Once Upon A… What? By Katherine Henshaw

Disclaimer: I received this book from Ninetales Publishing. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 16+ (fantasy elements and mystery abound!)

Publisher: Ninetales Publishing

Pages: 274

Amazon Link

Synopsis: Summerview Manor was a house with secrets. The disappearance of the original owner Theodore Phillips the Third was basically town legend. But Tabitha and her best friend Scott didn’t care. They’d wanted a place they could call home for as long as they could remember.

When they finally save up enough money to buy the old Victorian house, they thought the worst they’d have to deal with was roaches and sagging floorboards.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

When a dusty gramophone turns a hard night of drinking into a quick slide through a portal into another realm, Tabitha thinks she might have solved the mystery of what happened to Theodore Phillips III. But will she and Scott be able to find their way home, or will their disappearance just become one more mystery for Summerview Manor?

Once Upon a…What? is a wild adventure through a magical world where the creatures are fantastical and shenanigans ensue.

Review: I thought this was a really quick and fun read! The characters were charming and the story was fun! The pacing was a bit fast, but it fit with the writing and story. The plot was sound and I really had fun reading this book!

However, I do think that the backstories could have been expanded on further in the book. I felt that the book didn’t do so good at developing the characters as much as I would like and that the world might need a bit more development.

Verdict: A fun and fast read!

Ransacker by Emmy Laybourne Now Available!

ransacker

Rare powers. Precious metals. Deadly greed.

Sissel Hemstad and her siblings have been living peacefully in a small town in Montana, trying to blend-in and escape the violent events that haunt them, but they’ve all been tricked — James Peavy, the handsome young man courting Sissel is secretly a Pinkerton spy.

The Hemstads possess supernatural powers bestowed upon their family by the ancient Norse gods. Now Sissel, the youngest at 16, discovers her gift: she is a Ransacker. She can find gold and other precious metals and pull them to her. Hers is an awesome and dangerous gift.

If James discovers her secret, he will undoubtedly report back to his boss, the ruthless Baron Fjelstad who wants desperately to control the Hemstads. But James is not the only person interested in Sissel. She’s also caught the attention of a local mine owner, Isaiah McKray. He is convinced Sissel has a lucky touch when it comes to finding gold.

Sissel is torn between the two men, both determined to have her secrets. With betrayal lurking around every corner, Sissel must tread carefully. Harnessing her powers could summon great fortune… or doom them all.

Dream Keeper by Amber Duvall Release Week Blitz

I am so excited that DREAM KEEPER by Amber R. Duell is available now and that I get to
share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by
Author Amber R. Duell, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $10 Amazon
Gift Card, International, courtesy of The Parliament House and Rockstar Book
Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the
bottom of this post.
About the Book:
Title: DREAM KEEPER
Author: Amber R. Duell
Pub. Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: The Parliament House
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 288
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, B&N,
Kobo
The Sandman is seventeen-year-old Nora’s
closest friend and best-kept secret. He has to be, if she doesn’t want a
one-way ticket back to the psychiatrist. It took her too long to learn not to
mention the hooded figure in her dreams to her mother, who still watches Nora
as if she’ll crack. So when Nora’s friends start mysteriously dying gruesome
deaths in their sleep, she isn’t altogether surprised when the police direct
their suspicion at her. The Sandman is the only one she can turn to for
answers. But the truth might be more than she bargained for…

For the last five years, the Sandman has spent every night protecting Nora.
When he hid the secret to the Nightmare Lord’s escape inside her dreams, he never
expected to fall in love with her. Neither did he think his nemesis would find
her so quickly, but there’s no mistaking his cruel handiwork. The Nightmare
Lord is tired of playing by the rules and will do anything to release his
deadly nightmares into the world, even if that means tormenting Nora until she
breaks.

When the Nightmare Lord kidnaps Nora’s sister, Nora must enter enemy territory
to save her. The Sandman is determined to help, but if Nora isn’t careful, she
could lose even more than her family to the darkness.

Excerpt:
2
NORA
Shadows danced in the soft
warmth of the white mini-lights strung around my bedroom. I hopped around my
bed, fumbling with the buckle on my sandals, and tossed my purse in the corner.
Something hard—probably my phone—thwacked against the light blue wall.
“Whoops,” I muttered, then
growled at the metal hook locking my footwear in place. There were places to
go, people to see. Or, rather, one person, and it was already hours past our
usual meeting time. I jerked at the stiff strap. “Get off.”
Finally, it popped, and I
kicked it triumphantly into the corner with my bag. The other came off without
any trouble, and my stomach fluttered in anticipation. I tugged off my jean
shorts and stepped into a pair of plaid pajama bottoms, leaving on the ribbed
tank top I wore out tonight. Who cared that a glob of nacho cheese stained the
front? The Sandman certainly wouldn’t.
Climbing beneath the cool
sheets, I dragged in a long breath and released it slowly. A small grin played
on my lips as I stared at the lights hanging overhead. Then I shut my eyes and
waited. Waited for sleep to claim me. To deliver me. But my body was too tense,
and my mind still flipped through the day’s events—as ridiculously boring as
they were. When the highlight of your day was painting your nails a new color,
what was there to mull over?
After a handful of long
minutes, I opened my eyes again and bit my lip. I could ask. It had been…
Actually, I couldn’t remember the last time I asked him for anything. Even
this. But I had to be up early for work tomorrow and we’d already missed out on
hours together. A grin crept across my face.
“Sandman,” I whispered, and
closed my eyes again in preparation. “Help me sleep.”
It came swiftly then,
sweeping me gently from my world to another as easily as the breeze carries a
feather. I curled my toes, feeling the powder-like sand of the Sandman’s beach
beneath my bare feet, and opened my eyes. The endless blanket of bright stars,
the luminescent waves, the Sandman… This place, this dream, was like coming
home.
“Sorry I’m late,” I called
with a smile in my voice. The light aroma of lilacs filled my lungs and I
sighed, content. “Natalie and Emery dragged me to a party to celebrate our
final first day of summer vacation.” By this time next year, we would all be
high school graduates and legal adults—neither of which I was ready to think
about. I stretched my arms over my head and fought a yawn. “Sandman?” There was
no reply. I dropped my arms and spun, searching for a glimpse of the familiar
black-clad figure. This was our spot—the place directly below the brightest
star. My brows lowered in confusion. So why wasn’t he here? He was always here.
“Where are you?”
The only sound was the soft
hush of waves lapping the shore. I turned again, squinting down the beach, but
there was no hooded figure in sight. My heart skipped a beat. The dream seemed
to yawn open, the emptiness pressing in on me from all sides. He had to be here
somewhere. A pit formed in my stomach, and I staggered back, unsteady. He had
to.
The beach was an addiction I
didn’t know how to cure myself of—didn’t want to cure myself of. For every time
I had to pretend this place didn’t exist, the Sandman was there to absolve me
of the lies. There to make me feel like I was good and sane and normal. It
didn’t matter that he was also the reason I didn’t feel any of those things
were true when I was awake. The Sandman was my anchor, holding me firm when
life tried to wash me out to sea. Without him… I swallowed hard. Without him, I
would be a ship without sails.
“Sandman!” I jogged down the
water’s edge, my pulse drumming in my ears. “I’m here.”
But he wasn’t.
    
THREE THIRTY-TWO.
The clock on my nightstand
glowed green, the colon blinking in a slow, torturous rhythm. I tapped my
fingers on my stomach. The Sandman had never been a no-show before. And if he
wasn’t there, maybe that meant they were right, and he wasn’t real.
No.
I refused to believe that.
My mother meant well, but I couldn’t face a lifetime of pill-pushing
psychiatrists. One white-haired doctor tossing around words like personality
disorder and delusional was enough. By the time the final doctor deemed the
Sandman a simple outlet for me to process my parents’ divorce, the damage was
done.
Don’t worry about it, he
said. It will pass, he said.
That was five years ago.
The divorce was a distant
memory. My father moved across the country and my mother remarried, but the
Sandman became a permanent fixture. One I’d learned to never, ever talk about.
What’s going on? I pushed
the thought toward the Sandman even though I knew he couldn’t hear me. There
was only one call that reached from this side of the Dream World to his, only
one cry capable of bringing him here, but it never stopped me from trying.
I flung the sheets back with
a huff and grabbed an oversized Lund Valley Community College sweater from the
end of my bed. Natalie hoped we would go there together next year but… I
wrinkled my nose and glanced at the dresser drawer where my sketchbook was carefully
tucked between scarves. If I went to college at all, it would be for art, but
that was a big if. No one in my family knew I drew, and if my mother was going
to let me major in something “impractical,” she would want to at least see my
work. Unfortunately, each page featured a majestic beach and a man hidden
beneath a hood. Both things I was supposed to have forgotten long ago.
Tugging the sweater over my
head, I made my way through the dark hallway toward the stairs. My mother and
step-father were both working the night shift at the hospital and my sister
could sleep through anything, yet I found myself tip-toeing down the hall.
I paused outside Katie’s
door and listened to the steady, heavy breathing on the other side. Part of me
wanted to wake my sister up to talk about what happened, but the other part of
me—the part that remembered the piercing fluorescent lights of a therapist’s
office—knew better. Katie had teased me about the Sandman when we were younger,
but she never treated me differently. However, now we were older. Barging into
her room to complain that my imaginary friend hadn’t shown up that night might
alienate the last blood relative I could rely on.
Although Katie annoyed me
like no one else, I loved her more than I was irritated with her. I needed my
big sister on my side—even if it meant hiding a huge part of my life. So, I
stepped away from her door and crept silently downstairs to the kitchen.
Maybe because I was about to
steal someone’s box of frozen Thin Mints.
Sorry, not sorry.
Mist curled out of the open
freezer, and I reached behind the chicken before a shrill, heart-wrenching
scream tore through the house, squeezing the air from my lungs. It was made of
nails and teeth and death. Of danger and fear. My eardrums rattled. Each nerve
stood at attention, electricity buzzing over my body.
“Katie?” I yelled,
frantically abandoning my pursuit of the cookies.
Confusion laced the edges of
my shaky voice, but I was already racing across the kitchen. Instinct twisted
my gut, telling me to turn and run, to save myself, but I couldn’t. Not if my
sister was in trouble. Not if someone had broken in when no one was home to
help. Not if Katie was hurt and scared. I propelled myself up the stairs to the
second floor, my skin itching me to go faster, faster, faster. Katie’s door was
still shut at the front of the hallway. My breath shuddered, and I reached for
the handle, pausing with apprehension. The metal was cold in my palm.
“Katie?” Her name came out
as a crackling whisper and I forced myself to inhale. Then exhale. Inhale
again. My hand shook as I twisted the knob.
I eased the door inward.
Without a barrier between us, the sound cut through me like a knife. I slapped
a palm against the wall, hitting the light switch, and flinched at the sudden
brightness. At what it might reveal.
Katie lay flat on her back,
her eyes shut tight, with the sheets snarled in a ball at the end of the bed.
Sweat poured down her face, plastering her pink hair to her skin. The wild
scream continued, unrelenting, her jaw stretched wide, her neck muscles
protruding. But everything else was in its rightful place. Nothing was broken.
The lock on the window hugged its latch.
I stepped into the room and
spun, bumping into the dresser. My pulse thrashed; it mimicked Katie’s scream
in pendulum beats. Loud then muffled then loud again. “Katie?” My voice felt
tight. I knelt on the mattress and shook my sister’s broad shoulders. “Wake
up.”
The scream cracked. Katie
sucked in air as if she were drowning and began again, just as terrified. I
used the back of my wrist to wipe the moisture from my forehead. My nails dug
into her shoulders, and I shook her rigid body with every ounce of strength I
had. The more I yelled her name, the more desperate, more savage, my voice
became. Black spots danced in my vision. Nightmares were one thing, but this
was something else. Something beyond that. I shook the dizzying fear away and
darted into the bathroom across the hall.
I returned with a Dixie cup
of cold water and leapt onto the bed. The water hit Katie’s face with a splash.
“Come on,” I shouted to no avail.
I fumbled for Katie’s cell
phone on the nightstand. If our mother didn’t know what to do, she could send
someone who did. My thumb hovered over the direct number to my mother’s unit
when a quick, metallic burst of air whooshed in from the hallway. A shiver
ravaged my spine, and Katie’s pitch reached new heights. I slipped from the
bed, my hip smashing into the floor. The phone fell from my hand, seemingly in
slow motion. I lunged for the door, and slammed it shut, leaning my back
against the wood.
I couldn’t think.
Couldn’t… I couldn’t…
The walls seemed to shrink,
boxing me in. Trapping me.
Above the screech, a deep
chuckle rumbled in the hall. My heart rose to my throat, and I dove for the
phone where it had landed on the rug. I managed to dial nine before Katie’s
scream cut off. Palpable silence penetrated the room. My rapid breathing mixed
with my sister’s, and I edged up onto shaking knees. Katie rolled onto her side
with a twitch.
“Katie?” My voice came out
as a squeak.
She snuggled into the
pillow, and her breathing returned to normal. Okay. She was okay. I turned my
attention to the space at the bottom of the door. There was probably no one out
there anyway. My sister’s screams threw me off after a confusing night, that’s
all. I was merely tired and scared and was likely imagining the whole thing.
But before I called anyone,
I had to be sure.
With the phone clutched in
my hand, I crawled across the room to where the bright yellow handle of Katie’s
tennis racket leaned against the wall. I gripped the hard foam and held it to
my shoulder. I didn’t want to leave Katie alone but what choice did I have? I
couldn’t call for help if no one was out there. My mother would have a field
day.
Clenching my jaw shut to
keep my teeth from chattering, I dialed two one’s before opening the door. If
anyone was on the other side, it would only take a single touch to call for
help.
I eased out, holding the
racket in front of me, and flicked on the hallway light. The stillness slammed
into me like a brick wall. “Okay, okay, okay,” I chanted under my breath. This
was stupid. And yet… at five-foot-three and a hundred and ten pounds, an
intruder wouldn’t necessarily need to be armed to overpower me.
My nerves exploded with a
burst of adrenaline, and I leapt from room to room until each light bulb on the
second floor glowed. I checked every closet, under every bed. The racket shook
in my hand. There was nothing. No one. An irrational spike of anger zipped through
me at the possibility of my brain’s betrayal.
My body moved on its own
accord, taking me downstairs one tentative step at a time. One million
potential fates I might encounter, if there was someone lying in wait, coursed
through my thoughts. The joints in my fingers locked around the phone with my
thumb still over the green call button. My tongue was sandpaper against the
roof of my mouth, and I crept through the living room.
The freezer was still open,
rattling in an attempt to keep the internal temperature down. I chomped down on
my lip and inched my way forward to shut it. The rarely-used alarm system
beside the back door taunted me—if only I remembered the code.
It seemed like it took ages
to finish searching the house. I looked everywhere from the coat closet to
beneath the bathroom sink, but it had only been eleven minutes since I had
woken up. No time at all, really. I gripped the back of a dining room chair to
stay on my feet.
There was no intruder. Katie
had a nightmare, and my mind deceived me.
Again.
Always.
Only this time, it wasn’t
part of my subconscious. I wasn’t asleep. Katie had screamed. There was a blast
of air. Someone had laughed.
I swallowed the fear rising
in my chest.
No one believed they were
crazy. I wasn’t sure what it meant if I thought I was unhinged but constantly
persuaded myself to believe I wasn’t. Was I? Wasn’t I? Not even the doctors
could agree on an answer. My sanity was a double-edged sword, and I was
fighting to maintain balance on the tip.
I dashed back to Katie and
climbed in bed beside her, nestling close. I tucked the wrinkled sheet around
us both and tried to ignore the nausea curdling in my stomach. Katie was older
than me, bolder and more confident, but in that moment, she felt as fragile as
blown glass. I wrapped an arm around her waist and squeezed my eyes shut. My
ears strained to hear the slightest sound that could signal danger, but no one
else was in the house.
No one had laughed.
The Sandman wasn’t real.
I balled the back of Katie’s
T-shirt in my fist. He was real enough to me, and I needed him. Please,
Sandman, I called in a silent plea for the second time tonight—the one only he
could hear. Help me sleep.
About Amber:

 

Amber R. Duell was born and raised in a
small town in Central New York. While it will always be home, she’s constantly
moving with her husband and two sons as a military wife. Before becoming
published, she had a wide range of occupations including banking, bartending (though
she’s never tried alcohol), and phlebotomy (though she faints with needles).
She also volunteered as a re-enactor at the local Revolutionary War fort and
worked near shelter cats which led to her previous crazy cat lady status.
She does her best writing in the middle
of the night, surviving the daylight hours with massive amounts of caffeine.
Her favorite stories are dark with a touch of romance and a villain you either
love to hate or hate to love.
 When not reading or writing, she enjoys
snowboarding, embroidering, snuggling with her cat, and staying up way too late
to research genealogy. She loves to travel and has visited more countries than
states. Kissing the Blarney Stone and hand-feeding monkeys in the mountains of
France will be hard to beat, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to find the
next real-life adventure.
 
Giveaway
Details:
1
winner will win a $10 Amazon Gift Card, INTERNATIONAL.

 

The End of the World and Beyond by AVI

Disclaimer: I received this book from Algonquin Young Readers. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Recommended Age: 12+ (themes of racism in a historical context, some violence, and hope)

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 304

Amazon Link

Synopsis: Convicted of thievery and transported from England to America, Oliver Cromwell Pitts, shackled to his fellow prisoners, endures inedible food, filthy conditions, and deadly storms on his voyage across the Atlantic. But the hazardous shipboard journey is nothing compared to the peril that waits for him on the colonial shores.

In Annapolis, Oliver’s indentured servitude is purchased by the foul, miserly Fitzhugh, who may have murdered another servant. On Fitzhugh’s isolated tobacco farm, Oliver’s only companion is an enslaved boy named Bara. Oliver and Bara become fast friends with one powerful goal: to escape Fitzhugh. Oliver hopes he can find his sister, Charity, brought somewhere in the colonies on a different ship. Bara dreams of reaching a community of free black people in the cypress swamp who may help him gain his liberty. But first the boys must flee Fitzhugh’s plantation and outrun their brutal pursuer and the dangers that lurk in the swamp.

Review: So I haven’t read the other book about Oliver Cromwell Pitts, and I think that while the other book could have helped, but the book read excellently as a stand alone. The events were explained and the book doesn’t depend on previous knowledge to know what all is going on. The book is well written and the plot moves along as a good pace. The book isn’t too fast or slow and it takes care to make sure sensitive topics are explained well in my opinion.

However, the book ended very abruptly and didn’t fit into the rest of the book. I think the book could have better wrote out and an ending better teased out.

Verdict: A well written book for middle graders learning colonial time periods.