Blog Tour: Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi (Review & Giveaway!)

Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review 
Amazon | BN | iBooks | Kobo | Book Depository
When Betts meets Aiden at the candy store where she works, their connection is like a sugar rush to the heart. Betts already knows the two of them are infinite. Inevitable. Destined to become an us.

Betts has only ever kept one secret from her best friend, Jo, but suddenly there’s a long list of things she won’t tell her, things Jo wouldn’t understand. Because Jo doesn’t see how good Aiden is for Betts. She finds him needy. Possessive. Controlling.

She’s wrong. With a love like this, nothing else matters.


Given how much I've enjoyed the books Anica has edited, I was excited to read a book written by her, and as it turns out, I had every right to be excited, as Always Forever Maybe blew me away. It was raw and heartbreaking, and while it was hard at times to keep reading - to keep watching Betts let Aiden walk all over her, to see Betts drift further and further away from her friends - I couldn't look away. I wanted to know - no I needed to know - what would happen to Betts. Would she be okay? Would she make amends with her friends before it was too late? And most importantly, would she see Aiden for what he truly was? 

Always Forever Maybe is an incredibly fast paced read. I sat down to read it one afternoon and didn't stop once until I was down. Anica does such an amazing job of reeling the reader in. Her writing has a casual, simple feel, but it's never too simple. She does a great job of capturing the voice of Betts while also doing a great job of establishing the story and capturing the emotions involved. I felt so many different things while reading this - happiness, sadness, anger... 

Betts is a complicated character, and I'd be the first to admit that sometimes it was difficult to stomach the choices she made. There were so many times I wish I could reach through the book and talk some sense into her. At the same time, however, I could understand the choices she made to a certain point. Sometimes it is easy to be wrapped up in the idea of new love, especially when it's first love. I know some have said that they couldn't believe how fast Betts fell in love with Aiden, but I could find it believable. I've seen friends become consumed by similar situations, seeing the good in people that they shouldn't. 

One of my favorite parts about this book was the friendship between Betts and Jo. It was real as well as relatable, and it also didn't hurt that I ADORED Jo. She was sassy and fierce, and I admired how she wouldn't give up on her friends, no mater how much they push her away. In some ways, I feel like the reader takes on a role similar to Jo in the book - seeing Aiden for what he is while Betts remains blinded by it all. 

Overall, Always Forever Maybe is a gripping book, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen's Dreamland or readers who love contemporary books that take on harder issues. 

4 stars!! 

About the Author: 

Writer, storyteller, editrix. Author of the Anna, Banana chapter-book series, the picture book The Teacher's Pet, the forthcoming YA novel Always Forever Maybe, and more. Fan of dogs and ice cream.

Anica Mrose Rissi grew up on an island off the coast of Maine, where she read a lot of books and loved a lot of pets. She now tells and collects stories, makes up songs on her violin, and eats a lot of cheese with her friends in Princeton, New Jersey. As a former book editor turned full-time writer and storyteller, Anica has spoken with kids and adults across the country about all pieces of the writing process. Her essays have been published by The Writer magazine and the New York Times. She tweets about bookish things and her dog, Arugula, at @anicarissi, which is also her handle on Instagram. Find out more at http://anicarissi.com.

Follow the Tour: 

May 29th
Pink Polka Dot Books- Welcome Post

May 30th
Never Too Many To Read- Creative Option
Rurouni Jenni Reads- Review & Favorite Quotes

May 31st
Velvet Spade Reads- Review & Favorite Quotes

June 1st
Bookish friends and feline fancies- Review & Favorite Quotes

June 4th
Portrait of a Book- Creative Option

June 5th
Bookablereads- Review
Vicky Who Reads- Creative Post

June 6th

June 7th
Life at 17- Review

June 8th


Prize: 1 copy of ALWAYS FOREVER MAYBE 
Starts: 5/29
Ends: 6/14 


Stacking the Shelves/Sunday Post: The Week of Thrillers, eBook Deals, & Way Too Much Rain

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews and focuses on new books that were received/bought/borrowed this week while the Sunday Post is hosted by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and focuses on recapping your week. 

New Books: 

For Review: 

Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison
Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris 
Mr. Nice Guy by Jennifer Miller & Jason Feifer 
Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky 

Thanks St. Martin's Press, The Fantastic Flying Book Club, Demetra, & Sourcebooks!  


The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren 
Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally 
Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally 
Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally 

Books Read this Week:

Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey: I expected to like this, but I never expected to love it as much as I did. Rea completely pulled at my heartstrings here, and I loved that the problems in this book were layered and complicated. The ending may be a bit too happy given the situation but still an enjoyable read regardless. 

Lies by T.M. Logan: Wasn't a huge fan of this at first but the more I read the better it got. The twist toward the end actually threw me for a loop, which was a huge plus, and I liked that T.M. made social media such a huge part of the plot. 

The Banker's Wife by Christina Alger: SO GOOD! Christina perfectly ties together the POVs & the mystery is gripping as well as intricate. Surprisingly enough, I also loved the setting - the dark side of the banking industry. 

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan by Gia Cribbs: One of the best YA thrillers I've read AND another twist I didn't see coming! (It must be keep-Lauren-guessing week). If you've loved books like One of Us is Lying, The Truth Beneath the Lies, and We Were Liars, you're sure to love this!   

What I'm Currently Reading:

Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett: It's taking me a while to get through this, but now that I've hit the 50 percent mark it's starting to speed up (thankfully!). It's an interesting concept and the characters are likable but I just feel the set-up took forever. 

Furyborn by Claire Legrand: Even though reviews had been incredibly mixed, I still had high hopes for this; however, I've been disappointed more times than not so far. I'm not a huge fan of the characters and the two POVs sound exactly the same. It doesn't help that having the time periods 1000 years apart makes things more tiresome than interesting...Basically this may end up being a DNF unless it greatly improves in the next few chapters. 

Life Update: 

I didn't get nearly as much read as last week, but the books I did read were high quality. I can't even pick a favorite - I loved all of them for very different reasons. 

The books I'm currently reading have been slowing down my speed a little, but I'm hoping to finish Onyx & Ivory soon (hopefully by the end of the long weekend!). Honestly, it's gotten a lot better, and while the set-up was a little tiresome, it was important. Furyborn, on the other hand, is slowly becoming one big snooze-fest :( 

When I got a Sourcebooks Fire email about the Miranda Kenneally eBook deals, I couldn't resist. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Hundred Oaks series, and considering the three books I haven't read were on sale just seemed like fate. I HAD to buy them, right? AND The One I Can't Forget was a big steal ($1.99!!) so that was irresistible as well. Thank goodness for gift cards! 

In non-bookish news, this week has been busy. I've been staying at my parents's house for the last couple of days, and because of all the rain in Northeast PA, the house's drainage system wasn't working as well as it should've been. The back patio flooded and  the basement got a little water in it. So I spent all of Wednesday waiting for the drainage guy to come only to have him call at 4 pm and say he wasn't coming...don't you hate when that happens?! Thankfully, he showed up early on Thursday morning & the problem was fixed. I'm also moving to my new apartment this weekend (I'll be back near Philly again and I seriously can't wait!) so that's kept me busy. I picked my keys up on Friday, and the ride down quickly reminded me why I never travel on holiday weekends. The traffic was miserable. 

The next few days I might be slightly MIA with unpacking. Plus I don't have wifi set up yet so that's making things a little difficult, but I'll try my best to comment back (it just may take a while). 

Have a great week everyone!! 


Review: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris 
Release Date: June 19, 2018 
Publisher: St. Martin's Press 
Genre: Adult, Thriller/Suspense 
Source: ARC provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review 
Amazon | BN | Indiebound 
She went missing. He moved on. A whole world of secrets remained―until now.

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone―never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him...even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla―hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive―and on Finn’s trail―what does she want? And how much does she know?

A tour de force of psychological suspense, Bring Me Back will have you questioning everything and everyone until its stunning climax.


As soon as I read the synopsis for Bring Me Back, I added it to my TBR pile. "Secret messages, clues, warnings" is what reeled me, and I couldn't wait to see how everything would unfold - was Layla truly alive? 

The result? Bring Me Back was unfortunately a mixed bag. On the bright side, it was an easy to read, and the storyline was interesting enough to keep me hooked. On the negative side, however, there were several aspects of Bring Me Back that brought my enjoyment down considerably. 

Bring Me Back starts off strong. It opens several years prior with Finn being interviewed by the police in regards to his girlfriend's disappearance. Finn claims innocence, but there's a doubt hanging in the air, a feeling of suspicion that can't be fully eradicated. At this point, I was hooked. I liked the mysterious feel to his story. Layla seemingly disappeared into thin air at a dark, desolate rest area, and I could tell there was more to the story. Was Finn completely involved? I didn't know for sure, but I knew for certain that there was more to the disappearance that he was unwilling to share. After that, the book quickly jumps to current times. Finn has moved on from that day. He's ended up in a relationship with Layla's sister of all people, and he's just proposed to her. That's when the the creepy things start happening, and to say I was hooked would be an understatement. I was on the edge of my seat, dying to know what would happen next. I loved the eeriness, and how B.A. captured the scene in such an attention-grabbing way

Unfortunately, as Bring Me Back continued, it slowly began to loose its mojo for a variety of reasons. For one, the pacing slowed down considerably. For such an exciting start, I couldn't believe how tiresome the story soon became. I didn't like how such a big piece of the mystery was revealed in the beginning, because (1) it cut down on the suspense and (2) it made the book proceed to go in circles, in my opinion. Finn's constant struggling with telling or not telling grew old fast. I couldn't understand why he would keep everything to himself, and I also couldn't believe who he choose to finally tell, especially considering what he previously thought about that person. The back-and-forth between Finn and the person assumed to be Layla also grew to be repetitive. I felt that they kept having the same conversation over and over again with the same arguments, the same threats, but no action. I wanted more excitement. To be more specific, I wanted the excitement from the start to come back. 

It also didn't help that I couldn't bring myself to care about Finn. Honestly, I thought he was a horrible man. He was incredibly selfish, and this selfishness often brought danger to the ones he supposedly loved. I also didn't find his relationship with Ellen to be all that interesting. For the most part, I felt bad for the women. He obviously was only with her because of who her sister was, and in some ways, she realized that but then proceeded to make excuses for him. It just wasn't likable...I also felt that the secondary characters were undeveloped. Very little was known about the cop and Finn's best friend, for example, and they only appeared when Finn needed help... 

The part, however, that disappointed me the most was the big twist at the end. I had this feeling that it was going to turn like that from the beginning, and I was really hoping it wouldn't be the case. I felt as if it was the cheap way out in some respects. It also didn't help that I found it so completely unbelievable...Yes, I know it's supposed to be fiction, but for everyone not realize this *BIG* thing? It didn't make any sense! And I'm still annoyed to think about it now. I wish I could go more into this, but I don't want to spoil the book for anyone. 

Overall, I'm torn on Bring Me Back. If it would've kept up the pace and intrigue it possessed in the beginning, I would've loved it. It probably would've been a 4-star book. However, given the lack of development and the unbelievable twist, I can't truly say I liked it. Was it an easy read? Yes. Was it hard to finish? Not really. But did it completely infuriate me by the end? Sadly yes. 

As always, this is just my opinion. Others have loved this book, and honestly, I can see people enjoying this, especially as a summer read. 
2 stars!! 


Spotlight Tour: Furyborn by Claire Legrand (Excerpt & Giveaway!)

Furyborn by Claire Legrand
Release Date: May 22nd, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy 
The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.

Watch the Furyborn Video Trailers: 

About the Author:

Claire Legrand is the author of several novels for children and young adults, most notably The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, Some Kind of Happiness, and Winterspell. Claire lives in Princeton, New Jersey. Visit claire-legrand.com.

Follow Alice Online: 


2 Copies of Furyborn
Runs May 22 - May 31 (US & Canada only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway



“Lord Commander Dardenne came to me in the middle of the night, his daughter in his arms. They smelled of fire; their clothes were singed. He could hardly speak. I had never seen the man afraid before. He thrust Rielle into my arms and said, ‘Help us. Help her. Don’t let them take her from me.’”

—Testimony of Grand Magister Taliesin Belounnon, on Lady Rielle Dardenne’s involvement in the Boon Chase massacreApril 29, Year 998 of the Second Age

Two years earlier

Rielle Dardenne hurried into Tal’s office and dropped the sparrow’s message onto his desk.

“Princess Runa is dead,” she announced.

She wouldn’t describe her mood as excited exactly, but her own kingdom, Celdaria, and their northeastern neighbor, Borsvall, had lived in a state of tension for so many decades that it was hardly noteworthy when, say, a Celdarian merchant ship sank off Borsvall’s coast or patrols came to blows near the border.

But a murdered Borsvall princess? That was news. And Rielle wanted to dissect every piece of it.

Tal let out a sigh, set down his pen, and dragged his ink-smudged hands through his messy blond hair. The polished golden flame pinned to his lapel winked in the sunlight.

“Perhaps,” Tal suggested, turning a look on Rielle that was not quite disapproval and not quite amusement, “you should consider looking less thrilled about a princess’s murder?”

She slid into the chair across from him. “I’m not happy about it or anything. I’m simply intrigued.” Rielle pulled the slip of paper back across the desk and read over the inked words once more. “So you do think it was assassination? Audric thinks so.”

“Promise me you won’t do anything stupid today, Rielle.”

She smiled sweetly at him. “When have I ever done anything stupid?”

He quirked an eyebrow. “The city guard is on high alert. I want you here, safe in the temple, in case anything happens.” He took the message from her, scanning its contents. “How did you get this, anyway? No, wait. I know. Audric gave it to you.”

Rielle stiffened. “Audric keeps me informed. He’s a good friend. Where’s the harm in that?”

Tal didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to.

“If you have something to say to me,” she snapped, color climbing up her cheeks, “then just say it. Or else let’s begin our lesson.”

Tal watched her a moment longer, then turned to pick up four enormous books sitting on the shelf behind him.

“Here,” he said, ignoring the mutinous expression on her face. “I’ve marked some passages for you to read. Today will be devoted to quiet study. And I’ll test you later, so don’t even think about skimming.”

Rielle narrowed her eyes at the book on the top of the stack. “A Concise History of the Second Age, Volume I: The Aftermath of the Angelic Wars.” She made a face. “This hardly looks concise.”

“It’s all a matter of perspective,” he said, returning to the papers on his desk.

Rielle’s favorite place in Tal’s office was the window seat overlooking the main temple courtyard. It was piled high with scarlet cushions lined in gold piping, and when she sat there, dangling her legs out into the sun, she could almost forget that there was an enormous world beyond the temple and her city—a world she would never see.

She settled by the window, kicked off her boots, hiked up her heavy lace-trimmed skirts, and rested her bare feet on the sill. The spring sunlight washed her legs in warmth, and soon she was thinking of how Audric blossomed on bright, sun-filled days like this one. How his skin seemed to glow and crackle, begging to be touched.

Tal cleared his throat, breaking her focus.

Tal knew her far too well.

She cracked open A Concise History, took one look at the tiny, faded text, and imagined tossing the book out the window and into the temple courtyard, where citizens were filing in for morning prayers—to pray that the riders they had wagered upon in today’s race would win, no doubt. Every temple in the capital would be full of such eager souls, not just there in the Pyre—Tal’s temple, where citizens worshipped Saint Marzana the firebrand—but in the House of Light and the House of Night as well and the Baths and the Firmament, the Forge and the Holdfast. Whispered prayers in all seven temples, to all seven saints and their elements.

Wasted prayers, thought Rielle with a slight, sharp thrill. The other racers will look like children on ponies compared to me.

She flipped through a few pages, biting the inside of her lip until she felt calm enough to speak. “I’ve heard many in the Borsvall court are blaming Celdaria for Runa’s death. We wouldn’t do such a thing, would we?”

Tal’s pen scratched across his paper. “Certainly not.”

“But it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, does it? If King Hallvard’s councils convince him that we killed his daughter, he will declare war at last.”

Tal dropped his pen with a huff of annoyance. “I’m not going to get any work done today, am I?”

Rielle swallowed her grin. If only you knew how true that is, dearest Tal.

“I’m sorry if I have questions about the political climate of our country,” she said. “Does that fall under the category of things we’re not allowed to discuss, lest my poor vulnerable brain shatter from the stress?”

A smile twitched at the corner of Tal’s mouth. “Borsvall might declare war, yes.”

“You don’t seem concerned about this possibility.”

“I find it unlikely. We’ve been on the edge of war with Borsvall for decades, and yet it has never happened. And it will never happen, because the Borsvall people may be warmongers, but King Hallvard is neither healthy nor stupid. We would flatten his army. He can’t afford a war with anyone, much less with Celdaria.”

“Audric said…” Rielle hesitated. A twist of unease slipped down her throat. “Audric said he thinks Princess Runa’s death, and the slave rebellion in Kirvaya, means it’s time. That the Queens are coming.”

Silence fell over the room like a shroud.

“Audric has always been fascinated with the prophecy,” Tal said, his voice deceptively calm. “He’s been looking for signs of the Queens’ coming for years.”

“He sounds rather convinced this time.”

“A slave rebellion and a dead princess are hardly enough to—”

“But I heard Grand Magister Duval talking about how there have been storms across the ocean in Meridian,” she pressed on, searching his face. “Even as far as Ventera and Astavar. Strange storms, out of season.”

Tal blinked. Ah, thought Rielle. You didn’t know that, did you?

“Storms do occur out of season from time to time,” Tal said. “The empirium works in mysterious ways.”

Rielle curled her fingers in her skirts, taking comfort in the fact that soon she would be in her riding trousers and boots, her collar open to the breeze.

She would be on the starting line.

“The report I read,” she continued, “said that a dust storm in southern Meridian had shut down the entire port of Morsia for days.”

“Audric needs to stop showing you every report that comes across his desk.”

“Audric didn’t show me anything. I found this one myself.”

Tal raised an eyebrow. “You mean you snuck into his office when he wasn’t there and went through his papers.”

Rielle’s cheeks grew hot. “I was looking for a book I’d left behind.”

“Indeed. And what would Audric say if he knew you’d been in his office without his permission?”

“He wouldn’t care. I’m free to come and go as I please.”

Tal closed his eyes. “Lady Rielle, you can’t just visit the crown prince’s private rooms day and night as though it’s nothing. You’re not children anymore. And you are not his fiancée.”

Rielle lost her breath for an instant. “I’m well aware of that.”

Tal waved a hand and rose from his chair, effectively ending all talk of the prophecy and its Queens.

“The city is crowded today—and unpredictable,” he said, walking across the room to pour himself another cup of tea. “Word is spreading about Princess Runa’s death. In such a climate, the empirium can behave in similarly unpredictable ways. Perhaps we should begin a round of prayers to steady our minds. Amid the chaos of the world, the burning flame serves as an anchor, binding us in peace to the empirium and to God.”

Rielle glared at him. “Don’t use your magister voice, Tal. It makes you sound old.”

He sighed, took a sip of his tea. “I am old. And grumpy, thanks to you.”

“Thirty-two is hardly old, especially to already be Grand Magister of the Pyre.” She paused. She would need to proceed carefully. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were appointed as the next Archon. Surely, with someone as talented as you beside me, I could safely watch the Chase from your box—”

“Don’t try to flatter me, Lady Rielle.” His eyes sparked at her. There was the Tal she liked—the ferocious firebrand, not the pious teacher. “It isn’t safe for you out there right now, not to mention dangerous for everyone else if something set you off and you lost control.”

Rielle slammed shut A Concise History and rose from the window seat. “Damn you, Tal.”

“Not in the temple, please,” Tal admonished over the rim of his cup.

“I’m not a child. Do you really think I don’t know better by now?” Her voice turned mocking. “‘Rielle, let’s say a prayer together to calm you.’ ‘Rielle, let’s sing a song about Saint Katell the Magnificent to take your mind off things.’ ‘No, Rielle, you can’t go to the masque. You might forget yourself. You might have fun, God forbid.’ If Father had his way, I’d stay locked up for the rest of my life with my nose buried in a book or on my knees in prayer, whipping myself every time I had a stray angry thought. Is that the kind of life you would like for me too?”

Tal watched her, unmoved. “If it meant you were safe and that others were safe as well? Yes, I would.”

“Kept under lock and key like some criminal.” A familiar, frustrated feeling rose within her; she pushed it back down with a vengeance. She would not lose control, not today of all days.

“Do you know,” she said, her voice falsely bright, “that when it storms, Father takes me down to the servants’ quarters and gives me dumbwort? It puts me to sleep, and he locks me up and leaves me there.”

After a pause, Tal answered, “Yes.”

“I used to fight him. He would hold me down and slap me, pinch my nose shut until I couldn’t breathe and had to open my mouth. Then he would shove the vial between my lips and make me drink, and I would spit it up, but he would keep forcing me to drink, whispering to me everything I’d ever done wrong, and right in the middle of yelling how much I hated him, I would fall asleep. And when I would wake up, the storm would be over.”

A longer pause. “Yes,” Tal answered softly. “I know.”

“He thinks storms are too provocative for me. They give me ideas, he says.”

Tal cleared his throat. “That was my fault.”

“I know.”

“But the medicine, that was his suggestion.”

She gave him a withering look. “And did you try to talk him out of it?”

He did not answer, and the patience on his face left her seething.

“I don’t fight him anymore,” she said. “I hear a crack of thunder and go below without him even asking me to. How pathetic I’ve become.”

“Rielle…” Tal sighed, shook his head. “Everything I could say to you, I’ve said before.”

She approached him, letting the loneliness she typically hid from him—from everyone—soften her face. Come, good Magister Belounnon. Pity your sweet Rielle. He broke first, looking away from her. Something like sorrow shifted across his face, and his jaw tightened.


“He’d let me sleep through life if he could,” she said.

“He loves you, Rielle. He worries for you.”

Heat snapped at Rielle’s fingertips, growing along with her anger. With a stubborn stab of fury, she let it come. She knew she shouldn’t, that an outburst would only make it more difficult to sneak away, but suddenly she could not bring herself to care.

He loves you, Rielle.

A father who loved his daughter would not make her his prisoner.

She seized one of the candles from Tal’s desk and watched with grim satisfaction as the wick burst into a spitting, unruly flame. As she stared at it, she imagined her fury as a flooding river, steadily spilling over its banks and feeding the flame in her hands.

The flame grew—the size of a pen, a dagger, a sword. Then every candle followed suit, a forest of fiery blades.

Tal rose from his desk and picked up the handsome polished shield from its stand in the corner of the room. Every elemental who had ever lived—every waterworker and windsinger, every shadowcaster and every firebrand like Tal—had to use a casting, a physical object uniquely forged by their own hands, to access their power. Their singular power, the one element they could control.

But not Rielle.

She needed no casting, and fire was not the only element that obeyed her.

All of them did.

Tal stood behind her, one hand holding his shield, the other hand resting gently on her own. As a child, back when she had still thought she loved Tal, such touches had thrilled her.

Now she seriously considered punching him.

“In the name of Saint Marzana the Brilliant,” Tal murmured, “we offer this prayer to the flames, that the empirium might hear our plea and grant us strength: Fleet-footed fire, blaze not with fury or abandon. Burn steady and true, burn clean and burn bright.”

Rielle bit down on harsh words. How she hated praying. Every familiar word felt like a new bar being added to the cage her father and Tal had crafted for her.

The room began to shake—the inkwell on Tal’s desk, the panes of glass in the open window, Tal’s half-finished cup of tea.

“Rielle?” Tal prompted, shifting his shield. In his body behind her, she felt a rising hot tension as he prepared to douse her fire with his own power. Despite her best efforts, the concern in his voice caused her a twinge of remorse. He meant well, she knew. He wanted, desperately, for her to be happy.

Unlike her father.

So Rielle bowed her head and swallowed her anger. After all, what she was about to do might turn Tal against her forever. She could allow him this small victory.

“Blaze not with fury or abandon,” she repeated, closing her eyes. She imagined setting aside every scrap of emotion, every sound, every thought, until her mind was a vast field of darkness—except for the tiny spot of light that was the flame in her hands.

Then she allowed the darkness to seep across the flame as well and was left alone in the cool, still void of her mind.

The room calmed.

Tal’s hand fell away.

Rielle listened as he returned his shield to its stand. The prayer had scraped her clean, and in the wake of her anger she felt…nothing. A hollow heart and an empty head.

When she opened her eyes, they were dry and tired. She wondered bitterly what it would be like to live without a constant refrain of prayers in her thoughts, warning her against her own feelings.

The temple bells chimed eleven times; Rielle’s pulse jumped. Any moment now, she would hear Ludivine’s signal.

She turned toward the window. No more prayers, no more reading. Every muscle in her body surged with energy. She wanted to ride.

“I’d rather be dead than live as my father’s prisoner,” she said at last, unable to resist that last petulant stab.

“Dead like your mother?”

Rielle froze. When she faced Tal, he did not look away. She had not expected that cruelty. From her father, yes, but never from Tal.

The memory of long-ago flames blazed across her vision.

“Did Father instruct you to bring that up if I got out of hand?” she asked, keeping her voice flat and cool. “What with the Chase and all.”

“Yes,” Tal answered, unflinching.

“Well, I’m happy to tell you I’ve only killed the one time. You needn’t worry yourself.”

After a moment, Tal turned to straighten the books on his desk. “This is as much for your safety as it is for everyone else’s. If the king discovered we’d been hiding the truth of your power all these years…You know what could happen. Especially to your father. And yet he does it because he loves you more than you’ll ever understand.”

Rielle laughed sharply. “That isn’t reason enough to treat me like this. I’ll never forgive him for it. Someday, I’ll stop forgiving you too.”

“I know,” Tal said, and at the sadness in his voice, Rielle nearly took pity on him.


But then a great crash sounded from downstairs, and an unmistakable cry of alarm.


Tal gave Rielle that familiar look he so often had—when she had, at seven, overflowed their pool at the Baths; when he had found her, at fifteen, the first time she snuck out to Odo’s tavern. That look of What did I do to deserve such trials?

Rielle gazed innocently back at him.

“Stay here,” he ordered. “I mean it, Rielle. I appreciate your frustration—truly, I do—but this is about more than the injustice of you feeling bored.”

Rielle returned to the window seat, hoping her expression appeared suitably abashed.

“I love you, Tal,” she said, and the truth of that was enough to make her hate herself a little.

“I know,” he replied. Then he threw on his magisterial robe and swept out the door.

“Magister, it’s Lady Ludivine,” came a panicked voice from the hallway—one of Tal’s young acolytes. “She’d only just arrived in the chapel, my lord, when she turned pale and collapsed. I don’t know what happened!”

“Summon my healer,” Tal instructed, “and send a message to the queen. She’ll be in her box at the starting line. Tell her that her niece has taken ill and will not be joining her there.”

Once they had gone, Rielle smiled and yanked on her boots.

Stay here?

Not a chance.

She hurried through the sitting room outside Tal’s office and into the temple’s red-veined marble hallways, where embroidered flourishes of shimmering flames lined the plush carpets. The temple entryway, its parquet floor polished to a sheen of gold, was a flurry of activity as worshippers, acolytes, and servants hurried across to the peaked chapel doors.

“It’s Lady Ludivine,” a young acolyte whispered to her companion as Rielle passed. “Apparently she’s taken ill.”

Rielle grinned, imagining everyone fussing over poor Ludivine, tragically lovely and faint on the temple floor. Ludivine would enjoy the attention—and the reminder that she had the entire capital held like a puppet on its master’s strings.

Even so, Rielle would owe her a tremendous favor after this.

Whatever it was, it would be more than worth it.

Ludivine’s horse stood next to her own just outside the temple, held by a young stable hand who seemed on the verge of panic. He recognized Rielle and sagged with relief.

“Pardon me, Lady Rielle, but is Lady Ludivine all right?” he asked.

“Haven’t the faintest,” Rielle replied, swinging up into the saddle. Then she snapped the reins, and her mare bolted down the main road that led from the Pyre into the heart of the city, hooves clattering against the cobblestones. A tumbled array of apartments and temple buildings rose around them—gray stone walls engraved with scenes of the capital city’s creation, rounded roofs of burnished copper, slender columns wrapped in flowering ivy, white fountains crowned with likenesses of the seven saints in prayer. So many visitors had come from all over the world to Âme de la Terre for the Chase that the cool spring air now pressed thick and close. The city smelled of sweat and spices, hot horse and hot coin.

As Rielle tore down the road, the crowd parted in alarm on either side of her, shouting angry curses until they realized who she was and fell silent. She guided her mare through the twisting streets and made for the main city gates, her body pulled tight with nerves.

But she would not give in to her power today.

She would compete in the Boon Chase, as any citizen was free to do, and prove to her father that she could control herself, even when her life was in danger and the eyes of the entire city were upon her.

She would prove to him, and to Tal, that she deserved to live a normal life.


Waiting on Wednesday/Can't-Wait Wednesday: Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. I've also decided to start linking up to Can't-Wait Wednesday hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings.

Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills  

Release Date: January 15, 2019 
Add on Goodreads! 
For Sophie, small-town life has never felt small. She has the Yum Yum Shoppe, with its famous fourteen flavors of ice cream; her beloved marching band, the pride and joy of Acadia High (even if the football team disagrees); and her four best friends, loving and infuriating, wonderfully weird and all she could ever ask for. 
Then August moves in next door. A quiet guy with a magnetic smile, August seems determined to keep everyone at arm's length. Sophie in particular. 
Country stars, revenge plots, and a few fake kisses (along with some excellent real ones) await Sophie in this hilarious, heartfelt story.
I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS. I mean, Foolish Hearts was one of my favorite books of the year. It also doesn't hurt that I love a small town setting, especially when an ice cream shop is involved. Oh and the cover? GORGEOUS! I love the pinks and the oranges. 
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