Archives for December 2013

EFC’s Top Picks of 2013

It is the end of another year and we read some wonderful books. Each of us chose our top three books that we read this year.

And here they are …

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My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White

Mad World: Epidemic by Samaire Provost

Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge by Kendra C. Highley

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A Girl Like You by Maureen Lindley

Warpworld (Warpworld #1) by Kristene Perron and Joshua Simpson

The Hardest Thing in this Worldby Nicole Eva Fraser

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Anybody’s Daughter by Pamela Samuels Young (This review will be posted in the new year.)

Olivia, Mourning by Yael Politis

Half a Man by Bill Glose

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Review: Reckless by Danielle Weiler

RecklessReckless
written by Danielle Weiler
published by Ranga Books

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: I participated in the blog tour hosted by Xpresso Book Tours. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)

Did I enjoy this book:
This book was alright. Did I enjoy it? Not really. Did I keep reading it? Yes.

First, I didn’t realize this book was set in Australia or written by an Australian writer when I started reading this book. It took a little while to get into that language and rhythm. Once I got in the groove, it was fine.

I understand that everyone experiences grief differently. I just never understood the whole “I’m going to do everything and anything to tick off my family and everyone around me because I have a great excuse” way of dealing with grief. Milly is 19 years old. She’s old enough to realize that she isn’t the only one hurting and that she is hurting her family.

I kept expecting something more out of this book. All the way to the end, I was wanting something more. I felt so bad for Milly throughout but I was angry with her as well. She just didn’t make much sense to me. I really liked her aunt Charmaine. She had her head together and knew how to get to Milly. She was there but didn’t push. She was what Milly needed. I felt bad for Rose. She was left behind yet she seemed to get it the most.

Why 3 stars? It was a decent story. I couldn’t really fault it. It just wasn’t for me. It just didn’t resonate. This is a topic that should resonate. It should be powerful. This just didn’t hit that mark for me.

(just made it)

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Would I recommend it: I don’t know. If you like angsty new adult books, then yes, check this one out. If you’re tired of the “I’m out of control because I lost someone and know one understands me and know one cares,” then don’t read this book.

Will I read it again: I will not.

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About the book:
‘Are you going to ask me in?’ he replied, a cheeky smile forming on the edges of his lips. Then he leaned towards me conspiratorially. ‘We aren’t strangers, you know.’

Milly Benton wants it all to go away. Wants to flip the bird to the nightmares and her parent’s grief and the incessant questions about when she’s going to make something of herself.

But when her parents exile her to the country, Milly has to cope with her annoyingly helpful aunt and three cousins instead. Bitter at the hand she’s been dealt, Milly has stopped dreaming of a future.

In steps Jerome with his tormented blue eyes. Familiar from her childhood and as broken as she. They need each other. But how can they forget?

 

DanielleAbout the author: Danielle Weiler loves all things written. She has her best story ideas in the middle of the night when there’s no chance to remember them the next day. Her first YA novel, Friendship on Fire, was published in 2011. Reckless is Danielle’s first novel for new adults. She has lived and taught high school in New South Wales and Victoria but prefers the sunny weather in Perth. She is kept company by her husband, son and naughty cat, Ginger.

Find Ms. Weiler here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Blog Tour: The Hunting by Kerry Peresta (spotlight, excerpt)

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the-huntingThe Hunting
written by Kerry Peresta
published by Pen-L Publishing

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

About the book: Isabelle Lewis, top advertising salesperson at the Chatbrook Springs Sentinel newspaper, has a habit of falling in and out of marriage. After her last divorce, she shoved the emotional pain into a compartment in her brain to deal with later. With three teenagers to raise, bills to pay, and sales quotas to meet, introspection was a luxury she couldn’t afford. Her mind needed a happy place.

When Isabelle (Izzy) discovered online dating, it immediately became her favorite stress reliever and best friend. Often, she’d steal into the night after her kids were asleep to meet someone new. One fateful evening, the hunt for the perfect guy took a sinister turn when the mystery man she met turned out to be her worst nightmare! Reluctantly pulled into
a web of lies, Izzy is forced to confront her demons.

Snarky, suspense-filled, and real, The Hunting is an exquisite entwining of the crippling emotional fallout of divorce with the quest for a healthy, fulfilling relationship. This inspirational story rivets!

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I sit in my car a minute, adjusting to the darkness of the garage. My eyes land on the kids’ car tucked in already, and I know they are inside the house, either asleep or going that direction, because I’d talked to them on the way home. I shake off the feeling that something is wrong, get out of the car, start up the stairs to the kitchen, reconsider and click on the overhead light in the garage to sniff around.

Brightness illuminates the area. Rakes, loppers, an air pump, and various gadgetry cling to a pegboard nailed to one wall; an aging lawnmower sits in a far corner with its best friend, the gas trimmer. Metal shelving climbs the back wall, loaded with fairly common family paraphernalia. My eyes scan the cement floor and the kids’ car, searching for signs of inappropriate activity. I smell old grass, a little oil that has leaked from one of the cars, gas, paint thinner.

My heels striking the cement garage floor in the middle of the night remind me of old Law and Order episodes, where Eames and Goren discover a body in the garage, draped halfway out of a car, drenched in blood. I should stop watching those shows. Then I see it. Not tonight, my mind screams. Tonight? After this horribly long day? My stomach clenches in fear.

A tightly folded, small, white square mocks me from the windshield of my kids’ car. What time is it, anyway, I mutter to myself as I cautiously approach the car, lift the windshield wiper, and hold the small square gingerly between thumb and forefinger. I grab my phone from my purse with my free hand and click the screen on. Almost midnight. Self-pity, despair, and several other emotions I have no energy to identify zip through me at warp speed. I turn off the garage light and climb the three stairs into the kitchen, firmly locking the door behind me. The note sails through the air and lands on the kitchen table.

I scroll quickly through my contacts to find Detective Faraday. His phone rings several times, a groggy voice answers. “Yeah?” Cough. “What?”

“Detective Faraday?” I whisper.

“You got him. What’s up?” I picture him wiping his eyes and focusing on a clock by his bed. Maybe a lovely wife by his side, sleeping. I feel awful for interrupting him at home.

“I got another note,” my voice is hushed, and has begun to warble. I am whispering because I don’t want to alarm the kids, but the stress has rushed to every extremity and overtaken my vocal cords. I cannot stop shaking. Detective Faraday is instantly alert.

“Okay. This is Izzy, right?”

I shake my head, realize someone on the other end of a phone call cannot see a head shake, and murmur “Yes.”

“All right, I’m going to call and get a patrol car out there immediately. What does the note say? By the way, we have analyzed fingerprints on the note, and it is definitely the man you indicated, so he is not using an alias. That’s good news, because it means he’s not trying to hide, and it’s probably not pre-meditated. Probably just a reaction to a personal crisis. Which, unfortunately, you seem to be triggering.”

“So what should I do?” I whisper.

“Read me the note, Izzy,” he says, calmly.

“It was on my kids’ car.” I feel tears forming. One trails slowly down my cheek. I slap it away.

“Oh, man,” Detective Faraday whooshes out a long sigh. “You weren’t home, then? But your kids were?”

“Yeah, and I’m pretty sure the garage was locked. They know they are supposed to shut the garage door when they get home, no matter what.”

“Izzy, is there a window in your garage?” I think a minute. Yes! There is one in the small storage room at the back of the garage, one we never use.

“Well, yes, there is one in a storage room, but – ”

“Is it locked?” he barks. I start to cry.

“I don’t know! Why is this happening?”

“Go check, Izzy, right now. Keep me on the phone while you do it. Take a flashlight or a bat or something with you. I’ll wait.”

The implication hits me that he wants me to find a weapon before I check the window. Seriously? I quietly enter my sons’ room and pluck up the bat that is leaning against their bookshelf. They stir, but do not wake.

“Okay,” I whisper. “Got a bat. Heading for the garage.”

“I’m with you, Izzy. Be careful.”

His voice is reassuring and I am thinking how grateful I am for our police force. Funny. I am grateful now, but just let me get a speeding ticket. I enter the garage, and tiptoe toward the closed storage room door, my heart beating violently. I hold the bat in my right hand and turn the knob slowly with my left. The darkened room emerges bit by bit as the door creaks open. Light from the garage spills into the room, illuminating old cans of paint, a broken lamp, basketballs, a football, boxes. I push the door open further, and see the window, which is located high on the wall, shards of cobwebs hanging from the edges.

I lift the bat in pre-strike position as I push the door all the way open. I hear Detective Faraday’s breathing on the phone.

“What’s happening, Izzy?” he says, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin.

I locate the string that turns on the lone light bulb in the room, and pull. The forty-watt bulb creates an eerie glow. To my utter and profound relief, the room appears empty.

“I am in the storage room. It’s empty.”

I lean the bat against one of the boxes and look around.

“How often are you in that room, Izzy?”

“Rarely. It’s for stuff we don’t have room for. Kind of forget sometimes, that it’s here.”

“Okay,” he says, “go to the window and check the lock.”

My nose wrinkles in disgust. “Okay,” I say and move aside two squashed storage boxes. Looking around, I locate something to stand on, and reach up to check the latch. Push up on the window, which holds. Try again, and it reluctantly slides open. “It’s not locked,” I say, miserably.

“Lock it,” Detective Faraday says. “Don’t worry, Izzy, we’ll get him.”

kerry perestaAbout the author: Kerry Peresta’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper and e-zine humor column, “The Lighter Side,” short stories in the published anthology, “That One Left Shoe,” and her debut novel, recently released by Pen-L Publishing, The Hunting, contemporary women’s fiction. She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, and copywriter before deciding to devote more of her time to writing. She is currently working on her second novel, participating in writing conferences, and serving on the leadership team of the Maryland Writers’ Association. Kerry was a single mother for many years to four great kids, all grown and successfully carving out their own unique paths. She and her husband live in the Baltimore metro area.

Find Ms. Peresta here: web, blog, Twitter, Goodreads

 

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Book Blast: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb (spotlight, giveaway)

becoming josephineBecoming Josephine
written by Heather Webb
published by Plume

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book: Readers are fascinated with the wives of famous men. In Becoming Josephine, debut novelist Heather Webb follows Rose Tascher as she sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris, eager to enjoy an elegant life at the royal court. Once there, however, Rose’s aristocratic soldier-husband dashes her dreams by abandoning her amid the tumult of the French Revolution. After narrowly escaping death, Rose reinvents herself as Josephine, a beautiful socialite wooed by an awkward suitor—Napoleon Bonaparte.

 

 

heatherwebbauthorphotoAbout the author: As a former military brat and traveling addict, it was tricky choosing a landing pad. At last, I settled in a rural town in New England. For a decade I put my degrees in French and Cultural Geography to good use teaching and coaching high school students.

Currently, I am a historical novelist and work as a freelance editor (For rates, check my EDITING page.) You may find me lurking at the popular RomanceUniversity.org where I contribute to their blog with editing advice, and at the award-winning site, WriterUnboxed.com, where I pose as Twitter Mistress (@WriterUnboxed). I also kick around a local college teaching classes called “Write to Publish” and “Crafting Your Novel”.

When I’m cross-eyed from too much screen time, I flex my foodie skills or geek out on history and pop culture. My debut historical novel BECOMING JOSEPHINE will be published by Plume/Penguin on December 31, 2013. (See my BOOKS page for more details.) I am represented by agent Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management.

Find Ms. Webb here: webFacebook, Twitter, Goodreads

giveaway

Pump Up Your Book and Heather Webb are teaming up to give you a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins December 16 and ends January 3.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on January 4, 2014.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blog Tour: The Ark’s Cargo by William W. Buisch (spotlight, guest post)

ark's cargoThe Ark’s Cargo
written by William W. Buisch
published by Trafford Publishing

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book: This memoir describes the challenges a young man faces in achieving his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Even a period of homelessness and limited resources do not interfere with his commitment to achieve success. And this is only the beginning! Soon he is faced with the challenges of working in the jungles of Panama, facing the ravages of a roaming black jaguar and the defenses of a native village against the entrance of man or beast. Then, how about Haiti, where the Tonton Macoute militias believe in instant justice, rarely valuing life, or Columbia, where the drug lords have absolute rule. As if that isn’t enough, consider working in the African continent, along the tales surrounding the first shipment of Charolais cattle to the United States or the many facets of working with the wild mustangs in Colorado. Each exciting adventure is told with suspense, drama, and humor! Enjoy!

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If you like romance, love, excitement, drama, adventure, exotic tales/tails and situational comedy, I have just the right book for you!  And then with the ever present animalistic behavior and the discussion of male prowness while being, a bit bullish at times I am sure you will appreciate and love this collection of real life stories.  Don’t be sheepish or cackle at the story line!  But rather, enjoy the horsing around and the discriptions of unusual harems and the sexuality of a semen collection facility.  All of this and more is included in the award winning book entitled, “The Ark’s Cargo: For the Love of Animals!

The memoir is about an International Veterinarian who worked in poverty stricken areas of the world including that of working in Haiti, the jungles of Panama, in Colombia in areas under the control of drug lords, in Mali, along the road to Timbuktu and in Kenya where the Maasi believe they own all of the cattle in the world.

The stories include efforts to improve the health and welfare of both wild and domesticated animals in order to improve the well being of the human populations living near by.  While the episodes may get a little wild at times, each adventure doesn’t necessarily achieve the success hoped for.  Nevertheless, the lessons learned and the relationships developed established long lasting effects of international trust and respect that will last for years to come!

     Having worked with the Wild Mustangs in Colorado and Nevada may be the highlight for some.  But facing the terror of a black jaguar, or being “attacked” by a Battalion of Troops, or facing a native with a shield and spear aimed at one’s heart; will often attract the attention of others.  And then there is the matter of the ever “screwing” Screwworm Fly; the experience of shipping cattle in a school bus; or the experience of being an unseasoned seaman in the North Atlantic.  All I can say is; this is only the beginning!  And as such, do enjoy!!!

About the author: Inspired by biblical passages and teachings, the author cherished his work as an international veterinarian. His passion for improving the health and welfare of domesticated and wild animals is most noteworthy. Working within diverse cultures, he observed vast health improvements in animals and, as a result, in people living nearby.

 

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DNF: Scion of the Sun by Nicola Marsh

 

Scion final coverScion of the Sun (The Solar Snatchers #1)
written by Nicola Marsh
published by Month9Books, LLC

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: I participated in the blog tour in November hosted by Chapter By Chapter. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)

Where I stopped reading: At 20% on my Kindle. 

Why I stopped reading: I just could not get into this book. The premise is something I would normally get in to, but it just didn’t grab me. I can’t even pinpoint one thing that turned me off. I just didn’t get that “read me now” vibe.

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What others have rated this book: According to Goodreads, the average rating for Scion of the Sun is 3.86. It looks like a majority of readers gave this book 4 stars. There were 3 4-star reviews on Amazon. At Barnes & Noble, the majority of the reviews were 4 stars. Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you may not.

About the book: When she least expects it, sixteen-year old Holly Burton’s unremarkable life is shaken to the core. A vision of the mother Holly never knew leaves her questioning everything she believes.

Eager for answers, Holly enrolls at a boarding school for highly gifted students in Wolfebane, New Hampshire. But things will get worse before they get better, as Holly accidentally transports to a parallel existence where she’s confronted by a dark and ancient evil.

With the help of Joss, a sexy alpha warrior sworn to protect her, and her new BFF, the equally swoon-worthy Quinn, Holly faces her fears and an unlikely adversary in a showdown that is worse than anything she could’ve possibly imagined …

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Blog Tour: The Runaway Daughter by Juliet Philip (spotlight, giveaway)

runaway daughterThe Runaway Daughter
written by Juliet Philip
published by SparkPress

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book: Kamada, Tara’s daughter lives in a world of magic. A world of gremlins, fairies, an airavata—spotless white elephant having four tusks and seven trunks and talking magical entities that shield her from a society where strange men act like they own the women walking down the street and where her mother sells her body in exchange for a life of luxury.

Kamada knows she doesn’t belong here. She is on a mission to escape the dirty streets of a gritty Bombay and her mother’s house which feels like a prison. Only her magical friends, a parrot astrologer who tells of the future and a neighboring family know that her dream is to leave home to study in America.

As she plans her escape, Kamada’s world is turned upside down when her mother reveals a secret and she must struggle to get an education she envisions.

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“This is an astonishing novel, at once a glimpse into the mind of a brave and imaginative heroine and a dizzying, gritty, and shockingly real snapshot of Indian city life. There is magic here, and ugliness, and the book’s triumph is in showing us how one unusual girl refuses to let the ugliness extinguish the magic.” – Sangu Mandanna, author of The Lost Girl

“Fans of The Kite Runner and Life of Pi will be riveted by Juliet Philip’s stunning novel about a girl coming of age in Bombay. Philip’s vivid descriptions will have readers visualizing Kamada’s journey every step of the way.”- Kristin Bustamante, SheKnows.com

 

JulietPhilip-authorAbout the author: Juliet Philip loves magic, faeries, and creating things. She believes in infusing each of her creations with all the positive energy that she can manifest.  Some of the things she likes to make are books, drawings, magic, and connections with people and the universe.

She leads a self-sustainable, simple (yet busy!) life and is so very excited to share her everyday magic with you all. The Runaway Daughter is her debut novel.

Find Ms. Philip here: web, Facebook, Goodreads

giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blog Tour: External Forces by Deborah Rix (spotlight, excerpt, giveaway)

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External Forces 7External Forces
written by Deborah Rix
published by Dime Store Books

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book: Treason, betrayal, and heartbreak.

A lot can happen to a girl between her first kiss and her first kill.

It’s 100 years since the Genetic Integrity Act was passed and America closed its borders to prevent genetic contamination. Now only the enemy, dysgenic Deviants, remain beyond the heavily guarded border. The Department of Evolution carefully guides the creation of each generation and deviations from the divine plan are not permitted.

When 16-year-old Jess begins to show signs of deviance she enlists in the Special Forces, with her best friend Jay, in a desperate bid to evade detection by the Devotees. Jess is good with data, not so good with a knife. So when the handsome and secretive Sergeant Matt Anderson selects her for his Black Ops squad, Jess is determined to figure out why.

As her deviance continues to change her, Jess is forced to decide who to trust with her deadly secret. Jess needs to know what’s really out there, in the Deviant wasteland over the border, if she has any hope of making it to her 17th birthday. Because if the enemy doesn’t kill her first, the Department of Evolution probably will.

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Prologue:

I haven’t slept in forty-eight hours.

It’s part of the Special Operations Assessment and Selection course, twenty-eight days of grueling work. The two days of no sleep are meant to disorient us, part of discarding our former selves. There are three hundred of us trying to figure out how to do what we’re told, when we’re told to, and how to do it correctly. Jay and I weren’t assigned to the same platoon, which was unexpected. I’m in the “civilian” platoon; we’re the ones with skills that don’t generally require brute force. I think Jay is in some kind of elite group because I haven’t seen him, I’ve only seen the G-men platoon. They are all about brute force; they’re the ones that opted for genetic enhancement at age thirteen without the supervision of the Devotees. But Special Forces is, well, special, so they have to prove they’ve got more than muscle and I’ve gotta prove I’ve got more than a quick mind.

If I don’t make it to Special Forces, my life expectancy in the regular army could be pretty short. And if I’m a complete washout, I’ll have to go to my assessment with the Devotees and they’ll find out about me, making my life expectancy even shorter. I seriously need to pass.

Zero dark thirty is when I have to haul myself out of bed in the so-called morning. My drill sergeant has been yelling at me for most of the past two days. The word “why” has been surgically removed from everyone’s vocabulary. Any individual hesitation in following orders means at least one private is getting smoked, if not the whole platoon, which usually means push-ups. We’ve done a lot of push-ups. I stare straight ahead as the drill sergeant walks by me and continues down the row of privates. I made the mistake of “eyeballing” him yesterday.

Never. Eyeball. A drill sergeant.

First Chapter:

Three weeks earlier – May, 2125

My mother thinks I’m a Deviant.

It’s the kind of thing that can really throw a girl for a loop.

The Devotees missed it when I was born, she said, but one day they would come for me. That was a few years ago, she didn’t know I was home when I overheard her; I got out of there lickety-split.

And it’s not as if I haven’t noticed the way my mother looks at me sometimes. If they had taken me when they had the chance, maybe her other baby would still be with her. I’m pretty sure that’s what goes through her head when she looks at me.

So the early assessment notice wasn’t entirely unexpected. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Lots of kids are called for early assessments and nothing happens; they show up at school the next day. Some of them are all excited because they got called to become a Devotee.

But some of them, well, they don’t come back.

I’m in the parking lot of my high school, West Liberty. It’s prom night, and I came with my best friend, Jay. He’s still inside; he likes this sort of thing. I haven’t told him the early assessment notice came this afternoon. I didn’t want to ruin tonight for him. The humidity has made my dress even more uncomfortable than it was inside. Jay owes me. At least he won’t mind if I go home; it’s not that kind of date.

A car door slams shut. There aren’t a lot of kids who can afford the fuel to drive their own car to the prom.

Uh-oh. Blake.

I take a step back. Blake is a popular kid, with the right look, the right home, the right pedigree.

Right.

Despite my attempts to blend in and stay in the background, Blake noticed me this year. When I didn’t respond like all the other girls do, I became his target.

His car keys jangle as he drops them in his jacket pocket. I stand still; maybe he hasn’t seen me.

“Hey, freak,” he calls as he comes around the blue pickup I was hoping would shield me. “Not leaving, are you?”

I smell alcohol as Blake backs me up against the truck.

His slicked-back hair smells slightly astringent, and his tongue slides over his upper lip as he looks me over from top to bottom. A shiver of revulsion goes through me. I can’t imagine what girls like about him. I can hear some voices, but they’re at the other end of the parking lot. It’s just me and Blake.

“I’ve got an early graduation present for you,” he says quietly. His face is close to mine, and I can see beads of perspiration on his forehead. Slick from the humidity, his hand glides down my bare shoulder, as if he’s entitled to touch me.

I don’t think I want a present from Blake.

I’m surprised when my hand moves. There is a wet sound as Blake’s head snaps back.

Blood spurts, and it seems as if time has gone into slow motion. The blood sprays toward me. I move my head to the side to avoid it, and watch it slowly drift by, suspended in the air.

I turn back to Blake and a thrill zips through me. Thick, glossy blood creeps down his chin from his mashed nose. His mouth is open in shock; blood colors his teeth and gums. He moves sluggishly, and each blink seems to take effort.

Drip by slow drip, the blood falls from his chin onto his shirt. Fascinated, I watch each droplet burst on his crisp white collar.

A wet plonk hits my forehead as a sudden coldness envelops me. The grin I’m shocked to find on my face sags. Fat droplets of rain release the pressure in the air and mix with the blood on Blake’s shiny shoes.

Hands to his face, he doubles over as time suddenly speeds up again. The rain pelts down now. I take two steps to the side and run. I hear a sob and realize it’s me.

What just happened?

It’s the morning after prom, and Jay saunters along beside me as we walk back to my house. I met him half way, as per my usual. His t-shirt is a bit wrinkled, but that’s on purpose, to go with jeans that are a little baggy in back. He’s over six feet and gets asked if he’s a model, which he laughs at, but I know he’s pleased. He could be quite popular if he wanted, but he hangs out with me instead.

Jay and me are Fifth Generation. We’re the ones born between 2100 and 2120. We found each other in the seventh grade. We were the last two kids left when we all paired up for gym class. He asked me why I wasn’t moving when we were supposed to be heading out to the field. I explained that I was trying to activate my special powers so that I could use them to transport me far away. Usually that kind of talk would send kids running, and they’d whisper that I must be a Deviant. But not Jay. He blinked at me, then asked if I would take him with me, should my special powers ever actually work. We’ve been best friends since, and tell each other pretty much everything.

“So, can you come to the thing?”

Uh oh.

I think I’m supposed to know what he’s talking about.

“Uh, when is it again?” I stall for time. What thing?

I push my hair behind my ears to help me think. It doesn’t always work. I have shoulder-length brown hair, parted on the side. My no-nonsense look is how I think of it. I still don’t know what the thing is.

“Wait. Jess. You’re joking, right?” Jay says with a laugh that’s on the edge of anger.

“I’m sorry.” I do my best pleading cringe. “I’m a little distracted.”

The early assessment and whatever that was with Blake last night are the distractions. I can’t quite believe I punched him, broke his nose by the look of it. He’s probably going to have two black eyes. But more than that punch, as surprising as it was, is the way time seemed to slow down around me. I want to say it was shock, or some kind of temporary fugue state, but that’s not what it was. Something happened.

“My mother’s thing, remember?” Jay practically yells at me.

“Oh, that,” I say with relief. Jay’s mother is hosting a party to celebrate his seventeenth birthday. That’s what the thing is. It’s going to be awful.

“We met up, what? Five minutes ago? And you’re already trying to drive me crazy?” He pinches my butt. Hard. He’s pretty worked up about this party.

I yelp and dance around. “No way. You are not blaming your crazy on me.” I give him a solid punch in the gut. “You had years of exposure to your mother before we even met.”

I go rock climbing, so my arms are strong. I’ve never needed to go to the gym to work out and “stay in shape” like some of the other girls do. I’m five feet ten and a half inches and the coach at school said I have an athletic body; he tried to get me to go out for track and field. I don’t like the idea of people watching me like that.

But hitting Jay is like hitting concrete. He doesn’t even notice my punch.

“And of course I’m coming, I already told you. That’s why I didn’t know what thing you were talking about. I thought you meant some other thing.”

“You didn’t actually confirm with my mother,” he complains, “and I know how you feel about people, in general.”

“I don’t have a problem with people, in general. Just the idiots,” I say. “And your mother.”

It’s kind of a toss-up, I suppose. A mother like mine, who actively avoids you and has already decided you’re not worth the effort, or one who pays too much attention and has too many expectations.

Jay nudges me as an unfamiliar dark-haired boy, a bit younger than we are, walks toward us. He doesn’t look right at us, but he flashes us two crossed fingers with his right hand.

I look up ahead and see them coming our way. Three Devotees. Jay and I mumble the greeting in unison, “Blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh, soul of our soul,” and we look down as they brush past us in their crisp white lab coats. It’s best not to be noticed.

The Devotees work for the Department of Evolution —everyone just calls it Devo— and they do the work of Creation in partnership with God. The Department of Evolution is under the direction of Secretary Galton. Basically, she’s God’s voice here on Earth. In the midst of the genetic revolution a hundred years ago, when the Genetic Integrity Act closed America’s borders, strict protocols for border biosecurity were instituted to stop genetic contamination. But we were still in danger of being overrun by the Deviants on the other side. Galton took control, ordered the fortification of our borders and gave the military the authority to do what they needed to do. Most people agree; she did what was necessary for our survival by relinquishing certain powers to the military to ensure our protection. Including the ability to create proprietary, genetically enhanced soldiers. The G-men. Since then, Galton has been leading us through the current stage of evolution, Regenesis, removing unwanted traits and improving and enhancing our best traits with the guidance of God.

In Social Biology class, Devotee Theresa taught us that we must all work for the common good, whether we like it or not. The less intelligent are more fertile and must be discouraged from breeding. Only those with desirable traits are allowed to produce the next generation.

There’s this section, practically a whole semester of tenth grade, where we studied pedigree charts, and DNA, RNA, proteins, and ribosomes. DNA is a double helix that carries the genetic information for all life. If only one part of one gene is wrong, it can create a whole generation of imbeciles, and that is not in God’s plan. Or in Devo’s plan. All Devotees have that DNA double helix tattooed on their forearm, as a constant reminder of their purpose in life.

That’s what the crossed fingers warning represents, the double helix tattoo.

We come up to the old Palace Theater. It’s been shut down for a long time, and the large sign that hangs out front lost its first A, so it says PLACE. Someone found a way in down the side alley, and now kids hang out there. They say, “Meet me at the place.” If they’re overheard or an adult sees a message, it only says “the place.” So far it’s stayed secret. I’ve heard they have illegal sim-seats in there, ones that can scramble the biometrics and mask what you’re doing.

“Jess,” Jay says as he slows right down, “something’s wrong.”

“It’s time to wake up!” a skinny boy with curly red hair yells. He’s standing on a wooden crate, and people are hesitantly milling about. “People are dying! Out there, children are starving, and you send them poison. People are sick, and you send them plagues. The blood of our blood is on your hands!”

There are gasps at his blasphemy, but a few people cautiously move toward him in morbid fascination. His eyes are wild, there’s spittle on his lips. Jay grabs my arm to tug me backward.

When the bullet enters the boy’s left temple, it’s as if he doesn’t know it’s there for a moment.

He’s about to yell, his mouth opens, his lips form a word he will never say. Then he topples backward, and I hear the terrible thud as his head hits the ground. The people closest to him quickly step back. No one screams, no one looks up to see the Guardian with the rifle on the roof across the street. Everyone wants to blend in.

Another Guardian comes toward the Palace. The Guardians work for Devo and protect us from Deviants. The stiff collar somehow makes his slightly rumpled, brown uniform shirt look crisp. The yellow double helix is on the front of his cap, and above his left shirt pocket.

“Move along,” he says. “It was just a Deviant.”

We all know that the plain fact of his yelling out crazy stuff in the street like that is proof of his deviance. It’s what happens sometimes, but it’s most prevalent during adolescence. The deviance manifests and people become dangerous, psychotic Deviants, intent on our destruction.

The Guardian rests his hand on the butt of the holstered pistol hanging from his belt and waits for the brown panel truck with the whooping siren we can hear approaching.

Jay swears at him under his breath and keeps hold of my arm. We hurry off with the rest of the crowd, wanting to move as far away as possible. I look back in time to see somebody dart in behind the Guardian, dip a hand in the boy’s blood, and leave an angry red handprint on the front of the Palace Theater. A red hand. I’ve heard the whispers but never thought it was true. As I stare at it, I bumble into Mrs. Yamoto, one of my neighbors. She walks fast, gripping her daughter’s hand tightly. Last year, I saw the brown truck with the double helix on the side parked in front of her house. The Guardians had come to take her son.

Wes.

That was his name.

efcbooktrailer 2

Deborah Rix 7About the author: Deborah Rix’s favourite position for reading a book is head almost hanging off the couch and feet up in the air with legs against the back of the couch. She’s been reading too much from Scientific American for research and ideas and needs to get back to some fiction. She has a long standing love of science fiction, some of her favourite authors include William Gibson, Philip K Dick, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Douglas Adams, Iain M Banks. A bit old school.

Deborah enjoyed a successful career in entertainment publicity, live music promotion and event management. Which means she slogged through muddy fields for music festivals, was crammed into concert halls with too many sweaty teenage boys and got to go to Tuktoyaktuk (that’s in the Arctic Circle) for a Metallica concert. She lives with her family in Toronto, Canada, where she is the proprietor of The Lucky Penny, a neighborhood joint in Trinity-Bellwoods.

External Forces is her first novel.

Find Ms. Rix here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube

giveaway
ACCELERATE YOUR POWER GRAND PRIZE
GRAND PRIZE: Winner will have a minor character named after them in Acceleration, the second book in The Laws of Motion Trilogy by Deborah Rix. PLUS: 1 (One) WakaWaka Power – a solar powered charger and light, 1 (one) Limited Edition EXTERNAL FORCES Black Ops Beanie, and 1 (one) signed copy of External Forces.
The fine print: Grand Prize winner will have a minor character named after them in the forthcoming book, Acceleration. The winner can choose a name other their own as long as it is mutually agreeable with the Author, Deborah Rix. That means nothing obscene, stupid or ridiculous, as decided at the sole discretion of the author. Winner agrees that the gender, race, physical description, sexual orientation or any other characteristics of the character are at the sole discretion of the author. Winner agrees that the character may suffer some sort of gruesome downfall or may be a heroic figure in the story, it is at the sole discretion of the author what the role of the character will be and to what extent the character will be part of the story. The author assures the winner that it will be a real character in the story and part of a sub-plot or major plot.
Terms & Conditions:
• By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
• One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the Accelerate Your Power Grand Prize.
• This giveaway begins November 4 and ends January 31.
• Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, February 3, 2013.
• Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!
ENTER TO WIN!

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efchappy

 

Review: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

skipping christmasSkipping Christmas
written by John Grisham
published by Double Day

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: My book group read this for December’s Christmas Party.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I always do. I looked at my copy and I first read it in 2001. I know I have read it almost every year since then.

The Kranks are your typical family who tends to go a bit over-the-top at Christmas. When Luther, the accountant, goes over the numbers, he realizes that with the money they spend on Christmas they could go on a cruise and still have money left over. So begins the Kranks attempt at skipping Christmas. It is a great idea, in theory.

Skipping Christmas is such a fun read. It is light, funny, quick, and always gives me a good laugh. I think at one point or another everyone thinks about skipping Christmas. After reading this book, you won’t want to. It just isn’t worth it. But this book will make you laugh out loud.

everyfree5

Would I recommend it: Absolutely!

Will I read it again: Absolutely. I’ve read it at least 10 times already, why would I stop now?

chrissysig

About the book – from Goodreads: Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded shops, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on the street without a rooftop Frosty the snowman; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences – and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that has become part of our holiday tradition.

 

 efchappy

Review: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

skipping christmasSkipping Christmas
written by John Grisham
published by Bantam Dell: A Division of Random House

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: It was recommended by someone in our book group. (probably Linda) *** Actually, Belinda, I think it was my suggestion! ***

Did I enjoy this book: 
I did.

There’s an old cliché about how one phone call can change everything.  Too bad no one told Nora and Luther, our main characters, about the old saying. If only they’d have known, their story might have been very different.

Nora and Luther are cute caricatures of typical Americans who get carried away during the last month of every year. With their nest recently empty of any reason to believe in Santa, miserly Luther decides Christmas is too expensive. He and his wife will skip it altogether and enjoy a cruise instead.

Almost immediately they realize that skipping Christmas is harder than just going along with tradition. However, our stubborn, but lovable protagonists simply dig in and get carried away with the idea of not getting carried away by the Christmas craziness.

And it looks like they’re going to pull it off until the phone rings and the laughs begin.

everyfree5

Would I recommend it: Absolutely not . . .  if you’re in public. When people see you sitting alone with your nose in a book giggling to yourself they give you funny looks and whisper to the person next to them. Or so I’ve been told. So don’t embarrass yourself. Read it alone and laugh out loud all you want.

Will I read it again: Probably.

belindasig

About the book – from Goodreads: Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded shops, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on the street without a rooftop Frosty the snowman; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences – and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that has become part of our holiday tradition.

 

efchappy