Book Review: Jadeite’s Journey by Lucinda Stein

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Title: Jadeite’s Journey
Author: Lucinda Stein
Publisher: Inkspell Publishing

Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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jadeites-journeyJadeite’s Journey
Lucinda Stein
Inkspell Publishing, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-9976212-6-6
Ebook

From the publisher—

When romance turns deadly…

Jadeite’s perfect world comes crashing down on her. In the futuristic world of United Society, her only problem has been how to act around the cute boy on the air shuttle. But Jadeite’s world changes when she comes across a man who looks alarmingly like her father. Clones were declared illegal years ago. When she sees her father, a robotic engineer, headed to the Dark Edge of United Society, she follows him and uncovers her father’s secret life.

Jadeite shadows her father past the boundary of United Society and into a primitive world of canyons and high deserts. She learns her father is a Ridge Runner passing between the two worlds. Even more alarming, she discovers her younger brother, Malachite, is sick and requires medicine only available from over the Ridge. After her father is arrested, Jadeite takes his place in order to save her brother’s life.

But her world turns even more precarious after she breaks up with her obsessive boyfriend, Mattie. Jadeite soon learns his threats are more than words, and she finds her life is in jeopardy.

Book covers DO make a difference, don’t they? It certainly did for me this time—as soon as I saw this one, I just had to know more so kudos to the cover artist, Najla Qamber.

No disease, no crime, no poverty, no death. Sounds great at first, right? No plants, no animals, all made extinct because they serve no purpose. No unproductive people allowed to exist. No right to decide who sits next to you. Maybe the positives of this society aren’t so positive after all but if you’ve never known any other way….

At first, I couldn’t get a clear idea of the time frame and the history leading up to Jadeite’s period with relation to our own time—the numbers didn’t seem to work—but I decided that wasn’t so important. I also found it troubling that the still remaining signs of pre-United Society civilization existed so closely to her sheltered environment but she nothing of it, seeming to contradict her persona as an intelligent, curious young lady. How is it possible that crumbling buildings and roads from our own time are within a brief shuttle ride and, yet, she had no idea? Leaving these issues aside, though, I was quite taken with the world Ms. Stein created with her attention to small details such that I could picture myself in Jadeite’s environment.

Jadeite herself is an appealing protagonist as are her family and her friend, Electra. Mattie, on the other hand, starts showing his questionable side early on and I would like to think such an intelligent girl would see through him but, alas, she falls for the surface as so many girls do. On the positive side, Jadeite soon begins to acknowledge her own doubts concerning facets of the United Society’s dicta and its harsh laws.

What Jadeite will do with the shocking things she learns is, of course, a large part of her story and I found myself intrigued with this girl’s life journey.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

About the Author

lucinda-steinA school librarian for over twenty years, Stein now writes fulltime. Sanctuary: Family, Friends, & Strangers was a 2015 Colorado Book Award finalist. Three Threads Woven, was a 2010 WILLA Finalist. Her story, Sulfur Springs, won First Place in the 2011 LAURA Short Fiction competition. Her stories have appeared in Pooled Ink, The South Dakota Review, Fine Lines, and Women Writing the West online.

When not writing, she hikes desert canyons and alpine trails. She loves anything vintage, her shelter-rescued dog, Opie, and, most of all, her husband, Rob.

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Book Review (Audio): Anomalies by Sadie Turner and Colette Freedman

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Title: Anomalies
Authors: Sadie Turner & Colette Freedman
Publisher Print and Ebook: Select Books
  Print/Ebook Book Release Date: February 9, 2016
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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anomalies-audioAnomalies
Sadie Turner & Colette Freedman
Read by Lucinda Clare
Punch Audio/Sadie Turner & Colette Freedman, October 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the authors—

In the future there is no disease. There is no war. There is no discontent. All citizens are complacent members of the Global Governance. But one summer is about to change everything.

Keeva Tee just turned 15. She’s about to make the trip to Monarch Camp to be imprinted with her intended life partner. But in her happy, carefree life in the Ocean Community, she hears whispers about “anomalies” – citizens who can’t be imprinted. When Keeva arrives at Monarch Camp, her worst nightmare becomes a reality – she is an anomaly. She begins to doubt everything she’s ever believed. What if freedom and individuality have been sacrificed for security?

When Keeva finds a warning carved under a bunk bed she begins to understand: nonconformity will be punished, dissent is not an option, insurgents will be destroyed.

I reviewed the print edition of this book in April 2016 {https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/book-review-anomalies-by-sadie-turner-and-colette-freedman/} so I won’t go into the story again but, rather, focus this time on the audio aspects of the book. In case I really need to say so 😉 I wouldn’t have listened to the audio book if I didn’t really like the tale already.

An audio version of a book adds an element not present in other versions because the narrator is equally as important as the story. A terrific story can save a mediocre or poor narrator but, on the other hand, can be ruined by the wrong narrator or brought to new heights of appeal by the right one. I’ve listened (briefly) to some less than wonderful readers as well as a few I consider the tops and Lucinda Clare is very, very close to that level.

Ms. Clare has a pleasing tone with inflections that ease the listener into understanding the mood and personality of each character and she has clearly distinct voices for those characters. If I have any quibble at all, it’s that her voice is a little too mature to portray a 15-year-old girl but that’s truly minor. Keeva’s intelligence and curiosity, Calix’s confusion and Sobek’s callousness all come through easily but Ms. Clare doesn’t put all her efforts into evoking the characters.

As the story evolves, she ratchets up the tension and, as a result, my own senses were heightened beyond what I experienced when reading the print version. I felt the impact of each revelation as much as Keeva and Calix did and shared their emotions. In short, the audio edition of Anomalies is well worth the time (and cost) and I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying Ms. Turner’s and Ms. Freedman’s exciting story and Lucinda Clare’s narration.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

About the Authors

Sadie TurnerSADIE TURNER is a Los Angeles-based producer and writer originally from Brighton, England, who works in business development with several Hollywood entrepreneurs. She has various projects in development, and also teaches yoga.

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Colette FreedmanCOLETTE FREEDMAN– An internationally produced playwright with over 25 produced plays, Colette was voted “One of 50 to Watch” by The Dramatist’s Guild. Her hit musical “Serial Killer Barbie” can be heard here.

Her play Sister Cities was the hit of the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe and earned five star reviews:  It has been produced around the country and internationally, fifteen times including Paris (“Une Ville, Une Soeur”), Rome (“Le Quattro Sorelle”) and Australia.  It is next up in  Chicago August 2016. She wrote the film which is currently in post-production and stars Jacki Weaver, Alfred Molina, Jess Weixler, Stana Katic, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amy Smart, Troian Bellisario, Tom Everett Scott and Kathy Baker. She  has co-written, with international bestselling novelist Jackie Collins, the play “Jackie Collins’ Hollywood Lies”, which is gearing up for a National Tour.

In collaboration with The New York Times best selling author Michael Scott,  she wrote the thriller The Thirteen Hallows  (Tor/Macmillan). Her novel The Affair (Kensington) came out January 29, 2013. The play of the novel earned both critical and commercial success as it toured Italy February through May 2013. Her sequel novel The Consequences (Kensington) came out January 28, 2014. Her YA novel Anomalies (Select Books) came out February 9, 2016. She also co-wrote the film “And Then There Was Eve” which is currently in pre-production and begins principal photography May 2016.

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Book Review: Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

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Title: Flashfall
Author: Jenny Moyer
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Genre:  Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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flashfallFlashfall
Jenny Moyer
Henry Holt and Company, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-6277-9481-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

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.

While much about Flashfall seemed to me to be quite similar to other dystopian stories (really, though, how many new and totally different tales can there be this late in the dystopian book world?), Ms. Moyer did one thing that not many authors do for me, personally. Within minutes of beginning to read, I was truly attached to both Orion and Dram. Usually, characters have to grow on me and it takes a while but, here, the connection was almost immediate.

The plot, revolving around the mining of a particular element and the need to earn enough to live on the “good” side, is interesting and, even though I didn’t find it astoundingly different, I did enjoy this tale of a girl having to grow up a great deal before her time and learning that all is not as it seems. I also appreciated that the event that brought this world to its knees happened only about a century earlier so there is not a lot of need for fancy futuristic technology that, quite honestly, I sometimes think gets in the way of a good story. The radiation dangers and class divisions are issues we can relate to, making the tale more believable, and the author has created a credible and interesting human existence with worldbuilding that I found much better than I’ve seen in recent times.

Most especially, though, I reveled in the relationship between Orion and Dram, a relationship based on total trust. That is something we don’t see every day and I applaud Ms. Moyer for it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.

About the Author

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.
Find out more at http://www.jennymoyer.com and connect with Jenny on Twitter and Facebook.
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Book Review: Return of the Continuums by Jennifer Brody

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Title: Return of the Continuums
Series: The Continuum Trilogy #2

Author: Jennifer Brody
Publisher: Turner Publishing
Release Date: November 1 , 2016
Genre:  Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Return of the ContinuumsReturn of the Continuums
The Continuum Trilogy #2
Jennifer Brody
Turner Publishing, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-68162-258-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Reaching the surface was just the beginning.

As Myra and her friends set out to find the First Continuum, they must navigate a hostile landscape and even more hostile inhabitants of other continuums with their own ideas about the future of the human race. In the pulse-quickening sequel to “The 13th Continuum,” the young heroes must make an unlikely ally if they are to survive long enough to reach their destination and learn the secret behind humanity’s destruction and the hope for its survival.

As Myra’s and Aero’s story continues, following last spring’s The 13th Continuum, I struggled a bit to reconnect with these two, perhaps because there’s a lot of information in the first half of the book for the characters and the reader. I found my attention being drawn in too many directions for a while and, yet, I still enjoyed this sequel despite the early distractions. Myra and Aero have separate storylines in the first half and that probably added to my disconnect.

Still, Ms. Brody has crafted an interesting scenario with the multiple continuums and their very isolation has led to quite diverse societies and outlooks. Learning how the various continuums were developed and how the original inhabitants of each were chosen added much to my understanding of this world far in the future and, in the second half of the book, I got caught up in the quest to reach the first continuum.

As with the first book, questions are left unanswered, giving us good reason to look forward to the third volume of the trilogy. The United Continuums will be coming in July 2017 and it’s already on my wishlist.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.

Also in the series:

The 13th Continuum

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About the Author

Jennifer BrodyJennifer Brody’s debut novel The 13th Continuum sold to Turner Publishing in a 3-book deal and is being packaged into a feature film. The book is the first in a trilogy and came out in Spring 2016. She is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. She lives and writes in LA.

After studying film and graduating from Harvard University, she began her career in feature film development. Highlights include working for Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes and New Line Cinema, most notably on “The Lord of the Rings” films and “The Golden Compass”. In 2008, she produced the feature film “Make It Happen” for The Weinstein Company. Her recipes and articles have appeared in xoJane, Fox News, Parade Magazine, Whole Life Times, and Meatless Monday, and many other publications.

She is an alumni of the Sirenland Writers Conference, where she studied with Meg Wolitzer, and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, where she studied with Victor LaValle. She completed a 3-week residency at The Lemon Tree House and was accepted for a residency in Spring 2016 at the Helen R. Whiteley Center, run by the University of Washington.

She founded and runs BookPod, a social media platform for authors with 400 members. She’s also a mentor for the Young Storytellers Foundation. In Spring 2015, her mentee’s script was picked out of over 900 scripts for the Glee Big Show, where it was performed by the cast of the hit Fox TV show, and in Fall of 2015, her mentee’s script was chosen for the Biggest Show, where it was performed by Jack Black and Leslie Mann.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website: http://jenniferbrody.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14248804.Jennifer_Brody

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenniferbrody

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenniferbrodywriter

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Book Review: Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa

children-of-edenChildren of Eden
Joey Graceffa
Keywords Press/Atria Books, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-5011-4655-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Rowan is a Second Child in a world where population control measures make her an outlaw, marked for death. She can never go to school, make friends, or get the eye implants that will mark her as a true member of Eden. Her kaleidoscope eyes will give her away to the ruthless Center government.

Outside of Eden, Earth is poisoned and dead. All animals and most plants have been destroyed by a man-made catastrophe. Long ago, the brilliant scientist Aaron al Baz saved a pocket of civilization by designing the EcoPanopticon, a massive computer program that hijacked all global technology and put it to use preserving the last vestiges of mankind. Humans will wait for thousands of years in Eden until the EcoPan heals the world.

As an illegal Second Child, Rowan has been hidden away in her family’s compound for sixteen years. Now, restless and desperate to see the world, she recklessly escapes for what she swears will be only one night of adventure. Though she finds an exotic world, and even a friend, the night leads to tragedy. Soon Rowan becomes a renegade on the run – unleashing a chain of events that could change the world of Eden forever.

Joey Graceffa is definitely a child of modern times and he’s made an indelible impression on the social media world. It would be easy to dismiss him as just another celebrity thinking he can write a book worth reading but that would be a mistake. Mr. Graceffa can put thoughts and words together quite nicely.

Some have said that dystopian fiction has outlasted its welcome but I still find it intriguing and highly entertaining, engaging my brain as well as providing great stories. Children of Eden is easily one of the better dystopian tales I’ve read for several reasons, not least of which is a very interesting protagonist.

Imagine being 16-year-old Rowan, essentially a prisoner in her own home her entire life. As comforting and welcoming as it is, this is still a prison and her father’s attitude towards her is dismissive, almost as though he resents her existence. When the day comes that Rowan is told she has to leave her safe haven and literally the only three people she knows, her reaction—to run—is natural. Unfortunately, Rowan is not prepared for the outside world and finding other second children, also in hiding, will change her life, as will catastrophic events within her family and a secret she could never have expected.

Along with a cracking good tale and an appealing main character, we find other characters who are perhaps less appealing for various reasons but that actually makes them more interesting. In particular, Lark and Lachlan got my attention with their sort of jealousy of each other with regards to Rowan.

The author’s core theme of ecological disaster is not a new idea but it always bears repeating in our own time of seeming inability to take environmental concerns seriously enough. Could we end up in a future like this one, ruled over by a faction that believes it knows what’s best for society? Of course we could and many of us would find life as chafing as Rowan does.

I do have one personal negative issue with Children of Eden—there’s a humongous cliffhanger which I could do without but such is life, right? I’ll just have to hope the next book is forthcoming sooner rather than later because I really want to know what’s going to happen next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2016.

About the Author

joey-graceffaJoey Graceffa is one of the leading content creators and actors on YouTube. His memoir, In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World, was published in 2015 and became an instant New York Times bestseller. Joey ranked third on Variety’s 2015 #Famechangers lists and has been featured in numerous publications such as People, Forbes, Entertainment Weekly, and The Hollywood Reporter.  In 2013, between his daily vlogs and gameplay videos, Joey produced and starred in his own Kickstarter–funded supernatural series, “Storytellers,” for which he won a Streamy Award, and was recently announced for a season 2 in 2016 in partnership with Legendary and Style Haul. In 2016, he debuted “Escape the Night”, a surreality competition series for YouTube Red. Joey is a passionate storyteller and carries that sentiment into all of his projects, now with his latest fictional narrative, Children of Eden. For more information, please visit ChildrenofEdenBook.com.

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Book Review: The Dream Protocol by Adara Flynn Quick

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Title: Descent
Series: The Dream Protocol Book 1

Author: Adara Flynn Quick
Publication Date: May 18, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Descent The Dream ProtocolDescent
The Dream Protocol Book 1
Adara Flynn Quick
Adara Quick, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-9912150-4-1
Trade Paperback

From the author—

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T GET OLD.

In fiery young Deirdre Callaghan’s home of Skellig City, no one has dreamt their own dream in over a thousand years. Dreams are produced by the Dream Makers and sold by the Ministry, the tyrannical rulers of the city. In Skellig City, years of life are awarded equally and the ruined are cast away beneath the city on their 35th birthday.

Unbeknownst to the Ministry, Deirdre’s handsome friend Flynn Brennan is afflicted with a terrible disease – a disease that accelerates the aging process. Knowing his fate if the Ministry should ever discover his illness, Flynn has lived his whole life hiding from their watchful eyes. When Flynn’s secret is finally discovered, Deirdre is determined to free him from the Ministry’s grasp. But to save him, she will have to reveal herself to a shadowy enemy…one that none of them even knew existed.

I confess to being sort of betwixt and between when it comes to what I think of The Dream Protocol: Descent and most of my ambivalence arises out of gaps in worldbuilding, a couple in particular. First, was I correct in thinking early on that this takes place in Ireland, given the profusion of Irish names and idioms, not to mention an Otherworld of the gods? Also, since the surface is obviously safe, why are the great majority of people forced to live underground?

That second item does explain why Deidre questions so much about her life and it gives credibility to her resistance to the current state of affairs. Imagine an existence driven solely by dreams of all the wonderful things life could offer if only that life were in the open and free from all the restrictions imposed by a tyrannical government. Wouldn’t you at some point want to experience these things for real?

There have been books and movies—Logan’s Run comes to mind—before that focus on age as a reason to be executed and they almost always have a euphemistic term for it. In this case, it’s called the Ritual of Descent because the person whose time has come is forced to “descend” into the deepest part of the underground city, never to be seen again. The reason for this is simple: those past their 35th birthday must not be allowed to darken the existence of the young. I like what Ms. Quick has done with this concept and how she lets Deirdre’s discontent grow into something much more powerful. Add to that the simply wonderful Flynn who has deadly problems of his own and we have the beginnings of a terrific story which will be continued in the next volume, Selection.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.

About the Author

Adara Flynn QuickIrish-American author, Adara Flynn Quick, is the writer of The Dream Protocol series.  Early in her career, Adara was fascinated by dreams, the unconscious, and the healing stories of many cultures.  As a contemporary author, she writes young adult literature that brings ancient myths and legends into futuristic worlds.  She is an accomplished visual artist and uses her background as a psychotherapist to inspire the finest and darkest moments of her characters.

Driven to distraction by her computer, Adara writes all of her stories longhand.  Pen and paper are two of her favorite things.  The author tortures her husband with a passion for downtempo electronica and too many pillows.  She is a firm believer that there are never enough pillows.

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Book Review: There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane

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Title: There Once Were Stars
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Publisher: Month9Books
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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There Once Were StarsThere Once Were Stars
Melanie McFarlane
Month9Books, April 2016
ISBN 978-0-9968904-0-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?

Although I know everybody isn’t a fan of Under the Dome by Stephen King, I am and I like the idea of a society closed off this way. That kind of setting is the first thing that drew me to There Once Were Stars, that and the fact that it’s a dystopian tale. While I had some niggling issues, I enjoyed Nat’s story on the whole.

Society lives under domes because, in the past, a deadly worldwide virus struck and the powers that be chose to irradiate the world to stop it. This was the first hiccup for me as I can’t imagine such a response to a pandemic being thought a good idea, much less the world’s leaders agreeing to it, but it’s certainly a fresh concept for a subgenre that’s becoming a little roadweary. Living under domes has “evolved” into tightly controlled situations with many restrictions on citizens’ freedoms and they’re told that life is not possible on the outside.

Nat is a likeable girl if quite immature. That immaturity isn’t totally surprising considering her very limited life experience but I’m not sure how the people got to the point of almost sheep-like adherence to the rules and her lack of real interest in the outside is odd since she is selected to work in the science unit. I really didn’t expect her story to revolve so much around her personal issues…and a dreaded love triangle…and she was kind of whiny but I *did* like Nat so I mentally encouraged her to pursue answers to the questions she has, particularly about the outside and how people can be surviving despite the admonitions that it’s still too deadly.

There’s a lot of potential in a storyline that involves a virus that produces zombies and a world that’s contaminated by nuclear radiation and, in some ways, I was quite satisfied except that the pace was pretty unexciting, almost making such life-altering conditions something of an adjunct to “a day in the life of”. Eventually, though, Nat begins to really question everything she’s been told all her life and the story picks up. Still, I found it really odd that Evan, the boy Nat saw outside the dome, is assigned to work in the science unit as though he hasn’t just apparently defied the government’s restrictions and secrets.

On the whole, this wasn’t the tightest dystopian I’ve read or even close to it but I never felt the urge to give up and, long before it was over, I’d become comfortable with the discrepancies and occasional plot holes. I wasn’t left with the sense that there will be a sequel but, should there be one, I’d like to spend more time with Nat & Company.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.

About the Author

Melanie McFarlaneMelanie McFarlane is a passionate writer of other-wordly adventures, a little excitable, and a little quirky. Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, she jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. Though she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie focuses her powers on writing young adult stories to keep the rest of the world up reading all night.

She lives with her husband and two daughters in the Land of Living Skies.

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