Into the Fire by Ashelyn Drake is a sizzling Y.A. read

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I recently received an ARC of INTO THE FIRE by Ashelyn Drake from Month9Books, and I have to tell you, I found it difficult to put down.  Wow.  What a great read! What’s it about?  Take a look:

Into The Fire (Paperback)
ISBN: 1939765005 (ISBN13: 9781939765000)
format: Paperback
Publish Date: September 9th 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC

Back cover blurb:

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.

***

My Review

I have to say, I love covers and this one really drew me in, but it was the blurb that made me want to read this book.  I found the entire concept super cool – people who are descendants of the mythical phoenix. I was intrigued to see how the author wove this story.  I was not disappointed.

The story opens with Cara’s brother going through ‘the change’ and Cara wondering what it will be like for her, in one month’s time, when she must do the same. It is heartbreaking for Cara to watch because she and her brother were very close, but he won’t remember her after he is reborn the first time. The thought of “losing” her brother and of losing her own memories is too much for her to deal with, so she resorts to ‘escape’ mode, retreating to her favorite place where she can think and come to terms with what is happening to her and her brother. There’s just one problem.  There’s a new guy named Logan invading her safe zone, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder. Neither Cara or Logan want to be attracted to each other, but the phoenix ‘imprint’ is strong, and before we know it, Cara and Logan are so far involved with each other, that nothing can tear them apart – except for maybe the Hunter who wants to kill her and steal her essence. Though I suspected the ending about 2/3 of the way through the book, I still enjoyed the way the author pulled it all together, and I LOVED the last line of the book!

INTO THE FIRE is told from both Cara’s and Logan’s POV. This is great because I got to understand Logan and Cara from both in an insider’s and outsider’s perspective. Understanding both of them and their motives made it very easy to fall in love with them as a couple and continue to root for them through the entire story.

I did have some minor issues that kept me from giving the story five stars.  I really wanted to understand more about these human phoenixes and how Cara and her kind came into existence. I would have liked to have seen some interaction between Logan and his father instead of being told what the relationship was.  A scene here, a scene there would have done wonders for increasing tension and really feeling Logan’s suffering.  There also was the whole ‘imprint’ thing.  I understand what was going on, but every time I hear that term, I think of the #Twilight series. I hate reading a book only to roll my eyes and say to myself “Seriously?” I really do believe it’s time for authors to come up with a different term that doesn’t make their readers jump out of that book and think of another.

Overall, INTO THE FIRE was a quick, exciting read and I highly recommend it to those who love young adult urban romances. I will definitely be standing by to read the next book in the series.

Thank you Month9Books for an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Night of Pan cover reveal


Night of Pan, by Gail Strickland - Cover

Night of Pan, by Gail Strickland

Genre: young-adult, historical-fantasy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Date of Release: November 7, 2014

Series: Book One of The Oracle of Delphi Trilogy

Cover Artist: Ricky Gunawan

Add Night of Pan to your Goodreads ‘to-be-read’ list.

Description:

The slaughter of the Spartan Three Hundred at Thermopylae, Greece 480 BCE—when King Leonidas tried to stop the Persian army with only his elite guard—is well known. But just what did King Xerxes do after he defeated the Greeks?

Fifteen-year-old Thaleia is haunted by visions: roofs dripping blood, Athens burning. She tries to convince her best friend and all the villagers that she’s not crazy. The gods do speak to her.

And the gods have plans for this girl.

When Xerxes’ army of a million Persians marches straight to the mountain village Delphi to claim the Temple of Apollo’s treasures and sacred power, Thaleia’s gift may be her people’s last line of defense.

Her destiny may be to save Greece…
…but is one girl strong enough to stop an entire army?

Pre-order on Amazon now

Gail Strickland, Author, Mythology, Ophelia, Night of pan

About The Author:
While studying the Classics in college, Gail Strickland translated much of Homer’s ILIAD and ODYSSEY, Herodotus’ prophecies and THE BACCHAI by Euripides. Living on the Greek islands after college, she discovered her love of myth, the wine-dark sea and retsina.
THE BALTIMORE REVIEW and WRITER’S DIGEST have recognized Gail’s fiction. She published stories and poems in Travelers’ Tales’ anthologies and the San Francisco Writer’s anthology. Her poetry and photography were published in a collection called CLUTTER.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Gail grew up in Northern California. She raised her children; was a musical director for CAT children’s theater; taught music in schools; mentored young poets and novelists and introduced thousands of youngsters to piano and Greek mythology. Gail is passionate about bringing the richness of Homer’s language and culture to today’s youth.
Find Gail Strickland Online:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Google +

Cover Reveal: VESSEL by Lisa T. Cresswell and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

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M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

VESSEL by Lisa T. Cresswell

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

LCresswell_Vessel_M9B_eCover_1800x2700

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 goodreads

Title: Vessel
Publication date: May 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Lisa T. Cresswell

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

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!

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

(Winners will receive their book on release day)

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#Torn ~ an un-put-downable YA paranormal urban fantasy novel with a Giveaway!

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J. Taylor Publishing are giving away FIVE ARCs of Torn by Laney McMann!

Check it out!

TORN by Laney McMann

Find Max.

That’s all Layla cares about. Not healing from the Fomore attack. Not finding answers to how she survived a fall that nearly killed her. Nothing will stop her. She will find him. She’ll even pair up with an overbearing Fallen Angel who’s hell bent on making everything harder than it needs to be if she has to.

Protect Layla.

For Max, nothing else matters. Not the bruises covering his body. Not the pain radiating from his broken bones. Not even his hands tied behind his back. He will find a way to save Layla, and the Fomore will pay if they’ve hurt her.

Every. Single. One of them.

In the second installment of The Fire Born trilogy, a new breed of villain looms—one Layla and Max will never suspect, and this killer has nothing to lose. Better yet, with Max and Layla’s deaths, victory is in the grip of the enemy.

Will Max and Layla find each other in time, or is it already too late for them both?

If young love worth fighting for keeps you up reading all night, you will love this second installment in the Fire Born trilogy.

And J. Taylor Publishing is giving away FIVE ARC copies.

To YOU!

You don’t even have to be a book blogger!

Nope, so long as you are willing to leave an honest review* by September 14th 2014, you are eligible to enter.

Interested?

Then just fill out the form and keep your fingers crossed.

You have until midnight of August 25th, 2014 to enter.

*A review should consist of your honest thoughts regarding a book, usually a few paragraphs long and around 150 – 500 (or more, if desired) words in length.

About Laney McMann:

Laney McMann

Laney McMann

With a passion for the supernatural and all things magical, Laney developed a voracious appetite for reading fantasy at a young age. A vivid imagination helped set the stage for creating her own worlds and placed her onto the writing path.

By the time she reached her teens, she’d accumulated notebooks full of poems, which led to short stories and finally novels. Young adult dark fantasy, paranormal romance, and mythology are among her favorite genres.

A former classical dancer and chef, she grew up in sultry Florida where she still resides with her family.

Dragonriders Unite with Fledgling by Nicole Conway – Giveaway

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Fledgling-Promo

Welcome to the DRAGONRIDERS UNITE promo for

Fledgling (The Dragonrider Chronicles #1)
by Nicole Conway

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post.

cover

Can one boy stand between two kingdoms at war?

Jaevid Broadfeather has grown up as a wartime refugee, hiding from the world because of his mixed racial heritage. He feels his future is hopeless, until a chance encounter with a wild dragon lands him in Blybrig Academy—a place usually forbidden to anyone but the rich and royal. But Jaevid’s case is special; no dragon has voluntarily chosen a rider in decades, so the proud riders of Blybrig must begrudgingly let him join their brotherhood despite his bloodline. Lieutenant Sile Derrick, a sternly tempered man with a mysterious past, becomes his instructor and immediately takes a peculiar interest in Jaevid’s future.

While struggling through the rigorous physical demands of training, things begin to go awry. Jaevid witnesses the king’s private guards kidnapping Sile in the dead of night. When none of the elder riders are willing to help him, Jaevid begins a dangerous adventure to save his instructor.

Everything Jaevid learned at the academy will now be put to the ultimate test.

add to goodreadsFledgling (The Dragonrider Chronicles #1) by Nicole Conway
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo!

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

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One

I had never seen my father before my twelfth birthday. Not even once. Up until then, my mother had raised me all by herself in the royal city of Halfax. We lived like all the other gray elves in Maldobar—separated from the rest of society in the heavily guarded wartime ghettos. We had to follow a strict set of rules about where we could go, what we could do, when we got food, and what we could own. If you broke any of the rules, it was an immediate sentence to the prison camps, which I always heard was a fate worse than death. We were supposed to be grateful. After all, we were war refugees. Maldobar didn’t have to take us in, much less provide us somewhere to live. This was their act of charity towards us.

Our house was not much more than a tiny shack made of old recycled wood, and it only had one room. You’d expect a place like that to smell terrible, but my mother was a genius when it came to making anywhere feel like home. She could grow absolutely anything, and that was how she made our living. She grew vegetables, flowers, tiny fruit trees, and strange vines that climbed all over the walls and windows. It made the inside of our house feel like a jungle, and it smelled earthy like fresh soil and the fragrance of flowers. We couldn’t legally sell anything she grew since gray elves weren’t allowed to have any money, but we could still trade. So early in the mornings, my mother packed a sack full of peppers, fruit, vegetables, and anything else ready for harvest, and sent me out to the shops to trade for things we needed.

It was a lot harder than it sounds. Not the trading itself, that part was easy, but I had to be very sneaky about it. I was always on the watch for guards, or humans. Gray elf children were rare, even in the ghettos. Any elf living in the kingdom of Maldobar as a refugee was absolutely not allowed to have children. It was forbidden. Having children was a great way to get thrown into a prison camp, or worse. But I didn’t just have to worry about that. It was bad enough to be a gray elf kid, hiding until you were old enough to be overlooked. But I was a halfbreed. My father was a human from Maldobar. So instead of looking at me with anger, everyone looked at me like I was a cockroach. The humans didn’t like me touching their stuff because I was mixed with the filthy, wild blood of a gray elf. If they hadn’t liked my mother’s produce so much, they probably would have turned me in to the guards. The gray elves didn’t like me, either. But there was a very strict code amongst them: you didn’t betray your own kind no matter what. So they ignored me rather than ratting me out to the city guards.

I really didn’t fit anywhere, except with my mother. She loved me unconditionally. She was the most beautiful person in the world. Her hair was long and silvery white, and her eyes were like stars. All gray elves had eyes like that. When she smiled at me, her eyes would shine like gemstones in the light, as white and pale as diamonds with faint flecks of blue, yellow, and green in them.

When she died, I had just turned twelve. I got the feeling right away that no one really knew what to do with me. I didn’t fit into anyone’s plans. If I were a pure blooded elf, they would have taken me straight to a prison camp. If I were a human, someone would have adopted me. I wasn’t either, and yet I was both at the same time. I think the guards were just baffled that my mother had done such a good job of hiding me for so long, or that she’d somehow managed to have an affair with a human man.

Ulric Broadfeather was the only one who would take me in, and I’m pretty sure he only did it because my mother had left a letter behind naming him as my biological father. If it weren’t for the public shame of disowning a child, he probably would have just let me go to a prison camp anyway.

From the very beginning, my father was the most frightening man I had ever known. He was hugely tall, like a knight, and stronger than anyone else I had ever seen. Once, I saw him pick up and pull family wagon while it was loaded with bags of grain all by himself. He could have crushed my neck with one hand if he wanted to. His hair was jet-black like mine, except it was cut short. My mom always insisted I wear my hair long, like gray elves traditionally did. I also had his cold blue eyes that were the same color as glacier water. There definitely wasn’t any doubt he was my father. I looked too much like him for anyone to deny it.

I wish I could say that he welcomed me with open arms into his home; eager to make up for lost time he hadn’t gotten to spend with me. But he already had a family, living on the outskirts of a small city called Mithangol, and he wasn’t interested in adding me to it. I was an unwanted guest right away.

He had a human wife named Serah who made it perfectly clear she didn’t want me in her house at all. Serah absolutely hated me. She glared whenever she looked at me, accused me of being responsible for anything that went wrong, and refused to let me sleep in her house because I gave her a “bad feeling.” So I slept on a cot in the loftroom of Ulric’s workshop, instead. As bad as it sounds, I actually preferred it. It was quiet there, and even though it was cold in the winter, I liked the smell of the old hay and the leather that was stored up there.

Ulric also had another son, Roland, who was four years older than me. Roland chose to ignore my existence completely. I got the feeling that he was in survival mode, trying to be as aloof and uninvolved with the family as he possibly could until he was old enough to move out. I couldn’t really blame him for that. Like me, he favored our father. He was really tall, muscular, and had the same ice-blue eyes that looked like they belonged to a powerful bird of prey. I was a little afraid of him, even though he never said more than two words to me at a time. I could sense a lot of anger coming from him, and I was always paranoid I’d be standing too close when he finally snapped.

Ulric had two more children, a pair of twin daughters named Emry and Lin. They were six years younger than me, but they were meaner than a pair of hungry jackals. Every day, they tried to get me in as much trouble as possible. Of course, Serah believed every word they said. They would break things, let the chickens and goats out, or steal jewelry from their mother’s room, and blame it all on me. Once, Emry got ahold of the sewing scissors and chopped up Lin’s hair. When Serah found out, Emry blamed it all on me and told her I had done it. Serah believed it, and I got a beating from Ulric as soon as he came in the house. Inventing new ways to get me into trouble was their favorite pastime, and there was nothing I could do about it. They were sneaky and smart, a lot smarter than me I guess, because they never got caught.

The only good thing about living with my father was watching him work. Ulric was a tackmaster—he made saddles for the dragonriders from Blybrig Academy. But he didn’t just make saddles; he made the very best saddles in Maldobar. I watched him through the slats and gaps in the floor of the loftroom, shaping leather and stitching intricate pieces together. He did it all by hand, and it took him several weeks to craft one saddle. But when it was finished, each one was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. It made me envy him, even if he probably wished I had never been born.

That’s why I almost keeled over when Ulric growled my name, calling me down from my room into his shop. He’d been working for two weeks solid on a new saddle, one more beautiful than ever, and it was finally finished.

“Wrap it up,” he barked at me in his gruff, gravely tone, and threw a few old quilts at me.

I was stunned. Ulric had never asked me to do anything before, especially nothing to do with his work. This was my chance, I thought. If I could be useful, maybe he wouldn’t hate me so much. He might even teach me to make saddles someday.

Ulric left me alone in his shop, and I walked over to the saddle that was set up on one of the big sawhorses. I ran my fingers over the freshly oiled leather. It was as red as blood, engraved with intricate designs and images of mountains and vines. All the buckles were made of silver-plated iron. I couldn’t even imagine what it would look like when the dragon it had been made for would finally put it on. A powerful beast, bound for the skies with a snarl and a flash of fire. It made my skin prickle, and every hair stand on end.

I was small for my age. I’d always been small, unfortunately. Ulric’s stature apparently hadn’t been passed on to me. To make matters worse, I was so skinny that I pretty much looked like a scarecrow. Emry and Lin like to call me “stick boy” because they knew it bothered me. If I were as big as Roland, no one would have tried to push me around.

It took all my strength to wrap the saddle up in the quilts so it wouldn’t get scratched or damaged, and then lug it outside. The weight of it made my arms and lungs ache. I could feel myself wobble dangerously if I leaned too far in any direction. I didn’t want to imagine what Ulric would do to me if I dropped this saddle.

The knights who rode on dragons just about never came to pick up their saddles personally. Most of them came from rich, powerful noble families, and had plenty of servants to do those kinds of errands for them. So when I saw Ulric standing outside talking to a man in formal battle armor with a sweeping cape of royal blue brushing at his heels, I stopped dead in my tracks. The saddle weighed more than I did, and I almost dropped it in surprise.

It was a muggy, overcast day. The clouds were so low and thick you couldn’t see the mountains that hunched over our small city. Even so, the knight’s armor still managed to gleam like liquid silver. He had his helmet under one arm, the white-feathered crest on it tipped in black, and the king’s eagle engraved upon his breastplate.

They both turned to look at me as I stood there, my arms shaking under the weight of the saddle, staring at the dragonrider. Ulric scowled darkly, and stomped over to take it from me. He slung it over his shoulder like it weighed nothing at all, growling curses under his breath at me as he went to tie it down to the knight’s horse.

The knight, however, was still staring right at me. He gave me a strange look, narrowing his eyes some and tilting his head to the side slightly like he was sizing me up. It made me blush from head to toe, the tips of my pointed ears burning like torches under my long hair. This was a warrior who had probably fought against gray elves for years, and I knew what I looked like.

He curled a finger at me, calling me toward him. It made me cringe as I obeyed. I hedged toward him, my shoulders hunched up because I half-expected him to hit me just out of pure resentment for what I was. But he didn’t.

When I got close enough, he grabbed my chin in one of his gloved hands, cranking my head around so I had to look up at him. I was shaking all over, wondering if this was it for me. Maybe he’d crush my head like a grape in his hand. Or maybe he’d throttle me to death. Either way, I was pretty sure Ulric wouldn’t go out of his way to save me. He might have even thanked the knight afterwards for saving him the trouble.

“What’s your name, boy?” The knight asked me. His voice was deep, but not angry or resentful. He was turning my head this way and that, pulling back my hair to see my pointed ears, and looking me over like he was inspecting livestock.

“J-Jaevid.” I told him through clattering teeth.

He frowned, looking back into my eyes before he finally let me go. His own eyes seemed dead to me. Dead—like someone who had seen many years in battle and knew what it meant to kill without mercy. “How old are you?” he asked again.

“Fifteen, sir.” I took a few steps back away from him. If he came after me suddenly, at least I had some hope of outrunning him. I was small, but I was fast.

Ulric was finished tying the saddle down, and came over with a growl meant to shoo me away. I took the hint and retreated back into the workshop, up to my loftroom where I had a wooden cot piled with old, holey quilts. I went to the small window along the far wall. It was a good place peek at them through the cracks in the boards that had been nailed over it. I could hear them talking, and it made my heart jump into my throat.

“You didn’t tell me you had a halfbreed son,” the knight chuckled, like it was a bad joke. “Looks just like a half-starved, miniature version of you, except for the ears.”

Ulric just shook his head and kept growling rumbling words, glaring at the ground. “Serah wants him gone.” I heard him say.

“Can’t blame her for that.” The knight seemed to sympathize. “You thinking of taking him on as an apprentice?”

Ulric just snorted like it was a ridiculous idea.

“Ah, my mistake then. I figured since your older boy had chosen to join the infantry you’d pass your skill set onto someone else in your family. I doubt your girls would be interested.” The knight rambled on, beginning to stroll back to where his horse was waiting. The new saddle was bundled up and ready for transport. “A shame he’s such a small, sickly-looking thing.”

That stung me. Yes, I was small for my age. But I hadn’t thought I looked sickly. It made me angry at myself, and at my inability to grow even a few inches taller. What a difference even two inches and a few pounds of muscle would have made.

“Where’s his dragon?” A whispering voice suddenly asked from right beside me.

It scared me out of my wits, making me scramble away in surprise. I hadn’t heard anyone approach, and was half afraid it was one of my sisters. But it wasn’t.

Katalina Crookin was probably the only friend I had in the world. Her father was a very good blacksmith who worked with Ulric sometimes, helping him craft unique pieces that required a more skilled metalworker. They only lived about a mile away, so Katty and I had found each other inevitably. She was small and skinny, like I was, with a head full of wild gold curls. She had big dark blue eyes, and just about every inch of her face was covered in freckles. The other kids in town teased her and called her ugly. I knew it must have hurt her feelings, but she never let it show. And when the other kids would come after me, trying to cut my hair or throw rocks at me, she was always there to defend me . . . and no one could throw a rock harder or more accurately than Katty. She had blacksmith’s hands.

I shook my head at her, moving back to the window to peek outside again. The knight was getting on his horse already, dropping a purse of coins into Ulric’s hand before he rode out of sight.

“I don’t know. I don’t think he brought it,” I whispered back. Neither of us had ever seen a dragon before.

Katty puffed a sigh of disappointment while shaking her head. It made her gold curls swish back and forth. “I saw him coming up the road. I knew he had to be a dragonrider. Normal soldiers don’t wear armor like that,” she told me. “Can you come over today?”

I didn’t know. Normally, I could’ve easily slipped away to visit the Crookins without Ulric or Serah even noticing I was gone because usually, they didn’t care where I was. But Ulric had actually asked me to do something for him today. Not to mention, he and the knight had been discussing my future—or lack thereof. I wasn’t so sure I could get away with leaving without getting caught.

Katty was watching me waffle between my desire to go to her house, and the inevitable beating I would get if Ulric ever caught me over there. She smiled. “Momma’s making sweetbread,” she baited me. “With wild honey.”

That decided it for me. I grinned back at her, nodding because we both knew what goodies were sure to go along with sweetbread. Thoughts of whipped butter with cinnamon and sugar, and warm milk with a hint of honey, were already swimming happily through my brain as we climbed down from my loftroom. We darted out the back of Ulric’s shop before anyone noticed, and took the narrow footpath we’d made ourselves through the prickly briars. It was our secret path, so no one would see us.

The Crookin’s house was not as big as ours, but it felt more like a home instead of the prison I lived in. Smoke came out of the chimney in the house, and out of the stack for the bellows in Mr. Crookin’s forge. Mr. Crookin didn’t really like me. That’s not to say he hated me as much as Serah did, but he didn’t like me coming around his house too often. He hadn’t minded it so much when I was younger, but now that I was fifteen, I could tell he was on the verge of telling me not to come back anymore. He didn’t talk much, and he had a face that was mostly hidden behind a thick, wiry beard. He wore his long black smithing apron every day, and his face and arms were almost always smeared with soot.

Mrs. Crookin, on the other hand, was one of the few people who didn’t make me feel unwanted. She smiled at me when we came inside, wiping her hands on her apron before she pulled me in immediately to kiss my forehead and ruffle my hair. She always hugged me until I couldn’t breathe, and asked me if I was getting enough to eat.

“What a good boy,” she said, patting my cheeks until it stung a little. “But still so skinny. Doesn’t Serah feed you at all? Sit down, Jae. I’m making your favorite.”

Katty plopped down in a chair across from me at their kitchen table, grinning as she slid a plate and spoon in my direction. “There was a dragonrider at his house today, momma.” Her eyes were still sparkling with excitement about it.

“Yeah, but he didn’t bring his dragon.” I added, sighing and twirling the spoon through my fingers. Mrs. Crookin brought over a platter of steaming hot sweetbread, fresh out of the oven. The smell made me dizzy with hunger, and it was hard to sit and wait while she put out jams, that delicious cinnamon butter, and mugs of warm milk for us on the table. “Not surprising, is it dear? It’s nearly springtime.” I knew what she meant. Every spring, Ulric packed up his tools and materials onto a wagon, and left for Blybrig Academy. The new riders started their training just as the weather was getting hot, and Ulric had to take molds and build brand new saddles for them. It was when he made most of his money, but it also meant that he’d be gone for a while. He was always completely exhausted when he came back. In a month, the snows would melt in the Stonegap Pass, and Ulric would start packing his tools again. If any other knights wanted a saddle from him, they’d have to get it before he left or wait until after spring. “I wish papa would let me go with him,” Katty whined while she was smearing a spoonful of jam onto a large piece of bread. “It’s not fair. Other apprentices get to go.”

“Soon, dear.” Mrs. Crookin smiled fondly at her daughter. They had the same gold colored hair, but Mrs. Crookin’s was flecked with silver. She was a much older woman than my stepmother.

Katty was eager to go to Blybrig, not that I could blame her. She wanted to see dragons just like I did. Her father had been teaching her his craft for a long time, and she was already strong enough to do most of the little tedious jobs for him, even if she was small and fragile looking. Mr. Crookin went to Blybrig for spring training, just like Ulric. But he went to make armor, not saddles.

“You’ll have to tell me what they look like,” I told her. I wasn’t able to keep myself from sounding sad about it. When she starting working with her father full time, I wasn’t sure where that would leave me. I’d be on the brink of adulthood with no idea where I should go, or what I should do. I wouldn’t have a skill to sell, or even a place to live.

Katty smiled at me hopefully from across the table, leaning forward and grabbing my hand at the wrist. “You’ll see them, too, Jae. Maybe papa would let you be his apprentice with me.”

Mrs. Crookin smiled at us, but I could still see it in her eyes; she didn’t think her husband would ever allow that. They were all right with me coming to visit, and with me being friends with their daughter, but they had to draw the line somewhere. I was still a halfbreed.

I didn’t let Katty see how that hurt me. It wasn’t their fault, really. And it wasn’t my place to try to weasel my way into their family business like that. “Nah.” I shrugged and gave her as confident a grin as I could muster. “I’m going to the coast. I want to work on one of the ships going out of the harbor. I’ll get to see the ocean, and eat fish every night.”

Katty looked deflated. I guess she’d wanted us to work together. Or, she’d at least hoped I would want the same thing as her. “You’ll smell like a fish, after all that,” she grumbled, wrinkling her nose.

We ate until there were only a few scraps of the bread left, and Mrs. Crookin wrapped those up for me to take with me. It was dark outside when I started for home. Katty always walked with me as far as the property line, and she had a blanket wrapped around her so that only her face and some of her curls peeked out.

“Jae,” she started. I could tell by the tone of her voice she was about to ask me something serious. “Do you really want to go to the coast?”

I’ve never been a very good liar. When it came to Katty, well, she could smell deception on me like a hound. I couldn’t lie to her if I wanted to. I quirked my mouth while I thought about the ocean, about ships, and about eating fish.

“Not really,” I confessed.

“We’d never see each other if you left,” she reached a hand out from under her blanket to grasp mine, squeezing my fingers. “After papa retires and I take over the business, I’ll make you an apprentice myself. Then we can work together and no one will be able to say anything about it.”

I tried to smile for her. I tried to show her some optimism. But we’d be in our twenties before her father let her take on any authority in his smithing business, and even then, I wasn’t sure blacksmithing was my calling. It required physical strength, which I clearly didn’t have.

“Thanks, Katty.” I squeezed her hand back.

We talked about dragons and knights all the way to the property line. Then I gave her a hug, and she kissed my cheek like her mom did, and we parted ways. I walked a few feet into the dark before I stopped and looked back, watching her disappear into the gloom and thorny shrubs. She was the best friend I had—my only friend really, and sooner or later, she’d have to leave me behind. She’d outgrow me. She’d get tired of having to stick up for me all the time.

With the bundle of leftover bread still under my arm, I walked back to my room in the loft. Ulric’s shop was quiet and dark, like it always was once he’d finished for the day. He was probably already inside, having dinner with his real family, and talking about how soon he could get rid of me. Roland was probably just sitting there at the table, glaring down into his plate without a word. The twins were probably throwing food at each other like savages. I didn’t expect any of them to even notice I was gone.

But I was wrong.

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

NicoleConwayPhoto

Nicole is the author of the children’s fantasy series, THE DRAGONRIDER CHRONICLES, about a young boy’s journey into manhood as he trains to become a dragonrider. She has completed the first two books in the series, and is now working on the third and final book.

Originally from a small town in North Alabama, Nicole moves frequently due to her husband’s career as a pilot for the United States Air Force. She received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Classics from Auburn University, and will soon attend graduate school.

She has previously worked as a freelance and graphic artist for promotional companies, but has now embraced writing as a full-time occupation.

Nicole enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves watching children’s movies and collecting books. She lives at home with her husband, two cats, and dog.

 

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway

Complete the Rafflecopter for your chance to win!

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COMING SOON!

 

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What kind of power is lurking inside him?

After a year of training to become a dragonrider, Jaevid Broadfeather has been sent home to rest during a three-month interlude. But when he returns to find the king drake has chosen Beckah Derrick as his new rider, Jaevid realizes something big is about to happen. Every fiber of his being is pushed to the breaking point as Jaevid battles through his avian year, preparing for the final graduation test of the battle scenario. But there is more standing in his way than a few pushups and fancy sword moves.

Jaevid must face a new fear as he is tormented by a gruesome nightmare of a mysterious gray elf warrior murdering the royal family of Maldobar. It seems obvious to him that this is some kind of message about how the war started long ago—until Felix assures him the king is very much alive. With his strange powers growing stronger by the day, and that violent dream replaying in his mind every night, Jaevid no longer wonders if he will pass his avian year or not . . . he wonders if he will even survive it.

The truth will soon be set loose.

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Three #MeyerLemon seeds sitting in a pot…

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Back in May, I posted about my attempt to grow three Meyer Lemon trees. You can read it here.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Meyer Lemons, they are absolutely the most phenomenal, tasty lemons EVER!  While no one knows the exact parentage of a Meyer Lemon, they are believed to be a cross between a Eureka or Lisbon Lemon and possibly a Mandarin Orange. They have a sweeter, more floral taste than a true lemon, and sometimes have a slightly orange tint.  Their skins are very thin and less acidic than other lemons.  They are naturally shrub-like, which make them ideal for patio or indoor plants.

Because I live in Florida, they love the abundance of sunshine, however, they don’t like wind or having their roots saturated, so I have to make sure I protect them from torrential Florida downpours, storms and hurricanes.  Also, when first starting out, they like having small pots to protect their roots.  they kind of freak out if there is too much room for their ‘feet’ to wander.

When I first planted my seedlings, I put them in little red plastic cups, which suited them just fine, until today.  A few minutes ago, I upgraded them to a junior apartment.  Look how much they’ve grown from when I planted them May 14 to today.

 

Meyer lemon seedlings planted 5-14-14

meyer lemon trees 6-7-2014

Meyer lemon trees 6-7-2014

Meyer lemon trees 8-17-14

Meyer lemon trees 8-17-14

The one in the front found a new forever home with my neighbor across the street, so now I’m down to two, but that’s okay.  I’m so proud of my little trees. I’ll post every now and then with their progress.  I know it will be a while before they ever produce any fruit.  I’m just happy I’ve kept them alive this long and they are growing so big and strong.

Give a big woot woot for the hearty Meyer Lemon trees!

12 Authors, 12 Stories, One Book

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In September, 2014, Hypothetical Press, will release their first anthology, READING GLASSES – Stories Through an Unpredictable Lens.

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It is a new collection of speculative short fiction by Bruce CapoferriJohn Farquhar, Gregg Feistman, Christine L. Hardy, J. Keller FordK.A. MagrowskiRay RebmannRandy RibayJ.J. Steinfeld, Rich Voza, Jessica A. Walsh. and Neal Wooten.

Well-known author, blogger and member of the South Jersey Writer’s Group, Marie Gilbert, has already conducted some interviews with the authors that you can read here.

If you look really hard in that long list of authors, you’ll find moi.  Yep, my short story, THE PASSING OF MILLIE HUDSON, will appear in this anthology, and I couldn’t be happier. Aaaaannnd, since I’m jobless at the moment, and have nothing better to do with my time than write and do stuff related to writing, I made a simple freebie book trailer for Millie Hudson over at Animoto.  Here’s a looksie:

As soon as the anthology goes live on Goodreads, I’ll let you all know.  In the meantime, feel free to click around Hypothetical Press’ website, and connect with them on Twitter and Facebook.

The Declaration by Gemma Malley


 I originally posted this review on December 11, 2011 but for some reason, it is not displaying  – so, I’m reposting.

If the chance to live forever came with an ugly price, would you opt in or out?

This is the question asked in Gemma Malley’s dystopian novel, The Declaration.

My son brought this novel home from school.  Apparently, this novel has been out since 2007 so I apologize if I’m a bit behind the times. Since I’m a huge dystopian fan, I thought I’d sit down and read it, see what my kid is reading.

From the cover:

In the Year 2148, it is illegal to be young. Children are all but extinct. The world is a better place. Longevity drugs are a fountain of youth. Sign the Declaration, agree not to have children, and you too can live forever. Refuse, and you will live as an outcast. For the children born outside the law, it only gets worse – Surplus status.

Not everyone thinks Longevity is a good thing, but you’d better be clear what side you’re on. Surplus Anna is about to find out what happens when you can’t decide whether you should cheat the law or cheat death.

If the chance to live forever came with an ugly price, would you opt in or out?

There is much in this book that made me think.  It is implied that the earth’s resources are depleted.  Energy is regulated.  Old people are pitted against young, and in the end, it was decided the old have more rights to live.  But at what costs?  Children are considered evil marks upon the world.  Only one child is allowed per family.  Any others are to be killed or taken on as Surpluses.  Surpluses have no mind, opinion, thoughts.  They are beaten into subservience, ridiculed, belittled.

I found the plot to be well-structured and the concept engaging. I also think the author did a fair job at tackling serious issues about death, the natural progression of life, the role science plays in our future and our responsibilities to ourselves, our young and our old.

The novel started out well for me, throwing me into Anna Covey’s world where death is in the past.  Old people now have Longevity, and all children are an abomination. Drugs have been developed to stop the onset of ageing and there is no room left for children.

Anna is a Surplus, and according to the Authorities,  should never have been born at all. Like all Surpluses, Anna lives locked away in Grange Hall, where Surpluses are forced to make amends for their parents’ ‘sins’ for having conceived and given birth to them at all.  And they are punished severly.  Having known nothing else, Anna accepts her fate, and lives a life inside four walls, away from sunlight, laughter, and freedom.  Until the day Peter, a new surplus who’s lived on the Outside for sixteen years, arrives with news her parents love her, are desperate to find her and she’s not a Surplus after all. Does she trust Peter or does she trust what she’s been taught for fifteen years?

I think the author does a good job with tackling the issues facing our society these days:  a society where beauty and youth is everything.  A world where ailments can be remedied with some chemical cure, in spite of the three thousand side-effects these drugs carry.  A world that is being over-populated because the natural phases are life are not allowed to take place.  She also tackles to some respect society’s fear of teenagers and their culture. Where I think it falls short is in the writing. So much of it is a ‘tell’ story and not a ‘show’ story and I think it would have worked better if it were written completely in first person. As it is, parts are in first person, the rest in third.  I think this aspect of the author’s writing kept the characters from living and breathing on the pages.  Also, I felt some scenes could have unfolded better. The suspense factor was lacking. I felt there was a lot of melodrama going on by the end of the book and it wasn’t as chilling as I would have liked to have seen.

With that said, I still think fans of The Handmaid’s Tale would like this storyline. Over all, it is a good story and I would give it 3 ½ stars out of 5. I will definitely read the continuation, The Resistance, to see how the story ends.

BRANDED (a sinners series) – Review

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Ok, so I just finished this Y.A. book based on its amazing back cover copy:

Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society.

To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.

Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home.

Constant darkness.

Brutal and savage violence.

Excruciating pain.

Every day is a fight for survival.

But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole.

I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

***

my review1

I can’t help it.  I love dystopians and this one had my interest piqued.  Sadly to say, despite the gazillion 5 star reviews on Amazon, this story fell flat to me on many levels.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There were things I liked about the book, but overall, I felt it lacking.  I’ll try to explain.

The book opens with a killer scene.  Literally.  Well, it could have been if the guards didn’t break down the door to our main character, Lexi’s, apartment and make her haul butt down the fire escape.  This scene had me riveted to my seat.  I ran with her, my lungs hurt, my throat went dry, but when she’s captured and taken to “The Hole”, my reading journey thunked like a rock in a tin pail. Why?

Because from this point on, the story is filled with so many inconsistencies and plot holes, it lost its buoyancy with me and sank. I’ll try to explain.

There are two places that are focused on in this book:  High Society and The Hole.

Lexi lives in High Society, but we don’t know where this is. Is it a former New York with all its high-rise buildings? Who are her parents and how are they rich or influential enough to live there? We find out snippets later, but not enough to satisfy the gazillion questions swirling in my head.

The Hole is located miles away from High Society.  It is a prison for people who are guilty of one of the seven deadly sins. Apparently, there are those who are so pure, they would never be found guilty of committing a deadly sin.  Lexi isn’t one of them. She is given the blue brand around her neck for lust, but we never find out exactly what she did. It really irritated me to no end to get to the end of the book and never find out exactly what she was accused of and why. It’s implied. There are even fingers pointed at someone close to Lexi, but the truth is never revealed.  Irritating.  So irritating.

When Lexi finally reaches The Hole after hours of being on the road, there are others ‘checking in’ but where did they come from? Are there lots of prison trucks rolling in?  And how big is this prison if it houses all the captured sinners?  Is it a former huge city like Chicago turned prison camp? Who exactly is this Commander that runs the joint? We don’t know. What we do know is he has lots of guards that will do anything he wants. I do have to say there were a few intense scenes that take place within The Hole.  One of the worst was an execution scene that was quite graphic, but it was over with the snap of a finger and there were no lingering effects on Lexi.  It was like “Oh, that was bad,” and then she was off doing something else.  I found this unrealistic and jarring.

To make things worse for me, Lexi is given a love interest right off the bat when she arrives at The Hole.  His name is Cole and he’s a guard.  Now guards are forbidden to love sinners, so you can see where this predictable plot is going. Cole is a nice enough guy but his character is never really developed enough for me.  He seems so two-dimensional and we never learn anything about his past. In the beginning, he’s this hard-ass, this ‘bad boy’ we find in young adult novels (it is a draw, I have to admit), but then he turns into this love-sick puppy over Lexi and I’m not buying the story.  I mean, why does Lexi have this personal guard in the first place? None of the other prisoners have a personal guard to protect them, why her, and why is everyone so accepting of this? I asked this question even more as I got toward the end of the book. Cole just seemed too convenient of a character.  A catalyst to get Lexi from point A to point B.  I thought Cole’s Great Dane, Zeus, was more fleshed out as a character than Cole.  Ruff.  I know.

3/4 of the way through the book we meet Keegan, Lexi’s brother.  Talk about another ‘convenient’ character.  Keegan disappeared from High Society when Lexi was young, but she never knew where he went.  Lo and behold, he ends up in The Hole, but not in the way we expect.  And boy, let me tell you, he and Cole don’t get along, which was another big turn-off for me.  Ok, so I get Keegan is Lexi’s brother and under normal circumstances, I could understand the “big brother’ complex, but for crying out loud, he hasn’t seen his sister in years, and he’s going to start coming off as big, bad Leroy Brown the second he realizes Cole and Lexi are an item?  The relationship between Keegan and Cole is ridiculously childish, like two grown up bullies fighting over their corner of a sandbox. It was the same repetitive poke – poke back, “I’m going to hurt you” – “Not if I hurt you first” kind of bantering and there was no reason for it.  At least not one that is explained.  Keegan tells Lexi several times that Cole is not to be trusted but we never find out why because Keegan vanishes from Lexi’s life again before he can spill the beans.  Ah, yes, another piece of the puzzle that is never found.

And I haven’t even gotten to Lexi’s character.  For a heroine, I found her character lacking. She starts off as this strong, brave character, running from the guards. She puts up a hell of a fight, and then she turns into this whiny little brat.  I mean all-the-time whiny. When she wasn’t whiny, she was puking. When she wasn’t puking she was crying.  Geez, girl, you’re supposed to be the heroine! Where’s your backbone?  I mean, characters are supposed to grow as they progress through a book. Lexi, I feel, went backwards. Even when she tried to show strength, she failed.

As for her relationship with Cole, she claims she’s innocent and didn’t deserve getting branded, but she never tells Cole (or the reader) the truth about what happened. There are disturbing revelations about her dad that I found a bit creepy, but nothing was really ever explained.  On top of that, Lexi’s relationship with Cole has a little heat to it in the beginning, but then it fizzles and pops.  When they should have been a real team, a true love dynamo, the relationship fell flat. The fire burned out. I became totally uninterested in knowing what became of them as a couple, which is sad because YA books usually have this Happily Ever After or at least, a Happily for Now arc, but this one bombed for me. And good grief, some of the lines that rolled out of Cole’s mouth were so cheesy and gooey, I just rolled my eyes.  I think there were even a few times I said, “Oh my gosh, come on. You’ve got to be kidding me!”  It was if I was reading a middle grade book about two 12 year olds finding love for the first time. Her relationship with her brother was irritating and lacked maturity. There was a level of growth in Lexi during the scenes with Alyssa.  I wished that had continued throughout the book.  Again, Alyssa coming into Lexi’s life was a bit ‘convenient’.  Other than helping Lexi grow as a person, I didn’t see a reason why Alyssa was in the story, especially since I felt Lexi reverted back to her childish ways after Alyssa and Lexi split ways.  Over all, I found Lexi to be a hot mess and completely annoying.

The ending felt rushed to me and I felt some things were thrown in for unrealistic shock value.  I didn’t care for it.

There were also some inconsistent time element issues I had. One day, Lexi would be in pain. The next day she was fine. One minute she had bruises, the next minute they were gone. Lexi traveled by hours in the dark from High Society to The Hole, and as they traveled the air grew warmer, yet when she stepped from the transport vehicle, it was still dark and the air was cool. (how she could tell the air grew warmer while sitting inside a prison transport truck was confusing to me).  Over all, I felt like the authors dribbled crumbs along a path and enticed me enough to follow.  Sad thing is, I really thought I’d find a bag of goodies at the end, but all I got was a glass of milk and a crumbled sugar cookie. Sad to say, I will probably not read the next book in the series.

I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

I was given an ARC of Branded in exchange for an honest review.

Rukia: writing hindrance or muse?

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Today is release day for SHROUDED SOUL, the 3rd book in Clare Davidson’s Y.A. urban fantasy series, Hidden.

Shrouded Soul (Hidden: Book 3) is the penultimate book in the Hidden series. It will be available for Kindle and in paperback on Thursday 7th August.

“Davidson has done it again with Shrouded Soul! If you haven’t read her Hidden series, you are missing out.” Graham Austin-King

Shrouded Soul is an intense read.” J.L. Mbewe

From the back of the book:

Keeping secrets. Telling lies. Kim is protecting everyone. Isn’t she?

Kim’s secrets are pushing Sophie away, whilst AJ’s fears are damaging their fledgling relationship. Kim tries to reassure him, but she knows he should be worried. He should be running. She keeps telling herself they can all have a normal life, free from the influence of the Baneem—but it’s the biggest lie of all.

The illusion Kim is clinging to is shattered when AJ vanishes. But he isn’t the only one put in danger by the information Kim is hiding. How can she defend everyone from enemies who keep growing stronger?

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

To kick off Release Day, I asked Clare to take over my blog today and write about someone very dear to her – Rukia.

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Yep, this little sweetie.  Seeing as she was a puppy at the time Clare got her, I wanted to know if she found Rukia to be a help or a hindrance to her writing.  Please continue reading to see what she said.

***

Rukia: writing muse or hindrance?

Jenny asked me to write about the new addition in my life and how she helps (or hinders) my writing.

Meet Rukia, the Finnish Lapphund. Lappies are part of the spitz families of dog and were used to herd reindeer in Northern Finland.

Rukia IMG_8608

We’ve had Rukia since she was eight weeks old (she’s now 7 months). Right from the start she didn’t sleep very much. She’s always full of energy and loves attention.

So, the big question… is she a hindrance to my writing schedule or a muse?

Definitely a bit of both.

We start our day with a walk, which helps me clear my head and gives me time to think through story and character details. I can often work through a problematic scene during our walks. Besides, the fresh air and exercise is also good for my health (both physical and mental).

I try to write whilst Rukia is napping. As I said before, she doesn’t nap very much, so I have to grab the time while I can. Often, half way through a writing session, she’ll run into the sitting room with a ball and put it in my lap, tail wagging, giving me her characteristic lappy smile. It’s impossible not to take time out to play ball with her for a while.

Rukia 2014-07-22 13.32.07So, whilst Rukia can be distracting, she always puts a smile on my face.

Is she a muse? I’m honestly not sure. I guess if I ever write a dog into any of my books you’ll know the answer! What I do know is that Rukia is great company and she makes me happy. And a happy writer is a productive writer.

Do you have a pet who makes you happy? Tell Jenny and I about them. Share pictures if you can.

rukia 2014-07-25 12.55.52Thank you, Clare, for sharing Rukia with us.  She’s adorable. I’d never get any writing done with her around because I’d want to snuggle with her all the time.

Want to learn more about Clare and her books?

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About the author:

Clare Davidson is a character driven fantasy writer, teacher and mother, from the UK. Clare was born in Northampton and lived in Malaysia for four and a half years as a child, before returning to the UK to settle in Leeds with her family. Whilst attending Lancaster University, Clare met her future husband. They now share their lives with their young daughter, their cats and Rukia the Finnish Lapphund.

 

Connect with Clare:

Website: http://www.claredavidson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClareMDavidson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClareMDavidson

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/ClareDavidson

Mailing List: http://eepurl.com/zpjGf

Where to purchase Shrouded Soul:

Kindle:
Paperback:

Other books by Clare:

Book 1 in the “Hidden” series

Book 2 in the “Hidden” series

 

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