Sunday, 31 May 2015

Cover Reveal: Immortalis - The Guardian by Leah Lozano

Today we are taking part in the cover reveal of IMMORTALIS - THE GUARDIAN by Leah Lozano. Take a look!


As she struggles to deal with the loss of the only family she has ever known, twenty-year-old Lina’s strange visions catapult her into the midst of a war on the other end of the universe. Torn between two men—the unnamed midnight-eyed man, who exists solely in her visions and Archos, her ever-present neighbor who makes her intuition scream danger despite his gentlemanly ways—Lina must save herself from a rebel force who believes she is the dangerous answer to their prophecies, find the truth of her own origins and inner strength, and battle epic forces of evil while facing a terrifying realization ...


Begin the epic fantasy series, Immortalis and be enlightened!

Mysterious and sensational, dangerous yet exciting, Leah Lozano’s spine-tingling fantasy takes readers on a spellbinding ride that they will never want to end.

Dorothy Follow on Bloglovin

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Review: Fairy, Texas by Margo Bond Collins

I'm entirely confused about the cover,
having read the book and all,
but it looks nifty.
If every I've come to you with mixed feelings, it's today. Well, and that time I reviewed the book about the modern retelling of the Phantom of the Opera in a dance school environment. Incidentally, Im torn for some of the same reasons.

To start with, here's a quick run down on what Fairy, TX is about.
Laney Harris thinks there might be monsters in Fairy, Texas.

She's right.

When her mother remarried and moved them to a town where a date meant hanging out at the Sonic, Laney figured that "boring" would have a whole new meaning. A new stepsister who despised her and a high school where she was the only topic of gossip were bad enough. But when she met the school counselor (and his terminal bad breath), she grew suspicious. Especially since he had wings that only she could see. And then there were Josh and Mason, two gorgeous glimmering-eyed classmates whose interest in her might not be for the reasons she hoped. Not to mention that dead guy she nearly tripped over in gym class.

Boring takes on an entirely new dimension in Fairy, Texas.

If she's going to survive in this small town, she'll have to learn to wing it.

Got it? What could possibly simultaneously give me pause and endear this title?

Well, let's start with endear. Many moons ago, I relocated from a relatively urban setting to a minuscule town in Texas, and it might as well have been Fairy. It was tiny. Rumours bloomed out of the bluebonnets and were carried along on the wind. You only had to walk into a new business and suddenly everyone would tell you who you were, where you came from, and whose house you'd moved into. Note, as a transplant, it was never going to be your house. It would forever be "Lola Jenkins' house." After all, it's not like transplants thrived there.

So when I first delved into Fairy, Texas, I was immediately taken by how well Margo Bond Collins captures the experience of an urban girl moving to the middle of Nowhere, just twenty miles out of Never Gonna Be Nowhere. It was familiar and difficult, and not overplayed.

The main character, Laney, manages to have enough snark that she seems like her own person, but just enough blandness that it's easy to identify with her. That said, she does fall back on some of my least favorite women in literature flaws- she follows the lead of the men guiding her, even when she's bucking their authority on the surface and questioning the rationality of their suggestions, there she is, doing as they asked and letting the plot happen to her. I admit, I like a girl who saves herself earlier than later.

Laney has a strong voice through the story, which is written from a perspective I haven't run into much lately. She tells her tale in the first person conversational past. Basically, it's like sitting down with a good friend you desperately need to catch up with and listening to her narrate what happened not so long ago, only with hindsight commentary thrown in for effect. If nothing else, even at the most tense of moments, it reminds you "hey, she has to live to be talking to me right now," and "at least she never lost her sense of humor." It's not a perspective I read often, and certainly more accessible than the times when I have run into it (see: House of Leaves), and that's rather refreshing.

Now, the down points. The stereotypical tropeyness is strong, so if that bothers you, be advised. But most importantly, do not read this for book club unless you're prepared for book club to turn into a full on discussion about rape culture, women's bodies as commodities, slut shaming, religious and cultural gender based subjugation, patriarchy, expendability, and whether or not using near rape as a means of building trust is skeevy.

So yeah, it's paranormal and interesting, and I read it in one sitting. It is a page turner, but at times I felt guilty for reading about the abuses suffered by the various characters, for my entertainment. Of course, I was entertained (maybe guilty pleasure level entertained?) so at least they didn't suffer for nothing, right?

Sandra Follow on Bloglovin

Friday, 29 May 2015

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Serpentine by Cindy Pon with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Serpentine by Cindy Pon with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing chapter one of
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
presented byMonth9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Stay tuned for news on special brush painting card by Cindy with
Serpentine pre-order through Mysterious Galaxy in June!

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.
Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.
When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.
Vivid worldbuilding, incendiary romance, heart-pounding action, and characters that will win you over–I highly recommend Serpentine.Cinda Williams Chima, best-selling author of the Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles fantasy novels
Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, NYT Bestseller of the Graceling Realm Series
Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites
add to goodreads
Title: Serpentine
Publication date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Cindy Pon
Pre-order Links:

Chapter 1
The mountain was still shrouded in mist.
Skybright felt its cold tendrils against her nape as she climbed the giant cypress tree. She could almost believe she was in the heavens and the immortals themselves lived beyond the high monastery walls. A strange quiet had settled over Tian Kuan mountain, as if the mist had turned into something solid, blanketing their surroundings in silence. Skybright loved mornings like these. She scooted further up the thick gnarled branch, clinging with her legs, not daring to look down. Rough bark scraped her palms, and she held her breath as she grabbed a branch above her with both hands and eased herself onto her feet, crouching low, like a cat about to spring. She glimpsed the far edge of a square; dense fog hovered just above the green stone tiles of curved rooflines.
Zhen Ni gasped from below.
Skybright glanced down at her mistress. Zhen Ni’s pale face was turned upward, her eyes wide. Skybright quickly looked away and gulped. She had never been this high up before--if she fell she’d surely break her neck.
“Take care,” her mistress said.
Take care! Zhen Ni was the one who had concocted this mad plan to begin with, convincing Skybright the monastery wall truly wasn’t that high, and that she could climb the cypress tree with ease. Curiosity was her mistress’s weakness, and she simply had to know what went on within the monastery, behind its grand facade. Of course, Skybright would have to do the climbing. She couldn’t glare at her mistress, as it meant risking a glance downward again. Instead, Skybright rose slowly, willing her legs to keep steady, until she finally stood, her cloth shoes digging into the wood. She hugged the higher branch to her chest and murmured a prayer to the Goddess of Mercy.
Standing, she had a full view of the immense square hidden behind the walls, flanked by two red rectangular temples. A pair of fierce stone lions guarded each temple, and tall cypress trees dotted the edges of the square. Hundreds of monks, dressed in slate blue sleeveless tunics and trousers, sat cross-legged on the gray stone floor. While Zhen Ni and Skybright had been ascending the mountain, the monks’ strong voices had reverberated across the tall peak, counting as they practiced their forms. Now, they were so still and silent that Skybright blinked, wondering if they were statues as well—or an illusion. Each monk’s head was closely shaved, and they sat with their elbows resting against their knees, exact replicas of one another.
Not even the wind stirred.
“What can you see?” Zhen Ni asked, her impatient voice too loud to be a whisper.
Skybright ignored her. She scanned the endless rows of monks, each offering a three-quarter profile, when her eyes rested on one that did not appear like the rest. His hair wasn’t shorn, but shoulder length, and tied back. His tunic and trousers were tan. He sat in the very back, near the edge. As if he sensed her watching, he tilted his chin until their eyes met across the great distance.
She froze, feeling caught. And in those few quick moments, his gaze swept across her, seeming to take in every detail, before he turned his head back toward the magnificent temples, his expression never changing. Heart thudding, Skybright maneuvered until she was straddling the branch again, then scrambled as fast as she could down the giant cypress.
Her legs trembled when she finally reached the ground.
“Well, what did you see?” Zhen Ni tugged at her sleeve, her face shining with curiosity.
“Monks. So many of them.” She began walking back toward town, not waiting for her mistress as proper decorum dictated.
Surprised, Zhen Ni picked up her skirt so she wouldn’t trip on the embroidered hem and followed. “Could you see their faces?”
She shook her head, even as she recalled the slender eyes of the boy who had seen her. “They were meditating.”
The two girls hurried now through the trees. The fog had begun to lift, allowing glimmers of sunlight, and the earth was soft and damp beneath their feet. Skybright and Zhen Ni clasped hands and ran—they would be in trouble if their absence were noticed.

Skybright brought a late morning meal of rice porridge to Zhen Ni’s spacious reception hall and dined with her mistress. The two girls were now draped across Zhen Ni’s expansive bed, playing a game of Go. Her mistress was the better player, yet Skybright still had to keep an eye on the game, to be sure she never won by chance or from carelessness on Zhen Ni’s part. The last time she had won, Zhen Ni had pounded the bed so hard with her fists, the black and white stones scattered and bounced to the floor. Skybright never did find all of the pieces.
Morning light filled the bedchamber through lattice windows cast wide open. The walls were papered in the palest green, and Zhen Ni had decorated them with several magnificent lotus paintings—her favorite flower. Despite the open windows, the bedchamber was warm, and Skybright felt her chin dip, her lids growing heavy. Zhen Ni gave a languid yawn and stretched like a cat onto her side, leaning her head against her arm. A sharp tap on the reception hall’s door startled both girls. Skybright jumped from the tall platform bed as Zhen Ni swung her legs down the side, patting the gold ornaments woven in her hair.
“Your mother’s bringing a guest to visit, mistress,” Rose, another handmaid, said from outside.
“Now?” Zhen Ni asked as Skybright smoothed her mistress’s peach tunic and skirt.
“She’s on her way, mistress,” replied Rose’s muffled voice.
Zhen Ni sighed and gave Skybright an exasperated look before saying, “Thank you, Rose.”
Lady Yuan entered the quarters soon after, trailed by a woman in her forties, but dressed much more plainly, with her hair pulled into a tight bun. If Lady Yuan was an iridescent king fisher, then this woman clad in brown and gray was a dull hen. Yet there was a keen sharpness to the woman’s eyes as she took in the opulent reception hall, decorated in pale gold and pink, before her gaze glided to Zhen Ni’s face.
“I’ve brought a special surprise for you today, Daughter. Madame Lo is the best-regarded seer of our time. We’re fortunate to have her visiting so far from the Capital.” Lady Yuan smiled at both girls, her excitement obvious. She had grown plumper in these past few years; it had softened her features and rounded her chin.
Madame Lo inclined her head. “You honor me, Lady Yuan. It’s been too long since I’ve visited the mountains. I consider it a retreat.”
Zhen Ni bowed to the woman. “The honor is mine.” A flush colored her cheeks as she turned to her mother. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wasn’t certain if Madame Lo could make it until she actually arrived at our door,” Lady Yuan said.
Zhen Ni swept an arm toward the curved-back chairs. “Please sit.”
“You’ve not yet started your monthly letting,” the seer stated, and everyone froze as if she had picked up a vase and smashed it to the floor.
“Mother?” Zhen Ni’s voice was barely a whisper.
Lady Yuan sat down, arranging her silk skirt with nervous fingers.
“Dear girl, the fact that you’ve not reached womanhood shines as bright on your face as the moon in full bloom. I’m a seer, after all.” Instead of following her hostess’ lead and sitting, Madame Lo stood before them and scrutinized Zhen Ni. Despite her plain dress, two stunning jade bracelets encircled the fortuneteller’s fine-boned wrist. One in a clear crisp green, and the other a deep lavender, both wrought with delicate gold details. They flashed and gleamed under the bright lantern lights, mesmerizing Skybright. Madame Lo lifted a hand to her chin, and her dark, piercing eyes slid to Skybright’s own face for a breath before she said, “But don’t fret, Mistress Yuan, your monthly letting will start soon enough.”
A chill slithered down Skybright’s spine when her eyes had met the seer’s, and she retreated a step to leave when Zhen Ni grabbed her hand and pulled her to the plush chair beside her own. “So, Madame Lo, how do you tell your fortunes?” Her mistress wore a faint smile, but Skybright heard the hesitancy in her voice.
The seer gathered her brown skirt and finally seated herself. “I use your birth date and time, and study your facial features as well.”
Zhen Ni ducked her head, staring at her folded hands. “I see,” she murmured.
“Tell us what you’ve divined,” Lady Yuan said, turning to the other woman across the enameled table. “Will she have a good husband? And many children?”
Zhen Ni caught her lower lip between her teeth, something she did when she was anxious. The familiar clatter of china against lacquered trays, a pleasant sound, carried from the covered corridor outside, along with the barely perceptible whisper of slippered feet. Rose entered, followed by another handmaid, Oriole, who set small dishes of lychees and sweets on the tables beside them. The delicate aroma of jasmine tea filled the reception hall. Pouring the brew into celadon cups, Rose then offered one to each of the women with both hands. Her dark eyes flickered to Lady Yuan, and the lady gave the barest nod before Rose gave a steaming cup to Skybright as well.
The two handmaids then slipped out, after bowing their heads.
They took time to sip their tea, quiet for a long moment, before Zhen Ni, with a raised chin, finally met Madame Lo’s knowing eyes and asked, “Will I fall in love?”
“Love!” Lady Yuan cut in. “Love comes later, Daughter.”
“When did you fall in love with Father?” Zhen Ni plucked at the delicate beading on her sleeve edge.
“Not until ten years after we were wed,” Lady Yuan said. “Love takes time.” She nodded at Zhen Ni, as if in encouragement. But Zhen Ni wouldn’t look at her mother.
“I’ve composed and read her star chart according to her birth date and time. And what they tell me confirms what I see in your features, Mistress Yuan.”
They all leaned forward while the seer pressed the tips of her long fingers together, her wide mouth drawn tense. Skybright wondered if the pause was for theatrics. But when Madame Lo spoke, it was with such care and authority that the thought disappeared from her mind.
“You’re a willful girl.”
Zhen Ni crossed her arms and reclined into the cushion. Skybright struggled to keep her face straight.
“This will pose challenges for you. Cause grief for you and your family. The shape and set of your chin only emphasize what your star chart indicates. You will love. Truly and deeply. The slight tilt of your eyes, the sheen to them, say as much. You’re a romantic, and sensual—see the shape of your upper lip, and the curve of your lower. You will suffer heartache.”
Zhen Ni’s dark brows had drawn together, and she gripped her hands so tightly that the nails bit into her skin.
Madame Lo rose from her seat. She was a slight woman and moved with an assurance that lent her grace. Her brown tunic and skirt were loose and edged with gray, worn only for function. Skybright tried to imagine the woman in turquoise or lavender—any bright color—but was unable. The seer didn’t need any extravagance but the glittering bracelets at her wrist, and the sharp light of her dark eyes. Madame Lo kneeled beside Zhen Ni’s chair and extended a hand to her face. Her mistress shrank from the older woman, as if her fingertips were barbed.
“Her ears are beautifully shaped. See how thick the lobes are? This coupled with the wideness of her nose all point to her fortune in having been born into such an illustrious family. You’ll find a very wealthy husband for her to marry, Lady Yuan.” Madame Lo stood and returned to her chair, before taking another sip of tea. “She’ll have at least two children. More, I cannot say.”
“Will she marry an eldest son?” Lady Yuan asked. “Will she bear a boy herself?”
“I fear I have nothing more specific, Lady Yuan.”
Zhen Ni had not relaxed beside her, but was still sitting rigid as a bamboo stalk, and leaning toward Skybright as if for shelter. “How can I marry well yet suffer heartache?” asked Zhen Ni.
“One does not exclude the other,” said the seer.
“We all suffer from the pangs of love at least once in our lives, Daughter. It’s nothing to worry over. The important thing is that you’ll marry well and have children!” Lady Yuan smiled, her face glowing with pleasure.
“I think I’ve heard enough, Madame Lo,” Zhen Ni said briskly, and her mother cleared her throat before taking a sip of tea. Zhen Ni blushed. “You honor me with a personal reading.”
“It was a pleasure,” Madame Lo replied. “I hope it has helped to ease your mother’s mind.”
“My gratitude, Madame Lo,” said Lady Yuan.
Skybright eyed the ginger candy on a plate beside her. It was Zhen Ni’s favorite, but she hadn’t touched any of the sweets since they had been brought. Skybright would have liked some lychees, but decorum didn’t allow her to eat until everyone else had taken something for herself first. Instead, she stood and refilled the teacups. The fragrant scent of jasmine rose with the steam.
“What about a reading for Skybright?” Zhen Ni asked after a long pause.
Skybright almost exclaimed aloud, but bit her tongue.
“Skybright? Of course.” Lady Yuan said. “But what’s there to tell?”
Madame Lo turned her attention to Skybright fully for the first time, and Skybright sank deeper into her seat, feeling exposed. “I would need her birth date and time. A star chart takes at least three days to prepare.”
“We don’t know when Skybright was born, exactly,” Zhen Ni said.
Madame Lo studied her face as if she were a painting. Skybright willed herself to keep her head raised. “You’re Zhen Ni’s handmaid?”
“Yes. And my companion since we were babes.”
“Let the girl speak for herself,” the seer said.
All three looked to Skybright, and she swallowed, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks. She wasn’t used to being noticed, much less being the center of attention. “I’m an orphan.”
“I see,” Madame Lo replied. “And you were taken in by the Yuans?”
“She was left on our doorstep in a basket--”
“She wasn’t more than a few days’ old--”
Lady Yuan and Zhen Ni spoke over each other but both stopped abruptly when Madame Lo slapped her palm against the carved armrest. Lady Yuan jolted in her chair and Zhen Ni attempted to appear contrite.
“It’s as they say, Madame Lo,” Skybright said. “I know nothing more beyond that.”
The seer beckoned with a curl of her fingers. “Come here, girl.”
Skybright rose and stood before Madame Lo, feeling the damp of her palms. She had spent very little time wondering about her past, her parents, where she came from. It seemed pointless and impractical. Her life was full with daily responsibilities and rituals, with being a handmaid and companion to Zhen Ni. Now, this stranger might tell her more about her future or her past—probably useless or false knowledge, as far as Skybright was concerned. If she had a family, if her parents were still alive and wanted her, wouldn’t they have come back for her by now?
“Kneel,” Madame Lo said.
Skybright lowered herself onto the cold stone floor. The seer took her chin in one hand, turning her face this way and that, as a merchant would study cattle before purchasing. Skybright held her arms still at her sides, her hands fisted.
“There’s an unusual symmetry to your face.” Madame Lo tilted Skybright’s head to examine her ears. “Your features reveal little to me.” Skybright wanted to jerk away, but steadied herself. “She’s no classic beauty,” Madame Lo went on, speaking to Zhen Ni and Lady Yuan directly. “See how the mouth is too full, the eyes set slightly far apart. The nose is narrow, the bridge too tall—there is no wealth there. No fortune. Yet the face as a whole—”
“I’ve always thought Skybright quite pretty,” Zhen Ni said.
“Yes. Not a classic beauty, but the features come together to create something quite alluring. Almost unearthly.”
“But this tells us so little, Madame Lo,” Lady Yuan said, choosing a candied persimmon from the tray.
“Will she meet a good man?” Zhen Ni asked.
“Daughter!” Lady Yuan reprimanded.
Because they all knew Skybright would be a handmaid to Zhen Ni for life, and never marry.
“She could take a lover,” Zhen Ni retorted.
Skybright bowed her head, and Madame Lo patted her hot cheek, as if in sympathy. Then the seer’s grip tightened, her long nails digging into Skybright’s face, and Skybright gasped in surprise and pain. Grimacing, Madame Lo dropped her hand, then pressed her knuckles against her eyes. “I’m sorry, Skybright,” she murmured. “This has never happened to me before.”
The seer’s complexion had turned ashen, and Skybright could see she was unsettled. Alarmed, she sensed that Madame Lo was rarely fazed, much less showing it as she did now. She jumped to her feet, lifting the ceramic pot so she could pour the seer more tea.
“What’s the matter?” Lady Yuan exclaimed.
“When I touched Skybright, her image changed. It was as if her true self was veiled, and I was unable to see her clearly. I’ve never encountered the like before in any of my readings, and I’ve done hundreds.” Madame Lo reached for her teacup and took a long sip. Her hand trembled. The seer drew a breath before saying, “But she’s strong. That much comes across.”
Zhen Ni nibbled on a ginger candy and watched Skybright with interest. “Have you ever thought of yourself as alluring, Sky? As strong?”
“Never, mistress,” Skybright replied. Madame Lo’s revelations meant little to her—they were only frivolous nonsense.
“I can see it,” Zhen Ni said, her dark eyes gleaming as she nodded to the seer. “I never noticed before, but now I can see it.”

Zhen Ni fiddled with the jars and bottles on her vanity as Skybright brushed her black hair then plaited it, weaving luminous pearls into the single braid. Her mistress had been quiet since Madame Lo’s visit earlier in the day, her usually animated face appearing pensive for much of the afternoon. In an attempt to coax her into a better mood, Skybright had suggested a new hairstyle and outfit in time for Zhen Ni’s evening meal with her mother in the main hall. Her mistress had agreed with a distracted wave of her hand.
“Mama said a family friend’s daughter will be staying with us through the summer,” Zhen Ni said and began chewing on her nail. “She’s our age.”
Skybright swatted at her mistress’s hand.
The smile Zhen Ni gave her lacked its usual mischievousness. “I hate waiting. I wish it would never happen.” Their eyes met in the bronzed mirror, and Skybright took the opportunity to adjust the jade lotus pendant encircling her mistress’s neck.
Skybright knew she wasn’t talking about the girl who would be visiting.
“I know Mama’s eager to show me that book as soon as my monthly letting begins.”
Zhen Ni’s older sister, Min, had sneaked The Book of Making to share with them when they were just fourteen years. All three had gawked at the dozens of illustrations depicted, teaching a bride how to best pleasure her future husband in the bedchamber and become with child quickly. Now, two years later, Min was wed and living with her husband’s family, already expecting her first babe.
“To think Mama’s so desperate to marry me off, she hired that seer!” Zhen Ni said. “You’re so fortunate not to have to … suffer through any of it.”
Skybright began making Zhen Ni’s expansive platform bed, straightening the silk sheets and plumping the brocaded cushions. Her mistress had lain in it for much of the afternoon, without ever falling asleep. “I’ll go with you when you marry, and have to leave the Yuan manor too.”
“You would come with me, Sky?” Zhen Ni grabbed her hand and smiled coyly, knowing Skybright had no choice.
Skybright rolled her eyes. “Of course.”
“It would be a great comfort to me to have you by my side.” Zhen Ni sighed, her shoulders drooping.
Skybright laughed and, because she looked so pitiful, gripped her mistress’s hand. Zhen Ni’s most beautiful feature was her eyes, almond shaped and a deep honeyed brown. They often appeared to have sheen to them, as if she were on the verge of uproarious laughter or dramatic tears. She was half a head taller than Skybright, and more slender of build.
And as Zhen Ni considered her, her mouth twisted into a scheming smile, one that Skybright knew all too well. Wary, she dropped her mistress’s hand.
“You know you’re supposed to help me. Teach me to be a better wife to my future husband.”
“Teach you?”
Zhen Ni nodded. “A good handmaid … practices with her mistress.”
Skybright blushed, finally realizing what she was implying. The illustrations from The Book of Making had always featured a man and a woman. It had never crossed her mind that … Skybright swallowed, before saying, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“You wouldn’t have. But Min told me some households require it of their daughters before they marry, to make them better wives. It’s called mirroring.” Zhen Ni grinned wider, the same wicked grin as when she had plucked the eyeballs from the steamed fish when they were eight years and convinced Skybright to eat one, telling her it was a delicacy and would make her smarter. She would never forget the wet, gristly texture of it, the hard marble in the middle. How it had burst in her mouth. Zhen Ni had cackled when she spat it out, almost retching.
“Don’t worry, Sky.” Zhen Ni drew closer, then leaned forward and pressed her mouth against Skybright’s.
Skybright startled but didn’t pull back. Her mistress’s eyes were closed, and the delicate scent of peach cream enveloped her senses—the cream she had rubbed into Zhen Ni’s face and throat earlier. Her lips were soft, supple, making Skybright suddenly aware of how rough her own were.
Zhen Ni put her hand on one shoulder and squeezed, before she spun away and collapsed onto the bed, giggling. “Oh!” She rolled, quite unladylike, twisting the sheets. “Oh,” she snorted, “We just had our first kiss!”
After a few moments, she sat up and rubbed the tears from her eyes. “How was it?”
Skybright hadn’t moved, not knowing how to respond, afraid of what her mistress might suggest next. “Your lips … were soft.”
Zhen Ni covered her mouth with both hands and began laughing uncontrollably again. “Dear darling Skybright.” She shook her head. “There is no guile to you. It’s why I adore you.”
“How did it feel to you?” Skybright was too curious not to ask.
Zhen Ni scrubbed at her mouth with the back of her hand with exaggerated disgust. “It was like kissing my own sister!”
Skybright pitched a fat cushion at her, and Zhen Ni squealed, barely dodging it in time. She then fell into bed and laughed with her.

Skybright couldn’t fall asleep that night.
It was near the end of the sixth moon, and the summer air was heavy and hot. She kicked the thin sheet aside and wound her thick hair away from her damp neck, trying to find a cool spot on the narrow bed. Her mind kept returning to the kiss she had exchanged with Zhen Ni. The kiss itself had been chaste, like she had shared with Zhen Ni before on the cheek. But there was an undercurrent there, an expectation, a bated breath. It seemed to have stoked something deep inside of her, as if touching her mouth to someone else’s had kindled a hidden desire, dormant until now.
She let out a long sigh, feeling the back of her arms stick to the bamboo mat. The face of the young monk who had glimpsed her clinging to a branch bloomed beneath her eyelids, how his expression never changed as he assessed her, as if they stood in front of each other at arm’s length. Who was he? And why wasn’t his hair cut like all the others?
Her dreams, when she finally fell asleep, were scattered and warm.
Then insistent.

Skybright woke in a fevered haze, feeling as if she were drunk. It was still night, so dark that she couldn’t see. Heat radiated from her groin downward, pulsing through her legs, tingling her feet, then ricocheting back again. Her thighs and calves ached of it, of melding and severing.
She gasped, trying to rise. She clutched at her legs, and her hands sprang back as she cried out. No sound came and she whimpered, rubbing her ears. Had she gone deaf as well? Skybright touched her legs again, but they were no longer there, replaced by something sleek and supple that wasn’t her skin, wasn’t her flesh.
This must be a dream.
A nightmare.
She tried to swing her lower half off the bedside, but instead thrashed and thumped to the stone floor below. Its rough coldness scraped her torso and elbows. Unable to stand, she dragged herself across the ground toward the lantern resting on her small cherry wood dresser. Something knocked over and hit her back. She hissed. Pulling herself up, she grabbed the lantern and a match. Her hands shook as she lit the wick.
The light’s warmth was familiar, comforting. Skybright twisted, held the lantern over her lower half, and nearly dropped it. A thick serpent coil snaked behind her, where her legs should have been, the ruby red scales glittering even in the wan light. She glided her hand along its smooth length, and felt it as her own flesh. The serpent length began at her waist, but the scales covered her abdomen, rising to just beneath her breasts. She was naked. Where had her sleep clothes gone?
The lantern jangled in her grasp, and she set it on the ground, running her hands over her face, now in a panic. Her features felt the same. She pushed herself, slid back to the dresser, and grabbed the pearl hand mirror that had been a birthday gift from Zhen Ni. Her familiar face reflected back at her, although her eyes were dark and wild, and her long hair seemed alive, floating about her shoulders.
A silent sob shook her, tremored from her chest through to the tip of her grotesque tail. Then she glimpsed something that caused her heartbeat to stutter. Slowly, she opened her mouth, and a long forked tongue escaped from it, waggling, as if taunting her.
The hand mirror crashed to the ground, and Skybright clawed at her neck with both hands, unable to speak, to scream. Her serpent coil jerked, swept the lantern on its side, and the flame was doused, casting her into darkness.

Quiet knocking stirred her awake.
The door panel slid aside and Zhen Ni poked her head through, then tiptoed inside, closing the panel behind her.
“You’re late. Of all the days!”
Sunshine flooded the small chamber when Zhen Ni opened the lattice window and Skybright struggled to rise, hysteria smothering her chest.
“What happened in here?” Her mistress stared at the toppled stool and broken lantern with oil seeping out beneath, then looked at her and gaped. “Why are you naked?”
Skybright glanced down and saw her legs, stuck her tongue to the roof of her mouth. “I’m—” She choked with relief when she could speak, “I was hot. Last night.” It must have been a nightmare. She had a fever and was hallucinating.
Zhen Ni drew to her bedside and waved her hands at her torso. “When did you get those?” she exclaimed.
Skybright peered down again, momentarily terrified, to realize that Zhen Ni had been pointing at her breasts. She crossed her arms, flushing.
“You’ve become a woman,” her mistress said in a quiet voice, her expression serious and thoughtful.
She wrapped the thin sheet around herself, laughing from a mixture of embarrassment and disorientation. “We’re the same age!”
“I certainly don’t look like that.”
Skybright was familiar with her mistress’s physique, being the one to help her bathe, and Zhen Ni was willowy, lacking the curves that Skybright had. Curves hidden beneath loose tunics that, until now, Skybright had never given a second thought.
Zhen Ni stooped down so that they were eye level. “It’s happened, Sky,” she whispered. “My monthly letting came.”
Skybright clapped her hand over her mouth. “Mistress—” But something in Zhen Ni’s measured gaze stopped her short.
“I’ve bled onto the sheet. You must strip and wash them. Hide the evidence.” Zhen Ni paused. Skybright had known her a lifetime and had never seen this look of fierce determination in her mistress’s eyes. “Mama can never know.”

Cindy Pon
Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association's Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Serpentine, the first title in her next Xia duology, will be published by Month9Books in September 2015. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at


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Vessel Blog Tour: Interview with Lisa t Cresswell @peach83352 @month9books

Hello, and welcome to our stop on the VESSEL blog tour. Today we're chatting with author Lisa T. Cresswell, getting to know all about her and her book. Grab a comfy seat and take a gander at what she has to say.

Lisa, like most writers, began scribbling silly notes, stories, and poems at a very young age. Born in North Carolina, the South proved fertile ground to her imagination with its beautiful white sand beaches and red earth. In fifth grade, she wrote, directed and starred in a play “The Queen of the Nile” at school, despite the fact that she is decidedly un-Egyptian looking. Perhaps that’s why she went on to become a real life archaeologist?

Unexpectedly transplanted to Idaho as a teenager, Lisa learned to love the desert and the wide open skies out West. This is where her interest in cultures, both ancient and living, really took root, and she became a Great Basin archaeologist. However, the itch to write never did leave for long. Her first books became the middle grade fantasy trilogy, The Storyteller Series. Her first traditionally published work, Hush Puppy, is now available from Featherweight Press.

Lisa still lives in Idaho with her family and a menagerie of furry critters that includes way too many llamas!

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Facebook Goodreads

Hi Lisa! Welcome to We Do Write. Tell our readers a bit about VESSEL.

Vessel is a dystopian tale set in a future Europe after a catastrophic solar storm has disabled the Earth’s electrical grid and society has returned to a medieval-like existence. When a disfigured slave girl frees two heretics from imprisonment, she’s drawn into a much bigger story, which you’ll have to read to find out about.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

I had heard or read a story about solar storms having the potential to knock out power on Earth if they’re strong enough. At the time, e-books were just gaining popularity and I wondered if we might ever get to a place where all our books were electronic. What if all the computers crashed and we lost them all? How would our world change?

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Most definitely a plotter. I’ve learned it’s better for me to not even start a new book until I have a full chapter by chapter outline written. I may not always stick to that outline as the first draft goes along, but I need some idea of where the story is going so the beginning and the middle are all working toward that goal.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Editing, without a doubt. I love the first draft stage so much. It’s so much fun to create that new world and my new characters. It’s so much harder to look at that first draft objectively, see what needs work, and then do that work.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

I’m pretty easy. I don’t have to have much more than some quiet, a notebook and a pen. Purple ink is fun too, but I’ll use whatever is handy.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading The Artisans by Julie Reese. Wonderful writer. ☺

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Remember I Dream of Genie when Genie blinked her eyes and could just poof! Transport herself anywhere? I’d like that! I waste so much time driving I could be spending on writing. I really hate that.

What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

Weird is a relative term. ☺ I did recently google street names in Mumbai, India, and Egyptian foods for a new steampunk adventure I’m working on. It made me hungry!

Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...

... gardening! I love flowers and growing tomatoes so I can make homemade salsa.

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

There are so many people too! I want to sincerely thank everyone at Month9Books that helped me get to this day. I especially want to thank Georgia McBride, the publisher who gave this novel the chance it needed to shine, all the diligent editors who helped improve it along the way, and the fantastic publicity team at Month9Books, including the tireless Chapter by Chapter Book Tours team and all the wonderful book bloggers that volunteer their internet space to get the word out. Even my fellow Month9Books authors have been a tremendous source of support and encouragement. They’re all awesome human beings and I'm so grateful I've had the chance to work with them. They humble me with their dedication, generosity, enthusiasm, and kindness every day. Peace~

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Thursday, 28 May 2015

M9B Two for Thursday Book Blitz – Call Me Grim by Elizabeth Holloway and Into the Fire by Ashelyn Drake with Giveaway #T4T

Hello and welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday Book Blitz #T4T
presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books!
Today, we will be showcasing two titles that may tickle your fancy,
and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles!
You just might find your next read!
This week, #T4T presents to you:
Call Me Grim by Elizabeth Holloway and
Into the Fire by Ashelyn Drake
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Call Me Grim
The truck should have turned Libbi Piper into a Libbi Pancake—and it would have, too, if Aaron hadn't shown up and saved her life. The problem? Aaron's the local Grim Reaper . . . and he only saved Libbi's life because he needs someone to take over his job. Now, Libbi has two days to choose between dying like she was supposed to, or living a lonely life as Death Incarnate. Talk about a rock and a hard place. And the choice goes from hard to sucktastic when her best friend shows up marked: condemned as a future murderer. Libbi could have an extra week to stop the murder and fix the mark . . . but only if she accepts Aaron's job as Reaper, trapping herself in her crappy town forever, invisible and inaudible to everyone except the newly dead. But, if she refuses? Her best friend is headed straight for Hell.
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Call Me Grim is humor, brilliance and a success altogether.” – Paula, Her Book Thoughts

“Okay, just the story line over all was GENIUS. I have NEVER EVER read a book like this before. It was just so original and plain awesome. MEGA props to the author. I'm still grinning from what I've read.”Rachelann, Goodreads Reviewer

“Call Me Grim is one of those books that you do not want to put down. At the same time there is something about it that makes you just want to savor it - you want to know what is going to happen next but at the same time you do not want it to end.” – Mike, Goodreads Reviewer

Elizabeth Holloway
Elizabeth Holloway is a maternity nurse living in Southern Pennsylvania with her two teen children and their pets, Bam-bam the dog and Tinkerbell the cat. In addition to nursing and writing, she’s also an avid reader, an artist, a karaoke singer, a music lover, and a kick-ass Pictionary player. Her debut YA novel, CALL ME GRIM, will be released from Month9Books in Fall 2014.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Into the Fire
Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.
But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.
A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.
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“You witness a major loss to the main character that does not involve a death, and also fully understand just what is about to face the main character. It was such a hook for me and I just had to find out what would happen next.”Maria, The Paisley Reade

“I love finding series about unique paranormals, and Ashelyn Drake did a really good job with this one.”Michelle, Book Briefs

“Kelly Hashway aka Ashelyn Drake has created an impeccable story surrounded around mythology, romance, family and deceit.” Nay Denise, Nays Pink Bookshelf

Kelly Hashway
Ashelyn Drake is a New Adult and Young Adult romance author. While it’s rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there’s never a bad time for some dark chocolate. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Pixelated: Interview with L.S. Murphy

Hello, and welcome to a cool author interview. Today we're chatting with L.S. Murphy about her new book PIXELATED. Come check out this awesome sounding book!

Hi and welcome to We Do Write. Tell us a bit about yourself.  
I’m L.S. Murphy, a former farm girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite. I write sweet romances for teens and adults. Sometimes I dip my toes into paranormal and even horror stories. I like to keep people guessing.
Tell our readers a bit about PIXELATED.
PIXELATED is the story of city girl Piper Marks and her move to the middle of nowhere, also known as Iowa. The move puts a serious crimp in her plans. Especially since the high school doesn’t have a school newspaper. When the local paper’s photographer quits, Piper gets the chance to work on her craft and it puts her in the direct path of football Les Williams IV.
How did the idea of the story come to you?
When I was in high school, my creative writing teacher used to take us around town on inspirational walks. I grew up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kinda place, much like the place Piper ends up. Anyway, the class was on our way back to the school when Mr. Wirsig stopped us dramatically and flailed his arms at somethingin front of him, shouting “If that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what is.” Well, his idea of inspiration was a ros of tractors lined up in the parking lot of the school. I thought he was full of it and wrote a terrible poem (which I STILL remember). But he was write. That image stayed with me and actually opens up Chapter 2 of the novel.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Total plotter. If not, I go off on tangents and have major rewriting to do. Plotting it out helps keep me on the path, but that’s not to say it doesn’t change. I just need the direction. The characters tell me if the story isn’t working.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Honestly, it’s all about time. I work fulltime, have a daughter and family. Sometimes there’s just not enough hours in the day. Even as I type this, my to do list has grown another foot.
What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
My headphones. Sometimes my oldest cat if he’s feeling supportive. If it’s summer, I have to have the TV on with a baseball game playing, preferably a St. Louis Cardinals game.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
I’d like to fly so I could see my parents more often.
What's the weirdest thing you've googled?
Wow, that’s hard because I’ve googled a LOT of strange things. Some of which would totally freak people out, so… yeah, not answering that one. ;)
Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...
Hanging with the Bean (aka my daughter).
Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.
First and foremost, to my parenst for their support. To my husband for being the rock. To Bean for being Bean. To Julia A. Weber, uber agent. To E.M. Caines for keeping me off the ledge.
And especially to Greg Wirsig for being right. That scene was an inspiration.
Thanks for stopping by the blog!
Thanks a million for having me!

About Pixelated: 

Senior Year. 
Middle of nowhere. 
What's the new girl to do?

For Piper Marks, the answer is simple. She’s determined to have her photography rock the cover of National Geographic someday, and moving to Clarkton, Iowa for her last year of high school is not going to stop her. Even if her usual subjects have changed from bright lights and skyscrapers to fields, cows…and more fields. 

But when photographer at the local paper quits in a huff, she steps into his spot. Her new job keeps Piper busy capturing tackles, and zooming in on first downs and end zone dances, not to mention putting her directly in the path of varsity football star Les Williams IV. Her new friends warn her off, but she can’t resist the pull she feels toward this mysterious country boy. But this small town is keeping a secret, and it’s one that could destroy any chance they have to be together. 

It’s up to Piper to decide what to do with the distorted truth. Can she risk exposing her heart? It might be worth it, 'cause Les is about to change her world from black and white to fully saturated color. 

Praise for Pixelated:

"In Pixelated, L.S. Murphy weaves a complex web of secrets and lies with a ‘will they or won’t they’ romance that kept me turning pages and holding my breath!" ~ Julie Reece, author of The Artisans and Crux

"Beautifully written, with a full spectrum of emotion and complex characters, Pixelated will tug at all your heartstrings. I easily lost myself in the world L.S. Murphy created and couldn't stop reading because I needed to see how the story ended." ~ Kelly Oram, author of Cinder & Ella

"L.S. Murphy brings something for every reader with Pixelated: romance, secrets, mystery, and a main character torn between two choices. Murphy's writing is sharp and steeped in emotions, deftly hooking her readers from the first sentence to the last." ~ Sarah Bromley, author of A Murder Of Magpies 

Bio: L.S. Murphy obsesses about St. Louis Cardinals baseball, fangirls over her favorite authors, and watches every episode of Doctor Who like it's the first time. When she's not doing those time-consuming things, the former farm-girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite writes sweet romances for teens and adults

Author Links:

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Interview with Donna Galanti

Who's up for some amazing MG fantasy? If you said 'me!", then I have a beauty for you! Donna Galanti, author of Joshua and the giant Check it out.

Joshua and the Lightning Road
Publication date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Donna Galanti

Stay away from the window, don’t go outside when it’s storming and whatever you do, do not touch
the orb.

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper’s grandpa has always warned him about the dangers of lightning. But Joshua never put much stock in his grandpa’s rumblings as anything more than the ravings of an old man with a vast imagination. Then one night, when Joshua and his best friend are home alone during a frightful storm, Joshua learns his grandpa was right. A bolt of lightning strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever.

To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark place that steals children for energy. But getting back home and saving his friend won’t be easy, as Joshua must face the terrifying Child Collector and fend off ferocious and unnatural beasts intent on destroying him.

In this world, Joshua possesses powers he never knew he had, and soon, Joshua’s mission becomes more than a search for his friend. He means to send all the stolen children home—and doing so becomes the battle of his life.



Hi Donna! After meeting you in person this past Saturday (and picking up my own signed copy of this book), I'm honored to have you on We Do Write. Tell our readers a bit about JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD.

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

Very fast! I had attended a writer’s meet up and learned about a class that started the next day to write a children’s book in nine months and said to myself “now wouldn’t that be a challenge?” Storms have always fascinated me and as a child I would sit on the screened-in porch to watch them. I remembered the movie War of the Worlds and how the aliens rode blasts of lightning and thought “wouldn’t it be cool to travel a lightning road to another place?” And Joshua and the Lightning Road was born.

That. Is. Awesome. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Dare I say both? I first plot and create an outline to follow (I always know the end and sometimes write that first). But then the best part comes when I sit down to write and magic happens! Then I discover new characters and events that instinctively drive the story. Discovery is the wonder part of writing.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Writing that first draft! I actually love revision because it’s where I can peel back the layers of my first draft to make is shine.

Amen to that! What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Black chai tea and pumpkin muffins – and a window overlooking the woods. A hammock would be nice but then I would doze and read more than write.

What are you reading right now?

Yikes – I have three books on my nightstand I go back and forth from reading. Shiver by Maggie Stievater, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

To whisk myself away to anywhere in the world in a second. I would go back to England first and visit lots of castles! I lived there as a child (sadly not in a castle). 

Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...

Reading, biking a back road, or kayaking a Vermont creek in fall!

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

So many wonderful and supportive people helped get this book published. Kathryn Craft, my dear friend and first editor, who guided me in shaping this tale  – and who helped me shape myself as an author. My understanding husband Michael, the greatest provider of alone time there is! My first reader and cosmic sister, Lisa Green, who inspired me to find the power in the details. So many more moved this book along the road to publication including the dedicated staff of Month9Books, my literary agent, Bill Contardi, who took a chance on a new author, and my wonderful Weggie Writers group of gals who trudged alongside me as this book came to life. And to the person who began this book, the real Joshua Cooper Galanti. I wrote this for him. I hope he never grows too old for bedtime stories and always seeks just one more adventure.

Watch the Joshua and The Lightning Road book trailer!

or Link to show video:


Donna Galanti attended an English school housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). There she fell in love with the worlds of C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and wrote her first fantasy about Dodo birds, wizards, and a flying ship. She’s lived in other exotic locations, including Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives with her family and two crazy cats in an old farmhouse, and dreams of returning one day to a castle. Donna is the author of the Joshua and The Lightning Road series (Month9Books) and blogs at Project Mayhem. Visit her at or on Amazon.
Praise for Joshua and The Lightning Road:

 "Vividly imagined characters in a gripping action fantasy that never lets you go until the very last page." —Jenny Nimmo, New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Bone series.


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