Tag: YA

PROJECT EMERGENCE Coming Soon

 
Today Jamie Zakian and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for PROJECT EMERGENCE which releases March 14, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!
 
A quick note from the author:
 
I’ve always dreamed of writing an epic sci-fi thriller. I knew I wanted it to involve a group of teens leaving a dead Earth to start new lives on a terra formed Mars, but I didn’t have any ideas on how to make the plot exciting. Then, a song I never heard before played on my Pandora app. Escape by Rogue. As that song blasted through my headphones, the entire story that is Project Emergence streamed through my mind like a movie trailer. So, I went straight to work. It took months of frantic writing, almost a year of editing, and a mini rewrite, but that moment of inspiration became my first YA novel.
 
Project Emergence is a fast-paced thrill ride across the stars. It shows the extent people will go to uphold their beliefs, and that love can overcome any evil.

 

On to the reveal! 


 
Title: PROJECT EMERGENCE
Author: Jamie Zakian
Pub. Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 292
Find it: Goodreads| Amazon | B&N | TBD
 
An ancient Hopi myth says people arrived on tiny silver pods that fell from the sky.
 
But the truth is far more terrifying.
 
Two-hundred fifty-eight teens are sent from a dying Earth to a terraformed Mars as part of the Emergence Program,
mankind’s last hope before solar flares finish off their planet and species. Among the brave pioneers are sixteen-year-old Joey Westen and her twin brother, Jesse.
 
After only minutes in space, something triggers a total ship lock down.
 
With the help of their roommates, the Matsuda twins (notorious hackers and shady secret-keepers), Joey and Jesse stumble onto an extremist plot to sabotage the Emergence Program.
But Joey and Jesse didn’t travel to the deepest pits of space and leave their mother behind to be picked off in a high-tech tin can. They’ll lie, hack, and even kill to survive the voyage and make it to Mars.

 

Excerpt

Chapter OneJoey squirmed in the seat of a large, airtight van as it sped along an empty road. A cloud of red sand kicked up outside her window, and the van’s tires hummed against cracked pavement. Solar flares had done a fine job of destroying this once beautiful planet. She never got to see Earth in its glory days, as she had been born into a scorched world, but could almost picture the way it used to be.

In her imagination, the reddish tint that covered the parched countryside outside her window transformed to crisp green meadows. The piles of stone and metal reconstructed to form the buildings they once were, reaching for a sky that was blue instead of crimson.

Her daydream ended when the nose of a spaceship peeked above maroon-crested hills. That massive shuttle was waiting to carry two hundred and fifty-eight lucky lottery winners off this dying planet, and she was one of them.

“Whoa,” Joey said, her breath fogging the glass. A light crinkle drew her stare to the paper in her now tight grip. She loosened her stiff fingers, smoothing a crease from the official seal of the Unified Nations of Earth.

…The letter in her hand still mesmerized her. Selected … Terraformed Mars … New home … Those words knocked the bottom from her stomach every time she read them. Things were getting way too real. No more tiny lead-lined home, school at the kitchen table, Mom. She turned to Jesse, her brother’s smirk brighter than an X1 flare.

“You’re a crappy twin. I’m freaking out right now; you should be too.”

Jesse rolled his stare her way. “Fraternal twins don’t work like that.”

“That’s not true.” She read the letter again, making sure both their names were listed for the umpteenth time.

“I can’t believe this is happening.” Jesse grew tense. A frown swept his lips for just a moment before his perma-smile returned. “No one from G-Sector ever goes anywhere.”

“Did you see the look on Mom’s face when we left?”

“I know. Buzzkill.”

“What’s she gonna do without us?” Joey asked in a near whisper.

“Finally be able to feed herself.” Jesse snickered.

She shook her head, folding the letter. “Maybe she’ll win the next lottery and meet up with us on Mars.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

Jesse leaned close, keeping his voice low. “Didn’t you hear what that kid behind us was saying?”

“No. What?”

“He said the lottery’s rigged.” Jesse eyed the soldier stationed at the front of the van, then the other two at the rear. “That everyone is selected for a specific purpose.”

“But that would mean the U.N.E. is lying to everyone,” Joey said, a bit too loud. Jesse’s eyes opened wide, and she shrugged.

“You’re gonna get us booted from this ride before we even launch.”

“Whatever,” she muttered. “It’s a stupid idea anyway ‘cause look, we’re here. What do we have to offer? All you can do is fix stuff, and me … well, I’m just good at being cute.” She batted her eyes, flaunting a sly smile.

“Yeah you’re right. That’s real flippin cute.” Jesse slanted toward the aisle, glancing around the cab. “There aren’t any adults on this van.”

“There’s the soldier guys.”

“Geez, dummy. I mean the passengers.”

Joey pinched her brother, who wriggled away. “Dummy,” she mimicked. With a failed attempt to appear casual, she popped her head up and scanned the seats. Sparkly clothes and bright makeup captured her stare. “They look like A-Sectors.” She didn’t mean to gawk at the people seated around her, but she’d never seen such lavish clothes, such flawless skin.

“Please remain seated while the vehicle’s in motion,” a soldier thundered.

Jesse grabbed Joey’s arm and pulled her down into the seat. “Smooth, sister. Real smooth.”

She shrank back, deploying her trusty get-out-of-messes frowny smile on her brother. “Oops. In trouble already. Figures.”

Grumbles erupted from Jesse’s lips, and she turned back to the dusty earth outside her window. Crazy how one day and a trip to the mailbox could change her entire life. Yesterday, she was painting a mural of Mars on their bedroom wall. Today, she was going to Mars.

The parched countryside vanished behind a tunnel wall. She sagged in her seat. For sixteen years, she clung to Jesse. Every time dust storms pelted their windowless metal house, she curled under his arm. Mom worked late, so Joey’s hand became glued to his. And now, when she actually needed the comfort of his touch, her brain decided it was time to man up. Her eyes narrowed. She zeroed in on his cozy-looking hand, her fingers drumming a steady beat on her leg.

***

Sabrina poked her head around a corner. Her fingers tightened around the rifle’s grip as she peered down a dim corridor. Shadows danced along the concrete wall, and she backed up, pressing her comms button. “Stone to dispatch. Come in, dispatch.”

Static crackled in her ear, a garbled voice cutting in and out.

“Dispatch, do you read? Where the hell is my backup?”

This time, only the fizz of dead air replied.

“Damn underground bright-out dens,” Sabrina mumbled.

These missions twisted her gut every time. There were very few people left alive on Earth. Many couldn’t afford specially designed homes or the rising cost of oxygen, and it didn’t sit right to bust folks just for trying to survive the scorching sun. But she was Captain Sabrina Stone of the Unified Nations of Earth, a high ranking officer in the sector that controlled every aspect of the entire planet, and she had a duty to protect what was left of that planet. Neither a heavy conscience nor lack of backup would hinder that.

Sabrina held her weapon close, skulking down the stone passage. Two men strolled around the bend, then stopped short, and she popped off two rounds. No sound emitted from the gun’s muzzle, just a flash that lit the graffiti-stained walls in white.

The men slumped to the ground. Tiny darts protruded from their chests, and pamphlets spilled from their limp hands.

“Earth-heads,” she muttered, glimpsing anti-Mars propaganda. The bang of a metal door slamming shut echoed from the dark tunnel on her left, so she headed toward it.

Men and woman dropped as Sabrina skated through shadows, firing her gun. Their tranquilized bodies slapped concrete, a trail to a solid door at the end of the long hallway. She reached into her vest and extracted a small explosive charge. Just as the magnet clinked to the steel slab, a voice flowed through her earpiece.

“Captain Stone, we’ve breeched the airlock. En route to your position.”

“Bout time,” she said beneath her breath. Her thumb glided over the button of the wireless detonator, and spikes of fear burrowed into her gut. U.N.E protocol, and the whirl in her stomach, said to wait for backup. Pride, however, was a persistent little sucker, one that set loose a torrent of electric shocks in her veins. She scurried back, covered her head, and pressed the detonation button.

An explosion rocked her chest, slamming her against the wall. Hunks of concrete crashed down, and the door slammed atop the rubble. Sabrina swung her rifle dead ahead. Adrenaline perked her lips into a smile as she charged through wisps of smoke, firing upon everybody that lunged her way.

“This is a raid of the U.N.E. Get down on the ground.”

Soldiers flooded the doorway behind her, and she bit back her grin. A woman needed an iron-clad stare amid this troop of grunts. “Took you guys long enough.” She turned, stumbling back as the five-stars of a general gleamed in her eyes. “Sir,” she roared, standing up straight.

“Captain Stone, I need you to come with me.”

Sabrina glanced around, as much as one could without moving a single muscle in their neck. Her men cleared the room as the general’s elite soldiers crowded around her.

“Am I in trouble, sir?”

“Quite the contrary, Captain. You’ve been selected for an important mission. You’re going to Mars, Soldier.”

***

Joey grabbed her brother’s hand the instant he climbed off the van’s step. People shuffled all around the wide-open room, probably watching her act like a baby, but she couldn’t let go. Fear stole her will. It could have been the towering room of glass walls and silver beams that encompassed her, the barrage of strange faces, or the fact that she’d never see her mother again, but gloom tainted this moment. Holding her brother’s hand quelled a fraction of her inner-turmoil, so she planned to keep doing it despite her sissy appearance.

A soft voice streamed from a kiosk of video screens, repeating the Space Center’s famed slogan.

Three days on the state-of-the-art R23 shuttle, strolling through green grass, swimming in cool oceans.

Everything she memorized from the letter in her backpack.

“Look, there’s check-in,” Jesse said, tugging her from the display of white sandy beaches.

She inched through the crowd, close to his side. They filed into a rowdy line, her palm sweating against his skin.

“The Westen twins, I presume,” a high-pitched voice echoed from behind them.

In one swift move, Joey shook free from Jesse’s grasp and whirled around. An ultra-posh Asian girl leered down, and Joey stood tall. Her eyes wandered to the near identical boy at her side, bearing the same long jet-black hair. Another set of twins.

“How did you know our name?” Jesse asked. Joey nudged his arm, pulling his gaze from the low cut of the girl’s sparkly shirt.

“We know the names of all the twins on this ship,” she said, her hand hoisting to her hip.

“First and last,” the boy added.

Joey stifled a chuckle. Twins who finished each other’s sentences; this trip was going to be stellar. The line shuffled forward, and the small group edged up a few paces.

“How many twins are on this flight?” Jesse asked, glancing between the pair.

“Fourteen, including us,” she replied.

“Well, fourteen sets,” the boy corrected, turning to his sister.

“That actually makes twenty-eight twins.”

“But twins is plural, so it would be fourteen,” she argued, a hint of red flaring her cheeks.

“Yeah, but, you knew who we were,” Joey said. “We didn’t even know there were other twins here. Is there, like, a manual we didn’t get or something?”

The girl laughed, slapping her brother’s chest. A stealthy glare clouded her delicate features as she leaned close to Joey. “We hacked the database.”

“We hack everything,” the boy whispered.

“Cool,” Joey said through a smile, glancing at Jesse.

“So you must be Jesse,” the girl said, staring at Joey, “Short for Jessica, right?”

“Ah, no,” Joey said. “I’m Joey. Short for Josephine, which I hate so … just Joey.”

“I’m Jesse, which … isn’t short for anything.” Jesse shoved his hands into his pockets, lowering his gaze.

“Ahem. The line is moving,” a redheaded girl groaned.

They all crept forward again, and then Jesse spun back around. “So are we supposed to hack to find out your names?”

The girl giggled, and Joey rolled her eyes. Her stare landed on the boy’s annoyed face. Once their gaze connected, his frown lifted to a grin.

“Kami Matsuda.” A rainbow of colors reflected off the girl’s clothes as she slinked in front of Jesse, looking up into his eyes. “That’s Rai,” she said, nodding to her brother but keeping her deep gaze on Jesse.

Jesse gulped. His hands began to tremble, and it became painfully obvious at how fast his breath flowed.

“Next in line.”

“That’s us,” Joey said. She all but ripped Jesse from Kami’s leer. “We’ll catch up with ya.” It took quite a massive tug, but she finally got Jesse moving toward the registration table. “Now who’s smooth, dorkus,” she whispered.

***

“Let me get this straight, Mr. Winslow,” Sabrina said, only able to mask a fraction of the edge in her tone. “You want me to be a glorified babysitter for a bunch of teens in space?” She walked across the large office of the Space Center, toward Director Winslow’s desk. Her boots sank into lush carpet as she strolled past stone statues, one of which lost its arm somewhere along the way. Such extravagance. If it were liquidated and spread out, every sector could afford a giant dome to protect its people from radioactive air instead of just the A-Sectors. She tore her gaze from art-adorned walls, catching an impatient glare from the man behind a glossy wooden desk.

“The situation on our hands goes far beyond babysitting, Captain Stone. We’re under attack. The commander of the U.N.E. herself assured me you were the best of the best.”

“Commander Sun said that? Huh.” She stepped closer to the desk. The man before her strained to appear confident, but she glimpsed the beads of sweat that trickled between his dark wrinkled skin and white hair.

“You’ve got my attention,” she said, cupping her hands behind her back.

“Of course you understand every word spoken within this room stays within this room.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ever since the inception of the Emergence program, a group of fanatics have targeted us. Are you familiar with the Earthisum Movement, Captain Stone?”

“Yes, sir. I took out an underground lair of them this morning. They seem to be, for the most part, harmless.”

“Perhaps on the outside.” He pulled a brown folder from his drawer and placed it on his desk. “Have a look.”

Sabrina flipped through the file. When she read a handwritten letter, which appeared to be scrawled in blood, her fingers actually shook.

“The threats made in that manifesto were not empty.”

Her head snapped up, and she gawked at the old man before regaining her composure. “Are you saying the Earth-heads blew up your first flight to Mars?”

His finely manicured fingers massaged his forehead, a ghostly shade of white claiming his cheeks. “Yes. After only hours in space.” He lowered his stare. “The second and third flights as well.”

“What?”

“Those maniacs sabotage every spacebus we launch. None have successfully made the voyage to Mars.”

“How could you hide this from the public? They think people are living, flourishing over there. You need to put a hold on this program. Now. I’ll need at least a week to investigate.”

He shook his head, and Sabrina slammed her hands on the desk. “That file says there are two hundred and fifty-eight children walking onto that shuttle as we speak, Mr. Winslow. Two hundred and fifty-eight lives you’re putting at risk.”

“If we stop the program, they’ve won. No! The survival of the human race is too important. This mission has to succeed, Captain Stone.”

“But why now with kids? If what you’re telling me is true, Mars is empty. There are no doctors, scientists, or security of any kind in place. They’ll eat each other alive out there.”

“It has to be them.” He rose from his seat, smoothed a crease on his pinstriped lapel, and strolled to the window. “Those young adults were born in the year of the massive solar flare.” While gazing out the lightly tinted glass, he motioned for Sabrina to join him.

“I don’t see why that matters.” As she approached, the doublewide spacecraft stole her focus. She allowed her stare to wander along the gleam of curved metal and sharp points of thin wings before she shifted her gaze to the man beside her.

“They’re genetically predisposed to elevated radiation. I handpicked each one of them—for their instincts, spark, and their odds of producing healthy offspring.”

“Look, I get that. But if you just postpone a few weeks I can—”

“Earth only has a few weeks left, Captain Stone.” His voice quavered. He cleared his throat, lifting his chin high. “The sun is set to flare in, approximately, ten days. The space program predicts its intensity will surpass our classification scale. Everything left above the surface will be eradicated. Not even the UV dome of A-Sector can deflect these waves.”

Sabrina gasped. She began to stagger back, but Winslow grabbed her arm.

“Captain Stone, Sabrina. Look at those children.”

Her legs wobbled for the first time in her memory, but she crept forward. People hurried along a glass-encased walkway, far below, like tiny ants marching into a trap.

“That’s the future of mankind walking onto that spacebus. If they don’t make it to Mars, our species will cease to exist. You have to get them to that planet safely. You’re the last hope of humanity, Captain Stone.”

 
Jamie Zakian is a full-time writer who consumes the written word as equally as oxygen. Living in South Jersey with her husband and rowdy family, she enjoys farming, archery, and blazing new trails on her 4WD quad, when not writing of course. She aspires to one day write at least one novel in every genre of fiction.


Connect with Jamie here:

 
 
 
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Cover Reveal: A Sequel to GENESIS GIRL

Today Jennifer Bardsley and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for DAMAGED GOODS, the sequel to GENESIS GIRL which releases January 17, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:

Do you have a friend who has such a messed-up home life that you wonder if they will ever grow up to be normal? That’s how I feel about Blanca, the main character from my series “Blank Slate.” In “Genesis Girl,” readers found out why Blanca’s childhood was so different. Blanca was a Vestal who grew up at Tabula Rasa School, shielded from the Internet and brainwashed into doing whatever she was told. In the sequel, “Damaged Goods,” we find out what happens to Blanca once she escapes
from her Vestal bonds. Blanca doesn’t wear her platinum cuff anymore, but does that mean she is free?
 
Writing “Damaged Goods” was a blast. I hope readers enjoy all the twists and turns in the plot and root for Blanca as she figures out the difference between fact, fiction, enemy, and friend.
 
On to the reveal! 

 

 
Title: DAMAGED GOODS
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads| Amazon | B&N
Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend named Seth and the loving support of her foster father, Cal. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father, Barbelo Nemo, and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.
But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions. Blanca feels abandoned by Seth who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort instead.
While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals called the Guardians rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. Now Blanca’s life is in peril once more, and this time, Blanca struggles to recognize friend from foe.

 

Excerpt

Chapter OneAll I smell is leather. Seth’s arms are around my back, his hands tangled in my long brown hair. My lips devour his, hungry for contact. Beyond us a seagull cries and soars above the waves of Santa Cruz beach.

If I kiss Seth hard enough, my scars fade way into oblivion. Barbelo Nemo and his mind control tricks. My childhood spent in seclusion at Tabula Rasa, hidden from the Internet. I slide my fingers underneath Seth’s jacket against the stickiness of his shirt. I begin to undo a button.

“Whoa, Blanca.” Seth pulls my hands away. “We’re not the only people in the parking lot.”

I scan to the left and right of the rest stop. Strangers are everywhere. “Since when did you care about what other people think?”

“Since I started dating a Vestal.”

I pull back and look out at the cliffs. “I’m not a Vestal anymore. You know that.” I feel the antique chip-watch on my wrist. Seth’s dad, Cal, gave it to me as a present after my platinum cuff was removed. Once a Vestal is de-cuffed, they are expelled from the Brethren.

“So those tourists snapping our picture don’t bother you?” Seth motions to a small crowd a few cars over.

I look to where he points, and the flash of thumb-cameras blinds me. Vestals must never have their pictures taken by random people. That privilege belongs to the companies that purchase them and market a Vestal’s privacy one advertisement at a time. I reach my arms out by instinct, to protect my face from the public. “I’m fine with it,” I lie, pulling my hands down. “But we better leave now or we’ll be late to the restaurant.”

“My dad can wait a few minutes.” Seth scoops me in his arms.

“Blanca!” one of the spectators calls. “And Veritas Rex! Is that really you?”

Seth holds up his hand and wiggles his finger-chips. “The one and only!” Then he dips me back for a kiss.

I stiffen like cardboard. “Stop it,” I mumble, trying not to squirm. All I can think about is the cameras, my face flashed worldwide and weirdoes slobbering over my private moment with Seth. “We’ve got to go or we’ll be late.”

Seth kisses my nose. “I didn’t know you were so punctual.”

“Yes.” I pull myself out of his grasp. “Cal’s waiting.” The sooner I put my helmet on and get back on my motorcycle, the better.

“Blanca,” a man calls as we ride away. “I love you! I’ve watched you all year!”

Underneath my jacket, I shiver. The fame that surrounds me is chilling.

A few miles of pavement put me in a better mood. The day is radiant, perfect for riding our bikes from Silicon Valley over to the coast and back. It’s our favorite weekend ritual. Seth cruises next to me on his motorcycle with the lion-headed cobra painted on the side, and I zoom along beside him in head-to-toe white.

The speed rushing over me tastes of freedom. When we shift into high gear I can forget—for a moment—that three months ago I was a captive at the Plemora compound in Nevada. The memory of my mother’s face exploding gets sucked away.

But not for long.

***

The restaurant Cal picked is smothered in shadows. Candles in glass jars at each table are the only source of a hazy glow. As I walk by, other patrons stare up at me.

Their whispers don’t surprise me. Seeing a Vestal in public is unheard of, and I’m the most famous Vestal in history, with the exception of Barbelo, my birth father.

But father isn’t a word I use to describe my tormentor. I don’t think of Ms. Lydia as my mother either, not usually. The closest thing I have to a real parent is Cal McNeal, who paid thirty-two million dollars to purchase me from Tabula Rasa, the school Barbelo founded fifty-one years ago, in 2012, with the ostensible purpose of shielding students from the Internet. Barbelo’s real objective was to create a network of Vestals in key positions. Spies all over the world who were devoted to him.

Cal waits for us at the table, a smile on his tanned face. His hair is long around the ears. I need to remind him to trim it. Cal wears his usual tweed jacket with soft brown patches on the elbows. He stands up when we reach the table and hugs us both. “Enjoy your ride, you two?”

“From the mountains to the beach.” Seth slides into the booth. He pulls off his jacket and exposes forearms covered with ink. Seth also has tattoos on his face, the most noticeable of which is the lion-headed cobra. That snake was the first thing about Seth I noticed. A year ago he snuck into Tabula Rasa, took my picture days before graduation, and posted it on Veritas Rex. Seth is a viral blogger who does anything to break a story even if involves breaking the law.

My own skin is pure white. I’ve been a consummate rule follower my entire life, with a few notable exceptions. Remaining unmarred by ink or technology tops the Vestal code. It’s a hard habit to break.

Cal passes me the bread basket. “So Blanca, I heard from my friend at Stanford today, and I’ve got good news.”

“Yes?” I take a deep whiff of the yeasty aroma and push the basket over to Seth without taking a piece.

Cal butters his slice with a thick slab of butter. “I told the dean about your special circumstance. That you’ve been out of school for a year, but graduated top of your class.”

Seth chokes on his water. “Top of her class? You mean she was auctioned off to the highest bidder at the Vestal Harvest.”

“Exactly,” Cal says. “Blanca, you’re Tabula Rasa’s version of a valedictorian. I told the dean that you had a classical education from a different era and that you were being tutored in science and technology so that you’d catch up in STEM by matriculation.”

Eagerness glides over me. Six months ago when Cal suggested college I thought he was joking. I dismissed the idea without consideration. But since I returned from Nevada I’ve made attending college one of my primary goals.

It’s not that I don’t love being the face of McNeal Solar. Every time I see an advertisement featuring me on a billboard, I get tingles. But representing McNeal Solar and actually understanding how solar power works are two different things. I don’t want to be a token bobble head. I want to be a real engineer who designs power systems and imagines new inventions.

Cal wants to help me achieve that dream. Seth is so committed to Veritas Rex that there’s no way he’ll work for his dad’s company. But maybe someday I’ll join the McNeal Solar board of directors and people will respect my opinion. It’ll be another way I can be Cal’s daughter. I’ll become his intellectual heir.

“What did the dean say?” My knees shake with excitement until I tense my muscles.

Cal puts down his butter knife. “He knows who you are, of course. He watched the news story unfold along with the rest of the world when you were kidnapped.”

“And?” I toy with my napkin.

Cal smiles. “Given the special circumstances, he agreed to let you take a private entrance exam with a panel of professors ten weeks from now.”

“Yay!” I lean across the booth and hug Cal tight, my face brushing the scratchy fabric of his blazer.

“Awesome, Dad,” says Seth. “How the hell did you pull that off? I’ve never heard of Stanford admitting a student like that before.”

“Well that’s because they’ve never had a Vestal apply. Plus, it helps that a dorm is named after your mother, Seth. Being a large donor has its perks.”

Cal’s wife, Sophia, was an anthropology professor at Stanford until she died of the Brain Cancer Epidemic when Seth was seventeen. It was decades before the world realized cell phones caused cancer. Sophia was one of many victims. Before she died her life work had been researching Barbelo Nemo and the Vestal order he created.

“Mom would have been thrilled to have you as a student,” Seth tells me. “She’d probably follow you around and take notes on your well-being.”

“To your mother, then!” I lift up my water glass.

“To Mom,” Seth answers.

Cal holds up his glass of wine. “To Sophia, a three-way toast.”

“Smile, McNeals.” A guy with greasy black hair and an ugly smirk holds up finger-chips in our faces. “What a touching moment.” The flash pops.

I drop my glass and water drowns the tablecloth.

“Veritas Rex and his Vestal girlfriend. Gotcha!” Another loser creeps up too. The fact that they’re both frantically typing their fingers into the air makes me assume they’re viral paparazzi, uploading us straight to the net.

“Get out of here,” Seth growls, chucking bread at their faces.

A rounded man with a balding head rushes over. “Is there a problem?” He turns to the paparazzi. “I am the maître d’ of this establishment and I will notify the police unless you leave this instant.”

Seth pelts them with more bread. The one with greasy hair catches a piece and crams some in his mouth. “Thanks, Rex,” he mumbles through crumbs, “see you around.”

Several waiters rush over to pick up bread and clear off our wet tablecloth. “I sincerely apologize, Ms. Blanca. I don’t know how those Viruses got in.” The maître d’ uses the derogatory term for viral bloggers, the one that Headmaster Russell taught me at Tabula Rasa.

“It’s not your fault. Viruses are hard to shake.” I slide my foot underneath the table and brush my leg against Seth’s.

“They must have seen your white outfit.” The maître d’ tugs his collar.

“It’s okay.” I nod. “I’m used to it.” I wave off his offer of a meal on the house, but he insists.

Later, over cheeseburgers, Cal brings up my wardrobe again. “You know, Blanca. You don’t need to wear white anymore, unless you enjoy the attention.”

“Of course I don’t want the attention!”

“Then why not change things up a bit?” Cal says. “Shop for new clothes. Try to blend in.”

I look at Seth for support, but he nods in agreement with his father.

“Fatima wears colors now,” Seth adds, “and she’s still a Vestal.”

I picture my best friend Fatima. The last time I saw her she wore a silky green dress from her fashion house and looked like a snake that had swallowed a watermelon. Six months pregnant, her figure still says “Babe alert!” Tomorrow night is Fatima’s engagement party with Beau.

I, on the other hand, am the proverbial girl-next-door. Brown hair, green eyes, and clear skin. Back at Tabula Rasa they said I had a face that could sell soap.

“I don’t want to be a Vestal. I’m a McNeal now. But wearing color seems wrong.”

“It’s not just the clothes.” Seth’s finger-chips buzz and he flicks them off. “The only time you leave the house is with me or Dad.”

“That’s not true!” I insist. “I went to the soundstage last week to shoot a McNeal Solar add.”

“True,” Cal admits. “But it’s what a Vestal would do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? Don’t you want me as the face of McNeal Solar?” My stomach feels bubbly, like I ate too many French fries.

“Of course I do, sweetheart. I love your campaign for my company.” Cal reaches out and pats my hand. “We’re concerned about you though. We want you to get out there and make new friends.”

I turn and glare at Seth. “This is about the other night, isn’t it? You’re still mad because I wouldn’t go to that club with you, so you got your dad to take your side.”

Seth stares at me hard. “It’s not just the other night. It’s all the time. Your world is so tiny that it’s unhealthy.”

“College is a big step,” Cal says, “in terms of academics, forming new friendships, and learning to mingle.”

“I meet lots of people! I’ve made a ton of friends online. Every time I write a new post for The Lighthouse I get thousands of comments.”

Seth looks at me with piercing brown eyes. “Blanca, you’re new at this, but online friends are easier than people you meet face to face. It’s a different type of interaction.”

At that moment a flash makes me jump. But it’s not a Virus snatching my picture this time. It’s a family in the corner taking a photograph of their kid. “Face to face can be scary,” I say.

“Sometimes,” Cal nods, “but not normally.”

“Normal for me is different.”

“Exactly our point,” says Seth.

Cal leans forward in his seat. “We think it would be helpful if you could chat with someone, to help you process all you’ve been through.”

“You mean like a psychiatrist? You think I’m crazy?” I twist my chip-watch around and around my wrist where the cuff used to be.

Seth scoots closer and lowers his voice. “We don’t think you’re crazy. But some really shitty things have happened to you.”

“You lost your mother,” says Cal.

“Ms. Lydia wasn’t my mother! I mean, she gave birth to me. That’s it. What do I care what happened to her?”

“You must feel something,” Cal says.

“I feel nothing.”

“Then why are you talking so loud?” Seth asks.

I take a quick glance of the room and notice stares.

Our waiter rushes over. “Are you ready for dessert now?” he asks.

“Yes,” Cal answers. “Please bring the menu.”

“No, thank you.” I squeeze my fists together, stress coursing through my body like lightening.

When the waiter leaves, Seth touches my elbow. “We’ve made an appointment for you.”

“What?”

“With Dr. Meredith,” Cal says. “A therapist.”

“You want me to tell my private secrets to a total stranger?” I speak with a steadied calm while a storm builds up inside me.

“She’s not a stranger, Blanca. Seth and I started seeing Dr. Meredith when you were kidnapped.”

My heartbeat is ragged. “You told her about me? You shared my private life with an outsider?”

“Of course not.” Seth’s dark hair sticks up in wild tuffs on his head. “Dad and I had our own stuff to work out. You know I spent five years mistakenly thinking Dad cheated on my mom.”

Cal flinches. “And you have your issues too, Blanca.”

I swallow hard. I reach over and stroke my white leather jacket. Maybe I should get up and go. Ride back to McNeal Manor on my motorcycle. But that would mean going someplace by myself. The last time I rode off into the night, my good friend Ethan was killed and Ms. Lydia kidnapped me.

“Sometimes being an adult means doing things you don’t want to do,” says Cal.

“I’ll drive you to your appointment next week, if that helps,” Seth offers.

“No way,” I say. “I don’t need that type of care.”

I can do this if I try hard enough.

I stand up and pick up my jacket. “Thank you for dinner,” I snarl.

But as I turn to go I walk smack into dark suits. The man is six foot three, every inch of him as sharp as his buzz-cut hair. The woman is my height, about five foot five, with silver stud earrings.

“Blanca Nemo?” The woman has a steady voice. Both of them hold up their palms to flash electronic badges. “Agents Carter and Marlow with the FBI. We need to bring you in for questioning.”

“What the hell?” Seth leaps to his feet.

“Blanca?” Cal springs up. “What’s this about?”

“I don’t know.” I shoot him a frightened look the agents can’t see.

“Don’t say anything without a lawyer. Okay, sweetheart?” Cal types at his chip-watch. “Hold tight until Nancy gets there.”

“Come on, Ms. Nemo.” The male agent grabs my arm, “Our car is outside.”

“Ouch! Not so tight!”

“Her name’s not ‘Nemo’,” Seth shouts. “It’s Blanca McNeal.” He and Cal hurry after us out of the restaurant into the night where a black sedan is waiting.

I turn to look at the McNeals one more time. Seth towers over Cal whose face is twisted with worry.

I smile wanly as the agents shove me into the backseat of the car.

The irony kills. I’m going someplace without them after all.

 

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily HeraldShe also blogs at Teaching
My Baby to Read
 with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI.
She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA. 
GENESIS GIRL will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sequel  will come out in 2017. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza
Royce Literary Agency
LLC.
 
Follow Jennifer on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

 

3 winners will receive and eBook of GENESIS GIRL & an eGalley of DAMAGED GOODS. International.

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Title: GENESIS GIRL
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 280
Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where
she’s been protected from the Internet. 

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online. 

Coming Soon: The Perilous Journey of the much too Spontaneous Girl

Today Leigh Statham and Month9Books are revealing the cover for THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE MUCH TOO SPONTANEOUS GIRL, book 2 in THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT SO INNOCUOUS GIRL Series! Which releases October 11, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Message from the Author

Why I love the cover: Hello, GOGGLES! I love how artist Christel Michiels captures Marguerite’s amazing fashion sense and tech gadgets. Plus this cover, like the first, is just the right mix of danger and fun. Who doesn’t love leather gear cuffs and a good top hat?

 

 

On to the reveal! 

 

 

 

 

 Pub. Date: October 11, 2016

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Paperback & eBook

Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD |Goodreads

Lady Marguerite Vadnay and her trusty automaton, Outil, have settled into life in New France rather well. Marguerite is top of the class at flight school and her future as an aerpilot is nearly secure. She has everything she wants— except a commission on the pirate hunting dirigible The Renegade. Using every card in her aristocratic arsenal, Marguerite wiggles her way onto the finest warship France has to offer. But as usual, Marguerite’s plans endanger the lives of those she holds dear— only this time no one else is going to save them. As Marguerite and Outil set off on a rescue mission they may not return from, she finally realizes it’s time to reorder her cogs.

This steampunk adventure is littered with facts from The Golden Age of Piracy and follows (not too closely) some of the lives and adventures of the brave men and women who sailed the seas as privateers, pirates and soldiers.

 

 

 

Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one day get her hit by a car.

Where you can find Leigh:  Website |Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 winner will receive an eBook of THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT SO INNOCUOUS GIRL & an eGalley of THE PERILOUS

JOURNEY OF THE MUCH TOO SPONTANEOUS GIRL (when available), International.

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Cover Reveal for THERE ONCE WERE STARS

 Here it is! Another cover reveal and sample chapter for your enjoyment. Because I want your To Be Read pile of books to teeter and totter like mine does. What are friends for?

Today Melanie McFarlane and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THERE ONCE WERE STARS, which releases April 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

I have anticipated this moment for months—the moment I would be able to share my cover with all of you! When I first laid eyes on the cover for THERE ONCE WERE STARS I was immediately drawn to the stars and how they are escaping their glass prison. In my novel, the main character, Natalia Greyes, is also locked in a glass prison: her home, Dome 1618. During Nat’s childhood the stars became more visible in the sky, after being blocked by darkness for decades after the Cleansing Wars. Like the stars, Nat is a symbol of change as she transforms from a naïve youth into a strong teen, who searches for her place in her tiny world of Dome 1618, and dreams of escaping to the outside one day. But my favorite detail of all is the grass and how cool and inviting it is in contrast to the hard sheen of the glass jar. It can be seen as a symbol of how mankind can never capture or truly duplicate the beauty of nature, or the wonder of life itself.
 
Don’t forget to check out my trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuTOuBPX11k
On to the reveal! 
 
 
Title: THERE ONCE WERE STARS
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Pub. Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it:  Goodreads

 Blurb:

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly
radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?

Exclusive Excerpt:

Chapter One

I stretch my arms across my bed, running my fingers along the same sheets I’ve had since I was a child. The stiffness was beaten out of them long ago, but they still carry the memory of my mother carefully stitching the first tear back together when I was seven. The tiny x’s remind me of her long fingers, moving the needle back and forth with the same care as when she worked with samples in her laboratory.

I trace the row stitches, squeezing my eyes shut as I make a wish; it is my eighteenth birthday, after all. But when I open them, the same scene shows from my bedroom window that always does—the grid of our dome. Nothing changes. It doesn’t matter how many birthday wishes are made; I always wake up trapped inside the dome. The grid of thick glass and steel arcs far above our apartment, stretching to where the great Axis, a tower of government offices, meets the peak of our home—Dome 1618.

I crawl out of bed and let my gaze trail down the Axis to the rooftops of the other apartment buildings, row upon row of housing for blue-collar workers. Closer to the Axis are townhouses of the business owners, hidden from the rest of us, but that’s not where I long to be. My eyes drift to the base of the dome, far away from my window where the Outer Forest lies, my only saving grace. It’s forbidden to hike among the trees, but sometimes rules need to be broken.

“Natalia!” Grandmother’s piercing voice comes from the other side of my bedroom door. “Get up. You’re wasting the day away.”

The clock on my dresser reads eight o’clock in the morning. Seriously? It’s been nine years since I moved in with my grandparents, and saying Grandmother and I have differing opinions barely touches the surface. Her rules are sometimes worse than those of the Order, who police the dome. With any luck, I’ll be assigned my own apartment soon and can finally restart my life, again.

I run my brush through my long brown hair, although by the time I go outside it will look unruly once again. It’s my curse; I have thick hair like my mother, with waves that look more like oddly-placed kinks, unlike the smooth-flowing locks worn by some of the other girls at my school. But I won’t have to go back to the Learning Institute again. Today I’m an adult.

My jeans are on the floor where I left them last night, and I manage to find a clean T-shirt in my drawer. Both have the same tiny stitches as my sheets, covering up the wear and tear over the years, but I sewed these back together myself. Grandmother is firm on the fact that if I don’t take care of what I have, I don’t get a replacement. There’s no point in arguing when her opinions are as deep as the wrinkles on her face, and honestly, it’s hard to tell which she has more of. Before I leave my room, I grab my mother’s notebook. It’s filled with her sketches and work notes on different projects she was involved in. But my favorites are the tiny notes, squeezed in the margins, excerpt of her personal thoughts, hopes, and dreams. The biggest of these was to move her family outside the dome.

“I know you were out last night,” Grandmother says, eyeing me suspiciously between the milk and dry toast as I slip into my seat at the table.

“Must we have this conversation every morning?” Grandfather speaks up.

“You know the ramifications!” Grandmother shrills, and he shrinks in his chair. “Do you want to let her stroll around at night past curfew? One day she won’t come home, and then we will be questioned.” Grandmother redirects her attention to me. “What are you doing out there that’s important enough to risk everything? Haven’t I warned you? If the Order catches you, you will wish you had listened to me.”

“That’s my problem.” I fold my arms across my chest. She always makes me back down with her words. If I’m going to be an adult, I need to learn how to take a stand.

“If your parents could only see you now,” she says unsympathetically. “They would wonder how they got a daughter so determined to get herself detained. You know what they do with little girls who don’t follow the rules.”

“Yes,” I say through gritted teeth. She’s given these lectures many times. Girls who don’t follow the rules are sent back to the Learning Institute for retraining, where they come out all prim and proper, ready to take their place as functional citizens of the dome. I’m not going back there; I know how to stay under the radar.

“Come on, now.” Grandfather finally steps in. “It’s Nat’s birthday.”

“Yes.” Her tone softens. “You’re eighteen now. Hurry and eat; we got you a little something.”

I gobble down the toast, stale as it is, but fresh food is not something that our dome has had in a long time. Since the accident that caused my parents’ death, the Order stopped all excursions for scientific research, completely cutting off the outside world. Prior to this, there were plenty of rations from the farms due to uncontaminated seeds the expedition teams found, along with new plant life for supplementing the crops. But those stockpiles have slowly depleted.

When I finish breakfast, I look at my grandparents in anticipation. Grandfather’s face is beaming, and though Grandmother looks like she is trying to be serious, I can see a small sparkle in her eyes as she hands me a tiny green box with a little purple bow. The bow is smooth, made from fabric nicer than anything I own. I gently untie it, and put the silky strand safely in my pocket, before opening the box to see what is inside.

A silver, heart-shaped locket sits on top of fine tissue paper, so delicate I don’t dare touch it in case it rips. An image of two hands holding a smaller heart is engraved into the center of the locket. This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen—I’ve never owned jewelry of my own. My hands are shaking so bad I almost drop the box.

“Careful!” Grandmother’s voice snaps me from my awe. She grabs the box from me, and it takes all my inner strength to let it go.

She removes the necklace from the box and opens the locket, holding it out to me. Inside, is a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Photos are luxuries. I only own one other— a photo of me with my parents when I turned three—and it stays safe on my nightstand. But this locket—I can take it with me anywhere. I hold up my hair, allowing Grandmother to secure it around my neck, then grasp the tiny keepsake in my hand. I will cherish it forever.

“I’m going to show this to Jak and Xara,” I say, leaving the table.

“Don’t forget, you have to report to work today.” Grandmother reminds me.

“But it’s Saturday.” I groan.

“You’re eighteen now,” she says, her eyes vacant of the compassion they held only seconds ago. “Your time to contribute to the dome begins today. Plus, any experience is good to have if you want to be a scientist one day, like your parents.”

“I don’t see how cleaning toilets at the Axis will do me any good in the future,” I complain. “And I never said I want to be a scientist.”

“You’ll find where you’re meant to be.” Grandfather smiles. “Understanding everything from the bottom-up will help you make a better decision about what you want to do to make your contribution.”

I sigh as I lace up my sneakers, now feeling the pressure of the future. I have no idea what I want to do today, let alone the rest of my life. But it definitely does not involve cleaning up after those in the Axis. I wave good-bye as I leave the apartment, but only Grandfather waves back. My number one fan; he always tries to keep the peace between Grandmother and I. But no matter how close we are, I still have to lie about where I’m really going. No one can know about my secret place.

Outside, I stretch my arms up toward the top of the dome. The sun shines through the dust covered glass of the dome, with sections of blue sky showing here and there. I sneak around the back of our apartment building, and begin my stealthy weave through alleyways. I have hours before my first shift starts at the Axis. Hours to spend somewhere the Order can’t find me.

When I reach the Outer Forest, I sneak in a break in the fence and move between the trunks of trees, inhaling the last of the old world. The rich combination of musk and earth fills my lungs as I run as fast as I can from the fence. Running is one of the few things that make me feel free. When I reach my destination, I’m out of breath, but exactly where I belong—a hidden clearing at the edge of the dome.

I crawl inside a hollowed-out tree I’ve claimed as my own. How did the Order miss this lone tree, dying amidst the perfection of the Outer Forest? It should have been torn down long ago, to make room for larger, healthier, oxygen bearing trees. Decay doesn’t coincide with the Order’s pursuit for perfection and efficiency, but it’s ideal for me: hidden, empty, and alone. I accept this tree’s imperfections and it offers me solace.

I clutch my locket again, this time removing it from my neck so I can look inside. A twinge of pain prickles my throat as my parents’ faces stare back at me. They look so happy and in love. I remember that about them. The in love part. I haven’t thought about people in love for so long.

I lean back, holding the locket against my chest, intent on enjoying the morning sun. Unfortunately, the heat of the sun doesn’t penetrate the cold glass of the dome, but something about that glowing orb in those blue skies makes me feel better. Mom wrote in her notebook about the first time she felt the sun on her skin: warm and, bright, as if it gave her a new life with its rays, just like it did to the world, after the Cleansing Wars. I close my eyes, imagining myself bathed in sunlight, and finally give in to the peace of the forest.

I wake up, feeling something sharp poking my side. I can’t believe I drifted off. My hand shoots behind me, to find the source of the pain. My mother’s notebook is jutting awkwardly from my back pocket. I stand up to tuck it back in, and my gaze slips above a line of bushes growing wildly along the base of the dome. At the same time, something flashes above them, and my breath catches in my throat. My reflection stares back at me from the glass, revealing my locket shining in the sunlight. Relax, Dacie, it’s only you. A nervous laugh escapes my throat, as I finish putting the notebook away.

Another light flashes, but this time it’s in the distance, on the other side of the glass. I lean forward, focusing on the light, and see a shadow move on the other side. My entire body goes rigid, and my heart beat thunders in my ears. No one could be out there—unless—could it be an Infected? No, that’s impossible. They were all killed by the Cleansing War—everything was. If the nukes didn’t kill them, the nuclear fallout afterward would have.

Something moves again—closer this time. A gasp escapes my lips, as a shudder rips through my body. That’s when I see it—the faint outline of a person standing in the open. He’s camouflaged by a layer of dust, blending him into the barren landscape that surrounds the dome. The figure’s shadow stretches across the ground, reaching toward me.

I rub my eyes, as if something in them could be making me see the figure, but when I open them I’m startled to see the figure again, only now there are two. One stays farther back, toward the rockier land, silhouetted against the foothills in the distance. The other stands a short distance from the dome. My heart skips a beat—they’re both human, and they’re both staring in my direction.

 

About Melanie: 
Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie McFarlane jumps in with both hands on her  keyboard. Thought she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her powers on her two upcoming YA novels: THERE ONCE WERE STARS and SUMMONER RISING.

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive the FIRST eGalley of THERE ONCE WERE STARS. International.

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Also Melanie is giving away swag enter that giveaway too!

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The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick – 3.8 of 5 Stars

In the interest of promoting independently published authors, I often agree to review new releases. In the case of The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick, I agreed to review the first book in her series The War of Six Crowns in exchange for a free eBook copy.

For those of you new to book publishing in the Amazon paradigm, the goal is to build chatter about your existing titles so that when a new title is released, people are excited to snap it up. I admire the indie authors who willingly put themselves out there with minimal support because they believe in the story they have to tell.

I read this book between July 6th and 9th but waited to post the review on my blog until today. Why? Because today, the second book in the series, The Heir’s Choice, releases on Kindle today. Get your copy by clicking here.

Story Summary

The Vanished Knight CoverCallan, orphaned at the age of eleven, is a foster child with a strange entity living within her. (Don’t get too intrigued by this entity because we learn NOTHING about its origin or real purpose in this book.) She also is plagued by strange dreams of knights and murder.

She lands into a new foster home, where her wealthy “brother” is less than pleased to have a new sister. Apparently, he had a sister who died (but there are mere hints about how and when) and his parents should have sought his permission before trying to replace her with this mousy girl.

They head off to an elite boarding school that is situated near a supposedly haunted castle. Callan likes to blend in, hide in plain sight, in order to cope with new situations. Unfortunately, several things happen the first day of school to prevent that.

In what should have been a pleasure trip, Callan falls into the hands of kidnappers from an alternate world. She is rescued by a boy from school, who apparently is a knight in the other realm.

Soon she discovers that her family might not be as dead as she always believed. This world is on the edge of war (as the title of the series suggests), and Callan appears to be caught between two powerful races who despise and distrust one another.

My Review

Does my summary end abruptly? So does the book. This is one of the reasons I give this book a 3.8 out of five stars on my rating scale.

The author created a winning character with Callan. The girl is compelling and sympathetic. Although she seems too passive at first, readers quickly realize the reasoning for this. Just enough of her history is given to us to help us understand her while yearning to find out more.

The three male characters aren’t nearly as compelling. Although Darrion comes across like a jerk, his strong personality fits his station and background. Due to the sparks that fly between him and Callan, I imagine there will be a romance between the two of them in later books.

Of course, Gawain already fancies himself in love with Callan. His easy-going personality makes him quite likable, but he’s not as well-rounded as he should be if he’s going to be a major player in the story.

The foster brother, James, is my least favorite character in the story (even above Callan’s kidnapper and the unhelpful museum curator). He has zero redeeming qualities. When bad things happen to him, I feel no sympathy. He’s simply a spoiled rich kid who feel entitled to whatever he wants (and that is not relatable to me or any of the young adults I know).

Apparently, he will play an important role in future stories because the sample chapter of the second book features him. His part in this story was minor, and his journey into the alternate world didn’t feel like natural story progression (another strike against this book and why it didn’t quite earn four stars).

Too much time is spent in our world since the actual “story” takes place in Nordaine. Even the title speaks to events happening in this other reality. Most of the events at the boarding school, which took up chapters, could have fit easily into two or three scenes. I did like the arrival scene, but most of the other byplay didn’t add to the depth of story or characters.

What was the problem in this story? Callan has an entity (still a mystery at the end of the book) that keeps her from developing close relationships, but she wants those. In the end, she discovers she might have family alive and well in the alternate world. I’ve read the book, contemplated what it was “really” about, and I’m still coming up blank (thus the lowered rating).

The beginning was confusing, jumping between three perspectives, dreams and reality, this world and that world. I feel like some young adult readers would have closed the book before things started happening.

All this book offers are more questions. Who are Callan’s parents? Why did someone want to kidnap her? What is the entity? Why does the book promise me a vanished knight when that is an underlying issue but not the heart of Callan’s story?

Because this is Callan’s story. Sure, it might also be a little bit of Darrion’s story, but that felt like an introduction to the magical otherworld more than something important. It hints that James has a story, but most readers will be happy when very little time is spent with the rich brat.

In short, this is one of those first books that irritates me. It doesn’t have it’s own story. It is nothing more than set-up for the rest of the series. It says, “Here are the characters. This is what’s going on that’s about to change everything. And we’ll get to that in the next installment.”

A Recommendation

I clicked over to pre-order the second book as soon as I finished this novel. Do you need more of a recommendation than that?

My biggest recommendation is to WAIT to read this until the second book is available. Lucky for you, that’s today. Your appetite will just be whetted for this universe Gerrick creates and this novel will end.

Overall, I believe this book will entertain lovers of all fantasy genres. I had a hard time putting it down after the first three of four confusing chapters. The medieval setting of the alternate universe will captivate those who love historical fiction from that era.

Love knights? You’ll meet some good and bad ones here. Think elves are out of this world? Right again. But they belong to the alternate reality created by Gerrick in this novel.

The scope isn’t quite epic because the cast isn’t too huge to keep straight. Maybe this is why I enjoyed the book (even though this review may give a conflicted recounting).

Pick up your copy of this book and it’s sequel today.