YA Scavenger Hunt: Team Red

YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Red Team

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are Five contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the RED TEAM–but there is also a blue team, a green team, a gold team, and a purple team, for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the RED TEAM, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
 
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 7th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
24
Today, I am hosting T.A. MACLAGAN on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!
T.A. Maclagan is a born and bred Kansas girl. With a bachelor’s degree in biology and a Ph.D. in anthropology, she’s studied poison dart frogs in the rainforests of Costa Rica, howler monkeys in Panama and the very exotic and always elusive American farmer. It was as she was writing her ‘just the facts’ dissertation that T.A. felt the call to pursue something more imaginative and discovered a passion for creative writing.
 
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here!
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
51jbel8dzrl
“An intricate, debut spy thriller…readers will keep turning pages, and the surprise ending will have them anxiously awaiting a sequel.” ―Booklist 
 
“…the intersection of action, espionage, and drama makes for solid…entertainment: readers will gladly sit back and watch Alexandra navigate the obstacle course that comes with playing her role too well. It’s a strong debut for New Zealand author Maclagan.” ―Publisher’s Weekly
Alexandra Gastone has a simple plan: graduate high school, get into Princeton, work for the CIA, and serve her great nation. She was told the plan back when her name was Milena Rokva, back before the real Alexandra and her family were killed in a car crash. Milena was trained to be a sleeper agent by Perun, a clandestine organization from her true homeland of Olissa. There, Milena learned everything she needed to infiltrate the life of CIA analyst Albert Gastone, Alexandra’s grandfather, and the ranks of America’s top intelligence agency.

For seven years, “Alexandra” has been on standby and life’s been good. Grandpa Albert loves her, and her strategically chosen boyfriend, Grant, is amazing. But things are about to change. Perun no longer needs her at the CIA in five years’ time. They need her active now.

**In honor of YASH, ALEXANDRA GASTONE IS FREE on Amazon from April 2 to April 6**

Exclusive Content:

 

Prologue

Seven Years Ago

I stared at the video screen. At the girl with my eyes—one blue and one gray/green. I’d seen this video hundreds of times so I knew it by heart. It was of Alexandra Gastone walking home from school with a friend. I knew every laugh, smile and eye-roll. I knew when she would play with the locket around her neck and when she would swipe a piece of hair behind her ear, twisting it at the end of the motion. I swiped my own newly shorn hair behind my ear, once, twice, three times, always taking care to twist at the end. The action felt natural now. After months of watching the video it was ingrained. I smiled into the mirror at my side. Alexandra’s smile was crooked and mine now echoed hers, the left-side dipping down. I had to strain to keep the smile in place. Seeing a face in the mirror that was not my own jarred me every time. I let the smile fade and brought a hand up to trace my new jaw, studying the stronger angle. I ran a finger down my new nose. It was smaller now and more refined. The changes might have made me prettier, but I missed my old face. A part of me had been stolen.

I jerked as a cold hand came to rest on my shoulder.

“What is your name?” asked Mistress.

“Alexandra Gastone,” I replied, dropping my voice to match Alexandra’s deeper alto.

“What is your age? Who were your parents? Where are you from?”

Unlike many kids who liked to mumble, Alexandra spoke with great elocution, the movements of her mouth a lip reader’s dream. “I’m eleven years old,” I said, molding my mouth to each word.  At Compound Perun, Oline, my native language, had been forbidden within a few months of my arrival. I now spoke with a perfect American accent.  “My parents were Gregory and Tabitha Gastone. I live in Topeka, Kansas.”

“Who is your guardian?”

The video screen before me went black for a second and then a different face appeared. It was a new video I hadn’t seen although I recognized the silver hair, weathered face, and intelligent blue eyes. I glanced at my friend Varos who was controlling the feed. He offered me a smile, his chubby face pinched. I could tell that Varos was equally as nervous. I wasn’t the only one about to embark on a new assignment.

“My grandfather, Albert Gastone,” I said, turning back to the video. Back to the man whose life I was about to infiltrate.

“Where does Gastone work? What are his hobbies?”

“He works at the CIA. He’s one of the CIA’s public liaisons and is an analyst specializing in the Southern Caucasus. Albert likes to read, travel, and play strategic games like Chess. He has a gun collection.”

“When was the last time you saw your grandfather?”

“I was five years old. He was at my birthday party and gave me a chess set.”

Mistress squeezed my shoulder. I stifled a shiver as she kissed the top of my head. “Very good, my little silver fox,” said Mistress, bringing her icy hands to my cheeks. She turned me to the mirror, her face coming to within millimeters of my own. I could feel the wetness of her breath, smell the vodka. My skin crawled, but I remained still. We gazed at the mirror’s reflection. “You must think strategically at all times. Gastone has lived alone for years. It may be hard for him to accept you. Show an interest in his hobbies and do not disturb his quiet lifestyle. Position yourself as a protégé. Outside of your life with Gastone, you are to assess the strategic value of all those you meet. Befriend those of worth and discard the rest.”

“Yes, Mistress.”

“Milena Rokva is dead. You are now Alexandra Gastone. Remember that, every second of every day. Albert Gastone may not have seen Alexandra in years but he will inherit all the photos and videos that have ever been taken of her.”

I studied Mistress’s cold blue eyes. They were daring me to prove myself. I smiled Alexandra’s crooked smile. From deep within I pulled out a laugh, letting my breath catch almost immediately on it as Alexandra always did, as if shocked by her own amusement.     “I’m Alexandra Gastone, the girl next door. I like to play soccer, swim and read. I like school and my favorite subject is math.” I brushed my hair behind my ear, twisting it at the end of the motion. “I have a crush on a boy named Peter.”

Mistress nodded at me while flicking a hand toward Varos. In response, new images flooded the screen. They were a visual torrent, a deluge to which I’d become well accustomed. The American flag, mansions, fancy cars, fat people living fat lives, money, money, money…the inundation continued driving deep into my psyche… American soldiers in Olissa, their tanks on our streets, their army base on our land. The images flew by…a reel of horrors…and then… without warning, they stopped. The image that remained would echo in my bones, forever and always. My mother—dead, a shot to the head.

In the photo, she lies on ground muddy with blood and I’m next to her, streaked in crimson, hugging a body that life left long ago. My eyes are hollow. Haunted.

I can feel it rush back to me, the crack of the gun, the sound of my mother’s body dropping, the warmth of her life seeping away as night fell. One bullet, less than a second, and everything changed. I was broken and she was gone. A week later, I was at Perun.

The image was a knife carving my insides, but I couldn’t look away. It slowly began to dissolve into the next slide, and I wished the memory of that day would fade as easily. A map of Olissa replaced the shattering photo of my mother.

A small country of ten million, Olissa had suffered centuries of oppression because it was nestled in between world titans. On the animated screen, the great country of Olissa began to shrink as it was devoured by powerful neighbors.  The video said it all. I served so that Olissa would not disappear. So that it would not be forgotten. Entranced, I actually flinched when the image vanished, replaced again by the picture of Albert Gastone.

I glanced at Mistress.

“A reminder,” said Mistress. “Of why you serve. What you are about to do won’t be without its trials. Everyday you must remember why you do this. Why you fight. It is for Olissa and her people.”

“I will remember. For Olissa. Always.”

For my mother. Always.

Mistress kissed my cheek and stepped away. “Very good. Now it’s time to prepare you for the accident.”

Despite my anxiety, I wanted to laugh at Mistress’s words. They sounded so casual. Like I was simply going to take a bath or pack a bag. I wanted, with all my heart, to serve and honor my mother, but was still frozen with fear. I’d only just healed from the plastic surgery and now there would be far more pain. I had to look like a girl who barely survived a car crash. Two men waited outside the door for Mistress’s orders. Trying to see past the pain that was looming, I glanced at the video screen and the man named Albert who would soon believe he was my grandfather. He looked like a good man. His face was gentle and his smile warm. I wondered briefly if he would come to love me, but then pushed the idea from my thoughts. His love didn’t matter, only his name. It was a name that would get me into a good college and then into the CIA, the very agency where he worked. One day, I would be positioned to pass strategic intel back to Perun.

Varos stood and cleared his throat, drawing our attention. “May I have a word in private with—” Varos looked to me. “With Alexandra. As I am her handler, I have a few final things to discuss.”

“Of course,” said Mistress, her words of agreement not matching the scowl on her face. Mistress liked Varos as much as she liked me, which was to say not at all. Seven years my senior, Varos was a chubby asthmatic. Mistress despised physical weakness and given the opportunity, would have loved to crush Varos into shape or watch him perish in the attempt. Fortunately for Varos, he was exceedingly smart and had high-ranking parents within the movement. Because of this, he was groomed for an advisory role at Perun instead of an operative position and was kept out of Mistress’s clutches. Only eighteen years old, he was about to become the youngest handler and operations leader in the field.

Mistress turned to me before leaving, “For the blood of the fallen, for the blood of the living. For Olissa we fight.”

I stood, bringing my hand up in a salute. “For Olissa we fight.”

Mistress left without further word, her hard-soled boots tapping out a steady rhythm on the floor.

I turned to Varos as he began to walk over and our eyes locked. I could feel myself shaking and was trying to regain control. All I wanted to do was race across the room and throw myself into his arms for one last moment of comfort, but I made myself stay rooted in place. I thought of Varos as my friend and would have once shared my fears with him. Now that he was my handler, however, that relationship had to end. Varos had told me so himself. He would have to keep his distance in order to remain objective about my performance.

Varos reached me after what seemed an eternity, time moving slowly but also coming too quickly. Behind the door, a beating awaited. I ran my fingers over the bell-shaped burn on my wrist—one of Mistress’s punishments. At Perun, I was no stranger to pain, but I knew those instances were nothing compared to what was only moments away.

Varos put a hand on my shoulder. Unlike Mistress’s, his hand was warm. Inviting. He pulled me to him and wrapped me in a hug. I felt a surge of relief that he could be my friend for just a few more seconds. “Albert Gastone is a kind man, Little O,” said Varos, using my nickname. “And I’ll be there to guide you. You were made for this. You have all the skills you’ll need.”

The door hinges whined as two of Perun’s enforcers entered the room—Negar and Raykom. Raykom had been one of my Sambo instructors, Negar weaponry. They carried several props with them to aid in their work—straps, a glass window, a two-by-four. My injuries needed to mirror those of a car accident. There were no shortcuts.

Varos pulled away after kissing my forehead.  “For Olissa we fight. For your mother,” he said, offering his own salute.

Unable to speak or coordinate my actions, I only nodded in response. The pain was for a greater cause and because of that I would bear it with pride and dignity. I would do anything for the cause and for my country. It was an honor. Varos smiled weakly. “See you on the other side, Little O.”

I watched each step Varos took in leaving the room. Fifteen in all.

It took Raykom ten steps to reach me. Negar only eight.

dfgsdg



And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Candace Robinson, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 13. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the RED TEAM and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! AUSTIN ASLAN
Note: some authors will offer an additional, individual giveaway. If you want to do this, please feel free to do so.
name-tag2
Are you joining in on YASH today to try and win the giveaway?
Advertisements

April Reads 2019

I only have one for sure read this month and it’s Defy Me. The Shatter Me series is my favorite ever so please don’t let the two remainder books fail me!

34992959

Some April 2019 releases!

 

name-tag2

What are you reading this month?

Review: The Wicked Deep

Title: The Wicked Deep

Author: Shea Earnshaw

Date of Publication: March 6th, 2018

7865388D-1693-4E34-A9D4-D26B35E9E1B6

Goodreads Summary:

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

My Review:

After that emotional and magnificent read, I’m a weeping willow of a mess! I’m just going to say I loved this book more than breathing air, and that it’s probably one of my favorite reads ever. I loved it so much!

We get a book with a witchy type of a sisterly tale! But my favorite part was the contemporary aspects and the mystery and the perfection of the author’s words!

giphy

Photo Credit

Penny and Bo were so good together and there chemistry was cute and sweet! I especially loved the chapters with the backstories on the sisters, so heartbreaking! I want everyone to know that I’m not okay after reading this, even though I’m totally okay … or am I? I already need back in these pages, and I need more books from this author!!!

name-tag2

What’s your favorite witchy book?

Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Title: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Author: Fred Rogers

Date of Publication: March 19th, 2019

image1 (1)

Goodreads Summary:

For the first time ever, the beloved songs from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood are collected here in a charmingly-illustrated treasury, sure to be cherished by adults who grew up with Mister Rogers, and a new generation of children alike.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had a revolutionary impact on children’s television, and on millions of children themselves. Through songs, puppets, and frank conversations, Mister Rogers instilled the values of kindness, patience, and self-esteem in his viewers, and most of all, taught children how loved they were, just by being themselves. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhoodreimagines the songs from the show as poetry, ranging from the iconic (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”) to the forgotten gems. The poem are funny, sweet, silly, and sincere, dealing with topics of difficult feelings, new siblings, everyday routines, imagination, and more. Perfect for bedtime, sing-along, or quiet time, this book of nostalgic and meaningful poetry is the perfect gift for every child–including the child in all of us. 

My Review:

Literally one of the greatest human beings to have ever existed! I grew up with the television show and hearing Mr. Rogers speak, and he was always so genuine. He was also so amazing with adding diversity to his shows and the world!

giphy (1)

Photo Credit

I loved these poems! They were so incredibly encouraging not only for children but adults. It’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s okay to feel happy too because that’s what makes us human. Some of the poems showed love about being different, about loving yourself, about being yourself—so much encouragement.

Not only were the poems great but the illustration matched really well! Overall this is a must read from a man who wasn’t a social media giant but spread his word through love and stories!

name-tag2

Did you grow up watching Mr. Rogers?

Review: The Karate Kid

Title: The Karate Kid

Illustrator: Kim Smith

Date of Publication: May 7th, 2019

image1

Goodreads Summary:

The classic movie about a boy and his karate teacher is now an adorable picture book for the whole family!

When The Karate Kid appeared in theaters in 1984, its heartwarming story of an unlikely friendship between a bullied boy and the Japanese maintenance man in his new apartment building became an instant classic. Now the beloved film is reimagined as a cute and colorful picture book, with charming illustrations by Kim Smith. When young Daniel is targeted by students from the Cobra Kai dojo, his neighbor Mr. Miyagi agrees to train him for the upcoming karate tournament. But why is Mr. Miyagi making Daniel wax his cars, sand his deck, and paint his house? Will Daniel ever master the art of karate? This timeless story of overcoming the odds will delight kids, their parents, and anyone who has ever had that one special teacher.

My Review:

I freaking love the Karate Kid! Wax on, wax off! It was a no brainer that I would probably love this children’s book! Answer = I DID!

giphy

Photo Credit

If only I had this picture book when I was a kid then that would have been immaculate! However, I still thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult! The illustrations were so perfect and matched the movie so well!

Also, I feel like the message is a good one, always has been! Now, I need to go watch the movie right this second!

name-tag2

Have you seen the Karate Kid?

Review: More Than We Can Tell

Title: More Than We Can Tell

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Date of Publication: March 6th, 2018

image1

Goodreads Summary:

Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.

My Review:

Letters to the Lost was so amazingly good and Rev was one of my favorite side characters ever. He gets his own story, right? What could go wrong? The other MC is what.

giphy

Photo Credit

Emma! She’s a gamer which is pretty freaking awesome in itself. The character even started out fine. I love feisty girls, but there’s a difference between that and just completely not nice. She was so mean to her mom, her best friend, and even Rev at times. I didn’t get it! I’m usually fine if the character has tremendous growth but I didn’t see that in her!

However, Rev was perfect. I loved him so much! And his story is so incredibly sad. His adoptive family was so awesome and caring and I’m so glad he got to have them! Also, the new addition of his foster brother Matthew was great! The poor boy had such a horrible backstory, and I think he should get his own book, too!

Overall, I think it would have been much better if it was only Rev’s story or if Emma’s personality would have still been spunky but not so hateful. Either way, if you loved Letters to the Lost then you should still check this out!

name-tag2

What’s your favorite contemporary book?

Review: Call it What you Want

Title: Call it What you Want

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Date of Publication: June 25th, 2019

608D35C7-16CC-466D-9BE7-ED67DA40C245

Goodreads Summary:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

My Review:

I’ve only read A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, but I think I’m starting to become a fan! I also saw her speak at a pannel and she seriously seems like such a funny and an incredibly down-to-earth person!

giphy

Photo Credit

Two character POVs. First we get Maegan, who I will admit I was frustrated with at times, but I genuinely did get the way she thought. She was brought up by a cop with a sister who was good at everything, of course the pressure would be on. But now we get to my baby boy, Rob! Dear stars, I felt so bad for this boy. And I seriously loved him with all my crooked heart! He went through so much and I honestly got the choices and decisions he made. Nothing in books and real life is black and white. EVER! And I think the world needs to think about that sometimes.

This book made me really think about the gray lines and the characters actions. I would think one way, but then think from the other angle. There was just so much in this book, emotion, swoon, friendship, enemies, forgiveness, beautifulness! I’m actually going to have to go backward and read some more of Kemmerer’s books because I can’t get enough!

name-tag2

Have you read any books by Brigid Kemmerer?