Friday, October 17, 2014

Chapter Reveal: Lifer by Beck Nicholas

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

Lifer by Beck Nicholas

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
BNicholas_M9B_Lifer_1800x2700
Asher is a Lifer, a slave aboard the spaceship Pelican. A member of the lowest rung of society, she must serve the ship’s Officials and Astronauts as punishment for her grandparents' crimes back on Earth. The one thing that made life bearable was her illicit relationship with Samuai, a Fishie boy, but he died alongside her brother in a freak training accident.
Still grieving for the loss of her loved ones, Asher is summoned to the upper levels to wait on Lady, the head Official’s wife and Samuai’s mother. It is the perfect opportunity to gather intel for the Lifer’s brewing rebellion. There’s just one problem—the last girl who went to the upper levels never came back.
On the other side of the universe, an alien attack has left Earth in shambles and a group called The Company has taken control. Blank wakes up in a pond completely naked and with no memory, not even his real name. So when a hot girl named Megs invites him to a black-market gaming warehouse where winning means information, he doesn’t think twice about playing. But sometimes the past is better left buried.
As Asher and Blank’s worlds collide, the truth comes out—everyone has been lied to. Bourne Identity meets Under the Never Sky in this intergalactic tale of love and deception from debut novelist Beck Nicholas.
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Title: LIFER
Publication date: December 16, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Beck Nicholas
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

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

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Beck-Nicholas-head-shot-248x300
I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Chapter Reveal and Giveaway: The Night House by Rachel Tafoya

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

The Night House by Rachel Tafoya

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Nighthouse-cover
Bianca St. Germain works at a Night House, a place where vampires like the aristocratic Jeremiah Archer, pay to feed on humans, and she doesn’t much care what others think of her. The money is good, and at least there, she’s safe. Bianca also doesn’t care that the Night House is killing her. All she cares about is: nauth, the highly addictive poison in vampire bites that brings a euphoria like no drug ever could.
But when Bianca meets James, a reclusive empath who feels everything she does, for the first time, she considers a life outside of the Night House and a someone worth living for. But Jeremiah has decided to keep Bianca for himself; he won’t allow her to walk away.
As she allows her feelings for James to grow, she struggles to contain nauth’s strong hold on her life. If they are to have a future, James must make her see what she’s worth, what she means to him, before Jeremiah and nauth claim her for good.
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Title: THE NIGHT HOUSE
Publication date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Rachel Tafoya
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt
Enjoy Chapter One! Happy Reading!

The Night House
Rachel Tafoya
Bianca

It’s been one day since I last had nauth.
A chill is starting to set into my bones. As some giant carelessly spills orange and red over the sky, I hurry back to the Night House. This tiny black pillowcase that I call a dress is tighter than it should be, and I’m in heels that force me to walk on my toes. I never took ballet, but I’m pretty sure I’ve been walking on pointe since I came to Philly.
When I reach the building, the sun is long gone. My boss, Finn, waits behind the black double doors. I can’t see him, but I can feel him—or maybe I’m just used to his grimace greeting me. My shoes click against the stone steps. I love that sound. Sometimes I spend my days just listening to everyone walk by. The click, thud and slap of shoes are the real soundtrack of the city.
But the Night House is quiet.
Finn opens the door for me with a scowl. He could be beautiful like the others, if he tried, but he is the laziest vampire I have ever met.
“Bianca St. Germain.” His voice is bored, as usual. “You’re late.”
“Figured you’d rather I take my time than break my ankle in these shoes.” I breeze past him. The chilly night air follows me in, pawing at my back like a neglected pet.
“I can fix ankles,” Finn is still facing the door like I haven’t moved. “Your pitiful lack of manners, however … ”
I shrug him off. “It’s a couple of minutes, cut me some slack.”
“This isn’t high school, Bianca. You’re not a teenager when you’re in here.”
“Sorry, I’ll start investing in stocks or something. That’s what old people do, right?”
He huffs in my direction as I feel my way around the darkness. The whole place is pitch black until the thin hallway forks. To my left, pale blue lights beckon the customers. I go right, through the heavy curtain that leads to the girls’ rooms. Vampires with their night vision don’t need guidance, but I’m fairly certain every girl has tripped at least once down here.
The doors are nearly invisible except for the strips of space at the bottom where they don’t quite reach the floor. Those spaces cast light on my feet as I teeter past on these impossible heels. They’re new, and I’m still breaking them in, but I’ve never felt this tall before.
I hear scuffling and shifting behind those doors. The other girls hide in their rooms all day. They don’t understand why I still crave the sunlight, why I don’t make my room my little home and never leave until I’m called. That’s what Finn wants me to do, what the girls think I should do, but I would rather sleep on the cracked unyielding sidewalks of Philly than in the Night House. I would rather be homeless than call this place home.
When I find my room, I turn the knob and bump my hip into it. It opens with a groan. My door has been broken for at least three months. Finn keeps saying he’ll fix it, but he couldn’t care less and we both know it. Still, I keep bugging him. I can’t give up that easily.
My room is like two closets that had the walls knocked out between them. A bed is nestled in the corner. Most of my important stuff is underneath there, like sketchbooks, novels and accessories to hide my scars. One wall is dominated by a large mirror with huge lights, like an actress might have for her dressing room. Though I’m sure an actress would have working lights. I slump into the folding chair and rest my fish-netted legs on the dresser. Makeup and various beauty tools—eyeliner, lipstick, blush—lay scattered over it. This is the only time I can bear to look at myself. Right before I become another person.
I start with the lips. Blood red, the way they like it. Then I frame my eyes in black so that the green pops. I don’t need to do anything to appear pale. That one comes naturally. But I smooth my face with lotion and foundation, and then add rosy cheeks. When I unravel my scarf, I have to close my eyes. That way, when I open them, I can pretend it’s someone else’s neck covered with scars. Some crazy girl with her makeup on. The scars are nearly invisible, thanks to Finn and his healing blood, but I can still see clumps of white scar tissue, just a shade paler than my skin. I hate not being able to cover my scars with anything—makeup doesn’t taste good.
When I am done with makeup, I change out of my dress and tights and heels and put on an awful old corset. Each girl has at least one old-fashioned outfit because sometimes vampires prefer to live in the old days. We all have different specialties. My friend Alex is all about the 1950s. I got stuck in the 19th century.
Tonight, I have an appointment with Jeremiah, and he’s very old and very proper but he’s not above throwing a tantrum if I’m not perfectly in period. Jeremiah is a regular here. For a while, he used to switch between the girls until I showed up. He’s something of a collector, and when he found out I had AB negative, he became my regular. Apparently AB neg means something, or that’s what Finn told me anyway. It’s tricky having the same guy come by all the time because you start to know each other. That doesn’t make it easier. I wish they were all strangers. Unfortunately, I know Jeremiah very well.
So I put on this musty old dress with frills and lace and after it’s on, I am a dusty layer cake. I hate Jeremiah, but he pays nicely so I always get a tip from him. That means a new sketchbook, or maybe I’ll treat myself to a cupcake.
Finn knocks on my door even though it’s open. “Jeremiah is here.”
I stifle a groan and meet his gaze.
He gives me a once over. “Fix your hair.”
“One hundred strokes, right?”
“He’s in the Fire Room.” Finn leaves before I can say anything else.
I pick up my paddle brush and make my hair as flouncy as I can, but it’s thick and heavy and sits the same way no matter what I do to it. It could take hours to make my hair salon styled. Besides, it’s fine the way it is. Maybe not 1800s fine, but Jeremiah will have to deal. It’s not my hair he comes for, anyway.
I step out of my room, and I feel like I walked out of Sense and Sensibility. I like Jane Austen. She writes happy endings.
I hate Jeremiah.
The hallway takes me past all the doors which start to open, like night-blooming flowers. Alex flashes a smile. Her hair is full of curlers. Jessie tries to zip up her dress by herself even though we all know she can’t. Yvonne runs between her room and Jordan’s, trying to decide which shoes to wear. Both pairs are ugly.
I take the back way into the lounge, away from the front doors. One of Finn’s guys waits by the entrance. He is even less animated than Finn, which is hard to accomplish. He’s probably well paid with some name like Tank or Gunn. We both pretend this isn’t awkward, and he lets me through.
Yet another hallway lies ahead. Another thick set of curtains separates the lounge from the rooms, but I can see a bit of the blue lights on the other side. There, one of the luckier girls gets to pretend she isn’t vamp food in order to be the hostess, taking names. There, vampires sit idly on a long winding couch, tapping their feet, waiting their turn, while they ignore their thirst. There, Finn handles all the customers and tells them to be patient while the girls get ready. Then we can sneak into the rooms and appear like we’ve been there all along. We’ll ask sweetly, “What took you so long?” and they’ll blame Finn, but they’ll thank him later.
Inside the Fire Room, creatively named for being the only room with a fireplace, is where it starts. My hunger. It is different from the vamps’. It is a void, embedded deep in my veins, which can never be filled.
Nauth.
The word echoes in my head and sends chills down my spine.
I want it.
I want it now.
But I must be patient and distract myself by taking in the decorations in the Fire Room. It really seems like it was transported straight from some Victorian’s living room. From the stiff baroque curtains and the velvet couch, to the unused silverware sitting on the dark wooden table, I blend right in.
This is one big show for the vampires. The whole Night House feels like a movie set. I am an actress. Finn directs us. Still, I know it’s real. So I face the fire and let it warm my skin as I wait for everything to get too close.

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Rachel Tafoya
Rachel Tafoya studied creative writing while at Solebury School and was published in their student run literary magazine, SLAM. She attended a writing program for teens at both Susquehanna University and Denison University, and the Experimental Writing for Teens class and Novels for Young Writers program, both run by NY Times bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry. Rachel is the daughter crime author Dennis Tafoya.

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Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: Bird by Crystal Chan

Title: Bird
Author: Crystal Chan
Source: Amazon Vine
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

A girl, who was born on the day her brother Bird died, has grown up in a house of silence and secrets; when she meets John, a mysterious new boy in her rural Iowan town, and those secrets start to come out.


Don't let the fact that the book summary really doesn't say much turn you off of this one.  It was an amazing story about a family trying desperately to move on after a tragedy - and so far failing to do so.  Their 12 year old daughter is feeling the brunt of this tragedy - the death of her brother on the day she was born.  Her family has never come out from under this cloud, in fact her grandfather doesn't even speak anymore.

Jewel has learned to live life this way, until she meets a new boy in town.  He helps her see herself as something valuable and smart.  He shows her that she has something to contribute.  It was beautiful to watch this family slowly begin to pull themselves back together and build their life all over again.

There was a surprising amount of culture in this story.  An interesting mix of Jamaican and Mexican.  I learned a lot about Jamaican superstitions and they play a role in how this family functions.  They are also the cause of many arguments and long time hard feelings.  Yet more things for Jewel to find herself stuck in the middle of.

Bird was a great coming of age story about a family that has hit rock bottom and the daughter that pulls them back up again.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*


Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Miss Landon and Aubranael (Tales of Aylfenhame) by Charlotte E. English

Title: Miss Landon and Aubranael (Tales of Aylfenhame)
Author: Charlotte E. English
Source: The Books Machine
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: September 30, 2013
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Tilby, Lincolnshire, 1811. Miss Sophia Landon is the daughter of an impoverished clergyman. Her father’s health is failing fast, but who wants to marry a woman without birth, beauty or wealth? Her prospects are limited indeed - until her friendship with the town’s fae denizens earns her passage to the otherworldly realm of Aylfenhame. Could her fate truly lie beyond the shores of England?

There she meets Aubranael, a young man with a warm heart and a ruined face. In Sophy he sees the answer to his loneliness, but how can a disfigured Ayliri hope to win her heart? When a mysterious witch offers him the temporary gift of beauty, he eagerly accepts: and so begins an adventure that could change his life, and Sophy’s, forever.



This is a great fantasy book that people of all ages will fall in love with.  We open by meeting our story-teller, who just happens to be a bridge troll.  He is a pretty good story-teller and I was captivated from page one.  He tells us that story of Miss Sophia Landon, a rather down and out young lady that has a heart of gold.  She is the perfect fairy tail heroine.  A little quick to temper at times, but she is a very incredibly good person, especially to the fairy types that live near her village of Tilby.

As a gift, a friend of Miss Landon's sends her to Aylfenhame for a visit - a bit of a day long vacation.  It here she meets a strange young man by the name of Aubranael.  He is an elf but has been left horribly disfigured and shunned by his people.  The two instantly feel a connection and Miss Landon can't seem to get him out of her mind when she returns home.

The rest of the story revolves around the two of them trying to find their way back to each other - but not succeeding very well.  Much of this is Aubranael's fault as he is not used to English society and he does not approach the situation with honesty.  It's a great moral tale on the benefits of telling the truth and being true to who you are.

There is a lot of fairy magic and fun all through the book.  It is very fun to read and did a great job of holding my interest.  With a handful of very cure illustrations scattered throughout the story at just the right moments to help you picture the characters and places.  I'm thinking of purchasing a copy for my daughter, as I'm sure she will love it just as much as I did.  I will need watch and see if the author writes more in the series.  While the book does have a very nice ending, I think there's still more to tell in the story of Aylfenhame.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*


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Friday, October 3, 2014

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: A Murder of Magpies by Sarah Bromley

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

Chapter One
Vayda
Disaster came as a boy in a Catholic school uniform. That boy was my brother, Jonah.
We’d seen disaster, somehow crawled out from the ruins, and lived. It didn’t just happen, all explosive and bombastic so we knew everything changed. A real disaster began with a spark of fire that rose in the air and snuffed out. When the ash landed, it was still hot enough to burn, and from that ember, everything we knew went up in flames.
It happened before. I had reason to fear it would happen again.
My fingers drummed on the time-scarred armrest of a chair in Monsignor Judd’s office. Someone had etched a cross into the wood five, ten, maybe twenty years ago. A saint’s stare bore down on me from the stained-glass window; no comfort lay in his face, only my guilt for not knowing the saint’s name. Outside the office, Monsignor stood, fingers steepled, while the heating vent blew the draping of his cassock. His ear angled to the young nun whispering with him over the manila folder of Jonah’s permanent record. Curls snaked from her nun’s habit, and her eyes slid to watch me. Dull, dark. Nearly dead.
My hands grew warmer. I forced my breathing to slow. Calm down, Vayda girl. Nothing to get worked up over yet.
Not easy when I was a human magnet for emotion.
Slouching in his chair, Jonah fidgeted with a hole in his blue trousers. I always thought he’d blow our cover someday, but that didn’t mean I was ready for it. A bruise purpled his cheekbone. His heat, a mix of emotion and energy, radiated to further prickle my hands until they were scorching. I needed to cool down, put everything on ice to stabilize Jonah and myself. I exhaled in hope of a cold breath. My twin’s fury was more than I could absorb.
You outdid yourself this time. I pointed the thought to his mind like a laser. Do you honestly think fighting with Marty Pifkin is worth all this trouble?
He avoided eye contact, naturally. That didn’t mean he didn’t listen. Silent to all but me, he answered, Dati’s already gonna read me the riot act. Don’t give me any grief, especially since I was defending you.
Defending me from Marty Pifkin of all people. Let it go. What’s done is done. I didn’t know whether to give my brother a good wallop upside the head like our mom would have or pray we’d skate on by. Keep at it, Jonah, and people will notice what you can do. Throwing a desk without using your hands isn’t exactly wisdom for the ages.
Why don’t you keep that in mind the next time you lose it and break all the light bulbs in the science lab? He swiped a rogue strand of long, dark hair from his face. You lack subtlety and finesse, Sis.
Subtlety. Finesse. Words sixteen-year-old boys knew ohso-much about. I choked on a laugh and lowered my eyes to the ratty, blue Chucks I paired with my Catholic school plaid, wool skirt, and tights. Even if it wasn’t my school uniform, I wore dresses most days. I could move my legs and didn’t feel so caged in.
Brushing away the glass dust on my thighs, I ignored the blood drying on my hands and clasped them together. They were less dangerous that way.
The door to the office lobby opened. The new nun resembled a black dandelion seed as she glided into Monsignor’s office. She was followed by the head priest and my father. The scent of wood dust clung to him. Most parents visiting St. Anthony of Padua High School rolled in wearing suits or golf attire, and then there was Dad with his Fat Tire shirt and varnish-splattered jeans—evidence he’d been working on a restoration when called to the school. Even if the fight between my brother and Marty hadn’t already strained my mental barriers, I still would’ve noticed Dad’s disappointment.
Dad lived by so-called cardinal rules. Looking at Jonah, there was only one rule I thought: There’s a devil on every man’s shoulder, whispering in his ear. Only he decides if he’ll throw salt at the devil or feed him his soul.
“What happened, Magpie?” Dad asked, a Georgia-born drawl buttering his voice as he checked out the cuts on my hand.
“Broken glass, Dati,” I answered.
“You ought to be more mindful, don’t you think?” His question had nothing and everything to do with breaking glass.
Monsignor cleared his throat. “Sorry to have you back in my office so soon, Mr. Silver.”
“Twice in one week is overkill.” Dad stood behind Jonah and me, a hand on each of our shoulders.
“I’ve spoken with our new staff psychologist, Sister Polly Tremblay.” Monsignor introduced the new nun. “She was hired this year after Dr. Fernandez took a position in Madison. Our newest Sister is a licensed practitioner, educator, and bride of Christ.”
Dad raised an eyebrow. “Is she now? That’s all so very impressive, Sister. Do you go by Sister Polly or Sister Tremblay?”
The nun blinked twice, no emotion registering on her face.
“Sister Tremblay. Polly is from my past life.” Monsignor grabbed the manila folder from the nun’s hands and hurried through his words. “Sister Tremblay has acquainted herself with Jonah’s file and feels he may benefit from some sessions with her. If I may be frank, Mr. Silver, your family came to Wisconsin two years ago, but of the people I’ve spoken with, no one really knows you. Certain appearances are important, especially for an institution such as St. Anthony’s. I’m sorry to have to say anything in front of your children, but you must all be aware of the situation I’m in while I’m deciding Jonah’s punishment.”
“You’re a widower running an antiques business,” Sister Tremblay added.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Dad snapped.
“The adjustment period after moving, especially when grieving, can be prolonged. In that regard, two years isn’t very long at all,” Sister Tremblay answered. “Teenagers often cope by acting out. If you’re as busy as I suspect—”
“I’ve got time for my kids,” Dad argued. “Always.”
The heating vent blasted more hot air into the office. My brother burned with frustration, and my shoulders tightened. I cracked my knuckles, all too aware of how the lights dimmed.
Monsignor Judd let out a sigh. “Sister Tremblay is only suggesting that talking to someone away from family could be good for Jonah.”
There was no “outside the family.” There never was. Hard to make friends and get past the New Kid stigma when we were either cooped up at home or at Dad’s shop under his watch. No wonder our classmates thought we were weird—we were.
The hairs on the back of my neck stiffened. I shifted in my chair for a better view into the lobby where another boy waited to talk with Monsignor. The hair curling near his jaw was the color of liquid cinnamon dashed with espresso, and a wire tethered an iPod to his ears as he held an icepack to his bottom lip.
Jonah’s sort-of friend, Ward.
He averted his eyes from mine.
My hands grew hot while the overhead lights flickered, drawing everyone’s attention to the ceiling. Dad’s grip pumped my shoulder.
Jonah stretched his legs. “I’m not hanging out with no damn shrink. Marty Pifkin’s got everyone wrapped around his finger.”
“Here we go again,” I muttered. “Jonah, stop it.”
“That guy is a creeper, and—”
I glanced to Dad for sympathy. “Marty asked to compare answers on our homework and Jonah lost it.”
“—he was bothering Vayda,” my brother talked over me.
“Guys like that shouldn’t be talking to her. He’s gadje. I didn’t throw the first punch, didn’t ask for Ward’s help. I barely know the kid.”
Monsignor waited until Jonah and I both quieted down.
“What’s gadje?”
Jonah gave Dad a pleading stare. We never let others knowthe meaning of words we’d grown up with, but Dad confessed,
“To some, it means outsider, though you could say we’re the outsiders here.”
Monsignor gave a reluctant nod. “Marty claims Jonahthrew a desk. That’s not behavior that will go unpunished.”
“And the physics lab? Every light was broken.” Sister Tremblay crossed her arms.
I sank into my chair and hid behind my hair. No one could avoid those dull eyes. I wanted out of the office. Now.
The Flickering of the lights grew faster. I shuddered, not cold, but burning up. The poster of a kitten clinging to a clothesline while cheering “Hang in there!” obviously didn’t relate to how fragile my grip was when so many emotions flooded a room. Usually I kept it together with mental barriers to deflect the constant flow of others’ feelings, but so much tension…
“You’re seriously suggesting a couple of kids broke every light bulb just like that?” Dad’s voice rose. He gestured to the palsied lights. “Y’all would be better off hiring an electrician before the school burns down.”
The room skewed left, and my vision blurred, head dizzied. Too hot, cluttered. My hands—I shut my eyes. Monsignor and Sister Tremblay had to be staring, but I couldn’t worry about them.
Energy. Rising.
Crack!
A fracture drove down the length of the fluorescent light above the desk. Sister Tremblay yelped and snatched Jonah’s folder to her chest.
“Hell of a power surge.” Jonah’s black eyes searched for a way into my mind. Not gonna let him in, not this time. He was worried, but nothing was wrong, nothing at all, except that I felt like I could pass out.
“Vayda, go get some fresh air,” Dad ordered. “You’re flushed.”
Monsignor dismissed me, and with the expected curtsey before hoisting my backpack onto my shoulder, I cracked my knuckles one last time to diffuse the energy swelling in my hands. I stepped out of the office, out of the glow of the stained-glass window, and paced near the chairs where Ward waited. Jonah started this whole mess. Marty had done nothing to me—this time. Marty never listened until Jonah made him. Ever since that first fight, Jonah had his anger centered on Marty. Anything Jonah felt, I felt ten times worse. When he was happy, he was very happy, but when he was angry, he was furious.
Mom had been the same way.
“I promise you won’t go belly-up if you hold still.” Ward’s voice was deep, raw honey. His head rested against his chair, his left eye cracked open, watching me.
I gave him a weak smile. I liked his voice.
Ward had been at our school only since Monday, and already the social boneyard where Jonah and I roamed had claimed him. After we transferred in following Christmas break nearly two years ago, we tried blending with the nameless, faceless uniforms, but it wasn’t so simple. The other students never warmed to us, and we hadn’t to them. We weren’t from here, didn’t look or act like them. We were among the Avoided, but, as of yesterday, we had a shadow. A gadje shadow.
“How’s your hand?” Ward asked. I glanced to my brother and father talking to Monsignor. That Jonah hadn’t chased off Ward was a tacit tolerance of him. “A few cuts. I’ll live.” I twisted my black hair, skimming my hips. “You hardly needed to play the white knight. Marty’s not much of a dragon, more like a salamander.”
“Maybe I like fighting salamanders.”
Chipped, gray polish colored his nails. Artsy in an I-don’t give- a-damn-I’ll-wear-it-if-it’s-clean way. If Monsignor noticed, that’d earn Ward a detention or two.
“Listen, gadjo.” He didn’t deserve social devastation all because of my cavalier brother. He needed to back off from us. While he still could. “Marty won’t bother you if you don’t bother him. Tangling with him will never be forgotten.”
His mouth twitched, neither a grin nor a frown. “I don’t scare easily.”
He slipped on his headphones once more. Must be nice to be so untouched, unfazed. Must be peaceful.
“Hey,” I called. He lifted one side of his headphones. “What are you listening to?”
“Music.”
Smart ass.
Thud! A chair had overturned in Monsignor’s office and rocked ever so slightly. A chair no one had been sitting in. Dad’s muffled voice came fast as he pulled Jonah by the arm. From the dark expression on his face, we were in for a major talking to.
“We need to leave. Now,” Dad said as he steered Jonah out of the office.
He whisked us past the sanctuary where our footfalls echoed on wood floors polished by nuns until glistening. The school was a dour extension off a century-old Catholic parish. The walls in the language arts wing were painted rich blue, the Virgin’s color. Hung between classrooms were carvings from the Stations of the Cross, thick with dust except for Christ’s gaze, which followed us and knew my family’s secrets and sins.
Outside was better. Riding in the car, the windows lowered to allow in the
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Sarah Bromley
Sarah Bromley lives near St. Louis with her husband, three children, and two dogs. She likes the quiet hours of morning when she can drink coffee in peace, stare into the woods behind her house, and wonder what monsters live there. When she’s not writing or wrangling small children, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle #1) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Title: Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle #1)
Author: Kimber Leigh Wheaton
Source: YA Bound Book Tours
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Release Date: July 28, 2014
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Sometimes Rest in Peace isn't an option...

Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it's ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can't keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.

When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie's longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.

But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he's never seen before—a medium powerful enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.

Kacie can't ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster.



This was a fantastic introduction to The Orion Circle, an special club that investigates paranormal mysteries, hauntings, and tries to assist the unwanted ghosties on their way to the other side.  Kacie is a new addition, invited after a current member (and serious crush) finds out she can see and communicate with spirits.  But this time the spirit she sees isn't just annoying or needing help, it wants Kacie.  And it will do just about anything to have her.

This spirit is incredibly nasty and has quite a history that the Orion Circle has to figure out before they can get rid of it.  The journey if very exciting, and all the little clues dropped throughout the story all come together brilliantly.

There is a romance between Logan and Kacie, but while it is somewhat important, the real story is defeating the Foxblood Demon.