On Tour: Intertwined by Jenn Marie

The Paisley Piranhas are delighted to join the blog tour for Jenn Marie’s Intertwined. Read on for our review (and there’s a giveaway!).

Intertwined banner

Description from Goodreads:

Quiet seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Parker is looking forward to another mellow summer with her goofy relatives: sun tanning at the beach and staying out of trouble. Which is why the thought of her younger cousin participating in what is, clearly, a setup disguised as an initiation, worries her to the point of intervention.

One that backfires … big time …

Mistaken for her cousin, Elizabeth finds herself transported to an abandoned plantation, a place deeply haunted with unresolved mystery and where horror reigns every summer between July 20 and August 13.

It is there, locked in the pitch dark, where she finds herself paired with the strange and mysterious Adam Hunt—an unexpected trespasser with his own agenda. Together, they find a list of instructions—follow the clues to various possessions in the house, store them in the backpack provided, and find the key that will grant escape.

Having snuck in to document the haunting, Adam offers to help her find the key so long as she helps him record paranormal activity along the way. But as they make their way through the house, they soon discover unexplained anomalies …

For the first time in the plantation’s recorded history, the haunting deviates from its known cycle of events, thrusting Elizabeth and Adam in a series of perilous circumstances that ensue long after the night is over.

As the last day of the haunting draws nearer, and as forces beyond their control ignite their growing attraction, Elizabeth and Adam must work together to uncover the plantations mysterious past before its too late.

Or die trying.

Cover of Jenn Marie's Intertwined

Click to read the preview

Review by Katy Haye:

I fell into Intertwined effortlessly. We got to meet two chalk-and-cheese cousins who were clearly very close and affectionate – then we vanished with Lizzie into the haunted house. Oh my, that was as creepy as all get-out – great writing; my heart rate was zipping up as Lizzie faced threat after threat.

Once Lizzie and Adam were back to (relative) safety, I found the pace became a bit uneven – and I found Lizzie a bit wet when she wasn’t facing evil spirits. She occasionally became rather a steroetypical YA heroine with lamentations of the type, “Oh, he shouldn’t have put himself into danger for me, it’s all my fault,” (like there was any choice at the time!).

I didn’t like the imbalance between assured, worldly Adam and insecure Lizzie. (As an aside, if authors could please stop with the ‘smirking’ – smirking is not a synonym for ‘smile’ – it is patronising, superior and irritating as heck. Adam did far too much of it for my liking). But then, just when I got cross with Lizzie for a lack of self-esteem (or with Adam for the smirking), something adorable would happen, like the twenty questions via text when Lizzie and Adam were in the same room but unable to talk.

And then the ending was superlative once more: tense, dramatic and pacey … right up until the – ARGH!!! – cliffhanger ending.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly, will know we Piranhas have strong feelings about cliffhangers – and they aren’t good! I understand the desire to leave your reader desperate for the next in the series, but finish the damn story already. I’d been through a lot with Adam and Lizzie and I felt I deserved a proper ending, not, “Oh no, there’s yet more peril and here it comes.” If nothing else, because it’s going to be next summer before the second in the series is out.

I loved parts of Intertwined, I disliked others. Overall this gets a 3 from me.

piranha stars turquoise 3

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Click the image to enter the Intertwined giveaway and win a $25 Amazon giftcard (or equivalent value if you’re outside the US).

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a fair review. That’s what I’ve given it.

Katy Haye loves a good story. When not reading she’s writing. Her latest release is Rising Tides, a dystopian romance set in a drowned future world.

Posted in fiction, Ghost, supernatural, teen, Uncategorized, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CLASSIC YA MONTH: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card


piranha stars green 4

“A book you’ll go on thinking about long after you’ve stopped reading it.”


Ender’s Game, first published in 1985 as an elaboration of a short story written in 1977, is the story of Ender Wiggins, a child genius whose skills along with those of other not-quite-equals are harnessed by the military to battle a terrible foe in space, the insect-like Buggers. We witness Ender’s training as he is pushed and challenged by his elders in order to turn him into an unbeatable battle machine. They are trying to build a superhero to save the world, but in doing so, they may be destroying the human being that is Ender. The format of the training Ender and the others undergo is a series of games, some played by teams against other teams and some as apparently individual recreation. All of them are stressful and dangerous and lead, for Ender, to him becoming more and more isolated from his peers. At last, Ender is asked to participate in one final assessment, a mock battle against the Buggers. His success, and what it means, put the reader in the position of having to reassess everything that went before.

Ender’s Game is not the easiest read. When I got to the end, I had that urge you get when you read a detective story, to start from the beginning and pick up all the clues I’d missed. It’s absolutely worth all the concentration though. It’s a book you’ll go on thinking about long after you’ve stopped reading it.

I had a problem – as many readers have done – with Ender’s age. To me, he seemed too young to be having the thoughts that the author places in his head. The author defends himself in the introduction in my copy, saying that Ender is a child genius, and that this is the way such children think and speak. I don’t know any child geniuses, so who am I to judge? Mostly I tried not to think about his age, but perhaps that is just because I was squeamish about the idea of a child so young suffering so badly.

I had difficulty too, now and then, picturing the games that were being described, but I think perhaps this a more a failure of mine, a lack of time spent playing computer games, than any failure of the book. I did absolutely understand Ender’s strategies, and that is the point of the thing.

I’d heard of the film, vaguely, but I’d never heard of the Orson Scott Card. I don’t read science fiction regularly, though I do dip in now and then and I love the type of books where science fiction and fantasy walk hand in hand. I might never have read Ender’s Game if I hadn’t been writing something that needed an external voice to tell what was happening from a different perspective than the main character’s. ‘You’ll need to read Ender’s Game,’ a writer friend told me and so I looked it up. These voices are key to the book. Through them you see how Ender is being used, how his tragedy is played out by higher powers. You see that he is not a hero but a pawn. In the introduction to my copy, the author says: ‘Children are a perpetual, self-renewing underclass, helpless to escape from the decisions of adults.” There’s a truth for you.

Why should you read it? Because you’re going to start thinking about how war works. Who is the enemy? How do you get people to fight? Why? Is it worth it? Loads of big ideas (like all really great sci-fi!).

Claire Watts

More to Read!

Ender’s Game is just the first in a series of books written by Orson Scott Card.

Claire Watts writes and edits fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. Her latest YA novel is How Do You Say GOOSEBERRY in French?

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Book Blitz: The Lost Eyes of the Serpent

The Paisley Piranhas are delighted to join the book blitz for Jeremy Phillips’ The Lost Eye of the Serpent. Did someone say Sherlock Holmes?

The Lost Eye of the Serpent
Jeremy Phillips
(The Rose Delacroix Files, #1)
Published by: Limitless Publishing
Publication date: August 8th 2016
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

It may sound crazy, but Jonathan Delacroix is certain his sister Rose really is Sherlock Holmes…

Girls are not detectives. But in the summer of 1893, in the small western town of Hope Springs, Rose Delacroix is bound and determined to prove them all wrong. When the famous Emerald Serpent Jewels are stolen from the Delacroix family hotel and the blame lands solely on her older brother Bill, Rose recruits Jonathan as her Watson-like counterpart to solve the case.

Proving your brother innocent is difficult when the evidence keeps stacking up against him…

Before Rose and Jonathan can properly start their investigation, another robbery is committed. The rusty revolver purported to have once belonged to Wild Bill Hickok has been stolen from the general store and found hidden amongst her brother’s belongings. With Bill in jail, and the owner of the Serpent Jewels planning to sue the Delacroix hotel, Rose knows she has to find a lead, and soon.

A witness comes forward claiming they saw Bill steal the jewels, but Rose isn’t about to be bullied into ignoring the facts…

Rose and Jonathan must put their sleuthing skills to the test or witness their family fall to ruin due to…

…the lost eye of the serpent.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Bonus Scene (short story):

Rose Delacroix Versus the Box
By Jeremy Phillips

Rose Delacroix sat on a stump in the bare and dusty yard behind the Delacroix Hotel, staring at a metal box sitting on another stump, a few feet away from her. She regarded the box with an ever-increasing intensity, not sure how to proceed. Time was very short, and she wished that she had more of it available to her right now.

“Whatever am I going to do with you?” Rose said to the box.

The box didn’t look like much. It was the size of a shoebox, but constructed of solid steel, with tight, straight corners. Its only visible feature was a place for a key to fit, in the front of the box. Really, it seemed simple enough. But looks, as Rose knew very well, are often deceptive.

In her hand, Rose held a couple of metal clips from out of her hair, clips which she had straightened out to use for this particular purpose. Except, it hadn’t worked yet. Rose approached the box again, the box which had at first glance appeared to be so simple, and yet had thwarted all of her prior attempts at entry.

Rose shook the box, which was deceptively heavy in addition to being deceptively difficult to break. Something solid thunked around inside of it. Whatever it was, Rose meant to have it out of that box, and soon.

Drawing a deep, calming breath, Rose tried once more to pick the lock on this thing. The books she’s been reading, the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in addition to other lesser Detective tales, always make this seem so simple, don’t they?

Using one of the hair pins that she had straightened out, Rose carefully massaged the top of the lock, to where she believed the pins that she needed to trick ought to be. She could feel the pins moving, so that was good. With a second hair pin, she applied a constant pressure on the bottom of the lock in the hopes of popping it open, when the pins were all equally deceived into believing that the proper key had been applied into the keyhole.

After another long effort, she stopped again. What time was it getting to be, now?

Really, she needed to pop this lock open. She needed, rather desperately, to know what was inside of this thing. All of her logic told Rose that whatever was inside of this deceptively secure box, was of vital importance to her investigation. Even as she sat there in this yard, monkeying around with this locked box, her brother Jon was confronting the box’s owner. Jon needed her, and he needed her now, not whenever it was that she managed to finally get this thing open.

Perhaps the problem was too obvious. This box, which she had confiscated, perhaps inappropriately, from its hiding place in a guest room of the Delacroix Hotel, belonged to a man who liked to think of himself as the world’s greatest “cracksman.” This was a term that Rose had only recently learned, but which referred to the man’s impressive ability to break into locked safes. Given the great trouble that this person had managed to cause to Rose and her family in the last few days, he had a point concerning his abilities, after all.

Rose took a moment, and tried to think about the problem logically. She had in her possession the small personal safe of a man who considered himself to be the greatest safe-breaker in the world. It only stood to reason, that the security on the safe of such a person would defy any normal attempts at lock picking.

Really, attempting to pick the thing was ridiculous, given the fact that she was an amateur at this sort of thing in the first place. Rose was self-taught, having only popped a few locks around town during her free time when no one was looking, to see if she could do it. To Rose’s way of thinking, skills such as lock picking were just the sorts of things that a self-styled Detective simply ought to know, after all.

Not that everyone was likely to understand this. She put this into the same category of small-minded thinking as seemed to possess most people that she met, the same type of small-minded thinking which implied that, given her status as a female, she was simply incapable of actual logic thought. Or much else, either. This was in the category of things that she simply refused to agree to wholesale, in other words.

Turning the safe around and looking into the keyhole with the aid of the heavy summer sunlight, Rose suddenly understood the problem more fully. The lock itself seemed to run deeper than most locks did, and what’s more, there appeared to be pins on the right interior side of the lock too. Those extra pins were placed at a different angle than were normally seen, in all of the others locks that Rose had encountered around the town of Hope Springs. This was actually a rather extraordinary lock, which would take a rather extraordinary key. It was a lock the likes of which Rose had never encountered before.

Given enough time, Rose was fairly sure that she could have broken the lock anyway. It would require another hair pin, and perhaps another hand too, to apply pressure to the lock with the tension wire while she worked at the pins from two different angles at once. But, time was something that she simply didn’t have much of. This was going to require a different approach.

Rose placed the box back on the tree stump, then went into a large work shed, which was attached to the barn in the family’s back yard. She returned a minute later with the heaviest wood chopping axe that she could find, and took a mighty swing at the top of the metallic box.

The first blow did nothing but mildly dent the box, causing it to bounce a foot or so up into the air with the force of her assault. A second and third blow did little more. But on her fourth attempt, after getting a reckless running start at the metal box from the other side of the yard, Rose managed to lodge the blade of the axe into the top of the steel box. Rose’s arms were feeling sore already, from the exertions of trying to break this thing.

It was almost comical. The axe was now lodged directly into the lid of the steel box. Feeling her anxiety increase, Rose wondered what time it was now getting to be. She wondered how things were going for Jon, who was even now confronting the burglar…a man who, the night before, had proven that he was not above pulling a gun on her brother. He might not be above murder, even.

With great effort, Rose was able to pry the axe blade back out of the top of the box. This left a large cut along the middle of the lid of the thing, but she could still not get to the contents of the box, or even really see what those contents were, rolling around inside of that damned box.

Rose set the box up on its edge. This time, it would have to work. She stepped back again, hefting the axe up over her head. She stepped back farther, and farther yet. An absurd feeling came over Rose, as though she were a baseball player up at bat, facing the third strike in the last inning of a tight game.

Well, and wasn’t that pretty much what this was, after all? How much time did Jon really have, facing off with that criminal? This was her last inning, and what all was on the line? Only the freedom and future of her other brother, Bill, who had been framed for two robberies and one attempted murder that he didn’t commit. Oh, and the possibility of the entire Delacroix family losing their ownership of the Delacroix Hotel to another criminal, and being kicked out into the streets of Hope Springs in the summer of 1893; there was that minor detail, too. Only those things. And Jon.

Steadying herself, Rose took a deep breath. In her mind’s eye, she imagined the cut that she would have to inflict to make this thing happen. She’s read someplace about the power of the mind, the power to make things happen by carefully visualizing them, first. This was something she believed in wholeheartedly.

The blow would have to be perfect. It would have to land squarely on the edge of the lid, to exactly where the hinge must be. Only that. Or else, perhaps she could go over to the Blacksmith’s shop and see if he couldn’t pop the thing open for her somehow. But there would be a lot of questions asked, then. And a lot of precious time wasted. She thought again of Jon, headed over to the Bromwell Hotel, across the street.

With a cry, Rose ran wholeheartedly up towards the box, to where it sat there on the tree stump. She brought the axe down with all her might, producing a bone-jarring ringing in her hands clear up to the shoulder, an ear-cracking SMACK when the unstoppable force of her axe came down on the immovable object of the steel box’s lid…and then the miracle happened.

The blow was perfect, more perfect than seemed fair. The hinge of the box gave way, and the contents of the box flew everywhere, scattering around to land everyplace on the dusty ground.

Rose quickly rushed around the yard, ignoring the ringing pain in her arms, picking up the box’s former contents and placing them back in the now-broken box.

There was a little leather pouch full of lock picks, proper ones, made of some fine thin steel that Rose had never seen before. These she would keep, if things turned out as she hoped they might. There was also a collection of paper money and coins. And there, sitting separate and apart from the rest of the stuff, was a round object about the size of an apple.

Quickly picking the object up, Rose examined it closely.

After a few moments a large smile came across her face, as she realized what the object in her hand was…and what it meant, for her and her all-consuming Investigation. This was becoming like a Sherlock Holmes story after all, Rose thought, which filled her with excitement and a powerful sense of adventure, although she might not have admitted this to anyone, perhaps not even to her twin brother John.

Holding on to the object and rushing out to Main Street, Rose found herself running as quickly as she could to go help her brother. Yes, this might help fix things. It might help fix things very well.


Author Bio:

Jeremy Phillips has been interested in Buddhist philosophy for more than twenty years, and attends services at a Shin Buddhist temple in Spokane, Washington. When he isn’t writing or keeping busy being a father and husband, he works as a Respiratory Therapist at several different hospitals. He lives in Spokane with his wife, children, dogs, and bonsai trees.

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CLASSIC YA MONTH: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

piranha stars green 4

“Poor Catherine is thrown from ecstasies to despair on a moment-to-moment basis”


I first read Jane Austen when I was fourteen. I was pretty smug about it, I have to admit. Not a lot of my friends were bothering with Jane Austen. Most of them were reading Stephen King and James Herbert or Shirley Conran and Virginia Andrews. It was a long time ago, and there were only a trickle of books around that were specifically aimed at Young Adults – and no army of book bloggers to chat about them.

The thing is though, when I first read Jane Austen, I did not find it particularly funny. The caustic remarks about the getting of husbands and how to behave properly in society went whooshing right over my head. It didn’t stop me ploughing my way happily through the entire works, but I suspect there was a certain amount of grim determination to be the girl who had read all of Jane Austen rather than the desperate anxiety for story which gets today’s teens queuing up for the latest instalment of whatever series is lighting their fire today. I’m sorry I didn’t read Jane Austen carefully enough to get the humour, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy each and every book. I loved them for their peep into the past, for the domesticity of the stories, for the families and the love…

For Paisley Piranha’s Classic YA Month, Pride and Prejudice would perhaps be the obvious JA choice. If you’re going to read just one Jane Austen, I suspect that’s the one most people would go for. And you absolutely should read it. It’s funny (!) and it’s full of marvellous characters and spot-on observations about people. And, of course, there’s the love story…

Instead, I’ve gone for Northanger Abbey. There are several reasons for this. First, if you don’t know much about Jane Austen, you might miss this, which would be a shame. Second, it’s pretty short, so not a bad introduction. Third, if you are a ‘Young Adult’ reading this review, chances are you’re crazy about books, and Northanger Abbey is about a seventeen-year-old girl who is crazy about books, specifically the gothic horror that was all the rage at the time (think crazy old black and white movies with cobweb-strewn castles, creaking doors and mysterious deaths).

At the start of the novel, Catherine Morland has led a sheltered life with her large family in the country. She gets the chance to go with some family friends for an extended visit to Bath, the city where wealthy people take their holidays, visiting the Roman spa and attending balls, the theatre and the like. Poor Catherine expects so much from her experience; she’s thrown from ecstasies to despair on a moment-to-moment basis. It’s so exactly like being in a modern teen’s head it’s scary at times to think that this was written two hundred years ago. What is different from what you’d expect from a modern novel though is that Jane Austen is a little more distant from Catherine than a author would be today. Yes, we are invited to sympathise with Catherine, but at the same time we’re laughing at her in what I have to describe as a slightly patronising way. Oh poor, silly Catherine.


The first part of the book involves Catherine getting in with the wrong crowd in Bath and having the wrong person fall in love with her. It goes on far longer than it should, in my opinion, but I suspect JA’s original readers weren’t fussy about pace, with the whole novel thing still being pretty new in the early nineteenth century. The second half moves to Northanger Abbey, home to the family of the man Catherine’s fallen in love with. Here, obsessed with gothic tales as she is, Catherine makes a series of wild assumptions about the house and its inhabitants while missing glaringly obvious truths. There’s romance too, but, as often happens in JA, the business side of arranging a marriage comes into play as well as the lurve.

I think I may have damned Northanger Abbey with faint praise, but that wasn’t really my intention. It’s difficult to review something so old and so very different from most of the brand-new material we generally review on this blog. Give it a go, I’d say. It’s not a difficult read, and if there are bits that you find dull or tricky, just skip them. After all, I read all of Jane Austen without realising it was funny. Northanger Abbey is a window on another world, as the best books should be.

Claire Watts

More to Read!

If you love Northanger Abbey, give Pride and Prejudice a go. There are loads of modern spins on Jane Austen. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick is based on a vlog spin-off of Pride and Prejudice. And one of my all-time favourite movies, Clueless is a modern version of Emma.

Claire Watts writes and edits fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. Her latest YA novel is How Do You Say GOOSEBERRY in French?

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FILM REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond

3 Piranhas

“Didn’t do it for me

– but I’ll still go and see a fourth Star Trek movie.”


I really enjoyed the first two films in the rebooted Star Trek series featuring Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock.  I was therefore happily anticipating another fabulous episode with the third one, Star Trek Beyond, but sadly I was disappointed.  This film is nothing like as good as the previous two and I blame the scriptwriter.

The story in summary – The USS Enterprise is on a five-year mission to seek out new planets in uncharted space, but when they stop to take on board new provisions etc on a new space station, things start to go wrong.  They encounter a new, powerful, enemy and when they answer a plea for help and go to a remote planet, the Enterprise is destroyed and the crew are stranded without any means of communication.  They are also separated into various groups and some of them are taken prisoner.  Captain Kirk has to try and reunite his crew and find a way to get back to the space station, while simultaneously defeating the new enemy.

I found the plot very convoluted and hard to follow right from the start.  It takes ages before it all begins to make sense and by then it’s almost too late.  As soon as the crew of the Enterprise reached the new planet, the film became very dark, to the point where you could barely make out what the characters were doing and where they were.  And although the main characters were still there, they lacked their previous chemistry.  It was as if all the joy had gone out of it, the humour lacking.

For instance, in the second film, Kirk and Spock argue incessantly in a very amusing way which shows the differences between them, but also their deep friendship.  In this film there was very little of that verbal sparring and they each seemed sunk in their own thoughts/misery while contemplating their future.  And the love affair between Spock and Uhura, which was going so well in episode two, goes completely pear-shaped here and the viewer doesn’t quite understand why as they don’t seem to discuss the reasons or try to work things out.  Very disappointing.

Separating the crew into smaller groups didn’t work for me, as they are best when working together.  Some of them (secondary characters) had too much air time this way, while we didn’t get enough of Kirk and Spock.

The ending is also not very satisfying – even though things are resolved, there were precious few explanations.

So I’m afraid this one didn’t do it for me.  I would still go and see a fourth one, if they decide to continue the series, but I sincerely hope they can find a better script-writer and inject some of the former fizz into the next story!

Pia x

Pia Fenton writes contemporary romantic YA stories and her Northbrooke High series features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting.  The latest one is New England Dreams.

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Book Blitz: Extracted by Sherry D Ficklin and Tyler Jolley

The Paisley Piranhas are delighted to join the Book Blitz for Extracted – steampunk AND time travel, can’t wait to read this one!

ExtractedSherry D. Ficklin & Tyler Jolley

Two opposing factions of time travelers vie for control of the future in this thrilling steampunk series opener dubbed “Interesting” and “Unexpected” by Kirkus Reviews.

Published by: Clean Teen Publishing

Publication date: August 15th 2016

Genres: Steampunk, Young Adult

Lex and Ember—two time travelers with no memories of their lives before being recruited into the time war—are torn between the factions. When Lex accepts a mission that lands him deep within the heart of the Telsa Institute, he meets Ember, and the past that was stolen from them comes flooding back. Now armed with the truth of who they were, Lex and Ember must work together to save the future before the battle for time destroys them once again.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble


My breath comes in short, shallow bursts. I can feel the warmth of Ethan’s body radiating like a tuning fork against my back. In front of me, there is only darkness. I strain, listening, waiting for the next wave of attack. The leather straps holding up my suede harness dig into the skin of my shoulders, but the ache only sharpens my focus. The urge to turn around is strong, though I know better. Months of training have taught me exactly what happens when I turn my back to the darkness. So I listen, honing my senses until I catch the sound of Ethan taking a small step forward, away from me. My eyes are useless, so I close them. Knowing my attackers are well paid for their ability to move in silence, there is little hope that they will give themselves away. We need another strategy. As if reading my mind, Ethan picks up the conversation we were having earlier.

“All I’m saying is, maybe you need the extra practice,” Ethan says, his tone mocking. Even without being able to see him, I can sense him moving, beginning to circle counterclockwise. I know he’s trying to draw them out, to bring the fight to him. It seems like a sound strategy, so I jump on board.

“Oh, yes, because it isn’t like she turned around and kicked the crap out of you, too.” I’m mimicking his movements now. My voice is flat, free from emotion, and my words are empty. I can’t see him moving, but I can feel him, as if we’re connected by a million invisible threads.

“How am I supposed to just punch a girl?” Ethan asks. “And I was tired from taking the guy out like five seconds earlier.”

“She isn’t a girl. She’s more like a pissed-off kangaroo in a top hat. She has a nasty right hook, I’ll give you that.”

I hear the sharp whip of air as a bamboo pole cuts through the darkness, headed toward my face. Even with our phony argument going on, I’m able to hear it coming before it lands. I bring up my hands and block the blow with my forearms. The impact stings, bruising the bones there, but better my arms than my face. With a movement perfected after one too many blows to the head, I grab the pole and pull it aside, dragging my attacker with it. As he closes in, I drop the pole and lock arms with Ethan. I flip over his back and kick out, knocking my attacker to the mat. As he struggles back to his feet, Ethan spins into my place, delivering a secondary kick that sends the man flying into the wall with a dull thud. “Yeah, but she’s scrappy,” he says.

“Scrappy? Is that boy code for you couldn’t stop staring at her rack?”

Behind me, I feel Ethan duck a blow, and then land one of his own before pressing his back against mine. “I… that’s not… I didn’t even… I mean…” he sputters.

I smirk. Busted.

Footsteps approach, but we keep sparring. I bend over, using my attacker’s own momentum against him as I put my shoulder into his gut and stand, propelling him over my head and onto his back on the mat. I don’t need to see my victory to realize what the maneuver has cost me. A muscle in my lower back seizes, and it’s all I can do not to drop to my knees in agony. I clench my fists until I feel my fingernails cut bloody crescents in my palms. There is no way I’m going to be the weak link—no way I’m going to let Ethan fight alone. Back to back, that’s how Rifters are trained to fight. And Ethan always has my back.

“Don’t feel too bad. She was pretty scrappy after all.”

Ethan mumbles, “It’s a girl thing.”

“Hold up, what’s that supposed to mean?” I ask, stiffly regaining my footing as my back screams in protest.

As usual, Ethan turns to check on me. “Nothing personal, Ember.”

Not wanting him to get slammed for it again, I grab him by the shoulder and pull, revolving us to our starting positions just as the first attacker flips back onto his feet and lunges. He would have taken me in the stomach, but I bring up my knee just in time to block his advance before kicking him in the face. There is a loud crunch that sounds like breaking bone. I hear him hit the mat with a groan. The lights flick back on, and Mistress Catherine blows her whistle.

Normally we spar with off-duty guards, since most of them have military training of some kind. They know how to take a hit and how to deliver one without doing too much damage. We might be lowly recruits, but Rifters are rare, and our lives are precious.

But as the man whose nose I have just broken pulls off his black ski mask, my heart falls into my shoes. Flynn is staring up at me, and his face is covered in blood.

“Nice hit, Ember,” he says as blood drips from his nose and onto his white shirt. Mistress Catherine hands him his horn-rimmed glasses and shoots me an amused smirk. Behind me, Ethan snickers.

Great. And here I was thinking this day couldn’t get any worse.

Reaching down, I offer Flynn a hand up, which he accepts with a smile.

“I’m so sorry,” I mutter, but he waves it off.

“Catherine told me you were really coming along. I wanted to see for myself.”

The others are shuffling out, so I turn to grab a towel and follow them, but Mistress Catherine closes the door behind a worried-looking Ethan, presses her back against it, and narrows her eyes at me. I used to think it was hard to look menacing in a knee-length pencil skirt and beige brocade top, but she radiates power. It might be the stern pucker of her thin lips, or the way her graying hair is knotted tightly at the nape of her neck. She resembles a librarian except for the long, jagged scar that runs from her left temple to the cleft in her chin. Well, that and the spider-shaped, iron shoulder harness permanently affixed to her upper arm.

Not sure what’s going on, I freeze, yellow towel in hand. Before I can say anything, I feel something moving behind me. I manage to move to the side just as a wooden staff comes slamming down against the spot where I’d stood a heartbeat earlier. I turn and see Flynn grinning, blood still dripping off his chin. He spits before whirling the staff like a windmill in front of him. “What I don’t understand,” he says, circling to my left, “is how that Hollow got the best of you. According to Ethan’s report, Kara had no problem with her. And Catherine here tells me that you mat Kara at almost every practice now.”

I have no idea what to say. Does he think I let her beat up on me? Just then, my legs are swept out from under me. I fall to the mat, but, rolling swiftly backward, I bounce up onto my feet. Catherine has a staff, too, and comes toward me from the right. I hold up my hands and back up slowly. In the corner of the room, a vent erupts in a cloud of steam, and Tesla’s image appears but says nothing.

“Look, I didn’t let her get away,” I say. “If that’s what you’re implying. She was strong. And fast.”

Catherine shakes her head. “You are strong. And fast. And clever.”

“I’m sorry!” I blurt out when my back hits the corner and they are still coming at me.

I don’t think Flynn would ever hurt me, not really, but Catherine, well…

Without another word, they both attack. I manage to duck one blow but take another in the ribs before I decide to make a break for it. Jumping as high as possible, I’m able to get a hand on the chain attaching one of the punching bags to the ceiling and hoist myself up. I leap over Flynn and roll as I hit the ground behind him. They’re quick, though, and have me surrounded again in seconds.

It’s easy to forget that they are trained Rifters, too. Catherine doesn’t rift anymore, but Flynn is still active and in really good shape. They aren’t holding anything back either. Flynn lands a blow to my lower back, but when Catherine moves in, I’m able to grab her staff and force it from her bad arm. Suddenly, time is moving in a blur. I’m not thinking about my next move anymore. My body is reacting of its own accord. I’m not sure how it happens, but I blink and Catherine is on her knees. Flynn is standing in front of me, and I have the two staffs crossed at his neck. He’s holding up his hands and saying my name.

I drop the sticks and step back. The muscles in my arms and legs are twitching like I’ve just run ten miles.

“That’s what we mean,” Catherine says, climbing stiffly to her feet. “You could have taken the Hollow girl. So, why did you hesitate?”

I close my eyes, calling the fight to the front of my memory. There was something about the girl. She was beautiful, for sure, but that wasn’t it. There was something else, too. Something I can’t put into words. I look up to find they’re staring at me, waiting for some kind of answer. I can feel Tesla glaring holes into my back, watching me like one of his little science experiments. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

Flynn sighs and holds his hands out to me. I take them without hesitation. “Ember, I know it’s hard. I know you don’t like hurting people. It’s against your very nature to harm someone or let someone suffer. But you are too important to risk losing. Understand? Sometimes, you have to put someone down, let someone get hurt or even die, to save yourself and your team. You can’t hold anything back.”

I take a deep breath. “And what if someone dies because of me? Because, for some reason, my life is worth more than theirs?”

Flynn lowers his head, looking me in the eye. “That is a burden you will have to learn to carry.”


Author Bio:

Sherry D. Ficklin is a full time writer from Colorado where she lives with her husband, four kids, two dogs, and a fluctuating number of chickens and house guests. A former military brat, she loves to travel and meet new people. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.

Author links:
Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Tyler H. Jolley is a sci-fi/fantasy author and full-time orthodontist, periodontist (see: Overachiever). He divides his spare time between writing, reading, mountain biking, and camping with his family.

Author links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter


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Posted in Book blitz, fantasy, fiction, steampunk, teen, Uncategorized, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Tour: There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane

The Paisley Piranhas are delighted to join the book tour for Melanie McFarlane’s YA Dystopian novel, There Once Were Stars. Read on to find out more (plus, there’s a giveaway!).

There Once Were Stars
Melanie McFarlane
Published by: Month9Books
Publication date: April 26th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

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?

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Author Bio:

Melanie 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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Read on for an extract from There Once Were Stars:

Evan pulls me out of the elevator onto the roof, and holds me tight. I bury my head into his chest, drowning in my grief, as he runs his hand through my hair. Did Grandfather know he may never see me again? Was he giving me permission to leave the dome?

After a few minutes, Evan takes my face between his hands and wipes my tears from my cheeks with his thumbs. His eyebrows are drawn together as he clings to me.

“Are you ready for your surprise?”

“I thought that was my surprise?”

“That was something that had to be done,” Evan says, turning my head. “This is something just because.”

A small blanket with a basket in its center is laid out in the far corner next to the railing. Evan pulls me to spot, and I follow to the ledge, grasping the cool metal of the safety rail with my palms as I lean over and peer down. My breath catches in my throat. It’s almost as exhilarating as being outside. The patchwork of crops spreads all the way to the edge of the dome, on this side of the Axis. The workers are barely noticeable, tiny dots moving about below us. Far in the distance is the Outer Forest, my sanctuary, reaching up with its one hundred year old trees, hiding us from the outside.

Evan reaches down to the blanket and picks up a flower. “I brought a piece of the meadow back for you.”

He passes the flower to me and our fingers touch, sending electricity through my body. The sensation lingers after he lets go, but I can’t tear my eyes away from this single flower. He could have been caught. Why did he do this? I look up at him, to search for an answer on his face, but he’s turned away, back to the picnic.


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Find out more about There Once Were Stars and Melanie McFarlane by following the tour.


Posted in dystopian, fiction, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments