Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Read an excerpt from Clandestine (Ascension #2) by Hannah Rials

Welcome to the book tour for Clandestine, the second book in the Ascension series by Hannah Rials. Today I am bringing you an excerpt from this book. You can also check out a bit about the first book, Ascension. Be sure to add them to your Goodreads!

Clandestine (Ascension #2)

by Hannah Rials

Genre: YA Paranormal
Release Date: July 2018
Aletha Press


Cheyenne Lane never believed it could come to this—imprisoned by her own family, who are plotting to overthrow the Vampire Council. Ripped away from the happiness of her summer romance and friendship in New Orleans, Cheyenne is forced to begin her education at Clandestine, the secret Deuxsang University, one year early.

She is guarded constantly, separated from her best friend Anne, and desperate for any word from Eli and the witches. Meanwhile, her cousin Lilith has discovered that Cheyenne possesses all four vampiric abilities—unheard of for a Deuxsang—and intends to use her in the Ascending’s rebellious scheme.

At 17, Cheyenne finds herself the center of a centuries-old conspiracy involving the vampires, Deuxsang, and witches, and everyone is telling her who she should trust and what she should do. Her head is too full of voices and opinions, and it’s time for Cheyenne to make up her own mind.

Is she ready to step into the role she was made for? Who can she trust? Who is her friend and who is her enemy? Is she really a born leader? All questions that only she can answer. As the information and scenario gets more confusing, she knows she must listen to her intuition if she is going to shift the truth from all the lies.

Read the Kirkus Review.

Read an excerpt:
Prisoners. Me. Anne. We’re actually prisoners. Held captive by our own families. For our own good? My brain’s still having a hard time processing all this insanity, and we’ve been trapped in here for a week now. No word from Eli or Mason, or even my parents, who apparently support this. I keep asking myself how they can let this happen, how no one is speaking up against this, and I can’t come up with a good answer. This is all ridiculous, even for my parents, who I can’t begin to understand. To let their psychotic niece imprison their youngest daughter in order to “fix her” based off some insane plan to overthrow the vampires?

Everyone’s completely lost their minds.

Are they so desperate for me to be normal that it’s come to this? I glance at Anne sitting at her desk. She hasn’t really spoken much since we have expended all of our escape possibilities. We’ve failed so many times, but not for lack of trying. Thomas is just too paranoid and thinks too far ahead. Deuxsang are highly discouraged from practicing our abilities on our own kind, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I tried compelling our guards—and I somehow succeeded without any training whatsoever— but we didn’t even make it to the stairs before Thomas stopped us.

Anne tried dreamwalking, searching for Mason or Eli or anyone, but we learned that it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. You just think of someone, see their dream, and slip right in, right? Wrong. Anne got shoved out of so many dreams, and she couldn’t even find Mason. She ended up with a migraine that made her throw up all over the place for a couple days. I really didn’t want to try inflicting, but seeing Anne so sick, paired with my own desperation, made me get over it.

Plus, it was kind of fun to see the guards weak.

That was the closest we came to being free. I had all of our guards crying out on their knees, wishing for release. I made myself sick to my stomach. I had my hand on the front door, when all of a sudden, we were both knocked to the ground. My eyes went black when my head cracked against the cold tile of the Lacroix’s foyer. We didn’t even see who hauled us back upstairs and locked us in our impassable tower. Ever since then, Anne hasn’t said much to me.

It’s three days, and I’m going mad. I’m normally the one telling her to shut up, but now I can barely get a syllable out of her. It’s like she’s broken. And I get it, I guess. This is all falls back on me. My cousin is the one with the insane, suicidal plan; my family is the one keeping us here. I’m the one they need to “fix.” My boyfriend…ex-boyfriend…is the one who got himself kidnapped. If it weren’t for being friends with me, she’d be cuddled up in some jazz club, listening to Monde Musique and staring all moon-eyed
at Mason. Life would be normal.

Well, as normal as a rule-breaking Deuxsang can get.

And now she knows the truth about her brother— that he was different, like me, and the Council took him for it. Now he’s probably dead. Her parents let it happen, but what’s worse, they lied to her about it. How could they do that to her? How could anyone do that? I saw a piece of her break when her mom finally told her the truth. She can’t look at either of her parents now. Again, that’s my fault.

 Buy from Audrey Press

Hannah's favorite quote from the book:
“If you fail, you'll wish you'd never been made.”

Ascension Testimonials

"Their love story anchors the novel, the first installment of a series, and sets the stage for the cliffhanger ending. An entertaining and promising series opener about an appealing human and vampire hybrid. " -Kirkus Reviews

What an extraordinary debut novel with new and intriguing twists on vampires—a strong female protagonist as one. I already can’t wait for book two. -Jill Murphy Long, author of The Conduit

This book is by the far the BEST YA/Adult fiction that I’ve read in a very long while. So exciting!-Rebecca F

The wait is over-Ascension is here! Thrilling and entertaining, like the experience on a crazy roller coaster. Hannah has grown into the most amazing writer. Watching her journey has been as much fun as holding the book in my hands. A "must read" for YA and thriller fans! -Valarie B.

Rials has created a complex, fascinating, hidden world within our world. And I think we're just beginning to scratch the surface." -Kris Whorton

"Dark, surprising, and full of twists, the Ascension series is a delectable addition to vampire canon. Rials paints a rich and engrossing world of vampires, half-vampires and witches– each with their own agenda. Cheyenne’s struggle to be free is one that every girl will recognize, and I rooted for her as she bristled against the roles cast for her by society. It’s the story of a girl yearning to come into her own powers, powers both frightening and beautiful." -Maggie Thrash, author of L.A. Times Book Prize nominee Honor Girl

Buy Ascension at Audrey Press

About Hanna Rials

As Maryville native and a senior in college at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Hannah Rials began writing her first novel, Ascension, at age twelve. Her first YA novel Ascension is a modern day teenage romance filled with "double-blooded" vampires and revengeseeking witches. Published by Aletha Press of Maryville, TN is the second book in the trilogy, Clandestine, was written and editing while she was a full-time college student. After graduating from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a BA in Creative Writing, she will be attending college at Bath Spa University’s MA (England): Creative Writing for Young People; a yearlong master’s degree.

Hannah is a vampire fanatic, a New Orleans lover, and a dog obsessor. She loves her friends, family, and finding new adventures. To keep up with Hannah, you can find plenty of pictures of her corgi Buddy and her travels on Instagram @herials because who doesn’t love a cute corgi picture? Connect with Hannah on Facebook, Twitter and via her website.

“I feel like I am living proof that dreams do come true.”- Hannah Rials

Author Links:

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Freaking Fast by David Pereda with Giveaway

Looking for a new futuristic YA action/adventure novel? Then welcome to the blast for Freaking Fast by David Pereda! Check out an excerpt and then follow the tour for even more. Make sure you leave a question or a comment for the author! There's also a giveaway that you can enter along the way.

Please note that affiliate links are present in this post. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Freaking Fast

The city is Asheville, North Carolina, and the year is 2066. As renowned mathematician Alexandra Martin travels in her self-driving car to assassinate the love of her life, she reminisces about how they met and fell in love fifty years earlier in middle school when she was a thirteen year old poor math whiz and he a wealthy teenager. Alex recounts her struggles to be admitted to the best private school in the county, her happy teenage years running track, and her close relationship with three handsome and charming boys: Xavier, the intellectual; Andrew, the golden boy; and Vitali, the suave foreigner. One by one, she visits the three boys of her youth, now successful professionals in their sixties, one of whom is her intended victim.

Read an excerpt:
Year 2066
8:30am. Asheville, North Carolina

Today I’m going to kill the love of my life.

This deliberate act should not to be misinterpreted for what the sensationalistic media will surely call a crime of passion, because it isn’t. There’s nothing passionate in what I am about to do. My action is premeditated, has been planned for a long time, and will be executed for the benefit of our city, our country, and our crumbling world – as well as for my own peace of mind.

I know people say things they don’t mean all the time, especially when they are stressed out, upset, or angry. People lie either to hurt others or to protect themselves or simply because they like to lie. I swear that every word written here is the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. May He also forgive me for this murder I’m about to commit.

I have chosen this date for a reason. Today is my birthday, and the anniversary of our first kiss, fifty years ago. I turn sixty-three years old today. Five decades ago, I would have been considered an old woman at this age, gray-haired and wrinkled, and possibly
overweight. But that was then. Nowadays, thanks to the medical advances of the past fifty years, of which I have partaken freely – they’re there, right, so why not make use of them? I’m in the prime of my life. I look and feel not a day over thirty and have the sculpted
body, the vigor, and the mental acumen of a highly intelligent woman in her twenties.

When I was a teenager, there was this beautiful model named Cindy Crawford, who in her sixties looked like she was in her late thirties and was an example to women all over the world. She was to me. But the world has evolved, and that was then, and this is now.
Were Cindy Crawford alive today she would look like my older sister or maybe my young-looking mother, even though we would both be about the same age.

But I digress. I have, perhaps, too much on my mind. Images of the past keep streaming through my head. I think of the love of my life, him, and wonder what could have been but wasn’t; what was and shouldn’t have been.

I feel like crying as I see my life play out, in black-and-white like an old movie, on the screen of my mind.

About David Pereda

David Pereda is the award-winning author of nine novels, including Havana Blues and However Long the Night, as well as the Havana Series of thrillers featuring the dashing Doctor Raymond Peters and the beautiful but deadly Cuban assassin Marcela. He has traveled to more than thirty countries and speaks four languages. Before devoting his time solely to writing and teaching, David had a successful international consulting career with global giant Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked with the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Qatar, among others.

A member of MENSA, David earned his MBA from Pepperdine University in California. He earned bachelor degrees in English literature and mathematics at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

He lives in artistic Asheville, North Carolina, with his youngest daughter Sophia, where he teaches mathematics and English at the Asheville-Buncombe Community College. He loves sports and is an accomplished competitor in track and show-jumping equestrian events.

Author’s Amazon page:

David will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Review of My Crunchy Life by Mia Kerick

Welcome to the book tour for My Crunchy Life by Mia Kerick. I am so excited to bring you this book today, and think it's one that everyone should be reading. Keep on reading to find out more about it, as well as my full review.

My Crunchy Life
Genre: YA Contemporary - LGBTQ
Release Date: June 26th 2018
Harmony Ink Press

My Crunchy Life

John Lennon fought for world peace, but sixteen-year-old hippie hopeful Kale Oswald’s only made it as far as tie-dying his T-shirts with organic grape juice. Now he’s ready to cement his new hippie identity by joining a local human rights organization, but he doesn’t fit in as well as he’d hoped.

After landing himself in the hospital by washing down a Ziploc bag of pills with a bottle of Gatorade, Julian Mendez came clean to his mother: he is a girl stuck in a boy’s body. Puberty blockers have stopped the maturing of the body he feels has betrayed him. They’re also supposed to give him time to be sure he wants to make a more permanent decision, but he’s already Julia in his heart. What he’s not sure he’s ready to face is the post-transition name-calling and bathroom wars awaiting him at school.

When Kale and Julian come face-to-face at the human rights organization, attraction, teenage awkwardness, and reluctant empathy collide. They are forced to examine who they are and who they want to become. But until Kale can come to terms with his confusion about his own sexuality and Julian can be honest with Kale, they cannot move forward in friendship, or anything more.

**My thoughts**
I loved this book, and I want to make it required reading for just about everyone. I have never before read characters who seemed so real. I have known people in the LGBTQ community for over 20 years and can only imagine what goes on in their minds. We have had numerous conversations, but nothing provided as much insight as reading what these characters expressed. I laughed and cried right along with them.

I'm so glad we are in an age where people are talking about being transgender and have become somewhat more accepting of it. We clearly have a long way to go. People are still so small-minded and cruel, which is also clearly demonstrated in this book. But others are so kind and caring. And yes, even those who are accepting still struggle to understand at times. I think following Julian on his journey helps to provide that understanding.

Kale is one of those kids that I just want to smack. He is a complete poser. But at the same time, I get that he is just a kid and is still trying to figure out who he is. He definitely has his own journey as he learns more about being authentic to his true self and what it really means to be accepting of others and how to truly be concerned for and to care about others. I think on the surface, Julian is the one that you expect to change the most in this book, but Kale is the one who truly undergoes the most intense growth.

This is such a timely novel and it also touches on some of the other problems that we have in our society. I really hope that in the future, people will pick up this book and be surprised at how Julian and Kale are treated, much like we look back in horror at some of the social problems of our forefathers. 

About Mia Kerick

Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Contact Mia at

Author Links:

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Meet Mark and Sheri Dursin, authors of Labors of an Epic Punk with Giveaway

Welcome to the Name Before the Masses tour for Labors of an Epic Punk by Mark and Sheri Dursin. They took some time out of their busy schedule to tell us more about their newest book. There's also an excerpt for you to check out before you download your copy. And a giveaway at the end. Please follow the rest of the tour for even more interviews, guest posts, and excerpts. Remember to leave comments and questions for the authors along the way!

Please note that affiliate links are present within this post. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission to help me support my websites, at no additional cost to you.

What was the inspiration behind this book?
SHERI: The initial seed of inspiration was planted eight years ago in a Rainforest Café. I was having lunch one day and on the way to the restroom I saw a cool sculpture of Atlas holding up the world. Intrigued (if not a little confused) by the connection between an ancient Greek Titan and a rainforest-themed restaurant, I began thinking about all the great tales from mythology. As I waited in line at the bathroom, I ran through my favorites: Midas and his golden touch. Medusa and her wild and deadly hair. Icarus and his wax wings flying too close to the sun.

MARK: Later on that night, Sheri and I took turns sharing our favorite myths and we came to the conclusion that some of the most interesting, most enduring, and frankly most bizarre stories can be found in mythology. And then the idea hit. What if we wrote our own story based on some of these mythological characters? Could we do it? Lots of other authors had done this with success. It was an exciting challenge, and kind of humbling, to take these myths that were originally told and recited thousands of years ago, and do something new with them...but not the same “something new” that was already being done.
Which character was your favorite to write?
MARK: I have to say Homer. We decided to make our version of Homer a gay, physically disabled teen, who is obsessed with heroes, mostly because he feels he can never be one himself. Our Homer is socially awkward and doesn’t have a ton of friends—but he really wants to make connections with people. I like Homer because he’s insecure, even though he tries to put on this false bravado to mask it. He’s a bit of a know-it-all, but he’s also very funny.

SHERI: Writing for our main character, Mac, was always a fun challenge. We have teenage sons and it was important to us that Mac reflect a different type of masculinity then the typical daring, assertive, often stoic examples of young men found in lots of YA literature. One of the goals of our story was to show that there are lots of different ways to be a hero.
What was one of your favorite scenes?
SHERI: Without giving too much away...there’s a chapter in our book that takes place at a school dance. We use a slightly different structure for this chapter, switching off points of view among the different characters as we see what they’re up to at the dance. We hope it gives the reader a feeling of being “in” on the drama as it’s unfolding.

MARK: We have a series of scenes where Mac and his roommate Theo go on a mini-adventure, just the two of them. And we set up this dynamic where Mac is being kind of a grump and Theo is being his typical fun-loving self. It’s one of the first bonding moments between the two: Theo is trying to counsel Mac about his love-life, and Mac actually opens up a little. And they laugh, a lot; in fact, it might be the first time in the book Mac truly laughs. I just like what we did there with those two characters at that point in the narrative.
Will we see these characters again?
MARK AND SHERI: We’ve already begun work on a sequel! There’s a new adventure in store for our five main characters based on some mysteries and clues we’ve planted in Labors of an Epic Punk. The adventure in book two will involve the search for Andie’s father and we’ll introduce some quirky new characters (and some dangerous ones!) And we promise some romance is in store for Homer!
Why should we read your book?
MARK: Because it’s just a fun story that is unabashedly optimistic. Also, you don’t need a background in mythology to enjoy this book. There’s something to enjoy If you’re a fan of Percy Jackson novels, John Hughes movies, or any good coming of age story. We describe our book as Clash of the Titans meets The Breakfast Club. 
SHERI: If you ever felt like you were alone in the challenges you faced, like you didn’t fit in or you weren’t...enough, you’ll find a lot to relate to in this book. This ultimately is a story about redemption, about a character who transforms because of the people he meets.
What are you currently reading? Up next on your TBR?
SHERI: I’m just about to start The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

MARK: Last summer, I started to read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. And I got through a good chunk of it—then September came, And here’s a secret about high school English teachers: we read so much during the school year for our jobs, we don’t have much time to read for pleasure. (At least, I don’t.) So I’m going to get back into American Gods.


Labors of an Epic Punk

Mac is an epic punk. No wonder: after his dad went off to fight in the Trojan War and never came back, Mac spent his childhood evading his mom's scumbag suitors—all one-hundred-and-eight of them. Of course, he turned out this way—a moody, friendless sixteen-year-old who blows off work, alienates everyone at school, and pulls pranks. But when he trains a flock of birds to defecate on the headmaster, Mac (short for Telemachus) goes too far. The administrators give him an ultimatum: prove that he's truly the son of Odysseus by doing something heroic—or get out. A school story that just so happens to take place 3,000 years ago, Labors of an Epic Punk is a tale of friendship and transformation, regret and redemption, and a reminder to us all that even heroes need to survive adolescence.

Read an excerpt:
At that moment, Mac felt a prickling sensation as the hairs on the back of his neck suddenly stood on end. Instinctively, he shouted, “Get down!” as he threw himself and Homer into the sand. He looked up to see a single arrow buzz over their heads.

“Homer!” A voice—gruff, but unmistakably female—boomed through the courtyard. “How many times do I have to tell you? Stop following me!”

Mac looked in disbelief down at Homer, pinned underneath him. “I said I knew her,” Homer shrugged. “I didn’t say we were best friends or anything.” As they both stood up, Homer called out to their secret attacker, in a lame attempt to sound chummy, “Hey, Andie! What’s up?”

“How did you find me? Did you follow me? Did my roommate tell you? She told you, didn’t she? I’m gonna kill her!”

Homer glanced nervously at Mac before calling out, “So, what are you doing way out here?”

“Why should I tell you?” the mystery girl shouted back. Meanwhile, Mac’s eyes flew around, trying to determine the source of this shouting. As he squinted, he could make out someone, silhouetted against the sun, half-hiding at the top of one of the stone towers.

“Now, get out of here,” the voice called out. “This is my beach!”

“Well, OK, but first, how ‘bout you come on down?” Homer continued. “My friend and I want to ask you something.”

“You don’t have any friends, you freak!”

“As a matter of fact, I just made one. Come on down, I’ll introduce you.”

About Mark and Sheri Dursin

For many years Mark, a high school English teacher, and Sheri, a freelance writer and blogger, wrote independently. No matter the writing project—newspaper articles, retreat talks, college recommendation letters, fan-fiction, blog posts on spirituality or 80s pop songs—they tended to work alone. Separate rooms, separate computers. But raising their twin sons helped them discover an important truth: All Good Things Come in Twos.

Mark and Sheri Dursin will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review of Memory Walker by Carly Marino with Giveaways

Welcome to the blog tour for Memory Walker, the first book in the Inflexean series by Carly Marino. Along the way, you'll be able to check out reviews, excerpts, and more, so be sure to follow the tour to learn as much about this book as you can! I have my review here for you. It's the first YA paranormal book I have read in a very long time. You need to check it out!

Please note that affiliate links are present within this post. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission to help me support my websites, at no extra cost to you.

Memory Walker
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Release Date: May 18th 2018
Evernight Teen

Memory Walker

Imagine having the ability to walk in a person's memory at the slightest touch of their skin.

High school rumors are the worst. In fact, high school’s the worst. Especially for the school freak who has to avoid human contact.

Freshman year, seventeen-year-old Thea Scott developed the suckiest burden ever. At the brief touch of a person’s skin, she’s forced to walk in their memories. She’d give anything to get rid of this ability—one she can’t control. Well, until the first day of senior year when breathtakingly gorgeous Cole Conway strolls through the auditorium doors and she faints, making an utter fool of herself, again. He acts like he knows her secret, and the last thing she wants is to end up in a lab with her brain in a jar. To protect herself, she decides to do the very thing she runs from, use her ability to enter his memories.

What she didn’t expect to find: out-of-this-world beings who have to “borrow” life essence from humans to survive. Cole unveils dangers she never imagined existed and turns out her own past is her greatest fear. The deeper she falls, the more turmoil and heartbreak crash into her. Dreams of fitting in soon dissolve, and she realizes it was way easier being just a high school freak.

**My thoughts**

It's been a while since I have read any YA paranormals, because for a while I felt like I was reading the same story over and over again. And then I saw the blurb to this one. I was intrigued. The concept of being able to touch someone and read their memories is something that hasn't been overly done. In fact, I can't even remember specifically the last time I saw it.

I enjoyed this book. It does follow somewhat of a typical pattern:  teenager who is kind of a longer, other than her closest friend(s), is an orphan who discovers that she has powers and a past that she doesn't know or remember. Now her life is in danger and she needs to learn as much as she can to protect herself and those she loves. It is a general formula that works, but the details in this one make it a unique story in this genre.

I really like Thea. She seems to handle what she has been dealt in stride and is very eager to find a way to work with it and to find out more about who she really is. I think she is a relatable teen in dealing with the usual ups and downs of high school. And she definitely has enough naivete about so many situations that show she is still learning. She can trust too easily. And it's kind of hard to decide how you feel about her friends and the people in her life. They definitely keep you on a roller coaster.

This is definitely an interesting debut to a new series and one I'll keep an eye on for future installments.

Buy Links:

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About Carly Marino

I love writing and reading about love. There’s nothing better than two characters finding each other in unusual situations and conquering all odds to be together. *Sigh* Regardless the genre – paranormal, contemporary, fantasy – if there’s romance—I wanna read it!

I was born in Hawai’i but grew up most of my life in the sticks of Michigan and the sunny beaches of Florida. After graduating high school, I return to my island ohana for college where I wrote my thesis on how to write a young adult book. (Oddly enough)

Wife, mother, dog owner, and author, my hat constantly changes but I love every minute of the hustle. Writing is my passion and the wonderful nagging voice in my head. I’m blessed to have amazing family and friends who’ve supported me from my first story, written in poor phonics and elementary chicken scratch.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Review of There Goes Sunday School by Alexander C. Eberhart

Welcome to the book tour for There Goes Sunday School by Alexander C. Eberhart. I previewed this book for you a couple of weeks ago when it was released. Since then, I have had a chance to read it, and I just have to tell you all about it. So please enjoy my review, as well as an excerpt, and then download your own copy to read.

Please note that affiliate links are present within this post. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission to help me support my websites, at no additional cost to you. I also received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Title: There Goes Sunday School
Author: Alexander C. Eberhart
Genre: YA LGBT – Coming of Age
Publication Date: June 4th, 2018
Cover Designer: Molly Phipps at We Got You Covered
Publisher: Seven Sisters Publishing, LLC

There Goes Sunday School

In sixteen-year-old Mike Hernandez’s life, only one thing is clear: Gay is NOT okay. His family’s life revolves around the church, a church run by the vocally intolerant Pastor Myers, so Mike has resolved to spend his life in the closet. His only escape—besides the occasional, anonymous gay make-out session—is his art. He pours his complicated emotions into risqué drawings he keeps in a secret sketchbook. A sketchbook he carries everywhere. 

When his sketchbook goes missing in the middle of Sunday school, Mike is sure his life is over. He’s going to be outed, ostracized by their community, condemned by the pastor, maybe even homeless. What’s worse, the pastor’s son, Chris, suddenly seems hell-bent on adopting Mike and his friends and he has no idea why.

When an awkward confrontation with Chris leads to an unexpected kiss instead of a much-expected punch, Mike’s world is turned upside down. As their friendship grows and faith is questioned, Mike may be forced to choose between the comfortable life he's always lived and a chance at the love he never thought he deserved.

Chapter 1

“Ow! You’re on my foot!” I push the blonde away, worried that someone will hear us on the other side of the bathroom door. Lord, it’s hot in here. There’s sweat dripping down my back and a clump of dark hair sticks to my head. Melancholy music bears down from outside, loud enough that it shakes the thin walls around us.

“Sorry,” mutters the guy who’s name I can’t remember, then his lips return to my neck, nibbling playfully.

I don’t really understand his fascination with my Adam’s apple, but hey, who am I to judge?
God, I know this is wrong, but I would really appreciate it if you just turned Your omnipotent gaze for like, five more minutes? That would be awesome, Big Guy.

A nasty smell coming from the urinal in the corner is burning my nose. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea? Then again, it’s the last night I’m stuck in this hell-hole, and when else am I going to get the chance for an anonymous make-out session?

“Alright campers,” a charismatic voice echoes through the space over the strumming of a guitar, “we’ve had a great week here at Pineland, and tomorrow we go back into the world. So tonight, give it your all!”

“Yeah,” I mutter, looking down at the mess of blonde hair. “Give it your all.

“Lyrics are up on the screen, so let’s praise His name!”

Jeez, Blondie is really getting into it. His hands drop down my stomach, and I jolt.

“Easy!” I slap him away. “I’m ticklish.”

He only gives me a grin, flashing pearly whites. He’s a little shorter than me, even though he told me he’s a senior. I wonder how he gets his hair to stay up like that? Mine goes flat just walking outside in this muggy weather.

I should ask him what product he uses.

His teeth scrape against my throat and I’m derailed.

“Hey!” I shove him again, limbs tangled. “No biting! We talked about this—nothing that leaves a mark.”

“Sorry,” the blonde boy replies sheepishly, green eyes still lit with excitement. His snaggletooth smile is perfectly framed by those adorable dimples. “I’ve never done this before, I’m a little over-eager.”

The obvious bulge in his jeans that keeps rubbing against my thigh is the punctuation that backs up his statement.

“Oh yeah, me neither,” I lie as he comes at me again.

How many boys have I kissed at this point? I’m sure You’re keeping track up there, Big Guy. Want to overlook the blatant lying too? It kinda goes hand-in-hand with the whole in-the-closet situation.

My hand on his chest stops him, “Just cool it with the bicuspids, okay?”

Blondie nods, closing the space between us as his lips press into mine with enough force to move me back a step. My back hits the wall, and his tongue is practically down my throat.
Jeez. This guy needs to get out more. Then again, judging the deep drawl and the fact that I saw the church bus he got off of earlier this week, I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of openly gay guys just floating around Jasper county. I feel for him. It’s easier for me to find someone to lock lips with on the DL, being so close to Atlanta. Hell, it’s the Mecca for all gay kids this side of the Mason-Dixon line. It calls to us, promising nights of flashing lights, drug-hazed dancing and—if you’re lucky—consensual sex. But that mostly depends on how believable your fake ID is.

“When peace like a river, attendeth me away.”

The chorus of voices swell from just outside those thin walls, adding to the pressure and the heat of the moment.

God, I really love this. Does that make me a bad person?

Blondie presses into me, producing an awesome amount of friction that sends shivers from the base of my spine. For someone who’s so inexperienced, he knows how to turn me on. And on I am turned.

“When sorrows like sea billows roll.” The voices sing.

There’s something rolling down my leg, but it most assuredly is not sorrows. If this goes on for much longer, I’m going to have to change pants.

I’m so going to Hell.

“Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say.”

“Oh my God,” Blondie breaks away, gasping for breath. A bit of saliva is clinging to his bottom lip and those deep green eyes are filled with a hunger so ravenous I don’t know if they’ll ever be satisfied. “This is so much better than I ever imagined it would be. I mean—”

“Yeah, it’s incredible, stop talking.” I interrupt, silencing him with another kiss. I pull his shoulder, turning him around so that now it’s me that has him pinned against the wall. My free hand drifts down, running across the front of his jeans. That makes his squirm with delight.

“It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

My lips trace his neck, mapping out the spots that cause him to gasp. There’s a lot of those spots.

“Oh, God.” Blondie jerks, words changing into unintelligible gasps as a new heat fills the palm of my hand. I pull away, a fresh stain spreading across his crotch. “S-Sorry,” he mutters, face flushed and chest heaving.

“Don’t be,” I laugh, adjusting my own discomfort between my legs. “That’s kinda the point.”

“It is well, it is well, with my soul.” The hymn continues through the walls.

“That was so hot,” Blondie is still breathing hard, leaned up against the wall and eyes half-lidded. “Do you want me to help you get off?”

“Nah,” I’m already running my hands under the stream of water in the sink. “I don’t want to have to clean up another mess.” A coy smile over my shoulder, and I add, “You’ve already made one.”

Blondie blushes again, and I laugh. After my hands are dry, I toss the wad of paper towels in the trash can. “This was fun,” I can already feel the awkwardness start to grow like a fungus between us. “Great way to end the summer. Thanks, I needed that.”

“Can I give you a call sometime?” Blondie’s still over-eager, despite his emission.

He’s cute. But no one is cute enough for me to take that kind of risk.

“Sorry man,” I pat his shoulder, “I can’t do phone numbers.” And with that, I unlock the door and leave my newly moistened friend behind.

Taking a deep breath, I sneak back into the chapel, a little surprised I don’t immediately burst into flames. Then again, my parents always say God has a sense of humor. Having me suffer through the rest of this endless song is worse than any circle of Hell.

“It is well, with my soul.” I join with the crowd.

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** My thoughts**

I loved this book, so much more than I thought I would. I mean, the blurb was intriguing enough that I knew I would enjoy it, but I wasn't prepared for the easy connection and the emotional roller coaster. I don't often literally LOL when reading many books, but this one definitely had me laughing out loud. I even got choked up at times. I felt the anger and frustration. And I could share in the joys.

Clearly I am not a closeted male teenager, but I have many friends who are LGBT and vividly remember them going through a lot of similar situations back when we were in college. I have personally dealt with the hypocrisy of many churches, including stints with some of the fundamentalist types. I have had some of the same thoughts and conversations on different levels. I think that perhaps even without those experiences, this book was so well-written and got so deep into Mike's head and personality, that a lot of people are going to find a way to relate to it.

This book is not going to be everybody's cup of tea. Not everyone is going to like all of the directions it takes. But I think it is well worth the read and is actually quite realistic. Perhaps it could open up a few minds and lead to some important conversations.

Alexander grew up in the Metro Atlanta Area his entire life, moving from suburb to suburb, just on the outskirts of the city. He’s always had a passion for writing, even from a young age. He still lives on the cusp of Atlanta, inching his way ever closer to finally becoming the City Dweller he’s always wanted to be. In the meantime, he spends his days writing stories with queer characters and drinking an unfathomable amount of coffee. When he isn’t crafting quality queer fiction, you can find Alexander most likely curled up alongside his boyfriend, watching a movie or another equally lazy task.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Secret Lives of Royals by Shalini Dua with Giveaway

Welcome to the book blast for The Secret Lives of Royals by Shalini Dua! Thanks to the recent royal birth and royal wedding, stories of royal families are a hot topic. This one is going to be a little bit different, though, which can be a very good thing. Check out an excerpt before you download your own copy. Leave a comment or a question for the author. And then be sure to follow the tour for more sneak peeks into the book, as well as more chances to win the giveaway.

Please note that affiliate links are present within this post. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission to help me support my websites, at no additional cost to you.

Secret Lives of Royals

Olivia can’t take it anymore. She’s had enough of the big city and it’s lack of fulfilling her dreams. Then, just when she’s about to give up and move home, out of the blue, she is offered her dream job. Olivia is suspicious but that could just be the New York in her. She decides not to pull at threads. Despite her best efforts to remain blissfully oblivious, the secret to her life upgrade is soon uncovered when she finds herself invited to be part of a secret society.

Olivia learns that there is a thin curtain separating our world from theirs. Just beneath the surface, an entirely different one exists. One that is controlled by those of Royal lineage. The chosen ones, the Royals, hold the fate of the world in their hands. Will Olivia be able to bear the weight of the crown?

Confessions of a Shopaholic meets The Adjustment Bureau, this contemporary fairytale is both relatable and aspirational. Taking a look at the current balance of media and power with a healthy dose of humor, fashion, food and wanderlust.

Read an excerpt:
I’m getting a very weird feeling. I consider turning around and leaving, but getting a cab on a cold rainy night before 2AM is going to be tough as they don’t begin frequenting the area until the bars start to close, and the nearest Uber appears to be 25 minutes away. Plus, I did go to all of this trouble to get my lazy self dressed and over here.

There is a crest engraved in brass metal on the front of the red door, an intricately designed crown and some lettering. I tilt my head to read it all the way around. ‘Alea iacta est memores acti prudentes uturi modus operandi’ I read aloud, and below, ‘Posteriori’. I recognize the language as Latin from the three weeks we spent on it during Intro to Languages, which was designed to help us choose one to focus on during our tenure at the university.
Against my better judgment, I push on the heavy door, which creaks open. I enter into a cold stone-walled hall with a stone slab floor, lit by what appears to be a row of fire lanterns on each side. I guess this place is a bit behind the times in converting, or maybe they think it’s super ironic and hipster to not jump on the modernization bandwagon. Or maybe it’s me. I’m not exactly the authority on architectural trends. Maybe converted vintage is over and re-vintaged vintage is back in. Ugh, I can’t wait until I’m old and have an excuse not to be hip.

I walk down a windy stone hallway that seems straight out of a period film. Wow, they are really taking this theme seriously. How cool would it be if this stuff was authentic? I take a few pictures with my phone just in case. I mean as Cultures Editor, it’s always nice to be the one to discover the next big thing, like Connor said.

As I round the corner I hear, before I see, a British male mumbling to himself, apparently in debate.

“It’s so bizarre. But it couldn’t be. Could it? Stranger things have happened.”

I find myself face to face with a short-ish man, though taller than me, with glasses, wearing a sports coat with suede elbow patches. I scream in surprise and jump about five feet in the air. He seems slightly taken aback as well but less jumpy than me, or at least less vocal about it. He’s good looking in an intellectual sort of way and his dark floppy hair is conservatively combed back. I’m not sure if he’s startled by our unexpected encounter or my scream, but he does a bit of a double back.

“Sorry,” he recovers charmingly, “I didn’t see you there.”

“No, me either.” I try to breathe. I feel like I know him from somewhere.”

“Stuart Stephens.” He proffers his hand in greeting.

“Olivia Grace Thorpland.” I shake his in return. “But you can call me Gigi.”

“Hello, Gigi. Nice to meet you.” He is impeccably mannered even after our near death collision. Must be the British thing.

“So are you here for the party too?” I inquire. “Do you know where it is?”

“Party?” he asks, confused. “No, I just had a meeting here.”

“Ah, I see,” I say, although I don’t, given the hour. I definitely know him from somewhere. Got it, he’s a comedian.

“Well, care to join me anyway?” I offer politely. After all, he’s British, I’m being a good ambassador. He appears a bit bewildered.

“No, thanks. I best be going.”

“Are you sure? My friends are in there.”

“Really? Your friends are in there?” He seems surprised to see where I’m gesturing.

“Yup,” I tell him confidently.

“Oh, well, thanks for the invite, but I’m completely sure. Thanks anyway,” comes his nervous reply. “But, can I ask you a question?” I nod. “Is this all, um, kosher?”

“I, I, don’t know.” I hesitate. Is he Jewish and British? Is that a thing?

“Well, I’ll let you get on “he says. “Have a good night.”

“You too. Bye,” I reply. And with that, we walk off in opposite directions.

Finally, I reach a semi-circled entryway that has the option of five doors, one straight ahead and two on either side. These are not your ordinary doors either. They are heavy, arched, rustic, dark brown, slated wooden doors. I’m not really in the mood to crash a wedding reception, murder, or worse, a live band performance; and, given that anything could be behind these doorways, I’m about to give up on this expedition completely, when one of the doors, the entryway smack dab in the center, starts to creak open, apparently of its own accord. A feeling of unexpected dread overtakes me. I brace myself, unsure of what to expect to find behind it.”

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About Shalini Dua

An international upbringing and a love of stories laid the foundation for wanderlust. Shalini aspires to spend her time country-hopping and consuming pop-culture, comedy and good food but the reality is often frantically downing coffee, meeting deadlines at exactly the last second and working her unglamorous corporate job to fund all of the other pursuits.

The Secret Lives of Royals is Shalini’s debut novel. Her other work includes published poetry and scripts only she has read.






Shalini will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Review of Where the Sea Takes Me by Heidi R. Kling

Welcome to the book tour for Where the Sea Takes Me by Heidi R. Kling. This book is unlike any other YA you would have ever read. And while it is the second book in the series, it can be read as a standalone. I read both books, however, and think you are missing out if you skip the first book. They are both well worth it. Please enjoy an excerpt and my review of both books.

Please note that some of these links are affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission to help me support my websites, at no additional cost to you. I also received complimentary copies of these titles in exchange for my honest reviews.

Where I Found You

After her mother's plane went missing over the Indian Ocean, seventeen-year-old Sienna Jones gave up everything she loved about living in California. No more surfing. No more swimming. No more ocean, period. Playing it safe, hiding from the world, is the best call.

Until her dad throws down the challenge of a lifetime: spend the summer with his humanitarian team in Indonesia, working with orphans who lost everything in a massive tsunami.

The day they arrive, Sienna meets a mysterious boy named Deni, whose dark, intense eyes make her heart race. Their stolen nights force her to open up and live in a way she thought she couldn't anymore. When she’s with Deni, she remembers the girl she used to be… and starts to feel like the woman he sees in her.

A woman he wants for his own.


But when Deni’s past comes looking for him, Sienna’s faced with losing another person she loves. She can’t do it. Not again.

Fortunately, this time, she has a plan.

**My thoughts**
This book really blew me away. I vividly remember the horrors of the tsunami and indulged in a lot of the stories about it, which were absolutely devastating. One of my kindergartners took it upon herself to start up a collection to help support the orphans left behind in this terrible tragedy, so it took on even more meaning at the time. And you know that the aftermath was not easily contained. I am sure there are still after effects all of these years later.

I think it was brave for Kling to take a step away from the traditional YA romance story and to put hers in this setting. I feel like I learned a lot about what happened to the orphans and what life was like post-tsunami by reading this book. It gave a lot of insight into the culture and the importance of those who wanted to help to remember to abide by the established culture, in order to be able to make a difference.

I understand Sienna's attraction to Deni. He is kind of the bad boy of the group, but more because he is angry at what life has dealt him as opposed to being a bad person. He's intense in his feelings and needs help. I think Sea recognizes some of his pain as she is still trying to come to terms with her mother's death. And by trying to help each other, they may stand a chance at being able to heal.

Their attraction does happen quickly, and you almost wouldn't expect it to get so intense so fast. But they're in an intense relationship. I have to admit that I wanted to jump into the book and throttle them both when they do something drastic to confront Deni's past. I honestly don't know how they managed to pull it off the way that they did, but it's literally a different world over there and was a different time. 

They both grow and find a new way to cope with the tragedy and pain in their lives. Both of them have lost who they are, thanks to circumstances outside of their control. But then together, they are able to find themselves again. I see a lot of maturity in them, despite their crazy antics. They both learn and love so much and you just know that they are going to find happiness one day in their lives. They're not quite there yet, but they are definitely well on their way.

I really liked this book because I felt it had more maturity about it than typical crazy bubbly YA romances. Now don't get me wrong; I do get a kick out of those as well. But this was just something wonderfully different. And I am so glad that there is a sequel.

Where the Sea Takes Me

Two years later might as well be two lifetimes.

Sienna’s in college, working hard to achieve her dreams, and trying to love another boy—and halfway succeeding. She’d be totally happy with her life if she could just stop dreaming about him. Deni. The boy she left behind on the shores of Banda Aceh.

When she gets word Deni’s coming to America, Sea’s world shifts. And when he arrives on her doorstep, she's shaken to the core.

Sparks don’t just fly, they soar—and threaten to burn down the new life she’s so patiently, persistently, built.

When they’re both invited to join a relief mission in Cambodia, they jump at the chance to help…and be together. As the time and distance between them melts away in the sticky Cambodian heat, Sienna knows her heart can’t take losing him again.

And that’s exactly what might happen.

Read an excerpt:
In less than two hours, Deni would be in a car with me.

I was going to be sick. 
“Sienna.” His right eye twitched. He didn’t wear glasses anymore. After laser surgery (Vera’s idea) he didn’t need them. I still wasn’t used to his eyes without the glass cover. “I honestly don’t know about his wife. I assume she’s still around. Let’s just focus on the fact he’s coming to visit, okay? It’ll only be for a few days. And then, we’re off to Cambodia.” He patted my hand. “This means you won’t get much of a break after finals, but you don’t mind showing Deni around a bit, right?”

Did I mind? It was only what I’d dreamed of for the two years since I tore myself out of his arms on the broken shores of Banda Aceh, no matter how hard I tried to keep the memory of Deni in my past.

“No, it’s okay.” I didn’t want to show him my range of emotion. How torn I felt. How huge this was for me to see Deni again after finally getting ready to move on with Spider. I wouldn’t want him putting Deni in a hotel.

I felt like Dad and I should be on the same page about this summer, though. About what Spider asked.

“Want to hear another thing making this summer interesting?”

“Spider asked me to move in with him.” 
Dad choked on a popcorn kernel. “What?” he asked, sputtering. “First Deni is coming, and now a boy wants my daughter to move in with him? Your old dad is going to have a heart attack.”

“Believe me,” I said. “None of this was my idea.”

“Are you and Spider dating? I thought you were just good friends.”

“Well, we aren’t dating, but... He said he wants it to be more.”

It felt weird to talk about this with my dad, but we’d bonded in Indonesia. Things had been a lot better between us since then.

“How do you feel?”

I got up and started to pace. “I like Spider. I always have. But why now? Why did this have to happen the same morning we find out Deni is on his way? I mean, obviously Deni is married but still...having him here will be weird.”

Dad considered me. “Sometimes life presents you with the perfect storm, and it’s up to you to figure out how to navigate your way through it.”

Perfect storm? More like a tsunami.

And I wasn’t ready.

**My thoughts**
Oh, I am so happy that this story had a sequel. I couldn't help but be left wondering at the end of the first book what was going to happen to Sea and to Deni. They were well on their way to finding themselves again and healing from their own personal tragedies. But of course they both had even more soul-searching and maturing to do. And you knew that they couldn't really be happy apart from each other. And now they have their second chance.

I have to say that I am disappointed in Spider. He was such a good friend to Sienna when they were kids, and I thought he would continue to be so. But now as young adults, he has gotten too wrapped up in her and made a 180 from the friend he had been in the past. Jealousy is not a good look on him.

It's beautiful to see how far Sienna and Deni have come. They are embracing their lives and starting to fulfill their dreams. And now that they are together, sort of going back to their roots, they can find a new manifestation of themselves and their life goals. And that love that they have for each other, which never really went away, isn't going to hurt any.

I admire these two for being so selfless and wanting to do whatever they can to help other people. I don't know that I would have it in me to go to another country like this and take on the missions that they do. Their work is a noble work, especially a particular issue that they undertake as a side gig. They are very brave for standing up for what is right and doing what they can for justice.

I loved reading this installment of their story and am desperately hoping that the series can continue. And while you don't need to have necessarily read the first book in order to appreciate this one, I think you will get a lot more out of it if you do read the first one. It helps you to truly appreciate where they came from and how far they have come in the past couple of years.

About Heidi R. Kling

Heidi R. Kling writes books about normal girls in fantastic situations.

Her debut novel SEA (Penguin/Putnam) was a finalist for Northern California Book of the Year," an IndieNext Summer Pick, Goodreads “Mover and Shaker," Scholastic Reading Pick, and Gateway Reader’s Award Finalist among other generous accolades. SEA, which launched June, 2010, is a bittersweet love story set in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 Indonesian tsunami, and is set to relaunch with Entangled Teen December 4 as WHERE I FOUND YOU (Sea series #1) with its sequel WHERE THE SEA TAKES ME out April, 2018!

After earning her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School in New York, Heidi returned to the Bay Area where she lives with her family in a tiny seaside village like the towns in her books.

She's also the author of the acclaimed PAINT MY BODY RED (for fans of Speak and 13 Reasons Why), bestselling romantic comedy NOT OKAY, CUPID and the Spellspinners of Melas County series about feuding witches and warlocks.

Please visit her on twitter (Heidi R. Kling) where she loves to live-tweet TV shows, overuse gifs and chat with her readers about books, love and travel. She's very fortunate to write stories for a living and is grateful to you for reading them!

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