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Friday, 26 February 2016

M9B Friday Cover + Chapter Reveal & Giveaway: Nobody's Lady by Amy McNulty #M9BFridayReveals



Today Amy McNulty and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for NOBODY’S LADY! Book 2 in the Never
Veil Series which releases April 12, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and
enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

On to the reveal!



Title: NOBODY’S LADY
Author: Amy
McNulty
Pub. Date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback
& eBook
Find it: Amazon
|
Goodreads

For the first time in a thousand years,
the men in Noll’s village possess the freedom to love whom they will. In order
to give each man the chance to fully explore his feelings, the lord of the
village decrees all marriages null and void until both spouses declare their
love for one another and their desire to wed again. What many women think will
be a simple matter becomes a source of village-wide tension as most men decide
to leave their families and responsibilities behind.





Rejected by the lord and ashamed of her
part in the village’s history, Noll withdraws from her family and lives life as
an independent woodcarver. This changes when her sister accuses her of hiding
her former husband Jurij from her—and when Jurij eventually does ask to move
in. Determined not to make the same mistakes, Noll decides to support her male
friends through their new emotional experiences, but she’s soon caught up in a
darker plot than she ever dared imagine possible from the men she thought she
knew so well. And the lord for whom she still has feelings may be hiding the
most frightening truth of them all.





Excerpt





Chapter One




When I thought I understood real friendship, I was a long-lost queen. When I discovered there was so much more to my life than love and hate, that those around me were just pawns in a game whose rules I’d unwittingly put in place, I discovered I was a long-forgotten goddess. But goddess or not, powerless or powerful, my feet were taking me someplace I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. What did I hope to find? Did I truly believe I could hear him call me—that he’d want to call me? Yes, I did. I wanted to see him again. I wanted to hope, even if I wasn’t sure I was allowed. If I deserved to. I headed down the familiar dirt path beneath the lattice of trees overhead, pausing beside the bush with a partially snapped stem that jutted outward like a broken limb. The one that pointed to the secret cavern.




Only, it’s not much of a secret anymore, is it?




My feet picked themselves up. Glowing pools would never again tempt me.




I reached the black, towering fortress that had for so long shaken and screamed at the power of my glance.




For the first time in this lifetime, I stared up at it, and nothing moved. My legs, unused to such steady footing while in the sight of the lord’s castle, twitched in anticipation of a fall that never came.




There was no need. My feet dragged me forward.




At the grand wooden door, I raised a fist to knock.




But I stopped. I felt like if I touched it, the entire castle might crumble. It had done so once before. Not at my touch exactly. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was responsible for whatever destruction I’d find in this place. But that was presumptuous of me. He was strong-willed, and he wouldn’t crumble at the prospect of freedom. If anything, he’d be triumphant over it.




You can’t stop now. I pulled my sleeves over my wrists and propped both elbows against the door, pushing until it gave way.




The darkness inside the foyer tried to deceive me into thinking night had fallen. The stream of light that trickled from the familiar crack in the garden door called the darkness a liar.




I gripped the small iron handles, the material of my sleeves guarding the cold metal from my touch, and pulled.




My touch had come to the garden before me.




The rose bushes that surrounded the enclosed circular area were torn, ripped, trodden, and plucked. The blooms lay withered, scattered and turned to dust, their once-white petals a sickly shade of yellowish brown, smooth blooms turned coarse and wrinkled.




The fountain at the center no longer trickled with water. Its shallow pool was stagnant, piles of brown festering in mildewing green liquid. Dotted amongst the brown was pallid stone rubble. The tears of the weeping elf child statue, which belonged at the top of the fountain, had ceased at last. But the gash across its face told me the child’s tears had not been staunched by joy. I wondered if Ailill had had it carved to represent the pain I’d inflicted on him as a child. And I wondered if now he could no longer bear to remind himself of what I’d done.




I hadn’t done this. But I felt as if I had. If Ailill had gone on a rampage after he came back to the castle, it was because of what I’d done to him. Everything I touched turned sour. I yanked and pulled, trying to draw my hands further into my sleeves, but there wasn’t enough material to cover them entirely.




“Well, what a surprise.”
I gazed into the shadow beside the doorway. How could I have not seen? The stone table was occupied. The place where I’d sat alone for hours, days, and months was littered with crumpled and decaying leaves, branches, and petals, obscuring the scars left by a dagger or knife striking time and time again across its surface. The matching bench that once nestled on the opposite side was toppled over, leaving only dark imprints in the dirt.




“A pity you could not make yourself at home here when you were welcome.”




My breath caught in my throat.




The man at the table was clad entirely in black, as I knew he would be. The full-length jacket had been swapped for a jerkin, but I could see the embossing of roses hadn’t been discarded in the exchange. He wore dark leather gloves, the fingers of which were crossed like the wings of a bird in flight. His pale elbows rested on the table amongst the leaves and branches and thorns. He wore the hat I was used to seeing him wear, a dark, pointed top resting on a wide brim. Its black metal band caught a ray of the sunlight almost imperceptibly. But I noticed. I always did.




His face was entirely uncovered. Those large and dark eyes, locked on me, demanded my attention. They were the same eyes of the boy I’d left alone to face my curse—not so long ago from my point of view. He was more frightened then, but there was no mistaking the hurt in those eyes both then and now.




“You are not welcome here, Olivière.”




His words sliced daggers through my stomach.




“I … I thought I heard you call me.”




He cocked his head to the side, his brown eyes moving askance. “You heard me call you?”




“Yes … ” I realized how foolish it sounded. I was a fool to come. Why had I let myself fall for that sound again, for my name whispered on the wind? Why was I so certain it was he who’d said my name?




He smiled, not kindly. “And where, pray tell, have you been lurking? Under a rose bush? Behind the garden door? Or do those rounded female ears possess a far greater sense of hearing than my jagged male ones?”




I brushed the tips of my ears self-consciously. Elric had been so fascinated by them, by what he saw as a mutilation. This lord—Ailill—wasn’t like that. He’d touched them once, as a child. He’d tried to heal them, thinking they were meant to be pointed.




The boy with a heart was the man sitting there before me. Even after all we’d been through, he’d still done me a kindness by healing my mother. “No, I just thought—”




“No, you did not think, or you would not have come.”




I clenched my jaw. My tongue was threatening to spew the vile anger that had gotten us into this mess to begin with.




He sighed and crossed his arms across his chest. “I gave explicit instructions that I not be disturbed.” He leaned back against the wall behind him, his chin jutting outward slightly.




I wiped my sweaty fingertips on my skirt. I wouldn’t let the rest of my hands out from the insides of my sleeves. The sweat had already soaked through them. “I needed to thank you.”




He scoffed. “Thank me for what? For your prolonged captivity, or for not murdering both your mother and your lover when I had the chance?”




So you admit you took Jurij to punish me? You admit they were both in danger in your “care”? Quickly, I had to clench my jaw to keep down the words that threatened to spill over. He’s not who I thought he was. He wouldn’t have harmed them.




I loosened the muscles in my jaw one hair’s breadth at a time.




“For healing me when you were a child. For accepting me into your castle instead of putting me to death for trespassing in it. For … For forgiving me for cursing you, even though you were innocent.” My voice was quiet, but I was determined to make it grow louder. “For saving my mother’s life.”




He waved one hand lazily in the air. “Unfinished projects irk me.”




“But you didn’t have to.”




A shrug. “The magic was nearly entirely spent on the churl anyway.”




“I beg your pardon?”




He leaned forward and placed both palms across the rotted forest remnants on the table. “My apologies,” he said, his lips curled into a sneer. “I simply meant that I wasted years and years and let the magic wither from my body to save a person of no consequence. You may thank me for that if you like. I would rather not be reminded of it.”




How odd it was to see the face I’d imagined come to life. The mocking, the condescending—it was all there. I just hadn’t known the canvas before.




And what a strange and beautiful canvas it was. That creamy peach skin, the brownish tint of his shoulder-length tresses. He was so much paler than any person I had ever seen. Save for the specters.




Despite the paleness, part of me felt I wasn’t wrong to have mistaken one brother for another. Elric had been dark-skinned, but they seemed almost like reflections of the same person; they shared the same brows, the same lips, and even eyes of a similar shape if not color. Perhaps the face before me was a bit gaunter, the nose a bit longer. It was easier to focus on the differences. Thinking of the similarities made me want to punch the face in front of me all the more—and that would undermine everything I had set out to do when I made my way to him. I wanted to see if you were really restored to life. Say it. I wanted to know if you really forgave me. Say it. I wanted to know why I … Why I feel this way about you, why I keep thinking about you, when I used to be unable to stand the sight of you. Say it, Noll! I dug my nails into my palm and shook the thoughts from my head. He’d called my mother a “churl.” I couldn’t just tell him everything I was thinking. “Have you no sense of empathy?”




“What a coincidence that you should mention that. I am sending Ailill to the village with an edict. He can escort



you there.”

“Ailill?” But aren’t you him? Could I have been mistaken? Oh, goddess, help me, why do I do this to myself? Why do I think I know everything?




He waved his hand, and one of the specters appeared beside me from the foyer.




The specters. There were about a hundred of them in the castle. Pale as snow in skin and hair with red, burning eyes. Mute servants who seemed to anticipate the lord’s every command. Only now I knew who they really were.




Oh. “You call him by your own name?” I asked.




He raised an eyebrow. “I call them all by my name. They are me, remember?”




His icy stare sent another invisible dagger through my stomach. “Yes, but—”




“A shame you never cared to ask my name when you were my guest,” he said. “I have a feeling things might have turned out much differently—for all of us.”




“You knew what would happen! Why didn’t you warn me?” I had to squeeze my fists and teeth together to stop myself from screaming. This wasn’t going at all like I had hoped. But what had I hoped? What could I have possibly expected? I thought I’d be forgiven. I thought that Ailill and I might start over, that we could be friends, perhaps even … What a fool I’ve been.




Ailill turned slightly, his attention suddenly absorbed in a single white petal that remained on a half-trodden bush beside him. “I was not entirely in control of my emotions,” he said, “as you may well know.”




“I tried to give you a way out!” My jaw wouldn’t stay shut.




Ailill laughed and reached over to pluck the petal from its thorns. “Remind me exactly when that was? Perhaps between condemning me to an eternal life of solitude and wretchedness and providing yourself with a way to feel less guilty about the whole affair? And then you just popped right back to the present, I suppose, skipping over those endless years in a matter of moments.” He crushed the petal in his hand.




“A way to let myself feel less guilty?” He wasn’t entirely wrong. But it wasn’t as if he had done nothing wrong.




Ailill bolted upright, slamming the fist that gripped the petal against the twigs and grass on the table. “Your last words to me were entirely for your own benefit, as well you know!”




If, after your own Returning, you can find it in your heart to forgive me, the last of the men whose blood runs with his own power will free all men bound by my curse.




“How is wishing to break the curse on the village for my benefit?”




“Perhaps because the curse was your doing? Perhaps because you only wanted the curse broken to free your lover from it in the first place?”




“Stop calling Jurij my ‘lover.’ He’s not—”




“And you did free him with those words. You knew I would forgive you.”




“How could I have known? I didn’t think it possible you’d forgive me, not after all we’ve been through.”




“You knew because you knew I wanted to be free myself. That I would do anything—even forgive you for half a moment—to earn that freedom.” His voice grew quieter. “You never wanted anything from me, not really. I was just a pawn in your game, a way to free the other men in your village, a way to punish the men from mine.”




I fought back what I couldn’t believe was threatening to spring to my eyes. No tears, not in front of him.




“The men of the old village deserved everything they got,” I spat at last, knowing full well that wasn’t the whole story.




Ailill scoffed and put both hands on his hips, his arms akimbo. Oh, how I tired of that pose. The crushed petal remained on the table. Its bright white added a bit of life to the decay.




“There were plenty of young boys not yet corrupted,” he said. “And some that might have never been.” He took a deep breath. “But, of course, you are not entirely to blame. I blame myself every day for ever taking a childish interest in you. That should not have counted as love.”




I swallowed. Of course. Before the curse of the village had broken, a woman had absolute power over the one man who loved or yearned for her. When I visited the past through the pool in the secret cavern, I discovered a horde of lusty men who knew nothing of love but were overcome with desire. Since so many had lusted for any female who walked before them, and I had carried the power from my own version of the village with me, it had been child’s play to control the men. But why had that power extended to Ailill? He had only been a boy then, broken, near silent—and kindhearted. He couldn’t have regarded me with more than a simple crush on an older sisterly figure, but it had been enough.




“But you did forgive me.” Why couldn’t I stop the words from flowing?




Ailill shook his head and let a weary smile spread across his features. “Forgive you? I could never forgive you. No more than I could forgive myself for daring to think, if just for a moment, that I … ” He stopped.




I shook my head. “The curse wouldn’t have been broken. The men in the village wouldn’t now be walking around without masks. Nor you without your veil. If you hadn’t forgiven me.”




Ailill tilted his head slightly. His dark eyes searched mine, perhaps for some answer he thought could be found there. “I would still need the veil even now?” he asked, his voice quiet. “Are you certain?”




Removing the veil before the curse was broken would have required the Returning, a ritual in which I freely and earnestly bestowed my heart and affection to him. It would have never happened, not with the man I knew at the time to be mine. So yes, he would still need the veil to survive the gaze of women. I was sure of it. He’d been arrogant, erratic, and even cruel. Perhaps not so much as Elric, Ailill’s even more volatile older brother, the one who wound up with a mob of angry, murderous women in his castle and a gouge through his heart. But even so.




It was my turn to cross my arms and sneer. “I said you could break the curse after your own Returning, and I specified that you didn’t need my affection to have a Returning. All you needed to do was crawl out of whatever abyss I’d sent you to.” I shifted uncomfortably in place. “And I suppose I should be grateful—for my mother’s sake—that you did.”




Ailill waved a hand at the specter beside me and brushed aside a pile of clippings on the table to reveal a hand-written letter. It was yellowed and a tad soggy. “Yes, well, the endless droning that made up your curse gets a bit foggy in my mind—assuming it even made sense in your mind to begin with. I am afraid I lack the ability to retain exact memories of an event that took place a hundred lifetimes ago when I was but a scarred child terrified of the monster before him.” He looked up to face me as the specter retrieved the letter from his extended hand. “But I suppose it was not all that long ago for the monster, was it?” He turned again to the table, shuffling brush about aimlessly. “Take her with you to the market,” he said.




The specter made to grab my arm as he passed. I slipped out of his reach only to back into another specter who had appeared quick as lightning from the foyer. He grabbed one arm, and the first specter seized the other.




“Let go of me!” I shouted as they began to drag me away.




The specters didn’t pause, as they once would have.




“Stop!” called Ailill from behind me. The specters did as they were told.




Ailill spoke. “I forgot to inform you that my retainers lost all desire to follow your orders when I did.” He waved his fingers in the air. “Carry on.”




I struggled against the grip the specters had on my arms. Again. He has me under his thumb again. “I can walk by myself!” I screamed as my toes slid awkwardly against the dark foyer floor. “I don’t need to go to the market!”




A black carriage awaited us outside the castle doorway. A third specter opened the carriage door, and my captors heaved me up into the seat like a sack of grain. The one with the letter slid in and took the seat across from me. He stared vacantly at the top of the seat behind me.




I leaned forward, whipping my hand out to stop the carriage door as one of the specters moved to close it. I didn’t care what I touched in the castle anymore. Let the whole thing crumble.




A black-gloved hand covered mine. I jumped back. Ailill stuck his head inside the carriage. His face stopped right before mine, the brim of his hat practically shading me under it. The sight of his face so close to mine, unveiled and painted with disdain, caused a thunderous racing of my heart. It was as if I’d just run the length of the entire village.




“You kept your hair short,” he said. He reached his free hand toward it, then pulled back.




I’d once let the bushy mess of black hair grow as long as it wanted, but once I cropped it closely to my scalp, I found it easier to deal with. “There hasn’t been enough time for it to grow, anyway. Not for me.”




He snorted. “Of course. But it makes me remember you as you were, long ago. When you cursed me and every man whether he deserved it or not.” He leaned back a bit, putting more space between our faces. “I think you will be most interested in going with my servants to the market,” he said. “But there will be no need to thank me in person afterward. I would rather not see you again.” His eyes drifted upwards, thoughtfully. “In fact, remind the villagers that I am closed to all audiences. My servants will be out there to see that my edict is obeyed.”




Before I could speak, he leaned back and let my hand fall from his. He reached around the door to close it.




“Wait—”




And slammed it in my face.






About Amy: 

Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and
editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published
in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high
school and currently writes professionally about everything from business
marketing to anime. In her down time, you can find her crafting stories with
dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings. Visit
her website at amymcnulty.com.











Giveaway Details:





1 winner will receive an eBook of NOBODY’S
GODDESS and an eGalley of NOBODY’S LADY. International.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Blog Tour Stop & Giveaway - Review: Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey




Welcome today's stop on the Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey Blog Tour  hosted by Chapter by Chapter.  Today's stop is a review as well as a chance to enter the great giveaway that is being run throughout this tour.


Review:


I always enjoy Alyxandra Harvey's writing. No matter the setting or storyline, whether it be ghosts, the faerie realm or shape shifting. I always know to expect something a little unexpected in her books and Love me, love me now is no exception 

I immediately liked the main character Ana. Smart and focused on school but so naive out about love as she attempts to find it and win her wings. I thought Ms harvey captured that crush on the guy who doesn't know you exist and you are physically unable to speak coherently exceptionally well as well as Anna convincing her self that Edward is the boy for her. i like that we got to see Ana's vulnerability as she becomes aware that the feud in itself has become pointless but has no idea how to go about stopping it when adults and children alike are acting on a grudge that they have essentially been born with and despite Ana, herself being unable to be in the same room as a Renard without a physical fight breaking out. i thought her to be well balanced as a main character even though I sometimes wanted to yell at her for her naivete and indecision.

I loved the way Ms Harvey seemlessly wove the fairy tale of a shapeshifting swans and foxes through modern day life creating and urban fantasy that reads as authentic. I liked that despite the modern setting this still had the feel of a fairy tale. The story line itself was also woven well, with a few different plot lines coming together with precision time to leave a story I didn't want to put down until I reached the end a few hours later.

I also loved the connection between Ana and Pierce. Right from the beginning I could feel the chemistry and I wanted to yell at Ana and Pierce, particularly Ana the more they fought it. i read this on Valentines Day so was probably already in a romantic mood but I felt the romance between these two completely.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read and I give it 4 stars.

Sapphired Dragon XX



Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey




Love Me, Love Me Not
by Alyxandra Harvey
Publication Date:  February 22, 2016
Genre:  YA Fantasy





Dating isn’t easy when you’re in the middle of a blood feud.
Anastasia Vila’s family can turn into swans, but just once she’d like them to turn into responsible adults.

After hundreds of years, they still cling to the blood feud with the Renard family. No one remembers how it started in the first place—but foxes and swans just don’t get along.
Vilas can only transform into their swan shape after they have fallen in love for the first time, but between balancing schoolwork, family obligations, and the escalating blood feud, Ana’s got no time for love. The only thing keeping her sane is her best friend, Pierce Kent.

But when Pierce kisses Ana, everything changes.

Is what Pierce feels for her real, or a byproduct of her magic? Can she risk everything for her best friend? And when the family feud spirals out of control, Ana must stop the fight before it takes away everything she loves.
Including, maybe...Pierce.

This Entangled Teen Crave book contains language, violence, and lots of kissing. Warning: it might induce strong feelings of undeniable attraction for your best friend.
 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20561819-nobody-s-goddess






ABOUT Alyxandra Harvey

Alyxandra Harvey lives in a stone Victorian house in Ontario, Canada with a few resident ghosts who are allowed to stay as long as they keep company manners. She loves medieval dresses, used to be able to recite all of The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, and has been accused, more than once, of being born in the wrong century. She believes this to be mostly true except for the fact that she really likes running water, women’s rights, and ice cream. Aside from the ghosts, she also lives with her husband and their dogs. She likes cinnamon lattes, tattoos and books..


Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads 



 
 
 
The Giveaway
  • ·         $200 Amazon Gift Card + Feather Pendant Necklace inspired by the one that Ana, from Love Me, Love Me Not wears





a Rafflecopter giveaway











M9B Trailer Reveal: Facsimile by Vicki L. Weavil #M9BFridayReveal




Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal! But wait it's a Thursday you're probably asking yourself! Yes it is but we have a super special reveal for you today and we will have a reveal tomorrow as well!


This week, we are revealing the trailer for
Facsimile by Vicki L. Weavil
an upcoming Month9Books Title!




facsimile ebook final

Title: FACSIMILE



Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Pub. Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
For a ticket to Earth, seventeen-year-old Anna-Maria “Ann” Solano is willing to jettison her birth planet, best friend, and the boy who loves her. Especially since all she’s required to do is escort Dace Keeling, a young naturalist, through the wilderness of the partially terraformed planet Eco. Ann‘s determination to escape the limitations of her small, frontier colony never falters, until Dace’s expeditions uncover three secrets. One offers riches, one shatters Ann’s perceptions of herself, and one reveals that the humans stranded on Eco are not its only inhabitants.



Ann’s willing to sacrifice friendship and love for a new life on Earth. But when an entire species is placed in jeopardy by her actions, she must make a choice – fulfill the dream that’s always sustained her, or save the planet she’s never considered home.
Now here's the trailer!











Vicki Weavil 11
Vicki L. Weavil is represented by Fran Black of Literary Counsel. Her Young Adult Fantasy, CROWN OF ICE -- a dark YA retelling of H.C. Andersen's "The Snow Queen" -- is published by Month9Books. Two companion books to CROWN OF ICE -- SCEPTER OF FIRE and ORB OF LIGHT -- will be published in 2016 and 2017.
Her YA SciFi -- FACSIMILE -- will be published by Month9Books in 2016, with a sequel, DERIVATION, to follow.
A new YA Fantasy, THE DIAMOND THIMBLE, will be published by Month9Books in 2018.
She also writes adult SciFi.
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr



Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win.
Title will be sent upon its release.



Monday, 22 February 2016

Teaser Tuesday #117: Holding Court by K C Held #TeaserTuesday





Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read

2. Open to a random page

3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

4. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My current read is Holding Court by K C Held  and my two lines are from location 657 of 3131
 
"She was right there." I point at the bare stone floor. "I swear, Grayson. She was lying there with her eyes open and the chain wrapped around her throat and she was dead."

 







Sixteen-year-old Jules Verity knows exactly what's in store at her new job at castle-turned-dinner-theater Tudor Times. Some extra cash, wearing a fancy-pants dress, and plenty of time to secretly drool over the ever-so-tasty--and completely unavailable--Grayson Chandler. Except that it's not quite what she imagined.

For one, the costume Jules has to wear is awful. Then there's the dead body she finds that just kind of...well, disappears. Oh, and there's the small issue of Jules and her episodes of what her best friend calls "Psychic Tourette's Syndrome"--spontaneous and uncontrollable outbursts of seemingly absurd prophecies.

The only bright side? This whole dead body thing seems to have gotten Grayson's attention. Except that the more Jules investigates, the more she discovers that Grayson's interest might not be as courtly as she thought. In fact, it's starting to look suspicious...



 check out the good reads link


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

Friday, 19 February 2016

M9B Cover & 1st Chapter Reveal + Giveaway: The Lingering Grace by Jessica Arnold #M9BFridayReveals



Today Jessica Arnold and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE LINGERING GRACE, which releases March 15, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:


In The Lingering Grace, Alice is glad to find her life returning to normal
after a near-death experience. When a young girl drowns in a freak accident
similar to the one that nearly killed her, she suspects that something deeper
might be going on. This incredible cover is a reference both to the drowning
girl at the heart of the story, and to Alice—who is also in over her head. It’s
hard to tell whether the girl under water is sinking deeper or rising to the
surface. This story centers on Alice making that very choice.

On to the reveal! 



Title: THE LINGERING GRACE
Author: Jessica
Arnold
Pub. Date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback
& eBook
Pages:
320
Find it: Amazon
|
Goodreads

All magic comes with a price.

The new school year brings with it a
welcome return to normalcy after Alice’s narrow escape from a cursed hotel
while on summer vacation. But when a young girl drowns in a freak accident that
seems eerily similar to her own near-death experience, Alice suspects there
might be something going on that not even the police can uncover.



The girl’s older sister, Eva attends
Alice’s school, and Alice immediately befriends her. But things change when
when Alice learns that Eva is determined to use magic to bring her sister back.
She must decide whether to help Eva work the highly dangerous magic or stop her
at all costs. After all, no one knows better than Alice the true price of
magic.





Excerpt





CHAPTER ONE




“I’m so sorry.”




Tony turned on his left blinker. “Didn’t your dad say something about getting you a car soon?”




Alice gave a single, grating laugh. “He’s been saying that ever since I got a license.” Tony knew this as well as she did; if he was teasing, she wasn’t in the mood. She slouched down in the passenger seat as they pulled into the library parking lot. It was almost empty; the library was closing in twenty-five minutes. She rapped her fingers against the car door, gripping a notebook and a pen tightly in her other hand.




“Hey.” Tony parked. He grabbed her arm before she could jump out of the car. “Everyone forgets an assignment sometimes.”




She tried to smile, but her mouth ended up in a lopsided grimace. “You’re right. I’ve just been so . . . you know.”




Concern flashed across Tony’s face, and his grip on her arm tightened for a second before he let go. Alice clicked her pen as they hurried into the library. She’d had this assignment for weeks—how could she have left it until now? This wasn’t like her. Tony grabbed her hand as they walked and she looked down at their entwined fingers, glad that this at least was surviving, despite her half-present brain.




It wasn’t sudden, this relationship, so it baffled her why it still felt fragile—why she was still relieved every time he wanted to spend time with her. They’d been officially dating for two months now, and they’d known each other for three. She was certain she had gotten the better end of the deal; Tony had been helping her keep her head above water ever since last summer. Meeting him had been one of the only good things to come out of that vacation from hell. He’d helped save her life when she had nearly died, the victim of a witch’s curse on a creepy old hotel.




Physically, her recovery had only taken a few weeks. But everything else … well, it was still an uphill battle. Daily life was mundane and mind-numbingly routine—more meaningless than it had ever seemed before. Alice zoned out on a regular basis. The world would fall away and she would stare into space, not thinking anything, not feeling anything but the empty space inside her where everything was quiet. That empty space had never been there before, and it was only with Tony that she felt it close up for a few precious hours at a time. Only with Tony was she herself again.




Tony noticed her looking at him and smiled.




“We’ll find something here. I know it.”




“We’d better.”




It was hard to be hopeful after spending three hours driving around to all the libraries in the area with no luck at all, courtesy of this supremely dumb assignment. They’d been talking about primary and secondary sources in English class and Mr. Segal was requiring them to find one primary source (not on the Internet either—at the library) to include in their research paper. Alice knew she shouldn’t have put it off. She just hadn’t known it would be this hard. Now, with the paper due tomorrow, she had absolutely nothing to show but a blank computer screen and mounting panic.




“I think I chose the wrong topic,” she said as they walked by the front desk. A librarian looked up and scowled at them.




“We’re closing in twenty minutes,” she said. Her expression made it clear that if they made her stay a moment later, they would regret it.




Alice squeezed Tony’s hand and spoke through clenched teeth. “I’m gonna fail this project. And the class. And I’ll become a high school dropout. And I’ll never get into college. Will you still like me when I’m living under an overpass?”




“Yes. But you’re not going to fail. And I wouldn’t let you be homeless.”




“My hero,” she grumbled and he laughed.




They hurried through the nonfiction sections, passing row after row of packed shelves. The farther into the library they went, the more overwhelming the smell of old paper became. Alice wasn’t sure if the musty library air was thanks to rotting books or the persistent mold problem that had shut the library down for months a while back. The city said everything was under control; Alice’s nose told her otherwise.




“Ugh, I was hoping we wouldn’t have to come here.” She ran her fingers along the book spines as they hurried down a row. “This place creeps me out.”




Tony looked up at the dim rectangles of fluorescent lights scattered across the ceiling. “Not exactly cozy, is it?”




Alice shook her head and then stopped, squinting at the books to her left. “804 . . . 804.01 . . . here we go.”




She traced the call numbers with her fingers. Tony knelt down next to her, scanning books as he spoke.




“Excellent. Let’s hope Mr. Librarian Number Two was right.”




They’d been hunting down a copy of Literary Criticism of the 1800s for three hours now. Alice had discovered it while digging through the online library catalog—it was the only thing she could find that fulfilled the “contemporary criticism” requirement for her paper. The only problem was that the full text wasn’t online and, thanks to an interlibrary loan snafu, the only copy had slipped under the radar almost completely. The librarian at the last library they’d visited had been ninety-nine percent sure it was at the downtown branch, and so they had braved the rush-hour traffic and hurried over.




“What a nightmare,” she groaned. “I don’t see it.”




Tony grabbed her notebook and squinted at the call number she’d written. “Are you sure that’s a four? Looks like it could be a nine to me.”




“Let’s hope it’s a nine, then.” She jumped to her feet and grabbed his hand, pulling him up as well. They hurried to the next aisle.




He squeezed her hand. “Hey—we’ll find it. Don’t worry.”




She squeezed back but said nothing. Don’t worry. If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, her blank moments didn’t bring Zen into the rest of her life. They were more like blackouts than meditations—moments when fatigue got the better of her. The rest of the time, she was sprinting to keep up with the mindless churn of to-do lists that filled her days. How did people live like this? Every day stuffed with pointless urgency. It was exhausting. Sometimes Alice found herself longing for just a taste of magic again. Magic was a glimmer of something beyond logic and reason and sunrise and sunset. Without it, life melted into a meaningless churn of waking and sleeping.




Tony was patient with her—in more ways than one. She wasn’t sure how he managed to put up with her frequent mental lapses and her total lack of girlfriend know-how. Frankly, she was mortified by her own awkwardness. In her more positive moments, she told herself it wasn’t her fault. He was her first boyfriend. No one had warned her about these things.




If only someone had warned her about these things. Holding hands, kissing, it all looked so easy when other people did it. At first, for her, it had been a humiliating disaster. She didn’t know what to do with her body, how to move. She would press her lips into Tony’s without aim or direction, as haphazardly as she kissed her dad’s cheek. For Tony, on the other hand, finesse seemed to come naturally. His kisses were caresses. He was artistic. When they held hands, while her arm went stiff as a board, he would stroke the back of her hand with his thumb, making little circles—or hearts. She liked to think of them as hearts.




Her heart was pounding from half-jogging to the end of a row.




“Do you see it?” Alice asked, trying to read the call numbers on both sides of the row simultaneously.




Tony shook his head. “Not yet.”




“I don’t believe this,” Alice grumbled, sinking to her knees. “It’s got to be here. I can’t rewrite this whole paper—I don’t have time!” She ran her hands across the books on the bottom shelf, vainly hoping that the right one would just jump out and grab her by the throat. Tony scratched his forehead. Alice was starting to recognize these things he did. She knew now that when he scratched his chin, he was thinking deeply; when he scratched right below his hairline, he was worried.




“Maybe it was just shelved wrong,” he suggested. He turned around and started scanning the bookshelf behind him.




Though Alice worried it was useless, she re-scanned the spines on the shelf in front of her. Maybe Tony was right—maybe they had missed something. But she had that sinking feeling in her gut and her eyes were burning; she was frustrated almost to tears. Her sight grew blurry as she stared at book after book.




“The library will be closing in five minutes,” said a voice over the intercom.




Five minutes.




She blinked very quickly, trying to clear her vision. Her eyes stopped on a particularly tattered old book without a visible call number, and she reached out to grab it, glancing behind her at Tony, who still had his back to her.




Her fingers touched the binding and she gasped. It was the strangest feeling—a tingling in her fingers, a warmth that traveled up her arm and into her shoulder. Alice pulled the book from the shelf and felt as if all the hair on her body were standing on end. She shivered and stroked the cover, which was brown leather and plain. It was blind-stamped with three concentric circles, like a rounded eye.




Peeling the cover back, she scanned through a few pages at random and knew immediately what she was holding. There was a sharp tug in her abdomen, and she almost put the book back then and there. It wasn’t the first spellbook she had seen. She had discovered several while fighting for her life in the hotel last summer. They’d belonged to the witch who set the curse. One of them had been covered in scrawls and notes—an inconsistent, impossible mess.




This little volume was an entirely different story. It was printed; the old monospaced type left odd gaps between letters. Someone had carefully underlined a few sentences throughout, but overall, it looked nearly untouched. If it hadn’t been for the yellowed pages and the smell of rotting paper, she might have called it pristine.




Each page was laid out in the same way: a heading in large, capitalized type followed by an ingredient list and several paragraphs of instructions. To the left of each title were one to three small triangles. Some were colored in with solid black ink while others were empty. They were presented without explanation, but Alice felt sure they must be a scale of sorts: a rating to indicate how long a particular spell took to prepare or its difficulty or something like that. There were small sketches throughout. On one page, a tiny flower was drawn to the right of the ingredient list. On the bottom of another, a tiny frog, splayed out, cut open, its ink-drawn limbs hanging limply at its sides.




Her stomach turned; quickly, she shut the book. A shiver tickled her spine—the familiar sensation of being watched. Was it a coincidence that she had come across this book? Or could it be that the curse had left a magical stamp on her, a kind of otherworldly magnetism? Had she found the book, or had the book found her?




“I don’t believe it.”




Alice jumped, clutching the book to her.




“Hey—I found it!”




Tony was holding the book out for her to see, smiling widely. She took it from him with one hand; with the other, she slipped the leather book behind her back. The movement was instinctual. All she knew was that she didn’t want to return the book and leave so many questions unanswered. Nor did she want to explain to Tony why she had to know more.




“Thank God,” she said, grinning back. “You are a hero!” Maybe she could pass the book off as another ancient volume of literary criticism? Not a chance. Tony was too curious; he would want to look at it himself.




“See?” He helped her up and put his arm around her shoulders. “Told you it would be okay.”




“I guess you were right.”




He took the book back from her and examined it. Alice’s grip on the spellbook tightened. No, she definitely could not let Tony near this book if she didn’t want him to panic and light it on fire or something. “It’s kind of like finding buried treasure.”




“Except the treasure is a book and the only thing it was buried in was the library’s glitchy loan system.”




“Still—it feels good.”




“The library is closing. Please check out all books at the front desk,” the intercom blared.




Alice and Tony jogged past row after row of dimly lit bookshelves. As they did, Alice slipped the leather-bound book into her bag before she could talk herself out of it. It wasn’t stealing, she told herself. Not really. She would take it home, glance through it, and return it to the shelf within a few days. It was just a quick investigation—albeit a secret one. But really, it had to be secret. Ever since the hotel, Tony couldn’t even watch a card trick without freaking out. If she told him a spellbook might have found her … maybe magically … well, she was doing him a favor by not mentioning it.




She was just being responsible. Really.




***




Tony dropped her off at home half an hour later. Still immensely pleased with his book-finding success, he’d suggested a celebratory dinner, but Alice insisted that she really did need to work on her paper. This was true.




She didn’t mention that she was far more anxious to crack open the book she hadn’t checked out than read the one she had.




The house was so quiet when she walked in that for a second she thought she was the only one home. Usually, the ruckus of her brother’s video games in the living room would be drowned out by the drone of her dad listening to NPR in his office. But the living room was empty and her dad must have stayed late at work because the doors to his office were open and the room was dark. Just the light in the kitchen was on, and it was only on second glance that Alice saw her mother sitting on a barstool, staring blankly at the faucet. Someone hadn’t turned it off completely and water was leaking out one drop at a time.




“Mom?”




Her mom jumped up.




“Oh, hi, honey. I didn’t hear you come in.” She walked around the counter and turned off the faucet. “Were you with Tony tonight?”




“Yeah, we were at the library.”




“Good … that’s good … ” she said absently before lapsing into silence again.




“Um … how was your doctor’s appointment?” Alice asked to alleviate the uncomfortable quiet.




Her mother’s lips twitched upward, then tightened. She abruptly turned her back to Alice and opened the fridge.




“Fine, fine … ” she said, her voice drowned out by the crinkling of plastic bags.




Alice’s worries about her paper were immediately replaced by deeper, more insistent fears. “What’s wrong?” she demanded.




“I can’t hear you, sweetie.”




“What happened?” she repeated. “Is something wrong?”




Her mom emerged from the fridge, holding some celery sticks and a jar of almond butter—her “guilty” snack. Normally she wouldn’t have had the almond butter. (She liked to remind Alice that too many nuts would make a person chub up like a squirrel before hibernation.) Her eyes briefly met Alice’s as she turned to the sink and started to rinse off the celery.




“Oh, just a sad story in the news today.”




Alice’s heart immediately slowed. “See, this is why I never read the news.”




Her mom scrubbed the hollow of the celery stalk with one thin finger. “A single mom just moved into a new house with her two young girls. The girls went swimming unsupervised. The six-year-old drowned.”




Alice’s chest constricted, but she tried to brush it off. “They didn’t know how to swim? Why did they get in the pool?”




“Really, Alice.” Her mom’s voice went snappish. “You of all people should know—these things can happen to anyone.” She grabbed the celery stalks and the jar of almond butter and walked out of the room without another word. Alice heard the bedroom door close.




Alice sat still on the bar stool for a moment. A weak trickle of water was leaking from the faucet; she got up and turned it off.




You of all people.




A final drop of water hit the sink like the tiniest of hammers. Last summer, at the cursed hotel, she had nearly drowned in a swimming pool. Tony had pulled her out just in time.




She could remember all too clearly the press of water in her lungs. Not everyone knew the craving for air—the feeling that your head was being squeezed and squeezed until finally, in the last moments, when you thought you were going to explode … an arm around your waist pulling you up. A hand clapping you on the back, a voice telling you the coughing was okay, telling you to breathe when that was all you wanted to do until the end of time … just breathe.




Tony had saved her life. But the little girl would have felt the tightness, the void in her chest that nothing could fill, until the darkness came slowly in—not a stranger knocking down the door, but a cool-headed thief waiting for the window to fall open. Rushing into the opening, filling the lungs with cold black water … and then darker and darker until there was nothing—no space left.




“It’s okay. I’m okay.” Alice refused to turn into her mother, having panic attacks every time she heard a bit of disturbing news. She took a deep breath, shook her head, and walked slowly up the stairs to her room, pretending she was empty as a balloon floating higher and higher … out of her body, out of everything.








About Jessica:


Jessica Arnold lives (in an apartment)
and works (in a cubicle) in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a master‘s degree in
publishing and writing from Emerson College.





Where you can find Jessica: Website | Twitter
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