ARC Review & Giveaway: Rise of the Sea Witch by Stacey Rourke


 
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Details of the sea witch’s banishment have been exaggerated. The body count that preempted it was not. Once an illustrious princess, her hands and tentacles were stained with the blood of thousands. No one could comprehend how the hooks of madness dragged her down from her life of privilege. 
 
Born Princess Vanessa of Atlantica, the ambitious young royal was one of two children born to the great King Poseidon. She and her brother, Triton, were groomed from birth to rule. Yet only one would ascend that coveted throne. While carefree Triton flits through his training with a cavalier demeanor and beguiling charm, Vanessa’s hunger for her father’s acceptance drives her to push herself to the limits of magic, and combat to become a leader worthy of her people. 
 
When war against the humans ravages their once regal kingdom, political sides are chosen. Factions from the seven seas challenge the existing leadership, pitting Vanessa against her brother in a vicious battle for the crown. Traitors are exposed, dark family secrets revealed, and a once strong sibling bond is strained to its breaking point.
 
Only when the ink black waters from the ultimate betrayal rescind, will the truth be known of how the villainous sea witch rose with one name on her vengeful lips–Triton.
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review
I’ve always been a fan of Stacey Rourke’s retellings. They’re usually far more dark and sinister, closer to Grimm than Disney and I adore that kind of twisted carnage. This is a YA retelling of how Ursula, like from The Little Mermaid, came into existence. It explores what it takes to make an innocent and caring person turn dark, how much betrayal and anguish a person (mermaid) can take before they crack, and whether love can truly heal all wounds.
Here’s what I loved: 
  • Princess Vanessa is a victim and it is so not her fault. All she has ever done is try to be a perfect daughter to the point of stifling who she is. She’s young, idealistic, and so hopeful. She has a pure and beautiful heart, she truly cares, she’s funny, her sarcasm is on point. She’s pretty awesome. And then she gets better. She is forced to make choices that transform her from the inside out. She must embrace her magic and she does not always make the best decisions, in fact, sometimes they’re downright cruel and propelled by anger. BUT that’s what makes her more real; she’s flawed and hurt and sometimes broken but never, ever defeated and there’s power in that.
  • The world building is amazing. Each ruler of the Seven Seas is unique and they all have tons of personality. There are whole cultures and ideals in tiny details that fit so well together. You can totally picture little under water countries. 
  • Vanessa’s relationship with Triton. She adores him. Even though he’s like a little free-spirited hippie who would rather frolic around than be responsible, how could you not love those golden curls? Their relationship is a complex one. But it’s adorable. And then crash and burn. You’ll think about how the children you met in the very beginning of the book transformed into these two strangers. It’s heartbreaking.
  • Plot twists. There are a ton and they’re truly shocking. You don’t expect them. But when they’re revealed you’ll definitely think, ahhhh, it all makes sense now. 
  • I love love love Vanessa and Alastor. Epitome of slow burn. The way he cares for her. It’s so sweet, omg. 
Here’s what I disliked: 
  • The structure. I don’t know if it’s because of my ARC or if this is in the finalized version, but the blending of past with present, the sort of omnipotent voice that runs through in Italics and then the time jumps. There are big gaps in time that range from 2 months to several years. Which is fine, but when coupled with the italics it’s a little confusing and took me time to readjust. Initially the whole prologue was iffy. You assume who it’s about and what’s going on from prior knowledge but it reads as a stream of consciousness merging of random thoughts that kind of feel out of place sometimes. The organization-style choice- wasn’t my favorite. 
  • Some plot points ended abruptly. There’s this whole build up on animosity between Vanessa and another character and then boom, over. I guess, I just wished there was more…hands on retribution. 
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Enter for your chance to win a signed poster and keychain!
author
RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013 
Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner for Crane 2015

Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Reel Romance Series. She currently hard at work on the Unfortunate Soul Chronicles, and additional literary projects. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.

 

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Pleasant reading, 
Jordan

Promo: The Realmers Series by William Collins

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The lonely and grieving Evan Umbra is the newest Venator to enter Veneseron, the school for demon hunters.

A Venator is a wizard, a spy and a demon hunter rolled into one. They’re taught how to wield their sorcery and enchanted weaponry by orcs, elfpires and aliens alike.

Their missions range from battling monsters and saving countless lives in the multiple worlds, to the more peculiar, like wrangling killer unicorns and calming down drunken yetis. In their free time Venators enjoy goblin soap-operas and underwater bubble travel, but they also understand that every new mission they’re given could be their last.

Whilst learning how to manipulate the elements, summon creatures to fight for him and shoot Spellzookas, Evan encounters a dangerous rival and meets a girl who makes him feel nauseous; but in a good way. He makes the first friends he’s ever had in the carefree Jed and the reckless Brooke. Whilst Jed gets on the wrong side of a rival Venator, Brooke finds herself falling for the enigmatic demon hunter who brought her to Veneseron, not knowing he isn’t quite human. But it soon becomes apparent that Evan is more than just a Venator. Everyone wants to kill or capture him, from demons to Dark-Venators and even people he’s supposed to be able to trust.

Evan reckons he probably won’t survive his first year at Veneseron.

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After the catastrophic events of book 1, Evan and Brooke are trying to come to terms with recent revelations. However, it isn’t long before their duties as Venators throw them back into action.

Whilst Evan faces a deathly trial to advance further in his training, Brooke embarks on her very first mission, which sees her embroiled in a war between the vampires and werewolves of London. If the werewolves and shifters baying for her blood wasn’t enough, Brooke also has to face a starkly changed Arantay.

Meanwhile the Dark-Venator forces are rising, whilst Evan and his friends contend with the mysterious disappearances of several Venators. Could they have been kidnapped? Evan also faces backlash from many of his fellow trainees, who hate or fear him. Evan thinks their reactions are bad now, but it would be nothing if they discovered his secret. His peers may even try to kill him if they learned the truth.

Evan knows he has to pass his trial to gain his first mission as a Venator, but he may never make it that far if his hidden powers aren’t controlled. Across the realms, a terribly malignant force has learned of Evan and Brooke, and plans to strike.

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Brooke has learned who engineered the war between werewolves and vampires in London, and if she and Arantay can’t stop it, not only will the city be destroyed, but everyone will know the Moonlight races exist.

Jed has discovered why Venators are being kidnapped from Veneseron, but now he’s trapped inside the captor’s lair himself, perhaps never to return.

Evan has set off on his own first mission, where he must travel through multiple bizarre worlds, attempting to stop a demonic cult. Unfortunately, two of Evan’s companions are two of his biggest rivals. His mission is thrown into further jeopardy when Evan learns he is being hunted by a force more powerful than anything he’s faced before.

Jed suffers a grisly injury. An enemy discovers Brooke’s biggest secret. Evan is marked by a wound magic can never heal, and not everyone survives.

Due to Moonlight War growing so long, it was split into two acts. As such, this novel continues directly from where Act I finished.

Excellent reading, 

Jordan

 

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

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In The Great Pursuit, the dramatic sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Great Hunt, Wendy Higgins delivers another thrilling fantasy filled with dangerous enemies, political intrigue, searing romance, and a princess who is willing to do everything to protect her kingdom. 
 
One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continues.
 
The kingdom of Lochlanach has traded the great beast that once terrorized the realm of Eurona for something far more dangerous: the ire of powerful Lashed woman Rosaria Rocato. Rosaria demands that Eurona overturn the laws prohibiting magic, or an innocent will be killed each day.
 
Despite the king’s resistance, Princess Aerity believes they must make peace with the Lashed, and though she’s accepted a betrothal to the man who took down the beast, she cannot help thinking about Paxton, the Lashed man who stole her heart and disappeared.
 
Aerity soon discovers that Paxton has joined Rosaria’s army in the war against her family. Though her feelings for him are still strong, her duty to her kingdom and her family is stronger—especially when her parents are kidnapped and she has to step up to the throne and once again put aside what’s best for her in order to do what’s best for her people. Paxton and Princess Aerity must fight to see what is more powerful: their love or the impending war between the magical Lashed and the non-magic humans.
 
Grab the eBook 1 THE GREAT HUNT !
Excerpt

CHAPTER ONEA new beast roamed the kingdom of Lochlanach, killing at will. A second unnatural monster created by the hands of Rozaria Rocato, granddaughter of the most infamous and hated Lashed One of all time. Princess Aerity Lochson’s mind was a blur of piled-up worries as she rushed from High Hall of the castle, away from the frightened commoners and guests who’d come for her betrothal ceremony, and toward the office of her father, King Charles. She turned at the sound of heavy footsteps behind her and found both her childhood friend Lieutenant Harrison Gillfin and her betrothed, Lord Lief Alvi, following. Lord Alvi looked every bit the hero—his broad stature striking, with elk furs about his shoulders and a black kilt to his knees above leather boots. His blue eyes were filled with bright passion and hunger, but those emotions were not for her. They were for the beast. The new hunt.

He had killed the first creature, thereby earning her hand in marriage. The thought twisted Aerity’s stomach with discomfort and turned her mind to the man who’d disappeared weeks before when the beast was killed—the Lashed man who’d taken her heart with him and would likely never return. She clenched her jaw. This was no time to think of Paxton Seabolt or her drowned desires. The kingdom was suffering again—rendering everything she’d sacrificed to have been in vain.

Her eyes shifted from Lord Alvi’s to Harrison’s and found a fierce, protective comfort there. Harrison stood tall, lean, and capable. Never faltering. The thought of her noble friend fighting yet another beast filled her with sharp fear. So many lives had already been lost, including Harrison’s cousin Breckon, who’d been the true love of Aerity’s cousin Wyneth. Half a year was all it had taken to trample the dreams and futures of so many.

Aerity gave the men a nod to follow her. She lifted her long white skirts and moved quickly down the tapestry-lined hallway to her father’s office. Guards and soldiers ran past, shouting orders, fully armed with bows, swords, and lines of throwing daggers strapped across their uniformed tunics.

She opened the door without knocking. No fewer than twenty faces shot toward her. She recognized the burgundy red hair of her mother, along with her aunts and uncles, military elite, and royal advisers. Her father invited them in with a quick flick of his fingers.

When the door closed he asked her, “What is the state of things in High Hall?”

“The people seemed to have calmed for the moment, Father,” Aerity said. “And supper is being served.”

“Your daughter gave a rousing speech,” Lord Alvi pro- claimed in his rumbling voice. “She is to thank for the calm.” Aerity’s face flushed with heat at the unexpected compliment. Then he put a heavy hand on her shoulder and pulled her close. Aerity fought the urge to shrug away. For the sake of the kingdom, she had made a commitment to become his bride, and she would follow through regardless of what her heart wanted, and regardless of the fact that she was certain feelings had grown between Lief and Wyneth.
“Did she?” The king’s eyes softened with pride, and her mother, Queen Leighlane, smiled at Aerity and Lief, no doubt thinking what a lovely couple they were. If she only knew.

Behind them Harrison cleared his throat. “Are we to begin hunting the creature, Your Majesty?”

King Charles nodded, his face lined with anxiety. “Aye. But most of the hunters have dispersed.” Or been killed, Aerity thought with sorrow, remembering the men who’d come from all over Eurona and even a huntress who’d lost her life.

“I can have a message sent to Tiern Seabolt,” Harrison said. “I’m certain he would return with haste.”

Aerity’s abdomen tightened. Tiern was Paxton’s younger brother. He’d nearly been killed by the first beast and had been saved by Paxton’s Lashed magic. It was the very reason Pax had fled the kingdom—using magic was illegal, even to heal. Aerity didn’t want Tiern to hunt again. She didn’t want Paxton’s sacrifice to have been a waste.

“And his older brother?” the king asked.

“Nay.” Harrison paused. “He disappeared after the hunt. We don’t know his whereabouts.”

“Must you call Tiern back?” Aerity asked. When her father’s eyebrows drew together she emended, “He’s . . . so young.”

“He’s the same age as you, Daughter,” the king reminded her. “Seventeen. A man who’s already proven himself in the hunt.” Aerity pressed her lips together and nodded. She could not keep Tiern safe any more than she could force Harrison to stay out of harm’s reach. Their heroic hearts would urge them forward.

“Can we send word to the Zandalee?” Aerity’s uncle Lord Wavecrest asked.

The king shook his head. “I’m afraid not this time. The letter from the Rocato woman stated that her creatures have now been released in all the lands of Eurona. The Zandalee will be needed to fight in their own drylands of Zorfina.”

A fearful silence fell over the room. Each kingdom was on its own with its own beasts to battle now. Lochlanach was a quaint kingdom of fishermen and crop villagers, farmers, that had enjoyed many years of peace. The people had risen together to fight the first beast, but how much more could the king expect from them? It was too much. To imagine this kind of horror inflicted on innocent people all over Eurona sickened Aerity.

“Perhaps another proclamation?” Lord Wavecrest suggested carefully. At this proposal from Aerity’s uncle, the men in the room glanced around at one another, and the hairs rose on the princess’s arms. The queen caught her daughter’s eyes, and they both went still.

The last proclamation had offered Aerity’s hand in marriage to whoever killed the beast. The only thing left to give was the second princess, Aerity’s fifteen-year-old sister, Vixie. Her father stared down at his desk.

“No.” Aerity stepped forward, out of Lord Alvi’s embrace, her body trembling. “You cannot offer Vixie’s hand.”

The king’s hazel eyes, filled with regret, rose to hers. “I have nothing left to give.” With Vixie’s hand would come her dowry of lands. Using Vixie as a prize would surely smother her soul. Aerity wouldn’t stand for it.

“And why should you oppose it?” her uncle Preston asked haughtily. “The first proclamation provided you with a fine match. It can do the same for Vixie.”

Aerity stilled, forcing back the torrent of words that flooded her mind: unfair, poor match, confinement, no joy, no love. She was to endure those things for her kingdom, but the thought of Vixie losing her freedom to choose her future . . . it gutted Aerity. She knew how it appeared to the world—that she’d landed a handsome, noble, brave lord—but the heart didn’t care about appearances. It wanted who it wanted.

“And then what?” Aerity asked. “Who shall we offer for the next beast, and the one after that? Your own Wyneth? Or perhaps six-year-old Merity?”

Lord Wavecrest scowled.

“Enough, Aerity,” Queen Leighlane said quietly. Aerity met her mother’s eyes and felt an understanding there. No one knew better than the two of them how this would crush Vixie’s spirit. These men couldn’t possibly understand.

“Vixie’s nearly sixteen,” Lord Wavecrest pressed. Aerity wanted to claw out his eyes and force him to stop speaking.

“A proclamation offering Vixie’s hand will be my very last resort,” King Charles said, standing taller. “It is my hope that the people will rise of their own free will to protect their families and lands as they did in the last hunt. I will not hinder them with further curfews.”

Lord Wavecrest shook his head and crossed his arms. Aerity breathed a temporary sigh of relief.

“Sire, we should address the other part of the Rocato woman’s letter.” This was from the king’s oldest adviser, Duke Gulfton. This duke had been the closest adviser to Aerity’s grandfather King Leon. His views on the Lashed were legendarily conservative and strict, and he was a proponent of keeping the Lashed lists up to date. All persons with Lashed capabilities and their families were notated in the records and checked regularly for markings.
The stooped man wore a sea-green robe around his shoulders and a perpetual serious frown on his face. He leaned on his cane. “We cannot do as the Rocato woman demands. We cannot burn our records of Lashed Ones in these lands, or give them rein to take over our kingdom.”

A few of the other older men murmured their agreement.

Harrison stepped forward. “What if we made a copy of the list? Then it wouldn’t matter if one was destroyed.”

“I’ve got scribes copying pages as we speak,” the king responded. “But the Rocato woman has called for the records to be burned by sundown. The copy won’t be complete. There are thousands of names.”

Thousands of persons with Lashed blood in Lochlanach. Amazing, Aerity thought. Only a small percentage of those on the list actually had magic, though. Paxton’s family was not on the list. Aerity wondered how many others of magical blood had been able to elude the system.

“How will the madwoman know the difference?” Duke Gulfton asked. “Burn papers to appease her, then kill her and her monsters once and for all. End of story.”

“Here, here!” a few men shouted, as if it were that simple. As if they wouldn’t have done it by now if they could.

The king’s jaw was set. “I have a terrible feeling this woman has eyes and ears everywhere.”

The room quieted and a sense of unease spread as heads turned and everyone eyed the others present. Her father’s council was a small group of family and a mere handful of wise advisers, all landowners, who’d been loyal to the kingdom since her grandfather ruled. She couldn’t imagine this group being compromised.

“With all due respect, gentlemen,” Lord Alvi said to the room, “we will find every beast and even Rocato herself, but we cannot guarantee immediate success. The last hunt took two months.”

“Aye,” Harrison added. “And she’s threatening to kill seven men each week.”

“You’ll have to work faster this time,” Duke Gulfton told them.

The room tensed. During the last hunt they’d had a hundred men. They’d sought the monster nearly ten hours a night and spent the days scouting and preparing. The lands of Lochlanach stretched far and wide. Yet people like Duke Gulfton were expecting a miracle of the sea.

Queen Leighlane cleared her throat. “The fact of the matter is that we’re going to have to at least put on a show of honoring her wishes. We need to buy time as we plan.”

Another elder, Duke Streamson, asked, “What are you proposing, Your Highness? Rocato is demanding that all Lashed be allowed to freely work magic.”

Magic that wasn’t all bad, Aerity thought. Magic that had saved Tiern and could save others. If only she could get them to embrace that.

“I have an idea.” Aerity’s brain whirred as all eyes turned to her. “What if we set up a public area just outside the royal lands and invited Lashed from throughout the kingdom to come, and any Unlashed who wishes to seek their healing can receive it?”

Duke Streamson made a choking sound. “Round up the people of Rocato to turn against us in one place? That’s precisely what she wants!”

Aerity rushed on. “I don’t believe all Lashed are ‘her people.’ The entire area would be heavily guarded so that if any Lashed got out of line, they could be dealt with immediately.” The old dukes scoffed at her.

One of the military advisers stepped forward. “Our numbers are not as large as they once were. Our troop sizes have been modest in the past fifty years. I’ve got to keep men patrolling the seas and borders, and we’ve lost many in the past months. I worry that a large-scale showing of the Lashed will bring crowds.”

The room broke out into fervent debate. Those who were against Aerity’s idea were adamant, passionate in their fears. Those in favor seemed on weak, shaky ground.

“Given permission to put their hands on innocent people, it could be a massacre!”

“What if the Lashed overwhelm our guards?”


“They’ll rise up throughout the lands!”


“. . . commoner revolts . . . war . . .”


Aerity felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Harrison, his light brown eyes showing the never-faltering respect he seemed to hold for her. She gave his hand a quick squeeze of gratitude before he released her. Aerity caught Lord Alvi watching the exchange with curiosity, so she turned her gaze forward again—she would let him think what he wanted.

“Enough!” King Charles’s voice silenced the room. “I will think on it. I must put safety first. I’m not ready to overturn our laws—” Aerity opened her mouth to argue that she wasn’t suggesting a complete overturn, but a one-time, enclosed, secure circumstance. Her father held up a hand to stop her. “This blasted parchment from Rozaria Rocato is bound to have our people in terror. If I take the stability of our rules away, it will cause chaos. Tonight on the lawn we will burn whatever pages my scribes have managed to copy, to keep Rozaria satisfied, but the original lists remain with us. I pray to the sea this works.”

He looked at the hunters. “Lord Alvi. Lieutenant Gillfin. Gather as many hunters as you can and begin hunting this new beast immediately.” They nodded and took their leave. Aerity watched them go, swallowing a dry lump in her throat. The king looked to his military advisers. “I want every soldier on duty, and round-the-clock patrolling of royal lands. I want Rozaria Rocato, dead or alive.” He turned to his top castle guard. “Send messengers to the other four lands to let them know of our new foe and to find out their circumstances.”

Without another word, the king swept from the room with Queen Leighlane and a line of advisers close behind.

Aerity felt the brush of velvet on her arm and peered

down at the old man beside her. It was Duke Gulfton, his eyes glistening. “I mean no disrespect, Princess, only a piece of advice. In times of fear and upheaval, absolute routine and stability in the law are called for. Any slight change can set the people off.”

“As I recall,” Aerity said steadily, “Mrs. Rathbrook healed your ailing heart last year.” Mrs. Rathbrook was the royal healer—the only Lashed allowed to work magic.

He grasped the top of his cane with both hands. “Aye.”

“Should we not allow the people of this land to benefit from magic as you have?”

He looked down at his hands, nodding solemnly. “Not all Lashed are as trustworthy as Mrs. Rathbrook. You saw the Rocato woman face-to-face. You know the evil of which she is capable.”

“I suppose everyone is capable of evil, Duke Gulfton. None of us is immune, Lashed or not. But I choose to believe the best in people until they show me otherwise.”

Duke Streamson, waiting in the doorway, cleared his throat. Duke Gulfton peered up at Aerity and patted her hand. “Once they show you otherwise, it is often too late. As a rule it is not safe to take such chances. Seas help Lochlanach in our time of need.”

As Duke Gulfton shuffled away, Aerity whispered in return. “Seas help us, indeed.”

Wendy Higgins is the USA Today and NYT bestselling author of the Sweet Evil series from HarperTeen, the high fantasy duology The Great Hunt, and her independently published Irish fantasy, See Me. She is a former high school English teacher who now writes full time, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian
husband, daughter, son, and doggie Rue.
 
Wendy earned a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University. She is represented by Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.
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(2) Winners will receive the grand prizes (The Great Hunt Paperback and The Great Pursuit hardback from HarperTeen, and signed swag from Wendy Higgins! Plus an ARC of ROAR by Cora Carmack!), US Only.
 

(5) Winners will receive signed sets of swag – International!

 

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Adventurous reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Guardian of Secrets by Brenda Drake

Guardian of Secrets by Brenda Drake | Release Day Launch | JenHalliganPR.comGuardian of Secrets by Brenda Drake | JenHalliganPR.comGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes
Publisher: Entangled Teen

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Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1):

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Excerpt

She did a U-turn and drove off. I sprinted to the area where I spotted the lightning. A shadowed figure sat on a white bench near the water. Another flash of light kissed the sky and illuminated Nick.

Since discovering he was a wizard, Nick struggled with his new magic. And he was careless. Anyone could spot him out here. How would he explain it to someone who was human and not from the Mystik realm? I couldn’t imagine how it felt to have that much power. Unlike him, I was a Sentinel. I had little magic and relied on my battle training to best wizards and other-world creatures. He only needed to shock or electrocute his adversaries.

“What exactly are you doing?” I asked, approaching.

He almost fell off the bench. “Shit, Gia. Don’t sneak up on a person like that.”

“Seriously, Nick? What are you doing? Someone might see you, and then we’d be discovered.”

“Just leave me alone.”

“I’m not going to just leave you alone.” I sat down on the bench beside him. A light breeze swept loose strands of my hair across my face. The briny smell of the ocean filled my nose. “Talk to me. You’re my best friend, Nick. I’m here for you.”

He formed an electric charge on his palm. I created my pink globe and tossed it on his hand, snuffing out the charge.

He made another electric ball and I cast another globe at it.

“Quit doing that.”

“You stop it.”

“I get it. Your globe is badass. It can counter magic and shield people, but it makes you weak. I can do this all night and wear you out.”

“You’re not nice.”

He buried his face in his hands. The knuckles on his right one were torn, with blood coagulating around the wounds. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. I can’t stop myself. I know I’m being mean to Deidre, to my parents…to everyone.”

“You haven’t been that mean to me, yet. That has to say something. I’m the most annoying one of the bunch.”

He snorted. “Did you just snort?”

“No.” He looked startled. “It was a sneeze.”

“I think you snorted.”

His face brightened. “I know what you’re trying to do. And it’s working.”

“I’m not trying to do anything. That was a full-on snort.” I wrapped my arm over his back and watched the water lap against the retaining wall in front of us. “I know you can’t see a therapist for this, ’cause what would you say? That you just found out you’re the son of the most evil wizard of the Mystik world and the curers recently released your magic?”

He gave me a half smile. “Yeah, that might not go over too well.”

“Or maybe you could. They’d think you were delusional, and you’d score some drugs.”

“Drugs make me nauseous.”

He stared at his hands, and I stared at the water, searching for the right words to say. “This has to be tough for you. I get it. I’ve been there. It’ll take time to adjust. How about I be your counselor? Anytime you feel anxious or angry, you call me and we’ll punch some bags or whatever. It always helps me to relax. Plus, my services are cheap.”

“Violence would make you relax.” He was pleased with his retort and laughed, which was followed by another snort.

authorBrenda DrakeWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1), Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), and Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2). She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. She hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). Look for her upcoming novels, Thunderstruck, Seeking Fate (Fated Series #3), and Assassin of Truths (Library Jumpers #3) coming soon from Entangled Teen.

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Enter for your chance to win a $25 Amazon OR Book Depository Gift Card (International)

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Fantastic reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

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review4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and  Del Rey

The Bear and the Nightingale is a love letter to old Rus’. 

The other day I found myself missing the Motherland. Once you’ve been to Russia, the spirit of the country latches on to you and you’ll never be able to forget it, even if it forgets you. The Bear and the Nightingale was the perfect answer to my melancholic nostalgia. That being said, rating this book was tricky for me because I love Russian culture so much, so deeply, that it hypnotized and transported me back to those dark and beautiful nights in Moscow and Suzdal and Vladimir and Tolstoy’s estate. I digress, but the point is if you have even the tiniest interest in Russian folklore, the old culture, and adore fairy tales, you’ll be swept up into this rustic and romantic tale of a girl kissed by magic and determined to save her people. 

Side note: Throughout the story I yelled at the book in Russian. Like full on what is this??? yelling. The transliteration irked me to no end and then I got to the end of the book and I laughed so hard. That author’s note made my day. She explained her choices and described how she though Russian speakers/students would react to the transliteration-with disdain and hands pretty much clenched in fists. Somehow, the fact that she knew it made it okay. 

The Bear and the Nightingale is whimsical, haunting, and twisted like any good fairytale. A blend of many stories known, loved, and feared in Russia still today, The Bear and the Nightingale is one epic journey that spans years. From the house-spirits, to the gods of the elements, to the celebrated figures of Baba Yaga and the Firebird, everything that is inherently Russian is present and accounted for. I loved that the focus was not on these known figures, but on the everyday ones that live in the household and receive offerings, that protect the hearth and livelihood of the family. 

This is a love story. Not in the traditional sense, but one of love for the land, for heritage, for culture, and in beings that others believe are myth. There’s not romance in the usual fashion, but there is a hint. 

The atmosphere and world building is strong. You’ll become fully immersed in the countryside, the power of the forest and all the magical beings that inhabit it. 

I loved Vasya. She’s known for being unattractive, frog-like, and weird, but her spirit makes her beautiful. She’s fierce, determined, sure of herself. She believes when others are filled with doubts. She throws herself into danger, she risks her life, she loves hard and barters for her people. She’s small, but she’s crafty and wild and bold. She does what everyone else in the story wouldn’t dare and that’s what makes her compelling. 

On a more somber note, there is some conversion that goes on in the story. Religious crusade of a sort that makes the reader question what happens when people story believing in their folklore, in their old gods, and all the stories that come with them. There’s something heartbreaking and sobering about this war within the people. 

The pacing may be slow for some, but it builds as it goes and Vasya becomes more adventurous. 

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

Magical reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

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Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable, and she’s not sure she’s willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king’s tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Fast-paced and compelling, Frostblood is the first in a page-turning new young adult three-book series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies—but together create a power that could change everything.

review4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

This year is already shaping up to be one of my best reading years. I’ve read 8 books so far  and I have not been disappointed. Frostblood is the book you’re going to hear about and will become an instinctive recommendation to anyone and everyone you know because it’s epic. 

How I love this book, let me count the ways:

World Building. A blend of dizzying and addictive folklore mixes with myth and elemental magic. The stories of the gods and goddesses are sweeping, dark, and have that campfire-tale quality that sucks you in and refuses to let go. Wow. These stories themselves would make an amazing companion for the series. I’d love to have a collection. And they keep coming. They’re a solid foundation that keeps giving as the story progresses. There are layers of world building. The first is myth, the second is this terrifying world of witch-hunt style persecution and violence. AND then a gladiator-like battle in an area. I don’t know what else you could possibly want, this is all sorts of epic. 

Ruby. As a main character, she’s unexpected. Filled with doubts, insecurity and yet, thirsting for revenge, she’s not the typical heroine. Her drive is largely to pay back those who destroyed her world and make them suffer. That vehement determination is something else. At the same time, her heart is tested. She learns compassion and to care in new and surprising ways. Everything that Ruby is is tempted. Darkness beckons her and she must decide between darkness and light. That conflict is written so well. She truly wars within. 

Arcus. There’s some serious star-crossed lovers going on here. He’s not what you’d picture as a love interest. Cold, dismissive, scarred, and gruff. He’s not your typical flirty hot guy. He’s got an air of mystery, but for the most part her’s serious, seems much older than his years. Arcus will grow on you. His focus, the way he fights through his icy exterior, how he doesn’t know how to process his emotions…I mean, he’s the kind of character you tilt your head to the side, raise an eyebrow and examine-a puzzle. 

Romance. It’s soft, subtle, and hits hard when it does. There’s definitely a love-hate, comparative fight against the attraction. It’s spirited, intriguing, and the banter, yes, give me more of that. Fire and ice. Who knew it could be so steamy? 😉 

Secondary characters. Everyone in the abbey left an impression. From the good guys to the bad ones. The presence is there. The adrenaline high. No one can be fully trusted. A character who had a fairly important part, Marella, was a wishy-washy, almost forgettable character despite her pretty regular appearance near the end of the book. Rasmus!!! OMG. Yes. A complex villain with a twisted and heartbreaking background. I felt for him. The revelations about his character are short, blunt, and leave you reeling. His evil is there. He’s vile, violent, and glorifies others’ pain, but whether he would truly be that way without the influence of the throne leaves him questionable. And for some strange reason, he’s oddly sexy, maybe even more so than Arcus. I only wish he was present sooner.

The Arena. Flashbacks to Gladiator. “Are you entertained?” I certainly was. The mythical and beastly creatures, it was a rush.

The story leaves room for a sequel and I cannot wait. The resolution was hard to come by. There was a great level of uncertainty that the good would win. I loved that. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Blog Tour, Excerpt, and Reviews: In Truth and Ashes by Nicole Luiken

in truth and ashes nicole luikenthrough fire and seaGoodreads/Amazon/UK/CA/B&N/iBooks/Kobo/Entangled

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There is one True World, and then there are the four mirror worlds: fire, water, air, and stone. And each has a magic of its own…

In the Fire World, seventeen-year-old Leah is the illegitimate daughter of one of the realm’s most powerful lords. She’s hot-blooded—able to communicate with the tempestuous volcano gods. But she has another gift…the ability to Call her twin “Otherselves” on other worlds.

Holly resides in the Water World—our world. When she’s called by Leah from the Fire World, she nearly drowns. Suddenly the world Holly thought she knew is filled with secrets, magic…and deadly peril.

For a malevolent force seeks to destroy the mirror worlds. And as Leah and Holly are swept up in the tides of chaos and danger, they have only one choice to save the mirror worlds—to shatter every rule they’ve ever known…

review4/5 Stars

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

Through Fire and Sea is a multidimensional thrill ride. Worlds based on elements, traveling through mirrors, and meeting “otherselves” through the glass, Through Fire & Sea is a gripping epic that’s as refreshing as it is inventive.

PROS:

  • The world-building is astounding. Everything is intricately plotted and flows seamlessly together. The diversity between worlds is genius. Details in abundance. You can picture everything from scenery to secondary characters. The worlds are drastically different, it almost feels as though you’re travelling through time. It’s adventurous, lively, and keeps you guessing from start to finish.
  • There’s an interesting blend of creation myth, gods & goddesses, and science fiction. The volcanoes are temperamental and have distinct personalities. Personification at its finest. The link between elemental power and emotions is spell-binding. When the volcano mourns, lava flows and sulfur suffocates, when the sea weeps, waves rise to tsunami level. Just wow. 
  • Leah is a feisty, fiery beauty. She’s inquisitive, calculating, and emotional. She risks everything and puts lives on the line to save the world and at the same time, she’s got a beautiful, compassionate heart. Leah yearns for the affection of her father, the duke, but as a bastard she’s used as a pawn in a political game that leaves her emotions reeling. Leah struggles to balance what is right with pleasing her father. Leah is smart, she pushes through her insecurities to hone in on her skills and is pretty BA at everything she does. Leah embraces her hot-blooded nature and uses her elemental skills to battle the ultimate villain, a destroyer of worlds. Even though Leah has several reasons to give up, she pushes through and comes out stronger. 
  • Gideon and Leah are perfect together. Their interactions are natural and full of understanding. Leah tames his hysteria and Gideon calms her soul. It’s sweet and heartwarming watching their love grow. 
  • Holly feels a magnetic pull towards Ryan. Their connection is instantaneous and full of heat. Holly refuses to give up on Ryan despite everything they go through with Ryan’s rising stardom. Their relationship is imperfect and incredibly real (apart from the paranormal aspects).
  • Qeturah is a force to be reckoned with, a serious villain. She’s consistently steps ahead of everyone and her end game is a mystery that is impossible to crack. Qeturah wants to wreak havoc on the universe and she makes a good job of it. 
  • THAT ENDING. I will be waiting not so patiently for the next book because holy hot mess. The world is in danger and those most equipped for saving it are in no position to do so. 

CONS:

  • Secondary characters were unlikable and fairly predictable. Both worlds had a snotty mean girl and absentee parents that were forgettable. 
  • Holly’s character lacked the development Leah’s had. Her likes and dislikes fell into the background for what was expected of her and how the world perceived her. I wondered what Holly wanted to be, her dreams and aspirations. It seemed everything was related to someone else’s desires or happiness. 

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There is one True World, and then there are the four Mirror Worlds: Fire, Water, Air, and Stone.

Audrey and Dorotea are “otherselves”—twin copies of each other who live on different Mirror Worlds.

On Air, Audrey has the ability to communicate with wind spirits. As war looms, she’s torn between loyalty to her country and her feelings for a roguish phantom who may be a dangerous spy.

Blackouts and earthquakes threaten the few remaining humans on Stone, who have been forced to live underground. To save her injured sister, Dorotea breaks taboo and releases an imprisoned gargoyle. Brooding, sensitive Jasper makes her wonder if gargoyles aretruly traitors, as she’s always been told.

Unbeknownst to them, they both face the same enemy—an evil sorceress bent on shattering all the Mirror Worlds.

review4/5 Stars

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

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You like strong female protagonists. 
  • You’re into world building.
  • Books that span genres excite you.

Amid Wind and Stone is a brilliant continuation of the Otherselves series. At first, I was a little hesitant to dive in because I loved the first two girls in Through Fire and Sea so much but OMG was I surprised. The romance feels as fresh as the quirky storyline and creative as the characters. 

PROS:

  • Audrey.Man that little minx. I love her to pieces. She’s ballsy and a total feminist. She loathes the female expectations and pressures of her upper-class life. Think Victorian/Steampunk. If you’re a Jane Austen fan, forget about it, this girl is PERFECT for you. Audrey is brave, fierce; she doesn’t let anything get in the way of her passions and dreams. She gets in trouble, sneaks around, takes risks, and does what so many are scared to, she lives, fully and vibrantly. She jumps through the air and rides the wind, she dresses up as boys to join the military, I mean, seriously, what is not to love about her? On top of that, she is cheeky, funny, and full of heart. 
  • Phantom.Playful, flirty, forward, and oh-so-swoon-worthy. He’s an invisible knight in shining armor with questionable behavior and secrets. There’s something about him that’s dangerous and thrilling that will make you fall hard. The vulnerable side…is there anything sexier than a guy who opens up and puts his fears and heart on full display? 
  • Phantom and Audrey. Sweet, teasing, addictive flirtation. I wanted whole books on this relationship.
  • Dorotea’s story is a little different but provocative, pervasive, and so relevant. Dorotea’s story is about indoctrination, the teachings of our parents, and how prejudice is spread without knowing the full story. Dorotea has powerful beliefs but they’re rooted in lies. This makes her mean sometimes and hardheaded. At first, it’s hard to get behind her, she seems needlessly cruel but once you understand her reasoning, it’s easy to see where that’s coming from. Underneath the prejudice is just a girl who loves beyond everything. She grows on you.
  • Jasper.Holy hotness. Think Beauty and the Beast. The way he burrows through rock and transforms. Give me more of that. Jasper challenges Dorotea, makes her step outside herself and it’s like a revelation.❤

CONS:

  • The climax was a bit of a letdown. For so long (if you’ve been eagerly anticipating revenge since book 1 like I have) we’ve waited for the reckoning, the moment when Qeturah would have to answer for her devious behavior and horrendous crimes and when it happens, it was abrupt and unsettling but something…I guess the processing by Leah and the others, wasn’t where it could have been to pack that emotional sucker punch. 
  • The feels weren’t as pronounced as in book 1. I didn’t have the same emotional connection to characters. 

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What she can’t remember could ruin her life.

The Mirror Worlds are but dull reflections of the True World, where magic and technology blend together…

On the True World, Belinda Loring has known from childhood that she must Bond with the son of another noble First Family. Uniting the families ensures hers will hold onto its powerful position, and so she’s always pushed down the tender feelings she has for her best friend—gorgeous, steadfast Demian, who isn’t noble.

But when the ceremonial magic goes disastrously wrong, Belinda becomes a national disgrace. Scorned as Broken, she turns to Demian for help getting revenge on the man who ruined her: the radical Malachi.

But the seeds of Malachi’s murderous plans lie buried in Belinda’s past, in the dark days of her kidnapping—a period of which she has no memory. And Demian may hold the key to recovering all that she’s lost—and saving the worlds.

review3.5/5 Stars 

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

In Truth and Ashes is full of unexpected twists, complex relationships, and an epic fantasy world. With memorable characters, romance, and multiple worlds to keep you ensnared, it’s a magical and exhilarating read. 

PROS:

  • I love Leah and Gideon’s story arc. From the beginning, I was completed consumed by their ill-fated romance. It’s complex, dangerous, full of fire and respect and learning each other. And the adrenaline. It’s fantastic. When I saw Leah pop up in this book, I prayed she’s have a huge roll and she does. Her love story gets even more emotional and chaotic. My heart broke for her. You can feel every ounce of her sadness and desperation, her pain…it’s brutal and beautiful and OMG I needed them to be okay because if they weren’t there was no such thing as happy endings. That scene at the end, the last one with Leah, be still my little black heart because heavy, dreamy sigh. Whoever said they didn’t like long-winded, straight from the heart confessions, is full of it. 
  • Belinda is not at all what I expected. From the previous books I assumed she was this snobby, cold, robot of a girl, but that is so not the case. Her back story is epic and mysterious and terrifying. She struggles with fierce loyalty to her family and trusting her heart. She’s brave, takes huge risks, and will do anything to save the world. She’s a full on heroine who is far from perfect, takes a few hits, and makes terrible assumptions, but she definitely redeems herself. 
  • Demian and Belinda. It’s sweet, playful, and who doesn’t love a sexy artist who is dynamite with his hands? His past is dark, complicated, and full of secrets that make him both endearing and magnetic. And those kisses ❤
  • The ending was shocking. I never saw it coming. I never expected it to end the way it did and it’s insanely creative the way it’s done. 

CONS:

  • If you hoping to see Holly, Audrey, and Dorotea, there parts are so fleeting and minimal that you almost forget they were there at all. I missed Audrey’s daredevil attitude and her saucy wit. I yearned for Dorotea’s heart and determination. I felt nostalgic and at a loss at some points without them. On the plus side, that means they were totally wonderful characters in the previous books and left a great impression, plus we finally got to see Belinda. On the minus side, it felt like the story was incomplete without them. As a final book (or what reads like one at least) I expected a more solid goodbye and it felt rushed to the conclusion. 
  • The fight seemed to go on forever because there were so many non-fights that dragged and were resolved in a too-simple fashion. Yes, people have elemental powers, but the struggle…until the last bit of the book (for Belinda and Demian) was a little soft. 

authornicole-luikenWebsite/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads

Nicole Luiken wrote her first book at age 13 and never stopped.

She is the author of nine published books for young adults, including Violet Eyes and its sequels Silver Eyes and Angels Eyes, Frost, Unlocking the Doors, The Catalyst, Escape to the Overworld, Dreamfire and the sequel Dreamline. Through Fire & Sea, book one of Otherselves, and Amid Wind & Stone, book two of Otherselves, are her most recent releases. She also has an adult thriller, Running on Instinct, under the name N.M. Luiken and a fantasy romance series, Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith.

Nicole lives with her family in Edmonton, AB. It is physically impossible for her to go more than three days in a row without writing.

Excerpt

Nightmare

Fire World

Leah wept in her sleep. And dreamed:

She was a dragon, floating on an orange sea of molten rock. Far above her was a hole like an eye, the Volcano Lord Thunderhead’s caldera. At first, the heat felt pleasant, soaking away the lingering chill of death, but then it increased in intensity as the magma invaded every nerve and lit them each on fire. She screamed through her ruined throat and convulsed—

Leah bolted upright and found herself in the Aerie, the top room of Qeturah’s Tower. She must have fallen asleep on Gideon’s bed.

She was shaking, her heart trying to beat its way out of her chest. Her skin felt clammy. What a terrible, awful nightmare.

One whole side of the Aerie opened out onto a large natural stone balcony. Outside, the sun silhouetted Thunderhead’s steep-sided black cone against the red sky. Thin trails of lava trickled down his sides as he erupted again.

The Volcano Lord grieved for the loss of his son, just as Leah grieved.

Leah had met Gideon here in this very room. He’d been feverish, and she’d been spying for her father, Duke Ruben, trying to prove that the evil sorceress Qeturah had something to do with the dragon attacks on their valley. Only, by the time she found out Gideon shape-shifted into the dragon at night and his mother Qeturah used a magic amulet to control him, Leah had already fallen in love with Gideon, and turning him in had been unthinkable.

But in the end, she’d been unable to protect him from her father. Duke Ruben’s army had shot the dragon down with a huge crossbow, and Gideon had died. And his death had signaled the beginning of the end of Fire World.

Gideon’s father, Thunderhead, had erupted and killed Duke Ruben and three other dukes. Their deaths, in turn, had sent the Volcano Lords linked to them into a mindless fury, and they’d all exploded. Those not killed in the eruptions would likely starve in the next year, since falling ash had blighted all the crops.

And Leah could barely bring herself to care.

Gideon was dead. Duke Ruben, her father, whom she’d alternately feared and wanted to please, was dead. Likely so were Jehannah, her half-sister, and her mother, Beulah. Her childhood home was destroyed.

Leah had spent all her time since the cataclysm struggling to stop Qeturah. But now Qeturah was dead, too. And Leah had no purpose.

Oh, the war hadn’t ended: Qeturah had had a mentor named Malachi who had supported her. He was still out there, no doubt still scheming to shatter the other Mirror Worlds, but Leah had run out of energy to fight. Let someone else take him down, someone from the True World.

Malachi wasn’t her problem.

Leah would just stay here with her memories. Alone.

Only the thought of the nightmare returning kept her from sleeping the rest of the day away.

Other Stops on the Tour 

January 2nd

For Love of Books4 – Spotlight Post

YA Book Madness – Review Book #3

January 3rd

RoloPoloBookBlog – Spotlight Post

January 4th

Queekie Girl Reads – Guest Post

January 5th

YaReads – Author Interview

Sizzling Hot Books – Review Book #1

January 6th

The Book Beacon – Review Book #3

Pearls Cast Before A McPig – Spotlight Post

January 7th
Just One More Chapter – Spotlight Post

January 8th

Roxy’s Book Reviews – Spotlight Post

January 9th

Mythical Books – Author Interview

The Crafty Engineer’s Bookshelf- Review Book #3- Review Book #3

January 10th

Captivated Reading – Guest Post

January 11th

Crossroad Reviews – Spotlight Post

Splashes Into Books – Review Book #3

January 12th

YA Book Divas – Guest Post

January 13th

Sleeps on Tables – Spotlight Post

Home of Writing – Review Book #2

January 14th

Verbosity Reviews – Review Book #1

January 15th

Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Author Interview

Magical reading, 

Jordan