In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, ina twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.
The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.
Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.
As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough.
The premise of this book sounds SO GOOD! It starts off with secrets and they seem to get deeper and deeper! Can’t wait to dive into Sister Dear? Here’s an excerpt!
The police didn’t believe me.
A jury wouldn’t have, either, if I’d gone on trial, and most definitely not the judge. My attorney had more than a few reservations about my story. Ms. Allerton hadn’t said as much. She didn’t need to. I saw it in her eyes, could tell by the way she shuffled and reshuffled her papers, as if doing so might shake my lies clean off the pages, leaving only the truth behind in her inky, royal blue swirls.
After our first meeting I’d concluded she must’ve known early on—before she shook my hand with her icy fingers—that I was a liar. Before she’d walked into the room in shiny, four-inch heels, she’d no doubt decided she’d heard my excuses, or a variation thereof, from countless clients already. I was yet another person claiming to be innocent. Another criminal who’d remained adamant they’d done nothing wrong, it wasn’t their fault, honest, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, a wall of impending doom surrounding me.
And still, at the time I’d believed the only reason Ms. Allerton had taken on my case pro-bono was because of the amount of publicity it gave her firm. Reducing my sentence—for there would be one—would amplify her legacy as a hot-shot lawyer. I’d accepted her help. There was no other option. I needed her knowledge, her expertise, saw her as my final hope. I now know her motivations were something else I’d miscalculated. All hope extinguished. Game over.
If I’m being fair, the judgements Ms. Allerton and other people had made about me weren’t completely wrong. I had told lies, some, anyway. While that stripped away part of my claim to innocence, it didn’t mean I was entirely guilty. Not of the things everybody said I’d done. Things I’d had no choice but to confess to, despite that being my biggest lie of all.
But I’ll tell you the truth. The whole truth and nothing but. I’ll start at the beginning, and share everything that happened. Every last detail leading up to one fateful night. The night someone died because of me. The night I lost you, too.
I won’t expect your forgiveness. Our relationship—or lack thereof—will have gone way beyond that point. No. All I can hope for, is that my side of the story will one day help you understand why I did the things I did.
And why I have to do the things I’ve not yet done.
Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.
Have you read Sister Dear? Is it on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!
🌈 Title : Out Now 🌈 Author : Saundra Mitchell 🌈 Publisher : Inkyard Press 🌈 PublishDate : May 26, 2020 🌈 Genre : LGBT, Anthology 🌈 Book Form : E-ARC 🌈 Pages : 416 🌈 Dates Read : May 17 – May 19 🌈 Rating : 🌈🌈🌈🌈
Thank you to Inkyard Press for an invite to this blog tour and a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.
A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom…aliens run from the government…a president’s daughter comes into her own…a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer…a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops…skateboards and VW vans…Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page!
This essential and beautifully written modern-day collection features an intersectional and inclusive slate of authors and stories.
– Inkyard Press
Before I get into these stories, I just want to say you do not need to read All Out in order to enjoy this! These are all short stories spotlighting various LGBT characters and are all amazing in their own right! There were 16 short stories in this anthology. They explored so many sexualities.
My favorite story was a tie between What Happens in the Closet and The Coronation. What Happens in the Closet is about vampires who crash a homecoming dance. Austin gets locked in a closet with his arch-nemesis while hiding from them. They are not the sexy vampires we know and love. Of course, while in the closet, they find love. The Coronation is about a trans boy and girl who are being given to the Gods but they decide to fight back. This read very much like a fantasy that picked up right when the action started. Once it ended I was yearning for a whole book!
There weren’t any bad stories in this book. There were some that featured gods and goddesses, some that read like ya contemporary love stories, and fantasies. There is something for everyone in this book! It was 416 pages long, but didn’t feel like it. I flew through it!
I recommend this to anyone who is LGBT, loves their stories, is an ally, or who wants to learn more about different sexualities. You will be sure to find a story you love.
Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture deliverer and a layout waxer. She’s dodged trains, endured basic training and hitchhiked from Montana to California. She teaches herself languages, raises children and makes paper for fun. She is the author of Shadowed Summer and The Vespertine series, the upcoming novelization of The Prom musical, and the editor of Defy the Dark. She always picks truth; dare is too easy. Visit her online at www.saundramitchell.com.
Thank you to Park Row books for an invite to this blog tour and a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.
Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.
Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve.
Guys. I could NOT put this book down! This is one of the ones I was trying to sneakily read at work. It was so twisty. I had to know what was happening next! This was a Grade A thriller!
Maggie is a detective following in her dad’s footsteps. She’s 7 months pregnant and about to tell her boss she wants desk duty until the baby comes. She goes in for a meeting and is surprised to find out they are opening up a cold case from 25 years ago – the murder of her BEST FRIEND!
This story is told in a dual timeline – what is happening now and what happened that fateful day 25 years ago. I loved reading Eve’s POV. It was so interesting to know what happened to the victim and what evens lead to her murder.
Literally everyone in this book is suspect. Maggie, her husband, Eve’s sister, Eve’s boyfriend, the neighbors. I even suspected Maggie’s dad at one point! You can trust no one in this story.
I flew through this book. I had to know who really killed Eve. I remember texting my friend saying “I’m at 89% and I cannot believe anything that is happening!” I was so surprised at the whole ending. The last 10% had me on the edge of my seat!
I fully, 100% recommend this book to any thriller lover. You will not be disappointed!
Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.
🗝️ Title: We Didn’t Ask for This 🗝️ Author: Adi Alsaid 🗝️ Publisher: Inkyard Press 🗝️ Publish Date: April 7, 2020 🗝️ Book Form: E-ARC 🗝️ Pages: 352 🗝️ Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT 🗝️ Dates Read: Mar 30 – Apr 4 🗝️ Rating: 🗝️🗝️🗝️🗝️
Thank you to Inkyard Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
From Adi Alsaid, the acclaimed author of Let’s Get Lost, Never Sometimes Always, and North of Happy
Every year, lock-in night changes lives. This year, it might just change the world.
Central International School’s annual lock-in is legendary — and for six students, this year’s lock-in is the answer to their dreams. The chance to finally win the contest. Kiss the guy. Make a friend. Become the star of a story that will be passed down from student to student for years to come.
But then a group of students, led by Marisa Cuevas, stage an eco-protest and chain themselves to the doors, vowing to keep everyone trapped inside until their list of demands is met. While some students rally to the cause, others are devastated as they watch their plans fall apart. And Marisa, once so certain of her goals, must now decide just how far she’ll go to attain them.
– Inkyard Press
FIRST OFF! I want to share this awesome preorder incentive that goes along with the book’s theme of being environmentally friendly!
Preorder ends tonight at 11:59pm so be sure to preorder now!! Here are the links:
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into We Didn’t Ask for This. I was very pleasantly surprised. I read my first Adi book last month. After reading this, I know I need to read all of his works!
This story is told from one all-knowing POV, but has a huge cast of characters. Thankfully, they are all introduced slowly and with a great background, so I had no trouble keeping up with who was who. I loved the one POV. It gave you little hints or glimpses of what was to come after all of this was over. That really elevated the story for me.
These students go to a private school who has a lock in for high schoolers once a year. This year, Marisa decides to stage a protest during the lock in. She is an avid snorkler and diver, and hates seeing the coral reefs slowly dying off. The kids are stuck in the school for a whole week. Four of them are chained to doors.
Marisa has a list of 30 demands she wants met before she lets everyone out. All the kids have connections – parents are celebrities or ambassadors or huge sports stars. She is banking on one of them being linked to the Lokoloko resort – the main place she wants shut down.
We Didn’t Ask for This isn’t just about Marisa though. Like I said, there is a huge cast of characters – 10 or more. You see them form bonds, friendships, and relationships during tough times. That gives you hope these relationships will last well beyond when this is over. All of the characters had very distinctive voices and actions. This helped to tell them apart. I want to applaud Adi because I think it’s very hard to one, have that many characters in a novel, and two, have them all have distinct voices! He did it so well!
This was a quick read. I know my dates read doesn’t reflect that, but yall, my kid refused to let me read this week. The 30 mintues to an hour a day I got to read I read about 10%-20%. The pace was great and it kept me hooked! I had to see how they were going to get out and what demands ended up being met!
I highly recommend if you are a fan of YA contemporary or Adi. I’m definitely going back to read the rest of his works!
Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City. He attended college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He’s now back in Mexico City, where he writes, coaches basketball, and makes every dish he eats as spicy as possible. In addition to Mexico, he’s lived in Tel Aviv, Las Vegas and Monterey, California. His books include Let’s Get Lost, Never Always Sometimes, and North of Happy. Visit Adi online at http://www.SomewhereOverTheSun.com, or on Twitter: @AdiAlsaid.
Is We Didn’t Ask for This on your tbr? Let me know in the comments below!
What an odd month. Life as we know it has changed for now, and I think we’re all still trying to adjust to the new normal. I know it took a toll on my mental health, so it definitely affected my reading.
I don’t know if that affected my ratings or not, but I read a lot of meh books this month. They weren’t great but weren’t bad either. Here’s what I read:
I didn’t really have a favorite this month. The middle of the month was best reading wise. I liked Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak, The Queen’s Assassin and All the Stars and Teeth. I liked that I read more fantasy this month. I may try to read more next month. It’s a great way to forget about the real world and get lost in a made up one.
My least favorite was We are the Wildcats. I was just so disappointed. It was my most anticipated this month and it was just a total let down.
Goodreads Goal: 30/120. I lowered my goal this month. I’m not really reading a ton of audios, and my eyeball reading just isn’t cutting it. I read 9 ebooks this month, which is more than last month, so at least I’m improving!
I read 3134 pages, which is a little less than last month. But I did read one more ebook than last month! I didn’t do any audios this month. My average rating was 3.22⭐.
I consumed 1 romance, mystery, and horror, 2 fantasies, and 4 contemporaries.
For audiences, I read 1 middle grade, 1 adult and 7 YA.
I read seven ARCs, which is one more than last month! I am trying super hard to get through those and get caught up.
✔️ Yearly Goals Check In ✔️
Monthly Goal of 15 a Month: I read 9 this month. I think I will lower this goal to 10. Ten books a month is definitely doable, and I think I would have hit that had this month not been so weird.
TBR Goal: I kept doing the posts every Sunday, along with a bonus post. As far as reading 20 this year – well, I am at 4. But there is still time! And I’m only 28 away from getting it below 1800! I’m excited to see where we are at the end of the year.
Words & Whimsy: I did a chat with Eric Smith this month which was so much fun! Don’t Read the Comments is still my favorite book of the year! We also did an overhaul, added more mods, and started our own reading game! I’m excited to see what Words & Whimsy Reading Challenge looks like in April! It’s going to be a blast!
Book Battle: Words & Whimsy and Book Battle have parted ways. As I mentioned, we have our own reading game now!
Mithah Reads: I didn’t post as much as I wanted to this month, but I am determined to get back on track with April! I am going to do a couple blog tours next month that I’m really excited about!
I am still keeping up with my three reading spreadsheets, so I’m pretty proud of myself! I do love finishing a book and adding it to the sheet. It’s so satisfying!
What did you read this month? What were your favorite and least favorite reads? Let me know in the comments below!
Thank you to Netgalley and Inkyard Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.
It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.
Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.
A master of award-winning queer historical fiction, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley once again brings to life with heart and vivid detail an emotionally captivating story about the lives of two teen girls living in an age when just being yourself was an incredible act of bravery.
– Inkyard Press
I didn’t really know what to expect going into this book. I knew it was epistolary style, which is my favorite. Sharon and Tammy were randomly paired as pen pals during the summer. This story it told through diary entries and letters to one another.
Tammy is a closeted lesbian living with her ultra-conservative, Christian family. They have even joined political campaigns against LGBT people. Sharon is still trying to figure her life out. She lives in San Francisco with her closeted gay brother and her mom.
Tammy and Sharon both had very distinct voices. I loved that it was super easy to follow who was speaking. I loved watching their pen pal letters grow into a friendship and then more. All of the side characters were interesting and had their own voices, too. There were a couple I would love to learn about if they had their own novel!
Music from Another World was a super quick read that was easy to follow. I’d recommend it if you like LGBT novels or historical fiction – this was set in the 1970s when Harvey Milk was elected.
Thanks again to Inkyard Press for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour! This was a great read!
Robin Talley studied literature and communications at American University. She lives in Washington, DC, with her wife, but visits both Boston and New York regularly despite her moral opposition to Massachusetts winters and Times Square. Her first book was 2014’s Lies We Tell Ourselves. Visit her online at robintalley.com or on Twitter at @robin_talley.
Will you read Music From Another World? Let me know in the comments below!
📚 Title: Don’t Check Out This Book! 📚 Author: Kate Klise, M. Sarah Klise 📚 Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers 📚 Publish Date: March 10, 2020 📚 Book Form: E-ARC 📚 Pages: 160 📚 Genre: MG, Humor 📚 Dates Read: Mar 7 📚 Rating: 📚📚📚.5
Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.
In Don’t Check Out This Book!, Appleton Elementary School has a new librarian, Rita B Danjerous. Not everyone in Appleton likes her unconventional methods or her infamous Green Dot Collection, which allows students to borrow books discreetly, without actually checking them out. Under Rita’s influence, students like Reid Durr and Ben Thinken, and even the absent-minded principal, Noah Memree, are staying up way too late reading. While Rita inspires the students and faculty alike, the new school board president and impeccably mannered shop owner Ivana Beprawpa is busy working to shut down the library and force students into uniforms available only at Beprawpa Attire. But what’s behind Ivana’s school uniform policy? A team of fifth-grade sleuths is determined to get to the bottom of Appleton’s juiciest scandal ever.
Author Kate Klise’s books are “fresh, funny, and a delight to read” (School Library Journal). Here she uses her skill and wit to introduce kids to serious topics, such as censorship and abuse of power. “I was really motivated to cook up a book-banning character who could embody all the pettiness and corruption we see in the world today,” Klise says. “I also wanted to create some book-loving characters who could prevail in the end.” Beneath Appleton’s mystery, there is a pure, unabashed celebration of words, and the rights of all readers to choose their own books. Hilarious, empowering, and exciting, Don’tCheck Out This Book! is filled with clever winks to the audience, as if to say “You’re a reader. You get it.” And by the end, we do.
Big thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour! This was a funny, yet touching MG about the power of books and standing up for what’s right.
This book was so funny! A lot of the names were puns – like Rita B. Danjerous, Etta Toryal, and Gladys Friday. It is also an epistolary format which is my favorite format to read!
In Don’t Check Out This Book, you get memos, emails, letter, and newspaper articles that document the school hiring a brand new librarian. She has a ‘green dot’ collection of books that you don’t need your library card to check out and this is just unacceptable to the superintendent of the school. She is very against books in general. She thinks children should follow the rules.
Rita, the librarian, is trying to teach the kids to question rules and who made them. Always do what you think is right and stand for what you believe in.
This novel is a laugh-out-loud story of the power of books and loud, mean people don’t win! I think it’s a great, important read for kids aged 8-12. Perfect for a classroom!
Kate Klise is the award-winning author of more than 30 books for young readers, many of which are illustrated by her sister, M. Sarah Klise. On her way to becoming an author, Kate Klise worked as a babysitter, waitress, ice-skating instructor, and rosebush pruner. She was also a journalist and spent 15 years reporting for People magazine. When she’s not working on a new book, she enjoys traveling around the country, sharing her best writing tips and tricks with aspiring authors of all ages.
M. Sarah Klise has always had a fondness for creating colorful book reports, which began in elementary school with yarn-bound volumes on states and countries. In college, she enjoyed writing heavily illustrated letters home to her mother. Years later, she still does variations of all that when she illustrates books for young readers. She also teaches art classes in Berkley, CA.
Is Don’t Check Out This Book on your radar? Let me know in the comments below!
I am so excited to be included in the blog tour for The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet! I’ve been wanting to try more high fantasy lately, and this sounds like the perfect book! There’s arranged marriages, secret powers, growing up as something you aren’t. It sounds like it has everything! Here’s a little info about the book and author with an excerpt below!
For fans of S.A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles, and George RR Martin’s The Game of Thrones, this high concept medieval/high fantasy by Kelly Braffet is a deeply immersive and penetrating tale of magic, faith and pride.
The Unwilling is the story of a young woman, born an orphan with a secret gift, who grows up trapped, thinking of herself as an afterthought, but who discovers that she does not have to be given power: she can take it. An epic tale of greed and ambition, cruelty and love, the novel is about bowing to traditions and burning them down.
For reasons that nobody knows or seems willing to discuss, Judah the Foundling was raised as siblings along with Gavin, the heir of Highfall, in the great house beyond the wall, the seat of power at the center of Lord Elban’s great empire. There is a mysterious–one might say unnatural connection–between the two, and it is both the key to Judah’s survival until this point, and now her possible undoing.
As Gavin prepares for his long-arranged marriage to Eleanor of Tiernan, and his brilliant but sickly younger brother Theron tries to avoid becoming commander of the army, Judah is left to realize that she has no actual power or position within the castle, in fact, no hope at all of ever traveling beyond the wall. Lord Elban–a man as powerful as he is cruel- has other plans for her, for all of them. She is a pawn to him and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Meanwhile, outside the wall, in the starving, desperate city, a Magus, a healer with a secret power unlike anything Highfall has seen in years is newly arrived from the provinces. He, too, has plans for the empire, and at the heart of those plans lies Judah. The girl who started off with no name and no history will be forced to discover there’s more to her story than she ever imagined.
Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels Save Yourself, Last Seen Leaving and Josie & Jack. Her writing has been published in The Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and several anthologies. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, the author Owen King. A lifelong reader of speculative fiction, the idea for The Unwilling originally came to her in college; twenty years later, it’s her first fantasy novel. Visit her at kellybraffet.com.
On the third day of the convocation, two of the Slonimi scouts killed a calf, and the herbalist’s boy wept because he’d watched the calf being born and grown to love it. His mother stroked his hair and promised he would forget by the time the feast came, the following night. He told her he would never forget. She said, “Just wait.”
He spent all of the next day playing with the children from the other caravan; three days before, they’d all been strangers, but Slonimi children were used to making friends quickly. The group the boy and his mother traveled with had come across the desert to the south, and they found the cool air of the rocky plain a relief from the heat. The others had come from the grassy plains farther west, and were used to milder weather. While the adults traded news and maps and equipment, the children ran wild. Only one boy, from the other caravan, didn’t run or play: a pale boy, with fine features, who followed by habit a few feet behind one of the older women from the other caravan. “Derie’s apprentice,” the other children told him, and shrugged, as if there was nothing more to say. The older woman was the other group’s best Worker, with dark hair going to grizzle and gimlet eyes. Every time she appeared the herbalist suddenly remembered an herb her son needed to help her prepare, or something in their wagon that needed cleaning. The boy was observant, and clever, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that his mother was trying to keep him away from the older woman: she, who had always demanded he face everything head-on, who had no patience for what she called squeamishness and megrims.
After a hard day of play over the rocks and dry, grayish grass, the boy was starving. A cold wind blew down over the rocky plain from the never-melting snow that topped the high peaks of the Barriers to the east; the bonfire was warm. The meat smelled good. The boy had not forgotten the calf but when his mother brought him meat and roasted potatoes and soft pan bread on a plate, he did not think of him. Gerta—the head driver of the boy’s caravan—had spent the last three days with the other head driver, poring over bloodline records to figure out who between their two groups might be well matched for breeding, and as soon as everybody had a plate of food in front of them they announced the results. The adults and older teenagers seemed to find this all fascinating. The herbalist’s boy was nine years old and he didn’t understand the fuss. He knew how it went: the matched pairs would travel together until a child was on the way, and then most likely never see each other again. Sometimes they liked each other, sometimes they didn’t. That, his mother had told him, was what brandy was for.
The Slonimi caravans kept to well-defined territories, and any time two caravans met there was feasting and trading and music and matching, but this was no ordinary meeting, and both sides knew it. After everyone had eaten their fill, a few bottles were passed. Someone had a set of pipes and someone else had a sitar, but after a song or two, nobody wanted any more music. Gerta—who was older than the other driver—stood up. She was tall and strong, with ropy, muscular limbs. “Well,” she said, “let’s see them.”
In the back, the herbalist slid an arm around her son. He squirmed under the attention but bore it.
From opposite sides of the fire, a young man and a young woman were produced. The young man, Tobin, had been traveling with Gerta’s people for years. He was smart but not unkind, but the herbalist’s son thought him aloof. With good reason, maybe; Tobin’s power was so strong that being near him made the hair on the back of the boy’s neck stand up. Unlike all the other Workers—who were always champing at the bit to get a chance to show off—Tobin was secretive about his skills. He shared a wagon with Tash, Gerta’s best Worker, even though the two men didn’t seem particularly friendly with each other. More than once the boy had glimpsed their lantern burning late into the night, long after the main fire was embers.
The young woman had come across the plains with the others. The boy had seen her a few times; she was small, round, and pleasant-enough looking. She didn’t strike the boy as particularly remarkable. But when she came forward, the other caravan’s best Worker—the woman named Derie—came with her. Tash stood up when Tobin did, and when they all stood in front of Gerta, the caravan driver looked from one of them to the other. “Tash and Derie,” she said, “you’re sure?”
“Already decided, and by smarter heads than yours,” the gimlet-eyed woman snapped.
Tash, who wasn’t much of a talker, merely said, “Sure.”
Gerta looked back at the couple. For couple they were; the boy could see the strings tied round each wrist, to show they’d already been matched. “Hard to believe,” she said. “But I know it’s true. I can feel it down my spine. Quite a legacy you two carry; five generations’ worth, ever since mad old Martin bound up the power in the world. Five generations of working and planning and plotting and hoping; that’s the legacy you two carry.” The corner of her mouth twitched slightly. “No pressure.”
A faint ripple of mirth ran through the listeners around the fire. “Nothing to joke about, Gerta,” Derie said, lofty and hard, and Gerta nodded.
“I know it. They just seem so damn young, that’s all.” The driver sighed and shook her head. “Well, it’s a momentous occasion. We’ve come here to see the two of you off, and we send with you the hopes of all the Slonimi, all the Workers of all of our lines, back to the great John Slonim himself, whose plan this was. His blood runs in both of you. It’s strong and good and when we put it up against what’s left of Martin’s, we’re bound to prevail, and the world will be free.”
“What’ll we do with ourselves then, Gert?” someone called out from the darkness, and this time the laughter was a full burst, loud and relieved.
Gerta smiled. “Teach the rest of humanity how to use the power, that’s what we’ll do. Except you, Fausto. You can clean up after the horses.”
More laughter. Gerta let it run out, and then turned to the girl.
“Maia,” she said, serious once more. “I know Derie’s been drilling this into you since you were knee-high, but once you’re carrying, the clock is ticking. Got to be inside, at the end.”
“I know,” Maia said.
Gerta scanned the crowd. “Caterina? Cat, where are you?”
Next to the boy, the herbalist cleared her throat. “Here, Gerta.”
Gerta found her, nodded, and turned back to Maia. “Our Cat’s the best healer the Slonimi have. Go see her before you set out. If you’ve caught already, she’ll know. If you haven’t, she’ll know how to help.”
“It’s only been three days,” Tobin said, sounding slighted.
“Nothing against you, Tobe,” Gerta said. “Nature does what it will. Sometimes it takes a while.”
“Not this time,” Maia said calmly.
A murmur ran through the crowd. Derie sat up bolt-straight, her lips pressed together. “You think so?” Gerta said, matching Maia’s tone—although nobody was calm, even the boy could feel the sudden excited tension around the bonfire.
“I know so,” Maia said, laying a hand on her stomach. “I can feel her.”
The tension exploded in a mighty cheer. Instantly, Tobin wiped the sulk off his face and replaced it with pride. The boy leaned into his mother and whispered, under the roar, “Isn’t it too soon to tell?”
“For most women, far too soon, by a good ten days. For Maia?” Caterina sounded as if she were talking to herself, as much as to her son. The boy felt her arm tighten around him. “If she says there’s a baby, there’s a baby.”
After that the adults got drunk. Maia and Tobin slipped away early. Caterina knew a scout from the other group, a man named Sadao, and watching the two of them dancing together, the boy decided to make himself scarce. Tash would have an empty bunk, now that Tobin was gone, and he never brought women home. He’d probably share. If not, there would be a bed somewhere. There always was.
In the morning, the boy found Caterina by the fire, only slightly bleary, and brewing a kettle of strong-smelling tea. Her best hangover cure, she told her son. He took out his notebook and asked what was in it. Ginger, she told him, and willowbark, and a few other things; he wrote them all down carefully. Labeled the page. Caterina’s Hangover Cure.
Then he looked up to find the old woman from the bonfire, Derie, listening with shrewd, narrow eyes. Behind her hovered her apprentice, the pale boy, who this morning had a bruised cheek. “Charles, go fetch my satchel,” she said to him, and he scurried away. To Caterina, Derie said, “Your boy’s conscientious.”
“He learns quickly,” Caterina said, and maybe she just hadn’t had enough hangover tea yet, but the boy thought she sounded wary.
“And fair skinned,” Derie said. “Who’s his father?”
Derie nodded. “Travels with Afia’s caravan, doesn’t he? Solid man.”
Caterina shrugged. The boy had only met his father a few times. He knew Caterina found Jasper boring.
“Healer’s a good trade. Everywhere needs healers.” Derie paused. “A healer could find his way in anywhere, I’d say. And with that skin—”
The boy noticed Gerta nearby, listening. Her own skin was black as obsidian. “Say what you’re thinking, Derie,” the driver said.
“Highfall,” the old woman said, and immediately, Caterina said, “No.”
“It’d be a great honor for him, Cat,” Gerta said. The boy thought he detected a hint of reluctance in Gerta’s voice.
“Has he done his first Work yet?” Derie said.
Caterina’s lips pressed together. “Not yet.”
Charles, the bruised boy, reappeared with Derie’s satchel.
“We’ll soon change that,” the old woman said, taking the satchel without a word and rooting through until she found a small leather case. Inside was a small knife, silver-colored but without the sheen of real silver.
The boy noticed his own heartbeat, hard hollow thuds in his chest. He glanced at his mother. She looked unhappy, her brow furrowed. But she said nothing.
“Come here, boy,” Derie said.
He sneaked another look at his mother, who still said nothing, and went to stand next to the woman. “Give me your arm,” she said, and he did. She held his wrist with a hand that was both soft and hard at the same time. Her eyes were the most terrifying thing he’d ever seen.
“It’s polite to ask permission before you do this,” she told him. “Not always possible, but polite. I need to see what’s in you, so if you say no, I’ll probably still cut you, but—do I have your permission?”
Behind Derie, Gerta nodded. The bruised boy watched curiously.
“Yes,” the boy said.
“Good,” Derie said. She made a quick, confident cut in the ball of her thumb, made an identical cut in his small hand, quickly drew their two sigils on her skin in the blood, and pressed the cuts together.
The world unfolded. But unfolded was too neat a word, too tidy. This was like when he’d gone wading in the western sea and been knocked off his feet, snatched underwater, tossed in a maelstrom of sand and sun and green water and foam—but this time it wasn’t merely sand and sun and water and foam that swirled around him, it was everything. All of existence, all that had ever been, all that would ever be. His mother was there, bright and hot as the bonfire the night before—not her face or her voice but the Caterina of her, her very essence rendered into flame and warmth.
But most of what he felt was Derie. Derie, immense and powerful and fierce: Derie, reaching into him, unfolding him as surely as she’d unfolded the world. And this was neat and tidy, methodical, almost cold. She unpacked him like a trunk, explored him like a new village. She sought out his secret corners and dark places. When he felt her approval, he thrilled. When he felt her contempt, he trembled. And everywhere she went she left a trace of herself behind like a scent, like the chalk marks the Slonimi sometimes left for each other. Her sigil was hard-edged, multi-cornered. It was everywhere. There was no part of him where it wasn’t.
Then it was over, and he was kneeling by the campfire, throwing up. Caterina was next to him, making soothing noises as she wrapped a cloth around his hand. He leaned against her, weak and grateful.
“It’s all right, my love,” she whispered in his ear, and the nervousness was gone. Now she sounded proud, and sad, and as if she might be crying. “You did well.”
He closed his eyes and saw, on the inside of his eyelids, the woman’s hard, angular sigil, burning like a horse brand.
“Don’t coddle him,” Derie said, and her voice reached through him, back into the places inside him where she’d left her mark. Caterina’s arm dropped away. He forced himself to open his eyes and stand up. His entire body hurt. Derie was watching him, calculating but—yes—pleased. “Well, boy,” she said. “You’ll never be anyone’s best Worker, but you’re malleable, and you’ve got the right look. There’s enough power in you to be of use, once you’re taught to use it. You want to learn?”
“Yes,” he said, without hesitating.
“Good,” she said. “Then you’re my apprentice now, as much as your mother’s. You’ll still learn herbs from your mother, so we’ll join our wagon to your group. But don’t expect the kisses and cuddles from me you get from her. For me, you’ll work hard and you’ll learn hard and maybe someday you’ll be worthy of the knowledge I’ll pass on to you. Say, Yes, Derie.”
“Yes, Derie,” he said.
“You’ve got a lot to learn,” she said. “Go with Charles. He’ll show you where you sleep.”
He hesitated, looked at his mother, because it hadn’t occurred to him that he would be leaving her. Suddenly, swiftly, Derie kicked hard at his leg. He yelped and jumped out of the way. Behind her he saw Charles—he of the bruised face—wince, unsurprised but not unsympathetic.
“Don’t ever make me ask you anything twice,” she said.
Hello again, everyone! I’m here for the Cast in Wisdom Blog Tour stop! I’ve been very fortunate to participate in Harlequin’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy and Thriller blog tours and I have so much fun every time!
Today I’m sharing with you a little bit about Cast in Wisdom by Michelle Sagara as well as an excerpt!
“In the aftermath of the events in the High Halls, there are loose ends. One of those loose ends is the fieflord, Candallar. In an attempt to understand his involvement—with the Barrani, with the High Court, and with the much hated Arcanum—Kaylin has been sent to the fiefs.
She has mixed feelings about this. There’s nothing mixed about her feelings when she discovers a very unusual building in the border zone between two fiefs, and far more questions are raised than are answered. Her attempt to get answers leads her back to the Imperial Palace and its resident Dragon librarian, the Arkon.
Things that were lost in the dim past were not, perhaps, destroyed or obliterated—and what remains appears to be in the hands of a fieflord and his allies—allies who would like to destroy Kaylin’s friends, the Emperor, and possibly the Barrani High Court itself. This is bad.
What’s worse: The librarian who hates to leave his library has a very strong interest in the things that might, just might, have been preserved, and—he is leaving his library to do in person research, no matter what Kaylin, the Hawks, or the Emperor think.
He is not the only one. Other people are gathering in the border zone; people who believe knowledge is power. But power is also power, and it might be too late for the Empire’s most dedicated Historian—and Kaylin and her friends, who’ve been tasked with his safety.”
Michelle Sagara is an author, bookseller, and lover of literature based in Toronto. She writes fantasy novels and lives with her husband and her two children, and to her regret has no dogs. Reading is one of her life-long passions, and she is sometimes paid for her opinions about what she’s read by the venerable Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. No matter how many bookshelves she buys, there is Never Enough Shelf space. Ever.
“You are such a coward,” Bellusdeo said when they’d reached the relative safety of the street. The roads in and around Helen were sparsely populated at the busiest of times, which this wasn’t. They would soon join roads that were crowded at the slowest of times, but Kaylin was dressed for the office. The Hawk emblazoned on her tabard encouraged people to make space.
Had Bellusdeo hit the streets in her Draconic form, she’d have cleared far more of it—but some of that space would be created by panic, and panic could cause both accidents and the type of traffic congestion that caused the Swords to investigate. Also, it was illegal.
“It’s not cowardice,” Kaylin replied, scanning the windows of the buildings above ground level.
“What would you call it?”
“There’s no point in arguing with them now. Sedarias thinks it’ll be months before this ridiculous command performance occurs. We have months to attempt to talk her out of—”
“Out of expressing any appreciation or gratitude?”
Ugh. “You know they’re grateful. This isn’t about gratitude. It’s about rubbing that gratitude in the faces of the Barrani who attempted to brand you a—an army. An attacking army.”
“I believe the term you want is Flight.” Bellusdeo’s eyes were orange.
Hope squawked at the Dragon. Kaylin didn’t understand what he was saying. Bellusdeo did, but her eyes didn’t get any lighter.
“You know as well as I do,” Kaylin said, emboldened by Hope’s entry into the discussion, “that this is not the time to visit the High Halls. I’m not sure the Emperor has ever been a guest there.”
“We visited the Halls—more or less—when they came under attack, and the Barrani needed our help.”
“From the outside. No one invited the Dragon Court in.”
The chorus of Barrani voices that sometimes offered entirely unasked for opinions on the inside of her head maintained their silence for half a beat. The first person to break that silence was the fieflord. His words were tinged with amusement.
You cannot expect that the cohort would suddenly cease to cause any difficulty, surely?
I’m almost certain that the cohort understands why inviting a Dragon—any Dragon—to attend the High Halls would be a disaster.
For the Dragons?
I believe some of the more conservative High Lords might be surprisingly supportive of such an invitation.
Of course they would. It would be their best shot at killing Bellusdeo. If Bellusdeo died, there would be no new Dragons. No hatchlings.
There’s no way the Emperor would give her permission to attend.
Nightshade concurred. In his position, I would not. But I would be prepared, should I refuse to grant that permission, for all-out war. My brother has grown inordinately fond of her; living with you has made him reckless.
He has known Bellusdeo for even less time than you. He is willing to trust her in a fashion no one older would. And do not cite the Consort, please.
Kaylin hadn’t intended to. The Consort seems to like her.
Kaylin, the Consort “likes” me. But she does not trust me.
“Stop making that face, or it will freeze that way.” Kaylin reddened.
I understand that you are attempting to avoid the Emperor’s ire. I consider this wise on your part. It is not, however, the ire of the Emperor that will be your most significant problem; he will do nothing to harm Bellusdeo.
I know that.
It is the ire of the High Lords. Sedarias is, I believe, genuinely grateful for Bellusdeo’s intervention. She does wish to honor her. But gratitude can be expressed privately—and in most cases, it is. Only rulers feel obliged to make that expression public because the public expression elevates those to whom one feels gratitude. It makes clear to witnesses that the aid tendered—in whatever fashion—is important and significant. The Emperor has codified such significance in public ceremonies and public titles, has he not?
For Sedarias, however, genuine gratitude is not an impediment to political displays. She can be genuinely grateful and simultaneously,extremely political. She wishes to highlight Bellusdeo’s aid and import to Mellarionne. Why do you think this is?
Kaylin thought about this. After a long pause, she said, She wants to thumb her nose at the rest of the High Lords, many of whom weren’t helpful at all?
Nightshade’s silence was one of encouragement.
Bellusdeo’s a Dragon. So…her presence means that even Dragons—with whom you’ve had a war or two—
Fine, a war or three, were more helpful, or at least more of a genuine ally, than any of the Barrani.
Yes. I believe that is some part of Sedarias’s intent. That’s not going to help Mellarionne any.
Perhaps, perhaps not. She will do so as An’Mellarionne. It would be considered a very bold move—but there are those who would assume that Sedarias is confident in her own power, and they would hesitate to challenge her.
“If you are speaking about me,” Bellusdeo said, her voice almost a whisper of sound, “I must insist that you include me.”
“Well, yes, that could cause some difficulty,” the Dragon replied. “But I dislike Kaylin’s worry. She is mortal.” Squawk. “The marks of the Chosen don’t matter. She’s mortal. I may be a displaced person in these lands; I may no longer have a home or lands of my own. But I am a Dragon.”
“I’m not exactly worried about you,” Kaylin said. When one golden brow rose in response, she added, “Not about you specifically. But—there’s no way for Dragon and High Halls to combine that isn’t political. Explosively political. On your own, you can survive more than any of the rest of the cohort—or me. But you won’t be on your own. The cohort won’t abandon you.”
It was the Dragon’s turn to snort.
Kaylin reconsidered her words and chose better ones. “Most of the cohort wouldn’t abandon you. Annarion wouldn’t. Mandoran wouldn’t. I don’t believe Allaron would either, from what I’ve seen. And you know what the cohort is like. The minute one of them enters combat to save you, they’re all going to rush in. It doesn’t matter if they’re there for your sake or their friends’; they’ll be there. But this is political, and anything political is far above my pay grade.”
“You don’t seem to find this insulting.”
“I consider it one of the biggest advantages of my rank. Which is the lowest rank I could be given and still be called a Hawk.”
“One of? What’s another one?”
“I’m not in command. I don’t need to make decisions that might cost the lives of other Hawks. No matter what happens in an action, large or small, I won’t have their deaths on my hands.”
“But you don’t like being a private.”
“Well, I could be a corporal, and it would still be mostly true. And the pay is higher.”
“It’s not much higher,” a familiar voice said. It was Mandoran’s. Of course it was. Kaylin didn’t miss a step.
“I don’t suggest you try to enter the Halls of Law looking like that.”
“Like thin air.”
“Oh. That.” Mandoran caused other people some consternation as he materialized to the side of Kaylin that Bellusdeo wasn’t occupying. To be fair, most of the street didn’t notice; people always had their own problems and their own schedules. “I was going to follow Teela into the office, but Teela’s not heading there directly.”
“So you followed us?”
“Not most of the way, no. I decided to head straight here to wait, but I caught up because you’re doing the Hawk-walk.” He glanced at Bellusdeo. “For what it’s worth, I think insisting on your presence on the inside of the High Halls is suicidal.”
“Oh?” The Dragon’s voice was cool. “For who?”
Mandoran grinned. “Mostly Kaylin.”
Kaylin watched as flecks of gold appeared in Bellusdeo’s eyes. Mandoran had, once again, managed to set Bellusdeo at ease. Kaylin wondered if that was why he’d chosen to speak when he had. He never treated the Dragon with respect; had the Emperor been present for most of their spats, she wasn’t certain Mandoran wouldn’t be a pile of bleeding ash. Well, ash, because ash didn’t bleed, but still.
“You left the rest of the cohort behind?” Kaylin asked.
“We had a vote, and Helen decided it was safest to send me.”
“She was the tie-breaker?”
“Ah, no. She didn’t consider the first choice viable. But— we can all see what I see anyway, so unless there’s an attack, having more than one person here is superfluous. If Teela had been coming directly to the office, someone would have followed Teela.”
“Not you?” Bellusdeo asked.
“I had to live with Tain for a few years. Compressed into a few weeks, I might add. He’s stuffy and remarkably straightforward. Also, he hates fun.”
“He hates mess,” Kaylin said, as they approached the stairs that led into the Halls of Law.
“Define mess. No, wait, don’t. The problem with Tain—at least for me—is that Teela might actually kill us if we’re indirectly responsible for his death. He’s not like the rest of us; we can’t speak to him without shouting, and even if we can, he doesn’t listen half the time. So…it’s a lot less safe to tail Tain.”
“I imagine it’s safer to tail Tain than it is to tail Kaylin if you’re worried about Teela’s reaction,” Bellusdeo said, frowning slightly.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
A haunting thriller about a woman who attempts to save her brother’s life by making a dangerous pact with a network of vigilantes who’ve been hunting down the predators of Los Angeles.
Jazz can’t let her younger brother die.
Their foster mother Carol has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.
Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her, people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to murder the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.
All she has to do is kill a stranger.
Jazz soon learns there’s more to fear than getting caught carrying out her assignment. The leader of the club has a zero tolerance policy for mistakes.
And the punishment for disobeying orders is death.
Yall, Harlequin Trade has some GREAT thrillers coming out this winter! I’ve been in a thriller mood and these have not disappointed!
This twisty murder-for-hire had a unique take that I loved. Let’s say you need to be rid of someone. Easy. This secret group contacts you, offers to take them out while you have a rock solid alibi. The only thing you have to do is take someone out for someone else.
Jazz is willing to risk this to save her brother from the evil foster mom. Her journey takes her through so many twists and turns, in the end I didn’t know who I was rooting for.
The characters were all very believable. From Jazz, who had some legal issues but will do anything to save her brother. To her kid brother, Joaquin, who is a Type 1 Diabetic. To Carol, the crazy, snake-charming-religion-following foster mom who isn’t doing what’s best for Joaquin. I felt like I had met all of these people before in my life. The actions, words and feelings seemed to jump right off the page to play a movie in my mind.
The story was fast paced. I didn’t want to put it down. I had to know what would happen. Would she save her brother? Would she get the girl? Would the secret program find her and kill her?
This is a must read for ever thriller lover! I’ve already recommended it to my friends! It will be a perfect Christmas gift!
Wendy Heard, author of Hunting Annabelle, was born in San Francisco and has lived most of her life in Los Angeles. When not writing, she can be found hiking the Griffith Park trails, taking the Metro and then questioning this decision, and haunting local bookstores.