Friday, May 29, 2015

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

M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing chapter one of
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
presented byMonth9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
SerpentineEbook
SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology. 
Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming-of-age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. 
When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self -- even as she falls in love for the first time. 
Vivid worldbuilding, incendiary romance, heart-pounding action, and characters that will win you over -- I highly recommend Serpentine.” ~Cinda Williams Chima, bestselling author of the Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles fantasy novels 
“Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, New York Times bestselling author of the Graceling Realm Series 
“Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites

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Title: Serpentine
Publication date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Cindy Pon
Pre-order Links:
Stay tuned for news on a special brush painting card by Cindy with your Serpentine pre-order through Mysterious Galaxy in June!


excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

About-the-Author

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

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

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

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

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

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WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

“Call Me Grim is humor, brilliance and a success altogether.” – Paula, Her Book Thoughts


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


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

about-the-author


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

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Into the Fire
Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is perfectly normal until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future. 
But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point -- she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems. 
A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.

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WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

“You witness a major loss to the main character that does not involve a death, and also fully understand just what is about to face the main character. It was such a hook for me and I just had to find out what would happen next.”Maria, The Paisley Reade


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

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

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

Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Swoon Romance YA Wednesdays: "The Cinderella Moment" by Jennifer Kloester Book Blitz with Giveaway #ReadSwoonRepeat

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Welcome to this week’s
Swoon Romance YA Wednesdays!
This week features
The Cinderella Moment by Jennifer Kloester!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

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I adored this book. It made me think of Sabrina Meets Anna and The French Kiss.” – Amanda

If you love a good male lead, and you love fairy-tale style re-tellings, then this is the book for you!” — Claire

This one played out in my head like a movie.” — Michelle, Novels on the Run

So nice to see a clean, old-fashioned, romantic, coming-of-age story. I can see Disney knocking on Ms. Kloester’s door soon. A very charming read. I will recommend to my students this fall.” —MaryAnn E.

I just loved this book! So not what I was expecting. Clean, romantic, and the fashion is to die for!” — K. Mendez

Let the masquerade begin!

Angel Moncoeur has always wanted to be a fashion designer, but without money or connections, it’s going to be a challenge. When an opportunity to leave her home in New York and head to Paris appears, Angel grabs it -- even if it means masquerading as her best friend Lily. That can’t be too hard, can it? But when she falls in love with her very own Prince Charming who thinks she’s someone else, Angel embarks on a plan to secure her happily ever after.

THE CINDERELLA MOMENT is a fabulously fun story about high society, mistaken identity, love, betrayal, friendship -- and great clothes!

THE CINDERELLA MOMENT is a contemporary twist on the Cinderella fairytale. There are no fantasy or magical elements. This is NOT a paranormal or fantasy novel! This is a clean, contemporary, coming-of-age story that readers can be comfortable recommending to daughters, nieces, students and friends who enjoy teen romance reads. Originally published in Australia by Penguin. Available in the U.S. in both print and eBook from Swoon Romance.
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The Cinderella Moment
by Jennifer Kloester
Publication Date: December 2013
Publisher: Swoon Romance

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About-the-Author
Jennifer Kloester
I was born in Melbourne, Australia, but have lived and worked in Papua New Guinea and the Middle East and travelled to more than thirty countries. During my time abroad, I studied as an off-campus student with Deakin University and achieved my BA (Hons) while raising my three children. After graduating with a PhD in history from the University of Melbourne, I had my first two books, Georgette Heyer's Regency World and Georgette Heyer (the biography), published in both the UK and the USA. I've had lots of fun giving talks around the world on Georgette Heyer and the Regency, and am a passionate advocate for women writers, books and reading. My first novel, The Cinderella Moment, was published by Penguin Australia and Swoon Romance in 2013 and will be followed by the sequel, The Rapunzel Dilemma, in 2014. I love writing and spending time with my family, gardening, reading and going to the beach. I have a black belt in karate and love having adventures. One of my favourite things is experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and trying out different languages. Particular interests include Georgette Heyer first editions, and after a glorious visit to South Korea in 2012, Korean language and culture.

Giveaway

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Outer Banks Series Book Tour and Print Book Giveaway

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Welcome to the book tour for the Outer Banks series by Diann Ducharme. Read on to learn more about these books and author, and enter for the chance to win a paperback copy of the Outer Banks book of your choice!

About The Outer Banks House

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Publication Date: June 8, 2010
Crown Publishing
Formats: Ebook, Paperback, Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

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As the wounds of the Civil War are just beginning to heal, one fateful summer would forever alter the course of a young girl’s life.

In 1868, on the barren shores of post-war Outer Banks, North Carolina, the once wealthy Sinclair family moves for the summer to one of the first cottages on the ocean side of the resort village of Nags Head. Seventeen-year-old Abigail is beautiful and book-smart, but sheltered by her plantation life and hemmed-in by her emotionally distant family. To make good use of time, she is encouraged by her family to teach her father’s fishing guide, the good-natured but penniless Benjamin Whimble, how to read and write. And in a twist of fate unforeseen by anyone around them, there on the porch of the cottage, the two come to love each other deeply, and to understand each other in a way that no one else does.

But when, against everything he claims to represent, Ben becomes entangled in Abby's father's Ku Klux Klan work, the terrible tragedy and surprising revelations that one hot Outer Banks night brings forth threaten to tear them apart forever.

With vivid historical detail and stunning emotional resonance, Diann Ducharme recounts a dramatic story of love, loss, and coming of age at a singular and rapidly changing time in one of America’s most beautiful and storied communities.

Download the Lost Chapter of The Outer Banks House.

Praise for The Outer Banks House


“...There's real darkness on the edge of this romance that hurls the lovers toward tragedy, as if the price to re-enter the innocence of Eden might afford Abby nothing but despair. This 2010 debut novel and portrayal of the historical Outer Banks offers a terrific option for beach reading; it's the sort of novel that can be charming without requiring an abundance of character complexity and depth. Abby's evolution ultimately parallels the positive aspects of how the South reconciled to change after the Civil War, a change that required a culture of ignorance to wash out to sea.” — Style Weekly Review

“It’s 1868, and the natives of North Carolina’s Outer Banks think the Sinclairs’ summer residence on the beach at Nags Head is right peculiar. Seventeen-year-old Abigail Sinclair is enlisted by her parents to teach Ben Whimble, her father’s fishing guide, to read. Abby is being courted by medical student Hector Newman and is appalled at the dirty and perpetually barefoot Ben. But Abby is also restless and slowly sees in Ben more than just a willing pupil. Ben might be getting sweet on his teacher as well, but her father has involved him in a matter that doesn’t sit right with the Banker, knowing that freedmen and runaway slaves have long lived contentedly out on Roanoke Island. It’s just three years since the end of the war, and for some, that isn’t long enough. VERDICT First novelist Ducharme has laced her novel with the sounds and the smells of the North Carolina shoreline. Racism and Southern tradition run along parallel paths in this affecting debut, where gentlemen can be less than honorable and enslavement doesn’t always involve chains. Highly recommended for fans of Southern fiction.” — Library Journal, Starred Review

“A heartfelt and engrossing novel about the coming of age of two very different young people in the South just after the Civil War: a curious upper-class girl from an almost bankrupt plantation and a handsome young barefoot fisherman 'made of sand and seawater' who comes to her to learn to read. What they learn from each other about tolerance and caring in those turbulent times will change their lives forever. A beautiful sense of this place by the sea, of a country in conflict, of death and redemption, and of new love.” —  Stephanie Cowell, Author of CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF CLAUDE MONET and MARRYING MOZART

The Outer Banks House is a beautifully written and deeply moving story of a sheltered young woman's awakening to life, love and the injustice of discrimination against former slaves. In theme and impact, shades of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn; in the evocative setting and fresh voice, a unique novel all its own.” —  Karen Harper — Author of THE QUEEN'S GOVERNESS

Buy The Outer Banks House

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Crown Publishing
IndieBound

About Return to the Outer Banks House

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Publication Date: December 10, 2014
Kill Devil Publishing
Formats: Ebook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

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She was the spirited daughter of a North Carolina plantation owner, and he was a poor fisherman she tutored on the porch of her family’s Nags Head cottage. When we last saw Abigail Sinclair and Ben Whimble at the close of The Outer Banks House, they’d overcome their differences in life stations and defied convention to begin their new life together.

But now it’s seven years later, and Return to the Outer Banks House finds the couple married and in hard times—riddled by poverty, miscarriages, and weakened family ties. The strong bonds that once held them together have eroded over time, and their marriage threatens to unravel, particularly when relationships from the past and ambitions for the future find their way into the mismatched couple’s present predicament.

Can their love survive? Or are the challenges they face insurmountable? Return to the Outer Banks House carries readers back to 1875 to answer these questions and explore the ebb and flow of a rocky marriage set against the enchanting North Carolina shoreline. Replete with history, intrigue, and plenty of maritime drama, it’s an evocative tale of struggle in the Reconstruction-era South.

Praise for Return to the Outer Banks House


“...Set between 1875 and ’76, Ducharme’s story—this being the sequel to The Outer Banks House (2010)—is about love and its many faces, from young and reckless to unrequited. Specifically, she explores the unlikely passion that forms between smart, affluent Abigail Sinclair and uneducated, penniless Benjamin Whimble. The people of this tightknit island community on the Outer Banks, off the coast of North Carolina, are connected by their collective poverty and abiding love for the sea. Outsiders are generally unwelcome...” —  Kirkus Reviews

Buy Return to the Outer Banks House

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound


About the Author
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Diann was born in Indiana in 1971, but she spent the majority of her childhood in Newport News, Virginia. She majored in English literature at the University of Virginia, but she never wrote creatively until, after the birth of her second child in 2003, she sat down to write The Outer Banks House. She soon followed up with her second book, Chasing Eternity, and in 2015 the sequel to her first novel, Return to the Outer Banks House.

Diann has vacationed on the Outer Banks since the age of three. She even married her husband of 10 years, Sean Ducharme, in Duck, North Carolina, immediately after a stubborn Hurricane Bonnie churned through the Outer Banks. Conveniently, the family beach house in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina provided shelter while she conducted research for her historical fiction novels.

She has three beach-loving children and a border collie named Toby, who enjoys his sprints along the shore. The family lives in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia, counting down the months until summer.

For more information, visit Diann Ducharme's website. You can also follow Diann on her blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Outer Banks Series Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, May 25
Spotlight & Giveaway at Raven Haired Girl

Tuesday, May 26
Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, May 27
Review (Book One) at Back Porchervations

Thursday, May 28
Review (Book One) at In a Minute

Friday, May 29
Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Saturday, May 30
Spotlight at Becky on Books

Sunday, May 31
Review (Book One) at Book Nerd

Monday, June 1
Review (Book Two) at Let them Read Books
Spotlight at I'd So Rather Be Reading

Tuesday, June 2
Review (Book One) at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, June 3
Review (Book Two) at Back Porchervations

Thursday, June 4
Spotlight & Giveaway (Book One) at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, June 5
Review (Both Books) at Bibliotica

Sunday, June 7
Review (Book One) at Carole's Ramblings

Monday, June 8
Review (Book One) at Ageless Pages Reviews
Guest Post at Curling Up With A Good Book

Tuesday, June 9
Review & Giveaway (Book One) at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, June 10
Review (Both Books) at Unshelfish
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, June 11
Review (Book Two) at Book Lovers Paradise
Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, June 12
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes

Sunday, June 14
Review (Book Two) at Carole's Ramblings

Monday, June 15
Review & Giveaway (Both Books) at Genre Queen

Tuesday, June 16
Interview at Books and Benches
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, June 17
Review (Both Books) at Luxury Reading

Thursday, June 18
Review (Book One) at Books and Benches
Interview at Layered Pages

Friday, June 19
Review (Book One) at Build a Bookshelf
Review (Book Two) at Ageless Pages Reviews

GIVEAWAY

One lucky winner will receive a print copy of one of the books (winner's choice) in the Outer Banks series by Diann Ducharme. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on June 9, 2015.
– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

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Disclaimer: Susan Heim on Writing is not responsible for prize fulfillment.

Earth God Book Blitz: Giveaway for a Clean Teen Publishing eBook and Bookmark Swag Pack

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Title:  Earth God
Series:  The World Aflame Saga #4
Author:  Jon Messenger
Published:  May 26, 2015  
Publisher:  Clean Teen Publishing
Genre:  NA Paranormal Romance
Recommended Age:  13+

Synopsis:

THE EARTH GIVES WAY TO THE SEA,
THE SEA BOWS BEFORE THE WIND,
THE WIND FEEDS THE FLAME,
THE FLAME BURNS THE WORLD OF MAN DOWN TO THE EARTH.

The Fire Elemental has risen, and its followers, the Fire Caste, have destroyed the planet. Humanity hangs on the cusp of extinction; their only hope now lies with the troubled Wind Warrior, Xander Sirocco.

Xander has absorbed the power of the Wind and Water Elementals, but at great personal cost. Finding Sammy has been his anchor through the chaos around him, but now he finds himself wondering if saving her is enough.

Sammy remains a prisoner of the Fire Elemental, her mind trapped, as the dragon possesses her body. Her love for Xander keeps her going, but will her passion be enough to stop the Elemental from killing Xander once and for all?

Humanity’s last hope rests in Xander finding the Earth Elemental. Claiming the power of the Earth is the last step before he can confront the dragon holding Sammy hostage. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one who knows the location of the Earth Elemental.

It’s a race against time between Xander and the dragon to claim the last of the Elemental power and bring an end to a war that’s spanned millennia.

Earth God is the exciting conclusion to the bestselling and award-winning World Aflame series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads

Excerpt from Earth God by Jon Messenger:

“What if there was a previous dominant species that we replaced after they screwed it up?”
Jessica arched her eyebrows.  “You’re not going to bring up the dinosaurs, are you?”
“Yes, the dinosaurs, exactly!  Think about it.  The whole world started off with Pangaea, one super continent where all the dinosaurs lived.  Then, boom, all of this sudden something happens and wipes them all out.  Scientists keep saying it was probably a meteor, but what if it wasn't?  Think about it.  What would a meteor have done to the planet?  Set it on fire?  Filled the sky with ash to choke out most other life?  Doesn't that sound exactly like something the Fire Elemental would do?”
“I’m impressed you know about Pangaea.  But it doesn't change the fact that if I didn't know you better, I’d say you were a giant stoner.”
“The Earth Elemental could have easily made Pangaea for the dinosaurs,” Sean continued as though he hadn't heard her.  “After they screwed it up somehow, the Fire Elemental wipes them out, the Earth Elemental splits the continent, and they start over, only this time with primitive mankind.  It makes sense.”
Jessica pinched the bridge of his nose.  “I want to tell you that none of that makes sense, but we just held a conversation with an Easter Island head before Xander become the embodiment of the Earth itself.  Anything’s possible at this point.”
“Do you think they ever tried a Xander before?”
Jessica paused.  “A Xander?”
Sean glanced away from the blond and stared across the ocean.  “They must have had Warriors for each of the elements.  The fact that a Velociraptor Fire Warrior is a pretty badass mental image notwithstanding, do you think they tried this before?  Creating someone who can stop the cycle?”
“I don’t really know—“
“Because they failed,” Sean said bluntly.  He turned back toward his girlfriend.  “If they tried it, they failed because the dinosaurs were wiped out.  I just keep thinking that we’re not taking this seriously enough, and I know that’s ironic coming from me.  I keep worrying that the Fire Elemental is just sitting back laughing right now, knowing that it kicked the crap out of a Sarcosuchus Water Elemental once before and is about to do the same to Xander.”
“I think by this point we’re all taking this seriously,” Jessica said.  “Just because you’re joking doesn't mean you’re not; we've known each other long enough to know it’s just your defense mechanism.”
They sat in silence, watching the lapping waves and trying not to see the lava pouring into the ocean not far away.  It was peaceful, sitting on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific.  It was easy to ignore the fact that the world was coming to an end.  Sean mentally noted Easter Island as a place to visit, once this was all over.
Jessica chuckled softly, disrupting Sean’s musings.  He turned toward her inquisitively.  “What’s so funny?”
“Pterodactyl Wind Warriors,” she said.
For a moment, he merely arched an eyebrow before he started snickering.  Sean couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of the thought.  They both laughed until their sides hurt.  It felt good just to laugh for no particular reason, to forget about the insanity of their lives for just a moment.

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About the Author:
Jon Messenger (born in 1979 in London, England) serves as an United States Army Major in the Medical Service Corps. Jon wrote his first science-fiction trilogy in 2008 and has since written and published more than 10 novels.  The scope of his writing has expanded beyond science fiction to include the New Adult and Steampunk genres. His books have become Amazon bestsellers, been translated into foreign languages, and have won numerous awards both for content and covers.



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Clean Teen Publishing Links:



Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A bookmark swag pack and winner’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing eBook.
Giveaway is international. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

Vanishing Act Book Blitz: Giveaway for a Clean Teen Publishing eBook and Bookmark Swag Pack

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Title:  Vanishing Act
Series:  Lingering Echoes #3 (Stand Alone)
Author:  Erica Kiefer
Published:  May 26, 2015
Publisher:  Clean Teen Publishing
Genre:  NA Contemporary Romance
Content Warning:  Violence, drug usage, abuse
Recommended Age: 14+

Synopsis: A fresh start at college is exactly what Kate needs to ease the burden of her family secrets. When she meets the confident and charming Aaron Jackson, she weaves a new history for herself to fit into his seemingly perfect life. But the past refuses to stay where it belongs, causing a rift between their contrasting worlds.

When Ben reappears in Kate’s life, she is only pulled deeper into the childhood that she’s tried to forget. Driven by the abuse and pain that still linger within him, Ben seeks Kate’s help in making a change. But in this journey for retribution, lines blur between courage, justice, and revenge.

Bound by their shared and damaged youth, Kate is forced to choose sides, and fast. The final act is almost here, and time is running out.

Vanishing Act is a Lingering Echoes novel that can be read as part of the series or as a stand-alone story. Fueled by the scars from an experience in foster care that no child should have to endure, Vanishing Act touches on serious issues that can continue to impact abuse victims well into their adult lives. Vanishing Act is an emotional drama with a sweet romance mixed in.


Excerpt from Vanishing Act by Erica Kiefer:

My vision blurred like I was walking outside in the rain. It may as well have been raining, with how emotionally drenched and defeated I felt as I marched out of my neighborhood. I didn’t know where I was going. Despite the familiar street, I felt lost and confused. I just knew I needed to keep moving, afraid that if I stood still, the storm of emotions would drown me.

Aaron became a silent companion at my side, keeping fast pace with my hurried steps. My thoughts stewed inside my head, a dangerous concoction of fear, hurt, and fury. My whole life I had worked to salvage this family. My entire purpose for going to college was to help us survive, even if our heads were barely above water. But it seemed the minute I’d left the house, both father and son were falling apart, sabotaging my efforts.

Aaron seemed to sense I was about to boil over because he eventually took my hand and pulled me onto the grass. He stood in front of me with both hands on my shoulders, trying to look into my eyes. I shook my head, knowing if I spoke one word that too many more would spew out of my mouth—bitter and resentful—and I’d never be able to take them back. Aaron’s hands moved to my back and he wrapped me in his arms, pulling my face against his chest. His strong hands pressed into my shoulder blades, holding me together like fractured porcelain.

I let the warm tears fall, one by one. I hoped that by keeping my eyes pulled tightly shut, that the tears wouldn’t find an exit. But they did—streaming one after the other until each droplet became a river, a driving current of emotion merging together. It would have felt dangerous without Aaron’s embrace, but I felt safe anchored in his arms.

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About the Author:
Erica Kiefer was born on Christmas Eve in Southern California to an American father whose ancestors arrived from Europe during colonial times and a Thai mother who moved to the US during high school. Adding to her rich and varied heritage, Erica grew up living abroad in Asia, including Taiwan, Fiji, Thailand and Indonesia. She gained a great respect for the beautiful mosaic of cultures found in various parts of the world. After graduating from International School Bangkok, she attended Brigham Young University in Utah, where she earned a degree in Recreation Therapy. Her career as a Recreation Therapist has allowed her to work with at-risk youth since 2007. Erica made the best decision of her life by marrying her husband in 2005 and is currently a mother of three, one of whom awaits her in heaven. Erica also loves singing, reading, writing, and satisfying her sweet tooth with chocolate-chip cookies. Playing collegiate rugby was one of the most memorable experiences of her life thus far. Erica’s first book, Lingering Echoes, was signed by Clean Teen Publishing and released in early November 2013.


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Clean Teen Publishing Links:


Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A bookmark swag pack and winner’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing eBook
Giveaway is international. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

Holy and the Fallen Book Tour: Giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift Card, Clean Teen Publishing eBook and Bookmark Swag Pack


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Title:  Holy and the Fallen
Series:  The Watchers of Men Series #2
Author:  Amanda Strong
Published:  May 12, 2015
Publisher:  Clean Teen Publishing
Genre:  YA Paranormal Romance
Content Warning:  Minor violence, language, and clean romance

Synopsis: With the Northern City under construction, Micah and Eden’s lives are about to change again when Micah is given new directions. It’s time for the Watchers, the fallen angels buried in the earth, to make their final choice—serve the captain or choose to remain loyal to Semjaza, the dark leader who led them to their downfall. Micah soon learns, however, that Eden is the one thing Semjaza wants more than anything, and he will go to great lengths to obtain her.

Torn between fulfilling his mission and not wanting to leave the ones he cares about, Micah must learn what it truly means to be the captain’s seer. Eden’s friends will be tested as they try to protect her, while each one of them discover there may be more to their gifts than they’d thought. In the war between angels and demons, gifts will be discovered and truths uncovered. All the while, one moment of weakness can prove to be the undoing of them all.

Holy and the Fallen is the exciting squeal to The Awakener by Amanda Strong.

Amazon | GoodReads

Excerpt from Holy and the Fallen by Amanda Strong:
“Gabriel?” Eden called softly. It was late, she knew she should be sleeping, but talking about him today with her parents had left a void in her heart. Her once again, one-sided conversations were not as comforting as they used to be.
“I guess I got a bit spoiled seeing you so much,” she admitted, staring off into the distance. “You probably ran straight to the angel council and told them to fix it so I couldn’t. Was it that bad? Me seeing you?”
She felt nothing and sighed. “I know you said it made things complicated.”  Again nothing.
“Gabriel? Hey, are you there still?” She tried to push the panic down and gripped her blankets tighter.  Nothing.
Now her eyes roamed her room, darting to her floor just to make sure there were no claws coming out from under her bed. She knew she was being ridiculous. He was always there. Maybe she wasn’t focusing on the good feeling. Maybe if she just held still and stopped freaking out, she’d feel the calmness and know he was there.   Maybe…
She felt something else. A cold, draining sensation in her back. It spread down her limbs, leaving her wrist searing in pain. Eden doubled over, gripping her arm to her chest.
“Gabriel!” she gasped. She peeked down just to make sure no blood oozed out. Her flesh remained intact, pink and healthy, but her insides screamed, like her bones were being snapped in two. Pain rocketed her whole frame, shooting from two points of origin—where the demon had nearly bitten her hand off and where Oeillet’s staff had punctured her back.
She curled into a fetal position, hugging her knees, pinching her eyes shut, trying to manage the agony. When her lungs refused to fill with air, she panicked. Oh my gosh! I’m suffocating! She tried to scream for help, but nothing came out but mangled sounds. Hot pain coursed through her chest, wrapping around her heart like fingers made of fire. What’s happening! She saw no demon, no staff protruding from her heart, but it felt like one was there.
Gabriel, where are you?
“Eden!” a voice bellowed at the same time white light shot through her room. Arms wrapped around her and pulled her from her bed. A hand brushed hair from her face, clearing her vision. Bright blue eyes gazed back at her, practically buried under the furrowed brow line.
“Gabriel,” she gasped through gritted teeth.
“Eden, what’s wrong?” While holding her, his eyes scanned her body. “What’s happened to you? Where are you hurt?”
She clutched at her chest and tried to speak, but nothing came out. His eyes widened. With one swift motion, he laid her down and placed both hands on her head. Shutting his eyes, he moved his hands down her frame, lightly touching her shoulders, arms, wrist, back, and torso. He stopped where the staff had punctured her months ago. A stream of fluid words came from his mouth, none of which she understood.
“Curses,” he muttered in English. “I should’ve known.”

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About the Author:
Born in Dekalb, Illinois, Amanda Strong has called Utah, Arizona, Hawaii, Virginia, and now New Mexico home. She has loved to spin tales since childhood. It was not uncommon to find her hiding in some random corner, scribbling away in her spiral-bound notebook, with her bright pink glasses. You could say some things have not changed.

Amanda signed with Clean Teen Publishing in the fall of 2013. She is the author of two paranormal, YA series: The Watchers of Men and Monsters Among Us.

The first novel in The Watchers of Men series, The Awakener, debuted in October of 2013. It has been an Amazon #1 bestseller in three Young Adult categories. Book two, Holy and the Fallen, released on May 12, 2015. She is currently working on book three, The Watcher’s Mark, releasing spring of 2016.

Hidden Monster released on November 4, 2014, and finished as a Finalist in the 2014 USA Best Book Award: Young Adult Category. It is book one of a brand-new young adult, sci-fi thriller series called Monsters Among Us.

When Amanda isn’t writing, you can find her chasing her three rambunctious children around the house and spending time with her wonderful and supportive husband. On some occasions, you can still find Amanda with her not-so-pink glasses, hiding in a corner reading her favorite young adult fantasy novels or working out, only to blow her diet by eating ice cream.

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Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A bookmark swag pack, winner’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing eBook and a $15 Amazon gift card.
Giveaway is international. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.