Top Ten Ways to Become an Assassin... Project Prometheus by Aden Polydoros (Guest Post & #Giveaway) @adenpolydoros @entangledteen


Welcome to my tour stop! Check out the second book in this exciting
YA thriller, the author's top ten list, and enter the giveaway below...

Project Prometheus
(Assassin Fall #2)
By Aden Polydoros
YA Thriller
Paperback & ebook, 352 Pages
August 28th 2018 by Entangled: Teen

Summary

The Academy stole everything from Hades, their perfect assassin. Angry and leaving bodies in his wake, he finds two other ex-assassins doing the exact same thing.

Tyler and Shannon once killed for The Academy. Now they’re tracking and hunting down its scientists. So why is The Academy only after Hades?

Shannon will do whatever it takes to protect Tyler, even if it means teaming up with a former rival. While she seeks answers to her past, Tyler wants to learn the truth about the mysterious white room, which no one has ever seen except him.

As for Hades? He simply wants revenge.

They all need answers, even if it means returning to the organization where it all started.

(Affiliate links included.)


Top Ten Ways to Become an Assassin

1. Be raised since birth to follow your overseers' commands and have your freedom torn away and your individuality crushed, preferably in early childhood.

2. Learn how to kill people. It won't do you any good if you end up shooting yourself in the foot while trying to aim at your target.

3. While you're at it, learn how to break and enter and hotwire cars as well. Even some rudimentary poison and explosive skills will come in handy on your missions.

4. Abandon ye moral compass. Morals only hold you back, right? (Okay, this is starting to read more like the Top Ten Ways to Become a Serial Killer.)

5. Don't worry, if you still find yourself having some qualms about killing people, find a morally bankrupt doctor to brainwash you.

6. Trust no one. They'll all betray you in the end.

7. Accept that you are simply one piece of a greater whole. Nothing in your own. Your only purpose is to serve the Project.

8. Reject it. Fight back. Reclaim your life and make the people responsible pay for what they have done.

9. Find the overseers responsible for creating you and stripping your life of its purpose.

10. Kill.


Other Books in the Series

Project Pandora
(Assassin Fall #1)
By Aden Polydoros
YA Thriller
Paperback & ebook, 372 Pages
August 1st 2017 by Entangled: Teen

Summary

Tyler Bennett trusts no one. Just another foster kid bounced from home to home, he’s learned that lesson the hard way. Cue world’s tiniest violin. But when strange things start happening—waking up with bloody knuckles and no memory of the night before or the burner phone he can’t let out of his sight— Tyler starts to wonder if he can even trust himself.

Even stranger, the girl he’s falling for has a burner phone just like his. Finding out what’s really happening only leads to more questions…questions that could get them both killed. It’s not like someone’s kidnapping teens lost in the system and brainwashing them to be assassins or anything, right? And what happens to rogue assets who defy control?

In a race against the clock, they’ll have to uncover the truth behind Project Pandora and take it down—before they’re reactivated. Good thing the program spent millions training them to kick ass...

(Affiliate links included.)

About the Author

Aden Polydoros grew up in Long Grove, Illinois, and now lives in Arizona. He is a writer of young adult fiction. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys reading and going on hikes in the mountains. Aden Polydoros is a 2015 Gold Medalist in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and has published two short stories in Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2015. PROJECT PANDORA (Entangled, 2017) is his debut novel.


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Have you read the first book in this series? Do you think you'll be reading it or this second one?

Check out the cover for Fate and Fortune: Part One by Robin Daniels (Cover Reveal & #Giveaway)

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
Fate and Fortune: Part One
By Robin Daniels

This YA Contemporary Romance is the first part
in this new duology, coming September 20th 2018...


Bryce has liked Paige since they were little but has never had the guts to act on his feelings. Paige is devastated over being dumped by her long-time boyfriend and can’t seem to move on. They’re stuck in a rut, until fate decides to pull them out.

Both Paige and Bryce are talked into seeing a fortune teller at the annual Summer’s End Carnival. Neither of them buys into the mysticism, until the psychic’s predictions start coming true. Now, the most bizarre things are happening and there isn’t a clear explanation. Each of them must figure out if they’re the subject of an elaborate hoax or a bigger plan forged by destiny.

*This book is part one of two. Books should be read sequentially.


About the Author


The most important thing to know about me is that I'm basically a sixteen-year-old trapped in an adult's body. It's why I feel such a great connection to all of my characters and why I love to write romantic comedy. The kid in me just wants to be goofy. Besides being a writer; I'm a wife, mother of five, volleyball enthusiast and home decorating guru. My list of favorites includes: reading, Christmas, pedicures, dessert, steak, Arizona winters and most importantly, Diet Coke.


Cover Reveal Giveaway


1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon eGift Card
Open internationally
Ends September 5th

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Find out the answers to some of my questions about Freefall Summer by Tracy Barrett (Interview & #Giveaway)


Welcome to my tour stop for this new YA release! Follow the rest of the tour
here, and check out an interview with the author and the tour giveaway below...

Freefall Summer
By Tracy Barrett
YA Contemporary
Hardcover & ebook, 272 Pages
April 3rd 2018 by Charlesbridge Teen

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Clancy Edwards has always been "the good girl." Ever since her mother died in a skydiving accident when Clancy was young, Clancy's father has watched her like a hawk. Between her dad's rules and her boyfriend's protectiveness, she's longing for an escape this summer. Then she meets Denny.

Denny is a new skydiving student and college freshman. Clancy lets Denny think they're the same age--and that she's old enough to make decisions for herself. But the lies snowball, relationships are damaged, and suddenly Clancy isn't the person she wants to be. If only making choices were as simple as taking a leap out of a plane. Before Clancy can make things right, one last act of rebellion threatens her chance to do so--maybe forever.

(Affiliate links included.)

Author Interview

What inspired you to write FREEFALL SUMMER?

I love retelling familiar stories, particular fairy tales and Greek myths. The Greek myths I’ve retold (King of Ithaka, a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey from the point of view of Odysseus’s son, Telemachos; and Dark of the Moon, a retelling of the myth of the Minotaur from the points of view of the Minotaur’s sister and his killer) were set in the ancient world. I thought it would be interesting to write another retelling but set it in the modern world, and since I used to skydive, the myth of Icarus came to mind. Freefall Summer quickly veered away from a strict retelling of the myth, but people who are familiar with the story of Icarus will find echoes of it in the book.

Would you tell us a little more about your protagonist, Clancy?

Clancy is a 16-year-old girl who lives the unconventional life of being the daughter of a skydiver who operates a dropzone (a place where people can skydive). She’s smart and ambitious, and longs for the day when she can come out from under the thumb of her over-protective father and go away to college. She works at the dropzone packing parachutes to earn college money, while attending an on-line summer school class that she hopes will allow her to graduate early and save on expenses. Clancy deeply misses her mother, who died in a skydiving accident when Clancy was a little girl (leading to her father’s over-protectiveness), but has never talked about her with her father. Clancy’s scared to open the topic with him for fear of throwing him back into the overwhelming grief he experienced at the time.

Clancy is an interesting choice for a main character. What inspired the name?

Since I was originally going to make this book a retelling of the myth of Icarus, I wanted her name to sound like “Icarus.” I found the name “Carys,” which I really liked, and came up with the name of “Jenna Clancy” for her mother (I have no idea where that came from!). Then, it became important for the character to want to be called by her mother’s name, but she knew it would upset her father to call her “Jenna,” so I had her choose to use her mother’s last name as her first name. Phew, long answer to a short question!

What was your favorite part of writing this story or favorite scene?

I loved writing about the problem Clancy has with her parachute. Although I never had a damaged canopy when I was jumping, I did run into another problem, and my brain took over to save me in exactly the same way Clancy’s brain reacted.

Have you ever been skydiving, and if you did, what was your favorite thing about it, or did you have to research that aspect of the story?

Both! I have been skydiving, and I did have to research that aspect of the story. I made seventeen jumps a long time ago, so while I had experience to go on, I knew that the sport had changed a lot since I last jumped. For example, student jumps used to be a very small part of the business of the dropzone—most of the time I was jumping, I was one of only two students. Now first-jump students make up the large majority of the business. Also, they were just starting to experiment with tandem jumps back in the day, and now that’s almost the only way to make a first jump. So I hung around dropzones and picked up on the way things are done now. I also had current jumpers read the manuscript and correct errors in terminology, facts, practices, etc.

My favorite thing about jumping was when the parachute opens and you look up and it’s perfect, and you hang around in the air for a long time enjoying the view. You feel totally safe at that point and totally awesome for having saved your own life once again!

Actually, maybe my favorite thing about skydiving is that I met my husband on the drop zone. I was a student and he was a famous skydiver. I was having trouble packing my parachute and he offered to help me! We never made a jump together until I did my tandem jump while researching Freefall Summer. He jumped out right ahead of me (solo).

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a YA novel set in Pompeii at the time of the eruption of the volcano Mt. Vesuvius (79 CE), which covered the city in ash and rocks and preserved it in amazing shape. My main character is a slave who has buried all memories of her past, including how she came to be enslaved, and is terrified of caring about anyone because she fears she’ll lose them. I can’t come up with a good title, and would love suggestions!

About the Author

PHOTO CREDIT: JENNY MANDEVILLE/VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY

Tracy Barrett has written more than twenty books for children and young adults. She’s much too interested in too many things to stick to one genre, and has published nonfiction as well as historical fiction, mysteries, fantasy, time travel, myth and fairy-tale retellings, and contemporary realistic novels. She knows more about ancient Greece and Rome and the European Middle Ages than anyone really needs to know, can read lots of dead languages, and used to jump out of airplanes.

A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study medieval women writers led to the writing of her first novel, the award-winning Anna of Byzantium (Delacorte). Her most recent publications are a contemporary YA novel, Freefall Summer, which draws on her own skydiving adventures; a middle-grade fantasy entitled Marabel and the Book of Fate; The Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard, a collection of little-known Greek myths; and the popular middle-grade series The Sherlock Files.

From 1999 to 2009 Tracy Barrett was the Regional Advisor for the Midsouth (Tennessee and Kentucky) with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She is now SCBWI's Regional Advisor Coordinator.

Tracy grew up near New York City, and went to college in New England and graduate school in California. She holds a Bachelor's Degree with honors in Classics-Archaeology from Brown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study medieval women writers and won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Work-in-Progress Grant in 2005. She taught Italian and other subjects at Vanderbilt University for almost thirty years. She has two grown children and lives in Tennessee with her husband and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.


Tour-Wide Giveaway


- 1 Winner will receive a Copy of FREEFALL SUMMER and Swags (signed bookplate and a silver skydiving pendant) by Tracy Berrett.
- Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter | Ends September 17, 2018

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Doesn't this sound really good? Have you read it or will you be? Any thoughts on the interview? Any title suggestions for the book the author is currently writing?

Looking for personal insight... Aligned with Christ by Toni Sorenson (Review & #Giveaway)


I occasionally review a religious nonfiction title. I chose this one because it seemed to resonate
with my life right now. Read my thoughts on the book and enter the publisher's giveaway below...

Aligned With Christ
By Toni Sorenson
LDS, Christian Nonfiction
Paperback & ebook, 158 Pages
August 1st 2018 by Covenant Communications, Inc.

Summary

Is there a sure way to know that what you’re doing is what the Savior would have you do? Best-selling author Toni Sorenson’s inspiring series, including Defined by Christ and Refined by Christ, has motivated audiences to assess and strengthen their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, the author invites you to be aligned with Christ and learn to turn mind, body, and will to the Savior and to claim the peace that comes from the assurance that you’re truly in tune with heaven.

For those struggling to strengthen their relation-ship with Jesus and for all who are striving to withstand mortality’s feelings of unworthiness and hopelessness, this volume provides a simple, scripturally rich roadmap intended to lead you on a joyous journey of self-examination—to assess your own spiritual alignment, to reroute when necessary, and to come to know the love of the Savior—not just when you reach your desired destination but along every step of the way.

(Affiliate links included.)

My Review

ALIGNED WITH CHRIST is full of stories, object lessons, and principles to help each individual asses their relationship with Christ. It's not a book about perfection, but about being aware of one is and working toward being completely aligned with Christ, just as the title suggests. An inspiring and honest look to aid spiritual self-assessment, mostly gearing to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

"The rules are there to help us keep from making mistakes and committing sins. Inevitably, mistakes are going to happen; sin is going to win a round or two in the battle of life. But there is always, always, always a way back because Jesus Christ said so. And He backed that promise up with His life."

I enjoyed reading through this. It definitely made me think and do some self-assessment. I liked all the different stories and ways she applied different concepts with real-world experiences or things, making it easy to relate to or understand her point. The writing style was also easy to understand. I also appreciated that she covered all aspects of life, the physical and mental as well as the spiritual. I did want a little bit better organization for her thoughts with maybe some pictures or quotes in the side margins to break up the text, but overall there are a lot of good concepts here and plenty of little nuggets of spiritual wisdom.

"The world today seems composed of the same two groups of people. Some people see problems. The ones with optimistic attitudes see possibilities."

In the end, was it what I wished for? An enjoyable book that delivers spiritual insight and hopefully helps in making our lives more closely aligned with Christ.

Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, which did not require a positive review nor affect it in any way.

About the Author

Toni is the author or a number of bestselling books for both the national and LDS markets. In 2006, her Covenant novel, Redemption Road, won the prestigious Association of Mormon Letters honor for novel of the year.

She is an avid student of the scriptures and wrote Master after years of research on the life of the Savior.

Toni is the mother of six children, four sons and two daughters. They reside in Utah Valley and love to travel, play, and eat together.


Tour Schedule

Check out Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes (Trailer, Excerpt & #Giveaway)


*EXCLUSIVE PRE-ORDER INCENTIVE*

Paula is running a pre-order incentive for HIDDEN PIECES from now until
11:59 PM (PST) on August 28th. Paula will also honor any orders through
the Nerd Blast until August 31st. Check out all the details on her site here.

Hidden Pieces
By Paula Stokes
YA Suspense
Hardcover & ebook, 448 Pages
August 28th 2018 by HarperTeen

Summary

Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last move...is murder.

Praise for HIDDEN PIECES

“Stokes makes the landscape an integral part of the story. Characters, even minor ones, are well developed, as are the subplots. With overtones of Lois Duncan’s I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973), this has the OMG quality that makes you afraid to wonder what will happen next.” ―Booklist (starred review)

“A character-driven mystery perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti.” ―School Library Journal

(Affiliate links included.)

Trailer


Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE - EXCERPT 

December 11 

There has always been this gap between the person I am and the person people think I am. It’s not that I’m fake—I don’t mislead people and I don’t lie (too often). But I keep a lot of secrets. I hold back parts of me so you can see the outline of the puzzle and make a guess about the picture, but that’s all it is—a guess. My inner pieces? I don’t show those to hardly anyone. 

One of those pieces is Holden Hassler. Holden is why I’m out in the frigid air right now, trudging up the winding road that leads to the top of Puffin Hill, icy gravel slick beneath the soles of my hiking boots. No one knows I’m meeting Holden tonight. No one knows I’ve been meeting him for months. Well, except for Betsy. She’s the eight-year-old golden retriever by my side. I’ve had her since she was a puppy. Right now she’s tugging at her leash with at least half of her considerable strength. I give her some slack, and she trots over to the nearest mailbox and sniffs around the base of it. 

“Smell someone you know, girl?” I bend down to run my fingers through Betsy’s soft fur. 

Movement on my left startles me. A door opens across the street and a woman exits onto the porch, a broom in her hand. Mrs. Roche. Her husband is a plastic surgeon in Tillamook, the nearest town big enough to have specialized medical services. Mrs. Roche sweeps bits of dead leaves and debris out into her yard. Our eyes meet for a moment. I force a half smile that is not returned. As she disappears back into her house, I wonder if she wants to sweep me away too. I’m one of the few poor kids lucky enough to live in this town. 

My mom and I live in Three Rocks, a small town along the Oregon Coast. There are only about three hundred residents who live here year-round. The rest of the people own fancy beach bungalows they use as summer homes or rent out to tourists. Many of the houses on this street sit empty right now, because almost no one wants to hang out at the beach in December. It doesn’t snow much in Three Rocks, but the damp air cuts you to the bone, and the wind sometimes blows strong enough to uproot bushes and shatter windows. 

“Come on, Bets.” I tug the dog away from the mailbox and she trots up the hill at a steady pace, passing by the next few houses with no interest in stopping. This block appears to be deserted. It’s a little like being the only person on a movie set after all the crew has gone home. There are signs of life—frosted-over flower gardens, walls of trimmed ivy, wind chimes clanking out an angry music—but no people. 

The steady crunch of gravel under my boots is punctuated by the occasional whistling cry of a seagull. A gust of wind rustles through the trees, chilling my face. Pulling my scarf up to cover my nose and mouth, I pause in a clearing to look out toward the Pacific Ocean. It’s too dark to see anything except a wide swath of black, a yawning nothingness on the horizon. But I know what’s out there—I can practically feel the relentless push and pull of the waves. 

My phone buzzes in my purse. It’s probably Holden wondering where I am. Right now he’s waiting for me in the lobby of the Sea Cliff Inn, a quaint, three-story hotel located at the top of Puffin Hill. The Sea Cliff is one of the town’s most famous historic buildings, and up until the end of summer it was the place to stay for visitors to Three Rocks. But then Mr. Murray, the elderly man who owned it, passed away, and his adult children who live in different states haven’t decided whether they want to sell the property or run the hotel themselves. Which means that right now it’s a really nice place that’s for all purposes abandoned. Holden and I meet there on nights when he doesn’t have to work at the gas station. 

My phone buzzes again and I realize it’s a call, not a text. Definitely not Holden—he’s a texting kind of guy. When I pull my phone out of my purse, I’m surprised to see Luke’s number on the display. Luke and I broke up—well, we agreed to “take a break”—when his army unit got deployed to Afghanistan a few months ago. We email a lot, though, and I know he’s hoping we’ll get back together someday. 

Winding Betsy’s leash around my palm a couple of times, I veer to the side of the road so I can take the call without having to worry about dodging any cars. “Stay,” I tell her, my voice muffled by my scarf. 

She cocks her head to the side and then smiles at me as if to acknowledge the absurdity of the request. Betsy is great at “fetch” and “roll over,” but she responds to “stay” much like a two-year-old responds to “no.” 

I tug the scarf back down under my chin. “I mean it.” 

Slowing in front of a bright turquoise bungalow with windows that have been boarded over to protect the glass, I swipe at the screen of my phone. “Luke,” I say, trying my hardest to sound excited. “This is a surprise.” 

“Hey, Embry.” Luke sounds happy. He always sounds happy. Well, unless one of his sports teams loses. “I’m glad I caught you. Can you talk for a few minutes?” 

“Sure. I’m just out walking the dog. Hang on a second.” Glancing around, I find a place to sit at the bottom of a wooden staircase that leads up to a house on stilts. Betsy angles her head again, surprised by my deviation from our normal routine, but eventually she lies down on her belly next to my feet. 

“What’s up? How are you?” I ask. 

“I’m good,” Luke says. “Great, even.” 

“Are you still in Kandahar?” 

“Yeah. I tried to get leave for Christmas, but we’ve got more senior guys who requested it, so I won’t be home again until after the first.” 

“That sucks. I mean, I’m sure your family is really going to miss you.” I lift my free hand to my face and blow on it. The tips of my fingers are freezing. I arrange my wispy blond hair over my ears, which also feel like ice. I should have dressed warmer for this walk, but I hate the way hats and gloves feel, all tight and constricting. 

“Yeah, I already talked to them and they’re bummed, but they know how it is.” Luke pauses for a moment, then blurts out, “Hey, so I had a crazy idea and I wanted to run it by you.” 

“Okay.” I tighten my coat around my body, blow on my fingers again. “Shoot.” 

“Assuming I can get leave in January . . . what do you think about the two of us getting married?” 

I snort. “Funny.” 

Betsy looks up at me, curious at the noise I made. I reach down and pat her on the head. 

“No, I’m serious,” Luke says. “I was thinking—” 

“Luke, come on. We agreed to take a break while you’re overseas.” 

The break was my idea, and at the time I really thought I was doing it for Luke’s benefit. He had no idea how long he might end up in Afghanistan. His commander or whoever said they were scheduled for six months, but that their tour could be extended if needed. I don’t know much about war, but I know a lot of soldiers come home with PTSD, with traumatic memories that I’ll never be able to relate to. We’d already been apart for several months while Luke did his basic training and specialized medic school. The last thing I wanted to do was heap additional stress on him by forcing him to remain faithful to a long-distance relationship if it turned out he needed comfort from someone there with him, someone who could understand everything he was going through. What happens in Afghanistan stays in Afghanistan—that was pretty much what I told him. 

But given how things have turned out, now I wonder if maybe my benevolent gesture wasn’t so benevolent, if I was trying to free myself from the stress of a long-distance relationship but just spin it to make it seem that it was for Luke’s benefit. 

It’s possible I’m not a very good person. 

“I know what we decided, Embry. But just hear me out.” 

“Okay.” I lean forward and rest my elbows on my knees. Strands of hair blow in front of my eyes. The night seems alien and strange through the hazy blond filter. Dead leaves whisper to each other as they tumble across the gravel road. Naked tree branches tap at the windows of the bungalow across the street. 

Luke is saying something about how we could have a small wedding with just our friends and family. Betsy fidgets, and I wonder if her paws are freezing on the cold ground. I jiggle her leash as I rise to my feet again. She lifts herself up and stretches her furry legs. The two of us turn back to the road as Luke continues talking. 

“I know you and your mom are struggling financially, and if you were my wife you’d qualify for housing assistance plus a monthly stipend. It would help you guys a lot,” he continues. 

My wife. The idea of being someone’s wife feels completely detached from reality, like becoming an astronaut or winning a million dollars on a game show. I glance up at the top of the hill, at the Sea Cliff Inn where Holden waits. If Luke only knew. 

I blink hard. In a lot of ways, I wish he did know. Then he’d leave me. Then I wouldn’t have to figure out how to permanently break up with a guy who’s everything a girl could ever want. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration—in addition to the aforementioned obsession with watching sports, he’s also a proud hunter with a rifle collection and prone to occasional road rage, two things that have always bothered me a little. 

But other than that, he’s basically perfect—smart, respectful, selfless, brave. I used to joke that he’d turn out to be a serial killer because no one could be so wholly decent and good. I’ve known him since we were kids because our families run Fintastic and the Oregon Coast CafĂ©, two of the four restaurants in town. We started dating when I was in tenth grade and he was a senior. He had to ask me out three times before I finally said yes, because I thought he was way out of my league. 

My phone buzzes with a text alert. That’s probably Holden, wondering where I am. I clear my throat. “Luke. The fact that you would offer something so huge just to help out Mom and me is . . . surreal. I don’t even know what to say.” 

“Say yes.” 

I sigh. “I can’t.” 

“Why not?” Luke’s voice rises in pitch. Disappointment. Pain. Two feelings I am extremely familiar with. 

“I—I don’t know. I don’t want to marry you for money from the government. It feels . . . gross.” It feels like prostitution, but I know he means well, so I’m not going to tell him that. 

Betsy continues to pull me up the hill. My fingers have gone from cold to numb. I tuck the hand holding her leash into my pocket and make an attempt to hold my cell phone with my neck so I can warm my other hand as well. 

“I know, but it’s free money. Like a thousand dollars a month. And we can get married again for real someday after I’m out and you’ve graduated. Bigger ceremony. We can invite the whole town. Honeymoon anywhere you want.” 

A thousand dollars a month would cut down on our struggling . . . a lot. Mom tells me that we’re doing fine, but we were barely scraping by before she was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. Now she’s recovered from the chemo and surgery, but even with insurance I know she’s got thousands in medical bills to deal with. I’m pretty sure her definition of “fine” is dire financial straits for most people. 

Struggling financially is just as exhausting as struggling emotionally, something else my mom is no stranger to. She was nineteen when she found out she was pregnant with me. My father was—is—married to another woman. He’s some sort of tech investor who met my mom at our family coffee shop where she was a cook and barista. They struck up a friendship of sorts and one thing led to another. And then that thing led to me, and a giant scandal. He and his family moved two and a half hours away to Yachats, an even fancier coastal town, before I was born. But small towns never forget, you know? Gram said for almost two years afterward, the business at the coffee shop dwindled down to nothing. Once my mom started showing, Gram wouldn’t even let her pick up shifts anymore. Even today there are people in town who give my mom dirty looks when they pass her on the street, as if she were solely to blame for what happened, even though my father was thirty-one at the time. 

“Why are you even bringing this up right now?” I ask. “I mean, where is this coming from?” 

“I don’t know. I miss you. I miss home.” Luke’s voice gets soft. “I guess Thanksgiving got me thinking about the things I’m grateful for. Plus, one of the guys on my team just married a platonic friend of his so the two of them can split the money. They have no plans to stay together and they’re going to get a divorce or an annulment or whatever after he gets out.” 

I gnaw on my lower lip. “That sounds like fraud.” 

“Maybe,” he says. “But it doesn’t apply to us, because we love each other.” 

Yeah. If only love were enough. 

I look up the hill again, to the hotel where Holden is waiting. 

“I’ve always dreamed of marrying you someday, Embry,” Luke continues. “So why not do it now if it means that I can help out both you and your mom?” 

I don’t know how to respond to this. The first few months Luke and I were together, I had this same fantasy. Somehow the intoxicating rush of physical affection was enough to bridge that gap—the one between the person I am and the person people think I am. I knew Luke assumed the two of us wanted the same things, and I didn’t care that he was wrong. Kids, family, future, whatever. We’d figure it out later. Just shut up and kiss me already. 

Intimacy is like a drug. It messes with the chemicals in your brain or something. That explains why I was all-in on Luke until he moved away and I didn’t have the constant physical highs to keep me distracted from reality. 

The reality is, Luke’s world is completely different from mine. He has a sister, Frannie, who is a year younger than me, and three older brothers in their twenties and thirties, two of whom work as bartenders at Fintastic here in town and one who is trying to open a second restaurant up north in Astoria. They are focused, they are driven, and they are an extremely tight clan. Anytime one of them has a problem, the whole family usually ends up pitching in. So many different people relying on so many other different people. I’ve never been part of a group like that. Since Gram died, it’s been just my mom and me. We trade off taking care of each other, depending on who’s struggling more. Just this small agreement is sometimes more than I can handle. 

I know Luke wants to be part of the family business someday, and I know he wants lots of kids—he’s never made a secret of this. But I don’t know how I feel about either of those things. And I’m not sure if I want to get married ever, let alone right now. It all feels like so much pressure. After Luke left town, his emails went from “I miss you” to “Here’s where I think we should live after you graduate” in the span of a couple months. While he was talking about us moving in together, all I could think about was the inevitable day I would fail to live up to his expectations. He would discover that gap between who I am and who I pretend to be, and then he would leave me—not for three months or six months for a deployment, but for good. 

“Embry? Are you still there?” he asks. 

I’ve been walking this whole time, and Betsy and I are almost to the Sea Cliff. “Mom and I will survive,” I say stiffly. 

“I know. I didn’t mean to imply you guys needed help. Just that you deserve more than you’re getting. Why not let the government hook you up?” 

It’s tempting, but if I get married someday, I want it to be for love, not for housing assistance or monthly stipends or whatever else Luke is talking about. So as much as Mom and I could use the money, I know what my answer is going to be. 

But it’s not an answer that I want to give him over the phone, especially while he’s living in a combat zone. 

“We’re still good, right?” he asks. “You haven’t . . . changed your mind about us?” 

I wince. “We’re good,” I say, unable to lie about the second part of his question but also unwilling to tell him the truth. 

“So then just think about it,” Luke says. “Until I see you again.” 

“Okay. I’ll think about it.” I would prefer not to think about it, but chances are I’m not going to be able to forget it now. 

“Awesome. If you don’t hear from me again before Christmas, don’t worry. We’re supposed to be heading out on a mission soon, and I won’t have web access until we get back. But I’ll email you when I can, okay?” 

“Mission where?” 

“I’m not even sure yet,” Luke says. “But if I was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.” 

“Right,” I say. “The whole classified info thing.” My phone buzzes again. 

“Exactly,” Luke says. There’s an awkward pause, and then he adds, “Well, have a good night. Love you.” 

“You too.” Shaking my head, I switch over to my messages and find two texts from Holden: 


Holden: You coming? 


Holden: Everything ok? 

Just seeing Holden’s words sends a rush of relief coursing through me. With Holden there are no expectations, no lies, no pressure to be someone I’m not. I feel safe with him in a way I never have with any other guy. It’s probably horrible that I can hang up the phone with Luke and be comforted by thoughts of Holden five seconds later, but it is what it is. Sometimes horrible things are true. 

I slide my phone back into my purse without answering the texts. The Sea Cliff Inn stands in front of me. It’s a Victorian-style three-story building with a lobby, dining area, kitchen, and eight rooms for rent. I know this because Holden used to do landscaping for the place before Mr. Murray died. No one knows that Holden made himself a copy of the key before turning everything over to the Murray family’s lawyer. Holden’s mom is a cop with the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Department, so he’s always on the lookout for places he can go to escape her watchful eye. 

I let Betsy tug me through the frozen grass and around to the back of the hotel. There’s a small clearing with a gardening shed off to the side. Beyond it there’s a sheer drop-off of about five hundred feet. I look out at the dark ocean for a few seconds, resisting its siren call. 

I’ve thought about jumping from this cliff once or twice. The idea of the ocean swallowing me up is strangely comforting. Maybe a little too comforting. 

I turn to the back door, which I know will be unlocked the way it always is when Holden is waiting for me. I pause for a second, my hand on the tarnished door handle. I think about Luke calling me his wife. Maybe I shouldn’t be here. Maybe I shouldn’t do this. I could turn back the way I came, go home and do my homework. I could try to be a better person. 

But the pull of what I want is too strong. Not just comfort. Freedom. The chance to let someone see me. For some reason, I don’t hide those inner pieces from Holden. And that is its own kind of intoxicating. 

Besides, what good is being a better person if you still lose? If you look back throughout history, when has the better person ever been rewarded? Better people are exiled. Better people are executed. Better people throw themselves into the ocean because they’ve spent their whole lives denying who they are and what they really want. 

For better or worse, this is who I am, and what I really want is Holden. 

Copyright © 2018 by Paula Stokes

About the Author

PHOTO CONTENT FROM PAULA STOKES

Paula Stokes is the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.


Blast Giveaway


- 1 Winner will receive a $25 gift card to Amazon, B&N, Etsy, or Society6.
- 1 Winner will receive a Choice of any Paula Stokes YA Novel.
- 3 Winners will receive a Hidden Pieces Swag Pack.
- Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter | Ends September 17, 2018

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I Can't Wait for... Slayer by Kiersten White (Can't-Wait Wednesday/Waiting on Wednesday)


Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you're continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

I don't really know anyone who doesn't know about Buffy the Vampire Slayer even if they weren't a fan. I didn't watch every episode, but I did see quite a few. I'm really, really intrigued with Kiersten White writing a spin-off series. She has the talent to do it really well. It's also been ages since there's been a good series involving vampires and I'm ready. It's my pick this week...

Slayer
(Slayer #1)
by Kiersten White
YA Paranormal
Hardcover & ebook, 416 Pages
January 8th 2019 by Simon Pulse

Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a brand-new series set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that introduces a new Slayer as she grapples with the responsibility of managing her incredible powers that she’s just beginning to understand.

Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

(Affiliate links included.)


Will you be reading this one?

10 Things to KNow about... The Book of M by Peng Shepherd (Guest Post & #Giveaway)

 

Welcome to my tour stop! Check out the rest of the tour here, and then some
things to know about this book from the author and a giveaway below...

The Book of M
By Peng Shepherd
Adult Dystopian, SciFi
Hardcover, Paperback & ebook, 485 Pages
June 5th 2018 by William Morrow

Summary

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

Praise for THE BOOK OF M

“A beautiful and haunting story about the power of memory and the necessity of human connection, this book is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece and the one dystopian novel you really need to read this year.” ―Bustle

“I was both disturbed and inspired by Max’s and Ory’s journey through apocalypses large and small. Peng Shepherd has written a prescient, dark fable for the now and for the soon-to-be. The Book of M is our beautiful nightmare shadow.” ―Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World

“The Book of M is exciting, imaginative, unique, and beautiful. Shepherd proves herself not just a writer to watch, but a writer to treasure.” ―Darin Strauss, bestselling author of Half a Life

“Prepare to fall in love with your own shadow. And to lose sleep. Shepherd is urgently good, and has written one of those books that makes you look up at two in the morning, to a world that’s new, newly scary, and freshly appreciated: what all the great stories do.” ―David Lipsky, New York Times bestselling author of Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself and Absolutely American

“A beautifully written existential apocalypse, following everyday people on a search for love, memory and meaning across the richly realized and frighteningly familiar ruins of America.” ―Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of Kansas

“Sheperd’s debut is graceful and riveting, slowly peeling back layers of an intricately constructed and unsettling alternate future.” ―Publishers Weekly

“First-time novelist Shepherd has crafted an engaging and twisty tale about memory’s impact on who or what we become. For aficionados of literary dystopian fiction such as Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or those who enjoy stories of cross-country travel.” ―Library Journal

“Fans of Station Eleven, listen up!...This one is g-r-e-a-t.” ―Book Riot
“Eerie, dark, and compelling, this will not disappoint lovers of The Passage (2010) and Station Eleven (2014).” ―Booklist

“Brilliant debut... The Book of M is right up there with Station Eleven: achingly beautiful literary novels about a changed world.” ―Refinery29.com

“Outstanding and unforgettable...The Book of M is a scary, surprising, sad and sentimental story that will be deeply felt by readers while capturing their imaginations and hearts.” ―BookPage (Top Fiction Pick)

“For fans of Station Eleven, this summer release will have you engulfed from beginning to end.” ―Popsugar

“[Shepherd’s] first novel, The Book of M, tells the fantastic story of ordinary people caught up in a catastrophe in which people lose their shadows — and their memories.” ―Arizona PBS

“Beautifully written, Peng Shepherd delivers an extraordinary story about love, hope, the unquenchable search for answers that may never come, and, ultimately, survival...The characters all have such depth to them that it’s impossible to not become invested in the story, which twists and turns often.” ―TheRealBookSpy.com
“The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.” ―TheNerdDaily.com

“It’s a great setting for a murder, and each of Rader-Day’s prickly millennials feels capable of murder—to say nothing of sleep-deprived, near hysterical Eden. Readers will have fun following the subtle clues.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Reminiscent of books like Stephen King’s The Stand, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Michael Tolkin’s NK3... she keeps the journey interesting, makes us care about her characters, and invites us to think about how we are all the stuff of dreams.” ―Toronto Star

“The Book of M shines consistently, first in the sense of magical wonder that permeates each of its pages, and second, in the emotional depth that Shepherd is able to draw out of her characters... brutal and brilliant in equal measure.” ―The Contemporary Clerk

“Shepherd’s tale pushes the post-apocalyptic story in a new and exciting direction, making readers ponder questions about reality, self-perception and relationships.” ―Shelf Awareness

(Affiliate links included.)

Guest Post:
Ten Things to Know about the Storybook World of THE BOOK OF M

1. The novel takes place in the very near future, even as near as tomorrow.

2. The magic in the novel is closely related to memory.

3. The story is told from the point of view of 4 major characters.

4. A significant chunk of the story takes place in India.

5. Shadows disappearing from people is an actual occurrence in our real-life world (just not the magic that comes after).

6. Books and libraries play a really big role in the story.

7. The two elephants in the story were inspired by real elephants.

8. The character named “the amnesiac” was the last character to be created, but became one of the most significant.

9. There’s a lot of adventure, battles, danger, and magic, but at its heart, The Book of M is a love story.

10. There’s a bit of a twist near the end…

About the Author

PHOTO CONTENT FROM PENG SHEPHERD

Peng Shepherd was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet. She earned her M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University, and has lived in Beijing, London, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. The Book of M is her first novel.


Tour-Wide Giveaway


- 10 Winners will receive a Copy of THE BOOK OF M by Peng Shepherd.
- Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter | Ends September 10, 2018

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This book sounds really intriguing. Have you read it or will you be?