Harlequin Reader Service box

Unboxing: August 2017 Harlequin Reader Service Paranormal shipment

Okay. I’ve decided to post some of the subscription boxes I got back at the end of August before I took my break. They still give you a good idea of what specific subscriptions offer so you can choose whether or not to sign up. I’ll also be adding some October boxes soon.

My first August box I want to review was from Harlequin Reader Service. Did you know that Harlequin has a long-standing subscription book service for various types of romance genres? Most of their subscriptions offer just two books, but the paranormal romance box provides you with four novels. Two are always from the Nocturne imprint and the other two vary, usually from Avon, Mira or Carina Press. Most boxes also include some type of gift. When I subscribed years ago, I got a set of plastic flowered dessert dishes (one dish in each box). They’ve come in very handy time and again. This time around it was jewelry (more on that below).

Above, you’ll see how the shipment was packaged. Harlequin always ships in a plain brown box with your invoice in an envelope on top. They used to include Bonus Bucks with your bill in each shipment that you could use towards free books and merchandise. I didn’t receive any in this shipment, so I’m not sure if that’s still a thing. They did include a dollar off my bill this time, but only if I paid by mail, which I never do. I would’ve liked to have seen an option for paying online.

Harlequin Reader Service packaging materials

Inside the box, the books were packed in paper for safe travels. They got here without bending or creasing.

Harlequin Reader Service August 2017 Paranormal books

As I said before, there were four books in my shipment. The two Nocturne titles were The Witch’s Quest by Michele Hauf and Brimstone Prince by Barbara J. Hancock. I’m not always a fan of Michele Hauf, so I’m not sure how I’ll like that one. The other author is new to me, but the story involves a daemon prince who abandons Hell for his music. I love a good paranormal rock star story, so I’m more than willing to give this one a try.

The other two novels in my box were Wolves’ Triad by Lauren Dane and Wildfire by Ilona Andrews. I think Wildfire is the third in a series and it looks like a continuation of a previous story, so I may need to read the other two first. Dane’s novel is actually the second book in the Cascadia Wolves series from 2006 and it’s been renamed. This one looks like it can be read as a standalone, so I’ll probably read it before going back to the beginning novel. All four of these novels were published in 2017. The Nocturne Novels are always brand new while the other two tend to be a few months old.

Also in my shipment was a leather bracelet with one glass bead charm. With each shipment, I’ll receive a new charm for it. It fit my big wrists, but is difficult to put on without help. The bead is pretty though. I look forward to seeing what else they send.

If you’re a fan of romance novels, Harlequin is always in the running for top publisher. The fact that they break their subscriptions into genre is great. That way you don’t receive any story types that you won’t read. However, I did have an issue with them this time.

They recently changed their website and for some reason during the change, it wouldn’t let me pay online. Correction, it would look like I paid and the preauthorization would come off my credit card, but 5 days later it would fall off and I’d be left owing them again. I tried this a few times before I gave up and called them to pay. In the meantime, I missed a shipment because my payment was late. I wasn’t happy about that and customer service did nothing about it when I called. They just said it was weird my online payment didn’t work and left it at that. I was not a happy camper. I considered cancelling, but ultimately ended up keeping my subscription.

Harlequin seems to send out books once a month or so. If you’re looking for a romance subscription, they’re an affordable one. I pay around $6.50 for each book plus 50 cents shipping on each one for a grand total of $27.99. That breaks about even or comes in a bit under most other romance book subscriptions on the market. If you’d like to sign up, click here for their website. Many readers can get their first box (2 books) for free before deciding if they want to continue.

3.75 out of 5 stars (0.25 stars deducted for the customer service fiasco)

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Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller feature

Book Review: ‘Mask of Shadows’ by Linsey Miller

Today I’m reviewing a book that came out on August 29. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller was released by Sourcebooks Fire Publishing and is a variation on epic fantasy full of assassins and political intrigue. While I enjoyed the diversity of the characters, I felt like the story moved slowly and was at times confusing.

The story follows Sallot Leon, a gender-fluid highway robber, as they (the author refers to Sal as they) try to escape that life and take revenge on the nobles who destroyed their family and countrymen. When Sal finds a flyer to audition as a member of the Queen’s Left Hand (an elite team of assassins), they jump at the chance of furthering their plan and working for the Queen they admire. However, the competition is fierce. Sal will have to fight to the death against capable circus performers, poison specialists and trained ex-soldiers. Can they win the competition and the heart of the noble girl they meet during the trials? Can they accomplish their revenge with no one being the wiser?

While I understand the character was gender-fluid, the term they still grated at me for a singular person. The character liked to be referred to as he when dressed as a man and she when dressed as a woman, which was simpler. Since the book was told in first person perspective, they wasn’t used much in the story itself. It’s just troubling for the write-up.

The story itself moved slowly. The first 5% of the book showed us Sal as a thief, then the next 75% covered the auditions for the Queen’s Left Hand. There was some action here and there as auditioners died off, but I felt like less of the story could have been dedicated to the trials and more towards the plot of revenge. The big skirmish at the end of the book was mostly predictable and only took up around one chapter. While I understood why it happened, the book really felt like it was just a backstory for the next novel in the series, not a true story of its own.

Another problem I had with the book was that the villain characters were confusing. I consistently got some of the names mixed up throughout most of the book. Without meeting the characters right away, they were just random names that Sal had a problem with. Maybe they shouldn’t have been introduced until Sal came across them in their journey.

Overall, the story was enjoyable. I liked the romance aspect and want to know more about the nation’s queen. Sal was an interesting character and while the story was definitely slow, I enjoyed the history of it. The action seems to just be getting started, so I expect the next book will have more conflict and engagement. I’ll definitely be picking it up when it comes out.

3.75 out of 5 stars

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Google Play / Kobo

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic

Book Review: ‘Wicked Like a Wildfire’ by Lana Popovic

Hello! I’m back. Hoping to get a few book reviews in over the next few weeks as well as one subscription box review towards the end of the month. I’m starting off with the YA novel, Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic which was released on August 15. I actually read it before taking my break, but didn’t have the time to write it up until now. I hope you found other fun things to occupy your time while I was gone and that you’re now ready to leap back into some great reads. This one was full of dark magic, impossible choices and a murder mystery. Intrigued? Read on.

Iris and Malina are twin sisters who can ‘gleam’ beauty into magical art. Iris turns flowers into incredible fractals which she turns into blown glass masterpieces and Malina can sing moods as music in multiple parts. They live with their harsh mother who wants them to hide their gifts and forbids them from falling in love. When she is attacked by an unknown assailant, her daughters must dig for the truth behind her rules and their magic. A curse plagues their family. Will it tear the girls apart forever?

I loved the world of magic that Popovic created. The girls’ powers and those of their family are unique and awe-inspiring and the ending devastated me and left me yearning for the next (and final) book in the series. The villain is both lovely and evil. I love that the girls feel a pull towards her that influences their decisions, even as they want to save their mother and themselves. It gave the story depth and excitement, especially towards the end.

The coming-of-age love stories were done beautifully. There is some non-graphic sex, so you may want to reserve this book for ages 15 and above. I like that the insta-lust couple has justification and ramifications rather than just being an instant couple. I enjoyed who the sisters fell in love with once both their eyes are opened to what’s going on.

Overall, I thought this book was very well written. The story had darkness and light, mystery and magic. If you enjoy modern-day fantasy and witches, this novel is for you. You can buy it or read about it on Goodreads at the links below.

4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Google Play / Kobo

Status Update

Hello, all. I know I haven’t been posting for a while and it doesn’t look like I will be anytime soon. Life is extremely hectic right now and I’m working extra hours. I’m not finding the time to read and my budget doesn’t currently allow for subscription boxes. I have one book review that absolutely has to be posted this month, but then I’m going to take a break for a month and try to come back fresh at the end of it. I hope you’ll all wait patiently and I promise I’ll be a much less harried woman with a little bit of time to pause. Until then…

Unboxing: The CatPack August 2017 Flower Power subscription box

I admit it. I’m a crazy cat lady. In my years on this earth, I have never gone longer than a month without having a cat to snuggle with. I love their independent streaks and their larger-than-life personalities. I even love cranky kitties. My current four-legged love, Persephone, is meaner than a junkyard dog when she’s around visitors or other animals, but the cuddles she gives me makes up for it all. We just pop her in the bedroom when we have company. It eases her anxiety and keeps her from eating the guests.

Anyway, I found a new subscription box that caters to female cat owners and their fur-babies. It’s called The CatPack. They were offering a coupon worth $15 off your first box last month, so I couldn’t resist signing up for a one-time package to try them out. You’ll see the cute box they were mailed in up above. It was a little beaten up by the time it got here, but luckily there was nothing breakable inside.

The CatPack August 2017 Flower Power kitty items

The first items I pulled from the box were for Persephone. It was a flower power theme, so there was a crocheted flower granny square catnip toy, a Cosmic Catnip plastic flower toy with catnip gel and a pretty floral handmade collar. Persephone is currently working her way off a bland food diet due to digestive issues, so I didn’t want to give her the crochet toy just yet, but she can’t get to the catnip gel in the plastic flower, so I deemed that safe to use. She loved batting it around. She didn’t get as crazy with it as she does with toys filled with real catnip, but she still had fun. We haven’t tried the collar on her yet because she’s still rocking a calming collar from our move, but it looks sturdily made and has a pretty rose design that will look great against her black fur. It also has a plastic clasp and a ring for tags.

The CatPack August 2017 Flower Power human items

Next were the items for me. Like most of the cat items, these were both handmade. One was a cute cosmetics bag with cat ears and the other was an enamel pin with a cat curled around flowers. I love them both and the pin especially looks professional. I have a laptop bag that I attach favorite pins to, which is where this one will be going. The makeup bag will be great when I just want to carry a few pieces with me.

This box has a $45.95 price tag with free shipping. I felt like there weren’t a lot of items for that price, but with everything being handmade, they have a higher value for the work that went into them. The company is just starting up and I expect they’ll get better as they go along. If you’re looking for more commercial items, there are other companies out there that cater to that more. Just have a look on Google.

If you’d like to try The CatPack, click here for more information. They have a deal on their website right now for $8 off your first box with coupon code PAMPER8. September’s theme is (did you guess?) Pamper Cat Pack. Think bath and spa items for you as well as some fun items for your kitty.

4 out of 5 stars

Unboxing: PageHabit Literary Fiction July 2017 subscription box

I was a happy previous customer of Quarterly.co’s book box that came out every 3 months, so when I saw they now had a monthly option, I signed up as soon as I had the funds. The monthly box is a slightly smaller mailing with one book instead of 3, but it still has author annotations and some bookish goodies to go with it. I ordered both the Literary Fiction box and the YA Fiction box. Unfortunately, the YA box got lost in the mail, so they had to refund it. I was disappointed that they don’t hold onto extra boxes in case something goes wrong, but at least I got my money back. I also want to mention that email support was very unhelpful, but I got immediate service from the website’s chat function.

Anyway, you’ll see up top the box that the shipment was mailed in. It’s a basic brown box with their logo, which does the job just fine.

PageHabit Literary Fiction July 2017 packaging

Inside the box, everything was tucked in tight. Nothing was really breakable, so there were no worries there. On top of everything sat a card telling where a portion of this month’s proceeds would be donated. PageHabit sponsors the building of schools, libraries and community centers with books around the world. It’s a different country every month.

PageHabit Literary Fiction July 2017 goodies

This month’s book was The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard. It’s about a small cult that builds up around a machine that’s supposed to tattoo “personalized revelations” on its followers’ arms. In this way, they supposedly find out the truth about themselves, but there seems to be a link between the epiphanies and a sudden rash of violent crimes. I haven’t read it yet, but the story looks amazing and I love that the author has sprinkled notes on post-its throughout the book. That was my favorite part of the Quarterly box as well.

In addition to the book, I also received a letter from the author, a laminated bookmark with a quote from Aldous Huxley, a reading light and a small brown notebook that says “Field Notes.” The quote on the bookmark is one I hadn’t seen before and I love it. I put the page marker to good use immediately. I already own a rechargeable reading light with double heads, so I passed this new one on to my niece who didn’t have one. It takes batteries and gives off an ample supply of light. I haven’t done anything with the notebook yet, but I always find uses for these eventually.

While I still prefer the Quarterly box, this one is fun if you can’t wait a full three months for new books. It still has the highlights of the bigger box for a lower price. To sign up, click here to find their website. They have several genres available including literary fiction, YA fiction, mystery, fantasy, romance, horror and historical fiction. Each monthly box costs $29.99 plus $4.50 for shipping.

3.5 out of 5 stars (half a star removed for issues with customer service)

The Lost Boys Vol. 1 by Tim Seeley featured image

Book Review: ‘The Lost Boys Vol. 1’ by Tim Seeley

BOOK DETAILS:

The Lost Boys Vol. 1
by Tim Seeley
(The Lost Boys, #1)
Publication date: August 15th 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Nostalgia

I love a good graphic novel and vampires are kind of my thing, so when I saw that they were going to continue the Lost Boys storyline with a book, I got all kinds of excited. I was given an ARC, but unfortunately, I forgot it would expire and it was no longer available when I went to read it. So, I broke down and bought this one and I’m happy to have it in my collection.

The story follows the Frog brothers and the Emerson brothers as they once again do battle to destroy a vampire clutch from taking hold in Santa Carla, California – the murder capital of the world. They’ve destroyed Max and his minions, but a new female gang of bloodsuckers, called the Blood Belles, has moved in to take their place. With the help of an eccentric hunter known only as ‘The Believer,’ can our boys dispel the Belle’s evil plans and save the city?

This novel had a great ‘80s nostalgia feel to it. The story is just as silly and scary as the original film, so if you were a fan then, you should enjoy this book. There’s a lot of great jokes to make you groan and of course the blood and gore you expect to find in a vampire story. Remember, the film was rated R and you’ll find the same language thrown into the graphic novel, so this is not a comic for kids. I, for one, love that there seem to be more and more comics being marketed to adults these days. Anyone who enjoys a good story can find a graphic series that speaks to them.

The characters in this book really stick to the personalities they had in the film. The Frog brothers are still slightly ridiculous, Sam is still a scaredy cat, and Michael still has it bad for Star. Watching them all team up again was a lot of fun. Even the lesser characters are still there – grandpa Emerson, Lucy and Laddie, and the book leaves the story open for a lot more action to come. I will be watching for the next novel.

If you’re a fan of ‘80s vampire flicks or vampire comics with sass, you’ll find yourself enjoying this one. Pick it up at your local comic shop, or grab it from one of the following retailers if your town doesn’t have one.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Google Play

Northwoods Magic by Desiree Lafawn feature image

Book Review: ‘Northwoods Magic’ by Desiree Lafawn

BOOK DETAILS:

Northwoods Magic
by Desiree Lafawn
(Northwoods Fairy Tales, #1)
Publication date: July 24th 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

I previously posted a blitz about this book with a promise that I would be reviewing it when I had the chance. Well, the time has come. Desiree Lafawn’s new novel is an adult paranormal romance. While the magic was different and unique, I had some issues with the storyline and occasionally with the writing.

Quinn was attacked by an evil entity in the forest as a teenager, but the great magic inside her helped transform a raven into a boy who saved her. After being taken to the hospital, she lived the next 10 years of her life thinking she was crazy as doctors told her that her memories were hallucinations. Wanting to find out what happened for herself, she travels back to the lodge where it happened and finds that the boy, Corbin – now a man, is still waiting for her. Will their bond still hold? Will Quinn be able to make peace with what happened? And Will she and Corbin be able to fight the evil that still roams the woods?

The magical usage in this book was creative and different than most paranormal books on the market. I had never read about these types of creatures before, which was a definite plus. Also, while the love between Corbin and Quinn was instantaneous (which I normally abhor), the storyline behind it made sense and made it more bearable. The characters were interesting and the story held my interest.

Here’s what I didn’t like. First, just a pet peeve, but the author’s favorite adverb was fairly. Every chapter seemed to have an adjective that was enhanced with it. I don’t know if it was because I had an ARC copy and she was using it as a stand in, or whether she really didn’t have access to a thesaurus, but it bugged me. The other thing that bothered me is that the first 80% of the book was just Quinn and Corbin reuniting. There was no conflict with the big baddie until the last few chapters of the book and that led to the rest of the story feeling rushed. I also couldn’t understand why the bad guy didn’t just grab Quinn by him/herself, saving the trouble of using others to get to her which ultimately caused his/her downfall. It seemed like a rather dumb mistake on the part of the villain.

Overall, this book was okay. It was a traditional paranormal romance in that it had the required sex scenes and deep love/lust between the main characters. The creatures were unique, but the story needed a bit of editing. If you’re a fan of romance over story, this might appeal to you, and it’s not a bad book. It’s just not a series that I see myself continuing.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads / Amazon

Book Blitz and Giveaway: ‘Masked’ by J.D. Wright

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. My best friend is very sick and I’m helping take care of her home and dog as well as visiting her and working extra hours. I promise things will pick up again soon. In the meantime, here’s a YA superhero book that will keep you busy and entertained. It came out yesterday, so be sure to click on the link below to purchase. There’s also a Rafflecopter contest you can enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card and a Masked coffee mug. How much fun is that?

Masked
J.D. Wright
(Superheroes Undercover, #1)
Published by: Limitless Publishing
Publication date: August 15th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Superheroes, Young Adult

Vada’s To-Do List:
– Turn 18 (check!)
– Register super name
– Order supersuit
– Attend superhero indoctrination
– Graduate high school
– Start kicking criminal tail

Vada Lawson can’t wait to be a superhero. Born into a family with special powers, she’s been training to fight criminals and villains her whole life. But her indoctrination into the underground super community is derailed when normals start breaking out in superpowers themselves.

Not trained to control their new abilities, the normals are frightened and vulnerable. Then their mutilated corpses begin turning up all over town. What the heck?

Somehow, with the help—and hindrance—of an annoying newly-minted super named Orion, Vada has to stop the chaos before it destroys her and everything she holds dear…and ruins her superhero debut.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Nick couldn’t take it anymore.

The entire morning had been one shock to his system after another. The nice long weekend in his giant but silent house had made him all but forget about the weird run-in with Janet. He’d spent the entire time working on his homework and enjoying the peace and quiet.

But after only five minutes at school, he was rudely reminded that he must be losing his mind. The voices came like a whirlwind into his head, one after another. So many that he couldn’t decipher whose thoughts belonged to who. He couldn’t even separate his own thoughts from the others. There were so many, and every one of them was as loud as the other, washing over him like waves of pounding noise.

Being in class gave no relief, either. The other students may not have been talking aloud, but every one of them was thinking, loudly. Nick heard too many things that he never wanted to hear and a lot of mundane thoughts that no one cares about.

…I wonder if I forgot to lock the door this morning…
…Oh, man. I’m not sure if I’m ready to do this. What if I get pregnant? But Luke is so cute, though…
…Mrs. Yates has such nice tits…

Nick actually agreed with that last sentiment, but he couldn’t be sure who had said it.

…Only thirty minutes left. I really need to pee…
…Nick is too good for Scarlet. What does he see in her? She’s such a bitch…
…This class is about as useless as my stepmother…

There was just so much noise. Nick pulled his hood up, but it did nothing to block the sounds. Every single thought that crossed someone else’s mind entered his. He didn’t give a damn about someone’s new pet lizard. And while he appreciated the girl across from him’s glances and thoughts of admiration—at least, he was pretty sure those belonged to her from the way she watched him—he didn’t want to know what other people were thinking.

What had caused this? Was it some sort of mental illness? Was he imagining these things? He couldn’t be sure he was even hearing real thoughts. He considered quizzing someone, but he was almost too afraid to confirm what he suspected.

He was reading people’s minds. Hearing their thoughts. Without even trying.

And it was excruciating.

Author Bio:

J.D. Wright is a military wife, mother of four, and author of paranormal and fantasy romance books filled with strong-willed heroines, swoon-worthy heroes, and sprinkled with humor and adventure. J.D. creates artistry in many ways, as a baker and cake artist by day and author by night. You can usually find her typing away at the computer or covered in frosting.

Since discovering she has a knack for writing, J.D. has so far written and self-published eight books of the Everealm and Songs of Everealm Series and is now venturing into the world of paranormal with her new superhero-themed series. She is an avid reader and lover of all things romance so she always includes a good love story in her paranormal and fantasy novels.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Google +


GIVEAWAY!

Win a $10 Amazon gift card plus a cool Masked coffee mug to announce your superhero status to the rest of your household. Click the link below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Blog Tour & Giveaway: ‘Counting Wolves’ by Michael F. Stewart

I had planned on having a book review ready for this tour, but some personal issues have come up this week putting me behind on my reading. I will try to review the novel separately sometime next week. So far, I’m enjoying it and I’m happy to promote this author to my loyal readers. It’s a contemporary novel of mental illness told from the point of view of a girl who sees life as a fairy tale. Sounds awesome, right? Look below for a story excerpt.

Counting Wolves
Michael F. Stewart
Publication date: August 14th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

The Breakfast Club meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the lair of an adolescent psych ward.

Milly’s evil stepmother commits her to a pediatric psych ward. That’s just what the wolf wants. With bunk mates like Red, who’s spiraling out of control; Pig, a fire-bug who claims Milly as her own—but just wants extra dessert—Vanet, a manic teen masquerading as a fairy godmother with wish-granting powers as likely to kill as to help; and the mysterious Wolfgang, rumored to roam for blood at night; it doesn’t take long for Milly to realize that only her dead mother’s book of tales can save her.

But Milly’s spells of protection weaken as her wolf stalks the hospital corridors. The ward’s a Dark Wood, and she’s not alone. As her power crumbles, she must let go of her magic and discover new weapons if she is to transform from hunted to hunter.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo


EXCERPT:

The wolf hunts.

It prowls as I hurry down the hall past teenagers scavenging for pencils and kisses. Locker doors slam and laughter sprays like gunshots, but I ignore the jibes. I’ve bigger things to worry about. Like the wolf. Like the fire door. It’s a door in the middle of the hallway. For me, that door might as well be a bank of thorns. It might as well be a dragon’s hellish maw. But the wolf hunts, and through that door is my only escape.

I start to count. This is the important part. I have to count right. Not too fast, nor too slow. All the way to one hundred. It must be spoken aloud, without interruption. Whispering is acceptable; the count keeps my wolf to the Dark Wood. It keeps me on safety’s slender path.

Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen . . .

Stephanie, a pert blonde whose butt I used to kick on the basketball court, leans against the doorframe and raises an eyebrow. “I love this next bit,” she says, pulling her phone out and holding it like a magic wand. “This is Steph Lattersby reporting from Hopedell High School. What you are about to witness is the magical thinking of fifteen-year-old Milly Malone, as she prepares to leap over whatever chasm she is presently hallucinating.”

It’s no chasm. My mother told the story best.

There once was a girl who was the wolf’s coveted meal. Every day she would wake to the wolf huffing and puffing at her door, and every night it would hunt the girl in her dreams. Then one day she learned a magic spell. If she counted to one hundred before going through doors, eating meals, and any speech, she could banish the wolf to the Dark Wood and survive in the world as long as she stayed on the clear path. But, each day, the wolf grew hungrier, waiting for her to step off the trail, and for her spell to break . . .

That’s what I fear the most. That one day my magic count won’t work.

My mouth dries as I whisper, and I struggle to keep the count slow and steady. Forty-two, forty-three, forty-four . . . but my wolf has crept behind me and bent its head low. Yellow eyes burrow into my spine. The gray wolf, mountainous, savage, and unrelenting.

“This could take a while, folks,” Stephanie says in a deep, queenly voice. “You’ll have to wait like everyone else does here for this very special princess.”

Sixty-six, sixty-seven . . . Other students stop to see what Stephanie records—scavengers after my bones. Some, having figured out that it’s me, roll their eyes and move on, but the rest—most of them—fold their arms and wait with Stephanie, lips lifted to show teeth, eyes as bright as the wolf’s.

Hot breath blows rank and moist on hands I hold tight to my thighs.

I can run, but that would be into the Dark Wood, and from its shadows I might never return.

Seventy-seven, seventy-eight . . . I tense, ready for paws to clamp down on my shoulders, for claws to sink into my bony chest. It’s so strong. I can’t keep it back much longer.

“I think she said eighty-nine. Get ready—here comes the magic.” Stephanie’s voice lifts. “This is going to be fabulous! Stupendous!”

The students begin to clap with my counting, but they’re not on beat. Their poor timing makes it more difficult. Tears stream down my cheeks. If only they could hear me screaming inside, if they understood that I did this for them. The wood looms at the edges of my vision, branches entwining and bearing down, groping.

Something swipes at my shoulder. I shout the remaining count. “Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred!”

I clench my hands and eyes, bend at the knee, and hop through the doors.
The cheer is half cackle. “See, what did I tell you? Wasn’t that amazing?” Stephanie continues, but I don’t care. The woods have fallen away. I draw deep cleansing breaths. The hall shines with summery fluorescent light. My fingers probe my shoulder for the claw marks. Nothing. I beat the wolf back—for now.

Author Bio:

Michael F. Stewart is winner of both the 2015 Claymore Award and the 2014 inaugural Creation of Stories Award for best YA novel at the Toronto International Book Fair.

He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia, and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. In addition to his award winning Assured Destruction series, he has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada’s Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children’s Rights are published by Scholastic and early readers are out with Pearson Education.

For adults, Michael has written THE SAND DRAGON a horror about a revenant prehistoric vampire set in the tar sands, HURAKAN a Mayan themed thriller which pits the Maya against the MS-13 with a New York family stuck in the middle, 24 BONES an urban fantasy which draws from Egyptian myth, and THE TERMINALS–a covert government unit which solves crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next.

Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library’s first Writer in Residence. To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at http://www.michaelfstewart.com or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.

Michael is represented by Talcott Notch.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


GIVEAWAY!

Win an e-book copy of Counting Wolves! Just click below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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