Blog Tour: The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton “Meet the Characters” Post

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The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly

Author: Jamie Pacton
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: May 5th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

View on Goodreads

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Kit Sweetly slays sexism, bad bosses, and bad luck to become a knight at a medieval-themed restaurant.

Working as a wench―i.e. waitress―at a cheesy medieval-themed restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, Kit Sweetly dreams of being a knight like her brother. She has the moves, is capable on a horse, and desperately needs the raise that comes with knighthood, so she can help her mom pay the mortgage and hold a spot at her dream college.

Company policy allows only guys to be knights. So when Kit takes her brother’s place and reveals her identity at the end of the show, she rockets into internet fame and a whole lot of trouble with the management. But the Girl Knight won’t go down without a fight. As other wenches join her quest, a protest forms. In a joust before Castle executives, they’ll prove that gender restrictions should stay medieval―if they don’t get fired first.

meet the characters

These are my very favorite KIT characters!

Kit Sweetly is a wench with knightly aspirations, medieval jokes for days, and a desperate desire to change her stars. She’s 17, a cis-female, white, and poor. She’s also tough and smart, but sometimes thinks she’s got to solve every problem herself. Lucky for Kit, she’s got great friends and enough determination to bounce back from almost anything.

Jett, Kit’s BFF and love interest, is also 17 and he’s a cis-male who’s half Indian and half Russian. He’s funny, smart, and has had a crush on Kit for years. He plays the trumpet, works at the Castle, wants to make documentaries for a living, and usually is filming everything. He also rides a motorcycle, is a great big brother, is a feminist, and is kind of the perfect guy. (I 100% modeled him off my husband).

Layla is Kit’s other BFF. She’s a 17-year-old, cis-female, African-American, and bi.

She’s an artist/graphic designer, comes from a rich family, and she plans on going to school in New York City after high school. Layla loves horses and is super excited to get a chance to ride out as a knight.

Chris, the Red Knight, is Kit’s older brother by two years and her only sibling. He’s funny, brave, and feels very protective of Kit. He’s also a feminist and taught her how to joust and be a knight as he learned the moves. Chris wants to be an architect, but he’s going to school and working lots of jobs to keep the family afloat. Like Kit, he’s super angry at their father for abandoning them.

Lizzy is a wench at the Castle who eventually rides out at as the Silver Knight. She’s plus sized and from the book: “a tall, pretty white girl who plays volleyball and just got voted ‘Most Likely to Dress like a Librarian for the Rest of her Life’ in [Kit’s] senior class. Quiet and bookish in real life, when she’s at the Castle, she trades her cardigans and patterned dresses for a low-cut Wench dress that hugs her curves….”

Mags, the Purple Knight is an 18-year-old, cis-female, who is Chinese American, has lots of tattoos and piercings, and is very punk rock. She likes to display those tattoos, despite company policy against them. Has chin length black hair that is dyed in a rainbow of colors at the tips frequently. Mags dreams of playing in an all-girl punk rock band and touring the world.

Alex is 17, latinix, non-binary, and a force to be reckoned with. From the book: “They’re valedictorian of our senior class, president of two photography clubs (school and city), and blocker on our local Roller Derby team (nickname Tyranno- saurus Lex)….”

Penny is Chris’ best friend. She’s 21, a trans woman, and always wears bright red lipstick. She loves working at the Castle and the local Ren Faire, and she’s super into romance novels, funny movies, and wants to eventually be an author. She and Chris talk about getting an apartment in downtown Chicago someday.

about the author

Jamie Pacton writes all sorts of books: dark, feminist YA fantasy; contemporary YA stories with a funny + geeky bent; funny MG adventure-fantasy; and, even the occasional adult rom-com. She was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2015 and she mentored YA in 2016, 2017, and 2018. She grew up minutes away from the National Storytelling Center in the mountains of East Tennessee; she’s the oldest of ten kids; and, she currently lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, their two kids, and a dog named Lego. The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly (forthcoming May 5, 2020) is her Young Adult debut.

Blog Tour: Last Girls by Demetra Brodsky “Story Behind The Cover” Special Post

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Last Girls

Author: Demetra Brodsky

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: May 5th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

View on Goodreads ————————————–

No one knows how the world will end.

On a secret compound in the Washington wilderness, Honey Juniper and her sisters are training to hunt, homestead, and protect their own.

Prepare for every situation.

But when danger strikes from within, putting her sisters at risk, training becomes real life, and only one thing is certain:

Nowhere is safe.

“Story Behind The Cover”

Coming from a background in design and art direction, an eye catching cover is one of the most important parts of the publishing process for me. It can also be the most stressful. I’ve been fortunate with both my debut novel, DIVE SMACK, and my sophomore novel, LAST GIRLS, in that the team at Tor Teen was very receptive to my suggestions and feedback, a courtesy I don’t take for granted. For every book I write, I set up a Pinterest board for the cover, and LAST GIRLS was no exception. I sent an invitation to my editor to join that private board as a jumping off point for ideas and vision. Add to that an agent with a keen eye for what may still be trending in book cover design by the time a book launches (in this case illustrated covers) and you get the makings for a full team determined to give a book its best possible visual representation. The original title for LAST GIRLS was THE JUNIPER SISTERS, and the Pinterest board I created reflected that as a concept. Three sisters huddled together talking, similar to some scenes in the book was another starting point for the cover you see today. Tor Teen had three different illustrators in mind for the cover and solicited my opinion on them as part of the process. In the end, we all agreed that Dana Ledl (@MY0KARD), a brilliant Czech artist who is also responsible for the stunning covers for The Education of Margo Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera, Internment by Samira Ahmed, and Siobhan Vivian’s latest, We Are The Wildcats. Suffice it to say, LAST GIRLS was in excellent company. Still, it took a few rounds until we got to a place with the illustration and design that represented the funny, fierce, and fearless Juniper sisters. I love this cover and think it speaks volumes to what readers can expect between the pages. I hope you’ll agree after you’ve read their twisty, unconventional story.

exclusive giveaway

about the author

DEMETRA BRODSKY writes twisty thrillers about dark family secrets. She is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned full-time. A native of Massachusetts with a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Demetra now lives in Southern California where she’s always exploring and researching, looking for clues to things that might feed into her next book. She is a first generation Greek-American and a member of International Thriller Writers. Dive Smack, her debut YA Thriller, is a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection, an (ALAN) Pick (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE), and a Publishers Marketplace Buzz Book for Young Adults for Spring/Summer 2018.

Blog Tour: Palace of Silver by Hannah West Exclusive Deleted Scenes!

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Palace of Silver

Author: Hannah West
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: April 28th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction

View on Goodreads

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Two queens confront the ultimate choice as a rebellion emerges against a dangerous despot – and both sides want them dead. When the world of magic is under threat, is loyalty worth their lives?

Return to Nissera, land of three kingdoms and home to spectacular magic. An uneasy peace reigns now that Valory has vanquished the Moth King and settled into her rightful place as queen of Calgoran. New leaders Glisette and Kadri hope to usher the neighboring kingdoms into an era of healing and prosperity. All should be well.

But there’s a fourth queen in charge: Ambrosine, banished overseas to Perispos. Driven by vanity, she vows to become the most powerful and beautiful ruler in the world, even if it means oppressing the mortal kingdom she is meant to protect. Meanwhile a dangerous uprising led by elicromancer-hating rebels gains momentum. Rot spreads through the Forest of the West Fringe. Valory goes missing. Facing enemies on all sides, Glisette and Kadri must reckon with the role of magic. How far will they go to defend their power – and can they build an uprising of their own?

deleted scenes

While writing a first draft, I can usually tell when a scene isn’t quite fitting with the arc of the story, but I keep writing in hopes that those thousands of words I worked so hard to put on the page will get to stay. Once I make the decision to delete a scene or even a whole chapter, though, I feel liberated. Sometimes you need to write it wrong before you can get it right.

The following scene is an entire chapter I deleted before even finishing the first draft of PALACE OF SILVER. Fair warning: it’s a little rough, and even though I redacted a major spoiler, it might spoil a few smaller plot points toward the beginning of the book.

Prior to this scene, Glisette traveled to Perispos to check on her older sister Ambrosine because she’d heard rumors that Ambrosine, who was already vain and selfish, had started dabbling in dark elicromancy. She was also persecuting her new stepdaughter, the sweet and lovely Princess Navara of Perispos. Glisette fought Ambrosine to save the princess, but Ambrosine overpowered her, stole her elicrin stone to strip her of her magical power, and ordered a huntsman, Severo, to take both Glisette and Navara to the woods and execute them. Glisette and Navara convinced the huntsman to spare them (sound familiar, fairy tale fans?) and are now on the lam, trying to meet up with Glisette’s brother so he can help them mount a defense against Ambrosine.

By afternoon, we had left the woods behind and traversed sunflower fields and olive groves, at last reaching the rockier coastal terrain that promised the presence of the port nearby.

Following the road from a distance, we walked all the way to the green cliffs until we could see the seaside city and ships below.

“My brother’s waiting at the Firracorno Inn,” I said, grimacing as I chewed meatless sunflower seeds not yet ready to harvest. The olives weren’t much better at this time of year: green, hard, and bitter. “That ship salvage yard down there looks empty. Might be a good place to hide.”

“I want to come with you,” Navara said. She popped the last olive into her mouth and puckered.

“You can’t. One of us alone is recognizable enough, but together? Ambrosine can’t know we survived, for many reasons.”

She nodded. “I wouldn’t want to hurt Severo’s family.”

“And if she thinks we’re dead, we have a much better chance of mounting a resistance.”

Leading the way, I started the trek down to the lonely salvage yard of scrapped hulls and picked bones of once-great vessels. “That’s as good a spot as any,” I said to Navara, pointing at a fishing vessel turned on its side and half-buried in the sand. A torn canvas covering hung over the dark opening like a tent flap.

“How long will it take?” she asked. “At what point should I come look for you if you haven’t returned?”

“Never,” I said. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Here, take the boning knife and give me my boots so I don’t look daft. Do not show yourself to anyone but me. Promise?”

“Yes,” she said, and though I’d thought of her as a child for the past hours—in part thanks to her rumpled, short hair—her composure reminded me again that she was not.

Once she hid, I took a brief detour to the rocky shoreline to wash the blood from my hair. The saltwater stung my wounds, but at least it would cleanse them. I tousled my damp waves and hung them over my face, partly disguising my scar, and walked the short, meandering path to the nearest city street.

It was hard to believe we had arrived at this port just yesterday morning. Aside from Mercer’s warning about Ambrosine, nothing had seemed dire then. Now, after what happened, Perispos seemed like a foreign wasteland, the decision to come here a cursed one from the beginning.

Stinging tears filled my eyes, tears I’d somehow been able to hold back in Navara’s company. She depended on me. I could not give in.

An unseasonal bite of cold air nipped at my face, and the airy, white clouds overhead shifted. At first I thought it was the sea breeze, but when I swallowed the urge to weep, I noticed the air warming again.

Magic.

It was the magic that had always lived inside me—the reason I knew I would survive my Water ceremony and receive an elicrin stone. Magic without a stone was unwieldy, unreliable, but unmistakably present.

I had not endured a tragedy before receiving my elicrin stone, before I held the reins to steer my magic. If I didn’t suppress the sadness, something inside me would break…and break something else in the process.

Later, I would find somewhere secluded to hide and surrender. But right now, I had to find Devorian.

I walked along the fringes of a fish market with my head ducked and eyes searching. An array of seedy inns squatted along the cobblestone streets, but if Devorian had aught to do with picking our meeting place, he would have chosen something a bit more sophisticated.

Just before I decided to ask someone for directions, I saw a sign with “Firracorno” in flourishing letters and a gilded swordfish. Urgency made my heart palpitate.

Devorian wouldn’t pursue Kadri without meeting up with me first, would he? Please, please, be here.

I raked back my hair and unfastened the top button of my tunic before approaching the entrance. Scraggly hair might disguise my scar, but it wouldn’t win me access. The risk was necessary.

The doorman narrowed his eyes at me. Despite my folksy, filthy clothing, I carried myself like I could destroy the future of anyone who so much as dared serve me a stale scone. “I’m meeting Devorian Lorenthi.”

Though reluctant, the doorman did admit me, revealing a dim parlor full of fragrant pipe smoke and populated by handsomely attired businessmen—no shabby sailor in sight.

Velvet curtains surrounded most of the booths. I glimpsed through the gaps but didn’t see Devorian.

The barmaid was clearing pear-shaped brandy glasses from one of the tables. I approached her. “Is this one occupied?” I asked.

“No, my lady,” she said, her eyes widening as she turned and took in my appearance. “Um, have a seat. Can I fetch you a drink?”

“Ale,” I said before she finished. Devorian would have the means to purchase my drink as well as a hardy meal for me to bring back to Navara. Fending off the sinking feeling that Devorian might have already left for the palace, I sat down to more nonchalantly search the parlor.

I noticed the barmaid speaking surreptitiously with another woman behind the counter. They both glanced over at me and quickly looked away. I tensed, panicking, wondering if I should run, but knowing I might never meet up with Devorian if I did.

The barmaid returned, smiling, and set a mug of ale in front of me.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

She shook her head. “No…um…well we thought you might be someone wanted by the queen, but the town crier’s description mentioned a ‘terribly disfiguring scar.’ Yours is not…” she shook her head again, embarrassed. “Besides, they think she’s with the princess. Have you not heard?”

“My ship just docked this morning,” I lied, tamping down the rush of fear, regretting that I mentioned Devorian’s name to the doorman. “What’s the news?”

“Queen Ambrosine’s younger sisters arrived yesterday to visit her. But there was some sort of altercation and one of them REDACTED FOR SPOILERS before kidnapping the princess. They say she’ll be trying to make her escape to Nissera and will most likely pass this way. The proclamation said to look for a woman with blond hair and fair skin…and well, the scar…and that if we see someone who matches that description traveling with the princess, we should alert the guards posted at the docks.”

Rage like I had never known boiled until I thought I might scream like a kettle. Ambrosine was pinning everything on me, and proclaiming it to the world.

“Interesting,” I said. Forcing my expression to neutrality made my skin feel too tight.

“Have you seen a Nisseran man here with blond hair like mine? Highly fluent in your Perispi?”

“Devorian Lorenthi?” she asked, and I almost cursed. “Um…he was sitting right here, actually. Left in a hurry about a quarter hour ago, after he heard the news.”

My heart took a horrified plunge into my belly. Not only had Devorian departed already, leaving me without help or hope—but he had heard about REDACTED FOR SPOILERS, and probably didn’t know what was true amid the lies Ambrosine had spread. I wanted nothing more than to throw myself into his arms and let him know the truth. But he was gone and I was alone, surrounded by people who believed me an enemy and a threat to their beloved princess. Ambrosine’s urge to insult me by calling me ‘disfigured’ was the only thing that might save me.

“Can I get you anything else?” the barmaid asked, and I could see the suspicion creeping across her features. Believing that I might not be the horribly disfigured kidnapper the herald had described was one matter—but believing I was merely a Nisseran stranger who matched the description and wanted to meet the kidnapper’s brother would require utter suspension of reason.

“No, thank you,” I said calmly. When she turned her back, I sprinted for the exit and burst out the door.

The barmaid shouted, and the doorman caught me by the collar and yanked me back against him, trapping me with his arms. I thrashed and solidly butted the front of his head, which surely hurt me more than him thanks to my wound. Through the ringing in my ears, I heard another shout from down the street. I blinked the stars from my eyes and saw three armed guards in purple livery running toward us.

The doorman relaxed a little in relief. I realized that he knew who I was the minute I appeared. He had sent someone to retrieve the king’s guards—now Ambrosine’s guards.

Never had I fought anyone without my elicrin stone. But I couldn’t let the guards drag me back to the palace or torture me into giving up Navara’s location.

Taking advantage of the doorman’s waning sense of responsibility, I gripped his forearms for leverage and pounded my heel down on his toes. He instinctively released me and I ran. Facing off against three men without my most powerful weapon would mean death or a grave wound at best.

So fragile, mortals. And for now I was one.

The guards followed me, shouting orders for civilians to stop me. Most of them seemed too stunned to act and merely stepped aside.

Glisette runs until the guards catch up to her in the fish market. She’s able to use objects from the stands to defend herself, killing one and taking his sword to fight and kill another. She thinks she’s lost the third one because he’s not chasing her anymore—maybe he couldn’t keep up or lost the trail. She returns to Navara, anxious to reach the woods.*

*I don’t like to have holes and notes in my first draft, but when I’m on deadline sometimes it can’t be helped. Fight scenes take a lot of thought and planning so sometimes I skip and come back to them. I thought I fleshed this one out before ultimately deleting it, but I couldn’t find that particular draft in my files! Always email your progress, people!

By the time I stumbled into the shipyard, my side ached and my lungs burned.

Despite escaping unharmed, I recognized that the perilous errand had been not only pointless*, but detrimental. No Devorian, no food, no supplies to sustain us, not even a message sent back to the Realm Alliance. Ambrosine would receive word that the huntsman had spared us. The only advantage we’d gained was discovering how she intended to frame tragedies past and future: as all my doing.

REDACTED

*If your character of all people is calling a scene pointless, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up deleting it later.

My tired feet nearly stumbled over the worn grass as I rounded the broken hull and found Navara hunched in its shadow, her arms wrapped around her knees, the unsheathed boning knife clenched in her hand. “What happened?” she asked, unfolding her limbs.

“Nothing good,” I said. “Come on, we have to get back to the cover of the woods.”

I offered her my hand and pulled her up. “Your brother wasn’t—?” she started to ask, but froze like a frightened lamb.

“Let her go,” a male voice behind me said. I turned my head and found the third guard brandishing his sword a hand’s breadth from my neck. It seemed he’d hung back and pursued me secretly, hoping I would lead him to Navara. And I’d fallen right into the trap. “Come, Princess,” he said, gently beckoning her with his gloved hand. “I’m on orders to deliver you safely home.”

“It’s not safe there—“ she started again, but as I slowly turned to face him, I shot her a warning look that pointedly traveled to the knife in her hand. She fell quiet.

“Go with him,” I said to her, splaying my hands in a gesture of surrender. Catching on, Navara meekly walked past me, so innocent that the guard didn’t even seem to notice the knife clutched near her torn skirts.

He pushed her behind him to protect her, and probably to shield her eyes from the bloody deed he was about to commit. “Kneel, and I will make this quick and painless,” he said. “I don’t like to see a beautiful woman suffer, even if she deserves it.”

I complied, but my knees hadn’t hit the ground by the time Navara buried the boning knife in his side beneath his ribs and yanked it out. He cried out and covered the bleeding stab wound, letting his sword clatter to the ground. I lunged to retrieve it.

He fell against the hull and stared at the gushing blood before looking up at his sweet princess in disbelief.

Navara strode to stand at my side as I pointed the blade at his throat.

“I’ll spare your life on one condition,” I said. “Return and tell the queen that you made a mistake, that it was not Glisette Lorenthi you pursued, but someone else who closely matched the description. Tell her you would stake your life on it. Then, you will write and send a message to the Realm Alliance in Beyrian telling them there is trouble in Perispos and to come straight away.”

I hunkered down in front of him, resting one elbow casually on my knee and positioning the sharp tip of the sword near the seam of his pants. “If you’re thinking of defying me, just know that I’m not like my sister. I’ve fought battles. I’ve been wounded. I’ve nearly starved. I’ve killed people with my own hands. I will remember your face, and if you don’t do what I ask…” I leaned in, wetted my fingertip with his blood, and drew a ruby stain across his throat. “I will torture you in ways she’s not even brave enough to ponder.”

He swallowed hard and nodded.

“Give me your belt,” I said, standing up and stepping back.

Groaning, he pushed himself up and scrambled to unbuckle his belt. He dropped it on the ground and staggered away. We watched him weave his way through the rubble and disappear.

I scooped up the belt, cinched it to fit around my waist, and slid the sword into the scabbard. “Will he survive to do as you say?” Navara asked.

“People are more resilient than you’d think.”

“You’re proof of that, aren’t you?”

“We are.” I grabbed the huntsman’s pack and we began retracing our path from the woods. If Ambrosine had dispatched her lies to every corner of Halethenica and the outlying villages, there was no civilized place safe for us to go. “We have to move.

about the author

Don Zolidis grew up in Wisconsin, went to college in Minnesota, and is mostly known for being a really funny playwright. For the past five years, he’s been the most-produced playwright in American schools. His more than one hundred published plays have been performed tens of thousands of times, and have appeared in sixty-four different countries. He currently splits his time between New York and Texas, and has two adorable boys who will someday read this book and have a lot of questions. He aspires to owning a dog. His first novel was The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig.

Blog Tour: Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost Exclusive Deleted Scenes

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Elysium Girls

Author: Kate Pentecost
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: April 14th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

View on Goodreads

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In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.

When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she’s a liar, she knows she’s a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn’t shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa’s exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.

Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium’s favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.

Deleted Scenes

This scene was from the original, pre-edited version of the book. Originally, Sal’s mother was alive at the beginning of the book and died while she was exiled to the desert. However, my editors believed that it slowed the pacing of the 3rd act down far too much, so poor Myrtle Wilkerson had to die before the story began. This is the scene in which Sal mourns the loss of her mother after returning from exile in the Desert of Dust and Steel.

They buried Mama in the northern wall, four up from Papa. I sat there beside her name, looking out over the desert. Ten feet to my right, another grave was still damp, darker than the other, more recent ones. Mama’s part of the wall was dry. She had been dead long enough for her grave to dry.

Over the wall, the sun was setting, sending the sky into pinks and oranges with long streaks of purple. More like a painting of a sunset than a real sunset. Any other day I’d have thought it was blissful, marveled, maybe, that there was still beauty even here. But today, it was too quiet. Too serene. How did the world—this world—have the gall to be as beautiful as this when she was dead? Didn’t it know that it had killed her? Where was the howling wind? The lightning? Why didn’t the whole earth ache like I did? It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.

And a voice inside repeated, over and over, No one even told me.

I stood up on the top of the wall. My hands curled into fists. I reached into my pouch and pulled out a handful of powdered seashells, and as I threw them out over the wall with both hands I screamed. Screamed out the magic of hurt and pain and loss.

Lightning boomed down from the heavens miles away, veins of light down to the desert sand, and instead of letting it disappear into nothingness, I held it there with my hands. Pitiless, I held the lightning there, ten blinding columns of heat and loss and anger. White cracks in that beautiful painting sunset. When the magic drained me, burned my hands, I let the lightning go. And as I sank back down onto the wall by her name, I couldn’t help but hear how pitiful my weeping sounded. These weren’t the tears of someone who could call down lightning. These were the tears of a little girl. Just a little girl. That was all.

about the author

Kate Pentecost was born and raised on the Texas/Louisiana border, where ghosts and rural legends lurk in the pines and nothing is completely as it seems.

She holds an MFA in Writing for Children &Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She was recently nominated for a Rhysling award for her poem “Small Town Witches.”

Her debut novel, Elysium Girls, is forthcoming from Disney Hyperion in 2020 in print and audio formats.

She is obsessed with the Romantic Poets and can be identified by the enormous tattoo of Percy Bysshe Shelley on her arm. She lives in Houston (H-Town, Space City, etc.)

Blog Tour: The Edge of Anything by Nora Shalaway Carpenter Exclusive “The Story Behind the Cover”

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The Edge of Anything

Author: Nora Shalaway Carpenter
Publisher: Running Press Teen
Release Date: 24th March, 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Mental Health

View on Goodreads

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Len is a loner teen photographer haunted by a past that’s stagnated her work and left her terrified she’s losing her mind. Sage is a high school volleyball star desperate to find a way around her sudden medical disqualification. Both girls need college scholarships. After a chance encounter, the two develop an unlikely friendship that enables them to begin facing their inner demons.

But both Len and Sage are keeping secrets that, left hidden, could cost them everything, maybe even their lives.

Set in the North Carolina mountains, this dynamic #ownvoices novel explores grief, mental health, and the transformative power of friendship.

story behind the cover

Thanks so much for hosting me today! I love THE EDGE OF ANYTHING’s cover so much, and I’m incredibly grateful for the talents of artist Fabio Consoli and designer Frances J. Soo Ping Chow. Sometimes authors have absolutely no say about their covers (which I find horrifying!) but Running Press was really great about mine. Before cover design got started, my editor Julie Matysik reached out and asked me to a create a Pinterest board of covers that I loved, which I did. It was heavy on artist-drawn covers, so the design team decided to go that route. Shortly after that, the design team sent me examples of Fabio Consoli’s work. It was heavily nature-focused (the natural setting plays a crucial part in THE EDGE OF ANYTHING) and leaned towards the abstract while still being easily recognizable. I loved it. Running Press reached out to him and luckily Fabio signed onto the project.

Next we went through a few rounds of possible cover ideas and again, I’m so grateful that Running Press asked both my agent and me our opinions. A few details were added based on the plot, such as Len’s camera and the blue jay on the back cover. We all agreed we liked Sage and Len standing on the fallen tree rather than sitting, and Fabio tweaked the girls’ height to reflect the height difference between the two. The colors were always wonderful, but Fabio brightened them a bit after our conversations.

I also got to approve the color and style of the title font. Julie said she wanted me to love everything, and I can’t express how much I appreciated that. I truly do love the cover, and I hope that readers do, too!

about the author

Nora Shalaway Carpenter holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Before she wrote books, she served as associate editor of Wonderful West Virginia magazine and has been a Certified Yoga Teacher since 2012. Originally from rural West Virginia, she currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, three young children, and one not-so-young dog. Learn more at www.noracarpenterwrites.com or follow her on Instagram @noracarpenterwrites and Twitter @norawritesbooks.

Blog Tour: All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban Promotional Post

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All Your Twisted Secrets

Author: Diana Urban
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 17th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary

View on Goodreads —————

This thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like One of Us Is Lying and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

my review

I received a free copy for an honest review.

You should like this book if you:

  • Are still having PTSD from your high school years (such as grades, SAT, parents, school, etc)
  • Like the “jumping back the forth in time” narrative
  • Can relate to a protagonist that I highly slightly suspect to have -10 EQ points (occasionally)
  • Listen to movie soundtracks (I swear I started screaming when I also saw the protagonists listen to the Lord fo the Rings soundtracks)
  • Likes music production

But you may have the problem with the book:

  • Narration style
  • A (tiny) bit overhyped?
  • The protagonist highly suspected maybe -10 EQ points (occasionally)

When I first saw the synopsis and the Goodreads ratings of this book, it seemed pretty promising. Not going to lie, the “This thrilling debut” line in the synopsis may have affected me.

But although this book was really fun to read and a bit difficult for me to put down, it wasn’t as…”highly sophisticated and thrilling” as the synopsis portrayed. Yes, it’s interesting, and it involved serious topics such as grief, depression, etc. It also technically did have the mystery element it promised. I would actually recommend this as a book to pass time, and the constant time jump and the count-down make this book’s fast pace very interesting to read. But I feel like…what I got from the book was a bit less than I expected.

I felt like I enjoyed this book and read it because I want to know what’s going t happen next, but not necessarily because I care about the characters as much as I should’ve and wanted to see more of the characters. To phrase it in another way, this book seemed to be more of a plot-driven plot than a character-driven plot.

Another problem I have with this book is it has (what I like to call) the “climax” problem. The entire book is pretty much a gradual escalation of “something bad is going to happen”. That’s pretty much the entire plot. Sounds pretty empty? That’s because it is. It makes the story feels a bit hollow.

We also need to get into the frustrating nature of reading the story from Amber’s perspective. As I mentioned earlier, she’s not stupid, but I swear that I feel like this girl has -50 EQ points. I’m not an EQ genius by a long shot, but I can sense subtle hostility and condescending behaviors from people. This girl managed to twist red-flag signs from Sasha as a person into explanations as to why Sasha is not dangerous. But even if she does have her pain (as everyone should have, which I appreciate the author adding, making the story more realistic), it still is the reason why I was not surprised by the surprising twist ending.

Overall, I would still recommend this book as an interesting read to pass time. I still enjoyed it after all, but nothing much else.

Rating: 3.5/4

exclusive giveaway

about the author

I’m Diana Urban, and I write dark, twisty thrillers for teens including All Your Twisted Secrets (HarperTeen, March 17th 2020). When I’m not torturing fictional characters, I’m a marketing manager at BookBub, a leading book discovery platform. Outside the bookish world, I live with my husband and cat in Boston, and enjoy reading, video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance.

Blog Tour: The Raven and the Dove by Kaitlyn Davis With Exclusive Guest Post!

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The Raven and the Dove

Author: Kaitlyn Davis
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Series: The Raven and the Dove #1
Release Date: March 9th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings

Four fates collide in this avian-inspired, epic fantasy retelling of Tristan and Isolde perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo!

A princess longing to be free…

On the dawn of her courtship trials, Princess Lyana Aethionus knows she should be focused on winning her perfect mate, yet her thoughts wander to the open sky waiting at the edge of her floating kingdom. One final adventure calls. Upon fleeing the palace, the last thing she expects to find is a raven prince locked in a death match with a dragon.

A bastard aching to belong…

Reviled son of a dead king, Rafe would do anything for his beloved half-brother, Prince Lysander Taetanus, including posing as him in the upcoming courtship trials. When a dragon interrupts their secret exchange, he orders his studious sibling to run. After suffering a fatal blow, Rafe is saved by a beautiful dove who possesses forbidden magic, just like him.

Fate brought them together, now destiny will tear them apart…

Unknown to the world above, on the foggy sea ten thousand feet below, a young king fights a forgotten war. He believes Lyana is the queen prophesied to save the world, and with the help of his favored spy, hidden deep in the highest ranks of the dove royal house, he will stop at nothing to have her.

Three shocking betrayals. Two star-crossed lovers. One unforgettable journey. If you like fierce heroines, brooding heroes, forbidden romance, and action-packed magical adventures with twists you’ll never see coming, don’t miss The Raven and the Dove!

What do you think would happen to this book’s plot if you switch the two main characters in this book (Lyana and Rafe) with two other characters (of your choice) from your previous works?

Wow—I’ve never even thought of anything like this before! Good question J Before I dive into the switch-ups, I’ll lay the groundwork for the characters of Lyana and Rafe. The first thing you need to know about both of them is they have wings! The world they inhabit floats high above the clouds and consists of seven kingdoms, each of which represents a different species of bird.

Lyana is the Princess of the House of Peace, the home of the doves, and she has ivory dove wings. Her personality is that of an explorer—she longs to soar into the horizon and discover the world that exists outside of her isolated homeland. She’s quick witted, used to getting what she wants, and utterly charming. Warring with all of that is her love for her people and her duty to her title, which prohibits her from seizing the freedom for which she so desperately yearns.

On the other hand, we have Rafe, the bastard from the House of Whispers, the home of the ravens, who has onyx raven wings. His late father was the king of the ravens, but he and Rafe’s mother died long before my book begins. Because of this, he’s felt out of place for most of his life and is despised by his people for being the living symbol of the infidelity that got his father killed. However, his brother, Prince Xander, has never held that against him, and the two love each other unconditionally. Rafe would do anything for his brother, and is fiercely loyal despite the rough exterior he uses to guard his heart.

These two characters come together at the start of the novel, when Rafe fights a dragon in order to give his brother time to get to safety. Lyana happens upon the battle just as Rafe get struck by a fatal blow and flies to his aid. From this point forward, if they were any two other characters, things would have gone a lot differently…

I have four other young adult fantasy series, so I’m going to go through the scenario with a character from each �.

Midnight Fire – If Rafe was Luke from my YA vampire romance series, Midnight Fire, he probably would’ve battled the dragon with corny jokes instead of a sword. See, Luke is a vampire slayer with the power to channel the sun, but against any other baddie, he’s useless. His ill-timed sense of humor knows no bounds, so he might’ve asked a knock knock joke…then ran for his life, meaning he and Lyana never would’ve met and there’d be no story.

Midnight Ice – If Lyana was Pandora from my YA urban fantasy series, Midnight Ice, she would’ve been long gone before the dragon even got there (or at least that’s what everyone would think). Pandora is a runaway. She hasn’t been home in four years, and she must constantly live on the move because the supernatural police force she was born into, a species known as titans, are scouring the world for her. Luckily, she has the power to turn invisible, so she probably would’ve stuck around long enough to make sure Rafe lived, then slipped away before he had a chance to spot her.

A Dance of Dragons – If Rafe was Rhen from my YA epic fantasy series, A Dance of Dragons, he would’ve had no problem standing there and letting the dragon do its worst—or at least try to. Ever since he can remember, Rhen has been immune to fire. He can’t create it, but he can absorb it into his skin and walk through it unscathed. So, he probably would’ve laughed cockily as the dragon got all angry and tried to douse him in fire, then charged with his sword held high. I doubt he would’ve been injured, so Lyana would’ve never crept out of hiding to come to his rescue, and they never would’ve met.

Once Upon a Curse – If Lyana was Jade from my YA fairy tale retelling series, Once Upon a Curse, she probably would’ve picked at her nails while she watched Rafe come to an untimely demise, then rolled her eyes at his idiocy in facing a dragon alone. You see, Jade is under an evil queen’s spell and because of this she feels no emotions—no love, no pain, no remorse, no guilt, no fear. It’s takes a very special prince to break her from this curse, but unfortunately for Rafe, he wouldn’t have been that guy and he’d be dead. Womp womp.

Clearly, Lyana and Rafe need to stay just the way they are, lol! Since their story is retelling of the famous tragedy Tristan and Isolde, I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and roses, but the two of them were made for each other, so hopefully they’ll find a better ending together. Guess you’ll have to read the book to find out 😉

Have you read any of my other books? What do you think would happen if those characters were somehow transported into The Raven and the Dove? What about a character from one of your favorite books?

about the author

Kaitlyn Davis, a bestselling author with over a quarter of a million books sold, writes young adult fantasy novels under the name Kaitlyn Davis and contemporary romance novels under the name Kay Marie. Publisher’s Weekly has said, “Davis writes with confidence and poise,” while USA Today has recommended her work as “must-read romance.”

To learn more about her contemporary romance novels, visit her Goodreads author page for Kay Marie here: https://www.goodreads.com/Kay_Marie

Always blessed with an overactive imagination, Kaitlyn has been writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and is overjoyed to share her work with the world. When she’s not daydreaming, typing stories, or getting lost in fictional worlds, Kaitlyn can be found playing fetch with her puppy, watching a little too much television, or spending time with her family. If you have any questions for her–about her books, about scheduling an event, or just in general–you may contact her at: KaitlynDavisBooks@gmail.com

Sign up for Kaitlyn’s newsletter to stay up-to-date with all of her new releases and more! http://bit.ly/AuthorNewsletter

Blog Tour: Iphigenia Murphy by Sara Hosey Promotional Post

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Iphigenia Murphy

Author: Sara Hosey
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Release Date: March 10th 2020

Genre: Young Adult

View on Goodreads

———————-

Running away from home hasn’t solved Iphigenia Murphy’s problems. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll catch up with her. Iffy is desperate to find her long-lost mother, and, so far, in spite of the need to forage for food and shelter and fend off an unending number of creeps, living in Queens’ Forest Park has felt safer than living at home. But as the summer days get shorter, it all threatens to fall apart.

A novel that explores the sustaining love of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and the indelible bond of family, Iphigenia Murphy captures the gritty side of 1992 Queens, the most diverse borough in New York City. Just like Iffy, the friends she makes in the park–Angel, a stray dog with the most ridiculous tail; Corinne, a young trans woman who is escaping her own abusive situation; and Anthony, a former foster kid from upstate whose parents are addicts–each seek a place where they feel at home. Whether fate or coincidence has brought them together, within this community of misfits Iffy can finally be herself, but she still has to face the effects of abandonment and abuse–and the possibility that she may be pregnant. During what turns out to be a remarkable journey to find her mother, will Iffy ultimately discover herself?

about the author

Website: https://sarahosey.com/home/

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7273735.Sara_Hosey

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hoseysara?lang=en

Blog Tour: Below by Alexandria Warwick Exclusive Guest Post + Book Excerpt

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Below

Author: Alexandria Warwick

Series: North #1
Publisher: Wolf Publishing
Release Date: February 4th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

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From the author of The Demon Race comes a YA dark fantasy series inspired by Inuit mythology.

In the heart of the frigid North, there lives a demon known as the Face Stealer. Eyes, nose, mouth—nothing and no one is safe. Once he returns to his lair, or wherever it is he dwells, no one ever sees those faces again.

When tragedy strikes, Apaay embarks on a perilous journey to find her sister’s face—yet becomes trapped in a labyrinth ruled by a sinister girl named Yuki. The girl offers Apaay a deal: find her sister’s face hidden within the labyrinth, and she will be set free. But the labyrinth, and those who inhabit it, is not as it seems. Especially Numiak: darkly beautiful, powerful, whose motives are not yet clear.

With time slipping, Apaay is determined to escape the deadly labyrinth with her sister’s face in hand. But in Yuki’s harsh world, Apaay will need all her strength to survive.

Yuki only plays the games she wins.

exclusive excerpt

Original Source: http://www.alexandriawarwick.com/below-chapter-1/

CHAPTER 1

A white silence blanketed the land. Newly fallen snow, hushed. Pure, crystalline ice hardening against the pale bark of the trees. The chilled air that swelled with the slow, sleeping breaths of a world that had yet to wake.

And a girl cloaked in heavy furs, waiting.

Apaay studied the breathing hole in the ice. Her joints ached with cold and the hours she’d crouched, alone save her dog Nakaluq, who lay quietly curled by her side. It was the third time this week she had come to the frozen plain that was Naga, the Eastern Sea, and she vowed it to be the last. Above, the sky was a spill of black ink. The long night was only in its first month, which left five months of darkness to endure. The moon, a shard of pale light, cast a watery sheen upon the ground. It was not enough.

Keeping her attention on the breathing hole, Apaay slowly removed the harpoon slung across the bulk of her fur parka. She supposed there were worse things in life than lack of sunlight. Here on the frozen sea, she knew true peace. The sea was sleeping beneath the ice. And the seals were, too.

Her gaze slid to Nakaluq’s still form. Unsurprisingly, he was sleeping as well. She nudged his flank with one of her sealskin boots. “Wake up.” A white cloud streamed from her lips.

His eyebrows twitched, and he curled his body tighter, bushy tail draped across his nose. A clear dismissal that he should not be disturbed.

Apaay rolled her eyes, for this was his absolute favorite game: feed me, and I will awaken. “You’re supposed to be my lookout. You know, to alert me when danger is near?”

One of his large, triangular ears flicked west, toward the direction of her village. No sound, no danger. He grumbled, burrowing further into his warmth. The wind had begun to pick up, and it was cutting.

“I guess you don’t want your treat then,” she crooned.

Immediately, Nakaluq sprang to his feet, prancing around as if to say, Look at me, I’m awake!

Apaay snorted at the ridiculous display before wrapping an arm around his neck, pulling him close, and pressing a brief kiss to his snout. His pelt was a perfect reflection of the tundra—white flecked with gray. Snow on stone. “Sit still. You’re making me tired.”

Nakaluq side-eyed her.

“Don’t look at me that way.” The look that implied maybe she wouldn’t be so tired if she were dreaming with Mama, Papa, and Eska in their ice house, warm and safe in slumber.

Dreaming. What a lovely notion.

It was simple, really. They needed to eat. They needed clothes, tools, oil for their lamps. Over the last few years, the seal population had dwindled, and she wondered if someone had disrespected the old rules. The Sea Mother did not take offense lightly. Without her favor, the marine life would travel elsewhere for the remainder of the season, proving for a difficult hunt. Decades had passed since anyone had sighted the Sea Mother beyond her watery silence. The sea grew restless.

Apaay did as much as she could, but often it was not enough. Her earlier attempts at harpooning a seal had ended in failure. The first time, she had struck too soon. The second, too late. Like this, Eska would say. Try again. And Apaay loved Eska. She did. But she could love her sister with the whole of her heart while also wishing things did not come so easy for her.

When she thought deeper on the issue, it was actually quite ironic. Her parents would be displeased to know she was out here alone, and yet who would come, if not her?

As if sensing her sadness, Nakaluq sidled closer.

“You know how Papa is,” she told her friend. “How can he expect to hunt with a broken leg? Or Mama, already busy with sewing and cooking and cleaning?”

A heavy paw settled on top of Apaay’s hand, the rough pads scraping against her mittens. She squeezed it. “Or Eska, too busy drooling over Lusa?” Her sister scowled whenever Apaay teased her about it, though admittedly she did drool over the girl. A lot.

Leaning close, Apaay whispered to Nakaluq, “Though not as much as you.”

The dog huffed as if offended.

Her smile fell as she again examined the breathing hole, huddling only a few feet beyond its slick edge. Black water struck the hard, icy rim. She did not have to worry. Even when her breathing shallowed out, she did not have to worry. This time of year, the ice was frozen four feet solid. There would be no cracks.

Still, she shuffled back to put another foot of distance between herself and the ledge. Her fingers tightened on the harpoon, the head a glint of carved ivory, the line curling along the ground.

Drifting snowflakes clung to the ruff of wolverine fur encircling her hood.

Movement in the water.

Apaay held herself absolutely still. She was night, and snow, and hard, glinting ice.

The seal’s slick head breached the dark liquid, whiskers twitching, its skin a mottled blue-gray. Its pupils were wet and black, no white to see.

It hadn’t yet spotted her. As he’d been trained to do, Nakaluq remained motionless beside her, little more than a boulder among the ice as she lifted her harpoon in an unhurried motion so the animal wouldn’t startle. It would only take a few breaths before submerging again.

Her harpoon came down.

The seal vanished in a splash of water.

Apaay swore and lurched to her feet. Two hours of waiting and what did she have to show for it? Nothing. Her stomach hollowed out from the sense of failure, the anxiety of her family’s diminishing food stores, which would not last another week.

She waited another thirty minutes despite the unlikelihood of the seal returning. It would instead travel to another breathing hole, one without a sharp stick aimed at its head. The nearest one lay a half-mile north and wasn’t frequented as often as this one. It would be so nice to return home and slip beneath her furs. Rest, refuel, maybe even dream.

But they needed to eat.

Apaay whistled for Nakaluq as she approached the sled parked some yards away. Grabbing the harness, she looped it around his body and front legs so it hit him high on the chest. He was of stocky build, with powerful haunches built for endurance and a dense, double coat.

“My sweet, sweet boy,” she murmured, rubbing behind his ears. He nuzzled his nose against her chest like he used to do as a pup. The memory softened her hunting frustrations, and she buried her face in his neck before mounting the sled.

Two short whistles sent him north, the sled’s walrus-bone runners cutting lines through the thin layer of powder dusting the frozen sea. The runners’ smoothness pleased her, as they had only been recently completed after she had run the last sled, quite literally, into the ground. An accident, she’d claimed, but Papa had been furious nonetheless. Never one to waste anything, she had recycled the old material to build a swifter, lighter sled body, large enough to lash multiple seals to its base.

Above, the stars were hard pinpricks of light. The wind was a brutal, shredding force, stinging her cheeks and eyes, scouring her rough, chapped lips. There was nothing that was not hardened or chiseled in the North. It was a land of contrasts, white and black and gray, uncolored, unhospitable to all except those who had been born here. This was why Apaay admired the land. And this was also why she feared it.

With the temperature far below freezing, the second breathing hole had already iced over when she arrived. Using the tip of her harpoon, Apaay chipped away the thin film, the splintering sound causing her to flinch. She had just settled down to wait when a whistle carried high upon the wind. Three short bursts, followed by a longer note—the signal for friend.

“Apaay!”

Uh-pai.

Two figures approached, their silhouettes bulked in thick layers. Nakaluq perked up, and his tail, curled over his back in alertness, began to wag back and forth.

Apaay waved to Eska and her good friend, Chena. “Over here!”

They joined her at the breathing hole, her younger sister ruffling Nakaluq’s fur in greeting. “You know most people are asleep right now,” Eska said with amusement. “Right?”

Her mouth widened, more smirk than smile. The world was cold, but in her heart, she felt warm. “You know I’m not most people.”

“Trust me, I’m aware.”

Her attention slid to Chena, who was unusually silent, her small mouth grim. Silver limned the soft line of her friend’s jaw.

Apaay said to her sister, “You speak as if that’s a bad thing.”

“Not everyone is so sure of themselves.”

A snort sprang free at how untrue that statement was. What was more, that Eska would think such a thing. Apaay was stumbling along in life, chasing at the heels of those ahead. She shrugged. “Maybe. But let’s talk about what’s really important: my new joke.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“What did the shark say to the whale?”

Eska made a show of thinking deep thoughts, even though she probably already knew the answer. It was a game they sometimes played. Who could think of the most cringe-worthy joke? “I give up.”

“What are you blubbering about!” She snorted out a laugh. “Get it? Blubbering? Because—because the whale has blubber—”

Eska sighed, her face softening with affection. “That was terrible, you know.”

Apaay had always thought her sister beautiful, even as a child, and for the longest time, Apaay hadn’t the words to describe why that beauty was admired. People would mention how bright her eyes were, how smooth and round her cheeks were, how precious was her dimpled chin, her mouth like a rosy bud.

But now she understood what had eluded her for years. In a land that knew no warmth, Eska exuded what people craved: light, and a feeling of comfort, and peace.

“Anyway,” Apaay said, lifting her eyebrows, “you’re one to talk. Why are you out now, except to annoy me? You should be in bed.”

“Oh.” Her sister ran a mitten over Nakaluq’s back and sent Chena an unreadable look. “No reason.” She glanced at the sled, its empty base. “Any luck?”

Apaay offered a brief, close-mouthed smile, trying to ignore the sudden tension she felt at so few words. “Not yet.” Her sister didn’t know how truly dire their situation was, and she would like to keep it that way.

“If you need a break soon, let me know.”

And risk Eska taking the kill? “I’m fine, but thank you.” She turned to Chena. A definite paleness washed out the warmer undertones of her skin. It was concerning, but not uncommon. It was easy to catch a cold at this time of year. “How is Muktuk doing?” Apaay asked, speaking of Chena’s brother. “Has he learned the name of his new baby yet?” She tucked her braid back inside her hood.

“Not yet. My father is supposed to arrive sometime this week.”

Apaay nodded and returned to studying the breathing hole. Chena’s father had traveled to one of the neighboring villages, where his mother—Chena’s grandmother—currently lived. She and the elders would assemble to discuss the baby’s name-soul. This was the Analak way.

Someday when she was old enough, Apaay hoped for the opportunity in choosing a baby’s name-soul too. Names did not simply continue individual lives. They continued the life of the community. When the village celebrated a birth, they both celebrated a new person as well as the return of the namesake, or the deceased person from whom the name-soul was taken. These names, these kinship ties, were the threads that bound their community together.

After a few minutes, Eska said, with an absurd amount of nonchalance, “Pana was asking for you last night.”

She very nearly gagged. “Ugh. Spare me.”

“Apaay!”

“What? The man is softer than whale intestines. And anyway—” She slid her harpoon free as the water rippled, lowering her voice. “—he doesn’t actually like me. He just wants to . . . you know.”

Chena murmured, “You won’t even give him a chance?”

Apaay shot her friend a cutting look. The only reason she’d spent time with him was because he sometimes gave her the smaller of the seals if he killed two. But they didn’t need to know that. She had no patience for softness like Pana. It was a hard, jagged world out there. The North would carve you up, spit you out if you let it. There was no place for vulnerability on the ice. “Not all of us have someone like Silla in our lives. And can you both please lower your voices? You’ll scare the seals away.”

At the young man’s name, a flush deepened the bronze of Chena’s cheeks. “Right. Silla.” Strained laughter bubbled up, and she clamped her lips together.

Apaay looked at her friend. Really looked at her. She was about to ask what was wrong when Eska stated loudly, “It’s probably for the best. No doubt you’d chew Pana up if given the chance.”

It was not untrue. “Yes, he’d sob into his bear skins and then where would we be? Now hush. A seal’s coming.”

“Apaay—”

The ripple flattened into calmness, and Apaay waited, hoping a seal would breach its warm, liquid safety for the chance to take a breath of air, but their voices must have chased it back into the water’s deep. Apaay sat back on her heels, glaring at her sister.

At least Eska had the grace to look apologetic. “Sorry.”

Apaay took a breath to quell her frustration. Since the animal would probably not return, she’d have to come back tomorrow. Tonight, she would go home empty-handed. Again.

Eska reached for the harpoon. “I can get a seal for you. I know of another place—”

“I can manage on my own,” Apaay said, snatching it away. “I’ll come back tomorrow.”

“But the breathing hole isn’t far.”

“I said I’ll come back tomorrow.”

Something about Eska shrank, became small. “I’m just trying to help.”

Apaay hated herself for saying it, because it had been an accident, and Eska was kind, and her sister, whom she loved more than anything, but she said, “You’ve helped enough, don’t you think?”

Chena glanced between them, clearly uncomfortable. “Apaay—”

“What?” If she had come all this way, done all this work, it was not so Eska could take the kill from her. Call it selfishness, but for once, just once, Apaay wanted to prove she was as equally capable a hunter as Eska. The seal would be hers. Hers to kill, hers to claim. “Every day that passes is a day closer to starvation. So I’m sorry if I want to make sure we have something to eat next week. If it had been quiet as I had asked, maybe our problem would be solved.” It was hurtful, what she said. Disappointment in her performance made her cruel when she should be kind. “But I guess we’ll never know.”

Eska’s eyes swam with unshed tears. Saltwater lapped against the ice, gently. “I’m going to go home then,” she whispered.

Apaay nodded, looking to the tops of her boots. “I think that would be best.”

“I am sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t know about—I didn’t know.” With one last look to Chena, she left. Darkness soon swallowed her.

A few minutes passed before Chena spoke. Her face was grave. “That was a bit harsh, don’t you think? She’s only fourteen.”

“I know that, but everything comes so easy to her.” The last word she choked off. Apaay blinked rapidly against the sting in her eyes. Truly, it wasn’t Eska’s fault. All Apaay asked for was a chance. “Every time I fail to bring in a seal, or forget to replenish the oil stores, or ruin some other task, it’s another mark against me. You know I want to lead the hunt this summer.”

The men had long ago told her no, and yet she was a burr they could not remove, clinging to their clothes, blowing back in with the force of a blizzard whenever one of the younger men puffed out his chest, claiming this was not her place.

Apaay knew why they told her no. She was too flighty, some claimed. Too lost, others said. A leader commanded respect, exuded confidence, and built trust, acting as a beacon in the dark. Why would they ever choose someone like her, unreliable and drifting, to lead? To which Apaay would counter, how could she prove herself if not given the chance?

“You are under a lot of pressure,” Chena agreed. “It would make anyone’s patience short.”

But. She heard a but in there.

Apaay rubbed a palm over her face, dislodging the ice that had condensed around her nose and mouth and eyes. Guilt swam through her. “I’ll apologize.” Chena was right. She had acted unnecessarily harsh toward Eska out of her own insecurity.

With the hunt a failure, they decided to return home. Nakaluq hauled the sled while she and Chena traveled on foot until they reached the shore. A cairn, as tall and wide as a man, the stones in browns and grays and stacked atop one another, signified the break between sea and unsea, as well as marked the direction to their community.

Snow crunched and caved beneath their boots. This was a still, silent land. Its hush sank deep into the earth, rooting down with those of the bracken and the trees. Their village was located two miles southwest. Boreal forest, thick and lush and evergreen, lay to the south. Open tundra lay to the north.

Chena, normally doing everything she could to fill the silence, was unusually quiet. A slight furrowing of her brow had Apaay resting a palm on her friend’s arm. “Is everything all right? You don’t look well.”

Chena shook her head, gaze elsewhere.

Apaay pulled her friend to a stop and turned the shorter girl to face her. “There is something wrong.” The realization was bright.

“Apaay—”

“Tell me.”

Chena’s glare cut through the gloom. Apaay noticed her fingers digging into her friend’s shoulders, and she loosened her grip.

“Sorry.” There was something between them she couldn’t see, filling up the space, pressing out her certainty and ease. The regret she felt for snapping at Eska didn’t help.

A shuddering sigh slipped through the chill air. Chena rubbed her mittens over her face, cheeks red and chapped from the wind. “It’s about Silla. We slept together last month.”

“So?”

“As in we slept together.”

Oh. Oh.

“Was it—I mean—”

Chena cupped her elbows in her palms. “He was good to me.” Her throat worked, as if she wished to hide these words by swallowing them down. “But I realized afterward I wasn’t wearing my pregnancy charm.”

Her mouth parted in understanding as her stomach dropped. And dropped. She glanced at Chena’s belly, its softness shielded behind layers of fur. Life swelled beneath it and would one day open its eyes to the world.

Clearing her throat, she looked away, unsure of what to say.

“Eska told me to come to you,” Chena whispered. “I need help. I don’t know what to do.” The words wavered, a touch desperate. “We’re not even married. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to support me and the child. I mean, he’s a capable hunter, a hard worker, and while he’s excited to be a father, I can’t—I mean—” Her eyes glittered, so dark, so very wide. “I’m not ready for this.”

Apaay pulled her friend along, wanting to keep their blood flowing. Chena, pregnant. She could hardly wrap her mind around it.

They walked for perhaps half a mile in silence before Apaay asked,

“Have you told your mother?”

“No. I’m afraid to.”

The hill they climbed steepened, but once they reached the top they’d be able to see their village. Apaay glanced over her shoulder to check on Nakaluq and was not surprised to find him only a few feet behind, the sled’s runners having carved deep tracks into the snow.

Apaay said, through shallow huffs, “I think you should tell her.”

“What if she hates me?”

“She won’t hate you. She loves you. You’re her daughter.”

“Yes, and now a pregnant one.”

Reaching down, Apaay squeezed Chena’s hand. So delicate, so small. “I know it doesn’t feel like a joyous occasion, but it will. You’re going to be a mother.” Not even the worthiest of hunters could overshadow the act of raising and caring for another. “You also have me. If there’s anything you need, I will do whatever I can to help.”

Chena nodded, the lines bracketing her mouth easing into smoothness. A moment later, her nose crinkled in distaste. She lifted it to the wind. “Do you smell that?”

The scent hit as they crested the hill: sharp and acrid, unclean.

Nestled in between clumps of frozen trees, sixty ice houses lay like small mounds of snow upon the ground. Except they were not greeted by glittering white domes. Gray streaks sullied the ice—a spattering of filth. The world rained ash as black smoke hissed from down below, pouring into the sky like blood from an open wound.

Inspiration behind the names (how did you come up with such “Sarah J. Maas” worthy-like names)?

I’ve always had a fascination with names. Way back in high school I actually had a baby name book (still have it) and it was bookmarked so heavily because I loved reading through the names, their meanings, and sounding them out. I remember once I even typed up an entire list of horse names I liked!

Because the indigenous people in Below are inspired by the Inuit of Nunavut, Canada, I borrowed heavily from the Inuktitut language to better understand the syntax of the names. I also used the names of towns, cities, bodies of water, etc. for inspiration. I stumbled across Apaay’s name (our main character), and it clicked. There really wasn’t a reason for it. I just knew that was the name, as it “fit” with her character. With the antagonists, I was looking for names with hard consonances, as the harsher sound/appearance to the names tends to reflect mistrust or darker qualities to the characters. Using an analogy, if you look at a chair with a bunch of angles, points sticking out of it, it’s not going to look as appealing as a soft, cushioned chair, right?

Lastly, I strive to hit a balance of names that fit whatever world I’m writing in, but that are still approachable to a reader. That’s why in most of my stories, there will be a mixture of English titles and titles written in the fantasy language I’m using. For example, in Below there is the Face Stealer, but then that’s offset by names like Yuki, Ila, and Apaay. I try to find or create names that reflect whatever personality the character has. I love the process of naming things in my stories so I always take a lot of time to ensure each name or title is the “right” one.

about the author

Growing up in a small town forced Mora to be creative as a means to entertain herself. In her free time, she focused her energy on music, writing, and school. Mora graduated with an associate degree from her local community college a month before receiving her high school diploma. She is currently pursuing two majors related to engineering at university, and her tuition is paid for with the money earned through her music and writing.

Blog Tour: Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz Book Spotlight + Exclusive Guest Post

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Jane Anonymous

Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 7th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

View on Goodreads

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Bestselling author Laurie Faria Stolarz returns with Jane Anonymous, a gripping tale of a seventeen-year-old girl’s kidnapping and her struggle to fit back into her life after she escapes.

Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.

Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?

guest post

What inspired you to write this book/story:

I’d been wanting to write an abduction story for a while, but I also felt that kidnapping/abduction had been well-covered territory (in books, movies, and other creative outlets). I was also interested in exploring the emotion of loss. We typically associate loss with the loss of a person or pet, but I wondered about the loss of time, innocence, and a sense of self… Were those “losses” any less impactful? In my quest to explore that question, I began my story, aiming my camera lens on the period of time, post-trauma, when a threat is removed but the wounds remain, raw and searing, as the individual tries to acclimate back in a safer space.

My main character hides her identity under the guise of “Jane Anonymous” as she writes about the seven months she spent in captivity, having been taken by someone she refers to as “the monster” and locked in a room with a bed and adjoining bathroom. “Jane” received meals and toiletries through a cat door, never knowing if it was day or night. The story is told on two timelines – then (during her time in captivity) and now (after she gets back). We see how the traumatic experience (and the losses incurred from it) changes her. Not only does Jane lose seven months of her life, but she also loses friends, relationships, and a sense of self.

When trauma strikes, we’re typically given an “acceptable” amount of time to heal and “move on,” but what happens when that allotted window of grieving time closes and the individual simply can’t move on? What happens when one feels as though she’s disappointing those around her for not being able to readjust quickly or radically enough, and so the trauma deepens, while emotions of guilt, anger, and alienation grow? Jane Anonymous explores those questions. “Jane,” the character, post-escape, behaves badly – to herself as well as to those who love her – as a result of her trauma. She knows this and owns it, but that doesn’t mean she knows how to fix it. The novel explores questions rather than providing answers.

What kind of research did you do regarding kidnapped cases, and how did that influence how you wrote the book:

I read anything I could get my hands on regarding kidnapped cases, for sure – both fiction and non-fiction. There are so many crime stories written about abduction, which is probably why it took me so long to write mine. What could I possibly add to the already long list of amazingly powerful and insightful stories?

book focuses more on the losses incurred from such a traumatic experience. Yes, Jane is abducted, which may be considered an extreme case, but the losses she incurred from it can bleed into other losses as well. In addition to reading, I also interviewed people who’ve experienced loss – the loss of a child, the loss of a spouse, the loss of innocence… I delved into the psychology of the brain – how the brain can serve as a protector in times of trauma. I researched PTSD, repressed memory, Dissociative Disorder, and the effects of triggers to those who’ve been traumatized.

about the author

Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston.

Laurie Faria Stolarz is an American author of young adult fiction novels, best known for her Blue is for Nightmares series. Her works, which feature teenage protagonists, blend elements found in mystery and romance novels.

Stolarz found sales success with her first novel, Blue is for Nightmares, and followed it up with three more titles in the series, White is for Magic, Silver is for Secrets, and Red is for Remembrance, as well as a companion graphic novel, Black is for Beginnings. Stolarz is also the author of the Touch series (Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, and Deadly Little Lessons), as well as Bleed and Project 17. With more than two million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been named on various awards list.

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