Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review - The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes

The Victoria in My Head
The Victoria in My Head
By Janelle Milanes
Published September 19th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
400 pages

*I received an e-arc of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!*

Find this book here:
Barnes & Noble

Summary from Goodreads.com:

Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.

But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.

From debut author Janelle Milanes comes a hilarious and heartfelt tale of the spectacular things that can happen when you go after what you really want.


So, it has definitely been awhile since I have typed up a review for this blog and I'm honestly feeling a tad bit rusty. :) Let's see how this goes though. 
The moment I saw the cover of The Victoria in My Head I knew I had to have it. The one thing that I love just as much as books (if not a tad bit more) is music. When I find a book about music? AMAZING! So I knew that I was going to want to read this before I even read the synopsis. When I found out that this book was about a girl named Victoria Cruz and how she dreams of being in a band I knew that I was going to fall in love. 
I wasn't wrong. The Victoria in My Head felt like a retelling of my own life. I could relate to Victoria in so many ways and I loved that! Victoria is Cuban American and while I'm Mexican American, there were so many similarities between her family and life and mine. And the main thing that I could relate to was her dream to be in a band. I absolutely LOVE to sing but I am dreadfully afraid of performing live so Victoria's journey was an inspiring one for me. 
But enough about me and more about how awesome this book was for being a debut for this author. This book was relatable (obviously) and it was real and fun. Victoria sounded like a real teenager and acted like one. She made mistakes here and there but they were normal for someone her age. I honestly had no problems with her character because I enjoyed watching her grow and gain confidence in herself. Her best friend and new friends were awesome as well. They were all unique and supportive when needed. 
The music aspect was just plain awesome but I'm sure you knew I'd say that. I loved watching Victoria and the band practice and grow together musically and as a group of friends. I felt like I was there watching them perform and like I could imagine performing myself. 
I was also pleasantly surprised with the romance aspect of this book. In the beginning, I thought I knew where it was going and then it changed course. 
If you can't tell, I really enjoyed this book! The conversations were witty and entertaining as was the whole book. The characters were great and I enjoyed the growth that they went through. I also enjoyed reading about Victoria's relationship with her family and the way they interacted. It reminded me at times about my family which is wonderful to see in books. And any book that has all of that AND music is an A+ in my book. :) I definitely recommend this book to music lovers and basically anyone in need of a pretty great read! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Monthly Wrap Up - June 2017

Happy July! I thought I'd try and type up a June 2017 Wrap Up for you guys and hopefully make it a thing for myself to continue. To be honest, I'm kind of just typing this up as I go so I'm not quite set on the structure yet. Nonetheless, I thought I'd let you guys know which YA books I read this month as well as a few random favorites of the month. If you'd like to know which New Adult or Adult books I read this month, then head on over to Night Owls

Let's get started! 

Total Books Read - 11 books

Total # of YA Read - 3 books

Total # of MG Read - 1 book

Total # of NA/Adult Read - 7 books 

Total # of Reviews Posted - 2 reviews

This month I read The Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas.
All three books were 5 star reads for me! 

(Click on cover for Goodreads page.)

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)

The Middle Grade/Children's Book I read this month was The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey.
This book was a 5 star read for me!
Find my review over at The Young Readers!

(Click on cover for Goodreads page.)

The Bad Guys: Episode 1

My Favorite Young Adult Book of June was A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
This is the 3rd and most recent book in the series, but it is also the last one following Feyre and Rhy's story. This was such an AMAZING book and I had a book hangover for a few days because of it. :)

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)

One of my all time favorite bands is All Time Low and they released their latest album, Last Young Renegade, at the beginning of this month. It was quickly my most favorite album to listen to this month! The lyrics are relatable and so easy to sing along to.  I don't have a favorite song because I love each and every song on the album for different reasons but I really enjoy listening to Good Times. 
Image result for all time low last young renegade

If you haven't ever listened to All Time Low, then do so now! I just love them so much! Click on the album cover to visit their website.

I haven't been watching too many movies or TV shows this year so I won't always have an answer for this one. But this month I was able to watch Wonder Woman and it was AMAZING! Definitely my favorite of the month and one of my favorites of the year. So beautifully done, in my opinion! Also, I like looking at Chris Pine... But for real, this movie is awesome and you should totally see it if you haven't yet. Very empowering for sure! 

Image result for wonder woman

I am looking forward to a few things in July. 
Lucky in Love by Kasie West is set to release on July 25th and I am ecstatic! I so enjoy reading Kasie West's books and I don't even have to know what this one is about to want to read it. 

But here's the summary just in case you'd like to know. :) 

Lucky in Love

In this new contemporary from YA star Kasie West, a girl who wins the lottery learns that money can cause more problems than it solves, especially when love comes into the picture. 

Maddie doesn't believe in luck. She's all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment --

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie's life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she's talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun... until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn't sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn't seem aware of Maddie's big news. And, for some reason, she doesn't want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

I'm also looking forward to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 7th! Spider-Man is my FAVORITE Marvel superhero and I have always enjoyed watching each reboot that comes out. I'm a little nervous about this one but I'm excited nonetheless!

Image result

So I'm currently trying to decide if I want to read Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett or Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith. Either way, I'll end up reading both of them but I just can't figure out which one to read first! 

Alex, ApproximatelyWindfall

Here are some links to reviews/posts of mine that you might like to check out! Later on, I'll try to post some interesting articles/blog posts/videos that I enjoyed and would like to share with you. For now, you are stuck with me. ;)

Recent Reviews:

Past Reviews:

Thanks so much for reading this far! How was the month of June for you? Did you read any really good books? See any really good movies or listen to an album on repeat? Let me know in the comments below! 

Happy July, 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

Follow Me Back (Follow Me Back, #1)
Follow Me Back (Follow Me Back #1)
by A.V. Geiger
Published June 6th, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
368 pages

*I received an advanced review e-copy of this book from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts/opinions are my own. Thank you!*

Find Follow Me Back here:

Barnes & Noble

Summary from Goodreads.com:

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts.

Follow Me Back was a definite surprise for me and in a completely good way. I was browsing NetGalley when I came across this book and the cover is what immediately drew me in. I just love the colors! But the synopsis definitely had me curious and when I was approved for this book, I was pretty excited. 

Follow Me Back is a mixture of things. It shows what it's like to fangirl over someone famous and talented. It also shows what it's like to have the complete fear of something because of personal traumas or things seen on the news. It mixes humor, romance, and suspense and does so fantastically. I so enjoyed this book and was hooked from the first few chapters. The ending had me desperately wishing I had the second book so I could find out what happened! 

I don't want to say too much because it's best to figure everything out on your own. You think you know what is happening one moment and then are surprised the next. 

But I can say that I enjoyed the characters, Tessa and Eric. I understood them and I felt for the struggles that they had. They were real and pretty cool. I also enjoyed the way this book had mixed media. The police reports were an awesome touch since I really love all things "Law and Order" like. And the social media really made it relatable since I also use Twitter quite a bit. :) 

There really wasn't much that I disliked about this story. Some of the characters were irritating but they were meant to be that way. 

I so enjoyed this book and was hooked from the first few chapters. It was addicting and suspenseful and just plain exciting. The ending had me desperately wishing I had the second book so I could find out what happened! Definitely, give this one a try! I don't think you'll regret it. :) 



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

Nemesis (Project Nemesis, #1)
Nemesis (Project Nemesis #1)
By Brendan Reichs 
Published March 21st, 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
443 pages

Find Nemesis Here:

Barnes & Noble 

Summary from Goodreads.com:

He killed me. He killed me not. He killed me.

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

My Rating:
I first heard about Nemesis through BookTube as everyone was receiving ARCs. The synopsis and the cover completely captured my attention so I snatched this up as soon as soon as my e-library had it. 
Nemesis is a different kind of book for sure, at least for me. We have these two teens that are being murdered every even number birthday up until they are 16. They don't know why and they don't know if it's truly real until the world breaks into chaos. From then on, it is action packed and filled with exciting scenes. 
I really enjoyed this book and I wasn't sure if I would because I wasn't completely sure what it was about. There were definitely a few flaws but for the first book in a series, it was pretty dang exciting. I had been in a sort of reading slump but this one had me reading page after page. 
The characters and what they faced really drew me in. I LOVED Min. She was such an awesome teen girl and incredibly brave as well. She was strong-willed and pretty damn smart. We get her perspective through most of the book and those chapters were probably my favorite parts. 
Noah was a difficult one for me. There were times when I felt for him and could empathize, but then there were times when he completely frustrated me. I did think it was interesting that he was the main male character but didn't have all the characteristics that usually come with them. He wasn't stereotypically male if that makes any sense. There were times when Min was mentally stronger. It was just great to see two characters handle a similar situation differently and in realistic ways. 
Tack was also a great presence and not the usual book friend. He was humorous but also complex. We get to know a few of the school bullies as well and I didn't care for them at all. Especially closer to the ending! 
The whole reason for the murders of Min and Noah was interesting to learn about. I feel like we haven't learned the exact truth yet so I'm definitely very excited for the next book. 
There were so many scenarios playing out in my head and I was trying to figure out the why's and how's of the situation. The ending was kind of a cliff hanger because we really don't find out too much about these kids and their dilemma. 
Overall, this was a fun and exciting read. I was on the edge of my seat and hoping that Min and her friends would make it through. The whole idea of this story is intriguing and new to me so I definitely a fan! :) 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

10 of My Favorite Fictional Mothers/Mother Figures

Happy Mother's Day! It's been awhile since I've last posted but I have a feeling that I'll be able to start regularly posting from now on. At least I hope I will. :) I actually will have some pretty interesting news for you all tomorrow but let's focus on today's post!

Since today is Mother's Day where I live, I thought that I'd dedicate a post to some of my favorite fictional mothers. I have compiled a list of only 10 of my favorite literary, TV and/or movie moms. Now that I think about it, I can't really remember if I have any movie moms in my list. I guess we'll find out together, haha. Not going to lie but it was a tad bit difficult to think of around 5 really great moms (that I can compare to my mom, truthfully) that could be found in the books that I read. I mainly read Young Adult and not surprisingly there aren't too many authority figures present. But, nonetheless, I thought up some pretty great moms. So without further ado, let us get started!

(List is in no particular order.)

Created using Canva

1. Mrs. Weasley - Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

 I thought of good ole Molly immediately! She was one of my first favorite fictional mothers that starred in the books that I read. If you have been living under a rock for quite a few years, then let me tell you about Molly Weasley. Mrs. Weasley is the mother of Ron and the rest of his siblings in the Harry Potter series. But she isn't just a mom to all of her kids! She also takes in Harry and Hermione as two of her own. She's incredibly caring, supportive, and strong. My favorite scene that includes her? It's when she protects Ginny from the horribleness that is Bellatrix. If you've read the last book, then you are smiling in fond memory with me. :)

2. Professor McGonagall - Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling 

While we are thinking about the greatness that is Harry Potter, I thought I'd also mention that I LOVE Professor McGonagall. Minerva might not have had any children of her own but she has been the mentor and authority figure of many students throughout her years. And that makes her a mother figure to me so... 
She is one of Harry's professors at Hogwarts and one that is pretty caring and supportive of her students. I love how she isn't afraid to say what she feels. She also makes sure to fight for the students whenever she can. :) 

3. Ms. McCall - Teen Wolf TV Series 

Jumping on over the small screen for this next incredibly strong mother! Melissa McCall is the mother to her teenage son Scott McCall who also happens to be a werewolf. Lots of fun times! But for real, if you haven't watched this yet, then you are seriously missing out. Scott's mom is one of my favorite TV moms though! She is a single mother dealing with a teen wolf! ;) She takes everything in stride and doesn't fail to stand beside her son and his friends. She's strong and supportive and very hardworking! #MamaMcCall

4. Patti Whitt - Sweet Evil Trilogy by Wendy Higgins 

So I'm not exactly sure if Patti's last name is Whitt but that's Anna's last name so I'm going with it. :) Patti is Anna's adoptive mother and one of my favorite YA mothers out there. For those who don't know, Sweet Evil is a sort of paranormal romance trilogy that is incredibly good. (READ IT!) Let's just say that Anna doesn't live a very normal life once things get going in the series and Patti is such a sweetheart when supporting Anna. She is such a genuinely good person and mothers everybody who stops by. She's strong, firm, and has such a big heart. I just love the relationship and trust between Anna and Patti and it's one of my favorite parts of the series! Mother Daughter duo for the win! 

5. Grandma Frost - Mythos Academy Series by Jennifer Estep

Grandma Frost! For those who don't know, Grandma Frost is one kick-butt grandmother. Gwen Frost is the protagonist of this series and Grandma Frost is her sole guardian. She's quirky, very strong, and an awesome baker. She's always baking cookies just for Gwen (and they sound amazing) and she's always there to support her when she's having a rough time. This grandma is such a great mix of cookies and hugs and fighting those villainous foes! Sigh, I love her. 

6. Lorelai Gilmore - Gilmore Girls TV Show

Annndd we are back to the small screen with the very well known, Lorelai Gilmore. One, I love her name. Two, she's such an awesome mom! Lorelai is so real and it's hard to not love her despite mistakes she might make. Regardless, Lorelai does her best to raise Rory on her own and to encourage her to be herself. Lorelai is supportive, strong, and pretty funny. I also love that she loves to eat and encourages the celebrating of food with Rory. Celebrating around food is pretty big in my family so I feel right at home when watching Lorelai and Rory on screen. 

7. Cassie Nightingale - The Good Witch TV Movies 

CASSIE! I remember when The Good Witch movie first aired on Hallmark. I was watching with my mom since it's kind of like a tradition to watch any and all Hallmark movies. Cassie was not actually a mother in that first movie but she ends up being a supportive female figure for the two young kids in the movie. I just love that she always has wisdom or some interesting line to share with everyone. She's incredibly patient and caring and very supportive of those two kids. :) I just love her! 

8. Nora Tate - Hollywood Heights TV Series

Not many of you probably know who Nora Tate is because Hollywood Heights was an American Telenovela that aired on Nick at Nite in, like, 2012. If you actually watched this show, then you'll know that Nora was pretty dang awesome. I really loved this show and how it had to do with this teen girl trying to make her dream to perform her own songs a reality. I also loved the fact that her mother, Nora, was so supportive of this dream. Nora is another single mother on this list and dedicated to caring and supporting her daughter. She's a great mix of firm and fun. She's just awesome and I wish that show was still around. Le sigh. 

9. Jennifer Honey - Matilda (Movie Version)

I have a small confession to make. I've never read Matilda... :( 
But I have watched the movie version and I absolutely love it! Watching Matilda had me falling in love with Miss Honey! I remember wanting a teacher exactly like her because she was so soft spoken and caring. Miss Honey might not be Matilda's mom but she does a fantastic job at caring for her and really helping Matilda to grow. She's a brave lady and was such a good person despite who she was raised by. And when Matilda gets to stay with Miss Honey forever? I CRIED!

10. Mrs. Garrett - My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

And last but not least we head back to the literary world to gush about Mrs. Garrett. My Life Next Door is a contemporary YA about growing up, finding yourself, and falling in love with Jase. *Cough* I mean falling in love in general. Anyways, Samantha is our main character and spends some of her nights watching the large and happy family next door. Mrs. Garrett is the matriarch of that family and she's really something. We don't get too many scenes with her but her presence is strong. She has many kids that she raises and she still takes Samantha in as her own. Kinda like a Mrs. Weasley of contemporary YA I guess. Either way, she's pretty awesome and patient. :) 

Well, that's my list! I hope you enjoyed and I hope you have a Happy Mother's Day if you are in any way a mother or mother figure to someone else. Pets count. ;) Let me know if you adore any of these mothers too! 


Monday, March 20, 2017

My Perfect Day In

Hello, everyone! Long time no see, right? You can thank Leesa, a mattress company, for today's post. Leesa recently reached out to me wondering what my perfect day in would look like. (And in case you were wondering, this is not a sponsored post. Just a pretty fun idea. :)) 

So here are a few things that help make my day in perfect (or as close as it can get). 

A comfortable place to read. 

My day in usually involves reading but I bet you couldn't guess. ;) In order to read for as long as I do (cough, cough...a few hours?) I have to make sure I'm comfortable. I've tried everywhere from the couch to the chair in my room, but my favorite spot is my bed. I'm able to spread out and my pillows are also pretty great. 

My dogs, my greatest friends, my companions. 

I have two Yorkies and I absolutely LOVE when they make their way up to my room and find a spot right next to me. Reading for the day is always grand but reading with your dogs is even better! They are just so cute and always warm me up when it gets cold. Which brings me to my next essential. Oh and this is only one of my Yorkies. Lola is her name. Like from the song Copacabana... Yeah, I came up with it. :) 

Blankets. WARM ONES! 

I live in Illinois where it can get cold. :( It is not fun to be reading comfortably one moment and be freezing the next but it happens. In order to stay warm, I make sure I have a warm blanket that I can curl up in. Warmth is always fun, that's for sure. 

My phone.

I don't really listen to too much music while I'm reading. I can easily become distracted by the lyrics and start singing those instead of reading. (Music is my other passion) But sometimes I want to take a break from reading, yes really, so I grab my phone and listen to some Spotify. Or I go to YouTube and watch some BookTube videos so I can find even more books to add to my ever-growing shelves. It's a lot of fun. 

Books. Books. And more books. 

I can't have a perfect day in if I don't read at least a chapter from a book. I am a mood reader so I usually just look at my shelves and decide what matches my mood. I usually have a few books with me on my bed just in case the first choice doesn't work out. And I have a few post it notes in case I want to mark a certain page or quote. 

So those are just a few things that help me create the perfect day in. Some items change every now and then. I don't usually eat in my room but I'll have some candy every now and then if I'm in the mood. What is your perfect day in (or night in) like? Do you read or listen to music? Maybe you binge watch Netflix shows? Do you hang out with your dogs or cats? Maybe a hamster? Let me know if you feel like it! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins Blitz!

I am so excited that THE GREAT PURSUIT by Wendy Higgins is available now and that I get to share the news!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Wendy Higgins, be sure to check out all the details below.

This blitz also includes a giveaway for some amazing prizes! So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Title: THE GREAT PURSUIT (Eurona Duology #2)
Author: Wendy Higgins
Pub. Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 512
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

In The Great Pursuit, the dramatic sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Great Hunt, Wendy Higgins delivers another thrilling fantasy filled with dangerous enemies, political intrigue, searing romance, and a princess who is willing to do everything to protect her kingdom. 

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continues.

The kingdom of Lochlanach has traded the great beast that once terrorized the realm of Eurona for something far more dangerous: the ire of powerful Lashed woman Rosaria Rocato. Rosaria demands that Eurona overturn the laws prohibiting magic, or an innocent will be killed each day.

Despite the king’s resistance, Princess Aerity believes they must make peace with the Lashed, and though she’s accepted a betrothal to the man who took down the beast, she cannot help thinking about Paxton, the Lashed man who stole her heart and disappeared.

Aerity soon discovers that Paxton has joined Rosaria’s army in the war against her family. Though her feelings for him are still strong, her duty to her kingdom and her family is stronger—especially when her parents are kidnapped and she has to step up to the throne and once again put aside what’s best for her in order to do what’s best for her people. Paxton and Princess Aerity must fight to see what is more powerful: their love or the impending war between the magical Lashed and the non-magic humans.

Grab the eBook 1 THE GREAT HUNT for just $1.99!



A new beast roamed the kingdom of Lochlanach, killing at will. A second unnatural monster created by the hands of Rozaria Rocato, granddaughter of the most infamous and hated Lashed One of all time. Princess Aerity Lochson’s mind was a blur of piled-up worries as she rushed from High Hall of the castle, away from the frightened commoners and guests who’d come for her betrothal ceremony, and toward the office of her father, King Charles. She turned at the sound of heavy footsteps behind her and found both her childhood friend Lieutenant Harrison Gillfin and her betrothed, Lord Lief Alvi, following. Lord Alvi looked every bit the hero—his broad stature striking, with elk furs about his shoulders and a black kilt to his knees above leather boots. His blue eyes were filled with bright passion and hunger, but those emotions were not for her. They were for the beast. The new hunt.

He had killed the first creature, thereby earning her hand in marriage. The thought twisted Aerity’s stomach with discomfort and turned her mind to the man who’d disappeared weeks before when the beast was killed—the Lashed man who’d taken her heart with him and would likely never return. She clenched her jaw. This was no time to think of Paxton Seabolt or her drowned desires. The kingdom was suffering again—rendering everything she’d sacrificed to have been in vain.

Her eyes shifted from Lord Alvi’s to Harrison’s and found a fierce, protective comfort there. Harrison stood tall, lean, and capable. Never faltering. The thought of her noble friend fighting yet another beast filled her with sharp fear. So many lives had already been lost, including Harrison’s cousin Breckon, who’d been the true love of Aerity’s cousin Wyneth. Half a year was all it had taken to trample the dreams and futures of so many.

Aerity gave the men a nod to follow her. She lifted her long white skirts and moved quickly down the tapestry-lined hallway to her father’s office. Guards and soldiers ran past, shouting orders, fully armed with bows, swords, and lines of throwing daggers strapped across their uniformed tunics.

She opened the door without knocking. No fewer than twenty faces shot toward her. She recognized the burgundy red hair of her mother, along with her aunts and uncles, military elite, and royal advisers. Her father invited them in with a quick flick of his fingers.

When the door closed he asked her, “What is the state of things in High Hall?”

“The people seemed to have calmed for the moment, Father,” Aerity said. “And supper is being served.”

“Your daughter gave a rousing speech,” Lord Alvi pro- claimed in his rumbling voice. “She is to thank for the calm.” Aerity’s face flushed with heat at the unexpected compliment. Then he put a heavy hand on her shoulder and pulled her close. Aerity fought the urge to shrug away. For the sake of the kingdom, she had made a commitment to become his bride, and she would follow through regardless of what her heart wanted, and regardless of the fact that she was certain feelings had grown between Lief and Wyneth.
“Did she?” The king’s eyes softened with pride, and her mother, Queen Leighlane, smiled at Aerity and Lief, no doubt thinking what a lovely couple they were. If she only knew.

Behind them Harrison cleared his throat. “Are we to begin hunting the creature, Your Majesty?”

King Charles nodded, his face lined with anxiety. “Aye. But most of the hunters have dispersed.” Or been killed, Aerity thought with sorrow, remembering the men who’d come from all over Eurona and even a huntress who’d lost her life.

“I can have a message sent to Tiern Seabolt,” Harrison said. “I’m certain he would return with haste.”

Aerity’s abdomen tightened. Tiern was Paxton’s younger brother. He’d nearly been killed by the first beast and had been saved by Paxton’s Lashed magic. It was the very reason Pax had fled the kingdom—using magic was illegal, even to heal. Aerity didn’t want Tiern to hunt again. She didn’t want Paxton’s sacrifice to have been a waste.

“And his older brother?” the king asked.

“Nay.” Harrison paused. “He disappeared after the hunt. We don’t know his whereabouts.”

“Must you call Tiern back?” Aerity asked. When her father’s eyebrows drew together she emended, “He’s . . . so young.”

“He’s the same age as you, Daughter,” the king reminded her. “Seventeen. A man who’s already proven himself in the hunt.” Aerity pressed her lips together and nodded. She could not keep Tiern safe any more than she could force Harrison to stay out of harm’s reach. Their heroic hearts would urge them forward.

“Can we send word to the Zandalee?” Aerity’s uncle Lord Wavecrest asked.

The king shook his head. “I’m afraid not this time. The letter from the Rocato woman stated that her creatures have now been released in all the lands of Eurona. The Zandalee will be needed to fight in their own drylands of Zorfina.”

A fearful silence fell over the room. Each kingdom was on its own with its own beasts to battle now. Lochlanach was a quaint kingdom of fishermen and crop villagers, farmers, that had enjoyed many years of peace. The people had risen together to fight the first beast, but how much more could the king expect from them? It was too much. To imagine this kind of horror inflicted on innocent people all over Eurona sickened Aerity.

“Perhaps another proclamation?” Lord Wavecrest suggested carefully. At this proposal from Aerity’s uncle, the men in the room glanced around at one another, and the hairs rose on the princess’s arms. The queen caught her daughter’s eyes, and they both went still.

The last proclamation had offered Aerity’s hand in marriage to whoever killed the beast. The only thing left to give was the second princess, Aerity’s fifteen-year-old sister, Vixie. Her father stared down at his desk.

“No.” Aerity stepped forward, out of Lord Alvi’s embrace, her body trembling. “You cannot offer Vixie’s hand.”

The king’s hazel eyes, filled with regret, rose to hers. “I have nothing left to give.” With Vixie’s hand would come her dowry of lands. Using Vixie as a prize would surely smother her soul. Aerity wouldn’t stand for it.

“And why should you oppose it?” her uncle Preston asked haughtily. “The first proclamation provided you with a fine match. It can do the same for Vixie.”

Aerity stilled, forcing back the torrent of words that flooded her mind: unfair, poor match, confinement, no joy, no love. She was to endure those things for her kingdom, but the thought of Vixie losing her freedom to choose her future . . . it gutted Aerity. She knew how it appeared to the world—that she’d landed a handsome, noble, brave lord—but the heart didn’t care about appearances. It wanted who it wanted.

“And then what?” Aerity asked. “Who shall we offer for the next beast, and the one after that? Your own Wyneth? Or perhaps six-year-old Merity?”

Lord Wavecrest scowled.

“Enough, Aerity,” Queen Leighlane said quietly. Aerity met her mother’s eyes and felt an understanding there. No one knew better than the two of them how this would crush Vixie’s spirit. These men couldn’t possibly understand.

“Vixie’s nearly sixteen,” Lord Wavecrest pressed. Aerity wanted to claw out his eyes and force him to stop speaking.

“A proclamation offering Vixie’s hand will be my very last resort,” King Charles said, standing taller. “It is my hope that the people will rise of their own free will to protect their families and lands as they did in the last hunt. I will not hinder them with further curfews.”

Lord Wavecrest shook his head and crossed his arms. Aerity breathed a temporary sigh of relief.

“Sire, we should address the other part of the Rocato woman’s letter.” This was from the king’s oldest adviser, Duke Gulfton. This duke had been the closest adviser to Aerity’s grandfather King Leon. His views on the Lashed were legendarily conservative and strict, and he was a proponent of keeping the Lashed lists up to date. All persons with Lashed capabilities and their families were notated in the records and checked regularly for markings.
The stooped man wore a sea-green robe around his shoulders and a perpetual serious frown on his face. He leaned on his cane. “We cannot do as the Rocato woman demands. We cannot burn our records of Lashed Ones in these lands, or give them rein to take over our kingdom.”

A few of the other older men murmured their agreement.

Harrison stepped forward. “What if we made a copy of the list? Then it wouldn’t matter if one was destroyed.”

“I’ve got scribes copying pages as we speak,” the king responded. “But the Rocato woman has called for the records to be burned by sundown. The copy won’t be complete. There are thousands of names.”

Thousands of persons with Lashed blood in Lochlanach. Amazing, Aerity thought. Only a small percentage of those on the list actually had magic, though. Paxton’s family was not on the list. Aerity wondered how many others of magical blood had been able to elude the system.

“How will the madwoman know the difference?” Duke Gulfton asked. “Burn papers to appease her, then kill her and her monsters once and for all. End of story.”

“Here, here!” a few men shouted, as if it were that simple. As if they wouldn’t have done it by now if they could.

The king’s jaw was set. “I have a terrible feeling this woman has eyes and ears everywhere.”

The room quieted and a sense of unease spread as heads turned and everyone eyed the others present. Her father’s council was a small group of family and a mere handful of wise advisers, all landowners, who’d been loyal to the kingdom since her grandfather ruled. She couldn’t imagine this group being compromised.

“With all due respect, gentlemen,” Lord Alvi said to the room, “we will find every beast and even Rocato herself, but we cannot guarantee immediate success. The last hunt took two months.”

“Aye,” Harrison added. “And she’s threatening to kill seven men each week.”

“You’ll have to work faster this time,” Duke Gulfton told them.

The room tensed. During the last hunt they’d had a hundred men. They’d sought the monster nearly ten hours a night and spent the days scouting and preparing. The lands of Lochlanach stretched far and wide. Yet people like Duke Gulfton were expecting a miracle of the sea.

Queen Leighlane cleared her throat. “The fact of the matter is that we’re going to have to at least put on a show of honoring her wishes. We need to buy time as we plan.”

Another elder, Duke Streamson, asked, “What are you proposing, Your Highness? Rocato is demanding that all Lashed be allowed to freely work magic.”

Magic that wasn’t all bad, Aerity thought. Magic that had saved Tiern and could save others. If only she could get them to embrace that.

“I have an idea.” Aerity’s brain whirred as all eyes turned to her. “What if we set up a public area just outside the royal lands and invited Lashed from throughout the kingdom to come, and any Unlashed who wishes to seek their healing can receive it?”

Duke Streamson made a choking sound. “Round up the people of Rocato to turn against us in one place? That’s precisely what she wants!”

Aerity rushed on. “I don’t believe all Lashed are ‘her people.’ The entire area would be heavily guarded so that if any Lashed got out of line, they could be dealt with immediately.” The old dukes scoffed at her.

One of the military advisers stepped forward. “Our numbers are not as large as they once were. Our troop sizes have been modest in the past fifty years. I’ve got to keep men patrolling the seas and borders, and we’ve lost many in the past months. I worry that a large-scale showing of the Lashed will bring crowds.”

The room broke out into fervent debate. Those who were against Aerity’s idea were adamant, passionate in their fears. Those in favor seemed on weak, shaky ground.

“Given permission to put their hands on innocent people, it could be a massacre!”

“What if the Lashed overwhelm our guards?”

“They’ll rise up throughout the lands!”

“. . . commoner revolts . . . war . . .”

Aerity felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Harrison, his light brown eyes showing the never-faltering respect he seemed to hold for her. She gave his hand a quick squeeze of gratitude before he released her. Aerity caught Lord Alvi watching the exchange with curiosity, so she turned her gaze forward again—she would let him think what he wanted.

“Enough!” King Charles’s voice silenced the room. “I will think on it. I must put safety first. I’m not ready to overturn our laws—” Aerity opened her mouth to argue that she wasn’t suggesting a complete overturn, but a one-time, enclosed, secure circumstance. Her father held up a hand to stop her. “This blasted parchment from Rozaria Rocato is bound to have our people in terror. If I take the stability of our rules away, it will cause chaos. Tonight on the lawn we will burn whatever pages my scribes have managed to copy, to keep Rozaria satisfied, but the original lists remain with us. I pray to the sea this works.”

He looked at the hunters. “Lord Alvi. Lieutenant Gillfin. Gather as many hunters as you can and begin hunting this new beast immediately.” They nodded and took their leave. Aerity watched them go, swallowing a dry lump in her throat. The king looked to his military advisers. “I want every soldier on duty, and round-the-clock patrolling of royal lands. I want Rozaria Rocato, dead or alive.” He turned to his top castle guard. “Send messengers to the other four lands to let them know of our new foe and to find out their circumstances.”

Without another word, the king swept from the room with Queen Leighlane and a line of advisers close behind.

Aerity felt the brush of velvet on her arm and peered

down at the old man beside her. It was Duke Gulfton, his eyes glistening. “I mean no disrespect, Princess, only a piece of advice. In times of fear and upheaval, absolute routine and stability in the law are called for. Any slight change can set the people off.”

“As I recall,” Aerity said steadily, “Mrs. Rathbrook healed your ailing heart last year.” Mrs. Rathbrook was the royal healer—the only Lashed allowed to work magic.

He grasped the top of his cane with both hands. “Aye.”

“Should we not allow the people of this land to benefit from magic as you have?”

He looked down at his hands, nodding solemnly. “Not all Lashed are as trustworthy as Mrs. Rathbrook. You saw the Rocato woman face-to-face. You know the evil of which she is capable.”

“I suppose everyone is capable of evil, Duke Gulfton. None of us is immune, Lashed or not. But I choose to believe the best in people until they show me otherwise.”

Duke Streamson, waiting in the doorway, cleared his throat. Duke Gulfton peered up at Aerity and patted her hand. “Once they show you otherwise, it is often too late. As a rule it is not safe to take such chances. Seas help Lochlanach in our time of need.”

As Duke Gulfton shuffled away, Aerity whispered in return. “Seas help us, indeed.”

About Wendy:

Wendy Higgins is the USA Today and NYT bestselling author of the Sweet Evil series from HarperTeen, the high fantasy duology The Great Hunt, and her independently published Irish fantasy, See Me. She is a former high school English teacher who now writes full time, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian husband, daughter, son, and doggie Rue.

Wendy earned a bachelor's in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master's in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University. She is represented by Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.

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