ARC Review & Giveaway: Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell

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After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden—a burlesque troupe of slave girls—sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn’t one of the emperor’s men—not anymore. He’s the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it.

Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose’s attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her as his hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal—if he helps her rescue the other girls, she’ll tell him all the Garden’s secrets.

Except the one secret she’s kept for seven years that she’ll to take to her grave if she must.

GardenOfThorns4

review4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Entangled and with participation in the YAReads tour

+++Contains potential triggers for graphic violence/abuse 

From the very first page I knew I’d love this book. It’s dark and twisted and made of intrigue and the darkest forms of humanity. What happens when humans are reduced to numbers? When they become dispensable and money/greed reign supreme? You have the sparks of a rebellion and the vilest and most inhumane atrocities.

From the sinister descriptions to the unflinchingly honest voice of Rose, this story is gripping and despite the carnage, you won’t be able to look away. The Flowers, the Wilted, the whole hierarchy of these dancing, trafficked girls and the pain their Wilted faces every time one of the Flowers disobeys. It’s terrifying. From the clicking of the shears on their caravan cages to the pools of blood and threats made all too real; it’s gory, graphic, and sickening. The fear and anxiety will keep you on edge, it definitely had me flipping pages like mad hoping that Rose and the others made it out of whatever dangerous mission they happened to be on. 

If there’s one thing this story excels at, it’s pacing and keeping the tension high. Whether it’s blossoming sexual tension or fear, it’s there in abundance. 

The characters are full of life and strong voices. Every one of them is memorable and leaves you with something to thing about. They add to the story. They’re so much more than throwaway characters and after seeing so much of that lately, I am seriously impressed. I loved each and every one of them. Whether I liked them as characters was one thing, but they all had flaws and an energy that took over whenever they were present, despite the story being told from Rose’s POV. 

Rose has suffered years of psychological and verbal abuse. And I’m not sure if this term is correct, but secondary abuse-having to watch someone she loves get punished in her place. Everything she’s seen, each horrific, bloody act, all the guilt she’s felt, all the pain, and still Rose rallies on, she fights, and she sacrifices everything for her Flower sisters. Her determination, her courage, and her humility are a powerful example and completely unexpected. Some other things I loved about Rose was that she admitted her mistakes, she thought through every situation, and she weighed the risks. And her voice was consistent throughout. 

Rayce. Dear sweet gorgeous man. He’s playful and regal and brilliant and loves his people so fiercely that you can’t help but fall for him hard as the story progresses. The way her looks at Rose, how comfortable he feels with her, the honest way he confesses his fears and just listens to her, made of head over heels swoon. A noble and epic love interest that is more than worthy of Rose. 

Some of the plot was a little iffy. I would have liked a stronger history lesson on why these two groups hate each other, why the intial rebellion happened, and the aftermath. What’s happening in Varsha? More of that backstory would have painted a clearer picture of the animosity between groups and better explained why blondes are discriminated against, etc. 

authoramberGoodreads/Twitter

Amber Mitchell graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Creative Writing. She likes crazy hair styles, reading, D&D, k-dramas, good puns and great food.

When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork or exploring new places with her husband Brian. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is still waiting for a madman in a blue box to show up on her doorstep.

Garden of Thorns is her debut novel from Entangled Teen.

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If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Read on, 

Jordan

Cover Reveal: Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

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Release date: June 6, 2017

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Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is. 
 
As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn’t entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole.

Ingrid Paulson does not, in fact, loathe anyone. Although the snarky sense of humor and verbal barbs in Why I Loathe Sterling Lane might suggest otherwise (and shock those who think they know her best). 

Ingrid lives in San Francisco with her husband and children and enjoys long-distance running, eavesdropping, and watching science documentaries. She has always loved books and writing short stories, but was surprised one day to discover the story she was working on wasn’t so short any more. Valkyrie Rising, a paranormal girl power story was Ingrid’s first novel. Expect another humorous contemporary romance to join the list soon. 

Playful reading, 

Jordan

 

Guest Post: Any Boy But You by Julie Hammerle

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Elena Chestnut has been chatting with an anonymous boy late into the night. It’s a very You’ve Got Mail situation, and she has no idea who he is. He can’t be Oliver Prince, hot-and-bashful son of the family running the rival sporting goods store. Their fancy sales strategies are driving Elena’s family out of business. Elena’s mystery boy has teamed up with her in their latest sales strategy, an augmented reality game, to help her win the grand-prize plane tickets. Money’s so tight Elena’s going to miss senior year spring break with her friends if she can’t win this game.

The girl Oliver’s fallen head-over-heels for online had better not be Elena Chestnut. She’s his angry, vindictive Latin tutor, the daughter of his dad’s business rival, and the one girl he’d never even think of kissing. She’s definitely not his online crush, because that girl is funny, sweet, and perfect.

When Oliver asks to reveal their names at the Valentine’s Day dance, their IRL relationship will either ruin what they have online, or they’ll discover just how thin the line between love and hate really is.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains swearing, snowball fights, and sexual tension that could melt the North Pole. Read at your own risk.

guest

I am not a runner. At all. I have stopped and started Couch to 5K several times. I’ve deleted it and reinstalled it on my phone at least twice. This is a place where my main character, Elena, and I differ.

But one way we’re the same, is that we both love the Scissor Sisters, and I’m guessing other music that gets us moving. Here’s the playlist I, old Aunt Julie, would make for her.

“I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” by the Scissor Sisters. Nothing makes me want to dance more than this song.

“Try Everything” by Shakira. I know I’m supposed to loathe this song because the lyrics are kind of silly and it’s from an animated film (Zootopia, which is amazing), but this song pumps me up because it’s all about perseverance. And it’s just stinking catchy.

“Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior. Because it’s illegal not to move during this song. I will never not love this song.

“Technologic” by Daft Punk. Same with this song. Never gets old.

“Bling (Confessions of a King)” by The Killers. Or this one. Evergreen workout songs.

“Workout Plan” by Kanye West. This song always makes me smile through my workout. Yes, Kanye, I’d like to be able to impress “at least a dude with a car.” Please help me.

The Creed soundtrack. Rocky music with a more modern beat. It’ll have you saving America through boxing in no time.

“Shame on You” by the Indigo Girls. I saw them perform last summer for the first time in, like, eighteen years, and it put me on a real Amy and Emily kick. This song rocks AND it fits our current political climate.

“Don’t Lose My Number” by Phil Collins. I’m on a real Phil Collins kick right now. I can’t explain it. Must be something in the air tonight.

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” by REM. I’m also on an REM kick.

“Shiny” from the Moana soundtrack (performed by Jemaine Clement): This is a good cool down son. Really, I just wanted to include it on the list because it’s my favorite right now. “Fish are dumb, dumb, dumb.”

Happy reading,

Jordan

Blog Tour, ARC Review, & Giveaway: Any Boy But You by Julie Hammerle

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syn

Elena Chestnut has been chatting with an anonymous boy late into the night. It’s a very You’ve Got Mail situation, and she has no idea who he is. He can’t be Oliver Prince, hot-and-bashful son of the family running the rival sporting goods store. Their fancy sales strategies are driving Elena’s family out of business. Elena’s mystery boy has teamed up with her in their latest sales strategy, an augmented reality game, to help her win the grand-prize plane tickets. Money’s so tight Elena’s going to miss senior year spring break with her friends if she can’t win this game.

The girl Oliver’s fallen head-over-heels for online had better not be Elena Chestnut. She’s his angry, vindictive Latin tutor, the daughter of his dad’s business rival, and the one girl he’d never even think of kissing. She’s definitely not his online crush, because that girl is funny, sweet, and perfect.

When Oliver asks to reveal their names at the Valentine’s Day dance, their IRL relationship will either ruin what they have online, or they’ll discover just how thin the line between love and hate really is.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains swearing, snowball fights, and sexual tension that could melt the North Pole. Read at your own risk.

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled Crush

Any Boy But You is an adorable, feel good story that reads like a quirky ode to Pride and Prejudice. It’s full of that love-hate, push and shove, combined with a generations-long rivalry that keeps you on your toes and infuriates at the same time. 

Here’s what I loved about this story:

It’s fun. There’s a super creative competition going on that sets up a virtual meet cute for out main characters and it’s a rush. Sometimes it’s so much easier to be honest and open with a stranger and using the Stash chat has allowed Elena and Oliver to not only grow, but recognize their own shortcomings, the stupidity of their family hate, and cast off their prejudice. 

The love-hate is epic with these two. There are tons of barbs and calling each other out. They hit where it hurts and it’s not necessarily mean, but truths that the other needs to hear to see their flaws and work on them. Elena is a sarcasm queen. She’s got some insanely quick and pointed lines that will make out laugh out loud. 

The romance. No matter how hard they fight it, resistance is futile 😉 It’s weird, it’s awkward, and with the amount of animosity, it’s pretty explosive, but when it’s real, it’s good. 

There are a number of LGBT characters. I appreciated that it wasn’t a huge deal. So often in YA books, the fact that a character is gay is made a gigantic arc where it’s like they have the plague or something. Here, it is an exploration, a realization, and hey, no one flips out, so that was awesome. 

Here’s what I would have liked more:

The secondary characters were interesting. They had unique personalities and many times, they made the main characters question themselves. However, there was nowhere near enough of them. Regina and Harper. I would have loved to see more of them. Especially the friendship between Harper and Elena, the sibling relationship between Oliver and Regina, and while I loved Craig, it felt like he had more of a presence than Regina and Harper combined. More interactions.

This book could have been at least 50 pages longer. It moves at a steady pace and it goes by pretty fast. There were places that could have been more developed, like above comment, and the story would have had a stronger chance for the reader to form more emotional connections with the characters. 

I expected more conflict. When identities are revealed, it’s kind of a shrug. This made little sense. After all the hate and anger and effort to insult, flipped switch. It was too sudden. 

authorjulie-hammerle-author-photoJulie Hammerle is the author of The Sound of Us, which will be published by Entangled Teen on June 7, 2016. Before settling down to write “for real,” she studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, she writes about TV on her blog Hammervision, ropes people into conversations about Game of Thrones, and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include 90210 (original spice), Felicity, and Freaks and Geeks. Her iPod reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list.

She lives in Chicago with her husband, two kids, and a dog. They named the dog Indiana.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instragram | Goodreads

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Playful reading, 

Jordan

Lost Review: Paint My Body Red by Heidi R. Kling

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synThe world isn’t just black or white. Sometimes it’s red…

They think I’m next. That I’ll be the seventh kid to step in front of a train and end my life. With the rash of suicides at my school, Mom’s shipped me off to my dad’s Wyoming ranch for “my own safety.” They think I’m just another depressed teenager whose blood will end up on the tracks. They don’t know my secrets…or what I’ve done.

I wasn’t expecting Dad to be so sick, for the ranch I loved to be falling to bits, or for Jake—the cute boy I knew years ago—to have grown into a full-fledged, hot-as-hell cowboy. Suddenly, I don’t want to run anymore, but the secrets from home have found me…even here. And this time, it’s up to me to face them—and myself—if I want to live…

review

3/5 Stars 

***I received this book way back when as a gift in exchange for an honest review

+++Triggers: Mature YA, adult situations, suicide, assault 

Paint My Body Red feels like two separate novels that don’t mesh as seamlessly as they should. While the characters are the same, it’s like an alternate universe that the main character has been carelessly thrown into. As individual books, I might have rated this higher. Each story is interesting and full of atmospheric details. 

The premise is genius and based on fact. A suicide trend that caused city-wide hysteria, paranoia, and fear is a very real threat that could happen anywhere. The amount of pressure, stress, and lack of place for mental health care in schools is a major issue that needs to be talked about more. 

Words have power. What you say to someone can change their whole life, especially if they’re already overwhelmed and doubting their desire to live. This is a strong theme and extremely powerful. The main character goes through a self-destructive period of doubt, self-hatred, and anxiety after she says something that may have pushed another student over the edge. Not only can negative words be harmful to the receiver, but to the person who says them. 

Sometimes bad choices can overwhelm us and make us feel disgusted, worthless, and unworthy. The feelings are profound and sharp. You feel every stabbing ounce of pain as Paige recounts her past in her diary. It’s real, brutal, and consuming.

The sort of Southern romance going on threw me off. Yes, Paige is complex and comes from two worlds. Ranch time is supposed to be a safe place, therapy for her. Throw in the rodeo and flirty cowboys, it becomes something else entirely. The romance is subtle at first, flirty fun that becomes more. Paige’s feelings are complicated and plagued with doubt. Her confidence has vanished after everything she has been through, but it’s through love that she regains that former shine. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Dramatic reading, 

Jordan

Book Blitz: Enigma by Tonya Kuper

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Anomaly (Schrodinger’s Consortium #1) by Tonya Kuper

synReality is only an illusion.
Except for those who can control it…

Worst. Birthday. Ever.

My first boyfriend dumped me—happy birthday, Josie!—my dad is who knows where, I have some weird virus that makes me want to hurl, and now my ex is licking another girl’s tonsils. Oh, and I’m officially the same age as my brother was when he died. Yeah, today is about as fun-filled as the swamps of Dagobah. But then weird things start happening…

Like I make something materialize just by thinking about it.

When hottily-hot badass Reid Wentworth shows up on a motorcycle, everything changes. Like, everything. Who I am. My family. What really happened to my brother. Existence. I am Oculi, and I have the ability to change reality with my thoughts. Now Reid, in all his hotness, is charged with guiding and protecting me as I begin learning how to bend reality. And he’s the only thing standing between me and the secret organization that wants me dead…

ExcerptCopyright © 2014 by Tonya Kuper. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidary rights. 

From ENIGMA 

Chapter One

Josie

Three days ago, I killed someone. A dozen times a night, and every time I close my eyes, I see his body convulse as the bolt of lightning I Pushed struck his body. I still see Santos’s face contorted in pain before he sinks under the surface of the water.

I opened my eyes after brushing my hair and swept my toiletries off the faux-marble counter into my backpack. Stepping out of the bathroom, I scanned the rest of the room for my belongings. My bra lay on the floor where I’d dropped it the night before, next to the paisley bedding. It had been beyond embarrassing shimmying that thing off under my shirt when I was right next to my hottie bedmate.

I plopped my backpack on the bed and grabbed my blue bra. It was still dangling from my hand when the door leading to the parking lot swung open and Reid smiled at me from the threshold.

Perfect. Of course he walked in at this exact moment.

My face flashed with heat. I scrambled to stuff my garment into my bag, but the clasp hooked on one of my bracelets. Working the clasp off my bracelet took way more effort and time than it should have. The stupid thing was stuck. I peeked up at Reid to see if he was still looking at me. Wrinkles formed in the corners of his eyes as he coughed into his hand. He looked over his shoulder as he pretended to hack up a lung to camouflage a laugh.

Sharing the motel room with Reid, my trainer in charge of my safety, was convenient and safer. But him being my kind-of-sort-of-boyfriend also meant I was hyper-aware of personal stuff, like the time I spent showering or Reid catching me staring at him constantly. I mean, we shared a bed and were definitely into each other, but he’d never seen my bra before – on or off.

He’d now witnessed me wrestle with my undergarment – and lose. Which was both slightly embarrassing as his trainee and absolutely mortifying as his kind-of-girlfriend.

Reid looked at me, his brows pulling up in sympathy. He crossed the tiny motel room in three strides and stopped beside me. His warm hand touched my wrist as he studied the clasp and gently unhooked it from my bracelet. He caught my lacy bra before it fell to the bed.

Reid Wentworth was touching my bra, and my boobs weren’t even in it. What were the odds of that?

He’d worked my bra better than I had. How exactly had he gotten his bra-handling knowledge? The thought made me break into a full-body sweat.

Reid turned to face me. “I just turned in the room key. Cohen, my contact from the Hub, called while you were in the shower. The Hub gave us the green light to a safe house outside Flagstaff. We gotta pack ASAP and get on the road. They want us there before nightfall.”

I sat on the bed. “I’ll be ready in three minutes. I think I’ll miss this room, though.” We’d only spent one night, but something about it felt more secure than our two previous stops.

My bra was still in his hands. I yanked from him. “Thank you.”

“I’ll help you with your bra anytime. Just say the word.” He winked.

I wanted to hide.

“Wait.” He pulled his duffle to the bed. “You’ll miss the mustiness of a 70s motel in need of a major facelift?”

With the bra safely tucked away, I bent to lace up my boots. “I know, it’s weird, but I like this place.”

He walked into the bathroom and came out with his toiletries. “You like the wood paneling, the shaggy Muppet carpet, and an air conditioner that’s louder than my bike?”

I peeked toward the rattling air unit. Despite the jolting noise, the curtains floated gracefully above the machine like paisley ghosts.

The room seemed more hidden than the other places we’d stayed, nestled in the woods somewhere in New Mexico. We drove highways instead of interstates all the way from Florida to stay under the radar, but I still felt exposed, afraid someone would see us. Now the mountains and trees gave me a sense of coverage, of safety.

I tied up my other boot. “Yeah, it’s old, but I like it.”

Hiding, tucked away in a dark room, I could almost pretend I hadn’t murdered another human being. Being around people reminded me that I was dangerous, that I was an incomprehensible monster. Maybe I was keeping others safe if I was hidden.

A loud, deep buzz sounded, drilling into the recent memory of gunfire and weapons, of people dying. My heart paused and I dropped to the floor, kneeling behind the bed.

Reid strode to the bedside table where his phone buzzed, but his wide eyes watched me, worry etched on his face.

Duh. Way to jump to conclusions. Chill out, Josie. I forced myself to stand.

The phone buzzed again, vibrating against the wood and reverberating in my bones. I blinked and jerked, almost an involuntary flinch.

It’s just his phone. Get a grip.

But a buzz meant someone was contacting Reid, contacting us. And any communication was bad news at this point.

Reid stepped to me hesitantly, as if he were approaching a skittish stray dog. Understanding flashed across his face. “That will probably happen for a while. But it will get better.” He touched my hand for a moment, but it was enough to remind me that we were safe. For now. I relaxed my posture as I exhaled.

At my side, he positioned the phone so we could read the screen.

I stared at the contact information, a line of pound signs. The meaning of the symbols finally registered. The number was restricted and blocked. I read the first line of the message.

This is Meg.

My body was numb. I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. They didn’t exist – or if they did, I couldn’t control them. I reread the three words.

My mom. I wasn’t sure I wanted read on. Not just because I didn’t want bad news, but I didn’t want bad news that had anything to do with my family.

Reid bumped his shoulder to mine. “I didn’t think we’d hear from your mother this soon after her last message.” His voice was quiet.

It had been three days since I’d seen her face on her video message. Three days ago seemed like forever, yet it didn’t.

The phone buzzed again, making me jump, waking my body from a fear-induced paralysis.

Eli and I are redirecting to the Hub. 3 Founders need to be present to make executive decisions for the entirety of the Resistance. If the need arises, I have to be present. We should be there before you arrive. The Council is unaware there is a mole within the Hub. Use caution.

Hearing from my family made my heart burst with sweet relief because it was confirmation they were still alive and well. But fear squashed the celebration, turning my blood to cement.

I needed a minute to think. I couldn’t let my family go to the Hub with no way to protect themselves. I shoved the phone out of my line of sight, toward Reid. Instead of moving, he caught my hand and whisked me around to face him. “Josie, I know that look.” He let my hand fall. “If I take you to the Hub instead of the safe house, not only will I be disobeying direct orders, but it could get both of us, and possibly others, killed. You’d be giving the mole what he wants – you.”

He was right – the mole wanted me. And the best way to get to me was through what I cared about most, the people I cared about most. My family.

I took a step away from Reid, the back of my legs hitting the bed. I sank down onto the mattress.

I opened my mouth, but I couldn’t put two words together. My thoughts jumped from the mole, to my family, to the Consortium.

Reid stepped in front of me, his sober expression replaced with brows arched in concern. “Josie, I understand how you must be feeling—more than you know. But I’m supposed to keep you safe.”

I shoved off the bed. My knees buckled immediately and I rocked onto my heels, falling back to the mattress. Frustration clamped down on my emotions and I was ready scream. I couldn’t look at Reid, but I held a palm up as I stared at the phone still in his hand.

He gave me his phone, the text message already pulled up on the screen. Then he sat next to me, making the bed dip under his weight. I read the message again.

What were my choices? If I went to the Hub, the biggest community of the Resistance, I’d be trapping myself with someone who wanted me dead. If I went into hiding with Reid, I’d still be hunted by the Consortium. Neither option was a vacation.

The muscles in Reid’s jaw flexed as his gaze traveled over my face. “I know your family means everything to you. Eli shouldn’t have to be involved in this.”

That was the part I couldn’t take. I let my head drop into my hands, slumping between my knees. The smell of bleach from the linens was almost comforting.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Eli would be staying in the same compound as the mole, as the person who helped Santos try to kill me. Swallowing the ache in my throat and the sting in my sinuses, I willed away my tears.

“Josie.” There was desperation in Reid’s voice.

Clearing my throat, I slowly sat upright and lifted my eyes to meet Reid’s.

Reid looked toward the window. “The Consortium wants all Anomalies dead because we’re too dangerous. And since you’re on your way to being the most powerful Anomaly on the planet, you aren’t just the target – you are the freaking bullseye.”

I wasn’t what mattered. Eli would be in danger. I was the only one who could protect him. I was the only one who could protect a lot of people.

Reid stood and crossed the small room to shut off the air unit. A whole new world of muted sounds came to life. A mourning dove cooed nearby, two housekeepers spoke in hushed tones outside as they pushed a cleaning cart on the cracked sidewalk, and a truck rumbled in the distance. There were spaces in the new quiet, spaces with virtually no sound but plenty of room for thought.

My family was bait. Fury simmered in my stomach.

I shoved off the bed and stepped to Reid’s side, making him look at me. His eyes fluttered shut. “I wish I could just take you away from all this.” His dark lashes fanned upward as he opened his eyes. “But this is your decision.”

His compassion for me meant more to me than I would be able to convey to him. If this were a normal life and we were normal people, his care for me would’ve been all I needed. But our world was anything but normal. My safety didn’t matter, no matter how much he cared about me. My priority was keeping my family and others safe. If that put me in harm’s way, so be it. “You and I are more powerful than the mole and we’ll out number him. Statistics are in our favor. And he doesn’t get to use my family as bait.”

Reid shook his head and something flickered in his eyes. He tugged me against him, my chest colliding against his. My fingers dug into him, pulling him closer.

Terror trickled through my nervous system, seeping through every inch of me, infusing my body. “I need to go to the Hub,” I whispered. It wasn’t a want, it was a need. I needed to keep my family safe. And in doing that, I’d be facing my own mortality. But what scared me more was facing their mortality, Eli’s mortality. I’d already lost one brother.

Standing in front of the lone motel room window, our bodies bathed in rays of morning sunshine, to anyone watching, we would have looked like we were glowing from within, like superheroes. But superheroes wouldn’t let fear cripple them like this.

Reid let his forehead rest against mine and closed his eyes. “I don’t like this idea for a lot of reasons. But I know that’s selfish.” Blue eyes stared into mine. A sadness masked his face that I didn’t understand.

“Sorry,” I whispered.

He pressed his lips into a tight line. “Let’s go.” He squeezed me then turned to the bed.

“How are we going to find the mole?”

He zipped his duffle bag. “I have no idea, Josie.”

I plucked my phone from the bedside table, the varnish of the dark wood worn along the edges. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “You need to know something. We have to be different in the Hub.” He shook his head. “We can’t, uh,” his voice scratched. “We can’t do this in there.”

“What?” I let my gaze drop to the ground.

“Josie.” I couldn’t look at him until I was sure the sting in my eyes had dissipated. “Josie, look at me.”

That was my luck. My first boyfriend ever broke up with me on my birthday, then my long-time crush ended anything between us before we even had a chance. Two guys ditching me in under two weeks. That had to be some kind of record. For losers.

The shabby motel floor creaked under our feet as Reid dropped his bag, stepped in front of me. “We have to play by the rules in the Hub, and I’m someone who trains others to follow the rules. One of the rules? No trainer-trainee relationships. A romantic relationship between trainers and trainees clouds the trainer’s judgment. So we can’t do this.” He motioned between us.

Understanding why didn’t make the rejection any less painful.

Reid dipped his head, his dark hair falling forward, leaving an inch between our noses. “Make no mistake, I love what we have.” The deep line between his brows reappeared. “But going into the Hub means putting the mission before us. And I’m all for it. We don’t want anyone, including the mole, to know we have a relationship. It would be used against us. A relationship in the Hub could hurt you. I can’t put you in more danger than you already are. We can’t be anything more than friends for now.”

He was right, but that wasn’t going to stop the hurt. What we had wasn’t just a two-week whirlwind romance; this was a lifetime of growing a relationship. I couldn’t move. I’d lost my family, my friends, my home. I’d naïvely thought maybe I could have the one guy who understood what I’d lost and understood me.

A weird pressure bloomed in my chest, but I had to ignore it. I had to move and focus before tears fell and I was a puddle on the floor. Besides, we needed to get on the road. I backed away from Reid. “Come on.” Stepping to the bed, I flung my backpack over my shoulder. “We have to catch a mole. Before he kills my family. Or me.”

Reid snagged his duffle, his face drawn in worry, and opened the heavy door, squinting into the bright morning light. We secured our bags and our helmets, and I climbed on the bike behind Reid. I forced myself to move as though nothing was different, touching Reid when I had to without reservation. But everything was different.

Reid turned the key, revved the throttle, and the engine roared to life under us. Turning his head over his shoulder, his pale irises met mine. “Last chance. Left to Flagstaff or right to the Hub?”

My chest felt restricted, like I couldn’t pull in a full breath. “Right.” I gripped his waist, anticipating the turn.

He didn’t reply, but he moved his hand on top of mine for a second to squeeze it. Bits of asphalt spat away from the tires as we headed north toward the Hub in the Rockies. The wind whipped through my hair, a flame of red twisting behind me from under my helmet.

In Star Wars terms, I was Luke Skywalker and the Consortium was my own version of the Empire who wanted to wipe out all Jedi. We were off to join the Rebels – the Resistance in the Hub.

The white line on the road trailed alongside the motorcycle, as if it were holding our hands, guiding us. There was something comforting about that white line. Even if it had to break, it came back. That’s what Reid had been for me the last couple weeks – my anchor.

I tightened my hold around Reid’s waist, pressing my body against his back. The warmth of his leather jacket against my stomach combated the cool breeze that had picked up the higher we climbed into the mountains as our journey stretched late into the day.

An hour ago, he’d said we would be to the Hub soon. I hoped for my numb butt’s sake it was sooner rather than later. Despite the peacefulness in watching the highway disappear in the mirror, the growl and whoosh of each semi passing us in the opposite direction made me flinch. With each flinch, I was taken back to the moment I Pushed the lightning that killed Santos. My mind was stuck, replaying the image over and over. The white light had temporarily blinded me as it streaked down the oil-slicked sky to Santos, making me flinch. Santos’ body had convulsed, his face contorted in horror.

No matter what I had done the last few days, how often Reid had made me laugh, or how much we’d kissed late at night, guilt and shame had weaseled into my thoughts. The guilt-shame of taking Santos’ life wasn’t letting up. In fact, it was getting worse.

We rounded a bend in the road and my chest twisted as if someone were ringing me out like a wet towel. My left lung ached like nothing I’d felt before. Was it my lung, though? Or was it my heart?

Was this what it was like as Santos drowned? Had his lungs hurt and was his heart on the verge of explosion? Another picture of Santos coming after me on the beach, a sick and menacing smile on his lips, flickered in my mind.

Another eighteen-wheeler passed and the lightning flashed in my mind again. When the face came into focus though, it wasn’t Santos – it was Eli.

Fear gripped me and I beat both hands on Reid. That’s when I noticed my hands were shaking, and my heartrate matched the rhythm of the shaking, fast and sporadic. Frantic.

“Josie?” he yelled over his shoulder. I couldn’t manage words, I just beat my right fist into his back, holding on for dear life with my left arm, hooking it around his middle.

Reid slowed around the next curve then pulled off the road at a scenic lookout. I jumped off the bike before it came to a complete stop, flinging my helmet off of my head. The gravel crunched under my boots as I ran to the edge of the lookout. Leaning over the railing, bracing myself on my forearms, I hung my head as I concentrated on deep inhales and slow exhales.

Reid’s feet crushed the gravel as he sprinted to me. “Josie?” His voice was a higher pitch than I’d heard before and it cracked at the end of my name.

His warm hand landed gently on my back. “What’s wrong?”

I shook my head, unable to answer.

Santos was a traitor. Santos tried to kill me. I will not be the reason Eli dies.

A panic attack over Santos and this mole and imagining myself kill my little brother. At least that’s what I thought it was. I just needed the feeling to pass.

I held up a finger, continuing inhaling through my nose to the count of four and exhaling through my mouth to slow my breath and pulse.

Santos was a traitor. Santos tried to kill me. I will not be the reason Eli dies.

I wiped the perspiration on my forehead away with the back of my hand. Reid didn’t force me to speak, but patiently stood behind me, his hand still on my back.

I eventually straightened, letting out a long, pain-free sigh. Finally, I could breathe.

“Santos?” he whispered. I nodded and my heart squeezed again just hearing his name, but not as severe this time.

His hand slowly roamed up to my shoulder. “Are you okay?” That was a loaded question.

No, I wasn’t okay, but he already knew that. He’d held me every night when I woke screaming from nightmares. He’d listened as I rehashed the Consortium’s attack on the rooftop after the serum handoff to the vice president. He’d watched me grow up with my family and knew they were everything to me.

I touched my fingertips to his hand gripping my shoulder. I wanted to throw my arms around him and burrow my head into the crevice of his neck, the place I fit perfectly. I wanted to breathe in the smell of him, a clean, musky scent, and feel his warmth around me. Instead, I pulled my fingers away and nodded. “I’ll be fine.” The words came out quieter than I intended.

I finally raised my eyes to take in our view. A blanket of evergreens covered the mountains surrounding us. “This puts Endor to shame.” I wished it were Endor. No one would be hunting me there.

Crickets had begun their evening song, serenading us, filling in the silence. Moving forward, I leaned against the aluminum guard rail, the metal cool on my upper thighs through my jeans. I kicked a spray of gravel, rocks assaulting plants on the way down the side of the mountain into the gorge.

Reid stepped beside me, his presence simultaneously calming because he had been my support since this whole mess started weeks ago, yet jarring because he couldn’t play the same role anymore. I cleared my throat. “This is beautiful.”

His eyes focused on the mountains in front of us. “This is home,” he said.

“Welcome home.” I guessed this was my home now. Temporarily. Indefinitely. I didn’t know.

I stared at the place where the mountaintops kissed the watercolor sky. Pink cotton candy clouds battled shadows gobbling up the mountains. The sharp smell of pine reminded me of family camping trips – Nick and I racing through the woods and stony creek beds. The scent made me want to run, faster than I had ever before. Run to Mom and Eli in the Hub and find the mole.

Running to them also meant losing my relationship with Reid. As much as I wanted to get to the Hub for them, part of me didn’t. Reid was my older brother’s friend who I’d secretly had a thing for since I was little. He was the one person I’d always wanted. How was I just supposed to turn off those feelings?

Reid turned to face me, his hand reaching for mine, but he allowed it to drop before he touched me. He was afraid to get close. He was putting space between us to keep me safe.

I had to let him go. An invisible pain spread through me. I was a piece of glass struck by a hammer. A spider-web of cracks hid under my skin. I hadn’t thought being kept safe could hurt more than being in danger.

I closed the space between us, his face only inches from mine. His eyes shut for a moment as he sighed. “Josie.” The word was drawn out and whispered.

I traced his jawline with my forefinger. I had to get close. I needed it. I needed him. I shifted my weight forward to rise up on my toes, to touch my lips to his, but then I stopped.

I couldn’t kiss him when I couldn’t have him. I backed away, instantly feeling chilly.

            A crease formed between his eyes. “We probably need to get going.”

This was it. We were done.

I turned to his motorcycle, but a Jeep had replaced Reid’s bike. Two weeks ago that would’ve freaked me the hell out, but not anymore. I opened the door of the vehicle and slid into the seat, limp and numb, sadness weighing me down. I stared out the windshield, focused on the mountain across the valley, but I wasn’t really seeing it. In my peripheral, Reid scooted behind the wheel and sat unmoving for several seconds. He hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand, making me jump in my seat.

Reid turned toward me, his gaze intense. He swiftly slid his hand behind my neck and pulled me to him.

His lips crashed to mine and pressed my mouth open. The warmth of his hand cupping my face and the grip on my waist, as if I’d disappear, fused me back together, making me whole again. My fingers twisted in his hair, pulling him closer. When his tongue swept over mine, my soul ignited. Reid was the human form of helium, making me weightless, letting me soar. We kissed until we were both breathless.

I let my hands slip down to his chest, his heart thumping against my palms. “Reid,” I breathed.

His mouth hovered inches from mine. “That is how I feel about you,” he whispered, his breath tickling my lips. “I can’t do it. I can’t be without you. We’re stronger together.”

I pulled in a deep breath, thinking maybe I would fly away from the brief high of overwhelming joy. “I need you.”

He rested his forehead to mine. “You have me.”

He moved the hand on my waist to my jaw, his thumb sweeping across my cheek. “We can be together, but we have to hide it. It has to be only in private.”

“Okay.”

He glanced down to my lips. “And I can’t wait until the next time I can do that.”

The mere idea of there being another time he’d kiss me with that kind of intensity heated my cheeks.

Reid sat back in his seat, started the engine, and gave me his flirty half smile I’d grown to adore. “Let’s go.”

I flipped down the visor and peeked in the mirror. Some tendrils of hair were wavy, some straight, and all of it completely out of control. My hair might as well be Captain Davey Jones’ tentacles from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

With the next blink I Pushed and a hair band appeared in my palm. I no longer felt like getting sick each time I Pushed or Retracted reality.

Inspecting my hair, I Pushed my strawberry blonde strands straight then pulled it into a ponytail. Every Push or Retraction came with a price. Each Oculi had a bank of energy that was limited and every manipulation of reality was an energy withdrawal. When the bank was empty, it was empty. Oculi were encouraged to not waste Pushes and Retractions on little things we could do ourselves.

I, on the other hand, was the daughter of the two scientists who’d taken the amplifying serum. My energy bank, like my older brother’s had, seemed to work a little different than other new Anomalies. I seemed to have endless energy. In fact, I had to use my energy, release some by Pushing and Retracting, just to take the edge off. My energy had grown in the last three days even, almost radiating off me at times. I’d only had these abilities for a couple weeks and I was growing more powerful each day.

“Is what I’m wearing okay?” I asked, checking out my retro Princess Leia tee and holey jeans.

“Yeah. You look…” He glanced at me as he drove and a mischievous grin slid across his lips.

“What?” My nerves were shot and we weren’t even to the Hub yet.

He shook his head, smiling to himself. “You’re fine.”

“Okay. I guess I’ll trust you on that.” Even though everyone at the Hub would know who I was, I wanted to make a good impression. Everyone in the Hub would have varying expectations of me, since I was the daughter of one of the founding families of the Resistance. Plus, my older brother had an Oculi degradation in the Hub, a rare consequence of observing reality into existence. Our observations traveled through the optic nerve to our brain. Sometimes our observations could randomly fry our nerves, which, could lead to degradation of the parietal lobe, cerebrum, and cortex. A possible side effect of this kind of degradation was a psychotic break.

“You can trust me.” His eyes locked on mine, this time not accompanied by a smile. “With everything.” He turned his attention back to the road, his profile dark against the waning sunset.

I was banking on that trust. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without it. “I need to make sure I have this straight. Right now our plan is to figure out a way to expose the mole, possibly with me as the bait.” I knew he didn’t like that idea, so I ignored his serious side-eye and continued. “This guy wants me dead, so he’s almost definitely going after my family. He may also try to take the Resistance down from the inside. Aaaand, we don’t know if he is working with anyone else inside the Hub, like he was with Santos.”

“You got it, babe.”

Anger seethed in my stomach as I watched thunderhead clouds billow from behind the mountain peaks. Energy buzzed in my fingers. This mole, this accomplice to my attempted murder, this orchestrator of the deaths of innocent people, didn’t know what was coming for him.

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Enigma (Schrodinger’s Consortium #2) by Tonya Kuper

Release Date: July 4, 2017

synThe sequel to the highly anticipated Anomaly is a twisty-turny, romantic page turner perfect for fans of The Matrix.

 

Worst. Road Trip. Ever.

Escaping with Reid Wentworth should have been fun, but how can I enjoy it when I just (accidentally) killed someone, my mom and brother are in danger, and the Consortium is trying to enslave humanity? (Yeah, they aren’t fooling around.)So feeling something for Reid Wentworth was not part of the plan. Trying to help unite the Resistance against the Consortium means I can’t be distracted by hot boys.

The Resistance secret hideout isn’t exactly the rebel base of my dreams. Atraitor there wants me dead, but we have no idea who it is. And with both the Resistance and the Consortium trying to control me, the only one I can trust is Reid. If we’re going to have any chance of protecting my family, controlling my unstable powers, and surviving the clash between the Oculi factions, I’m going to have to catch this traitor. By using myself as bait.

authortonya-kuper

(Hooton Images)

Website/Twitter/Tumblr/Google+/Wattpad/Instagram/Facebook

Tonya Kuper writes young adult science fiction and contemporary novels. She first fell in love with reading in elementary school, which eventually lead to earning a BA in Elementary Education and a MS in Reading Education, but she never thought she’d write a novel, let alone several. When Tonya isn’t writing, she teaches Young Adult Literature Writing Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, laughs as much as possible, loves music, and nerds-out over Star Wars, Marvel, Sherlock, and all things pop-culture. She lives in Omaha, NE with her husband and two rad boys.

Epic reading, 

Jordan

 

Guest Post Exclusive: Forget Tomorrow-Pintip Dunn

FINAL COVERGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/Kobo/iBooks

Release Date: November 3, 2015synImagine a world where your destiny has already been decided…by your future self.

It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision-a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist.

Or in Callie’s case, a criminal.

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo-a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes.

But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all-Callie, herself.

SOUNDS AMAZING RIGHT??? NOW FOR THE EXCLUSIVE GUEST POST!

Memo from the Future Memory Agency 

Today is a big day. Not only is it your seventeenth birthday, but this is the day that you have been waiting for all your life. The day for which our entire school curriculum has been preparing you. The day you will receive your future memory. 

What are the different types of memories you can expect to receive?

1. A good memory that shows you exactly what you want to see. Dream job, success, being surrounded by loved ones. This is the memory that will get you through the hard times, that will assure you that it is worth the hard work, the heartaches, the frustration. This memory will help you through the lowest lows because you know, eventually, that you will end up at a high. 

Examples of good memories: memories that show you as a successful published author, as a top concert pianist, as a gold-star swimmer. Some memories may simply show you holding a baby in your arms or married to the person that you love. 

2. An efficient memory that shows you what you were meant to do. This memory cuts down on inefficiency. Instead of wasting time pursuing a dead-end career or floundering in doubt, this memory tells you exactly who you turn out to be. This way, you can focus your efforts on the proper career path. It may not be a good memory, but it is a useful one. 

Examples of efficient memories: memories that show you as a teacher instead of a singer, or a bot supervisor instead of a basketball star. These memories may not be exciting, but if your dream wasn’t meant to be, wouldn’t you rather know now rather than later? 

3. A warning memory shows you a natural disaster or terrible accident, something unexpected that occurs for which you can take adequate steps to prepare. 

Example of a warning memory: your baby, who is deathly allergic to bees, is stung. If you knew about the event in advance, you could have an injector of epinephrine prepared and potentially save your baby’s life. 

4. No memory at all. A small number of your future selves will refuse to send any memory at all. Despite all of our teachings, these individuals stubbornly believe that no good can come out of sending a memory. Should this be the case, please proceed to the Memory-less division for further processing. 

5. The criminal memory. This memory shows your future self committing a Class-A felony. According to FuMA law, if you receive this memory, you will be arrested instantly.

Example of a criminal memory: you stab a needle into your younger sister’s heart — and kill her. 

Do not worry, however. The criminal memory is very, very rare, and it is highly unlikely that you will receive one.

If you do receive a criminal memory… You can run, but you will not be able to escape. We will capture you. We always do. 

–The Future Memory Agency

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Pintip Dunn graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She also published an article in the YALE LAW JOURNAL, entitled, “How Judges Overrule: Speech Act Theory and the Doctrine of Stare Decisis,”

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. She is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® finalist and a 2014 double-finalist. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers, YARWA, and The Golden Network.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com

Pleasant reading and check back on October 26th for an interview with Pintip 🙂

Jordan