Monday, May 20, 2019

{Blog Tour} INTO THE MADNESS by A.K. Koonce + Giveaway

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Into the Madness
by A.K. Koonce


I didn’t fall into a place of wonder and madness. I was taken.

This world is a perfect, enchanting wonderland. The people here are just as alluring.

But we all have our secrets.

Like the white rabbit who’s leading a rebellion right under the King’s nose. Or the sweet March Hare who’s actually an enemy spy. Or my one true ally in all of this, a killer who’s so feared they won’t even say his real name.

As for me, I have more secrets than all of them combined. Because Wonderland is waiting for the beloved Alice Liddell.

And I’m just the bitch pretending to be her.

This is a reverse harem series, recommended for readers 18 and over.

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Genres: Adult, Retellings, Fantasy
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon Kindle / Paperback

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A.K. Koonce is a USA Today best-selling author. She's a mom by day and a fantasy and paranormal romance author by night. She keeps the fantastical stories in her mind on an endless loop, while she tries her best to focus on her actual life and not that of the spectacular but demanding fictional characters who always fill her thoughts.


Join A.K.'s newsletter for news, bonus content and sneak peeks: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/p9k6w8









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Continue on for the giveaway! ~


Book Blast: LYING NEXT TO ME by Gregg Olsen + Giveaway

PRESENTED BY JEAN BOOK NERD
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Lying Next to Me
by Gregg Olsen


No matter what you see, no matter what you’ve heard, assume nothing.

Adam and Sophie Warner and their three-year-old daughter are vacationing in Washington State’s Hood Canal for Memorial Day weekend. It’s the perfect getaway to unplug—and to calm an uneasy marriage. But on Adam’s first day out on the water, he sees Sophie abducted by a stranger. A hundred yards from shore, Adam can’t save her. And Sophie disappears.

In a nearby cabin is another couple, Kristen and Connor Moss. Unfortunately, beyond what they’ve heard in the news, they’re in the dark when it comes to Sophie’s disappearance. For Adam, at least there’s comfort in knowing that Mason County detective Lee Husemann is an old friend of his. She’ll do everything she can to help. She must.

But as Adam’s paranoia about his missing wife escalates, Lee puts together the pieces of a puzzle. The lives of the two couples are converging in unpredictable ways, and the picture is unsettling. Lee suspects that not everyone is telling the truth about what they know—or they have yet to reveal all the lies they’ve hidden from the strangers they married

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Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / TBD

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Throughout his career, Gregg Olsen has demonstrated an ability to create a detailed narrative that offers readers fascinating insights into the lives of people caught in extraordinary circumstances.

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, Olsen has written nine nonfiction books, nine novels, a novella, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest on dozens of national and local television shows, including educational programs for the History Channel, Learning Channel, and Discovery Channel. He has also appeared on Dateline NBC, William Shatner's Aftermath, Deadly Women on Investigation Discovery, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The Today Show, FOX News, CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, MSNBC, Entertainment Tonight, CBS 48 Hours, Oxygen's Snapped, Court TV's Crier Live, Inside Edition, Extra, Access Hollywood, and A&E's Biography.

In addition to television and radio appearances, he has been featured in Redbook, USA Today, People,Salon magazine, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times and the New York Post.

The Deep Dark was named Idaho Book of the Year by the ILA and Starvation Heights was honored by Washington's Secretary of State for the book's contribution to Washington state history and culture. His Young Adult novel, Envy, was the official selection of Washington for the National Book Festival.

Olsen, a Seattle native, lives in Olalla, Washington with his wife, twin daughters, three chickens, Milo (an obedience school dropout cocker spaniel) and Suri (a mini dachshund so spoiled she wears a sweater).



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Thursday, May 16, 2019

{Blog Tour} BRIGHT BURNING STARS by A.K. Small + Excerpt

PRESENTED BY ALGONQUIN BOOKS
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Bright Burning Stars
by A.K. Small


Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

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Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
• Pub Date: May 21, 2019
• Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / IndieBound / TBD

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1.
Marine

We stood outside the circular studio in the apex of the dance annex. Some of us obsessively rose up and down in first position to break the soles of our shoes, while others, like the boys, tucked their t-shirts into their tights and cracked their necks for luck. I didn’t do anything but clutch Kate’s hand. Kate and I always held hands before the weekly générales. But before I could ask her what she thought the new ratings would be, who would outshine whom on The Boards after only a week and four days of ballet classes and rehearsals in our final year at Nanterre, my name was called first. A bad omen: in six years of dancing here, the faculty had never switched us out of alphabetical order before. Isabelle The Brooder always started. I danced third.
            “Break a leg,” Kate said in English before I stepped into the studio, which made me smile because saying things in her mother tongue was Kate’s way of showing love.
            Inside the vast round room, three judges—judging deities really—sat erect behind a long folding table. Valentine Louvet, the director, was on the left, her dark hair twisted into a loose knot and rings adorning her fingers. She would sometimes look up at the giant skylight and I would swear that her lips moved, that she discussed students with Nijinsky’s ghost through the thick glass. Francis Chevalier, the ballet master, an older man with sweat stains radiating from under his arms, was on the right. While you danced, he rhythmically jabbed the tip of his cane into the floor. In the middle sat The Witch, aka Madame Brunelle, in glasses and a tight bun. When she disliked a student’s movement, which was almost always, we all whispered that worm-like silver smoke seeped from her nostrils and her ears.  
            I didn’t look them in the eyes for fear of turning to salt. Instead, I hurried to the yellow X that demarked center, taking note of all the mirrors that wrapped around me like gauze. I tried not to criticize my reflection, how I was one kilogram fatter than when I’d last performed in May. I’d found out earlier this morning, courtesy of Mademoiselle Fabienne, the school nutritionist. Weigh-ins here were like random drug tests. You were called and asked to step onto the beastly scale whenever faculty felt like it. Now, all I could do was suck my stomach in and pray it didn’t affect my score. I placed my right foot on the tape, my left in tendu behind, then waited for the pianist’s introduction.
            As I offered the judges my most heartfelt port de bras, I concentrated on the ivory of my leotard, an atrocious color on me, yet a coveted symbol of my new elite rank. Seven other sixteen year-old rat-girls and I had risen to First Division. The variation we were to perform today was obscure, from The Three Musketeers, but I didn’t mind. Actually, I preferred low profile dances. The pressure somehow felt less. I also liked the three-count waltz, the way the notes filled up inside me, the rush of the C major melody, all making me zigzag across the studio. Music was why I kept going, my ticking heart. As the piano filled the air, my arms felt fluid, my balances sharp, and my leaps explosive. Even my hunger diminished. I steered myself from left to right then from front to back. My spirits lifted and my nerves calmed. Vas-y. I can do this, I thought. And then I remembered to give the judges my stage smile. Maybe I’ll rise from Number 3 to Number 2. During a slow triple pirouette, I held my foot above my knee, balanced, and stuck my landing in perfect fourth position, the number 2 floating like an angel’s halo above my head.
            But then I forgot to anticipate the piano’s shift in keys, the sudden acceleration. Realizing I was an eighth of a note off, I skipped a glissade to catch up to my saut de chat. Ne t’en fais pas, I told myself. Adjust. Yet, at once, The Witch stood up and snapped her fingers, silencing the music.
            “I thought you were here because of your auditory gift, Duval,” Madame Brunelle said. “Don’t students call you The Pulse?”
            I looked down at my feet. I hadn’t gone through three fourths of the variation.
            “They must be wrong. Would you like to have someone else come in and demonstrate? Teach you whole notes from half notes?”
            “No,” I whispered.
            “Miss Sanders,” Madame Brunelle yelled.
            Kate poked her head inside the studio. A joke, I thought. Kate was a dynamic ballet dancer but well known for her lack of rhythm.
            “Mademoiselle Duval needs help with her waltz tempo. Would you run the variation through for her?”
            What?
            Kate nodded. She tiptoed into the studio, setting herself on the X the way I had done earlier.
            “Shadow her, Duval,” Madame Brunelle ordered.
            She snapped her fingers and the pianist began again.
            I danced behind Kate. We moved in unison, gliding into long pas de basques, arms extended. Kate seemed weightless, her heels barely touching the ground. A genuine smile fluttered on her lips. Her ivory leotard fitted her long narrow frame like skin. Blue crystal teardrops dangled from her ears as she spun. They glittered like fireflies. All of Kate glittered. The afternoon sun poured in from the skylight, lighting her up like a flame. The variation lasted a million years. At every step, my face grew hotter. The studio door had been left wide open, so I saw in the mirror’s reflection that other First Division dancers were peering inside and watching our odd duo. A wave of humiliation nearly toppled me. Madame Brunelle did not stop the music this time. She waited for Kate and me to finish with our révérence, then she dismissed us with a flick of the finger.
            I ducked out of the studio into the stairwell and didn’t wait for Kate. I could have sought refuge in the First Division dressing rooms but that was too obvious a hiding place so I rushed down three flights of stairs and into the courtyard. A mild September breeze blew. I fought back tears. It would have been easier, I thought, if The Witch had picked someone else. Anyone else. But Kate? Pitting me against my best friend? I wished I could keep walking past the trees, alongside the fence, out of the gates, down L’Allée de La Danse, to the metro, all the way home to the center of Paris and my mother’s boulangerie. There, inside with the warmth and the sugary smells, I would find a tight hug, an, “It’s okay, Chérie. You don’t have to do this unless you want to.” But I knew I wouldn’t. I’d have to go back to the dorms to change into street clothes or at least take off my pointe shoes and then I’d see Oli’s battered demi pointes on my bed. Plus, I’d come this far. Hadn’t I? Only 274 days until the final Grand Défilé. Judgment Day: when everyone, except for two strikingly gifted students—one female, one male—got fired in the top division. I plopped down into the middle of the courtyard and found the sky. How could I have messed up on tempo? I closed my eyes and inhaled.
            “Hey!” Kate yelled a minute later.
            I started.
            She stood at the entrance of the courtyard, breathing hard. “Do you think you could have gone a little faster?” she said, crossing her arms. She was still in her leotard, tights, and pointe shoes. Her neck flushed bright red from running. Wisps of blond hair framed her face. “You hurtled down the stairs like a bat out of hell, M. I thought you were going to tumble and fall.”
            Bat out of hell? I nearly corrected her and said that here we used comme un bolide—like a rocket—but instead I replied, voice sharp, “Too bad I didn’t.”    
            “You don’t mean it,” she said. “Mistakes happen. You’re only human.”
            Kate sat down beside me. She smelled woodsy, even after she danced. We watched as pigeons flittered around the bright white buildings. On our left were the dorms with their common rooms at the bottom. In front, the dance annex loomed. It was known for its grand staircase, bay windows, cafeteria, and Board Room where all big decisions were made. On the right was the academic wing with classrooms and faculty offices. Little pathways led from one building to the others with awnings in case of rain. If I turned around, I could peek at the high concrete wall hidden between oak trees. Sometimes I wondered if the barrier was there to keep rats from fleeing or strangers from trespassing.
             Kate squeezed my ankle then flashed me her best smile. “The Witch is an asshole. Seriously. Don’t sweat it.”
            At her touch, my eyes filled. The tempo mix up hadn’t been Kate’s fault. Only mine. I quickly wiped the tears with the back of my hand.
            “Have I told you that I dig wearing ivory?” Kate said. “Last night, I called my dad and tried to explain it to him. How good it felt to parade around in this sublime color. I said it was like receiving the freaking Medal of Honor but he didn’t get it.”
            “Of course not.” I shook my head.
            And just like that, the weird moment between us, the resentment I’d felt at having to dance behind her, passed. 
            I was about to tell her that after what had happened in the circular studio I would probably never wear ivory again, when younger rats came out into the courtyard, disturbing our privacy. Everyone always whispered about everyone else while waiting for ratings. Within the hour, the Board Room would open. Rankings would be posted on the wall. Rats who were rated below fifth place might be sent home. Now and again, I’d see a parent waiting by the school entrance and the wretched sight would make me flinch. But Kate, who was always at my side, would loop an arm around me and say, “Face it, M. Not everyone is cut out for this.” Her thick skin soothed me today.
            “God, I can’t stand the sitting around,” Kate said. “Let’s play Would You.”
            “I thought you and I banned that game,” I replied.
            Kate laughed. “Things don’t go away just because you want them to, Miss Goody Two-Shoes. Or because the stupid rules say so.”
            I slapped her shoulder.
            “Ouch. Loosen up. I go first,” she said. “Would you die for The Prize?” 
            The Prize. What every rat girl and boy was after: the large envelope with a red wax stamp on the back, a single invitation to become part of the Paris Opera’s corps de ballet. The thought of seeing that envelope made me dizzy with possibility. I almost said yes but she cut me off.
            “If I close my eyes,” Kate said. “I feel the envelope’s weight in my hands, the warm wax beneath my thumbs. It’s damn near euphoric.”
            I looked away. Kate’s hunger for success, for being the Chosen One was sometimes so acute that it frightened me. “Are you asking because of Yaëlle?” 
            The Number 3 rat from last year, a sweet girl from Brittany, once our roommate, had been found in her tiny single, lying atop her twin bed, in her ballet clothes, bones protruding at strange angles, eyes sunk deep in their sockets, dead a few days before Le Grand Défilé last May. She’d starved herself in the name of The Prize. Ever since, we’d all been on edge. Summer hadn’t changed the mood. If anything, getting back together after a few months away had heightened the sense of dread.
            “You’re not answering my question.”
            “No,” I decided. “I wouldn’t die for The Prize. Would you?”
            “Yes,” Kate said. “Absolutely.”
            There was no hesitation in her voice.
            “I’ve got another,” she said. “Would you hurt The Ruler for The Prize?”
            Gia Delmar, the Ruler. Always Number 1 on the boards, she was our biggest rival but this wasn’t the time to think about her. Not before rankings. “I wouldn’t hurt anyone,” I said, then I added, “Would you rehearse night and day?”
            “Yes. But would you do drugs?”
            “Would you?”
            “Rehearse night and day, sure. Drugs? Maybe.”
            “Kate!” I said.
            “Would you try to suck up to Monsieur Chevalier?”
            “No. But maybe Louvet.”
            Kate laughed. “I know. Would you sleep with The Demigod?”
            The Demigod? I shivered. Like The Ruler, The Demigod was off limits. As a rare conservatory transfer, he’d magically appeared in Second Division one sunny day last February and had outdone everyone. I didn’t want to think about the leaders, the rats most likely to succeed, even if they were supremely sexy. “No,” I answered. “Of course not. Would you?”
            “Maybe.” 
            “That’s sick,” I said. “Sleeping with someone to climb the ladder?”
            Kate lowered her voice. “The Demigod is different, M. You know. Everybody knows. Even faculty. Look how they gawk at him. His talent is greater than the sun and the stars combined. Proximity to him is—” she paused, searching for her words. “The key to everything. Think of it as Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock’s lover, collaborating with him on a canvas. Except that our canvas is four dimensional, made up of flesh, of bodies. Lee’s paint strokes had to intensify, right? The Demigod’s balletic gift, his glow, rubs off like glitter on his partners. Haven’t you noticed? Anyone who spends time with him in and out of the studio shoots up on The Boards. M, he is The King. You know what dance is? The art of the sensual. Electricity, entanglement, ease. You partner with him and you will blow the roof off this effing place. Plus,” she sucked in her breath, kept me in suspense. “He’s got the hottest quads in the universe.”
            I imagined Cyrille flying into splits, his thighs stiffening under silver tights, what his hands might feel like clasping mine if I was ever asked to partner with him. My whole body warmed. Kate was right. The Demigod was like food, like one of my mother’s pastries. You knew that eating it was bad for you, but you just couldn’t help yourself. I was about to warn Kate that the Greek demigods, as attractive as they were, ate their young and their lovers when Monsieur Arnaud, the groundkeeper, walked over to the old fashioned bell and rang it. The wooden doors creaked open and all the dancers scurried inside the Board Room. I still sat outside, frozen. What if I was ranked fifth or lower and got sent home? I thought of Oli. My promise to dance for him no matter what. Failing was not an option. Kate snagged my hand and pulled me up.
            “Come on, sweetie,” she said.
            I reluctantly followed her in.


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A.K. SMALL was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.




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Thanks so much for stopping by! Happy Reading!

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Book Blitz: THE RULE OF MANY by Ashley & Leslie Saunders—Excerpt + Giveaway

PRESENTED BY XPRESSO BOOK TOURS
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The Rule of Many
by Ashley & Leslie Saunders


Born to a death sentence in a near-future America, rebellious sisters herald a revolution—if they can survive.

Twins Ava and Mira Goodwin defy the Rule of One simply by existing. The single-child law, ruthlessly enforced by Texas’s Governor Roth, has made the sisters famous fugitives and inspirations for the resurgent rebellion known as the Common.

But the relentless governor and his implacable Texas State Guard threaten that fragile hope, as Roth consolidates his power in a bid for ultimate authority.

As Ava and Mira relinquish the relative safety of their Canadian haven to stand against Roth, new allies arise: Owen, a gifted young programmer, impulsively abandons his comfortable life in a moment of compassion, while Zee, an abused labor camp escapee, finds new purpose in resistance.

The four will converge on Dallas for a reckoning with Roth, with nothing less than their destinies—and the promise of a future free from oppression—on the line.

Disobedience means death. But a life worth living demands rebellion.

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Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia
• Publisher: Skyscape
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Purchase: Amazon / B&N / IndieBound / TBD

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MIRA


Limos and luxury cars line the extensive circular driveway, stuffed with partygoers ready for the welcoming bash. Mrs. and Mr. Cross have already arrived with much fanfare from their son and his doting employees. I wonder if Ciro’s sisters are here.
I hear him get on the microphone, introducing his unwitting parents onto the stage of the overflowing banquet hall, the governor of Alberta and the mayor of Calgary looking on from the front row.
Everything’s falling nicely into place. If only the man of the hour would show.
I look at my watch: 7:30 p.m. He’s late. Ava’s knee bounces furiously, as if she can shake out her anxiety.
“He’ll come,” I say.
From our hideout in the corner of the foyer, shadowed and easily overlooked, we have the best seats in the house. A perfect vantage point to see and be unseen. Ava scans the budding festivities through the glass walls on our left. I keep my eyes on the glass windows straight ahead, seeing past the dazzling flares from the cars’ headlights, holding out for the first glimpse of the president.
A string quartet begins to play, and an electric energy pulsates through the hotel, enlivening the crowd around us with a giddy exhilaration, and I can’t help but feel it too. Eager, I spring to my feet. I pace up and down our tucked-away corner, checking the time, watching Emery from across the room, waiting on her signal.
“Do you hear that?” Ava asks. She stares up at the ceiling. I move beside her as we listen to the muffled roar of whirling blades slicing the air somewhere above the building.
“A helicopter,” Ava says.
“He’s here.”
We look to Emery, who stands near the entrance, her gaze locked skyward. Guests file past as she removes a headscarf from her pocket, drapes the silk over her distinctive curls, and pulls it into a tight knot at the back of her neck. She folds her right arm over her chest, our cue to move.
I feel, rather than see, Barend steal into place behind us, our long shadow, as we push to the end of the foyer. Pawel detaches himself from the crowd and crosses our path as he follows Emery out the front door. “Lots of luck,” he whispers earnestly. Like luck has anything to do with it. It’s all up to us.
Our target is the oversized clock that consumes the entire wall alongside the vacant concierge desk. Ava stops before the number six, and we slip behind a false door and stride side by side down an empty staff hallway. Three right turns, two left, a final door, and we’re outside.
There are no lights behind the hotel and no people. The night is chilly and moonless, but we find the footpath we were directed to take and make our silent way to the small grove of trees just twenty yards out.
Ten paces in, Ava and I turn from the path and weave through the evergreens until we spot the narrow clearing that is to be our stage. We position ourselves in its center, shoulder to shoulder, and wait. Somewhere to our right, concealed within the trees and darkness, Barend stands guard.
When told of the plan, Emery immediately authorized the private rendezvous. She knows pleading our case face-to-face with the president is the only way. Cameras and screens provide a barrier, Emery said. The media paints you solely as American rebels. Let him see how human you are. With Pawel at her side, Emery is to meet and escort the president here, while Ciro entertains his parents and guests, keeping them safely ignorant inside the banquet hall.
The minutes tick off, and Ava starts to shiver from either the cold or nerves. Or is that me shivering? Ava and I brought no weapons with us, to show good faith. No guns, no knives. Just us, with our naked conviction and hope.
This could be our last stop, a final end to the endless chase. A place to plan and plot and devise our crucial counterattack.
Ava nudges me with a sharp elbow. She points to the trees in front of us. Two distinct shapes emerge, a faint silhouette floating behind.
“Ready?” I whisper needlessly. Ava tightens her jaw, and I ball my hands into white-knuckled fists. I take a big gulp of air and exhale slowly. My breath comes out in swirling smoke, reminding me of a dragon. There’s a fire inside me, and suddenly I feel warm and calm. One look from Ava and I know she feels it too.
We’re ready.
The outlines become faces and bodies. Emery appears first, then President Moore, with Pawel a few steps behind. I stare at Moore, transfixed, my eyes glued to the man who can grant us refuge.
He stumbles forward, as if his own eyes have not yet adjusted to the dark. I search his every feature, looking for any hint of surprise, or shock, or understanding. But his face, though startlingly attractive in the starlight, is blank. Indifferent.
“President Moore,” Emery says, “this is Ava and Mira Goodwin.” He looks at us cross-eyed, his round eyes squinting as he takes us in. We all stand motionless, awaiting his response.
“You don’t look identical to me,” the president finally states, his thin voice magnified in the still night air. “One of you’s slightly taller, the other rounder.”
The leader of the free world opens with an insult. My first reaction is to defend my identicalness. Surprising, when all I’ve ever wanted is to be seen as different from Ava.
“Sir—” Ava and I speak at the same time.
The president laughs. “Ah, there it is.” The ground spins as he turns to leave. “This conversation will be moved to a different setting. Just the twins and me.”
Barend detaches from the shadows. Pawel and Emery enclose my sister and me. Ava grabs my arm, her grip tight enough to bruise.
“We do not agree to any change—” Emery starts, but Moore shouts over her.
“Security!”
Everything shatters, all plans and expectations smashed to pieces.
A gunshot rings out, then two more.
“Run!” Emery yells.
The last thing I see is Ava’s face, twisted in fear and fury.
Then something covers my eyes. My mouth.
I’m thrown over a bulky shoulder, the deafening sounds of a helicopter growing louder with every footfall. With every one of my muffled screams.
I’m shoved against something solid. I reach out, arms flailing, but there’s no one beside me. Ava.

I feel the chopper lift into the sky. Two spinning blades taking me higher and higher away from Common ground.


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Hailing from the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders are award-winning filmmakers and twin sisters who honed their love of storytelling at The University of Texas at Austin. While researching The Rule of One, they fell in love with America’s national parks, traveling the path of Ava and Mira. The sisters can currently be found with their Boston terriers in sunny Los Angeles, exploring hiking trails and drinking entirely too much yerba mate.





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