Archives for June 2014

Boost It Tuesday!

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Have you noticed that despite ALL of your Facebook “Likes” you are only “reaching” a very small portion of those followers? Does that bother you? It bothers us, and we want to boost each other up. Link up with Every Free Chance, Candace’s Book Blog, and Gin’s Book Notes for Boost It Tuesday.

 

What is Boost It Tuesday, you ask? Well, we want to help each other out. We are a great community of bloggers and authors, and we should be supporting each other. Share your Facebook address below, then visit the Facebook pages, like 3-5 posts, share or comment on 1 or 2 posts. That’s it. You don’t have to “like” the page if you don’t want to, just “like” some posts. Let’s help expand each other’s page reach. Who knows! You may find a new blog or author to follow along the away. Please be aware that any non-Facebook links will be deleted.

 

As an added bonus, Candace, Ginny, and I will be hosting a giveaway each week just to say thanks for the boost!


For this week’s giveaway, head over to the Candace’s Book Blog Facebook page and answer the question in the Boost It post!


Remember: Like, comment, and share!  Let’s all give each other a boost!


Gin's Book Notes
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Review: Human Instincts by Ioana Visan (Melissa’s review)

human instinctsHuman Instincts
written by Ioana Visan
published by Ioana Visan

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

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
When I realized a few pages in that the plot involves a good looking female scientist heading out to an isolated, all-male prison to hopefully find a way to repopulate the Earth, I feared I was about to find myself neck-deep in an, um, Adult Film. It wasn’t as bad as all that (though I’d still label the book as a B-movie sort of thing), but it wasn’t great. I’m not sure if there’s going to be a sequel — the ending was rather ambiguous — but if there is, I doubt I’ll read it.

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Would I recommend it: Not really, no.

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About the book – from Goodreads: Dr. Deanna Nichols is a geneticist searching for a cure to save the world. After the war nearly destroyed it by releasing an aggressive virus, it was the vaccine that killed the humanity’s chances for progress and survival. Deanna feels guilty because she has participated in creating the vaccine, and General Mackenzie never lets her forget that.

Their luck changes when they are contacted by the convicts held in a secret military prison hidden in the arctic desert. The C deviance criminals are willing to negotiate and provide unaffected DNA samples in exchange for supplies and a visit paid by the doctor herself. Suddenly there’s hope, so Deanna embarks on a dangerous journey to a grittier reality than she had expected. 

Could a woman alone save the world?

 

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Review by Melissa: The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead (Melissa’s review)

The Immortal CrownThe Immortal Crown (Age of X #2)
written by Richele Mead
published by Dutton/Penguin

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

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
Do you ever get to the end of a book that’s so good you find you’ve forgotten how to say anything except, “Holy Sh*t” over and over again?  Yeah.  This is one of those books.  It’s better than the first one.  It’s better than sleep.  It’s better than the epic Nutella-banana-marshmallow fluff camper pie my brother-in-law made me last night.  This is the first of Ms. Mead’s series that I’ve read, but you can bet I just added a whole stack of her other books to my TBR pile.  WOWZA.  She’s good.

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Would I recommend it: It’s awesome.  If my TBR list wasn’t quite so long, I’d read it again immediately.

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
 The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Vampire Academy and Bloodline series returns with the second installment in her acclaimed Age of X series.

Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion.

Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.

Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.

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Spotlight: Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by Zelda la Grange (giveaway)

Good Morning Mr MandelaGood Morning, Mr. Mandela
written by Zelda la Grange
published by Viking/Penguin Random House

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

About the book – from Goodreads: Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. It is the incredible journey of an awkward, terrified young typist in her twenties later chosen to become the President’s most loyal and devoted servants, spending most of her adult working life travelling with, supporting and caring for the man she would come to call ‘Khulu’, or ‘grandfather’.

Here Zelda pays tribute to Nelson Mandela as she knew him – a teacher who gave her the most valuable lessons of her life. A man who refused to be defined by his past, who forgave and respected all, but who was also frank, teasing and direct. As he renewed his country, he also freed Zelda from a closed world of fear and mistrust, giving her life true meaning. Now she shares his lasting and inspiring gifts with the world.

This is a book about love and second chances. It will touch your life and make you believe that every one of us, no matter who we are or what we have done, has the power to change.

About the author: Zelda la Grange was born in 1970 in Boksburg, South Africa, and began working as a secretary for the South African government in 1992. She joined the President’s office in 1994 as a typist and she became one of President Mandela’s three private secretaries in 1997. In 2002 she left government and became a full-time employee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Find Ms. la Grange here: web, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Review: Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead (Melissa’s review)

gameboard of the godsGameboard of the Gods (Age of X #1)
written by Richelle Mead
published by Signet/Penguin

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

Disclosure: I was asked to review the second book in the Age of X series by Penguin Publishing, and because I hadn’t read the first book yet I purchased and reviewed it without being asked to do so.  

Did I enjoy this book: 
It intrigued me.  Mead’s characters are addictingly complex; I’d have kept reading even if the story didn’t keep up. Luckily, the world of RUNA is just as exciting as its population, and I found myself in one of my favorite situations – way too attached to a group of fictional characters to stop reading for any reason (which is why, friends, my family had cereal for dinner last night).

Gameboard of the Gods is dark and delicious, and I can’t wait to read the next book.

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Would I recommend it: Yes.  Do it!

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.

 

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Review: Snow by Áine Greaney (Belinda’s review)

Snow“Snow”
written by Áine Greaney
published by Pixel Hall Press

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

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
Yes, very much.

“Snow” is a short story about going home. In this case, it’s to care for an elderly father with whom our main character has a tense relationship. She contrasts her life in New York against her former life in Dublin. Once she returns to her birthplace, all the old memories, old wounds, and broken relationships resume as if she’d never been gone.

“Snow” is a story many readers can relate to. It’s beautifully written in a stream of consciousness format. Stream of consciousness writing leaves a writer vulnerable to sounding chopped up. I think she makes it work in this story, however.

I read the short story three times and while I believe the snow as she contrasts the huge storms in New York against the light dusting in Dublin is supposed to be symbolic. I couldn’t figure out the symbolism. Maybe there wasn’t any. But I’ll probably keep looking for it until I either find something or make something up.

After my first read, I hated the ending. I was reading along, enjoying the story and it stopped mid-action. So I read it a second time. Again, the ending seemed harshly abrupt. By the third reading, the cold, pitiless reality of the ending really summed up her relationship with her father in the most heartbreaking way. I’m kind of sorry I got it because when I finally did, it made me sad.

I guess it’s a good thing this was a short story. I never would have re-read a novel three times. I would have given it a bad review and gone on to the next book. This story was worth the three reads. I’ll probably go in for a fourth to see if I can decipher the symbolism of the snow.

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Would I recommend it: Yes. It’s a wonderful story. If you have ideas on the snow symbolism, message me.

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About the book: Set in a one-street small town in the Irish midlands, Snow is a stylish portrait of Dolores, a young expatriate Irish woman who is suddenly summoned home from America to take care of her estranged and sick father. In her childhood home, Dolores wrestles with the push and pull between her new American life and her past life in Ireland. As she nurses her father back to health, she is beset by memories and caught between family loyalties and her own desires. 

Aine GreaneyAbout the author: An Irish native who now lives and writes on Boston’s North Shore, Aine Greaney’s most recent writing recognitions include a Pushcart nomination and selection as a  “notable” in Best American Essays 2013. Other writing awards and shortlists include the Hennessy Award for New Irish Writing, the Fish Anthology, the Rubery International Book Award, the Frank O’Connor Award, the Irish News Short Story Award and Indie Lit 2011. Aine is the author of four books (two novels, a short story chapbook collection and a book on writing). Her fifth book What Brought You Here? (a memoir) is a work-in-progress. In addition, her personal essays and short stories have been published in consumer and literary publications such as Salon.com, The Boston Globe Magazine, Forbes, The Daily Muse, Generation Emigration, The Irish Times, Writers Digest and Books by Women. In  addition to writing, she presents and teaches at various conferences, book clubs, arts organizations and schools.

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

 

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Release Day Launch: Back to December by Heather McCoubrey (Chrissy’s review)

Back to DecemberBack to December
written by Heather McCoubrey
published by Heather McCoubrey

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I did some editing work on this title. After that work was completed, I was asked by the author to review the book. I received a copy of this book for review purposes. Although I was compensated for the editing work, it in no way affected the outcome of my review. My review is my honest opinion of the book.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I did enjoy this book. It was an emotional read that had me hooked until the end.

Back to December tells the story of Anna and her journey through life. She had an abusive mother who disappeared when the time was right. Her father doesn’t seem to care all that much about her, and she lost her Gram, the one person who truly cared about her. She is a character that you want to root for, but sometimes you wonder if she really is as shy and timid as she seems. And at other times, you can see how easy it was for her to revert back to the scared little girl who craved her mother’s love and affection. Anna is going two steps forward and one step back throughout the book. I wanted her to keep moving forward, to keep getting stronger.

I loved Cooper. He was a great match for Anna; he is the type of guy she needs. He wasn’t over-the-top romantic. He didn’t make all the right choices. He had to think things through. He was real. His decisions were realistic. He fit his part. Her best friend, Niki, was a sister to Anna growing up. She could be brash, overbearing, and harsh. But she loved Anna, protected her, and wanted the best for her.

Back to December has it all. Romance, relationships, family drama, some steam, strength, heavy issues, laughter. It evokes so many emotions. I was happy, sad, giddy, angry, appalled, shocked, afraid, hopeful; you get the picture. There was a part toward the end that had me doing a fist pump.

All-in-all, a great read.

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Would I recommend it: Yes. I may suggest this one to my book group.

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
Thanks to an abusive mother and an absent father, Anna Blackhurst has only known the love of two people: her Gram and her best friend, Niki.

When Anna meets Cooper Reed in a smoky club, she’s immediately drawn to his good looks but isn’t prepared to open herself up to a relationship. As time passes, Anna finds herself falling in love with Cooper and she begins to rethink her future. Maybe, despite her childhood, she can have a happy-ever-after.

But when her mother is in a terrible accident, she again sinks her claws into Anna and Anna’s world is thrown upside down. Despite Cooper’s unwavering support, Anna walks away only to regret it immediately. In order to heal, not only herself, but her broken relationship, Anna must stand up for herself and accept that the only way she’s going to be happy is if she grabs ahold of it herself.

 

heather mccoubreyAbout the author: Heather McCoubrey is a native of Maine but having moved all over the U.S. as a child, she doesn’t sound like one. She’s been writing since middle school when a teacher taught her she could create her own stories instead of just reading them. That year she had some of her first poems published in the school magazine and from there she graduated to writing a full-length novel in high school (which has been collecting dust on her shelf ever since!). She is the self-published author of To Love Twice, her debut novel. Her second novel, Back to December, is scheduled to be released in June 2014 and the novel that’s been collecting dust on the shelf, Emily’s Choice, is scheduled to be released in October 2014. She also contributed a short story for A Kind of Mad Courage: Short Stories about Mothers (S)mothers and Others anthology. All proceeds go to the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation for AI disorders. Heather resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, Rex the chihuahua and Fatty the goldfish. When she’s not being super-mom and wife, she ekes out time to write, watch football, practice her British accent and dream of living on an island where it’s eighty degrees year-round.

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

 

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Book Blitz: More Than Music by Elizabeth Briggs (spotlight, excerpt, interview, giveaway)

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More Than MusicMore Than Music (Chasing the Dream #1)
written by Elizabeth Briggs
published by Elizabeth Briggs

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

About the book: Music major Maddie Taylor seems to have her life all figured out. She’s just finished her junior year of college, has a summer internship lined up with the LA Philharmonic, and plans to go to grad school to write movie scores. Only her roommates know she practices guitar every night and secretly dreams of a louder life. But geeky girls like her don’t get to be rock stars.

Tattooed singer Jared Cross has a new girl every week, but when he catches Maddie playing one of his songs, she attracts his attention in an unexpected way. His band needs a fourth member for The Sound, a reality TV show competition—and he wants her. Though Maddie refuses to be another notch on Jared’s bedpost, she agrees to risk everything for the chance to be a rock star.

Once on the show, Maddie discovers there’s more to Jared behind his flirty smile, and with each performance their attraction becomes impossible to ignore. When the show pressures Jared to flaunt his player image, they’re forced to keep their relationship secret, but Maddie can’t help but want something real.

As the competition heats up, Jared will do whatever it takes for his band to win, and Maddie must decide if following her dream is worth losing her heart.

More than Music Teaser 1

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“Do you know this one?” Jared asked and then started up “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones. It was one of those songs most rock guitarists learned since it was simple but a lot of fun to play. I reluctantly joined in when the chords repeated again. When he got to the chorus, I sang along too, and he grinned at me.

As the song went on, I loosened up and let myself get into the music with him, tapping my foot to the beat. We jammed on our guitars and grew louder and more ridiculous, not caring if the people in the rooms next to us complained. It was the kind of song you could easily be silly and over the top with, and by the end, we were bouncing around and belting out the words like we were drunk.

When it ended, I fell back on the bed and laughed, my pulse racing. Playing with Jared like this, banging on our guitars and singing at the top of our lungs without caring what we sounded like, it was different from playing alone or with the band or even in front of Julie and Carla. With one song, Jared had reminded me why I loved playing guitar in the first place.

He crashed on the bed next to me, and we stared at the ceiling as we caught our breath. After a minute, he propped himself up on one arm to look at me. “I’m impressed you could sing all the words to that one. Who knew piano player Maddie had this hidden punk rocker inside her?”

“No one. Before I joined the band, guitar was a secret, a guilty pleasure. Something I only did when I was alone in my room.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And yet you picked up my guitar at a party and played one of my songs like you had written it yourself.”

I covered my face with my hands and groaned. “I knew you’d bring that up eventually.”

“Hey, I’m flattered. Besides, it worked out in the end.” He trailed a finger across my arm, his touch soft, making me shiver. “I saw the real you that night, and just now I saw her again. That’s the trick. When you’re on stage, play like you do when you think no one’s watching.”

I dropped my hands to stare up at his face, so close to mine I could smell the shampoo he’d used. I wanted to kiss him so badly my body ached with it. It wasn’t just how his hair was still wet, framing his blue eyes and dark lashes, or the way the tattoos on his arms stood out against his otherwise flawless skin or how his voice made me forget everything but him. It was the Jared I discovered every time we were alone together, the one who somehow found the real me and set her free.

His hand cupped my face and his head dipped lower, lightly brushing his lips across mine. Little warning lights flashed in my head. What was I doing, lying on a bed with Jared, about to kiss him? This couldn’t happen. Not only because of what Dan had said about the producers and the show, but because I knew if I fell for Jared, I might never recover.

More Than Music Teaser 2

 

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Where did you get the idea for More Than MusicI went to high school for a short time with Adam Levine and Maroon 5, back when they were called Kara’s Flowers. They played at our school dances and I sat behind them in class and was completely in love with them. Of course, they had no idea I existed! Many years later I saw Adam Levine on The Voice, and had the idea of a geeky girl joining an up-and-coming rock band at her school and going on a show like The Voice, and the book grew from that.

What kind of research did you do for More Than MusicMost of the research I did was on the music in the book, because I really wanted to get that right. I play the guitar but I’m not great at it because I don’t have time to practice regularly. Still, I tried to learn many of the songs that Maddie performs so I could describe the way it feels when you’re actually playing them. I studied a lot of guitar tutorials, live performances by the original bands, and covers by other bands. I also watched documentaries on what it’s like to be in a band, especially in high stress situations. And of course, I watched many episodes of The Voice!

How did you pick the songs in More Than MusicI tried to pick songs that are well-known because I wanted anyone who is a fan of rock music to recognize most of them by name (especially since I couldn’t include lyrics due to copyright issues). I also chose songs that reflect what the characters are experiencing in the book, so that each song is like background music for what Maddie and Jared are going through.

The show in More Than Music is obviously based on The Voice, but were any of the characters based on particular celebrities? None of the characters were based on any particular celebrity, but many characters were loosely inspired by them. The most obvious one is Jared, who was named after Jared Leto, the singer of Thirty Seconds To Mars. Both Jareds are flirty, talented, and hard-working, but also pretty down-to-earth – and both have brothers in their bands, too. And the mentors on the show were inspired by lots of different musicians all rolled into one. For example, Dan was loosely based on Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Chris Cornell, but also had a little Adam Levine and Blake Shelton in him, too.

What’s next in the Chasing the Dream series? First up is Kyle’s prequel novella, More Than Exes, set at the Battle of the Bands that leads to the gig at the beginning of More Than Music. Next will be Hector’s novella, set a week after More Than Music at Comic-Con. After that, I’ll be writing books about Maddie’s best friends Julie and Carla, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for info on those, sorry!

 

Elizabeth BriggsAbout the author: Elizabeth Briggs is a full-time geek who writes books for teens and adults. She plays the guitar, mentors at-risk teens, and volunteers with a dog rescue group. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a pack of small, fluffy dogs.

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

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Blog Tour: Essence by Lisa Ann O’Kane (review, excerpt, giveaway)

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EssenceEssence
written by Lisa Ann O’Kane
published by Strange Chemistry

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

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: I’m conflicted.

I liked it (finished it in two days, actually), but I’m not sure if I like it because O’Kane’s written a good book, or if it’s because Essence reminds me a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Divergent. It’s nearly the same plot — girl leaves one culty-type lifestyle and joins another, only to find out things aren’t exactly what she expected. She falls in love with the lead hottie, makes some bad choices, and ultimately figures things out. The details are different — tightrope walks and drugs instead of high jumping and combat training — but I’m not sure they’re different enough. I like the whole “out of the frying pan into the fire” thing, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d read this story before.

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Would I recommend it: Yeah, sure.  If you’re a fan of Divergent you’ll get more of what you know you like.

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About the book – from Goodreads: Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she’s fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic — and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

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Javi and I cowered beneath a Monterey cypress while Ryder, Cody and Jett untangled something large and dark on the water-clogged grass before us. The rain had lessened to an intermittent drizzle, and the air smelled strongly of grass and eucalyptus leaves. Javi held a blanket over both our heads, and his body felt warm as it radiated heat beside me.

I felt unsettled. And nervous, yet privileged somehow, to be standing here under this blanket so close to a boy, smelling the scent of cooking spice that lingered, indistinct, on his skin. It wasn’t even a particularly good smell. It was peppery and earthy, a shade shy of unpleasant, but it was Javi’s smell. For some reason, the knowledge that I knew it made me feel like I’d been let in on some kind of secret.

Watch it, Autumn. Seriously. What are you doing right now?

“What do you think about all this?” Javi finally asked. He kept his eyes focused forward as Ryder straightened the corners of a large plastic tarp. “Think it’s true?”

I swallowed. “I don’t know. They certainly seem confident about it.”

“Yeah. They do.” A thoughtful expression crinkled his forehead. “I just… really want to get away from this place. So I’m not sure if that’s clouding my judgment or not.”

“Yeah. Me, too.”

Something hummed between us – fluttery and expectant – before Ryder cried, “OK, we’re ready for you guys! Do you want to try this or not?”

“Of course they don’t want to try this,” Jett said. Her unnaturally dark hair was plastered in wet rivulets against her forehead. “Not this time, anyway. But maybe next time. Guys, watch this. Slip ’n Slides are pretty much the most amazing inventions ever. We set them up all the time back home in the Sierras.”

She took a few steps backward and began kicking out of her boots. They sloshed and protested, but soon she was barefoot. The sight of mud creeping between her toes was so strange that I found myself staring.

She unzipped her purple sweatshirt, and then she was only wearing a thin, lavender tank top – which quickly plastered itself to her small breasts. Then her pants were gone, and she was standing serene and long-legged in the middle of the park, in nothing more than her underwear.

My jaw dropped, and Javi’s sharp inhale told me he was equally stunned by her lack of modesty. No, even more stunned, because his arms wavered, and the blanket in his hands dipped forward for a second. A cascade of water soaked my toes, but his forced breathing and suddenly flared nostrils told me he hadn’t even noticed.

I ignored a stab of – something? – that surfaced when I glanced at him. And then Jett was running, leaping forward and diving headfirst across the plastic tarp.

Her long body was soon soaked with rainwater, and droplets ran down her legs as she threw her head back and laughed. “See? Told you it was awesome!”

I tried to ignore the curve of her thighs, the narrow scoop of her collarbone, and the hardness of her nipples as she smiled expectantly at Ryder and Cody. But the truth was, I felt paralyzed. And uncomfortable. And strangely stirred by the sight of so much skin.

What is wrong with me?

It was just a few moments before Ryder and Cody followed her lead. Kicking off their shoes, they pulled their shirts over their heads and tossed their pants to the lawn.

My heart nearly exploded. I had never seen an undressed boy before, and now two stood right in front of me, completely at ease and unruffled in nothing but tiny cotton undershorts.

They had all these muscles. Their chests were knotted, and their waists narrowed into tight stomachs and rows of blocky lines that led… well… downward… to a spot below their waistbands where I could clearly see the outlines of something. Something that made me want to cover my eyes and meditate for three weeks; something that made me feel dizzy and sweaty and unglued and uncomfortable.

I cleared my throat and looked down, and guilt surged inside me at the realization that I was definitely not practicing neutrality right now. Watch it, Autumn. Seriously.

Javi shifted beside me, obviously uncomfortable, and then Ryder and Cody were flying. They laughed like twin missiles as they streamed across the plastic and collided with a crash into Jett. There was mud everywhere, and I couldn’t tell where one body ended and the others began. And then all three were up, racing toward the beginning of the slide again – laughing and pushing and shoving as they dove across the plastic a second, third and fourth time.

After the fifth time, Jett staggered over. Her breathing was heavy, and her tank top was smeared with long streaks of dark mud. Energy seemed to radiate from her, and her teeth gleamed unnaturally white as she leaned in and planted muddy kisses on both Javi’s and my cheeks.

“I’m really glad I met you guys.” Her breath was laced with the spicy, sweet scent of whatever had been in that flask. I tried not to jump when she touched me.

Ryder and Cody soon followed. They were both soaked and nearly unrecognizable, except for the wide grins that split both their faces.

“Wanna try, Red?” Ryder rushed forward and gripped my waist with two mud-covered hands.

I should have felt irritated by his proximity, by the familiar way he held me and by the mud that now smeared my dress with two identical pawprints. But I didn’t.

I felt shocked, for sure. And a little bit terrified. But the truth is, it didn’t even occur to me that I should push his hands from my sides. Instead, part of me actually wanted to lean into him. I had never been muddy before, and I had certainly never stood like this, staring into the eyes of a barely dressed boy in the middle of the night.

Ryder and his friends made me feel dangerous. And alive.

And they said they could prove the Essence theory wrong.

“I want to go to the Sierras with you.”

I didn’t realize I was thinking the words until they were already spoken.

essence Giveaway Banner TourAbout the author: Lisa Ann O’Kane is a young adult author and former vagabond who once camped out in Yosemite National Park for an entire summer, an experience that inspired her debut novel Essence.

Her background is in zookeeping and environmental education, and she has been kicked, cornered, bitten and chased by nearly every animal she has ever loved. She currently resides in Florida, and she is now a huge fan of shooting stars, indoor plumbing and keeping both her feet planted firmly on the trail.

Find Ms. O’Kane here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Thoughtful Thursday – Character Crushes – June 19, 2014

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Reading Is Fun Again created Thoughtful Thursday. Each week, she posts a new bookish thought that she discusses.

Everyone is welcome to join. 

 

June 19: Do you have character crushes? Are there characters that you want to be your BFF?

 

I’ve got a serious hankering to take Luna Lovegood, Mr. Bennet, Vin Venture, and Jesse Aarons, Jr. out for lunch.  I might also want to have drinks with Door (from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere) and, though she’s not a character so much as a caricature of herself, Anais Nin.

 

 

Be sure to check out the other posts on this topic at Reading Is Fun Again.

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