Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Review: Are You My Monster? by Amanda Noll

by Amanda Noll
Illustrated by Howard McWilliam
Flashlight Press
Picture Book
26 pages
ages 3 to 7

In Are You My Monster?, the monster-loving boy from I Need My Monster tries to find his monster. He compares his drawing—showing a green monster with a long tail, pointy nails, and big teeth—with an assortment of amusing monsters, until he finds the perfect match. This turns out to be his beloved STUFFED monster toy. Children will love comparing colors, checking if tails are long or short, if nails are pointy or round, if teeth are big or small until they, too, find the monster who is a perfect match.


This is the partner book for How I Met My Monster and is such a cute, fun read!

Ethan makes a drawing of his monster. After all, only one monster is the monster for him. One by one, the monsters appear, and Ethan goes down his checklist to see if they are the one he's looking for. Sharp teeth, a long tale, green and... some criteria are met. Others not. As the monster go by and none seem to fulfill his entire list, the question of whether or not he'll ever find his monster arises.

Not only are the monster super sweet (in a scary, monstery way, of course), but the check list is something readers are sure to enjoy. Every two-page spread has a monster on one side, and Ethan and his list on the other. It's a simple concept and that's exactly what makes it fun. Young listeners will easily be sucked into Ethan's search and join in as each aspect of the monster is explored.

The illustrations are bright and bring across the right atmosphere. Each monster packs their own personality, and young readers are sure to find their own personal favorites. They'll probably want a monster of their own too.

 by Amanda Noll
Illustrated by Howard McWilliam
Flashlight Press
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 3 to 7

One night, when Ethan reaches under his bed for a toy truck, he finds this note instead: “Monsters! Meet here for final test.” Ethan is sure his parents are trying to trick him into staying under the covers, until he sees five colorful sets of eyes blinking at him from beneath the bed. Soon, a colorful parade of quirky, squeaky little monsters compete to become Ethan’s monster. But only the little green monster, Gabe, has the perfect blend of stomach-rumbling and snorting needed to get Ethan into bed and keep him there so he falls asleep—which as everyone knows, is the real reason for monsters under beds. With its perfect balance of giggles and shivers, this silly-spooky prequel to the award-winning I Need My Monster and Hey, That’s MY Monster! will keep young readers entertained. 


Monster fans are going to enjoy every page and maybe learn a little more about monsters along the way.

Ethan is looking for a toy and runs across a strange letter. Soon, five pairs of eyes are staring back at him from underneath his bed. These are monsters—furry, cute, long-tailed, and sweet. But these monsters are there for a reason. They need to learn the rules when it comes to kids and bedtimes. One of the monsters is sure to be perfect for Ethan, but it will take a bit of testing to find out which one it will be.

This reminded me a bit of Monsters Inc. but with a sweeter vibe. Ethan finds having monsters under his bed and in his room a little surprising, but he takes it all in stride and enjoys the fun. The monster rules seem sensible, but lead to funny situations and make it clear that finding the perfect monster-kid match isn't always easy. The monsters each bring their own personality and charm, and when Ethan and his monster are finally paired, it's simply heart-warming. Even if it might mean a little bit of a scare along the way.

The illustrations are super fun to gaze through. Each monster is portrayed uniquely and holds enough emotions to make them easy to like/love. There are little details to bring the pictures to life as they follow the tale and help the humor and friendship grow more vivid with each page. It's simply a cute story young listeners are sure to enjoy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Happy Book Birthday, Merged by Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl with Giveaway!


by Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl 

YA Romance, Science Fiction

Seven of our country’s most gifted teens will become Nobels, hosts for the implantation of brilliant Mentor minds, in an effort to accelerate human progress.
But as the line between what’s possible and what’s right, draws ever blurrier, the teens discover everything has a cost.
Scientists have created an evolved form of living known as Merged Consciousness, and sixteen-year-old Lake finds herself unable to merge with her Mentor.
Lake, the Nobel for Chemistry and Orfyn, the Nobel for Art, are two from among the inaugural class of Nobels, and with the best intent and motivation. But when Stryker, the Nobel for Peace, makes them question the motivation of the scientists behind the program, their world begins to unravel.
As the Nobels work to uncover the dark secrets of the program’s origins, everyone’s a suspect and no one can be trusted, not even the other Nobels.
As the Mentors begin to take over the bodies and minds of the Nobels, Lake and Orfyn must find a way to regain control before they lose all semblance or memory of their former selves.


Depending on your point of view, I’m either famous or infamous. I’m called by many names: Ward of the State, Orphaned, Foofool (only by Sister Mo), and Kevin. That last one makes me feel like I’m wearing someone else’s clothes. Tight and loose in all the wrong places. So, I came up with my own name, though no one has ever connected it to me. The identity of street artists should never be revealed.
I flick turpentine at a rat that’s getting a little too curious about my brushes. The alley smells like something died, making me wonder if there’s a body in the dumpster. Michelangelo cut up dead people to better understand how we’re built. If he was willing to do that for his art, I can endure this stink for one night. I breathe through my mouth and get back to work.
After four straight hours, the painting is coming along great, and I know I can finish it before people start heading out for their nine-to-five jobs. I paint madly, getting lost in the scene, moving from figure to figure, jersey to jersey. It’s my best work yet, and I want this one to last.
At least, for a few days.

And here they are...

Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl are a husband-and-wife team who write YA novels and stories of mystery and adventure from their cabin in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Their debut novel, Merged, will be released by Month9Books on September 17, 2019.


Trailer Reveal: Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest

Monday, September 16, 2019

Review: The Mystery of the Lost Map by Jim Rhoden

by Jim Rhoden
Lanier Press
Children's Western/Historical
92 pages
ages 4 to 10

Cowboy Little and Cowboy Small like adventures even more than Sunday dinner with fried chicken and Mama’s blue-ribbon apple pie. Every chance they get, they climb on their horses Ned and Ted, round up their dogs Red and Fred, their fleas Itch and Scratch, and their cattle Brawny Bull and Helen Heifer, and head out beyond the fences of Circle R Ranch. When they find old saddlebags filled with gold coins and a strange map, they set out to solve the mystery. On the way, they face bandits, Indians, and bats. 


The Wild West comes to life in this exciting and short read, which does so much more than visit robbers, horses, and cowboys.

Cowboy Little and Cowboy Small live with their family on the ranch. They spend their days searching for small 'treasures', fishing, exploring and all those wonderful things kids their age do. When they run across saddles bags with coins and a strange map, adventure and mystery are not far behind. But this isn't a simple mystery to solve, and soon, they find themselves facing bandits, Indians and finding help in the most extraordinary places.

The author tugs readers into life in the West and brings it to life through two boys' eyes. While there are horses, Indians, bandits and all those type of things which readers expect when reading a Western, this novel goes a step further and shows that life had a more normal side too. The two young cowboys act and have interests as normal boys would have. Their interactions, thoughts and decisions come across understandable and readers will have no trouble connecting to them. There's a wonderful sense of family and friendship as well as trust in these pages.

There's never a boring moment as the adventure unfolds and soon holds many unexpected twists and turns. The mystery isn't easy to solve and as tension mounts, the two need to seek help from others.  Not only does the story keep the pages turning, but the length is great for even more reluctant readers. Add the lovely illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, and this is a book which readers will enjoy for many reasons.
And here he is...

Jim Rhoden is the chairman and principal owner of Futren Hospitality, which owns and manages private clubs and golf clubs in the greater Atlanta area. Throughout his long career, he has developed and managed major real estate projects in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, and believes strongly in giving back to his community.
He is also a talented and prolific storyteller who has amused two generations of kids with tales about his favorite characters, Cowboy Little and Cowboy Small, who love to explore the world around them.
Collaborator Mickey Goodman is a veteran memoirist, ghostwriter, and journalist with more than seven hundred bylined articles in scores of national and regional publications. She has also coauthored five books.

The Illustrator...
Marilena Perilli has enjoyed working as an illustrator for over fifteen years. She has illustrated books and created artwork for numerous national brands, as well as the New York Times.

Cover Reveal: Parting Worlds by Kaitlyn Davis

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Review: Silly Lullaby by Sandra Boynton

by Sandra Boynton
Little Simon Books
Board Book
16 pages
ages 0 to 5

What’s the best way to say good night? With a silly lullaby from the beloved and bestselling Sandra Boynton.

It all starts with the big bear observing to the little bear in the red footie pajamas:

Your pajamas are on.
There’s a duck on your head.
I think that this means
you are ready for bed.

Curl up with your favorite little person and this charmingly unpredictable go-to-sleep book. Whether you are a parent, child, or just another snoozing chicken in the bathtub, Silly Lullaby is truly a sweet dream surprise. The sneakers in the freezer heartily concur.


Silliness hits high in this sweet little lullaby which makes absolutely little sense and will have those tired eyes happily ready for bed time.

This is a short, cute and absolutely ridiculous book. The first line might sound normal, but already with the second, nonsense starts and will have kids saying 'huh?' before diving into a world of giggles, snorts and nonsense. When the lullaby really gets underway, it starts with an accompanying tune, written out for those who might be ready to sing this thing. And it is worth singing..again...and again...and again...and again...

The illustrations are bright and allow the silliness to be shown without adding to it...too much. These too will have kids flipping through again and again as they  soon sing the song on their own.

My kids found this book hilarious (although I did lift my eyebrows at first) and insist it's a definite 5-star read.

And here she is...

Sandra Boynton is a popular American humorist, songwriter, children's author and illustrator. Boynton has written and illustrated more than forty books for both children and adults, as well as more than four thousand greeting cards and four music albums. She has designedfor various companiescalendars, wallpaper, bedding, stationsery, papergoods, clothing, jewelry, and plush toys.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Review: Arrivederci, Crocodile by Fred Marcellino and Eric Puybaret

by Fred Marcellino
Completed by Eric Puybaret
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
ages 4 to 8

Can a hungry crocodile trick—and eat!—his way through Italian high society? Pack away your pasta—Crocodile is heading to Italy in this long-awaited sequel to Fred Marcellino’s award-winning I, Crocodile.

First that dastardly Napoleon kidnapped Crocodile from his beloved Egypt, then he dragged him to Paris to be gawked at, and THEN he tried to eat him! Luckily our dear croc escaped, but while Parisian life may be glamorous, life in Paris’s sewers is not. If only Napoleon had taken Crocodile to a more aquatic reptile–friendly city. Perhaps one with an excess of canals and better food…


Surely Napoleon wouldn’t mind if Crocodile hitched a ride out of Paris…

Will our crocodile find his perfect home amongst Italian high-society? Or will he be revealed as an impasta? Pack away your pasta—Crocodile is heading to Italy in this long-awaited sequel to Fred Marcellino’s award-winning I, Crocodile.


This is a fun, whimsical tale with tons of historic and international surprises...and maybe a few bites on the way.

The Crocodile isn't so excited about Napoleon dragging him off to Paris, but at least, he escaped and is living in the sewer. Until he discovers that Napoleon is headed to Venice, that is. A long trip to Italy ends with many pleasant surprises, and the Crocodile might have discovered just the right place to be. If he can stay away from Napoleon.

I did not get a chance to read the first book but will be changing that. This book can be read as a stand alone, however.

This is a book for small adventure fans, who are ready for rivers of fun as waves of unexpected moments and excitement. It's told from the Crocodile's point of view. He's not only a curious reptile, but humorous too. While Venice in all of it's richness is already a treat to discover, it's even more interesting from the eyes of a crocodile. It's hard not to like him as he runs across true wonders, finds a place to fit in, and maybe escapes Napoleon's grip again.

Young readers are introduced to Venice not only through Crocodile's tale, but with colorful illustrations. The pride and energy of Venice comes to life as the fish markets, architecture, people and even a bit of the underwater world are presented. It's fun simply to gaze through the illustrations and see what Crocodile is up to next.

And here they are...
Fred Marcellino, the renowned and beloved artist and illustrator, won a Caldecott Honor for his first full-color picture book, Puss In Boots. He began his career in children's literature with Tor Seidler's A Rat's Tale in 1985, and followed with many other classics such as I, Crocodile and The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

Eric Puybaret has illustrated many children's books, including Suite for Human Nature, the bestselling Puff, the Magic Dragon, The Night Before Christmas, Over the Rainbow, as well as many others in his native country, France. Eric's critically claimed work was praised by then New Yrk Times as 'elegantly rendered' and Publishers Wek\ekly calls it  'graceful (and) whimsical'.

Cover Reveal: When Wishes Bleed by Casey L. Bond

When Wishes Bleed
by Casey L. Bond
YA Fantasy
Editor: Stacy Sanford/ The Girl with the Red Pen
Cover Designer: Melissa Stevens/ The Illustrated Author Design Services

NOVEMBER 1st, 2019!!!

Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

One Prince. One Witch. One Fate.
The upheaval in my life began the moment a prince stumbled into my house and asked me to read his fortune. Any other night, I might have made an excuse to get him to leave, but this was no normal visit. My fingers prickled to touch him. So, I granted his request by handing him a single wishbone. When he snapped it, the wish … bled.
Hearing me suck in a shocked breath, he asked what it meant. Such an ominous omen could only mean one thing: his death was imminent. Fate revealed that he wouldn’t die of natural causes. Someone wanted him dead. Stunned by the revelation, the man I now knew as Prince Tauren disappeared into a night I feared he wouldn’t survive. The following day, I received an invitation to the castle. While it seemed the prince believed I could intervene and uncover who was plotting his death, his motives didn’t stop there. I was being summoned to join twelve other women in vying for the opportunity to be his wife and future queen.
Going could mean jeopardizing my plans to reclaim my heritage and resurrect the House of Fate. But staying would guarantee Tauren’s death, and the blood of his wish would be on my hands.

Casey Bond lives in West Virginia with her husband and their two beautiful daughters. She likes goats and yoga, but hasn't tried goat yoga because the family goat is so big he might break her back. Seriously, he's the size of a pony. Her favorite books are the ones that contain magical worlds and flawed characters she would want to hang out with. Most days of the week, she writes young adult fantasy books, letting her imaginary friends spill onto the blank page.
Casey is the award-winning author of When Wishes Bleed, the Frenzy series, and fairy tale retellings such as Riches to Rags, Savage Beauty, Unlocked and Brutal Curse. Learn more about her work at

Author Links

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Interview and Review: Being Small (Isn't So Bad After All) by Lori Orlinsky

(Isn't So Bad After All)
by Lori Orlinsky
Illustrated by Vanessa Alexandre
Mascot Books
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8

Being small is the worst! No one ever picks me for their sports team and my feet hurt from standing on my tiptoes all the time. There can’t be anything good about being small…right?


I really enjoyed getting my hands on this one, thanks to my youngest daughter, who is also one of the 'small' ones in life.

This little girl doesn't want to go to school. Although she thinks she might not feel good enough to go, it turns out that she's upset about being so small. She recounts her troubles to her mother, who then flips everything upside down. And maybe being small isn't as negative as the little girl thinks.

The text is simple and flows in rhyme (some times smoother than others). The words are placed in such a way, which not only makes it clear what the girl fears, but also will bring smiles to young listeners faces. The humor is light but just right to make this a meaningful and enjoyable read. The situations are ones listeners will identify with, and the mother's side of things is also easy to agree with and understand. It's a cute back and forth with a message that's clear.

The illustrations are sweet and bring across the atmosphere nicely. Each situation is easy to understand (even for those who are simply flipping through the pages), and will probably draw a comment or two before the tale is done.

Kids who are on the small side will especially enjoy this book and are sure to see themselves in at least a few of the scenes.


This is your first children’s book, and it’s gained a wonderful amount of recognition so far…congratulations! What do you believe helped lead to this success?

Thank you! I believe the book has become successful because it was so personal to me, and I really put my heart and soul into it. I lived being short, and I am raising not one, but two little ladies. I was so determined to write a book that would make short children feel comfortable and proud in their own skin. Along the way, I realized it had universal messages of self acceptance, self confidence and bullying prevention that are applicable to all children. Being Small appeals to any child who has every felt different, and it also serves as a wonderful discussion starter about the power of our words.

The story was inspired by your own daughter. What were her thoughts and reactions when you published this book?

Hayley was my biggest cheerleader. Seeing what she deemed as disadvantages framed as advantages in the book made her look at herself in a whole new light. Now she completely rocks being the shortest, not only in her class, but in all of Kindergarten. She relishes in the special privileges that only she has because of her height.

What is your favorite part about writing? And what would you rather eat worms than do?

My favorite part about writing is knowing I have the power to change someone's life. I have received so many letters from parents whose children are receiving growth hormone shots. They've told me the book has made their children feel empowered and proud. To me, it is such a gratifying feeling.  I'd rather eat worms than be in the heat. I love cold weather, which is why I live in Chicago. Bring on the -35 degree windchills, but nothing higher than 60 degrees.

Many authors were avid readers during their childhood. What were your favorite books while growing up?

I always looked forward to going to bed as a child because my Dad would read me Dr. Seuss books. I always asked for "just one more." As parents sometimes do, my Dad would try to skip pages to get me to go to bed faster. I always caught him, and made him start from the beginning! My favorite Dr. Seuss books were "The Foot Book" and "Green Eggs and Ham."
What book are you reading right now? As a teenager, I became interested in books about the Holocaust, since my late grandparents were survivors. I just finished "The Tattooist of Aushwitz" by Heather Morris.

When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do? 

I love to spend time with my family - my husband, Brian and two daughters, Hayley and Ellie. We don't enjoy sitting still - we like to go to museums, zoos, aquariums and the movies. I also love to unwind with an episode of Friends, my all time favorite show.

What was your biggest wish as a child? 

To be an author. I remember stapling construction paper together and making my own books. I thought about writing a book so many times over the years, but never had the inspiration to do so. Funny how life works out, because that "aha" moment came when my daughter told me she didn't want to go to school anymore because she was the shortest kid in class. Frustrated that no book on this topic existed, I realized I had a book inside of me, and this was the story I was meant to tell.

You can read the article about convincing her daughter it's okay to
be small here:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Review: Astronuts by Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

Astronusts #1
by Jon Scieszka
and Steven Weinberg
Chronicle Books
Middle Grade Humor
220 pages

AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug are animals that have been hybridized to find other planets for humans to live on once we've ruined Earth. So off they rocket to the Plant Planet! Will that planet support human life? Or do Plant Planet's inhabitants have a more sinister plan?


Quirky, chaotic humor mingles witch a dab of science to create an unique space adventure.

The astronuts are a very, very, very well kept secret of the NNASA (Not-NASA) and are kept hidden in a nose on Mount Rushmore. When the Earth has reached its limits thanks to global warning, these four very strange and unique creatures are sent into space on a mission to find a new home for humans. They have two weeks, which might seem tight, but they run into a possible planet right away. However, things may not be as friendly as they seem on this planet.

There isn't much of an introduction in this book. Rather, the adventure begins right away as the four astronuts launch from a stone nose into space on their mission to save the world. Information surrounding these creatures is kept very skim and only dribbled in as needed...which causes a little confusion but, on the other hand keeps action high for those with very short attention spans.

The entire book has the atmosphere of a comic explosion gone madly array. There is a plot. Of sorts, but humor is kept on center stage. Quirky humor, which bounces all over the place. There might be 220 pages, but by no means is this a heavy read. The text is sometimes more, sometimes almost non-existent. In any case, reluctant readers won't be scared away. It's the type of humor which is going to determine if a reader enjoys this one or not. I don't think it's for everybody, but those kids who do find it funny will be laughing their heads off.

The illustrations are bright and bold and carry the same quirky, over-the-top feel as the rest of the book. It's definitely never boring. As an extra side-note, the illustrator explains on the very last pages how he used real works found in museums and such to piece together some of the scenes in a collage. It's definitely an extra tidbit for art lovers.

Lastly, this is a book on a mission. The entire story evolves around the basic theory that the Earth has been ruined by man's pollution. Global warming hits front and center, and is presented through a moment of a bit more scientific explanation...or in that direction. The basics of what a planet requires to ensure life as we know it exists also runs along with the tale, giving kids a deeper insight on that end of things. So yes, there is science as well or, at least, something in that direction.

In any case, this is an unique read which is great for reluctant readers who enjoy quirky humor and an exciting, never-ever boring, space adventure.

And here they are...

Jon Scieszka is best known for his bestselling picture books, including The True story of the Three Little Pigs! and The Stinky Cheese Man. He is also the founder of and a champion force behind, and was the first National Ambassador of Young People's Literature. He lives in Brooklyn.

Steven Weinberg writes and illustrates kids' books about dinosaurs, roller coasters, beards, and chainsaws. He lives in the Catskills in New York.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Happy Book Birthday, Helix by Mary Ting with Giveaway!

by Mary Ting 
International Sensory Assassin Network #2
Vesuvian Books
YA Dystopian, Science Fiction, 

Alliances are forming. The resistance is growing. Everything is about to change.
With her memory still fragmented, Ava returns to the International Sensory Assassin Network (ISAN) to find the twin sister she never knew she had.
But as Ava hunts for information, she finds herself tangled in a web of yet more lies and conspiracy. The Helix serum may not be required to access her superpowers, and the number of male assassins—previously considered too volatile to tolerate Helix—is growing in every territory.
The more Ava uncovers, the more of a threat she becomes to ISAN. Her only salvation may be to join the rebels—if she isn’t killed first.


This is one of those reads, which hits in high gear and doesn't let go until the last page...and not even then.

I did read the first book in this series and highly recommend reading it as a series, since each book starts where the last left off.

While book one set the stage, this book takes intrigue and danger head on. There's so many secrets, and with every answer which comes, even more questions come to light. Every scene and moment  left me wondering what was about to happen next. In other words, it's a very hard book to put down. There also more to discover about the characters, keeping the needed depth to make the characters interesting and easy to fever for. And there is a lot to fever for. Tension sits around every bend.

The world is vivid, well described and holds enough sense to make it come to life. There's enough logic to guarantee that no stumbles occur, and the story flows all the way through. Add in a bit of romance, and it's a great mix. The ending does hit with a huge cliff-hanger (something I'm always a bit torn over), but it does promise a great adventure in the next book, too.

And here she is...

International Bestselling, Award-Winning Author Mary Ting writes soulful, spellbinding stories that excite the imagination and captivate readers all over the world. Her books run a wide range of genres and her storytelling talents have won her a devoted legion of fans and garnered critical praise.
Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching after twenty years. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children's chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.
Mary resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two little dogs, Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry.


Happy Book Birthday, The Last Huntsman by Page Morgan with Giveaway!

The Last Huntsman 
by Page Morgan 
YA Fantasy

No women. No children. No torture. The Huntsman has his rules.
For years, Tobin has done his emperor’s bidding, eliminating threats to the Empire of Morvansk. But when he is ordered to kill the lovely Princess Mara, Tobin’s absolute loyalty ends. The emperor’s punishment is swift and lethal, and Tobin is left with only one desire: vengeance.
Stay quiet. Stay hidden. Stay free. These are the rules Ever lives by.
Raised as a boy by her overprotective father, Ever has something the Morvansk emperor covets: mirror magic. With it, she can see anyone, anywhere, through the mirror’s glass. The emperor stole her mother years ago for this same magic, and now, he wants Ever, too.
When Ever’s mirror shows the wounded rebel huntsman approaching her village, she’s compelled to help him. But as Tobin and Ever grow closer, and their secrets intertwine, they’ll have to follow the rules they’ve always lived by—or break free from them, once and for all.


The shriek of a bird drew my eyes to the trees above. When I looked down, Mara stepped into the clearing. The call of the nuisance bird muted, as did everything else in the world surrounding the glade. She came through the tall grasses, her lavender colored skirts gathered in her hands to keep the hem from getting soiled against the ground.
I closed my eyes and forced forward the image of my mother. Of Kinn, of Lael. The worst five minutes of my life were about to unfold, and I had to keep those three faces present if I had any hope of following through.
I opened my eyes as Mara searched the glade for Orin, the man she believed had beckoned her there. She lifted her face to the sun, most likely chilled from the walk through the dim forest.
I looked into the hushed wood. Her ladies would have made plenty of noise had they followed, and her guards’ steel swords and metal fixtures would have been a clattering racket. She’d come alone, just as the note had bid.
She fiddled nervously with the front tucks of her skirt, not seeing me as I stood. I parted the flexible pines and stepped past the young green needles, coming to the edge of the brook’s banking. It was then that the princess spotted me. She let out a small yelp and dropped her skirts. Covering her mouth with her hands, Mara released her breath.
“Huntsman, you frightened me.” She lowered her hand and sent me a small smile, though it quickly fell. “What are you doing here? You didn’t…did you read the note you delivered this morning?”
Don’t look at her. Don’t listen to her.
“Forgive me, of course you didn’t. Are you hunting?” she asked as I stepped across the three rocks in the brook and into the glade.
The sun hit me, and my legs turned to dead weight. They didn’t want to move any closer. My hands, too, stayed heavy at my sides. The blade with the prince’s crest was inside my trouser waistline, and my own personal blades were where I always kept them.
“I’m meeting the prince,” she said, her voice notched louder. “It’s not very indecent, considering we are to be married,” she added with a half smile.
I strode through the grass toward her, pushing the slab of stone in my chest lower to crush the rapid beating of my heart. Mara’s shrewd eyes narrowed. My presence made her nervous, yet she didn’t back away as I came to within a foot of her.
“The prince is not coming.”
Mara looked sideways at me. “How do you know this?” Her facial muscles went slack. “You’ve done something to him.”
“I’ve already told you,” I said. Level. Clear. “The emperor did not send me to kill the prince.”
She wanted to believe me. Just like she believed me the other night when I said we were friends. I could see it in the way she shifted her bottom lip side to side, gripping the inside of it with her teeth.
“Then why have you followed me here?” she asked.
There was not supposed to be any conversation. I’d been taught to be brief, to make sure the target knew who had come for him and why, and then to finish before the target could beg or offer money in return for leniency.
“I didn’t follow you.” I reached inside my jacket and gripped Orin’s blade, the gold of the crossed hilt cool under my hot, sweaty palm.
She stared at me with a confused grimace, paying no attention to my hand.
“I led you here,” I said. “It is Emperor Frederic’s order, princess. I am only his servant.”
The last sentence spilled out of my mouth unintentionally, and with it, I caught the first whiff of my decaying will. The Huntsman didn’t explain himself. The Huntsman didn’t make excuses.
I pulled the dagger and stepped forward so swiftly Mara didn’t know to resist. She was taller than me, but I was stronger and faster; I wrapped my arm around her neck and her knees buckled, her chin wedging tight inside my crooked elbow. She screamed, but my bicep and forearm squelched it into a sputtering croak.

And here she is...
Page is the author of THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED, THE LOVELY AND THE LOST, and THE WONDROUS AND THE WICKED, young adult gothic thrillers critically acclaimed by Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, School Library Journal, VOYA, and The Bulletin. Page's novels have been an IndieNext selection, a Seventeen Magazine Summer Book Club Read, and a #1 Amazon bestseller. Her next book, THE LAST HUNTSMAN, is a reimagining of the Huntsman and Magic Mirror from the tale of Snow White. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their three daughters, an English Pointer, an arrogant cat, two boring bearded dragons, a one-eared bunny, a bunch of chickens, and during the summer and fall, their neighbor's two sweet horses.