Audiobook · book review · paranormal · YA

Audiobook Review – Extraordinary Lies

Author: Jennifer Alsever

Narrator: Moira Todd

Length: 11 hours 9 minutes

Publisher: Jennifer Alsever

Released: Sep. 8, 2020

Genre: YA Paranormal

Julia and Charley may come from two completely different worlds, but they’ve been called the same names all their lives. Psycho. Liar. Witch. It’s the price of being a supernaturally gifted female in sexist, narrow-minded 1971. Until they’re invited to join the Stanford Research Institute. There, a team of scientists are conducting experiments on people like them – people with the ability to tell the future, read minds, move objects without lifting a finger. At first, the institute seems like a safe haven. For the first time, Julia and Charley are not alone. Surrounded by others with powers like theirs, they finally make real friends.But as the experiments become darker and more dangerous, and the test subjects’ lives are increasingly at risk, the two girls must work together to unveil the truth behind the scientists’ experiments – and the extraordinary lies they’ve been told to keep them in the dark.

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A teenager still lives inside author Jennifer Alsever. She spent two decades as a professional journalist, contributing to such publications as Fortune Magazine, the New York Times, Inc Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, before letting her imagination run wild in 2016. The result is Ember’s story told in the three-book Trinity Forest Series, her first published fiction work. When not absorbed in writing, Alsever enjoys a good hike, doing some yoga, hanging with her boys, some moguls on skis, a rigorous mountain bike ride or indulging in the simple pleasures of life. Her favorites: untouched snow, frozen chocolate chips, savasina on a yoga mat and yes, bowls of pan fried brussels sprouts. She is currently working on her fifth novel titled Déjà vu.

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Narrator Bio

Moira Todd is a Washington, DC-based actor. She originally hales from Mt. Hood, Oregon where the trees are always green, the mountain is always pointy, and the weather is usually rainy. It was there that she learned the secret arts of alpine skiing and whistling at the same time as you hum. While neither has proved useful in her theatre career, she remains hopeful. These days she spends most of her free time swimming, baking bread, and watching whale documentaries.

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I’m not usually a reader of YA fiction, but I loved the premise of this story: the study of young adults with “special” abilities such as mind-reading and telekinesis within a government-backed research setting.

Set during the Cold War era, and told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Julia and Charley, the story follows them their “real” lives before going to the Institute right through to a dramatic conclusion. The two girls are as opposite as can be when it comes to the background and childhood experiences, but they do share one thing: being marked out as different from the rest of their peers.

The students enjoy getting to know each other, appreciating the different skills they have. They’ve found a place that doesn’t treat them as weirdos or freaks, and their confidence and trust in each other provides them with friendships they’ve never had before.

The research institute promises to explore their abilities and to offer an explanation for them. The reason for this research is sold to them as being for the good of the nation; the kids are playing their part in helping to win the Cold War against the Soviets. Yet, things are not as they seem. The experiments get more sinister as time passes. The tests the girls and the other “skilled” students are put through have another purpose, and the scientists in charge don’t want that information to go public.

The plot builds on the basis of secrecy – the government and scientists are hiding the true purpose of the experiments, while the students are forced to hide their suspicions – if they want to stay safe … or even alive. Does everyone survive? Who will have the upper hand?

The narrator of this audiobook superbly conveys the enthusiasm of the teenagers, their innate curiosity, their need to bond with like-minded individuals, and their reaction to the danger they find themselves in. It’s impossible not to get drawn along for the ride.

The era is the perfect backdrop for this kind of story, and the twists and turns of the story perfectly suit that period in time.

The audio version of Extraordinary Lies delivers an engaging story, with great characterisation and a tense plot.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer Alsever. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

By Author Jennifer Alsever
Q&A with Narrator Moira Quirk
  • How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
    • I used to narrate audiobooks as a side hustle to fill my schedule when I wasn’t acting on stage. Now that nearly all live events are canceled for the foreseeable future, I feel very lucky that I have the ability to transition to audiobook narration full time.
  • A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?
    • An important part of narration, particularly fiction narration, is pacing. A background in theatre certainly helps with that, but it’s not the only thing that can.
  • What type of training have you undergone?
    • I have a Bachelor of Fine arts in Theatre.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • Yes, I love audiobooks. Maybe because after reading in the studio all day, it’s nice to sit back and listen.
  • What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
    • I think my strength is first person narration.
  • Who are your “accent inspirations”?
    • I did a lot of new accents for this book. I mostly used a lot of youtube videos for inspiration. The accent tag has been a super useful internet trend for me.
  • How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?
    • Jennifer wrote great descriptions of how the characters sound into the book. We also talked a bit about how the main characters sound before I began recording.
  • What types of things are harmful to your voice?
    • A respiratory virus!
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • I’d like to travel to the future, find out how we solve our climate crisis, and come back to get the ball rolling.
  • If you could narrate one book from your youth what would it be and why?
    • The Phantom Tollbooth. I record books for my mom, just sending her chapters whenever I get a chance, and that was one of her favorite books to read to me. I’d like to record it for her.
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book birthday · book blitz · mystery · paranormal · YA

Book Birthday Blitz – Paralleled Bond (The Altered Helix Series)

Happy book birthday to author Stephanie Hansen! Today marks the release of Paralleled Bond, book #3 in her Altered Helix series. To celebrate we’re sharing the entire series! Read on for an excerpt from her latest installment and enter the giveaway at the end for a chance to win a $30 Amazon gift card!

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Paralled Bond (Altered Helix #3) Publication Date: Today! Genre: YA/ Paranormal Mystery/ Novella When the only option left means losing someone you love, you have no options. How could you, how could you save one person you care about, when doing so would harm another? What if they weren’t even letting you choose but choosing for you? You’d have to intervene without letting them know, right? To be an Altered Helix and put others in danger is the new reality for Austria. Luckily someone’s there to catch her when she falls, Josh, and fall she does, in love that is. While witnessing her family being put in danger, Austria’s haunted house family grows. Now that Austria has found a way to defeat Mutant Altered Helixes after her, a dangerous stream of events occur to those around her. Just when the family has finally come together, could they be ruined? The amazing conclusion to the Altered Helix series, Paralleled Bond displays the results when polar opposites come together for the greater good. Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

“Please let them be okay.” If I had known I would be chanting this phrase over and over again, I don’t believe I would have ever set out on this mission. If I had known that my entire world would change in just a matter of months, would I have taken the job at the haunted house? If I had been given a heads up about my DNA being different, would I have lived a different life? I don’t know; those are not options for me now. We’re too far in. We are inches away from saving many lives. We can do this. I know we can. I just don’t know what it will cost us. I have no clue how I’m going to find the dough to pay. The odds seem stacked up against us. Is that because it is impossible to accomplish what we want to, or is it because we’ve gotten too close?

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AlteredHelix_mock1Altered Helix (Book One) I didn’t want to take the traditional path. First, I wasn’t ready for college. Second, I was going to live with my best friend, Tiff, and work at the Haunted House. Third, did I mention the hot guy Josh that works there too? The most exciting thing about Austria’s new job, at a local haunted house, was the fact that the toughest looking people screamed the loudest. But when she meets the boy without a home, Josh, Austria’s life takes intriguing and eventful turns. Up until now, Josh has managed to hang with his Street crowd, but they’re in danger, and so is Austria, the girl Josh recently fell for. The group finds themselves joining forces with previously considered enemies who also now find themselves in danger. Deeply compassionate and full of twists, Altered Helix captures the struggle of polarized people that must work together for the greater good. Goodreads StrandedCoil_mock1Stranded Coil (Altered Helix #2) For Austria, travelling to the Stranded Coil means she gets to see someone she believed was lost. She’s able to do this because she’s an Altered Helix. But doing so takes her away from her first true love, Josh. Josh is working hard to keep their Haunted House family safe on Earth, but seems to fall in love with Austria more with every second they spend together. Austria and Josh face a devastating challenge, the mysterious appearance of Mutant Altered Helixes, and an enticingly dangerous answer to their questions. Impulsive, caring, and full of surprises, this teenage love against the odds is well on its way to breaking even…maybe. Goodreads Giveaway: $30 Amazon Gift Card (International) Giveaway will be open until August 7th! a Rafflecopter giveaway About the Author Stephanie Hansen Stephanie Hansen’s short story, Break Time, and poetry has been featured in Mind’s Eye literary magazine. The Kansas Writers Association published her short story, Existing Forces, appointing her as a noted author. She has held a deep passion for writing since early childhood, but a brush with death caused her to allow it to grow. She’s part of an SCBWI critique group in Lawrence, KS and two local book clubs. She attends many writers’ conferences including the Writing Day Workshops, New York Pitch, Penned Con, New Letters, All Write Now, Show Me Writers Master Class, BEA, and Nebraska Writers Guild conference as well as Book Fairs and Comic-Cons. She is a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Stephanie Hansen | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Book Blitz Organized By: R&R Button R&R Book Tours

blog tour · book review · Italy · time travel · YA

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Violinist’s Apprentice

The Violinist’s Apprentice

A dark journey through time.

It’s on a group trip to Rome that something terrifying and mysterious happens, whirling musical Clementina back in time to 17th century Italy. Amidst court intrigue and creaking carriages, Rome becomes a chiaroscuro backdrop to her growing feelings for young violin-maker Antonio Stradivari. But soon he discovers that Clementina is not all she appears. She must surely be a witch. How can she return to the 21st century again? Meanwhile, in an icy corner of the Arctic, a professor plots.

Purchase Links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Violinists-Apprentice-Isabella-Mancini-ebook/dp/B0811Y35MV

US – https://www.amazon.com/Violinists-Apprentice-Isabella-Mancini-ebook/dp/B0811Y35MV

Author Bio –

Isabella Mancini is the nom de plume of prolific author Olga Swan, published by Crooked Cat Books. She has a BA Hons (Open) in English Language and Literature and a lifelong love for writing and language. For 12 years she lived in SW France, but returned to the UK in 2017, where she now lives in the West Midlands with her husband and elderly French rescue dog Bruno.

Previous books by Olga Swan:

An Englishwoman in America

From Paradis to Perdition

Pensioners in Paradis

The Mazurek Express

Lamplight

Vichyssoise

3rd Degree Murder

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @IsabellaManci10.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ManciniIsabella1

Facebook Group: Books, Music and the Past

Amazon page for Isabella Mancini: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Isabella-Mancini/e/B08127KJJW/

Amazon page for Olga Swan: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B013IBD4PU

Giveaway to Win a signed paperback of An Englishwoman in America (Open INT)
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

RAFFLECOPTER LINK

My Review

3/5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author via Rachel’s Random Resources in return for an honest review.

I have to admit this book confused me. The blurb gave no mention of the age of Clementina, or that she was indeed on a school trip to Italy. As such, I was not expecting the story that unravelled. To be honest, had I known it was about a fifteen-year-old girl, I wouldn’t have chosen to read it. That said, there were elements of the story that were enchanting and captivating.

The time slip back to the 17th Century gave way to some gorgeous descriptions of Italy at that time, and Clementina’s confusion and comparisons to her own life were endearing and often funny. The relationship between Tina and Antonio Stradivari developed nicely, despite their different life experience, and had she stayed it would no doubt have led to a romance. I almost wanted her to stay there, the atmosphere of those times was so vividly brought to life. At the same time, I was keen for her to return home to tell her brother all about the trip. Having lost his sight, Tina brought colour to his world. Little did she know that her father and brother, Andrea, were having an adventure of their own.

This story lends itself well to a series as more challenges await. A teacher – Mr Verdegris – gives Clementina a pendant to be used whenever she feels she is in trouble, it will summon the teacher to her immediately while she is in the other time dimension. There she is tasked with finding and bringing back a genuine Stradivarius violin. Prior to Clementina’s quest, her school friend Ruby had been tasked to find the Dead Sea Scrolls, and another girl, Saffron, is destined for the next mission. But who is the intended recipient of these items? Well, running alongside Tina’s story, a professor waits in the Arctic to hear of her success or failure. This subplot delves into the topic of climate change, but as to the full reason behind the girls’ time travel, that was never really clear to me – maybe that becomes more obvious in the next book.

For me, the story was quite complicated to follow due to the subplots running in conjunction with Tina’s time travel. I’m sure this is setting the scene for future books, and will make more sense in due course.

There was no real conclusion, neither in Italy nor back at school; whether the girls will feature again is anyone’s guess. I didn’t feel the blurb correctly set the course for the story, especially in identifying the target audience – i.e. someone much younger than me 😉 and more likely a reader of YA fiction.

The magical elements of the story, the pendant, the time travel, and the backstory of Ruby’s prior challenge, made for interesting reading, and the author did a good job in depicting an authentic image of 17th Century Rome. Not the story I expected, but enjoyable for the time travel aspect and the location.

For more news and reviews, check out these amazing bloggers:

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blog tour · excerpt · mystery · YA

Spotlight – Silo Boys go on a blog tour (with GIVEAWAY)

SiloBoys

Welcome to my stop on the tour for Silo Boys by Amy-Brooke Odell. Read an excerpt, and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a digital copy of the book!

Uncover the mystery today!

SBoys digital coverSilo Boys

Expected Publication Date: Coming Soon

Genre: YA Mystery

Publisher: Between the Lines

One dead, one missing, and one who was never there.

In a sleepy town in South Carolina, nineteen year old Addy Marks has spent the past two years coming to grips with the mysterious death of her friend Beau and the disappearance of her boyfriend Mason. After the annual Dogwood festival, three boys were seen heading toward a local silo. When morning arrived, Beau’s body was discovered, Mason was missing, and Hunter, the best friend of the two boys, claims he wasn’t at the silo.

Two years later everything is turned upside down when Mason unexpectedly returns to town, but before Addy can meet with him he is found murdered. Coping with her best friend’s lies, uncovering the last standing Silo Boy’s sealed alibi, and protecting her friends from harm, Addy must figure out what happened that night at the silo before anyone else loses their life. As she exposes the tragic mystery, she realizes that everyone holds tightly to their secrets and misdeeds.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

It’s my first time back to the silo since everything went horribly wrong, and all of the excitement and romance have long left the air. We built our relationships here, but now without my friends or Mason, it seems haunted…a shell of what it used to be. There are no more boisterous cheers from five friends racing up the metal stairs to play with the Ouija board, split a flask, or share their secrets. The secrets live by themselves in the silo now.

The looming brick structure that once filled me with such joy and adventure currently fills my bones with sadness. It looks so hollow. The farm grows quiet; I hum to myself, because if I stop making noise, I fear that I might hear the echoes of the boys yelling down at us from the window, our converse low-tops pounding up the stairs. The ghosts of who we used to be.

Available on Amazon and Here!

For a chance to win a digital copy of Silo Boys, click the link below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

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Amy-Brooke Odell was born and raised in North Carolina with a love so deep for the state that it permeates her writing. She has a B.A. in Theatre from UNC-Charlotte and while Silo Boys is her debut novel, she has many more stories to tell. Amy is currently living in D.C. with her husband, son, and boston terrier. You can find out more about Amy on IG: authoramybrooke and on Twitter: @amybrookeodell

Blog Tour Schedule

September 9th

Reads & Reels (Review) http://readsandreels.com

Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Just 4 My Books (Spotlight) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com

September 10th

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Interview) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

I’m All About the Books (Spotlight) https://imallaboutbooks.com/

On the Shelf Reviews (Spotlight) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

September 11th

B is for Book Review (Interview) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Crossroads Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.crossroadreviews.com

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

Books, Teacups and Reviews (Spotlight) https://booksteacupnreviews.wordpress.com/

September 12th

Reviews & Promos by Nyx (Spotlight) https://nyxblogs.wordpress.com/

YA/ NA Book Divas (Spotlight) http://www.yabookdivas.com/

My Bookish Bliss (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com

September 13th

Libro in Septiternum (Review) http://libroruminsempiternumhome.wordpress.com

Entertainingly Nerdy (Review) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com

J Bronder Book Reviews (Review)

 

Blog Tour Organized By:

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R&R Book Tours

book blitz · excerpt · Giveaways · YA

YA Mega Book Blitz

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If YA is your jam, then I have good news! Today, we are celebrating four amazing YA books, and the talented authors behind them. There will be exclusive excerpts and wonderful prizes to win, so be sure to read on!

As an added bonus, all four books will be available to book reviewers in exchange for honest reviews. Contact Shannon @ R&R Book Tours to find out how you can get your hands on a review copy.

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The Gemini Connection by Teri Polen

Publication Date: June 7th, 2018

Genre: YA Science Fiction/ Dystopian

Teen twin brothers Evan and Simon Resnik are fiercely loyal to each other and share an unusual bond—they experience each other’s emotions as their own and can sense where the other is.

On their dying planet of Tage, scientists work tirelessly on its survival. Like the twins’ parents, Simon is a science prodigy, recruited at a young age to work with the brilliant creator of Scientific Innovations. To the bitter disappointment of their parents, Evan shows no aptitude or interest in science. As a Mindbender, he travels into the minds of scientists to locate buried memories, connect ideas and concepts, and battle recurring nightmares.

When Simon mysteriously disappears, Evan is plunged into a world of loss and unbearable guilt. For the first time, he can’t ‘feel’ Simon—it’s like he no longer exists. Evan blames himself. No one knows that he ignored his brother’s pleas for help on the night he went missing.

A year later, Simon is still gone. Evan lost his twin, but Tage might have lost its last hope of survival when it’s discovered that Simon’s unfinished project could be its salvation. Evan is determined to find him—somewhere—and bring Simon home. Their unusual connection might be more extraordinary than they know, and the key to locating Simon.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

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Ugly. That was the first word that came to mind. Deadly was next.

The twisted creation was courtesy of a new client, a scientist. The nightmare had been tormenting him for the past couple of weeks.

The monster stood roughly fifteen feet tall, walked on two legs, and stretched two muscled arms in front of it, but its elongated head was a grotesque combination of goat and demon. Treacherous horns protruded from either side of its skull, torso, and upper thighs, making it difficult for anyone to get close to the beast. Not that we especially wanted to, but it was part of a Bender’s job requirement to eradicate nightmares. So, we took up battle positions—Syd to its right, me to its left—crouched in anticipation of this formidable creature’s attack.

“I’ll go high, you go low,” I called to Syd. Besides a hideous appearance, the goat thing screeched like a deranged bird, and we strained to hear each other, even with the com units.

“Got it, Evan.” She unsheathed a ten-inch dagger from her utility belt, the silver blade glinting in the eerie cast of yellow-green light in this nightmare-scape. Being somewhat vertically-challenged (she hated it when I said short), Syd might not look intimidating, but give the girl a knife and she was absolutely lethal. The creature’s leg tendons would be sliced to ribbons in seconds.

Syd dived to the creature’s right, spinning and coming up behind it, as she avoided an angry kick to her head. She carved into its left limb, and it let out an ear-piercing shriek.

I withdrew an iron mallet from my own belt and catapulted myself off the wall, soaring over the goat-demon and landing a blow to the left side of its skull. Its head jerked in my direction when I came down on its other side. The sharpened tip of the horn caught the left side of my rib cage, and a warm flow of blood seeped through my shirt. Wouldn’t be the first time I’d walked away from a nightmare with a permanent scar.

Syd scrambled around its legs, careful not to be trampled. Her dagger was a silver blur as she slashed the gray-haired appendages, the goat-demon staggering in its efforts to avoid her blade.

The ground was wet—possibly blood. But with dream or nightmare creations, you couldn’t be sure. Because this thing’s creator was a scientist, they tended to more detail-oriented. Odds leaned in the blood direction.

The light around us took on a red hue. Did the ambient illumination correlate to the creature’s anger level? If yellow-green meant annoyed, did red mean take no prisoners?

-The Gemini Connection

Available Now!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Black Rose Writing

About the Author

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Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Her first novel, Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, was a horror finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Visit her online at www.teripolen.com

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | BookBub

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For your chance to win either a signed copy (U.S.) or digital (International), click on the link below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

dear jane

Dear Jane by Marina DelVecchio

Publication Date: January 3rd, 2019

Genre: YA/ Coming of Age

Kit Kat is a fifteen-year-old adoptee who writes letters to her favorite literary character, Jane Eyre, as a means of surviving a violent childhood in Greece and a harrowing adoption in New York that requires her to silence her memories and her voice. In writing letters to Jane, Kit Kat discovers a connection to literature that saves her life. Dear Jane is about family, love, forgiveness, and the power of a good book.

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Excerpt

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For the next two weeks that I was in possession of your story, it was as if someone had seen me, claimed me. I had a sister, a mother, an aunt, a place in which I was loved and understood and cared for. I was connected to something solid and real, for even if the story wasn’t real, a real woman had written it, had understood the pain that comes with being rejected and lonely; the angst that comes with being a girl severed from her roots and family.

-Dear Jane

Available on Amazon

About the Author

marina pic author

Marina DelVecchio is a college professor of literature and women’s studies and lives in North Carolina with her family. Her work can be found online at Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Tishman Review, Her Circle Ezine, and The New Agenda.

Marina DelVecchio | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

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For your chance to win either a signed copy (U.S.) or digital (International), click on the link below!
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Version 3

Till It Stops Beating (The Maddie Chronicles #4) by Hannah R. Goodman

Publication Date: July 5th, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Maddie Hickman has always coped with anxiety by immersing herself into the latest self-help book. Then her grandmother is diagnosed with cancer, and she spirals so far downward that she almost risks losing everything she holds dear.

From applying to college to solving the mystery of why she detests jelly doughnuts to writing a novel for her senior project and reconnecting with an old flame (or two), the ever-mounting stress leads to an unexpected road trip where she is forced to listen to her wildly beating heart. It is only in the back of a convertible with pop music blasting, that she discovers what she needs in order to really live.

If your heart has ever hurt from beating widely, whether from anxiety or love, this book is the one to read.

Add to Goodreads

Available on Amazon

Excerpt

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“I need to be with Bubbie. I want to be there every day. When she is sick or tired. When she needs help.” I take breath. “I will stay and take care of Bubbie and go to school in January.”

“I don’t like this idea,” Mom says.

Dad sips his coffee instead of gulps. “I don’t know if the deferment is a good idea or not,” he says. “But staying in California for that long? I think it’s sweet to want to stay and care of Bubbie, but what else will you be doing?” He looks at my mom.

Then Mom explodes. “Stan, she is not deferring.” Finally, she looks at me. “You are not deferring. I’m calling Emerson tomorrow to straighten this out.”

This is so ridiculous. When are they going to get it? I stand up. “You know what? This is crazy. I’ve been losing sleep and getting all panicky again over this for the past few weeks and for what? For what reason? Fear of disappointing you? And now here I am full-blown disappointing you both and I did not fall apart or die. I am still here. And so are you guys.” I think of Susan’s opening lines to her speech. Welcome to the last day of childhood. “I’m an adult now, Mom. You guys have to let me make my decisions, without trying to guilt me into doing what you want.” And with that, I walk my adult self out of the living room, and they don’t follow.

-Till It Stops Beating

About the Author

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Often referred to as “the teenage whisperer”, Hannah R. Goodman’s twenty-year career working with teenagers includes the titles teacher, tutor, coach, and, more recently, mental health counselor. Hannah has written essays about mental health for various online publications. Her work has appeared on MindBodyGreen, OC87 Recovery Diaries, Zencare.co, and The Mighty. Though she has previously earned the title author with her first three books, those were all were self-published. This time around, publisher Black Rose Writing released her novel Till It Stops Beating in July, 2018. Literary Titan’s review praised Till It Stops Beating for “tackling a difficult issue like anxiety and making a story that was funny and sweet without making light of the issue.” Hannah is a member of ARIA (Association of Rhode Island Authors) as well as a graduate of Pine Manor College’s Solstice Program in Creative Writing where she earned an MFA in Writing For Young People. She resides in Bristol, RI with her husband, two daughters, and black and white cat named Zoe.

Hannah R Goodman | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

LinkedIn | Amazon | Email | Goodreads | BookBub

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a step away cover

A Step Away by G. Randy Kasten

Publication Date: February 7th, 2019

Genre: YA Thriller

Three friends, Brianna, Sean, and Robert, happen across a body buried in their neighborhood.

Because a police investigation might reveal that the trio is connected to a stolen motor, and that Sean’s mother was having a relationship with a neighbor, the three friends decide they must solve the apparent murder before contacting authorities.

In the process, they sneak into a house, befriend a vigilant neighbor with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and develop a friendship with a kind, older man.

Brianna becomes convinced that clues point to Sean’s father and realizes their detective work is doing more harm than good.

She makes tough choices that affect families and friendships.

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Available on Amazon

Excerpt

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Right below the pipe, a human hand and wrist poked out from the dirt, its flesh partly rotted away. The fingers pointed at us.

I let out a panicked yell identical to Robert’s but stood frozen. A hot, prickly feeling crawled up my back as Sean as shouted to Robert. “You okay, Robber?” When Robert murmured a response, Sean scrambled down to the creek. “Cover it up!” he demanded as he went, pointing at me. “Cover it back up!”

“We can’t just…” I started.

“Cover it up!” Sean was bending over, one hand on Robert’s shoulder. “Just do it!”

I shoveled dirt and leaves at the void, breathing as little as possible and only glancing occasionally at the rotted appendage sticking out at me. Each scoop of crumbly soil slid back down, so finally I started stomping on it to get it to stay, right on top of the hand. I felt as if I was pressing down on something evil. Trying to keep it back. After a minute, Sean stood next to me working with Robert’s abandoned shovel. With his head turned away from the hole, he didn’t help much.

Robert sat where he was, letting out little wails every now and then. It wasn’t a sound like the pain of a sprained ankle or something. It was more like the desperate moans of someone who’d forgotten how to talk.

Once we managed to get the hand covered, we scrambled down the bank, grabbed Robert by his arms, then half carried him and the tools back to the workshop we’d taken over from Sean’s dad. After breathing the rotten stench of the creek, I barely noticed Robert’s smell and couldn’t get that image of the decaying hand out of my mind.

We set Robert down in one of the beaten-up old armchairs we’d dragged in there, then sank down ourselves, panting. The hot prickly feeling was still crawling all over me. Sean and I looked at each other for a few seconds, then away. Robert stared at the floor.

I’d never seen a real skeleton — or a dead body – before. The tuna sandwich I’d eaten an hour earlier seemed to be on a climb back up. I imagined the scene once we called the sheriff; Sean’s parents would arrive home to a flock of cop cars in the driveway. Maybe there’d be a coroner’s van. They’d love driving into that mess.

Then things went from bad to worse. Sean leaned forward and pointed one finger at me and one at Robert. “We can’t tell anyone about this.”

Robert peered out from under the layer of the coarse black hair fallen in front of his eyes. “But Sean, somebody buried a body.”

“We know that, Robert,” Sean snapped. His nasty scowl reminded me of his father. “But nobody else is going to know that.”

“Why not?” that high voice again. “That body where it is, it’s not by accident.”

Sean turned to me, “Brianna, you know why we can’t tell anyone.” Like he was pleading with me. “You know.”

-A Step Away

About the Author

author-photo

After some childhood acting and living in England for a year, I graduated from Reed College, then attended law school. As a litigator in California and Washington State for thirty years, I learned a great deal about what people really want, and also how humor helps in tough situations.

Writing remains my main interest. I am the author of Just Trust Me: Finding the Truth in the World of Spin (Quest Books, 2011), a book about discerning truth from appearances. My young adult novel, A Step Away, will be published by Black Rose in 2019.

I have also written a couple of short plays, which were performed at a local theatre in Marin County, CA. The Ribbons Agency is a nearly completed satirical book about the arduous task of securing a literary agent. On a more serious note, I am working on a non fiction book that presents a unique, logical reason to believe that greater international peace is inevitable.

A resident of San Francisco’s east bay for most of my life, I have lived along Hood Canal (a fjord and part of Puget Sound) in Washington State for the past three years. I’m still adapting to the weather, though it keeps me inside and productive most of the year. When not writing, I’m enjoying the outdoors or playing improvisational piano.
G. Kasten

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For your chance to win either a signed copy (U.S.) or digital (International), click on the link below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you for celebrating with us this week and best of luck on the giveaways!

Book Blitz Organized By:

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R&R Book Tours

For reviews and excerpts, take a look at the fab blogs below:

Schedule

Monday Jan. 28th

Reads & Reels – http://readsandreels.com

Gloria McNeely – https://gloriamcneelywriter.com/blog/

The Writer’s Alley – https://www.jacobrundle.com

Go By the Book – http://gobythebookblog.wordpress.com

YA/NA Book Divas – http://www.yabookdivas.com/

Tuesday Jan. 29th

Devouring Books – https://devouringbooks2017.wordpress.com/

Didi Oviatt – https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Breakeven Books – https://breakevenbooks.com

Tsarina Press – https://www.tsarinapress.com

The Hufflepuff Nerdette – https://thehufflepuffnerdette.wordpress.com/

Wednesday Jan. 30th

Jessica Rachow – http://jessicarachow.wordpress.com

Misty’s Book Space – http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

Touch My Spine Book Reviews – https://touchmyspinebookreviews.com/

Thursday Jan. 31st

From Belgium With Book Love – https://frombelgiumwithbooklove.com

Life at 17 – https://lifeat17.wordpress.com

Friday Feb. 1st

Eclectic Reviews – https://eclecticreview.com/

Dash Fan Book Reviews – https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

 

As always, 

blog tour · book excerpt · dystopian · YA

Blog Tour – The Phoenix Cycle

 

ThePhoenixcycle.jpg

phoenixcyclefrontcover.pngThe Phoenix Cycle: The Best Shall Rise

Publication Date: June 23, 2017

Published By: The Department of Smoke

Genre: Dystopian/ YA/ Sci-Fi

New San Francisco is the last city standing on a world ravaged by storms of ash and debris. The city survived by putting the ideals of the American dream on steroids and inspiring its people to persevere, though they have become ruthless in the process. Its citizens are ruled by the General, who has made sure that his people understand that gentleness and pity have become weaknesses that nature no longer tolerates.

Now Steve and Leslie must choose whether they will apply for the General’s once in a lifetime opportunity to “Rise from the Ashes” and join the Inner Circle that rules the city. If they don’t, they will be damned to spend the rest of their lives in the ghettos of Edingburg, a place where virtual reality has become a government-subsidized addiction.

For Steve, the choice is easy. His loyalties lie with the IRA, a revolutionary army led by a voice only known as “Mom.” They are trying to overthrow the General and free the people of New San Francisco from the cruelties of the City Guard. Steve’s mission is to broadcast a recording of a speech that a famous philosopher died to tell. Many thousands have and will perish to get this message out, but is anyone willing to listen?

Add to Goodreads

Link to Book Trailer

Available on Amazon

Excerpt

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Every wrist in the stadium beeped. Every boy and girl glanced down at the face of their watch. “00:10” then “:09” then “:08.” Everyone turned their heads to the west. There it was. Right on time, as always. The nightly storm. A wall of blackness had lurched up into the sky, swallowing the setting sun. The hairs on Steve’s neck stood up, urging him to get the hell out
of there.

Instead he grabbed Leslie’s hand, who sat quietly quivering next to him, instinctively pressing her bow into her head for comfort. Steve knew her shaking wasn’t coming from Line’s yelling, the storm, or even the tank pointing at them. Her quivers never came from the barrel of a gun, no, the ragging agony she held within her was the very same thing that pushed him back into the sheets when the sun finally rose—are we going to lose each other?

Leslie’s mind pushed the feeling away for at least another moment. “It’ll be all right,” she whispered. Her brown eyes guided him to the dozens of mortar tubes pointing upward and outward on the vibrant green field and then to the perfect line of churning ash that approached the stands.

“Unity can only be achieved and be maintained when it is the STRONG who come together and fly under one flag! We, like no other in the world, have created a unity that has never broken, has never FLINCHED! When the rest of the world saw THAT—” Line’s long arm pointed at the coming avalanche of black— “They all fell to pieces!”

The earth began to quake as the wall rose over them. Someone screamed. The mortars on the field fired as one at the roiling sky. The blackness spilled over the stadium, then slid over the perimeter of the frizzing wall of static that had encapsulated the field. No Phoenix Cycler had seen—only heard rumors from past Cycle Pref parties—this blackness that was sliding over and them whispering their deaths.

– The Phoenix Cycle: The Best Shall Rise

About the Author

Author Pic

Bob is pretty dope. Firstly, his name is Bob, so…yea. Second, have you seen him rock that suit while in a maximum security prison? Epic.

Yea. That’s Bob. No psychological scarring with that author. Nope. Totally fine.

Gosh he looks good in suits.

Hey Have you read The Phoenix Cycle? He wrote that.

One suggestion before you read it and become one of those fans that leaves him roses by his doormat. Read her slowly. This book is not Twilight. She’s deeper than that. Take your time with her. Show the book you care. Cradle it and make it feel loved. If you do, she’ll be good to you. Go too fast and you’ll have no idea why she’s acting so crazy.

Philosophies Dead | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Goodreads

My thoughts:

I really wanted to read this after seeing the trailer. It struck me as a book I could really sink my teeth into.

However, for me, it was anything but that.  I tried twice, following the author’s instructions to read it slowly, take my time. Unfortunately, there was not enough time in the world to make the book hold my attention.

The beginning was fabulous, engrossing and exciting. I was so hopeful.

Then came the tubes, and the strange announcements. All logic flew out of my window.

On my second attempt, I got further than first time around. Maybe persistence is the key to getting the most out of this book. I just don’t want to see reading as a chore, and as a result had to mark this with a DNF.

Perhaps another day I’ll try again. The premise really was something I was excited about. But, on this occasion, this wasn’t for me.

Recent reviews on Coodreads show many others have thoroughly enjoyed this story.

Guess it proves the old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Try it for yourself – it might be just what you’re looking for.

Giveaway!!!

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The author is giving away 10 print copies (That’s right 10) and 5 Digital copies of his book so make sure you enter as the odds are definitely in your favor! (Runs from May 21st to May 30th)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Schedule

May 21st

Reads & Reels (Kick-Off Promo)

Just for My Books (Excerpt)

The Lit Cottage (Review)

Adventures Thu Wonderland (Review)

The Midwest Ladies Who Lit (Excerpt)

May 22nd

IAMAGEEKINGGINGER (Review)

Tranquil Dreams (Review)

On the Shelf Reviews (Excerpt)

May 23rd

Didi Oviatt (Excerpt)

The Genre Minx (Excerpt)

The Cozy Pages (Excerpt)

Valerie’s Musings (Excerpt)

The YA Book Divas (Interview)

May 24th

J Bronder Reviews (Review)

Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Interview)

Bri’s Book Nook (Review)

The Cozy Pages (Excerpt)

Wicked Good Reads (Review)

May 25th

Afire Pages (Excerpt)

Port Jerricho (Excerpt)

Touch My Spine Book Reviews (Review)

Life at 17 (Review)

Blog Tour Organized By:

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R&R Book Tours

blog tour · book launch · horror · YA

Book Blitz: Screams You Hear

Screams You Hear

by James Morris

Genre: Horror/ YA

Publication Date: January 8, 2018

Murder and madness infect a small town.

For sixteen-year-old Ruthie Stroud, life on tiny Hemlock Island in the Pacific Northwest is an endless sea of boring green, in a place where everybody knows everybody’s business and nothing ever happens. Then her world is ripped apart when her parents divorce and a new man enters her mother’s life. But worse is yet to come.

When she drifts ashore on the mainland, hideously burned, Ruthie has a harrowing tale to tell. It begins with the murder of a family. It ends with her being the sole survivor of a cataclysm that sweeps her little island. As a detective attempts to unravel Ruthie’s story of murder and madness, only one horrifying conclusion can be drawn: whatever was isolated on remote Hemlock Island may now have come to the mainland. Is Ruthie safe? Is anyone?

Excerpt

Chapter 1

I wake to pain, pain beyond comprehension, my skin on fire, only to find myself in a hospital bed, my arms bandaged, and wires snaking into machines. The burns are covered in white gauze and every motion, no matter how small, sends my nerves screaming. The air is heavy against my skin. And that smell. I can still smell the bitterness of my singed hair. I feel my head, expecting strands of hair, thick and wavy, but it’s gone. There are only splotches of emptiness, a topography of touch that alarms me. I wonder if it will ever grow back.

Tendrils of anxiety course through me, pulsing steadily. I need to wake up from whatever this is.

In spite of the pain, I caress my face and I have no eyebrows. Only stubble. No matter where I touch, my skin isn’t soft; it’s leather, a mask that rests too tightly against my skull. It’s like my skin is both expanding and contracting, pushing and pulling.

In the cyclone of terror, I remember. I remember everything.

I wish I didn’t. I wish it all away.

Around the room, there are no mirrors, and I know it’s no accident. It’s small comfort. I don’t want to see myself. I may never look in a mirror again. It’s only me and a bed, and colorful murals of elephants and giraffes on the wall, their cartoon smiles mocking me. I must be in the children’s wing, even though I’m sixteen. Next to me, an IV recedes into my vein. To my left is a button. It could be to call for assistance. Or to adjust the bed. But I think it’s something else. I think it’s for pain.

I could press it and disappear into numbness.

I could press it and just drift.

But there is something about pain. It’s the price of being alive.

The button is my litmus test.

I am stronger than my pain. I need to focus on something—anything. I need to distract myself.

I am not my pain.

I am Ruthie Stroud. I live at— wait—not anymore. I have a brother—no, not anymore.

I shut my eyes. I can’t shut them hard enough. Through the darkness, I still see fire. My world engulfed with flickering orange and reds. And the all-encompassing heat, heat beyond boiling, bordering on oblivion. Melting.

My last memory is coming ashore on the mainland, alone and fiercely tired. I didn’t walk, didn’t run. I moved, floating, held aloft by the most invisible of strings, my eyes on the horizon, people on the edges of my vision. Adults. I felt their gaze. The air was cool and moist and my skin so hot. Moving and moving; people staring. I hear them, words like police and 911 and oh my God. They surround me, a horde. They’re feral creatures, circling, their faces distorted. They are coming for me. I have no escape.

I scream and my world goes dark.

“Ruthie?”

I open my eyes. A woman stands in the hospital room doorway. Her skin is the color of teak, her black hair pulled into a tight ponytail, and without a uniform, she’s clearly no nurse. I look down her button-down shirt and a badge is attached to her belt, a gun holstered at her side.

She says, not unkindly, “I’m Detective Perez from the Washington State Police.”

I knew the cops would get involved, even though they’re late. Far too late.

She waits for me to invite her in. “May I?”

I nod and my skin crinkles and cracks. She enters, pulling a chair beside my bed and sits down. Her brown eyes rest on me and then dart away. She can’t bear to look. I must seem a monster. She asks, “How are you feeling?”

I don’t know how to answer that question.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

Down the hall, I hear a child scream. From surgery or fear, I don’t know. I think fight the pain, fight the pain.

She speaks to me in soothing tones. “I need to ask you a few questions. About what happened. Can you talk?”

My mouth is dry, my throat sore, my vocal chords thrashed. I’d forgotten how much I screamed. I feel my skin wrinkle into deep crevices as I move my jaw, and it’s an effort to form words. Even my tongue feels burned; this strange muscle in my mouth. “Is my dad coming?”

“He’s on his way.” We share a bit of silence and I stare at the woman she is, the beautiful woman I will never be, and she says, “I’d like to start at the beginning. And if there’s ever a point where you need to stop, just let me know, okay?”

“There’s just one thing,” and I clear my throat. I force her to find my eyes. To see. To look. To understand.

“What’s that?”

“Don’t judge me,” I tell her. “I did what I had to.”

About the Author

James Morris is a television writer who now works in digital media.

He is the author of the young adult thriller What Lies Within, the dystopian love story Melophobia, the young adult suspense Feel Me Fall, and the young adult horror Screams You Hear.

When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching ‘House Hunters Renovation’, or trying new recipes in the kitchen.

He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles. Catch him at jamesmorriswriter.com.

Author Links:

Goodreads

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Get your copy here on Amazon

But, wait … there’s more. The author is running a giveaway with Rafflecopter – you can win a print copy of the book.

Enter here.

 

Book Blitz Organized By:

Thanks for reading 😉

army of authors · blog tour · fantasy · steampunk · YA

Army of Authors Blog Tour – Raquel Byrnes

The Tremblers

by Raquel Byrnes

 

Weapons of Light & Power

“A soldier leaned out the window, taking aim at Charlotte. A frisson of energy pulsed from the weapon, barely missing her. She screamed, flailing.

Ashton flipped the rocket ignition on the power cycle and the force of the thrust slammed him against the seat as he shot skyward toward the roof. Pulling his tracer gun, he fired blindly at the building. The soldier dove for the floor.” ~Ashton Wells, The Tremblers

Creating the weapons for my YA Steampunk novel, The Tremblers took me on a fascinating path. The invention of destructive devices was vexing and addicting all at once.

Weapons of light — Tracer Guns are the weapon of choice for the soldiers of the Peaceful Union. Powerful blasters that syphon the glowing purple energy from the massive Tesla Domes caging the city-states are feared by the average citizen. Constantly recalibrating to the dome’s pulse, they are outlawed to everyone but the soldiers of the government.

Charlotte is a tinkerer and inventor. The daughter of a renowned soldier and chemist, her weapons needed finesse. I designed the metal spheres of her Shrieking Violet grenade to cluster together like a flower. Its shrill screech disables her enemies while a curtain of magenta gas shields her escape.

The outlaws and Lawmen of Outer City favor guns and pistols of the old world. Sheriff Sebastian Riley’s revolver helped him to rise to power among the pirates and pioneers of the sky settlement.

Another daunting tool as the Lightning Stick. Capable of lashing whips of energy. Used by the ruthless Lawmen of the floating ports, Charlotte learns of its devastating effects while trying to flee with Ashton.

However, it is the power and might of the Peaceful Union Aero Squad that strikes fear into the heart of every citizen. Their searing lamps and concussion bombs send rioters scrambling. Creating airship battles and designing the infamous rebel ship, The Stygian, was great fun! Myself the daughter of a military man, I grew up visiting airshows and sitting at the controls of massive machines of war.  I wanted to bring that fascination and awe to the Blackburn Chronicles.

If you love mechanica, mayhem, and monsters, then check out The Tremblers and Wind Reapers. The link to Amazon is here, and the book is also available now via other retailers.

For more about the author, check out her author page here.

Thanks for reading 🙂

book launch · romance · YA

Book Launch: Paper Hearts

Paper Hearts

by Lynette Ferreira

Sixteen-year-old Megan has never been anything but focused on her future career as a Game Developer, until life throws her a curveball in the form of David.

Now, her story is to be completely rewritten.

#yalit #yaromance

Release date: May 1st

Pre-Order your Copy

Apple iBooks
Kobo Books
Barnes & Noble Nook Books

Mark it as Want To Read on Goodreads

Still need to think about it? Why not read the first chapter  now and then hit those buy links? You won’t regret it.

About the author: 

Lynette writes stories about first love, really cute boys, kissing and all the drama. Her stories sometimes address social issues and are most times set in a supernatural world. She does not really like the cold, is afraid of what might be hiding in the dark, and loves anything in, on or smothered with chocolate.

For most of her adult life, she worked as a personal assistant at an international financial institution, and in 2008 she took the brave leap to becoming a self-published author.

Her first indie book, ‘My Recycled Soul’ was chosen as a Quarter Finalist (top 250 from 5000 entries) in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (Young Adults) 2010. In 2011, her story, ‘When we Love’ was also chosen as a Quarter Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (Young Adults).

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

blog tour · book launch · R&R Book Tour stop · survival · suspense · thriller · YA

Book Blitz: Feel Me Fall

Feel Me Fall

by James Morris

Genre: YA/ Thriller/ Survival

Publication Date: May 2017

Blurb:

Secrets and survival in the Amazon

Emily Duran is the sole survivor of a plane crash that left her and her teenage friends stranded and alone in the jungles of the Amazon. Lost and losing hope, they struggle against the elements, and each other. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new order emerges, filled with power struggles, betrayals, secrets and lies. Emily must explain why she’s the last left alive.

But can she carry the burden of the past?

Discover the gripping new adventure novel that explores who we are when no one is watching, and how far we’ll go in order to survive.

Fancy a snippet?

Of course you do! But, this is so much more than a snippet …

Enjoy! 🙂

Chapter One

I have tried so hard to forget, but memory is a stubborn thing. Memories linger no matter what I do. They’re there all the time—and worse. Even my dreams aren’t safe. I have vicious nightmares, and they’re real—too real—and suddenly I’m back there. I can’t will them away, I can’t squeeze them away, and the more I try, the more they burrow in my head. I want to cut open my skull and dig my fingers into my brain and just pull them out.
I press the Call Nurse button.
This place, this room; it’s no better than a white coffin. Sometimes I feel like the walls are closing in on me and I have to remind myself nothing’s moving. Nothing at all.
Breathe, I tell myself. Just breathe.
A nurse enters. She’s got skin the color of rich walnut. She says, “It’s late, you should be asleep.”
“I can’t.” She tilts her head, knowing it’s a lie. The truth is I don’t want to. “Can I have some coffee?”
“You’ve got to sleep sometime, honey.” She walks over and gently grasps my bandaged hand. “Do you want me to stay with you a while?”
Usually my mom is with me, but she must’ve had to run home. Reduced to a little girl, I nod.
I close my eyes, but my mind runs and runs. Tubes and fluids enter my body, but there’s nothing to stop the anxiety. My heart pounds and sometimes I fear I’m on the cusp of crossing into whatever lies on the other side of sane. Being in the hospital makes it harder. The white walls and sick people only remind me that I am so far from normal. My mom’s apartment in Los Angeles is less than five miles away, but it might as well be a million.
The nurse, staff, doctors, everyone; they all know me for one thing. The thing that will define me for the rest of my life. I am a survivor. The only survivor of Air Brazil, the plane that crashed in the Amazon jungle carrying 134 passengers; 37 of them students, teachers, and chaperones from Riverdale Academy High. I used to hear about plane crashes and wondered how the victims felt in the seconds before impact, wondered what it was like to know you were about to die.
Now I know. And I’d give anything not to.
I knew those people from school. Every. Single. One.
They aren’t faceless names. They are people and they are dead.
The counselor didn’t help, either. She told me not to feel guilty. Survivor’s guilt, she called it. She warned I could expect to be angry and sad. I could expect to be confused. I wanted to tell her I was angry and sad and confused long before I got onto that plane.
My counselor told me to write my story down. By writing I could make sense of all that happened. I keep thinking if I remember everything the way I need to that the memories will fade away. That I can accept what happened. I can accept that I survived and everyone else died.
The laptop on my nightstand is waiting for me. I’m scared to touch it.

###

I was dead to the world and when I came to I was drowning. Water gushed into my mouth and I was tumbling, flailing, not knowing what end was up or down. I heard the sounds of screaming and the roaring of water and then nothingness. Coming up for air, I held something, something rectangular. The seat cushion I was holding kept me afloat. I was in a river and I didn’t know why. I kicked and kicked and it made no difference. I never believed in God, an all-powerful being that allowed so many horrible things to happen, but as I saw the rocks up ahead, I prayed.
The current sped faster, churning like boiling water and I thought I was going to die.
I was 17 and I was going to die.
All the time wasted. All the things I never got to do.
I had one thought over and over: I don’t want to die. Someone else, but not me.
I held onto that seat cushion for dear life and plunged into the rapids. I was a human rag doll. The torrent sucked me into a watery hell and I couldn’t breathe; my eyes shut, mouth shut, face tight against the murk, willing everything to stop. I couldn’t breathe. I started to panic.
Someone else, but not me.
I needed air, my body screamed for it and I opened my mouth about to take in water when I bubbled up to the surface and gasped. As quickly as I was brought above, I was taken under again. I slammed against the rocks and buried my face deeper into the cushion. I saw nothing, heard nothing, and imagined I was in a womb. I could only wait for the terror to pass. There was no outlet; my fear was so deep and tangible I couldn’t scream. It felt like an actual substance that enveloped my body, my brain, my very being. I receded further and further within myself, a dark hole, my entire body a taut muscle.
Suddenly, I took a shot to the head and saw stars. A high-pitched squeal rang in my ears. I fought the growing sensation of darkness that threatened to overcome me, but I knew to give in meant death. I was tempted. So, so tempted. I forced my eyes open and saw the water, the dark water and wondered in that emptiness if I hadn’t died already.
My prayer must’ve been heard.
The water calmed and I was spit out near a bend. I realized I had to give up the cushion, my lifeline—it was holding me back. I let go, cursing myself as it floated away and I swam, giving everything I had. My body had nothing left but I commanded it, willed it, to swim. As I approached the shore, my shoes finally touched bottom and I heaved myself onto land.
I don’t know how long I lay there catching my breath. But there is no greater feeling of security than the sensation of the earth beneath your stomach, hands grabbing dirt. The scent of decay and wet leaves smelled like a bouquet. All this time I’d taken the ground beneath me for granted. Now I was thankful for this place to rest.
I was soaked. My jeans pressed against me, my hair drenched, my socks squished against my feet. I didn’t understand. I had left on a flight from Los Angeles with a layover in Panama City and then on to Asuncion, Paraguay for a year-end class trip. We were traveling as an inter-disciplinary trip for history, international relations, foreign language and biology. We were going to have the trip of a lifetime.
Then it hit me, a delayed reaction: I almost drowned. I almost died. My body seized and I was overwhelmed. I cried; I didn’t even know why or for what, but I sobbed on that little stretch of dirt. I heaved, gasping for breath. Every inhale was a wheeze, and I caught myself hitting the ground, my hands balled into tight fists, pounding and pounding.
Moments passed and I cried myself empty. I told myself: get up. You have to get up.
I placed my hands in the dirt to help me stand and looked around thinking: What is this place? There was green everywhere, too much green, and a river the width of three football fields in front of me. The air was heavy, a physical pressure against my skin. I was in the jungle, a tangled web of trees and totally foreign. Any other time, I might’ve been amazed by its majesty, only now I felt small. Trees towered behind me, the river flowed in front, and I was trapped.
It was then I felt the weight of my cross-body bag. I’d been wearing it the whole time. Not very heavy, I managed to unhook it and was about to open the zipper when I heard screams.
Floating down the river were more people. I wasn’t alone! A ripple of joy overtook me until I saw their faces reflecting what I sensed my own might look like—bruised, bleeding, and utterly thrashed.
Exhausted, I shouted my voice hoarse, “Over here!” I waved my hands over my head. “You can do it,” I encouraged. “Almost there!”
Some didn’t move at all. They floated, faces down, rolling through the current, lost in the rapids, disappearing for far too long. Those were the ones who didn’t thrash. Others were swept in the rapids, their screams barely heard over the rushing water only to be silenced on the other end. I was watching people die. The bodies were like a slow leak, trickling down the river a few at a time, and yet almost none of them emerged alive on the other side of the rocks. I couldn’t save them. They were too far away.
Someone else, but not me.
I didn’t mean like this.
Then I saw Viv and my heart nearly stopped.
She struggled in the water, past the rapids, a bobber about to go under. She was never athletic even though she was stick thin. Water gurgled from her mouth and she barely moved. I couldn’t bear to lose her. I wouldn’t allow it. I was terrified of my own exhaustion, but I jumped into the water and found a strength I never knew. I swam out to her. Her head dipped under the water and I would not let that be the last time I saw my best friend alive. I grasped her flotation cushion and then headed back to shore.
She looked at me, dazed. “Emily, it’s you.”
“Yes, it’s me.” I could barely contain my relief.
The sun shone over my head, reflecting in the ripples. “You look like an angel.”
I knew Vivian was out of it. “Stop talking now. Just swim. We’re going to be okay.”
I reached the shore for a second time and pulled her up with me. Once on land, she pulled me into a hug and nothing had ever felt better. Always shorter than me, her face burrowed into my chest and I felt I was protecting an abandoned baby bird. Her inky dark hair, usually so pretty was now plastered to her head, her make-up had washed away, and she was just this tiny thing. Her whole body shivered. “Tell me it’s a dream, tell me it’s a dream….”
“I wish it was, Viv.” I would’ve stayed hugging her if not for the other people in need of help.
Nico, Viv’s immature boyfriend, splashed ashore, his glasses gone, his nose bloody, red streaks smeared across his face. He was panting and heaved over, and I thought he might throw up. We had a history, but there was no time for irritation. Any familiar face was cause for celebration. He seemed surprised to see me. “You made it.”
He then eased Viv from my arms and into his.
Further down the river there was movement. It was Derek, all limbs and urgency, his face pockmarked with acne and not a hint of stubble. He splashed onto shore, his fingers digging into sand and he kissed the earth.
Twenty yards away, Ryan Wray followed. One of his prosthetic legs was missing—he’d lost his legs below the knee after contracting a rare case of meningitis a few years earlier—and he crab-walked onto land, his one pant leg empty, wet, and flat. He wasn’t alone. He helped guide Mean Molly with him. She was far from mean then, almost drowned, flustered and frantic. Once she got out of the water, she toppled in the mud, curling into a fetal position.
I stayed where I was as Ryan, Molly and Derek staggered along the shore, finally meeting up with us.
There was no time to rest or reflect. The river scattered more survivors along the shore. I pulled in a man and stopped in alarm when I saw that one of his arms had snapped off. I gently laid him down and he didn’t even notice until he turned his head. He said with an eerie calm, “That looks painful.” I recognized him from the plane. He’d sat a few aisles in front of me and slammed back drinks whenever we hit a patch of turbulence. On land, he didn’t even scream. His face was pale and blood spurted in rhythmic pulses from below his shoulder.
“What do we do?” Nico said.
I had no clue. I only knew we needed to do something. “Derek, your belt!”
Derek looked from his perch on the mud and shook his head. I couldn’t believe it.
“Derek, give me your belt! He’s losing too much blood.”
Derek, in shock or otherwise, didn’t move.
I searched for anything that would act as a tourniquet, but my efforts were in vain. The man’s blood had dwindled to a dribble, leaving a red puddle in the mud.
Another woman emerged from the water like a swamp creature, stumbling. We sat her down and she gazed at the water. She had a head injury like mine. Blood ran from her scalp and there was a small spot where her hair had been chafed away. It wasn’t a wound. It was a hole. Looking closer, I could see something I didn’t want to—her skull and what lay within. Her eyelids fluttered and she swayed, falling unconscious. I tried to grab her, but gravity took her to the ground. I nudged her once, twice; she didn’t respond. “Wake up,” I pleaded. “Please wake up.” She never moved again.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to run from this place.
It seemed like a Halloween parade. They had to be in costume or using special effects; the injuries and deaths couldn’t be real.
They were all too real.
One man drifted to shore, his face down in the water, his wispy gray hair splayed out on the water’s surface. We grabbed ahold of him and he was heavy, far too heavy for his slender body. We saw why. The flotation device had kept him afloat, but he’d drowned somewhere along the way.
The last man we helped suffered so many burns his face was charred and etched in pain—I had the horrible thought of grill marks on steak. Once on land he jumped back into the water. Maybe the water had soothed him. I tried to reach out and grab him. “Let me help you!” But he was hysterical, too fast, and we watched as he floated away. I tell myself that he would’ve probably died anyway.
It’s terrible that I only knew them as The Woman, The Old Man, The Man Without an Arm and The Burned Man. Somewhere people knew their names, their histories, secrets and loves. Many of them rested at our feet, their chests still, mouths open. We were among the dead, and I found that we all, consciously or not, distanced ourselves from the horror.

###

The six of us stood on the shore, a hodgepodge of strained relationships, but I hoped the past meant nothing now. Silence fell over us. My voice felt robotic. “What happened?”
They looked at me as if I was stupid and in that moment I knew.
You’ve been in a plane crash.
You’ve been in a plane crash and you survived.
Viv broke down crying. “Where’s everyone else?” I asked.
“Where do you think?” said Ryan.
There had been a whole planeload of people, 37 of them from our school including my English teacher, Mr. DeKoning. We couldn’t be the only ones left. Things like this didn’t happen. At least not to us. To me.
I struggled, trying to remember, and yet there was only me sitting in my cramped seat, my body wracked with discomfort after such a long flight, the recycled air making my skin feel plastic, and then this. “How did we end up in the water?”
Ryan looked at me, stunned. “You don’t remember?”
I shook my head.
“Maybe it’s better that way.”
Derek rose. “The plane crashed in the Amazon. At least that’s what the map on my seat showed. You don’t remember bracing yourself? The flight attendants freaking out?”
“She said no, Derek!” This from Viv.
Derek said, “The plane broke apart. Flooded. We were lucky to get out.”
I didn’t remember any of it. “How did I get out?”
“Same way we did,” Derek said. “We were all sitting near each other. Near the exit rows. Threw on our life jackets or grabbed seat cushions and jumped in the water. A lot of people….” He paused. “A lot of people didn’t.” Derek looked at the dead adults. “They did, though.” He spit near the dead bodies.
“What are you talking about?”
“You should’ve seen ‘em claw over everyone. Trampled over people. They scratched and pushed their way out. There were no heroes on that plane. Not them, at least. They deserved to die.”
Nico shot back, “No one deserved to die. No one.”
“I don’t know,” Derek said. “Bet if you checked under their fingernails, you’d find human skin.”
Ryan interrupted, “Anyone see Conlin?” We shook our heads. Pete Conlin was Ryan’s best friend. “He was sitting right next to me. He was right there.” Ryan peered out over the water, as if he could see Pete in the distance. “He was right next to me.”
I don’t remember what I did next. Maybe I cried. Maybe I fell on the ground. I receded back inside myself where nothing could hurt me. It didn’t make sense. None of it made sense. Beyond the wreckage and bodies, we were in some kind of Garden of Eden, untouched by humans, as pristine as anything I’d ever seen, canopies of trees, and plants and flowers like colorful origami, a perfume of nature, and yet we’d fallen from the sky. I hunched over, shivering, saying to myself I am safe, I am safe, I am safe.
Our layers of clothes were so wet there was no point in wearing them. Derek was missing a shoe. Most of Nico’s pants were ripped from the waist down. Viv’s designer sweatpants clung to her body. Ryan fiddled with his remaining prosthetic leg, knocking sand loose from the joints and making sure it moved properly. Disjointed and detached from his body, it looked out of place, like the rest of this nightmare. With his jeans rolled up, I saw his stump covered in scar tissue.
Derek stood near the jungle’s entrance, a quizzical look on his face, almost scientific. He didn’t seem all that fazed, and even ran his hand over some of the trees, feeling their bark. I wondered what was wrong with him.
Molly sat on the shore, plopped down like a scoop of soft-serve ice cream, her head in her hands. She sat alone, and I felt bad for her, but she had earned the nickname Mean Molly for a reason. I got up anyway and approached her. Even as I asked it, I felt stupid. “Are you okay?”
She ignored me. Then she spoke. “I never wanted to come on this trip.”
Molly didn’t once look at me. She just kept staring ahead. I left her alone.
Viv, Nico and I formed a triangle on the ground. Viv and Nico leaned into each other, and Viv’s crying went from a soft cry into heaves of despair. “I just want to go home. I just want to go home.”
We didn’t know it then, but the jungle was to become our home for far too long.

About the author:

James Morris is a television writer who now works in digital media. He is the author of the young adult thriller What Lies Within, the dystopian love story Melophobia, the young adult suspense Feel Me Fall, and the young adult horror Screams You Hear. When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching ‘House Hunters Renovation’, or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with

 

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