Song of the Crimson Flower | BLOG TOUR | ARC Review

 

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Song of the Crimson Flower

Author: Julie C. Dao

Publisher: Philomel

Pages: 288

Publication: November 5th, 2019

Age Group: 12+

Purchase: Amazon Penguin Teen Barnes & Noble Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

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Thoughts

I’d like to thank Penguin Teen for allowing me to open the blog tour! My review is completely honest.

The book immediately opens up with our main female lead, Lan, who is serenaded by a flute from her soon-to-be betrothed, Bao. They seem to be the perfect match until an unexpected moment comes Lan’s way, causing her to push Bao and his advances away. Suddenly, a curse overtakes Bao and traps him in his treasured flute. 

Let’s start with the curse. It’s placed on both of them by a witch, though she definitely has her motives. I suppose it’s like a lesson in disguise. To put Bao inside his flute is something I’ve never really come across in literature. The concept is very intriguing, which is what helped keep me attached to the storyline. I also like how the curse is attached to the bigger conflict going on between the five kingdoms. 

I loved Lan’s character. She is very sweet and passionate and wasn’t portrayed to be the typical heroine we see in young adult literature these days, even though I do enjoy that kind of character. It was a nice change and I liked following her journey with Bao, who is also an equally kind character with a good heart. They’re both really good for each other and good match. Neither of them are “trained in battle” or what have you. Just two (sort of) normal characters. These two are just trying to work together and it’s a nice change of scenery for me. Obviously, their journey together helps the blossoming of their relationship and I found it to be as realistic as it could get for a fantasy-ish novel like this. Some parts gave me a little giggle. For instance, there’s the classic where they bathe close together and it’s meant to be a shock factor for that time period and situation. That kind of thing is always used a lot in this genre and it never fails to make me blush or giggle and just root even harder for the romantic trope. 

A good thing to know is that some of the characters in the Rise of the Empress duology do appear as secondary characters, though I don’t think you need to read that duology to understand this novel. 

Another excellent factor is that, if you’re already in love with Julie’s world that she has created with her previous work, then you’ll be even more in love with this novel. It’s pure, charming and perfect for every reader’s shelf. 

5 stars

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About the Author:

Julie Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese American who was born in Upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. She is the author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.

The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1) | ARC Review

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The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1)

Author: Renée Ahdieh

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 448

Publication: October 8th, 2019

Age Group: 13+

Purchase: Amazon Penguin Teen Barnes & Noble Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

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Thoughts

I received an early galley during a book trade on social media. My review is 100% honest.

The time is 1872 and Celine Rousseau has fled Paris, arriving in New Orleans to join a convent with six other girls, hoping to start a fresh new life. Soon, though, Celine is caught up in the crimes of bodies being drained of blood, La Cour des Lions and Sébastien Saint Germain. What was once a magical vibe to a historical land takes a dark turn for her and her heart.

I remember when this book was announced, bringing back new wave of vampire literature for young adults. I haven’t read a vampire book in forever, so I was all on board for this. Plus, Renée is an auto buy for me so it’s a no brainer. I see some people didn’t really enjoy this book and I guess I don’t understand why, exactly. To me, this book lives up to its title. It is freaking beautiful. 

I applaud Renée for not making Celine into some helpless damsel in distress. Like, yes! Give me a female character in this time period that gives no shits and stands up for her own beliefs. Celine wears the beautiful outfits and looks like a lady, but underneath it all, she is a warrior and isn’t afraid of doing what she feels and knows is right. She is a perfect match for Bastien. 

Yes, Bastien. I’ll admit that I got some Edward Cullen vibes from the descriptions and attitude. However, if I had to pick between the two, I would go for Bastien. It was difficult to tell until the very end if Bastien was a vampire or not. Maybe I’m just totally dense and I got way too lost in the story. That’s not really a big deal, but I probably should have figured it out when he kept checking his pulse. Anyway, he is definitely a troubled character with his own demons and I am just devastated with how things ended up. Renée, you literally tore my heart to pieces. Was it truly necessary? Wait, don’t answer that.

So, we’ve got Detective Michael Grimaldi. Obviously, we’ve got a love triangle set up going on here. I’ll tell you this: I’m on Team Bastien. Michael got on my nerves because he was just so pushy with Celine. Like, I understand Michael and Bastien are not really buddy-buddy but, dude, leave the girl be. In my opinion, he literally has no idea how strong minded of a girl Celine is. It’s really insulting. 

This book was so enthralling and lived up to my expectations even more than I had anticipated. I don’t see how others find it to be “slow”, “repetitive”, or just “lacking”. That’s their problem and I think they really did miss something crucial. This is in no way “another Twilight”. This is something its own that is yet another dominance of young adult literature from the mind of Renée Ahdieh. 

5 stars

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It’s not easy finding time for books…

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Hello, fellow bloggers.

My goodness, it feels good to be caught up with my reviews. Those have been posted, so feel free to check them out. You might be surprised by a few of them. I’ve also changed the formatting for my reviews so it doesn’t look so messy. I’ve started using Bookly for my reading, though my latest reviews do not have this data because they either weren’t read when I got the app or the reading time wasn’t accurate. The app is really amazing, though. I recommend downloading it!

I’ve been super busy lately. Let’s start with college. I’m in my last two semesters of undergraduate and then I get my BA in English in May. After that, I (hopefully) head off to grad school next fall. I haven’t applied yet, but I’m already working my butt off to make sure I get in. I’m wanting to be a teacher for little kids, but in order to do so, I need to take the PRAXIS. It’s basically language arts, math, science, and social studies for elementary students. I have this big study guide, so I’ve been studying it and underlining and everything to make sure I do well my first go. Once I pass that test, I can apply to grad school. Also, my classes are pretty time consuming. I have a young adult class and I do have to read books I’m not too crazy about, although we did finish up The Hate U Give, one of my absolute favorites. I think we are doing The Graveyard Book next week. It’s been fun, though. I have my creative writing class, too. We are working on short story submissions and I submitted the prologue to my book (remember my KOD stuff?) and they’ll workshop it on Thursday, so I’m eager for that. It’s definitely bad right now and needs work, but I think, once it gets workshopped, I can get going on the full draft of the story. It’s something I really want to do. I’ve got other classes, but these are the most time consuming for me.

Next, I have work. I rent an apartment now, but thankfully I split it with my boyfriend so I don’t have to pay the whole thing. But, I still need to work so many hours right now, so that isn’t making it easy for me to read. Although, if I have a book on my kindle app, I read during the slow hours at work. That is a welcome reprieve. I did that for a few books lately. Also, I’m an adult so I do have other stuff to pay for. Luckily, I’m pretty good at my job so I make plenty of money. 

Anyway, I thought I’d do a little update so you don’t think it’s a robot running this account now. I do still get blog tour requests, which I am still grateful for. Sometimes I don’t think I deserve them anymore since it’s so hard to keep up with the website and Instagram, but I’m doing a lot better now at balancing things out. I’ve also been making plans to return to BookCon next year! I’m hoping it works out because I’d also like to take my boyfriend to New York. He’s never been, so it’d be a fun little vacation before I start grad school.

I hope you all have had a good year and a good start to your fall season. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Instagram if you don’t already! Happy reading!!

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Infinity Son (Infinity Cycle #1) | ARC Review

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Infinity Son (Infinity Cycle #1)

Author: Adam Silvera

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 368

Publication: January 14th, 2020

Age Group: 12+

Purchase: Amazon HarperTeen Barnes & Noble Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

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Thoughts

I received an early copy from HarperTeen and Edelweiss. My review is completely honest.

This has been a fantasy novel in the works for Adam for many years. We have brothers Emil and Brighton growing up in New York, idolizing Spell Walkers who are dedicated to ridding the world of specters. Brighton wants power and Emil just wants it all to stop. However, after a brawl, Emil discovers powers of his own.

Okay, so here’s what we have. Spell Walkers and celestials are born with powers. The majority of them would like to prove to the world that they aren’t so bad. However, thanks to specters taking their powers and using them for not-so-good reasons, humanity doesn’t take these people too kindly. 

Emil is fascinated by them, but more so with phoenixes and the different species in the family. He desires to have a prestigious position at the museum he works at, but it doesn’t seem to be happening for him. At the same time, he tries to control Brighton from being stupid as they witness Spellwalkers and specters fighting each other. I loved Emil’s character through it all. He wants to protect his family and the world, pretty much, by wanting the violence to stop. He is just one person and, as one person, who doesn’t want some peace in the world? When he gets his power, he doesn’t really want it. His willpower and heart are incredibly strong, though, throughout it all. I really admired that.

Brighton is a little shit. I’ll be honest. He is so desperate to get views on his Youtube channel by capturing the fights and famous Spellwalkers. If he doesn’t get to go see a fight, he pretty much stomps his feet until he gets his way or he just does whatever he wants to. However, it fits his character. Like, I can see that Adam wanted to make him like this, nearly unlikable but you still kind of have to like him in some aspect. 

I really need to talk about the issue with this book. The major, major issue for me. I remember seeing on Twitter how this is the “Harry/Draco story we always wanted” and I was definitely excited for that. I went into this with romantic expectations. The pairing is there, but it’s there way too late in the story. Like, way over halfway through the book. I really don’t understand why Adam chose to make the evident romance only 2% important. Another thing was the ending. It leaves on a cliffhanger that I totally saw coming, but what I loved to see. But, that’s it. The cliffhanger happened in two sentences and then the book was done. I had to rant to my boyfriend and my mom and told them that I have never felt so unsatisfied by a book in my life. Not like this. 

So, why three stars if I was so unsatisfied? 

Well, this is still an early copy. I got this copy a couple of months ago, so there’s no telling if other people have expressed other concerns like mine. Most of the time with ARCs, I don’t read the finished copy because the early copy left me satisfied. However, this might be the only time that I am going to read the finished copy and pray to God that some of these things were fixed. 

I love Adam’s work, but this was a hard blow to my heart. It has potential, though, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. Hopefully.

3 stars

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle #1) | SPOILER Review

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle #1)

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Pages: 359

Age Group: 13+

Purchase: Amazon Simon & Schuster Barnes & Noble Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

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Thoughts

Set in the late eighties, Aristotle is a teenager struggling with the fact his parents refuse to acknowledge is incarcerated brother’s existence. At the same time, he struggles to connect with his father, a war veteran. Then, he meets Dante at a swimming pool and it seems he finally has a friend the more time they spend together. Through this friendship, the two boys discover more about each other.

Okay, so my young adult teacher had us read this book. I was kind of eager to read it, since I’ve never read it before. But, I also was hesitant because of the reviews. I’ve seen some reviewers claim the LGBTQ representation isn’t accurate or how the book is just silly in itself or just not good. I read this cautiously. 

Aristotle was probably the only character that kept me reading. He’s a teenager that’s really struggling with his family and his identity, even if he doesn’t really accept that until the end. The fact that he can’t connect with his father really tugged at my heart because he tries so hard and it must be even harder when he sees that Dante has the “perfect” family. 

Let’s not even talk about Dante, though. He was incredibly annoying and so pushy with Ari. Dante may be accepting of his sexuality, but Ari has no idea or doesn’t even want to accept it yet. And their first kiss? If it was between a guy and a girl and the guy pressured the girl to kiss him, it would be totally problematic. However, when Dante makes Ari kiss him, it’s cute? It was just totally wrong and I feel like Dante pushed him the majority of the time. Yeah, some of it was cute. I did like the scene where the ran in the desert after smoking pot. That was pretty uplifting and I think that’s when Ari knew he had feelings for Dante. But, some of the interactions were just queasy. 

I had a major problem with how Ari “came out” to his family. His parents knew all along and they pretty much coaxed made him come out. It really pissed me off because Ari wasn’t ready. I could see that. It could have been played out any other way, but I just didn’t like how it was done. 

I could have given this two or even one star. But, Ari saved it somewhat. Also, I hear there is going to be a sequel so I am still curious if the author can do a bit better with content in the next round. And I really want to know how Ari’s brother feels about him being gay. There’s just more that needs to be fixed and told. Maybe second time is the charm.

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The Beholder (The Beholder #1) | Review

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The Beholder (The Beholder #1)

Author: Anna Bright

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 435

Age Group: 12+

Purchase: Amazon HarperTeen Barnes & Noble Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

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Thoughts

Selah is the Seneschal-elect from Potomac and she is being sent off to find a husband from the many suitors that her stepmother has listed for her. This couldn’t have come at a worst time for Selah, considering the boy she wanted refused her proposal. Now, she must do what her stepmother says while also worrying for her ailing father. 

This book was totally amazing. Half of the book is set on the ship, run by Captain Lang. Selah can’t miss a stop and this proves to be frightening because one stop is the terrifying Tsaritsya. Selah is hoping that she finds someone at the first two stops, which is the other half of the book. 

The first stop was nuts. First of all, her first suitor appears to be so much older than her. I know it’s normal for the early centuries, but it’s still creepy. Selah gets close to one of her guards, but then the first stop takes a twist! It’s still too soon since the release date to say what kind of twist, but let’s just say that we have suitor number one lined up for book two and it is and isn’t the person you expect.

The second stop was even more thrilling than the first stop. She gets into a big family and one of the men in this family, a decent age, is her suitor. At first, it doesn’t seem likely that anything will happen. However, it takes a shocking turn. At least to me. I devoured the second stop and was absolutely devastated the way it ended. Oh yeah, we have suitor number two. 

This leads into the epic cliffhanger that left me staring at the book in shock. I never expected to love a book this much or want more. It’s been a while since I’ve had that feeling. And it’s a debut? Bravo to Anna Bright.

Oh yeah, I think there is also a suitor number three so we have a love square? I need book two.

5 stars

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The Orchid Throne (Forgotten Empires #1) |BLOG TOUR | Review

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The Orchid Throne (Forgotten Empires #1)

Author: Jeffe Kennedy

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 384

Publication: September 24, 2019

Age Group: 15+

Purchase: Amazon St. Martin’s Press Barnes & Noble Book Depository

 

 

 

 

Official Synopsis:

A PRISONER OF FATE

As Queen of the island kingdom of Calanthe, Euthalia will do anything to keep her people

free—and her secrets safe—from the mad tyrant who rules the mainland. Guided by a magic ring of her father’s, Lia plays the political game with the cronies the emperor sends to her island. In her heart, she knows that it’s up to her to save herself from her fate as the emperor’s bride. But in her dreams, she sees a man, one with the power to build a better world—a man whose spirit is as strong, and whose passion is as fierce as her own…

A PRINCE AMONG MEN

Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has built an army to overthrow the emperor. But he needs the fabled Abiding Ring to succeed. The ring that Euthalia holds so dear to her heart. When the two banished rulers meet face to face, neither can deny the flames of rebellion that flicker in their eyes—nor the fires of desire that draw them together. But in this broken world of shattered kingdoms, can they ever really trust each other? Can their fiery alliance defeat the shadows of evil that threaten to engulf their hearts and souls?

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Exclusive Excerpt

(Unfortunately, no Bookly data is available as I couldn’t keep track properly while reading in between work shifts)

Thoughts

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press for allowing me to be a part of the blog tour! My review is 100% honest. 

It’s the classic trope for a young adult novel. There’s Queen Euthalia who holds a family heirloom that guides her while doing what she feels is right for the people of Calanthe. Then, we have Conrí, a former prince that wants to overthrow the emperor while needing that same family heirloom to do so. What could possibly happen when these two come face to face?

It’s one of my favorite tropes among many. Kind of like an enemies to not-so-much-enemies type of thing. Naturally, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to read this book. Also, that cover is stunning. 

Euthalia was a wonderful character. There aren’t many young adult books out there where the main character is already a queen. Normally, readers watch her grow into a queen. So, I liked that aspect of the book. Euthalia has a strong heart and will for her people, even if she does keep some secrets. However, she’s a smart girl and not like some other fantasy characters that still hang around in literature and act dumb or like a damsel in distress. That trope needs to just die. Jeffe did all of us a solid with Euthalia’s character.

Conrí is the other main character. This guy has been through a lot. His kingdom was destroyed and he was sent to the mines to mine the one thing that killed his family. That’s pretty brutal. Naturally, Conrí and the others have had it, so they plan to take over and right the wrongs their own way. He is definitely a character to watch in this series. I don’t think I liked him as much as I liked Euthalia, but there is something there that I want to hold on to. His background is tough and I think Jeffe did a good job of building that. 

Speaking of building, Jeffe did great with world building. It’s so tricky to get it right because it’s the basis for a reader to get sucked into. Jeffe has a center called the Abiding Ring, which is the orchid part that we see in the title. It’s obviously connecting Euthalia and Conrí, but I’m sure we have more to learn as the series progresses.

What really got me is the ending. I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s that kind of ending where you sort of expect it to happen but you still can’t believe it happened and it just ends up making you want more. 

Honestly, I didn’t expect to love the book as much as I did. There were moments that were kind of slow, but Jeffe knows how to tell a story that still keeps a reader on their toes. I can promise you that I’ll be eagerly awaiting book two to find out what happens next. 

4 stars

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About the Author

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JEFFE KENNEDY is an award-winning, bestselling author who writes fantasy, fantasy romance, and contemporary romance. She serves on the Board of Directors for SFWA as a Director at Large. 

Her most recent works include Prisoner of the Crown and the upcoming Exile of the Seas, from her high fantasy trilogy from Rebel Base books, The Chronicles of Dasnaria, in the same world as her award-winning fantasy series The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms. She is a hybrid author, and also self-publishes a fantasy series, Sorcerous Moons. Her books have won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015, been named Best Book of June 2014, and won RWA’s prestigious RITA® Award. 

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and on Twitter @jeffekennedy.

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