[FEATURE] Snakes and Stones by Lisa Fowler || Excerpt + Guest Post

snakes-and-stones-revised-9781510710313
Title: Snakes and Stones
Author: Lisa Fowler
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Pub. Date: November 1st, 2016
Genre: Middle Grade

Goodreads || Amazon.com/ca

Twelve-year-old Chestnut Hill’s daddy stole her and the triplets away from their mama. At least, that’s how Chestnut remembers it.

It’s 1921, and after nearly two years on the road with his traveling elixir show, Daddy’s still making no move to go back to Kentucky and buy Mama that house. So Chestnut is forced to come up with her own plan to get home. At night, when Daddy and the triplets are in bed, she draws up flyers with the name of the next town they’ll be traveling to. Before they leave each town and hoping her mama will see them, she nails up the flyers, leaving Mama an easy trail straight to her children.

When that doesn’t work, Chestnut is forced to try something bigger. But when her newest plan lands Daddy in jail and Mama has to come to the rescue, Chestnut discovers that things are not always as they seem. Written with a wonderful mountain hillbilly voice, Snakes and Stones has a mystery at its heart and lovable, strong, and complicated characters.

EXCERPT: Stealing Money and Telling Lies

There hasn’t been a traveling salesman in this neck of the woods in more than two years; that’s what some in the crowd are saying. You’d think the folks in this Podunk town would be happy we’ve come, but they’re not. Matter of fact, by the sound of the ruckus, they’re fixing to run us out of the county. Maybe even clean off the map.

“Charlatans! Snake oil peddlers! Hoodlums! Swindlers!”

They’re mad, I tell you, and getting madder by the minute.

They’re brash and loud with their shouts, thrashing our wagon with sticks and branches, slinging stones that thump and thud and make hollow sounds against the old wooden red and white circus wagon.

Chestnut Hill, keep them babies inside!” Daddy hollers. Around us, we hear crashing as the elixir bottles stacked on the side of the wagon shatter.

I’m crouched in the corner of the wagon, huddled on top of the triplets the same way a mother hen would gather her brood up and under her wings for protection—way too much responsibility for an ordinary twelve-year-old in a dirty, torn dress, frumpled hair, and shoes with holes in them the size of Missouri. Especially a girl that’s been snatched from her mama against her will.

The wagon shimmies like warm jelly when Daddy slams the wooden flap down on the side, and it makes me feared that the wooden pegs holding it together will pop clean out of their grooves at any second. With one swift thud, he shoves the bolt across the flap, and takes off running, his black patent leather shoes making a slapping sound against the weathered brick pavers of the street. If there ever was a doubt, it’s gone now. We’re up to our earlobes in trouble.

My leg muscles ache from wanting to run. With every stone and bottle and stick that’s hurled and bounced off the side of the wagon, I jump and dodge worse than a late-evening gnat being chased by an angry hand, same as I would if I was on the outside and every last one of them was hurled straight toward me.

I hear those familiar shoe slaps again and know Daddy’s close, and as much as it pains me to admit it, just the thought brings me comfort.

Breathing deep comes easier too as I hear Daddy’s voice offering up some soothing words to our horse, Old Stump. I reckon surely the wagon will rock from side to side as he climbs aboard and plops down on the wooden seat behind her, but it don’t. Daddy is still on the ground with the mob, and that shoves fear even deeper into my belly.

Fuzzy-headed Hazel—stubborn as a donkey knee-deep in a manure patch and still way too much a baby at seven—is sobbing again, only this time them sobs aren’t silent. This time they’re weeping and wailing sobs. Sobs to wake up all the corpses in the graveyard sobs. Moaning, howling, blubbering bawls of sobs.

Makes me want to slap the sob right out of her.

But I don’t.

I can’t.

I’m not a slapper.

Chestnut, you’re smothering me!” Mac says with a lisp that I reckon he’ll never outgrow.

Hush up, you. You’ll think smothering if that angry mob turns us over and spills us out,” I say, trying as best I can to hold to the wooden walls and protect the triplets. “They’ll beat the living tarnation out of the lot of us if they get their hands on us.”

“I don’t care. I can’t breathe!”

I pull back just enough to let in a bit of air but still hold them close

We didn’t do nothing wrong!” Hazel throws her head back and wails.

“Humph! We did too,” I say, soft enough so’s only a bedbug could hear. “We stole their money and told them lies.”

Without some sort of help, Daddy alone with that mob don’t stand a chance. Filbert must have thought it too because just at that second he breaks my grip, jumps to his feet, and eyes the door.

“Where are you going?” I holler.

Filbert, with his autumn leaf–brown hair and eyes the color of a stormy sky, moves closer to the door. Tears as big as baseballs roll the length of his dimpled cheeks.

“Daddy needs help. Can’t you hear them people? They’ll kill him!”

“Get back here!” I snatch for him even though he’s well beyond my grasp. “I said get back here now! Filbert!”

“Let me be, Chestnut,” he yells, his eyes wide and darting back and forth.

With arms flailing and teeth clenched, he’s more a caged animal than a worried boy in back of a wagon. Mama always said he was blessed with more guts than brains, and I reckon he’s proving that more with each passing day.

“You didn’t see their faces like I did,” he says. “If we don’t help, Daddy’s sure to take a walloping from that mob.”

He swipes at a cheek with his sleeve but does nothing about the leaking from his nose threatening to sneak past his lips and into his mouth. Slinging wide the double doors, he bolts like lightning down the steps, his mission-bag shirt untucked and wrinkled like he’s slept in it a month, and his pants practically threadbare at the knees.

Instantly I know my hide’s going to catch the devil from Daddy, but there’s nothing I can do now ’cept stand here crouching, trying to protect the other two.

Straining to hear, I can pick out Filbert’s war whoops from among the crowd. If I’d ever wished to be in two places at once it’s now, but wishing never did make things so. I’ll just have to hope and pray that Filbert has the good sense to take care of himself out there.

And as for Daddy, I say let him take a walloping. It might just do him good. Anyway, it serves him right for forcing us to help with his lying, cheating schemes.

But just as quick as those thoughts come to sloshing around in my head, even more thoughts come beating down the door to my heart.

Chestnut Hill, that’s your daddy out there. That crowd’ll kill him if they get the chance, and now’s their chance. What in the world are you thinking? Get up off this floor and help your poor old daddy right now!

Mama says the worst thing a body can be is conflicted, and with both the good and the bad thoughts sloshing together in my brain, I reckon you could say that conflicted is exactly what I am. Reckon all that’s left is to figure out which of them conflicting thoughts to listen to—the head thoughts, or the heart’s.

“Stay here!” I shout, jumping up and flinging an outstretched finger toward trembling Mac and blubbering Hazel.

Stopping just inside the doors of the wagon, I hesitate, studying the lay of the land. To the left, under the wide open arms of a stubby young sycamore, a crowd is gathered like angry bees around a hive. There are even children watching.

With angry fists shoved into the air, they’re hollering loud and stirring up the pot. In the dusky light of early evening, even a blind groundhog could see these folks are out for blood.

The men are wadded—on the ground—flopping around on top of each other like fresh-strung fish on a creek bank, dirt flying out from among them like dust storming the prairie.

And Filbert? Well, I don’t yet see my brother, but knowing him like I do, I’d say he’s right down in the thick of things, in the middle of that filthy wad.

All of a sudden and just as I’m about to jump from the wagon, one of those wadded floppers comes up for a breath of fresh air. Good thing, too, otherwise I might never have laid eyes on my brother—hanging on for dear life with one hand gripped to the back of that man’s shirt, clobbering him in the head and hollering, “You get off my daddy right now!”

Clearly the man’s a discombobulated mess, but Filbert’s hanging on, the same as he would if he was being bucked by a wild horse.

Jumping off the back of the wagon, I scoop up the first stick with a promise.

Whack!
Whack!
Whack! Whack!

I’m taking out wadded floppers faster than a bullfrog sucking up skeeters, and every single one I swat stands up, grabs his head, and staggers around like he’s not got a clue of what’s hit him.

Just as I pull way back on my stick, searching for my next flopper, something grabs hold to my arm.

GUEST POST: Lisa Fowler, SNAKES & STONES

“Why did you choose to write Snakes and Stones?”

Thank you for asking, that’s a great question.
Chestnut Hill’s story began with nothing more than a great character, and like so many stories, characters often whisper to us in the wee hours of the night and shout to us through the noise of the day. Chestnut would not let me rest until I put pen to paper and wrote her story down.

The Hill family – Daddy and his little nut farm: twelve year old Chestnut and seven year old triplets Hazel (Hazelnut), Filbert, and Mac (Macadamia) – spend most of their time in an old circus wagon, traveling throughout the south, selling elixir and making music.
Chestnut watches and learns at the feet of a father she doesn’t much care for because she believes he’s snatched her and her triplet siblings away from their mother and the chance at a loving, happy home.

Once they meet up with an old friend, Abraham, their music and story really begins to resonate with “the folks” and the shifty business of a Snake-Oil salesman begins to take on new life. It’s not until Abraham hints to Chestnut that daddy’s clinging to secrets; secrets that Chestnut doesn’t want to believe, that she begins to grapple with the bad choices she’s made.

In order to put her broken family back together Chestnut wrestles with guilt, her conscience, and with things as she believes them to be. It’s safe to say that she learns a valuable lesson in the meantime: Things are not always as they seem to be.

Geared for ages seven and beyond, Snakes and Stones is really a must-read for anyone who loves a fast-paced story full of humor, mystery, and love. At its core Snakes and Stones is a story about family and the struggles faced when children are at odds with their parents. Now more than ever I believe that this struggle between parents and children is something most families can relate to.

Thank you for having me and I hope you enjoy reading Snakes and Stones.

lisa-fowler-author-headshot

[FEATURE] Earning My Spots by Mark Eastburn || Excerpt + Guest Post

earning-my-spots-9781510707788
Title: Earning My Spots
Author: Mark Eastburn
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Pub. Date: November 1st, 2016
Genre: Childrens

Goodreads || Amazon.com/ca

Sam and his family are the only werehyenas in their town, and they do their best to keep up their cover in front of the humans while the other more aggressive shifters mock the werehyena family for being weak and passive. But Sam sees no other life for himself, as he believes what he is told: he is inferior to the other shifters.

One night, a pack of shifters raids Sam’s house and takes his family, leaving him all alone. With the help of some new friends, Sam sets off on a journey from Vermont to South America to rescue his family. Along the way, he meets various shifters who aid him on his quest. He even meets a tribe of werehyenas in Louisiana who teach him how powerful his kind actually is and how far his ancestry goes back. From them, Sam learns he has a great destiny to fulfill.

As Sam draws closer to finding his family, he begins to understand how different the world of shifters is that exists outside of his small hometown. Shifters are tired of humans destroying their homes, and they want not only revenge but also to force humans into submission. It becomes clear that Sam is the only one who can stop a war that’s on the brink of erupting.

Fans of the Spirit Animals and Warriors series will enjoy accompanying Sam on his quest as he discovers not only that his destiny and inner strength are greater than he thought, but also that being a werehyena is not as laughable as he assumed.

Chapter 1 Excerpt

Stupid werewolves. They think they’re so superior. Everywhere I go, they push me around. And why do they do it? Because I change into a different animal than they do. That’s all. I should be their leader, since I’m practically bigger than Joe Loup and Will Andris put together, but nobody respects hyenas. That’s the way it’s always been.

Take the other day at recess, for example, when everybody was in human form. A new kid arrived that morning, and the pack didn’t waste any time showing him who was in charge. Not five minutes after we’d gotten outside, the pack had the new kid pressed against a wall.

As usual, I wasn’t part of the crowd but just a spectator.

“Beat it, hyena boy!” Joe Loup snarled. “This is wolf business. Go chew on roadkill or something.” Scrunching his nose in disgust, he added, “You filthy scavenger.”

I was pacing behind the group, trying to get a glimpse of the boy they’d trapped. Recess was the wolves’ first chance to ask questions of the new kid, since they couldn’t exactly surround him in class without a teacher noticing.

Joe had the keenest senses in the pack; his job was to sound the alarm if any no-tails (our word for nonshifter humans) came near.

“Come on, guys; leave him alone,” I said, standing on my tiptoes to peek over their shoulders.

“What are you doing here?” Will Andris snarled at the new kid. Will was pack leader, at least at my school. His dad also led the adult wolves for miles around.

The new kid shrugged, his eyes narrowing into slits. “I’m not supposed to say.”

Will could be dangerous if he didn’t get answers to his questions, and I didn’t want the new kid to get pummeled, so I pushed my way into the circle to keep Will from causing harm. Yelps of surprise echoed around me.

An instant later, all eyes turned on me.

Uh-oh. Sometimes I’m impulsive, and it usually gets me in trouble.

Like right now.

Will’s lips curled back to expose his teeth. “What’s your problem, hyena boy?”

Low growls came from every direction. That’s the danger with packs—the whole group attacks at once. Nervous energy surged through my body, which made me giggle. It’s how hyenas respond to threats, but it doesn’t usually work against the wolves.

“What’s so funny?” asked Joe.

Another chuckle escaped my mouth. I always wished I could growl like other carnivores. My high-pitched, girl-at-a-slumber-party laugh never scared anyone, and the wolves never understood it meant “back off.”

Will pushed me hard, and I tripped over Joe’s foot. Next thing I knew, I was sprawled on the blacktop.

“You’d better remember your place,” said Will. “It’s hunters like us who run things around here, and scavengers like you can’t call the shots.” He sneered. “I don’t care how tough you think you are; you’ll never match a wolf.”

“And speaking of tough . . .” Joe flashed a cruel smile. “Your mom’s more of a man than you’ll ever be.”

The other kids howled with laughter. They always busted on my mom, and it always got me riled. I mean . . . who were they to talk? Their closest relatives were butt-sniffing dogs.

Time to teach Joe a lesson, I thought. My muscles tensed, my hair began to uncurl, and my fingertips pulled back to expose the claws underneath.

“Whoa, he’s getting all spotty,” said one kid in the pack.

Fear wilted Joe’s smile. He understood exactly what I wanted to do.

Will stepped forward with a flash of yellow in his eyes. “You’re forgetting about tonight, hyena boy.”

Oh crap. Full moon tonight. That’s when wolves hunt. If I started trouble now, they’d come hunting for me. The pack was famous for being really nasty, especially to other shape shifters.

Then again, I couldn’t just retreat. My teeth started to sharpen and grow thicker.

“No-tail!” Joe shouted, right before I leaped for his throat.

I figured he was stalling for time, but then I smelled the no-tail and knew I’d have to calm down. We always have to be careful around those humans who can’t change form, because they’d freak if they learned about the shape shifters all around them. Back in the olden days, no-tails used to chase us with torches and pitchforks—that’s what I’ve been told, anyway. Nowadays, they hardly even notice, because we work hard to stay hidden. Or we’re supposed to, at least.

The approaching no-tail was female. Adult. She came from behind and a little to the left.

“What’s the problem over here?” asked Mrs. Tompkins, a recess aide at John’s Gore Elementary School.

Elementary school. It sounds so childish. I’m in sixth grade, and Will Andris is in seventh. So is Joe Loup. We should be in middle school, but our town’s too small to have one. Kids who live in John’s Gore stay in elementary school through eighth grade. Rough luck for us, I guess.

“No problem here,” Will said, exchanging glances with the others.

Mrs. Tompkins pointed at me. “Then who pushed this boy over?”

“He fell,” said Joe.

“That’s right,” Will agreed, his eyes now back to blue. “You fell, didn’t you, boot—” He caught himself and said, “You just fell.”

If I could growl, this would’ve been the perfect moment to let out a slow, guttural sound. Those stupid wolves are always busting on my last name, which is Budovich. Even no-tails call me “booty-itch” when grown-ups aren’t nearby.

Unfortunately, in that situation, all I could do was back down. Mrs. Tompkins couldn’t know that I wasn’t fully human; keeping the shifter secret was the most important rule, for wolves and hyenas alike.

Even if I’d almost broken that rule for the hundredth time.

“Do you need to go to the nurse?” Mrs. Tompkins asked me.

“I’m fine,” I said.

She looked at the new kid. “Did those boys do anything to you?”

He shook his head in reply.

Mrs. Tompkins leveled her gaze at the pack. “You’d better stay away from each other from now on. If something like this happens again, you’re all going to the office, and your parents will be called.”

Will and the rest of the pack strolled away without any argument, although one of them muttered “booty-itch” while they were still within earshot. I watched Will’s back as he swaggered toward the soccer field, thinking how good it would feel to crush his spine in my jaws. But would that make me pack leader? I didn’t think so. The wolves would find some excuse not to let me into their group.

The new kid stepped away from the wall and offered me a hand. He was big for his age—like me—and definitely a shape shifter. I can always sense when another shifter is close; it’s like some kind of built-in detector.

And my detector was going crazy right then.

“You’re one of us, aren’t you?” I asked as soon as the pack was far enough away.

“What do you mean?” he asked, giving me a shifty look.

I lowered my voice and said, “You’re not a regular human, right?”

He glanced around. “Um . . . no . . . I guess not.”

“Don’t worry. You can trust me,” I assured him. “My name’s Sam.”

I stuck out my hand for a shake, but he didn’t move a muscle.

“I’m Manuel,” he said, uncertainty in his voice. “But people call me Manny.” His eyes were darting around as he spoke.

Dropping my hand, I said, “I was just going to toss Joe around a little, not go full-out animal or anything. It’s just time somebody taught him some respect, you know?”

Manny kicked the ground and sighed. When he looked up, he asked in a low voice, “What lives around here? Besides regular people.”

“In John’s Gore?” I shrugged. “The shape shifters are mostly wolves, I guess. And some bears in the forest, but they usually don’t come into town.”

He peered at me for a moment. “Nothing else?” He didn’t sound too interested in bears or wolves.

“Well, I’m a hyena,” I said softly.

Manny didn’t even react. His eyes started wandering again.

“So, what are you?” I asked, hoping to continue the conversation.

No answer.

“Come on,” I said. “You know The Code, right?”

His shoulders popped up together, quickly. “No, not really.”

“It’s the set of rules we’re supposed to live by,” I told him. “Didn’t anybody ever teach you about The Code?”

Manny’s gaze returned to the blacktop. “We never spent much time around other . . .” He trailed off.

“Shape shifters?” I kept my voice as quiet as possible.

Nodding slowly, Manny said, “Most of the time, it’s just been me and my mom.”

“Well,” I said, “The Code lets you tell anyone who isn’t a no-tail what you are, so you can tell me.”

“Tell you what?” He cast a quick glance in my direction.

“What you change into.”

Manny kicked the ground again.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” I said. “Like I told you—there’s lots of shape shifters around here.”

“Yeah, but most of them are wolves.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Actually, he didn’t need to answer. There was plenty wrong with wolves, as far as I was concerned.

“I need to find something else,” he said.

“Find something else?” I took a step closer. “Like what?”

“It’s actually somebody else. Somebody whose ancestors were great hunters.”

“Oh,” I said. Clearly he didn’t mean me. Or anyone else I could think of—especially if Manny wasn’t interested in wolves.

Silence fell between us.

“Can I guess what you are?” I asked, trying to break the silence.

Studying his feet, Manny didn’t respond. It was close enough to “yes” for me.

I took a deep breath through my nose. Some shape shifters are easy to identify by scent—bears, for example, smell like roots and berries, which are the foods they usually eat. Wolves also have a distinct odor, similar to a wet dog, but there are so many in town that I barely notice the scent anymore. This kid was different, though. He smelled and looked clean, like a feline. And his dark eyes, black hair, and tan skin reminded me of visitors who’d come from a reservation in Canada a few years back.

“You must be a cougar,” I decided.

He shook his head.

“But aren’t you First Nations?” I asked.

His face puckered in confusion. “First Nations?”

“I mean American Indian. Or Native American. You know—the ones who lived here before white people showed up. And before those dumb werewolves invaded everything.”

“Well, I guess I’m part Indian,” he said, “like most people in my country.”
“Your country?”

He nodded. “I’m from Mexico.”

“Whoa.” I didn’t know anything about shape shifters down there. He might be something I’d never seen.

The recess bell rang abruptly. Manny slinked off without another word; it seemed like typical feline behavior.

“See ya,” I called after him. He didn’t seem to want to be friends. And let me tell you—rejection sucked for a social animal like me. At least, I thought hyenas were social. The problem was that I’d never met any other of my kind outside the Budovich clan. No other werehyenas lived anywhere nearby, and we didn’t leave town—ever.

Back in class, my senses were on high alert: partly because the wolves were mad at me and partly because of something Jeff Schwartzman was saying.

“I saw it this morning,” he whispered to Doug Felton. “Bigger than any bird I’ve seen.”

“It was just an eagle,” said Doug.

“No way. It was huge.”

My hearing’s about fifteen times better than the average no-tail, so their conversation was easy to follow, even with Mrs. Petticone droning on about the Louisiana Purchase or Gadsden Purchase or some other piece of land the United States bought a long time ago. I used to think history was interesting until she started teaching it.

“The weirdest thing was the head,” Jeff continued. “I didn’t see a beak.”

“Maybe it was too far away,” said Doug.

“No, it flew right over my house.”

“But it was still dark out. You couldn’t have seen it that clearly.”

“Not that dark. Its head was round, like a person’s.”

That last statement made me wonder. A bird with a human head? There were stories about shape shifters who could transform into birds, except I’d never seen one. They were usually monsters in scary stories nobody believed—harpies and sirens and such.

All of a sudden, another sound caught my attention. A rumbling werrrrrrt came from the seat of Tom Cummings’s chair. At first I thought it was a creaky joint, but then I saw how he glanced at his neighbors to see who’d noticed. And that’s when I realized what he’d done. He’d played the trouser trumpet . . . let a toot out the shoot . . . floated an air biscuit . . . you get the idea.

Now, there are two situations when I laugh, each caused by a different side of my nature. The hyena side giggles when I’m nervous or frustrated, but the human side cracks up when something’s funny. And Tom’s butt burp was definitely the second kind.

I tried to keep from laughing out loud—I really did— but after a few seconds, I felt like I was going to burst. Tears streamed from my eyes, right before that pent-up energy blew out in an ear-blowing cackle.

“AAAAA HA HA HA HA!”

Everyone in the classroom turned toward me. Everyone except Tom Cummings, who stared rigidly at his desk. The back of his neck flushed bright red, and when I thought about why he was so embarrassed, it made me laugh even harder.

“Samuel Budovich!” Mrs. Petticone shouted. “What’s gotten into you?”

Every last bit of air had escaped my lungs, so I sucked in a new breath, snorting while I did so. That made other kids laugh. Not Tom Cummings, though. He looked like he wanted to bolt from the room.

Mrs. Petticone’s anger focused on me like a spotlight. “That’s enough out of you, young man! Go to the office right now!” Her finger stabbed straight at the classroom door.

Now, I’d been sent to the office too many times to count, so I knew it wasn’t anything to fuss over. Mrs. Hazel, our principal, was probably the nicest person on earth. She’d talk about my feelings and what I could do to help Mrs. Petticone feel better, and then I’d read a book until the end of the class period.

If only everything in my life could be so easy.

Guest Post: Mark Eastburn, EARNING MY SPOTS

“The first flicker of an idea for Earning My Spots came while I was walking my dog (a giant Newfoundland), watching how he moved, and I wondered what it might feel like to have that sort of body. The thought sparked interest in a possible shape shifter story, but I didn’t want to go the old werewolf route. I’ve always been fascinated with the cultures and history of sub-Saharan Africa, especially the Jewish people of Ethiopia, who have been called the bouda, or “hyena people,” and so I decided to do more research. It turns out that “werehyenas,” or hyena shape shifters, appear in several different mythologies, and that hyena society is completely different from most other hunting species, especially in contrast to the lion–their main competitor on the African plains. Among hyenas, females are dominant. They are larger and stronger than males, and even the lowest-ranking female has more power than the highest-ranking male. The first line of my book, about Sam’s relationship with his hometown’s werewolves, popped into my head shortly thereafter, and I knew he’d start as a misfit who never quite fit in. Over the course of the story, he’d learn about his African roots, and take pride in his true nature. Spotted hyenas are actually accomplished hunters; they aren’t the cowardly scavengers that one might commonly think. In some parts of Africa, hyenas do most of the hunting, and lions chase them off of their kills. That was going to be the main theme of my story, but for reasons I still can’t explain, the story needed to start in Vermont. And so it did. I also wanted to have two characters who’d represent the time I spent living and studying in Mexico, and that’s how Manny (the jaguar) and Rosa (the macaw) were born.

Once I had the basic framework of a story, a lot of scenes quickly popped into place. The main characters would need to travel in order to save Sam’s family, and South America has a lot of fascinating mythology–especially surrounding birds like the condor and an underwater world called El Encante, where pink river dolphins are said to dwell. There’s even a magical creature who walks around the rainforest with backwards feet, and that’s where I knew my characters would have to end up. After those parts came together for Sam’s journey, I decided to include a message about preserving and protecting the environment–a theme close to my heart–and my editor encouraged me to build it throughout the book. In the end, I was very happy with how it all tied together, and I’d definitely like to write a sequel, since Sam, Manny, and Rosa still have plenty of adventure left in them!”

 

mark-eastburn-headshotI teach science, study spiders, turtles, and carnivorous plants, and love to write and spend time out in nature. I also have a strong interest in world cultures and speak Spanish. From 1999 to 2001, I served in the United States Peace Corps as an Agroforestry Volunteer, where I showed rural farmers in Panama how to ranch iguanas, garden vegetables, and conserve soil on hillside plots. My agent is the amazing Lisa Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency, and Earning my Spots is my first published novel. Several others are in the works!

[ARC REVIEW] Ever the Hunted by Erin Summeril

Thank you so much to Beth for sending me a copy<3

28114396Title: Ever the Hunted
Author: Erin Summerill
Series: (Clash of Kingdoms #1)
Pub. Date: December 27th, 2016
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback ARC
Source: Beth Edwards (@YABC)
Rating: 4

Goodreads || B&N || Amazon.com/ca

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

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[ARC REVIEW] The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

I read this a while back, but then proceeded to fall into a slump and now this is incredibly late. I apologize. I also apologize for how negative this review is.

24921954Title: The Thousandth Floor
Author: Katharine McGee
Series: (The Thousandth Floor #1)
Pub. Date: August 30th, 2016
Genres: YA, Science-Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Edelwiess
Rating: 1.5

Goodreads || B&N || Amazon.com/ca

New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall….

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{REVIEW} Supervillainess (Part 2) by Lizzy Ford

30362931Title: Supervillainess
Author: Lizzy Ford
Series: (Part 2)
Pub. Date: June 10th, 2016
Genres: Romance
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 3

Goodreads || Amazon.com/ca

Doctor Kimber Wellington has returned home to Chicago with nothing to his name, not even enough money for underwear. Accompanied by his adopted nanny, Igor, he’s convinced he’s hit rock bottom, and his year in Sand City was a delusion of some sort.

Until he hears the city wants him back. Not as a physician – but as a superhero. Unable to forgive himself for his past mistakes, and convinced no one else who knows the truth about him will want him around, he nonetheless returns to Sand City for the sake of those he cares about.

His newest challenge: allowing himself to become the man he needs to be in order to heal the city and win over the beautiful supervillainess running it.

If anyone can do it, the Doctor can. All he needs is a cape and a little help from his sidekicks.

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[REVIEW] Supervillainess (Part 1) by Lizzy Ford

30177713Title: Supervillainess
Author: Lizzy Ford
Series: (Part 1)
Pub. Date: June 1st, 2016
Genres: Romance
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 3

Goodreads || Amazon.com/ca

Sand City, a town in the Pacific Northwest, where the rents are too high and the rain never stops. On the surface, it appears normal – except this city is run by General Savage, an alleged supervillain.

Fleeing Chicago and the disastrous mistakes of his past, Doctor Kimber Wellington accepts a job at the only hospital willing to hire him. Grateful for a second chance, he ignores the city’s strange obsession with supervillains.

That is, until the daughter of General Savage nearly dies in his arms. Kimber couldn’t be any more different than Reader, the self-professed supervillainess-in-training, who insists she has superpowers that just so happen not to work around him. She’s deranged, violent, abrasive – and has never known kindness from anyone else.

Unfortunately, helping her places Kimber in the crosshairs of Reader’s arch-nemesis. Drawn to the part of her that’s good yet horrified by her dark, violent world, Kimber finds himself at a crossroads: stay in Sand City at the potential cost of his own life, or abandon the city, the people and the compelling supervillainess who need him.

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[BLOG TOUR] The Machine Society by Mike Brooks || Excerpt

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Title: The Machine Society
Author: Mike Brooks
Pub. Date: October 28th, 2016
Genre: Dystopian, Science fiction, Action & adventure, Visionary & metaphysical
Synopsis

Mike Brooks’ debut novel is an adventure story set in a dystopian future in which our taste for branding, consumerism and artificial reality is boundless. In /The Machine Society/, he weaves together psychological insight, philosophical reflection and spiritual inquiry to give us a novel that is both a deep satire on modern life and a rich metaphor for our longing to find inner peace.

Dean Rogers lives in the Perimeter of New London, holding down a soul-destroying job, surrounded by people who have lost the will to communicate. He is afraid his debts will spiral out of control, resulting in him being cast out of the city, outside of the Security Wall. Meanwhile, in the Better Life Complex, New London’s rich elite live in plastic luxury, unaware of the sinister secrets that underpin their world.

/The Machine Society/ is an original and intelligent sci-fi thriller, and a heartfelt rally cry for the soul’s liberation.

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