#ReleaseDay The Insurgent (The Colony #2) #YA #dystopian #scifi #Giveaway #freebook

It’s finally here! A little over two years after the release of the first book in this duology, Subject A36, the sequel is now out in the world. These characters and I fought during the pandemic, but finally mended our ways, found common ground and finished their story. Some days I wasn’t so sure we’d make it, but despite all the strife, I sure am going to miss them.

If you haven’t read Subject A36 (The Colony #1), next week is the perfect opportunity to get caught up – it will be on sale for $0.99 May 25th through May 27th!

I’m also giving away signed copies (US only) or ebooks (international) of the duology to one lucky winner! All you have to do is comment on any of my social media (here, Twitter or Instagram @tpolen6 or Facebook at Teri Polen, Author) and a random commenter will be chosen next Friday, May 27th!

I’ll be slow getting to comments over the next couple days due to moving my son (flying to Austin, loading a UHaul, then driving back to KY – woohoo!), but I’ll get to everyone as soon as I can.

Sharing is appreciated!

Purchase Links
Amazon (print, ebook, and Kindle Unlimited)

Barnes & Noble (print only)

Black Rose Writing (print only)

If a megalomaniac threatened your family, would you give up your freedom for them? Would you give up your soul?

Asher Solomon is faced with that choice. And makes the ultimate sacrifice.

Exactly as Director Silas Reeves expected him to.

Unable to live as the Colony’s premier assassin, Ash retreats to a corner of his mind, ceding control of his body to the alter-ego he was engineered to be—Subject A36. As he’s unleashed to battle the Insurgents, the only family he ever knew, the tide of war shifts in Silas’s favor.

Combined with his expansion into new territories, the director is poised to take over the world.

But the Insurgents don’t give up easily. Not on their cause, and not on their people. With the help of a few double agents deep in the Colony, they stand a fighting chance at ending Silas’s reign.

In order to shut down the program, they face almost insurmountable odds. And their most dangerous foe—their former champion turned killing machine, A36. 

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater and Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee #bookreview #YA #fairytale #LGBTQ

Merida goes on an all-new, life-changing adventure in this original YA novel set several years after the close of Brave!

What if you had one year to save everything you loved?

ONE PRINCESS. Merida of DunBroch needs a change. She loves her family—jovial King Fergus, proper Queen Elinor, the mischievous triplets— and her peaceful kingdom. But she’s frustrated by its sluggishness; each day, the same. Merida longs for adventure, purpose, challenge – maybe even, someday, love.

TWO GODS. But the fiery Princess never expects her disquiet to manifest by way of Feradach, an uncanny supernatural being tasked with rooting out rot and stagnation, who appears in DunBroch on Christmas Eve with the intent to demolish the realm – and everyone within. Only the intervention of the Cailleach, an ancient entity of creation, gives Merida a shred of hope: convince her family to change within the year – or suffer the eternal consequences.

THREE VOYAGES. Under the watchful eyes of the gods, Merida leads a series of epic journeys to kingdoms near and far in an attempt to inspire revolution within her family. But in her efforts to save those she loves from ruin, has Merida lost sight of the Clan member grown most stagnant of all – herself?

FOUR SEASONS TO SAVE DUNBROCH – OR SEE IT DESTROYED, FOREVER. 

If you’re wondering if this is Princess Merida from the Disney movie, you’d be correct. I requested this book from NetGalley because Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors – I’d never seen the movie Brave. Knowing I needed the gist of the story before starting the novel, I spent an entertaining couple of hours laughing and snorting my way through the movie. I adored these characters and couldn’t wait to dive into this new story.

I’ve never been one for many fairy tales, but Merida is my kind of princess – mainly because she’s pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect from someone with that title. She can best nearly any opponent in archery, she informed her parents being married off and producing heirs isn’t something she’ll be forced into, and she’s constantly reminded of royal etiquette by her mother, the queen. How can you not love this girl? This story is set several years later when not much has changed – Merida is still adventurous and stubborn, the King Fergus boisterous, the Queen Elinor very royal, and the triplets still mischievous at ten years old.

Merida’s Christmas Eve doesn’t go as expected when she finds herself in the company of two gods – one of creation, Cailleach, and one of destruction, Feradach. The Kingdom of DunBroch has become sluggish and stagnant and is high on Feradach’s list of places to demolish. Naturally, Merida is distraught but, because she’s Merida and very clever, refuses to accept this. Instead, she makes a bargain with Cailleach – if she can get her family to change over the next year, DunBroch will be spared. If she fails, she’ll lose her home and family. Talk about high stakes and pressure.

Don’t expect this to be a cookie cutter Disney story. Bravely is darker and focuses on growth, survival, and reflection, along with epic journeys and and some grisly scenes. Merida learns life is about balance and realizes what’s most important – it’s a kind of coming of age story for her. Not everything is serious – I also laughed out loud several times over the antics of the triplets, Merida’s unfiltered comments, and the lively family dynamics.

After watching Brave, Merida immediately became my favorite Disney princess, and I fell in love with her family. Catching up with them in this novel set several years later was a real treat.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet.

Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.

Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.

But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?

A light enemies to lovers story – but with scrumptious food. The description of competing restaurants – and boys – lured me in. And look at that cover!

The chapters alternate POVs between Theo and Gabi, both with very different and distinct personalities. Theo is openly gay, self confident, and a natural athlete. Gabi is closeted, lacks self esteeem, and is far more talented on the dance floor than a soccer field. Theo can’t stand to be near Gabi, and while Gabi admires Theo, he’s also a little intimidated by him. Their parents’ restaurants are long time competitors, which causes further conflict. When a new fusion café moves into town and steals customers, joining forces happens kind of accidentally and everything changes.

In the first several chapters, Theo isn’t very likeable. He carries anger around like a boulder weighing him down and lashes out at his family, Gabi, and anyone else who gets in his way. It soon becomes clear why, and his self realizations and the changes that result from them are admirable. Gabi has spent his life trying to make his parents proud of him and fulfill their expectations, all while hiding his love of dancing and his sexuality. His parents (especially his father) make several derogatory comments about being gay, and he’s terrified of what might happen if he comes out. His character arc is just as uplifting as Theo’s.

Every character in this novel is flawed, some more than others, and it’s an honest portrayal of just how messy humans and their relationships can be. There are also very poignant, honest conversations about difficult topics between some characters that are done so well, and I hope they inspire readers who might be dealing with similar issues in their lives.

Besides the serious moments, this story also contains plenty of humor, delicious descriptions of food, strong friendships, and a sweet enemies to lovers romance. The ending comes about a little quickly and wraps up loose ends in a tidy bow, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Book of Night by Holly Black and Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado #bookreview #horror #fantasy #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black makes her stunning adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies in the vein of Ninth House and The Night Circus.

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.

This was one of my most anticipated reads this year, so receiving an ARC felt like winning the lottery.

Morally gray characters are among my favorites, and there’s certainly no shortage of them here. Lucipurr the cat (adore the name) may be the only innocent. Charlie’s life hasn’t been an easy one, but a good portion of it can be blamed on her bad choices. She starts out with good intentions, but usually gets sidetracked along the way. To her credit, she owns those decisions and stands by them. I wasn’t sure how I felt about her at first. Some of her actions are maddening, but she’s also clever, street smart, loyal to her sister, and I soon found myself rooting for her. At her core she has a good heart.

This is a dark, gritty world filled with murder, magic, and bloody battles for power. I struggled at times to understand all the rules, but they became clearer along the way. I predicted a couple of the twists, but was surprised over others. Some reviewers have mentioned the slow pace at the beginning, and I agree it took a few chapters for the story to find its stride, but before long it was unputdownable. I’m not sure if this is a planned series, but the ending leaves an opening.

I’d recommend this book to fantasy and horror fans looking for a gratifying blend of the genres. You’ll never look at your shadow – or those of others – in the same way again.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Mysterious disappearances.
An urban legend rumored to be responsible.
And one group of teens determined to save their city at any cost.

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

Comp titles of Stranger Things and Get Out immediately piqued my interest, and that fierce cover sealed the deal.

Several teens have gone missing over the past several months, and the disappearances seem to be tied to the Echo Game. It comes with an odd set of rules (flipping a coin to decide which direction to go, never turn back, start in the wee hours of the morning), and upon entering the game, players are transported to a traumatic event that occured in their area. For these characters it was during the 70s when the Bronx was burning and over 80% of housing was lost to fires, much of it caused by slumlords who wanted to collect insurance money.

You’d be crazy to want to play, right? But what if entering the game might be the only way to save your family and friends? For Raquel and Charlize, there’s no choice – they have to play. The actions starts immediately, and the first pages pulled me right into the story. I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening, but there’s no way you could have pried the Kindle from my hands. Pride in their community and friendships between the characters are strong points – especially between Raquel and Aaron. Even when the odds weren’t in their favor, they had each other’s backs. But with so much depending on them, the characters surprised me a few times with their careless choices, and intense, dangerous moments are interrupted with sudden relationship talk that I felt interrupted the flow of the story.

Expect vivid imagery inside the game. Some of the gory descriptions might not be for everyone, but I thought they added to the horror of what the characters experience and the obstacles they face to survive.

With heart-stopping scenes (I gasped out loud a couple times!), an alluring, dangerous concept, plenty of life-threatening situations, and relatable characters, horror/thriller fans will want to add this to their TBRs. I’m excited to see what this author does next.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Moving, #ReleaseDay, and Van Gogh

It’s book release week! The Insurgent (The Colony #2) will be released on Thursday, May 19th. And what will I be doing? Hubby and I are flying to Austin to move Son #2 back to KY. This was his self-proclaimed “gap year”, so he’s moving back to save money and start applying to grad schools. He’ll be living with us the first couple months (which will be totally weird again after not living at home for five years) until his new lease starts. The temp is predicted to be over 100 degrees in Austin the day we load the UHaul, so, you know, we’re super excited about that.

I posted another excerpt of The Insurgent on Friday HERE. If you can’t wait until Thursday to order your copy, preorder it HERE. If you haven’t read the first book, Subject A36, it will be on sale for $0.99 May 25th through May 27th!

Over the weekend I went with a couple friends to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience in Nashville. Several other friends across the country had gone to it, and I’d heard nothing but good things. It was truly dazzling. I possess adequate words to describe it, so the pics below will have to do. Enjoy and have a great week!

The Insurgent (The Colony #2) #Excerpt #NewRelease #YA #Dystopian #NetGalley

I don’t know about you, but this week flew by for me. I was constantly busy, but still didn’t accomplish everything I’d planned. Anyhoo, it’s Friday, so that means another excerpt from The Insurgent! Release day is next week, and it’s really crept up on me. Today’s snippet is from Asher’s perspective. He’s in his private room in The Colony, and let’s just say things aren’t going his way. Everything and everyone he cares about have been ripped away. In a burst of anger, he’s trashed his room.

Asher

My legs collapsed, and I fell to my knees.  The throbbing in my head hammered against my skull.  Like my brain was trying to force its way out somehow.  It was agonizing, and my stomach twisted with nausea.  My lungs heaved, still short of oxygen.  I crawled over to what was left of the mattress and rolled onto it.   

I’m here.

Clutching my head, I searched the room for the source of the voice.  I still couldn’t see.  Someone could have easily slipped in while I destroyed the room. 

Give me control.

So close.  It was so close.  But where?

End your pain.

In my head.  The voice echoed in my head. 

It was him.  A36.

Through the crushing agony I gritted my teeth and struggled to force the word through my lips. 

“No.” 

But I felt him clawing his way out, inch by inch from the deep abyss inside me where I’d kept him imprisoned for my own sanity and the safety of others.

You have nothing left.

I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head.  But he spoke the truth.  All that held me together were the scars of everything I’d lost.  Everyone I’d ever loved.  

And scars could be easily ripped open.

To preorder, go HERE. The Insurgent is also available for request on NetGalley through May 30th. As a heads up, Subject A36 (The Colony #1) will be on sale for $0.99 May 25th through May 27th, so if you haven’t had a chance to read it, here’s your opportunity to get started!

Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch #bookreview #YA #survivalist #adventure

Dry meets Hatchet in this thrilling tale of survival following a teen girl who must lead her friends across country to the safety of her estranged father’s survivalist compound after a mass power failure leaves the country in chaos.

When seventeen-year-old Zara escaped her father’s backwoods survivalist compound five years ago, she traded crossbows and skinning hides for electricity and video games…and tried to forget the tragedy that drove her away.

Until a malware attack on the United States electrical grids cuts off the entire country’s power.

In the wake of the disaster and the chaos that ensues, Zara is forced to call upon skills she thought she’d never use again—and her best bet to survive is to go back to the home she left behind. Drawing upon a resilience she didn’t know she had, Zara leads a growing group of friends on an epic journey across a crumbling country back to her father’s compound, where their only hope for salvation lies.

But with every step she takes, Zara wonders if she truly has what it takes to face her father and the secrets of her past, or if she’d be better off hiding in the dark. 

I’m always tempted by a good survivalist story, and I’ve picked up tips from every book I’ve read. With today’s world, you never know when they might come in handy.

Zara spent roughly the first eleven years of her life being raised in a survival compound consisting of only herself and her parents. Her paranoid father taught her valuable skills to keep her alive in case of a disaster, but also not to trust anyone and to think only of herself in order to survive. After a horrible tragedy, Zara’s mother flees across the country with her, leaving her father behind. Being raised in such a different environment makes interacting with other teens difficult, but Zara finds supportive friends in Stella and her brother Gabe.

Zara picks up on signs of the catastrophe her father always predicted, and soon the world is in chaos. With no power and limited food and water, she knows most of the population won’t survive, so she and her friends begin a journey across the country to her father’s compound, picking up others along the way. Zara’s character arc is well-crafted and probably my favorite part of the story. Throughout the novel she hears her father’s voice in her head repeating the rules she was taught – to think only of herself. She soon learns that although she can’t trust everyone she comes across, putting faith in those she cares about increases their chances of survival.

When society begins to break down, it comes with some tense, heartbreaking scenes that may be tough for some readers. It’s scary how quickly humanity is tossed out the window. Although the first part of the story kept me gripping the pages, it slows to a lull about halfway through before picking up again. One of the plot threads confounded me. Zara continues to make an assumption that seemed illogical to me, and I wanted her to slow down and ask herself why it was happening. It’s explained by the end, but fits awkwardly into the overall story.

With plenty of harrowing situations, a bit of romance, and a heavy dose of coming of age, Gone Dark will appeal to post-apocalyptic fans yearning for a danger-filled survival story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Ballad and Dagger ( Outlaw Saints #1) by Daniel José Older #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older’s music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a diaspora community.

Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse’s island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal’s sinking escaped to New York.

While the rest of his tight-knit Brooklyn diaspora community dreams of someday finding a way back home, Mateo–now a high school junior and piano prodigy living with his two aunts (one who’s alive, the other not so much)–is focused on one thing: getting the attention of locally-grown musical legend Gerval. Mateo finally gets his chance on the night of the Grand Fete, an annual party celebrating the blended culture of pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews that created San Madrigal all those centuries ago.

But the evil that sank their island has finally caught up with them, and on the night of the celebration, Mateo’s life is forever changed when he witnesses a brutal murder by a person he thought he knew.

Suddenly Mateo is thrust into an ancient battle that spans years and oceans. Deadly secrets are unraveled and Mateo awakens a power within himself–a power that not only links him to the killer but could also hold the key to unlocking the dark mystery behind his lost homeland. 

I don’t usually post reviews on Wednesdays, but I prefer to post them close to the book release date. May has several new releases of books I’ve gotten from NetGalley, so this will be the norm for the month.

I was first introduced to this author watching a YA book festival zoom panel. After hearing him speak, I immediately wanted to read his books and was thrilled to receive an ARC of his newest release.

Mateo is a piano prodigy and knows exactly what he wants to do with his life – play music. But then he discovers (in a very public way) his destiny is wildly different, and it’s something he can’t escape. Maybe he doesn’t want to when he learns it’s something that could help his people find their original home of San Madrigal. His life is further changed after he witnesses a brutal killing the night of Grand Fete – and he knows the murderer.

In the first pages of the story when Mateo walks the streets of Little Madrigal in Brooklyn, NY, I could easily picture his vibrant community – the sights, sounds, smells, and people. It’s a place I’d love to visit and meet their wonderful blend of citizens – pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews (and enjoy all that food). But the community isn’t living in harmony at the moment. Power struggles and politics ensue, and battle lines are drawn.

The supporting cast is everything. From Mateo’s aunts (one alive and the other a spirit), to his teasing best friend Tam, and the loyal twins, they add so much to the story. With urban fantasies, world-building can make or break a story, and this is done to perfection. The history, culture, politics, and magic are all well-explained and easy to follow. Pacing is a little uneven in the beginning, but soon moves at a breakneck speed to the end.

Ballad and Dagger has a little bit of everything – ancient secrets, battles, characters easy to root for, romance, rich culture. It’s a bit of a coming of age story that I enjoyed from the first page and look forward to reading more books by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Activated (Calculated #3) by Nova McBee #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

From Young-Adult author Nova McBee comes the third book in the gritty, action-filled Calculated series.

After her exploits in Tunisia, Jo Rivers knows she’ll never lead a normal life. She also can’t move on until she grasps the unexpected evolution of her mathematical gift and confronts her unresolved feelings after meeting Noble. With Kai undercover, Noble is the only one who has the answers Jo needs. There’s just one small problem: Noble has vanished, leaving only a coded message in the stars.

When Rafael, a friend from Jo’s days in China, goes missing, it coincides with a new PSS assignment involving a potentially catastrophic satellite breakdown. Jo suspects something more sinister is at play and has no choice but to track down Noble, who may be her only hope to find Rafael and prevent global chaos.

Traveling to the perilous Arctic of Finland, Jo and her band of prodigies team up with unlikely allies from her past to find out what or who is interfering with the satellites— before it’s too late. Trusting her gift, Jo follows a path of numbers that light the way…which leads to answers she didn’t predict.

I’m such a fan of this series featuring MC math prodigy Jo Rivers. It’s rare, but each book is just as good as or even better than its predecessor.

It’s difficult to review the third novel in a series without spoilers, but I’ll give it a shot. Be warned – vagueness ahead. Again Jo finds herself and her team in the midst of a dangerous mission with millions of lives at stake. Noble, who shares her numbers gift, is missing, Kai is undercover, and Rafael sends a guarded message requesting her help. She’s also muddling through some issues in her personal life and wonders if she’s made a horrible mistake.

As with the previous books, expect action-filled scenes, heart-pounding danger, a little romance, and a plot that reads like an intricately plotted chess game. Although YA, this series would easily appeal to adults. I thought Activated would wrap up the series but was thrilled to learn another book is coming – and I sure wouldn’t mind getting it sooner rather than later!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Dessert, Derby, and #BookSale

What a fun weekend I had! A few weeks ago I mentioned Cheesecake Factory’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake was my favorite dessert. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we don’t live near one (my waistline thanks me). Son #1, who lives ten minutes from a Cheesecake Factory, arrived for the weekend on Friday afternoon toting a cooler filled with – I’ll give you a second to guess. My favorite dessert! Did I raise that kid right or what? To my credit, I didn’t immediately faceplant into it, but ate a few bites and then finished it off the next day. I’m drooling just remembering it.

Did anyone else watch the Derby? What a surprise! But wasn’t it incredible? To see Rich Strike, a horse that only got into the race the day before, come from so far behind was just amazing. I doubt many people, if any, saw that coming. We attended a party for the Oaks on Friday and then a Derby party Saturday. Between the cheesecake and all the party food, I’m eating lettuce and water for every meal this week.

I mentioned last week that Subject A36 (The Colony #1) would be on sale around the release of The Insurgent (The Colony #2), and I’d keep you informed about the dates. Subject A36 will be on sale for $0.99 May 25th through May 27th, so mark your calendars! With the sequel releasing May 19th, it’s a perfect time to snatch up the first book of this duology and get caught up.

I also posted another excerpt of The Insurgent HERE if you missed it last Friday.

Have a great week!

The Insurgent (The Colony #2) #Excerpt #newrelease #YA #dystopian #NetGalley

It’s Derby weekend! Which means a fun weekend of friends, parties, horses, and food – and Son #1 will be here. As a bonus, it’s Mother’s Day weekend so at least I’ll have one kid home. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there whether you’re a mom of children, fur babies, plants, etc.!

Today’s excerpt is from Brynn’s POV. She’s Asher’s longtime girlfriend and a fierce operative. In this scene she’s on a hostage rescue mission with her team. Things are going smoothly until A36 shows up, and they’re instructed to abort immediately. Brynn sends the team ahead of her while she tries to hold off A36 long enough for them to escape.

Luci gawked at me as if I were delusional before she turned and sprinted toward Mason and Naira.  I laid down a spray of bullets in front of A36, and he diverted his attention toward me.  From the corner of my eye, I saw my three team members move in the direction of the fence.  They were easy targets.  He could probably pick them off blindfolded based on sound alone. 

A36 cast a glance in their direction, and I put a bullet on the ground in front of him to remind him I was still here.  Keeping his gun trained on me, he stepped out from behind the shelter of the Jeep door and flashed me a wide smile.  A smile I knew well.  One that lit up my world and made even the worst of days a little brighter.  Only it wasn’t quite Asher’s smile.  This one was laced with malice and challenge.  It taunted me, dared me to take the shot.  A36 slid through the moonlight quietly like the predator he was, all hard angles and taut muscles.  Gone were the sandy blond waves he’d always tied back for missions, his hair now closely cropped. 

My hands trembled as I kept him in my sights.  What was I doing?  A lethal killer closed the distance between us every second, and I stood here waiting for what?  A tearful reunion?  No matter the certainty I felt deep down that he wouldn’t harm me, was I really willing to take that chance?  I could be dead in the next thirty seconds.

He was only fifteen feet away now, gun still raised, while I remained cloaked in the building’s shadow.  “You’re not even making this a challenge.  Where’s the fun in that?” He grinned as if this gave him great pleasure.  There wasn’t even a hint of recognition in his eyes or any sign A36 knew my identity.  I was a stranger to him. 

Preorder your copy HERE.

If you’re a NetGalley reviewer, The Insurgent preapproval link is HERE.