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Friday, 29 May 2015

#ArmchairBEA Day Four: The Giveway


Welcome to Day 4 of Armchair BEA.  It's give away day and I have an awesome giveaway today.  The book to movie adaptation post is not quite ready yet thanks to being sick the latter half of this week so it will go up later.

In the mean time, I am interested in how people are enjoying Armchair BEA.  What's been your favourite day so far? And your favourite topic?  Hope you are having fun visiting everyone else's posts and making friends also :-)

Now

The Giveaway


  • Up for grabs is up to AUD$20 worth of book/s from Book Depository
  • Open to anywhere Book depository delivers
  • If you are under 13, make sure you have parent or guardian permission to enter
  • If you win, you will have 48 hours after I contact you to respond before a new winner will be drawn



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and enjoy the rest of Armchair BEA!

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Serpentine by Cindy Pon with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing chapter one of
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
presented byMonth9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
SerpentineEbook
SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.
Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.
When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.
Vivid worldbuilding, incendiary romance, heart-pounding action, and characters that will win you over–I highly recommend Serpentine.Cinda Williams Chima, best-selling author of the Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles fantasy novels
Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, NYT Bestseller of the Graceling Realm Series
Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites
add to goodreads
Title: Serpentine
Publication date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Cindy Pon
Pre-order Links:
excerpt

Chapter 1
The mountain was still shrouded in mist.
Skybright felt its cold tendrils against her nape as she climbed the giant cypress tree. She could almost believe she was in the heavens and the immortals themselves lived beyond the high monastery walls. A strange quiet had settled over Tian Kuan mountain, as if the mist had turned into something solid, blanketing their surroundings in silence. Skybright loved mornings like these. She scooted further up the thick gnarled branch, clinging with her legs, not daring to look down. Rough bark scraped her palms, and she held her breath as she grabbed a branch above her with both hands and eased herself onto her feet, crouching low, like a cat about to spring. She glimpsed the far edge of a square; dense fog hovered just above the green stone tiles of curved rooflines.
Zhen Ni gasped from below.
Skybright glanced down at her mistress. Zhen Ni’s pale face was turned upward, her eyes wide. Skybright quickly looked away and gulped. She had never been this high up before--if she fell she’d surely break her neck.
“Take care,” her mistress said.
Take care! Zhen Ni was the one who had concocted this mad plan to begin with, convincing Skybright the monastery wall truly wasn’t that high, and that she could climb the cypress tree with ease. Curiosity was her mistress’s weakness, and she simply had to know what went on within the monastery, behind its grand facade. Of course, Skybright would have to do the climbing. She couldn’t glare at her mistress, as it meant risking a glance downward again. Instead, Skybright rose slowly, willing her legs to keep steady, until she finally stood, her cloth shoes digging into the wood. She hugged the higher branch to her chest and murmured a prayer to the Goddess of Mercy.
Standing, she had a full view of the immense square hidden behind the walls, flanked by two red rectangular temples. A pair of fierce stone lions guarded each temple, and tall cypress trees dotted the edges of the square. Hundreds of monks, dressed in slate blue sleeveless tunics and trousers, sat cross-legged on the gray stone floor. While Zhen Ni and Skybright had been ascending the mountain, the monks’ strong voices had reverberated across the tall peak, counting as they practiced their forms. Now, they were so still and silent that Skybright blinked, wondering if they were statues as well—or an illusion. Each monk’s head was closely shaved, and they sat with their elbows resting against their knees, exact replicas of one another.
Not even the wind stirred.
“What can you see?” Zhen Ni asked, her impatient voice too loud to be a whisper.
Skybright ignored her. She scanned the endless rows of monks, each offering a three-quarter profile, when her eyes rested on one that did not appear like the rest. His hair wasn’t shorn, but shoulder length, and tied back. His tunic and trousers were tan. He sat in the very back, near the edge. As if he sensed her watching, he tilted his chin until their eyes met across the great distance.
She froze, feeling caught. And in those few quick moments, his gaze swept across her, seeming to take in every detail, before he turned his head back toward the magnificent temples, his expression never changing. Heart thudding, Skybright maneuvered until she was straddling the branch again, then scrambled as fast as she could down the giant cypress.
Her legs trembled when she finally reached the ground.
“Well, what did you see?” Zhen Ni tugged at her sleeve, her face shining with curiosity.
“Monks. So many of them.” She began walking back toward town, not waiting for her mistress as proper decorum dictated.
Surprised, Zhen Ni picked up her skirt so she wouldn’t trip on the embroidered hem and followed. “Could you see their faces?”
She shook her head, even as she recalled the slender eyes of the boy who had seen her. “They were meditating.”
The two girls hurried now through the trees. The fog had begun to lift, allowing glimmers of sunlight, and the earth was soft and damp beneath their feet. Skybright and Zhen Ni clasped hands and ran—they would be in trouble if their absence were noticed.

Skybright brought a late morning meal of rice porridge to Zhen Ni’s spacious reception hall and dined with her mistress. The two girls were now draped across Zhen Ni’s expansive bed, playing a game of Go. Her mistress was the better player, yet Skybright still had to keep an eye on the game, to be sure she never won by chance or from carelessness on Zhen Ni’s part. The last time she had won, Zhen Ni had pounded the bed so hard with her fists, the black and white stones scattered and bounced to the floor. Skybright never did find all of the pieces.
Morning light filled the bedchamber through lattice windows cast wide open. The walls were papered in the palest green, and Zhen Ni had decorated them with several magnificent lotus paintings—her favorite flower. Despite the open windows, the bedchamber was warm, and Skybright felt her chin dip, her lids growing heavy. Zhen Ni gave a languid yawn and stretched like a cat onto her side, leaning her head against her arm. A sharp tap on the reception hall’s door startled both girls. Skybright jumped from the tall platform bed as Zhen Ni swung her legs down the side, patting the gold ornaments woven in her hair.
“Your mother’s bringing a guest to visit, mistress,” Rose, another handmaid, said from outside.
“Now?” Zhen Ni asked as Skybright smoothed her mistress’s peach tunic and skirt.
“She’s on her way, mistress,” replied Rose’s muffled voice.
Zhen Ni sighed and gave Skybright an exasperated look before saying, “Thank you, Rose.”
Lady Yuan entered the quarters soon after, trailed by a woman in her forties, but dressed much more plainly, with her hair pulled into a tight bun. If Lady Yuan was an iridescent king fisher, then this woman clad in brown and gray was a dull hen. Yet there was a keen sharpness to the woman’s eyes as she took in the opulent reception hall, decorated in pale gold and pink, before her gaze glided to Zhen Ni’s face.
“I’ve brought a special surprise for you today, Daughter. Madame Lo is the best-regarded seer of our time. We’re fortunate to have her visiting so far from the Capital.” Lady Yuan smiled at both girls, her excitement obvious. She had grown plumper in these past few years; it had softened her features and rounded her chin.
Madame Lo inclined her head. “You honor me, Lady Yuan. It’s been too long since I’ve visited the mountains. I consider it a retreat.”
Zhen Ni bowed to the woman. “The honor is mine.” A flush colored her cheeks as she turned to her mother. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wasn’t certain if Madame Lo could make it until she actually arrived at our door,” Lady Yuan said.
Zhen Ni swept an arm toward the curved-back chairs. “Please sit.”
“You’ve not yet started your monthly letting,” the seer stated, and everyone froze as if she had picked up a vase and smashed it to the floor.
“Mother?” Zhen Ni’s voice was barely a whisper.
Lady Yuan sat down, arranging her silk skirt with nervous fingers.
“Dear girl, the fact that you’ve not reached womanhood shines as bright on your face as the moon in full bloom. I’m a seer, after all.” Instead of following her hostess’ lead and sitting, Madame Lo stood before them and scrutinized Zhen Ni. Despite her plain dress, two stunning jade bracelets encircled the fortuneteller’s fine-boned wrist. One in a clear crisp green, and the other a deep lavender, both wrought with delicate gold details. They flashed and gleamed under the bright lantern lights, mesmerizing Skybright. Madame Lo lifted a hand to her chin, and her dark, piercing eyes slid to Skybright’s own face for a breath before she said, “But don’t fret, Mistress Yuan, your monthly letting will start soon enough.”
A chill slithered down Skybright’s spine when her eyes had met the seer’s, and she retreated a step to leave when Zhen Ni grabbed her hand and pulled her to the plush chair beside her own. “So, Madame Lo, how do you tell your fortunes?” Her mistress wore a faint smile, but Skybright heard the hesitancy in her voice.
The seer gathered her brown skirt and finally seated herself. “I use your birth date and time, and study your facial features as well.”
Zhen Ni ducked her head, staring at her folded hands. “I see,” she murmured.
“Tell us what you’ve divined,” Lady Yuan said, turning to the other woman across the enameled table. “Will she have a good husband? And many children?”
Zhen Ni caught her lower lip between her teeth, something she did when she was anxious. The familiar clatter of china against lacquered trays, a pleasant sound, carried from the covered corridor outside, along with the barely perceptible whisper of slippered feet. Rose entered, followed by another handmaid, Oriole, who set small dishes of lychees and sweets on the tables beside them. The delicate aroma of jasmine tea filled the reception hall. Pouring the brew into celadon cups, Rose then offered one to each of the women with both hands. Her dark eyes flickered to Lady Yuan, and the lady gave the barest nod before Rose gave a steaming cup to Skybright as well.
The two handmaids then slipped out, after bowing their heads.
They took time to sip their tea, quiet for a long moment, before Zhen Ni, with a raised chin, finally met Madame Lo’s knowing eyes and asked, “Will I fall in love?”
“Love!” Lady Yuan cut in. “Love comes later, Daughter.”
“When did you fall in love with Father?” Zhen Ni plucked at the delicate beading on her sleeve edge.
“Not until ten years after we were wed,” Lady Yuan said. “Love takes time.” She nodded at Zhen Ni, as if in encouragement. But Zhen Ni wouldn’t look at her mother.
“I’ve composed and read her star chart according to her birth date and time. And what they tell me confirms what I see in your features, Mistress Yuan.”
They all leaned forward while the seer pressed the tips of her long fingers together, her wide mouth drawn tense. Skybright wondered if the pause was for theatrics. But when Madame Lo spoke, it was with such care and authority that the thought disappeared from her mind.
“You’re a willful girl.”
Zhen Ni crossed her arms and reclined into the cushion. Skybright struggled to keep her face straight.
“This will pose challenges for you. Cause grief for you and your family. The shape and set of your chin only emphasize what your star chart indicates. You will love. Truly and deeply. The slight tilt of your eyes, the sheen to them, say as much. You’re a romantic, and sensual—see the shape of your upper lip, and the curve of your lower. You will suffer heartache.”
Zhen Ni’s dark brows had drawn together, and she gripped her hands so tightly that the nails bit into her skin.
Madame Lo rose from her seat. She was a slight woman and moved with an assurance that lent her grace. Her brown tunic and skirt were loose and edged with gray, worn only for function. Skybright tried to imagine the woman in turquoise or lavender—any bright color—but was unable. The seer didn’t need any extravagance but the glittering bracelets at her wrist, and the sharp light of her dark eyes. Madame Lo kneeled beside Zhen Ni’s chair and extended a hand to her face. Her mistress shrank from the older woman, as if her fingertips were barbed.
“Her ears are beautifully shaped. See how thick the lobes are? This coupled with the wideness of her nose all point to her fortune in having been born into such an illustrious family. You’ll find a very wealthy husband for her to marry, Lady Yuan.” Madame Lo stood and returned to her chair, before taking another sip of tea. “She’ll have at least two children. More, I cannot say.”
“Will she marry an eldest son?” Lady Yuan asked. “Will she bear a boy herself?”
“I fear I have nothing more specific, Lady Yuan.”
Zhen Ni had not relaxed beside her, but was still sitting rigid as a bamboo stalk, and leaning toward Skybright as if for shelter. “How can I marry well yet suffer heartache?” asked Zhen Ni.
“One does not exclude the other,” said the seer.
“We all suffer from the pangs of love at least once in our lives, Daughter. It’s nothing to worry over. The important thing is that you’ll marry well and have children!” Lady Yuan smiled, her face glowing with pleasure.
“I think I’ve heard enough, Madame Lo,” Zhen Ni said briskly, and her mother cleared her throat before taking a sip of tea. Zhen Ni blushed. “You honor me with a personal reading.”
“It was a pleasure,” Madame Lo replied. “I hope it has helped to ease your mother’s mind.”
“My gratitude, Madame Lo,” said Lady Yuan.
Skybright eyed the ginger candy on a plate beside her. It was Zhen Ni’s favorite, but she hadn’t touched any of the sweets since they had been brought. Skybright would have liked some lychees, but decorum didn’t allow her to eat until everyone else had taken something for herself first. Instead, she stood and refilled the teacups. The fragrant scent of jasmine rose with the steam.
“What about a reading for Skybright?” Zhen Ni asked after a long pause.
Skybright almost exclaimed aloud, but bit her tongue.
“Skybright? Of course.” Lady Yuan said. “But what’s there to tell?”
Madame Lo turned her attention to Skybright fully for the first time, and Skybright sank deeper into her seat, feeling exposed. “I would need her birth date and time. A star chart takes at least three days to prepare.”
“We don’t know when Skybright was born, exactly,” Zhen Ni said.
Madame Lo studied her face as if she were a painting. Skybright willed herself to keep her head raised. “You’re Zhen Ni’s handmaid?”
“Yes. And my companion since we were babes.”
“Let the girl speak for herself,” the seer said.
All three looked to Skybright, and she swallowed, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks. She wasn’t used to being noticed, much less being the center of attention. “I’m an orphan.”
“I see,” Madame Lo replied. “And you were taken in by the Yuans?”
“She was left on our doorstep in a basket--”
“She wasn’t more than a few days’ old--”
Lady Yuan and Zhen Ni spoke over each other but both stopped abruptly when Madame Lo slapped her palm against the carved armrest. Lady Yuan jolted in her chair and Zhen Ni attempted to appear contrite.
“It’s as they say, Madame Lo,” Skybright said. “I know nothing more beyond that.”
The seer beckoned with a curl of her fingers. “Come here, girl.”
Skybright rose and stood before Madame Lo, feeling the damp of her palms. She had spent very little time wondering about her past, her parents, where she came from. It seemed pointless and impractical. Her life was full with daily responsibilities and rituals, with being a handmaid and companion to Zhen Ni. Now, this stranger might tell her more about her future or her past—probably useless or false knowledge, as far as Skybright was concerned. If she had a family, if her parents were still alive and wanted her, wouldn’t they have come back for her by now?
“Kneel,” Madame Lo said.
Skybright lowered herself onto the cold stone floor. The seer took her chin in one hand, turning her face this way and that, as a merchant would study cattle before purchasing. Skybright held her arms still at her sides, her hands fisted.
“There’s an unusual symmetry to your face.” Madame Lo tilted Skybright’s head to examine her ears. “Your features reveal little to me.” Skybright wanted to jerk away, but steadied herself. “She’s no classic beauty,” Madame Lo went on, speaking to Zhen Ni and Lady Yuan directly. “See how the mouth is too full, the eyes set slightly far apart. The nose is narrow, the bridge too tall—there is no wealth there. No fortune. Yet the face as a whole—”
“I’ve always thought Skybright quite pretty,” Zhen Ni said.
“Yes. Not a classic beauty, but the features come together to create something quite alluring. Almost unearthly.”
“But this tells us so little, Madame Lo,” Lady Yuan said, choosing a candied persimmon from the tray.
“Will she meet a good man?” Zhen Ni asked.
“Daughter!” Lady Yuan reprimanded.
Because they all knew Skybright would be a handmaid to Zhen Ni for life, and never marry.
“She could take a lover,” Zhen Ni retorted.
Skybright bowed her head, and Madame Lo patted her hot cheek, as if in sympathy. Then the seer’s grip tightened, her long nails digging into Skybright’s face, and Skybright gasped in surprise and pain. Grimacing, Madame Lo dropped her hand, then pressed her knuckles against her eyes. “I’m sorry, Skybright,” she murmured. “This has never happened to me before.”
The seer’s complexion had turned ashen, and Skybright could see she was unsettled. Alarmed, she sensed that Madame Lo was rarely fazed, much less showing it as she did now. She jumped to her feet, lifting the ceramic pot so she could pour the seer more tea.
“What’s the matter?” Lady Yuan exclaimed.
“When I touched Skybright, her image changed. It was as if her true self was veiled, and I was unable to see her clearly. I’ve never encountered the like before in any of my readings, and I’ve done hundreds.” Madame Lo reached for her teacup and took a long sip. Her hand trembled. The seer drew a breath before saying, “But she’s strong. That much comes across.”
Zhen Ni nibbled on a ginger candy and watched Skybright with interest. “Have you ever thought of yourself as alluring, Sky? As strong?”
“Never, mistress,” Skybright replied. Madame Lo’s revelations meant little to her—they were only frivolous nonsense.
“I can see it,” Zhen Ni said, her dark eyes gleaming as she nodded to the seer. “I never noticed before, but now I can see it.”

Zhen Ni fiddled with the jars and bottles on her vanity as Skybright brushed her black hair then plaited it, weaving luminous pearls into the single braid. Her mistress had been quiet since Madame Lo’s visit earlier in the day, her usually animated face appearing pensive for much of the afternoon. In an attempt to coax her into a better mood, Skybright had suggested a new hairstyle and outfit in time for Zhen Ni’s evening meal with her mother in the main hall. Her mistress had agreed with a distracted wave of her hand.
“Mama said a family friend’s daughter will be staying with us through the summer,” Zhen Ni said and began chewing on her nail. “She’s our age.”
Skybright swatted at her mistress’s hand.
The smile Zhen Ni gave her lacked its usual mischievousness. “I hate waiting. I wish it would never happen.” Their eyes met in the bronzed mirror, and Skybright took the opportunity to adjust the jade lotus pendant encircling her mistress’s neck.
Skybright knew she wasn’t talking about the girl who would be visiting.
“I know Mama’s eager to show me that book as soon as my monthly letting begins.”
Zhen Ni’s older sister, Min, had sneaked The Book of Making to share with them when they were just fourteen years. All three had gawked at the dozens of illustrations depicted, teaching a bride how to best pleasure her future husband in the bedchamber and become with child quickly. Now, two years later, Min was wed and living with her husband’s family, already expecting her first babe.
“To think Mama’s so desperate to marry me off, she hired that seer!” Zhen Ni said. “You’re so fortunate not to have to … suffer through any of it.”
Skybright began making Zhen Ni’s expansive platform bed, straightening the silk sheets and plumping the brocaded cushions. Her mistress had lain in it for much of the afternoon, without ever falling asleep. “I’ll go with you when you marry, and have to leave the Yuan manor too.”
“You would come with me, Sky?” Zhen Ni grabbed her hand and smiled coyly, knowing Skybright had no choice.
Skybright rolled her eyes. “Of course.”
“It would be a great comfort to me to have you by my side.” Zhen Ni sighed, her shoulders drooping.
Skybright laughed and, because she looked so pitiful, gripped her mistress’s hand. Zhen Ni’s most beautiful feature was her eyes, almond shaped and a deep honeyed brown. They often appeared to have sheen to them, as if she were on the verge of uproarious laughter or dramatic tears. She was half a head taller than Skybright, and more slender of build.
And as Zhen Ni considered her, her mouth twisted into a scheming smile, one that Skybright knew all too well. Wary, she dropped her mistress’s hand.
“You know you’re supposed to help me. Teach me to be a better wife to my future husband.”
“Teach you?”
Zhen Ni nodded. “A good handmaid … practices with her mistress.”
Skybright blushed, finally realizing what she was implying. The illustrations from The Book of Making had always featured a man and a woman. It had never crossed her mind that … Skybright swallowed, before saying, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“You wouldn’t have. But Min told me some households require it of their daughters before they marry, to make them better wives. It’s called mirroring.” Zhen Ni grinned wider, the same wicked grin as when she had plucked the eyeballs from the steamed fish when they were eight years and convinced Skybright to eat one, telling her it was a delicacy and would make her smarter. She would never forget the wet, gristly texture of it, the hard marble in the middle. How it had burst in her mouth. Zhen Ni had cackled when she spat it out, almost retching.
“Don’t worry, Sky.” Zhen Ni drew closer, then leaned forward and pressed her mouth against Skybright’s.
Skybright startled but didn’t pull back. Her mistress’s eyes were closed, and the delicate scent of peach cream enveloped her senses—the cream she had rubbed into Zhen Ni’s face and throat earlier. Her lips were soft, supple, making Skybright suddenly aware of how rough her own were.
Zhen Ni put her hand on one shoulder and squeezed, before she spun away and collapsed onto the bed, giggling. “Oh!” She rolled, quite unladylike, twisting the sheets. “Oh,” she snorted, “We just had our first kiss!”
After a few moments, she sat up and rubbed the tears from her eyes. “How was it?”
Skybright hadn’t moved, not knowing how to respond, afraid of what her mistress might suggest next. “Your lips … were soft.”
Zhen Ni covered her mouth with both hands and began laughing uncontrollably again. “Dear darling Skybright.” She shook her head. “There is no guile to you. It’s why I adore you.”
“How did it feel to you?” Skybright was too curious not to ask.
Zhen Ni scrubbed at her mouth with the back of her hand with exaggerated disgust. “It was like kissing my own sister!”
Skybright pitched a fat cushion at her, and Zhen Ni squealed, barely dodging it in time. She then fell into bed and laughed with her.

Skybright couldn’t fall asleep that night.
It was near the end of the sixth moon, and the summer air was heavy and hot. She kicked the thin sheet aside and wound her thick hair away from her damp neck, trying to find a cool spot on the narrow bed. Her mind kept returning to the kiss she had exchanged with Zhen Ni. The kiss itself had been chaste, like she had shared with Zhen Ni before on the cheek. But there was an undercurrent there, an expectation, a bated breath. It seemed to have stoked something deep inside of her, as if touching her mouth to someone else’s had kindled a hidden desire, dormant until now.
She let out a long sigh, feeling the back of her arms stick to the bamboo mat. The face of the young monk who had glimpsed her clinging to a branch bloomed beneath her eyelids, how his expression never changed as he assessed her, as if they stood in front of each other at arm’s length. Who was he? And why wasn’t his hair cut like all the others?
Her dreams, when she finally fell asleep, were scattered and warm.
Then insistent.

Skybright woke in a fevered haze, feeling as if she were drunk. It was still night, so dark that she couldn’t see. Heat radiated from her groin downward, pulsing through her legs, tingling her feet, then ricocheting back again. Her thighs and calves ached of it, of melding and severing.
She gasped, trying to rise. She clutched at her legs, and her hands sprang back as she cried out. No sound came and she whimpered, rubbing her ears. Had she gone deaf as well? Skybright touched her legs again, but they were no longer there, replaced by something sleek and supple that wasn’t her skin, wasn’t her flesh.
This must be a dream.
A nightmare.
She tried to swing her lower half off the bedside, but instead thrashed and thumped to the stone floor below. Its rough coldness scraped her torso and elbows. Unable to stand, she dragged herself across the ground toward the lantern resting on her small cherry wood dresser. Something knocked over and hit her back. She hissed. Pulling herself up, she grabbed the lantern and a match. Her hands shook as she lit the wick.
The light’s warmth was familiar, comforting. Skybright twisted, held the lantern over her lower half, and nearly dropped it. A thick serpent coil snaked behind her, where her legs should have been, the ruby red scales glittering even in the wan light. She glided her hand along its smooth length, and felt it as her own flesh. The serpent length began at her waist, but the scales covered her abdomen, rising to just beneath her breasts. She was naked. Where had her sleep clothes gone?
The lantern jangled in her grasp, and she set it on the ground, running her hands over her face, now in a panic. Her features felt the same. She pushed herself, slid back to the dresser, and grabbed the pearl hand mirror that had been a birthday gift from Zhen Ni. Her familiar face reflected back at her, although her eyes were dark and wild, and her long hair seemed alive, floating about her shoulders.
A silent sob shook her, tremored from her chest through to the tip of her grotesque tail. Then she glimpsed something that caused her heartbeat to stutter. Slowly, she opened her mouth, and a long forked tongue escaped from it, waggling, as if taunting her.
The hand mirror crashed to the ground, and Skybright clawed at her neck with both hands, unable to speak, to scream. Her serpent coil jerked, swept the lantern on its side, and the flame was doused, casting her into darkness.

Quiet knocking stirred her awake.
The door panel slid aside and Zhen Ni poked her head through, then tiptoed inside, closing the panel behind her.
“You’re late. Of all the days!”
Sunshine flooded the small chamber when Zhen Ni opened the lattice window and Skybright struggled to rise, hysteria smothering her chest.
“What happened in here?” Her mistress stared at the toppled stool and broken lantern with oil seeping out beneath, then looked at her and gaped. “Why are you naked?”
Skybright glanced down and saw her legs, stuck her tongue to the roof of her mouth. “I’m—” She choked with relief when she could speak, “I was hot. Last night.” It must have been a nightmare. She had a fever and was hallucinating.
Zhen Ni drew to her bedside and waved her hands at her torso. “When did you get those?” she exclaimed.
Skybright peered down again, momentarily terrified, to realize that Zhen Ni had been pointing at her breasts. She crossed her arms, flushing.
“You’ve become a woman,” her mistress said in a quiet voice, her expression serious and thoughtful.
She wrapped the thin sheet around herself, laughing from a mixture of embarrassment and disorientation. “We’re the same age!”
“I certainly don’t look like that.”
Skybright was familiar with her mistress’s physique, being the one to help her bathe, and Zhen Ni was willowy, lacking the curves that Skybright had. Curves hidden beneath loose tunics that, until now, Skybright had never given a second thought.
Zhen Ni stooped down so that they were eye level. “It’s happened, Sky,” she whispered. “My monthly letting came.”
Skybright clapped her hand over her mouth. “Mistress—” But something in Zhen Ni’s measured gaze stopped her short.
“I’ve bled onto the sheet. You must strip and wash them. Hide the evidence.” Zhen Ni paused. Skybright had known her a lifetime and had never seen this look of fierce determination in her mistress’s eyes. “Mama can never know.”
About-the-Author

Cindy Pon
Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association's Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Serpentine, the first title in her next Xia duology, will be published by Month9Books in September 2015. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at www.cindypon.com.
Stay tuned for news on special brush painting card by Cindy with
Serpentine pre-order through Mysterious Galaxy in June!

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Swoon Romance YA Wednesdays: The Cinderella Moment by Jennifer Kloester Book Blitz with Review & Giveaway #ReadSwoonRepeat

The-Cinderella-Moment-Banner
Welcome to this week’s
Swoon Romance YA Wednesdays!
This week features:
The Cinderella Moment by Jennifer Kloester!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


Review:

I actually purchased this book last year along with its companion novel, The Rapunzel Dilemma.  I loved it. I thought it was incredibly sweet and fun and a really lovely fairy tale retelling.

I loved Angel Moncoeur and found my self caring about her and what happened to her in the story and I particularly liked the way she builds her relationship with her 'grandmother' even though she is only pretending to be her grand daughter.

I also loved the romance in this novel. It was the sweet swoony kind where you really wanted Angel to keep her prince charming even when her true identity is revealed. And I loved Nick, he really was the perfect prince Charming and I loved the chemistry between him and Angel even if he did think she was someone else.

I flew through this story enjoying every word and once I reached the end wanted to know more about Angel's story and what would happen next. I found the way Ms Kloester told the story and Angel's voice kept me engaged and involved all the way through.

If you are looking for a fun, sweet quick read filled with romance and awesome feels, then you will enjoy The Cinderella Moment

I give this story 3 3/4 stars

Sapphired Dragon xx




The-Cinderella-Moment-Cover
I adored this book. It made me think of Sabrina meets Anna and the French Kiss.” – Amanda

If you love a good male lead, and you love fairy-tale style re-tellings then this is the book for you!” — Claire

This one played out in my head like a movie.” — Michelle, Novels on the Run

So nice to see a clean, old-fashioned romantic coming of age story. I can see Disney knocking on Ms. Kloester’s door soon. A very charming read. I will recommend to my students this fall.” —MaryAnn E.

I just loved this book! So not was I was expecting. Clean, romantic and the fashion is to die for!” — K. Mendez


Let the masquerade begin!

Angel Moncoeur has always wanted to be a fashion designer, but without money or connections, it’s going to be a challenge. When an opportunity to leave her home in New York and head to Paris appears, Angel grabs it – even if it means masquerading as her best friend Lily. That can’t be too hard, can it? But when she falls in love with her very own Prince Charming who thinks she’s someone else, Angel embarks on a plan to secure her happy ever after.

THE CINDERELLA MOMENT is a fabulously fun story about high society, mistaken identity, love, betrayal, friendship – and great clothes!

THE CINDERELLA MOMENT is a contemporary twist on the Cinderella fairytale. There are no fantasy or magical elements. This is NOT a paranormal or fantasy novel! This is a clean contemporary coming of age story that readers can be conformtable recommending to daughters, nieces, students and friends who enjoy teen romance reads. Originally published in Austalia by Penguin. Available in the U.S. in both print and eBook from Swoon Romance.
add to goodreadsThe Cinderella Moment
by Jennifer Kloester
Publication Date: December 2013
Publisher: Swoon Romance

Amazon | B&N


About-the-Author
Jennifer Kloester
I was born in Melbourne, Australia, but have lived and worked in Papua New Guinea and the Middle East and travelled to more than thirty countries. During my time abroad I studied as an off-campus student with Deakin University and achieved my BA (Hons) while raising my three children. After graduating with a PhD in history from the University of Melbourne, I had my first two books: 'Georgette Heyer's Regency World' and 'Georgette Heyer' (the biography) published in both the UK and the USA. I've had lots of fun giving talks around the world on Georgette Heyer and the Regency, and am a passionate advocate for women writers, books and reading. My first novel, 'The Cinderella Moment', was published by Penguin Australia and Swoon Romance in 2013 and will be followed by the sequel, The Rapunzel Dilemma in 2014. I love writing and spending time with my family, gardening, reading and going to the beach. I have a black belt in karate and am love having adventures. One of my favourite things is experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and trying out different languages. Particular interests include Georgette Heyer first editions, and after a glorious visit to South Korea in 2012, Korean language and culture.

Giveaway


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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

#ArmchairBEA 2015 Day One: Introductions and Library Love


Hi everyone!

I am so excited to be taking part in Armchair BEA this year and can't believe its here already. It's been a couple of years  since I last participated so I was planning to be all organised this year but time has gotten away from me so we will see how we go.

Today's day 1 topics are introductions and Library Love. I really do love my local library. My three year old and I are there at least once a week picking up books for one or both of us.  Unfortunately my local librarians declined to be interviewed which was a shame but I still love my library and will talk a little more about it further down the page but first I get to talk more about me :-)


Tell us a bit about yourself: How long have you been blogging? Where are you from? How did you get into blogging?

My name is Nikk, I am from Sydney, Australia and I have been blogging for just 4 years now. I actually got the idea to start a blog after attending a lecture at the Australian Fitness expo in 2011. The person giving the lecture (which was mainly attended by personal trainers) was about increasing the fitness profile by blogging about fitness and how to get started. Now whilst I knew I couldn't blog knowledgeably about fitness, and with my love of writing, the idea of starting a blog really appealed to me and what better to blog about than the thing I spend the majority of my spare time doing or talking about: Reading. It has taken me a while to get myself established and even now, there are times when real life makes it hard but I still love it and really want to grow my blog further.



This is a picture of me meeting the lovely Rachel Vincent. One of the authors, whose books I love to read.



Why do you love reading and blogging?

I have always been a reader. For as long as I can remember. There is nothing like getting yourself lost in a book and taken away from reality for a while. In some ways, I liken reading to meditation, at least for me. It relaxes me and takes me to that zen place. When you you turn the last page of a good book and then close it, it can be like waking up from a dream and sometimes it might take you a minute or two to get your bearings again and for a little while after that you mind may linger in the world of the book as you mull over the events and story that took place. This is why i love reading.

With blogging I get to write about what I am reading. Share my thoughts without worrying whether the person I am talking to actually cares that i am distraught as the main characters soul mate has taken from her in a series of tragic coincidences or that she has battled 5 monsters, challenged two gods and overcome 101 hurdles to get them back.
I also get to participate in a community with other people who share my love of reading and whether it be gushing about our latest read or titles received or impatiently awaiting the next book in our favourite series, its nice to have other people I can talk books too and get recommendations for new reads.
Lastly love being able to give my those books I love and the authors that wrote them a little bit more recognition and promote them by giving them honest reviews be they good or better. I don't generally write reviews for books I consider less than 3 stars.



What is your favorite genre and why?


I am a bit of mixed bag when it comes to favourite genre. Generally when answering off the top of my head, I will tell you Urban fantasy because I enjoy reading books about magic or fantasy stories with a more urban real life setting however my mood often decides the genre I will read and I also go through phases of reading everything i can get my hand on in just one type of genre before growing bored or having an entirely different genre spark my interest.


Generally most genres I read run along a similar vein so other genres like paranormal, paranormal romance, romantic contemporary and high fantasy are my life blood with my reading predominantly being in the YA/NA territory though I will read adult novels and the occasional historical fiction also if the story takes my fancy.


For me reading is an escape from the real world so the genres I read tend to reflect that.This picture is a typical library haul with its mixture of YA,NA and adult



What book are you reading right now?

I am currently reading Nowhere but Here (Thunder Road #1) by Katie McGarry and really enjoying it. Hoping to get my review up for it this week.


What is the top book in your TBR pile?

The book that is at the top of my TBR pile is Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch. I have received the second book in the series to review so am reading this one first. Here is a picture of it with the next two books on my TBR list

Library Love


As I mentioned above,  I love my library!  I have been a member there now for 5 years and my daughter and I make weekly trips to one of its branches to pick up books to read.
As well as being a very well stocked library with many of the latest reads available to be borrowed, they also do awesome thing in the community as well as have the occasional book event also such as hosting a signing event for author Lauren Kate, author of Fallen and Teardrop series, whilst she was visiting Australia.
They also run Baby Rhyme time for 0-2 year olds and story time for 2-4 year olds.  This was a godsend for me when my daughter was a baby.  It was a way for me to get out of the house, get new reading material, meet other mothers with young children and Buffy loved the singing and intro to books.  My daughter already loves reading and its an important part of our night time routine and this Baby rhyme time was the perfect way to introduce her.

They also do cool promotions like Mystery date books on Valentines Day where you would pick up a wrapped book as your mystery date and have no idea what it was until you got home and unwrapped it.  Unfortunately the date I randomly chose was not really up my alley but I still thought the idea was cool and when Leonard Nemoy passed away earlier they put up a star trek display in his honour.



Lastly they do a whole lot of other awesome stuff for the community like tutoring and study programs for chool age children, they have a justice of the peace come in once a week and regular groups for all sorts of other book, film or community related things.
My library forms an integral part of my community and I want to say thank you for the job they do.
As mentioned, the librarians at my library declined to be interview for this post but I would love to hear from other librarians and library assistants around the world for a follow up post in a week or two.
If you can spare the time, please pop across to my interview page here and answer a few questions.  Don't forget to let me know what country you are from as it would be great to compare and contrast libraries in diferent states and countries and find out more about them.

Hope you enjoyed my day one post and I can't wait to go check out everyone else's posts! don't be afraid to let me know you been by :-)



Monday, 25 May 2015

Teaser Tuesday: Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road #1) By Katie McGarry





Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays.

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

1. Grab your current read

2. Open to a random page

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

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


My current read is Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road #1) by Katie McGarry and my two lines are from page 262
"All joking aside, if you get scared, rest your head on my back, close your eyes and wrap your arms around me.  I promise I won't let anything happen to you."






Nowhere But Her (Thunder Road #1) by Katie McGarry


An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.
Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.






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

Friday, 22 May 2015

Stacking The Shelves #31


Welcome to Stacking The Shelves! Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga Reviews and is a meme to share those books, both print and e-book, that have been added to your shelves in the last week/s.

It was a quieter week on the blog this week with only the one review being posted on monday and just a couple of other posts throughout the week. I spent most of the week either busy at work, reading or catching up on Marvel Agents of SHIELD. I am only just over a season behind now :-P

Whilst the beginning of the week in terms of new books, towards the end of the week I got notice of some tour stops I will be participating in over the coming weeks and the review titles that went with them.  take a look on the left to see some of the tours and events I will be participating in over the next couple of weeks.

I am also looking forward to Armchair BEA next week.  Who else is participating?  This will be my 3 or maybe fourth year being involved though I really need to get to work on my posts.  Let me known if you are participating and I will come by and visit during the week :-)

Reading wise, this week I read Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen ( see review here) and Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) and I have been listening to The battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4).  It can be a little confusing at times but it still works as I actually read the entire first Percy jackson series a couple of years so its kind of a refresher and I am really enjoying the Heroes of Olympus series.  So much so that I have already reserved books 3 and 4 at the library. Who else is excited about The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) coming out in October???

 I also just started on Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road #1) by Katie McGarry this morning. Really enjoying it so far.  Almost didn't want to put it down to finish this post :-P  Stay tuned for the review this week!

Even my library finds this week are actually earlier books in the series for a couple of the ARCS I received to review.

What is on your reading list this week?



E-Arcs (Bookouture via Netgally)



I read the first two books in this series earlier this year and reviewed the first book here in late February.  This is actually the fifth and final book in the series and I cannot wait to see what happens

Night School: EndGame by C J Daugherty







Broken. Scattered. But not defeated.

The spy is gone but the cost has been high - the rebels at Cimmeria Academy have lost their leader and Carter West is missing. Nathaniel can taste victory. But Allie and the other survivors aren't done yet. First they have to get Carter back. Then they plan to make Nathaniel pay.

One way or another - the game must end.

Endgame is the thrilling fifth and final book in the internationally bestselling Night School series.




E-Arcs for Blog Tours/Blitzes

Got confirmation of my stops for a few Blog tours and Blitzes this week - two of them also have already provided the review copy i will be reviewing for my stops.  Check out the Blog Tiour banners on the left for more info on these tours



The Cinderella Moment by Jennifer Kloester 


A love of fashion.

A couture competition.

A once-in-a-lifetime chance . . .

Angel Moncoeur has always wanted to be a fashion designer, but without money or connections, it's going to be a challenge. When an opportunity to leave her home in New York and head to Paris appears, Angel grabs it – even if it means masquerading as her best friend Lily. That can't be too hard, can it?

But faking things doesn't come easy for Angel, so when she falls in love with her very own Prince Charming and he thinks she's someone else, things start to get complicated.

Angel needs to stop her secrets unravelling if she wants to live happily ever after . . .

From exciting talent Jennifer Kloester comes this fabulous story about high society, mistaken identity, love, betrayal, friendship – and great clothes.



 check out the good reads link
Purchase: Amazon | Booktopia  | Book Depository


Finding Mr Darcy: High School Edition by Erin Butler



Sixteen-year-old Liza Johnson takes fangirl to a whole new level of crazy when she decides to take dating advice from her literary hero: Jane Austen.

With the help of her best friends, Liza sheds her ancient-speak and complete Austen wardrobe for something a bit more modern in an attempt at finding her very own Mr. Darcy.

Enter Will, the new kid and Liza's Darcy incarnate. Add her BFF's ex to mix and the sexy Brit who kisses with an accent, and Liza is in trouble.

So, what's a girl to do? Without her mom to go to relationship advice, Liza turns to the only person she can truly trust with matters of the heart via her mother's copy of COMPLETED WORKS OF JANE AUSTEN.

It's too bad Austen's heroines have never played Spin the Bottle or Seven Minutes in Heaven. Liza's determined to find her true Austen-esque happy ending, but if she can't trust herself instead of books, she just might end up in her own tragic love story.



 check out the good reads link
Purchase: Amazon  


Library Books :


As mentioned earlier, this week my library finds are earlier books in two series wheer i wil be review the latest one.








Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Goodreads Book Depository | Amazon | Booktopia


Night School: Fracture (Night School #3) by C J Daugherty

Goodreads Book Depository | Amazon | Booktopia


Night School: Resistance (Night School #4) by C J Daugherty

Goodreads Book Depository | Amazon | Booktopia





So what did you add to your shelves this week?