Our Dark Duet

Monsters of Verity, Book 2
By V.E. Schwab (or Victoria Schwab)

I’m always excited when V.E. Schwab releases a new book! Especially one that ends a series. I read This Savage Song last year, and loved it, so I had high hopes for Our Dark Duet! It did not disappoint: though the reading experience was quite different.

Summary32075662

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Musings

Six months have passed since the events of This Savage Song, and Verity is in disarray. The northern half of the city has been taken over by Sloan, along with Alice, the malachai born of Kat’s actions from the end of the first book. Kate has run away to prosperity, as August has risen to lead the FTF. A new sunai has been born, Soro.

I don’t know how to really write this review, because I’m still reeling from the ending. I was entranced, per usual, by Schwab’s fantastic style, which flows seemingly effortlessly on the page – and elevated through short passages written in verse. Her short poems depicting the point of view of a monster unlike any other were by far my favorite part of this book. I would love it if there was a companion story entirely in that glorious style of hers, as it offered not only insight into the new enemy, but a real depth to the story.

I was excited to see my favorite characters again. Both have grown (or changed) since the last novel. Kate is shaken from her own actions, while August is more determined in his resolve. We find Kate in Prosperity fighting the monsters both of her past and the ones that plague a city that turns a blind eye on what lurks in the dark. Her isolation is at the forefront of her arc. August has got the voice of Leo in his head, pushing his monstrous side out as he tries to be a good leader. This is what Schwab writes the best: messed up people with confusing, conflicting feelings. She weaves complex characters that are relatable through their massive flaws.

And then, there are the monsters. Sloan gets his own POV, as he ruthlessly tries to satiate his thirst for Kate’s death. There’s Alice, Kate’s dark shadow. And then there’s something new: a creature that kills by inciting others to kill in a frenzy, whose reflection lives in a sliver in Kate’s eye, who we see through poetry. The author has managed to make monsters musical. It’s outstanding.

But there was something… missing. I don’t know what it is! The novel has a slow build, and an incredibly fast ending that left me shattered. The ending is magnificent. Heartbreaking. All the feels. Everything about it is amazing. And yet, the novel as a whole doesn’t feel as poignant as the other books by Schwab. I think it might be because so much of the strength of TSS came from the connection between Kate and August. The growth they experienced at each others’ side. I’m not even talking about romantic chemistry, just how well they work together. And here, we only get one small scene where they open up to each other. It was insanely beautiful.

But their own personal isolations made it harder for the reader to connect with them, and the story. And this is intentional, I see the novel couldn’t be written any other way. But this lack of connection made it feel less powerful than the last book.

Nevertheless, it was a fantastic conclusion to the duology. I highly recommend these two books.

The Seafarer’s Kiss

By Julia Ember
Reviewed by SA

Friends have been telling me for ages that I absolutely needed to read Julia Ember’s books.  Unicorn Tracks has been a favorite in my bookworm groups, and people won’t stop telling me how fantastic her YA writing is. So when the opportunity came to read her new book, The Seafarer’s Kiss, I leapt at the chance. And, excuse my all caps here, THIS BOOK WAS INCREDIBLE!

Summary32890474

Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Musings

If you were to combine The Littler Mermaid with The Handmaid’s Tale and Norse Mythology, you might have something that looks a little like The Seafarer’s Kiss. It tells the story of a young mermaid who finds a shield-maiden who’s been shipwrecked near her ice craves, and their relationship as they both deal with separate objectifying societies. Ersel the Mermaid lives in a restrictive and patriarchal society, where women are valued only for their fertility due to te harsh cold of the icy northern waters. Ragna was born blessed with moving tattoos, making her a prize catch for rival clans.

The worldbuilding in this novel was exquisite. Everything was carefully thought through and relevant, managing to surprise the reader at every turn. Including Loki as a main player in the novel – who has they/them pronouns, which I thought was a nice touch – elevated the story to a complexity you don’t always get to see in YA novels. This is not a simple retelling of the Little Mermaid, it’s so much more than that. It hast real magic running through it.

Ember has created a society for the merpeople that makes sense in their context, something not modeled off human society as you might expect. Explaining how their biology has adapted to the cold was brilliantly done: the scales that trap the heat and keep the merpeople warm when they dive deep, or how they eat to grow their blubber. It was funny to me that Ersel’s first thought when she saw Ragna was how scrawny she was.

Not only was the character development masterfully crafted (Ersel’s growth was perfection) but the relationships were relatable and compelling as well. There were so many different kinds of love here: maternal love, friendship, romance… beautiful bonds that explored relationships both healthy and toxic.

If I was a little ticked off, it was by Ersel’s “I’m not like other girls” mentality. She loves to explore shipwrecks, is/was best friends with a guy, and doesn’t want the life of eternal motherhood that everyone else her ages does. She’s sometimes cruel and mocking towards others of her age. But can we really blame her?

And if you’re into YA for the romance, then you’re going to love the relationship between Ersel and Ragna.  Their friendship that grows into something more, their fierce independence and respect for each others worlds… and not to mention their insane cuteness. Love them!

Please read this book! If you love YA, you’re going to love Ersel and Ragna. But make no mistake: this book is crazy dark. Dark, beautiful, and powerful. An instant favorite you won’t be able to put down.

A Crown of Wishes

by Roshani Chokshi
Reviewed by SA

I have been waiting for this novel to be realsed for ages. Ever since I read the outstanding novel The Star Touched Queen, last year, I was enamored with the amazingly magical universe Roshani Chokshi creates. The style, the imagery, everything was so evocative I was drawn in from the start. And A Crown of Wishes carries that magic as well, and definitely did not disappoint.

Summary29939047

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Like The Star Touched Queen before it, this novel reads like a vivid dream. Your mind is filled with rich colors and deep smells, and you are tugged from one magical place to another, yet never stopped by thick exposition: the author walks the fine line of ‘telling too much’ and ‘showing too little’, making it the perfect amount needed for master world building. She honestly could have had her characters wander without a plot through these worlds and I would still have read it – it’s like staring at a painting.

But it has a plot, and an exciting one at that! While it is the sequel of The Star Touched Queen, it’s more like a spin off. The events that take place in A Crown of Wishes follow Gauri, the adorable little sister of Maya who grew up to be a badass warrior. But when Gauri gets banished from Bharata, she knows she needs to go back, overthrow her brother and save her friends. But to do that, she has to win the Tournament of Wishes, a magical competition in which victory grants you a wish. At her side is the handsome and cunning Vikram, the not-exactly-prince of a neighboring (enemy) kingdom, whose smarts perfectly match Gauri’s skill in battle. Together, they make an impressive pair.

I love, love, love Gauri. She’s someone I wish I could be – bold, strong, but smart. A little stubborn, maybe, but she seems to make more rational decisions than her older sister. Vikram, I took a little while to warm up to, but I think that was purposeful from the author: Gauri doesn’t trust him from the start, and neither do we, even if he is a POV character and we know he’s honest with her. The romance between them was slow and worked, though I’m never a fan of romances in this kind of novel – I always wish for them to just remain badass partners in crime.

This book is, in a word, magical. If you loved The Star Touched Queen as much as I did, you’re going to love its somewhat-sequel. Follow Gauri through realms of magic where the laws of the mortal world do not apply, and where a story may be worth more than a life. Sign me up for everything Roshani Chokshi writes!

Out today from St Martin’s Press.

The Impossible Fortress

by Jason Rekulak
Reviewed by SA

This book was not at all what I expected, and yet it was a fun and awesome read. A book that made me feel like I was living the teen years my parents had, a book that made me fall in love with coding, a book that conjured up the magic of the 80s in a way you only see in movies like War Games and Tron.

Summary30753698

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.

The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

Musings
Billy is not your usual nerd – his grades are awful, he doesn’t care for books or role playing games. He is, however, more than slightly obsessed with his Commodore 64. He codes for fun, and he’s outstandingly good, not just for a 14 year old. It’s a hobby he doesn’t expect his friends or family to understand, but it’s something he loves to do.

So when he meets Mary, a girl his age who might just be better at coding than he is, a friendship blossoms that could change everything.

It’s important to remember that we’re int he mind of a 14 year old, here. Billy’s friends Alf and Clyde share one goal – to get the newest issue of Playboy, and get a look at the nude goddess that is Vanna White. It’s all they can think about, and they’re hatching a plan to get their hands on it. And they need Billy to seduce Mary as part of it.

This doesn’t seem like a problem for Billy: it even gives him an excuse to hang out with this brilliant girl, and work together on their video game, the Impossible Fortress, which could win them fame and fortune… all without getting mocked by the boys. You see, Mary is a little chubby. Or outright fat, if you believe Alf and Clyde. She isn’t really worth Billy’s time, they say. Plus, she has a reputation – if you know what I mean.

Some of the characters felt a little flat to me, but I don’t think it’s a problem, since Billy and Mary have so much depth. The story is about them, after all. It’s partially love story, partially friendship – though maybe you could say the real love story is between Billy and coding, or the reader and the 80s.

And while part of the story was a little predictable, the real twist came right out of left field. Totally unexpected, though made perfect sense all in the end, answering questions we didn’t know we had. It’s also fun to read a book intended for 14 years olds as an adult, seeing how bad a lot of the decisions are, wanting to reach in and tell a character to their face that what they’re doing is a bad idea.

It’s also fun, if you want to go deeper, to look into the symbolism of impossible fortresses through the book. There are the evident ones: like the game itself, impossible to code, or the school at the very end, or even the heist itself. But you’ve also got the impossible fortress of Mary herself – can you break down her walls, and navigate the maze of her personality? Maybe life itself is an impossible fortress.

It’s a book about expectations, a book about first impressions, a book about being a teenager in the age of arcade games. It combines the tropes of the teenage heist with the ultimate competition, all wrapped up in a coming of age story. I mean, what’s not to love about a love letter to the 80s?

Expected publication: February 7th 2017 by Simon & Schuster

By the way, you can actually play the game Billy and Mary create, On the author’s website! http://jasonrekulak.com/ (Click ‘play the game’ at the top!)

Get it Together, Delilah!

by Erin Gough
Reviewed by SA

I did not expect this book to grab me so tightly. I had been struggling lately with YA lit, worrying I might not enjoy it anymore. Well, Get it Together, Delilah! proved me wrong. What I was missing were characters as vibrant and real as Delilah, and she made the book come alive. Gosh, I am happy. Plus – it’s Australian!

Summary30842388

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn’t have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it’s working fine. Her dad is on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, so Del’s managing the family café in his absence. Easy, she thinks. But what about:

  • homework and the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell
  • or how one of Del’s best friends won’t stop guilt-tripping her
  • and her other best friend is so in love with his tutor he might go to jail for her if Del doesn’t do something

But who cares about any of that really, because above all else, she can’t stop thinking about beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street until one day Rosa comes in the café door …

And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?

Musings

Delilah’s a character with depth and dimension. She’s bold, stubborn, and adorable. This is also the first time I’ve read a lesbian character who didn’t feel like a cliché: she felt like any real teenager. She has crushes on the cute girls in her life, especially on Rosa, the flamenco dancer from across the street. But her past experience with love hasn’t been so good: seeing how being ‘out’ in high school isn’t exactly easy.

I don’t even really know where to start on my review, because I just so happened to like every aspect of this book. It read like real life, the characters were realistic and relatable, and just so engrossing. The plot itself is simple: Delilah’s trying to run her father’s café – the Flywheel – as he travels through Asia (coping with his wife’s leaving him for another man), while also finishing school, maintaining friendships, and falling head over heels for the girl next door.

But soon, the café itself is running her life, and it’s hard on a 17 year old to deal with thieving employees, and competition with chains. Soon, it’s consumed her life, and it begins to drag everything else down with it. She has to drop out of school to work full time, and it’s taking a toll on her relationships as well. Eventually, the stress causes her to alienate the people who love her most.

When I put it like that, it sounds dark and depressing – but it’s not. The book is bursting with life. The characters jump off the page, each one probably impossible to sum up in just one line. And the fact that this all takes place in Australia just makes it even more exciting. Plus a cute romance I actually was rooting for!

All in all, what else can I say than this book is perfect? I really cannot sum it up into words. The style was simple and elegant, the characters complex and vibrant, the relationships so realistic. Not to mention I’m a sucker for a happy ending. I would give this book six stars if I could.

Expected publication: April 4th 2017 by Chronicle Books. (First published February 1st 2015 as “Flywheel”)

Untamed – Relaunched!

A few months ago, I came here talking to you about a fantastic YA novel that was really out of this world. Amazing world building, coupled with fantastic characters and a fast paced plot, Untamed by Madeline Dyer is destined to become a hit.

Today, I’m excited to announce that this brilliant book has been RELAUNCHED with an amazing new cover. Not only that, but the sequel will be relaunched as well, just two weeks from now.

And, bookworms, I have to say, I’m personally really excited about this book. Now that the author is going self published, I will be speaking a lot about her in my Self Published Saturday posts, and keep you updated on this fantastic series. I adored the first novel and I can’t wait for the sequel, and now I love them even more because of the kick-ass cover.

As this is a relaunch, I’m going to repost my original review of this book –  Spoiler free, of course! But just LOOK at that beautiful new cover!


Sometimes a book comes along that catches you off guard. You finish reading it and just think: wow, wow… That was fun, exciting, everything I wanted in a book. Can I get another? Well, Untamed was that book for me. It’s the perfect book to pull you out of a reading slump and remind you that a good plot can take you anywhere. And did I mention it’s exciting, and impossible to put down?

Summaryuntamed-cover

As one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides–because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.

But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.

Yet, as one of the most powerful Seers that the Untamed and Enhanced have ever known, Seven quickly discovers that she alone holds the key to the survival of only one race. But things aren’t clear-cut anymore, and with Seven now questioning the very beliefs she was raised on, she knows she has an important choice to make. One that has two very different outcomes.

Seven must choose wisely whose side she joins, for the War of Humanity is underway, and Death never takes kindly to traitors.

The novel throws you right into the action, even from the first line. We follow Seven, a young woman who lives in this dark future where most of the population is addicted to mood enhancing drugs. The drugs, or Augmenters, can also make you more beautiful, stronger, faster, smarter… at the cost of your humanity. You feel no negative emotions, and your eyes glaze over with a mirror-like sheen. Those who are augmenter free live in constant fear of being converted – they are called Untamed, and Seven is one of them.

After Seven is captured, and then saved from the Enhanced, her life is constantly torn between the two camps. She’s addicted, to put it mildly. This makes her a fascinating character, as she tries to make the right decisions for her camp, while at the same time craving something she knows she mustn’t have. it’s a mental tug of war, a fight against addiction that many, unfortunately, know too well.

The world that Dyer has created is just so dang fascinating. It’s a world in which not only we have these two opposing forces, but spirits are loose as well. Spirits that can influence Seven’s visions, or physically hinder the gang as they try to escape the clutches of the Enhanced. It’s pretty brilliant the way the author intertwines reality with these spirits, making you wonder just how they came into being and why they hold so much importance. It feels like a combination of the far future and the past.

But I have to say what sol me on this novel was really the author’s effortless style. It’s perfect, making it easy to get sucked into the story and yet impossible to put down. I found myself eagerly turning the pages until I was outraged that there were none left to turn. The plot could easily have come off as being something seen before, but instead I felt like I was reading something entirely new, which plot twists I definitely did not see coming.

If you need a kick-butt story with amazing characters and outstanding world building, pick up a copy of Untamed. You deserve it.

this-has-to-be-one-of-the-best-dystopians-i-have-read-this-year-if-youre-a-dystopian-fan-add-this-to-your-shelf-birds-that-love-words-2


My thoughts about this book have not changed in those months, except maybe to get stronger. I remember just how blown away I was by the author’s ability to conjure up images of Seven’s world so vividly in my mind.

it’s a beautiful book, both inside and out. And I know you want to read it! For the next two weeks, this new edition of Untamed will be $1.99/£1.99 (or less, depending on the retailer) on all platforms. Join with me in spreading the word!

Author’s website! And you can purchase the book on AmazoniBooks, and Kobo.

 

Freeks BlogTour! Excerpt + Giveaway

by Amanda Hocking 

I’m so excited to tell you about this novel.  Freeks is a strand alone YA fantasy novel which combines freak shows with the paranormal, following a protagonist who is neither. I was entranced by it, and will probably be talking about it for ages. Spooky and spellbinding, you’re not going to be able to put this one down!

Summary28220899

Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Musings

It’s the 1980s. Mara lives with her mom, a carnival fortune teller who can actually speak to the dead. With the carnival are broke, they take on any job they can get, and this one, in the small town of Caudry,  seems better than they could have ever hoped for – until strange things start happening. The gifted members of their troupe start having trouble with their abilities. Some start disappearing. And a creature seems to be attacking members of the freak show. No one feels safe, and no one wants to help them… but there’s nowhere else to go.

I really liked Mara as a character. She’s a relatable young woman, entirely devoid of special snowflake syndrome, with a fantastic personality I couldn’t help getting attached to. She’s fiercely independent and quick witted. Having lived her whole life in the carnival, traveling around in a trailer,  she’s fascinated by houses, and afraid to put down roots. So when she starts to fall for the handsome Gabe, while at the same time trying to deal with the mystery of the creature, it makes things more than just a little complicated.

While the pacing was slow, I found it to perfectly fit the narrative. It leaves the reader hanging on every word, searching for clues to resolve the mystery. And when they finally do come, it’s like the floodgates have opened: the climax of the novel is thrilling and impossible to put down. We get answers all at once, and the pieces of the puzzle fall entirely into place. I absolutely loved the ending.

But enough from me. Let’s read the first chapter!


1. Premonitions

My feet rested against the dashboard of the Winnebago as we lumbered down the road, the second vehicle in a small caravan of beat-up trailers and motorhomes.

The sun hadn’t completely risen yet, but it was light enough that I could see outside. Not that there was much to see. The bridge stretched on for miles across Lake Tristeaux, and I could see nothing but the water around us, looking gray in the early morning light.

The AC had gone out sometime in Texas, and we wouldn’t have the money to fix it until after this stint in Caudry, if we were lucky. I’d cracked the window, and despite the chill, the air felt thick with humidity. That’s why I never liked traveling to the southeastern part of the country—too humid and too many bugs.

But we took the work that we got, and after a long dry spell waiting in Oklahoma for something to come up, I was grateful for this. We all were. If we hadn’t gotten the recommendation to Caudry, I’m not sure what we would’ve done, but we were spending our last dimes and nickels just to make it down here.

I stared ahead at Gideon’s motorhome in front of us. The whole thing had been painted black with brightly colored designs swirling around it, meant to invoke images of mystery and magic. The name “Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow” was painted across the back and both the sides. Once sparkles had outlined it, but they’d long since worn off.

My eyelids began to feel heavy, but I tried to ward off sleep. The radio in the car was playing old Pink Floyd songs that my mom hummed along to, and that wasn’t helping anything.

“You can go lay down in the back,” Mom suggested.

She did look awake, her dark gray eyes wide and a little frantic, and both her hands gripped the wheel. Rings made of painted gold and cheap stones adorned her fingers, glinting as the sun began to rise over the lake, and black vine tattoos wrapped around her hands and down her arms.

For a while, people had mistaken us for sisters since we looked so much alike. The rich caramel skin we both shared helped keep her looking young, but the strain of recent years had begun to wear on her, causing crow’s feet to sprout around her eyes and worried creases to deepen in her brow.

I’d been slouching low in the seat but I sat up straighter. “No, I’m okay.”

“We’re almost there. I’ll be fine,” she insisted.

“You say we’re almost there, but it feels like we’re driving across the Gulf of Mexico,” I said, and she laughed. “We’ve probably reached the Atlantic by now.”

She’d been driving the night shift, which was why I was hesitant to leave her. We normally would’ve switched spots about an hour or two ago, with me driving while she lay down. But since we were so close to our destination, she didn’t see the point in it.

On the worn padded bench beside the dining table, Blossom Mandelbaum snored loudly, as if to remind us we both should be sleeping. I glanced back at her. Her head lay at a weird angle, propped up on a cushion, and her brown curls fell around her face.

Ordinarily, Blossom would be in the Airstream she shared with Carrie Lu, but since Carrie and the Strongman had started dating (and he had begun staying over in their trailer), Blossom had taken to crashing in our trailer sometimes to give them privacy.

It wasn’t much of a bother when she slept here, and in fact, my mom kind of liked it. As one of the oldest members of the carnival—both in age and the length of time she’d been working here—my mom had become a surrogate mother to many of the runaways and lost souls that found us.

Blossom was two years younger than me, on the run from a group home that didn’t understand her or what she could do, and my mom had been more than happy to take her under her wing. The only downside was her snoring.

Well, that and the telekinesis.

“Mara,” Mom said, her eyes on the rearview mirror. “She’s doing it again.”

“What?” I asked, but I’d already turned around to look back over the seat.

At first, I didn’t know what had caught my mom’s eye, but then I saw it—the old toaster we’d left out on the counter was now floating in the air, hovering precariously above Blossom’s head.

The ability to move things with her mind served Blossom well when she worked as the Magician’s Assistant in Gideon’s act, but it could be real problematic sometimes. She had this awful habit of unintentionally pulling things toward her when she was dreaming. At least a dozen times, she’d woken up to books and tapes dropping on her. Once my mom’s favorite coffee mug had smacked her right in the head.

“Got it,” I told my mom, and I unbuckled my seat belt and went over to get it.

The toaster floated in front of me, as if suspended by a string, and when I grabbed it, Blossom made a snorting sound and shifted in her sleep. I turned around with the toaster under my arm, and I looked in front of us just in time to see Gideon’s trailer skid to the side of the road and nearly smash into the guardrail.

“Mom! Look out!” I shouted.

Mom slammed on the brakes, causing most of our possessions in the trailer to go hurtling toward the floor, and I slammed into the seat in front of me before falling to the ground. The toaster had slipped free from my grasp and clattered into the dashboard.

Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic, but I could hear the sound of squealing tires and honking behind us as the rest of the caravan came to an abrupt stop.

“What happened?” Blossom asked, waking up in a daze from where she’d landed on the floor beneath the dining table.

“Mara!” Mom had already leapt from her seat and crouched in front of where I still lay on the worn carpet. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I assured her.

“What about you?” Mom reached out, brushing back Blossom’s frizzy curls from her face. “Are you all right?”

Blossom nodded. “I think so.”

“Good.” That was all the reassurance my mom needed, and then she was on her feet and jumping out of the Winnebago. “Gideon!”

“What happened?” Blossom asked again, blinking the sleep out of her dark brown eyes.

“I don’t know. Gideon slammed on his brakes for some reason.” I stood up, moving much slower than my mother.

We had very narrowly avoided crashing into Gideon. He’d overcorrected and jerked to the other side of the road, so his motorhome was parked at an angle across both lanes of the highway.

“Is everyone okay?” Blossom had sat up, rubbing her head, and a dark splotch of a bruise was already forming on her forehead. That explained why she seemed even foggier than normal—she’d hit her head pretty good.

“I hope so. I’ll go check it out,” I said. “Stay here.”

By the time I’d gotten out, Seth Holden had already gotten out of the motorhome behind us. Since he was the Strongman, he was usually the first to rush into an accident. He wanted to help if he could, and he usually could.

“Lyanka, I’m fine,” Gideon was saying to my mother, his British accent sounding firm and annoyed.

“You are not fine, albi,” Mom said, using a term of affection despite the irritation in her voice.

I rounded the back of his motorhome to find Gideon leaning against it with my mom hovering at his side. Seth reached them first, his t-shirt pulled taut against his muscular torso.

“What’s going on? What happened?” Seth asked.

“Nothing. I just dozed off for a second.” Gideon waved it off. “Go tell everyone I’m fine. I just need a second, and we’ll be on our way again.”

“Do you want me to drive for you?” Seth asked. “Carrie can handle the Airstream.”

Gideon shook his head and stood up straighter. “I’ve got it. We’re almost there.”

“All right.” Seth looked uncertainly at my mom, and she nodded at him. “I’ll leave you in Lyanka’s care and get everyone settled down.”

As soon as Seth disappeared back around the motorhome, loudly announcing that everything was fine to everyone else, Gideon slumped against the trailer. His black hair had fallen over his forehead. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up, revealing the thick black tattoos that covered both his arms.

“Gideon, what’s really going on?” Mom demanded with a worried tremor.

He swallowed and rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know.”

Even though the sun was up now, the air seemed to have gotten chillier. I pulled my sweater tighter around me and walked closer to them. Gideon leaned forward, his head bowed down, and Mom rubbed his back.

“You didn’t fall asleep, did you?” I asked.

Gideon lifted his eyes, looking as though he didn’t know I was there. And guessing by how pained he was allowing himself to look, he probably hadn’t. Gideon was only in his early thirties, but right now, he appeared much older than that.

That wasn’t what scared me, though. It was how dark his blue eyes were. Normally, they were light, almost like the sky. But whenever he’d had a vision or some kind of premonition, his eyes turned so dark they were nearly black.

“It was a headache,” Gideon said finally.

“There’s something off here,” Mom said. “I felt it as soon as we got on the bridge. I knew we should turn back, but I hoped that maybe I was imagining things. Now that I look at you, I know.”

That explained that frantic look in her eyes I’d seen earlier in the Winnebago, and how alert she’d been even though she’d been awake and driving for nearly twenty hours straight. Mom didn’t see things in the way Gideon did, but she had her own senses.

“It’s fine, Lyanka,” Gideon insisted. He straightened up again, and his eyes had begun to lighten. “It was only a migraine, but it passed. I am capable of having pain without supernatural reasons, too.”

Mom crossed her arms over her chest, and her lips were pressed into a thin line. “We should go back.”

“We’re almost there.” Gideon gestured to the end of the road, and I looked ahead for the first time and realized that we could see land. The town was nestled right up to the lake, and we couldn’t be more than ten minutes outside the city limits.

“We could still turn around,” Mom suggested.

“We can’t.” He put his hands on her arms to ease her worries. “We don’t have any money, love. The only way we can go is forward.”

“Gideon.” She sighed and stared up at the sky, the violet fabric of her dress billowing out around her as the wind blew over us, then she looked back at him. “Are you sure you’re okay to drive?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Whatever pain I had, it’s passed.” He smiled to reassure her. “We should go before the others get restless.”

She lowered her eyes, but when he leaned in to kiss her, she let him. She turned to go back to our motorhome, and as she walked past me, she muttered, “I knew we should never travel on Friday the thirteenth. No good ever comes of it.”

I’d waited until she’d gone around the corner to turn back to Gideon, who attempted to give me the same reassuring smile he’d given my mom.

“We could go back,” I said. “There’s always a way. We’ve made it on less before.”

“Not this time, darling.” He shook his head. “And there’s no reason to. Leonid assured me there’d be a big payday here, and I’ve got no reason to doubt him. We can make a go of it here.”

“As long as you’re sure we’ll be okay.”

“I haven’t steered you all wrong yet.” Gideon winked at me then, but he was telling the truth. In the ten years that my mom and I had been following him around the country, he’d always done the best he could by us.

I went back and got into the Winnebago with my mom and Blossom. Within a couple minutes, Gideon had straightened his motorhome out, and the caravan was heading back down the road. At the end of the bridge was a large sign that read WELCOME TO CAUDRY, POPULATION 13,665.

As soon as we crossed the line into town, the air seemed even colder than before. That’s when I realized the chill wasn’t coming from outside—it was coming from within me.

Copyright © 2016 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.


 

Excited yet? Then you can pick up a copy for yourself to know what happens next! You can find them at : MacmillanBooks-A-MillionBarnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also read Amanda Hocking’s Author Website! Expected publication: January 3rd 2017 by St. Martin’s Griffin.

Another way to get a copy? Enter our GIVEAWAY over on Tumblr! One hardcover copy is up for grabs, for one lucky US resident. Good luck, Bookworms!

Blog Tour Banner.png

Freeks: Step into into a wondrously strange new world with this dazzling new standalone novel by Amanda Hocking, New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles! 

Mara has become used to the extraordinary. Roaming from place to place with Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Carnival, she longs for an ordinary life where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. 

She gets her chance when the struggling sideshow sets up camp in the small town of Caudry, and she meets a gorgeous local guy named Gabe. But before long, Mara realizes there’s a dark presence lurking in the town that’s threatening the lives of her friends. She has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she had in order to save everyone she cares about—and change the future forever. 

In the pages of Freeks, Amanda Hocking once again proves her ability to create amazing characters and enchanting worlds that will capture your imagination and never let go.