Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday #Review - Vanguard by Ann Aguirre #YALit #Science Fiction

Series: Razorland # 4
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic

The Razorland saga continues. Since the war ended, Tegan has dreamed of an epic journey, so when she has the opportunity to sign on as ship's doctor, she can't wait. It's past time to chart her course. Millie Faraday, the kindest girl in the free territories, also yearns to outrun her reputation, and warrior-poet James Morrow would follow Tegan to the ends of the earth.
Their company seems set, but fate brings one more to their number. Tegan will battle incredible odds while aiding Szarok, the Uroch vanguard, who has ventured forth to save his people. Szarok is strange and beautiful, like a flower that blooms only in the dark. She shouldn't allow him close, as such a relationship is both alien and forbidden. But through stormy seas and strange lands, she will become stronger than she ever knew.



Vanguard is being called the companion fourth installment in author Ann Aguirre's Razorland series. Vanguard picks up approximately ten months after the end of the War of the River between humans and the Horde. This story focuses on four characters; Tegan, Millie Faraday, Szarok (the Vanguard of the Uroch), and James Morrow, aka the storyteller. Three of the four characters have settled into peaceful lives. Tegen, who still suffers from what happened to her over the course of the previous 3 installments, lives in Rosemere where she is Dr. Wilson's apprentice. 

Tegan became Dr. Wilson's apprentice after the War of the River. But, with his dying words that she should find Catalina, Tegen, along with Szarok, and Millie travel to Evergreen where they reunite with James, Deuce, and Fade and later join a crew where Tegen becomes ships doctor. Tegen promised Szarok that she would help find him a new home. Little did she know that they would find an everlasting connection. Millie is the girl known for her kindness. The girl made of sunlight and flowers. A kindness that ended up saving humanity from the Horde. 

Millie wants to be known for something else instead of the girl who saved humanity. She gladly joins Tegen on her adventure, only to discover that she has the ability to be, and become anything she wants to be. James returned home to Evergreen where we find him writing a book and waiting for the imminent return of Tegan who he still has feelings for. James joins Tegen, Szarok, and Millie on their curious journey to different ports of calls. But, James finds himself being moved by the girl, Millie, who has heard about James, Deuce, Fade, and Company D's adventures. 

Szarok, meanwhile, searches for a new home for his Uroch. He understands that humans will not willingly open their arms to the Uroch and let them settle near them. His people are not patient, and it's only a matter of time before he has to leave Tegen and their adventure behind to return home. I loved that we get to actually meet the remaining Uroch clan who have given him the distinction of being Vanguard. I loved that he really isn't just a monster who found humanity, and later a connection to a woman who carries a heavy burden but has so much to offer the person who lets her be herself. 

Without spoiling a thing, I will say that this is pretty much just a feel good story with lots of romance, a bit of action and adventure, and a way to say goodbye to Tegan, Millie Faraday, Szarok, James Morrow, and of course, Deuce and Fade. I really don't see any reason why there would be a 5th book in this series. Plus, do we really want to drag Deuce and Fade into another adventure? Although this installment can stand alone, I would definitely recommend reading the previous three installments as they do explain how we got to this point. 




Saturday, July 22, 2017

#Stacking the Shelves / Bought, Borrowed, & Bagged # 73


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Bought Borrowed and Bagged is all about the latest additions to your library – virtual or actual, with books that are  bought, borrowed, won or ARCs  you will be reading soon. Bought Borrowed and Bagged is a homage to to Barron’s Books and Baubles from Karen Marie Moning’s amazing Fever series, and is hosted by Braine over at Talk Supe. 

Thanks for Shopping by! 
Hope you find something you are interested in!
Have a great weekend!
Shelley

This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead (YA, Fantasy)

Tuesday - No Good Deed by Kara Connolly (Fantasy)


Thursday - Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (Mystery)

Friday - Wildfire by Ilona Andrews (Paranormal)

(Urban Fantasy)

*Received from NetGalley/Edelweiss*

**NOTHING TO REPORT!**

*Received from Publishers*


*Library*

*Amazon*




Friday, July 21, 2017

#Review - It Happened One Doomsday by @LMacNaughton @Pyr_Books

Series: Dru Jasper # 1
Format: Paperback, 280 pages
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Pyr
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Magic is real. A handful of sorcerers wield arcane power against demons and the forces of darkness. These protectors of the powerless are the best magic-users in the world. Unfortunately, Dru isn’t one of them. She’s got magical potential. She uses crystals to see enchantments, and she can research practically anything in the library in the back of her little store, sandwiched between a pawnshop and a 24-hour liquor mart. She sells enough crystals, incense, and magic charms to scrape by.

Everything changes the day a handsome mechanic pulls up in a possessed black muscle car, his eyes glowing red. Just being near Greyson raises Dru’s magical powers to dizzying heights. But he’s been cursed to transform into a demonic creature that could bring about a fiery doomsday. There’s only one chance to break Greyson’s curse—and it’s about to fall into Dru’s inexperienced hands….


Story Locale: Present-day Denver, around Dru’s home and crystal shop, in a world where sorcerers and magic lurk beneath everyday life, unbeknownst to most people





It Happened One Doomsday is the first installment in author Laurence McNaughton's Dru Jasper series. As a reader who literally reads hundreds of books each year, I am always looking for something new, something refreshing, something outside of the box, something that is action packed, has wonderful characters, and is loads of plenty of fun to read. It Happened One Doomsday is just that book. Meet protagonist Dru Jasper. Dru operates The Crystal Connection in Denver, Colorado. 

Dru has the ability to enhance the inherent spiritual powers of crystals, make them stronger, and more powerful. She isn't fond of believing that she has strong magical abilities. Dru yearns for normality. She has a dentist for a boyfriend, and is happy supporting the Denver Sorcerer community with their magical problems. Then things suddenly change with the arrival of Greyson Carter to her shop who complains about dark dreams. What's even stranger is that Dru has a connection to Greyson, and when he is around, her abilities actually amplify. 

Dru knows that there is definitely something wrong with Greyson and while experimenting with various crystals that are supposed to help him, she discovers that Greyson is a possessed by demon who may be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The topper? He drives a car that has a mind of it's own called Hellbringer. If you've seen the movie Christine by Stephen King, please refer to it now. Turns out the other horsemen have been loosed on the world by a group called Harbingers, and it's up to Dru, and her sorcerer friend Rane to help put down the pending apocalypse. 

You want originality? How about not only are there four horsemen, but also four cars that are also demon possessed? You want creep factor? Try the mansion in the middle of the New Mexico desert where fantastic action scenes take place. You will love Rane. She has the ability to morph into whatever substance she is in contact at the time. Example: Steel, Iron, Wood, etc. You want a quirky relationship? Try Dru and Rane who states emphatically that Dru is her best friend forever and she is going to stick to her like glue no matter what happens. You want a hint of romance, but nothing so in your face? Dru and Greyson have a connection like I said. Whether or not it pans out is yet to be seen. There's really no negatives to this story. The world building is fairly simplistic because it takes place in the modern world setting of Denver. 





Friday #Review - Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by @ilona_andrews #Paranormal #Romance @avonbooks

Series: Hidden Legacy # 3
Format: E-Galley, 384 pages
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Avon
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Paranormal Romance

From Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond even their imagination…
Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating—harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancĂ©e, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.
Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke?


Wildfire is the third and apparent final installment in author Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy series. Wildfire picks up right where White Hot left off. Protagonist Nevada Baylor, of Baylor Investigative Agency, is a powerful truthseeker which is extremely rare in this world. She can tell whether you are telling the truth, or not. She can also crash through your mental barriers and extract information that she needs to do her job. In this installment, Andrews throws Nevada into plenty of twisted situations. 

From the onset, things get really twisted. Connor Rogan's ex fiance Rynda Charles, who is also the daughter of the woman (Olivia) who she helped bring down, asks for help finding her missing husband. This issue drives almost everything that happens in this story, including uncovering some even more nefarious plots and machinations. Notice I said almost. Nevada has another issue that may determine her families future. The arrival of Victoria Tremaine to town. Victoria is Nevada's Grandmother on her father's side. A grandmother that they have been avoiding for years. A Grandmother who is about as dangerous as any villain we've encountered in this series, and in this book.

Nevada makes a choice. After Victoria makes a daring move, Nevada lays out plans for House Baylor becoming a reality. That means that she, and her sisters, and most likely Bern, will need to register, and be put through trials to determine if they are Prime material, or not. I dare say that Nevada's entire family makes this series fun and entertaining to read. From Grandmother Frida, Mother Penelope, Nevada's sisters Catalina and Arabella, and cousins Bernard and Leon who really steps into his own role in this series and not a moment too soon. 

Victoria wants Nevada to become her heir. She won't take no for an answer. Her attempts at controlling Nevada and her sisters. Her machinations at trying to stop Nevada from going through with the trials. But, no worries. Nevada isn't one to let things simmer and bake for long. She wants to protect her family, while the family, including her own sisters, are more than capable of standing up and delivering when someone messes with the family. Even Rogan has learned that lesson the hard way, and continues to learn step by step to the point where Nevada is as powerful and driven as he is. Their connection is like wildfire burning uncontrollably, and the romance is as hot as anything that you've read in this genre.

You really should start from the beginning with Burn for Me so that you don't get lost in translation from what has happened over the course of the previous two novels. Fans of Ilona Andrews know that they can expect paranormal romance the way readers want. There are strong heroines, sexy male leads that make you fawn, tons of humor, as well as a creative world building that always manages to impress no matter if it is this series, or the Kate Daniels series. 

As I posted earlier, and was answered by said author, I really do wish the publisher would have allowed one more story to be written in this series. That's not a slap at the author. Trust me. I absolutely loved the final 2 installments in this series and would have gladly rated this story 5 stars. But, there is one huge plot hole that hasn't been answered. Nevada and Rogan have been chasing after answers, but have come up short time and time again in exposing who the main villain is who has been creating all the chaos. Plus, the epilogue leaves you wanting to know what happens next. Do Nevada and Rogan discover who is behind all the turmoil in Houston? 





Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday #Review - Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine #Mystery #Thriller

Series: Stillhouse Lake # 1
Format: E-Galley, 302 pages
Release Date: July 1, 2017
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Genre: Fiction / Thrillers / Psychological

An Amazon Charts most-read book.
Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.
With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.
But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.


Stillhouse Lake is the first installment in author Rachel Caine's Stillhouse Lake series. 4 years ago, Gina Royal's world was shattered to pieces when a drunk driver smashed into her garage. Little did she know that she was married to a serial killer. A serial killer who used the families garage to do his savagery before dumping them into water. After being accused of being her former husband Melvin Royals, accessory, Gina, (innocent of all charges) changes her name to Gwen Procter.

Gwen has tried to keep at least 8 trails ahead of her last address, even it it means moving and changing her name several more times.  There are dangerous internet trolls who would love to see Gwen get the same thing her ex did to the women he murdered. Call her paranoid, but with good reason. Staying ahead of those pursuing her has came with high costs, but high costs are worth the price to pay to keep her kids safe. Gwen's latest home finds her in Stillhouse Lake, Tennessee. A nice change of pace and a hope that she and her kids can finally feel like they can live again. 

The kids finally have friends. She finds a connection to a man named Sam Cade who is writing a book. Gwen feel as though she can finally settle down and no longer run at the first sign of trouble. That is until a body is found floating in the lake and the first person who is on the top of the police suspects list becomes Gwen.. Why is this a problem? Because Mel used to dump his victims in the water. Because the body shows signs that this could someone with intimate knowledge of Mel's killing style. Gwen and her kids become ideal targets for those who are looking for pay back, and to send a message to Gwen that she isn't safe anywhere.

Gwen isn't the first woman in the history to not know what their spouses where doing while being married to them. But, Gwen really should have seen some signs. You can call her clueless. You can call her gullible, and you can call her innocent of the charges the police tried to bring against her. But, in the end, Gwen isn't anyone's victim. She is strong. She is brave. She is a lioness protecting her cubs from anyone who attempts to do them harm. She has no room to trust anyone, and that trust becomes an issue with everyone she meets in this community, including Sam, and the Detective who makes the wrong assumptions about Gwen. 

No matter how you look at this story, the kids are the victims. They had to come to grips with what their father did. They had to go on the run for fear of being used against their mother. They become innocent targets for those trying to impress an sociopathic killer. The other issue is internet trolls, and how absolutely dangerous they are. You've all heard of doxing. You've all heard of cyber stalking. As parents you probably have worried sick over your kids putting too much personal information online. If this story doesn't scare the bloody crap out of you, you are immune to how awful this world can really be. 

Rachel Caine is the #1 internationally bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including the New York Times bestselling Morganville Vampires and The Great Library young adult series. She's written suspense, mystery, paranormal suspense, urban fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal young adult fiction. Caine and her husband, award-winning artist, comic historian, and actor R. Cat Conrad, live in Fort Worth, Texas.





Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday #Review - This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab #YALit, #Fantasy

Series: Monsters of Verity # 1
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult \ Fantasy \ Dark Fantasy

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war; a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from acclaimed author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their homes at stake. For fans of Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and Laini Taylor.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, who uses his power to protect the innocent. Thrown together by a crumbling truce and a failed assassination attempt, Kate and August must flee to save themselves. In This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab creates her own dark metropolis, worthy of being compared to Gotham. But it’s not superheroes who will save this city—it’s two teenagers. This Savage Song begins a two-book saga about finding where we belong, and becoming who we are meant to be.



This Savage Song is the first installment in author Victoria Schwab's Monsters of Verity duology. Schwab's world could very well be considered to be a Dystopian society where monsters intermingle with humans in a place called Verity. Verity is a city that is separated into two parts; North and South. It is also separated by two totally different men; Callum Harker and Henry Flynn. One, Harker, controls the north and the monsters (Corsai (flesh eaters), and Malchai (blood drinkers). The other, Flynn, and his task force, tries his best to save humanity by using his secret weapons to keep the monsters in check. 

"Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly, smile and bite and steal your soul.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claws, shadow and bone will eat you raw. 
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal, sing you a song and steal your soul."

This Savage Song follows Kate Harker, daughter of Callum, and August Flynn, better known as a Sunai who was created after a violent murder. Sunai's, like August, his brother Leo, and sister Ilsa, use music to steal a person's soul. They can also pass as human, which neither Corsai or Malchai are able to do. All the monsters in this story are created by violence in one manner or the other. The world that Schwab creates takes a bit to understand, but once you get past the opening salvos, you really get into a whole lot of action. The underlying terror also keeps the reader on their seat knowing that anything can and will happen at any moment.

Kate is an unusual heroine. She's been to six schools in five years, and choosing to burn down a Catholic Boarding School's Chapel may be the only way to return home to Verity where she believes she belongs. Kate wants to prove that she can be the monster her father wants her to be. She wants to prove that she isn't like her mother ready to run away at a moments notice. She is ready to take the helm and prove that she is worth her father's attention and respect. Of course, that also means gaining the attention of Callum's monsters, including Sloan, who is just as dark & dangerous as you can imagine. She also understands that her father is far from a nice man. He demands humans living in his sector pay for medallions in exchange for protection.

August's story is about a boy who wants badly to be more human. He is also my favorite between Kate and August. For August, staying in control prevents him from going totally to the dark side where he becomes something even more dangerous. He even has black marks on his skin indicating how many days he's went without going dark. It's apparent from the onset that August and his "parents" (Henry and Emily Flynn) are more loving and understanding. Henry believes in keeping the truce, and not allowing the monsters to invade his part of town. August desire to be more human leads him to being sent to Colton Academy where he meets Kate, and finds friendship among the humans, and even more danger than he could ever imagine. 

I do have to say this. While the story does focus on Kate and August, I loved Ilsa, and especially the cat that August gives her. I love the fact that she is the most dangerous character in this book, bar none. Ok, so there is also Sloan, but you have to actually read this book to find out what makes Ilsa so dangerous that an entire treaty is based on keeping her away from others. Is there romance in this installment? Nope. Kate and August barely stand the sight of each other let alone feel the need to burst out singing Ave Maria on the nearest roof top. 

There is a brutal truth about both characters, and there is definite character growth by Kate before all is said and done. Things really tick up to a dangerous point where I am not very hopeful that anyone, let alone main characters, will walk away from the series finale alive. To quote the author, "This book isn’t a solo. It’s a duet. A song played by two very different teens trying to survive a very broken world. There are moments of discord, and a few of harmony, and through it all, they have to keep the melody alive."





Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday #Review - No Good Deed by Kara Connolly #YALit #Fantasy #Retelling @readKaraC @DelacortePress ‏

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 352 pages
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA, Legends, Myths, Fables

Fans of Marissa Meyer’s Heartless and Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die will love this reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood. Girl power rules supreme when a modern girl finds herself in the middle of a medieval mess with only her smart mouth and her Olympic-archer aim to get her home.
Ellie Hudson is the front-runner on the road to gold for the U.S. Olympic archery team. All she has to do is qualify at the trials in jolly old England. When Ellie makes some kind of crazy wrong turn in the caverns under Nottingham Castle—yes, that Nottingham—she ends up in medieval England.
Ellie doesn’t care how she got to the Middle Ages; she just wants to go home before she gets the plague. But people are suffering in Nottingham, and Ellie has the skills to make it better. What’s an ace archer to do while she’s stuck in Sherwood Forest but make like Robin Hood?
Pulled into a past life as an outlaw, Ellie feels her present fading away next to daring do-gooding and a devilishly handsome knight. Only, Ellie is on the brink of rewriting history, and when she picks up her bow and arrow, her next shot could save her past—or doom civilization’s future.
Story Locale: Nottingham, England



Author Kara Connolly's No Good Deed is her debut novel. The story is a unique retelling of the Robin Hood classic with a brilliant twist, plenty of action, and a wonderful cast of characters. Protagonist Eleanor "Ellie" Hudson is the second ranked archer on the US Women's Archery team. Her goal of winning a gold medal in the next Olympics is just a step away. All she has to do is win an international competition in Nottingham, England first.

But, fate takes a strange twist after Ellie follows a White Robed Monk into a cave and ends up back in the 12th century Nottingham. Ellie immediately finds herself in trouble after appearing at Nottingham Castle where the Sheriff of Nottingham rules with an iron fist. After jumping off a bridge to avoid capture, she is saved by Sir James Hathaway (Knight of the Temple). Soon thereafter, Ellie becomes one of the most wanted men, yes you heard me, in all of Nottingham. She also manages to become the most wanted woman in all the land, but I will leave that for you discover how. 

Ellie takes the identity of Robert Hudson, which is her brothers name. A brother whose fate is unknown for all of the story. The knave known now as Robin Hood, collects quite the group of misfits. From James (Friar Tuck), Much, Will Scarlet, & Little John, while being chased by  by Sir Henry Guilbert who is relentless in his desire to capture the person who has most done his image the most harm. Ellie's goals are pretty simplistic: Don't Die. Don't change history. Find a way back to her time. Ellie is a character who has all the characteristics that appeal to me as a reader. 

She is strong. She is brave. She is absolutely relatable. Ellie goes from being an a fish out of water, an archer without a bow, to attempting to discover why she was brought back in time, to having her very own 12th century longbow. Ellie does have a smart mouth at times, and yes it does get her in trouble. But, she also has the wit of Buffy, and the true aim with her bow that even Katniss would be impressed with. Were anyone else to be sent back in time who did not have the training and experience as Ellie with a bow and arrow, they would have been quickly gobbled up and spit out. Ellie also has her own moral coil. She hates to kill things, especially rabbits, and people. 

There isn't any romance in this story, but there is obvious tension between Ellie and several other characters. No Good Dead takes on Robin Hood in a way that will keep readers glued to their seats until the final page is revealed. As this story is set in the time of Prince John, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, there is some historical accuracy to the story as well. Eleanor really did participate in the Second Crusades. She really was as large as life as the author portrays her. Ellie meeting the woman she was named after, is just icing on the very strange cake that she has been served up.



Chapter One

Time stretched with the draw of my bow. Ancient ages whispered in the slide of the arrow on the rest, and all possibilities collected in that suspended instant when my breath slowed, my knuckle kissed the corner of my mouth, I loosed the shot—­

And someone’s cell phone went off in the spectator stands.

I got the shot off, but the bowstring smacked my arm above the guard. The sting ran all the way up to behind my eyes. I did a little it-­hurts-­but-­I-­can’t-curse dance but recovered quickly because, one, I did the same thing a couple of times a week, and two, Dr. Hudson’s Third Law of Competition Dynamics was “Never let them see you lose your cool.”

Maybe Dad didn’t put it quite that way, but it was what he meant. So I put my game face on and ignored the troubling fact that I’d let a cell phone distract me amid all the general tweeting and pinging and hubbub.

God, Ellie. Just because everyone’s watching to see when you crack .?.?.

Even before I peered through the scope set up beside me, I knew it was a poor shot. But it was good enough that I could recover with a high-­scoring arrow and make it to the medal round.

Hudson’s Second Law of Competition Dynamics was “There is no such thing as good enough.” There’s ten points and there’s try harder.

With the Olympic qualifying trials coming up, and as the second-­highest-­ranked woman in the United States, fifth or sixth internationally, it was time to make my move up the rungs of the competitive ladder. That was what I was supposed to be doing in Nottingham. Not shooting like a reasonably accomplished summer camp counselor.

But then, Rob was supposed to be here, not his alternate.

Focus.

That was Dr. Hudson’s First Law. Its corollary was “Stay in the moment.” Don’t think about the last shot, or the next shot, only about this shot.

One arrow left in my quiver and two minutes on the clock. I took my time fitting the nock to the string, trying to narrow the prismatic scatter of my thoughts. I visualized myself on the podium, the way the team sports psychiatrist had suggested. But what my brain called up was Rob and me on the stand, the way the U.S. Archery Team had run our picture after my first national medal.

Crap. Instead of slowing its roll, my head game was about to go off the rails. I mentally swiped the image of Rob and me off the screen and zoomed in on the ten-­point X in the middle of the target. Just that. No flags and no nations, no babel of languages from officials and spectators. I focused until everything blurred except me and the target—­

And the bizarrely dressed man between us.

“Hold!” I shouted, lowering my bow and slacking the string. Years of safety standards kicked in before I fully processed what I’d seen. “Man downrange!”

The firing captain echoed my shout in three languages, and all the archers on the shooting line immediately complied. A confused murmur rippled through the spectators, and when I blinked myself back to the larger picture, I saw why. There was nothing between me and the targets, stretched out like a row of unblinking eyes.

The officials conferred on their headsets, checking that the range was clear. The delay wasn’t long, but I could feel the murmur of annoyance trickling through the shooters.

Finally the firing captain gestured for me to come off the line to talk to him—­pretty much the equivalent of getting called into the principal’s office. As I stepped away from my spot, the North Korean girl shooting next to me—­my major competition for the podium—­made a comment as I passed. It needed no translation.

Before the official could reach me, Coach jogged over, with a look of serious concern. “What happened, Ellie?”

I had my bow in one hand, and I spread the other in a palm-­up shrug. “There was someone downrange.”

Coach had brought Olympic medalists and world champions to the podium before. My brother was one of them. Coach was almost family. “Was it an official? A spectator?” he asked.

Honesty made me pause. “I’m not sure.” Safety had been drilled into me from my first archery lesson, and I knew calling a halt was the right thing to do, but I hadn’t really processed what or who I’d seen. I couldn’t even be sure if it was a man or a woman. I had the impression of a light-­colored dress or robe, like a costume. But I wasn’t about to say that, because that was just plain weird and I didn’t want to end up seeing a real psychiatrist. “I only saw him for a second, and then I yelled, and by the time I did that, he was gone.”

When the line captain reached us, we had almost the exact same conversation, except in French. After I explained, he still looked doubtful but got on the radio and instructed security to watch for someone dressed in light-­colored clothes. Then he had the field captain signal for shooting to begin again.

“Hey!” I protested. “I’m not on the line yet.”

“Then I suggest you get there, Mademoiselle Hudson,” the official said flatly, “instead of distracting your competitors with this delay.”

He left, and I spun to face Coach and vent my indignation. “What was I supposed to do? Keep quiet and hope this figment of my imagination didn’t get hit with an imaginary arrow?”

Coach made a calming gesture. “Ellie, this isn’t important. You’re wasting shooting time.”

“Not important?” I flapped a hand toward the French official. “I just got called off the line for doing the right thing! How is that not important?”

“Arguing about it isn’t important,” he said before physically turning me around and adding, “The time warning is flashing.”

It was, and I was still behind the ready line. It was bad sportsmanship to step up while my neighbor from North Korea was at full draw, so I had to watch the time count down while she held her shot much longer than necessary. She played a good head game, cranking up the pressure. Then, before she let loose, the woman to my right lifted her bow, holding me back another precious few seconds.

She loosed with six seconds on the clock. All the other shooters were finished, so I leapt to the line with my arrow already in my hand.

Five.

I fitted the arrow’s nock to the string.

Four.

I put my eye on the target and lifted my bow.

Three.

I brought the bow down and drew back in the same motion.

Two.

My knuckle touched the corner of my mouth.

One.

I let fly.

The scores took forever for the target captain to tally, and I sweated it out on the field, where only shooters and coaches were allowed, unable to face my parents until I knew whether I’d screwed up or really screwed up.

By the time I got the news and went back to the field house, a lot of the women had already left, but the men were getting ready to shoot their qualifying rounds. Marco Canales paused in his stretching to give me some good-­natured hell. “Real dramatic, Ellie. Auditioning for a movie?”

“Courting the cameras, more like.” Erik Murray didn’t look up from adjusting the stabilizer on his bow. “The video is probably already on your fan page.”

I pulled off the sweaty headband keeping my shortish hair out of my face and shot Marco a “very droll” look. I ignored Erik Murray. He was something like nineteen going on a hundred and fifty; his younger brother had to set up his Facebook page. The thing is, my unofficial fan page was a little embarrassing, but Mom and I tacitly supported it with exclusive videos and interviews because the moderators donated any ad revenue to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Someone threw their arm around my neck. I jumped, but settled down when I saw the red, white, and blue manicure. Angela Torres was my closest friend on the team, as well as my closest competition. She was six years older than me but had never treated me like a kid, even when I’d been one. “What happened, Hudson? I was too far down the line to see.”

It was pretty quiet with the field house clearing out, so I set my equipment bag across two benches. “I barely squeaked by to the finals.”

She folded her arms and leaned against the wall, watching me disassemble my bow and pack up. “I heard you cracked under pressure. That’s why I’m not gloating about being ahead of you in points.”

“Enjoy it while it lasts, Torres.” I bantered on autopilot because I was thinking about what Angela had said. Had I cracked? I knew that’d be the gossip. Some bloggers had been just waiting for it to happen. I’d been training intensely, and competition was brutal even without any family drama. But if I was going to lose it and start seeing things, why would it be something so random?

“Are you going to tell me?” Angela prodded. “I promise not to tweet it.”

That made one. It was a matter of record anyway. “I saw someone downrange, walking across the field.” I didn’t mention the weird clothes, which were the one thing that kept me from believing the whole thing had been some kind of optical illusion, like I’d seen someone on the sidelines out of the corner of my eye and just .?.?.