Archives for May 2014

Armchair BEA – Day 6: Wrap-Up

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WRAP-UP

 

Well, it has been an excellent week here at EFC. We have truly enjoyed participating in Armchair BEA this year. Last year, I was a mere observer. This year, we participated with posts, giveaways, Twitter parties, and so much more. I have found more wonderful blogs and blogging friends because of this event. I can’t wait until next year. (In fact, I’m already thinking about things for next year.)

Here is a recap of posts and links:

Day 1: Introduction and Literature

Day 2: Author Interaction and More Than Just Words

Day 3: Expanding Blogging Horizons and Novellas/Short Stories

Day 4: Giveaways and Beyond the Borders

Day 5: Topic of Choice and Middle Grade/Young Adult

Day 6: Wrap Up

Thank you for an awesome week, Armchair BEA!!! See you next year.

 

chrissysig

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Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Belinda’s review)

The Fault In Our StarsThe Fault In Our Stars
written by John Green
published by Dutton Books/Penguin

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: Yes. Amazon recommended it to me based on my reading choices. It looked interesting so I bought it.

It’s kind of creepy how well Amazon knows my taste in books. The Fault In Our Stars is a beautiful and poignant story of teens battling cancer.

It’s the kind of book where the bad guys win in the struggle between teen vs. cancer. It’s a sad book but one worth reading. Green takes you on the journey with Hazel and Gus. Like all teens they’re trying to see where they belong in this world. Unfortunately, they also know that they won’t belong in this world for very long.

Fortunately for us, they made a strong impression for the short time we spend with them.

There’s a quote at the end of the novel that I love. Fearing he’s losing Hazel to illness, Gus said, “ . . . you don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.” It gives me goose bumps every time I read it. There’s nothing like youth and tragedy to make a novel sparkle. Well done, John Green.

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Would I recommend it: Absolutely.

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About the book – from Goodreads: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

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Armchair BEA – Day 5: Middle Grade/Young Adult

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MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT

Our final genre of discussion is one that we know is a popular one these days: books for the younger crowd, from middle grade to young adult. If you do not normally talk about this genre on your site, maybe you want to feature books that you remember impacting you during this stage in your life. If this is where you tend to gravitate, maybe you want to list your favorites, make recommendations based on genres, or feature some titles that you are excited to read coming later this year. 

Hi.  I’m Melissa.  I’m thirty-something years old, and I’m an avid reader of YA novels.  I love them – YA Fantasy is my all-time favorite genre – but it tends to make me forget that I’m, well, an ADULT adult.  Yeah.  We’re talking about sex scenes.  I like sex (I think most of us do), but I also like the way YA authors can dance around the subject without, well, getting too graphic.  I like the hints and innuendos and stolen kisses.  I like that I get to use my imagination for the rest.  I like reverting back to my misty-eyed junior high school self and daydreaming about simple, honest romance.

And then I remember I’m married, and I’m a mom, and I have a mortgage, so I open up a book geared towards my own age range.

Adult novels, it turns out, are slightly more straightforward about sex.  I’m not reading romance novels or anything (though there might be one or two hidden under my bed), but I guess the fun part – for me – is getting to use my imagination, and when everything’s all spelled out for me (see what I did there?) I feel like it’s not quite as fun to read.

It’s not just the sex, either – it’s an entire perspective shift.  When did “adult” turn into code for “you don’t have to use your imagination anymore”?  Why do we, as adults, expect not to have to use our brains for anything other than decoding the words on the page?  No wonder reading isn’t fun anymore once you grow up – it’s not the same experience.  It’s not Narnia or Hogwarts or Wonderland – it’s all murders and sex and betrayal.  The joy – the WONDER of reading – is getting to use your imagination.  Hear me, adult authors!  Just because I’m old enough to have a retirement account doesn’t mean I don’t like time-travel and magic and happy endings!

So yeah.  Most of the books on my shelves are written for thirteen-year-olds.  I don’t care.  Reading something that’s already got all the details is news.  Reading something that encourages you to use your imagination – that’s AWESOME (and just for the record, I can imagine some pretty darn cool stuff).

melissasig

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Review: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

i know why the caged bird singsI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
written by Maya Angelou
published by Bantam Books

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: In honor of the recently departed poet, artist, singer, activist, and beautiful soul, Maya Angelou, I’m offering this review of one of my all time favorite stories.

I Know Why the Caged Bird sings is unforgettable. Angelou doesn’t just tell stories she changes lives. She touches souls. And she reshapes our nation for the better.

In this book she deals with literacy, persistence, personal dignity, and success against impossible odds.

I love how she tells a story of survival without anger, blame, or excuses. It’s hard to comprehend how she’s able to write with such honesty about topics that, when this book was released, were hardly spoken of in private much less public.

“While I was writing the book, I stayed half drunk in the afternoon and cried all night.” Yet she kept writing. And readers of all generations are better off because she did. God bless you, Maya Angelou. Rest in peace.

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Would I recommend it: Absolutely.

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About the book – from Goodreads: Maya Angelou’s six volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration. In this first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother’s lover.

‘I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it’s like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again.’ — Maya Angelou

 

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Spotlight: Monday, Monday by Elizabeth Crook (giveaway)

Monday, Monday coverMonday, Monday
written by Elizabeth Crook
published by Sarah Crichton Books

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book: In this gripping, emotionally charged novel, a tragedy in Texas changes the course of three lives

On an oppressively hot Monday in August of 1966, a student and former marine named Charles Whitman hauled a footlocker of guns to the top of the University of Texas tower and began firing on pedestrians below. Before it was over, sixteen people had been killed and thirty-two wounded. It was the first mass shooting of civilians on a campus in American history.

Monday, Monday follows three students caught up in the massacre: Shelly, who leaves her math class and walks directly into the path of the bullets, and two cousins, Wyatt and Jack, who heroically rush from their classrooms to help the victims. On this searing day, a relationship begins that will eventually entangle these three young people in a forbidden love affair, an illicit pregnancy, and a vow of secrecy that will span forty years. Reunited decades after the tragedy, they will be forced to confront the event that changed their lives and that has silently and persistently ruled the lives of their children.

With electrifying storytelling and the powerful sense of destiny found in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, and with the epic sweep of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, Elizabeth Crook’s Monday, Monday explores the ways in which we sustain ourselves and one another when the unthinkable happens. At its core, it is the story of a woman determined to make peace with herself, with the people she loves, and with a history that will not let her go. A humane treatment of a national tragedy, it marks a generous and thrilling new direction for a gifted American writer.

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“This rapturous novel starts with one of the most heinous shootings in history, yet every page shines with life. Crook follows three students who endured the tragedy as they grapple with the past, struggle to navigate their futures, and discover that who and what saves us is nothing like what you imagine. Brilliantly realized and so vivid the novel seems to virtually breathe, Monday, Monday is a stunning achievement.”
— Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“Elizabeth Crook has written an extraordinary novel — an eloquent love story born from an act of random violence, a tale of destruction and redemption. It’s about making a whole life out of a damaged one, and about holding on and letting go. The characters are as real as people you know; their story is subtle, startling, and wise.”
— Sarah Bird, author of The Yokota Officers Club and Above the East China Sea

Monday, Monday begins by throwing us into the midst of one of the worst mass murders in American history, a scene painted with such harrowing exactitude that it leaves you wondering how the characters can possibly survive and how the author can possibly sustain such a high level of narrative momentum and emotional insight. And yet Elizabeth Crook pulls it off. This is a brilliant and beautiful book.”
— Stephen Harrigan, author of The Gates of the Alamo and Remember Ben Clayton

elizabeth crookAbout the author: Elizabeth Crook, author of Monday, Monday: A Novel, is the author of three novels, The Raven’s Bride, Promised Lands, and The Night Journal. She has written for anthologies and periodicals, including Texas Monthly and the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and has served on the council of the Texas Institute of Letters. Currently she is a member of the board of directors of the Texas Book Festival. She lives in Austin with her husband and two children.

Find Ms. Crook here: web, Facebook, Goodreads

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Thoughtful Thursday – Favorite POV – May 29, 2014

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Reading Is Fun Again created Thoughtful Thursday. Each week, she posts a new bookish thought that she discusses.

Everyone is welcome to join. 

 

May 29: What is your favorite POV style? First person? Second person? Third person? 

 

I’m a sucker for First person POV, especially when I can’t trust him (or her).  I like to hear characters’ thoughts, and I UBER like being lead astray.  One of my favorite books of ALL TIME (though I rarely have the available brain power and/or free notebook space to re-read it), is House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski.  It’s fun, it’s creepy, and still, after having read it several times, I haven’t decided who (or what) to believe.

 

I’m all for ubiquitous narrators, but there’s something just a little more believable about storytellers that can’t (or don’t) quite trust themselves.

 

Be sure to check out the other posts on this topic at Reading Is Fun Again.

 

melissasig

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Armchair BEA – Day 4: Giveaways and Beyond the Borders

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BEYOND THE BORDERS

It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going! 

I tend to get stuck in a genre rut: I can spend months reading nothing but sci-fi/fantasy and not care a bit that I’m neglecting the rest of the books in the universe.  Except that somewhere along the way I started caring about all those other books (and, honestly, I didn’t want to turn into that girl who quotes Dune at parties).  So, to make myself step away from the dystopian-magic-spacey-wacey stuff I added memoirs to the list of books I wanted to review.  I still primarily read my favorite genres, but every once in a while I like to try something different.

I don’t always like the books I’m asked to review, but I DO like reading about other lives – REAL LIVES – that are often quite different than mine.  It’s not some earth-shattering, life-altering, “oh my gosh memoirs changed my life” sort of thing, but it keeps my mind open to new ideas.  I might learn the ins and outs of mountain climbing, or I might follow a single mother on her journey through America.  I might spend some time with a janitor who happens to see ghosts, or perhaps tag along on an actor’s visit with Mother Theresa.  I might not like it, but at least I’m trying something different.

And I might not quote Dune at parties, but I definitely taught my son to walk without rhythm.

melissasig

 

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Armchair BEA – Day 3: Expanding Blogging Horizons

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EXPANDING BLOGGING HORIZONS

What do you think about when you think about going beyond blogging or expanding your horizons? Is it a redesign of your blog? Have you branched out into freelance writing or even published a novel of your very own? Or, have you moved into a different venue like podcasts or vlogging? This is the day to tell us about how you have expanded on blogging in your own unique way. 

When I first started blogging, I told my husband that I wanted to see where it would take me. I loved to read and talk about books. I wanted to see what would happen. I started my blog, and then a few months later, I received my first review request. Then more requests followed. Next, I decided to redesign the blog from the standard Blogger theme to something personal. Lori at Imagination Designs did a fantastic job! I also added another reviewer, Melissa, and then Belinda joined the party. I also decided to move over to a self-hosted WordPress site as well as start a freelance editing and proofreading service. EFC Services, LLC is thriving, and I love editing books. Soon I will be expanding my services as well. This blogging adventure has taken me far, and I can’t wait to see where I go next. I have some ideas in mind.

chrissysig

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Blog Tour: Hold Her Down by Kathryn R. Biel (spotlight, excerpt)

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hold her downHold Her Down
written by Kathryn R. Biel
published by Kathryn R. Biel

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book: Elizabeth Zurlo is lost. She’s a wife, a mother, a teacher, a PTA volunteer—but somewhere along the way, she’s lost herself. Depression and despair can lead to desperate measures and when she is pulled back from the brink of suicide, Elizabeth slowly tries to rebuild her marriage and reclaim her life. Just as she has finally started to put herself back together, a scandalous novel rocks her small town … and costs Elizabeth her social standing, friendships and ultimately, her marriage. However, the man who seemingly destroyed Elizabeth’s life, helps her realize who she is and what she needs to do to become the woman she’s not only capable of being, but the woman she used to be.

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Most days Elizabeth Zurlo felt that her life had somehow swallowed her up. She no longer knew who she was inside. The external forces in her life defined her whole being. She was Peter’s wife, Mrs. Zurlo. She was Teddy and Sydney’s mom. And at work, where she was a preschool special education teacher, she was Miss Elizabeth. A lifetime ago, she had been known as Liza, but no one called her that anymore. Despite this wide array of titles, Elizabeth no longer knew who she was inside. Her life was a chaotic mess, running from one place to another. Trying desperately to balance the demands of motherhood, running a household, being personal assistant to her ever-forgetful husband, and taking care of her students’ needs. There were simply not enough hours in the day to do all this and care for herself as well. It was hard to believe that one can be burned out by the age of thirty-four, but that is exactly how Elizabeth felt. Burned out, used up, empty. She was in desperate need of a recharge.

She sighed as she filled out the dry-erase board for the month. It was already the fourth of the month, and she was behind, just putting the new month out now. It was only the second month of school and she was behind the eight ball. She was painfully anal as she color-coded the activities for the family. Feeling that if she could neatly organize her life on the board, then it would fall into place in reality. Black for her, red for Peter. Blue for Teddy and purple for Sydney. A little orange pumpkin on Halloween. Slowly, square after square became filled in, until there were only about five empty during the entire month. Dance lessons. Piano lessons. Baseball. PTA meetings. Dentist appointments. Work meetings. Birthday parties. School projects. No school next Monday. This was Elizabeth’s life, month after month. There would be no break, no recharging this month. She copied the information to the calendar from her ever-trusty iPhone, knowing full well that no one in her family ever looked at the calendar. But still, she tried, knowing the key to a smoothly running household was clear communication.

Elizabeth yelled up the stairs to the kids and they came barreling down, pushing and shoving. Each one wanting to be first. “Stop guys,” she warned.

“Mom, he pushed me!” Sydney whined.

“Did not, you cut me off!” Teddy replied, shoving his sister. A few more jabs were thrown while the pair descended the stairs.

“ENOUGH, BOTH OF YOU!” Elizabeth yelled. “Someone is going to get hurt!” The shoving continued. “SIT DOWN NOW!”

Elizabeth started slamming cabinets and dishes. She saw Peter coming down the stairs, and couldn’t miss the dirty look he gave her. He hated her yelling, but he never looked at why she was yelling, only that she was. She turned her back, took a deep breath, re-arranged her face to something more resembling calmness, and turned back to face her children. Anything to avoid conflict this morning. While Elizabeth busied herself getting her children breakfast, she noticed Peter standing in front of the calendar. Wonder of wonders, he even seemed to be looking at it! Then, as if guided by the hand of God, Peter picked up the red marker and Elizabeth was dumbfounded. Never in the five years since she had been using the board had Peter ever written on it, save a random phone number here or there. It finally gave Elizabeth a glimmer of hope on a gray, October Monday morning. A smile started to spread across her face.

That was, until Elizabeth saw what Peter had written. “You’re going out of town this week? Again?”

“Yeah, project meeting in Michigan. They need me to go over what we’re doing here and help set up the facility out there, so they can start testing.”

“Oh.” She couldn’t even muster fake enthusiasm. She let out a defeated sigh. “How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

“I leave tomorrow morning, and they hope to have me back by the following Tuesday, but you know how it goes.”

Elizabeth sighed again and pasted yet another pleasant look on her face. At least, she hoped it looked that way. She looked up at the calendar. The week held the typical entries – Sydney had dance tonight. Piano for both kids and a dentist appointment on Tuesday. Baseball and PTA meeting on Wednesday. Guess she’d have to skip the meeting. Again. Teddy had a spelling test on Thursday. Saturday held a birthday party for Sydney. No school next Monday, which meant another day that she had to entertain the kids. They were barely a month into school, and she was already behind on her overwhelming paperwork. Her shoulders fell and her head dropped.

Life with a second grader and a kindergartener was always busy, especially when you were working full time. Elizabeth felt like she never got a chance to breathe. Something always needed to be addressed. Some fire needed to be put out. She looked around at the kitchen, with her counter covered in papers and dishes piled up in and around the sink. She closed her eyes tightly and tried to take deep calming breaths before she totally snapped. She balled her fists and pressed them tightly to her eyes, hoping that when she opened them, the house would miraculously be as organized as her calendar. Some days, she could pull it together and she felt like Helen Reddy, Martha Stewart and Supernanny all rolled into one. Other days, she felt like a hybrid of Mommy Dearest and Cruella de Ville. Today was a Mommy Dearest/Cruella kind of day. The thought of facing the week alone was too much for her to handle on a Monday morning.

kathryn r bielAbout the author: Kathryn Biel hails from Upstate New York and is a spouse and mother of two wonderful and energetic kids. In between being Chief Home Officer and Director of Child Development of the Biel household, she works as a school-based physical therapist. She attended Boston University and received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from The Sage Colleges. After years of writing countless letters of medical necessity for wheelchairs, finding increasingly creative ways to encourage the government and insurance companies to fund her clients’ needs and writing entertaining annual Christmas letters, she decided to take a shot at writing the kind of novel that she likes to read. Her debut novel, GOOD INTENTIONS, was released in 2013, and her second novel, HOLD HER DOWN was released in 2014. Her musings and rants can also be found on her personal blog, Biel Blather.

Find Ms. Biel here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

 

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Release Day Blitz: Michael by Annabell Cadiz (spotlight, giveaway)

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Michael coverMichael (Sons of Old Trilogy #2)
written by Annabell Cadiz
published by Annabell Cadiz
cover by Hot Damn Designs

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazon, Goodreads

About the book : Zahara Faraday looks like a normal eighteen-year-old and lives in a quiet neighborhood with her overprotective parents. She works at a bookstore and hangs out with her best friend Becca King on a daily basis. But underneath the normal lies a secret life filled with dangerous supernaturals. Zahara belongs to a world made of Light Witches, rogue Imagoes (supernatural creatures with super strength, speed, and silver skin when the moon is out), fallen angels, and Nephilim (hybrid children born half-human, half-angel). Where her father Solomon Faraday is human, her mother Mia and her Aunt Catalina are Light Witches. They help protect the human world by hunting down rogue supernaturals who commit heinous acts against humans. What they never expected was the possibility of having to hunt down the one rogue coven they had befriended and come to trust in their battle against Lucifer. Rekesh Saint-Louis is the leader of the most powerful Imago coven in Florida and now he’s the most suspected. Supernatural bodies are starting to pile up with an ancient ritual long forbade being used to murder them and the symbol, one large cross with four smaller crosses around it—which represents Rekesh’s coven— being left behind. Rekesh and the Elders of his coven set out to find who is behind the murders and clearing his name before a war between the covens begins. To make matters more difficult, Rekesh also has to deal with the return of someone he has been keeping a secret.

Meanwhile, Zahara and Becca are spending more time brushing up on their training, knowing an attack from Lucifer can come at any moment. Between patrolling neighborhoods and hanging at the boarding school created by Charles Stephens—a fallen angel who created the school to protect the children of rogue supernaturals—they are thrown into one battle after another. Zahara begins to develop a closer bond with Jason as they train and chase down clues to clear Rekesh’s name. What she doesn’t know is the very powerful secret Jason is keeping; a secret that will change the course of the fight with Lucifer.

But Rekesh’s coven being set up isn’t the only danger. A new powerful and lethal drug has emerged from the shadows of the supernatural world called Inferi. The drug has two deadly side effects: it leaves the supernatural hungering for blood—both human and supernatural—and grants them the elemental power they had once possessed.

Lucifer is on the move and he will stop at nothing to get his hands on Zahara and complete the first act of his plan. 

A battle is about to begin. 

One that may cost the Faraday family everything they hold dear.

Lucifer 99 Cent Sale

Make sure to get your copy of Lucifer (Sons of Old Trilogy, #1) which is on sale for ONLY 99 CENTS until JUNE 1st!

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annabell cadizAbout the author: Born and raised in the sweltering suburbs of South Florida, Annabell Cadiz grew up fine-tuned to the cuisine of various Spanish cultures, learned to master the art of Puerto Rican cooking thanks to her parents, and learned to converse crazy thanks to her band of siblings. She is now working toward attaining a B.A. in Psychology at Trinity International University to better understand how to converse with the weirdoes and crazies of the world. (After all, she is one of them.) A self-proclaimed nerd and a book-a-holic (her room holds dozens of shelves with much evidence to prove that her claims are indeed true), she created TeamNerd Reviews along with her best friend, Bridget Strahin, to showcase their EXTREME love for all things book related.

She published her debut novel, Lucifer (Sons of Old Trilogy #1), in January 2013. The second novel, Michael (Sons of Old Trilogy #2) will be released on May 28, 2014. And the final installment in the Sons of Old Trilogy, Nephilim, will be out in Spring 2015.

Find Ms. Cadiz here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Michael Book Mark

**Must be 13 or older to enter**

**Giveaway begins WEDNESDAY, MAY 28 and ends WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, 2014**

**Winner will receive an ecopy of LUCIFER (SONS OF OLD TRILOGY, #1) and an ecopy of MICHAEL (SONS OF OLD TRILOGY, #2) along with a SIGNED bookmark and bow & arrow keychain**
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