[Blog Tour + Giveaway + Playlist + Review] THE EDGE OF ANYTHING by Nora Shalaway Carpenter, 5 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: The Edge of Anything
Author: Nora Shalaway Carpenter
Publisher: Running Press Teen (March 24, 2020)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Mental Health
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

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Blurb

Len is a loner teen photographer haunted by a past that’s stagnated her work and left her terrified she’s losing her mind. Sage is a high school volleyball star desperate to find a way around her sudden medical disqualification. Both girls need college scholarships. After a chance encounter, the two develop an unlikely friendship that enables them to begin facing their inner demons.

But both Len and Sage are keeping secrets that, left hidden, could cost them everything, maybe even their lives.

Set in the North Carolina mountains, this dynamic #ownvoices novel explores grief, mental health, and the transformative power of friendship.

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Excerpt

Chapter One

Len

The first thing Len noticed was the floor. That was always the first thing these days, her eyes constantly scanning the places her feet had to touch. Unless she jumped about four feet, there wasn’t a single clean tile to step on.

She didn’t remember noticing them last year—all the streaks and brown bits littering the hallway—but that seemed impossible. Had she simply not cared?

“Move it, loser,” someone muttered behind her. She didn’t recognize the voice, but it didn’t matter. Len was used to the insults. She didn’t take her eyes off the floor.

“Weirdo,” the kid said. “Seriously, hurry up. Varsity’s already started.”

Len’s chest cramped as she tried to decide where to step.

“Come on!” Someone else groaned, and Len forced herself to move up in line, one foot, then two. The sole of her boot tracked through a dark brown streak, and she told herself it wasn’t dog shit. Someone else would have noticed if it was dog shit, right? And why didn’t anyone else seem to care?

The slick squeaks of soles on hardwood echoed from the gym. It’s just mud, Len thought again, repeating the word like a mantra. Mud, mud, mud.

“Three dollars, please. Four if you want the raffle.”

Len blinked at the librarian. When had he started taking ticket money? And what was Len even doing here? She didn’t like volleyball, not really.

The librarian held out his hand. “You coming in, Len?”

“I—uh . . .” Heat speckled her face and neck. Had she always had such trouble making decisions? She turned to leave when the memory of why she’d come to the game jolted her. The phone, ringing, ringing. Seven p.m. on the dot. Fauna.

Len couldn’t go back home. Not yet.

“Jesus, Lemon,” said the first voice. “You in or out?”

Len shoved her cash onto the table and pushed her way into the gym.

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Chapter Two

Sage

THWOPP!

Sage started forward, even though there was no way the ball would reach her. Probably wouldn’t even make it over the net. That hollow thud meant a too-slack hand, a poor serve. Still, she crouched low, weight on the balls of her fire-orange Asics, in case she needed to sprawl.

The ball kissed the net, skimmed a few feet sideways along the top then dropped back on the opponent’s side, sending Sage’s bench into near-hysterics. Sage’s Southview Rams hadn’t defeated their hometown rival Asheville High in three seasons, and that missed serve kept her team alive.

Go time. Sage walked back to the server’s box as the scoreboard ticked 13-14. Varsity matches went best out of five, and this one had gone to the last game. Match point for Asheville. Again.

Kayla Davis ran up to her. “You got this, Sage,” she said. “You got it.”

Sage nodded. The line judge tossed her the ball.

Coach Craig held up four fingers beneath his clipboard, but Sage wouldn’t have needed the signal. She knew Asheville’s weak-side hitter was just that—weak. Even if she hadn’t studied the game tape for the past three nights, a few plays into the match revealed who was most likely to shank her serve.

From the bench, her teammates shouted themselves horse.

“Pound it, Sage!”

“They can’t touch you!”

“Come on, baby!”

Sage twirled the volleyball in her hands, then bounced it once, her ritual. She heard the cheers, but also didn’t, like a person knows she’s breathing without thinking about it. She extended the ball onto her left palm.

If she mis-served, her rivals won.

The referee whistled, signaling her.

Sage stared down the opposing setter, making her think she was the target. Then she tossed the ball and hammered a topspin directly at position four. The girl barely had time to protect her face before the ball hit her elbow and ricocheted out of bounds.

The Rams’ bench almost lost its mind. On the court, Sage performed the celebratory Ace ritual with her teammates—two stomps and a clap—but her face stayed stone flat. The ref tossed her the ball. Coach Craig held up another four.

This time Sage backed against the wall. She tossed the ball high, then leapt to meet it in a jump serve—more intimidating than her topspin, but not as fast. Asheville’s receiver got a better handle on it, but the ball shot into the net and dropped to the ground before her setter could even touch it.

15-14, Rams advantage. Unlike the first four games that went to twenty-five points, the fifth game of a match only went to fifteen. But you had to win by two. This was it, then. Or could be. Sage walked back to the service line.

“Timeout!” Asheville’s coach called. Kayla slung her arm around Sage as they joined Southview’s huddle. “You got this,” her best friend said, squeezing her shoulders. “I know you got it.” Sage allowed a tight nod.

“One point and they’re back in it!” Coach quieted the bench with a look. He pointed at Sage. “They’re trying to ice you,” he said, like she didn’t know. “Hit six this time.”

Sage made a face. “Four’s shanked it twice. I’m in her head.”

“She knows you’re coming for her. She’ll be ready.”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Sage. “She can’t hit it.”

Coach raised his eyebrows, daring her to continue arguing. Last year Sage had ignored a call, and Coach had benched her, star player or no. It probably cost the team the game. “Six,” he repeated. The whistle blew.

Sage held his gaze to let him know she disagreed, then cracked her neck and walked back to the server’s box.

“Just one more, Sagey.” Ella Cruz smacked her hip as she trotted past.

Only Ella could get away with calling her Sagey. But then, nobody fed her sets like Ella.

Sage picked up the ball, the team’s energy thrumming though her. Most of her teammates, good as they were, wouldn’t trade positions with her for the world. She sensed this instinctively, the same way she intuited when a player was going to tip almost before the player did. With the game in the balance, her teammates didn’t want the serve. Didn’t want the risk of failure. That was the difference between Sage Zendasky and the rest: these were the moments she felt most alive.

Sage slapped the ball with her palm, her mouth twitching a faint smile just to mess with Asheville’s players. This was why she showed up early to their three-hour practices and why she often stayed late. Why she played in an off-season travel league. Why she spent practically all of her free time with a volleyball in her hands.

The whistle shrilled. Sage tossed the ball . . .

and crushed it.

Asheville’s back middle—position six—dug the serve perfectly. Sage had a heartbeat of indignation—told you Craig—while she raced to position in the back row. She sunk down as Asheville’s hitter connected with the ball.

“Me, ME!” Lyz Greer called, causing Sage and Nina Marto to scissor away from her.

“THREE!” Ella shouted, flipping a short set to the middle. Kayla drilled it, but Position Six made another perfect dig. Five times the ball exchanged sides, Asheville’s hitters clearly avoiding Sage.

Come on, thought Sage. One time.

“Short!” screamed Ella, as Asheville’s middle flicked the ball over the blockers. Hannah Wainwright dove backwards, managing to punch it up with her fist, but the ball rocketed towards the back wall.

Asheville’s bench erupted as Sage took off. The ball was nearly a body length in front of her, but high, and she just might . . .

the wall . . .

She sprawled instinctually, hurling her fist upwards. It connected, sending the ball sailing back to the court.

“MEEEE!” called Nina.

Sage heard Nina the moment before her momentum took her into the wall. Concrete met her cheek as her ankle turned awkwardly. She cursed, but pushed herself back to position to see Nina’s free ball cross the net.

Asheville was disorganized, clearly thinking they’d won the point when Hannah shanked. They managed to get the ball back in three, but with an easy free pass right to Sage. Ella’s eyes lit as she set Sage’s perfect pass to Kayla.

Asheville formed a double block, but Sage saw the hole behind it.

“Q!” She shouted the code letter. “Kayla, Q!”

Kayla attacked the net like she hadn’t heard, but at the last second pulled back her swing and tipped the ball into the gap behind the blockers.

The ball floated—movie-style-slow—and dropped to the floor.

“AHHHHHHHHH!” Sage screamed so her heart wouldn’t burst. Her teammates echoed her, high-fiving and jumping on one another. Kayla thrust her chest out, nodding like a pro-footballer while Ella punched the air.

“You!” Sage said, rushing Kayla. “That was perfect!”

“YOU!” Kayla said, shaking her. “I thought we were dead. Did you hit the wall?”

“Yeah, she did,” said Ella, slapping her back. “She be crazy.”

Sage smiled, light headed from the high of victory. Hannah raced toward her, and forgetting her ankle, Sage leapt to meet her in a shoulder bump. As she peaked, she registered it all simultaneously: Kayla’s whoops; her teammates converging; Coach’s wide and seldom-shown grin.

The thrill of it twitched her heart as she reconnected with the ground . . .

and fainted.

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Official Book Playlist

Check out the The Edge of Anything playlist, created by Nora Carpenter herself.

Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea by Passenger (Len)

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The Fighter by Gym Class Hero (Sage)

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Head above Water by Avril Lavigne (Len)

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Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys (Sage)

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Don’t Look Down by Ivan B (Len)

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Lash Out by Alice Merton (Sage)

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Breaking Down by Florence + the Machine (Len)

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Champion by Fall Out Boy (Sage)

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Everything I Wanted by Billie Eilish (Len)

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Wounds by Kid Cudi (Sage)

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Warrior by Demi Lovato (Len)

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Fight Song by Rachel Platten (Sage)

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Review

After a tragic incident, Len knows something’s gone wrong with her. But she can’t let anyone know, especially her parents. They barely make ends meet and she doesn’t want to add to their current emotional baggage. Sage knows exactly what she wants — to be a pro volleyball player. But after learning about her rare heart condition, she loses touch with family and friends. Sage meets Len and she is curious all of a sudden. She knows Len is being weird for a reason and wants to help her. The courage to push through brings them together and an unforgettable friendship starts.

This is not your typical YA read. It does a wonderful job of educating people and erasing the stigma on mental health and homosexuality. It’s heavy from the very beginning and lightens a bit toward the end. Carpenter does a good job in creating Len and Sage; they are opposites but similar. The story alternates their points of view and it’s amazing how Sage’s fast-paced narrative complements Len’s slow revelation. Touching hearts in many ways, this book teaches one of the most basic rules in human nature: always think about what you say and do, because they affect others more than you’ll ever know. It also shows how acceptance does not always heal, but it sure helps in dealing with the pain. Trigger warnings include bullying, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dementia, OCD, panic attacks, and miscarriages.

Thanks to NetGalley and Running Press for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.⁣⁣ For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

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Favorite Quotes

“Life wasn’t just unfair. Sometimes it was downright malicious.”

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“When you’re creative, your heart is more open. Your body’s more sensitive and alive. We feel everything deeper, even the bad things.”

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“We call our destinies to ourselves.”

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“Good intentions were worthless when no one knew what to do with them.”

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“And while the lie didn’t feel awesome, it made everyone happy.”

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“I don’t think I’ll ever be ready. But I’m going in.”
“You know that’s the definition of courage, right?”

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“Maybe people got more than one lifetime. Maybe she thought she only had one because she simply hadn’t found another.”

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About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Nora Shalaway Carpenter holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Before she wrote books, she served as associate editor of Wonderful West Virginia magazine and has been a Certified Yoga Teacher since 2012. Originally from rural West Virginia, she currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, three young children, and one not-so-young dog.

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Giveaway

Win a hardcopy of THE EDGE OF ANYTHING by Nora Shalaway Carpenter, a character art postcard by Kelsey Lecky of K. A. K. Lecky Illustration, a bookmark, and a pop-open card from Thoughtfulls (US-only). This giveaway runs from March 24 until April 7, 2020. Click here to enter.

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Tour Schedule

Click the banner below to learn more about this Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tour. For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar — follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

[Blog Tour + Giveaway] SPARROW by Maria Cecilia Jackson

About the Book

Title: Sparrow
Author: Mary Cecilia Jackson 
Publisher: Tor Teen (March 17, 2020)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

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Blurb

In the tradition of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a devastating but hopeful YA debut about a ballerina who finds the courage to confront the abuse that haunts her past and threatens her future.

There are two kinds of people on the planet. Hunters and prey.

I thought I would be safe after my mother died. I thought I could stop searching for new places to hide. But you can’t escape what you are, what you’ve always been.

My name is Savannah Darcy Rose.

And I am still prey.

Though Savannah Rose―Sparrow to her friends and family―is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Sparrow has always believed that her lifelong creed―“I’m not the kind of girl who tells”―will make her just like everyone else: Normal. Happy. Safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Sparrow must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, or lose herself forever….

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Excerpt

1

March

Running down the hall, phone pressed to my ear, I raise my eyes to the huge clock above the library doors. It offers no hope.

“Where are you, Birdy?” Lucas says. “Levkova’s going to slaughter you! She’s already doing that thing where she’s standing near the piano with her arms crossed, looking at us like we’re a bunch of zoo animals.”

I take a corner too fast and my elbow hits the lockers. I run faster.

“Are you seriously talking to me in the studio? Put your phone away, or she’ll murder you before she even gets to me!”

“I’m not that stupid. I’m in the hall, but even out here I can see her eyes turning all frosty. You know how they get, like freaky little balls of ice.”

“Oh my God, it’s almost two forty. I’m going to have to drive like a fiend to get changed in time.”

I’m breaking the Eleventh Commandment, incised into our brains for the last three years: Thou Shalt Not Be Late for Ballet Class.

“Holy crap, Birdy, you’re still at school? You’ll never make it! You know you won’t get in if you’re late. She loves locking that door at three o’clock, hearing the cries of the damned on the other side.”

“I’m going as fast as I can! Try to stall her.”

“Oh, right. Like that’ll work. She’ll turn me to stone with her ice-ball eyes before I even get close. I’m telling you, she’s in a mood. She just told Charlotte to stand up straight, that orangutans moved with more grace. Why are you so late?”

I turn the last corner, backpack slipping off my shoulder, dance bag banging against my hip. I can feel my bun falling out of its knot, hear the tiny metallic pings as bobby pins hit the floor behind me.

“Ugh, Coscoroba kept me after class. He wanted to talk about my term paper. You know how you can never get away from him, right? I mean, he’s nice, but God, once he gets going you can’t get a word in. Today he had to tell me the entire story of Prometheus and his super-unfortunate liver. I swear he never took a breath the whole time.”

“Gross! Okay, look, she sees me out here,” Lucas whispers. “I don’t want to die a horrible death, so I’m going in. Good luck! If you don’t make it, I promise I’ll cry real loud at your funeral.”

“Stop it, Lucas! I’m running as fast as I can!”

Lucas hangs up, and I shove my phone into my bag. The halls are empty, echoing with the sound of my feet pounding the tile floor, the ragged gasp of my breath. I hate disappointing Madame Levkova. She is my rock star, the sun at the center of my universe. Today she’ll give me the look that tells me I’ve let her down, remind me that people who are late are lazy and inconsiderate, and I’ll feel like crap for a week. If I rush in just as she’s locking the door, she may not even let me dance today. Depends on how irritated she is.

Juggling books, bag, and backpack, I burst through the massive front doors and breathe the cold winter air into my lungs.

The student parking lot is practically deserted, which would be a little weird for a Thursday, except it’s been a tough winter. After the last bell, people scurry home, like rabbits to their burrows. A few cars are left, probably yearbook kids, or people staying late for tutoring. My car is all by itself, in the corner under a huge maple tree, now bare of leaves, empty branches silhouetted against the leaden sky. Some people hate winter in Virginia, but I like how spare it is, cold and clean and uncluttered. I raise my face to the sky. There’s snow on the wind.

A car squeals to a stop inches from my left hip. I fall to my knees, dropping everything, spilling notebooks, pens, and all my ballet stuff across the asphalt. I’m so terrified I can’t even breathe. I count to nine in my head, trying to slow the panic. When my hands stop shaking and I can breathe again, I look up and see the grille of a huge black Mustang. I smell exhaust, feel the relentless percussion of heavy metal.

I know this car.

Tristan King, white in tooth, blond in hair, rich in parents. Hollins Creek High School’s highest deity, star of the track team, lusted after by anyone with a pulse. Delaney and I have been swooning over him since middle school.

“Oh my God, did I hit you? Are you hurt?” He and all his gorgeousness come flying out of the car, wearing the dark gray suit and crimson tie all the athletes had to wear for the awards assembly this morning. He kneels down to help me collect my things.

“No, no, I’m fine,” I manage to croak. “I’ve got this, really. It’s okay.”

“I am so, so sorry! Oh no! Your knees are bleeding!”

“Really, it’s nothing, honestly.” I hold my hands out to keep him away. “They don’t even hurt.” I’ve torn huge, gaping holes in the knees of my black tights, and the skin underneath is scraped and raw. Blood trickles slowly from the cuts and soaks into the ragged edges.

My pointe shoes, tied into their nerdy mesh bag, are under his car, along with my books and notebooks. But all the truly awful stuff—deodorant, tampons, panty liners, body spray, Dr. Scholl’s blister pads and foot powder, even the dryer sheets I stuff into my dance bag so it won’t reek of sweat and BO—is right out there in the pale winter sunlight. All the embarrassing, disgusting detritus of my life. My own personal Museum of Mortification.

I pray for a sudden sinkhole to swallow me whole, a bolt of lightning to fry me to ash, an alien abduction. I’m straight up dying of embarrassment. Dying. Like I-can’t-breathe-and-my-heart-hurts dying.

Tristan looks at my knees and says, “Hang on a second. I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t go anywhere.”

I stumble around, gathering my things, surreptitiously trying to wipe away the blood. I lied. My knees hurt like a stinker. I give up and sit down on the curb to assess the damage.

Tristan comes back holding a first aid kit. Kneeling down in his perfect suit, paying no attention to the dirt and gravel, he says, “I’m so, so incredibly sorry. At least let me fix you up.”

“You actually carry a first aid kit in your car? Do you run over a lot of people?”

He laughs, and the sound is low and sweet, like soft notes rising from a cello. His teeth are dazzling up close, straight and impossibly white, probably representing a small fortune in orthodontics and bleach. Even his eyebrows are gorgeous.

“Nah,” he says. “You’re my first attempt at roadkill. If you think your knees are messed up, you should see mine. Bruises and scars like you wouldn’t believe. I run high hurdles, and sometimes I miss.”

He gently wipes the blood from my knees and brushes away stray bits of gravel. He’s so close that I can smell his hair. Lavender, I think. Or rosemary. I breathe him in as deeply and quietly as I can while he dabs Neosporin on the scrapes and covers them with Band-Aids.

When he leans forward and kisses each bandage, I have to work hard not to gasp. Once, when I was really, really small, my mother did the same thing, and for a moment I’m lost in the memory. The way her long hair fell like a dark waterfall over her shoulder as she knelt on the bathroom floor in front of me. Her polished fingernails peeling the wrapping from the bandages. The softness of her lips as she kissed my scraped knees. And though I know it’s impossible, for a few seconds I swear the fragrance of my mother’s lily of the valley perfume dances in the cold air.

“There,” Tristan says, looking up at me. “Now you’ll heal faster. Kisses always make things better, don’t you think?”

I’m not thinking at all, because my brain has stopped working. I should stand up and push him away. I should tell him he’s way out of line, and call him a presumptuous Neanderthal. But his strong hands, his lips on my skin, are making me shiver, and I feel all hot and floaty and liquid, like warm honey is flowing through my veins. I don’t want him to stop. I want him to do it again.

“Yes,” I whisper, mesmerized by the depth of his gray eyes, the color of a mourning dove’s wing. “Kisses always help.” I wonder if he can hear my heart pounding.

He stands and helps me to my feet, holding on to my hands for longer than seems necessary. Standing so close, I feel the heat of him, how alive he is. I have the completely bizarre urge to rest my head on his chest, wrap my arms around his waist, and draw that warmth, that life, into myself. I shake my head, tell myself to snap out of it. Me: Amoeba. Him: Tristan King.

Still holding my hands, he pulls me a little closer, then reaches out to tuck a stray curl behind my ear. Looking into my eyes, he smiles and says, “Better now? Will you be okay? Want me to drive you home?”

I nod, never taking my eyes from his face. “I’ll be fine, really,” I whisper.

I don’t want him to let go. With my hands in his, I feel safe, as though he’s standing between me and the entire rest of the world, like my own personal knight, complete with sword and shield, sworn to protect me. He is so impossibly beautiful.

He gathers up all my books, places them carefully in my backpack, and zips it. Then he crawls under the car for my pointe shoes.

“Your suit,” I say, as he wriggles back out. “It’s all dirty now.”

He shrugs and smiles. “Doesn’t matter. Assembly’s over, pictures are done.” Cradling my pink satin pointe shoes in both hands, he holds them out like an offering, as though he knows how precious they are to me.

“I’m glad I ran into you, Sparrow.”

“You’re hilarious.” I take my shoes from him and stuff them into my dance bag. I feel like I’m moving in slow motion, my heart, my body unwilling to let this end, my brain knowing that it will, and that when he’s gone, it will feel like none of it ever happened. I try to fix all the details in my brain, right now, so they’ll be there later. So it will be real.

“Thanks. I do what I can.”

“So, anyway,” I say. “Thanks for not killing me, but I need to run. I’m unbelievably late for ballet.”

I head toward the ancient Volvo that my dad lets me drive to school and ballet but nowhere else. Tristan runs after me and grabs my hand.

“Wait, Sparrow. Don’t go. Not yet.”

It feels like my heart has jumped straight up into my throat.

“You sure have changed a lot since we were in geography class together,” he says.

“That was fifth grade, Tristan. We’ve all changed. The last time you spoke to me, you said nobody likes ballerinas and ballet was stupid.”

His eyes widen and he puts his hand over his heart and staggers backward, like he’s had a sudden shock. “Seriously? I said that?”

“You did. I remember every word.”

“Wow, I was kind of a jackass, wasn’t I?”

“Yeah, you kind of were.”

“I was wrong. And ballet is awesome.”

I can’t help it. I laugh.

“Right. Have you actually been to any of our performances? You don’t exactly seem like the kind of person who’d be wild about ballet.”

“Okay, totally busted. But my mother’s on the conservatory board, and she’s always talking about you. She showed me that article that was in the paper last year. She says you’re mad talented.”

That article is still taped to the refrigerator. My father refuses to take it down. He even highlighted the line about me being “the rising star of the Appalachian Conservatory Ballet” and called me “Superstar” for a week. It was mortifying.

I feel myself blushing, the red stain creeping all the way up my neck and into my cheeks. Now my freckles will look awesome. “You should come see a performance with your mom sometime.”

“Maybe I will,” he says softly. He reaches out and cups my face in the palm of his hand, stroking my cheek with his thumb. “You’re blushing.” He’s so close I can feel his warm breath on my skin.

My knees go all rubbery, and I picture myself falling down right where I’m standing, fainting like a Victorian maiden in one of my aunt Sophie’s romance novels.

When I speak, my voice comes out all shaky and whispery.

“Listen, really, thanks for the Band-Aids and everything. But I’ve got to go. We get fined five dollars every time we’re late for class. I’m sorry I ran out in front of you. Hope I didn’t give you a heart attack or anything.”

He smiles and pushes his sun-streaked hair out of his eyes. He has deep dimples on both sides of his mouth. “Have dinner with me on Saturday. Please. Let me make up for almost killing you.”

Approximately five thousand thoughts rush through my head. Me at dinner with Tristan King, holding his hand at a candlelit table, sharing a dessert. Kissing him at my front door. Wondering why he’s bothering with me, when he’s had tons of girlfriends, some of them even college girls. How tightly Sophie will hug me, how she’ll whisper that she’s happy I’m finally getting out of the house and, even better, going on an actual date. Best of all, telling Delaney. She’ll completely lose her mind and scream the scream she reserves for all miraculous occurrences.

“Ummm, that would be great, but I can’t. I have rehearsal most of the day on Saturdays, and then—”

“And then what? You’ll go home and sit by your window, crying sad little ballerina tears and wishing you’d said yes. You have to eat. I’ll take you wherever you want to go, even if you want, I don’t know, a gluten-free, vegan, pizza-free pizza. Come on, say yes. Please. Otherwise I’ll never get over the guilt.”

I hesitate. This will require all kinds of explaining and promising to my father. I’ll have to get Sophie to run interference. If we start tonight, it’s possible that we can get my dad to cave. My heart beats a little faster. This could actually work.

“Sparrow, come on. I’m sorry I was a jerk in fifth grade. I’m sorry I almost ran you over. Let me make things right. It’s just dinner, some pasta and bread, maybe a glass of sparkling water if you’re feeling fancy. It’s not like I’m asking you to donate a kidney.”

I melt, fast and gooey, like a marshmallow in a campfire. “Okay, yes. But I eat like a normal person, just so you know. It’s a total myth that ballerinas live on celery sticks and bee pollen.”

He laughs. “Point taken. We’ll have cheesecake and ice cream, too. I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“Just be prepared for my dad. No way he’ll let me walk out the door without grilling you. He’s a trial attorney, and he almost always wins.”

“Got it. Beware of kick-ass lawyers. I heard about his big murder case.”

“Yeah, everybody says he’s ferocious in court. And he’s going to treat you like a hostile witness, so gird your loins.”

“I’ll suck up hard-core. Maybe he’ll let me off easy.”

“I wouldn’t count on it.”

Laughing, he walks to his car and gets in, gunning the engine and waving as he peels out of the parking lot.

Levkova has definitely locked the door by now. I may as well go straight home and scrape up five bucks to put in the Jar of Shame she keeps on the piano. I’ll do an adagio barre in my room and give myself corrections. I’ll be alone, but maybe it won’t suck so much today.

I throw my dance bag on the passenger seat and sit for a minute while the heater groans. My knees hurt, and my hands are so cold I can’t even feel them, but I can’t stop smiling. I resist the urge to text Delaney about what just happened, because I want to hear her laugh when I tell her how my tampons were scattered all over the parking lot like candy from a piñata. I want to see the look of utter disbelief on her face when I tell her I have an actual date. With Tristan King.

It always surprises me, how life can change in an instant, how everything can turn upside down on an ordinary winter afternoon. In my heart, I feel the cautious flutter of hope.

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About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Mary Cecilia Jackson has worked as a middle school teacher, an adjunct instructor of college freshmen, a technical writer and editor, a speechwriter, a museum docent, and a development officer for central Virginia’s PBS and NPR stations. Her first novel, Sparrow, was an honor recipient of the SCBWI Sue Alexander Award and a young-adult finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas manuscript contest. She lives with her architect husband, William, in Western North Carolina and Hawaii, where they have a farm and five ridiculously adorable goats.

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Giveaway

Win a copy of SPARROW by Mary Cecilia Jackson (US/CAN Only). This giveaway runs from March 17 to March 31, 2020. Click here to enter.

For more chances of winning, you may also join the giveaway on Instagram. Follow @books_andpoetrii and check my Sparrow post.

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Tour Schedule

Click the banner below to see the complete schedule for this Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tour.

[Blog Tour + Giveaway + Review] ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS by Diana Urban, 5 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: All Your Twisted Secrets
Author: Diana Urban
Publisher: HarperTeen (March 17, 2020)
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense, Contemporary
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo

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Blurb

This thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like One of Us Is Lying and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

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Excerpt

My pulse raced as I stared at the syringe of poison and the bomb atop the gleaming silver platter. Within the hour, you must choose someone in this room to die. If you don’t, everyone dies.

“That’s one sick prank,” said Robbie. “Who the hell would do this?” He grabbed the note from me, his eyes darting across the page. Diego leaned against the edge of the table, studying the bomb.

“Wait, wait, wait.” Sasha clutched her throat. “Does that mean . . . if we don’t kill one of us, that bomb will go off in an hour?”

Scott burst out laughing.

“What the hell is so funny?” asked Sasha.

He leaned back in his chair. “It’s obviously a joke, and you fell for it like an anvil.”

“Doesn’t seem very funny to me,” muttered Robbie.

“Who would do this?” Priya cried. “Who would think up something so awful?”

“Did anyone see who shut the door?” I asked. Priya and Scott shook their heads.

“No.” Diego slumped back into his seat. “I didn’t see anyone.”

“Me neither,” said Sasha. “I was too busy talking to that creep.” She motioned toward Scott, and he scoffed.

“Someone probably stood behind the door and pushed it closed,” said Diego.

Priya visibly shivered. “Does that mean someone was hiding behind the door the whole time?”

“And are they still out there?” My voice shook slightly.

Robbie slammed the note on the table and scooted his chair back with a screech, making me jump. “This is ridiculous.” He rounded his chair and pounded on the door. “Hey! Unlock the door!” His jaw tightened when nobody replied. “This isn’t funny. Unlock the door now!”

“Oh my God,” said Priya. Sasha took slow, deep breaths, trying to keep calm, but her eyes darted around the room frantically.

“Robbie.” I rushed toward him, grabbing his hand. “Calm down. It’s just some morbid joke. I’m sure they’ll get bored and let us out.”

He shook me off and knelt, peering with one eye into the large keyhole below the doorknob. “There’s no key.”

“I didn’t hear a lock click or anything,” Sasha added.

“It all happened so fast.” I touched the oak door, the wood cool under my palm, and turned back to the group. “Think they’re still out there?”

Robbie shrugged. “Who the hell knows?”

“Hello?” I called out. “Is anyone there?”

“This is bullshit.” Robbie kicked the door. “What kind of sick psycho would—”

“Shhh.” I waved him off and pressed my ear against the door, but all I could hear was Priya muttering, “Oh my God, oh my God,” over and over again. “Priya, shut up,” I said. She clamped her lips shut, her eyes glassy.

I pressed my ear against the door again, straining to hear something. A voice. Footsteps. Someone breathing. Anything. But all I could hear were the muffled baritones and strings from the orchestral music playing in the main dining room.

“Nothing?” asked Diego.

I shook my head and knelt, peeking through the keyhole. My heart raced as I held my breath. Years of watching horror movies had trained me to expect an eyeball to appear on the other side. My whole body tensed, ready to leap backward.

But all I could see was one of the red-cushioned booths across the main dining room. There was no movement of any kind. “There’s nobody there.” I stood and turned back to the group. “I don’t see anything.”

“Damn, it’s so hot in here.” Sasha touched the back of her hand to her forehead.

“It really is.” I wiped my upper lip and scanned the walls. “Crap. The thermostat must be out in the main dining room.”

“It’s gotten worse since we got here.” Priya tugged on her hair. “I just want to go home.”

I gasped and bit my lip. Home. I forgot to text Mom when Robbie and I got here. “Oh, no.” I grabbed my phone from the table and raised it toward the ceiling, but I had no signal whatsoever. Sasha tried the same thing, stretching toward the windows facing the alley.

“Nothing,” she confirmed. “I can’t get anything.”

“Crap, crap, crap.” My chest tightened like a vise squeezing my heart. What if something terrible did happen here tonight? What was the last thing I said to my mother as I ran out the door? Did I tell her I loved her? When was the last time I told my parents I loved them? A chill tore through me despite the room’s warmth, and I shook the morbid thought away. This was just a prank. It wasn’t real.

“Oh my God.” Sasha hunched over, hugging herself around the middle. “This can’t be happening.”

“So what do we do?” asked Robbie.

Sasha straightened and rubbed her forehead with trembling fingers. “I can’t believe this is happening. What if we’re really going to have to do this? What if they really make us kill one of us?”

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Review

Amber and five of her friends have been selected for the Brewster Town Hall Scholarship. They get invited to dine with the mayor to celebrate this achievement. What they’re hoping to be a night full of warm smiles and delicious food turns out to be a disaster. The mayor doesn’t show up and they get locked up in a private dining room with no reception at all. What’s worse is that they are the only guests for the evening and there’s no way to escape.

On the table are a poisoned syringe, a note, and a bomb that goes off in an hour. The note says they have to pick someone to kill with the syringe, or the bomb goes off and they all die. They assume that this is just a prank but can’t help but panic as the countdown goes. What if it’s real? Secrets are spilled and true colors are revealed. Can one life be measured by success and appearance? Who’s to say that one life is more worthy of saving than the rest?

This YA mystery is fast-paced and hard to put down. The writing is crafty as the story mostly deals with six people contained in one room. That is hard to pull off but the interaction is balanced and no one gets left behind. It starts with the present and then flashbacks. The past reconnects to the present, and the pattern continues. Each chapter is a revelation; the characters are well-written and their backgrounds are realistic. This Breakfast Club/Saw/Mean Girls is highly recommended to all the mystery fans out there. TWs include bullying, suicide, car accident, hypoglycemia, abusive parents, drugs, gaslighting, and depression.

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About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

I’m Diana Urban, and I write dark, twisty thrillers for teens including All Your Twisted Secrets (HarperTeen, March 17, 2020). When I’m not torturing fictional characters, I’m a marketing manager at BookBub, a leading book discovery platform. Outside the bookish world, I live with my husband and cat in Boston, and enjoy reading, video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance.

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Giveaway

Win 1 of 2 copies of ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS by Diana Urban (US-only). This giveaway runs from March 17 to March 31, 2020. Click here to enter.

For more chances of winning, you may also join the giveaway on Instagram. Follow @books_andpoetrii and check my All Your Twisted Secrets post.

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Tour Schedule

Click the banner below to see the complete schedule for this Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tour.

[Blog Tour + Giveaway] THE DEEP by Alma Katsu

About the Book

The Deep
by Alma Katsu
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction, Adult
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

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Blurb

Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley, and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near-fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic…

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Excerpt

Chapter One

October 1916
Morninggate Asylum,
Liverpool

She is not mad.

Annie Hebbley pokes her needle into the coarse gray linen, a soft color, like the feathers of the doves that entrap themselves in the chimneys here, fluttering and crying out, sometimes battering themselves to death in a vain effort to escape.

She is not mad.

Annie’s eyes follow the needle as it runs the length of the hem, weaving in and out of fabric. In and out. In and out. Sharp and shining and so precise.

But there is something in her that is hospitable to madness.

Annie has come to understand the erratic ways of the insane-the crying fits, incoherent babblings, violent flinging of hands and feet. There is, after days and weeks and years, a kind of comforting rhythm to them. But, no, she is not one of them. Of that she is certain.

Certain as the Lord and the Blessed Virgin, her da’ might once have said.

There are a dozen female patients hunched over their sewing, making the room warm and stuffy despite the meagerness of the fire. Work is thought to be palliative to nervous disorders, so many of the inmates are given jobs, particularly those who are here due more to their own poverty than any ailment of mind or body. While most of the indigent are kept in workhouses, Annie has learned, quite a few find their way to asylums instead, if there are any empty beds to keep them. Not to mention the women of sin.

Whatever their reasons for turning up at Morninggate, most of the women here are meek enough and bend themselves to the nurses’ direction. But there are a few of whom Annie is truly afraid.

She pulls in tight to herself as she works, not wanting to brush up against them, unable to shake the suspicion that madness might pass from person to person like a disease. That it festers the way a fine mold grows inside a milk bottle left too long in the sun-undetectable at first but soon sour and corrupting, until all the milk is spoiled.

Annie sits on a hard little stool in the needle room with her morning’s labor puddled in her lap, but it is the letter tucked inside her pocket that brushes up against her thoughts unwillingly, a glowing ember burning through the linen of her dress. Annie recognized the handwriting before she even saw the name on the envelope. She has reread it now at least a dozen times. In the dark cover of night, when no one is looking, she kisses it like a crucifix.

As if drawn to the sin of Annie’s thoughts, a nurse materializes at her shoulder. Annie wonders how long she has been standing there, studying Annie. This one is new. She doesn’t know Annie yet-not well, anyway. They leave Annie to the late arrivals on staff, who haven’t yet learned to be frightened of her.

“Anne, dear, Dr. Davenport would like to see you. I’m to escort you to his office.”

Annie rises from her stool. None of the other women glance up from their sewing. The nurses never turn their backs to the patients of Morninggate, so Annie shuffles down the corridor, the nurse’s presence like a hot poker at her back. If Annie could get a moment alone, she would get rid of the letter. Stash it behind the drapes, tuck it under the carpet runner. She mustn’t let the doctor find it. Just thinking of it again sends a tingle of shame through her body.

But she is never alone at Morninggate.

In the dusty reflection of the hall windows they appear like two ghosts-Annie in her pale, dove-gray uniform, the nurse in her long cream skirt, apron, and wimple. Past a long series of closed doors, locked rooms, in which the afflicted mutter and wail.

What do they scream about? What torments them so? For some, it was gin. Others were sent here by husbands, fathers, even brothers who don’t like the way their women think, don’t like that they are outspoken. But Annie shies away from learning the stories of the truly mad. There’s undoubtedly tragedy there, and Annie’s life has had enough sadness.

The building itself is large and rambling, constructed in several stages from an old East India Company warehouse that shuttered in the 1840s. In the outdoor courtyard, where the women do their exercises in the mornings, the walls are streaked with sweat and spittle, smeared with dirty handprints and smudges of dried blood. Luckily the gaslights are kept low, for economy’s sake, giving the grime a pleasantly warm hue.

They pass the men’s wing; sometimes, Annie can hear their voices through the wall, but today they’re quiet. The men and women are kept separate because some of the women suffer from a peculiar nervous disorder that makes their blood run hot. These women cannot abide the sight of a man, will break out in tremors, try to tear off their clothes, will chew through their own tongues and fall down convulsing.

Or so they say. Annie has never seen it happen. They like to tell stories about the patients, particularly the female ones.

But Annie is safe here, from the great big world. The world of men. And that is what matters. The small rooms, the narrow confines are not so different from the old cottage in Ballintoy, four tiny rooms, the roiling Irish Sea not twenty paces from her front door. Here, the air in the courtyard is ripe with the smell of ocean, too, though if it is close by, Annie cannot see it, has not seen it in four years.

It is both a comfort and a curse. Some days, she wakes from nightmares of black water rushing into her open mouth, freezing her lungs to stone. The ocean is deep and unforgiving. Families in Ballintoy have lost fathers and brothers, sisters and daughters to the sea for as long as she can remember. She’s seen the water of the Atlantic Ocean choked with hundreds of bodies. More bodies than are buried in all of Ballintoy’s graveyard.

And yet on other days, she wakes to find plaster beneath her fingernails where she has scratched at the walls, desperate to get out, to return to it. Her blood surges through her veins with the motion of the sea. She craves it.

On the far side of the courtyard they enter the small vestibule that leads to the doctors’ private rooms. The nurse indicates that Annie should step aside as she knocks and then, at a command to enter, unlocks the door to Dr. Davenport’s office. He rises from behind his desk and gestures to a chair.

Nigel Davenport is a young man. Annie likes him, has always felt he has the well-being of his patients in mind. She’s overheard the nurses talk about how difficult it is for the parish to get doctors to remain at the asylum. Their job is discouraging when so few patients respond to treatment. Plus, it’s far more lucrative to be a family doctor, setting bones and delivering babies. He is always nice to her, if formal. Whenever he sees her, he thinks about the incident with the dove. They all do. How she was found once cradling a dead bird in her arms, cooing to it like a baby.

She knows it wasn’t a baby. It was just a bird. It had fallen out of the flue, hit the hearth in a puff of loose feathers. Dirty, sooty bird, and yet beautiful in its way. She only wanted to hold it. To have something of her own to hold.

He folds his hands and rests them on the desktop. She stares at his long fingers, the way they fold into one another. She wonders if they are strong hands. It is not the first time she has wondered this. “I heard you received another letter yesterday.”

Her heart trembles inside her chest.

“It is against our policy to intrude too much on our patients’ privacy, Annie. We don’t read patients’ mail, as they do at other homes. We are not like that here.” His smile is kind, but there is a slight furrow between his brows and Annie has the strangest urge to press her finger there, to smooth the soft flesh. But of course she would never. Voluntary touching is not allowed. “Here, you may show us only of your own free will. But you can see how these letters would be a matter of concern for us, don’t you?”

His voice is gentle, encouraging, almost a physical caress in the stillness. Bait. She remains silent, as if to speak would be to touch him back. Perhaps if she doesn’t respond, he will stop pressing. Perhaps she will vanish into air if she is quiet enough. She used to play this game all the time in the vast fields and cliffsides of Ballintoy-the recollection returns with startling clarity: the Vanishing Game. Generally, it worked. She could go whole days drifting in the meadow behind the house, imagining stories, without ever being seen or spoken to. A living phantom.

The doctor stretches his neck against his high collar. He has a good, solid neck. Hands, too. He could easily overpower her. That is probably the point of such strength. “Perhaps you would like to show it to me, Annie? For your own peace of mind? It’s not good to have secrets-secrets weigh on you, hold you down.”

She shivers. She longs to share it and burns to hide it. “It’s from a friend.”

“The friend who used to work with you aboard the passenger ship?” He pauses. “Violet, wasn’t it?”

She starts to panic. “She’s working on another ship now. She says they are in dire need of help and she wonders if I would return to service.” There. It’s out.

His dark eyes study her. She cannot resist the weight of his expectation. She has never been good at saying no; all she has ever wanted was to please people, her father, her mother. To please all of them. To be good.

Like she once was.

My good Annie, the Lord favors good girls, said her da’.

She reaches into her pocket and hands him the letter. She can hardly stand to watch him read, feeling as though it is not the letter but her own body that has been exposed.

Then he glances up at her, and slowly his mouth forms a smile.

“Don’t you see, Annie?”

She knots her hands together in her lap. “See?” She knows what he’s going to say next.

“You know that you’re not really sick, not like the others, don’t you?” He says these words kindly, as though he is trying to spare her feelings. As though she doesn’t already know it. “We debated the morality of keeping you here, but we were reluctant to discharge you because- Well, frankly, we didn’t know what to do with you.”

Annie had no recollection of her own past when she was admitted to Morninggate Asylum. She woke up in one of the narrow beds, her arms and legs bruised, not to mention the awful, aching wound on her head. A constable had found her unconscious behind a public house. She didn’t appear to be a prostitute-she was neither dressed for it nor stinking of gin.

But no one knew who she was. At the time, Annie scarcely knew herself. She couldn’t even tell them her name. The physician had no choice but to sign the court order to detain her at the asylum.

Her memory has, over time, begun to return. Not all of it, though; when she tries to recall certain things, all she gets is a blur. The night the great ship went down is, of course, cut into her memory with the prismatic perfection of solid ice. It’s what came before that feels unreal. She remembers the two men, each in their turn, though sometimes she feels as though they have braided together in her mind into just one man, or all men. And then, before that: fragments of green fields and endless sermons, intoned prayer and howling northern wind. A world too unfathomably big to comprehend.

A terrible, gaping loneliness that has been her only companion for four years.

Surely it is better to be kept safe inside this place, while the world and its secrets, its wars, its false promises, are kept away, outside the thick brick walls.

Dr. Davenport looks at her with that same wavering smile. “Don’t you think, Annie?” he is saying.

“Think what?”

“It would be wrong to keep you here, with the war on. Taking up a bed that could be used for someone who is truly unwell. There are soldiers suffering from shell shock. Everton Alley teems with poor and broken spirits, tormented by demons from their time on the battlefield.” His eyes are dark and very steady. They linger on hers. “You must write to the White Star office and ask for your old job, as your friend suggests. It’s the right thing to do under the circumstances.”

She is stunned, not by his assertions but that this is all happening so quickly. She is having trouble keeping up with his words. A slow dread creeps into her chest.

“You’re fine, my dear. You’re just scared. It’s understandable-but you’ll be right as rain once you see your friend and start working again. It’s about time, anyway, don’t you think?”

She can’t help but feel stubbornly rejected, spurned, almost. For four years, she’s managed things so that she could stay. Kept her secrets. Was careful not to disrupt anything, not to do anything wrong.

She has been so good.

Now her life, her home, the only security she knows, is being ripped away from her and she is once more being forced out into the unknown.

But there is no turning back. She knows she cannot refuse him this, cannot refuse him anything. Not when he has been so kind.

He folds up the letter and holds it out to her. Her gaze lingers on his strong hands. Her fingers brush against his when she takes it back. Forbidden.

“I should be happy to sign the release papers,” her doctor says. “Congratulations, Miss Hebbley, on your return to the world.”

~

3 October 1916

My dear Annie,

I hope this letter finds you. Yes, I am writing again even though I have not heard from you since the letter you sent via the White Star Line head office. You can understand why I continue to write. I pray your condition has not worsened. I was sorry to read of your current situation, although, from your letter, you do not sound unwell to me. Can you ever forgive me for losing track of you after that Terrible Night? I didn’t know if you had lived or died. I feared I would never see you again.

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About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Alma Katsu is the author of The Hunger, a re-imagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist. The Hunger made NPR’s list of the 100 Best Horror Stories, was named one of the best novels of 2018 by the Observer, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books (and more), and was nominated for a Stoker and Locus Award for best horror novel.

The Taker, her debut novel, has been compared to the early works of Anne Rice and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for combining historical, the supernatural, and fantasy into one story. The Taker was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by Booklist, was nominated for a Goodreads Readers Choice award, and has been published in over 10 languages. It is the first in an award-winning trilogy that includes The Reckoning and The Descent.

​Ms. Katsu lives outside of Washington DC with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. In addition to her novels, she has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and a contributor to the Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Program and Brandeis University, where she studied with novelist John Irving. She also is an alumni of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

Prior to publication of her first novel, Ms. Katsu had a long career in intelligence, working for several US agencies and a think tank. She currently is a consultant on emerging technologies. Additional information can be found on Wikipedia and in this interview with Ozy.com.

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Giveaway

Win a finished copy of THE DEEP by Alma Katsu (US Only). This giveaway runs from March 10 to 24, 2020. Click here to enter.

For more chances of winning, you may also join the giveaway on Instagram. Follow @books_andpoetrii and check my The Degenerates post.

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Tour Schedule

Click the banner below to see the complete schedule for this Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tour.

[Blog Tour + Giveaway] THE DEGENERATES by J. Albert Mann

About the Book

The Degenerates
by J. Albert Mann
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

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Blurb

In the tradition of Girl, Interrupted, this fiery historical novel follows four young women in the early 20th century whose lives intersect when they are locked up by a world that took the poor, the disabled, the marginalized—and institutionalized them for life.

The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life-altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.

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About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram

J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children, with S&S Atheneum Books for Young Readers set to publish her next work of historical fiction about the Eugenics Movement and the rise of institutionalism in the United States. She is also the author of short stories and poems for children featured in Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights Fiction Award, as well as the Highlights Editors’ Choice Award. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and is the Director of the WNDB Internship Grant Committee. 

Jennifer is represented by Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency.

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Giveaway

Win (1) copy of THE DEGENERATES by J. Albert Mann (US Only). This giveaway runs from March 11 to 25, 2020. Click here to enter the blog tour giveaway.

For more chances of winning, you may also join the giveaway on Instagram. Follow @books_andpoetrii and check my The Degenerates post.

~~~

Tour Schedule

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[Blog Tour + Giveaway] IPHIGENIA MURPHY by Sara Hosey

About the Book

Iphigenia Murphy
by Sara Hosey
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Genre: Young Adult
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

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Blurb

Running away from home hasn’t solved Iphigenia Murphy’s problems. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll catch up with her. Iffy is desperate to find her long-lost mother, and, so far, in spite of the need to forage for food and shelter and fend off an unending number of creeps, living in Queens’ Forest Park has felt safer than living at home. But as the summer days get shorter, it all threatens to fall apart.

A novel that explores the sustaining love of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and the indelible bond of family, Iphigenia Murphy captures the gritty side of 1992 Queens, the most diverse borough in New York City. Just like Iffy, the friends she makes in the park–Angel, a stray dog with the most ridiculous tail; Corinne, a young trans woman who is escaping her own abusive situation; and Anthony, a former foster kid from upstate whose parents are addicts–each seek a place where they feel at home. Whether fate or coincidence has brought them together, within this community of misfits Iffy can finally be herself, but she still has to face the effects of abandonment and abuse–and the possibility that she may be pregnant. During what turns out to be a remarkable journey to find her mother, will Iffy ultimately discover herself?

~~~

Describe IPHIGENIA MURPHY in 3 words with gifs

The Ramones

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Camping

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Skateboarding

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About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Sara Hosey holds a PhD in American literature from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is an associate professor of English and women and gender studies at Nassau Community College. Her book, Home Is Where the Hurt Is: Media Depictions of Wives and Mothers (McFarland, 2019), looks at representations of the domestic in popular culture. Sara grew up in Queens and now lives in Sea Cliff, New York, with her partner and their children. She is working on a second novel.

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Giveaway

Win a hardcover of IPHIGENIA MURPHY by Sara Hosey, a bookmark, a button, and a skateboard keychain (US Only). This giveaway runs from March 4 to March 18, 2020. Click here to enter.

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Tour Schedule

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[Blog Tour + Giveaway] WICKED AS YOU WISH by Rin Chupeco

About the Book

Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names for Magic #1)

Author: Rin Chupeco
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 3rd 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Book Depository | Google Books

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Blurb

An unforgettable alternative history fairytale series from the author of The Bone Witch trilogy about found family, modern day magic, and finding the place you belong.

Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left desolate and encased in ice when the evil Snow Queen waged war on the powerful country. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.

Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is in hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them. Tala doesn’t mind—she has secrets of her own. Namely, that she’s a spellbreaker, someone who negates magic.

Then hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, and Avalon’s most powerful weapon, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.

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Excerpt

The firebird arrived in Invierno later that night.

It landed atop a normal-looking mailbox. The mailbox had a Tawalisi, 22 Dharma Road decal printed on its side, and it stood in front of a normal-looking house on a normal-looking street in what was by all appearances a normal-looking suburb. This house was situated between an old folks’ home and a small bungalow, bordered on one side by a small cul-de-sac. Despite the town’s predilection against natural magic, most people still didn’t associate Invierno as a place where anything unusual was likely to happen. That didn’t say much about what people actually knew about small towns, or about Invierno in particular. 

Rather than retreat to the safety of nearby trees and rooftops as any similarly sensible animal would have done, the firebird drew itself up, as regal as any queen, and waited for the shades to attack.

The shades in question were already closing in, and they assumed frightening, monstrous shapes. Some took human form, with long sharp claws in place of hands. Others took on semblances of wolves and bears and strange winged creatures; black eyeless silhouettes with teeth.

The firebird chirped a warning, but the shades paid no attention. So it sighed, a resigned, I-really-did-warn-you-about-this-you-know sigh, and glowed again. It was as large as an eagle, and had a fascinatingly plump shape; a ham of a bird would be a frank description, if not for its long graceful neck. Its feathers, a variety of yellows and reds and oranges tipped with a subtle silver shimmer, flared. Its majestic tail fanned out like a vestal train, whipping at slow, concentrated intervals.

It chirped out its first, and final, warning.

The nearest shade reached out for the bird, claws extended and sharp.

It was promptly engulfed in an angry red ball of fire.

The shadow screamed. Its right arm skittered across the pavement.

Flames danced around the firebird. With unerring precision it reared back and hurled them at the other shadowy wraiths, bathing the street in ruddy red heat until its enemies were reduced to nothing more than a whisper of cinders and smoke.

But even as they sank, new ones rose to take their place.

The shades were numerous, unrelenting. The firebird was young, inexperienced. Despite its ferocity, even it began to weaken under the unending assault.

And things could have ended very badly, had Lola Urduja not interfered.

Lola Urduja looked nothing at all like a warrior should look. Framed against the moonlight she appeared an incredibly fragile and elderly thing, with her mild brown eyes, dark skin, and thin white hair wrapped in a wispy bun. For armor, she wore an oversized peach bathrobe a size too large for her slim frame, and was for some reason still carrying an abanico fan in her right hand. But when she lifted her head to confront the lurking shadows her back straightened, her shoulders squared, and the once-mild brown eyes blazed with an unexpectedly commanding air that proposed other unimportant things like cars and airplanes and even shades should best get out of her way. 

“This house is under the protection of the Katipuneros, by Avalon military decree number one oh eight two,” she boomed, in a voice larger and fiercer than her body size allowed for. “Take another step and be snuffed out like the insignificant shadows you are, you reverse-projected, two-dimensional Jungian rejects!”

The shades halted momentarily, as if puzzled by the old woman’s audacity. But all too soon their inexorable natures reasserted themselves, and they continued their relentless trek forward.

“Beta formation code one three five, defensive maneuvers!”

More people of indeterminate old age emerged from hiding places behind bushes and trees, vaguely threatening only they had not been wearing bathrobes. But they were armed… with more abanico fans, a cane, and in one instance even a makeshift shiv, because General Luna had once been in prison for three days and had subsequently Learned Things there.

And they were good at it. They knew where to hit, how to inflict the worst hurt. Shadows shrieked as the innocent-looking fans—or more specifically, the hidden blades lining the edges of the thin abaca fabric—dug into them, twisting and grasping, until soon even the endless darkness showed signs of faltering.

“Teejay,” Lola Urduja said, “shade at five o’clock.”

The tita, her hair still pinned up by large rollers, obeyed, punching a fan through the shadow’s chest before it could reach the other woman. 

“Hold your position, general,” Lola Urduja said to old General Luna, who had planted himself in front of the house next door. “Don’t let them in!”

“Mga antipatika!” The octogenarian barked, then cheerfully shanked a shadow into nothingness.

A few of the shades crept toward her, sentient enough to recognize the little old lady’s importance, but Lola Urduja lunged, was quicker than her limp suggested. Her fan twisted, and the sharp knives underneath the stretched cloth tore into the creatures like they were wet paper. She whipped it toward another approaching shadow, and an abrupt flick of her wrist summoned a sudden roaring wind, slashing the darkness into pieces without ever making contact.

The firebird and the elders fought the shades all night long. Finally, as dawn touched the sky with the colors of sunrise, the last of the creatures slunk away, disappearing into the sidewalk just as quickly as they arrived.

Wearily, the firebird watched them leave, the flames in its feathers dimming. When the last flickered out, it sighed and closed its eyes, returning to its perch atop the mailbox.

Adrenaline faded, was taken out of the elders’ veins like an IV drip. They mumbled and scuffed at the ground with their good foot and looked rightfully embarrassed. This was technically not appropriate behavior for old men and women, though the awed grins had some trouble leaving their creased faces.

Hadn’t seen this much action since Wonderland, Boy signed.

“Nakakamiss,” Chedeng murmured, reverting briefly to Tagalog. “Good times.”

“Punyeta,” the general agreed.

“Natakot ba natin?” Baby asked Lola.

The little old woman pursed her lips. “No. They’ll be back. Umalis na kayo. Won’t be good for Tala to see us out here on the lawn, she’ll have questions.”

“The firebird is here,” Chedeng said, not without some awe. “Mare, it really is the firebird!”

“Control your excitement, Mercedes. This is far from over.”  

The door to 24 Dharma Road opened and Kay Warnock emerged with a can of beer in hand, yawning.

“So good of you to help,” Mrs. Sarge said dryly.

“Y’did a good enough job without me.”

“A little too early to be drinking.”

“On the contrary. After what just happened, I think it’s a fine time to start.”

~~~

Official Book Playlist

Fight Song by Rachel Platten

My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

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Raise Your Glass by Pink

So raise your glass if you are wrong
In all the right ways, all my underdogs
We will never be, never be anything but loud
And nitty, gritty, dirty, little freaks
Won’t you come on and come on and
Raise your glass!

~

Tala Warnock: Bamboo by Kimie Miner

Thought love was easy and I kept believin’
In that old fantasy, that fairytale dream
Real life has shown us it’s a rollercoaster and, oh
We had to learn where to take our turn

~

Alexei Tsarevich: Skin by X-Ambassadors

Who do I know in here
See, I struggle to be
Two different people at the same time
So I keep running, running my mouth, trying to be somebody
Trying to be somebody I’m not

~

Ryker Cadfael: Suit and Jacket by Judah & the Lion

I ain’t trading my youth for no suit and jacket
I ain’t giving my freedom for your money and status
So don’t say I’m getting older
‘Cause I’ll say it when I do

~

Kensington Inoue: Where My Love Goes by Lawson

My love goes out of my heart and into the wind
Out my guitar and under your skin
Into your house and out of your headphones
That’s where my love goes

~

Kay Warnock: Low Life by X-Ambassadors

I’m nothing but a low life
Thinking about my own life
I’m trying to fight the good own fight
But after it all, I’m still just a low life

~

Lumina Makiling-Warnock: Maybe the Night by Ben & Ben

Moon has never glowed this color
Hearts have never been this close
I have never been more certain
I will love you ’til we’re old

~

Nya: First Time by Lifehouse

Lookin’ at you
Holdin’ my breath
For once in my life
I’m scared to death
I’m takin’ a chance
Letting you inside

~

Loki Wagner: Renegades by X-Ambassadors

Long live the pioneers
Rebels and mutineers
Go forth and have no fear
Come close the end is near

~

West Eddings: Take My Hand by The Cab

Now take my hand
And we will run away
Down to this place that I know
How did this night become the enemy
It’s over, it’s over, it’s over

~

Zoe Carlisle: New York City, 1964 by Shawn Amos

Winter came so soon
We watched All About Eve in the afternoon
I see her, east of the sun
One last bow and the curtain comes down
Can you believe I’m on my own?

~

Cole Nottingham: Who Did You Think I Was by the John Mayer Trio

Here is a line that you won’t understand:
I’m half of a boy, but I’m twice the man
Carry the weight of the world in the palm of my hand
Who did you think I was?

~~~

About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching. 

She is represented by Rebecca Podos of the Helen Rees Agency. She is also fond of speaking in the third person, and may as well finish this short bio in this manner. While she does not always get to check her Goodreads page, she does answer questions posed to her here as promptly as she is able to. 

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Pre-order Promotions

Promo 1:

If you pre-order WICKED AS YOU WISH on or before March 1, 2020, you will also receive a character card of Tala and an enamel Order of the Bandersnatch firebird pin!

Pre-order now! US & Canada | International

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Promo 2:

From March 3rd – 31st 2020, the author be hosting an Instagram giveaway for WICKED AS YOU WISH! Just post a photo of the book with the hashtag #PRETTYWICKEDASYOUWISH and every participant will receive book swag! (Alex character art card + character stickers). The Alex card will only be available during promos and not for the pre-orders!

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Giveaway

1st Prize:

Win a signed copy of WICKED AS YOU WISH by Rin Chupeco + 3 character stickers (Alex, Tala, and the firebird) + 2 character cards (Alex and Tala) [INT]

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2nd Prize:

Win (1) of (3) character stickers from WICKED AS YOU WISH (Alex, Tala, and the firebird) + character cards from WICKED AS YOU WISH (Alex and Tala) [INT]

This giveaway runs from February 26 to March 11, 2020. Click here to enter!

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Tour Schedule

Click the banner below to see the complete schedule.