Monday, November 19, 2018

Review - The Winner's Crime by: Marie Rutkoski

Synopsis: Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

That ending. Dang! I absolutely loved The Winner's Curse and was so excited when I finally got a chance to read The Winner's Crime. I needed more Kestrel and Arin and couldn't wait to see another part of the this world.

The beginning of the book leaves right off where we ended in The Winners Curse. I absolutely loved seeing the new characters, the constant tension, and the frightening turns that seemed to flow to each page. I will admit that about half way through the book started to drop for me, and I thought the ending was abrupt. Of course, that could be the evil way that authors love to leave us hanging ;).

Overall, it was a fantastic continuation of a fantasy world that I adore being in. I love the constant suspenseful moments and the world building between the different areas. With how the book ended, I cannot wait to get my hands on the next one.

- 4 out of 5 Splatters -

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cover Reveal + Giveaway - Scales by: Nicole Conway

Today Nicole Conway, Owl Hollow Press, and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover and an exclusive content for SCALES, her new MG/YA Fantasy Book which releases in 2019! Check out the awesome cover and enter the giveaway!

On to the reveal! 

Title: SCALES (Spirits of Chaos, #1)
Author: Nicole Conway
Pub. Date: 2019
Publisher: Owl Hollow Press
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: ?
Find it: Goodreads

When New York City faces the threat of an ancient evil, a teenage boy must use a magical bracelet to transform into a monster-slaying dragon superhero.
Koji Owens is the new kid … again. As the only son of an Air Force F-16 pilot, he’s learned to adapt and survive every time they move. It’s not easy starting over with new friends and schools every two years, but when the Owens family makes their final move to New York, Koji finally has hope for a normal high school life—that is, until he finds a strange bracelet in his locker.

Transformed into a storm-summoning dragon warrior, Koji finds himself caught up in a world of ancient powers, secret identities, and colossal monsters threatening to destroy his new home. But these awesome powers come with strings attached, and revealing his true identity could mean losing everything he loves. With his family and friends now in mortal danger and New York City in flames, Koji must find the courage to become the hero they need and face down an enemy hiding in plain sight.

A comic-obsessed teenage misfit embraces his inner hero in this action-packed adventure that will leave you ready to get your scales on!

Piercing light bloomed from the totem scale. It swept over me and took away my pain, molding and stretching me into my full dragon form. The instant the searing energy coursed through my body, I launched myself into the sky.

I didn’t have a single second to waste.

Now that I was a beast of comparable size, I crested the skyscrapers in a few powerful beats of my wings. From a few blocks away, the wyvern spotted me. It let out a howl of fury as it surged straight for me. I answered with a battle cry of my own, driving more and more power into every beat of my mighty black wings.

Two F-22 fighter jets rolled in on either side, joining me in aerial formation. Their engines roared, and both pilots gave me a confirming thumb’s up. They were following me in for the attack.

I’d never felt so cool in my entire life.

I clashed with the wyvern in the air over Central Park, clamping my jaws around his throat. I prepared to give him a taste of my lightning, the same way I had the crocodile monster. One good jolt and maybe I could bring him down.

Before I get a good grip, he swung his spiked tail and whacked me across the eyes. I let go, snatching back with a roar.

            He dove at me; his toothy mandible jaws open wide to rip my throat out.

A sudden plume of fire scorched his hide and sent him reeling. I drew back, wary of the blistering flames.

            Another giant dragon clashed in battle, had scales as red as fresh blood and a ridge of tall, slender black spines all the way down her back. My breath caught. Madeline? She’d gone full-form, too?

She attacked the wyvern mercilessly, pinning him under another blast of her fiery breath.

            Shaking off the blow to my head, I charged headlong back into the fight, lightning sizzling and popping off my open jaws. We had to get him on the ground. If we could pin him there, he’d be within range of ground fire and an easier target for our air support. We could contain the damage to the rest of the city, too.

So I went for one of the wyvern’s wings full-force.

            Fyurei had him distracted. He never saw me coming. I swooped in to break one of his wings at the shoulders with a single powerful crunch of my jaws and sharp jerk of my head. The creature screeched and kicked, floundering with his one good wing and swinging his tail like a medieval mace. The bulbous, spiky tip struck one of the F-22 jets and sent the aircraft flipping through the air end over end. Not good. I watched the aircraft fall, waiting for the pilot to eject.

            He didn’t.

            I didn’t hesitate—I dove straight after the jet, summoning every bit of speed I had. The jet spiraled, smoking and streaking toward the ground. I threw myself the final distance with a desperate cry, jaws open wide.

I caught the tail of the jet in my teeth about a hundred feet shy of the ground. As soon as my jaws clamped onto the metal, I reared back, kicked my legs out, and flared for an emergency landing right in the middle of the park.

It took a second for the dust, snow, and trees to settle.

Picking the jet carefully out of my mouth, I held it up to my huge dragon eyeball like a little kid’s toy. Inside the cockpit, the tiny pilot was giving me a shaky thumb’s up. He was okay.

I gave him my best dragon smile, terrifying as it probably was, and placed his jet, right side up, on a grassy spot in the park. Then I turned around to get back to business. I still had some wyvern rear end to roast and an evil headmaster in dire need of reeducation.

About Nicole:

MY NAME IS NICOLE CONWAY and I love to write stories! I've been writing books since I was very young, and am blessed beyond measure to be able to do it now as a full time career. Although I sometimes step out into other genres, I primarily write Fantasy for teens and middle graders.

I graduated from Auburn University in 2012, which is also where I met my husband. As a military family, we move frequently and have lived numerous places all around the world. We have one very energetic son, Ethan. We also have two dogs (French Brittanys) named Joey (currently 5 months old) and Phoebe (4 years old) and a ball python named Noodle Nagini.

For inquiries on how to book me for a school visit, presentation, or interest in my future or current projects, please contact my amazing literary agent, FRAN BLACK, of Literary Counsel.

Giveaway Details:
One lucky winner will win an ARC of SCALES, US Only.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review - Just Pretending by: Leah and Kate Rooper

Synopsis: It's not easy being royal. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline wears her crown proudly, but between her duties and her overprotective big brother, the idea of romance is just a dream. But a chance encounter in Chicago changes all that….

Sure, seventeen-year-old Tyler Evans loves playing hockey, but he's more concerned about providing for his dad and little sister. Then he meets Eva--and falls head-over-heels in love—and he has two more problems. One, she's his best friend's little sister. Two, she wears a crown.

But then Eva accidentally mistakes Tyler for a visiting prince, and for the first time, Tyler doesn't feel like a nobody. He knows he has to tell her the truth…but not yet.

His plan? To keep up the royal charade as long as it takes to convince Eva he’s the guy for her. Even if he’s lying to everyone…including himself.

Disclaimer: May cause disillusionment. Those girls looking to find their Prince Charming might consider scouting out hockey rinks.

I will start off by saying this is the first book in The Chicago Flacons series I have read. If you're looking for a super cute fairy tale story, then this is for you!

With the plot, I did like the fact that we got to see Chicago but also another country all together. I wish the author would have explored these a bit more or focused more on one location. With the art aspect, I really enjoyed that as art is something I also love. Speaking of parts of the story line, I really enjoy that the authors chose to speak about a disability. Disabilities are extremely common in our society and I feel a lot of time in books they are pushed under the rugs. So, I really commend Leah and Kate for willing speaking about a topic in their story.

As far as characters go, my favorite character was Madison. I love how helpful and upbeat she is. She always seems to see the good in every situation. Also, the real Tiberius was hysterical and he was a perfect comic relief. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with our main characters. With Tyler, I thought he was too hard on himself and a bit of a cry-baby. The one thing I really enjoyed about him was how he was with his sister Millie.  With Eva she was a bit too "royal" for me and didn't really break down even around Tyler whom she supposedly loves. Then, there's Daniel who I love the over-protected older brother thing, but he took it a bit far for me most times.

Overall, Just Pretending was a super cute read with an ending you know and want coming. I think Kate and Leah Rooper on are their way to creating swoon-worthy contemporaries!

Thank you to Entangled and Netgalley for the copy.

- 3 out of 5 Splatters -

Monday, October 29, 2018

Trick or Treat Blog Tour

Welcome to the First Annual “Trick or Treat” Blog Tour hosted by Moonlit Reads!
This tour is the first to come of many. It takes place during the last 13 days of October leading up to Halloween Day. Trick or treat along the tour finding giveaways, interviews, blurbs, and more! You can find the start of the tour and its schedule here!
Now, let the spooky begin!

I am so excited to be a part of this tour! I love Halloween, and am so excited to be slowly getting back into the book world. It's been way too long!

Today, I was lucky enough to get to interview Shannon M. Parker who wrote The Rattled Bones. PLUS, I even scored an interview with Rilla from the story! This stop is definitely a TREAT on the tour and if you're lucky there may even be a giveaway... BOO!

Hi Rilla! I am so excited to have you here today! So, it's Halloween, what do you dress up as? Have any parties planned?

So…I’m being haunted by a ghost who scratches messages into my windowsill and sings to me from the sea. Every day is scary so I’ll pass on Halloween or parties. 

You live in Maine, what is your favorite spot to go to? What do you do there? I absolutely love Acadia State Park!

My favorite place to be is on my lobster boat, hauling traps from the Gulf of Maine. It’s the work my family’s done for generations, though I’m the first girl to take the helm.  

It seems like you have a love for the ocean, what draws you to the sea? Personally, the beach is my happy place.

The ocean is another world. With its own temperament. I was taught to respect the sea and her changing will, all while drawing up food from the depths, feeding my family. But nothing beats watching the length of a fin whale rise alongside my boat, or racing a pod of dolphins through the open channel. 

--> Thank you so much for stopping by! I won't keep you from your boat any longer!

Rilla seems like such an awesome woman, and now lets talk to the author who brought her to life... Shannon!

Hi Shannon! I'm so happy to have you here today. Your book The Rattled Bones has an eerie premise to it. Do you enjoy anything horror? Why did you decide to go that route?

I’m a big fan of being scared by stories—either written or told around a campfire. Gruesome horror isn’t for me, but I’ll curl up with any book that makes my skin shiver when shadows dart across the room! In The Rattled Bones, my contemporary protagonist is forced to deal with unsettling issues from the past—and her family’s suspected role in the horrors—so I needed a way to bridge today with a hundred years ago. Insert the haunting :) 

In your bio, it says you've traveled to over three dozen countries. Which one was your favorite and why? Pictures to make me jealous is always welcome, too. :)

Australia! No contest. It’s where I held a koala and kissed a crocodile (a baby one, but still)

HELD A KOALA?? Yep, you're winning for sure! ...In the book The Rattle Bones it seems to have a focus on the ocean and an island, do you have a love for the sea as your character Rilla does?

I do! The ocean is my home. I live on the coast of the bold Atlantic and my favorite thing to do is kayak to an island populated only by trees and seabirds. Or dive into a crashing wave. 

*sigh* Me too, I love the ocean and hope to move closer to it one day. Alright, fun question! If you could dress up as ANYTHING for Halloween, no cost, no limitations, what would you be?

Six-year-old me. Just to remember what it was like to believe that anything (and everything) was possible. And magical.

- Dress up or pass out candy? Dress up, eat candy
- Haunted house or haunted hay ride? HAUNTED HOUSE ON A HAUNTED HAY WAGON!
- Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers? Freddy
- Werewolf or vampire? She-wolf
- Pumpkin spice anything or candy corn? Candy corn. Candy anything.

Well, I thought that last was fun... but you just made me feel all the feels! I agree, going back to believing in all the magic of the world would be perfect. Thank you SO much for stopping by, Shannon. It's been such a pleasure!

Shannon Parker lives on the Atlantic coast in a house full of boys. She’s traveled to over three dozen countries and has a few dozen more to go. She works in education and can usually be found rescuing dogs, chickens, old houses and wooden boats. Shannon has a weakness for chocolate chip cookies and ridiculous laughter—ideally, at the same time. Find her at

Unearthing years of buried secrets, Rilla Brae is haunted by ghostly visions tied to the tainted history of a mysterious island in this haunting novel from the author of The Girl Who Fell.

Maine-bred, independent Rilla Brae is no stranger to the deep. She knows the rhythms of hard work and harder seas. But when she experiences the sudden death of her father, the veil between the living and the dead blurs and she begins to be haunted by a girl on a nearby, uninhabited island. The girl floats a song over the waves, and it is as beautiful as it is terrifying. Familiar and distant.

Then Rilla meets Sam, a University of Southern Maine archeology student tasked with excavating the very island where the ghostly girl has appeared. Sam sifts the earth looking for the cultural remains of an island people who were forcibly evicted by the state nearly a hundred years ago. Sam tells Rilla the island has a history no locals talk about—if they know about it at all—due to the shame the events brought to the working waterfront community. All Rilla knows for sure is that the island has always been there—an eerie presence anchored in the stormy sea. Now Sam’s work and the ghostly girl’s song lure Rilla to the island’s shores.

As Rilla helps Sam to unearth the island’s many secrets, Rilla’s visions grow—until the two discover a tragedy kept silent for years. And it’s a tragedy that has everything to do with Rilla’s past.

One winner will win a HC or PPBK of The Rattle Bones and a $10 Amazon gift card! 

- US Only
- One winner
- Giveaway will run until 11/5 at 12am.
- Entrant must be willing to give their address and email to claim their prize.
- Winner must respond within 48 hours.

Oct 19-Moonlit Reads (intro/excerpt)
Oct 20- Auburn Reads (interview)
Oct 21- The Book Bratz Scary books!
Oct 22- Shirley (Blurb)
Oct 23- The Bibliophile (artist feature)
Oct 24- Aimee, Always (Listy)
Oct 25- Little Miss Bookworm (excerpt)
Oct 26- Writing Follies (interview)
Oct 27- Between the Folded Pages (artist feature)
Oct 28- Perks of Being Noura -Villians!
Oct 29- Shorty Says - You're here!
Oct 30- Browsing for Books (excerpt)
Oct 31- Ohana Reads (interview)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Review - The Darkest Star by: Jennifer L. Armentrout


When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen...but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she'd only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head...

Being back in the world of Luxen is everything. I mean come on, she writes about sexy aliens. How can you not just be in complete awe? The Darkest Star was everything I wanted and more. I devoured this book like a $2 taco on taco Tuesday, no joke. There’s instant action and angst right in the first chapter. The sparks don’t stop there though, they continue right through the whole book until you’re swooning at the last page and kicking yourself for finishing it so fast.

There are so many surprises and secrets in The Darkest Star and yet by the end of the book I still have many questions. I know Jennifer is going to continue to pack the punches (literally and figuratively) with this series and honestly I cannot wait to get my greedy little hands on it. Well, is it greedy if you love it so much?

At first with our main characters you meet Evie and Luc and think well here’s another innocent girl meets bad boy story. However, not really. Yes, Evie is ultimate good girl however we see her finally start breaking rules right in the beginning...busting out of her shell so you can say. Luc on the other hand is absolutely cocky however you quickly find out an all-around amazing guy. I highly enjoyed these two together and ship them all the way.

Overall, Jennifer L. Armentrout hit another one out of the park. I am really not sure she’s capable of disappointment. Drama, laughs, and sexy times are all present in her books and The Darkest Star is no exception. You absolutely want to grab this one when it comes out next week!

- 5 out of 5 Splatters -

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Blog Tour - The Halves of Us - Excerpt

About the Book:

Title: THE HALVES OF US (The Halves of Us Trilogy #1)

Author: Sydney Paige Richardson
Pub. Date: October 9, 2018
Publisher: The Parliament House
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 480
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooks

Twin Sisters: one destined to rule, one cursed to destroy. 
Some say blood is thicker than water. But for twin sisters, Adie and Aura, their connection runs even deeper than blood.After investigating a surprise attack carried out by dark souls controlled by the Wicked Willow, an evil  residing in a neighboring region, Aura uncovers a family secret: she is the fulfillment of a curse placed upon her family centuries ago.
While Aura is destined to destroy their planet, Thindoral, Adie is fated to follow in their mother’s footsteps and become Ruler, but even Adie’s path comes with revelations. Dangerous premonitions plague her dreams, all depicting Thindoral’s demise at the hand of her sister.
As darkness takes control of her mind, Aura must determine whether defying fate and time is the choice that will seal her destruction, or if self-sacrifice will save all she holds dear. Meanwhile, Adie is faced with an impossible decision: save her sister, or protect their world? 

AGE 12
A  canvas of dark indigo filled Thindoral’s night sky, and the silver light of the stars reflected the mischief in Aura’s eyes. She counted them one by one, waiting for the Guards to finish their rounds. Waiting for the moons to rise high in the sky. Waiting for the right moment, when the palace was asleep and she could use the stolen key.

As the residents of the Dome grew quiet and Aura could no longer hear the hustle and bustle from the Town Square below, she tiptoed toward the door adjoining her room to her sister’s. Reaching into her pocket, she ran her fingertips across the roughly carved key to the Holding Room which she’d stolen from her Uncle Gossamer earlier that evening.

She shivered as the cold brass handle of the door met her palm. The wooden door creaked as she eased it open.

The thin white silk of the bed’s canopy fell in folds as it twirled down the dark wood of the bedposts. Aura tiptoed across the room and looked at her twin. Adie slept peacefully. The moonlight cast through the windows of the double doors leading out to their shared balcony. Aura knelt on the floor beside the bed and tugged on one of her sister’s scarlet braids, a replica of her own. She hid, crouching down as Adie rustled awake.

Adie sat up, her eyes still heavy with sleep. Aura jumped up onto her sister’s bed, giggling.

“Aura!” Adie said, throwing a pillow at her sister. She lay back down and covered her face with another pillow.

“Come on!” Aura pleaded.

“It’s the middle of the night. Let me sleep,” Adie begged, her voice muffled beneath the plush fabric.

“Look what I have . . .” Aura’s voice trailed off as she pulled the key out of her pocket. Chiseled from petrified wood, the key’s intricate design cast shadows from the moonlight onto Adie’s bed.

Adie raised her head, her sleepy eyes growing wide as intrigue filled them. She crawled across the bed, taking the key from Aura. “How did you . . . when did you—” She stopped.

Aura failed at hiding her smile. Adie always made her thieving ways feel like grand accomplishments. “We have to go tonight,” she whispered, taking the key back from Adie and putting it in her pocket.

She motioned for Adie to follow her as she made her way to the door leading out from her sister’s room and into the hall. She could hear Adie’s hesitant footsteps coming up beside her. She signaled Adie to stay back as she reached for the door handle.

Aura tucked a crimson curl behind her ear and tried to steady her breathing before peeking out. Her heartbeat drummed in her ears, nearly drowning out the nearby footsteps as Michael, Security Major of the Guard, paced the hallway as he did every night. The gold emblem of Thindoral’s sacred pendant, the Rokis, shimmered on the back of his dark blue uniform beneath the dim light cast from the lanterns on the walls.

She spun out of view when Michael glanced over his shoulder, and she silently begged Adie to stay quiet. They held their breath, and Aura swore the beating of her heart was now loud enough to give them away. Closing her eyes, she prayed he hadn’t seen her. If he had, he would never leave his post again.

After pleading to Fate herself, Aura’s gaze shifted out her bedroom window as she waited. Two silver rings lined Thindoral’s largest moon, reflecting bright light through her windows and creating a soft hue around a worried Adie in front of her. Michael’s footsteps faded down the granite hallway as he continued the last of his rounds throughout the Dome, and a grin stretched across Aura’s face.

“Are you sure we should do this?” Adie’s voice peaked as she stepped back toward her bed. “Mother always said the Rokis must never be touched by anyone but the Ruler, and—”

Aura stared at her. “Mother says lots of things.”

“What about Michael?” Adie frowned as she stepped out of bed.

“He just finished his rounds. Come on!”

Aura opened the door and searched both directions of the hallway. Michael was nowhere to be seen. She took Adie’s hand as they moved down the lonely hallway, followed only by the sounds of their bare feet pitter-pattering across the granite floors and the light scratching of the designs etching into the walls.

Aura released her grip on Adie’s hand and stopped to watch the pencil-like lines swirl around one another, forming mesmerizing odd shapes and letters. Her mother always told her these were secret messages left by the Designers, the godly beings who created the universe and all life within. Those worthy of their secret messages could decipher them. But to this day, none knew what the messages meant. Some areas of the walls repeated, and some changed as someone touched them.

Aura reached out to touch a design, and a flower bloomed where her fingers had just been. As the petals grew larger, her breath caught when the corners became black and shriveled, ultimately falling away from the stem and fading back into the colors of the wall. Her brow furrowed as she skimmed her hands along the rough lines of the walls. The texture moved under her palm like worms through thick dirt.

“Aura! Come on!” Adie whispered, breaking Aura from her trance as she grabbed her hand, pulling her farther down the dimly lantern-lit hallways.

They peeked down where the corridor ended at the Holding Room.

“No Guards!” Aura smirked, looking to Adie.
They squeezed each other’s hands tighter as they walked toward the towering silver door.

“Are you sure it’s in there tonight?” Adie asked.

Aura nodded. “Every fortnight, Mother leaves it in here for one evening. She says something about it being too heavy to sleep with.”

They stopped in front of the door, looking up as far as they could. Even though the dark of night had taken over the Dome, the door to the Holding Room still glowed. The silver designs carved into its surface reflected in their eyes. An even brighter golden light draped the sacred design of the Rokis which hung above it.

“You did make sure you got the right key, didn’t you?” Adie asked. Her head remained tilted back, examining the door as she fidgeted with her braid.

Aura turned and faced her sister. A mirror image of herself nervously smiled back as she retrieved the key from her pocket.

She handed it to Adie, but she shook her head. “You open it,” Adie insisted.

They walked forward, hand in hand. As they approached the door, Aura broke free from her sister. Adie waited a few steps behind, sneaking glances back down the hallway.
Aura’s hand trembled as she slid the key in the door and twisted. The loud click of the door unlocking hung in the air, and Adie ran toward her.

“Shhh!” Adie hushed. Aura shrugged and grinned as she twisted the handle. They gazed over their shoulders, peering down the hallway. Adie sighed heavily, relieved as she looked back at Aura and nodded. They were still alone.

Together, they gritted their teeth and pulled at the door with all their strength.

“Keep pulling,” Adie whispered as it creaked open and she slipped in.

Aura pushed her way through the opening, and the door closed behind them.

Plush velvet curtains gathered at the sides of the stone walls around the perimeter of the room, revealing exquisite stained-glass windows. The moonlight poured in, bouncing off the tall ceilings, and a deep rush of color danced across the floor. Aura looked at her blue dress, which now took on a deep red, mimicking the lighting. She twirled around and smiled as the ends of her dress broke the kaleidoscope of colors reflecting on the floor.

“Aura!” Adie whispered as she pointed to the stairs in the center of the room, leading up to a pedestal.

Hand in hand they marched up the four giant stone steps. There lay the Rokis given to them by the Designers, who harnessed the power of a star in its center gem to protect them from the evil residing on their planet. The gem radiated a bright blue light, and twelve golden triangles jutted outward around it, reflecting a ray of sapphire on their faces.

“Touch it!” Aura said.

“No! Mother says I have to wait,” Adie replied.

“Come on! We didn’t come here just to look at it. I mean, it’ll be yours one day, anyway.” Aura stood tall and struck a pose, mimicking their mother. “The Rokis belongs to the youngest born, the future Ruler.” She giggled and covered her mouth as the sound echoed throughout the Holding Room. “What’s wrong with touching it now?” she whispered.

Aura watched her sister’s brow crease in thought as she stared at the Rokis, entranced by its beauty. The light of the center gem captured the jade color of her eyes. Adie shivered suddenly and looked back up at Aura with hesitation.

“Together?” Aura asked, taking her sister’s hand.

Adie gulped and nodded slowly.

As they brought their hands above the center of the Rokis, Aura could feel Adie’s tremble below hers. She closed her eyes and lowered their hands onto the blue gem. As soon as she felt their palms reach the center, a surge of light burst throughout the room, throwing Aura down the steps.

The bright light rose higher, climbing up the walls. Pain coursed through Aura’s elbow as it smacked on the floor. Clutching her arm, she tried to stifle her tears. Taking a deep breath, she moved from her stomach to a sitting position and looked around, searching for her sister.

Her bottom lip trembled. “Adie?” she whispered. “Adie!” she whispered louder.

Adie was gone.

A blue light collected around the ceiling, swirling above her. Silent tears fell down her cheeks as her trembling evolved into shakes.

The light came together into a ball in the middle of the ceiling, and Aura froze. It shot down toward the ground, and she shielded her eyes with the back of her hands. Once she felt the light dissipate, she let her hands fall and opened her eyes. Motionless, Adie lay on the floor a few feet in front of her.

“Adie! Adie! Wake up, you must wake up!” Aura ran over to her twin, hushing her voice as she heard the Guards coming down the hallway.

Adie groaned and opened her eyes.

Aura gasped and stepped back. “Adie, your eyes! They’re blue!” She wiped her tears and looked over at the door as the voices on the other side grew closer. “Come on, we have to get you up. We need to go!” Aura said, helping Adie to her feet.

They ran over to the curtains and hid behind them.

“Stand still and don’t make a sound,” Aura begged.

Adie leaned against Aura’s shoulder as they both peeked out from behind the curtains.

“The key. Where’s the key?!” Gossamer shouted from outside the Holding Room door.

“Sir, it’s open . . .” replied one of the Guards as they eased into the room.

Aura pulled the curtain back over them, listening to Adie’s heavy breathing. She tried to calm her down, hoping the Guards wouldn’t discover them.

“I was making my way back to my room, when I saw a bright light come from behind the door. That’s when I discovered my key missing . . .” Gossamer’s deep voice bellowed.

“We were on guard, sir, but saw nothing,” another Guard replied.

Aura peeked out from the curtains once more. Gossamer walked up the tall steps to the pedestal, a puzzled expression on his face.

“The Rokis is still here, unharmed.”

“It could’ve been the stained glass windows reflecting the light, sir,” suggested the short, squatty Guard.

Gossamer spun around to face him, and Aura quickly stepped back behind the curtain.

“Have the other Guards stand directly outside the entrance. We’ll begin a search for the key.”
“Minister, could you have possibly misplac—” the Guard began.

“The keys are always on me.” Gossamer pulled on the iron loop around his belt. Hundreds of keys dangled atop one another and clinked together as he released the loop. “They never leave my side. And remember, no one is to touch the Rokis but the Ruler herself. Its powers are far more than we can comprehend. Have the Guards check all the exits. Make sure everyone is accounted for. The last time this happened . . .” He paused, his hands still in fists. “Double the Guards around the Ruler and Adie and Aura’s chambers.”

Adie gasped, and Aura quickly covered her sister’s mouth. She narrowed her eyes at Adie in a silent plea to keep quiet. She frowned upon seeing her sister’s eyes remained bright blue. They stood perfectly still as Gossamer and the Guards quieted. Aura prayed they didn’t come any closer.

“Sir, I don’t think we should alarm the staff. We haven’t had an intrusion in years.”

“We take no risks!” Gossamer shouted.

Aura peeked out as her uncle walked toward the entrance. His face reddened as he took a few long breaths. She’d never seen him this angry.

“Check the exits. Do not wake the Ruler. I will inform her myself. Keep Guards at the door until the key is recovered,” he ordered.

THE DOOR CLOSED BEHIND THEM, and Adie removed Aura’s hand from her mouth. She peered out into the empty room. “We have to get out of here!” Adie’s stomach churned as her nerves took over.

Aura stepped out from the curtain and ran after Adie, hugging her tightly. “What happened? I thought you were gone!” She pulled away from Adie, wiping away new tears. “And why are your eyes blue?”

“I don’t know . . .” Adie tried to hide the welling in her eyes. “But if Uncle Gossamer finds us in here, we’ll be in terrible trouble. We have to get back to our rooms.”
Aura nodded in agreement. “I’ll leave the key here. He’ll think he dropped it.” She knelt and carefully placed the key on the floor.

“I suggest we pretend this never happened.” Adie bit her lip to hide its trembling.

“Agreed.” She made her way to Adie, hugging her again. “You had me so worried. Where did you go?”

Her sister’s arms clung tightly to her. A warm tear fell down Adie’s cheek. “I don’t know. Let’s worry about getting out of here first.”

Aura pulled away from their embrace, heading toward the entrance of the Holding Room.

“Wait! The Guards?” Adie stepped in front of her, blocking her way toward the door.
Aura tugged Adie’s braid. “Those are the same Guards who were sleeping through their shift. How do you think we got in here without being detected?” Her mouth curled into a mischievous grin.

“No! No! Aura, what if they are on the other side?”

“We can’t hide in here forever,” Aura replied.

“Maybe we just confess . . .”

“And explain to Mother what happened?” Aura said.

Adie froze, holding her breath as Aura cracked the door and glanced through the opening.

She closed the door slowly and turned toward Adie. “There are two Guards with their back to us. We’re going to count to three and make a run straight out of here. Got it?”
Adie nodded back at her and finally breathed.

“Hey,” Aura said as she reached for Adie’s hand. “They’re on the other side of the door, toward the left. We can make it. Count with me. One . . .”

“Two,” Adie replied.

“Three!” they whispered as they slipped out of the tiny opening of the door and darted down the corridor.

“They didn’t see us!” Aura said, but Adie dared not look back.

They continued to run down the hallway and dashed into Adie’s room. Adie shut the door quietly behind her as they heard footsteps coming down the hallway.

“Quick! Into bed!” Aura whispered.

They both jumped into Adie’s bed and huddled together.

“Close your eyes!”
“Shh!” Adie responded.

Her bedroom door creaked opened, allowing a sliver of light halfway into the room. Adie squeezed her eyes shut as she heard Gossamer sigh and close the door.

Aura pushed the covers back and jumped out of bed, listening to his footsteps disappear down the hall. Adie opened her eyes and turned over, clutching one of her pillows as Aura got back in bed with a satisfied grin on her face.

“Adie, your eyes aren’t blue anymore!” she exclaimed. Her smile grew wider.

Adie stood and walked over to the dark wood vanity by her bed. She examined herself in the mirror. Emerald eyes stared back at her. She pulled at the puffy, tired skin beneath them.

“Now are you going to tell me what happened?” Aura asked.

Adie’s hands dropped to her side. She continued to stare at her reflection. She blinked and froze as the whites of her eyes vanished and went black. She blinked again and the emerald color returned. Taking in a deep breath, she walked back over to the bed, shaking her head and lying down.

“I don’t exactly know, but I think we should promise to never talk about it ever again. If Mother were to find out—”

“She won’t, but I must know!” Aura begged. “Adie, you disappeared—”

Adie looked at her sister, frizzy red ringlets framed her face. She sighed, sitting up and facing Aura. “I don’t know where I was, but there was this tall beautiful tree.” Her eyes grew wide at the vivid memory. “It had long, thin branches that swayed in the wind. They filled the space around me. There was so many I couldn’t see past them! I walked closer to the trunk of the tree, but I had to tilt my head to see the top.” She hesitated.

Her sister’s curious expression was opposite of the worry in her own.

“Then there was this gust of wind, and I turned as a black cloud of smoke came straight toward me. The branches started to lose their leaves, and what I could see of the sky was changing to red.” She paused, fearing her heart would beat straight out of her chest. “So I started running. The next thing I knew, you told me to get up . . .” Adie trailed off.

“Why didn’t I see the tree?” Aura asked, looking down at her hands.

“I don’t know. Maybe I just imagined it all.” Adie said, trying to convince herself nothing happened. She looked at Aura, whose eyes remained down, deep in thought. “Now promise,” she said.

“Promise what?”

“We never talk about it to anyone. We pretend it never happened.”

“What if your eyes turn blue again?” she asked.

“They won’t. Just promise, please. Okay?”

“Promise.” Aura agreed.

Adie hugged her sister. She closed her eyes, remembering the dark cloud coming toward her. She could never tell Aura the rest of what she’d seen. She buried her face in her sister’s embrace, trying to remove the image from her mind, but the memory flashed across her eyelids, mocking her.

She remembered hearing Aura’s voice and turning to see her sister standing a few feet away, hiding in the thin branches of the tree. A dark smoke-like cloud came from around Aura, charging toward Adie. Aura’s black eyes and haunting smile made Adie shudder.
She must never tell anyone.

About Sydney:
Even before I could hold a pencil in my hand, I was making up stories in my head. I wrote my first book in the second grade, Girls [sorry Lena Dunham], about me and my best friends in college [because college was super cool when you were 8] who went on treasure hunts and fought bad guys with our super powers. My second grade teacher was so impressed with me, she laminated a cover and bound it. That will forever be the moment I dreamed of holding a copy of my own book and placing it on a shelf.

Now all grown up, my head still stays in the fantasy world, fashioning worlds where the power of a star can be harnessed and used for time travel, flying is just as easy as walking here on earth – and my best friends are fairies. My characters are dark and lost individuals, but your love for them will grow when you realize not everything is black and white. I am represented by Rebecca Angus at Golden Wheat Literary.

I have a three book deal with The Parliament House with Book One of my current trilogy, The Halves of Us, scheduled to be published in 10/9/2018.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will win a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International.

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Check out the rest of the tour!

Week One:
10/8/2018- BookHoundsInterview
10/9/2018- Popthebutterfly ReadsReview
10/10/2018- Shortie SaysExcerpt
10/11/2018- Random Bookish BanterReview
10/12/2018- Oh Hey! Books.Interview

Week Two:
10/15/2018- Do You Dog-ear?Review
10/16/2018- Ace ReadsExcerpt
10/17/2018- Rockin' Book ReviewsExcerpt
10/18/2018- here is what I read blogExcerpt
10/19/2018- Two Chicks on BooksReview