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Friday, March 6, 2015

(MMGM) Countdown Zero by Chris Rylander {review, interview, giveaway}

Welcome to Day 6 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today we are celebrating Chris Rylander's Countdown Zero, book two in his fun The Codename Conspiracy series....

Countdown Zero
(The Codename Conspiracy #2)
by Chris Rylander
Walden Pond Press

There are people in this world who live secret lives. There are people who fight the evil that lurks in the shadows so that the rest of us can live free from tyranny and fear. There are people—perhaps the person who is sitting across from you on the bus or waiting tables at your favorite restaurant—who put it all on the line for us, every day, whose names we’ll never know.

None of these people is Carson Fender.

At least, not since he was let go by the secret agency that enlisted his services to help foil a nefarious plot perpetrated by one of their former agents. Carson is back to hanging out with his friends, pulling pranks, and not having to lie to everyone about how he’s spending his days. And that’s for the best. Isn’t it?

Of course, this was all before a note showed up in his school lunch, informing him that Agent Nineteen has three days left to live, and that there might still be someone inside the Agency working against them. Carson has always been able to rely on his friends—but what happens when there’s no one left to trust?

goodreads / amazon / b&N / indiebound

Codename Zero, book 1 in this series (click to learn more)

Praise for The Codename Conspiracy Series

"With its high-stakes secret missions, gadgets and underground government agencies, readers in search of a solid middle-grade spy novel will find plenty to enjoy here.  Carson is a funny and engaging protagonist, and readers will relate to both his longing for a more interesting life and his angst once he finds it. This is an exciting, zippy read that will leave readers wondering if there’s more to their own hometowns than meets the eye."  - Kirkus

"Codename Zero is a creative and exciting twist on the traditional spy novel. Readers will find themselves cheering for Carson as he learns not just how to be Zero, but how to be himself. Filled with great characters and an outstanding, original plot, Codename Zero will jump to the top of every aspiring spy’s reading list!"

"Carson and his friends are funny and likable, and the pacing of the story is just right. The action steadily builds to a climax that satisfies, yet also whets the appetite for a sequel. Good for reluctant readers, and for any kid who likes tales of action, mischief, and friendship."  - School Library Journal

Seventh grader and ultimate prankster, Carson Fender, is trying to get back to his normal life after working as Agent Zero for a secret government agency...but who just gets over being a secret agent who helped saved the world? Certainly not Carson! And when one of his agent mentors goes missing, the Agency pulls Carson back into the fold and sends him on a dangerous mission to save one of their own.

Chris Rylander’s The Codename Conspiracy series is such a super fun, over-the-top-in-the-best-way-possible spy adventure series, and book two, Countdown Zero, is full of laughs, thrills, and twists. Rylander clearly knows his audience, which is reflected in his amusing, fast-paced storytelling and smart writing. Like book one, Countdown Zero’s premise is wildly entertaining and full of all the cool, fun spy/secret agent elements you’d expect and want-- fascinating devices, silly codenames, intriguing agents, hidden headquarters, surprising cases, and so much more! I love how everything surrounding the Agency is shrouded in exhilarating mystery.

Rylander fills this witty, wacky world with a cast of captivating and engaging characters. From spunky, funny Carson Fender (aka Agent Zero) to oddly charming Dillion, awesome Danielle, to the surly yet lovable Agents Nineteen and Blue, these characters had me giggling with every page.

Agent Zero’s perilous adventures in Countdown Zero are full of twists and turns, daring escapades, wicked cool gadgets, compelling baddies, and an enthralling-end-of-the-world situation, and Carson gets help from an unexpected person and faces on an unexpected villain...all leading to a cliffhanger ending that definitely has me wanting more!

My Final Thoughts: Countdown Zero is a super fun, super exciting sequel in a super cool series!

4/5 yummy cupcakes

What three words best describe The Codename Conspiracy Series?

Trust.  Action.  Goats.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give this series a try?

If you read my book, I will mail you a bag of treasure.

Grab a copy of Countdown Zero and answer the following:
favorite chapter?  Chapter 29: Zero Times Zero Equals Zero (Because the chapter title is one of the few factual statements in the whole book)

favorite page? Page 195 (Because it contains a Spanish speaking gun that the publisher actually let me keep in the book for some reason.)

favorite place/setting?  Snakedome (I hope you don’t have to ask why…)

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:  

And just like that, we had officially infiltrated the secret Agency base inside Teddy Roosevelt’s head.

Can you tell us a bit about your hero, Carson? What makes him special and sets him a part from other middle-grade heroes?

He craves action and excitement; he almost never passes up the chance to make his life more interesting.  He stays cool under pressure and a lifetime of pulling pranks and narrowly dodging his school principal have trained him (somewhat) for the life of a secret agent.  What sets him apart is his inability to bring his friends in on his adventures.  Most middle-grade heroes get to share their adventures with their best pals, but part of being a real secret agent is that you can’t tell anyone.  Which leaves Carson feeling increasingly isolated.

As a middle-grade author, why do think MG is so important and popular? What do you love about MG?

It’s important because it’s the age when most kids either fall in love with reading for life, or become that adult “who hasn’t finished a book since the last book I was forced to read in school.”  (Which is far too many of us, sadly.)  That’s what makes middle grade books so vital, if we can’t show kids how enjoyable reading can be when they’re 8-12, then they might never figure it out.  I love writing for middle grade kids because you can talk to and joke with them like they’re adults, yet they don’t have all that adult jadedness and cynicism.

What are some of your favorite middle-grade reads and characters?

Sideways Stories from Wayside School, the Harry Potter books (of course), Goosebumps, Dory Fantasmagory, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, everything Adam Rex is writing.

Fill in the blanks:
My codename would be Agent Frosting.

I’m really awesome at Eating but wish I was more awesome at Sports.

The last really great book I read was Revolution by Deborah Wiles – it was the perfect book: highly entertaining, moving, funny, and educational (I learned so much stuff that I didn’t know was true).

If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by Countdown Zero, what would it look and taste like and what would you call it?

I’d call it the Gut Bomb.  It would be huge with at least fourteen inches of frosting on top, loaded with all sorts of secrets and hidden flavors, like bacon, cheese, chocolate, dollar bills, self-respect, nachos, cloudy diamonds, and peanut butter.  It would taste amazing, but you’d make gross faces while eating it so nobody would ever suspect the truth.

Chris Rylander is the author of the Fourth Stall Saga and the Codename Conspiracy series.  A fan of brown shipping boxes turned on their sides, dance-offs to win a girl's heart, and rice, he lives in Chicago.  You can visit him online at

Win a signed copy of Countdown Zero!
Walden Pond Press has generously offered up one copy.
-US only
-ends 3/31/15
-must be 13+ to enter
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is no responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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anne s. said...

My son LOVED Codename zero. This book sounds even better!

Jennifer R said...

I loved Chris' The Fourth Stall series and need to read this one too.

Lynnette said...

This looks like a great read! My 5th grade boys love The Fourth Stall series.

Manju Howard said...

Glad to read that Chris has a new series. He spoke on humor at our SCBWI conference. I'm sure Countdown Zero will be funny as well.

Sui Generis said...

Oh my gosh! Why didn't hear about this book? I love secret agents!