Hazzardous Universe (Paperback)

by Julie Wright, Kevin Wasden (Illustrator)

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Product Description

A guy who works in his grandfather's magic shop expects weird things to happen. But Hap Hazzard has never had a day like this. First, a freaky old man in a cape who calls himself,Torval, visits the shop and somehow makes a trash can explode. Then Torval delivers an ominous message to Hap's grandfather, upsetting the old man so badly that he yells at Hap for the first time ever. Next, this girl Tara shows up to apply for a job, and for reasons Hap can't understand, his cool magic tricks send her away in tears. But that's nothing compared to what happens next. Under orders to apologize to Tara, Hap searches for the girl. But he can barely say he's sorry before three spaceships appear, the biggest of the three looking like a burnt slice of pizza. The weirdness only ramps up as Hap and Tara soon find themselves aboard the pizza-shaped ship piloted by a pair of aliens. Even though they were accidentally abducted, the two humans are now forced to join an out-of-this-world mission that includes razor-toothed multilingual beetles, a psychic queen bee, manic ape frogs, a coveted crystal, and a hundred other bizarre things that just might make sense, if Hap could only remember and understand Torval's cryptic message. Join Hap and Tara as they begin a fantastic journey into the far reaches of the universe.

"Aliens, mobsters, magic, action, and humor - everything a reader could want!"
- Jessica Day George, author of Princess of Glass and the Dragon Slippers series

"Hazzardous Universe is the perfect book - a fun mix of humor, compelling plot, and action. I really loved it!"
- James Dashner, New York Times-bestselling author of The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials

    Contents
  1. Mysterious Magician
  2. Abduction
  3. Not-So-Human Beings
  4. Catastrophe
  5. Scourabs
  6. Ice
  7. Spiral Drop
  8. Twin-Soul
  9. Room Servcie
  10. One Small Step for Hap
  11. Neubins
  12. Mind Control
  13. Stonehenge
  14. The Scientist
  15. Last Meal
  16. Books and Crystals
  17. A Change In Loyalty
  18. Out of the Frying Pan
  19. Into the Fire
  20. Mob Bosses and Volcano Hideouts
  21. Dealing With the Intergalactic Mafia
  22. Ghosts and Phone Calls
  23. Magic Show
  24. Principles of Friendship
  25. Rescue Plans
  26. Gygak's Moment of Glory
  27. Hunting Packs
  28. Books, Magicians. and Decisions
  29. The Truth About Aliens

Product Details

  • Pages:  240
  • Size:  6x9
  • Published:  March 2011
  • Book on CD:  Unabridged

About the Authors

Julie Wright started her first book when she was fifteen and was surprised to get it published. She’s written over a dozen books since then, is a Whitney Awards winner for her novel Cross My Heart, and she feels she’s finally getting the hang of this writing gig.


She enjoys speaking to writing groups, youth groups, and schools.


She loves reading, eating, writing, hiking, playing on the beach with her kids, and snuggling with her husband to watch movies. Julie’s favorite thing to do is watch her husband make dinner. She hates mayonnaise but has a healthy respect for ice cream.


Visit her at her website: www.juliewright.com.

Kevin Wasden has an overactive imagination, is unable to sit still through meetings without drawing, and tends to be silly at the most inopportune moments.


He is an advocate of art and creativity in education and enjoys speaking to youth, writers, artists, and educators. He studied illustration at Utah State University and has studied figure drawing and painting from the exceptional figure artist Andy Reiss, in New York City. He is creator of the independent comic Technosaurs.

Chapter 1

Mysterious Magician
The bell jingled as a gnarled man stepped into the magic store. He
ducked his head, but his top hat still brushed the door frame. His
cape fluttered at his heels like a shadow as he swept off his hat and
leaned heavily on his cane. He scanned the magic shop before locking
eyes with Hap.

Hap didn’t mean to, but he gulped.

“Fredrick Eugene Hazzard?” The voice sounded like stones
grating against each other.

Hap flinched at the name. In all his fourteen years of life, no one
ever called him by his full name—except when he was in trouble. He
quickly stowed the Technosaurs comic book under the counter so he
didn’t look like he’d been wasting time. Hap raked his fingers through
his hair to flatten it down. Sometimes his hair stuck out from his
head and looked like flames—one disadvantage of being a redhead.
“Yeah . . . how can I help you?”

The man’s cane clicked against the wooden floor as he closed the
distance between the door and the counter. Hap recoiled slightly,
feeling grateful to have the counter between him and this weatherbeaten
wizard. Lots of eccentric types came into his grandpa’s magic
store, but no one had darkened the door of Hazzard’s Magical
Happenings so literally. The guy seemed to suck all the light from the
shop into the folds of his black cloak.

“I must speak with Fredrick Eugene Hazzard immediately.”

“You’re talking to him. But everyone calls me Hap.” Hap’s gaze
slipped toward the back room, but he decided against calling to his
grandfather until he saw whatever this overzealous salesman might be
showing off. Hap tried at a smile.

The old man didn’t smile. His right eye twitched as though he’d
bitten into a Sour Zapper—the latest in candy gags. His lips puckered
as he leaned his cane against the counter. His thin, blue-veined hand
slid inside the top hat and, with a flourish, flew out again, holding a
rusted metal ball.

Hap’s smile widened. Having always wanted to be a magician,
he appreciated the theatrics some salesmen used when showing their
merchandise.

The man’s skeletal fingers placed the ball on the counter. It shifted
on the countertop, revealing the venting holes along the diameter. It
shifted again. Something was alive in that ball.

“Cool!” Hap leaned closer to get a better look. A smaller rabbit
or dove would be able to fit in such tight quarters. This guy might
actually be selling something worth looking into.

With the grace of a practiced magician, the man reached a finger
toward the slight depression at the top of the ball.

Before his bone-thin fingers could touch the ball, both the man
and Hap leaped away from the counter at the sound of what seemed
like an explosion outside the front door. The sun catchers rattled
against the window panes. Hap hurried to the window display to peer
outside and groaned.

“What happened? What was that noise?”
Hap turned to see his grandpa hurrying through the red curtain
that led to the office and storage room in the back.

“Someone kicked the garbage can into the door.” Hap jabbed a
thumb to where the can rocked on its side near the front steps. He looked
back out the window to see if the culprit lingered by the crime scene.

Grandpa Hazzard moved to join Hap by the window but stopped
short when he saw the man who seemed to take up all the space in
the front of the store.

“Tolvan?” The alarm in his grandfather’s voice made Hap turn
away from the window and pay closer attention to the man whom his
grandfather seemed to know.

Tolvan palmed the strange ball and rubbed his fingers together to
show his now-empty hand.

Grandpa Hazzard’s gray eyes widened in disbelief. He pointed at
Tolvan’s empty hands. “Surely you didn’t mean to use a disrupter here?

Under heavy black eyebrows, Tolvan’s eyes twisted to glare at
Hap. “I’ve put it away, haven’t I? He claimed to be you. He may have
your eyes, and that devilish hair from your youth, but he clearly isn’t
you. The boy lacks respect for the elderly.” Tolvan had regained his
cane and now used it to thump the ground in irritation. He looked
anything but elderly. Terrifying, yes. White-haired and weathered,
yes. But not elderly.

Hap fidgeted under his grandfather’s gray gaze. “He looked like a
salesman. I was just running interference like I always do. He said he
needed to talk to Fredrick Eugene Hazzard, and that is my name. You
were busy doing inventory.”

Grandpa Hazzard closed his eyes and scratched at the sparse
remnants of gray hair at the back of his head. He suddenly looked old
and frail. “The boy meant no disrespect. Usually, I’m grateful when
he diverts attention away from me. It’s been a long time, Tolvan. Let’s
go into my office.” Grandpa Hazzard pulled the curtain back and
gestured for Tolvan to pass through. “Something tells me we have
much to discuss.”

“Can I come too?” Hap asked. Many magicians had visited
Grandpa Hazzard over the years, though none with such archaic
clothing. Hap had always been included in conversations and had
even been given lessons on some of the best magic tricks—the ones
you can’t buy or learn in books. This guy could probably teach some
great magic.

“No, Hap. I need you to watch the store.”

Hap had already started walking back with them but halted at the
words. He blinked in surprise. “What about Mom? Or Alison? She
could watch the store for a few minutes.”

“Your mother and sister are taking the mail orders to the post
office.”

Most of the store’s real business came from Internet sales—
making post office visits a daily chore.

“Couldn’t you two talk out here? There’s no one else in the store.”
Hap hated the whine in his voice.

“Not this time, Hap. I need you to stay here.”

“But—”

“No!” Grandpa Hazzard coughed and said more gently, “No.”

Stunned by his grandfather’s sharp tone, Hap watched the two
men disappear behind the curtain. He couldn’t believe it. He’d
never been left out before, not once in the year and a half he’d been
working with his grandpa at Hazzard’s Magical Happenings. And
never had his grandfather raised his voice.

He edged closer to the curtain, his ears straining to listen, his
heart thumping hard against his ribs. He’d never eavesdropped on his
grandpa before. He’d never needed to.

Tolvan’s gravelly voice whispered with an urgency that heightened
Hap’s curiosity. “She has the pyramid. Once she delivers it, he’ll
search for the books. If he gets it, everything we hold dear will be
like candle flame to parchment—nothing but ashes. The trust is in
danger. Fredrick, you say you’re done with the trust and ICE, but
now you must help—”

“Excuse me, one moment,” Grandpa Hazzard said.

The curtain swept aside so fast, Hap nearly fell into the office. “I
was just . . . looking for . . .” He grabbed the broom leaning against
the wall near him. “The broom.” Hap nodded as though he could
make them agree with his declaration of innocence.

Grandpa frowned at Hap. “What a good idea.” He rested a heavy
hand on Hap’s shoulder, leading Hap away from the back office and
its odd occupant. He led Hap all the way through the magic shop,
past the practical jokes and pocket tricks, past the racks of obscure
gourmet candy, and out the front door.

Grandpa Hazzard pointed to the garbage can, still rocking in the
breeze. Styrofoam hamburger packages from Big Bite Burger next
door spilled down the front steps and over the sidewalk. Half-full
cardboard cups had leaked cola into huge sticky puddles that would
require scrubbing to clean.

Grandpa Hazzard squinted into the mess before picking up
what looked like burned shrapnel. “The aliens have been busier than
normal today. Old Noory on Coast to Coast said they would be.”

Hap rolled his gray eyes. “Yeah. Aliens . . . in Ridge Creek. If I were an
alien, I’d definitely come to Utah to knock over some random garbage can.”

“Lots of people come here.”

“You mean lots of people come through here. No one wants to
stay. And why can’t I hang out with your magician friend?” Hap used the term “friend” lightly. Tolvan seemed more like a visitor from
a nightmare than a friend. Something felt wrong with the whole
situation.

Grandpa Hazzard set his mouth in a firm straight line, making
the gray hairs bristle on his chin. “This isn’t about pulling a dove from
your coat sleeve, boy. Magic is about keeping secrets.” He held out
his hand and the piece of shrapnel melted right before Hap’s eyes. It
re-formed into a quarter-sized polished blue stone. “And sometimes
there are secrets I cannot share, not even with you.”

And with that declaration and bit of magic, Grandpa Hazzard
disappeared behind the door, the little bells jingling after him.

Hap wanted to call him back—to keep him from returning to
the strange man with his strange magic—but couldn’t think of any
way to do it without sounding paranoid, and without ending up with
Grandpa yelling at him again.

Grandpa had been especially soft spoken since Hap’s dad got
sick. His dad had become too sick to stay at his job, and their family
had moved in with Grandpa so they didn’t have to worry about
household bills as much. The whole family had pitched in and helped
earn their keep by working at Hazzard’s Magical Happenings, and
Hap suspected Grandpa was grateful they had come. But from the
sad, long looks Grandpa gave Dad and the lowered, hushed tones
Grandpa used when talking, Grandpa ached as much over watching
Hap’s dad get sicker as Hap did.

Life was grossly unfair.

And now Grandpa Hazzard had yelled at him for the first time ever.

Hap kicked lightly at the garbage can, making it grind over
the cement, before he sighed and set it up straight. How could his
grandpa know a trick like that and never teach it to him? How could
Grandpa Hazzard keep secrets? The outright betrayal of holding back
something so cool as that shrapnel melting into the polished stone
made Hap want to kick the garbage can a second time.

He grumbled while he worked; it made him feel better—well, not
really, but that’s what he told himself.

Hap’s mom pulled her car into the side parking lot. Alison
hopped out and skipped to the edge of the debris. “You’re gonna be
in trouble.”

“I didn’t do this.” Hap resisted the urge to swat her with the broom.

His mom followed on Alison’s heels. “Heavens, Hap! What have
you done out here?”

Hap shook his head in disbelief. “I didn’t do this!”

She narrowed her eyes at him and stepped closer, sliming the heel
of her shoe through a smear of processed cheese. “You didn’t do this?”

He yanked on the bottom of his Hazzard’s Magical Happenings
shirt in irritation. “Of course not!”

She folded her arms and tapped her toe, making her curls bounce
against her shoulders like the googly eyes they sold in the shop. “Then
who did?”

“Grandpa said it was aliens.” Hap regretted the statement as soon
as it left his lips. Grandpa Hazzard loved aliens. He owned every
X-Files season on DVD and had every book that every ufologist had
ever written on the subject.

Mom and Dad . . . well, they didn’t love aliens.

Her paled face reflected years of strain from this same topic.
Mom hated contention. She usually let Dad argue over aliens with
Grandpa Hazzard, but with Dad being sick, she did all she could
to keep Dad comfortable, and that meant she was the one stuck
with telling Grandpa to knock it off with the alien stuff. Mom and
Dad didn’t want Hap or Alison to get weird ideas. They didn’t mind
Grandpa Hazzard believing what he wanted, but they didn’t want
him brainwashing their children with nonsense either.

Mom looked at the front door of the shop with resolve. She
planned on fighting this one.

“Oh, Mom, I was kidding. Stupid kids probably did it.”

She scowled but relaxed visibly since she wouldn’t have to have
“the argument” with Grandpa Hazzard after all. “Yes, that’s likely.”

Some of the kids from school thought Grandpa Hazzard belonged
in a mental institution with a padded room and a white, long-sleeved
coat. They egged the store, lit firecrackers in the Dumpster, and once
hung plastic aliens all over the front of Hazzard’s Magical Happenings
with a big poster board sign that read no intelligent life found
here!

“But I didn’t do it.” He scrubbed his hand over his head.

She sighed in resignation. “I’m sorry I accused you. Of course
you wouldn’t. I’ll get you a dustpan.” Her agreement on his
innocence didn’t get him out of cleaning. Mom went into the store
with Alison following closely behind. Alison likely didn’t want any
association with the mess so she wouldn’t get talked into cleaning
too.

“Stupid people are lame. Lame, lame, lame,” Hap muttered
under his breath. As he ranted, his voice grew louder. “And I can’t
believe we have to deal with the restaurant’s trash! We should file a
complaint with the city! ARGH! Whoever did this is such an ape . . .
stupid, unevolved, idiotic—”

“Excuse me?”

Hap whirled around to face Tara Jordan staring at him with her
big hazel eyes. “Tara!” He took a deep breath to calm himself. “What
are you doing sneaking up on people like that? I thought you were
my mom.” He turned away and shoved a drippy cup into the can.
The grime from the trash can’s contents caked his hands, the smell
making him wrinkle his nose. He swallowed to keep from throwing
up. The rancid carbonated beverages and moldy hamburgers smelled
like vinegar and tomatoes.

Hap hated tomatoes.

He peeked at Tara. She wasn’t a regular at the magic store, though
he remembered she had been before her parents split up. She didn’t
really hang out anywhere anymore, at least not that Hap knew of.

“I wasn’t sneaking. I came here to give you an application.”

“An application for what?”

“A job.” She held a piece of paper out for him to look at. She
wrinkled her nose at his filthy hands and tried to pull the paper away,
but he snatched it from her.

“You want to work here?” He ran his wrist under his nose and
looked over her résumé. “Let’s see . . . Tara Jordan, age fourteen. You
had a paper route, and you’ve done babysitting and house sitting.
Hmm, you don’t have much experience.”

“I have as much as you do.” She snatched the paper back before
he could read her hobbies.

“I’ve been working in this shop every summer since I was tall
enough to reach the register while standing on a milk crate. And I’ve been pretty much the only one working here since—” He broke off
and scowled. Since they told us my dad was going to die.

“I know quite a bit about magic tricks.” She was talking big, but
Hap heard the doubt in her own voice.

“Really?” He smirked. “Prove it.”

Her eyebrows furrowed. She seemed irritated and flustered, and
the gold flecks in her hazel eyes seemed to pulsate as she glared at
him. “Excuse me?”

“Show me a trick.” He crossed his arms over his chest, the smell
of the garbage on his hands. He sniffed and grimaced, clasping his
hands behind his back instead.

With a great breath, she tucked her blonde hair behind her ear and
took a small orange scarf from her pocket. In silence, she held the corners
at the top of the scarf and showed him both sides. She then scrunched the
scarf into a ball with one hand while making a fist with the other. Tara
stuffed the scarf into her fist, packing it down using her fingers and thumb.
Then, with a flourish, she spread her hands wide to show they were empty.

“Nice. Bring it back.”

She wrinkled her forehead. “What?”

“Bring it back. Every magician knows it’s not enough to make it
disappear . . . you gotta bring it back. You’ve seen The Prestige, right?
You can’t want to work at a magic shop without watching a few magic
movies. Make it come back.”

Exasperated, she put her hands together and tugged at something
inside her fist. She ended up dropping the false thumb she’d stuffed
the scarf into. The false thumb bounced with the little orange scarf
hanging out the bottom like tendons. It rolled off the porch steps.

Tara reached for it but missed as it rolled into the grass and
settled, sticking up as though a corpse was trying to dig its way out of
a grave under the lawn.

“We’re not hiring.” Hap turned his back on her and picked up
some more garbage.

She plucked the thumb from the grass and shoved it into her
pocket. “Don’t be a jerk, Hap! If you’re not hiring, why would you
have me do the trick?”

The question had merit. He was irritated because he’d been
excluded from the conversation going on between Grandpa Hazzard and Tolvan—felt angry for being put out on the porch step like a
bad dog. And something tugged at the back of his mind. Tolvan’s
panicked voice . . . his grandfather yelling at him . . . the way that
shrapnel melted into the blue stone. He shook himself and turned to
face her. “I don’t know. To see if you could, I guess. Anyway, it doesn’t
matter. Grandpa’s funny about underage employees.”

“You’re underage.”

“Yeah, but I’m family. I totally don’t count.”

She took a deep breath and looked at her shoes. “Oh.”

“Hey, look, maybe in a few months we’ll be hiring. Things always get
busier around Halloween. Okay?” He held out his hand for her to shake it.

Her mouth twisted as she looked at his smelly hand, but she must
have really wanted the job, because she took his hand firmly in hers.
Her mouth fell into an O and her eyes widened. She yanked away
from the stinging zapper in Hap’s palm and cradled her hand against
her stomach. “What? Why?” She sputtered and glared worse than his
mom when he was in trouble. She finally straightened and jabbed her
finger at him. “Why did you do that?”

Hap chuckled. “Aw, c’mon, Tara. It was just a joke. Besides,
everyone who comes in our front door tries to make me shake their
hand after they put the buzzer on. If you don’t know that trick, you
don’t really want to work here.” He turned his back on her again and
stooped to pick up more garbage. As he stood to throw the trash in
the can, he came face-to-face with his grandpa.

His satisfaction with himself faded with the disapproval in
Grandpa Hazzard’s eyes. They stared at each other for a long moment
before his grandpa nodded to something behind Hap.

Hap turned to look. Tara had already made it across the street,
stomping through the field toward the thick overhang of trees that led
to the canyon trails. Her movements looked angry. Hap guessed if he
could see her face, she might even be crying.

“Proud of yourself, are you?” His grandpa spun the dustpan he’d
brought out for Hap in his fingers.

“I was only joking around.”

“Looks like someone doesn’t think you were very funny.”

“Well, I can’t help it if she’s being sensitive.” Hap took the dustpan
from his grandfather’s hands and swept the debris around their feet into it. He hadn’t exactly meant to take his frustration out on Tara.
But what kind of person comes looking for a job in a magic shop if
they can’t deal with a random joke?

“You should apologize.”

Hap rolled his eyes. “She isn’t hurt, Grandpa.”

Grandpa Hazzard raised his bushy eyebrows and twitched his
shoulders in a shrug. “Maybe not physically. But I think you hurt
her feelings. You embarrassed her. You know her parents just got
divorced. You know she probably really needs a job. Things have
been tough at her house without her father. You, of all people, should
understand that.”

“I still have a father!” Hap couldn’t keep his voice from cracking
with the fear that overcame him every time he thought about his
dad. It was so much easier not to think about the man who used to
be strong, who used to play baseball with him, who used to have
a job and go to work like other dads. It was so much easier not to
think about how he’d gained so much weight and lost so much hair.
Everyone still held out hope that the chemo would work, but fear
hovered at the edges of their hope. So much easier to not think about
it at all.

Hap looked out to the field where Tara had gone. My situation
isn’t anything like hers. My dad isn’t choosing to leave us. Her dad did!

And that’s when he realized how much worse he’d feel if his dad had
chosen to leave them.

Hap grunted and bent low to sweep another pile into the
dustpan. “Fine. I’ll apologize at school tomorrow.” He lifted the
dustpan to the open garbage can and dumped it.

“That’s not the Hazzard way, Hap. We’re men of honor. If you
owe someone something—even an apology—you pay them back
immediately. That girl’s life has been hard recently. As one of her
classmates, and someone who has a bit in common with her, you owe
her that apology. Now.”

“But I gotta clean up this mess.”

Grandpa Hazzard tucked his thumbs in the belt loops of his
jeans. Hap liked that his grandpa wore jeans and not overalls like the
other grandpas in town. “You gotta clean up that mess too.”

“But this mess came first,” Hap argued.

Grandpa Hazzard’s eyes misted slightly. Why is he acting like this?
Hap wondered. Grandpa Hazzard never acted sentimental. First
raising his voice and now tears? Even with all the stuff going on with
Dad, the only one who cried was Alison, and Mom when she thought
no one was around to hear.

Grandpa Hazzard sniffed. “Chronology. Humans always worry
about the most trivial things. Leave time out of it. Humanity is more
important.”

“She’s probably home by now . . .”

His grandfather took the broom from Hap. “You know as well as
I do that the Jordans don’t live anywhere near the direction that girl
headed.”

Hap tugged at his shirt, looked down at his hands that smelled
like rotting tomatoes, and ran into the shop. He came out while
stuffing his arms into the sleeves of his jacket and trudged across the
street to the field. “Fine!” he called back over his shoulder. He could
have sworn he heard his grandfather’s chuckle on the breeze.

Chapter 1

Mysterious Magician The bell jingled as a gnarled man stepped into the magic store. He ducked his head, but his top hat still brushed the...

Chapter 3

Not-So-Human Beings Hap's ears rang as his whole body crashed facedown against something hard and cold. He didn’t move for several...

Chapter 2

Abduction Hap stumbled along the narrow trail that seemed to disappear in the low light of the setting sun. He squinted to see farther...
Rating_starRating_starRating_starRating_starRating_star
Tons of fun!

by  Heather  -   reviewed on  April 05, 2011

A high-action, fast-paced sci-fi story for middle-grade kids. Illustrations for every chapter make this an even bigger treat. Entertaining all the way around.

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