Thursday, October 30, 2014

Audiobook Review - The Mage of Monrovia by Terry Spear @TerrySpear (The Magic of Inherian #2)




The Mage of Monrovia
The Magic of Inherian #2
by Terry Spear

Goodreads blurb:  Mexia has already done much more than most school- trained mages when she and her companions had gone in search of the scepter of salvation. But now one of the apprentices of the evil wizard they had destroyed, has stolen his spell book and plans to take up where he had left off, and she has to try and stop him.

Mexia believes the only way for her to defeat the mage is to become school trained like he was with the eventual goal of becoming a high wizard--the first of her kind in Inherian. But the current headmaster denies her entrance because she's a woman. Though if she can get the former headmaster's recommendation, she may attend.

And that's the beginning of the trouble.

First, there's the wizard.
Then, the immovable headmaster.
And then, the circle of misfortunes.
It all goes downhill from there...


About the Author:  Love, love, love romance, the paranormal, hunky Highlanders with their delicious brogue and hot kilts, so Terry Spear writes about those hunky Highlanders both in medieval times and as wolves in contemporary times. Jaguar shifters too! And young adult urban fantasy. And romantic suspense.

She grew up reading mystery, adventure, mythologies from around the world, ghost stories, the paranormal, fell in love with Dracula and Wolfman, and felt they needed loving too. Everyone should have someone to love. Which means her stories always have a HEA.

USA Today Bestseller residing in Central Texas from Sacramento, California who creates award-winning teddy bears too!

Connect with Terry:
~ Wattpad ~

Narrated by Elizabeth Phillips, you can find other books narrated by her HERE!!!

My Thoughts - 5 out of 5 Unicorns - I loved it!!!

***Received a code from the author to listen to and review the audio version of the book

The cover is breath-taking.  I love it!!  It feels old world, the dress is stunning and overall it feels magical :)

I really love this series.  This book’s focus is more on Mexia, but all of the characters that I loved from book 1 are here with the exception of Princess Talamaya’s betroved.  Mexia is strong and fierce and won’t back down or be held against her own will.  I love how smart and resourceful she is to get out of all the trouble that finds her.  There are even a few new characters.  Though I think I would slapped Mexia’s prince quite a few times throughout the story.  He redeems himself in the end at least in my eyes :)

My son loved all the adventure and our favorite gruff dwarf.  We both loved that it was the same fabulous narrator :)  She really brings all of the characters to life for us.  Of course, it all ended way to quickly, and book 3 isn’t out yet.  I do hope we don’t have to wait long to see what happens next to the group. 

I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves strong female characters who help any they meet especially if you love Terry Spear already :)

See my review of Scepter of Salvation (Book 1)!!!

Interested in reading???

~ Audible ~

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Audiobook Review - The Shadow Elf by Terry Spear @TerrySpear




The Shadow Elf
by Terry Spear

Goodreads blurb:  Persephonice is given the mission of distracting the shadow elves who are bound to learn what is blocking their water source before they discover a space ship is sitting in the middle of their river. That's how all the trouble begins.

Extended Description
Persephonice is an overseer--an observer and recorder of information about inhabitants of civilized worlds. Only she's lost her lifemate and cannot be an overseer without one. She's given a second chance if she can prove she's worthy if she can survive an inhospitable planet inhabited by elves and other mythical creatures she's only read about, very little of which is known of them except that they constantly battle amongst themselves and are not civilized enough to safely observe.

The shadow elf, Dracolin, a warrior given the task of learning what is blocking their water source, doesn't expect to find the most unusual creature he's ever encountered--a red-haired, green-eyed land-bound mermaid. That's only the beginning. She understands and can speak his language, falls off cliffs without injuring herself, and swims like a mermaid--without the fishtail.

Everyone is intrigued with her--except some fear her uniqueness and want to destroy her. That is the problem with observing uncivilized worlds.


About the Author:  Love, love, love romance, the paranormal, hunky Highlanders with their delicious brogue and hot kilts, so Terry Spear writes about those hunky Highlanders both in medieval times and as wolves in contemporary times. Jaguar shifters too! And young adult urban fantasy. And romantic suspense.

She grew up reading mystery, adventure, mythologies from around the world, ghost stories, the paranormal, fell in love with Dracula and Wolfman, and felt they needed loving too. Everyone should have someone to love. Which means her stories always have a HEA.

USA Today Bestseller residing in Central Texas from Sacramento, California who creates award-winning teddy bears too!

Connect with Terry:
~ Wattpad ~

Narrated by Maria Hunter Welles, you can find other books narrated by her HERE!!!

My Thoughts - 4 out of 5 Unicorns - I really liked it!!!

***Received a code from the author to listen to and review the audio version of the book

The cover is stunning, but it doesn’t really scream from space.  It seems magical, but nothing grabs my attention.

This is another audiobook that I listened to with my son in the car.  It was very unexpected.  I did not read the blurb before listening to this book.  I was expecting something like the World of Fae but with Elves.  I was so wrong, but it really worked.

It took a while for me to really connect with the characters, but I think it is because it was a new world with unexpected twists.  I was initially a little lost, but it did become more clear as you went what was going on.  I think this is like Star Trek meets a Fae realm.  It is a really cool idea.  I’m wondering if there will be more of either the Elven World or of the Overseers.  I will admit though as of right now I’d still want to slap the Overseers, but you will have to read or listen to see why. 

Persephonice starts out kind of fragile with grief, but she becomes strong, and I really loved her as a character.  She encounters so much trouble and overcomes all the stereotypes that she has been filled with out races who are full of passion.

Dracolin is a fierce warrior, and he is not sure why he is so drawn to Persephonice.  There is lots of adventure and several men who need to be slapped, but it was a very enjoyable story :)  I think if this is a series, it will only get better :)

Maria is a new narrator for me, and she did take some time getting used to her style.  Once you get used to it, she is a very good narrator.  I’m definitely going to listen to more of her stuff especially if it is written by Terry Spear.

I recommend this story to all the Terry Spear fans out there especially if you want a unique story :)

Interested in reading???

~ Audible ~

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review @Month9Books - Into the Fire by Ashelyn Drake @AshelynDrake (Birth of the Phoenix #1)




Into the Fire
Birth of the Phoenix #1
by Ashelyn Drake

Goodreads blurb:  Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.


About the Author:  Ashelyn Drake is a New Adult and Young Adult romance author. While it’s rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there’s never a bad time for some dark chocolate. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Connect with:

My Thoughts - 3.5 out of 5 Unicorns - I more than liked it!!!

***Received the ebook from Month9Books for an honest review

The cover is awesome.  I’m not sure what it is about fire that just makes the cover pop, but I love it!!

This is a very different and unique book which I love.  This is the first book in a new series, and for me it did have slow parts which usually happens in a new series when building a new world and introducing everything.  I think this series will continue to get better with each book.  That being said, for those who have problems with cliffhanger endings, this book does have that kind of ending.  For me the ending happened unexpectedly and abruptly, but this is just my opinion.  Every author has their own unique style, and this is my first time reading Ashelyn’s work.  Ashelyn definitely is very descriptive, and I could picture what was happening while I was reading which is always a good thing :)  I will definitely be watching for book 2 because I want to see what happens next :)

Cara is an interesting girl.  She tries to be confident, but she has so much going on like many high school students.  She is very quick witted which I love and tries to think through anything that life throws at her.

Logan is sort of a jock who is used to girls throwing themselves at him.  I didn’t like him much at first, but he changed and grew in a good way throughout the book.

If you like a good YA teen romance, I think you will enjoy this book.

Interested in reading???

Audiobook Review - The Winged Fae by Terry Spear @TerrySpear (The World of Fae #3)




The Winged Fae
The World of Fae #3
by Terry Spear

Goodreads blurb:  Serena, a royal member of the Mabara winged fae, has one goal in mind. Stop an impending marriage with a dark fae. As the fae are known to do, she stirs up trouble that she hopes will make her point and get her off the hook. Only nothing goes as she plans.

Niall, a royal member of the Denkar, aka the dark fae, is visiting South Padre Island when he catches a winged fae painting graffiti on a wall on the island claimed by his people. He is at once fascinated with the lovely girl and intrigued by her audacity, but as one of the Denkar, he must take her to task. Yet she's armed with a sleeping potion that makes his life intolerable. Between freeing her from his people's dungeon, her own tower, and fighting a knight in her honor, he wonders if he's lost his mind over one beautiful winged fae--when she's betrothed to his cousin!


About the Author:  Love, love, love romance, the paranormal, hunky Highlanders with their delicious brogue and hot kilts, so Terry Spear writes about those hunky Highlanders both in medieval times and as wolves in contemporary times. Jaguar shifters too! And young adult urban fantasy. And romantic suspense.

She grew up reading mystery, adventure, mythologies from around the world, ghost stories, the paranormal, fell in love with Dracula and Wolfman, and felt they needed loving too. Everyone should have someone to love. Which means her stories always have a HEA.

USA Today Bestseller residing in Central Texas from Sacramento, California who creates award-winning teddy bears too!

Connect with Terry:
~ Wattpad ~

Narrated by Jeanne Whitehouse, you can find other books narrated by her HERE!!!

My Thoughts - 5 out of 5 Unicorns - I loved it!!!

***Received a code from the author to listen to and review the audio version of the book

The cover is beautiful, and I think the Fae is beautiful with her wings.  If I saw the book cover, I would be grabbing it to check out what it is about.  I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I always find myself bypassing books where a cover doesn’t grab me as interesting (don’t tell me you don’t do it…we all do it a little ;)!!)

This is the 3rd book in the series, and I’ve listened to all of them in the car with my son.  This one brings back some of our favorite characters from book 1, so my son was very happy.  He really loves this series.  I love it too!  I really want to add this series to my classroom library to share with my high school students.  They tend to get limited exposure through school libraries because of funding issues.  So I recommend to anyone who finishes a YA book who doesn’t plan on reading it again, if you love it, share it with your local school library or public library to promote great stories and help grow a new generation of book lovers :)

One thing I love about Terry Spear is when she has a narrator for her series, she sticks with that narrator.  I think it makes a big difference because you don’t have to get used to a new narrator for a series you are listening to.  Jeanne Whitehouse is a fantastic narrator.  I love when a narrator brings the story to life for you with different voices and doesn’t sound monotone.  I think this is the reason that most students hate listening to the audio version of books in the classroom because most of the narration I heard was from a boring narrator.  If you can’t engage them through fun narration just have them read it themselves. 

Terry writes an awesome story, and her words make the story come alive.  I could picture everything happening.  Serena is fun and won’t back down when she believes in something.  She also goes out of her way for someone when she believes in them.  Niall is protective and sticks with his heart even if it could get him into major trouble.

I highly recommend this series for teens who love the Fae and to anyone who loves Terry’s books.  I can’t wait to get more of this series :)

See my review of The Dark Fae (Book 1)!!!
See my review of The Deadly Fae (Book 2)!!!

Interested in reading???

~ Audible ~

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Audiobook Review - Scepter of Salvation by Terry Spear @TerrySpear (The Magic of Inherian #1)




Scepter of Salvation
The Magic of Inherian #1
by Terry Spear

Goodreads blurb:  Princess Talamaya and her friends, Lady Kersta and Lady Mexia, must retrieve the Scepter of Salvation when her brother is poisoned.  Visions plague Talamaya of a world beyond her own, of a destiny she has to fulfill.

But the barbarian king is also after the scepter, and the black-hearted wizard who is trying to gain control will do anything to keep them from retrieving it.

She must free a knight from his madness.
Help a female dwarf escape from the dwarven mines.
Aid an Amazon fighting the Dark Elves.
Rescue even the barbarian king.
Save a crusty old dwarf from the wolves of Elan Pass.
And outwit the dark wizard once more.
Above all else, she must always take the path of righteousness.
Which is much easier said than done.


About the Author:  Love, love, love romance, the paranormal, hunky Highlanders with their delicious brogue and hot kilts, so Terry Spear writes about those hunky Highlanders both in medieval times and as wolves in contemporary times. Jaguar shifters too! And young adult urban fantasy. And romantic suspense.

She grew up reading mystery, adventure, mythologies from around the world, ghost stories, the paranormal, fell in love with Dracula and Wolfman, and felt they needed loving too. Everyone should have someone to love. Which means her stories always have a HEA.

USA Today Bestseller residing in Central Texas from Sacramento, California who creates award-winning teddy bears too!

Connect with Terry:
~ Wattpad ~

Narrated by Elizabeth Phillips, you can find other books narrated by her HERE!!!

My Thoughts - 5 out of 5 Unicorns - I loved it!!!

***Received a code from the author to listen to and review the audio version of the book

The cover is old world and awesome :)  I totally love the dress and the gorgeous horse.

Terry Spear is one of my favorite paranormal authors.  I am totally in love with every shifter book I’ve ever read written by her.  It is only in the last few months that I found out she also writes young adult books.  And it is awesome :)  My son is turning into a Terry fan too!  We listen to YA audiobooks in the car together on our way to and from school every week day.  My son loves books, but he is not the strongest reader.  He loves the fantasy/paranormal genre, but he definitely prefers audiobooks because he doesn’t have to struggle to get an awesome story.  This is not to say that I don’t push him to read too though.  He is working on the Susan Barton system at school to re-train how he thinks for his dyslexia which I hope will help strengthen his reading skills.  It is always good to have lots of options like audiobooks to increase a child’s love of books.

That being said, I think it takes an awesome narrator to make it come alive.  Elizabeth Phillips is one of those narrators.  If I could find social media to link up to her, I would share it out :)  She brought this story to life with all of her voices, and I especially loved her dwarf “Woman!!”  lol it made me laugh every time.

Of course a fabulous narrator is only one part of it!  The story has to be there too!!  And Terry knocked it out of the park with this book.  Lots of action, and characters overcoming the stereotypes that people have put on them just because they are women.  I really did love the trio of ladies who are the main characters and of course our gruff dwarf who made me chuckle a lot.  I loved that my son listened to this and that he sees that you should not judge someone just because others think they can’t do something based on size, gender, or whatever.

This is another great series that I want to add to my classroom library.  It does mention the word breast, but there is not anything that is not appropriate for high school students.

Interested in reading???

~ Audible ~

Friday, October 24, 2014

Audiobook Review - Unholy Alliance by Haley & Lacy Yager @lacyyager (Unholy Alliance #1)




Unholy Alliance
Unholy Alliance #1
by Haley Yager & Lacy Yager

Goodreads blurb:  A vampire with a conscience and a mission. The young man bound to destroy her.

Forced to unite—will they open their hearts?


About the Authors:  HALEY YAGER was born in Moore, Oklahoma, but soon moved to a small town in western Oklahoma to her family’s farm. She was homeschooled with her older brother and sister, and has been close with her family throughout her life. Haley has always loved to daydream and create fantasy worlds with her imagination, and decided to put that imagination to work in her writing. She resides in Oklahoma City where she loves spending time with her nieces and nephews, and two black labs.
LACY YAGER married her college sweetheart and became Lacy Williams. She also writes Inspirational romance under her married name. As the oldest of three siblings, Lacy exhibits most of the typical first-child characteristics and has always loved to boss around her younger siblings. Now that she’s married with kids, she has plenty of people to play house with!


During high school, Lacy completed the course WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS from the Institute of Children’s Literature. After she graduated college, Lacy got serious about her writing career and joined the American Christian Fiction Writers. When presented with the opportunity to write mainstream YA with her younger sister, Lacy couldn’t say no.

Connect with Haley and Lacy:

Narrated by Joette Marie, you can find other books narrated by her HERE!!!

My Thoughts - 4 out of 5 Unicorns - I really liked it!!!


I have this book in ebook both as a stand alone and boxed set, and I won an audiobook copy through a multi-author giveaway to get through Audible. 

The cover seems to have gone through several versions, but several seem to have the same green eyed cover model which I really like.  I have a thing with book covers have stunning eyes and the green eyes definitely fit and grab my attention.

My son and I listened to the audiobook on the way to and from school every day.  With this book, I wished I had a longer drive to work, so I could listen more, but I survived having to wait each day.

I really like the main character Maggie because she was kick butt and had awesome personal morals and values that she stuck by.  She didn’t put up with garbage and fights for what she believes in.  Her best friend Hannah is pretty cool.  I like the kid character Chloe too :)  Shane starts out being someone I’d like to slap, but he turns it around in the end.  This book is action packed, and we definitely enjoyed it.  I think the end was a little abrupt, and my son has very strong feelings about the ending.  There are a lot of new issues for the characters that pop up at the end that are unresolved and really bugged my son that he didn’t have immediate answers.  We are starting Rival tomorrow :)

The narrator did a fantastic job, and I easily connected with the story.

I think this would be an awesome series to get in paperback for my classroom to share with my students, but it will be awhile before I can afford to do so.  I definitely recommend this series to paranormal fans especially if you like TV shows like Buffy, Angel, and Charmed.

Interested in reading???

~ Audible ~

Friday Reveal @SteveBryant52 & Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals - Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show by Steve Bryant

M9B-Friday-Reveal


Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show 

by Steve Bryant

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


Lucas MacKenzie eBook Final
Lucas Mackenzie has got the best job of any 10 year old boy. He travels from city-to-city as part of the London Midnight Ghost Show, scaring unsuspecting show-goers year round. Performing comes naturally to Lucas and the rest of the troupe, who’ve been doing it for as long as Lucas can remember.
But there’s something Lucas doesn’t know.
Like the rest of Luca’s friends, he’s dead. And for some reason, Lucas can’t remember his former life, his parents or friends. Did he go to school? Have a dog? Brothers and sisters?
If only he could recall his former life, maybe even reach out to his parents, haunt them.
When a ghost hunter determines to shut the show down, Lucas realizes the life he has might soon be over. And without a connection to his family, he will have nothing. There’s little time and Lucas has much to do. Can he win the love of Columbine, the show’s enchanting fifteen-year-old mystic? Can he outwit the forces of life and death that thwart his efforts to find his family?
Keep the lights on! Lucas Mackenzie’s coming to town.
add to goodreads

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show
by Steve Bryant

Publication date:  November 18, 2014
Publisher:  Month9Books, LLC.

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show
By Steve Bryant
Chapter One
Ghost Story
It was a chill, gooseflesh evening, thanks to the damp ocean air and to ghostly expectations. Thin black clouds scuttled past the moon like witches on broomsticks.
Far below, on an eerily empty California street, a delta wing Buick Electra neared a little theater. The four high school girls in the car shivered, surprised to find themselves so alone at this late hour. A line of empty cars stretched down the block to the black Pacific, and streetlamps glowed faintly in the mist. This was the San Diego community of Ocean Beach, a few heart palpitations shy of midnight.
“Sweet Mary,” said the Ponytail at the wheel. “The show must have started already. Who would have thought ghosts were so punctual?”
“Shut up!” said the French Braids seated beside her. “Ghost stories give me the heebie-jeebies. I can’t believe we came down here tonight to see dead people.”
The car entered the oasis of light cast by the theater itself. Although The Strand’s daytime fare ran to Elvis Presley and surfing movies, its illuminated marquee on this ghost story evening promised far more than Love Me Tender and Sandra Dee.
ONE NIGHT ONLY!
PROFESSOR MCDUFF AND HIS LONDON MIDNIGHT GHOST SHOW
SPOOKS RUN WILD IN AUDIENCE
PLUS
ALL-STAR CREATURE FEATURE
“Creepy!” said the Toni Home Perm in the back seat. “I think that skeleton in the window just looked at me.”
“Drive on by!” said the Poodle Cut beside her. “Let’s go home. I have a feeling. I think something is wrong with this show.”
* * *
Inside the little movie house, in the tiny projection booth at the top of the narrow winding stairs, a little boy peered through the small square window. His name was Lucas Mackenzie, and he was ten years old. Lucas felt as though he had been ten forever, and there seemed to be nothing he could do about it.
On stage at that moment, a magician in a smart black tuxedo and a red turban stood still as death, his dexterous hands moving only as his mysteries required. Professor Ambrose McDuff, as pale as storybook vampires in the glow of a single spotlight, showed both the fronts and backs of his hands to be empty, then plucked fans of playing cards from the air. Individual cards fell from his fingertips like rose petals falling upon a grave.
But despite the Professor’s eerie mastery of nineteenth-century card manipulation, this was 1959, and audiences demanded more. Lucas knew that the couples on hand were impatient for the theater to be plunged into total darkness, that the teenage boys on hand were hoping for something more dramatic than snatching jacks and aces from the air. This was supposed to be a ghost show, and the crowd—if the pockets of teenagers scattered about the theater at this late hour could be called a crowd—was tiring of card tricks.
“Come on, Pops,” someone shouted. “Let’s see some ghosts!”
A narrow cylinder of light sliced through the darkness as a young usher aimed his flashlight beam at the outburst. “Quiet! I’m warning you!”
“Aw, who’s gonna make me?”
On stage, a royal flush appeared at the magician’s fingertips.
Beautiful magic is not to be rushed, the Professor always said. There would be time soon enough for so-called ghosts.
Nevertheless, Lucas rolled his dark eyes in response to the outburst below—a shame, he felt, as he loved the Professor’s card tricks—and concluded that it was time to move the show along.
He wore a set of large black metal headphones, and he spoke into the grille of a gray bullet microphone. “Bravo, Professor. Nice work. Yorick is set to go on, and then Alexandra. This crowd should love the Juan Escadero number.”
As Lucas knew, Professor McDuff, could hear him perfectly thanks to earphones concealed beneath his red turban. Lucas had designed the show’s secret radio network—the entire theater was wired with microphones and receivers—and was very proud of it. It had been his first contribution to the show. Before Lucas’s time, electronic communication relied on copper plates in the bottoms of the Professor’s shoes, and on long copper wires hidden under the runway carpet, a holdover from the Second Sight mind-reading acts from the thirties.
No one would suspect the simple arrangement of the Professor’s next exhibit of using hidden electronics or secret mechanisms. He placed a glass shelf across the backs of two chairs, and atop this innocent platform he placed the centerpiece of the demonstration, an oversized human skull in a red sombrero.
The reaction was immediate. As Lucas expected, the agitators in the audience fell silent. At least this skull in the red hat looked as if it belonged in a spook show. Its eye sockets and nose cavity were dark hollows, its teeth a fixed, mocking grin.
The Professor tossed decks of cards into the audience and instructed three boys to stand and take a card. Could this “Juan Escadero,” proclaimed by the Professor to be the “floating, talking head of one of Mexico’s most notorious card cheats,” look into their minds and identify their cards? Could anyone?
The ivory-hued head on the glass platform twisted from one boy to the other.
“Ay, amigos,” it said, in a voice that sounded like Speedy Gonzales. “My Inner Eye sees all. No one keeps secrets from Juan Escadero. Could you be thinking of the king of hearts? And you the two of spades? And the ace of diamonds for the muchacho in the middle? Please be seated if I am correct.”
Instantly the three spectators sat down, and the audience rewarded the disembodied card sharp with applause and whistles.
As always, uncertainty rippled through the theater.
A wise guy in row 4 voiced his solution. “It’s a hidden microphone,” he said. “Someone behind the curtain is speaking into it.”
Another boy said, “It’s the old man. He’s doing it. It’s nothing but card manipulation and ventriloquism.”
A third shouted, “Hey, Pancho. What about the floating?”
The audience gasped as the skull suddenly turned, ever so slightly, in the direction of the challenge. For the first time the thing appeared to be genuinely alive, as though it had heard the comment.
“Ay, mi cabeza,” the skull said. “I feel so light-headed.” At which point the talking skull rose two feet in the air above its glass shelf. The ghastly thing bobbed in space, its red sombrero at a jaunty angle, its mouth open in a gaping grin. Lucas grinned too as the audience again broke into appreciative applause.
“Threads,” said a worried voice in row 10. “It’s gotta be threads.”
Lucas hoped for a similarly warm reception to Professor McDuff’s next magical presentation, the Houdini Metamorphosis Trunk. As the Professor introduced a wooden packing case large enough to conceal a dead body, Lucas cued Alexandra, one of the lovely Gilbert triplets. Though the three Gilbert girls were only twenty-two, they treated Lucas as though they were his mom. Tonight, it was Alexandra’s turn to do the box trick.
“Thanks, kiddo,” she said from a communication console in the wings. “I’m set. I love these California kids. They think I’m the ginchiest.”
The teenagers whooped and whistled as the beautiful Miss Gilbert strutted onto the stage in a black crepe dress. A red bow adorned her long blond hair, and her movie-star figure was breathtaking. She threw kisses to the audience and winked at Lucas in his booth.
The trunk, Lucas observed with pride, was old and creepy, weather-beaten, and just too darn real—like something that might have been found at night on a dock. This was no glitzy magic shop prop. The Professor locked the lovely Alexandra inside, the lock snapping shut with a heavy clunk.
The magic itself was spooky, like a dissolve in a monster movie when a man turns into a werewolf. Lucas loved the movie I Was a Teenage Werewolf and wondered what it would feel like to change. What if your muscles bulged until they ripped your shirt, if the fur of a wolf sprouted from your face, if your teeth became deadly fangs, all in a matter of seconds? Would teenage girls be frightened, or would they admire you?
The Professor made it look so easy. One moment he was standing on the box, hidden behind a large cloth. After a mere flicker, the cloth fell away and revealed a liberated Alexandra standing in his place. She then wiggled off the box, opened the formidable padlock, and produced the Professor from within.
The cast was proud that magical insiders would swear the exchange could not take place so quickly. It must be a new invention. According to reports in the leading conjuring magazines, the great Blackstone himself had seen the show in Cleveland and had left the theater shaken.
“It’s just the old switcheroo,” a boy in row 8 rationalized. “It’s a sliding panel. They all do it.”
But now it was Lucas’s turn to tremble, high in his aerie. His favorite part of the show was coming up. With both hands he adjusted the headphones, and he faced the microphone, paralyzed. Seconds ticked by.
He forced her name out at last. “Uh, Columbine?” His voice squeaked. “Ready? You’re up next.”
“Of course I am, Lucas.” The words danced in Lucas’s headphones. He had said her name. She had said his. It was the highlight of every performance. “I’m a mystic after all, a seer. And, Lucas, I think you should look behind—”
Just then something cleared its throat behind Lucas.
“AAUGH!” the boy yelled, startled to realize he wasn’t alone. Lucas turned to find a behemoth of a man standing behind him. The man might have been a stunt double from a Frankenstein movie, except that he was too tall and, perhaps, too green. His short black hair carpeted a flat head, and he wore a loose fitting brown suit with a brown bow tie. The two of them barely fit in the room.
“Oh, it’s you,” Lucas said. “For a moment you gave me quite a start.”
They both laughed. It was a private joke between the two of them, a riff on a favorite Charles Addams cartoon. Lucas felt the fellow, whose name was Oliver, looked a little too much like the servant in Mr. Addams’ spooky cartoons.
“Greetings, Master Lucas,” said Oliver. “I thought I should drop in to ascertain that you hadn’t swooned from love. I wouldn’t want to find you incapable of performing your duties.”
“You’re soooo funny,” Lucas said. And then he slapped his forehead and turned back to the microphone.
“Uh, sorry, Columbine. Good luck. Just follow the Professor’s lead.”
Lucas looked through his little window with concern. The theater was musty, a consequence of being so close to the ocean. “It’s such a small house tonight,” he said. “I hope she doesn’t take it personally.”
“What’s the count?” Oliver asked.
“I’m thinking only 150 or so,” Lucas said. “And this theater seats 800.”
“My, my,” his large friend said. “A pity. Goodness, we drew 3100 at the El Capitan in San Francisco, back in ’42. And 4000 a year later at the Bijou in Cincinnati. That’s a lot of screams.”
Audience numbers had been dwindling for some time, and night after night Lucas became more disheartened. Could the show actually come to an end some day if people quit coming? If the cast dispersed, where would he go? To be adrift, alone, was unthinkable, like stepping into a black abyss. And more importantly: where would she go?
But at that moment she was about to take the stage, and the teenagers who were on hand welcomed her warmly when the Professor introduced her as “the Teenage Telepath, the Diva of Destiny, the Psychic of the Century—the sensational Columbine.”
She strode onto the stage, this tall, thin, stargazing girl of fifteen years, with midnight black hair. She wore a plain white shift, and her skin was fair and moonbeam pale. The only color on stage was the girl’s lips, afire with red lipstick. Most would judge her to be six feet tall, though she would insist she was no more than five eleven. Her dark eyes turned to the crystal ball resting in the palm of her right hand.
The audience suddenly became very quiet. One boy coughed, apologetically.
“Okay, Eddie, let’s sell this,” Lucas said into his microphone.
The theater suffered from an ancient wiring system and a shaky bank of lights, but they were not a problem for Eddie, the Lighting Guy, hunched in the back of the building. Lucas watched as Eddie bathed Columbine in a blue spot. She looked ethereal. A Columbine performance was like a religious experience.
“This girl is like putty in my hands,” Eddie said into his microphone.
Lucas hated it that Eddie thought he had Columbine wrapped around his little finger. Ever since she had joined the cast, over two years ago now, Eddie had strutted about as though he were her boyfriend. Columbine herself seldom seemed to notice him, but Eddie just passed this off as her distant personality. “That’s just my girl,” he would say. “We have an understanding.” Lately she spent most of her private time listening to Buddy Holly records and consulting her astrological charts.
Oliver and Lucas leaned their heads together as both attempted to see through the little window at the same time.
“What’s that I hear?” said Oliver. “That unearthly tapping? I’d call it a rhythmic tapping, but it keeps skipping beats. Certainly it couldn’t be, oh, your heart?”
“Quiet, you big goofus,” Lucas said, “or I’m cutting your minutes.”
In the audience, hands exploded into the air, vying for the pale seer’s attention. All the teens wanted their fortunes told.
Columbine turned her lovely face from one longing soul to another. Her gazing-glass visions began.
To one girl, she said, “There is a jukebox, at a place near the beach. The moon has just risen, and the lights are dim. Johnny Mathis is singing ‘Chances Are.’ You will dance with one boy, but another will cut in. He’s the one!
To a boy, she said, “You are in a roller skating rink, and there is organ music. It’s a couples skate, and the song is ‘Volare.’ There is a girl who shows up on Saturdays, with a long blond ponytail. This time you won’t be too shy to ask her to skate.”
And then, “Oh, dear,” she said. “In the third row. I am sorry. Your girlfriend will see the scary movie The Blob with another boy. They will sit through it twice.”
A whispered argument broke out in the third row.
“Big deal,” said a boy in row 12. “That ball is probably just one of those Magic 8 Balls.”
“Or she could have looked this stuff up in this morning’s horoscope,” said another. “In the paper.”
“Yeah, but I’d sure like to take her to the prom,” said still another.
Lucas sat with his mouth open as this astral Miss Lonely Hearts spun out her prophecies. The crystal in Columbine’s hand turned slowly, casting streaks of ice blue across her enchanting face. To look at her was to believe her, to not look at her was impossible.
“My public awaits,” said Oliver. He passed a large hand back and forth before Lucas’s goggled eyes, but the boy didn’t blink. “You’re a lost cause, Master Lucas.”
The big fellow left, closing the door behind him.
“I don’t know what to say to her,” Lucas said, his eyes still drinking in this witch-girl vision in blue. “I never know what to say.”
He adjusted the microphone and reverted to his professional voice. What Lucas lacked in adult vocal register he made up for in authority. “Okay, everybody. Let’s wrap it up for Columbine. Flowers, please, Professor. Oliver is up, and then into the blackout. Stations, everyone. It’s ghost story time.”
Professor McDuff returned and made a big to-do of presenting Columbine a bouquet of blood-red roses, then escorted her offstage to continued applause and whistling.
At the edge of the stage, with the girl safely in the wings, the Professor turned again and explained the rules of the blackout to the audience. “One: remain seated. Two: no flash photographs—our ghosts are bashful. And three: if something cold and dead should put its hands around your throat, you can always scream. And now,” the Professor added over the audience’s nervous laughter, “I give you the Curse of Frankenstein!”
Fog oozed across the stage floor, lightning flashed, thunder rumbled. Lucas gave birth to all three effects: a thick white cloud issued from his Vapor-250 Atomizer, simulated lightning exploded from a bank of flashbulbs, and thunder from his Hollywood Sound Effects phonograph record erupted from speakers the size of refrigerators. With a deft replacement of the phonograph needle, he threw in one more extended rumble for good measure.
“Ka-booooooom!”
On this note, Oliver lurched out, doing his best to look like the Frankenstein monster from the movies. His green hue, some last-minute Hollywood stitches, and a pair of sparking neck electrodes constituted special effects that rivaled those of the best Hollywood monsters. The teenagers granted him full attention as the hulking actor grimaced, spread his arms, and began his recitations.
Oliver’s low voice gave life to a selection of spooky rhymes. James Whitcomb Riley’s famous orphan told her witch tales, Edgar Allan Poe’s black bird perched ominously, Shakespeare’s witches issued their dire portents.
But as entertaining as the actor’s recitations were, and despite his looking like someone to avoid in an old castle on a rainy night, his welcome began to wear on his young audience.
“This isn’t the ‘Curse’ of Frankenstein,” an anguished voice said. “It’s the ‘Verse’ of Frankenstein.”
The teens in the front rows began to throw things at the stage. Milk Duds, Chuckles, Tootsie Roll segments, and a hailstorm of popcorn filled the air. The “monster” waved these trifles aside as he continued his soliloquy.
“That should do it,” Lucas said into the mike. “Cue the McClatter boys.”
In military formation, six life-sized skeletons marched onto the stage. Two of them wheeled out an enormous guillotine as the others restrained Oliver.
“Cool,” said a boy near the front of the theater. “Marionettes.”
The skeletons dragged Oliver to the guillotine and forced his head through the opening. The device’s steel blade loomed eight feet above.
“Murder most foul,” Oliver cried.
With a smiling glance at the audience, one of the skeletons pulled a lever, and the heavy metal blade dropped with a sickening thunk.
The audience gasped.
At first, nothing happened, as though the blade had passed through Oliver’s neck without harming him—the old magician’s trick. Then gravity set in, and Oliver’s head slid down the face of the thing, leaving a bloody red stain, and fell to the floor. It rolled toward the audience, wobbling this way or that as an ear or nose went round.
“EEEEEEEK!” the girls in the audience screamed as one.
The oversized green head stopped just at the edge of the little stage. Its eyes were open and looking about wildly.
The headless remainder of Oliver himself lumbered to its feet and began swinging its huge arms, knocking two of the skeletal McClatters aside in the process. On a quest for its head, it began walking toward the audience, with its arms held straight out, like a sleepwalker‘s. Just as it was about to step off the stage into the audience, Lucas directed Eddie to plunge the theater into total darkness. Even the blue illuminated exit sign faded from view.
This time, everyone in the audience screamed. The blackness was terrifying.
Lucas’s fingers played over the keys and toggles on his control panel, creating further screams, moans, and thunderclaps.
The phonograph needle settled into a recording of “Zombie Jamboree” by the Kingston Trio. The McClatter boys, being phosphorescent and therefore visible in the dark, lined up like a Las Vegas chorus line at the edge of the stage and began dancing a frightening mountain jig. “NOOOOOOO!” More panicked teenagers screamed.
“Launch the aerials,” Lucas commanded.
Flying in formation, three glow-in-the-dark female ghosts soared low in the darkness, just above the audience’s heads, their arms trailing alongside their bodies. At first the boys in the theater oohed and aahed over their pretty faces and their scandalously loose shirts and their pale green glow.
“Hey!” a girl shouted angrily. “I thought you came here to kiss me!”
“It’s a slide projector,” said a boy in row 10. “They’re shining it onto the ceiling.”
“Cheesecloth,” said another ghost show pundit. “I’ve read about this. They just treat it with luminous paint and wave it about.”
Lucas loved the idea of gliding over the heads of the audience and wished he could do that. Surely Columbine couldn’t ignore a boy who could fly.
But then the situation turned from romantic to revolting. The youthful faces that fueled the boys’ imaginations began to age at an alarming rate, decades falling away in a flash, until they became the faces of wrinkled hags. Their eyes glowed red. The gentle drift of the ghosts’ initial flight pattern gave way to a whirlwind of rocketing ectoplasm. The ghosts banked and swooped and buzzed their trapped victims. One of the phantoms shot straight up to the roof of the tiny theater, paused, and then dive-bombed back toward the audience. The teens in her flight path leaped from their seats to avoid being struck. Another plunged to the floor and zoomed along beneath the theater seats themselves, in that crusty netherworld of old popcorn and chewing gum. The excited teens leaped up onto their armrests as the spirit light flashed beneath their feet. The third ghost, to the shock of everyone who saw in the dim glow, lifted a boy into the air, planted a slobbery old grandmotherly kiss right on his lips, and dropped him back to earth.
Lucas chose this moment of collective panic, when the entire assembly was on the verge of rushing to the exits—and perfectly timed to coincide with the finale of the skeleton song and dance number—to liberate the crowd from its fears. “Lights, Eddie,” he said into the microphone.
“Got it, Squirt.”
A single bright spotlight, so bright that some had to shield their eyes to look, revealed Professor McDuff standing center stage, smiling. The skeletons, frozen in their final configurations like characters in an anatomy class, drifted backward into the shadows.
The Professor thanked the audience for attending, explained that the goings on had been “our little way of saying boo,” and introduced the feature film, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, starring Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, and Bela Lugosi, in their classic roles as The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, and Count Dracula. It was one of Lucas’s favorites, one he often fantasized about watching with Columbine.
“And for any of you asking the question, ‘Do the dead return?’ our answer is, ‘Of course! We’ll see you next year.’ Pleasant nightmares.”
The California high schoolers responded with enthusiastic applause.
It was the same every night, wherever the show played across America. Part of it, Lucas figured, was that the teens enjoyed the show. Part of it was that the clapping masked the fact that many were still shaking from the strange goings on. And part of it, of course, was that the movie would give the lovebirds in the audience time to nuzzle with their sweeties in the dark, well after midnight, with no more fear of being interrupted by spooks that had seemed just a little too real. It was best, Lucas knew, that they not think too much about card skills no one could acquire in a single lifetime, about a floating skull that could steal thoughts, about an impossibly fast Houdini Trunk escape, about a beautiful girl who could see into tomorrow, about a decapitated giant, dancing skeletons, or floating ladies.
Lucas flipped a switch and the film began. The projector lamp gave off a pleasantly familiar burning smell, and the filmstrip ratcheted noisily through the mechanism, casting the movie’s opening black and white images of London at night onto The Strand’s little screen.
Later, there was to be a cast party in the theater manager’s office. Perhaps at the party, among the manager’s framed movie posters of King Kong, Godzilla, and Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, amid the hubbub of post-show chitchat, Lucas might muster the courage to tell Columbine how wonderful she had been this evening, or to invite her for a stroll along the dark beach, only a block away. In his fantasy they walked barefoot in the sand, the black waves slapping the beach, alone beneath a silver moon and a spray of stars.
Right, he thought. As if that were going to happen. Why would the flattery of a ten-year-old boy make the slightest impression on a girl who was already fifteen? Why would his beach-walk invitation hold the slightest interest to a girl who no doubt liked boys on the beach to be taller, with muscles? And what if he were older, more her age? Would she reject him anyway, prefer Eddie over him, or prefer someone else entirely?
And so, once again, Lucas knew that he wouldn’t even speak to her. Rather, just before retiring, at sunup along with the rest of the cast, he would extract his diary from his little traveling suitcase, and he would draw, for the day’s date next to her name, in his small neat hand, his evaluation of her performance: four perfect stars. Lucas Mackenzie—boy critic.
* * *
Meanwhile, none of the teenagers settling in for the movie, the munchies, or the smooching opportunity seemed to notice the scratching noise coming from the back row.
Gleefully entering notes into a little journal, and the only one of the audience who had pointedly not joined in the applause, was an adult named Harlan H. Hull. Mr. Hull—Doctor Hull to his colleagues and students—was ecstatic over his findings. He salivated over a possible book advance, a research grant, a guest appearance on television.
Dr. Hull chaired the Paranormal Studies Department at Bradbury College, a distinguished liberal arts institution in upstate Illinois. From the moment he had entered the theater, armed with a battery of electronic sensors that the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover himself might have envied, Dr. Hull had been monitoring various energy fields.
At first there were only hints. The needle on his Graviton Flux Indicator had registered surprising variations in body mass. If a stage show cutie could lower her body density that far, she could pass right through solid objects. Could the trunk have been normal? The spinning mirror on his Extensible Luminosity Gauge had picked up abnormally low dermal reflectivities. Could the psychic girl have been that pale?
But then came conviction. Dr. Hull’s Remote Thermal Scanner 360 had provided the proof he had been chasing. With a pistol grip, a cross-hair gun sight, and a readout with glowing red numbers, the device resembled a hand-held Flash Gordon ray gun. The RTS 360 could measure body temperatures across a room to an accuracy of one tenth of one degree, and what Dr. Hull had determined was still making him shiver.
If his readings were correct, he knew what he had feared to know.
He now knew the talking skull had housed no hidden microphone, the trunk no secret panel, the guillotine no trick-shop blade. He knew the gyrating skeletons were not string puppets, the soaring phantoms neither magic lantern show nor chemically treated gauze.
For every member of the show—from Professor McDuff to the yakking skull to the pale girl to the big green guy to the dancing skeletons to those floating hussies—had a body temperature of exactly fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the grave. The room temperature of Eternity. In a word, everyone in this show was dead. There was no other way to say it.
They had no business gallivanting around on stage before children. They belonged under the dirt, under the sod, under the feet of the living. And he was the one to put them there.
“I’ve got you, my pretties,” Dr. Hull said aloud, twisting one of his long strands of white hair in his fingers. “At last, truth in advertising.”
The London Midnight Ghost Show?
Spooks run wild in the audience?
Do the dead return?
Yes, indeedy!
And he had the proof!

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded a 40+ page monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction; and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journals (his most recent article was about the séance at Hollywood’s Magic Castle).

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Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
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