Thursday, February 6, 2014

Matt Archer: Monster Summer (Book 1.5) by Kendra C. Highley ~ Review ~ Excerpt

Matt Archer: Monster Summer (Matt Archer #1.5)
by Kendra C. Highley
Published October 3rd 2012 by Smashwords
ISBN13 9781301058884

In this companion short-story to Matt Archer: Monster Hunter, fifteen-year-old Matt Archer finds himself in the Australian Outback on the trail of his latest targets...and hunting hyper-intelligent, mutated Dingoes is not his idea of a great summer vacation.

Making things more complicated, Matt's Uncle Mike--aka Major Tannen--is his C.O. for this mission. To Matt's consternation, the major's new fiancée, Captain Julie Hunter, is also along for the trip.

When Captain Hunter disappears during a routine scouting trip, it's up to Matt to help his uncle find her before it's too late.

About the Author

Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to two self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most important job. She believes chocolate is a basic human right, running a 10k is harder than it sounds, and that everyone should learn to drive a stick-shift. She loves monsters, vacations, baking and listening to bad electronica.

Author Links

I just loved this series, and this book, and best part is this novella is free for kindle, at Amazon. I read book one, then was looking forward to the Outback mission, then started book 2, and was freaked as it was  6 months later and skipped over the summer Outback mission, so went to look at what I missed. I seen this at Amazon for free and downloaded right away, was happy about that.

It did not disappoint at all, I loved the action and fun in this book, and some scary too.  It’s a short fun read and a great addition to the series. I suppose you do not have to read it to read the others, but it is a mission that I had fun reading about.

What’s there to lose? It’s free. Go get it.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars just like all the books deserve.

This review is also at Amazon, and Goodreads

Be sure to check out the rest of the books in this series:

Monster Hunter (Matt Archer #1) Goodreads \ My review and Excerpt
Monster Summer (Matt Archer #1.5) Goodreads (Free for Kindle at Amazon!)
Blades Edge (Matt Archer #2) Goodreads \ Review & 1st Chapter
Legend (Matt Archer #3) Goodreads
Bloodlines (Matt Archer #4) Goodreads | My review and Excerpt and Giveaway

Monster Hunter (Matt Archer #1) Amazon | Smashwords
Monster Summer (Matt Archer #1.5) Amazon | Smashwords (Free)
Blades Edge (Matt Archer #2) Amazon | Smashwords
Legend (Matt Archer #3) Amazon | Smashwords
Bloodlines (Matt Archer #4) Amazon | Smashwords

Great Victoria Desert, Australian Outback

(Part of Chapter One that’s called Part One)

We’d been lying prone in the dirt under some bushes, staring over the cliff’s edge, for three hours, and we hadn’t seen a thing. My back and elbows ached from keeping me propped up on the ground so I could see, and I passed the time by thinking up choice names to call my uncle when I saw him later.
“Matt, I got something,” Will whispered. He refocused the binoculars. “Yeah, definitely something down there.”
I almost cheered. Maybe it was wrong to get excited about a monster, but I’d hate for this stakeout to be a waste of time. Squinting, I could just barely make out a reddish-brown figure crouched on the sandy plain below “Dingo?”
“Yeah, looks like it.”
He didn’t say anything else, so I nudged him. “And?”
“I don’t know,” Will said, still staring downrange. “This one looks pretty big, even from here. It might be the biggest one I’ve seen.”
My best friend had said those exact words three times in the last seventy-two hours. Every time we discovered a new monster, he had to tell me this one was bigger than the last. Still, Will exaggerated a lot, so I stole the binoculars to take a look myself.
I refocused the view until the beast became clear. “Huh, this one is bigger,”
It was standard Dingo, all right, but huge. Rings of dark fur ran around its tail, which wagged slowly as it sniffed the ground. “Want to bet that it’s more than nine feet tall?”
“Nope.” Will yawned. Sweat beaded along forehead, and the sunlight glinted on his damp hair. “I’d rather figure out how to get rid of it without either of us ending up as dog food.”
I chuckled. “Are you regretting me blackmailing the Army into letting you tag along on this trip?”
“Nah. You need me here to watch your back. Besides, what were they gonna say, after we did so well hunting on our own at home? It’s not like they agreed to let you bring a green-bean,” Will said. “Do me a favor, though. Don’t set me up as bait this time. My hamstrings still hurt from yesterday and Schmitz’s sprints of death this morning didn’t help.”
“No bait this time.” I wiped sweat and grit the back of my neck. It stung; I’d gotten sunburned despite the little bit of shade from the bushes. It was supposedly winter in the southern hemisphere in July, but the arid landscapes of the south-central outback allowed for warmer temperatures than I expected. In the afternoons, the temperature often rose to seventy degrees. Not that hot, when you thought about it, but all of us wore full battle dress uniform and camo got warm on a sunny day. No wonder Julie could smell me this morning.
I watched the monster a bit longer before turning to Will. “What’s it doing?”
Will took his binoculars back. “No idea. It’s down on all fours like a regular dog, sniffing at a clump of grass. Maybe it needs to take a leak.”
We were both so engrossed by the Dingo that a tap on my shoulder made me jump a foot off ground. Clutching my chest in case my heart decided to seize up, I glared at our visitor. “Dang it, Master Sergeant! You gotta stop doing that!”
Schmitz squatted down next to me. “And you need to watch your back, sunshine.”
“Weren’t you doing that?” I asked. “You said you’d scout the area and keep watch while we spied on Scooby Doo down there.”
“That’s no excuse not to be more aware of your surroundings.” He gave Will a hard nudge in the shoulder. “You, too, Cruessan. You’ve had enough training for that to sink in.”
“Understood, Master Sergeant,” Will said, sounding weary.
“So what you got there, Archer?” Schmitz asked, peering over the cliff’s edge. “That’s one big Dingo.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Want to go after it?”
Schmitz watched the monster for another minute before answering. “Let me check in with Major Tannen, first. He’d kick my ass if I took you two on an unauthorized hunt. Stay put.”
He headed back to the Humvee. While we waited, a wisp of alien thought snaked into my mind.
They’re coming, it whispered. Keep watch.
I jerked and pressed a hand to my temple. Being chosen as pet-wielder by a sentient knife was freaky enough, but it’d recently started talking to me. In the back of my head.
I wasn’t sure I liked sharing brain-space with the blade; it was hard to explain that I heard “voices” without sounding crazier than an outhouse rat. Still, the relationship had its uses. Things like monster-radar, for example, which let me know if trouble was on the way.
Kind of like…oh, crap, right now.
The knife set off my early-warning system with a punch of adrenaline. Goose bumps rose on my arms, a feeling like ten-thousand nails on a chalkboard, and my pulse raced as if I’d just sprinted a mile. Already breaking out in a cold sweat, I stood fast and yanked the binoculars out of Will’s hands.
“Hey, grab-master, I wasn’t using those or anything,” Will said.
I ignored him, refocusing the binoculars to scan the area around us. Schmitz stood by the Humvee, talking on the satellite-phone. Nothing else moved, not even the wind, but I didn’t like the silence. I checked downrange—the Dingo we’d been watching had disappeared.
“Will, go tell Schmitz we have incoming.”
Will didn’t ask any questions; he just ran for Schmitz, leaving our gear in a pile on the edge of the cliff. While I waited, I unsheathed my knife. The handle flashed a pale blue in the sunshine—a warning that monsters were near. Yeah, trouble was definitely on its way.
A soft breeze raised the hairs on my neck and I drew in big gulps of air, trying to slow my pulse. I could be calm. I could wait.
A low, grating growl echoed against the rocks, right behind me.
Then again, maybe not.
Be ready, the knife commanded. Turn. Now!
I whirled around as the Dingo leapt over the ledge, closing the distance between us. Its momentum tumbled us both to the ground in a rolling snarl of limbs. Teeth I had to believe would rival a shark’s snapped at my nose and the thing’s breath smelled like week-old hamburger left out in the sun. Holding in a gag, I jerked my head out of its reach and twisted my hips, rolling us one last time so that I ended up on top of the dog pile.
I lifted the knife, preparing to send this monster back to whatever Hell it came from, but the Dingo grabbed the front of my jacket, pulling me so close that we were literally eye-to-eye. “Not so fast there, mate. Take a look behind you. Go on…I’ll wait.”
I sucked in a quick breath. I hadn’t exactly sat down to chat with any of the Dingoes, and this one’s conversational tone freaked me out. The Bears I’d fought back home had sounded like cavemen, mangling what barely passed for English. Hearing the Dingo rasp out perfect English in an Aussie accent made my insides quiver. Gripping the knife tight in my fist, I chanced a quick glance over my shoulder.
Three new Dingoes had surrounded the Humvee and the ring-tailed one we’d been watching downrange lifted Will off the ground with a meaty paw wrapped around his throat. Will stood six-four in his socks and weighed two-twenty—all solidly packed muscle—yet the thing held him up with only one hand.
Schmitz was nowhere to be found. During my boot camp, he’d taught me how to creep through the forest unnoticed; leave it to him to find a way to hide in the middle of a desert. Okay, hopefully that meant he was planning a diversion. I forced myself to let out a slow breath.
“So I looked,” I said, hoping I sounded snide instead of scared. “What do you want?”
The Dingo I had penned chuckled, calling my attention back to it. “You humans are easy to break, yeah? Let me up, or your friend loses his head. Get it?”
If we got out of this mess alive, I’d have plenty to add to my report. We knew the monsters’ intelligence had increased at a rapid pace, but tactics like these were beyond anything we’d seen. I glared into the Dingo’s beady eyes. “Yeah, I get it.”
I stood slowly, keeping my hands up. The Dingo rose on its hind legs, as well, never breaking eye-contact. I knew it would tell me to drop the knife any second, so I had to think of something fast, or we were all Alpo.
There weren’t many options, though. If I killed the leader, I might have time to retrieve the knife and throw it at the one holding Will before it broke his neck. The knife never missed—it’d hit the target. But what about the other three?
To buy some time I asked, “So, why’d you decidetoday was the day you wanted to die?”
The Lead-Dingo was less than impressed with my trash talk. “I don’t think you’re in a position to ask those kinds of questions, mate.” It jerked its head toward the Humvee. “Squeeze him.”
Will cried out. I hazarded another look. Ring-tail banged him hard against the Humvee. Even from this distance, I could tell Will’s face was turning purple. He scrabbled at the thing’s paws with his fingers and kicked at its midsection, but it didn’t loosen its grip.
Think, think! How would I pull this off? I could get in position to take out the leader, but without a diversion, would I be fast enough to save Will, too? I honestly didn’t know.
Edging toward the Humvee, I said, “There’s no reason to kill him. I’m the one you want.”
“Well, not entirely,” the Lead-Dingo said. “But you’ll do for a start.”
We knew the Dingoes were out here searching for someone. All the monsters seemed to be hunting for a particular person, showing up in very specific places and killing their way across the countryside while they searched. We figured the Dingoes were looking for a shaman from the Aboriginal tribes living in the area, someone who might have a crucial piece of magic to stop them. Maybe dogface here would confirm that for me.
I shuffled a few more steps. “What do you mean ‘not entirely?’”
The Lead-Dingo snorted, sounding so much like a Labradoodle that I had to swallow a hysterical laugh. It noticed and bared its teeth at me. “You think I’m just an animal, senseless enough to answer your questions. How…human.”
Okay, if I couldn’t get it talking, maybe I could piss it off. “We’ve already established the fact that I’m human and you’re not.” I stepped closer to the Humvee, moving slow. “But I’ll debate the animal thing—you’re nothing but an overgrown dog in my opinion. You don’t even have opposable thumbs.”
The beast snarled and showed me the whites of its eyes. “You sound awfully confident for a dead boy. I’ve killed plenty like you, and I’ll kill plenty more.”
Rage thrummed through my chest. Some of it wasn’t mine; the knife was spoiling for a fight, too. “I’d like to see you try, because I’ve killed plenty like you, too.” I gave the Lead-Dingo a cold, hard smile. “And I’ll live to kill plenty more after you’re dead.”
The monster stalked a few steps toward me, its back claws gouging deep trails in the dirt. I used its approach as an excuse to scoot closer to the pack of Dingoes by the vehicle.
When it didn’t rise to the taunt, I said, “Well, you got anything to say to that? Oh, wait…you aren’t going to answer my questions.” I tightened my grip on the knife. This would be tight. “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?”
The Lead-Dingo lunged and I brought the knife up just as a huge “Boom!” echoed across the plain. The ground shuddered beneath my feet and I dropped to my knees. The Lead-Dingo stumbled, howling something in his native language. Two of the others took off running.
Another explosion came, closer this time, sending pebbles sliding down the hill. In the confusion, I popped into a crouch and launched myself at the Lead-Dingo. It scrambled backward as I slashed at its chest, but it slipped on the loose rocks littering the ground and landed on its back. Moving at warp speed, I was right there to land a blow to the heart before it had a chance to stand. It jerked once as the knife slid between its ribs, then was still.
The Dingo holding Will howled and slammed him against the Humvee so hard, he went limp. I yanked the knife free from the carcass and hurled it with all my might. The knife flew like a guided missile and slammed into the thing’s chest, sending it toppling over backward. Will tumbled down on top of it.
The last Dingo standing let out a yip and ran after the others. I sprinted down the hill as fast as I could without sliding on the carpet of pebbles and reached Will just as Schmitz came charging up the hill from the other direction. Together we tugged Will off the dead Dingo.
Will groaned and sat up. His neck was red and scratched, but otherwise he looked fine. “Holy Elway’s ghost, dude,” he said in a raspy voice, “I thought we were dead this time.”
Relieved, I sat on the ground next to him. “Nah, just beat up.” I looked up at Schmitz, who was peering across the desert. “Where’d the other ones go?”
“Not sure. I figured they’d come after me when I set off those grenades, but they kept running, right on out of sight. Even that last one just passed me by like I wasn’t there,” Schmitz said. “Real Dingoes live in packs, but there’s always an Alpha. Maybe losing the boss shook them up.”
There’s always a new leader, the knife whispered. Stay alert.
I loved it when the knife was cheery and optimistic like that. “I bet you’re right Master Sergeant.” I stretched, popping about six vertebrae in the process. Tumbling in the dirt with a nine-foot-tall monster wasn’t good for my back, apparently. “Anybody else ready to call it a day?”
“Amen to that,” Schmitz said.


“What happened to you?” Uncle Mike was camped out in the command tent, but he came around the map-covered table, eyes narrowed, as soon as I showed up. “Schmitz said you ran into a ‘little problem.’ I’m assuming that was an understatement.”
I dropped into a chair, wishing I had some kind of magic to erase the giant kink in my lower back. “We got jumped by five Dingoes. We took out two, but three got away.”
As I relayed the story, Uncle Mike’s face turned purple and a vein popped out in his forehead. “I never should’ve sent you out there.”
I crossed my arms and glared at him. “Yes, you should have. End of story.”
We stared at each other for a good minute before Mike relaxed in his seat. “So three got away?”
I nodded. “Captain Hunter find anything?”
“I haven’t heard from her, yet.” Uncle Mike sighed. “Besides, we have a bigger issue. Why do the monsters always show up where you are, even if they’re supposed to be elsewhere?”
“No idea.” That was the million dollar question, and I didn’t have an answer, not yet. Maybe it had something to do with my close connection to my knife. Or maybe the monsters thought I was the weakest link because I was the youngest wielder. Yeah, like that theory held water. “So we have five left to hunt down, right?”
Uncle Mike returned to his seat. “If the other team hasn’t found the one still on the loose, then yes, five more.”
I left Uncle Mike, wondering if Aunt Julie had found anything. I checked my watch. It was six-thirty. Maybe that’s why Uncle Mike looked so stressed out; his fiancée was running around the Outback, looking for trouble. On purpose.
As uncomfortable as Julie made me sometimes, she was kind of a badass. Besides, if I was honest with myself, I felt a little guilty for the things I’d said—and thought—this morning. Sure, I wanted to spend one-on-one time with Mike, but not because his fiancée had been captured by monsters. Hopefully the team was late for some stupid reason, like a flat tire or dead battery. Never mind that Humvees were practically indestructible. That wouldn’t explain the lack of communications, either.
By the time I made it back to our tent, Will had already passed out on his bunk, and Schmitz had reduced his pistol down to parts on his cot, cleaning each piece with painstaking attention.
Schmitz paused in his housekeeping. “The advance team report back yet?”
I shook my head. “It’s weird. The major says he hasn’t heard from them, but they have a satellite phone in addition to radios.”
 “I’m wondering if the major will send out a search party if they aren’t back by tomorrow morning,” Schmitz said. I must’ve flinched, because he hurried to add, “It’s probably just technical difficulties. Don’t get too worked up—you need to sleep while we have the chance.”
After the trap the Dingoes had sprung on us this afternoon, I had a bad feeling about all this, and a strange hum teased the back of mind. Was the knife warning me again? I wasn’t sure, but chills puckered the skin on my arms; almost always a bad sign. Telling my uncle wasn’t a good idea, though. He already worried too much about the burden I carried since being chosen as a wielder. Asking him to spin up a search party now, based on a weird hunch and supernatural voices in my head, would only freak him out more.
Instead, I kicked off my boots and lay down on my cot. A breeze blew against the canvas walls, bringing the scent of campfire smoke with it. Soldiers joked and talked outside, sounding strange without Julie’s higher-pitched voice among them. Where was the advance team?
I rolled onto my side, gasping when a cramp seized up my back. Wherever they were, I wasn’t in much shape to help. Hopefully everything was fine, and by the time I woke up they’d be here.


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