The Dark Days Pact: Review

“Is he going to win?” 

“He has offered to help me, and right now I need his help.”

“Is it just his help, or are you going because you wish to be with him?” He leaned closer, face fierce. “Do you love him? Is that it?”

This book just broke me in the best way possible. Every time I read an Alison Goodman novel I am completely unable to start a new book for days after and The Dark Days Pact is no different. I have been eagerly anticipating this book since I first read The Dark Days Club and Alison Goodman did not disappoint. It was so good, in fact, that I went and reread it mere weeks after I finished it the first time. pact

The Dark Days Pact picks up where we left off at the end of the first book. Lady Helen is now officially a Reclaimer in training and a guest of Lady Margaret in Brighton. She is trying to navigate this new world and its politics to the best of her abilities and I loved seeing her struggle to reconcile her upbringing with her new role. I enjoyed her growth as a character and Goodman has done an amazing job with Lady Helen. The world she has managed to build in the first book was incredibly layered and rather unique and I was a bit worried the sequel might not live up to its predecessor. I am so happy that is not the case. The intricacies of Regency society are so well written within the paranormal context of her world I can truly believe there were Deceivers back in 1812.

What I love most about this book is how real Lady Helen feels. Despite her struggles and hesitancy at times (I would have liked to see her tell off the Duke of Selburn when he recklessly endangered everyone!) I truly believe her to be a strong heroine. The biggest surprise for me was her newfound friendship (sort of?) with Mr. Hammond and I found myself looking forward to their scenes together. Also, the romance!!! Can we talk about how deliciously torturous the romance was *sigh*. It is truly a testament to Goodman’s superb writing skills that the mere removing of a jacket can pack so much tension. This scene alone can leave the reader with an almost visceral need for the next installment, which sadly is more than a year away!

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Kindle Unlimited: Top 5

I have been meaning to write a post about books I love that are available on KU for some time now and since I’ll be posting mostly reviews next week I thought today’s as good time as any. These are books that I absolutely love, written by ladies that I adore and cannot wait to read more of their works. So without further ado, here’s my top 5 KU books.

 

5. The Fray Theory: Resonance by Nelou Keramati 

Neve Knightly lives in an ordinary world. Where déjà vu is nothing more than a mind-trick. Where premonitions are dismissed as mere coincidence. Where no one thinks twice about the glitches in their reality.

Neve Knightly is living a lie. TheFrayTheory-Resonance-ARC-Cover

But when her nightmare of a tragedy comes true the very next day, she can no longer seek solace in self-deception. The glossy enamel has been shattered, and she has caught a glimpse of what slithers just beneath the surface.

She now has the opportunity to decipher the enigma that’s been haunting her since childhood. But her quest soon becomes deeply entangled with the last two people she could have ever imagined: the love of her life, Dylan, who mysteriously vanished three years ago, and his estranged best friend, Romer, who seems to be guarding a secret of his own.

Romance, rancor, and redemption plummet as priorities, as their lives become riddled with peculiar happenings lying just outside the realm of science. And in search for salvation, they emerge at the brink of unveiling the best-kept secret in human history.

The Fray Theory is the first book in a series and if you love urban fantasy/sci-fi this book is a must. It’s action packed, complex and just overall amazing. You can read my review of it here or if you want to learn more about how The Fray Theory came to be you can read my interview with Nelou Keramati here.

 

4. Chosen by K.F. Breene

It is said that when war threatens the world, one individual will be selected by prophecy to lead the Shadow Warriors out of the Land of Mist and reclaim the freedom which has been stolen. Shanti has grown up under the constant threat of war. Since she helped her people defeat a raiding party by using a special power, she’s been a hunted woman. chosenCarrying rare abilities and an uncanny fighting aptitude, Shanti is the only hope of salvation for her people. The problem is, she doesn’t believe in her own divinity, and when she flounders, she nearly fails in the duty hanging so heavy on her shoulders. It seems like any other day when Sanders and his band of misfit boys find a foreign woman clinging to life in the wastelands. Oblivious to the weapon they now have in their possession, they are content to harbor the mysterious woman until she is well enough to continue her journey. But when the war spreads its arms and lands on her borrowed doorstep, Shanti has no choice but to reveal her secrets, plunging her saviors into danger. If they band with her, they will face certain death. But to trade her to Xandre, the warlord desperate to add her to his war machine, would be to give up their entire way of life.

This is the first book in a series of six novels, five of which are available on KU. The last book comes out on Nov 10th. This is perfect for fans of fast paced, action packed high fantasies.

 

3. Air Awakens by Elise Kova

A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond…

The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war. air-awakens

Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.

The first in a series of five, this book has been a favourite of mine since it came out last year. The series has been on the USA Bestsellers list and is now, for the first time available on KU. So go check it out ASAP if you haven’t already.

 

2. Fantasy of Frost by Kelly St. Clare 

I know many things. What I am capable of, what I will change, what I want to become. But there is one thing I will never know. frost-fantasy

Being the Tatuma of our world, the next to rule, should have given me a privileged life. One full of friends, love and happiness. If my mother did not hate me, I probably would have had all of that. Instead, she has kept me veiled from birth, turning the possibility of this distant dream into a living nightmare.

Shunned by the court, abused from childhood, I am trapped within this material barrier and will never know my own face. Only two friends and a determination to become Tatum keep me sane.

I am unaware everything in my life is about to change when the peace delegate arrives from the savage world of Glacium. Hidden agendas, past secrets and my struggle to stay alive–while still becoming the person I want to be–careen wildly out of control.

Another favourite of mine. This entire series is completely amazing and so unique. I actually binge read them in a matter of days with little to no sleep in between. For more of my thoughts on the awesomeness that is this series click here.

 

1. Chase the Dark by Annette Marie 

Piper Griffiths wants one thing in life: To become a Consul, a keeper of the peace between humans and daemons. There are three obstacles in her way. SS3

The first is Lyre. Incubus. Hotter than hell and with a wicked streak to match. His greatest mission in life is to get Piper into bed and otherwise annoy the crap out of her. The second is Ash. Draconian. Powerful. Dangerous. He knows too much and reveals nothing. Also, disturbingly attractive — and scary. Did she mention scary?

The third is the Sahar Stone. Top secret magical weapon of mass destruction. Previously hidden in her Consulate until thieves broke in, went on a murder spree, and disappeared with the weapon.

And they left Piper to take the fall for their crimes.

Now she’s on the run, her dreams of becoming a Consul shattered and every daemon in the city gunning to kill her. She’s dead on her own, but there’s no one she can trust — no one except two entirely untrustworthy daemons … See problems one and two.

Oh, man!! The top spot simply HAD to go to one of my all time fave series, Steel & Stone by Annette Marie*. This book, this series in general, is so addictive that read all five books and one novella in TWO DAYS! It has everything. Alternate worlds – check. Kickass female character – check. Demons – check. Action – check and CHECK. If you only download one book on KU let it be this one. Or Fantasy of Frost. Or you know, any on this list, really.

*For you lovely peeps, who have already discovered the awesomeness of Steel & Stone, Annette has released a new book called Red Winter, inspired by Japanese history and culture. Oh, and it has supernatural creatures. What more can you ask for, really? Red Winter is also available for download with you KU subscription.

The Graces: Review

Hey, guys, work has been crazy busy these past few weeks, which is why I have not been as active as usual. However, I have finished a bunch of reviews of the books I’ve been reading in October so I will be posting them once a day next week. A full week of reviews.. I feel like I should try and group them by theme or something. Anyway back to my current post. Do you guys get that weird feeling where you pick up a book and you don’t like it at all, and then wonder for days how to review it? I had this with a bunch of books lately and I have chosen the talk about The Graces by Laure Eve. the-graces I remember when this book first got announced and everyone went crazy about it. I read the synopsis on Goodreads and thought ‘hmm, sounds interesting’. Well, I finally had the chance to pick up a copy and honestly I was a bit disappointed. A lot of my fellow bloggers have been raving about this book for months now and frankly, I cannot tell you why. The Graces has got to be one of the most boring books I have read this year and I feel really bad saying this but it is. It is so boring and slow paced, I kept wondering if something was going to happen at all. The story was reminiscent of Twilight but with witches instead of vampires and a plot, when it finally appeared, so far fetched and drawn out for the sake of a few predictable twists any reader can see from a mile away. I didn’t care for any of the characters, which is really not that surprising considering I found River incredibly annoying so naturally, I could not like anything she liked. And boy did she like the Graces. The book is actually 350 pages give or take and about 250 of those were spent on River obsessing over the Graces. Or Fenrin, the special cupcake everyone’s in love with. None of the characters were deep enough to compensate for the lack of plot which made this an incredibly difficult book to read. If you want a novel with witches, I’d give Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova a try instead.

Teaser Tuesday – 1st Nov.

For those of you who don’t know Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat. Here are the rules: Teaser Tuesday

  • Grab the book you’re currently reading
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
  • DO NOT include spoilers. You don’t want to ruin the book for others by including too much.
  • Share the title and the author so other participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like the teasers.

“The sharpshooter was covered in soot and smelled like a forest fire, but he had that wonderful glimmer-eyed look he always seemed to get when he’d been in a fight. All Wylan wanted to do was stand as close as he possibly could to him and know that he was safe.” ~p. 323 Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo 

Enigma: Chapter Reveal

Title & Author: Enigma (Schrodinger’s Consortium #2) by Tonya Kuper

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Worst. Road Trip. Ever.

Escaping with Reid Wentworth should have been fun, but how can I enjoy it when I just (accidentally) killed someone, my mom and brother are in danger, and the Consortium is trying to enslave humanity? (Yeah, they aren’t fooling around.)So feeling something for Reid Wentworth was not part of the plan. Trying to help unite the Resistance against the Consortium means I can’t be distracted by hot boys.

The Resistance secret hideout isn’t exactly the rebel base of my dreams. A traitor there wants me dead, but we have no idea who it is. And with both the Resistance and the Consortium trying to control me, the only one I can trust is Reid. If we’re going to have any chance of protecting my family, controlling my unstable powers, and surviving the clash between the Oculi factions, I’m going to have to catch this traitor. By using myself as bait.

 

Enigma is the second book in Tonya Kuper’s Schrodinger’s Consortium and if you haven’t read Anomaly yet you should go pick it up ASAP. If you’ve already read it and are itching for more, you can now read the first chapter of Enigma, while waiting for the actual book to come out next summer.

 

Chapter One

Josie

Three days ago, I killed someone. A dozen times a night, and every time I close my eyes, I see his body convulse as the bolt of lightning I Pushed struck his body. I still see Santos’s face contorted in pain before he sinks under the surface of the water.

I opened my eyes after brushing my hair and swept my toiletries off the faux-marble counter into my backpack. Stepping out of the bathroom, I scanned the rest of the room for my belongings. My bra lay on the floor where I’d dropped it the night before, next to the paisley bedding. It had been beyond embarrassing shimmying that thing off under my shirt when I was right next to my hottie bedmate.

I plopped my backpack on the bed and grabbed my blue bra. It was still dangling from my hand when the door leading to the parking lot swung open and Reid smiled at me from the threshold.

Perfect. Of course, he walked in at this exact moment.

My face flashed with heat. I scrambled to stuff my garment into my bag, but the clasp hooked on one of my bracelets. Working the clasp off my bracelet took way more effort and time than it should have. The stupid thing was stuck. I peeked up at Reid to see if he was still looking at me. Wrinkles formed in the corners of his eyes as he coughed into his hand. He looked over his shoulder as he pretended to hack up a lung to camouflage a laugh.

Sharing the motel room with Reid, my trainer in charge of my safety, was convenient and safer. But him being my kind-of-sort-of-boyfriend also meant I was hyper-aware of personal stuff, like the time I spent showering or Reid catching me staring at him constantly. I mean, we shared a bed and were definitely into each other, but he’d never seen my bra before – on or off.

He’d now witnessed me wrestle with my undergarment – and lose. Which was both slightly embarrassing as his trainee and absolutely mortifying as his kind-of-girlfriend.

Reid looked at me, his brows pulling up in sympathy. He crossed the tiny motel room in three strides and stopped beside me. His warm hand touched my wrist as he studied the clasp and gently unhooked it from my bracelet. He caught my lacy bra before it fell to the bed.

Reid Wentworth was touching my bra, and my boobs weren’t even in it. What were the odds of that?

He’d worked my bra better than I had. How exactly had he gotten his bra-handling knowledge? The thought made me break into a full-body sweat.

Reid turned to face me. “I just turned in the room key. Cohen, my contact from the Hub, called while you were in the shower. The Hub gave us the green light to a safe house outside Flagstaff. We gotta pack ASAP and get on the road. They want us there before nightfall.”

I sat on the bed. “I’ll be ready in three minutes. I think I’ll miss this room, though.” We’d only spent one night, but something about it felt more secure than our two previous stops.

My bra was still in his hands.  I yanked from him. “Thank you.”

“I’ll help you with your bra anytime. Just say the word.” He winked.

I wanted to hide.

“Wait.” He pulled his duffle to the bed. “You’ll miss the mustiness of a 70s motel in need of a major facelift?”

With the bra safely tucked away, I bent to lace up my boots. “I know, it’s weird, but I like this place.”

He walked into the bathroom and came out with his toiletries. “You like the wood paneling, the shaggy Muppet carpet, and an air conditioner that’s louder than my bike?”

I peeked toward the rattling air unit. Despite the jolting noise, the curtains floated gracefully above the machine like paisley ghosts.

The room seemed more hidden than the other places we’d stayed, nestled in the woods somewhere in New Mexico. We drove highways instead of interstates all the way from Florida to stay under the radar, but I still felt exposed, afraid someone would see us. Now the mountains and trees gave me a sense of coverage, of safety.

I tied up my other boot. “Yeah, it’s old, but I like it.”

Hiding, tucked away in a dark room, I could almost pretend I hadn’t murdered another human being. Being around people reminded me that I was dangerous, that I was an incomprehensible monster. Maybe I was keeping others safe if I was hidden.

A loud, deep buzz sounded, drilling into the recent memory of gunfire and weapons, of people dying. My heart paused and I dropped to the floor, kneeling behind the bed.

Reid strode to the bedside table where his phone buzzed, but his wide eyes watched me, worry etched on his face.

Duh. Way to jump to conclusions. Chill out, Josie. I forced myself to stand.

The phone buzzed again, vibrating against the wood and reverberating in my bones. I blinked and jerked, almost an involuntary flinch.

It’s just his phone. Get a grip.

But a buzz meant someone was contacting Reid, contacting us. And any communication was bad news at this point.

Reid stepped to me hesitantly, as if he were approaching a skittish stray dog. Understanding flashed across his face. “That will probably happen for a while. But it will get better.” He touched my hand for a moment, but it was enough to remind me that we were safe. For now. I relaxed my posture as I exhaled.

At my side, he positioned the phone so we could read the screen.

I stared at the contact information, a line of pound signs. The meaning of the symbols finally registered. The number was restricted and blocked. I read the first line of the message.

This is Meg.

My body was numb. I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. They didn’t exist – or if they did, I couldn’t control them. I reread the three words.

My mom. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read on. Not just because I didn’t want bad news, but I didn’t want bad news that had anything to do with my family.

Reid bumped his shoulder to mine. “I didn’t think we’d hear from your mother this soon after her last message.” His voice was quiet.

It had been three days since I’d seen her face on her video message. Three days ago seemed like forever, yet it didn’t.

The phone buzzed again, making me jump, waking my body from a fear-induced paralysis.

Eli and I are redirecting to the Hub. 3 Founders need to be present to make executive decisions for the entirety of the Resistance. If the need arises, I have to be present. We should be there before you arrive. The Council is unaware there is a mole within the Hub. Use caution.

Hearing from my family made my heart burst with sweet relief because it was confirmation they were still alive and well. But fear squashed the celebration, turning my blood to cement.

I needed a minute to think. I couldn’t let my family go to the Hub with no way to protect themselves. I shoved the phone out of my line of sight, toward Reid. Instead of moving, he caught my hand and whisked me around to face him. “Josie, I know that look.” He let my hand fall. “If I take you to the Hub instead of the safe house, not only will I be disobeying direct orders, but it could get both of us, and possibly others, killed. You’d be giving the mole what he wants – you.”

He was right – the mole wanted me. And the best way to get to me was through what I cared about most, the people I cared about most. My family.

I took a step away from Reid, the back of my legs hitting the bed. I sank down onto the mattress.

I opened my mouth, but I couldn’t put two words together. My thoughts jumped from the mole, to my family, to the Consortium.

Reid stepped in front of me, his sober expression replaced with brows arched in concern. “Josie, I understand how you must be feeling—more than you know. But I’m supposed to keep you safe.”

I shoved off the bed. My knees buckled immediately and I rocked onto my heels, falling back to the mattress. Frustration clamped down on my emotions and I was ready to scream. I couldn’t look at Reid, but I held a palm up as I stared at the phone still in his hand.

He gave me his phone, the text message already pulled up on the screen. Then he sat next to me, making the bed dip under his weight. I read the message again.

What were my choices? If I went to the Hub, the biggest community of the Resistance, I’d be trapping myself with someone who wanted me dead. If I went into hiding with Reid, I’d still be hunted by the Consortium. Neither option was a vacation.

The muscles in Reid’s jaw flexed as his gaze traveled over my face. “I know your family means everything to you. Eli shouldn’t have to be involved in this.”

That was the part I couldn’t take. I let my head drop into my hands, slumping between my knees. The smell of bleach from the linens was almost comforting.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Eli would be staying in the same compound as the mole, as the person who helped Santos try to kill me. Swallowing the ache in my throat and the sting in my sinuses, I willed away my tears.

“Josie.” There was desperation in Reid’s voice.

Clearing my throat, I slowly sat upright and lifted my eyes to meet Reid’s.

Reid looked toward the window. “The Consortium wants all Anomalies dead because we’re too dangerous. And since you’re on your way to being the most powerful Anomaly on the planet, you aren’t just the target – you are the freaking bullseye.”

I wasn’t what mattered. Eli would be in danger. I was the only one who could protect him. I was the only one who could protect a lot of people.

Reid stood and crossed the small room to shut off the air unit. A whole new world of muted sounds came to life. A mourning dove cooed nearby, two housekeepers spoke in hushed tones outside as they pushed a cleaning cart on the cracked sidewalk, and a truck rumbled in the distance. There were spaces in the new quiet, spaces with virtually no sound but plenty of room for thought.

My family was bait. Fury simmered in my stomach.

I shoved off the bed and stepped to Reid’s side, making him look at me. His eyes fluttered shut. “I wish I could just take you away from all this.” His dark lashes fanned upward as he opened his eyes. “But this is your decision.”

His compassion for me meant more to me than I would be able to convey to him. If this were a normal life and we were normal people, his care for me would’ve been all I needed. But our world was anything but normal. My safety didn’t matter, no matter how much he cared about me. My priority was keeping my family and others safe. If that put me in harm’s way, so be it. “You and I are more powerful than the mole and we’ll outnumber him. Statistics are in our favor. And he doesn’t get to use my family as bait.”

Reid shook his head and something flickered in his eyes. He tugged me against him, my chest colliding against his. My fingers dug into him, pulling him closer.

Terror trickled through my nervous system, seeping through every inch of me, infusing my body. “I need to go to the Hub,” I whispered. It wasn’t a want, it was a need. I needed to keep my family safe. And in doing that, I’d be facing my own mortality. But what scared me more was facing their mortality, Eli’s mortality. I’d already lost one brother.

Standing in front of the lone motel room window, our bodies bathed in rays of morning sunshine, to anyone watching, we would have looked like we were glowing from within, like superheroes. But superheroes wouldn’t let fear cripple them like this.

Reid let his forehead rest against mine and closed his eyes. “I don’t like this idea for a lot of reasons. But I know that’s selfish.” Blue eyes stared into mine. A sadness masked his face that I didn’t understand.

“Sorry,” I whispered.

He pressed his lips into a tight line. “Let’s go.” He squeezed me then turned to the bed.

“How are we going to find the mole?”

He zipped his duffle bag. “I have no idea, Josie.”

I plucked my phone from the bedside table, the varnish of the dark wood worn along the edges. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “You need to know something. We have to be different in the Hub.” He shook his head. “We can’t, uh,” his voice scratched. “We can’t do this in there.”

“What?” I let my gaze drop to the ground.

“Josie.” I couldn’t look at him until I was sure the sting in my eyes had dissipated. “Josie, look at me.”

That was my luck. My first boyfriend ever broke up with me on my birthday, then my long-time crush ended anything between us before we even had a chance. Two guys ditching me in under two weeks. That had to be some kind of record. For losers.

The shabby motel floor creaked under our feet as Reid dropped his bag, stepped in front of me. “We have to play by the rules in the Hub, and I’m someone who trains others to follow the rules. One of the rules? No trainer-trainee relationships. A romantic relationship between trainers and trainees clouds the trainer’s judgment. So we can’t do this.” He motioned between us.

Understanding why didn’t make the rejection any less painful.

Reid dipped his head, his dark hair falling forward, leaving an inch between our noses. “Make no mistake, I love what we have.” The deep line between his brows reappeared. “But going into the Hub means putting the mission before us. And I’m all for it. We don’t want anyone, including the mole, to know we have a relationship. It would be used against us. A relationship in the Hub could hurt you. I can’t put you in more danger than you already are. We can’t be anything more than friends for now.”

He was right, but that wasn’t going to stop the hurt. What we had wasn’t just a two-week whirlwind romance; this was a lifetime of growing a relationship. I couldn’t move. I’d lost my family, my friends, my home. I’d naïvely thought maybe I could have the one guy who understood what I’d lost and understood me.

A weird pressure bloomed in my chest, but I had to ignore it. I had to move and focus before tears fell and I was a puddle on the floor. Besides, we needed to get on the road. I backed away from Reid. “Come on.” Stepping to the bed, I flung my backpack over my shoulder. “We have to catch a mole. Before he kills my family. Or me.”

Reid snagged his duffle, his face drawn in worry, and opened the heavy door, squinting into the bright morning light. We secured our bags and our helmets, and I climbed on the bike behind Reid. I forced myself to move as though nothing was different, touching Reid when I had to without reservation. But everything was different.

Reid turned the key, revved the throttle, and the engine roared to life under us. Turning his head over his shoulder, his pale irises met mine. “Last chance. Left to Flagstaff or right to the Hub?”

My chest felt restricted, like I couldn’t pull in a full breath. “Right.” I gripped his waist, anticipating the turn.

He didn’t reply, but he moved his hand on top of mine for a second to squeeze it. Bits of asphalt spat away from the tires as we headed north toward the Hub in the Rockies. The wind whipped through my hair, a flame of red twisting behind me from under my helmet.

In Star Wars terms, I was Luke Skywalker and the Consortium was my own version of the Empire who wanted to wipe out all Jedi. We were off to join the Rebels – the Resistance in the Hub.

The white line on the road trailed alongside the motorcycle, as if it were holding our hands, guiding us. There was something comforting about that white line. Even if it had to break, it came back. That’s what Reid had been for me the last couple weeks – my anchor.

I tightened my hold around Reid’s waist, pressing my body against his back. The warmth of his leather jacket against my stomach combated the cool breeze that had picked up the higher we climbed into the mountains as our journey stretched late into the day.

An hour ago, he’d said we would be to the Hub soon. I hoped for my numb butt’s sake it was sooner rather than later. Despite the peacefulness in watching the highway disappear in the mirror, the growl and whoosh of each semi passing us in the opposite direction made me flinch. With each flinch, I was taken back to the moment I Pushed the lightning that killed Santos. My mind was stuck, replaying the image over and over. The white light had temporarily blinded me as it streaked down the oil-slicked sky to Santos, making me flinch. Santos’ body had convulsed, his face contorted in horror.

No matter what I had done the last few days, how often Reid had made me laugh, or how much we’d kissed late at night, guilt and shame had weaseled into my thoughts. The guilt-shame of taking Santos’ life wasn’t letting up. In fact, it was getting worse.

We rounded a bend in the road and my chest twisted as if someone were ringing me out like a wet towel. My left lung ached like nothing I’d felt before. Was it my lung, though? Or was it my heart?

Was this what it was like as Santos drowned? Had his lungs hurt and was his heart on the verge of explosion? Another picture of Santos coming after me on the beach, a sick and menacing smile on his lips, flickered in my mind.

Another eighteen-wheeler passed and the lightning flashed in my mind again. When the face came into focus though, it wasn’t Santos – it was Eli.

Fear gripped me and I beat both hands on Reid. That’s when I noticed my hands were shaking, and my heart rate matched the rhythm of the shaking, fast and sporadic. Frantic.

“Josie?” he yelled over his shoulder. I couldn’t manage words, I just beat my right fist into his back, holding on for dear life with my left arm, hooking it around his middle.

Reid slowed around the next curve then pulled off the road at a scenic lookout. I jumped off the bike before it came to a complete stop, flinging my helmet off of my head. The gravel crunched under my boots as I ran to the edge of the lookout. Leaning over the railing, bracing myself on my forearms, I hung my head as I concentrated on deep inhales and slow exhales.

Reid’s feet crushed the gravel as he sprinted to me. “Josie?” His voice was a higher pitch than I’d heard before and it cracked at the end of my name.

His warm hand landed gently on my back. “What’s wrong?”

I shook my head, unable to answer.

Santos was a traitor. Santos tried to kill me. I will not be the reason Eli dies.

A panic attack over Santos and this mole and imagining myself kill my little brother. At least that’s what I thought it was. I just needed the feeling to pass.

I held up a finger, continuing inhaling through my nose to the count of four and exhaling through my mouth to slow my breath and pulse.

Santos was a traitor. Santos tried to kill me. I will not be the reason Eli dies.

I wiped the perspiration on my forehead away with the back of my hand. Reid didn’t force me to speak, but patiently stood behind me, his hand still on my back.

I eventually straightened, letting out a long, pain-free sigh. Finally, I could breathe.

“Santos?” he whispered. I nodded and my heart squeezed again just hearing his name, but not as severe this time.

His hand slowly roamed up to my shoulder. “Are you okay?” That was a loaded question.

No, I wasn’t okay, but he already knew that. He’d held me every night when I woke screaming from nightmares. He’d listened as I rehashed the Consortium’s attack on the rooftop after the serum handoff to the vice president. He’d watched me grow up with my family and knew they were everything to me.

I touched my fingertips to his hand gripping my shoulder. I wanted to throw my arms around him and burrow my head into the crevice of his neck, the place I fit perfectly. I wanted to breathe in the smell of him, a clean, musky scent, and feel his warmth around me. Instead, I pulled my fingers away and nodded. “I’ll be fine.” The words came out quieter than I intended.

I finally raised my eyes to take in our view. A blanket of evergreens covered the mountains surrounding us. “This puts Endor to shame.” I wished it were Endor. No one would be hunting me there.

Crickets had begun their evening song, serenading us, filling in the silence. Moving forward, I leaned against the aluminum guard rail, the metal cool on my upper thighs through my jeans. I kicked a spray of gravel, rocks assaulting plants on the way down the side of the mountain into the gorge.

Reid stepped beside me, his presence simultaneously calming because he had been my support since this whole mess started weeks ago, yet jarring because he couldn’t play the same role anymore. I cleared my throat. “This is beautiful.”

His eyes focused on the mountains in front of us. “This is home,” he said.

“Welcome home.” I guessed this was my home now. Temporarily. Indefinitely. I didn’t know.

I stared at the place where the mountaintops kissed the watercolor sky. Pink cotton candy clouds battled shadows gobbling up the mountains. The sharp smell of pine reminded me of family camping trips – Nick and I racing through the woods and stony creek beds. The scent made me want to run, faster than I had ever before. Run to Mom and Eli in the Hub and find the mole.

Running to them also meant losing my relationship with Reid. As much as I wanted to get to the Hub for them, part of me didn’t. Reid was my older brother’s friend who I’d secretly had a thing for since I was little. He was the one person I’d always wanted. How was I just supposed to turn off those feelings?

Reid turned to face me, his hand reaching for mine, but he allowed it to drop before he touched me. He was afraid to get close. He was putting space between us to keep me safe.

I had to let him go. An invisible pain spread through me. I was a piece of glass struck by a hammer. A spider-web of cracks hid under my skin. I hadn’t thought being kept safe could hurt more than being in danger.

I closed the space between us, his face only inches from mine. His eyes shut for a moment as he sighed. “Josie.” The word was drawn out and whispered.

I traced his jawline with my forefinger. I had to get close. I needed it. I needed him. I shifted my weight forward to rise up on my toes, to touch my lips to his, but then I stopped.

I couldn’t kiss him when I couldn’t have him. I backed away, instantly feeling chilly.

A crease formed between his eyes. “We probably need to get going.”

This was it. We were done.

I turned to his motorcycle, but a Jeep had replaced Reid’s bike. Two weeks ago that would’ve freaked me the hell out, but not anymore. I opened the door of the vehicle and slid into the seat, limp and numb, sadness weighing me down. I stared out the windshield, focused on the mountain across the valley, but I wasn’t really seeing it. In my peripheral, Reid scooted behind the wheel and sat unmoving for several seconds. He hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand, making me jump in my seat.

Reid turned toward me, his gaze intense. He swiftly slid his hand behind my neck and pulled me to him.

His lips crashed to mine and pressed my mouth open. The warmth of his hand cupping my face and the grip on my waist, as if I’d disappear, fused me back together, making me whole again. My fingers twisted in his hair, pulling him closer. When his tongue swept over mine, my soul ignited. Reid was the human form of helium, making me weightless, letting me soar. We kissed until we were both breathless.

I let my hands slip down to his chest, his heart thumping against my palms. “Reid,” I breathed.

His mouth hovered inches from mine. “That is how I feel about you,” he whispered, his breath tickling my lips. “I can’t do it. I can’t be without you. We’re stronger together.”

I pulled in a deep breath, thinking maybe I would fly away from the brief high of overwhelming joy. “I need you.”

He rested his forehead to mine. “You have me.”

He moved the hand on my waist to my jaw, his thumb sweeping across my cheek. “We can be together, but we have to hide it. It has to be only in private.”

“Okay.”

He glanced down to my lips. “And I can’t wait until the next time I can do that.”

The mere idea of there being another time he’d kiss me with that kind of intensity heated my cheeks.

Reid sat back in his seat, started the engine, and gave me his flirty half smile I’d grown to adore. “Let’s go.”

I flipped down the visor and peeked in the mirror. Some tendrils of hair were wavy, some straight, and all of it completely out of control. My hair might as well be Captain Davey Jones’ tentacles from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

With the next blink I Pushed and a hair band appeared in my palm. I no longer felt like getting sick each time I Pushed or Retracted reality.

Inspecting my hair, I Pushed my strawberry blonde strands straight then pulled it into a ponytail. Every Push or Retraction came with a price. Each Oculi had a bank of energy that was limited and every manipulation of reality was an energy withdrawal. When the bank was empty, it was empty. Oculi were encouraged to not waste Pushes and Retractions on little things we could do ourselves.

I, on the other hand, was the daughter of the two scientists who’d taken the amplifying serum. My energy bank, like my older brother’s had, seemed to work a little different than other new Anomalies. I seemed to have endless energy. In fact, I had to use my energy, release some by Pushing and Retracting, just to take the edge off. My energy had grown in the last three days even, almost radiating off me at times. I’d only had these abilities for a couple weeks and I was growing more powerful each day.

“Is what I’m wearing okay?” I asked, checking out my retro Princess Leia tee and holey jeans.

“Yeah. You look…” He glanced at me as he drove and a mischievous grin slid across his lips.

“What?” My nerves were shot and we weren’t even to the Hub yet.

He shook his head, smiling to himself. “You’re fine.”

“Okay. I guess I’ll trust you on that.” Even though everyone at the Hub would know who I was, I wanted to make a good impression. Everyone in the Hub would have varying expectations of me, since I was the daughter of one of the founding families of the Resistance. Plus, my older brother had an Oculi degradation in the Hub, a rare consequence of observing reality into existence. Our observations traveled through the optic nerve to our brain. Sometimes our observations could randomly fry our nerves, which, could lead to degradation of the parietal lobe, cerebrum, and cortex. A possible side effect of this kind of degradation was a psychotic break.

“You can trust me.” His eyes locked on mine, this time not accompanied by a smile. “With everything.” He turned his attention back to the road, his profile dark against the waning sunset.

I was banking on that trust. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without it. “I need to make sure I have this straight. Right now our plan is to figure out a way to expose the mole, possibly with me as the bait.” I knew he didn’t like that idea, so I ignored his serious side-eye and continued. “This guy wants me dead, so he’s almost definitely going after my family. He may also try to take the Resistance down from the inside. Aaaand, we don’t know if he is working with anyone else inside the Hub, like he was with Santos.”

“You got it, babe.”

Anger seethed in my stomach as I watched thunderhead clouds billow from behind the mountain peaks. Energy buzzed in my fingers. This mole, this accomplice to my attempted murder, this orchestrator of the deaths of innocent people, didn’t know what was coming for him.

Tonya Kuper writes young adult science fiction and contemporary novels. She first fell in love with reading in elementary school, which eventually lead to earning a BA in Elementary Education and a MS in Reading Education, but she never thought she’d write a novel, let alone several. When Tonya isn’t writing, she teaches Young Adult Literature Writing Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, laughs as much as possible, loves music, and nerds-out over Star Wars, Marvel, Sherlock, and all things pop-culture. She lives in Omaha, NE with her husband and two rad boys.
 
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Photo credit: Hooton Images

 

 
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New York Comic Con 2016: Recap

nycc

Hey, guys, it has been a while since my last post and I do apologize for being AWOL but it has been a crazy two weeks to say the least. Apart from being crazy busy at work I also had a various bookish/nerd events that I shall be posting about in the coming days. As you can probably guess from the title of this post I went to NYCC this year and it was an interesting experience. I also quickly stopped by Leigh Bardugo’s launch of Crooked Kingdom that happened at The Strand bookstore, met Tim Burton and Ransom Riggs, went to the first ever Wattcon in NYC and saw Marissa Meyer, Anna Banks and Caleb Roehrig. For now though I want to focus on NYCC since it offered tons of bookish (and not so bookish) events alone.

Thursday:

After having the forethought to pick up my 4-day pass on Wednesday, I went straight to the line for the Green Entrance on Thursday morning, which was spanning for a few blocks and went all the way around Javits Center!! Now, I don’t know how familiar you guys are with the New York City layout but for those of you who don’t know NYC has a grid system, which is incredibly easy to navigate. The actual Green Entrance was around 37th st. and 11th ave but the line snaked all the way around 12th and 34th st. In other words, it’s incredibly long! There are also NYCC volunteers at the subway station (which is essentially on 34th st. between 11th and 10th ave) who make you circle around 10th ave, then go up 37th st. and make your way to the end of the line which as I already mentioned is at 34th st. Why couldn’t have we just gone west on 34th st. instead I hear you ask? Well, dear readers, I cannot for the life of me answer that. It seems logical and yet somehow it’s not the practice. Anyway, you get in line and then you go through a security check and then you end up in purgatory, I mean Queue Hall, where you can choose to line up for panels on the main stage (I didn’t have any panels I wanted to see on Thursday) or the show floor. I made a bee line for the show floor chutes and then the real wait began. It’s worth mentioning that the show floor opens at 10am and they let you enter Queue Hall between 8:00-8:30am, so the wait is pretty substantial. Once I got to the floor I went straight to Random House’s booth to pick up an advance copy of Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves, which is one of the books I was most excited about. They were also giving away ARCs of Salla Simukka’s As Red as Blood so I grabbed a copy of that as well. I checked what other books Penguin would be giving away throughout the weekend and left to see what the rest of the publishers had in store for us. The best part about NYCC is how close the publishing booths are to each other. Unlike literary festivals where everything is spread out, New York Comic Con had them all clustered together so it’s easy when you have signings at different booths at the same time, for example. I had a floor map with me but really didn’t need it for the most part since I only needed to turn left and practically walked into Epic Reads and HarperCollins. If you follow them on Twitter you already know they released their scheduled giveaways a few days before NYCC but I went to check what books fell into which theme and to get my Red Queen bandana. Epic Reads used to have a wheel you spin to get a book but this year they had decided to change the way they were handling their giveaways and I have to admit I much prefer the way they did it at NYCC. Basically they announced themes and there was a schedule that tells you which theme was each day. Once you go to the booth on that particular day, they had a list with three books you get to CHOOSE from. That’s right, no more spinning the wheel and ending up with a book you do not want, no more people trying to exchange them for different books and no more people crowding the booth trading between each other. It was a miracle! It was faster, more organized and people were actually happy with their books since it was their choice to begin with. I glanced quickly at the books they were offering on Thursday, made a mental not to come back at the appointed hour and went exploring. And by that I mean I practically bumped into Abrams Books’ table. They had ARCs of Roseblood and A Face Like Glass so I gracefully (not!) turned my hitting their table into me reaching for the books. I was fooling no one so unsurprisingly they laughed; and then proceeded in telling me they were giving free copies of Iron Cast by Destiny Soria if you signed up for their newsletter. Books in hand, I then went in search of the Funko booth since I had won a ticket for their line at 10:30am. They were so many people who either didn’t managed to get a ticket or weren’t even aware they needed one to get in line. I only wanted to get a few of the NYCC exclusives they had so when I saw a bunch of guys begging people in line to get them various Pops I offered to help them out. Huge mistake!!!!! A lot of the other people in line were actually charging them for ‘their services’. I didn’t. I didn’t care to make money off other attendees so I only wanted them to give me the exact cash for their purchases, which is what led to me being swarmed by twenty guys waving money in my face and pointing at their phones. I don’t exactly regret helping them out since we were only allowed one of each exclusive so it’s not like I was depriving other people in line from their share but I definitely wished the guys I was helping out were a bit less enthusiastic about the whole thing. There was talking over each other, arguing who asked me first for a specific figure and general noise that gave me a headache. After that it got pretty busy on the show floor and people were just shoving books in my hands even if I had stopped at their booth for a completely different reason. Not a bad problem to have but it explains how I ended up with over twenty books that day. It also explains why I cannot tell you what other books I got that day because I simply have no idea when I got what. I do know I got a proof copy of Nemesis by Brendan Reichs that day though. I left 10 minutes before the show floor closed for the day at 7pm and barely managed to drag all the books I got. Revelation: books are incredibly heavy!

Friday:

I somehow managed to sleep through three alarms on Friday so I had to take a cab to the convention center if I had any hope of making it in as soon as they opened. I am still convinced my driver was not human because he somehow managed to get me there in 12 minutes during rush hour, dropping me off just before a hundred or so people were about to get in line. Needless to say I got even a better spot in line than the previous day. Score! I walked around the floor for a bit before getting in line at Epic Reads’ booth for an ARC giveaway. The theme was Fantasy Retellings and they were offering The Wish Granter, Hunted and something else that I cannot remember. After picking up my book I went to Quirk Books to pick up an advance copy of Geekerella by Ashley Poston and then got in line for a V. E. Schwab signing at Tor. They were giving away free copies of Vicious and wrap for the Shades of Magic trilogy that will go around all three books and it looks stunning. The line was pretty long and the guys at the booth actually worried they might not have books for everyone. I met a girl who was there with her boyfriend (who was only there to carry her books by the way lol) and we talked about other giveaways happening that day. She held my spot while I ran quickly to Penguin to grab us copies of The Valiant and then she went to get us both copies of Wolf by Wolf. Once Victoria got there the line started moving pretty fast. When I got to the table we chatted for a while and reminisced about her incredibly long line in London, I grabbed some A Conjuring of Light buttons and ran to get in line for Naomi Novik. She was signing along with Katherine Arden, whose book I already had an ARC of but the guys at Del Rey asked me take one anyway. So there might be a giveaway of The Bear and the Nightingale coming your way soon. I also got a free copy of His Majesty’s Dragon and a signed copy of Uprooted. Feeling pretty good about my loot so far, I decided to head over to Disney-Hyperion for a pin and as luck would have it, they were giving away proofs of Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts at that time. By then I was starving and since I had nothing else for the moment I decided to head to the food court to grab something to eat. A lot of people actually bring their own food to NYCC, however, I like my lunch hot and relatively fresh so I was buying food at Javits throughout the weekend. I might be a minority but I actually think the prices were not that bad for NYC. Obviously it was slightly more expensive inside the convention center and you should totally disregard the $18 dollar sandwich but there were tables with seats, it was not as crowded as the show floor and the food was hot so you feel like a human again. My last event for the day was an Evangeline Lily signing at Titan Books, where everyone was from the UK and complaining how the weather back in London was warm and sunny and they were not there to enjoy it. This was actually the only book that I bought during NYCC and I got to meet Evangeline Lily and discuss Australia with her (completely random and I have no idea how we got into that conversation!) of all things. I left straight after that.

Saturday:

Saturday was the worst crowd wise. It was so packed it took me 10 minutes to walk 15 feet! I had a bunch of panels I wanted to go to so after I managed to grab a spot for those I went to the show floor and there was a girl who told me they were giving Heartless ARCs at Macmillan so I made my way there. I was pretty close, hence the 15 feet comment above. 10 minutes later I had my boxed ARC and t-shirt and I left Javits to head out for the Shadowhunters panel at Hammerstein Ballroom. I had to fight my way through some fangirling teenagers to get a seat but a seat I got and it was practically next to the stage. Score: me -1, screaming teenagers – 0. After the panel they were giving away totes, t-shirts (I actually got a MALEC one so I’m pretty happy about it), and Lord of Shadows chapter samplers. I grabbed some and went out running back to Javits. While I was waiting for the Shadowhunters panel to start I was browsing Twitter and saw there was a surprise proof giveaway of Frogkisser! by Garth Nix happening right then so I was pretty bummed out on the way to Javits Center for missing it. I got myself some pizza to drown my sorrows and took my sweet time getting back to the convention center. My next signing wasn’t happening for another 45 minutes so I decided on a whim to go and check if Scholastic had some Garth Nix galleys left. Imagine my surprise when I went and there was a bunch of them left. It might had something to do with the location of the room there were in or people not checking Twitter but there were at least twenty galleys left and I even managed to snag a signed one! Frogkisser! secured, I made my way to Random House to get a signed copy of Shadow Run after which I just walked around the floor for a bit and grabbed a Häagen-Dazs. I decided to sit down for a bit but before I could do so some guy told me they were giving away galleys of the new Anne Rice book at one of the Penguin booths and on my way there I saw Garth Nix singing copies of Goldenhand. The last thing I did on Saturday was a Netflix and Iron Fist panel, which was ridiculously crowded but also incredibly fun.

Sunday:

I woke up pretty early on Sunday and got ready only to find out it was pouring outside! By the time it eased a bit it was almost noon and I got to the convention center pretty late and had already missed the only panel I wanted to see that day. I browsed the floor for a bit and bought a stuffed toy of some mythical animal from an upcoming anime. Don’t ask me why. I just thought I should buy something. We’ve all been there…I hope. I then grabbed a bunch of free books from booths that were really persistent. And yes, okay, I wasn’t exactly resisting free books. I also went to one of the Penguin booths to spin a prize wheel while waiting for the last Epic Reads giveaway. I won an audiobook of Fangirl, which was actually the second audiobook I had won. The first being Harry Potter, which I won on Thursday. Overall, I think Sunday was way more relaxed than Saturday. Also a lot of vendors were trying to get rid of their stock so the price slashes were insane. Publishers were offering a buy one get one free deal on books the entire day and some of the toy vendors had up to 35% off and it felt like every single person on the floor was trying to buy something whether they needed it or not. I ended up with 67 books, only one of which I’d bought. Of those, 55 are advanced copies so I’m pretty happy with my book haul and my NYCC experience in general. I met so many awesome new people, and finally put faces to people I’d known only as screen names on social media platforms. I talked to authors and actors. But most importantly, I’ve met so many like-minded people and ultimately they were the ones that made my comic con experience so enjoyable.

Teaser Tuesday – 27th Sept

 

For those of you who don’t know Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat. Here are the rules: Teaser Tuesday

  • Grab the book you’re currently reading
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
  • DO NOT include spoilers. You don’t want to ruin the book for others by including too much.
  • Share the title and the author so other participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like the teasers.

 

 

“The streets are empty, but I keep my head up.
Evan always used to say that it wasn’t what you couldn’t see that you should be afraid of, but what was right in front of you in plain sight.” ~p. 106 Girl in Pieces* by Kathleen Glasgow

*Girl in Pieces comes out on 6th Oct in the UK, however, the US edition came out back in August and is available worldwide via Book Depository.

** BD also appears to have the UK paperback in stock at the moment. So if you want to get your hands on some early copies click here.