Lorie Langdon

GILT HOLLOW

Erin Lindsey

THE BLOODSWORN

Jack Getze

BIG SHOES Official Blog Tour

Juan Carlos Alonso

Ancient Earth Journal: The Late Jurassic: Notes, drawings, and observations from prehistory

Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

GEMINA

Marieke Nijkamp

THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

Ella Griffin

THE FLOWER ARRANGEMENT

D.J. MacHale

THE LIBRARY BOOK1: CURSE OF THE BOGGIN OFFICIAL NERD BLAST

Lorie Langdon

GILT HOLLOW

Todd Fahnestock

THE WISHING WORLD Official Blog Tour

Thursday, September 29, 2016

{Nerd Blast} Hockey Karma by Howard Shapiro



Series: The Forever Friends Series (Book 3)
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Animal Media Group LLC (November 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0986148938
ISBN-13: 978-0986148934



Official Book Blast for Hockey Karma by Howard Shapiro

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The highly anticipated sequel to the award winning “The Hockey Saint” taking place ten years after “Saint” ends. The legendary Jeremiah “Jake” Jacobson, now thirty two, has been the world’s best hockey player over his fourteen year career because of his out of this world talent level and his smart play. But he can’t stay on top forever, and when he starts making mistakes on the ice, his career and family life start to crumble.

At the same time, Tom Leonard, his agent and best friend, is completely overwhelmed by a project that he and Jake were supposed to be working on together. A project that could have a huge impact on people throughout their city in need of a helping hand. As Jake sinks deeper into a funk over his lost status due to his deteriorating play and the emergence of teammate and rookie phenom Barclay Pedersen, Tom realizes he’s on his own. At the same time he rediscovers someone from his past who he never thought he’d see again. In that burgeoning relationship, Tom discovers the importance of taking chances and starts to believe in himself.

Can Jake break out of his downward spiral and Tom finally find the courage to step out of Jake’s shadow?


You can purchase Hockey Karma at the following Retailer:


Book Nerd Spotlight

I live in Pittsburgh, PA with my wife and two sons. I am the Controller for the Pittsburgh-based Visual Effects firm, Animal Inc., and I have written four children’s books and "The Stereotypical Freaks" will be my debut Graphic Novel.

My 2008 book, "Hockey Player for Life", has been the #1 downloaded children’s hockey e-book on Amazon’s Kindle chart since its arrival as an e-book in November of 2011.

My "Hockey Days" book was the only book featured in the December 2007 Sporting News Annual Gift Guide as a Best Buy Gift for Children. Through a corporate
sponsorship program I set up (and maintain), since the 2010-11 season, both of my children’s hockey books have been given to NHL teams (over 2,500 copies to date) for use in their community and educational initiatives.

Since 2006 my annual charity raffle, which he matches dollar for dollar donated, has raised funds for several hockey-related charities including the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Hockey Fights Cancer and the Keith and Lisa Primeau Scholarship Fund.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Guest Post with Ella Griffin


Book Nerd Guest Post

Ella Griffin always wanted to be a writer, but before she got around to it she was a waitress, a movie extra, a pickle-factory worker, a travel writer, and an award-winning advertising copywriter. Her debut novel, Postcards from the Heart, was published in 2011. The Flower Arrangement is her third novel.

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Defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in love with words. I collected strange and wonderful ones the way other little girls collected Barbie and Sindy Dolls. I can still remember the thrill of ‘minaret’ and ‘flabbergasted’ and ‘luminescence.’

In my teens, I collected more complicated things. The quivering tension of a family row, the frigid chill between two school friends who liked the same boy. I eavesdropped at bus stops and wrote scraps of dialogue and ideas for stories in the margins of my schoolbooks. I would have died if anyone read them. Those scribbled notes felt more secret to me than any diary.

I was the youngest of six, you see. The smallest voice in a loud, unruly, articulate, academic and very critical family. Like so many creative kids, I was way too shy to step out of the shadows into the light.

I wish now that I had started writing in my twenties but I was thirty-three before I had the confidence to search out a writing group. I sneaked off to my Tuesday lunchtime class as furtively as if I was having an affair

We laughed a lot in that class and we cried too. Hauling words in quickly, without looking too closely, can bring up unexpected lumps of hurt. But, slowly, we learned to trust one another and then we learned to trust ourselves.

I started writing travel pieces and had them published. I began some short stories and then, a novel. In a way, going to that that first class was like having an affair It was in the company of my those kindred spirits, I fell in love with words all over again.



Drawing together a delightful cast of characters, Ella Griffin brings her warmth, wit and wisdom to this captivating tale of the connections that bring us all together.

Every bouquet tells a story. And every story begins at Blossom & Grow, a tiny flower shop in the heart of Dublin…

Among the buckets of fragrant blooms, beneath the flickering candles and lanterns, Lara works her magic, translating feelings into flower arrangements that change hearts and lives.

She is no stranger to the power of flowers herself. They gave her hope when she was a child who lost a mother, and, again when she was a mother who lost a child.

But old wounds take time to heal, and life has more heartbreak in store. What will it take for the woman who can unlock everybody else’s emotions to open up her own heart?

“A compelling and human cast of characters, full of humor, heart, heartbreak, and the language of flowers make this perfect for fans of Marian Keyes.”—Booklist

“All human life is in The Flower Arrangement and is portrayed with great tenderness by Ella Griffin, who offers an astonishing insight into people…The writing is exquisite and I cared deeply about the characters.”—Marian Keyes, Good Housekeeping (UK)

“Ella Griffin’s beautiful writing enables you to feel like you are quite literally stepping into the fragrant surroundings of Blossom & Grow.”—Novelicious.com

“One of the most charming books I have ever read.”—Reviewedthebook.co.uk

“A pleasure to read—assured, witty, and highly likeable.”—Irish Mail on Sunday

“This beautifully written story explores the joys and sorrows of Lara, who opens a flower shop in the heart of Dublin following the death of her baby son.”—Candis Magazine (UK)

“This is a book to inspire. Inspire you to think positive thoughts, never judge people by appearances and learn to forgive.”—BleachHouse Library


You can purchase The Flower Arrangement at the following Retailers:


And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you Penguin/Random House for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Flower Arrangementby Ella Griffin.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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{Nerd Blast} The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid



Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 

(November 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1481472674
ISBN-13: 978-1481472678

"Exploring what it is to question society’s definition of what you are and who you should be...the first-person narration makes the story immediate, and the political plotline could yield some thought-provoking discussion." (Booklist August 2016)

"Philosophical, twisty, and addictive." (Kirkus Reviews August 2016)

"Kincaid has crafted incredible characters who readers can relate to and care for...these protagonists and the complex setting will thrill the YA audience. VERDICT Fans of Marissa Meyer’s “The Lunar Chronicles” will enjoy Kincaid’s latest. This story of friendship, love, loss, suspense, and galactic beings will grab the attention of sci-fi fans and general readers alike." (School Library Journal September 2016)




Official Book Blast for The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

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Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this epic novel about what happens when the galaxy’s most deadly weapon masquerades as a senator’s daughter and a hostage of the galactic court.

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.


You can purchase The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid at the following Retailers:


Book Nerd Spotlight

S.J. Kincaid was born in Alabama, grew up in California, and attended high school in New Hampshire, but it was while living beside a haunted graveyard in Scotland that she realized that she wanted to be a writer. Her debut, Insignia, came out in July of 2012. The second book in the series, Vortex was released in July of 2013. The final book in the trilogy, Catalyst, came out October 28, 2014. Her standalone novel The Diabolic will be released in fall 2016.
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Marieke Nijkamp Author Interview


Book Nerd Interview

Marieke Nijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. A lifelong student of stories, language, and ideas, she is more or less proficient in about a dozen languages and holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies. She is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. Her #1 New York Times bestselling debut novel, This Is Where It Ends, follows four teens during the fifty-four minutes of a school shooting. It’s published by Sourcebooks Fire.

Marieke is the founder of DiversifYA and a founding member and advisor of We Need Diverse Books. Find her on Twitter.

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Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?

Reading my favorite book and realizing I wanted to play in story worlds too. It was as simple as that. I started out with scenes, bits of fanfic, hints of my own storyworlds. And it grew from there. I haven’t look back since.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?

Because stories give us meaning. I believe stories are one of the best ways to understand what it means to be human.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

Butt in chair and keep on writing.

In your book; This Is Where It Ends, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?

THIS IS WHERE IS ENDS takes place during the fifty-four minutes of a high school shooting, and follows four teens who all have their own reasons to fear the boy with the gun.

For those who are unfamiliar with Claire, how would you introduce her?

Claire is an track athlete, a JROTC cadet, a sister, a senior at Opportunity High School, and above all, a girl trying to find her place in the world when everyone around her has expectations and she doesn’t know yet where she fits in.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?

I’m currently editing a short story for Jessica Spotswood’s anthology THE RADICAL ELEMENT and I’m also writing a short story for Shaun David Hutchinson’s anthology FERAL YOUTH. I love short fiction and while these two stories couldn’t be more different, it’s great fun to get to play with them.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

I would introduce Matt, Claire’s younger brother, to Luke Skywalker. Although not technically a book character, I feel like there have been enough novelizations that this counts. Plus, Matt would be *so* excited.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Autumn?

I learned a lot about ballet. I’ve been to ballet, I have seen famous solos and pas de deux. But I started out not realizing the Dying Swan solo isn’t actually part of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. My perspective is that of an observer; Autumn’s that of a dancer. So I learned a lot about ballet. J

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?

Isn’t answering this kind of giving the game away? ;)

What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?

I helped out in a bakery for a few months during college. Those were some very early days, but on the upside I was constantly surrounded by the fresh bread and cakes. It smelled delicious and it was a great experience!

When was the last time you cried?

Watching a sad movie. I’m a bit of a sap J

What is your greatest adventure?

Travel. I love, love, love to travel. I love meeting people. I love exploring new places. I love discovering new cities. I love hearing different languages spoken around me. And while I get quite anxious too, the experiences are so worth it.

Where can readers stalk you?

Well, stalking not so much, but readers can find me on Twitter @mariekeyn!



10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won't open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

You can purchase This Is Where It Ends at the following Retailers:


And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you Sourcebooks for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Erin Lindsey Author Interview


Book Nerd Interview

E.L. Tettensor likes her stories the way she likes her chocolate: dark, exotic, and with a hint of bitterness. She has visited more than fifty countries on five continents, and brought a little something back from each of them to press inside the pages of her books. She also writes fantasy as Erin Lindsey. She lives with her husband in Bujumbura, Burundi.

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What do you like to do when you're not writing?

When I’m not reading or writing, chances are I’m doing something else creative, like playing music or painting. Or I’m in the mountains. I have a deep love of the outdoors that I think probably comes through pretty strongly in my writing.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing the Bloodbound series?

When I started out, I figured that plotting Book 1 would be the most challenging, but actually it was the easiest; with each successive book, the outline became increasingly detailed. I had more or less total freedom in plotting THE BLOODBOUND, but by the time I got to THE BLOODSWORN, I had a chapter-by-chapter outline, something I’ve never done before. I guess there’s just that much more to keep straight when you’re winding things up.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Alix? Were you inspired by any historical figures when developing her character?

Alix stubbornly refused to be the noblewoman I thought I wanted her to be. Those refined manners just wouldn’t stick. I’d start a scene with the idea that Alix would behave in a manner appropriate to her station, but it never seemed to work out that way; she was constantly putting her foot in her mouth and messing it up. The result was a lot more awkward moments of Alix fighting her own nature than I’d ever planned. It’s kind of a cliché for authors to say that their characters have minds of their own, but they kinda do sometimes.

What appeals to you about writing Fantasy? What is your process for world-building?

One of the things I like best about writing fantasy is the chance to dabble in what ifs. Starting off with a premise and then going through all the implications of that premise in order to build your cultures, history, etc. For example, what if winter lasted years instead of months? It seems like a pretty small twist at first, but when you start to think through the implications – how these different circumstances would affect familiar societies and institutions – the ramifications are actually huge. I really like to play around with questions like these, starting out with a world that’s very like our own, and then giving it a twist. Altered geography, say, or a fork in the road of history. It’s a creative exercise, but also an intellectual one. And it makes for some really rich, believable settings.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me, it’s all about the characters. It doesn’t matter how many dragons you have, or exotic races, or explosions or cavalry charges or sex scenes – if I don’t care about the characters, I don’t care about the story. And if I do care about them, even small events can have huge emotional impact.



The bonds of family, love, and loyalty are pushed to their limits in this thrilling conclusion to the epic saga started in The Bloodbound...

As the war between Alden and Oridia draws to its conclusion, the fates of both kingdoms rest on the actions of a select group of individuals—and, of course, the unbreakable bonds of blood...

Unbeknownst to most of Alden, King Erik, in thrall to a cruel bloodbinder, is locked away in his own palace, plotting revenge. To save her king, Lady Alix must journey behind enemy lines to destroy the bloodbinder. But her quest will demand sacrifices that may be more than she can bear.

Meanwhile, as the Warlord of Oridia tightens his grip on Alden, the men Alix loves face equally deadly tasks: her husband, Liam, must run a country at war while her brother, Rig, fights a losing battle on the front lines. If any one of them fails, Alden could be lost—and, even if they succeed, their efforts may be too late to save everyone Alix holds dear...

EXCERPT

SPOILER
This Excerpt is from chapter one of book three and spoils the first two in the series. 
Do NOT continue if you haven't read the previous books.

One 

“We’re ready, Captain.”

The anxiety in Pollard’s eyes belied his words. A sheen of sweat glistened under the edges of his helm, and he clutched his spear in a white-knuckled grip. He might have been marching into battle against a horde of bloodbound thralls instead of preparing to walk down the burnished hall of the royal apartments. Behind him, the rest of the royal guardsmen fared no better, shifting on their feet and trading uneasy glances, a restless herd smelling a storm. One of them, a bull of a fellow called Notcher, looked like he might actually throw up.

Alix might have pitied them if she weren’t too busy fighting down her own queasiness. “Remember,” she told her new second-in-command, “this needs to be handled quickly and quietly. I’m counting on you, Pollard.”

A convulsive, thin-lipped nod was the guardsman’s only reply.

Feeling a hand on her arm, Alix glanced at Liam. Her husband was as pale as the rest of them, grey eyes haunted with guilt. “Are you sure you don’t want me to come? Maybe I could talk to him, try to—”

“Nothing we do will make this all right. It’s better you stay out of this. No point in the prince getting his hands dirty too.”

“My hands are already dirty,” he snapped. “They’re never going to come clean, either, not after this.” His voice dropped to a hiss. “It’s treason.”

Alix scowled. “You think you need to tell me that? I’m the king’s bodyguard, Liam. I’m supposed to protect him.”

“And I’m his brother. I’m supposed to support him.”

Behind them, someone cleared his throat. Alix turned to find Albern Highmount levelling a reproving stare at both of them. Somehow, the chancellor managed to look both grave and impatient at the same time. “Your Highnesses. We have discussed this to exhaustion. We have no choice in the matter. The king is bewitched. We are at war. There is not a priest in the world who would condemn us for what we are about to do.”

Alix wasn’t sure about that, but she wouldn’t argue with the chancellor—not now, in front of her guardsmen. “We’ve lingered here long enough. The last thing we need is a servant running to Erik and telling him we’re about to stage a coup. Let’s just get this over with.” She marvelled at the steadiness of her own voice. She was about to lead her guardsmen into the royal apartments to arrest the king. Her brother-in-law. The best man she’d ever known—until the enemy poisoned his mind. Her insides were thrashing about like a fish on a barbed hook, but her expression remained firm, a mask of resolve. Maybe you’ve finally learned a thing or two from Erik about controlling your emotions. What a bitter irony that would be.

“With me,” she said, starting down the corridor.

Sunlight slanted through the arched windows on the east side of the hall. It glared off the marble tiles, harsh in Alix’s eyes, as though Rahl himself rebuked her for what she was about to do. Unwittingly, her gaze fell to the sunburst emblazoned on her breastplate. Rahl, the sun, first among the Holy Virtues and patron of the royal family. Patron of King Erik White, whose crown was about to be usurped by the people he loved most.

Stop it, she commanded herself. This must be done. We have no choice.

So why did it feel like a cold hand clutched at her throat?

Her mind snagged on a memory from their days at Greenhold: Erik sitting across from her in the solar, clasping her hand in gratitude. You are a true friend, Alix. A golden smile, blue eyes filled with trust and warmth and something more, something Alix hadn’t recognised until later. He’d been hurting then, rolling the bitter taste of Prince Tomald’s betrayal on his tongue. I may have been deceived in my brother, but there are others I know I can rely on. They’d stayed up all night, the two of them, drinking and laughing, Alix basking in the sunshine that had once been Erik White.

A true friend.

The memories flashed mercilessly through her mind now, one after another, each more painful than the last: Erik’s arms around her, comforting her as she wept; shoulder to shoulder in battle, defending each other’s flank; his laughter when he’d stumbled across her in her wedding dress, that cheeky wink . . .

She rounded the corner and there he was, on his way to his study. She froze.

Erik cocked his head. “Alix, whatever is the matter?” At first, she thought he meant the guardsmen, but he didn’t even seem to have noticed them; his gaze, filled with concern, belonged only to her. “Are you crying?”

She touched her cheek; her fingers came away wet.

His glance flicked over her shoulder, taking in the guardsmen now. “What’s happened?”

“I . . .” Though she’d rehearsed the words a hundred times, they died on her lips.

Erik gazed at her expectantly. He was immaculate as always, dressed in a blue doublet and leather breeches, red-gold hair tied back in a short, tidy tail. His posture was straight, eyes keen and focused. The enemy’s dark magic left no visible mark upon him, and for a fleeting moment, a worm of doubt wriggled in Alix’s belly.

But no. She knew him too well, and she’d seen too much. Erik was certainly bewitched.

“Alix?”

Pollard, bless him, stepped into the breach. “With regret, sire, we must seal off this wing of the palace.”

“Seal it off? Why would we do that?” There was no suspicion in Erik’s voice. He trusted Alix too much, even with the bloodbond gnawing at his mind. The enchantment wasn’t yet at full strength. The bloodbinder, whoever he was, must still be too far away for his cursed magic to command Erik completely. Which only made Alix’s task all the more painful.

She swallowed, tried to master herself. “Your Majesty,” she began, before faltering again. Gods, it was so hard . . .

Now he did look wary.

“Sire,” she said. “Erik. I’m afraid you’re not well.”

“Not well,” he repeated blankly.

“There’s a bloodbinder. An Oridian, one who knows how to warp men’s minds. We thought the secret died with the Priest, but we were wrong. The magic is still out there, and the enemy is working it against you.”

Erik’s eyebrows flew up. “I beg your pardon?”

“It sounds strange, I know. I need you to trust me.”

“Of course I trust you. More than anyone, but . . . ?”

The words cut her to the bone. Alix forced herself to press on. “Then you have to believe me now. The enemy has you in his sway, just as the Priest controlled his thralls on the battlefield. But I promise you we’ll fix it. We’ll—”

“What did you say?” He spoke the words in a cold, horrified whisper.

“The bloodbond. The Priest’s dark magic. The Oridians are working it against you, manipulating you.”

He stared at her, the blood draining from his face. “Why would you say something like that?”

“I know how it sounds . . .”

“How it sounds? Have you taken leave of your senses?” Still in that horrified whisper, as though he willed the conversation to be private, just the two of them, so she could take it all back and they could pretend it never happened.

“You have to trust me,” she said again, pleadingly.

He took a step toward her, hands raised as if he were approaching a madwoman. “I don’t know what in the gods has got into you, but you’re not thinking clearly. The Priest is dead. We destroyed him. You were there, Alix. His magic died with him, and even if it hadn’t, the enemy cannot simply snap his fingers and turn someone into a thrall. They would need my blood, a great deal of it. You know that.”

Your blood, or your twin’s. She couldn’t explain it to him, not like this. Whatever happened, they needed to keep the existence of Erik’s twin an absolute secret, even from her guardsmen. Besides, in his current state, he probably wouldn’t believe her anyway.

“I’m sorry, Erik.” At her signal, the guardsmen moved, heaving on the great panelled doors.

“What are you doing?” Erik cried. “Stop that at once!”

One of the guardsmen wavered, gaze darting between his captain and his king.

“Pollard, get him out of here!”

Her second obeyed, shepherding the reluctant guardsman away. The others resumed closing the doors, all except the four who had been chosen to stay behind to guard the king from within.

Alix began to back away through the narrowing gap.

“Wait!” Erik started toward her, but a pair of guardsmen grabbed his arms. He looked from one to other in stunned disbelief. “Alix?”

Tears splashed cold down her face. She continued to back through the doors.

“Alix, look at me, for gods’ sake! Do I look like a thrall to you? Alix!”

“I’m sorry, Erik. I’m so sorry . . .”

“You can’t do this!” Then, with quiet intensity, “Please, don’t do this.”

The doors were almost closed now. Through the gap, Alix could only stare at him, heartsick.

She saw it the exact moment he broke: his eyes, so painfully blue, went dull, and he wilted in his captors’ grip. Alix’s vision swam with tears, blurring out everything but his sagging form.

The doors came to with a cavernous boom. Alix slumped to the floor, hand over her mouth to stifle the gasps of grief. Above her, the guards hammered makeshift bars in place before withdrawing, leaving their captain alone with her misery and betrayal.

A soft rustle sounded against the far side of the door, as of someone sliding to the floor.

“Are you there?” In spite of the thick wood, it sounded as if he were right beside her, as though they leaned against each other instead of the barrier between them.

She laid her hand against the door. “I’m here.” The words came out in a strangled whisper; she doubted he even heard.

“It’s Liam, isn’t it? He’s poisoned you against me.”

Alix squeezed her eyes shut, sending another flood of tears over her cheeks.

“Whatever he’s told you, it’s not true. He wants my crown. Can’t you see? Just like Tom.”

Her gaze strayed to the window, into the glaring sun. “I’m going to fix this. I swear to you, Erik.” I swear on my blood, and the blood of my family. I swear on the Nine Virtues and anyone else listening.

A long silence. Then: “I never thought it would come to this. Liam . . . I believed he might betray me one day. Highmount too. But you . . .” When he spoke again, the ache in his voice was more than she could bear. “I tell you truly, Alix, I would rather have died than see this day.”

She curled into a ball, arms over her head, shaking with silent sobs.

“It’s done,” Alix said dully, dropping into a chair across from Highmount. Beside her, Liam took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Even the ever-stoic Highmount looked sympathetic. “I know this has not been easy, Your Highness.”

She laughed bitterly and swiped at her eyes. “You have a gift for understatement, Chancellor.”

“You did what you had to,” Liam said. “We had no choice.”

“Can we not do this, please?” Her voice wavered precariously. “I can’t . . . I’d rather focus on where we go from here.”

“Quite right,” Highmount said with a brisk nod. “Your men are deployed, then?”

She drew a deep, shuddering breath. Forward. Erik needs you to move forward. “Four inside,” she said, sounding steadier now. “Though Pollard thinks we should increase it to six when we bring the first meal.”

Highmount grunted sceptically. “I do not think it wise to bring additional men into our confidence.”

“Agreed,” Alix said. “If we did augment the detail inside, it would have to come from the existing dozen.”

“Meaning only six outside,” Liam said. “Is that enough?”

“We don’t dare have too many,” Alix said. “People will notice, and our story won’t hold up. There’s no reason to post extra guards at the doors if the king is sick with fever.”

“What do you intend, then?” Highmount asked.

“We’ll keep to four inside for now. Two on the doors. The rest will patrol outside, keeping an eye on the windows. They’re less likely to be noticed that way.”

“And the bars on the doors?” Liam asked. “How do we explain that?”

“Those were only temporary, so we could get it done quickly. Pollard will replace them with something more discreet. We’ll just say that the locks on the other side are broken. Those doors are ancient; no one will question it. Besides, I don’t want anyone getting close enough to take a look. From now on, the corridor to the royal apartments is off-limits.”

“Due to the risk of contagion, of course,” Highmount said.

“Of course.”

The old man nodded, satisfied. “Everything would seem to be in place, then. And what of your journey—whom will you take with you?”

“Three White Wolves, as agreed. Rona Brown, Dain Cooper, and Ide. I haven’t told them where we’re going yet, or why, but I’ll have to explain once we’re on the road.”

Highmount grunted, but if he had any misgivings, he kept them to himself. “When will you depart?”

“Tomorrow morning. That should put me at the front in about five days. I’ll spend a day or so with Rig, explain the situation.”

“How do you anticipate he will react? Your brother and the king are close. If there is any chance he will not support us in this . . .”

“Rig will support us,” Alix said firmly. “He’ll support me. And he needs to know. He’s commander general of the king’s armies. If we should fail, or if Erik were somehow to get word to him, my brother would obey whatever orders the king gave.”

“Which orders would very likely have been fed to His Majesty by the enemy through the bloodbond. I do understand your concerns, and I share them. But you must ensure that General Black fully grasps what is at stake here. It is imperative that he guard this secret with his life.”

As though Alix needed to be told. “My brother will do what is necessary,” she said coolly. “You can rely upon it.”

Highmount nodded again. “And then?”

“And then,” Liam said, “it’s off to Andithyri, smuggling herself into enemy territory.” A scowl and crossed arms accompanied this interjection, in case either of them had missed the tone.

Highmount fetched a scroll case down from the bookshelf and rolled out a map of Andithyri. It had been updated recently, the borders redrawn in red ink along with a note in the chancellor’s tidy hand: Occupied by the Trionate of Oridia. “Rodrik was raised here,” he said, “in a village called Indrask.”

Alix leaned over the map. Liam, she noticed, did not; instead he looked away, mouth pressed into a thin line. Alix didn’t blame him for being unhappy—she’d feel the same if the situation were reversed and he was the one infiltrating occupied territory in search of Erik’s captured twin—but sulking about it surely didn’t help.

“As you can see,” Highmount said, “Indrask is in the middle of nowhere. That was by design; we needed the boy kept out of sight, living in anonymity in a place no one would recognise him as King Erik’s twin. That should work to your advantage, Your Highness. Enemy soldiers will be fewer and farther between, and I doubt the Warlord has troubled to garrison the smaller towns, let alone villages. If you stay off the main roads, you may well travel unmolested.”

Liam snorted and shook his head, which Alix did her best to ignore. “Is this farmland?” she asked, running a finger along the map.

“Largely. A few bits of wood here and there, but the country is small and crowded, so most of the land is under cultivation.”

“Good. Open territory will make travelling faster.”

“It’ll also make you easier to spot,” Liam put in.

“I’m a trained scout, Liam. I don’t need you to explain cover to me.”

He sighed, raking a hand through his unruly hair. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be a prat. I just hate this.”

“Of course you do, but that’s not exactly new, is it? You hated it when Erik and I travelled to Harram too, just as I hated it when you were sent to Onnan. This is no different.”

He scowled. “Is that supposed to make me feel better? Both of those missions ended in spectacular failure, on top of which, I seem to recall that we all nearly died.”

“This is who we are, Liam. That’s not going to change until this war is over.” Turning back to Highmount, she said, “Go on.”

Highmount’s glance cut between them, but he wisely let that part of the conversation drop. “There is not much else to tell. Your brother will know better than I which routes are safest, and which best avoided. All I can offer you is this.” Reaching into an inner pocket of his jerkin, Highmount withdrew a key and unlocked the top drawer of his desk. Inside was an iron box, unadorned, guarded by the most formidable padlock Alix had ever seen. Whatever was inside that box, Albern Highmount had taken great pains to ensure that it remained for his eyes only. He opened it and pushed it across the desk.

“Letters?”

“From an Aldenian royal guardsman, a man called Terrell. He was sent to live among the Andithyri, to join the cadre of guards assigned by our allies to keep watch over the boy. He posed as a farmer and sent these missives from time to time. As you can see, they are few, but perhaps you will find something useful in them to help guide your search.”

“Thank you.”

“And now, Your Highness, before you depart, there is something I would like you to consider. Another perspective, if you will, on the mission you are about to undertake.”

Something in the chancellor’s tone made Alix wary. “All right.”

“Twenty-seven years ago, I gave a crucial bit of counsel to King Osrik. It went unheeded, to my lasting regret, a mistake that led directly to the delicate position in which we now find ourselves. Had His Majesty followed my advice, his heir would not now be bloodbound and locked away in his own palace. Indeed, there is a very good chance we would not be at war at all.”

Alix regarded him coldly. “I presume you’re referring to your suggestion to—how did you put it—destroy the boy?”

“Rodrik White posed a grave threat to the kingdom. He still does. More so, now that he is a man grown and Alden is at war. We know nothing about his character. It is not difficult to imagine that the enemy could persuade him to become a puppet king, or any number of other scenarios. I am sure I do not need to remind you how this country has suffered when a White brother, legitimate or otherwise, chooses to contest the crown. We have already known two such tragedies in our kingdom’s brief history, the latest scarcely a year old. When you find Rodrik, you would do well to remember that, and consider carefully what comes next.”

“What in the hells does that mean?” Liam snapped.

Highmount met his gaze unrepentantly. “It means, Your Highness, that a rescue mission may not be what is called for under the circumstances.”

“He’s joking. You’re joking, surely? This is my brother we’re talking about, Highmount. My brother. Do you understand that?”

The chancellor ignored him, turning his hawkish gaze back on Alix. You know I’m right, those eyes seemed to say. And a cold, logical voice inside Alix whispered, I do. But however much that voice might be in harmony with Highmount’s, she could not heed it. Erik would never forgive her. And neither, judging from the look on his face, would her husband. “Erik told me once that he mourned his twin for his entire childhood. That’s when he thought he had a stillborn sister. If he found out he had an identical twin, only to learn I’d taken that from him . . .” Alix shook her head. “It’s Erik’s choice to make, Highmount. Not mine, and not yours.”

The chancellor seemed to expect that answer, for he merely nodded, as if to say, On your head be it. He rose, signalling that the conversation was over.

But Alix wasn’t through quite yet. She kept her seat, gaze in her lap.

There was an uncomfortable stretch of silence. Highmount cleared his throat. “Is there something else, Your Highness?”

For a moment, she almost lost her nerve. But she couldn’t hide from the truth forever; Highmount needed to know. “Before I go, there’s something I have to tell you.” She glanced at Liam. “Both of you.”

Highmount resumed his seat.

“Varad’s assassination,” Alix said. “It was me.”

Highmount’s brows gathered. “What do you mean?”

“I killed him.” Alix stared ruthlessly ahead. She could feel Liam’s gaze on her, but she couldn’t face it. Not yet.

As for Highmount, he betrayed no emotion beyond a slight narrowing of the eyes. “I’m afraid I still do not understand, Your Highness. How could you possibly have killed the King of Oridia, particularly since you were on your way back from Harram at the time of his death?”

“I had my spy do it. That is, I ordered my spy to see it done. He has networks in Varadast.” She sat up straighter, forced herself to look Highmount in the eye. “It was a terrible error in judgement, and I take full responsibility.”

“I see.” Highmount’s fingers formed a steeple, a gesture Alix had come to recognise as a sign of careful reflection.

Liam found his voice at last. “Allie, why would you—”

“I thought I was helping.” It sounded childish, even to her own ears. “The Priest was already dead. I thought if the King were gone too, the Warlord would have no choice but to back down, at least for a while. As the sole remaining Trion, I thought Sadik would be too weak to continue. That I could end the war at a stroke.” True, as far as it went, but not the whole truth. The real reason she’d done it was far, far simpler.

Vengeance.

She’d been exhausted. Afraid. Tired of feeling powerless. And then the news of the massacre at Raynesford, of the Warlord butchering children and women . . . So she’d done what she always did, acting without thinking, a true child of Ardin. It was just as Erik had warned her all those months ago: One of these days, your recklessness is going to cost you dearly. Cost all of us, perhaps. She’d played right into Sadik’s hand. He was the sole remaining Trion, all right—and all the more powerful for it. If she’d bothered to consult Erik, she would have learned that Varad had been a restraining influence on Sadik. On top of which, the Oridian public, outraged by the assassination of their King, had rallied in support of the war effort. With Varad out of the way and his people behind him, the Warlord of Oridia was free to indulge his ambition to the fullest.

She cleared her throat. “When Erik is . . . when he’s better, he’ll have to deal with me.”

“Deal with you, Your Highness?” Highmount lifted a bushy grey eyebrow. “What exactly do you believe His Majesty will do?”

“I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine what punishment could answer for what I’ve done. The Oridians were weary. They might have stood down. Only now, I’ve given them a martyr to rally behind. I’ve prolonged the war at the cost of who knows how many lives.” Saying it aloud made her queasy all over again, and she found she couldn’t quite meet the chancellor’s eye after all.

Highmount sighed. “You give yourself rather too much credit, I think. We cannot know what might have been. Your actions were ill-considered, Your Highness, and I do regret them. It is true that the Oridian people are united as never before. But the Warlord is not known for his . . . democratic inclinations. The views of the public are not likely to weigh heavily on him. Can we truly say you have prolonged the war?” He made a dismissive gesture. “Speculation.”

“But it’s possible.”

“Perhaps.”

Alix waited for him to say more, but he only regarded her with that damnably closed expression, the one she could never read. “That’s it?” she demanded. “That’s all you have to say?”

He spread his hands. “What would you have of me, Your Highness? It is done. We cannot afford to dwell on it; we have more immediate concerns. Besides, I daresay there is little I could suggest that would be as severe as the condemnation you heap upon yourself.”

That, at least, was Destan’s own truth.

“If you will forgive an old man some unsolicited advice,” the chancellor went on, “put this behind you—but do not forget. There will come a time when the memory of this regrettable incident is all that stands between you and another rash decision. Forgive yourself, Your Highness, but do not forget.”

Liam reached over and squeezed her hand again, and when Alix met her husband’s gaze at last, she found no judgement there. Her heart flooded with gratitude, her fingers tightening around his.

“And now, Your Highnesses, if there is nothing else, I suggest you continue your preparations. As for me, I have a great deal of correspondence to take care of. The council must be apprised immediately of His Majesty’s terribly contagious fever.”

Alix didn’t envy him the task. It would take a deft hand to convince the council that the king was ill enough to require quarantine, yet not so ill that they needed to be concerned. If anyone could manage the balance, it was Albern Highmount. “Will I see you before I leave?” she asked him.

“I should not think so. Your departure must be as discreet as possible. My presence would not aid that cause.”

“In that case, farewell.”

Highmount rose, smoothed his doublet. Then he folded at the waist in a grave bow. It was the first time he’d ever bowed to her. “Take care, Your Highness. And good luck.”

Alix thanked him, though she doubted there was enough good luck in the Nine Heavens to see her through.


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1 Winner will receive a Winner will receive a Set of the Bloodbound Series by Erin Lindsey.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey


Book Nerd Spotlight

A witty and captivating novel about a modern-day superwoman who leans in so far she falls over

Forty-four, fit, and fabulous, Liddy James is one of New York’s top divorce attorneys, a bestselling author, and a mother of two. Armed with a ruthless reputation and a capsule wardrobe, she glides through the courtrooms and salons of the Manhattan elite with ease. What’s her secret? Liddy will tell you: “I don’t do guilt!”

This is the last thing literature professor Peter James wants to hear. Devastated by his divorce from Liddy six years earlier, the two have a tangled history his new partner, Rose, is only just sorting out. But Rose is a patient woman with faith in a well-timed miracle and she’s determined to be sympathetic to Peter’s plight. Together, Liddy, Peter, and Rose have formed a modern family to raise Liddy and Peter’s truculent teen and Liddy’s darling, if fatherless, six-year-old.

But when Rose announces she’s pregnant, Liddy’s nanny takes flight, the bill for a roof repair looms, and a high-profile divorce case becomes too personal, Liddy realizes her days as a guilt-free woman might be over. Following a catastrophic prime-time TV interview, she carts her sons back to Ireland to retrace their family’s history. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things are still far from simple, and Liddy will have to come to terms with much more than a stormy neighbor and an unorthodox wedding if she ever hopes to rediscover the real Liddy James.

Fun, fearless, and full of heart, The Real Liddy James takes a fresh look at the balancing act every family performs. With the deft characterization and sharp wit that made her first novel an international bestseller, Anne-Marie Casey invites us into the ambitions, passions, and misadventures of this extraordinary heroine.


“Smart and funny . . . Liddy will resonate for readers who love strong, mature women with a bit of Irish fire, as with fans of Cecelia Ahern and Marian Keyes and Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” –Booklist

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Author Spotlight

Anne-Marie Casey is a screenwriter, novelist and playwright. She was a successful producer in Film and TV in the UK before becoming a writer full time. She has written numerous scripts for TV and Film in the UK and Ireland, most recently a pilot episode for a TV Series Galway Bay, set in Connemara during the Famine, adapted from the novel by Mary Pat Kelly, to be produced by Roma Downey of Lightworkers Media, Los Angeles, and a film adaptation of The Master, a novel by Jolien Janzing, about Charlotte Bronte in Brussels, the secret love affair that inspired Jane Eyre for the Irish Film Board and producer David Kelly. Her stage adaptations of Little Women and Wuthering Heights enjoyed sell-out runs at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, in 2011/12 and 2014/15. She is currently working on a stage adaptation of Madame Bovary. Her first novel “No One Could Have Guessed the Weather/An Englishwoman in New York” was a bestseller in Ireland, a Kirkus reviews best book of the year in the US and a YOU magazine book club pick in the UK. Her new novel The Real Liddy James will be published in the UK and Ireland by Hodder and in the US by Putnam/Penguin in September 2016.

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