Hunting Hidden Shadows by Elizabeth Huerta

It is a pleasure to be taking part in the tour for Hunting Hidden Shadows by Elizabeth Huerta and run by Love Books Group. You can follow the tour here.

The Blurb

I have one job, make sure order exists between the races. As long as there are no unnecessary killings then I do not have to come in an exterminate them. For the most part the races understand these rules, only a few trouble making vampires and the rogue daemon or two try to disobey. But when mutilated women corpses turn up with the taint of dark magic on them, I have to find the culprit, nothing can distract me, not even the painfully attractive daemon who is trying to kill me.

The Excerpt

The tall trees and high rocks provide perfect cover for the night. Up in the trees I cannot be sensed, and it gives me an advantage for the hunt. The soft sound of hooves and wheels hitting the ground below alerted me of strangers passing. A wagon was being pulled by a horse, about three humans are huddled inside bracing the cold. The current prey is not entertaining enough, humans are weak, and do not offer any challenge.

The one I was looking for hid himself well. I could sense him nearby, but he did not make a sound despite his large size. His footsteps were nimble. The wagon disappeared up ahead as the darkness thickened. I turned around and looked in all directions, as I hunted him, he also hunted me in this endless cycle of hunter and prey.

Sudden heat hit me from behind, I was just able to dodge the spell the daemon threw at me. Damianos was a powerful daemon, killing him would send a warning to all the others, it would tell them that even though I am smaller, I was not weaker. I had never lost a fight against the other daemons. I had been hunted since I was little. I was seen as inferior because my shape was similar to a human. I was not big like the other daemons, or as large, but my strength was equal to theirs, and my speed went beyond.

My magic was powerful, I made sure to practice every day so that there would be no one to match it. Being hunted, being the prey for so many years made me strong, it made me adapt to my surroundings, it made me learn to survive, it made me unstoppable.

The Author

Elisabeth Huerta lives in Long Beach, California with her husband, her dog, and two cats. Her love is for fantasy and romance. She loves to write about women who enjoy several dirty jokes. When not writing she is reading, preferably at ungodly hours when she should be sleeping.

Messandrierre by Angela Wren

Sometimes it is not a good idea to read books by people you know and like, because it can result in disappointment. It was for this reason that I had not picked up any novels by Angela Wren previously. Mistake – big mistake!

The Blurb

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre. 

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.

Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

The Review

Set in France, Messandrierre is the first in the Jaques Foret mysteries written by Angela Wren. (Good! More stories to catch up on!) I really enjoyed the way the author effortlessly transported me to the French village where the story unfolds. Jaques is an engaging hero with an enduring mixture of strength, gentleness and intelligence and just a little bit of pride thrown into the mix. He also has a hilarious fan, little five year old Junior Gendarme Mancelle with whom he has delightful interactions.

The plot is woven around a series of missing persons that Jacques has to investigate while he considers his future in the police force, and his feelings for Beth, whom he adores but who he is in danger of losing.
This is a captivating crime story with a strong romantic element that make this book such a great read. I certainly look forward to more novels by Angela Wren and highly recommend Messandrierre.

The Author

I’m an actor and director at a small theatre a few miles from where I live in the county of Yorkshire in the UK. I did work as a project and business change manager – very pressured and very demanding – but I managed to escape and now I write books.

I’ve always loved stories and story telling so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing and I started with short stories. My first published story was included an anthology, which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ in 2011.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.

My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year. Currently, I’m working on the follow-up stories in my Jacques Forêt series of novels and I continue to write my blog every week where you can find lots of info about France, books, book reviews and author interviews.

Val Penny

Katherina: Deliverance by Margaret Skea

It is a privilege to be involved in the tour for Katharina: Deliverance (Book 1 Katharina series) by Margaret Skea @margaretskea1 run by @lovebooksgroup. You can read an extract below and can follow the tour.

The Blurb

At five Katharina is placed in a convent.
At twenty-three she escapes.
At twenty-five she marries the most controversial man in Europe.

This is her story – of courage, resilience in the face of adversity and a determination to choose her own life.

If you like your historical fiction to be absorbing, authentic, beautifully written and full of warmth and heart, this portrayal of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married Martin Luther, is for you.

The Extract

Torgau: September, 1552

It seems that I am dry, underneath me something soft. I search for the word to describe it, dredging it from the recesses of my brain: sheepskin. I am lying on sheepskin. I want to stretch, but my right leg refuses to move, and when I try to move onto my side, there is a sharp pain in my hip, as if someone is trying to thrust a sharp poker through me. I raise my arm; it at least works, as do my fingers when I wiggle them. But even that effort seems too much, and I let my hand drop onto the coverlet, my eyelids flickering.

When I next wake, it is to the half light that creeps around the edge of ill-fitting shutters, augmented by a stump of candle flickering on the window ledge. Beside it, slumped in a roughly fashioned chair, a woman sleeps and momentarily I feel pity for her, for the sound of laboured breathing fills the room and I think she must be unwell.

She stirs, approaches my bed. ‘Frau Luther?’

The Author

Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’, but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders.

You can find more details, including why chocolate is vital to her creative process, on her website

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

I was given The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley as a birthday gift. I was pleased to receive it because I had heard lots of good things about it. I had not read anything by this author before, so I was intrigued.

The Blurb

n a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

The Review

The story in The Hunting Party is about a group of friends who travel from London to the highlands of Scotland to spend the New Year Holiday in a remote hunting lodge. The only other guests at the resort are a man and a woman from Iceland. The story is told from the point of view of the two members of staff at the lodge and the female friends in the group.

The narrative jumps over the period from New Year’s Eve until January second. I usually try to avoid books where the passage of time jumps forward and back as the story does in The Hunting Party but in this novel, the passage of time is so short and the chapters so well identified that it didn’t matter very much. Certainly not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.

However, there are some short comings in the story-telling: the reader does no get told enough about the Icelandic couple to give them clues as to their importance. Neither is enough light shone on the victim or the perpetrator of the crime. As a result of this, there is a lengthy information dump at the end of the novel. This was disappointing because there was so much jumping backwards and forwards in time, reminiscing about the thoughts and experiences of the friendship group, the information dump could have been avoided.

Having said that, until that end point, the novel is gripping and beautifully paced. I enjoyed The Hunting Party. It would be a good book group read and I would recommend it to those who enjoy a good mystery.

The Author

Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Val Penny

Killing Tracey Titmass by Estelle Maher

It is a delight to be part of the tour for the humorous fiction novel Killing Tracey Titmass by Estelle Maher  @EstelleMaher @LornaMcCannPR run by @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours. You can follow the tour  this week.

The Blurb

Killing Tracey Titmass by Estelle Maher

Jo Kearns has breast cancer.

While juggling her job, her boyfriend and the cancer, she discovers that her home has been invaded by Tracey, her tumour in insidious human form.

Jo’s diary tells the story of her battle to evict the malignant Tracey from her house and the disease from her body.

Based on Estelle Maher’s own cancer journey, this book is at times hilarious, at times poignant, but always unflinchingly honest and inspiring.

The Extract

Thursday, 3rd January 2019

Being in work today was a drag. There was hardly anyone in, and I wondered if it was worth it. We don’t print a newspaper for two weeks over the Christmas period. No one wants to work, no one wants to advertise, and no one wants to deliver the things. Any other time of year, we have a list of kids who are eager to take on the job of delivering the free weekly newspaper. But that list is quickly devoured when they realise what the sheer weight of a hundred papers is and that not every Wednesday—delivery day—is dry and sunny. By December, the list is exhausted, and we are relying on retired members of the community or children from strict parents, and the last time I saw one of those kids they were riding a BMX bike with their mullet blowing in the wind.

Most of the chat today was about Mia’s wedding. Some were a little put out that they didn’t get an invite. Apparently, working with someone for over five years qualifies you for an invitation, even though they never interact outside of the office, take lunch together or know where each other even live. You don’t have to know my life story to be my friend, but some of the basics you should know are as follows:

1. The area I live in. You don’t have to know my address—a point in the general direction is enough for me.

2. My attitude to marriage and children. That’s a no to both.

3. My propensity for a drink. I like to drink. I make no apologies for my consumption.

4. My attitude towards salad. It’s not a meal.

5. My attitude to Frankie Boyle. He’s not funny.

6. My attitude towards hot tubs. It’s simply having a bath with your mates. People think the fact that you have a bottle of fizz and do it in the hotel car park makes it acceptable. It’s not.

If you know most of the above about me, then you’re likely to be my mate, and if I ever get married, then you’re in with a high chance of a wedding invitation.

The Author

Estelle Maher was born in the heart of Liverpool, England. After spending her teens in rural Dorset, she returned to the North of England and now resides in Wirral with her husband, 2 children and 3 dogs.

Her career has been varied. But in her spare time, she’s quite at home with a paintbrush upcycling furniture. She also writes a blog in her spare time, The Secret Diary of a Middle-Aged Woman, a humorous snapshot of random thoughts.

Estelle has been writing on and off for a number of years and writing the blog was her first step in writing for an audience that was wider than her and her husband.

Her debut novel, Grace & The Ghost, won a Best Spiritual Fiction Award 2018 and her spin-off Angel’s Rebellion also became an Amazon bestseller.  Her third novel, The Killing of Tracey Titmass, is based on her own cancer journey. Told in diary form, it offers an alternative way of accepting cancer.

Estelle is now in recovery and still smiles every day.

Buy Link

The Fire Children by Abigail van Kraay

Welcome to the tour for the fabulous children’s novel, The Fire Children by Abigail van Kraay @abi_van_kraay published by @Mdpublishing and run by @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours.

The Blurb

The thought of living in a black-and-white world forever, made Benji Brook and Flo Knightly feel as hollow as the trunk of their favourite tree. It seemed to them, that since the colour had gone, the joy had left the people of Kingswick.But like Grandpa Jo had always said, ‘There’s more to life than what meets the eye.’With their so-called arch enemy, Ozzy Stone, they are thrust into a world between worlds, as they go on the wildest of adventures and come face to face with the shadow beasts of Battlelands. Could it be that this unlikely trio could not only save the stolen children, but restore colour to their black and white world?

The Excerpt


Something very unusual had happened in the town of Kingswick. All the colour had gone. It had been fading slowly over days and days. It wasn’t noticeable at first, but one morning, around Christmastime, young Benji Brook looked out of his bedroom window and smiled to see a robin perched on an evergreen and snow-laden tree. As he leaned closer to the window, his heart grew heavy when he realized that the robin had no red breast. The little bird, dainty and delightful as it was, looked sad as it nipped a dull berry from a leaf whose deep green was disappearing fast. When the colour had been drained from the foliage, the robin with the ashen chest flew away.

It turned out that it wasn’t just Kingswick that had lost its colour.

Benji learned that the same thing was happening across the entire world. He heard rumours that certain shades remained in remote parts of the Amazon rainforest, but not many people believed it.

Colours were becoming just a memory. Benji couldn’t even look at a photograph to remind himself; all the pictures had turned black and white too.

The Author

Abigail van Kraay is an author, full-time mum and former high school teacher of English with a Masters in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University. Abigail is a storyteller, poet, blogger and she loves a good movie. Her passion is to write and be inspired by her travels around the world and exploring the great outdoors with her children. Abigail lives in Wesham, England with her husband Theo and her two sons Noah and Joseph.

Buy Link 



The Dark Chorus by Ashley Meggitt

Horror novels are not my natural ‘go to’ genre – but I do like a well written book. I had heard so many good things about The Dark Chorus by Ashley Meggitt that curiosity got the better of me and I decided to read it, to form my own opinion. I was not disappointed.

The Blurb

Oblivio salvationem Angelis opperitur

Oblivion awaits the Angel’s salvation

The Boy can see lost souls. 

He has never questioned the fact that he can see them. He thinks of them as the Dark Chorus. When he sets out to restore the soul of his dead mother it becomes clear that his ability comes from within him. It is a force that he cannot ignore – the last shard of the shattered soul of an angel. 

To be restored to the kingdom of light, the shard must be cleansed of the evil that infects it – but this requires the corrupt souls of the living! 

With the help from Makka, a psychotically violent young man full of hate, and Vee, an abused young woman full of pain, the Boy begins to kill. 

Psychiatrist Dr Eve Rhodes is seconded to assist the police investigation into the Boy’s apparently random ritualistic killings. As the investigation gathers pace, a pattern emerges. When Eve pulls at the thread from an article in an old psychology journal, what might otherwise have seemed to her a terrible psychotic delusion now feels all too real…

Will the Boy succeed in restoring the angel’s soul to the light? Can Eve stop him, or will she be lost to realm of the Dark Chorus?

The Review

The style and sophistication of Meggitt’s style of writing is a delight. The story is original and gripping. I am so glad I read this book.

The Dark Chorus tells of a boy, able to release trapped souls and the author, through his depiction of the boy in first person, managed an incredible achievement. The boy is innocent and experienced, curious and centred.

The story tells of his misery that he could not let his dying mother ‘go’. He blames himself for the fact that her soul did not become free upon her death, but joined the ranks of the dark chorus which is made up of other rapped souls. He can hear their chaotic calls and they haunt him. As a result of this, the boy collects them and works towards setting them free. The premise of the story is complicated because dark souls must be collected to cleanse the shards of the soul of a fallen angel therefore the more corrupt the soul, the better. The author requires his readers to concentrate from the very beginning, and it is worth doing so. As soon as I discovered what the Dark Chorus was, I was hooked. The writing is glorious: the story fascinating: the characters beautifully drawn. Also, this author is clever, for example he teases his readers by contrasting dark descriptions of action in the novel with the boy’s love of tea and fruit.

It is the strength of the boy and his determination that drives the plot by introducing other themes. These include paedophilia, domestic violence, inequality and old age. This is a dark tale (as reflected by the title) that is not for the faint hearted, but it is also a moving book that left me with a feeling unresolved melancholy. This is because of the boy’s yearning for the mother he lost and his need to hold on to her.

I would be careful to whom I recommended this novel because it would not suit the faint of heart. Having said that, I have already recommended it to two friends, both of whom were gripped by it. I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Chorus by Ashley Meggitt and this is an easy 5* review.

The Author

Ashley Meggitt lives near Cambridge, UK, with his wife Jane. He left school to join a psychedelic rock band when he realised that sex, drugs, and rock and roll was a thing. Subsequently he went back to education and became head of IT for a Cambridge University College. In recent years Ashley has retrained in psychology and is now an associate lecturer in sports psychology. He is studying for his PhD. He also holds an MA in Creative Writing. The Dark Chorus is his debut novel. 

Val Penny

Evanthia’s Gift (The Gift Saga Book 1) by Effie Kammenou

It is a joy to be included in the tour for Evanthia’s Gift (The Gift Saga Book 1) by Effie Kammenou @EffieKammenou. This is the first book in a trilogy and the author has generously shared an exclusive extract with me. The tour is run by the amazing team at @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours and you can follow it this week.

The Blurb

Sophia Giannakos will settle for nothing less than the rare love her parents share. At a tender and impressionable age, she has found her soul mate in Dean, the boy she has known her whole life — until secrets and deceptions pull them apart. No stranger to heartache, Anastacia, Sophia’s mother, attempts to comfort her, without revealing ugly family truths that could haunt her daughter’s future.

In the year 1956, Anastacia, a former NYU student, finds herself in the challenging role of a single parent. Left with emotional wounds from a bad marriage, she is reluctant to trust and resists her growing feelings for Alexandros, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets — ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.

The story continues in the 1970s, as their daughter attempts to negotiate between two cultures. Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, have shared a special connection since childhood. Although their desire for one another is undeniable, Dean resists her, rebelling against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage. When he can no longer fight his feelings, Dean asks Sophia to conceal their love. She hesitantly complies, until it becomes too much for her. Like her mother, Sophia loves with every fibre of her soul, leaving her shattered when Dean pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, leaving her no choice but to find a life different than the one she’d hoped for.

Evanthia’s Gift is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and across two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.

The Extract

My three-book series, The Gift Saga, showcases many locales throughout the story. Evanthia’s Gift: Book One, is the most personal of the three books. It begins with Anastacia, an Athenian young woman, attending NYU in the 1950s.

By no coincidence, my own mother left Athens to attend the very same university. She spoke nostalgically of her days at the school, meeting new people and walking through the streets of New York City during what she expressed as a magical period in her life. It was after she passed away that I created Anastacia in order to honor her beautiful spirit and her graceful manner.

The story later moves to a town on Long Island, the very same one where I grew up. When the story changes its focus from Anastacia to her daughter, Sophia, many areas on Long Island are described during the 1970s through the 1990s.

But it’s the locations in Greece that capture the attention most of all. From the major cities of Athens and Thessaloniki to the enchanting islands of Chios, Santorini, Aegina and Kefalonia, each setting becomes a character in of itself. The reader will get a glimpse of the past in War torn Thessaloniki during the German Occupation and Kefalonia in the 1920s, as well as present day Greece.

Aegina is a short ferry ride away from Athens. There are many natives that commute daily to the mainland. It’s that close. It was for that reason I chose this beautiful and historical island for the family to own a vacation home.

In Chasing Petalouthes, I explore two new locations for this series, Kefalonia and the Champagne region of France. Kefalonia is the birthplace of my grandfather. He left as a young man to pursue a life in Athens where he met my grandmother. It’s a beautiful island, in many ways different from the others, and I describe it in detail.

It had always been my dream to visit Paris and other locations in France. When the character of Evvie found herself in Paris, she wanted to explore the Champagne region. Evvie is a winemaker with a desire to make a sparkling wine as close to an authentic champagne as possible. I had done an extensive amount of research on the champagne making process and that region in France. However, I felt I would be doing a great disservice by not experiencing the land, people and the energy of Épernay for myself.

When I approached my husband, and told him we ‘need’ to go to France for ‘research,’ he thought I was joking, mainly because I only gave him two months notice. It turned out to be exactly what I needed and a trip my husband hasn’t stopped talking about. I was able to tour a small, family owned champagne house, just like the one I wrote in the storyline. It validated all my research and enhanced my ability to describe the vineyards and the region in greater detail.

All in all, the locations in the story are places I’m familiar with, many of which hold a piece of my heart for one reason or another.

The Author

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog,, you can find her cooking for her family and friends. Her debut novel, EVANTHIA’S GIFT, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her recent interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine. As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the book. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University. For updates on the release of Book Two of The Gift Saga follow twitter @EffieKammenou, and



Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi

My daughter gave me Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters as part of my Christmas present and I am delighted to have read it. Nancy Pelosi is one of the most powerful women in the world and to hear her story is inspirational.

The Blurb

“Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and our granddaughters today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters now the sky is the limit.” –Nancy Pelosi, after being sworn in as Speaker of the House

When Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker of the House, she made history. Now she continues to inspire women everywhere in this thought-provoking collection of wise words-her own and those of the important people who played pivotal roles in her journey. In this compelling book, she encourages mothers and grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters to never lose faith, to speak out and make their voices heard, to focus on what matters most and to follow their dreams wherever they may lead.

The Review

Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters was written in 2008 and a lot has happened since then, so the book is somewhat dated in its emphasis and interest. Also , some of the names of those mentioned in the book, while no doubt important in their time to the democratic party, hold little interest to those reading the book today. I could not help but feel some of the names had been included as a thank you for past services rendered. I also felt that I did not need to know as much as I was told about her own family and children, although some of that detail was necessary to understand the author and her drive to serve the her community and the nation.

Despite the fact Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters is dated and not terribly well written, it is an important book as it encourages females to consider a career in politics at any level, explains to them that they can do it as well as having a family life. It is also an important book because it empathises to women that they should not accept artificial limits to their ambition.

I was very excited to receive this book and really looked forward to reading it. While I am glad that I have read Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi, I was disappointed by how poorly written it was and by how dated it is. A new edition including all that has happened in the last twelve years would be welcome and because of those limitations, I would be very careful if and to whom I recommended this book. I enjoyed it far less than I thought I would and that was disappointing.

The Author

Nancy Patricia Pelosi is an American politician serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives since 2019, and previously from 2007 to 2011. She was the first female Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Pelosi has also served as a U.S. representative from California since 1987.

Val Penny

The Mirror Souls by Julia Scott

I am thrilled to be involved in the book tour for The Mirror Souls by Julia Scott run by Love Book Tours. It is a fast-paced young adult novel that blends sci-fi (without being too heavy), near future dystopia (without being too stark and depressing) and soulmate romance. Catch up with the tour now.

The Blurb

The truth doesn’t always set you free…

Like the rest of the Gaian race, Alana’s life is ruled by the Avalon, the superior race who once created Earth and returned to reclaim it after humanity brought it to the brink of destruction. Because of the Avalon, every Gaian faces the risk of being moved from Region to Region, over and over, with no warning. Alana has no place to call home.

Fearing that she may be resigned to this life of control forever, the opportunity to explore the world outside of her Region is literally dropped into Alana’s pocket in the form of a small silver device.

Taking a leap of faith and teleporting to the unknown, Alana must discover who is pulling the strings in her life and why. But in her quest for answers and freedom, she’s thrown headfirst into a hidden battle for humanity alongside a boy whose life was destined to be entwined with hers from the start.

With the secret of who she really is starting to unravel and abilities she didn’t know she had rising to the surface, she becomes a commodity to whatever faction can keep her in one place.

But others around her are carrying secrets, too, and Alana must decide who to trust before she can change the fate of all the races.

The Excerpt

My mind wandered from the movie playing on the classroom’s screen wall in front of me, and I stared out the round window at the sky. This was the twenty-seventh time I’d had to watch the ‘Avalon Reclaim’ movie in my seventeen Gaia-cycles. Twice a cycle since I turned four and started my education. Always on this day, the day before Shift Day, and it didn’t get any more thrilling than the previous twenty-six times I’d been forced to watch it.

“We are the Avalon, the custodians and creators of Gaia, the planet you once called ‘Earth.’ For millions of cycles, Gaians—humans—have been responsible for this planet, much to her detriment. In the Gaia-cycle 2084, your species pushed her to the brink and thus, the Cataclysm occurred, destroying billions of people, scarring the land, and disrupting the seas. Because of this, Gaia survived.”

I rolled my eyes as the movie’s narrator droned on. They’ve never even updated the damn thing. You’d think they would have since it had been well over a hundred cycles since our planet fell apart, and something like eighty cycles since they took it back. The Avalon wanted us to remember why they were here. We’d gotten the point by now; I doubted any of us could forget it. Mom called it ‘never-ending propaganda.’

I looked around the room at the twelve other students in the edu-dome. I wondered what the rest of them thought about the Reclaim. Did they have a thousand questions like I did? Questions that were never answered. Somehow, I doubted it. Most people didn’t dare to talk about it, especially if they were new to the Region. The others were sitting upright in their seats, attentive and keen, almost as though they wanted to be here. When I realized I was the only one slumped forward with my elbows on the desk and my head resting on my hands, I straightened myself up.

“War and famine raged, consuming the planet and destroying your cities. Twenty-one cycles later, the Council of the Seven Races, who oversee all, made the decision that the Avalon should step in and take back Gaia. It was our duty to restore her.

To let Gaia recover from the damage done to her, the remaining population has been adapted to be nomadic. The Avalon will be here to guide you…”

I rolled my eyes. Adapted wasn’t what I’d call forced relocation every Shift Day. The lucky few didn’t have to worry about Shift Day at all. The Avalon, most of the Midorians and a select few Gaians known as the ‘Originators’ got to stay in one place. They were often allowed to choose which Region to belong to. Most people seemed to be okay with potential relocation every half-cycle to one of the 750,000 Regions on Gaia. It wasn’t a problem for other people to never have a place to call home. But it was a problem for me. This was not my home. 

I glanced across the room at Genevieve. She sat as attentive as the rest, but she questioned the Reclaim just as much as I did. We’d spent so many hours talking about it. She was just lucky that she got to leave here sooner than I did, or at least she got the choice to leave. Things were different for Gen since she was half Avalon.

At least neither of us had to be students much longer. As soon as we both turned eighteen, our Professions would be assigned, and we would take them with us wherever we ended up. She would turn eighteen a few months before I did, so they’d assign hers before mine. I still didn’t know if she planned to stay or leave, and a familiar wave of envy washed over me.

There was a lot to envy about Gen. She didn’t have to worry about days like today, days when the rest of us found out if our family had been chosen to leave this Region and be transported to a new one. Gen had the opportunity to decide when and where she went.

I shoved the bitterness down. She’d been my longest friend, which wasn’t difficult considering you couldn’t make a friend around here without the Avalon moving them or you somewhere else in a short time. Being jealous of her wouldn’t change anything.

I’d been staring at my hands for too long, not listening to what Ms. Haims had been saying. I looked up. Most of the other students had left the dome and were heading down the hill outside. Ms. Haims gave me a familiar disapproving glare, and I followed the rest of the students outside. 

Gen often waited for me on the stone steps outside the dome where we would walk down the hill together and go our separate ways at the bottom. Today, I had to look for her among the people leaving the edu-dome. She was easy to spot, being so much taller than most people and with her long blonde hair flowing in the breeze like a Greek goddess. She was already halfway down the hill, and I ran to catch up to her.

“Hey!” As I called out, she stopped and looked back at me in surprise as though I’d broken her out of a trance. 

“Oh, sorry. I’d gone off into my own little world.” She flashed me a half-hearted smile and carried on walking. I had to jog to keep up with her.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just today, well… tomorrow.” She shrugged. “You know?” 

I knew. Everyone knew. It certainly wasn’t fun waiting to see if you’d have to move on Shift Day. Except Gen was guaranteed that it wouldn’t be her, so she had nothing to worry about except losing some friends.

“Meet me at my place tonight?” she asked. “I’ve got something I need to talk to you about.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I said, and her next smile was a genuine one.

As we reached the bottom of the hill, she turned east to cross the river towards the Village, and I went north towards the Hub.

“Alana!” I turned as she shouted. “Don’t get caught this time!”

As I slowly trudged home, I tried my best to stay positive. Rowhill was a nice enough place, probably the nicest Region we’d been in so far. We’d lived in Region 82-1056, the official Avalon name for Rowhill, for three and a half cycles, a record for this Region. I guess since Dad died, they had given us a free pass. I’d even put pictures up on my bedroom walls, as though it were ‘home.’ Our home to keep. But we all knew it wasn’t. Gen and I had been friends since just before I turned fourteen. We had talked about how my time might be up and that we might have to say goodbye. I tensed at the thought. When you were chosen to leave, you pretty much left straight away, with little time for goodbyes. If it was my family’s time to go, there weren’t many people I needed to say goodbye to. But Gen had lived here as long as I had, longer in fact. Maybe she’d be able to find a way to see me before I left.

My stomach turned as I wondered if ‘goodbye’ was what she wanted to talk about tonight.

The Author

I think the idea of soulmates is one that many of us romantic types are drawn to. Because why not? It’s a beautiful idea to think that there’s one person out there who you are destined to be with. However, I also think it can be a negative concept when it is something you strongly believe but when you feel like you may never find that person. Or even when you *think* you’ve found that person but for whatever reason, it cannot come to anything.

My personal beliefs lean towards soul families rather than soulmates. I think there are souls who we are drawn to because they are part of our spiritual family, and we are put with them time and time again through different lives, in order to learn lessons from each other. This can be a romantic relationship, but also comes across in family relationships and friendships. And of course they’re not always positive experiences! But many of them are beautiful, and you should hold on tightly to the love that you find in this world.