Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (94) Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1) by Rae Carson

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, created by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week I'm waiting on: 

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1) by

The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America.

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety? Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, dazzles with this new fantasy that subverts both our own history and familiar fantasy tropes.

Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance. Includes a map and author’s note on historical research.
(Blurb via Goodreads)

Expected publication: September 22, 2015
What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teaser Tuesday (93) So Much More by Taryn Plendl

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read(s)
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) -- or less or more -- “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
“I need my own special room. One that's fluffy and cozy, where the people in uniforms give me a white jacket with shiny buckles that lets me hug myself."

location 1470, So Much More by Taryn Plendl

{eARC YA Review} Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1) by Jennifer Estep

{eARC YA Review} Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1) by

Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1)
There Be Monsters Here. . .

It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power.

I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick.

But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her. . .
(Blurb via Goodreads)
{Details} eARC , 368 pages. Expected publication: April 28th 2015 by K-Teen. Source: eARC provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

{Rating} 4/5 - I really liked it!


Jennifer Estep does a wonderful job of drawing you in with an exciting beginning but the hints and teasers and the slow reveal of the who and what - the magic, what happened to her mother, kept my attention until the very end. I enjoyed the concept - magical mobs, though I wish there had been a bit more explanation about that - the fabulous setting - a carnival/tourist trap full of magical creatures, both good and bad - and the characters - Lila, Mo, Devon.

At first I kept comparing Lila to Gwen, Estep's heroine in the Mythos Academy series. They have  a lot in common - magic, murdered mothers, a job to do, but the similarities stop there. Lila is street smart, harder, self-proclaimed not a good girl, a thief. She's also seriously kick ass. She's a talented fighter, lethal with her blades and she has some seriously awesome magic.

With Cold Burn of Magic Estep has me hooked on the Black Blade series. I eagerly await the next installment - hopefully there will be a bit more happening for Lila in the romance department.

{ARC Romance Review} No One Like You by Kate Angell

No One Like You

No One Like You by

No One Expects a Curveball

For Rylan Cates, the gloriously sunny beachside town of Barefoot William may be home, but the pro baseball player needs to focus on spring training. Hiring a personal assistant to keep him and his four dogs organized for the next eight weeks is the first step--and Beth Avery is the perfect pinch hitter.

Beth is still looking for her place in the world, and a couple months caring for Rylan's two dachshunds, his golden retriever, and a Great Dane named Atlas should shore up her finances before she moves on. Except it's Atlas who won't budge, pushing her toward tanned, scruffy, sexy Rylan every chance he gets. One more strike and she's calling the dog out--unless she and Rylan admit that the attraction they're feeling is a game-winning grand slam. . .
(Blurb via Goodreads)
{Details} eARC, 320 pages. Expected publication: April 28th 2015 by Kensington. Source: eARC provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

{Rating} 4/5 - I really liked it!

"Beth Avery couldn't believe the black Great Dane had stopped, dropped and rolled onto his side." (page 1, line 1)
A great summer beach read with laugh out loud moments, a big dog with big plans and two humans in need of love. I am a full on sucker for dogs but I have to admit that Atlas stole my heart. But more about him later.

Beth is a sweetie. Generous, unfailingly kind, an overachiever. She's thoughtful and willing to give her time and affection. She's got a bit of a cloud hanging over her head, something we slowly learn about, but if she hadn't experienced what she had in the past she wouldn't have ended up in Barefoot William building a new family and a new life.

While I liked Rylan as a person - he's really a great guy, supportive, friendly, free with his time and his money, adores his dogs, all things that are characteristics of a great guy - liking him as a romantic lead came a little slower. I mean, he hired her because he wasn't attracted to her and he says he doesn't want her but he doesn't want anyone else to have her. He needed a smack upside his head. But he grew on me as he grew on Beth as the feeling of partnership between them grew. I liked how supportive he was of her. When he sees something that she's good at he wants to help her. He wants her to be happy.

Atlas, the great big Great Dane is the character who really stole the show. Dogs can be seriously smart and manipulative and Atlas definitely is. He's a matchmaker, a sweetheart, and when he accidentally gives Beth a black eye - he's a big, strong dog - he brings her all his toys in an effort to make her feel better. Like I said, he's a sweetheart.

I also have to mention the supporting characters, the extended Cates clan - Rylan seems to be related to nearly everyone in Barefoot William - and Halo and Landon, two of Rylan's teammates who are troublemakers.

If you're looking for a lighthearted love story with entertaining characters give No One Like You a try, I think you'll enjoy it too.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (95)

 Stacking The Shelves, a weekly meme from Tynga's Reviews
where I list what I've read, what I've reviewed, what I've acquired
and anything else worth mentioning
  • Into the Dreaming by Karen Marie Moning
  • On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
  • Amii's Angel by Natalie-Nicole Bates
  • So Much More by Taryn Plendl
  • Wanna Play? by Ava Archer Payne
  • Entwined Secrets by Robin Briar
  • A Mate of His Heart by Lynn Richards

Check back next week

Book image property of Microsoft 

Friday, April 24, 2015

M9B Friday Reveal: Cover Reveal for Last Siege Of Haven (The Undertakers #4) by Ty Drago with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the cover for
Last Siege Of Haven (The Undertakers #4) by Ty Drago
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

While away on an undercover mission, Undertaker Will Ritter has made an unthinkable alliance…with a Corpse! But though Robert Dillin (aka ‘The Zombie Prince’) is indeed one of those alien invaders who animate and possess the bodies of the dead — unlike the rest of his kind, Dillin isn’t evil. In fact, he wants to help. And Will needs that help, because the Queen of the Dead has learned the location of Haven, the Undertakers’ secret HQ, and is planning a massive and deadly assault.

With the last day of the Corpse War finally upon them, Will and his friends find themselves in a desperate race to close the Rift between worlds and forever kill the Corpses. But can they do before Haven is overrun?

For that matter, can they do it at all?
add to goodreads
Last Siege of Haven (The Undertakers #4)
by Ty Drago
Publication Date: May 11, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books
Available for Pre-order:
Ty Drago
Ty Drago does his writing just across the river from Philadelphia, where the Undertakers novels take place. In addition to The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses,The Undertakers: Queen of the Dead, and The Undertakers: Secret of the Corpse Eater, he is the author of The Franklin Affair and Phobos, as well as short stories and articles that have appeared in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. He currently lives in southern New Jersey with his wife and best friend, the real Helene Drago née Boettcher.
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
Title will be sent upon its release.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (93) The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, created by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week I'm waiting on: 
The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know by

Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

A road trip fling turns terrifying in this contemporary story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
(Blurb via Goodreads)

Expected publication: June 2, 2015
What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Teaser Tuesday (92) On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read(s)
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) -- or less or more -- “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
“Yes, I'm too mad to punish you right now. We'll talk about it when we get home. Go brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on dry clothes, and get the guns. We're going to Wal-Mart."

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (76)

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme from Book Journey where we spotlight what we finished reading, are currently reading and plan to read next.
{Finished Reading}

The Storyspinner (The Keepers' Chronicles, #1)

 {Currently Reading}

No Rest for the Wicked (Immortals After Dark, #3)

{Currently Listening To}

River Road

Dark Light (Harmony #5)

{What I'm Going to Read Next} 

A School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House, #1)

What about you? What have you read lately? What's next on your list?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (94)

 Stacking The Shelves, a weekly meme from Tynga's Reviews
where I list what I've read, what I've reviewed, what I've acquired
and anything else worth mentioning
  • After the Storm by Maya Banks
  • Embracing Everly by Kelly Mooney
  • Commanded by Stacey Kennedy - review to come 
  • The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
  • The Gamble by Kristen Ashley
The Storyspinner (The Keepers' Chronicles, #1)
3 star review

Book image property of Microsoft 

{YA Minute Review} The Storyspinner (The Keepers' Chronicles #1) by Becky Wallace

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.
(Blurb via Goodreads)
{Details} Kindle Edition, 432 pages. Published March 3rd 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry. Source: library

{Rating} 3/5 - I liked it!


A fantasy novel with interesting characters - I love the whole performer idea - a world where most people think magic isn't real, a hidden heritage, threats of war and a girl who might just save the world.

There was a lot going on in The Storyspinner, what The Keepers are up to, Johanna's home life, her and the duke, and then the storylines collide. I enjoyed the interactions between Johanna and Rafi; they got off on the very worst foot, and things don't get much better, at least not for awhile. The Storyspinner ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, everyone is in peril and Johanna has a choice to make. I look forward to finding out what happens next. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter one of Vessel by Lisa T. Cresswell with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing chapter one of
Vessel by Lisa T. Cresswell
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

The sun exploded on On April 18, 2112 in a Class X solar storm the likes of which humankind had never seen.
They had exactly nineteen minutes to decide what to do next.
They had nineteen minutes until a geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every electrical device created by humans, blacking out entire continents, and every satellite in their sky.
Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew, forever, and to prepare for a new Earth, a new Sun.

Generations after solar storms destroyed nearly all human technology on Earth, humans reverted to a middle ages-like existence, books are burned as heresy, and all knowledge of the remaining technology is kept hidden by a privileged few called the Reticents.
Alana, a disfigured slave girl, and Recks, a traveling minstrel and sometimes-thief, join forces to bring knowledge and books back to the human race. But when Alana is chosen against her will to be the Vessel, the living repository for all human knowledge, she must find the strength to be what the world needs even if it’s the last thing she wants.
add to goodreadsTitle: Vessel
Publication date: May 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Lisa T. Cresswell
Available for Pre-order:

A Class-X solar storm, the likes of which humankind had never seen, erupted from the Sun on April 18, 2112.
They had nineteen minutes.
Nineteen minutes until the geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every man-made electrical device, blacking out entire continents and every satellite in their sky.
Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew forever and prepare for a new Earth, a new way of life.
All digital data was lost, all the knowledge of the centuries past gone in an instant. Unable to feed themselves without technology, humans began to die of starvation and disease. At first thousands, then millions, and, finally, billions died. The survivors fought amongst themselves for the scraps until there were almost none left.

Part I Alana

Chapter 1
Year 2165
Master Dine's kick sent me sprawling into the wall. Pain bloomed in my shoulder. That was nothing new, but my billa slipped dangerously close to falling off. I grasped at the awkward headgear, a giant tent designed to hide my ugliness.
No one must see, I thought.
"It's too hot, you stupid chit," Master Dine yelled.
At seventeen, I was officially a woman and had been for a while, but no one gave a slave girl that recognition.
"Now look what you've done," he said. The clay teapot I’d been using to pour water over Master's feet lay shattered on the floor. "Clean it up, chit."
I silently seethed as I collected the pieces. I wasn't a chit. I was Alana, a name I'd given myself and no one else used. I cursed him under my billa, something he’d never hear through the dark, black drapes shrouding me from everyone. I prayed Mother Sun would do terrible things to him, something that didn't make me feel any better.
"When you're done with that, go help Master Tow. He's expecting you."
"But your bath?"
"I'll do it myself," Master Dine spat at me, as if he didn't trust me, as if I hadn't been washing his feet every morning since I was old enough to hold soap.
Master Dine was one of the oldest men in our village at almost forty, too mean to die of flu fever like most old men. He’d caught it once or twice, but it only seemed to make him more determined to live.
"Yes, Master," I whispered and ducked out of the room with the remains of the teapot. I threw them in the garbage pit behind the house as I left for Master Tow's. I’d have to make a new one later. I wondered when I would find the time to gather the clay from the riverbank, which was a fair walk from here. Where was here? Master Dine's village was called Roma.
Master Dine reminded me constantly I wasn’t from this place—my eyes too almond-shaped, my hair too black, and my skin too yellow to be from Roma. My looks didn't stop him from slinking into my room in the darkness to have his way with me. I was his, bought from my own parents in a faraway place, he always said. Even in the dark, he made me cover my face. I closed my eyes anyway. Maybe if I couldn't see Master Dine with his lazy eye and crooked teeth, he’d cease to exist. Please, Mother Sun, make it so.
I walked down the dirty footpath toward Roma's center market square, past the mud and stone houses scraped together with whatever the inhabitants could find. It was early yet; fog still clung to the base of the mountains and dripped off the trees’ new leaves. Winter was breaking at last. Mother Sun had saved us again, but we always knew she could destroy us if she wanted to.
I didn't mind wearing the billa so much when the weather was cool or misty like this morning. It trapped my own warm breath around me like a cocoon. It made doing chores outside awkward, though. Master Dine kept me primarily for house chores, although I was allowed to shop on market day, and he occasionally lent me to Master Tow. Tow had no wives and probably needed his house cleaned.
Master Tow was a young man in his twenties, still undecided on a wife. Suitable women were rare in Roma, so he was faced with the prospect of waiting until certain girls came of age or traveling to the next province for a wife. The expense of a wife was more than Tow really wanted, so he borrowed me from time to time. It was an arrangement he had with Dine, made possible by Dine's first wife, Mistress Shel. Shel hated my position in her house as a sort of third wife, a standing I could never truly attain even if I wanted to. It was Shel who had disfigured the right side of my face years ago. It hadn't stopped Dine's visits to me, just made him more discrete.
Master Tow was chopping wood in the small yard next to his house. His clothes, littered with fine shavings of fir, made him smell better than usual. He was stripped to the waist, his pale chest glistening with sweat even in the morning cold. I stopped and waited. I could never address anyone without first being addressed myself. I learned that very young.
Master Tow continued his work, perhaps enjoying the fact that I was his audience. He often flirted with me, even though he had no reason to tease a slave. I think he was quite proud of his own blond hair that fell to his shoulders. Taunting all the unsuitable women in town seemed to please him tremendously. And so I stood perfectly still, watching the breeze blow the fabric in front of my face until he finally spoke.
"Hello, chit," he said, taking a break from his chopping.
"Master Dine said you were expecting me."
"So I am." Tow breathed heavily, his ribs showing under his creamy skin with each exhale. He dropped his hatchet in the dirt at his feet and held up two fingers beckoning me to follow him behind his house. I hesitated. Wasn't I doing housework? What did Tow have in store for me?
"C'mon, chit! Haven't got until sundown," he called, his tone good-natured as always.
I couldn't shake the feeling he was playing a trick on me, but I followed him down the hill behind his house through a thicket of small aspen just beginning to bud. I soon saw it was a shortcut he used to reach the square rather than taking the main path that switch-backed down the mountain. Although it was easy for him, the trees snagged the fabric of my billa.
"Come on!" his voice urged. I wasn't sure, but I thought I heard him muttering under his breath about my ridiculous garb. None of the other slaves wore what I wore. I stood out wherever I went—a black ghost in a crowd of humans. Everyone knew it was my punishment for tempting Dine. That's what Shel told them and most believed it.
I did my best to keep up with Tow. Once out of the shrubs, it was easier to match his pace. He headed for the crumbling castle perched on a precipice over the wide green valley on the edge of Roma. Eons ago, before the Great Death that wiped out billions, some strange unknown race had built castles all across this region. Most were rubble now.
No one lived there, but the people of Roma sometimes stored things in some of the rooms or held meetings there. Windows long gone, the arches still stood in places, the stone thick with moss and lichens silently feasting on the remains of the beast. It was a forgotten place, somewhere I rarely went because I wasn’t invited to public affairs. As Tow and I got close, I heard the sound of someone singing a sad melody in a cool, clear voice. Even the birds in the trees were drawn to it, flitting away only when we came near.
As I followed Tow down a stone stairway littered with last winter's dead leaves into the ruins and closer to the voice, my fears melted away and curiosity overcame me. Tow couldn't walk fast enough now. Who was it? And why were they here? The singing suddenly stopped.
Deep inside the castle, where little sunshine could penetrate, Tow stopped at an old door with a small slit for a tiny window. A boy's face, not much older than mine, with dark hair and eyes like mine, peered out of the opening.
"You can't keep us in here," the boy said, his voice angry.
"Don't worry. It won't be long before the authorities come for you. A week at the most," said Tow. He turned to me. "These two were caught last night stealing. You need to feed them at least once a day, no more. Just enough to keep them alive for their trial."
"Trial?" I asked.
"The Reticents have been summoned. They'll send someone to pick them up."
"But what do I feed them, Master Tow?"
Everyone's winter stores were running low and few spring crops had been harvested yet. Master Dine wouldn’t allow me to use his food for such a purpose.
"Hog feed will do."
"Hog feed?" shouted the prisoner. "We're not animals!" I flinched and backed away from him.
"Never you mind that, chit. Do as you're told. Put the food in here." Master Tow pointed to a small slot near the floor with the toe of his boot. "Don't open the door, no matter what."
"Yes, Master Tow."
"Any questions?"
"Have they been fed today?"
"No. Better get to work."
Master Tow turned and bounded up the stairs. I stood motionless, watching the black-eyed boy watching me. I’d never seen anyone like me before. He looked hard at the billa like he could see underneath.
"Do you have any water?" he asked in an accent I didn't recognize. "He's very weak."
The prisoner backed away from the door so I could creep up and peer inside. The oldest man I'd ever seen, maybe fifty years or more, lay on the floor. He groaned as the boy knelt down and touched his arm.
"I'm here," he said to the old man. Before I knew it, I’d loosened the water bag I kept tied at my hip and pushed it through the hole in the wall toward them.
"Take this. I'll be back," I whispered before hurrying to find food.
Normally I fed the hogs caysha roots I dug up in the forest. A person could eat them and survive, but they weren't kind to the stomach. They were a last resort, eaten only when all else was gone. I’d eaten them myself when the winters were hard and Master Dine saved all his food for his family. Slaves weren’t supposed to forage for their own food. It was a sign a family wasn't wealthy enough to support them, but Dine looked the other way quite often. He allowed me to find other means of sustenance when times called for it, which was more often than not. The less of his food I ate, the more wealthy he fancied himself.
I walked as quickly as I could without attracting attention to a meadow below the castle where the caysha had started to bloom, blue lilies on tall stems. I dug a few roots to satisfy Master Tow, but I had no intention of feeding them to the prisoners. I dropped them in my basket and slung it over my shoulder, heading for the river. Checking my traps, I found a snared rabbit and smiled for the first time that day. Not that anyone knew or cared. I spent my days alone in a tent made for one, seldom speaking to anyone. But something in that boy's eyes reached out to me behind the curtain. I wasn't going to serve him hog feed. My decision risked a beating, but it wouldn't mean my death. Though I didn’t fear death anyway.
An hour had passed by the time I returned to the ruined castle dungeon with food, water, and fuel. Midday was approaching yet the prisoners made no sound. I hoped to hear his song again the way I longed for the lark song after winter. Like a mouse cleaning up crumbs, I silently cleared away the leaves in a dark corner near the stairs and built a cooking fire. The smell of roasting meat brought the boy's face to the hole in the door once more.
"You're torturing me," he complained, although his lips smiled.
"It won't be much longer," I said, crossing the room to the door between us. "I brought more water. Give me the water bag, and I'll refill it." He scrambled to retrieve the bag and return it.
"How is he?" I asked, looking at the impossibly old man.
"Better. Some real food will do him good."
I handed the boy some jake nuts through the slot in the wall. "Chew these. They'll help keep the food down."
He shoved the handful into his mouth.
"Save one for him," I said, pointing to the old man. The boy chewed hard but managed to spit out one nut for his friend. He knelt by the man again and shook his arm.
"Kinder? Wake up. It's dinner time." The old man sat up with the boy's help, leaning against the stone wall. "Eat this," he said, giving him the nut.
I refilled the water and retrieved the rabbit from the spit on the fire. It had started to burn, the grease glistening on the meat. Too big to fit through the slot, the rabbit had to be torn into pieces and slipped into the cell. The boy snatched it from my fingers and rushed to the old man, who suddenly came alive, devouring it. The boy returned and snagged a second piece for himself, ignoring me as he inhaled his food. I waited by the slot with the rest of the meat, holding it until they were ready for it. The sounds of eating, chewing, and licking made me hungry, but I didn't eat any. The rabbit would’ve been my lunch, but I’d eat wild carrots instead.
I gave them the remains of the rabbit and returned to the corner to put out my fire. Master Tow mustn’t know I’d cooked, so I hid my hearth as best I could with damp leaves and rubble. The moss on the stone walls would hide any sign of smoke. I turned to go.
"Wait," called the boy. "What's your name?"
The words I'd never heard directed at me, the words I dreamt of every night, came from his lips. Was he speaking to me? Of course he was. There was no one else here.
"Is it Chit?"
"No. I’m Alana." I’d never told anyone the name I chose for myself. It felt good to say it out loud.
"Thank you, Alana. I'm Recks, and this is Kinder. We're grateful for your kindness. May Mother Sun shine on you."
I stopped breathing for a second. No one had ever blessed me before. It just wasn't done. I waited as if the sky might fall down. There was nothing but the sound of Kinder sucking the marrow from his rabbit bones.
"Is something wrong?" asked Recks.
"No," I said. "I should go." I suddenly remembered the bones. "Hide the bones when you're done."
"Kinder will eat them all." Recks smiled at me and snickered at the thought.
"I'll bring more tonight," I told him.
"But Tow said once a day … "
"What Tow doesn’t know won’t trouble him." I hurried up the steps.
"Be careful," warned Recks, as if he might actually be concerned for my safety. Hidden tears leaked from my eyes.
As I walked back to Master Dine's house, I had an overwhelming urge to throw the billa off and feel the sun on my shoulders. Mother Sun could bless me too, even if she never had before. But if I did, I knew I would never see Recks again. Instead, I clasped my hands together under my billowy tent in happiness, knowing the feeling could escape me like mist in the sunlight.
I left the house again at sunset, making Shel smile. Dine would assume I went foraging, which I did, but not so much for myself this time. Recks and Kinder needed me. I was thankful for the billa, which allowed me to stow extra supplies—flint, a blanket, and some socks—without being noticed. The goods were mine, the cast-offs of others, and wouldn’t be missed.
I openly carried my caysha basket still filled with the roots I had collected that morning. Carefully wrapped underneath those were three sunflower seed cakes made with the last of our honey the summer before. Shel had thrown them in the refuse because they were too hard for her taste, dried out from a long winter in storage. Recks and Kinder were in dire need of fattening up. I worried Kinder might not last the week, even with a bit of honey. I stopped by one of my snares on my way through the forest, lucky to have caught a partridge. I plucked its soft feathers inside the billa as I walked to the ruins, my fingers working without me looking down. I couldn't be gone long or someone would notice.
At first, the prisoners were so quiet I thought perhaps they had escaped. I used the flint to light a small torch so I wouldn't fall down the steps.
"Alana? Is that you?" came Recks’s voice from the darkness.
"Yes." Alana? He said my name. My heart raced in my chest faster than when I was sneaking around, faster than from my fear of Dine or Tow. I held the torch up to see inside the door.
"You shouldn't have come, but I'm glad you did," said Recks. "I have something for you."
"For me?" Was he mad? He had nothing but an old man. I set about building a fire to roast the partridge.
"I may not look like much, but I’m a gifted performer."
"A performer?"
"A teller of tales, singer of songs—"
"Stealer of goods!" yelled Kinder. He obviously felt better. He had at least found his voice again.
"What?" I asked, blowing gently on my fire to make it grow.
"Recks has sticky fingers, which is what got us into the fix we presently find ourselves," said Kinder.
"I don't hear you complaining when you're enjoying the spoils, old man."
"What did you take?" I asked, skewering the bird and laying it over the flames.
"Only a heel of bread," Recks insisted. "We're seldom paid for the service we provide."
"Is Kinder a performer too?"
"In a manner of speaking. He is an academic, a man of studies."
"What does he study?"
"I'm right here, you know," Kinder grumbled from behind the door.
"Be more polite to the woman who saved your life, fool. Don't you know how close you are to death's embrace?"
"Better the devil you know than the one you don’t,” muttered Kinder.
“What?" I approached the door again.
“Never mind him,” said Recks. “He’s overly fond of proverbs.”
"I've brought some things that will help with the chill," I said, pulling out the blanket and the woolen socks. I’d have to find replacements for myself for next winter. Recks gasped in pleasure at the sight of the gifts.
"What is it?" Kinder demanded, unable to see. I fed the blanket through the slot to Recks, who laughed as he pulled it through. As before, he rushed it over to Kinder, spreading it out over him.
"You'll have to hide it when Tow comes," I said, stuffing the socks through the same hole.
"Of course," said Recks, pulling the socks onto his hands and admiring them. "What else have you got under there?"
I flinched under the billa as if Recks saw right through it. He could never see me. No one could.
"Nothing," I said. "Is there something else you require?"
"A key to the lock would be dandy."
"I'm sorry. I don't know where Master Tow keeps it."
"Ah well, he's not a stupid man, is he? He caught us. Not an easy thing to do."
I retreated back to tend the fire and the little roasting bird, which smelled delicious.
"So my gift to you, Alana, is a tale," said Recks. "It's not much, but it's all I have."
I sat down, making myself as comfortable as I could considering the rubble that littered the room. I’d seen street performers from time to time, but I’d never been so close or had the time to really listen. For a minute, the only sound was the popping of the dry sticks in the fire. Then Recks cleared his throat.
"You'll have to forgive me. This isn't the best place for telling stories."
"Never stopped you before," grumbled Kinder.
"Shush," Recks told him. "Your dinner’s coming. Do you have any favorites, Alana?"
The few stories I knew were ones told by Dine's first wife to her children. They were short and generally brutal, told to teach some lesson when they misbehaved. They weren’t the kind of tales I wanted to hear.
"I don't know any stories."
"That's impossible. Did your mother never tell you ‘The Fox and the Hen’? And everyone knows ‘The Ruby Quiver.’"
"No, no one’s ever told me any stories."
"Why not?"
"Recks, you nitwit. Can't you see the girl’s a slave?" barked Kinder.
"How can that be? She walks freely."
"Ask her yourself. Not all are enslaved by chains. Who would wear that willingly?"
"Is it true, Alana?"
"Yes," I said, turning the meat with my fingertips.
"But why are you here? Why don't you run?"
"And go where? It's all like here, isn't it?"
"No. The world is a wide, wondrous place. It's not all like Roma."
"Thank Mother Sun for that!" exclaimed Kinder. "Is the meat done yet?"
"Done enough, I suppose," I said, pulling the stick of roast partridge away from the flames. “It’s not much,” I said as I walked it over to the men in the cell and put it in the slot.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!” Kinder said, clearly delighted. They both devoured it eagerly, even as it burned their fingers and tongues. They groaned in pleasure and pain, but they didn't stop eating until every bite was gone. When I dug the sunflower seed cakes out of the basket, they both smiled as if I’d presented them with the key to their freedom.
"We should get arrested in Roma more often," said Kinder, crunching on the sticky cake. "I can't remember when I've eaten so well."
"Me neither," said Recks, licking the honey from his fingers. "Just for that, I'm going to tell you the best story I know."
"I can't stay much longer. I’ll be missed."
"Then I'll be quick about it," said Recks, wiping his hands on his shabby tunic and then holding them palms up toward the sky. "Mother Sun knows the hearts of all men. May they all please her."
That I’d heard many times. It was the traditional prayer before beginning any work. One never knew what might displease Mother Sun, so it was customary to let her know your intentions were good in the hope that she would take pity on you.
"In the Time of Great Darkness, there lived a young boy. He had lost everyone and everything he’d ever known: his mother, his father, and his sister dead with many thousands of others. His village overflowed with the dead. No one was left to bury them all. Mother Sun willed it so, but she let this one boy live. He was special, wise beyond his years, and Mother Sun knew he could found a new race of men. She guided him to a sacred valley, high in the mountains, far from his home. On his journey, he met others like himself—thinkers, artists, healers, poets, and storytellers. They banded together and sought to create a world better than the one before the Time of Great Darkness. They built their city on the cliffs above a valley, where they live in comfort. To this day, they grow all they need. Everyone helps, none go hungry, and there are no slaves."
"No slaves?" I asked, incredulous.
"Ask Kinder. He's actually been there," said Recks.
"You have?"
"Many moons ago. Then I got a crazy notion about wanting to study the peoples of the West. Now I wish I’d never left."
“No fool like an old fool, huh, Kinder?” teased Recks.
The call of an owl outside reminded me I was in Roma, not a magical, shining city of freedom.
"I have to go," I said, standing up. I doused the embers of the fire with my water bag, sending steam hissing into the air.
"Alana?" Recks whispered through the hole in the door. Two of his fingers poked out, reaching for me in the darkness.
"Did you like the story?"
“Like” seemed too casual a word for how I felt. Overwhelmed was a better choice. It stretched my imagination, showed me how much I didn't know about the world. I trembled, knowing I’d remember this story for the rest of my pitiful life. Now in the cover of darkness, I reached out of the billa and touched his two warm, rough fingers with one of my own.

Lisa T. Cresswell
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!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (92) Firewalker (The Worldwalker Trilogy #2) by Josephine Angelini

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, created by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week I'm waiting on: 
Worlds divide, magic slays, and love lies in the second book of Josephine Angelini’s The Worldwalker Trilogy.

"You think I’m a monster, but my choices, as ruthless as they seem, are justified."

Lily is back in her own universe, and she's ready to start a new life with Rowan by her side. True, she almost died in the Pyre that fueled their escape from New Salem, and must hide her magic for the safety of everyone she cares about, but compared to fighting the Woven, the monstrous creatures inhabiting the alternate Salem, life is looking pretty good.

Unfortunately, Lillian, ruthless ruler of the 13 Cities, is not willing to let Lily go that easily. If she can’t persuade Lily to return to her world, she will force her to come back by doing away with the ones she loves.

Picking up right where Trial By Fire left off, Firewalker is another sexy, fast-paced, heartbreaking thrill ride from internationally bestselling author Josephine Angelini!
(Blurb via Goodreads)

Expected publication: September 1, 2015
What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Teaser Tuesday (91) Frozen by Meljean Brook + Total Surrender by Rebecca Zanetti

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read(s)
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) -- or less or more -- “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
"If I have to die, I'm glad it's for you."

page 123, Frozen by Meljean Brook
"Tears and rain ran down his face, and he truly didn't give a shit."

eARC, location 1742, Total Surrender by Rebecca Zanetti