Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze: Excerpt

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze banner
This is my stop during the book blitz for Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze by Veronica Elle Butler. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 25 till 31 March. See the tour schedule here.

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze
By Veronica Elle Butler
Genre: Fantasy
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: 25 March, 2019

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze

Book Synopsis

Twelve-year-old Chloe Rose lives a quiet, happy life in her hometown Wilmoton, but she’s haunted by the same nightmare night after night—one with guns and swords and lost fathers. When another brewing battle has her town preparing for war, Chloe’s fears are made into a reality. Promises are left unfulfilled, her family is torn apart, and she must leave her comfy life in Wilmoton behind when she and her mother move into the King’s palace. Living in a castle seems like a dream come true, like the new beginning they need, but Chloe’s not convinced. After a series of altercations, Chloe Rose is kicked out, more desperate for hope than ever. To restore what she’s lost, Chloe travels to an enchanted maze where wishes come true and fairies rule. But with evil forces working against her and her new friends, can Chloe complete the trials of the maze or will her heart’s desires be left unfulfilled?

Chloe Rose and The Enchanted Maze is a powerful story of bravery, friendship, grief, and love.

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Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze is a perfect story for children in military families, mixed race families, or for readers looking for more #ownvoices stories. Discussion questions and teaching materials are available.

Excerpt

The wind sang through the meadow under the open bright skies of Wilmoton, the land advanced confidently with warmth. Each new day, the promise of spring drew near as wildflowers rose from the earth. The Langerfield battle had ended two years ago, and peace had once again returned to Wilmoton. So, Chloe Rose spent some time alone in her special place.

This was where she felt lighter and happier; its warmth spread to her heart. Here, Chloe’s favorite spot was on a little hill in the middle of a meadow that overlooked Wilmoton. It was one of the most beautiful views that her hometown had to offer.

Surrounded by gentle whispers of nature, it was also Chloe’s special place to draw flowers and pick them for her mother. The sun glared down at her from the sky, and the breeze brushed her sun-kissed skin while she let her curly brown locks down. She smiled with every twirl on her dress on the soft-bedded grass. For a moment, everything was peaceful and her heart had a steady, calm beat. Here, she was not afraid of what haunted her thoughts, that which caused her to squeeze her eyes shut to make go away. Nor did she worry about the nightmares that came every night after those thoughts. Everything is brighter and calm here, Chloe thought now.

As time crept up on her, Chloe finished her drawing and brushed the pencil shavings and eraser crumbs from her dress. She walked down the slope of the Meadow and back home to her mother, Catherine. She picked some rosebuds for her mother—Mom likes to watch the petals expand slowly as they bloom. She also grabbed the sketch of her view of the meadow, which she made for her father, Michael.

Chloe’s affection and admiration for her parents were unfathomable. She liked to believe her father had superpowers. Her father was the captain of the Wilmoton’s army. The ongoing dispute between Wilmoton and Cottondale was as old as time. A dispute over land and who owns what and who was the first one on the more fertile land.

Cottondale’s features ranged from cracked sidewalks and deteriorated houses that either had weathered paints along their walls or were in ruins from previous conflicts. Remnants of broken swords and shields littered its fields. The people of Cottondale showed no inclination to repair these damages. Instead, they carried on with their lives in the only way they could, with the hope of reusing the broken swords and broken shields, whenever the situation would inevitably call for it again.

Wilmoton was a quaint town with unsurpassed colorful cottages and a huge bell tower named “Armstrong” at the heart of its harmonious infrastructure. The women learned to sew and weave every day in workshops. The people of Wilmoton were hardworking, and it showed. It was the type of place where almost everyone knew each other and people greeted each other with a smile. Wilmoton was ruled by King Francis II, a kind king who protected his people.

Apart from the never-ceasing war between Wilmoton and Cottondale, Chloe loved living in her hometown. As she skipped along the sidewalk, her pink gown flared up and down in the wind with every bounce. She soon spotted Mr. Andrews with the evening newspaper— a worried look on his face. 

 The Andrews family lived a couple of cottages away from the Roses, and their two daughters Chloe Rose and Thyra Andrews were best friends. Like Chloe’s father, Albert Andrews was in the army, too.

During one of the many conflicts between the two towns, someone abandoned a baby in a wicker basket on the boundaries of Wilmoton. Disturbed by this little bundle of joy’s being abandoned, Mr. Andrews hurried back to his home with the baby, showing her to his wife, Ava, who had no child of her own. Ava Andrews was overjoyed, so they adopted the baby and named her Thyra.

Upon seeing his worry, Chloe waved her hand to say, “Hello, Mr. Andrews!” Her broad smile revealed her glittering brown eyes, which could cheer up any sad face on a normal day. This time, it did not.

“Hello, Chloe,” Mr. Andrews replied in haste, his whole face lit up with worry and confusion. Chloe did not know how to interpret the look on his face, so she continued home.

About the Author

Veronica Elle ButlerVeronica Elle Butler is a Middle-Grade Author. Growing up, her childhood dream job is to become a doctor like most children but her life path leads her to a different role; wife, mom, twin daughters in a nutshell . She conceives the idea of an Enchanted Maze one night after reading bedtime stories to her twin daughters. She wants to create a world she could share with her daughters and other children as well, so, she begins to map out her story on a notebook every night when it’s quiet without distractions. Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze pulls the reader into a world of mystery that overlaps our mortal world all consisting of grief, pains of rejection, a curious twist of fate, heart of courage, and forming lasting friendships, she delivers an unforgettable adventure to her readers. She’s an avid scrabble player, enjoys documentaries and, learns along side of her husband the roles of a Military Man when she’s not writing. She enjoys spending time with her daughters and being a Mom. Her twins absolutely love Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze and she hopes every child would fall in love with it as much as they have. To find out more you can follow her on Twitter @MazeEnchanted. Her debut novel Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze will be available in Spring 2020.

You can find and contact Veronica Elle Butler here
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Blue Skies Review

BLUE SKIES
by
Anne Bustard
Middle Grade / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Date of Publication: March 17, 2020
Number of Pages: 224

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Ten-year-old Glory Bea Bennett believes in miracles. After all, her grandmother—the best matchmaker in the whole county—is responsible for thirty-nine of them so far.

Now, Glory Bea wants a miracle of her own—her daddy’s return.

The war ended three years ago, but Glory Bea’s father never returned from the front in France. She believes Daddy is still out there.

When reports that the Texas boxcar from the Merci Train—a train filled with gifts of gratitude from the people of France—will be stopping in Gladiola, Glory Bea just knows Daddy will be its surprise cargo.

But miracles, like people, are always changing, until at last they find their way home.

PRAISE FOR BLUE SKIES:

“I loved Blue Skies so much I couldn’t bear for it to end.” –Patricia Reilly Giff, Newbery Honor author of Lily’s Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods

“A heart-warming (and occasionally heart-wrenching) delight of a book . . .” –Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore

“A tender story of grief and the gentle comfort of loved ones.” Kirkus Reviews

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I really commend Bustard’s writing here, Not only are her characters completely charming but her style of writing is too. As someone that completely embraces my inner head voice when reading, a Texan accent is a must for this. I hope everyone that reads this agrees. *Audiobook hint?

 

Bustard also uses an epistolary style (something I just learned) with local news updates and French definitions. I truly truly loved this. It was a fun addition that moved the pace of the story and involved the reader into learning as well.

 

Let’s talk story now. Glory Bea is a great character. She is spirited, creative, mischievous, and stubborn. I could keep naming a bunch of other adjectives but I’ll go deeper. Blue Skies, while middle grade reading, is not afraid to dive into deep emotions and dealing with loss. Glory Bea firmly believes her father is coming back and I was so into her character, that I believe it with her. Because miracles can happen right? However, it’s more than that. While she prepares for his homecoming, keeping it all a secret, she’s dealing with changes in her life that are out of her control. She has not had her father for fours years and the family along with her have kept his belongings where they are, never giving up. I was just so moved and heartbroken in the glimpses of the past for them. However, it’s all done so gently in the story. It’s an underlining truth to their life but so much more happens. The pace of the book is relatively quick and with a goal in mind, the Merci Train arriving, life continues to move on.

 

The character relationships are great. I enjoyed the interactions between Glory Bea and Ben, especially the silly pranks they play on each other. Glory Bea’s relationship with her mother really stands out as well. The mother’s reactions, for instance, took me by surprise. I did feel frustration sometimes with her grandparents and mother’s non-action to talking things out with Glory Bea. She is struggling at times and even acting out but they would leave her to calming down or dealing with it herself, besides a short talk. The longest discussion she does have about her feelings ends up being with someone unexpected. It was definitely an interesting approach but perhaps not fully described since we don’t know everything that happened after the War ended.

 

Things I loved about Blue Skies:
The artistic and musical vibrancy of the town.
Her Grandpa taking out his pocket watch to ensure they’re on time.
Dr. Pepper floats. (Now I want one!)
The be-a-utiful cover.
A ten-year old trying to be a matchmaker.
This historical fiction still being so relevant today.
Glory Bea giving her friend a perm without reading the instructions. (Something I would definitely do.)
The use of the song Blue Skies, which has also been a favorite of mine and holds great memories.
Again, I must mention the amazing writing of this story. The tone is somewhat nostalgic but lighthearted. There are bits of comedy that shine and keep you grinning. I couldn’t put the book down…except for one moment to grab a tissue. A fantastic read that will leave you feeling lighter in spirit than before.
Anne Bustard is the former co-owner of Toad Hall Children’s Bookstore in Austin, Texas, and an MFA graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the middle grade novel, Anywhere But Paradise, as well as two picture books, RAD! and Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, which was an IRA Children’s Book Award Notable and a Bank Street Book of the Year. Hawaii-born, she divides her time between Texas and Canada.

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March 17-March 27, 2020

VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

3/17/20
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3/17/20
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3/18/20
Review
3/19/20
Playlist
3/20/20
Author Interview
3/21/20
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3/22/20
Guest Post
3/23/20
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3/24/20
Review
3/25/20
Top Ten List
3/26/20
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The Seventh Blessing: Promo

The Seventh Blessing

By Ricky Baxter

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release date: June 2019


Summary


Within the world of Popla, the gods rule over mankind. Thanks to their order, mankind lives safe from the dangers of the world’s monsters and demon beasts. However, even with their protection, there are some who have chosen to rebel against their benevolent masters.

Having lost his sister to a mysterious sickness called the Seventh Blessing, rumoured to have been created by the gods themselves, A young man named Luna will attempt to rescue her soul from death. Armed with a living blade, he will oppose the order of the gods – going as far as to request the aid of a legendary demon named Ten.

Within this epic fantasy adventure, the trio will explore a world together, where divinity and mortality are intertwined. However, at the end of their journey, will the true secret of the Seventh Blessing tear them apart?

Excerpt

As the dark cloud disappears, the waning sunset shows itself once more – allowing for us to take a clear look at the dark and mysterious girl. Her hair is short and black, making her look almost boyish. Upon her forehead, a third closed eye can be seen. Behind her, a long scaly tail shows itself, extending down to her feet. On close inspection of her so-called cloak, they look to be wings, folded to resemble that of a cloak. More importantly, what should I do right now? If she comes at me, I won’t have the energy to fend her off. My only choice is to perhaps persuade her not to fight me.

Slowly standing to my feet, I hide my nerves and state “My name is Luna and I have come here, requesting your help. I seek the Land of the Gods and I believe you know where it is.”

Eyes perked with interest, she responds “The Land of the Gods? Hmph, if you knew anything about that land, you’d know that its whereabouts cannot be spoken” confirming the words of the defeated god moments earlier. Shifting her gaze to Adamas, her smile drops and she utters “Furthermore – what are you doing with Adamas? It doesn’t belong to you!”

“Huh? How does she know my name?” Asks the surprised sword – looking to me for answers.

“How the hell should I know?” I reply to it – equally surprised by her knowledge of my companion sword. None of this makes sense. If she knows of Adamas, then does that mean it too was alive over five thousand years ago and played a part in the so-called calamity? If that’s true, why doesn’t it know of her?

Suddenly, the demon girl unfolds her dark wings – revealing a tight vest and short skirt. Shouting forth she says “I asked you a question, worm! What are you doing with Adamas? Everybody knows that it belongs to only one other person!”

Within the palm of her hand, a great ball of fire appears and grows larger by the second. “Shit… could this day get any worse?” I whisper, watching as the fireball grows to be the size of a house. Holding it above her head, she screams to me.

“You’re dead meat, mister!”

About the Author
Ricky Baxter is the author of Gideon and the Crimson Samurai, a fantasy novel newly released for Amazon Kindle. He is an avid blogger, giving advice and thoughts to fellow creators from all walks of life. His other works include Colours of Destiny, a Youtube visual novel. Currently he lives in London England where he writes and blogs.

Starting out as a composer since graduating with a Ba(Hons) in music and multimedia, Ricky worked for many independent short film directors – for over six years, gaining notable IMDB credits . Since then, he has embraced his earlier passion of writing fictional stories.

Website – Goodreads – Twitter – Facebook 

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Coded For Murder Review

CODED FOR MURDER

by
DIANNE SMITHWICK-BRADEN
Genre: Murder Mystery / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: DSB Mysteries
Publication Date: September 26, 2019
Number of Pages: 358 pages

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Jade O’Neal is a senior at West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas. She’s on track to graduate with highest honors and a degree in history until she is accused of murder. She juggles her busy school and work schedule around taking care of an overgrown Rottweiler and being questioned by police until she finds a series of clues hidden in puzzle form.
Time is against her as she follows the clues to find the true identity of the murderer while avoiding arrest and her own murder.

 


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I can honestly say that the summary of this book in no way prepared me for everything that unfolded in Coded For Mystery. Greater in size and world building, this book can have you immersed in its characters lives and the shadow of mystery that hangs over them. For one, we have Jade’s uncle Erik, who is a significant throughout so much of this book. Along with him are a slew of characters and a rowdy giant dog that will show the great talent of character development. The instant dislike for some and hopeful protective nature to others. It is easy to see that Smithwick-Braden has a knack for creating tones to her characters.

 

This book excels in bringing detail and thoroughness to the story. While a scene can walk you through the main parts, Smithwick-Braden gives a slower tempo to the characters. This was excellent not only to draw out the tension in scenes but share the character’s uneasiness. On the opposite end, the shift in perspectives and frequencies of other characters being introduced can throw you for a loop sometimes. A few times I did need to go back to remember certain characters, though I didn’t mind at all. Oftentimes, you get the sense of reading a case file written like a diary. With dates and even times to keep the book moving forward, it was easy to track the span of time and follow along when the story’s pace changes.

 

It was easy to connect with Jade’s character. Especially since I have also been dragged across the ground by a rambunctious dog chasing their dream of catching defenseless prey. It’s not pretty. Especially when someone is watching. Pretty much from that scene in the beginning, Jade was a likable character and I rooted for her. With Jade’s hope of having a career like her Uncle one day, she is blindsided by all the events that take place. At times, I was so frustrated with how things went. Especially Uncle Erik keeping his investigations a secret. Overall, this is a great murder mystery story that had me guessing!

 

Dianne Smithwick-Braden is a native Texan raised on the family farm near Vernon, Texas. She seasons her mysteries with a little romance, a dash of adventure, and a touch of humor. She currently resides in Amarillo, Texas with her husband, Richard. 

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Signed copy of Coded for Murder, hot chocolate mix, mug, crossword puzzle book, mini-notepads, M&Ms, clip-on book light
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Signed copies of Coded for Murder
February 25-March 5, 2020
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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

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Promo
2/26/20
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2/27/20
Review
2/28/20
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2/29/20
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3/1/20
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3/2/20
Review
3/3/20
Review
3/4/20
Review
3/5/20
Review
3/5/20
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The Resistance: Guest Post

The Resistance
T.H. Hernandez
(The Union Series, #5)
Publication date: February 25th 2020
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

After the Union is invaded by the Uprising, life for Evan and her friends becomes even more dire. If they have any hopes of saving the world they know, they’re going to need help. And it looks like there may be someone already out there trying to accomplish the same thing.

Now living in an encampment in the Ruins, life is hard for most Unis in the Resistance. For Cyrus and the other Ruins survivors, it’s just more of the same.

While they train for their ultimate mission, tragedy strikes, upending everything once again. Complicating their plans, someone in their midst is working against them. Evan, Cyrus, and the rest of the Resistance need to locate reinforcements to help them bring down the Uprising while rooting out the traitor. With trust at an all-time low, no one is above suspicion as danger walks among them.

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Guest Post

The Balance Between Writing and Life

Finding balance between whatever you do and your life priorities is always tough. I have a full-time job, three kids, and a husband who travels for work half the time. Which is why I didn’t get serious about writing fiction until my kids were older. My oldest was ten and my youngest two were seven by the time I decided to sit down and finally write an entire novel, start to finish, and not just some random chapters that went nowhere.

I’ve been lucky enough to work from home since 2010, which means the time I used to spend commuting to and from the office became my free time. And because my office hours are 9:30 to 6:30, I had two hours after my kids had to be at school that I could devote to writing. It helped in those early days to be in a carpool so that I would drop the kids off and someone else would pick them up after school.

But now that they’re older and driving themselves, I grab time here, there, and everywhere when they’re not home and I’m not working. I’ve actually become a night owl over the years and find my most productive hours are late at night after everyone is asleep.

My family will always come first and since my kids were very small, we’ve eaten dinner together as a family as many nights as possible. That used to be seven nights a week, but with one child in college and two in a number of after school activities, it’s closer to three or four days a week, but it remains my favorite time of the day to reconnect with everyone.

As far as housework goes…well, don’t come over without at least 48 hours notice or you’ll see how bad I really am at prioritizing THAT particularly life activity over my writing.

Author Bio

With flawed strong characters, characters you can relate to, New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Lorhainne Eckhart writes the kind of books she wants to read. She is frequently a Top 100 bestselling author in multiple genres, and her second book ever published, The Forgotten Child, is no exception. With close to 900 reviews on Amazon, translated into German and French, this book was such a hit that the long running Friessen Family series was born. Now with over sixty titles and multiple series under her belt her big family romance series are loved by fans worldwide. A recipient of the 2013, 2015 and 2016 Readers’ Favorite Award for Suspense and Romance, Lorhainne lives on the sunny west-coast Gulf Island of Salt Spring Island, is the mother of three, her oldest has autism and she is an advocate for never giving up on your dreams.

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Off Balance: Blitz

Off Balance
Aileen Erin
(Aunare Chronicles #2)
Published by: Ink Monster LLC
Publication date: February 11th 2020
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

From USA Today Bestselling Author Aileen Erin comes the second book in the Aunare Chronicles.

Broken, beaten-down, and plagued by nightmares, Amihanna di Aetes is surrounded by the Aunare race that makes up the other half of her heritage, but she feels alien amongst them. She’s not sure which is worse: SpaceTech’s overt hatred of Aunare or the Aunare’s covert hatred of halfers. She hears their whispers whenever she enters a room and sees her death reflected in their eyes. Amihanna doesn’t know who to trust anymore, but she hasn’t survived this long by ignoring the warning signs all around her, especially when her instincts are screaming that a familiar choice is coming: flee or fight.

Her parents assure her everything is okay—that there won’t be any reason for her to fight, let alone flee—but with Amihanna’s sudden return, questions arise among the Aunare: who should be blamed for the start of a full-scale war with SpaceTech, how much danger will the war bring, and is Amihanna truly fit to be the next high queen?

Honestly, Amihanna wants to forget all the politics, her betrothal to Lorne, and the possibility of being queen. Her needs are much more basic. All she wants is a solid night’s sleep where she doesn’t wake up screaming with the phantom pain of her skin burning. All she needs is to live without fear of a mob tearing her away from her family. All she hopes for is a chance to dream of a future instead of constantly fighting for her right to live.

And yet, somehow, everything she does leads her back to Lorne. He always seems to know when she’s about to break under the pressures of her new life. His quiet patience is wearing Amihanna’s protective walls down, and she’s terrified of what will happen if they fall.

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EXCERPT:

“Let’s get this one thing straight—I’m not breaking our betrothal contract.” He stalked back to me. “Not now. Not ever. If you want to break it, then we’ll discuss it. They’ve talked a lot about our contract on the news, so I’m sure you have it in your head that I’m planning on breaking it. But I’m not. I haven’t brought it up because you’ve been dealing with enough. I was giving you time, but I’d marry you tomorrow if I thought you’d agree.”

Tomorrow? I had zero clue before this moment that he was completely insane. He couldn’t marry me, especially not tomorrow. I couldn’t be queen.

“What if I want to break our betrothal?” I wasn’t sure I did, but I wasn’t sure I didn’t either.

He strode quickly to me, knelt in front of my chair. I hugged my legs tighter to my chest, but he grabbed my ankles. “Look at me.”

I looked everywhere but him.

“Look at me, please.” He squeezed my ankles and let go. “Please.”

I blew out a breath and rested my chin on my knees so that I could meet his gaze. It was hard to really look at him. Every time I did, I wanted him more and more, and I wasn’t sure how much more I could want him without becoming completely addicted. It took everything in me not to wrap my arms around his neck and pull him to me.

He let go of one ankle and cupped my cheek. “Do you want to marry me?” He was using his low voice, the one that set my skin on fire.

My skin was so bright and my stomach fluttered and flipped and I forced myself to choke down my first immediate response. The dumb one that wanted to slide past my lips effortlessly. I couldn’t answer his question because I didn’t trust myself to give him the right answer. The one that made sense.

All signs of anger melted away from him. His back straightened, he held his head high, his fao’ana stopped flashing, and his skin dimmed a little.

But it was his smile that told me he knew exactly what I’d been thinking.

“This is where being your shalshasa comes into play. I’m as sensitive to frequencies as you are, but even more attuned to yours. I can feel your frequencies as your moods shift. Your immediate answer was going to be yes before you got scared.” He rose just a little, cupping my face with both his hands, and all I could see were his aquamarine eyes.

The color I associated with calm and safety. The color I’d painted the walls in my room on Earth so that I could feel more at home. The color I wanted to get lost in forever.

He brushed a soft kiss on my lips. It was quick, too quick, and it left me wanting more.

“Until you can say no—honestly and without stress—I’m going to assume your answer is yes, and that you just need more time. I don’t want fear to be a part of your decision. Okay?”

He leaned in for another kiss, and I wanted. I wanted it more than anything. But I made myself lean back in the chair, pulling my face from his hands.

“I can’t do this.” The words were shaky, but I’d said them. I had to stop it before this went too far.

“Why?”

“Because…” There were too many reasons.

Because he needed a queen.

Because I didn’t want that much responsibility.

“Because you deserve someone not broken.” That wasn’t the one I meant to go with, but words slipping out of me seemed to be the theme for our little chat.

“You’re not broken. If anything, you’re confused. Which is totally understandable. You’ve been through a very rough thirteen years, and memories that would help you readjust to being home aren’t there. So, you need some time to heal. Which is what I’ve been giving you. I think you’d feel less fragile if you got a decent night’s sleep. If you ate more. If you took a moment to take care of yourself instead of spending twenty hours a day in the gym. Declan and his mission are going to kill you.”

Author Bio:

Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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Finding Esme Review

FINDING ESME
by
SUZANNE CROWLEY
  
Genre: Middle Grade (3-7) / Magical Realism / Family & Loss
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of Publication: August 14, 2018
Number of Pages: 288

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After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away.

Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a moving and heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss.

PRAISE & HONORS FOR FINDING ESME:

“Esme is a brave, appealing heroine with the odds stacked against her… Bad blood and layered family secrets drive this story to its ultimately optimistic and satisfying conclusion.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“Esme McCauley is a lonely but spirited 12-year-old who feels nothing ever happens to her the way it’s supposed to…A poignant tale for readers who enjoy character-driven realism.” — School Library Journal

“Readers muddling through preteen changes or unstable family lives will identify with Esme’s struggles, but the thrill of discovery will appeal to most.” — Booklist

Texas Library Association 2019 Spirit of Texas (SPOT) reading program selection

Has anyone ever seen a studio ghibli movie or read the books? Reading Finding Esme reminded me of them quite a bit. It’s the transition between childhood and growing up, where the world seems bigger each day than it did before. To me, this book was on the cusp of that and accepting those things we face. Esme herself is struggling with wanting to stay who she is, even with the changes happening since her Grandpa Pap’s passed away. However, even with these strange and sometimes shocking discoveries, Esme does carry this mature sensibility within her.

“You came out like you were already grown-up, Esme McCauley, even though you were half as big as a minute. I looked into those green eyes of yours and it was like you’d already seen the whole world but were still looking for something.”

Dealing with this loss has created a rift in Esme and what she once knew. Even the people around her, friends and family, begin to act different. Or perhaps she begins to notice things she didn’t before. I had mixed feelings about Bee, her grandmother and primary caregiver. She is a mystery to Esme and can seem aloof in her affections. At the same time, you know that Bee wholeheartedly cares for Esme and her brother and want the best for them. She treats Esme like an adult at times but keeps things from her as well. This causes Esme to feel even more isolated with everything that has happened in her short life so far. Esme begins keeping her own secrets which lead her to discovering more and more hidden history along the way. Grandma Bee has a finding gift that she calls God-given, but Esme has conflicting emotions about it. Despite her gift seeming even more powerful than Bee at times, she wants to fit in and not seem odd to the town. I can’t always say this about characters but I really liked Esme’s character from beginning to end in this book. As you follow along in the story with Esme’s point of view, the mysteries unfold and you are left with more questions. Esme is clever, caring but level-headed, and does her best to be herself despite outside pressures.

While at first I had to get used to the pace of the story and characters introduced, it didn’t take but a few chapters to become fully immersed in Finding Esme. The interweaving of everyone in town was a great addition to this story and added an extra spin to everything uncovered. There were complicated relationships that had history spanning generations and the distinct personalities that were affected by other characters. I feel like Crowley’s writing really shone here and made it unique.

Suzanne Crowley is the author of two acclaimed novels for young readers, The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous and The Stolen One. The author, who is also a miniaturist and dollhouse collector whose work has graced the covers of magazines worldwide, was born in a small town in Texas and lives in Southlake, Texas. When not hugging her dog or imbibing in chocolate, she can often be found taking a nap.
 

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February 11-21, 2020

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