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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Update

Just a little update since I haven't been able to update the blog lately. Things have been hectic in my personal life. My husband had cancer and surgery to remove it. He lost his job as a result and my family was evicted from our home. We have been living in a family friend's basement until we can find a place of our own. Since we were evicted, it has been hard finding somewhere to live. Plus, we have four children, so we have to find a place with enough space for everyone. I have been working. I love my job, so that is my only solace lately other than the few moment that I get to read. I have only read 15 books so far this year, and seven of those have been trade paperbacks/comics. I usually read 8-15 books in a single month, so I am disheartened. I have been trying to stay positive and think of the good things. I think that I may start listening to audiobooks again. Right now I have a long commute to work, so the kids and I can listen to books on the way. I am just going to have to choose middle grade books. =P Even though things aren't that great on my end, I am going to try and make an effort to post as much as I can. Tonight I am going to try and update my 2017 Challenge page and I hope to get some meme posts drafted. I know that there probably won't be many that read this, but if you have sat through this then thank you. I hope to be back to active status as soon as my family is situated. I'm still reading everyone's blogs, and I hope that everyone is well. Best wishes for now! If you have any books or authors that you would like to recommend then I would welcome them in the comments. =]


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Review: The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1) by Michael Scott



Title: The Alchemyst
Series: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1
Author: Michael Scott
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Publication Date: May 22, 2007
Pages: 390
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure
Source: Amazon
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | BD


Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

REVIEW
The Alchemyst is a book that really surprised me. I went into this book not knowing quite what to expect. I actually chose this book to read to my son as a bedtime story. He and I both walked away with smiles on our faces.

The first thing that I have to mention about this book is that it is labeled as a young adult book, but it reads more like a middle grade novel. The main characters in the book are 15 years old, so they are a little young on the young adult spectrum. This story really doesn't feel like a young adult book to me. Not just with the ages of the main characters, but with the writing. Don't get me wrong. The writing is very solid and quite flawless, but the way the story is laid out just reads more like a middle grade book. This is the main reasoning behind my score of 4 stars, instead of 5.

I have to admit that I was blown away by the content and plot of this book! It really is quite genius. The way that the author connects all the dots is creative and interesting. The author uses historical figures, mythological characters and creatures, and legends in his story. He wraps them all up nice and neat and splices in some incredible explanations of how they all link together. I was really impressed with the plot.

I did not connect with the main characters. They were fifteen year old twins, and I honestly never felt a real bond with them. I did, however, really enjoy the other characters in the book very much. Scatty was my favorite in the book. She was spunky and talented and had a good heart. I loved that the villains in the story very much fit the bill. They were terrifying and ruthless. The descriptions of the characters, especially the mythological ones, were fantastic!

The world building was very well done. I felt myself in the story while I was reading. The descriptions were vivid and substantial to what was going on in the story. The instances of magic were illustrated very well. You could see the auras and magic in the air.

Overall, this book really impressed me! My son and I are definitely going to continue the series, and we cannot wait to find out what happens next in this story. I recommend this book for all ages!

Have you read any of the books in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series? If so, which ones? What are your thoughts on the series? If you are not familiar with the series, what book with magic would you recommend?

Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Heir of Fire

Series: Throne of Glass #3
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 02, 2014
Pages: 565
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Amazon
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | BD


Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak?but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth . . . a truth about her heritage that could change her life?and her future?forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed?

The bestselling series that has captured readers all over the world reaches new heights in this sequel to the New York Times best-selling Crown of Midnight. Packed with heart-pounding action, fierce new characters, and swoon-worthy romance, this third book will enthrall readers from start to finish.

MY REVIEW
Heir of Fire was so much different than the first two books in the Throne of Glass series. I don't know how to pinpoint it, but it was just the overall feeling while reading Heir of Fire. It could be the introduction of new characters, or the separation of previous characters from one another, but something felt different.

The first thing that I have to say about Heir of Fire is that is started out rather slow to me. It took me a while to really get into reading it, where I was totally immersed in the first two books from the beginning. I was a little worried at first, but I stuck through it and I am thankful that I did. It really paid off in the end. The second half of Heir of Fire is where everything happens and things are revealed. There is a lot of build up to it and it may seem pointless or tedious, but if you are having trouble just stick it out. Things fall into place in the end.

The character growth in this book for Celaena was phenomenal. We learn so much more about her past and most of it really broke my heart. It solidified her as a whole and made me see her in a new light. Things that I already knew about her, but experiencing them with her in memories was heartbreaking. I honestly teared up while reading through some of her memories. I have so much more respect and love for her character after reading Heir of Fire. Dorian felt so much more mature in this book than the previous two books. I think that the discovery of his magic really sobered him into maturity. Chaol is still grieving for the relationship that he and Celaena shared, all while still trying to protect her, even though she was so far away. Chaol and Dorian's relationship suffers because of Chaol's secrecy and his insecurities and perhaps prejudice of Celaena's fae heritage. I really love Chaol and I can only hope that he has a happy ending before the end. I am so hoping for that for him.

There were many new characters introduced in Heir of Fire. The most noteworthy were Rowan, Aedion, and Manon, but I also have a soft spot for Emrys as well. Rowan is just as much a tortured soul as Celaena is, and think that is the reason they connect so well in this book. A romance did not form between them, only a friendship, but it isn't hard to see the love forming between them. I just loved Aedion. He has been through just as much heartache and torture as his cousin, and he still stands tall. He clearly loves his cousin and misses her. He believes in her so much, and it's really beautiful. I really adored what I saw of him in Heir of Fire. Manon was an interesting character, and I am curious to see how her story plays out. She is inherently evil, a witch, but I can sense something changing in her. I hope that I am right. Emrys was such a delightful character, and I hope to see more of him in the next book.

Sarah J. Maas is a plot weaving goddess! The depth of the story is phenomenal. The way that the plot grows and the dots connect as each book comes along is simply genius. A ridiculous amount of planning and plotting has gone into this series that I cannot applaud Maas more for. I seriously get a high on the sheer thought of how intricately woven this story is. This world is vast and beautiful, and I love it.

Deep down I really adore Dorian, so his fate at the end of Heir of Fire broke my heart so much. I don't know what the future will hold for him, but if things cannot be mended I might not be all right. I need Dorian to survive until the end.

The emotions in this book are paramount to the other books in this series. The feelings felt throughout this book are so intense. I haven't felt so much while reading a book in a long while.

Overall, I have so much love for this series. It has captured a part of my heart that I did not know existed. If you have not experienced this phenomenal series then you are missing out on something wholly unparalleled. Something entirely unique and so very special. If you have not read this series yet then you should give it a try. I recommend this series to all, especially those that love fantasy.

What is your favorite book in the Throne of Glass series? If you have not read any books from the series, recommend something! I am always looking for new reading recommendations. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1) by Audrey Grey

Are you ready? The shadow is falling, and the meteor is coming... SHADOW FALL by Audrey Grey has arrived! The stakes are high--it's #trialordie. You've seen the teasers, but now we have a full excerpt prepared for you. Read on below, and be sure to get your copy today for the special release week price of 99 cents!


Title: Shadow Fall

Series: Shadow Fall #1
Author: Audrey Grey
Publisher: Blaze Publishing
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Pages: 368Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia

The asteroid hurtling toward the earth will kill billions.

The Emperor and his Gold Court will be safe in their space station, watching from the stars. The Silvers will be protected underground. But the Bronzes must fight it out at the Shadow Trials for the few remaining spots left on the space station.

When an enigmatic benefactor hands Maia Graystone a spot in the Trials, she won’t just get a chance at salvation for her and her baby brother, Max: She gets to confront the mother who abandoned her in prison, the mad Emperor who murdered her father, and the Gold prince who once loved her. But it’s the dark bastard prince she’s partnered with that will make her question everything, including her own heart. With the asteroid racing closer every day, Maia must trust someone to survive. The question is who?

My legs wobble as I step into the now lukewarm water. I sink to the bottom. Tiny bubbles escape my nose as I watch all the ugly remnants from the last seven years leave my body.
Lungs burning, I rise and come face-to-face with Pit Boy.
I glare at him. “You really have to work on the knocking thing.”
Despite the fact that I’m indecent, his attention never falls from my face. I almost wish it would, just to give me a break from the intensity of his focus.
“I only get a few more hours to be the ‘one-eyed freak’ from the pit. Might as well take advantage.” He doesn’t dare crack a smile, so it’s hard to tell if he’s joking or serious.
“Don’t worry. In my heart, that’s exactly who you’ll always be.”
His words remind me that soon we’ll be reconstructed using forbidden nanotech. But it won’t just be our flesh they’ll reengineer. It will be our brains, too.
I don’t foresee my rewiring being too complicated, but Riser needs to upload almost twenty years of false memories. That will be tricky and time-consuming.
And time is the one thing we don’t have.
Riser flicks his gaze to the mirror. He lifts a hand, touches the patch of mottled flesh where his eye should be.
“How did it happen?” I ask.
“Careful, my lady.” His gaze settles on my face. “You’re beginning to sound like you care.”
I roll my eyes. “And I thought was lacking in conversational skills.”
He focuses his attention on the graffiti sprayed across the mirror.
“It’s written language,” I blurt, even though all I want to do is end the conversation so Pit Boy can leave. His presence unnerves me more than the other Pit Leeches ever could. “It’s how we communicate.”
“I know what it is.” He examines his jagged thumbnail. “I just . . . can’t read it.”
“It’s just stuff about the Chosen. You know, insults.” The populace is finicky. As much as they love watching the Chosen with their petty intrigues and court life, they would be just as happy to see their heads on a pike.
“Chosen?”
Time to explain what you are, Everly, Nicolai’s voice grates inside my head. Riser’s eyes flutter just enough that I know he’s heard Nicolai’s voice too.
You do it, I think, watching Riser’s reaction. But his face remains emotionless; either he’s a good actor or only Nicolai can hear my response.
“The Royalist astronomers discovered the asteroid twenty-one years ago,” I begin. “It’s actually a slow moving planet called an earth-crosser, meaning its orbit and ours intersect every twenty-thousand years. Usually it’s too far away to affect us, but this time it will pass close enough to wreak havoc and make the earth uninhabitable for years.” I stir the water with my big toe. “Before I was born, the Emperor decided that creating a population of genetically superior humans would be a great idea, you know, just in case the Caskets don’t work or the asteroid does more damage than predicted.”
Riser’s hyper-focused gaze bores through me. “You’re one of them?”
“Yes.” I run my hand through the filthy water. “But my father’s a Bronze, so even though my mother comes from a Gold House, the Emperor only allowed them one Chosen instead of the customary twins. So it’s just me . . . not Max.”
“What makes being Chosen so special?”
“I don’t know . . .” I bite my lip, trying to remember everything my parents told me. “My genes are perfect, I guess.”
For some reason, talking about my body makes me remember that I am naked in a room with a boy. As if reading my mind, Riser slowly lets his gaze fall, his expression both curious and unapologetic as he takes me all in, his thoughts cryptic.
“What are you staring at?” I blurt, smashing my breasts beneath my hands. Not like there’s much there to cover. “Haven’t you seen a naked girl before?”
A smile twitches his lips. “Not one that’s genetically flawless.”
“It doesn’t work that way! You can’t just look at us and tell. We look like everyone else—”
“No.” Riser shakes his head, a dark swath of hair covering his damaged eye. “You don’t. Whatever you are.”
“You must be happy . . . about our reconstruction, I mean,” I mumble, trying desperately to change the subject. “They’ll fix your eye . . . and . . . and all those horrible scars.”
I freeze as he slides off the counter, unable to look away as he hooks one finger beneath his shirt and lifts.
Scars ravage his anemic body in varying shades of red and silver and white. Some deep and pitted like the craters of a far-away planet, others smooth and neat. One particular nasty scar carves down his shoulder, tunneling across his chest and stomach. A fresh red wound nestles just below his throat.
He carefully touches the long ugly one. “I’m not ashamed for surviving.”

Audrey Grey lives in the charming state of Oklahoma, with her husband, two little people, and four mischievous dogs. You can usually find her hiding out in her office from said little people and dogs, surrounded by books and sipping kombucha while dreaming up wondrous worlds for her characters to live in.



Saturday, November 26, 2016

Book Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway: Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1) by Audrey Grey


Title: Shadow Fall
Series: Shadow Fall #1
Author:
Audrey Grey
Publisher: Blaze Publishing
Publication Date: November 22nd 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult


The asteroid hurtling toward the earth will kill billions.

The Emperor and his Gold Court will be safe in their space station, watching from the stars. The Silvers will be protected underground. But the Bronzes must fight it out at the Shadow Trials for the few remaining spots left on the space station.

When an enigmatic benefactor hands Maia Graystone a spot in the Trials, she won’t just get a chance at salvation for her and her baby brother, Max: She gets to confront the mother who abandoned her in prison, the mad Emperor who murdered her father, and the Gold prince who once loved her. But it’s the dark bastard prince she’s partnered with that will make her question everything, including her own heart. With the asteroid racing closer every day, Maia must trust someone to survive.

The question is who?

You can get your copy now for the special release price of 99 cents, and be sure to meet us at the Facebook Party happening right now!
My legs wobble as I step into the now lukewarm water. I sink to the bottom. Tiny bubbles escape my nose as I watch all the ugly remnants from the last seven years leave my body.
Lungs burning, I rise and come face-to-face with Pit Boy.
I glare at him. “You really have to work on the knocking thing.”
Despite the fact that I’m indecent, his attention never falls from my face. I almost wish it would, just to give me a break from the intensity of his focus.
“I only get a few more hours to be the ‘one-eyed freak’ from the pit. Might as well take advantage.” He doesn’t dare crack a smile, so it’s hard to tell if he’s joking or serious.
“Don’t worry. In my heart, that’s exactly who you’ll always be.”
His words remind me that soon we’ll be reconstructed using forbidden nanotech. But it won’t just be our flesh they’ll reengineer. It will be our brains, too.
I don’t foresee my rewiring being too complicated, but Riser needs to upload almost twenty years of false memories. That will be tricky and time-consuming.
And time is the one thing we don’t have.
Riser flicks his gaze to the mirror. He lifts a hand, touches the patch of mottled flesh where his eye should be.
“How did it happen?” I ask.
“Careful, my lady.” His gaze settles on my face. “You’re beginning to sound like you care.”
I roll my eyes. “And I thought I was lacking in conversational skills.”
He focuses his attention on the graffiti sprayed across the mirror.
“It’s written language,” I blurt, even though all I want to do is end the conversation so Pit Boy can leave. His presence unnerves me more than the other Pit Leeches ever could. “It’s how we communicate.”
“I know what it is.” He examines his jagged thumbnail. “I just . . . can’t read it.”
“It’s just stuff about the Chosen. You know, insults.” The populace is finicky. As much as they love watching the Chosen with their petty intrigues and court life, they would be just as happy to see their heads on a pike.
“Chosen?”
Time to explain what you are, Everly, Nicolai’s voice grates inside my head. Riser’s eyes flutter just enough that I know he’s heard Nicolai’s voice too.
You do it, I think, watching Riser’s reaction. But his face remains emotionless; either he’s a good actor or only Nicolai can hear my response.
“The Royalist astronomers discovered the asteroid twenty-one years ago,” I begin. “It’s actually a slow moving planet called an earth-crosser, meaning its orbit and ours intersect every twenty-thousand years. Usually it’s too far away to affect us, but this time it will pass close enough to wreak havoc and make the earth uninhabitable for years.” I stir the water with my big toe. “Before I was born, the Emperor decided that creating a population of genetically superior humans would be a great idea, you know, just in case the Caskets don’t work or the asteroid does more damage than predicted.”
Riser’s hyper-focused gaze bores through me. “You’re one of them?”
“Yes.” I run my hand through the filthy water. “But my father’s a Bronze, so even though my mother comes from a Gold House, the Emperor only allowed them one Chosen instead of the customary twins. So it’s just me . . . not Max.”
“What makes being Chosen so special?”
“I don’t know . . .” I bite my lip, trying to remember everything my parents told me. “My genes are perfect, I guess.”
For some reason, talking about my body makes me remember that I am naked in a room with a boy. As if reading my mind, Riser slowly lets his gaze fall, his expression both curious and unapologetic as he takes me all in, his thoughts cryptic.
“What are you staring at?” I blurt, smashing my breasts beneath my hands. Not like there’s much there to cover. “Haven’t you seen a naked girl before?”
A smile twitches his lips. “Not one that’s genetically flawless.
“It doesn’t work that way! You can’t just look at us and tell. We look like everyone else—”
“No.” Riser shakes his head, a dark swath of hair covering his damaged eye. “You don’t. Whatever you are.”
“You must be happy . . . about our reconstruction, I mean,” I mumble, trying desperately to change the subject. “They’ll fix your eye . . . and . . . and all those horrible scars.”
I freeze as he slides off the counter, unable to look away as he hooks one finger beneath his shirt and lifts.
Scars ravage his anemic body in varying shades of red and silver and white. Some deep and pitted like the craters of a far-away planet, others smooth and neat. One particular nasty scar carves down his shoulder, tunneling across his chest and stomach. A fresh red wound nestles just below his throat.
He carefully touches the long ugly one. “I’m not ashamed for surviving.”

Audrey Grey lives in the charming state of Oklahoma, with her husband, two little people, and four mischievous dogs. You can usually find her hiding out in her office from said little people and dogs, surrounded by books and sipping kombucha while dreaming up wondrous worlds for her characters to live in.
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Blog Tour & Review: Fates Entwined (Halven Rising #2) by Jules Barnard


Title: Fates Entwined
Series: Halven Rising #2
Author: Jules Barnard
Publisher: Fresh Fiction
Publication Date: November 14, 2016
Pages: 270
Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Source: ARC
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N


They can never be together. The notion is laughable. Humans are inferior, a scourge on the Fae and on the magic passed down to them by angels millennia ago. And if Keen finds himself drawn to the tiny human female, he keeps it to himself. He won’t add to the half-breed problem that threatens his people’s existence.

Reese can’t stand Keen. He criticizes her clothing, won’t answer a straight question, and is too handsome for her peace of mind.

Her entire life, people have pegged Reese for a shallow, ditzy blond. She won’t accept the stereotype from the large, arrogant Fae too. But after Keen saves her life, she begins to question what truly lies beneath his stoic demeanor.

Forced together, Keen and Reese fight to survive among enemies, and Keen makes choices Reese couldn’t have predicted. She glimpses a side of him that is protective and dangerously seductive.

But Keen refuses to acknowledge their connection.

Until he's faced with the decision to betray his people, or lose Reese forever.

*This mature YA series is intended for readers 17 years and older.*

**Each Halven Rising novel features a different couple and may be read as a standalone, but an overreaching story arc connects the series, so it's fun to read them in order.**
I received an Advance Reader Copy at no cost from the publisher/author.

I very much enjoyed the next book in the Halven Rising series! Barnard has created an intriguing world with complex characters.

The premise for this story is very original. I love the concept of the Fae being the children of the Angels. I've not read anything along those lines before, and I really appreciate that. I am always on board for stories with genuine ideas. The world building is dazzling. It is very detailed and leaves a powerful impact on the reader. I love how the overall story arc is still present even though each book is centered on a specific couple's romance.

I love the forbidden romance angle. The romance was very angsty and thrilling to read about. I loved the chemistry between Reese and Keen.

There was plenty of action interspersed with the romance. I loved the balance. The pacing of the story was fast paced and I kept wanting to know what came next in the story.

Overall, this was an enthralling story with plenty of action and romance. A perfect balance. I can't wait to read the next book in this series! I recommend this book to those that enjoy paranormal romances and fantasy.

OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES

Fates Altered (Halven Rising #0.5)
Get it for FREE on Amazon!

Fates Divided (Halven Rising #1)
Check out my review of Fates Divided here.
A RITA-nominated author, Jules Barnard began her publishing career in 2014 with Deep Blue, the first book in the contemporary Blue Series, hitting bestseller lists on Amazon, iBooks, and All Romance. In 2015, she launched Fates Divided, the first of a romantic fantasy series Library Journal calls “…an exciting new fantasy adventure.” Whether she’s writing about beautiful Lake Tahoe, or a Fae world embedded in a college campus, Jules spins suspenseful stories filled with realistic characters who have heart and humor.

When Jules isn’t in her sweatpants writing and rewarding herself with chocolate, she spends her time with her husband and two children in their small hometown on the California coast. She credits herself with the ability to read while running on the treadmill or burning dinner.



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Blog Tour, Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Flashfall (Flashfall #1) by Jenny Moyer


Title: Flashfall
Series: Flashfall #1
Author: Jenny Moyer
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Source: ARC
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | BD | Kobo 


Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.
I received an Advance Reader Copy at no cost from the publisher/author.

I am an incredibly huge dystopia and science fiction fanatic, and I have heard so many wonderful things about this book that I knew I had to read it! My expectations were not misplaced.

One of the things that spoke out to me the most was the atmospheric world building. Moyer paints a very vibrant picture of this science fiction world. I loved the aspect of the tunnels, as I have not read that before in a dystopian or science fiction novel. It felt very original and it really sticks out amongst other young adult books in this genre.

The plot was mapped out well. The base idea of a society that is deceived by their government or rulers is not new, but I liked the way that things played out. Moyer keeps things interesting though. There are uncovered secrets and different things that are brought to light that keeps the reader wanting more.

Orion is the main character, and I very much enjoyed her voice, and I really felt for her. I admired her bravery and selflessness. She was a strong female lead character and she really spoke to me. Dram was a very likeable character as well and I adored how much he looked out for Orion. The romance between them was played out nicely as well. Friends becoming more than friends.

Overall, this is a fantastic debut! There is plenty of action, a sweet romance, and a well thought out world. I very much recommend this book if you are a fan of science fiction and/or dystopia.


 ONE   297.84 grams cirium  
CAVES MAKE GOOD hiding places. But this close to the flashfall, they also make the most likely places to die. The creatures dwelling in the deep caverns are rabid by-products of the flash curtain, altered by radioactive particles. And they’re starving.  Which makes them almost as desperate as us.  My boots scrape the cavern ledge, and a red marker illuminates at my feet. Danger. Do not cross. Behind me, Dram shifts, and in the soft jangle of climbing harness and anchors, I sense the questions he’s not saying aloud.  My mother once told me I have magic. She didn’t speak the words, nothing as dangerous as that. The day she guided me down my first tunnel, she simply pressed my hand to the cavern wall, and I knew.  have magic in a place where it is outlawed.  My father would call it something different—bioadaptability. That’s really what we Subpars are, adapted to the curtain’s fallout and resistant to its elements in ways that Naturals aren’t.  But he doesn’t know what I feel when I’m down here.  tip forward, and musty air caresses my face like the breath of a ghost.  You passed the boundary marker,” Dram says, his soft warning drawing me back.  I lean past the ledge, my heart thundering. My headlamp penetrates the first few meters of darkness.  Secure an anchor,” I command softly. “We’re going down.” When he doesn’t move, I glance back. He studies me, blue eyes narrowing beneath his headlamp. “There’s cirium down there, enough to earn more Rays.”  Rays don’t mean much if we’re no longer breathing.”  My gaze slips to his arm, to the seal of our city-state and the two curving metal bars he wears pinned beside his designation. Each Ray represents 100 grams of cirium mined in service to Alara. If we earn two more, the director will pin them beside the others and then we will never have to wear these suits again.  Step in my steps,” I murmur. He sighs, loud enough for me to hear it through my earpiece, then kneels to anchor a line. I’ve invoked our cavers’ creed, and there’s not much you can say when someone commands you to follow blindly. Besides, there’s more than that going on here, and Dram knows it.  At least, I hope it’s more than me just being reckless. And desperate, my mind whispers.  When you were little,” Mom told me once, “I couldn’t keep you from climbing the Range. You’d press your cheek to the stone and tell me it was singing to you.” Her eyes had grown anxious then, so I didn’t tell her that the cirium called to me so much stronger from beneath the mountains—that it reached for me like a hand in the dark.  “Use it to get free, Orion,” she had said. A week later, tunnel seven swallowed her in a waterfall of rock.  Now, at sixteen, I’m the caver closest to earning a place in Alara, the city safe behind the cirium shield. As much as I want to live beyond the reaches of the flash curtain, far from the flashfall, I wonder how much of what I risk is for her. So that the part of her I carry inside me will know a place beyond this dust and ash.  move my pickaxe to the holster on my back, watching Dram secure the bolt. We stand in a place where light filters down through cracks in the rock ceiling. I can almost pretend that it’s sunlight, instead of fallout from a solar incident that occurred over a century ago. The flashfall is like this—hinting at the curtain’s beauty, painting our excuse for a sky with luminescent clouds, quietly killing us while we’re mesmerized.  Anchor’s secure,” Dram says, giving the rope a tug. He knots the other end and throws it over the side.  “Be sure to mute your lights before you descend.”  “At that depth, even muted lights will draw the gulls—”  “I know the risks.” Tension pours from me, like I’m bleeding out with all the worry I’ve kept buried for days, and since despair will immobilize me, I lean into anger. I face Dram, trying to decide how to confront him.  Protecting Alara isn’t the only reason we’re down here.  My caving partner is keeping things from me, and while it’s true I’m keeping things from him, my feelings aren’t going to get me killed. His secret is a clock ticking down to death.  Let me see your Radband,” I say. In the sparse light threading past the flashfall, I see his face register shock. “Five years we’ve been scouting tunnels together—”  grasp his wrist. “Did you really think I wouldn’t notice when you started covering your Radband?” My fingers tighten over the biotech dosimeter we’re all fitted with at birth—the band that monitors our radiation levels and sets us apart as Subpars. “How bad is it?”  Orion—”  “Show me.”  He mutters a curse and holsters his pickaxe, all the while meeting my stare. He flicks open a knife and cuts the cloth wound over his Radband.  There.” He holds his wrist in front of my face. “Satisfied?”  For the past year, I’ve watched his glowing green indicator dull to the muted shade of cave moss, but this gleaming light hits me like a kick to the stomach.  How are you at yellow?” There are only two colors beyond it, and no one in the flashfall lives long with a red indicator.  He doesn’t answer, and I know—I know—it’s this cursed tunnel. Nine is bigger than all the rest, with the most potential for cirium. And the most potential for exposure.  Why did you hide this?” I whisper.  “I got tired of looking at the damn thing!” His tone is hollow, but I hear the fear there. He’s only eighteen, in prime health otherwise … but his body’s cumulative radiation levels indicate yellow. It’s the warning before amber, when you really start dying.  Subpars are resistant to the curtain’s particles, but not immune.  He squeezes my hand. Some of what I feel must be showing on my face. “There’s nothing I can do about it,” Dram says.  You can get to the protected city.” And it’s like I’ve dropped over the ledge; my blood pounds through me like I’m falling. “There’s a vein of cirium down there,” I say, pointing past the boundary marker. “I’m certain.”  He studies me, as if he’s listening for the words I’m not saying. Then he lights a flare, steps to the edge, and tosses it over. We watch it fall, red fire sputtering against the darkness. One second, two, three … the smoking flame grows smaller as it drops … six, seven … I know Dram’s counting, measuring the distance to gauge how much climbing line we’ll need, what it will take to get us down and back up again.  barely watch the flare. In my mind, I’ve already made the drop. The truth is, I stepped off this ledge the moment I saw Dram’s Radband.  You understand the risks of going down there?” he asks.  “I understand the risks of not going.” The statement hangs between us, but I don’t look away, not even as his gaze locks with mine.  He threads the rope through my rappel device and secures it to my harness. I’m aware of his touch, his closeness, and I try to make my breaths sound normal, in case he can hear them through his earpiece.  You’re shaking,” he says. I don’t answer because he’ll hear the emotions rioting through me—anger, fear, and something new that feels out of place down tunnel nine. A longing that probably belongs more with a Natural girl in the protected city who doesn’t have an entire mining outpost relying on her. A normal girl who isn’t trying to save her best friend with a pickaxe and a reckless disregard for boundary markers.  Alara needs this cirium,” I say. But it’s not duty to our city-state that gives me the courage to grasp the line and lean back over the chasm.  Careful,” Dram says.  Step in my steps,” I murmur, thinking how many hundreds of Subpars have echoed those words. I’m not the first to scout the unknown, to face my fears and drop.  I’m just the youngest.  I rappel, my stomach dropping as I give in to gravity. The silence of the chasm presses around me, and I feel like that flare, tumbling through a void. Cold creeps in through my caver’s suit, making me shiver as I descend. My heart beats in my ears, and it sounds like too deep, too deep, too deep.  But then another part of me comes awake.  Ah, yes, this.  The innermost parts of me—places I think of as distinctly Subpar—stir, as imprinted memory and sensation come to life.  My feet touch bottom. I free myself from the line and kneel, pressing my bare hand to the chasm floor. Humming. A faint vibration I feel deep inside. I stand, turning in a slow circle as my headlamp skips over walls wet with rivulets of water. Fear seizes me, a reactive instinct, but no orbies lurk in this water, piling atop one another to reach me, to taste me.  Abseil clear!” I call, giving the rope a tug. The descending line is free. Safe to follow.  Moments later, Dram drops beside me. He pulls free of the rope and grasps a knife. “Lead the way.”  As I mute my lights, his Radband glows in my periphery, a flash of yellow. I feel the color, an undeniable warning, pushing me on. We forge through a crevice, the rock so tight around us our Rays scrape the stone. I hear each one of Dram’s breaths. Then, a sound louder than our sliding and scraping. Soft mewling, like the cry of an infant for its mother. But not a human mother.  freeze.  Orion…,” Dram breathes, so close I feel his breath against my ear. He says a hundred things in that one utterance, his tone confirming my worst fears.  Tunnel gulls.  turn my head and meet Dram’s eyes. We share a conversation in the space of a few shattered breaths. Survival instincts fire along my synapses.  There’s a knife clenched in my hand that I don’t recall reaching for.  Right behind you, ore scout,” Dram whispers. He turns off his headlamp and all his suit lights. We are going to cross beneath this gulls’ nest blind, and he trusts me to lead the way.  force myself to take one step, then another, and all the while we listen as the mother gull feeds her baby with a clicking of beaks and the dying sounds of some creature. We are soundless, holding our breath as we hug the wall and pass the rows of roosting father gulls, anxiously awaiting their turns to feast. I look up—just once—and the light of our Radbands illuminates the knife-point feathers of dozens of gulls. I want to cover my hair so badly. It would be the first thing they’d tear into—but I force my attention to the widening of this pass I can just see about ten meters ahead. After that, we’ll at least stand a chance fighting back. Or running.  Five meters.  One.  let my senses move beyond me, a part of me detaching and finding its home in the call of the caverns. Free of its bonds, the cavern creature within me stirs, listening from a place of bone and marrow.  Yes. This.  Slowlyimpressions filter through my mind, and passages overlay my senses like the pages of a map. The vein of cirium is down here.  just need to find it.  The youngling gull cries out for more, and talons scrape the stone. The mother is off to hunt.  And so am I.  Copyright © 2016 by Jenny Moyer 




Jenny is the author of YA sci-fi/fantasy FLASHFALL, coming from Macmillan/Holt 11-15-16. She lives with her filmmaker husband and their three boys in Des Moines. 




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