Book Review: Refraction by Naomi Hughes @NaomiHughesYA @PageStreetKids @The_FFBC

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Title: Refraction
Author: Naomi Hughes
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Amazon // Google Books // Indiebound

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Refraction
Naomi Hughes
Page Street Kids, November 2019
ISBN 978-1624148903
Hardcover

From the publisher—

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

There is much to like about this book but two things in particular really made me love it—(1) the main characters are boys and (2) there’s no romance. No, girls do not have to be the stars of everything 😉

Marty is a flawed character in any number of ways, not least of which is his propensity to do what’s best for himself even if it’s not legal or good for anyone else; in fact, he has been known to actually put others in harm’s way. Despite that, he works hard to control his OCD and his ultimate goal is to find his brother. Before the alien attack, Marty was making progress under therapy to manage his OCD but it’s much more difficult now without professional help and, of course, medication is no longer available.

Earth is in shambles after the aliens brought monsters and survival is predicated on a strict ban on reflective surfaces because that’s how the monsters get through. That ban, quite naturally, created a black market for mirrors and Marty is a player. When he gets caught by another teen, Elliott, both are headed for real trouble, sent into the deadly fog. The two boys are on their own and have to rely on each other, developing a real friendship as they come to know and trust each other.

The plot here is creative and well-planned, keeping me flipping electronic pages to find out what would happen next. The author’s characterizations are vivid and appealing and the monsters are just as scary as they should be…almost as much as Elliott’s mother. Also, not to repeat myself, it’s really refreshing to have a story focused on two boys.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, Novenber 2019.

About the Author

Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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Giveaway

PRIZE: Win (1) copy of REFRACTION
by Naomi Hughes (US Only)

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Book Review: Rival by Cindy R. Wilson @CindyRWilson @EntangledTeen @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Rival
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: October 7, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Entangled Publishing

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Rival
Cindy R. Wilson
Entangled Teen, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-64063-351-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

For years, our families have had one rule: We leave them alone. They leave us alone.
When Juno caught me scavenging for supplies in her family’s territory, I had no idea that the war between our two families was about to be pushed to the edge.

But she takes a chance on me. Trusts me. Lets me go.

Now there’s a greater threat to both sides. Someone’s stealing from my family, too.

And it’s up to me to find the thief before anyone else. Because if I can’t, both sides will blame each other. Rule broken. Game over. No one wins.

My only ally is Juno. The one girl I can’t be found with. The one girl who tempts me like no other. She’s the definition of off-limits. If our families knew how we look at each other, and kiss each other…

Star-crossed doesn’t even begin to describe our fate.

I’ve always been fascinated with the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys that lasted through much of the latter half of the 1800’s on the West Virginia/Kentucky border so, when I first saw the description of Rival, I hoped this would be a fitting re-telling of that inter-family war. I’m happy to say that Ms. Wilson has done a really good job with this.

Re-framed in a future time when conditions are dismal and people are struggling to survive, this also offers a nod to Romeo and Juliet in a sort of disjointed manner and the two threads combine into a tale that held my attention all the way through. Juno and Pillar have a friendship that has allowed them to survive a harsh life and, when Maddox ventures into their community’s territory, a hope for peace between the warring sides is born, if only tenuously. First, Maddox and Juno have to learn to trust.

Although I’m not generally a fan of the kind of angsty romance we usually see in young adult fiction, it works here, maybe because they really do have to overcome the hatred and distrust that have been bred into them. Ms. Wilson has gotten my attention with this story and I’ll be looking forward to many more.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

An Excerpt from Rival

It was Maddox who’d broken the rules this time.

He reached for the lock on the storage room door then froze. It was undone. Wait—had he forgotten to lock it? Or had someone else been by? It was a simple lock, probably easy to pick, but they’d never had problems before.

He opened the door and felt around for the flashlight that hung on the closest hook—one of several he was pretty sure Theo had stolen from the people by the bridge.

He cursed the moment his eyes adjusted.

No, no, no. He shone the flashlight around the room, shock waves rolling through his body. When he’d illuminated every dark corner of the room, his heart dropped to his feet.

Things were missing. Half of their supplies and food were gone. Lanterns, flashlights, cans of beans…so many things missing.

It had to be a mistake. Maybe Theo moved some things, or his mom. But why would they do that? No one was allowed to take anything unless they had permission from the community leaders, and even then, it was only in the direst of circumstances. His mom and Theo were big believers that each family or individual took care of their own needs and only got handouts if the leaders agreed.

He reached overhead and pulled open cupboards, the doors banging against each other. Then he ducked down to the lowest shelves, but he couldn’t find much. Theo hadn’t said anything about moving supplies, had he?

Maddox swallowed, mind racing back to the girl on the beach. Someone had stolen from her, too. He hadn’t believed it. Or at least, he hadn’t believed someone from his community could have done it. But now…he wasn’t sure.

It looked like the girl on the beach might not be the only one who was dealing with a thief.

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About the Author

Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

Author Links:

Website //  Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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Book Review: Helix by Mary Ting @MaryTing @VesuvianMedia @XpressoTours

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Title: Helix
Series: International Sensory Assassin Network #2

Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // ISAN
Amazon // Indiebound

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Helix
International Sensory Assassin Network #2
Mary Ting
Vesuvian Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-944109-86-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

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.

Sometimes, a second book in a series lacks the excitement and energy of the first book but that is certainly not the case with Helix. If anything, it’s a lot more frenetic, and all the action and intensity kind of wore me out although in a good way for the most part.

interestingly, we get the POV of Rhett this time as well as Ava’s and that made it easier for me to buy into the relationship between these two. So often in young adult stories I think the hormones get out of control to a laughable level but I’m more comfortable and less distracted by the romance this time.

As Ava searches for her twin, she learns a lot more about her own unusual abilities and the widespread conspiracy behind them but it’s the introduction of the younger players, the children, that let Ava and me begin to understand. I wonder what the author has in store for us next time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

About the Author

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.

Author links:

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Book Review: Beneath the Surface by Rebecca Langham @rlangham85 @ninestarpress @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Beneath the Surface
Series: Outsider Project #1
Author: Rebecca Langham
Narrator: Kate Roth
Publication Date: March 18, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Beneath the Surface
Outsider Project #1
Rebecca Langham
Narrated by Kate Roth
NineStar Press, March 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonetization of their peers is simply more “humane”. There’s no question nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking and a future worth fighting for.

Days after reading Beneath the Surface, I’m still unsure of just what I think about it and it keeps popping back into my mind. That’s not a normal state of events for me but it must be a good thing that I’m still cogitating over this book, right?

The premise is a good one, that humans have won the war with the aliens and have subjugated the survivors, and it’s refreshing to see aliens that are so close in appearance to humans and so subject to many of our behaviors. I missed having any  of the initial conflict between the two because that would have brought a lot of frenetic action to the page and, in fact, the story suffered, for me, by being sort of staid. I also could have done with less attention to the romantic entanglements—I always think there’s too much of that—but the characters did appeal to me a good deal.

Perhaps my indecision about this book lies in the feeling that there are too many threads to follow, too many soapbox issues. Did the author really intend that? I don’t truly know but there’s no doubt that this felt like an allegory for our current conditions in the US (and in a few other countries but most noticeably here) what with our government’s treatment of immigrants and the rise of racism, corruption, terrorism, broken promises and all the other ill will going on here.

Narrator Kate Roth does a nice job other than having some difficulty with male voices and her use of varying accents helped bring it all to life. I’ll gladly listen to more from her.

So, bottomline, Beneath the Surface has a lot to offer but there are facets that prevented me from liking it 100%. I’m hoping for—and expecting—some more booklove with the next installment  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

About the Author

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, children, and a menagerie of pets. She has been a foster carer for over ten years.

A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, Rebecca is a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine.  When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

Connect with Rebecca:

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

A global voice, Kate brings her broad experience and expertise into the studio and into her voice over delivery. With her unique blend of accents, a project can only “shine” with the versatility and distinct sound of her voice

Australian, British and North American accents are within Kate’s range.

Adaptive in style and tone, depending on your needs, Kate can deliver a wide range of voices. From conversational to authoritative; fun to serious; sophisticated to knowledgeable and beyond.

Connect with Kate:

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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Book Review: Mind Games by Shana Silver @shanasilver @SwoonReads /@MacmillanUSA @XpressoTours

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Mind Games
Shana Silver
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 27th 2019
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult

A teen programmer at a school for geniuses must join forces with a boy she can’t remember to stop a hacker from deleting their memories in Shana Silver’s action-packed YA debut, Mind Games.

Arden sells memories. Whether it’s becoming homecoming queen or studying for that all important test, Arden can hack into a classmate’s memories and upload the experience for you just as if you’d lived it yourself. Business is great, right up until the day Arden whites out, losing fifteen minutes of her life and all her memories of the boy across the school yard. The boy her friends assure her she’s had a crush on for years.

Arden realizes that her own memories have been hacked, but they haven’t just been stolen and shared… they’ve been removed. And she’s not the only one: her mysterious crush, Sebastian, has lost ALL of his memories. But how can they find someone who has the power to make them forget everything they’ve learned?

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

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Just imagine if all your memories could be saved so that you could enjoy them time and time again. The fear of Alzheimer’s would be lessened and you could choose which memories you want to relive and when. Is that a great idea or is it perhaps at least a little creepy?

Then take it a step further and the creepiness really comes into play. Arden is an exceedingly bright and talented girl surrounded by other students almost as intelligent and creative as she is—this is, after all, a school that focuses on STEM—and she has figured a way to hack into the HiveMind, which happens to be her father’s brilliant creation. Arden sells memories to people who don’t own them and, while this may often be relatively harmless, at times it leads to some pretty unacceptable results. Let’s say, for instance, that Amy is in competition with Brad on a test and Brad buys Connie’s photographic memories of the book that’s the subject of the test. Not fair, right?

Then Arden gets her comeuppance, you might say, when some of her own memories suddenly disappear and her friend Sebastian is in an even worse way. These memories aren’t just temporarily missing, they’re actually gone and, oddly enough, Arden’s and Sebastian’s collaborative senior project seems to be involved. They can’t actually remember the project but the more they look into what it was about, the more ominous the truth becomes.

There’s a twist resolution that I couldn’t quite buy into but, on the whole, I had a good time with Mind Games and I’m interested to see what Ms. Silver does with The Con Code, coming out next year.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

About the Author

Rachel Shane (writing as Shana Silver) studied creative writing at Syracuse University. She’s been a computer animator, an e-book creator for a major publisher, and now works as a Project Manager in digital and TV advertising where she enjoys telling people what to do. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and the characters she dreams up.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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Book Review: Beyond the Gates by Jason D. Morrow

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Title: Beyond the Gates
Series: The Starborn Redemption, Book 1
Author: Jason D. Morrow
Narrator: Stacy Gonzalez
Publication Date: April 20, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Beyond the Gates
The Starborn Redemption, Book 1
Jason D. Morrow
Narrated by Stacy Gonzalez
Jason D. Morrow ,April 20, 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

The Containment Zone is a 500-mile radius surrounded by mountains and closed in by gates. No one can leave, and anyone who tries will die. Within are lawless bandits, corrupt soldiers, and once-human greyskins that hunt down people to spread the virus. Some say the Containment Zone is where the greyskin virus originated. Others say the people inside are little more than lab rats being studied by the nefarious Screven government.

When 12-year-old Skylar and her father, Liam, are caught trying to escape, they are taken to Vulture Hill, a government prison camp no one has ever left alive. Inside the prison, Skylar learns that the facility is little more than a testing site for finding people of a certain bloodline – the Starborn. These are people with special powers that manifests in various spectacular ways, and Screven wants to exploit them.

Skylar has always known there was something special about her family. For years, her father has had the ability to completely numb pain with just a thought. Lacerated skin, broken bones, they can all be ignored with enough concentration. Learning that her father is a Starborn means Skylar is probably one too, placing them both in extreme danger.

Now, father and daughter must do the impossible and break out of a prison known for killing so many. But Liam has leverage the government may be willing to buy – the cure for the greyskin virus.

The first two books of The Starborn Redemption are set 40 years after The Starborn Ascension and 17 years before The Starborn Uprising. Each Series can be listened to independently.

There are a couple of things that set Beyond the Gates apart from so many post-apocalyptic zombie tales. First, one of the two protagonists is a 12-year-old child but this is not a middle grade book. Second, the other protagonist is her father and his primary goal is her safety, a refreshing change from the usual macho guy who has to be a hero. Skylar and Liam are an appealing pair and I felt they were pretty well fleshed out but I thought most of the secondary characters were more two-dimensional except for Nine.

While the core story is intense, dwelling as it does on the imprisonment of these two in separate sections of the prison—reminding me quite a lot of the separation of parents and children that’s happening on our border—I wanted to know much more about the world before the virus struck and a brutal government came to power. Strong worldbuilding is crucial in science fiction but it’s lacking here and, since I haven’t read anything by Jason D. Morrow before, I don’t know if he normally saves the background work for later books in a series. I hope so because I enjoyed spending time with Skylar and Liam and Nine in this perilous society and I can see a really good series in the making.

Stacy Gonzalez had the perfect voice for Skylar, imbuing her with a mix of fright and compassion while allowing her intelligence to come through. Nine was also a vivid character but Liam and other male voices were less successful, not so distinguishable from females. Ms. Gonzalez has good pacing and intonations, though, that reflect the situation and I enjoyed listening to her narration.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

About the Author

Jason D. Morrow is the author of more than 15 books in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, including The Starborn Uprising, The Starborn Ascension, The Starborn Redemption and Prototype D.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Stacy Gonzalez is a Chicago based narrator and commercial voice actor. She is feisty, bright and expressive. Stacy specializes in YA, self-help and romance, especially when the narration calls for a good handle on comedy, wit and sass. Audiofile Magazine has praised her pace and her ability to create bold characters. Stacy, who is half Colombian, speaks conversational Spanish. She has a great love for Old Hollywood—watching the movies and listening to audiobooks about any and every aspect of it! Follow her on Twitter at @stacygonzalezvo or visit her website at stacygonzalezvo.com.

Twitter // Facebook

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Book Review: Icehaven/Sum of All Tears by Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester

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Title: Icehaven
Series: Sum of All Tears #1
Authors: Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian, Paranormal

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Icehaven
Sum of All Tears #1
Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
KC Publishing, April 2019
ISBN 978-1999558819
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

They said it wouldn’t happen.

Everything would be better.

They were wrong.

After a climate change experiment goes terribly wrong, August Madison finds herself resurrected in a frozen wasteland.

With most of the world’s population and food sources annihilated, depraved nomadic gangs patrol the lawless landscape as outlasters claw for survival.

Amid the chaos, Graysen Marx, iron-fisted leader of the domed settlement Liberty, emerges from the catastrophic event with his own agenda.

When August crosses his path, he sees an opportunity he must exploit.

She sees an evil she must destroy.

Isn’t it wonderful when you come across that book that is SO good that you’re kind of stunned by it? Icehaven is the one for me for a lot of reasons starting with being thrown into the midst of disaster right away, literally on page 2. No lollygagging here, no building up to the horrible event you know is coming. Then the questions begin, the obvious ones such as how the few people left will survive, but also the ones that are so unexpected, particularly regarding why and how some survivors have developed special abilities.

Our protagonist, August, is a miracle herself, having apparently died and then come back to life but, at first, she  remembers very little about what happened other than she does know that she’s the daughter of the man who set off this devastating experiment. Besides taking on her duties among the group that found her, August also feels a strong need to figure out what went wrong; meanwhile, an old friend, Brandon, is miles away and wonders if August is still alive. Then there is Graysen Marx, the man behind Liberty, a biodome facility that seems to be the only hope for longtime survival but is he the honorable man he seems to be or is he ruthlessly intent on his own agenda?

The action in Icehaven is nearly nonstop with something new and alarming happening constantly and the plot is full of suspense, so much so that mystery readers will be as enthralled as post-apocalyptic fans but plot does not overshadow character development. The players, primary and secondary, are vividly drawn and they all come alive on the page while the authors’ worldbuilding is remarkable, making me feel the intense cold and hunger and the emotional havoc wrought by the attempt to control climate change.

I could say much more but it would be hard to avoid spoilers so let me just say Icehaven is going on my list of best books read in 2019 and I heartily encourage one and all to jump right on this one 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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Purchase Links:
Books2Read

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About the Authors

Kim Cresswell resides in Ontario, Canada and is the bestselling and award-winning author of the action-packed WHITNEY STEEL series.

Her romantic thriller, Reflection (A Whitney Steel Novel – Book One), has won numerous awards including RomCon®’s 2014 Readers’ Crown Finalist (Romantic Suspense), InD’tale Magazine 2014 Rone Award Finalist (Suspense/Thriller), UP Authors Fiction Challenge Winner, Silicon Valley’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gotcha” contest. Kim also signed a 3-book German translation deal with LUZIFER Verlag for the first three books in the series: Reflection, Retribution and ResurrectLethal Journey won RomCon®’s 2014 Readers’ Crown (Thriller).

The Assassin Chronicles TV series was in development with Council Tree Productions. The TV series is based on Kim’s upcoming 4-book paranormal/supernatural thriller series: Deadly Shadow, Invisible TruthAssassin’s Prophecy, and Vision of Fire.

Website // Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter
Goodreads // Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon 

M.K. Chester is an RWA award-winning author of historical and contemporary romance. Her first novel, Surrender to the Roman, is currently published with Carina Press. Her three-book historical series, Bryeton Books, focuses on love, loss and redemption in small town America at the turn of the 20th century, while her latest release, Crashed, is the first book in the contemporary New South Series.

M.K. is a native Buckeye who lives in Tennessee. She’s married to a veteran, recently became a MoM (Mother of Marine), and will soon become a grandmother. She adores her Scottish Terriers and is fighting MS.

Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Series Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

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Coming in March 2020

Liberty
Sum of All Tears #2
Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
KC Publishing, March 2020
ISBN 978-1999558819
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

A new enemy rises.

Surviving the cold is only the beginning.

In the second installment of the exciting Sum of all Tears series, a core group of survivors from Liberty travel to Boston, endangering themselves and those they left behind in a winner-takes-all showdown that will leave readers breathless.

Pre-order Links:
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