters like crystal in my ears, heartbreaking.
Asrid and I shouldn't be here—the only two humans amongst the machines—but I loved Nana. I loved her before I knew better than to feel anything for a robot. It doesn't matter how attached you get. A robot can never love you back, regardless of how human their advanced AI might make them seem.
“Why're they burying it anyway?” Asrid mutters beside me. My friend doesn't wear black to the funeral, refusing to acknowledge the passing of my nanamaton, an android that always seemed more like a mom and less like an automated child-minder.
“Should be sending it to the scrap heap. Isn't this against regulation?” Asrid's face scrunches up in a frown, marring her impeccable makeup. She’s a peacock amongst ravens, and I’m a scruffy crow.
“Nana was like a mother to me. I'll miss her.” Tears prick the corners of my eyes as the coffin disappears into the earth, and the droid keens a eulogy.
“I know you will, T.” Asrid gives me a one-armed hug.
Svartkyrka Cemetery is losing the battle to weeds. Human tombstones from back when there was real estate for corpses lie in crumbling ruin covered in pigeon poop. No one gets buried anymore—there's no space and, anyway, it's unsanitary.
“Can we go now?” Asrid hops between feet to fight off the chill. Autumn has shuffled closer to winter, the copper and russet leaves crunching beneath our shoes. The leaves look like scabs, a carpet of dried blood spilling into the open earth. Fitting for my nanamaton's funeral, but robots can’t bleed.
“Sure, we can go.”
Asrid wends her way toward the parking lot as I approach the grave. Nana loved yellow anemones, said they were like sunshine on a stick.
“Hope there’s sunshine where you are now, Nana.” I drop a single flower into the ground and wipe away the tear snailing down my cheek. Why Nana chose to permanently shut down and scramble her acuitron brain, I can only guess. Perhaps living in a world controlled by groups like the People Against Robot Autonomy, PARA for short, became too much for her.
“Sorry for your loss,” the child droid says in a tinkling voice.
“Thank you for letting me know,” I say.
“She would've wanted you to be here.” The other nanamaton, gray haired and huddled in a trench coat, doesn't meet my gaze.
I stuff my mitten- covered hands into the pockets of my jacket and hunch my shoulders against the chill. You'd think the universe might have had the courtesy to rain given the sullen occasion, but the sun perches in an acid blue sky.
“Tyri, you coming?” Asrid shouts from the gate, remembering too late that we're supposed to be stealthy. Government regulation stipulates cremation for humans and scrap heaps for robots. If the authorities discover us committing metal and electronics to the earth instead of recycling, Asrid and I will be fined. The robots will be decommissioned on the spot.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper to the androids before turning away. Their artificial gaze follows me, boring into my back sharp as a laser.
“Botspit, I'm hungry. I could gnaw on a droid. Where're we going to lunch?” Asrid ignores the dead and grieving as if none of it exists.
“I think I'll just go home.”
“Come on, T. I know she was your Nana but she was just a robot, you know.”
Just a robot! Nana changed my diapers. My first day of kindergarten, Nana held my hand. When I came home from school, Nana made me cocoa and sat helping me with homework. Nana cooked my favourite dumpling dinner every Wednesday and made me double-chocolate birthday cake. Nana taught me how to tie my shoelaces and braid my hair. The day I turned sixteen, Mom decided we didn't need Nana anymore. She should've been decommissioned then, but Nana disappeared the day before Mom's M-Tech buddies came to kill her core and reprocess her parts.
“She was more than that to me,” I say.
“Ah, you're adorable.” Asrid casts nervous glances across the lot. Satisfied no policemen lurk behind the bushes, she slips her arm through mine and drags me through the gate. The wrought iron is warped and daubed with rust. Marble angels stand sentinel, broken and stained by time. One misses a nose, and the other has lost a wing.
“You didn't say anything about my new bug.” Asrid pouts when we reach her vehicle. The hoverbug is neon pink, matching her shoes, handbag, and the ribbons holding up her blond hair. The 'E' badge that stands for Engel Motors looks more like a spastic frog than the angel it's supposed to represent.
“Is it meant to smell like cherries?” Even the plush interior is unicorn puke pink. I put on my sunglasses in case all that color stains my eyes.
“Yes, in fact.” Asrid flicks a switch and the engine purrs. “Slipstream Waffles.” She assumes that monotone voice she always uses when addressing machines.
The last thing I want is to sit on sticky vinyl in a noisy waffle house, indulging in sugar and calories served by permanently smiling droids on roller-skates.
“Take me home to Vinterberg.”
“Tyri, don't annoy me.”
“Sassa, Don't patronize me.” I give her the glare she knows better than to argue with.
“Vinterberg,” I say again and Asrid heaves a melodramatic sigh.
“Be boring. Going home to make love to your violin?”
“Why ask when you know the answer?” Nana's coffin lowering into the ground replays in my mind to a soundtrack in b-flat minor.
“How does Rurik put up with being the other love of your life?”
It's my turn to sigh. Rurik doesn't really put up with it or even understand why I love music so much. But then, I don't understand why he gets so hung up on politics, and I definitely don't understand why he didn't show up for Nana's funeral when he knows how much she meant to me.
“We manage.” I stare out the tinted windows at the darkened scenery whipping past.
The hoverbug takes the quickest route, zipping along the street ways that skirt the chaotic center of Baldur. The jungle of concrete and steel thins out into a tree- shrouded suburb studded with modest brick homes. Rurik calls my redbrick bungalow quaint, and it is, complete with flower boxes and a patch of green lawn out back. It’s nothing at all like his dad's slick penthouse, all glass and chrome with a panoramic view of the city. The funny thing is, Rurik used to live right next-door till his mom had the affair and his dad became a workaholic, transforming the family business into an automotive empire.
The hoverbug slows and lands in my driveway.
“I'll call you later,” I say before disembarking.
“You heard anything yet?”
“No, but tomorrow is the last day so I'll hear soon.” I'm trying not to think about why it's taking so long to hear back after my audition for the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra.
“You'll get in T. I'm sure of it. You're brilliant.”
Asrid's words make me smile despite the morbidity of the day. She waves and the hoverbug zooms off, leaving me in the rustling-leave calm of Vinterberg.
I press my thumb to the access pad and the front door hisses open. Mom's at work like always. Taking off my coat and shoes, I whistle for Glitch. She pads into the hallway, her face lopsided from sleep. She stretches and sits down with a decisive humph as if to say, 'Well, human, I'm here. Now, worship me.' And I do.
“Hey my Glitchy girl.” I fold my cyborg Shiba Inu into my arms and sweep her off the floor. Her mechatronic back leg sticks out straight and stiff, the rest of her soft and warm. She licks my ear, one paw on my forehead.
“Good afternoon, Tyri. Would you like some refreshments?” Miles whirs out of the kitchen into the hallway. He's nothing like Nana, just a bipedal mass of electronics and metal with assorted appendages capable of mundane tasks. He doesn't even have eyes, only a flashing array of lights. Despite Mom designing a new generation of androids for M-Tech, we can't afford the new model housebot. Maybe it's better this way. I don't feel much for our bot, but I dubbed him Miles. It seemed to fit.
“Would you like some refreshments?” he repeats.
“Tea and a sandwich.” I carry Glitch into my bedroom at the back of the house. Glitch leaps from my arms, landing on the bed where she curls up in a knot of black, white, and tan fur amongst my pillows.
Still in my black lace skirt and corset, I stretch and flex my fingers. Twisting the cricks from my neck and rolling my shoulders, I ease out the graveyard tension. My violin lies in a bed of blue velvet, waiting for my touch. With the strings in tune and the bow sufficiently taut, the instrument nestles against my jaw as if I was born with a gap there just for the violin. It completes me.
I warm-up my fingers, letting them trip over the strings as my bow arcs and glides. Then I'm ready to play: Beethoven's Kreutzer violin sonata in A major, Nana's favorite. Glitch's ears twitch back and forth. She raises her head to howl but thinks better of it, yawning and curling back into sleep.
The frenzied opening of the sonata segues into a melancholy tune and in the brief moment of calm, my moby warbles at me. I have mail. I try to ignore the distraction and play through the screeching reminder of an unread message, but it might be the one I've been anticipating.
Vibrating in my hand, the moby blinks at me: One unread email. Subject: BPO audition.
“This is it, Glitchy.”
She raises her head as I sit beside her. One hand buried in her fur, I open the email. The words blur together, pixelate and run like wet ink across the screen. Disbelief makes my vision swim. I have to read the message several times over to make sure I haven't misunderstood.
“Codes! I got in.” Blood warms my cheeks as I whisk Glitch into my arms, spinning her around before squeezing her to my chest. She does not approve and scratches at me until I drop her back on the bed. Miles enters with a tray of tea and neat triangular sandwiches.
“Miles, I got in! I'm going to play for the junior BPO. This is amazing.” I'm jumping up and down.
Miles flashes orange. “Could not compute. Please restate.”
“I'm going to play for the best junior orchestra in the country. This could be my chance to break into the scene, to meet all the right people, and make an impression!” My one chance to escape the life already planned for me by Mom. The last thing I want to be is a robot technician.
Miles keeps flashing orange. “Apologies, Tyri. Could not compute, but registering joy.” His visual array flashes green. “Happy birthday!” He says in his clipped metallic voice before leaving the room.
I clutch the moby and read the email another ten times before calling Mom. I reach her voicemail, and my joy tones down a notch. I don't want to talk to another machine, so I hang up and call Rurik instead.
“Hey, Tyri. Now's not a good time. Can I call you back later?”
“I got in,” I say.
“To the orchestra?”
“Yes!”
“That's great.” He doesn't sound half as happy as I am.
“Thanks, I'm so excited, but kind of scared too—”
“T, I'm just in the middle of something. I'll call you back in a bit, okay?” He hangs up, leaving me babbling into silence.
Deflated, I slump onto the floor and rest my head on the bed. Glitch shuffles over to give me another ear wash, delicately nibbling around my earrings. I should've known Rurik would be busy getting ready to go to Osholm University. Getting a scholarship to the most prestigious school in all of Skandia is way more impressive than scoring a desk in the Baldur Junior Orchestra. Still, I received better acknowledgment from the housebot than my boyfriend. I call Asrid.
“Hey T, what's up?” Asrid answers with Sara's high-pitched giggle in the background.
“I got in!”
“That's awesome, except I guess that means more practicing and less time with your friends, huh?” Asrid sounds genuinely put out, as if she’d even notice my absence when Sara's around. Codes, isn't there someone who could just be happy for me? Maybe Mom’s right, and I am being selfish wanting the “Bohemian non-existence” when I could have a “sensible and society-assisting” career in robotics.
“Sorry, I . . . thought you'd like to know.”
“I'm happy for you, Tyri. I know it's a big deal to you. Congrats. Seriously, you deserve this considering how hard you practice,” Asrid says, and Sara shouts congratulations in the background.
“Thanks, Sassa.”
“Hey, our food arrived. Chat later?”
“Sure.” I hang up and reach for my violin. Nana would've understood. She would've danced around the living room with me. She probably would've baked me a cake and thrown a party. Determined not to cry, I skip the second movement of Beethoven's sonata and barrel straight into the jaunty third. The notes warp under my fingers, and the tune slides into b-flat minor.
Two days until the first rehearsal. Maybe I’ll be able to do something different with my life; something that makes me happy instead of just useful.
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Suzanne van 

Rooyen
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and entertains her shiba inu, Lego. Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the titles release.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

Beautifully illustrated, and designed with remarkable attention to aesthetics, this is a  delightful combination of information and art. Moreover, the concept behind the book is so simple and seductive: grow a little fruit tree. Grow fruit. Grow it small. Keep it manageable.  That's the sort of thing that makes a reader think- yes, I can do that.

Dealing with the necessary steps involved in growing a small fruit tree, as well as the reasons why one would want to- after all, over producing isn't really going to do you any good, is it? Small trees take up less space, and are easier to both care for and harvest. Filled with charts, diagrams, and decades of experience and anecdotes that will help any gardener remember that an 8' tree really does in deed get larger than one can reach on one's own, if left to it's own devices, Grow a Little Fruit Tree is the perfect guide to growing fruit at home.

I plan to add this to my permanent collection of books on espalier techniques, as it has long been my intent to turn my unused patch of yard the other side of the garage into a small fruit tree orchard. Grow a Little Fruit Tree makes me feel like I have the information I need to do it successfully. The detailed pruning instructions and pictures alone make this a wonderful addition to any gardening library, but like I said, I'm partial to a book that discusses espalier technique.

Beyond being informative, Ann Ralph's writing technique is both accessible and entertaining. Her tone is conversational and a real love of growing fruit trees comes across in the ink. Of course, it all boils down to whether or not I learned something. As I said, I've been looking at growing little fruit trees for quite a while, so it's a subject I've been studying for a while now, and yes. I learned pollination techniques I hadn't yet found in other books on fruit trees, and more about pruning than I knew when I opened it up.  It was well worth the read.

I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to review an e-ARC of this title through NetGalley.

Monday, December 1, 2014

before i go


This was a devastatingly good novel. Colleen Oakley cuts through the space between  the reader and her characters until their sorrows become one. With deft prose, Oakley uses the extremely mundane

and familiar to craft a tale which hits all too close to home.

What makes this book resonate is the humor with which Oakley writes. When it is dark and painful and your reader's heart is bleeding on the floor, Daisy will, with oh so realistic attention span, become distracted by something incongruous and hilarious by juxtaposition.

Uplifting, reaffirming, funny, heartbreaking, and intimate, before i go hurts, heals, and leaves the reader with hope, but mostly, it's just a downright good read, so long as one can read through the tears.

I admit, I found myself on the edge of actively crying while reading on the elliptical at the gym. I held it together until I was home, and reading on the porch swing, where no one would notice the quietly crying woman behind the overgrown yucca, still clutching her e-reader.

My only qualm with this book is that Colleen Oakley wrote the characters with too much blood in their veins: so much that I felt I was losing a friend along with Daisy's best friend and husband. It hurt. It hurt like wiggling a loose tooth. Of course a book about a woman setting out to find a new wife for her husband while she copes with her terminal diagnosis is going to be a tear jerker, but I didn't expect to care as deeply. Brava, Colleen Oakley, brava.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Prince Lestat: This Calls for a Drinking Game

Okay, Anne Rice, I'm looking at you. Some words just don't merit this kind of usage, so while I generally love you and your writing to bits, we have come to a point where the best way to enjoy your paranormal writing is with the
 Preternatural Drinking Game. 
The rules are simple.  Every time you read the word preternatural, take a drink,  and enjoy that tipsy reading experience.  If you prefer to abstain from such libations, then maybe enjoy a square of good chocolate. Then the word won't be quite do irksome.  This game can be played with any of her otherworldly books, so grab some wine, chocolate, or whatever is going to get you through it and play along. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Fingers in the Mist by O’Dell Hutchison and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Fingers in the Mist by O’Dell Hutchison

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Fingers In The Mist
Sixteen-year-old Caitlyn Foster never believed in the legend of the Redeemers. That was before the trees started to whisper her name. Before a murder of crows attacked the town. Before she and her family came home to find a bloody handprint on their front door, marking one of them as a sacrifice. As Caitlyn’s friends are ripped from their homes, she knows it’s only a matter of time before the Redeemers come for her. Caitlyn has the power to stop the terror, but she’ll have to decide if she’s willing to sacrifice herself to save those she loves.
add to goodreads
Title: FINGERS IN THE MIST
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: O’Dell Hutchison
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

FINGERS IN THE MIST
O’Dell Hutchison

Chapter One
Welcome to Highland Falls, Idaho, population: 353.
The sign taunts me, threatening me with its simple tagline: “Raising families in God's name since 1823.” I hate this place. I shouldn't be here. No sixteen-year-old should have to live in a town where the number of residents is less than the number of her Facebook friends.
The headlights of my father's Dodge sweep across the bridge as he navigates through the water flowing across the road. The rain falls in ferocious sheets, hammering the truck, filling the already too-full river with water it can't hold.
“We're almost home, Cait.” He reaches over and squeezes my shoulder. This is one of six sentences he's spoken since we left the bus station two hours ago. He still hasn't told me why he missed Mom's funeral.
I sigh in response. I want to beg him to turn around and take me back to the bus station. Visiting every summer was one thing, but I can never call this place home.
Thunder rolls and a bolt of lightning cuts across the sky like the flash of a camera. The trees light up, and in the distance I notice a muddy figure with dark hair standing at the side of the road. My heart stutters and my breath comes in shallow bursts. I'm seeing things. I squeeze my eyes shut, blotting out the image of my ex-boyfriend standing on the front porch, my mother's blood stuck to his hands like gloves. It's just my imagination. It's not Jonah.
When I open my eyes, the figure is still there. He steps onto the road, and I scream when I realize my father hasn't seen him. Dad slams on the brakes and the Dodge hydroplanes, fishtailing to a stop mere inches from the boy.
My father’s green eyes widen with recognition at the stumbling figure before him. “Oh my God. It's the Perkins boy.”
“Trevor?” My stomach drops. “What happened to him?”
“Trevor's fine. It's Mason. He's alive.” He opens the door and steps out into the rain before I can ask any more questions.
Why wouldn't Mason be alive? More important, why is he wandering around in a rainstorm five miles outside of town covered in mud?
Dad approaches Mason with an outstretched hand. I see his lips move, but can't hear what he says over the thrumming of the rain on the roof of the truck. Oblivious of my father's presence, Mason stumbles along the road, his gait slow and ragged. His jeans, caked in mud, hang loosely from his bony hips. He's barefoot and doesn't wear a shirt. Deep scratches cover his chest and arms. It looks like he just clawed his way out of the ground.
Mason paces in small circles, bloodied hands twitching at his sides. My father walks up behind him and places a hand on his shoulder. Mason turns on him, swinging his fists. One of them connects with my dad's face, and I gasp when I see all six-foot-two of him stumble. He slips and falls, disappearing beneath the hood of the truck.
I throw open my door and tumble into the cold October air, my boots slipping against the wet pavement. The rain immediately engulfs me. A gust of wind, thick with the scent of cedar and pine, picks up damp pieces of my dark hair, flinging them into my face like small tentacles.
“Are you okay?” I kneel in front of my dad as he runs a calloused hand over his jaw.
“I'm fine,” he says, struggling to his feet. “He just caught me off guard. I slipped.”
“No, no, no, no, no.” Mason slaps at his head like he's trying to knock something loose. Globs of mud fall to the ground. He throws his head back and screams in pain, tearing at his hair.
“What's wrong with him?” I take a step back, leaning against the front of the truck.
“I don't know. He went camping a week ago with some friends up near the falls. They woke up and Mason wasn't there. We thought he was dead.”
Before I can respond, a loud hacking comes from Mason. He drops to his knees, his hands pressed to his stomach. His entire body convulses. The sounds coming out of him are enough to make me want to hurl.
“We need to get him into town. We'll take him by Doc’s,” my dad says.
Mason wretches again, and this time a dark stream pours from his mouth. It looks like mud—like he's throwing up mud. I place a hand over my mouth and turn my back to him. That was seriously nasty.
“I need you to help me get him into the truck.”
I wave a hand in my father's direction, afraid to open my mouth to speak—afraid of what might come up.
“Cait! I need some help here.”
I turn to see Mason lying on the ground, his entire body wracked with convulsions. His back arches until the top of his head sits on the road. His hands hover above the ground, shaking as if he'd been electrocuted. All at once, his body goes flaccid, collapsing into silence. His blue eyes stare at the sky, unblinking against the huge drops of rain that spatter them. Black gunk seeps from the corner of his mouth and blood streams from his nose.
Dad stoops down and lays a hand on Mason's chest.
“Is he dead?” I place a hand over my mouth, fighting back the tears. He looks so peaceful. Just like my mother did. I'll never get that vision out of my head. Her still body lying in the foyer, eyes open, staring at the ceiling. Her dark hair floated on a crimson pool of blood, her full lips slightly parted as if she might speak at any moment and tell me everything would be okay. The bullet hole in her forehead told me otherwise.
“Help me load him into the truck,” Dad says, grabbing Mason under his shoulders. “Grab his legs.”
I do as I'm told, hoping Mason won’t come to and nail me in the face with one of his size twelves. I wince when I see the cuts covering his feet.
We struggle to get Mason into the back seat. Despite his thin frame, he's surprisingly heavy. Once he's inside, I remove my thick wool coat and place it over his shivering body. I close the door, careful not to smack his head.
Another bolt of lightning cuts across the sky. A flash of deep red from just inside the thick copse of cedar trees along the road catches my attention. Three more bolts of lightning hit in rapid succession, cracking across the mountaintop. They hit so close to us the ground shudders. I need to get back into the truck, but I can't move. I can't take my eyes off the person watching us.
“Caitlyn.”
My name, barely a whisper, hangs in the air, tossed around by the wind.
“Caitlyn.”
I take a step toward the figure in red. Rain falls in sheets around me, piercing my face like bullets. My hands are so cold and numb I can't feel my fingers. My pendant gives another shudder and I instinctively grab hold of it.
“It will keep you safe,” my mother told me the day she gave it to me. “Wear it always.”
“Cait, get in the truck.” My father's voice is barely audible over the thumping of thick raindrops. The only thing I'm fully aware of is the whisper of my name syncopated with the rhythm of the rain splashing around me. My entire body hums with energy. It's a familiar feeling—one that never ends in anything good.
Thunder roars overhead, and I jump when a thick hand comes down on my shoulder.
“What are you doing? We need to get Mason into town,” my dad says, his voice tinged with annoyance. “We can't stay out here with all this lightning. It's not safe.”
“There’s someone in the woods.” I turn and point in the direction of the figure, but they're gone.
He takes a step toward the trees, shielding his eyes from the rain with his hand. “There’s no one out there. Come on. We need to go.”
Once we’re inside, the cold settles in and my body begins to tremble. I reach over and crank up the heat. The warm air hits me in the face, painting goose bumps across my skin. Mason moans from the back as the truck bounces over uneven pavement. We reach the top of the last hill, and the small town of Highland Falls appears below us. The only indication that there's actually a town swaddled within the dark valley below are the tiny pinpricks of light dotting the landscape, laid out like rows of fireflies.
Dad navigates the Dodge down Main Street toward the town square and past the church before hanging a left in the direction of Doc Robertson's ranch. He's the closest thing to an actual doctor in this town. I never did understand how a veterinarian could also act as a people doctor, but no one around here seems to mind.
The headlights cut across the front of the old, white ranch house, announcing our arrival. Dad stops the truck inches from the porch and hops out without a word, leaving me alone with Mason. I turn to look at him over the back of the seat. He's so still. Too still. I reach out a hand and place it on top of my coat, sighing in relief when I feel his chest rise.
I run a hand over my tangled mess of hair, pulling away a few pine needles that had found refuge there. I could really use a brush right now. I pull down the visor and shriek when I look in the mirror. It’s not the reflection of the totally whacked out girl who startles me. Mason sits behind me, back rigid, eyes wide, staring directly at me.
“Hello, Caitlyn. So good to see you.” The pitch of the voice is definitely Mason’s, but it’s not the slow drawl I’m used to. The words are too clipped, too perfectly pronounced to actually belong to him. “I’m glad you made it.” A sick smile spreads across his face, and an electric pulse covers my skin. It’s not a friendly smile. It’s more like the type of grin the Big Bad Wolf offered Little Red Riding Hood before he tried to eat her.
My head jerks back and slams into the seat. The back of my head stings and I wince as he gives my hair another forceful tug.
“You can’t stop us.” His words are low and threatening, hot against my cheek. His rancid breath clings to the air, and I have to hold my breath to keep from vomiting.
“Mason, let go of my hair.” I try to mask the fear poking at the edge of my voice. This isn’t the Mason I’ve known the last eight years. That Mason was gentle and polite—a hulking boy with a quiet demeanor and a slight stutter.
He grabs my face with a large, bony hand and my skin immediately begins to hum. “We know what you did, Cait. We know what you are.”
I grab his wrist, and the moment I do, he screams in pain, flailing against the seat. I fumble with the door, and tumble out of the truck into the soft, mushy earth. The screen door slams, and my father rushes down the steps in my direction. I struggle to stand, slipping in the mud, certain that at any moment Mason will leap from the truck and try to kill me.
“What happened?” My dad grabs me under my arms to steady me, helping me stand.
I pull away from him and stumble up the porch steps, grasping the railing until I’m under the awning, out of the rain. “Mason attacked me.”
The screen door slams against the side of the house, revealing Doc Robertson. He’s dressed in a white T-shirt pulled tight over a protruding gut and a pair of plaid, flannel pajama bottoms tucked into the top of his old cowboy boots. He throws on a bright yellow rain slicker as he clomps past me toward the truck. A light shuffling comes from behind me, and I instinctively recoil when a small hand touches my shoulder.
“Caitlyn, honey, you must be freezing.” Mrs. Robertson wears an old floral bathrobe, her gray hair in curlers. Everything about her says “cliché farm wife.”
“Come inside where it’s warm.” She places a comforting arm around my shoulders and turns me toward the front door.
“I’m covered in mud. I don’t want to mess up your house.”
“Have you seen who I live with? This is nothing compared to what he drags in most days.” She guides me inside the house, the screen door slamming behind us. “Take off your boots and I’ll go get some towels. Wait here.”
I pull off my boots, curling my nose in disgust when my hand sinks into the mud caking them. A deep gash runs along one of the toes, cutting into the soft brown leather. Five hundred bucks down the drain. Could things possibly get any worse?
The screen door swings open. I step out of the way as Dad and Doc Robertson stumble through the door, Mason’s limp body propped up between them. I can’t help noticing the deep red mark on Mason’s wrist where I grabbed him. It looks like he stuck his hand into a pot of boiling water. I’ve hurt people before, but not like this—not with my touch.
“Here you go, honey,” Mrs. Robertson says as she hands me a couple towels. “Wipe that mud off with these. The bathroom is down there if you want to clean up.” She points down the hall toward the living room. Doc calls for her and she goes to him, leaving me to clean myself up.
I’m surprised to find that most of the mud is on my hands and knees. I bundle up the muddy towel and use the clean one to soak up some of the water from my hair as I walk down the hall, searching for the restroom.
“Call his mama and tell her we found him,” Doc says to Mrs. Robertson. “I’m going to go grab some bandages and other supplies from the clinic out back.”
Doc walks to the back of the house, followed by my father, leaving me alone with Mason. His pale skin practically glows against the bright floral pattern of the sofa they placed him on. Now that there’s light, I can see his wounds more clearly. A deep gash runs across his forehead and two more cuts make an “X” on his chest. I tiptoe past the sofa, afraid he may wake up and attack me again.
“Trevor? Hi, it’s Thelma Robertson. How are you, dear?”
I freeze when I hear her say Trevor’s name. Shit. Please don’t let him get here before we leave. I can’t see him now. I need a couple of days.
“I think you should get your mother and come down to our place. We found your brother. Mason’s alive.”
“Help. H-help u-us. You have t-to h-help us.” Mason’s voice is barely a whisper. He stares at me, eyes wide with fear, a hand outstretched in my direction. “Th-th-they’re c-c-oming.”
When I look at him, I see the old Mason, the gentle boy who used to take me horseback riding and hunting for frogs when I was younger.
“Help! Help me!” His screams are loud and desperate. I want to help him, but I don’t know what he needs. He writhes in pain, his hands clamped to his head. He sits up too quickly, tumbling off the sofa and into the coffee table, knocking a small glass figurine to the ground.
Mrs. Robertson rushes in and crouches next to him, her small frame no match for his flailing arms. “Cait, can you help me?”
I move toward her, afraid to touch him, afraid I may hurt him again. The back door opens and Doc and my father rush into the room. They wrestle with Mason, my dad holding him while Doc sticks a needle into his arm. In a matter of seconds, Mason grows still, his cries for help trailing off into silence.
I back toward the bathroom, my breath coming in short gasps. I don’t realize how bad I’m shaking until I fumble with the lock on the bathroom door. What is going on here? What happened to him? I close my eyes, willing my pulse to slow. I could really use a Klonopin right now. I haven’t felt the need this bad since they threw me in rehab.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see that I look about as bad as the battered boy in the living room. Mascara rings my eyes, making me look like a green-eyed raccoon. My dark hair, so perfectly done earlier this morning, hangs in thick clumps plastered to my face.
I run my fingers through my hair, doing my best to make it look at least halfway presentable. I wipe the smeared makeup from my eyes and dig all the mud and gunk from beneath my fingernails. This is about as good as it’s going to get for now. I open the door, and step into the hallway.
“Now? It’s too soon. It’s not time.” Mrs. Robertson stops speaking when I walk into the room, a look of worry and confusion on her face. My father and Doc turn and stare in my direction. A look passes between them. Why do I feel as though I’ve interrupted something?
“You ready to go?” my father asks.
I nod, looking over at Mason. A bandage covers the gash on his forehead. Most of the mud has been washed off, and a crocheted blanket covers him. He looks so peaceful. The same as he did before he tried to rip my hair out of my head.
“Thank you for the towels, Mrs. Robertson,” I say, remembering my manners, “and for the use of your restroom.”
I follow my father, stopping to put on my boots, when footsteps come at us from the other side of the door. Mrs. Perkins flies into the house, a mess of disheveled hair and dark-ringed eyes.
“Where is he? Is he alive? Where did you find him?” she asks, her eyes darting about the room.
“He’s asleep.” Dad walks with her into the living room, recounting how we found Mason wandering along the road in the mountains outside town.
I pull on my last boot, suddenly aware of a presence behind me. I know who it is before I turn around. My body begins to shake and my stomach burns. I can’t do this now. I busy myself with my boot, rubbing a thumb over the scratched leather to avoid looking at him.
“Cait?” The sound of his voice sends a jolt through me. I slowly stand and turn to face him, a strained smile pulling at my lips. As soon as I see him, my heart aches and two years of deep regret wash over me. He looks damn good in his boots and worn Wranglers—the standard gear for every man in Highland Falls. His wet, black T-shirt clings to him. I can’t help but smile when I notice he wears the Boise State cap I sent him for his birthday three years ago. It’s ragged and dirty, just like his memories of me.
“Hey, Trevor.” So casual. Too casual? “How are you?”
He removes his cap and nods, but doesn’t speak. His worried eyes meet mine for a moment before focusing on the floor. “Where did you find him?”
I lean against the doorjamb, my arms crossed over my chest. “He was wandering along the road just past the bridge.”
“Is he … ?” He chokes back the rest of the sentence, glancing at me again, but refusing to meet my eyes.
“I think he’s going to be okay. He’s in the living room.” I want to reach out to him. Hug him. Wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him on the cheek. Something.
He pushes a strand of shaggy dark hair out of his gorgeous blue eyes, then busies himself with his cap. He looks so good, even better than he did two years ago when hurricane Caitlyn paid a visit. The summer I caused a rift between two of my best friends. The summer Trevor offered me his heart and I tossed it at his feet. How could I have been so stupid?
He takes a hesitant step in the direction of his mother’s soft sobs coming from the living room, stopping when my father steps in front of him.
“Thank you, Mr. Foster,” Trevor says, shaking Dad’s hand. “Thanks for bringing him home.”
“We were just in the right place at the right time. You call me if you or your mama need anything, okay?”
Trevor nods and smiles. I’ve missed that smile. He puts his hands back in his pockets and walks into the living room without so much as a glance in my direction. My heart drops a little. I didn’t exactly expect a joyous reunion filled with balloons and kisses. In fact, I was ready for him to rip me a new one. I would have much preferred that to his cold indifference.
I step outside to wait on the porch. The rain still comes in heavy sheets, and lightning flashes in rapid succession, illuminating the mountains that surround us. If this keeps up, the entire town will be under water before the night is through.
Caitlyn.
My name swoops through the air in an ominous whisper, and my skin begins to tingle again. An intense pain fills my head and my vision blurs. I drop to my knees and my father’s hands catch me under my armpits before I hit the ground. Just as quickly as it hit, the pain is gone.
“Are you all right?” Dad places a steadying arm around my shoulder.
“Just a little dizzy. I haven’t eaten today.” It’s a lie, but he seems to buy it.
“Let’s get you home.”
I follow him to the truck, my eyes searching the property for the mysterious whisperer, but all I see is rain and darkness.

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
O’Dell Hutchison
O’Dell was born in a small rural town in Idaho. There were no Redeemers living there (that he knows of). After attending college in the Pacific Northwest, he found his way to the Houston area. By day, he is a Business Systems Analyst and at night you can either find him sitting at home, dreaming of random super powers he wishes he had, or directing plays and musicals at various theaters around Houston.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the titles release.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Book of Life

I'm just really sad that I wasted all these hours on this anti-feminist, misogynist, rape culture piece that is filled with veiled excuses for domestic violence and for all it's feeble counter-kyriarchy talk, is just as patriarchal as everything that has ever been wrong with the worst of the paranormal genre, when the book isn't continuing the series' road trip through different genres.

Yes, A Discovery of Witches started strong and with so much mind boggling promise that I got caught up in it. I really thought it might be The Historian with more para. No. So much no. Save your self respect and just don't do it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Lifer by Beck Nicholas and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Lifer by Beck Nicholas

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
BNicholas_M9B_Lifer_1800x2700
Asher is a Lifer, a slave aboard the spaceship Pelican. A member of the lowest rung of society, she must serve the ship’s Officials and Astronauts as punishment for her grandparents' crimes back on Earth. The one thing that made life bearable was her illicit relationship with Samuai, a Fishie boy, but he died alongside her brother in a freak training accident.
Still grieving for the loss of her loved ones, Asher is summoned to the upper levels to wait on Lady, the head Official’s wife and Samuai’s mother. It is the perfect opportunity to gather intel for the Lifer’s brewing rebellion. There’s just one problem—the last girl who went to the upper levels never came back.
On the other side of the universe, an alien attack has left Earth in shambles and a group called The Company has taken control. Blank wakes up in a pond completely naked and with no memory, not even his real name. So when a hot girl named Megs invites him to a black-market gaming warehouse where winning means information, he doesn’t think twice about playing. But sometimes the past is better left buried.
As Asher and Blank’s worlds collide, the truth comes out—everyone has been lied to. Bourne Identity meets Under the Never Sky in this intergalactic tale of love and deception from debut novelist Beck Nicholas.
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Title: LIFER
Publication date: December 16, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Beck Nicholas
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt
Chapter One
[Asher]
I mark my body for Samuai.
My right hand is steady as I press the slim needle into my skin. It glints under the soft overhead light of the storage locker, the only place to hide on Starship Pelican. Row upon row of shelving fills the room. Back here I’m hidden from the door.
It’s been seventeen days since Samuai passed. Seventeen days of neutral expressions and stinging eyes, waiting for the chance to be alone and pay my respects to the dead Official boy in true Lifer fashion. With blood.
The body of the needle is wrapped in thread I stole from my spare uniform. The blue thread acts as the ink reservoir. It’s soaked with a dye I made from crushed feed pellets and argobenzene, both swiped from farm level. The pungent fumes sting my eyes and make it even harder to keep the tears at bay. But I will. There will be no disrespect in this marking.
My slipper drops to the floor with the softest of thuds as I shake my foot. I raise it to rest on a cold metal shelf. Samuai always held my hand when we met in secret, but I can’t bear to examine those memories now. The pain of him being gone is still so fresh.
The first break of skin at my ankle hurts a little. Not much, since the needle is nano-designed for single molecule sharpness, and it’s not as though I haven’t done this before. Recently. The tattoo for my brother circles my ankle, completed days ago, a match for the one for my father. My memorial for Samuai had to wait for privacy. The blue spreads out into my skin like liquid on a cloth. The dot is tiny. I add another and another, each time accepting the momentary pain as a tribute to Samuai. Soon I’ve finished the first swirling line.
“Are you mourning my brother or yours?”
My hand jerks at the familiar voice, driving the needle deep into the delicate skin over my Achilles. Davyd’s voice. How did he get in here so quietly? I wince, clamping down on a cry of pain. No tears though. Nothing will make me disrespect Samuai. I remove the needle from my flesh and school my features into a neutral expression before I turn and stand to attention.
“Davyd,” I say by way of greeting. Despite my preparation my throat thickens.
My response to him is stupid because he looks nothing like Samuai. Where Samuai radiated warmth from his spiky dark hair hinting of honey and his deep, golden brown eyes, there is only ice in his brother. Ice-chiseled cheekbones, tousled blond hair, the slight cleft in his chin, and his gray eyes. Eyes that see far too much.
But he’s dressed like Samuai used to dress. The same white t-shirt and black pants. It’s the uniform of Officials, or Fishies, as they’re known below. He’s a little broader in the shoulders than his older brother was—to even think of Samuai in the past tense is agony—and he’s not quite as tall. I only have to look up a little to meet his gaze. I do so without speaking.
I shouldn’t be here, but I’m not going to start apologizing for where I am or his reference to my forbidden relationship with his brother, until I know what he wants.
“Is that supposed to happen?” He points at my foot, where blood drips, forming a tiny puddle on the hard, shiny floor.
His face is expressionless, as usual, but I can hear the conceit in his voice. I can imagine what the son of a Fishie thinks of our Lifer traditions.
Today, I don’t care. Even if his scorn makes my stomach tighten and cheeks flame, I won’t care. Not about anything Davyd has to say.
“It’s none of your business.”
One fine brow arches. Superior, knowing.
He doesn’t have to say the words. The awareness of just how wrong I am zaps between us. Given our relative stations on this journey—he’s destined to be a Fishie in charge of managing the ship’s population, and me to serve my inherited sentence—whatever I do is his business, if he chooses to make it so. He’s in authority even though we’re almost the same age.
In order to gain permission to breed, Lifers allowed the injection of nanobots into their children. These prototype bots in our cells give our masters the power to switch us off using a special Remote Device until our sentence is served. At any time we can be shut down. I’m not sure how exactly, only that each of us has a unique code and the device can turn those particular bots against us. It’s an unseen but constant threat.
I keep my face blank and my posture subservient, but my fingers tighten around the needle in my hand. How I long to slap the smooth skin of his cheek.
For a second, neither of us speaks.
“Your brother or mine?” he asks again. Softly this time. So low, the question is almost intimate in the dim light.
I inhale deeply, welcoming the harsh fumes from my makeshift ink. The burning in my lungs gives me a focus so the ever-present emotional pain can’t cripple me. My brother and my boyfriend were taken on the same day, and I’m unable to properly mourn either thanks to the demands of servitude.
I can’t let it cripple me. Not if I want to find out what really happened to Zed and Samuai.
“Does it matter?” I ask. Rather than refuse him again, I twist the question around. He would never admit to having interest in the goings-on of a mere Lifer.
“No.” His voice is hard. Uncaring. He folds his arms. “But it’s against ship law to deface property.”
It takes a heartbeat, and then I realize I’m the property he’s talking about. My toes curl because my fists can’t. I see from the flick of his eyes to my feet that he’s noticed. Of course he has. There’s nothing Davyd doesn’t notice.
It’s true though. The marks we Lifers make on our bodies are not formally allowed. It is a price we pay for the agreement signed in DNA by our parents and our grandparents. They agreed to a lifetime of servitude, and their sentence is passed down through the generations for the chance at a new life on a new planet. I am the last in the chain, and my sentence will continue for twelve years after landing.
We Lifers belong to those above us, body and soul, but no Fishie or Naut—the astronauts who pilot the ship—has ever tried to stop the ritual. In return we are not blatant. We mark feet, torsos, and thighs. Places hidden by our plain blue clothing.
If the son of the head Fishie reports me, it will go on my record no matter how minor the charge, and possibly add months to my sentence. A sentence I serve for my grandparents’ crimes back on Earth after the Upheaval. Like others, their crime was no more than refusal to hand over their vehicle and property when both were declared a government resource.
I swallow convulsively.
I don’t want that kind of notice. Not when we’re expected to land in my lifetime. Not when I hoped to find answers to the questions that haunt me.
The first lesson a Lifer child learns is control around their superiors. I won’t allow mine to fail me now.
“Did you want something? Sir?”
If there’s a faint pause before the honorific, well, I’m only human.
He lets it pass. “The Lady requires extra help at this time. You have been recommended.”
“Me?”
His lips twist. “I was equally surprised. Attend her now.”
The Lady is the wife of the senior Official on board the Pelican, and both Samuai and Davyd’s mother. She’s a mysterious figure who is never seen in the shared area of the ship. I imagine she’s hurting for her dead child. Sympathy stirs within me. I’ve seen the strain my own mother tries to hide since Zed died, and I don’t think having a higher rank would make the burden any easier to bear.
It’s within Davyd’s scope as both Fishie-in-training and son of the ship’s Lady to be the one to inform me of my new placement, but I can’t help looking for something deeper in his words. There should be a kinship between us, having both lost a brother so recently, but Samuai’s death hasn’t affected Davyd at all.
“Who recommended me?”
He shrugs. “Now. Lifer.”
I nod and move to tidy up, ignoring the persistent pain in my ankle where the needle went too deep. My defiance only stretches so far. Not acting on a direct request would be stupidity. I will finish my memorial for Samuai, but not with his brother waiting. It’s typical that Davyd doesn’t use my name. I can’t remember him or his Fishie friends ever doing so.
It was something that stood out about Samuai from when we were youngsters and met in the training room. It was the only place on the ship us Lifers are close to equal. I was paired to fight with him to first blood, and he shocked me by asking my name. “Asher,” Samuai had repeated, like he tasted something sweet on his tongue, “I like it.”
In my heart there’s an echo of the warmth I felt that day, but the memory hurts. It hurts that I’ll never see him again, that he’ll never live out the dreams we shared in our secret meetings. Dreams of a shared future and changes to a system that makes Lifers less than human.
When I’ve gathered the small inkpot and put on my slippers, I notice a smear of blood on the slipper material from where I slipped earlier. It’s the opportunity I need to let my change in status be known below.
“Umm.” I clear my throat. Please let the stories I’ve heard of the Lady be true.
“What?” asks Davyd from where he waits by the door, presumably to escort me to his mother. The intensity of his gaze makes me quake inside. It’s all I can do not to lift my hand to check my top is correctly buttoned and my hair hasn’t grown beyond the fuzz a Lifer is allowed.
“My foot attire isn’t suitable to serve the Lady.” I point to the faint smudge of brown seeping into my footwear. It is said by those cleaners who are permitted into the Fishie sleeping quarters that the Lady insists her apartment be kept spotless. She’s unlikely to be pleased with me reporting for duty in bloodstained slippers.
Davyd’s jaw tenses. Maybe I’ve pushed him too far with this delay. I hold my breath.
But then his annoyance is gone and his face is the usual smooth mask. “Change. I will be waiting at the lift between the training hall and study rooms.”
He doesn’t need to tell me to hurry.
He opens the door leading out into the hallway and I expect him to stride through and not look back. Again he surprises me. He turns. His face is in shadow. The brighter light behind him shines on his tousled blond hair, which gives him a hint of the angelic.
“Assuming it’s my brother you’re mourning,” his voice is deep and for the first time there’s a slight melting of the ice. “You should know. … He wasn’t worth your pain.”

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Beck-Nicholas-head-shot-248x300
I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the titles release.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of A Murder of Magpies by Sarah Bromley and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week's M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for
A Murder of Magpies by Sarah Bromley
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
A-Murder-of-Magpies-Cover
Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see.
No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it’s not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk.
Until someone quiets the chaos inside her.
Unwanted. That’s all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can’t explain the hold she has on him–inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn’t know what her powers can do. Yet.
Just as Vadya and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn’t so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.
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Title: A Murder of Magpies
Publication date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Sarah Bromley
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt
Enjoy Chapter One! Happy Reading!

Chapter One
Vayda
Disaster came as a boy in a Catholic school uniform. That boy was my brother, Jonah.
We’d seen disaster, somehow crawled out from the ruins, and lived. It didn’t just happen, all explosive and bombastic so we knew everything changed. A real disaster began with a spark of fire that rose in the air and snuffed out. When the ash landed, it was still hot enough to burn, and from that ember, everything we knew went up in flames.
It happened before. I had reason to fear it would happen again.
My fingers drummed on the time-scarred armrest of a chair in Monsignor Judd’s office. Someone had etched a cross into the wood five, ten, maybe twenty years ago. A saint’s stare bore down on me from the stained-glass window; no comfort lay in his face, only my guilt for not knowing the saint’s name. Outside the office, Monsignor stood, fingers steepled, while the heating vent blew the draping of his cassock. His ear angled to the young nun whispering with him over the manila folder of Jonah’s permanent record. Curls snaked from her nun’s habit, and her eyes slid to watch me. Dull, dark. Nearly dead.
My hands grew warmer. I forced my breathing to slow. Calm down, Vayda girl. Nothing to get worked up over yet.
Not easy when I was a human magnet for emotion.
Slouching in his chair, Jonah fidgeted with a hole in his blue trousers. I always thought he’d blow our cover someday, but that didn’t mean I was ready for it. A bruise purpled his cheekbone. His heat, a mix of emotion and energy, radiated to further prickle my hands until they were scorching. I needed to cool down, put everything on ice to stabilize Jonah and myself. I exhaled in hope of a cold breath. My twin’s fury was more than I could absorb.
You outdid yourself this time. I pointed the thought to his mind like a laser. Do you honestly think fighting with Marty Pifkin is worth all this trouble?
He avoided eye contact, naturally. That didn’t mean he didn’t listen. Silent to all but me, he answered, Dati’s already gonna read me the riot act. Don’t give me any grief, especially since I was defending you.
Defending me from Marty Pifkin of all people. Let it go. What’s done is done. I didn’t know whether to give my brother a good wallop upside the head like our mom would have or pray we’d skate on by. Keep at it, Jonah, and people will notice what you can do. Throwing a desk without using your hands isn’t exactly wisdom for the ages.
Why don’t you keep that in mind the next time you lose it and break all the light bulbs in the science lab? He swiped a rogue strand of long, dark hair from his face. You lack subtlety and finesse, Sis.
Subtlety. Finesse. Words sixteen-year-old boys knew ohso-much about. I choked on a laugh and lowered my eyes to the ratty, blue Chucks I paired with my Catholic school plaid, wool skirt, and tights. Even if it wasn’t my school uniform, I wore dresses most days. I could move my legs and didn’t feel so caged in.
Brushing away the glass dust on my thighs, I ignored the blood drying on my hands and clasped them together. They were less dangerous that way.
The door to the office lobby opened. The new nun resembled a black dandelion seed as she glided into Monsignor’s office. She was followed by the head priest and my father. The scent of wood dust clung to him. Most parents visiting St. Anthony of Padua High School rolled in wearing suits or golf attire, and then there was Dad with his Fat Tire shirt and varnish-splattered jeans—evidence he’d been working on a restoration when called to the school. Even if the fight between my brother and Marty hadn’t already strained my mental barriers, I still would’ve noticed Dad’s disappointment.
Dad lived by so-called cardinal rules. Looking at Jonah, there was only one rule I thought: There’s a devil on every man’s shoulder, whispering in his ear. Only he decides if he’ll throw salt at the devil or feed him his soul.
“What happened, Magpie?” Dad asked, a Georgia-born drawl buttering his voice as he checked out the cuts on my hand.
“Broken glass, Dati,” I answered.
“You ought to be more mindful, don’t you think?” His question had nothing and everything to do with breaking glass.
Monsignor cleared his throat. “Sorry to have you back in my office so soon, Mr. Silver.”
“Twice in one week is overkill.” Dad stood behind Jonah and me, a hand on each of our shoulders.
“I’ve spoken with our new staff psychologist, Sister Polly Tremblay.” Monsignor introduced the new nun. “She was hired this year after Dr. Fernandez took a position in Madison. Our newest Sister is a licensed practitioner, educator, and bride of Christ.”
Dad raised an eyebrow. “Is she now? That’s all so very impressive, Sister. Do you go by Sister Polly or Sister Tremblay?”
The nun blinked twice, no emotion registering on her face.
“Sister Tremblay. Polly is from my past life.” Monsignor grabbed the manila folder from the nun’s hands and hurried through his words. “Sister Tremblay has acquainted herself with Jonah’s file and feels he may benefit from some sessions with her. If I may be frank, Mr. Silver, your family came to Wisconsin two years ago, but of the people I’ve spoken with, no one really knows you. Certain appearances are important, especially for an institution such as St. Anthony’s. I’m sorry to have to say anything in front of your children, but you must all be aware of the situation I’m in while I’m deciding Jonah’s punishment.”
“You’re a widower running an antiques business,” Sister Tremblay added.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Dad snapped.
“The adjustment period after moving, especially when grieving, can be prolonged. In that regard, two years isn’t very long at all,” Sister Tremblay answered. “Teenagers often cope by acting out. If you’re as busy as I suspect—”
“I’ve got time for my kids,” Dad argued. “Always.”
The heating vent blasted more hot air into the office. My brother burned with frustration, and my shoulders tightened. I cracked my knuckles, all too aware of how the lights dimmed.
Monsignor Judd let out a sigh. “Sister Tremblay is only suggesting that talking to someone away from family could be good for Jonah.”
There was no “outside the family.” There never was. Hard to make friends and get past the New Kid stigma when we were either cooped up at home or at Dad’s shop under his watch. No wonder our classmates thought we were weird—we were.
The hairs on the back of my neck stiffened. I shifted in my chair for a better view into the lobby where another boy waited to talk with Monsignor. The hair curling near his jaw was the color of liquid cinnamon dashed with espresso, and a wire tethered an iPod to his ears as he held an icepack to his bottom lip.
Jonah’s sort-of friend, Ward.
He averted his eyes from mine.
My hands grew hot while the overhead lights flickered, drawing everyone’s attention to the ceiling. Dad’s grip pumped my shoulder.
Jonah stretched his legs. “I’m not hanging out with no damn shrink. Marty Pifkin’s got everyone wrapped around his finger.”
“Here we go again,” I muttered. “Jonah, stop it.”
“That guy is a creeper, and—”
I glanced to Dad for sympathy. “Marty asked to compare answers on our homework and Jonah lost it.”
“—he was bothering Vayda,” my brother talked over me.
“Guys like that shouldn’t be talking to her. He’s gadje. I didn’t throw the first punch, didn’t ask for Ward’s help. I barely know the kid.”
Monsignor waited until Jonah and I both quieted down.
“What’s gadje?”
Jonah gave Dad a pleading stare. We never let others knowthe meaning of words we’d grown up with, but Dad confessed,
“To some, it means outsider, though you could say we’re the outsiders here.”
Monsignor gave a reluctant nod. “Marty claims Jonahthrew a desk. That’s not behavior that will go unpunished.”
“And the physics lab? Every light was broken.” Sister Tremblay crossed her arms.
I sank into my chair and hid behind my hair. No one could avoid those dull eyes. I wanted out of the office. Now.
The Flickering of the lights grew faster. I shuddered, not cold, but burning up. The poster of a kitten clinging to a clothesline while cheering “Hang in there!” obviously didn’t relate to how fragile my grip was when so many emotions flooded a room. Usually I kept it together with mental barriers to deflect the constant flow of others’ feelings, but so much tension…
“You’re seriously suggesting a couple of kids broke every light bulb just like that?” Dad’s voice rose. He gestured to the palsied lights. “Y’all would be better off hiring an electrician before the school burns down.”
The room skewed left, and my vision blurred, head dizzied. Too hot, cluttered. My hands—I shut my eyes. Monsignor and Sister Tremblay had to be staring, but I couldn’t worry about them.
Energy. Rising.
Crack!
A fracture drove down the length of the fluorescent light above the desk. Sister Tremblay yelped and snatched Jonah’s folder to her chest.
“Hell of a power surge.” Jonah’s black eyes searched for a way into my mind. Not gonna let him in, not this time. He was worried, but nothing was wrong, nothing at all, except that I felt like I could pass out.
“Vayda, go get some fresh air,” Dad ordered. “You’re flushed.”
Monsignor dismissed me, and with the expected curtsey before hoisting my backpack onto my shoulder, I cracked my knuckles one last time to diffuse the energy swelling in my hands. I stepped out of the office, out of the glow of the stained-glass window, and paced near the chairs where Ward waited. Jonah started this whole mess. Marty had done nothing to me—this time. Marty never listened until Jonah made him. Ever since that first fight, Jonah had his anger centered on Marty. Anything Jonah felt, I felt ten times worse. When he was happy, he was very happy, but when he was angry, he was furious.
Mom had been the same way.
“I promise you won’t go belly-up if you hold still.” Ward’s voice was deep, raw honey. His head rested against his chair, his left eye cracked open, watching me.
I gave him a weak smile. I liked his voice.
Ward had been at our school only since Monday, and already the social boneyard where Jonah and I roamed had claimed him. After we transferred in following Christmas break nearly two years ago, we tried blending with the nameless, faceless uniforms, but it wasn’t so simple. The other students never warmed to us, and we hadn’t to them. We weren’t from here, didn’t look or act like them. We were among the Avoided, but, as of yesterday, we had a shadow. A gadje shadow.
“How’s your hand?” Ward asked. I glanced to my brother and father talking to Monsignor. That Jonah hadn’t chased off Ward was a tacit tolerance of him. “A few cuts. I’ll live.” I twisted my black hair, skimming my hips. “You hardly needed to play the white knight. Marty’s not much of a dragon, more like a salamander.”
“Maybe I like fighting salamanders.”
Chipped, gray polish colored his nails. Artsy in an I-don’t give- a-damn-I’ll-wear-it-if-it’s-clean way. If Monsignor noticed, that’d earn Ward a detention or two.
“Listen, gadjo.” He didn’t deserve social devastation all because of my cavalier brother. He needed to back off from us. While he still could. “Marty won’t bother you if you don’t bother him. Tangling with him will never be forgotten.”
His mouth twitched, neither a grin nor a frown. “I don’t scare easily.”
He slipped on his headphones once more. Must be nice to be so untouched, unfazed. Must be peaceful.
“Hey,” I called. He lifted one side of his headphones. “What are you listening to?”
“Music.”
Smart ass.
Thud! A chair had overturned in Monsignor’s office and rocked ever so slightly. A chair no one had been sitting in. Dad’s muffled voice came fast as he pulled Jonah by the arm. From the dark expression on his face, we were in for a major talking to.
“We need to leave. Now,” Dad said as he steered Jonah out of the office.
He whisked us past the sanctuary where our footfalls echoed on wood floors polished by nuns until glistening. The school was a dour extension off a century-old Catholic parish. The walls in the language arts wing were painted rich blue, the Virgin’s color. Hung between classrooms were carvings from the Stations of the Cross, thick with dust except for Christ’s gaze, which followed us and knew my family’s secrets and sins.
Outside was better. Riding in the car, the windows lowered to allow in the
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Sarah Bromley
Sarah Bromley lives near St. Louis with her husband, three children, and two dogs. She likes the quiet hours of morning when she can drink coffee in peace, stare into the woods behind her house, and wonder what monsters live there. When she’s not writing or wrangling small children, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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Monday, September 22, 2014

A Murder of Magpies

One for sorrow, 
two for joy.
A destructive girl,
a damaged boy.

Sarah Bromley knows how to create an atmosphere, draw a reader in, and ease them into her grip until they're so firmly in it that they can't break free, even to get some more tea. Her magic is in the details.

A Murder of Magpies is the story of Vayda, a girl whose family is running from a past so horrifying they dare not even use their names, her brother Jonah, who struggles against the power inside him, his ties to his family, and a yearning to fit in, and Ward, a boy whose utterly dysfunctional home life has left him broken on the inside in more ways than one. I found it ironic that throughout A Murder of Magpies, Vayda, who is so much an outsider to the tiny town of Black Orchard, Wisconsin that she'd been there three years without making a real friend, repeatedly pushed Ward away calling him gadjo- outsider.

The use of body language, in and of itself, made this a worthwhile read. Bromley pays keen attention to detail in constructing her story, which is filled with subtle foreshadowing, wonderful relevant glimpses of backstory, and although it spans several states, the cast of characters and locations are kept few enough to infuse them with a wealth of character and detail.

A strength of A Murder of Magpies lies in the way it deals with uncomfortable territory. Two of the strongest themes in the book which will unsettle readers and give them food for thought and conversation are bullying and consent, which is why I recommend it for book clubs, because there is a wealth of conversation material between the covers. A Murder of Magpies explores the boundaries of will and ethics, probing each character's moral fiber, as well as the reader's. Of course, the dialog the reader has with herself is always more telling than the one she would have with a group of people, but I think it would be hard to walk away from this book without having examined their own view of right and wrong a little more closely.

Regarding consent, A Murder of Magpies deals with consent in a wide spectrum of manifestations, from question of sexual consent to other venues in which one's will can be subverted. Bromley treads boldly, but respectfully into uncomfortable territory, and I respect the choice. Moreover, her portrayal of bullying and the violent undertow of an environment that nurtures bullying struck me as important to the culture in which her characters and readers coexist.

I like that the characters she's created are bookish, even if they're not great students or terribly great with authority. I like that because her readers are probably bookish, because heck, they're reading, right? I like that Vayda and Ward could nearly be any of the readers if their lives were just 7% more peculiar. Vayda is easy to relate to without coming off as a hollow character (ahem, Bella Swan), and Ward too feels like he's just a step removed from so many people while remaining an individual. Even the antagonists rise above archetypes, and it makes for a good read.

I was very fortunate to be able to read an ARC of  A Murder of Magpies. I'd gotten my hands on the three chapter teaser in the spring and was desperate to get my hands on the full manuscript. I plan to buy a signed copy for my bookshelf in the near future, like, you know, when it's available to purchase.





Saturday, September 6, 2014

Crown of Ice

In the tradition of Wicked and the short but well made NBC series Dracula, Crown of Ice, by Vicki Weavil, brings us the time honored tale of the Ice Queen from her perspective- rewriting villain as protagonist and challenging the reader to reassess their own moral compass as they navigate the frozen terrain of difficult choices on a quest to solve what might be one of the most difficult math problems in the history of YA.

I don't know if I liked it best for it's ethical challenges or for the way in which Weavil writes the ice into the heart of Thyra. Much like a freezer, Crown of Ice kept things fresh by supplying me with characters who behave in unpredictable ways (despite this being a retelling of one of my favorite stories) because, particularly in the Snow Queen's case, her actions are just so far outside my box of expectation. When faced with a problem, if I'd solve it by stepping left to avoid it, she'll solve it by walking into it or doing something so unpredictable I can't even predict it enough to give an example.

At the heart of Crown of Ice lie tried and true themes: volition, honesty, and the balance between ends and means. While a thread of romance ties the tale together, it doesn't overpower the rest of the story. This is the sort of story I recommend when longing for snow.

I  received a review e-copy of this title from the publisher.

Monday, September 1, 2014

When Mystical Creatures Attack

Witty.
Painfully funny.
Surprising on nearly every page, and so downright eccentric I felt like perhaps Kathleen Founds had somehow been possessed by the same perverse and brilliant muse that moved Douglas Adams and inspires Jasper FForde.
When Mystical Creatures Attacks blends whimsy and reality, raw emotion and unconventional storytelling to create something downright fabulous.
I usually do not go in for short stories, but these aren't short stories, they're glimpses through surreal windows that look out on a landscape that resembles, all too keenly, looking in.

The truth is, you'll pick it up because the cover is fabulous. That's what caught me. But you'll stick with it because it's excellent. Then, halfway through the first section, the essays from Ms. Freedman's class, you'll be flipping back to make sure you picked up a work of fiction, because each voice is so distinct, surely they couldn't all have been penned by the same woman. But they were. And then you'll be caught, just as surely as the unicorn on the cover.


I had the pleasure of reading an e-ARC of this title via Netgalley.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Artisans by Julie Reece and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


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Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

The Artisans by Julie Reece

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
The Artisans
They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old RAVEN WEATHERSBY gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.
To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.
Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad's drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.
But Raven's stepdad's drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she's ever known out of jail, or worse.
Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries' clothing line, signing over her creative rights.
Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can't imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.
But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
The Artisans is a delectably rich, layered and dark YA Southern Gothic inspired by Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont's classic Beauty and the Beast.
"The Artisans has all the elements I love - spooky intrigue, strong friendships, and a romantic tension to be savored." ~ Wendy Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of the Sweet Evil trilogy.
add to 

goodreads
Title: The Artisans
Publication date: May 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Julie Reece
Chapter-
by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Julie Reece
Born in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.
I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.
Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess... or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.
Then I thought I’d write one down...
Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure... which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-
header---Giveaway
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(Winners will receive their book on release day)


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