Monday, December 14, 2015

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Title: The Slow Regard of Silent Things
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: Fantasy, Short Story
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5

Hardcover, 159 pages
Publication: October 28, 2015 by DAW Books

Source: received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 

Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.

Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries

First and foremost, I should let you all know I haven’t read this series yet. And now you’re wondering why would I read this short story, if I haven’t right? Well, I’ve heard a great deal about the Kingkiller Chronicles for awhile now and that there’s a show in development…and I thought this short story would be a great introduction to the world and Rothfuss’s writing. This book was different. I mean the author even warns new and old readers in the forward that they may or may not want to read or buy this book. So, I can’t say that I wasn’t fully informed. 

The Slow Regards of Silent Things is an atypical book. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this…a full novel or short story. The book is focused on Auri, which I presumed is a well-known and liked character. Readers are treated to a day-in-the-life of Auri over the course of a week. While I am unfamiliar with her character…I do appreciate character centered/driven novels. Auri lives a very isolated life, and while that might seem depressing…she finds pleasure, adventure, and happiness in the simplest of things …a stroll through the underthings, little trinkets she finds, her homemade soap and her blue vaporous friend Foxen (yes, I’m a bit lost on what it is lol). The books is full of lyrical prose and Rothfuss meticulously describes the smallest of details so readers can see what Auri sees and feel what she feels. And another plus was the beautiful illustrations scattered throughout the book…it definitely added to the story.

Overall, The Slow Regards of Silent Things is a solid story. I think I was expecting more of a plot novel, not a character profile novel but I enjoyed it for what it was. After reading Auri’s short story, I will be checking out Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles…and hopefully learn more about the world, Auri and the mysterious visitor she was waiting for all week!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray

Title: Ten Thousand Skies Above You
Author: Claudia Gray
Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy/New-Adult
Series: Firebird #2

Hardcover, 432 pages
Publication: November 3, 2015 by HarperTeen

Source: I received a review copy courtesy of HarperTeen/Kaye Publicity in exchange for a honest review.


Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents' invention, to cross into alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurting the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked and his consciousness scattered across multiple dimensions.

Marguerite has no choice but to search for each splinter of Paul’s soul. The hunt sends her racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each world brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with each trial she faces, she begins to question the destiny she thought they shared. 

A Thousand Pieces of You was one of my top 10 favorite reads of 2014, so I had extremely high expectations for the sequel. Gray not only met all my expectations but she knocked it out of the park with Ten Thousand Skies Above You, the second book in the Firebird trilogy. In the first book, Gray introduced readers to the Firebird project from where it was just a conceptual idea to the final implementation of the Firebird, which is a small device (necklace) that facilitates the wearer to jump to multiple parallel world/dimensions. In Ten Thousand Skies Above you, readers delve further into the multiple dimensions as we explored three new universes and the characters of Marguerite, Paul and Theo.

What I loved about this series is the incredible world building and the love story. I think authors have a tough time creating one believable world as it is, but Gray tackles not one, not two but three new world/dimensions this time around; from war-ridden San Francisco, Futuristic Money-centric San Francisco to Mobster New York. I thought each world was well thought out and fully developed and had a unique vibe to it to make it distinguishable among the other dimensions we've already visited. I also loved seeing all the different side-personalities of the characters, and while the main essence of a character stayed true, in each dimensions things are slightly tweaked enough to be similar and yet different all at the same time.

 As for the romance part, I gotta say, Marguerite and Paul’s love story is the best I’ve ever read…I mean it’s literally transcendent and infinite as they find each other over and over across worlds…it’s pretty darn romantic. I’m not really the romantic, lovey-dovey type but reading about Paul and Marguerite had me melting into a puddle of goo. Swoon. It was clear right from the beginning that the two were destined, but my only complaint is that I didn’t understand why the author still made it feel like a love-triangle with Theo. I know it never happened, but still in book two, there was a small potential for it. Marguerite even entertained the idea briefly when she had doubts about Paul. I didn’t think it was necessary and it didn’t add anything to the story. All I wanted was more Paul/Marguerite page time and thankfully we got to see more of them, even if it was alternative versions of their selves.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ten Thousand Skies Above You and can’t wait to read the third and final book in the trilogy! I must say the masterminds behind splintering Paul and poisoning Theo with Nightshade was quite a shocker…definitely the last people I’ve ever imagined to be part of triad. Then there the crazy cliffhanger! Ten Thousand Skies Above you is a must read for all sci-fi fantasy fans. If you haven’t started this series yet, you’re totally missing out on some amazing world building/characters…and one of the most enthralling love story ever told. I highly recommend this series!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gratitude Giveaway Hop [International]

Welcome to my stop on the hop! I would like to thank the lovely hostesses, I am a Reader, Not a Writer & BookHounds for putting this hop together. 

The Gratitude Giveaway hop runs from November 15 - 30

Boy, does time flies. It's been an amazing 4 years since I started this blog. I am most thankful for the wonderful bloggers, readers, authors, and publishers that I've met over the years. This blog would be nothing without you guys, so, THANK YOU!
I am grateful for each and every one of you! 

One (1) winner
Choice of $20 (USD) Amazon GC or $20 (USD) worth of books from the Book Depository.

To enter, follow the blog your way (by either Facebook, Twitter, or BlogLovin', links can be found to the right)! Please leave a comment with how you're following and an email to contact if you win! 

INTERNATIONAL, open to anywhere The Book Depository ships.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Title: Menagerie
Author: Rachel Vincent
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Menagerie #1

Hardcover, 432 pages
Publication: September 29, 2015 by Mira

Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger's Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she's forced to "perform" in town after town.

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other "attractions"—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she'll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed. 

I’ve been a long time fan of Vincent ever since I read her Shifter and Soul Screamer series. So, when I heard that she was starting up a new series, I was beyond thrilled! More so, when I read the synopsis for Menagerie that promised a dark, macabre tale wrapped in the exquisite setting of a carnival full of beasties and mythology…you definitely can’t go wrong with any of that. I kind of had an idea of what the book was going to be about, with reading the summary and early reviews from fellow readers and bloggers; but somehow I was still shocked at how very dark, brutal and bleak the world building was and how much suffering and harsh conditions the characters had to endured.

Vincent’s Menagerie series is categorized as Urban Fantasy but there was a very subtle Dystopian undertone which is represented through the quotes scattered between chapters that emphasized life before cryptids were discovered or ousted and the rules and regulations enforced thereafter. While the book is mainly about Delilah Marlow, the chapters are narrated by multiple characters in third person (Delilah’s chapters are written in first person) which gave readers different point-of-views of the same situation which I thought was interesting. I’m sure those following my blog know that I’m not a fan of multiple POVs but Vincent made it work and besides Delilah I found myself particularly fond of Gallagher and Eryx’s chapters. As I mentioned before, I’m quite familiar with Vincent’s work but Menagerie was wholly different from the style of her other series but in a good way. For authors, who ventured out and did something unlike what they’ve done before is usually a hit or miss. However, I’m happy to report that Vincent hit a home run with this first in a brand new series! I’ve always thought she was a talented writer but with Menagerie I can tell she has grown leaps and bounds in the world building/characterization department. Within the first page I was captivated by Charity, and as I got further along into the story, I found myself wrapped up into the plot and each and every single one of the characters lives’, from captive cryptids to the humans working in Metzger's Menagerie (the good ones at least).

Speaking of characters, Vincent did a wonderful job at creating such a strong, strong heroine. I loved Delilah from the moment she stepped into Metzger’s. All Urban Fantasies has a kick-ass heroine…she either has powers, knows how to fight or a combination of the two…and while Delilah is a cryptid, she never really relied on her powers (for the first half of the book she didn’t even know what she was). What made Delilah such a strong and admirable heroine is her attitude and headstrongness. The Menagerie employees tried to break her, humiliate her, taunt her, starve her, manhandled her, threaten her and never once did Delilah waiver. Delilah is probably the strongest heroine I’ve ever read in fiction, she never gave an inch and always stuck to her ground even when her fellow captives saw no signs of hope and urged Delilah to submit to their authority. On top of such an amazing female lead, are a strong male lead and an eclectic memorable cast of secondary characters. There were many familiar mythical creatures featured that we’ve all heard about such as a werewolf, shifter, oracle, mermaid, minotaur, centaur, siren…you think of it and it’s probably in here somwhere. But the thing is, Vincent put her own spin on them all…so it’s like I was reading about them for the first time! Everything just felt so new, fresh and unique! This is a hard thing to do in itself on top of writing a novel. In this day and age, where everyone is writing similar things, it’s hard to accomplish those three things and standout. But again, Vincent doesn’t have this problem and instead she excels at it.

Many reviewers made some reservations when recommending Menagerie. Yes, it’s dark. Yes, most of the book was hard to stomach. Any bad thing, you think you can inflict or happen to/on a person is probably in this book somewhere. That all might not sound so endorsing but this is a book that everyone needs to read. It’s very thought-provoking, which is rare for me in UF/Paranormal novels (since I don’t recall any past books that made me sit back and really think). Regardless at how rough the book was in the beginning there was a happy ending in there, it was a bittersweet one but there nonetheless. I highly recommend this book; and I can easily say Menagerie is in my top 5 for favorite reads of the year. Menagerie exceeded all my expectations and I am already dying to read the sequel! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

Title: Legacy of Kings
Author: Eleanor Herman
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Blood of Gods and Royals #1

Hardcover, 384 pages
Publication: August 18, 2015 by Harlequin Teen

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 


Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to a newcomer…

Katerina, must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But she doesn’t account for her first love…

Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win Katerina, even if it means having to compete for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince.

And far across the sea,Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet betrothed, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Legacy of Kings was probably one of the most anticipated novels of 2015; I couldn’t stop hearing about it in the book blogosphere. After hearing about the wonderful buzz surrounding Legacy of Kings and reading the synopsis I knew I had to read it! I mean come on; it’s about Alexander the great, the most famous military genius of all time…who wouldn’t be intrigued? And lucky me, the lovely people at Harlequin Teen sent me a finished copy for review! Yes, the cover is as beautiful in person as it is shown online and the inside cover is purple as well!

I’m a sucker for historical fantasy, but it’s usually either a hit or miss. But in Herman’s case, it was definitely the former. I’m going to be honest, I only know the bare minimum when it comes to Alexander the Great and his time, but while reading Legacy of Kings it was plain to see how much time and research went into the world building and characterization. Herman did an incredible job accurately depicting the people, the attire, scenery and mannerism of 350 BC. In addition to being well researched and written, Herman also incorporated Greek mythology and magical elements to the story which rounded out the book nicely. The magical elements were very minimal. For example two of our main characters have an affinity with animals and the other, intuition. It was the right amount to this multifaceted world and didn’t take away from the main plots of the story.

Legacy of Kings has five main POVs that the readers’ follow; Prince Alexander, Alexander’s best friend Hephaestion, mysterious newcomer Katerina, Kat’s best friend Jacob and Persian Princess Zofia. There were also some POVs of Alexander’s mother and step-sister but very few compared to the aforementioned characters. Going into this book, I didn’t recall it having multiple POVs. I don’t normally do multiple POVs or third person narrations but again, Herman made everything work perfectly. It did take a bit of getting used to, but after the first 2-3 chapters, I was breezing through the book without a problem. I ended up really liking the multiple POVs. All of the characters and their personalities are so diverse; I appreciated being able to see inside their head on what they were thinking. Also another big plus, Legacy of Kings is the second book I’ve read where all the female characters were strong, intelligent and kick-butt. In my opinion, that’s a pretty rare thing in the YA genre. I love that the female characters rivaled the male characters, from handmaidens, princesses to an Evil Queen everyone was a headstrong fighter.

All in all, Legacy of Kings was an excellent start to the Blood of Gods and Royals series. I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series, and am desperately on pins and needles to see what will happen to the gang. Legacy of Kings is harmonious blend of history and fantasy, and I highly recommend it to all readers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Girl at the Center of the World by Austin Aslan

Title: The Girl at the Center of the World
Author: Austin Aslan
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian 
Series: Islands at the End of the World #2

Hardcover, 352 pages
Publication: August 4, 2015 by Wendy Lamb Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 

As sixteen-year-old Leilani and her family learn to live without electronics, farming the land as her ancestors did, she finds strength in her relatives, her friendships, and her strange connection to the Emerald Orchid--the force whose presence caused global devastation--but suffers regret over what she must do to survive.

Aslan hits another home run with The Girl at the Center of the World, the final installment in his dystopian thriller of a sixteen-year-old Hawaiian girl trying to save her family and the entire world. The Girl at the Center of the World picks up approximately three months after the first book. Leilani and her family are trying their best to survive in this post-apocalyptic world without technology. Any semblance of their prior lives is long gone, as they have to learn to farm for most of their food, barter for other necessities, and just basically survive from day-to-day because there’s no more laws or order. Gangs/Tribes run rampant in the streets, controlling areas of Hawaii or people self electing themselves as judge, jury and executioner.

In the first book, readers got to glimpse life before and during the apocalypse but now we’re experiencing the aftermath and it’s just as terrifying as you’d think. Leilani and her father thought it would be safer in the rural area of Hilo, away from the big cities but it was far from it. Aslan painted a vivid image of despair and chaos with people being attacked, stores looted…just a grim idea of what the world would look like if technology was taken out of the equation. Society as a whole would start to crumble, with the police unable to protect the citizens and hospitals unable to heal. It’s scary how plausible it is, especially since societies nowadays are so dependent on technology for every single thing.

While the first book mainly focused on Leilani and her father Mike, which I didn’t mind at all. I was happy to see more characters entering the mix. Many of whom, made a brief appearance in the first book, like Lelani’s family and friends. Aslan sort of stepped away from the mysteries of the Emerald Orchid and spotlighted the relationships between Leilani, her family, and friends. I liked that even though the world is a terrible place, the characters had moments where they didn’t have to worry about saving the world or defending their turf…and just enjoyed each other company. For example when they celebrated Leilani’s birthday or when the girls wondered if the boy she liked, liked her back. It’s good to know they haven’t forgotten life’s simple pleasures. But that doesn’t mean everything was dandy. Leilani learned that she wasn’t just tied to the Emerald Orchid but had the ability to control some aspect of the living cloud. That knowledge was the key to helping mankind, and a knowledge that people would kill for to control.

If you enjoyed Island at the End of the World, you’re going to love the sequel. It had all the elements of the first book and so much more. There’s nonstop action, realistic character development and relationships, and Leilani is just as strong and kick-butt as ever. And if you haven’t read this series yet, you seriously need to get on it. This duology is one of the best young-adult dystopian series I’ve read in the long time!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan

Title: The Islands at the End of the World
Author: Austin Aslan
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian 
Series: Islands at the End of the World #1

Paperback, 384 pages
Publication: August 4, 2015 by Ember

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 


Right before my eyes, my beautiful islands are changing forever. And so am I ...

Sixteen-year-old Leilani loves surfing and her home in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. But she's an outsider - half white, half Hawaiian, and an epileptic. While Lei and her father are on a visit to Oahu, a global disaster strikes. Technology and power fail, Hawaii is cut off from the world, and the islands revert to traditional ways of survival. As Lei and her dad embark on a nightmarish journey across islands to reach home and family, she learns that her epilepsy and her deep connection to Hawaii could be keys to ending the crisis before it becomes worse than anyone can imagine.

A powerful story enriched by fascinating elements of Hawaiian ecology, culture, and warfare, this captivating and dramatic debut from Austin Aslan is the first of two novels. The author has a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Dystopian novels have become a dime a dozen. The field is so saturated that it’s difficult to discern what’s or isn’t worth reading. However, The Islands at the End of the World is without a doubt in the former category, a book worth reading! There are so many great things that make this novel stick out from the rest of books in the same market. Unlike most dystopians, where it’s post-apocalyptic, we actually get to see things before and experience it alongside the characters as the world as we know it ends/changes. Secondly, The Island at the End of the World takes place in Hawaii! I think this is the first time I read a book where the location is set in Hawaii and the Hawaiians are the main characters/subject. And thirdly, this novel is all about family and I am such a sucker for anything family related.

Aslan did an incredible job with the world building. I loved all the picturesque details of Hawaii and can see it clearly in my mind as if I were there. I appreciated how he incorporated the use of the native language-lingo, and giving an in-depth look at the background and history of the residents, whether they’re natives, transplants or tourists trapped on the island. I really liked learning about the people, and was surprised to know that hapas, half Caucasian-half Hawaiians get just as much discrimination as any other nationality. Aslan also seamlessly blended Hawaiian myths/lore into the story and the characters, as readers get brief snippets on the different gods and well-known poems/sayings through the book.

The Islands at the End of the World focuses mostly on Leilani and her father Mike as they try to find their way home to Hilo from the island of Oahu. Leilani is pretty much your typical 16-year-old who wants what every girl wants…a normal life, except she’s an epileptic. But never once does she let it get the best of her. Leilani is a strong, independent heroine and is incredibly brave. She’s definitely someone who is beyond her years and always looks for the brighter side of things; I occasionally forget I’m reading about a teenager. Many dystopians are narrated by kick-butt heroine who are constantly fighting and trying to prove that they can do anything a man/boy can do. But Leilani never once came across like she had to prove herself to others…not even to herself. And I love that about her, she’s down-to-earth, realistic and relatable.

All in all, The Island at the End of the World was an outstanding debut novel by Aslan. I’m totally kicking myself for not picking this book up sooner! That revelation at the end about the emerald orchid was a big shocker; I didn’t expect the book to go down that route! If you’re looking for a fresh and unique dystopian, give The Island at the End of the World a try, this is a series you don't want to miss!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Sleepwalker Tonic by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

Title: The Sleepwalker Tonic
Author: Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal
Series: Nightmares! #2

Hardcover, 368 pages
Publication: September 8, 2015 by Delacorte BFYR

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Charlie Laird has a dream life.

1) He has a weirdo stepmom who runs an herbarium.

2) He lives in a purple mansion with a portal to the Netherworld.

3) Since they escaped from the Netherworld, he and his best friends have been sleeping like babies.

But Charlie can’t shake the feeling that something strange is afoot. Charlotte’s herbarium used to be one of the busiest stores in Cypress Creek. Now her loyal following is heading to Orville Falls for their herbal potions.

Weirder, though, Orville Falls is suddenly filled with . . .zombies? At least, they sure look like the walking dead. Rumor has it that no one’s sleeping in Orville Falls. And Charlie knows what that means.

Things are getting freaky again.
Segel and Miller once again enchant young readers as they return to their wholly creative and entertaining world of Nightmares! in the latest sequel, The Sleepwalker Tonic. When we last left Charlie and the gang, we learned that nightmares exist in a place called the Netherworld and Charlie, his brother Jack and their stepmom Charlotte are the last guardians tasked with protecting the portal between the Netherworld and the Waking-World (our world). As we begin The Sleepwalker Tonic, the kids are out for summer vacation and everything seems to be going quite well. Everyone appears to be sleeping soundlessly; as there are no more terrifying nightmares plaguing the residents of Cypress Creek. Or so they thought. All the while in the nearby town of Orville Falls, the populace is all suffering from sleep deprivation due to nightmares. And just as the sleep deprivation worsen; a mysterious shop appears in Orville Falls promising a tonic to help them sleep peacefully…no more nightmares. The tonic not only takes away people’s nightmares but it also takes away their ability to dream. And without dreams, the people of Orville are turning into sleepwalking zombies! Once again, it’s up to Charlie and his friends to figure what’s going on…or there won’t be a Netherworld, Waking-World or Dream Realm.

In the first book, readers got an in-depth look of the Netherworld, and while we’ll explore more parts of the Netherworld, most of the action takes place in the Waking-World as Charlie and his friends tries to find a cure for the sleepwalkers. They’re chasing clues and mysterious shop keepers all over Cypress Creek and Orville Falls but not without a little extra help. The new President of Netherworld, Medusa, lends 3 of her scariest nightmares to cross over to help find a supposed 2nd portal.

The Sleepwalker Tonic is just as fun and engaging as the first book. Everything I loved about the Nightmares! was present plus more. I like how Segel and Miller incorporated nightmares in the plot this time around. I was wondering how the two would keep up with their nightmare theme with the second book…but who would have thought to use sleepwalking and zombies together? I found the concept amusing and fresh...I'm positive kids will get a kick out of it!

In my review for Nightmares! I was hoping that we’d get to see more of Jack and Charlotte, and I’m happy to say we do! We saw plenty of Jack since he basically stole the show for the entire book, playing a bigger role in The Sleepwalker Tonic than before. There’s also a new baddie in town, and boy, was I surprised at the end. I didn’t see it coming! While the main problem of the book was solved, there’s still a tiny plot thread left loose and the baddie(s) will be a bridge into the final book in the trilogy. I can’t wait to see what happens next when The Lost Lullaby releases next year! Overall, The Sleepwalker Tonic was an excellent sequel to Nightmares!. Fans new and old will no doubt be delighted. There's plenty of mayhem and hijinks abound, great characteers, and valuable lessons to be learned! Again, if you or your kids haven’t read this series yet, you need to A.S.A.P! You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Nightmares! by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

Title: Nightmares!
Author(s): Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller
Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal
Series: Nightmares! #1

Paperback, 400 pages
Publication: July 28, 2015 by Yearling

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 


Charlie Laird has several problems.

1. His dad married a woman he is sure moonlights as a witch.

2. He had to move into her purple mansion—the creepiest place in Cypress Creek.

3. He can’t remember the last time sleeping wasn’t a nightmarish prospect. Like even a nap.

What Charlie doesn’t know is that his problems are about to get a whole lot more real. Nightmares can ruin a good night’s sleep, but when they start slipping out of your dreams and into the waking world . . . well, that’s something only Charlie can face. And he’s going to need all the help he can get, or it might just be lights-out for Charlie Laird.

For good.

I remember hearing about Nightmares! when it first came out last fall...I mean, it was hard to ignore because it was being co-written by none other than Jason Segel! He’s a great, funny actor and I was definitely intrigued to hear that he was writing a paranormal children book. So when I was asked to review the Nightmares! series, I totally jumped at the chance. And I’m so glad I did! Segel is not only a talented actor/singer but he can also write! I’m sure having a seasoned author such as Miller; with many books under her belt helped. They made a great writing team; the proof is in the book itself. Segel and Miller penned a fun, hilarious and cute story with a surprisingly deep moral lesson, ‘face your fear and don’t let it consume your life...because there’s no obstacle you can’t overcome’.

I thought Nightmares! was really well written, the world building straightforward and very easy to understand. It wasn’t too simple or overly complex; I thought it was just the right amount of creativity. The whole concept of nightmares being real, in the netherworlds was something I’ve never seen done before. I loved it! And underneath all the vividly detailed descriptions, beautiful artwork and hilarious dialogue were great lessons for kids. As I mentioned before one of Nightmares! biggest moral lesson is to overcome your fears. Everyone is afraid of something, and it’s normal, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. And the best way to overcome your fears is by talking about it aloud with friends/family…because it won’t go away until you face directly head-on. Some other important lessons taught in the book are how to adapt to changes and overcome grief/loss.

I’ll admit I didn’t like Charlie right off the bat but he eventually grew on me. He was Mr. Grumpy Pants, who was lashing out at his family and friends. But at the same time it’s understandable. I get it. It’s always rough when you lose someone you love and think that any newcomer that enters your family is a threat. And as the book progresses readers saw how Charlie learnt to deal with those issues. Charlie is surrounded by loving and supportive friends and family, I just adored everyone. His friends are amazing. They always had his back and aren’t afraid to call him out when he’s acting irrational. Some of my favorite scenes in the book are of Charlie helping his friends’ overcome their nightmares….and vice versa. Charlie’s stepmom Charlotte and little brother Jack also made quite an impression, even if they only had little page time. I hope we’ll get to see more of them in the sequel.

All in all, Nightmares! looks to be the start of an amazing series. I think all parents should either read this book to their kids (8 years old and up) or get them a copy ASAP. I highly recommend everyone to check this series out…whether you’re young or old. I think we all can use a little reminder now and again on how not to run away when we encounter something we’re afraid of/or don’t understand and instead should face it straight on. Nightmares! hits the marks on all the feelings; it had me laughing, a little bit disturbed with the all the creepy nightmares (Ack, clowns and faceless bunnies!), and a couple of heartfelt moments with Charlotte and Jack. I can’t wait to start the next book, The Sleepwalker Tonic!

Friday, September 04, 2015

Voyagers: Project Alpha by D.J. MacHale

Title: Project Alpha
Author: D.J. MacHale
Genre: Middle School, Sci-Fi
Series: Voyagers #1

Hardcover, 224 pages
Publication: September 1, 2015 by Random House BFYR

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


Earth is about to go dark. Without a new power source, life as we know it will be toast. A global competition is under way to determine who will join the secret mission that might just save us all. Project Alpha is a contest of physical challenges, mental puzzles, and political alliances.

The battle is fierce, and only four kids will make the cut. The Voyagers will journey to the far reaches of space, collecting unique elements and facing unbelievable dangers;The future of our planet is in the hands of four kids. Sure, they’ll be the best in the world . . . but can they save the world?

I’ve recently started reading more middle grade fiction because I really enjoy all the books aimed within that audience age group. And Voyagers: Project Alpha is no exception. Project Alpha focuses on a group of twelve-year-olds who volunteer to help find a new energy/fuel source for Earth. Readers follow along as the children compete against each other for one in four spots on Team Alpha. Team Alpha's first mission is to retrieve 1 of 6 ingredients needed to create 'the source' (energy to power Earth) and the first ingredient is on an alien planet where dinosaurs aren’t extinct!

I am definitely not within the age group for Project Alpha but I had so much fun reading it! Voyagers is the first of a six book multiplatform series and it is unlike anything I’ve ever experience. The series will be published within the year, each book written by a different blockbuster/Best Selling author. Not only are we experiencing the story and characters by reading the book, but there is also an interactive site in which readers can log on and explore the missions, check out the alien planets, solve codes (hidden within the book) to unlock special messages/information, and even design your own ZRK Commander (Steam)! This is probably the best idea I’ve ever seen aimed at middle-grade readers, and I know a lot of kids will love it especially in this tech-savvy era (My niece and nephew who are age 5 & 7…know way more about computers than I did at that age!).

The whole plot with children being the savor of man-kind isn’t anything new really, but nonetheless, I found the characters and action-packed plot entertaining. While the characters were pretty well-written, with the length of the book I hope that in subsequent books the characters will be more fleshed out so we can get to know them better. I loved that there was action from start to finish. My favorite part of the book is probably the competition and training. If I had to compare this book to another, it’d be Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, the movie not the book (since I've only seen the movie) but I loved it. Project Alpha reminded me a lot of the movie, which isn’t a bad thing. Overall, Project Alpha was a great start to a new series. MacHale did a wonderful job setting the stage for the entire series and I can’t wait to read more of it! 

Thursday, September 03, 2015

[Series Spotlight] The Song of the Shattered Sands Series by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Unlike my other series spotlight, with many books already out in a series; Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the first book in the Song of the Shattered Sand series released on September 1st! I haven't read it yet but I'm dying to! I mean just look at the beautiful cover and intriguing synopsis. Did I mention Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is an Arabian Nights inspired fantasy? Yes, please. Check out the synopsis below and author bio to learn more!

Author: Bradley P. Beaulieu 
The Song of the Shattered Sands #1
Available Now!
Published by DAW
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

Image via Author's site 

Bradley P. Beaulieu began writing his first fantasy novel in college, but life eventually intervened. As time went on, though, Brad realized that his love of writing and telling tales wasn't going to just slink quietly into the night. The drive to write came back full force in the early 2000s, at which point Brad dedicated himself to the craft, writing and learning under the guidance of writers like Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, Tim Powers, Holly Black, and many more.

Brad and his novels have garnered many accolades including two Hotties—the Debut of the Year and Best New Voice—on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo and more:

* Top Ten Book and Debut of the Year for 2011 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist for The Winds of Khalakovo
* Best New Voice of 2011 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
* 2011 Gemmell Morningstar Award Nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo
* Top Ten Debut for The Winds of Khalakovo on Ranting Dragon's Best of 2011
* Top Ten Debut for The Winds of Khalakovo on Mad Hatter's Best of 2011
* Top Five Book for 2012 on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist for The Straits of Galahesh
* 2012 Most Anticipated for The Straits of Galahesh on Staffer's Book Review
* 2012 Most Anticipated for The Straits of Galahesh on The Ranting Dragon
* 2013 Most Anticipated for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh on The Ranting Dragon

Brad continues to work on his next projects, including an Arabian Nights epic fantasy and a Norse-inspired middle grade series. He also runs the highly successful science fiction & fantasy podcast, Speculate, which can be found at


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

[Blog Tour] Series Spotlight: Noctis Magicae Series by Sylvia Izzo Hunter + Giveaway

Do you love reading about history, myths or magic? Well look no further, the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Izzo Hunter has it all! Check out the series synopses below and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!

 Noctis Magicae #1

Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…

Noctis Magicae #2

In her second year of studies at Merlin College, Oxford, Sophie Marshall is feeling alienated among fellow students who fail to welcome a woman to their ranks. So when her husband, Gray, is invited north as a visiting lecturer at the University in Din Edin, they leap at the chance. There, Sophie’s hunger for magical knowledge can finally be nourished. But soon, Sophie must put her newly learned skills to the test. Sophie returns home one day to find a note from Gray—he’s been summoned urgently to London.

But when he doesn’t return, and none of her spells can find a trace of him, she realizes something sinister has befallen him. With the help of her sister, Joanna, she delves into Gray’s disappearance, and soon finds herself in a web of magick and intrigue that threatens not just Gray, but the entire kingdom.


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Image via Author's Website
Sylvia Izzo Hunter was born in Calgary, Alberta, back in the days before Star Wars, and started making up stories at approximately the time she learned to talk. A couple of decades ago she moved to Toronto, Ontario, where she now lives with her husband and daughter and their slightly out-of-control collections of books, comics, and DVDs. She studied English and French literature (with a particular focus on medieval and Renaissance poetry and drama) at York University; she has since discovered that her mom was right: in order to be a functioning grown-up, you really do need to know how to do math.
Over the course of her working life Sylvia has been a slinger of tacos, a filer of patient charts and answerer of phones, a freelance looker-up of unconsidered trifles, an Orff-singing stage monk, and an exam tutor, but has mostly worked in not-for-profit scholarly publishing, where she started out making lots of photocopies and now gets to make XML and EPUB files (which is more fun). She also sings in two choirs (including the Orpheus Choir of Toronto), reads as much as possible, knits (mostly hats), and engages in experimental baking.

Connect with Sylvia

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

[Blog Tour] Voyagers: Project Alpha by D.J. MacHale (Excerpt & Giveaway)


The action is on the page, on your device, and out of this world! This multiplatform series is part sci-fi, part eco-mystery, all action-adventure. And you don't have long to wait -- 6 books are coming all in one year!

Earth is about to go dark. Without a new power source, life as we know it will be toast. A global competition is under way to determine who will join the secret mission that might just save us all. Project Alpha is a contest of physical challenges, mental puzzles, and political alliances. The battle is fierce, and only four kids will make the cut. The Voyagers will journey to the far reaches of space, collecting unique elements and facing unbelievable dangers. The future of our planet is in the hands of four kids. Sure, they’ll be the best in the world . . . but can they save the world? 

Do you have what it takes to be a Voyager? Find out at



“The first competition is about how you want to
spend your time here. You will be living in dorms. Boys in one,
girls in the other. They are functional and comfortable.”
“Kind of like camp,” Niko said.

“However,” Phillips continued, “one of you will be invited
to stay in your own private quarters with a queen bed, a private
bathroom, and your own refrigerator.”

“Who gets to stay there?” Carly asked.

Phillips held up a handkerchief-sized golden flag.

“Your first challenge,” he declared. “Scattered throughout
the arena are a few dozen golden flags like this one. Some are
in plain sight, others you’ll have to hunt for. The first person
who retrieves four flags will be staying in the superior quarters
for the duration of your stay. Question is, how badly do you
want it?”

The kids all stood staring at Phillips, not sure how to react.
Phillips pointed to a door on the far side of the hangar
and said, “The arena is through there. The competition
begins . . . now.”

Anna took off running. Niko was right behind her. The
others followed quickly.

The final phase of the Project Alpha competition was under

It began as a frantic free-for- all, like a massive Easter egg
hunt with a lot more at stake than snapping up a few chocolate
eggs. Anna sprinted across the empty hangar and spotted the
first flag hanging next to the door leading to the arena. She
snatched it off the hook and held it up in triumph.

“That room is mine!” she declared, then waved to the
others and ran out the door.

Gabriel, Niko, Ravi, and Siena sprinted for the door and
blasted through right behind her.

Dash took his time. He did a quick scan of the entire space,
checking for more flags. There were none, so he ran for the
door but stopped when he saw that stacked next to it was an
odd assortment of equipment. There were several coils of red
climbing rope, a pile of fleecy pullovers of various bright colors,
and four ice axes hanging from hooks.

“Strange equipment to be in an airplane hangar,” Carly said
as she jogged up from behind him.

“Maybe there’s a flag buried in there,” Dash said, and
quickly dug through the jackets.

“Too obvious,” Piper said as she flew by them.
She spun the wheelchair around expertly and backed into
the door, pushing it open. She rolled outside but held it for the
other two.

“Coming?” she called.

Dash and Carly gave each other quick looks and ran outside.

The air temperature had plummeted to below freezing.
“This is impossible,” Carly said. “We’re in the desert.”
“Cool,” Piper said with wonder. “Literally.”

“That answers one thing,” Dash said. He ran back inside
and moments later came back with three jackets, a coil of rope,
and three ice axes. “This stuff is here for a reason,” he said as
he handed jackets and axes to Piper and Carly.
The three slipped on the jackets, then scanned the area to
see nothing but dense fog.

“What’s this about?” Piper asked in a low voice as if not
wanting to be heard by anyone other than Dash and Carly.

“Our first test,” Carly said. “I’ll bet there’s a whole lot more
going on here than a race for a couple of flags.”

The three moved forward cautiously, straining to see
through the heavy mist. None said it out loud, but they felt
safer together than going at it alone.

“I see one!” Piper exclaimed. She shot forward to where
a golden flag hung from a three-foot-high pole. She grabbed
it, spun back to the others, and held it up, saying, “The
sooner one of us gets four, the sooner we can get out of this

A hulking shadow moved through the mist behind Piper.
Only Dash and Carly saw it. It was a fleeting glimpse but it was
real. And it was big.

“What was that?” Dash exclaimed.

Piper spun around but saw nothing. “What was what?” she

“I saw it too,” Carly answered. “It looked like a big guy,
moving fast.”

“Anna?” Dash called out.

“I got another one!” Anna called from somewhere in the

“I don’t like this contest,” Carly said nervously.
“Maybe that’s the point,” Dash said. “They’re testing our

“I’m freezing,” Piper said, her teeth chattering.
“Then let’s move,” Dash said, and they continued on.
They walked cautiously but after taking only a few steps,
Carly slipped and had to fight to keep her balance.
“Whoa! Ice!” she cried as her feet slid out, and she hit the
ground hard. “Ow. That is just rude.”

Dash helped her to her feet. “It’s an ice rink,” he said.
“Don’t walk; slide.”

“Look!” Piper exclaimed, pointing.

Another big shadow shot through the distant mist.

“That’s not Anna,” Piper said, her voice cracking. “It looks
like a Sasquatch. Or a Wookiee.”

“There’s something over there,” Dash said, moving ahead.
The three cautiously slid forward until a massive white
mound appeared out of the mist.

“It’s a pile of snow,” Carly said. “Or a monster igloo.”

“There’s a cave,” Dash said.

A jagged opening was cut in the face of the huge frozen

“Did the shadow thing go in there?” Piper asked nervously.
“We should go see,” Dash said. “I guarantee it’s part of the

“I can’t,” Piper said. “I won’t be able to turn the chair
around in there.”

“I’ll go,” Carly said.

“We’ll go together,” Dash said, and the two of them slipped
through the opening.

“Cool,” Piper said. “Be careful.”

It was dark inside, but the ice gave off a faint glow that was
enough for them to see by.

“It’s an ice tunnel,” Carly said. “There’s gotta be a flag in
here somewhere.”

The tunnel twisted sharply, creating blind turns with no
way of knowing what might be lurking around the next corner.
Dash and Carly walked shoulder to shoulder until . . .


The sound came from beyond the next sharp turn.

They froze.

“Something’s in there,” Carly whispered.

Dash fought the urge to turn and run. Instead, he steeled
himself and yelled a warning. “There are two of us!”
He lifted the ice ax and held it out threateningly, though his
hands were shaking.


Whatever was making the sound was moving closer.
It was too late to turn and run. Carly and Dash pushed
closer to one another and tensed up.


A footstep crunched the ice just beyond the turn.
Dash raised the ice ax . . .. . . as a hand appeared from around the corner, waving a
golden flag.

“I’m afraid you are too late,” said a girl as she stepped
around the corner.

“Siena,” Dash said with a relieved gasp.
Carly could breathe again.

“There is a cavern at the end of the tunnel but there was
only one flag,” Siena said. “Check for yourself but it would be
a waste of time because if there was more than one, I would
have taken it.”

“Did you see a big guy lurking around?” Carly asked.

“No, but nothing would surprise me. This is quite the elaborate
challenge. My guess is they erected a climate-controlled
enclosure to house this frigid environment. Now if you will
excuse me”—
she pushed past the others, headed for the mouth
of the cave—“ I have two more flags to find.”
“You already found two?” Carly asked.

Siena held up two flags as she disappeared around the icy

“Is it me or does she sound like a computer?” Carly whispered.
Dash laughed and said, “Let’s get out of here.”
They walked quickly back the way they had come and
made it to the mouth of the cave with minimal slippage.

Piper was waiting for them with a big smile. “Look,” she
said, pointing higher up on the icy mound.

Dash and Carly turned to see three golden flags on a ledge,
thirty feet up.

“I didn’t tell Siena,” Piper said with an innocent smile.

“So close,” Dash said. “But there’s no way to get them.”
Carly held up her ice ax. “No?”

The shaft was metallic silver with a black rubber hand grip
on one end and a nasty-looking point on the other.

“They’re climbing tools,” he said.

“You need two to climb, which means we both can’t do it,”
Carly said.

Dash looked up to the flags. He’d never used ice axes

“I’ll try,” Dash said. “If I get ’em, we’ll each take a flag.”
“You’d do that?” Piper asked.

“Sure. You found ’em, Carly’s giving up her ax, and I’m
climbing. That’s fair.”

Carly handed over her ax and said, “Be careful.”

Dash grasped both axes, wrapped the safety straps around
his wrists, and faced the icy surface.

“How hard could it be, right?” he asked, not sounding very

He raised the ax in his right hand and hammered it against
the ice. It caught and stuck firmly. He did the same with his left
hand, a little bit higher. With his foot on the surface, he pulled
himself off the ground. The surface sloped away from him at
enough of an angle that it wasn’t a difficult climb.

“It’s easy,” Dash said. “If it were any steeper I’d be in trouble.”
At that exact moment, his sneaker slipped off and his stomach
smashed against the ice.


“You sure about that?” Carly asked.

His answer was to find a better toe hold and then yank the
right ax out of the ice. He reached up as high as he could and
hammered it home again.

“I got this,” Dash said.

Looking up, he saw that the ledge was right below the top
of the frozen mound. It only took another minute and three
more whacks at the ice to reach it. He hoisted himself up,
stood on the ledge so that his head cleared the top of the
mound . . . . . and came face to face with a gorilla-like
white beast that was climbing up the other side. Its fiery red eyes glowed
from deep sockets in a massive, furry head.

“Ahhh!” Dash screamed, and pushed away from the beast.
He fell backward on the ledge but had the presence of
mind to reach out with one of the axes to grab at the ice.
It stopped him from sliding all the way to the ground but he
hung there by one hand. With a surge of adrenaline, Dash
slammed the other ax into the ice. He shifted his weight and
repeated the process until he finished a controlled slide back to
the ground.

“What happened?” Piper asked anxiously.

“I saw what was making the shadow,” Dash said, breathing
hard. “It was a . . . a . . . monster. A big white ape-looking
thing. I fell back and . . . I didn’t get the flags. Sorry.”
“This is getting too crazy,” Carly said. “Maybe we should
just hang together and—”

“Help!” came someone’s scream from somewhere off in the fog.

“Oh man, now what?” Piper said.

“Help me!” the desperate voice called out again.

“C’mon!” Dash said, and moved quickly into the fog,
headed in the direction of the sound. Between zero visibility
and the icy surface, it was slow going.

“I’ve got traction,” Piper said, and zoomed ahead.
They soon heard the sound of splashing, thrashing water.
“I can’t breathe,” the voice yelled.

“Be careful,” Carly said to Piper. “You’re headed toward—”
Dash leapt forward and grabbed the back of Piper’s wheelchair,
stopping her from rolling off the edge of the ice and into
a frothing pool.


“Oops,” Piper said, breathless. “Thanks.”

“Who’s out there?” Carly called.

“It’s Niko!” came the desperate shout. “The ice broke
and . . . and . . . it’s so cold I can’t catch my breath!”
“Here,” Carly said, grabbing the rope and uncoiling it.

“We’re throwing you a lifeline,” Dash yelled.

“Hurry!” Niko pleaded.

“Tie the end to your chair,” Dash said to Piper.
While Piper looped the end around the arm of her wheelchair,
Dash took the rest of the rope and slid closer to the edge.

“Where are you?” he called out.

“Here!” Niko responded.

The fog was so dense, Dash couldn’t see him.

“Ready!” Piper called out.

“Here it comes!” Dash hurled the rope in the direction of
Niko's voice. There was a splash and then . . .

“I got it!” Niko cried with relief.

“Hang on, we’ll pull you out!” Dash yelled.

He immediately started pulling but the surface was too slippery
and his feet went out from under him. He sat down and tried yanking the rope again but only ended 
up pulling himself closer to the edge.

“I can’t get traction,” he called to the others with growing

“I can,” Piper said. “Let it go.”

Dash released the rope and Piper pulled it all the way in.

“I can’t hold on!” Niko called.

“Help me,” Piper shouted to Carly. “Stand on the back and
hang on to the rope.”

Carly grabbed the rope with one hand and stood on the
back of the chair. Piper took hold of the controls. She jammed
the vehicle into reverse and eased open the throttle. Slowly, the
chair moved backward.

“Hang on, Niko!” Dash yelled.

The wheels dug into the ice and kept moving as they gradually
pulled Niko closer.

“There he is!” Dash called out.

The four other candidates skidded up out of the fog, watching
in wonder as Niko was towed to the edge of the ice. Dash
grabbed him and pulled him up onto the slick surface. Niko
was breathing hard and shivering.

Piper pulled off her jacket and threw it to Dash.
“Wrap him up,” she commanded. “If we don’t get his body
temperature up, it could hurt his heart.”
Dash pulled off his own jacket as well and put both jackets
on Niko.

“Rub his back to get his blood moving faster,” Piper added.
Dash followed orders and rubbed Niko’s back.

“I’m okay,” Niko said through chattering teeth. “Thanks.”

Piper and Carly exchanged high fives.
“I saw a flag and went for it,” Niko said. “But the ice
gave way.”

“Did you get the flag?” Anna asked.

Niko shook his head.

“Well, I got three,” Anna announced. “The game’s still on.”

“No, it isn’t,” Piper announced, and handed her flag to

“Seriously?” Anna said with surprise.


A loud horn sounded as bright lights kicked on, bathing the
group in warm white light. The whirring sound of giant fans
filled the arena as the fog was blown away. Within seconds, the
entire area was revealed.

“Exactly as I suspected,” Siena said with a smug smile.
They were in a giant white tent that was large enough to
house a twelve-ring circus. Ice covered the entire floor like a
giant hockey rink. Five different ice mounds like the one Dash
had climbed were scattered about. The water that Niko had
fallen into was a moat that surrounded an island with the largest

A metal catwalk ringed the tent high above them. Hanging
below it were multiple high-intensity
lights. The air temperature rose quickly to a more desertlike norm.

“Well done!” Commander Phillips exclaimed as he strode
toward them. “We have a winner of the Tundra Event.”
Anna held up the four flags triumphantly.
“What is this place?” Gabriel asked. “It’s like some fun-house
arctic weirdness.”

“This is the arena where many of your challenges will take
place,” Phillips replied. “In here, we can create any kind of
environment and situation. Niko, you were never in danger.”
He pointed to the moat where several frogmen had surfaced
and gave a thumbs-up.

“I just hope I don’t die of pneumonia,” Niko replied.
“What about the gorilla?” Dash asked. “What was that

“Just another element of surprise,” Phillips explained. “We
need to see how each of you will react under different forms of

“How did we do?” Carly asked.

Phillips smiled and said, “That’s for me to discuss with the
rest of the Project Alpha team. Now, everyone back into the
hangar where you’ll be taken to your quarters. It’s been a long
day. Anna, you’ll be shown to your private room.”

“Yes!” Anna exclaimed, and hurried off.

Phillips stepped up to Niko and helped him to his feet.
“How do you feel?” Phillips asked.

“Cold and wet,” Niko replied. “But ready for the next contest.”
“That’s what I like to hear. Go get dried off.”
Niko headed for the hangar, followed by Siena, Ravi, and

Dash stood up and went to Carly and Piper. The three exchanged
high fives.

“Not bad,” Dash said.

“Tell me,” Phillips said to Piper, “why did you give up your

“I wanted the contest to be over,” she said. “Besides, I
didn’t want the prize.”

“You didn’t want a private room?” Phillips asked, surprised.

“Nope,” Piper said. “I didn’t come here to be alone.”

“I see,” Phillips said with no emotion. “Go join the others.”
The three headed off, leaving Phillips in the middle of the
arena. He surveyed the scene with satisfaction as the ice melted
around him.

He then looked up to the catwalk.

Looking down was a single observer wearing a blue jumpsuit
similar to the one Phillips wore. It was a teenager with
short blond hair who stood leaning on the guardrail. At his feet
sat a golden retriever.

“Thoughts?” Phillips called up.

“Eight solid candidates,” the young man called back. “Let’s
hope they can handle it when things really get rough.”


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