Feyre, Rhysand, Lucien, oh my! – my thoughts on A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN


****Spoiler Alert! ****

There may be some spoilers in this review. Please read at your own discretion

I have really mixed feelings on this book, especially since I’ve been waiting on pins and needles since I finished A COURT OF MIST AND FURY. Now THAT book I loved (minus the gratuitous sex scenes).

Don’t get me wrong. I liked this book, but I felt the pacing was off and it was too long. There were some exciting scenes that got me turning the pages, but seeing as it took me about 4 days to read this…

It should have never taken me that long to read this book. ACOMAF was completed in a day and I was left with my mouth open and my heart aching and “No. no no!!” spewing from my lips. I HAD to have the next book. It just couldn’t end that way.

And now that I’ve read ACOWAR…yeah, I could have waited.

I think the book could have used a bit more editing. I felt that some scenes went on far too long and others fizzled before they ever started. I got really annoyed with Rhysand and Feyre. I mean, no one has that perfect of a relationship. There were moments when there should have been angry emotions, where they really should have been totally pissed off with each other, and then it just went poof as if showing true emotion as a couple is a no-no. And let’s not get me into talking about the side characters: Elain, Nesta, Mor. I think Maas underused them. I really wanted to learn more about what happened to Nesta and Elain in the Cauldron, but it was glossed over, with minor mentions here and there. It was so ‘telling’, not ‘showing’, which really irked me. Here was this huge opportunity to share the horrors of what happened to Feyre’s sisters, and it was barely mentioned. And then we learn that Elain and Lucien are connected as mates. (actually, we learn that at the end of ACOMAF, but it’s accented more here.) But Maas never does anything with that. It felt so ho-hum. And then Lucien takes off and he’s gone 1/2 of the way through the book and when we do see him towards the end, it’s brief, glossed over and there is no closure or anything with Elain and him. Does she take off Greyson’s ring? Does she fall for Lucien? Is Lucien really going back to the Spring Court with Tamlin? After everything, he’s just going to leave Elain? He’s mated to her. Up until this part, the ‘mated’ stuff in this series is serious. You can’t just turn it off, and yet, with these two? There is no heat. There’s no trying. This “mated” thing between them is unresolved and bland and monotone. There’s not heat. There’s no try on Lucien’s part. It really irked me. I’d rather have seen Lucien try and Elain shove off his advances. Maybe even use that underdeveloped magic she gained while in the Cauldron to push him away – or bring him closer.

And what’s with Nesta and Cassian? We all know she’s hot for him, but again, it seemed like Maas was too focused on Feyre and Rhysand that she forgot to go all ninja on Nesta and Cassian. Again, an underdeveloped relationship that should have been a case of fireworks going off, but instead, it ended in a dud.

We never do really find out what the creature was under the library. Well, we kind of do, but it’s not scary, at least not what we were lead to believe.

And how does Feyre just become ‘friends’ with all these bad guys. It’s like she just walks in a room and they all will do anything for her. The Attor, the creature in the library, the Bonecarver, they’re just so willing to help her. There is no intensity, no danger. Nothing she has to really work for. I really wanted to see and feel Hybern’s goons coming into the library.  I wanted to see Feyre battle them on her own, but noooo, she was rescued once more, proving she’s not the badass she wants people to think she is.

Even though I was disappointed in this ‘final’ book in the series, it was still a decent read. I also found out at the end that there will be another book coming. I’m not waiting on the edge of my seat.  I hope this new book goes into Lucien’s relationship with Elain, Tamlin and his mother.  I want there to be explorations and resolutions with Nesta, Elain, Cassian and the whole Court of Dreams. I want Tamlin to heal and find peace. I want there to be some sort of ‘forgiveness’ between him and Lucien. I want Lucien and Elain to find their paths to one another. And I want Mor to reveal more of her secret. Yeah, that was another unexplored part that left me hanging.

I give it 4 stars – barely – mainly for the intense scenes that had me turning pages like my fingers were on fire.

This book was bought and given to me as a gift by a friend.  Thank you, TR!!  You’re the best!!

THE TICK TOCK MAN – Release Day Celebration and Giveaway!


I can’t tell you guys how excited I am for this author!!  Such a great Middle-Grade read. Kids are going to eat this one up, and I’m so happy to be a part of The Tick Tock Man’s birthday!! And don’t you just love that cover!!! Gaahh!! so excited!!

 

 

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for

The Tick Tock Man by R.M. Clark,

presented by Tantrum Books / Month9Books!

Grab your copy today!

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

 

Happy Book Birthday, R.M. Clark!

 

 

When the clocks in town stop, thirteen-year-old CJ discovers an unusual “clock world” where most of the citizens are clock parts, tasked with keeping the big clocks running. But soon the seemingly peaceful world is divided between warring factions with CJ instructed to find the only person who can help: the elusive Tick Tock Man.

With the aid of Fuzee, a partly-human girl, he battles gear-headed extremists and razor-sharp pendulums in order to restore order before this world of chimes, springs, and clock people dissolves into a massive time warp, taking CJ’s quiet New England town with it.

The Tick Tock Man by R.M. Clark
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books/Tantrum Books

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

Excerpt 1:

Now it was nine o’clock. I sat up and grabbed the clock with every intention of tossing it against the back wall. What a pleasure it would have been to see it smash into a million pieces. I win!

But, this clock was a birthday present from Uncle Artie. He’d said it was “a special clock for a special kid.” I didn’t like being called “special” because that had a different meaning at school. But it was a cool clock.

Until now. I mean, what kind of noise was that? Certainly not the alarm sound I was used to.

Excerpt 2:

The clock on the radio displayed 4:05. I compared it to my watch, which I had put back on before sitting at the head of the table. The time was frozen at two o’clock. How strange. My watch always worked perfectly. When Uncle Artie gave it to me, he said it was a one-of-a-kind watch that would never need winding. I decided it was best not to tell anyone.

We drove through what we called downtown Hambleton, and only a few people were on the road. It was Thanksgiving, so this was not too surprising. In fact, it was one of the reasons we went for a drive on major holidays. Most people were home, and we usually had the roads to ourselves. Dad and Grandpa liked it that way.

Excerpt 3:

The next thing I felt was a blast of cold air as everything went dark. I found myself floating just above the ground and shrinking by the second. I was pressed against the glass cover of the Hoffhalder. Then, in an instant, I was inside the clock, right next to the gears and chimes and other clock parts. The clock face absorbed mine, and I couldn’t feel my nose or ears. After a few seconds, my vision finally adjusted enough for me to see out into the dining room.

Excerpt 4:

I went to the spare bedroom and grabbed the box for Uncle Artie’s clocks. I replaced them one by one, starting with the crescent moon clock. After the German village cuckoo clock made its way into the box, I noticed something extra strange. All Uncle Artie’s clocks were stuck at two o’clock. How come no one else noticed this? That question troubled me as I put the box of clocks in its resting place. It was as if those clocks had something to say but couldn’t say it.

When I came back down I gave the Hoffhalder another hard look, this time from the other side of the room. As much as I tried to convince myself this was just a clock, I knew that wasn’t the case. It spoke to me, although I couldn’t completely understand it.

Things were going from strange to downright weird.

 

R.M. Clark is a computer scientist for the Dept. of Navy by day and children’s book writer by night. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Gotta Have $.99 ebook deals!- #BlackFriday


Guys, peeps, book fiends, book nerds. Yeah. You.  Month9Books and Tantrum book has all their ebooks for $.99 through the end of Black Friday! This includes my book …

IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING eBook Cover 2700x1800

Yep, this awesome, YA epic fantasy is up for grabs for $.99!! You can’t beat that price!  It’s also been getting super reviews, so why not give it a whirl?? You can pick up at any of these fine retailers:

    

 

Also up for grabs for $.99 (among many, many more):

 

        

           

Grab a copy or two today!!!  Thank you so much for your support.  I love you guys!!! 🙂

 

#ThrowbackThursday – FIRE IN THE WOODS


Go back to where it all began! FIRE IN THE WOODS by @JenniferMEaton http://amzn.to/1RjV3tm #M9BThrowbackThursday #yalit #scifi

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This is one of the best YA #scifi #adventures I’ve ever read. It’s funny, it’s fast-paced, there’s a great YA hero and heroine, plenty of bad guys. If you love sweet, romantic stories with high-intensity action, please check this one out.   And don’t forget to check out its sequel, ASHES IN THE SKY, and the soon-to-be-released 3rd book in the series, EMBERS IN THE SEA!!

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Cover Reveal: Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey Griffin with Giveaway


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Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey Griffin

presented by Entangled Teen!

Be on the lookout for this upcoming title,
and be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!

Life-Action Role Playing gamers, this one’s for you!

Author, Casey Griffin’s thoughts on the cover:

Talk about punch! The colors immediately grab my eye and the font is so fun and unruly. I feel like the combination of those two things makes the cover of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess striking. With the simple yet powerful design, I think it will scream out from the bookshelf “pick me!” Or maybe that’s just because I love pink. And glitter? What’s not to love? I’m so happy with the results.

 

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At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…

Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.

Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.

Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.

The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

add to goodreads

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess
by Casey Griffin
Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: Contemporary, YA

Amazon.com | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Amazon.UK | Amazon.ca | Indies

About-the-Author2

casey-griffin

 

Casey Griffin can often be found at comic conventions on her days off from her day job, driving 400 ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher, and photographer, books are her true passion. Casey is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel finalist, and is currently busy writing every moment she can.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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THE EXTREMELY EPIC VIKING TALE OF YONDERSAAY – A Review


the-extremely-epic-viking-tale-of-yondersaay-by-aoife-lennon-ritchie-cover

Published October 11, 2016 by Tantrum Books (Month9Books, LLC.)

ISBN:  1942664524 (ISBN13: 9781942664529)

Synopsis:

This winter, siblings Ruairi and Dani Miller visit their ancestral homeland: the legendary Viking island of Yondersaay. Even with Granny Miller’s storytelling to pass the time, the pair manage to find trouble. In less than twenty-four hours of their arrival, Ruairi is mistaken for the lost Boy King of Denmark, kidnapped by Vikings, and scheduled to be sacrificed at sundown. Granny isn’t very pleased.

But when everyone except them goes Viking, the three turn to Granny’s epic tales of the legends of Yondersaay, The Gifts of Odin, and King Dudo the Mightily Impressive for clues. But not all stories end happily, and Ruari, Dani, and Granny will have to write their own happy ending.

The Princess Bride meets Vikings in this enchanted tale of high adventure, buried treasure, villainous treachery, violent ends, and – of course – true love. Aoife Lennon-Ritchie’s debut middle-grade novel, THE EXTREMELY EPIC VIKING TALE OF YONDERSAAY, is a humorous and heartwarming story for readers ages 9+.

MY REVIEW

I enjoy Middle-Grade books. I think they’re fun, exciting, and I really like it when I find an author who writes well for the age group.

As for THE EXTREMELY EPIC VIKING TALE OF YONDERSAAY, I really, really wanted to get into this one. I mean, who doesn’t love a great Viking tale, but try as I might, this one fell short to me.

The beginning of the book was cute, with a funny scene involving our two main characters and a teacher and a few birds. I got a good laugh and was prepared for an entertaining adventure. Unfortunately, it didn’t come. What could have been wildly entertaining with larger than life imagery turned into a narrative, with Granny telling this epic Viking tale to two children as they make their very long journey to Yondersaay. I had to start the story several times as the writing felt jarring to me. It seemed Granny’s story went on for hours and hours and hours, and there was no action. It was simply a narrator telling a story. I think it would have been much better if this book had been divided into 3 parts. Part one could have been the actual story that Granny narrates. I think that would have been much more exciting and interesting way to learn about how these characters would fit into the rest of the book. I would have grown to know them and love/hate them first hand. Part 2 could have picked up with the present day and the kids and Granny and mom and dad and their trip to Yondersaay.  The 3rd part would have been the ending with everyone on Christmas day. As it is, I never really gravitated to any character and the plot moved incredibly slow to me.

There were moments of brilliance and clarity, and at times I saw greatness in the writing. But the kids’ names were difficult to pronounce and I found myself wondering if young children would stumble over them. As for the plot, it took a long time to develop one, at least five chapters, maybe more.  Things started to move along once the family arrived on Yondersaay, but that urge, that desire that I HAD to keep turning the page never came.

I loved the weaving of the tales of Odin. Some of the imagery was spectacular. The story itself wasn’t bad; it just didn’t pull me in and engage me like I’d hoped. I also found the ending a bit sudden and anti-climatic, though the last paragraph of the book was written beautifully and I loved the image. It actually gave me goosebumps.

I’m sure there will be kids out there who will love this story, so don’t let this review deter you from getting a copy and reading for yourself. It really was an okay tale. It simply wasn’t what I’d hoped for or expected.

I’m giving the book 3 dragons out of 5.

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I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Release Day Giveaway! The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay


Release Day Giveaway! The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay by Aoife Lennon-Ritche @chapterxchapter @aoifelennon @tantrumbooks

epicvikingtournew

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for

The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay
by Aoife Lennon-Ritche

presented by Tantrum Books!

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

Happy Book Birthday, Aoife!

 

the-extremely-epic-viking-tale-of-yondersaay-by-aoife-lennon-ritchie-cover

 

This winter, siblings Ruairi and Dani Miller visit their ancestral homeland: the legendary Viking island of Yondersaay. Even with Granny Miller’s storytelling to pass the time, the pair manage to find trouble. In less than twenty-four hours of their arrival, Ruairi is mistaken for the lost Boy King of Denmark, kidnapped by Vikings, and scheduled to be sacrificed at sundown. Granny isn’t very pleased.

But when everyone except them goes Viking, the three turn to Granny’s epic tales of the legends of Yondersaay, The Gifts of Odin, and King Dudo the Mightily Impressive for clues. But not all stories end happily, and Ruari, Dani, and Granny will have to write their own happy ending.

The Princess Bride meets Vikings in this enchanted tale of high adventure, buried treasure, villainous treachery, violent ends, and – of course – true love. Aoife Lennon-Ritchie’s debut middle grade novel, THE EXTREMELY EPIC VIKING TALE OF YONDERSAAY, is a humorous and heartwarming story for readers ages 9+.

add to goodreads

The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay
by Aoife Lennon-Ritchie
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Tantrum Books

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

 

excerpt

 

The Little Secret

Granny had to shout now because of the noise of the wind on the gangplank of the ferry she, Dani, Ruairi, and Mum were boarding. Granny was eating the steaming hot pie Mum had gotten for her in a sailor bar in the port. They huddled close together and shuffled up the gangplank in their winter clothes.

“About three weeks into the voyage,” Granny bellowed, “a few days after the warriors started wondering why they hadn’t found land yet, dusk fell on a clear, calm ocean. The night was full of light from the crystalline moon, and Brother Brian turned a little in his position in the prow of the lead longship and made a long slow nod of the head toward King Dudo, closing his eyes as his head reached its lowest position. It was a very cool move. Brother Brian had been practicing it in his head for weeks. He waited for King Dudo to take his seat beside him.

“‘We are close,” Brian said to Dudo and looked to the stars, then back down at the books and scrolls and charts laid all about him and back up to the stars again. “‘All my information, all my years of training, and all my expertise tell me we are very close.’

“The boat glided quietly through the water. Most of the Vikings were sleeping. Not so much as a seabird disturbed the stillness of the night. The monk and the king looked hopefully all around; it felt to them that they could see for miles. If the island was there, they would see it.

“They looked and looked. An hour passed, two hours passed, then three. But no land came into view. All of a sudden, King Dudo swung his head around to the left. ‘Shh!’ he hissed. Brother Brian swivelled his gaze around and looked hard, but he couldn’t see anything. ‘It sounded like—’ King Dudo said, stopping short.
“‘Like what, my lord?’ Brian asked.

“‘Oh, nothing, it’s ridiculous … but for a minute there, I thought I heard children laughing.’ Brother Brian gasped, clutched his chest, and went pale.

“‘It’s nothing,’ King Dudo continued. ‘The ocean is playing tricks on my mind.’ Dudo’s shoulders sagged, and he let out a big sigh. ‘This is ridiculous! What am I thinking? A magical island in the middle of the ocean … Enough. Time to let it go. Let’s get back on track and deliver my men to land.’

About-the-Author2

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Irish actor and writer Aoife Lennon-Ritchie studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, the Universita di Catania in Italy, University College Dublin in Ireland, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Aoife holds diplomas, degrees and a Masters in the multiple fields of business and information technology, English and classic literature, theatre and creative writing; she looks forward to doing her PhD in Film and Media. Always searching for new adventures, Aoife has lived in the UK, France, Greece, Italy, and several US cities, including Chicago, New York and Pittsburgh. She speaks three (and a half) languages. Although she was once an investment banker, she much prefers acting, fencing, writing, and being a mum. She currently lives in Cape Town with her handsome husband and two small children.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

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Let the YA Scavenger Hunt Begin!


FALL 2016 #YASH has begun! And you’re hunting with Team Blue!!

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What is #YASH?  It’s a bi-annual event first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors … and a chance to win some awesome books and other prizes! This Fall, there are 80 authors divided into six teams. I’m on Team Blue. Each author on each team has agreed to give away at least one book to the grand prize winner. As a scavenger hunter, you can hunt on as many teams as you want, but you’ll need to play fast. This contest is only open October 4-9, 2016. When you visit each author’s site, make sure you look for other chances to win extra prizes as a lot of authors have giveaways going on separately that you don’t want to miss (I have one going on, so make sure you check it out!)

What exactly are you hunting for?  A number.  Each author on the team will have a special number embedded in their post. Add up the number clues for your team, head over to the Rafflecopter giveaway that matches the team color, and enter the number. That’s it. As you read my post, you will see I’ve mentioned the number a few times (just in case you missed it). While I mention it several times, you will only use it once. If you win the grand prize for the team, you’ll get a book from each of the authors on the team.  Only entries with the correct number will qualify to win.

Rules: the contest is open internationally. Prizes must be claimed within 48 hours or the prize will be re-drawn. You must be 16 years or older, or have the permission of a guardian to enter. Duplicate entries will be deleted. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 9, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. You must enter to win before then. Good luck and happy hunting! Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

I’m super excited to be hosting the awesome Austin Aslan, author of THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD and THE GIRL AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD.

Bio

Austin Aslan has been an EMT, a community organizer, a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, and he once ran a Congressional campaign in Oregon. He was inspired to write his debut novel, The Islands at the End of the World, while living on the Big Island of Hawaii. He earned a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. His research on rare Hawaiian plants located on the high slopes of Mauna Loa won him a pair of destroyed hiking boots, a tattered rain jacket, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He lives outside Tucson, Arizona, deep in the Sonoran Desert, where he pets scorpions and hugs saguaro cacti with his high-school-sweetheart wife and their two young children. Austin is pursuing a PhD in geography at the University of Arizona and thinking up new stories while conducting ecosystem resilience research atop the Peruvian Andes.

As a side note, rumor has it that Austin can juggle 4 bowling balls at one time while balancing 4 chickens on his head. I haven’t actually seen him do it, but it is the rumor. You can find out more about Austin at his website.

 And now on to the EXCLUSIVE CONTENT … (yay!)

All authors love getting reviews. It’s our chocolate with sprinkles. Even more so, we especially love those extra special ones that show up out of the blue and blow our minds. That’s what happened to Austin when he got a review from New York Times Bestselling Fantasy author, Patrick Rothfuss!

Whoa. Just Whoa. I think I would pass out if J.K. Rowling or Raymond Feist left a killer review of my book on Amazon. If I were Austin, I’m sure I would have read the review at least 4 times an hour for at least 4 days.  Do you want to read what the great Mr. Rothfuss had to say about THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD?  Take a read.

***

“Picked this up on a whim, knowing I’d need a book to read on the plane back from Phoenix ComicCon and was *very* pleasantly surprised.

(To be completely honest, I enjoyed the book so much I kinda failed at being a good dad coming home from the convention. As I kept pulling it out to read, rather than paying attention to my kids like I should.)

It’s Young Adult, if that sort of thing matters to you. But it’s not bubblegummy or trite. I also really enjoyed the fact that it was set in Hawaii, a location that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in a novel before. And seeing as I didn’t know much about the islands before this, I actually learned a lot about the location.

The tension in the book was also particularly good. Kept pulling me back in but wasn’t so strong that it exhausted me emotionally. Good main characters. Smart discussion of what it means to be an outsider. (The main character is half white/half islander.)

Very much enjoyed it.”

***

Wow. I would have been floating on Cloud gazillion and 4. Congrats, Austin!!

CONTINUE THE HUNT 

Next author on the list is the super-amazing, talented author, Christina Farland ! ! http://christinafarley.com/blog/

Make sure you spread the word!

ADDITIONAL  GIVEAWAY!!!

I’m running another special giveaway.  Everyone who leaves a comment below (it could be anything: favorite YA book, favorite YA character, etc) and signs up for my newsletter through my Rafflecopter (entries using Rafflecoper will end as of 12:01 a.m. Oct 9, 2016 EST. You can still enter by leaving a comment with your email below) will have a chance to win the following:

 

Good luck to everyone and happy hunting!!

IMMORTAL ~ The Dragonrider Chronicles comes to an end


 

Today Nicole Conway and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for IMMORTAL, the final book in the Dragonrider Chronicles which releases November 8, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:

This book marks the end of the first Dragonrider series, and I couldn’t imagine a better cover to go with it. It’s a darker but beautiful reflection of the first book’s cover, just as the war has changed Jaevid from an innocent boy to a man chosen by destiny and driven to do what is necessary to save his loved ones. To be honest, I had mixed feelings as I put the final touches on this book. I’m filled with hope for the next series, confidence that my readers will enjoy it as much as they have the first one, but also sadness to see this one come to a close. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend, knowing you’ll see them again someday.
On to the reveal!
 
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Title: IMMORTAL
(Dragonriders Chronicles#4)
Author: Nicole Conway
Pub. Date: November 8, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD | Goodreads

 

Destiny has called.

With Jaevid Broadfeather forever lost to the depths of Luntharda, Felix Farrow struggles to stand on his own. He begins a violent downward spiral which causes him to abandon his post as a dragonrider, hiding in the halls of his family estate. His one hope for redemption lies within the heart of someone from his past—and the very last person he ever wanted to see again.
And now the time has finally come.
Hovrid, who has ruled Maldobar as a tyrannical imposter, is preparing to make a decisive assault against Luntharda that will destroy what remains of the elven race. Only Jaevid, Felix, and their trusted friends are able to stand in his way. They have only one chance to end the war, and only one hope to absolve the curse that threatens to destroy their world. The stage is set. The plan is in motion.
What began as one boy’s adventure will now end in blood.

 

Excerpt

PART ONEFELIX

ONE

I lost Jaevid and Mavrik in the fray almost immediately.

In front of me, my riding partner, Lieutenant Darion Prax, was leaning into his dragon’s speed as we made our final approach. Behind me, a dozen more riders were following us in. Below me, the city of Barrowton boiled with the fury of battle. Our lines of infantry were broken, but trying to reform. The gray elves fought like savages, wielding spears, bows, and scimitars. Some of them rode on the backs of jungle monsters, others were zipping around us through the sky on creatures called shrikes. Our natural enemies.

Prax gave me a few brisk hand signals, instructing me to move into place and get ready. I twisted my saddle handles slightly, applying a bit of pressure under the saddle. With a few heavy beats of her wings, my dragon caught up with him and flew right underneath him. Nova was a big girl, bigger than most male dragons twice her age. But what she lacked in speed she made up for in other ways—something the gray elves were about to figure out

first hand.

We dropped down lower. Arrows sailed past my helmet. One bounced off my breastplate and gave me a scare. I leaned down closer to Nova’s body for shelter from the hail of fire coming from below. Unlike most of the other dragons, gray elf arrows couldn’t pierce her thick hide.

I checked Prax out of the corner of my eye. He was giving me one finger and a closed fist. First target. Time to hit hard. I clenched my teeth and twisted the saddle handles, giving Nova the signal.

Prax and I dove as one, our dragons spiraling in unison towards the ground. We pulled out of the dive flying side-by-side, barely a hundred feet off the ground behind the enemy lines. I squeezed Nova’s sides with my boot heels, and I felt her take in a deep breath.

Together, our dragons showered the ground with a storm of their burning venom.

Gray elf warriors screamed. They fired at us with everything they had. But our rain of fire didn’t end until Nova had to stop for another breath.

We broke skyward and began preparing to make another coordinated pass.

But the second time wouldn’t be so easy. The trail of flames and burning corpses we’d left behind had gotten the attention of a few warriors on shrikes. I spotted four of them heading straight for us.

I gave Prax the news—we had company.

He quickly replied with a plan.

I was slower, so I was bound to be their first target. But that was fine; I was ready.

When his volley of arrows failed, the first gray elf rider had his shrike attack us outright. The bizarre creature was like a furious mirage of mirrored glass scales. It wrapped around Nova’s neck and started clawing at her eyes. Nova roared and slung her head back and forth. The shrike’s rider was twisting in his saddle, drawing another arrow that was aimed right at me.

“Better make that shot count,” I yelled and drew my sword.

Suddenly, Prax blurred past us.

There was a crunching sound and a shrike’s yelp of pain as his dragon got a tasty mouthful of the monster. I saw the gray elf rider fall from the saddle and begin to plummet toward the ground. A very small part of me felt bad for him. The rest of me still remembered he’d just tried to kill me.

Another shrike hit Nova. Then another. One was wrapped around her head again while the other hit much closer to the saddle—closer to me—right at the base of her tail. I twisted the one saddle handle I was still hanging onto and Nova pitched into a violent roll. She spun, getting faster and faster.

The shrike on her head lost his grip. He flew backwards, bouncing along her body and whooshing past me. One well aimed thrust of my sword made sure he wouldn’t be coming back around for a second try.

The last shrike and rider were a problem, though. She was trying to cut my saddle straps. Clever. Effective, too, if she managed it.

But I wasn’t about to give her that chance.

I sheathed my sword and twisted the handles again, hanging on for dear life. Nova snapped her wings in tight against her body and dropped from the sky like a giant, scaly stone. The further we fell, the faster we went. The wind howled past my helmet. The ground was getting closer and closer.

I bit back a curse and looked back. It was working. The shrike was losing his grip, sliding further away from me down Nova’s tail.

I squeezed my heels against her ribs.

Nova spat a burst of flame directly in front of us, and I hunkered down against her as she wrapped her wings around herself. Everything went dark. I could smell the acrid venom in the air. It made my eyes sting. I could feel the heat of the flames as I panted for breath.

Dragon venom is funny stuff. It’s sticky like sap and highly acidic. It’ll burn through just about anything—except a dragon’s own hide.

Nova flew through her own burst of flames, shielding me with her wings. When we came out the other side, she flared her wings wide and caught the air like a kite. Below us, a shrike-shaped fireball crashed into the ground.

Prax appeared next to us, giving me hand signals again. You okay?

I gave him a thumb’s up.

Good. Time for another pass.

*****

The battle was over.

The shouting voices and clashing blades had gone quiet. Now, there was only the crackling of the flames still smoldering in what was left of Barrowton. It was a wasteland – barely more than a charred crater littered with the bodies of the fallen.

Yet another ugly scar on Maldobar’s landscape.

We’d only just gotten back to the citadel at Northwatch—our little slice of paradise where the forces assigned to protecting the northern border were housed. Group after group of dragons and their riders continued to land on the platform and file into the tower. One hundred proud warriors had left to retake the city only a few days before. Less than forty of us returned.

Still, I was only looking for one.

“Where is he? Does anyone see him?!” I shouted at the top of my lungs and shoved my way through the other dragonriders. I called his name over and over, hoping to spot him or his blue dragon making their way down the corridor ahead of me. They must have fallen behind.

I searched every bloodied, war-beaten face that came walking in from the rain. Before I knew it, I was standing back at the open gateway that led out onto the platform.

Jaevid Broadfeather was nowhere to be found.

Someone grabbed my shoulder. A bolt of hope shot through me as I spun around, hoping to see him standing there.

It wasn’t him.

It was my riding partner, Lieutenant Prax, standing over me like a giant in blood-spattered battle armor. He was much older than I was and a far more seasoned rider. That’s why the look on his face absolutely terrified me.

“No one saw him or Jace depart with us.”

I was instantly sick. I couldn’t accept that. Jaevid wouldn’t just roll over and die—not this easily. We’d made it this far, gone through all of our dragonrider training together from beginning to end – so I knew he could fight. Sure, I’d teased him plenty about sucking at hand-to-hand combat, but I’d never met anyone faster or better with a blade. He was half gray elf, for crying out loud. Granted, he hid it well, but I knew he had that elven killer instinct buried down deep in his soul. I’d seen it surface once or twice before when someone pushed him too far.

I had to believe he was here somewhere. I just hadn’t found him yet.

I turned around with every intention of standing out on the platform in the driving rain until I saw him land. Boy, was he in for it. That little jerk should have known better than to pull a stunt like this after our first battle, the one time I hadn’t been standing right next to him while we did something ridiculously dangerous to make sure he didn’t get killed.

Prax grabbed my arm to stop me. There was no shaking off his grip. “We can’t go out there. They want the platform clear for the riders still landing. We’ll have to wait in the stable.”

I stole another glance out of the gateway. The skies were choked with rumbling black storm clouds and the rain was falling hard enough to obscure the city below. Every couple of minutes, the ominous, dark shape of a dragon appeared through the gloom, wings spread wide and legs outstretched to stick the landing. As they landed, infantrymen rushed out to help the riders dismount and escort them inside. Some of them had to be carried because of their injuries. Their cries of pain were drowned out by the sound of the thunder.

“Come on.” Prax shook me a little to break my trance. “You need to look after your lady. Then I’ll wait with you back at his stall.”

I didn’t like it. I wanted to be standing right here when Jae finally dared to show his face after making me stress out like this. But Prax was right. My dragon, Nova, was still dressed in her saddle and I needed to get her settled in before I did anything else.

The work was distracting. It kept me from staring at the gateway every single second while I unbuckled her saddle strap-by-strap and checked her over for injuries. Thankfully, she was unharmed. Her scales really were as strong as iron plates. And judging by a few nicks and scrapes I found around her chest and neck, that trait had saved her life more than once.

Once she was fed and nestled into a bed of hay for the night, I closed the door to her stall and immediately made a break for the platform. I had every intention of waiting there again. I didn’t make it there, though.

Everyone was waiting on me. The other surviving riders in Emerald Flight had gathered outside Nova’s stall.

“They still haven’t come back yet?” I looked at Prax, expecting an answer.

He didn’t have to give a verbal one. Once again, his expression said it all. Jaevid and his senior partner, Lieutenant Jace Rordin, still hadn’t returned.

So we waited.

Sitting outside Jaevid’s empty dragon stall, we watched the rest of our dragonrider brothers tending to their mounts like I had. It wasn’t looking good. The elves had made an impressive stand at Barrowton and our ranks had taken a beating. Less than half of us had returned and many of those were wounded or grounded because their mount had been injured. The riders landing now were barely able to limp in out of the rain. Some of them even had to be carried.
I watched one rider who had to be dragged off the platform by the infantrymen. He was shouting like a madman, still crazed from battle. I couldn’t figure out what he was saying or why he was so upset until a big group of soldiers rushed past us to help restrain him. Then I heard why.

His dragon had managed to carry him back safely to the tower, but the creature had died on the platform shortly after.

The rider’s grief-stricken screams mingled with the constant rush of the rain. It was a sound I’d never forget.

I couldn’t watch anymore after that. I leaned against the stall door with my eyes closed, trying not to think about or imagine anything. Then, infantrymen rolled the iron grate down over the passage that led out onto the platform. It made an awful clanging sound.

That was it. The last of us who survived the battle had landed.

It was over. We all knew it, and yet none of us wanted to be the first to get up and leave.

It didn’t feel real. I didn’t want to believe it was. There had to be some kind of mistake. He was going to pull off another miracle, come wandering in with that weird, self-conscious smile on his face and start apologizing—he had to. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

“Jace was set on going head- to- head with that gray elf princess again.” Someone finally spoke up and broke the heavy silence. “He must’ve dragged Jaevid into it, too. Poor kid wouldn’t stand a chance in a skirmish like that.”

I pushed away from the door and started walking away. I didn’t want to hear this. I didn’t care how he died. He was gone. The how didn’t matter.

I thought I managed to get away without any of them following me. But I should’ve known better than to think Prax would let me go. I heard his heavy footsteps and the clinking of his armor as he fell in right behind me.

He waited until we were well away from the others, standing just inside the stairwell that spanned the full height of the fifty-story tower, to catch me by the shoulder. “I’m sorry, boy.”

“Sorry won’t bring my best friend back from the dead. Sorry never did anyone any good. It’s a waste of everyone’s time,” I snapped.

He let me go. I could see sympathy in his eyes as he stared down at me. It pissed me off. For a few seconds, neither of us said a word. Then he shook his head. “We’ve all lost someone today, Felix. Every last one of us. So go do whatever you have to do. Work it out. Then clean up your armor and get ready again. You and I are some of the few who are still battle-ready.”

I already felt like a total failure for letting my best friend down. I’d let him die alone in battle. And now I felt worse knowing I’d offended Prax, although there wasn’t a lot I wanted to do about it right now. All I knew was that my insides hurt. I couldn’t think beyond the rage that was burning in my body like hellfire. I could practically taste the flames crackling over my tongue. I needed a way to let it out.

****

Three days. That’s how long it took Prax to resurface and try talking to me again.

I knew he’d be coming. I was already on borrowed time. At any given moment, orders could come down and I’d be sent back to the battlefront somewhere to kill more elves in the name of peace and justice. A bunch of crap, really. Neither existed in my world.

My knuckles were bleeding through the strips of bandages I’d wrapped them in. It probably had something to do with me facing off with a sparring bag every day at dawn, pounding at it with all my strength until I was too weak to stand. I didn’t stop to eat and sleeping was totally out of the question so I didn’t even bother trying.

Honestly, I didn’t know what else to do. I was asking myself a lot of hard questions while whaling against the sand-filled training bag, and most of those questions I no longer had an answer for.

Why was I here? Punch. What was this all for? Punch. Could I even justify not being at my estate now? Punch.

“Felix.” Prax’s voice interrupted the rhythm of my internal interrogation.

I stopped and let my arms drop. They were so numb I couldn’t even feel my fingers anymore. I turned around, wiping away the sweat that was dripping into my eyes.

I expected to see Prax there, giving me one of those cautious, sympathetic gazes. But I hadn’t expected to see the guy next to him. I didn’t know him. Rather, I’d never laid eyes on him before. But I knew right away who he must be.

Jae had never been all that chatty when it came to his family. I could sympathize. My own family life hadn’t been great, but it didn’t hold a candle to what I suspected Jae had put up with.

When we’d first met, he looked like a pulverized, half-starved puppy. Some of the other guys training with us liked to pick on him because he was one heck of an easy target—but they weren’t the cause of all those bruises. Some of those marks had been older. Much older. He’d gotten them long before he’d darkened the door of the dragonrider academy. So I went out of my way to ask Sile about them. Needless to say, the answer had been unsavory.

My father had never beaten me, even when I probably deserved it. He didn’t have the strength or the audacity. He popped me across the cheek a few times for mouthing off, sure, but that was more embarrassing than anything else.

Jae, though? He probably weighed eighty pounds soaking wet when we first met. And that father of his had been beating him mercilessly for years, according to Sile.

Now I was looking at the one person who should have stuck up for the little guy whenever his dad decided to use him like a doormat. I knew this had to be his older brother. The family resemblance was strong, even if this guy wasn’t a half elf like Jae. Same piercing eyes. Same strong jawline.

“Roland, I presume?” I glanced him up and down. He was taller than me, unsurprisingly. Chalk that up to yet another Broadfeather family trait. “You look like hell.”

It wasn’t an insult. He really did look awful. His right arm was sealed in a plaster cast all the way up to his shoulder and he had bloody bandages wrapped around a wound on his head. He was obviously one of the lucky infantrymen who made it back to the citadel from Barrowton—the uniform tipped me off. Except for the stubble on his chin, he looked so much like Jae it would make anyone stop and take a second look. Granted, this guy had a lot more muscle to throw around, but he had the same piercing eyes, squared jaw, and high cheekbones.

“I don’t believe we’ve met.” He was looking at me cautiously. I suspected being in the dragonrider quarters was making him uneasy. Infantrymen weren’t supposed to be up here.

“We haven’t,” I replied. I left it at that, hoping Prax would take the hint that I wasn’t really up for a heart-to-heart discussion with this guy.

I walked past them to a corner of the sparring room where I’d stashed a few of my things, including a towel to wipe myself off with. I could hear them both following me.

“Colonel Bragg has issued his official statement. Medics swept the battlefield at Barrowton looking for any remaining survivors and taking record of the dead,” Prax spoke up.

I stopped. All the little prickly hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. “And?”

“They never found his body—or Jace’s for that matter. But his dragon was sighted in the area with an empty saddle,” he answered quietly. “Some of the other riders report having seen them engaging the gray elf princess in aerial combat. They saw her shoot Jace’s mount down. Jaevid was right on his tail, so . . . we can only assume . . .”

“—That he’s dead. Yep. Thanks. Figured that much out on my own, you know, when he didn’t come back.” I scowled at them both, hoping it would be enough to stop this conversation from going any further.

It wasn’t.

Prax turned his attention to the silent infantryman standing next to him. “We cleaned out their room. There wasn’t much left behind, but Jae’s brother here insisted you should have it.”

That’s when I noticed Roland was holding something. It was a mostly empty burlap sack. He held it out to me with a tense expression. “They tell me you two were close.”

I didn’t want to take it. Just the thought of seeing what was in there made me start to feel nauseated all over again. “Shouldn’t this be given to his family?”

“That’s why I’m giving it to you.” Roland fixed his gaze right on me. “I know how you must feel about me. And you’re right to despise me. I can only imagine the things Jaevid told you about me let alone the rest of our family. I won’t deny any of it. But I never laid a hand on him. Not even once.”

I snatched the bag away from him. “Some might argue that joining in and just standing by and watching it happen are basically the same thing.”

Roland hesitated. Slowly, his eyes moved down until he was staring at the floor. “We were both trapped in that house, both suffering at the hands of the same man. Jaevid never knew how many beatings I took for him, how many nights I would sleep by my bedroom door so I’d hear if Ulric went outside after him. My every waking thought was about how I could get out of there. But I couldn’t just run away and leave Jaevid there alone. I would have never done that to him. So I waited until Ulric came back from Blybrig and told us he’d been adopted by the dragonriders. Then I left.”

An uncomfortable silence settled over us. I’m sure Prax was learning a lot more about the Broadfeather family than he ever cared to. After a few seconds I cleared my throat, crammed the bag of Jae’s belongings under the rest of my gear, and nodded. “Actually, he didn’t talk about his family life much.”

“I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me,” Roland sighed. “I just thought, since you were closest with him, you ought to have what was left of his things. He’d probably want it that way. And considering the circumstances, I wanted to thank you in person.”

“Thank me?”

“Yes. I’m not trying to be condescending. But I am grateful that you were willing to step in and befriend him. Someone of your social standing—”

I stopped him right there. “That never had anything to do with it. It wasn’t charity.”

He nodded. “I understand. I’m just saying that there aren’t many others who would be willing to jeopardize their reputation. You’re a better man than most. And I want you to know I appreciate that.”

“Ah.” This was beginning to make me really uncomfortable. I began picking up my stuff and planning a quick exit.

“I also wanted to ask if there was anyone else we should inform,” Roland added, as I slung my bag of gear over my shoulder. “Did he ever mention having a lover?”

Once again, my body locked up involuntarily. I hadn’t even thought about her. Did she know? Who was I kidding . . . of course she didn’t know. I cursed under my breath and flashed Prax a telling glance. Someone was going to have to tell Beckah Derrick what had happened.

“I’m willing to do it,” Roland offered. I guess he could read my expressions well enough to tell what I was thinking.

I clenched my teeth. “No. I’ll do it. She should hear it from me. I’m the one she’ll blame.”

The trouble was, I didn’t know how I was going to find her. Beckah lurked on the edge of every battlefield, haunting our blind spots like some kind of avenging angel. To my knowledge, she’d been keeping her distance from the riders otherwise, which was smart since she was playing a dangerous game. Being the only female dragonrider wasn’t something to be proud of. It might earn her the hangman’s noose or the business end of a sword if anyone found out her real identity.

If anyone could actually catch her, that is. Being paired up with a king drake, the biggest and baddest of all the dragons in Maldobar, put her at a big advantage over the rest of us.

I had my work cut out for me. As soon as I managed to shake off the pity brigade, I headed straight for my room and started thinking of ways to get in contact with her. I didn’t know where she was hiding out between battles, though. Jae might have known, but if they had a secret lovey-dovey rendezvous spot, he’d never spoken a word about it to me. That sneaky devil.

I decided to look for clues when I got back to my room. I dumped out the burlap sack of his belongings onto my bed and began to look through them. There wasn’t much. It was mostly spare uniform pieces and a few bundles of letters tied together with twine. I hesitated to go through those because that kind of stuff was probably pretty personal. What right did I have to go digging around in his private life?

Then again, what did it matter now? And one of those letters might contain a clue about how to get in touch with Beckah.

Hesitantly, I untied one of the bundles and opened up a few of the letters. None of them were helpful, really, and going through them gave me an eerie feeling. It just felt wrong.

Finally, I came to one that looked like it hadn’t been opened in a while. The address scribbled across the front said it was from Saltmarsh, a town down on the southern coast. I’d never been there, never had a reason to. It was a port city, home to mostly fisherman and hired hands looking for shifts on the merchant ships that came and went from the harbor.

Seeing that address struck a chord in my memory. Jae had mentioned to me before that Beckah and the rest of her family lived there. He’d visited them before the start of our avian year. When I opened up the letter, I found only one line scribbled inside. There wasn’t a signature, either. Just two initials:

— B. D.

They had to be Beckah’s.

I knew she wouldn’t be there. It was a long flight between Saltmarsh and Northwatch, too long for her to be going back and forth every time there was a battle. Heck, I couldn’t even be sure her family still lived at that address, either. Sile struck me as kind of a shady character, like he had something to hide. He might just pick up and leave without saying anything. But this was the best lead I had. I was going to have to start there and hope for the best.

I lit a candle and took out a few sheets of fresh paper. I wrote three letters. The first one was to Sile Derrick, letting him know what happened and where he could find me. The second one was to my commanding officer, Colonel Bragg, who was in charge of all the dragonriders here at the citadel.

And the last one . . . was to my mom.

 

 

About Nicole: 
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. 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 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 lives at home with her husband, two cats, and dog.
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Release Day Celebration: Poppy Mayberry, The Monday by Jennie K. Brown with Giveaway


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Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for

Poppy Mayberry, The Monday by Jennie K. Brown

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Happy Book Birthday, Jennie!

 

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What if your teacher could read your mind just because she was born on a Thursday? Or the kid next to you in class could turn back the clock just because he was a ‘Wednesday”? In the quirky town of Nova, all of this is normal, but one thing is not—Poppy Mayberry. As an almost-eleven-year-old Monday, she should be able to pass notes in class or brush her dog, Pickle, without lifting a finger. But her Monday telekinesis still has some kinks, and that plate of spaghetti she’s passing may just end up on someone’s head. And if that’s not hard enough, practically perfect Ellie Preston is out to get her, and Principal Wible wants to send her to remedial summer school to work on her powers! It’s enough to make a girl want to disappear…if only she were a Friday.

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Poppy Mayberry, The Monday
by Jennie K. Brown
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Tantrum Books

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The first time I knew for sure I was a Monday was sitting in one of Mrs. Flannagan’s boring English lessons last year in fourth grade. She wanted to know if anyone could tell her the difference between smiles and meteors (that’s what it looked like when I glanced at the board).

Of course, there was no way I could have possibly known the answer because I hadn’t been paying attention. Mark Masters had been picking at his nose for like the last ten minutes, and that always distracted me a little. Total gross fest. Mark’s in my class again this year and I feel sorry for him. Not because he still picks his nose, which he does, but because he is a Saturday. And Saturdays don’t have any special powers.

“Who can tell me?” Mrs. Flannagan asked for the third time now, pushing her bright purple glasses up her bulbous nose. Her face grew pinker by the second.

From the corner of my eye I watched Ellie Preston’s perfect little manicured hand shoot up. She always has the right answers. That’s because she’s a Thursday. And Thursdays read minds. Once, I thought that I wanted to be one too, but decided it would get exhausting always being in other people’s thoughts. Plus, I wouldn’t want to share Thursday with Ellie. I’d rather be forced to spend my evenings at Power Academy, or eat fried cockroaches with anchovy sauce. Yuck. Heck, I’d rather be a Saturday.

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Jennie K. Brown is a high school English teacher by day, freelance magazine writer by night, and middlegrade/young adult author by late-night and weekend. When she isn’t teaching or writing, Jennie can be found reading a good book, traveling, or spending time with her awesome husband, amazing son and super-spoiled yorkie.In 2010, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) named Jennie the Pennsylvania English teacher of excellence, and she currently serves as President of the Pennsylvania Council for Teachers of English and Language Arts (PCTELA). She is also an active member of SCBWI, NCTE and ALAN.

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