For readers around the globe. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Red-Blooded American Male

Wow.
Robert Trachtenberg is quite the photographer.
Red-Blooded American Male is everything that you would expect it to be, plus throw in a few Canadians and British celebs too!
The cover with Will Arnett sets the mood for the entire book. Trachtenberg has a unique way of capturing men in the most unconventional shoots. 
Imagine Seth Rogan with a baby lamb.
Neil Patrick Harris soaking up water in the tub.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatem doing what best buds do.
Paul Rudd being too sexy in bed.
John Stamos and Bob Saget dressed as women.
Mark Walberg and his kids shoved into a tiny car. 
Jimmy Fallon wearing Victoria Secret angel wings.
Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is in this book.
And I loved every minute of it. 
As part of his "personal project" Trachtenberg put together of book of these photos with stories behind each one of them. Each story tells about the celebrity, the shoot, and the overall mood. It lets us glimpse into Trachtenberg's mind and really understand what it means to capture a picture perfect moment. 

I would like to send a HUGE thanks to Blogging for Books for providing me a copy of Red-Blooded American Male!!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett

With the holidays coming up, I want you guys to imagine something.
Imagine you're running low on money and just want to make the holiday great, big meal, gifts for everyone. An opportunity arises for you to make a whole lot of cash, FAST. Just carry a little bit of cocaine and you'll make your family so happy when they see the money. 
Elaine Bartlett did just that and was sentenced 20-to-life for a drug bust she was barely a part of. 
Elaine and her boyfriend Nathan were set up by a guy named Charlie, or George Deets, if you will. Charlie didn't want one of his good friends to go to prison, so he promised a couple of police officers of a drug but that was going to go down. Resulting in the arrests of Elaine and Nathan.
This event is what starts Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett. 
Told in 4 separate parts, we follow Elaine through court, prison, clemency, and getting back on her feet. We follow her family who has to deal with their parents being in prison. Trust is broken, bonds are broken, and home will never feel like home again.
After 16 years incarcerated, Elaine finally was released on clemency. She couldn't wait to get home to her babies. But her babies were no longer babies. Her babies had babies!! Apache, her oldest, basically took over the parental role when she was arrested. He grew up into a fine young man. But Jamel... Oh Jamel walked a dangerous line with the law. Throughout the book he continuously finds his way back to Rikers Island. 
It hurts to read something like this where family is so broken....
But we are the ones doing this to our society.
I had to read Life on the Outside for my Community Corrections class.
This class has taught me so much! This book has even taught me more than I ever imagined.
Excuse the profanity, but we treat our prisoners like absolute shit. 
We're breaking families apart. We're creating a society where kids grow up without parents. Without parents, we're seeing more and more kids become entangled with the law and then wonder why our prisons are overcrowded??? 
OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE.
These people still need our help, we cannot turn our backs on them when they make a mistake. 
They are still people and believe it or not, they will be coming out of prison. They will be joining our society once again. Lets help them before it's too late.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Secret Language of Dogs

Being a dog mom is one of the best feelings in the world. You get to do life with your best friend, hang out and get to know all their little quirks. But why are they doing these things? The silly little things we see our dogs do are things that come natural to them. 
In The Secret Language of Dogs, Victoria Stilwell explains the inner workings of dogs and their brains. Dogs and humans have coexisted for an incredibly long time now, so we must know a little bit about our canine companions! But did you know dogs can have phobias, fears, emotions, and disorders? Dogs are far more complex than we give them credit for. Each dog learns differently, feel differently, and interact differently. 
This book taught me how to care for my pup in a completely new way. I rescued my mini poodle, Sophie, in January 2016. She needed so much help. Her hair was matted and dreaded; she was all of 5 pounds (not much bigger now, just healthier); you could see her ribs and irritation on her skin. But the worst part of all was that she was skiddish. Her socialization skills were so skewed that walking too loudly next to her would scare the beejezus out of her! But Victoria Stilwell knows there is still hope for dogs like this! By teaching dogs that there is at least one person that cares for them, they will not feel as insecure as before. 
So this book is for all you fellow dog lovers out there.
Dog Moms, Dog Dads, Fur babies everywhere.
I am so thankful that Blogging for Books provided me a copy of this wonderful book!
P.S. It's filled with dog pictures too!!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Teen Angst? Naaah...

A quasi-autobiography by Ned Vizzini.

BRILLIANT. 
Teen Angst? Naaah... started as an article in the New York Times when Ned was just a high schooler. 
Little did he know it would soon be published as his very first book.
This collection of short stories and essays follow Ned throughout his high school years and all the awkwardness brought on by being a teen. He talks about school, drugs, video games, girls, friends, fame, and so much more. 

It starts with Junior High and continues on to Post-High School.
What really makes this book enjoyable is that Ned was a teen that was actually experiencing these things in his everyday life. Things that we've all been through. It isn't a cheesy teen book, it's a feel good book for all the kids who didn't quite fit in. For all the kids who didn't know what to do with their free time. For all the kids who just wanted to be kids.

 But what hurt the most about this was reading Ned's words about adulthood. 
He fantasizes about being ID'd for alcohol when he's 30 years old because he looks so young.
He imagines how his mother would feel when he finally gives her grandkids.
He dreams of becoming an old man and living happily ever after.
Yet, at 32 years old he committed suicide in Brooklyn. 
Brooklyn, where his entire childhood took place.
It's hard to think that he had so much potential and so much to live for when he took his own life.
That was the hardest part, knowing he wouldn't get to see all that he hoped for. 

"Every day for the rest of my life I’ll remember my wonderful friend because he jumped, but his readers — including millions of them not yet born — will remember him because he soared." 
-Marty Beckerman

Rest in Peace
Ned Vizzini
December 19, 2013

Looking for other books by Ned Vizzini?
It's Kind of a Funny Story 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Carve the Mark

Okay, so I was lucky enough to receive an advanced readers copy of Carve the Mark which isn't set to come out until January 17, 2017!!

I don't really know how to review this book just yet. Part of me wants to scream and tell you "DON'T READ IT, IT'S SO SIMILAR TO DIVERGENT" but the other part of me is screaming "YOU NEED TO GET THIS". 

So, I'm torn.

Carve the Mark was told from 2 perspectives, Cyra and Akos. 
Cyra is considered to be one of the most powerful tools in her brother, Ryzec's toolbox. 
Akos was kidnapped and forced to serve Cyra by dulling the pain of her currentgift. 
Honestly, I loved the idea of the currentgifts. It created a whole new world for Veronica Roth to play in and I'm so happy she did.

The only way I know how to describe Carve the Mark is Divergent meets Hunger Games, meets The Giver, meets I Am Number Four, but it all takes place in space. There are so many different dimensions that I found from each of these series that Veronica Roth used to create planets Thuve and and Shotet. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that is was original, in an unoriginal way. 
I know this entire review was mostly opinion, but I don't want to spoil it for you guys!  

Looking for the rest of the series?

Looking for other books by Veronica Roth?
Divergent Series:

Friday, November 18, 2016

Spotlight: The Homecoming

Here is an exclusive first look at Chapter One of The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey!
Standing on the high school's lacrosse field in the town I never thought I'd go back to, I wait for my turn to do suicides. The sun blazes, and I take a drink from my water bottle and try not to chew myself out for landing here instead of getting to stay in Chicago with Uncle Dave. What would Leah think if she saw me now?
"Strickland!" Coach calls. "Line up."
It's not my turn to run again, and the unfairness starts a flame in my stomach, but I line up anyway. No way I'm gonna let Coach see he's getting to me. Or let the team know how out of shape I really am.
"Get your legs up!" Coach Gibson screams, and I think he's talking to me, but I can't be sure, because six of us are racing, and I'm losing. Bad. Guess the last few years of smoking weed hasn't helped my stamina.
Matt, a guy from my neighborhood who I used to play lacrosse with and one of two people Mom fought like hell to keep me away from, yells from the sidelines, "Wheels, Strickland, wheels." But he laughs as he says it, and I know he's just giving me shit.
I knew they'd go hard on me. Payback for moving away. For not playing lacrosse since fifth grade. For hanging with the druggies instead of the jocks. I'm one of the new guys on the team. An honor not usually given to seniors. So I'm treated to Hell Week like the freshman and sophomores. I don't mind. That's just the way it is.
Coach Gibson points to me. "Just Strickland this time."
Bodies collapse around me, and I hear their sighs of relief as I crouch in the ready position, sweat pouring off my chest and arms and legs while I wait for Coach's whistle to launch me like a bullet from a gun. I run from the end line to goal line. Goal line to end line. End line to box line. Box line to half field.
"Push, push, push," Coach yells.
I do what he says, push my body. Pump my legs. It sucks, but I do it, because with each stride, I feel my body taking over and my mind being left far behind. Maybe this time, Dad was right. Lacrosse is just what I need.
"Again." Coach points to me. He clicks his stopwatch, and I race again. He shakes his head as he documents my time. Like I don't know how bad I suck. Like I don't get how much persuading Dad must have had to do to get me on the team. Thinking of Dad fires me up to tap into my beast. I bend over. Try not to puke. Take a drink of my water and hit the line to run again.
I don't actually mind this part. Whenever I run full out, push my body past its limit, those are the times I'm not thinking of Leah.
"Again." I run my route one more time, my body failing a little more with each step. When I'm sure I'm going to fall to the ground, I make myself think of Leah. How I was supposed to save her. How I didn't. And that's enough to propel me forward. At the end of the run, I bend over, spit on the ground.
The other seniors and juniors start their Indian drill. They jog by us freshies, run their rhythmic jogging and even breathing, reminding me that they are warriors, and I am not. Matt yells out, "Damn, Strickland." Then laughs as I lose this battle and puke on the ground.
Brandon, another guy from the old team, joins in the hilarity. "We got a puker!"
I look at each exercise as a brick in some mythical wall I have to build before I can earn my walking papers. That makes it easier to face. One step. One drill. One minute. One hour. One week. One month. More than one year since my girlfriend Leah died. (Killed herself, I remind myself, careful to make the memory hurt as much as possible.)
Probably thirty minutes left in practice. Nine weeks till my first report card. Nine months of probation, ten months till I can graduate and move on with my life to California. The farthest place from my family I can go without getting a passport. Where I can cash in on my one and only talent: growing and selling weed. Legally there.
Finally, Coach calls us in. The juniors and seniors have already been sent to the locker room ahead of us, so he's only addressing us wannabes. "You guys didn't totally disappoint me today, so tomorrow, you can bring your sticks."
Some of the guys pump their fists. I don't even have the energy to do that.
"Now hit the showers and head home."
I'm turning to leave when Coach calls me over. "Hey, John, I wanted to say I'm sorry about your brother. And your girl."
The dragon roars. Flames engulf me. People just can't let an accident like Ryan's go, even after all these years. But Leah? That's too much. They didn't even know her. I don't want to share her tragedy, her life, her memory with anyone.
"You've had some tough breaks for sure."
Dad and his stupid mouth.
Coach shifts his stance, crosses his arms- his clipboard with all my times now clutched to his chest. Numbers that for sure say I'm not good enough to be on any lacrosse team- definitely not the varsity team at East Coast High. "I don't want you to get discouraged. Coach Stallworth told me about you. Said you used to be a hell of an athlete. You can be again, I'm sure."
His state feels like he's trying to figure out what I'm made of. I want to tell him not to waste his time. I'm happy to tell him exactly who I am. I'm the kind of guy who doesn't mind taking whatever physical punishment he wants to dish out. But when it comes to my emotions? Coach is going to have to understand that that shit's off-limits. Emotions are for idiots. Feeling crap doesn't change what happened. Good weed works so much better. Hell, even bad weed beats feeling any day.
I gulp more water. Spit on the ground. Look him square in the eye. "Thanks, Coach. That all?"
I guess Coach picks up on my noncommunicative status, because his eyes go back to his clipboard. "See you tomorrow."
 I give him a nod and jog to the locker room so Coach'll see I've still got a little juice in me, even after everything.
***
Last one in the locker room also means last one out. I sit on the bench, lean over to close my locker as Matt and Brandon head for the parking lot.
"Later," Matt throws over his shoulder, the er reverberating as the door shut behind him.
Matt and I've got some history to get over. It was his big brother, Pete, who hit Ryan. Seven years later and that still hangs between us. Not that it was Pete's fault exactly. When it come to those things, fault hardly even matters. It's called an accident for a reason.
Besides, Pete hasn't exactly gotten off scot-free either. Some people might think becoming a high school dropout, working pizza delivery while feeding a major drug and drinking problem is not as bad as Ryan's deal, but I say that nobody has a right to judge. I stayed in touch with Pete even after I moved away. Nobody understands that, but it was like he was the only one who got the nuclear fallout of that accident.
I'm stuffing my sweaty clothes into my bag and zipping it up when I hear my cell chirp. I grab it, hoping it's one of Pete's connections I reached out to today. Someone who can help me with my little sobriety problem.
But it's not Pete's connection. It's Uncle Dave. Hey, just checking in. Hope you're settling in OK.
I text back. Yeah. Fine.
How was practice?
Somehow, that kills me. That he's still checking in on me. Uncle Dave. Not Dad or Mom. Him. This warm spot inside me lights a little every time he calls or texts.
He texts again. When someone you love dies, it changes you. Remember that.
He means Leah for me. My perfect big brother for Mom.
After Ryan's accident, Mom didn't change so much as reduce, like the sauce that Uncle Dave made for my filet the last night I was living with him. He explained how a little fire under you can intensify whatever's inside you. After the accident, Mom got more intense for sure. Driven. Focused only on Ryan. With me, I just got more angry. Just the way I am, I guess.
Uncle Dave always tries to turn simple moments into lessons. Not preachy ones, just different ways to look at life. His texts aren't meant to pry or annoy, but I can't help wishing he hadn't. I screwed up the best living arrangement of my life, the one Dad said I needed after I told him about Leah. But I killed the whole deal by hanging with a bunch of thugs and acting like a punk.
There's a mass of activity around me in the locker room that doesn't include me. Kids banging fists. Giving each other shit. Nodding when others ask if they've got a ride. Then it hits me: I'm completely ride-less.
The guys on the team have picked up on my not so subtle I want to be left alone signal. I know teammates are supposed to male bond or some shit like that, but that's not what I'm here for. I'm here to finish probation. Live according to Mom's rules. Then get out and go away. And never come back.
I text Uncle Dave. I'm exactly the same jerk I used to be.
He texts. Nice try.
As the door bangs shut for the last time, I realize my being a selfish ass and ignoring everyone means I'll have to walk home. Great work, Johnny. I almost laugh out loud at what an idiot I can be.
The phone chirps again. This time it's Dad. Picked up your Jeep from the compound. Cost me a fortune. Show me you've earned it and I;ll bring it to you.
Always pushing. Uncle Dave is so much cooler than Dad is that it's hard to believe they;re even brothers.
The door opens, and a janitor leans in. "You done?"
"Yeah. Sorry." I look around the locker room one more time. I am completely alone, even on a team of thirty kids. Classic me.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Spotlight: Unnatural Deeds

Here is an exclusive first look at Chapter One of Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog!!

Foul whisp'rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.
Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1
Duchess- Police are investigating an apparent homicide after a body was found in a wooded area early Tuesday morning. Authorities have not yet released the name of the victim of the person(s) they are questioning in connection with the investigation.
-Central Maine Express Times

Is this thing on?
Ha-ha, I'm a laugh a minute.
Anyway, Andrew. It's me. Vic. I wanted to say I'm sorry. Sorr for... Well, where do I begin? I--
cough, cough, cough.
Sorry. I'm losing my voice. Something bitter is stuck in my throat, and the air is so cold it's hard to breathe. This place reeks of decaying leaves, of the musty, damp rot of dead things returning to the earth.
There's something soft and wet under my head. I hope it's not brain matter. I can't raise my arms to check because of the way I'm twisted here. I think my leg is broken. Or maybe my back? Damned if I can twitch a muscle without pain screaming its way up my spine.
Somehow I managed to pry my phone out of my jacket pocket and prop it on my chest, but you know how spotty service is around Duchess. All charged up with zero bars- not that I'd be calling anyone but you. I wish I could see the background photo of you and me. It'd keep me company. You know the one. It's the picture of us at the Renaissance Faire when we were fourteen. We're both grinning like mad and you have your arm around me, claiming me as your own. It's probably the only time you were ever comfortable with yourself. With us. I miss that.
Anyway, you know how glass half-empty I am, Andrew. I wanted to record a note for you on my phone. You know, in case I don't get out of here. 
Of course I'll get out of here. I wouldn't be lucky enough to die here. But maybe this'll be easier than telling you in person.
Cough, cough.
 Where should I start?
It's so quiet. You must have left me, Andrew. But you'll come back. You always come back. You were scared, maybe, when you saw what you'd done. And now I'm all alone here.
I don't really know where "here" is. I think it's a drainage ditch on the side of Route 11. The last thing I remember is rushing down the road near the Kissing Woods, feeling powerful. Immortal. Like everything I wanted could be mine. For an instant, I felt like he could be mine.
But that's not possible now.
I know what people have said behind my back in hushed whispers. They call me delusional. But I'm not. I know what is real and what isn't.
No, wait.The last thing I remember is you with that fierce look in your eyes. You sure surprised me. Who knew that my boyfriend, quiet, unassuming Andrew Quinn, that that in him?
I thought I knew you inside and out, but... I was wrong.
I guess I should explain.After all, I have no other pressing engagements. And you're overdue an explanation, aren't you? The tall pines can be my witnesses. They can pass judgement as they see fit.
I'm not sure when it all began, but Lady M said it best. Hell is goddamn murky.
Whoops. Blasphemy. Yet another sin to add to my act-of-contrition list.
Looking back, you knew when I started to change, didn't you, Andrew? You know everything about me. It was that very first day of school, the day my life began to unravel.
So here are the gory details. It won't be enough, but I'll try. You can;t know it all until you've smelled that intoxication cinnamon-and-clove scent, read those texts that elevated even the blandest words to poetry, and seen those heart-stoppingly blue eyes.
His eyes. Even now, I can see them with perfect clarity. I've seen them in my dreams, in the sky when the sun hits the clouds just right, and in my morning breakfast cereal. It all goes back to him. Every single thought always winds right back to him. Always. Always. Always.
It's no use. I want him out of my head. I wish I could scrape him out of my memory. I don't want to live with him etched in the deepest part of me. I don't want to die thinking of him.
But I know I will.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Spotlight: One Was Lost

 Check out the first excerpt of One Was Lost by Natalie Richards!

No one said anything about rain in the brochures. Not that there were brochures. There was a handwritten sign-up sheet in the cafeteria, followed by permission slips recycled from ghosts of field trips past. I'm not really sure why I was expecting a world-class production. Must be the director in me. I stumble under the weight of my pack, sloshing through a puddle. Cold water oozes through my boots and socks. So much for Mr. Walker's plastic ponchos keeping us dry. I guess after six straight hours of rain, dry is relative anyway. "I hope you packed your dirty clothes in the plastic bags I handed out last night." Mr. Walker booms from the front of the line. "They might stink, but they'll be dry." The other girls cringe a little at the idea- all except Ms. Brighton, our younger, cooler teacher guide. She's very Zen about these things, nodding along in her crystal earrings and mud-dyed Gaia Mother T-shirt. I'm in the last half of the group, behind Jude with his ever-present earbuds and imperious gaze. Since I'm five-two, the back of his poncho is about all I can see, but it's better than looking at Lucas. Anything's better than looking at Lucas.
Even behind me, I can feel him. Looming. Everyone's tall measured against me, but Lucas is ridiculous. He towers. If there were actually a sun to be found in this Appalachian monsoon, his shoulders would cast a shadow you could hide two of me in. I have no idea what you have to eat to grow like that. Corn? Eggs? Small children?
I trudge onward, slowing to shift my backpack. The right strap is digging a painful trench into my shoulder, and I can't find a way to move it. My poncho slips with the effort, and a river of icy water slithers down my back.
"Holy crap!" I say, arching in a futile effort to escape.
"Keep moving, Spielberg," Lucas says behind me.
I grit my teeth and walk on. If I respond, I might have to look at him, and I've worked very hard not to do that. I've not looked for sixty-two days. It's a pretty good track record. I'm not going to wreck it just because he ended up on my Senior Life Experience Mission. At the last possible minute, no less.
"Is this really top speed for you?" he asks, sounding like he's on the verge of a laugh.
I stare at the line of backpacks and ponchos ahead of me, resisting the urge to snap back at him. I need to be the bigger person here. It's not like I don't know why ge's picking at me.
"Still sticking with the silent treatment?" he asks. "Gotta give it to you, you're committed. Slow-moving as shit but committed."
OK, I'm bigger personed out.
I whirl around. I shouldn't- I know I shouldn't-but the words blurt out. "Newsflash, Lucas! I'm moving as fast as  I can. Not all of us are loping around with giraffe legs like you, so if you're in such a rush, feel free to move ahead.:
He steps closer, and it happens. I see him. Really see him.
Fricking crap.
He tilts his head until his face is visible inside his plastic hood. How does he do it? He's just as wet and miserable as the rest of us, but somehow, he's owning the hell out of a poncho that makes me look like I need a zip tie and a trip to the curb.
I should walk away, at least look away. Lucas is all sharp lines and hooded eyes, and I should have learned my lesson. Because standing here brings me right back to that night on the porch. My ears go buzzy with the memory of crickets singing and the backdrop of the cast party inside. My face tingles because I remember other things too- his scratchy jaw and soft mouth and my heart beating faster than it ever should.
My gaze drifts to his smirk and leads pools into my stomach. That's what I'm really mad about. It's not his teasing of the rain or anything else. It's the fact that he turns me into the same fluttery mess  I was all summer. He still turns me into my mother, and I hate it.
I try to move away, but he catches the edge of my poncho- keeps me facing him.
"Huh."
I cross my arms. "Huh, what?"
"Look who suddenly remembers me," he says softly.
"Don't."
"I won't," he says, though his grin needs a parental advisory label. "I didn't then, did-"
Lightning flashes, bright enough that we both jerk.
One Mississippi.
Two Mississ-
The sound that follows is like the sky being torn in two. It ends with a bone-deep rumble that rattles the ground and bunches my spine. I close my eyes and take a breath, yoga-slow. It doesn't cleanse anything, so I try another.
Across from me, Lucas is searching the sky. I take the opportunity to turn and bolt ahead on the trail. Not that there's anywhere to go. Away from his is good enough.
 I plow into Jude's back in my eagerness to escape. He spares me one millisecond of irritation, and then he's back to pretending we're all part of the scenery.
The trail widens here, or maybe the forest is less dense. Who knows? It gives me enough room to move past Jude until I'm next to Emily, my tent mate for the last two nights.
Emily looks back at me- a sparkle of dark eyes under her poncho- and her mouth twitches. Is she smiling at me? That's new.
"Some trip, right?" I ask.
She ducks her head. And that's as close to a conversation as we've gotten. I sigh. We have three more days of awkwardness in the woods. Three. More. Days.
"Hold up." Mr. Walker is ultra-alert. "Everybody stay right here. Don't move." 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Brown Girl Dreaming

After picking this book up several times, I finally decided to read it. And I am so glad I did.
Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical telling of Jacqueline Woodson growing up as an African American girl in the South. It delves into so many social issues from the 1960's and 1970's but even the issues we're having in the world today. Jacqueline was raised the same way as everyone else and deserved to be treated that way. She watched Angela Davis on television every day and held her fist high. She wrote about what she wanted, needed, loved, and missed. She wrote about what she knew, and what she didn't know she made up along the way. This little girl didn't realize she had a hard life. But she knew what she had shaped who she was. With family dying, incarcerated, or just gone, she had to continue with her life. Jacqueline Woodson definitely created a perfect little world for her childhood past. 
Brown Girl Dreaming may be a children's book, but it truly is a book for all ages. 
Written in poetry form, the words literally fly off the page. 
The words form little melodies that will stick with readers for long after they close the book.
Grab a copy and read her life.
Might as well add her newest book, Another Brooklyn, to your "to-read" list too! I know I will be. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Spotlight: Labyrinth Lost

Check out an exclusive first chapter of Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova!!

The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.
Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, "Alejandra, don't go downstairs when the Circle arrives."
But  I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom's Circle usually brought cellophane-wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.
When my sisters started snoring I threw off my covers and crept down the stairs. The floorboards were uneven and creaky, but  I was good at not being seen. Fuzzy, yellow streetlight shone through our attic window and followed me down every flight until I reached the basement.
A soft hum made its way through the thin walls. I remember thinking I should listen to my mom's warning and go back upstairs. But our house had been restless all week, and Lula, Rose, and I were shoved into the attic, out of the way while the grown-ups prepared for the funeral. I wanted out. I wanted to see. 
The night was moonless and cold one week after the Witch's New Year, when Aunt Rosaria died of a sickness that made her skin yellow like hundred-year-old paper and her nails turn black as coal. We tried to make her beautiful again. My sisters and I spent all day weaving good luck charms from peonies, corn husks, and string- one loop over, under, two loops over, under. Not even the morticians, the Magos de Muerte, could fix her once-lovely face.
Aunt Rosaria was dead. I was there when we mourned her. I was there when we buried her. Then, I watched my father and two others shoulder a dirty cloth bundle into the house, and I knew I couldn't stay in bed, no matter what my mother said.
So I opened the basement door.
Red light bathed the steep stairs. I leaned my head toward the light, toward the beating sound of drums and sharp plucks of fat, nylon guitar strings.
A soft mew followed by whiskers against my arm made my heart jump to the back of my rib cage. I bit my tongue to stop the scream. It was just my cat, Miluna. She stared at me with her white, glowing eyes and hissed a warning, as if telling me to turn back. But Aunt Rosaria was my godmother, my family, my friend. And I wanted to see her again.
"Sh!" I brushed the cat's head back.
Miluna nudged my leg, then ran away as the singing started.
I took my first step down, into the warm, red light. Raspy voices called out to our gods, the Deos, asking for blessings beyond the veil of our worlds. Their melody pulled me step by step until I was crouched at the bottom of the landing.
They were dancing.
Brujas and brujos were dressed in mourning white, their faces painted in the aspects of the dead, white clay and black coal to trace the bones. They danced in two circles- the outer ring going clockwise, the inner counterclockwise- hands clasped tight, voices vibrating to the pulsing drums.
And in the middle was Aunt Rosaria.
  Her body jerked upward. Her black hair pooled in the air like she was suspended in water. There was still dirt on her skin. The white shirt we buried her in billowed around her slender legs. Black smoke slithered out of her open mouth. It weaved in and out of the circle- one loop over, under, two loops over, under. It tugged Aunt Rosaria higher and higher, matching the rhythm of the canto.
The the black smoke perked up and changed its target. It could smell me. I tried to backpedal, but the tiles were slick and I slid toward the circle. My head smacked the tiles. Pain splintered my skull and a broken scream lodged in my throat.
The music stopped. Heavy, tired breaths filled the silence of the pulsing red dark. The enchantment was broken. Aunt Rosaria's reanimated corpse turned to me. Her body purged black smoke, lowering her back to the ground. Her angles cracked where the bone was brittle, but still she took a step. Her dead eyes gaped at me. Her wrinkled mouth growled my name: Alejandra. 
She took another step. Her ankle turned and broke at the joint, sending her flying foward. She landed on top of me. The rot of her skin filled my nose, and grave dirt fell into my eyes.
Tongues clucked against crooked teeth. The voices of the circle hissed, "What's the girl doing out of bed?"
There was a scent of extinguished candles and melting wax. Decay and perfume oil smothered me until they pulled the body away. 
My mother jerked me up by the ear, pulling me up two flights of stairs until I was back in my bed, the scream stuck in my throat like a stone.
"Never," she said. "You hear me, Alejandra? Never break a Circle."
I lay still. So still that after a while, she brushed my hair, thinking I  had fallen asleep.
I wasn't. How could I ever sleep again? Blood and rot and smoke and whispers filled my head.
"One day you'll learn," she whispered.
Then she went back down the street-lit stairs, down into the warm red light and to Aunt Rosaria's body. My mother clapped her hands, drums beat, strings plucked, and she said, "Again."

Friday, September 2, 2016

This is Where it Ends Celebratory Giveaway!

So guys, remember when I raved about This is Where it Ends
Looks like I had good reason to, because it is now a #1 New York Times Bestseller! 
Not to mention it's been on the bestseller list for 25 WEEKS! 

To celebrate, Sourcebooks Fire is offering a HUGE GIVEAWAY of 25 book bundles, with ONE GRAND PRIZE WINNER receiving a $25 Barnes & Noble giftcard AND a book bundle! 

Giveaway starts today, September 2 at 2pm (ET) and will run until September 9 at 12pm (ET)!!

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!

Good luck everyone!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

I don't even know how to begin reviewing this book. That's how much I hated it. So please beware that this review will be incredibly biased. Apologies in advance.
 For starters, when I started reading this book I was reading the point of view as a man. Surprise, main character is actually a very dull girl.The story starts with her thinking of ending things with her boyfriend Jake. BUT for some reason, she has agreed to go on a road trip to meet his parents and see his childhood home. 
The first third of the story is told in the truck on the way to Jake's parents house. Everything they talk about is SO philosophical if you will. Jake knows oodles of annoying science facts and randomly shares them with her. Whereas she spends a lot of time in her head wondering why she agreed to this trip, knowing that she wants to end things (which let me tell you that exact phrase is used in the book at least 600 times). 
SO, they finally make it to Jake's parents house. Jake makes a show of touring the outside of the home, where the barn is, the horse, oh and the dead pigs that just hangout in the pig pen. Once they go inside, she wanders around (I don't know about you but being in someone house for the first time does not grant you access to every single room in the house for you to peep your nose into). His parents keep telling her how great it is that he's found someone like her; how she keeps him grounded. Then randomly at dinner, his mother says she hears the voices too. At the end of the visit, his mother seems genuinely scared for them to leave. 
Last third of the book we are back in the truck and headed home when Jake decides to stop for ice cream in the middle of a snowstorm. Ya, okay good idea.
When their lemonades start melting he decides to drive down a very deserted road to throw the cups away at a school he remembers. When they decide to just make-out in the truck a little, Jake supposedly sees the janitor watching them from inside the school, freaks out, and takes off to show him who's boss. 
Once Jake doesn't come back, she decides maybe she should go in and find him. This sends her on a massive hunt to find Jake, but she's not going to find him because there was no janitor, it was just Jake trying to trap her in the school so that he can hunt her...

**BEWARE SPOILERS BELOW:**

The ending of the book was so terrible. So inaccurate. So absurd. So confusing. So ridiculous. At literally the turn of a page, she begins acting as if she and Jake are together hiding from the janitor. Except she and Jake are not together. When she finds him, he says that he needs her help ending things. Then he hands her a metal wire and she stabs herself in the neck and makes the decision to end things right then and there. BUT Jake is actually the one that stabs himself in the neck. The girl was never real. Jake was never real. The only person that died is the janitor in the school. Who SUPPOSEDLY when he spent hours bleeding out from his neck wound, he began writing this story and Jake and the girl were the main characters.

THIS BOOK HAD SO MUCH POTENTIAL. But it was awful. I think I should have ended this book before I even started it. So read at your own risk, but I highly recommend not wasting your time.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Can You Survive the Cabin?

Can you survive The Cabin?

Starting on August 30, Sourcebooks Fire will be releasing a series of questions every Tuesday and Thursday at different locations.

Here's how you can play:
1. Take a look at the schedule above.
2. Go to the location on the specified date.
3.Find The Cabin graphic with the question.
4. Solve the question.
5. Head here to submit your answer for that day's question.
6.Complete all 8 questions and be entered to win a $500 Visa gift card!! Sourcebooks Fire will also be drawing a winner each week who will win a Sourcebooks Fire book bundle!!
7. Make sure to submit all answers by September 25!
CAN YOU SURVIVE THE CABIN? IS NOW FINISHED.

I have also been provided with yet another excerpt from The Cabin to get you guys stoked about it's release!! 

Straightening his back, Blake walked around the double bed and gripped my arms. "Well, that sounds like a plan. I definitely don't want you feeling horrendous all day so...." He slid a hand down the bare skin of my arm until he reached my hand. With a little tug, he towed me out of the room and downstairs.
We stopped at the bottom of the wooden stairs to assess the damage. Bottles, shot glasses, and snack wrappers littered the coffee table and floor around it. There were most empty bottles of alcohol than I remembered. No wonder we felt rough.
Blake stood beside me, his chest pressed right up against my back and a hand on my hip. I liked the contact a lot.
"This explains the drilling in my head," he murmured, leaning down to nip my neck. Spinning around, I slapped his arm playfully, laughing. Bad move. My head throbbed with the quick movement, but Blake's boyish grin made my heart swell.
Another bad move. Don't get too involved with him. When we went home, Blake would be back off to his dad's, and who knew when I'd see him again. If ever.
 A door upstairs opened and closed. I stepped around Blake to watch Megan hobble down. She looked as good as I felt. "Kenzie?" she whispered. "I think I'm dying."
Laughing quietly, I replied, "You too, huh?"
"Bloody hell. How much did we drink? she muttered, leaning heavily on the banister as she made the final steps downstairs. She hadn't drunk much, but it was still more than she usually did.
"We're getting old," I joked. "We can't handle it anymore."
Kyle was sprawled out on the floor with his mouth wide open, breathing deeply, his jet-black hair stuck out in all directions like a bird's nest. Aaron was curled up beside him, sleeping in the fetal position. They clearly couldn't handle the amount of alcohol either. They were both in the same place Blake and I had left them last night.
Blake watched us with a curiosity I didn't quite understand. I had a feeling he didn't have many close friends, which was a shame, because beyond that I-don't-care attitude, he was a great guy. I thought- from what I'd seen, anyway.
"Where're Josh and Courtney?" Megan asked.
I shrugged. "I don't hear anyone else up, so maybe they're asleep still. God, Megan, I need asprin."
Kyle's eyes flicked open and widened as he saw how close Aaron was to him. I felt so rough I couldn't even laugh when he shoved him away, making Aaron wake with a gasp.
Aaron looked up, dazed. "What?" He rubbed his eyes and winced. "Christ!"
"I'm making tea. Everyone in?" I asked, receiving grunts in replace of a yes and a look of disgust from Blake. I smiled, remember what he's wanted before. "Coffee for you, Blake."
I walked into the kitchen; my head was swimming, and everything looked a little fuzzy. A sea of red flashed in front of my eyes. I blinked hard.
You're losing it.
Opening my eyes again, I stared at the floor. It took me a few moments to register what  I was seeing. Bright, thick blood stretched from the middle of the kitchen to what looked like behind the island.
I gasped. There was so much blood. My heart raced and the ends of my fingertips tingled. The metallic smell filled my lungs and made me gag. My body turned cold and started to shake. What....?
"Courtney?" I whispered, not even hearing my own voice over the ringing in my ears. 
Oh God, don't pass out Mackenzie.
Someone came up behind me. "What the..." Kyle whispered, stepping around me. "Shit. Stay back, Kenz."
Blake was right behind Kyle. "What's going on?" he asked,
Against Kyle's orders, I stepped around the kitchen island and my stomach lurched. "No," I cried, pressing my hand over my mouth as bile rose in my throat. Courtney and Josh lay on the floor in a pool of crimson blood.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Once in a Town Called Moth

Anneli and her father flee to Canada from a tiny community in Bolivia. Anneli becomes Ana and starts her new life, one without her mother. Lena went awol 10 years before, leaving Ana and Miloh to fend for themselves, leaving Miloh with a crime he needed to outrun.
Leaving Colony Felicidad was hard for Ana. Canada made her feel like an outcast. Toronto was not as pretty as everyone made it out to be. She didn't have a phone, computer, car, or friends. She couldn't even leave the house for the first few months. Life was hard in Toronto. Once enrolling in school, she realizes how much more there is to life outside of their small Mennonite community back home. She has opportunities here. She has friends. She has a mother to find. 
Lena ran when the going got tough for Miloh. She couldn't bear having to live in the community she no longer associated herself with. She needed a fresh start, even if that meant leaving her child behind. When Ani and Lena finally rekindle, it's tough for both of them to accept each others new lives. 
There's so much Ana doesn't know about her mother. Yet she finds things that she didn't know about her father as well. BUT I'm not sure Trilby Kent actually knew how to tie their story together. Towards the end, we find out what Miloh did. We find out why he and Ana needed to run. But what we don't ever find out is why Lena ran from them. We also never find out why Miloh was looking for Lena... This was by far one of the most annoying parts of this book. 
B U T keep in mind, I was sent an advanced reader's copy of Once in a Town Called Moth. I'm hoping that in the finalized version we have a few more answers than we have right now. 
Big shout out to Penguin Random House and Tundra Books for sending me this arc!
Mark your calendars, Once in a Town Called Moth hits shelves September 6th! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

RIVEN GIVEAWAY


GIVEAWAY TIME!

I am giving away 5 SIGNED FIRST EDITION copies of Riven, courtesy of author Jane Harris!!

GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED

How to Enter:
Follow my Instagram page, areaders.diary, and tag at least one friend who may be interested!
For a second entry, screenshot and share the photo of Riven on your Instagram page with a shoutout to A Reader's Diary!
For those of you who don't have an Instagram account, send me an email to jessicalynn1784@gmail.com saying you would like to enter the giveaway!

At the end, I will randomly select 5 lucky readers to receive copies of Riven!!

GOOD LUCK! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Noticer

This book is a little out of my comfort zone, but I still enjoyed every second of it.
Andy Andrews is from Orange Beach, Alabama, a little town right next to the little town that I grew up in. 
Jones is a noticer. He notices the little things that we often overlook. He sees the pain we feel, the happiness we have, and how our perspectives truly shape who we are. Jones is there for a second and gone in a flash, but he is always there when you need him most. Throughout the book, we see several different peoples perspectives change when Jones walks into their lives. We see Andy himself find his way out from under the pier. We see married couples rekindling their love for each other. We see business men realize how their decisions affect everyone around them. We see men become fathers and teens become friends. All because their perspectives changed. 
The story was perfect. Jones became the light these people needed. He lit the way for their path and gave helpful advice along the way. 
But what I loved most about this book was that I knew all of the landmarks, all of the people, and all of the honesty behind Andy Andrew's words. The way he portrays the people in OBA and GSA are spot on. Jenny from China Dragon, really does run around with the phone in her hand. Mark from UPS always has a smiling face, even after driving in the summertime heat all day. And Willow, oh Willow. This wonderful woman lived right down the street from me, but I never knew what she was going through. I was a child when we met. I'd like to think my sister and I helped change her perspective every time we spent time with her.
This book really did give me such happiness. I want to say that Jones is someone that we all know. I want to say I've even run into him. But we will never actually know. The man had an eye for the bigger picture and knew how to share it with everyone he met.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Excerpt of The Cabin!

I am pleased to announce that I will be giving away an advanced reader's copy of Natasha Preston's new book The Cabin!

Giveaway will run: August 15st - August 19th  
US and Canada Residents ONLY!!
 
How to Enter:
Follow my Instagram page, areaders.diary, and tag at least one friend who may be interested!
For a second entry, screenshot and share the photo of The Cabin on your Instagram page with a shoutout to A Reader's Diary!
For those of you who don't have an Instagram account, send me an email to jessicalynn1784@gmail.com saying you would like to enter the giveaway!
GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

At the end, I will randomly select one lucky reader to receive the ARC of The Cabin!
I have also been provided an exclusive excerpt from the book, check out Chapter One below!!

Friday, August 7

“Do you have everything you need, Mackenzie?” Mum asked, watching me stuff clothes in a bag.

“I think so. We’re only going for two nights anyway.” Two painful nights of dealing with Josh.

“Remember to leave the address and phone number on the fridge.”

“I don’t think the cabin has a landline, but I’ll leave the address. I’ll get cell reception out there, apparently, and I’ll let you know when we arrive.”

She nodded nervously and gave me a weak smile.

“Mum, I’ll be fine.”

“You’re spending the weekend with someone you don’t like.”

“No, I’m spending the weekend with Aaron, Courtney, Megan, and Kyle. It’s just unfortunate that Josh will be there too.” If I could have uninvited him, I would have.

But the cabin is his parents’, so that didn’t seem too likely. Or reasonable. He’d invited us all to spend the weekend at his family’s cabin since school was out. The UK had finally realized it was summer, and next year, we’d all be going our separate ways for university.

“If you need to be picked up early…?”

I shook my head. “Thanks, but I’ll be fine. There’s no way I’m letting him ruin a weekend with my friends. Anyway, I need to go.”

“I’ll drop you off at Joshua’s.”

“No, it’s fine, Mum. I can walk.” I grabbed my bag and swung it over my shoulder. “See you Sunday night. Love you,” I said, kissing her cheek.

“Love you too, sweetheart. Call if you need anything.”

“I will,” I replied.

Josh only lived a two--minute walk away, so it wouldn’t take me long. I slammed the front door behind me and headed down the path. The weather was superhot, it being the beginning of August, and I was glad I’d opted for shorts and a T--shirt.

When I got to Josh’s, everyone was outside his house, cramming bags into cars. Seriously, we were going for two nights, but it looked like Courtney and Megan had packed for a week.

“Kenz!” Courtney shouted, jogging toward me. Her red ponytail swayed and her green eyes danced with excitement. She was the only person genuinely happy about this trip.

Taking a deep breath, I pushed away every ounce of doubt I had about this weekend and smiled. “Hey, Court. Is everyone ready?”

“Almost. Josh will be back soon,” she replied with a goofy smile. “Don’t look like that,” she added when I grimaced at his name.

Whoops, she caught me. “Sorry. I didn’t mean that. It’s…nice of him to invite us to his folk’s cabin.”

She took my lame apology with a smile. “He wants things back the way they were.”

Did he have a time machine so he could go back and not say those awful things about my friends? Could he take back what he’d done to me? What he still was doing to me?

Josh might be trying to make amends for the past—-if we were even to believe it was genuine—-but we weren’t going to forgive him so easily. Some hurts aren’t that easy to get over, and I couldn’t forgive someone who wasn’t sorry and hadn’t changed their behavior. Courtney had forgiven him already, of course, but she never could see what a waster her boyfriend was.

I lifted my eyebrow.

“Mackenzie, please,” Courtney said, sighing as she pushed her bangs out of her eyes. “He’s trying, and it will mean so much to me if you’ll try too. Please?”

I groaned and my shoulders sagged. “Fine. I’ll play nice.”

Two nights, that’s it. You can do that.

“We all will,” Megan added, stepping beside us. “Right, guys?” Aaron and Kyle nodded along, agreeing to put their differences to the side—-for the weekend at least.

“Where is Josh anyway?” I asked.

“Picking up his brother.” Courtney rolled her eyes. “Blake wanted to see him again, so Josh invited him this morning. Technically the cabin belongs to Blake too, so there’s not much anyone can do to stop him from coming with.”

“Oh,” I muttered, not sure how I felt about a stranger joining us. We didn’t know Blake, and if he was anything like Josh, the weekend was going to be a nightmare. “So the estranged brother is coming.” Great. This trip keeps getting better and better.

I had seen Blake before, on about two occasions, when his parents were doing a kid swap, but I’d never spoken to him. Blake had moved away with his dad after their parents divorced. Josh stayed with their mum. The two boys didn’t spend much time together while they were growing up, which was probably a good thing for Blake.

Courtney pushed her bangs aside again. They never stayed put, so I didn’t know why she didn’t just cut them shorter. “They’re hardly estranged.”

They rarely saw each other; I’d call that estranged. “Why is he crashing his brother’s party?” I asked.

“He’s lonely?” Kyle offered, making a sad face.

Courtney leaned against Aaron’s car. “No, he just wants to spend time with his brother. They both want to.”

If Blake was like Josh, I would be coming home early for sure. I didn’t even want to breathe the same air as Josh, so I sort of hoped Blake was an idiot too, then I would have an excuse to leave that wouldn’t hurt Courtney’s feelings.

The warm air blew my long chestnut hair in my face. I brushed the strands from my eyes just in time to see a metallic--black Mitsubishi Warrior—-the only car I recognized without reading the logo because it was Kyle’s favorite subject—-pull up beside me.

Here we go…

Josh was sitting in the passenger seat and his brother was driving. They both had the same dark--brown hair and blue eyes, but apart from that, they looked totally different. Josh definitely didn’t inherit the looks. Blake snapped every ounce of drop--dead gorgeous and left nothing for his younger brother. Lucky for Blake.

I looked away and walked around to Aaron’s car, wanting to put as much distance between me and Josh as possible. Even just seeing his face made me want to punch him, especially after his demands. Courtney was smart, but when it came to him, she was as thick as a post.

Josh got out of the car. “Hey, guys. You remember my brother, Blake?”

Megan shook her head. “Nope, but hi.”

Blake walked to the front of his truck and casually leaned against the hood as if he was bored. “Hey,” he said with a nod.

He wore chunky black boots, dark jeans, and a black jacket, making him look mysterious and maybe a little dangerous. His dark hair stuck out in all directions in a messy style that looked like he didn’t give a crap—-which I assumed he didn’t. His bright--blue eyes scanned the group, checking us out one by one.

His gaze was intense and it was like he saw everything. I didn’t want him to see anything about me. “Let’s just leave already!” I said, opening the car door and climbing inside. The sooner we got there, the sooner we could get back. Damn, I sounded like my parents on Christmas Eve when they would try to get me to sleep as the clock ticked dangerously close to midnight.

But at least I would get two nights adult free to spend with my friends. That was something to look forward to for sure.

“Err, Mackenzie,” Courtney said. “You’re in the car with me.”

My face fell. I knew what that meant. “What?”

She stepped forward and leaned in the car so we could talk privately. “You’re coming in the car with me, Josh, and Blake.”

“Yeah, I’m not,” I replied.

“Please? Look, I know you’re mad at him, and I understand why, but will you try? I really think you two need to spend the car trip together to work through this.”

“We really don’t, Court.”

“This weekend is going to suck if you’re pissed at Josh the whole time.”

I frowned. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like him though, so why was I the only one being forced to make the extra effort? “His brother’s weird,” I whispered as if that was going to change Courtney’s mind.

“Blake is harmless.”

I’d run out of excuses. Sighing in defeat, I replied, “All right! But if he pisses me off by making his usual stupid comments, I’m switching cars.”

Courtney held up her hands. “OK, OK. Thank you.”

“We’re taking Blake’s car then?”

“Yeah, they must have decided to bring Blake’s instead. I can see why.” Courtney was a car person; she knew all the different types and models by sight. I couldn’t even tell if something was wrong with one—-unless the engine actually fell out.

“Blake’s driving?”

“His car, so I guess.” She shrugged, watching Josh with a loving look that made me want to shake some sense into her.

“I call shotgun,” I replied. If I had to be in the same car, at least I wouldn’t have to sit next to him. I was aware that I was behaving like a child, but I didn’t care. Josh had crossed a line, and I wasn’t going to forgive him. Actually, Josh had crossed about a million lines.

I got in the passenger seat before Josh had a chance to say or do anything. He could shove it if he thought I was moving. Blake smiled a little awkwardly and started the car. He didn’t ooze confidence, but he looked like he didn’t care what anyone thought.

“I’m coming in your car too,” Kyle said.

Courtney narrowed her eyes. “You’re with Aaron and Megan.”

“There’s space with you for another, isn’t there?”

“Kyle, five in one car and two in another is stupid. No one wants to be cramped in the back.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Kyle, just get in Aaron’s bloody car,” Josh snapped, shoving past him. “Pathetic arsehole.”

I ground my teeth. Did it really matter which car he rode in?

The answer was no.

Blake and I hadn’t spent any time together, so we quickly fell into an awkward silence while we waited for Josh and Courtney to get in the car. I bit the inside of my cheek and twiddled my fingers. Say something to him! We had never actually spoken to each other before. That was about to change. We had a forty--five--minute car ride to a remote part of the Lake District ahead of us.

“Why do you hate Josh?” he asked.

I was surprised by his bluntness. It was no secret that I didn’t like Josh, but I didn’t expect his brother to come straight out and ask. “Um, because he’s a bloody idiot.”

Blake’s eyebrow rose, and he pursed his lips. Finally, he nodded once. “Yeah. OK then.”

“You don’t see him much, do you?”

“Not really. Growing up, my parents couldn’t get their shit together long enough to schedule proper visits for us. Most of the time, when they finally got around to it, they swapped us over for a day or two. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen my mum in the last twelve years.”

My heart ached for him. I couldn’t imagine what he went through as a kid. He must’ve missed his mum. I would have; my mum was the person I went to with every problem—-well, almost every problem. “That’s really sad.”

He lifted his shoulder and let it drop. “That’s how it goes sometimes.”

“Yeah, but…” I shook my head. I couldn’t imagine not seeing my mum every day, as crazy as she drove me sometimes. Blake must have felt abandoned by his mom if she never made the effort. Maybe that was how Josh felt about his dad? Wow, Josh and deep feelings. That was strange to think about… Everything I’d witnessed of his character had been shallow and selfish.

Josh and Courtney got in the car, and I zipped my mouth. The atmosphere turned tense, like it always was when Josh was around. He knew I wished he wasn’t with Courtney after all of the horrible things he’d said about our friends Tilly and Gigi. He loved that Courtney wouldn’t ditch him for treating her friends like rubbish. Bastard.

“Oh, I don’t mind you sitting up front with my brother, Mackenzie,” Josh said sarcastically as he climbed into the backseat.

I clenched my fists. Don’t let him get to you.

“My car, Bro, and I’d rather sit near a pretty face than your ugly mug,” Blake responded.

Smiling to myself, I grabbed my bag of lollipops and offered one to Blake. I should probably have been annoyed at the “pretty face” comment, but that was overshadowed by him calling Josh ugly. Blake took an orange lollipop—-my favorite—-and gave me a wink.

“Not sharing, Mackenzie?” Josh asked.

I took a deep breath, resisting the urge to jam the plastic stick into his eye. “Sure,” I replied, holding out the bag. He took two, probably to annoy me, so I said nothing.

“OK, everyone, please play nice,” Courtney whined. “This weekend, parent free, is going to be epic, so will you all make up?”

“You know I don’t have a problem with any of them, babe,” Josh replied.

“Whatever,” I muttered, clenching my jaw.

I watched Blake as he drove. His eyes slid over, occasionally catching me, but he didn’t say a word. I found myself wanting to get to know him, but I wasn’t sure why. He would go home after the weekend, and I’d probably never see him again.

Still, Blake was gorgeous, and I was drawn to him.

We reached the cabin without bloodshed, so I was pleased with my self--control—-so far. Courtney kept Josh in check by flirting with him and getting him to listen to music. I couldn’t wait until she saw through him and his crap. I was going to make sure I had a front--row seat when she dumped his arse.

“This is it?” I asked, looking out the window up at a huge, two--story cabin. It could easily house about ten people.

Blake cut the engine and smirked. “What did you expect? The Ritz?”

“This is amazing. I didn’t think it would be this big.”

“Three years ago, I would have made some sort of sexual innuendo,” Blake replied.

“All grown up now, are we?”

“Nah, that was just when I noticed Josh trying to act the big man and I realized how lame those comments actually sound.”

I grinned and got out of the car. I liked Blake and his painfully beautiful face. Maybe this weekend wouldn’t be so miserable. Kyle and Aaron bundled bags out of the trunk and chucked them on the ground. Halfway to the cabin I guess. Kyle grabbed his phone and started to film, like he usually did. He wanted to do something in the film industry, and I think he’d be awesome at it.

“Smile, Kenz,” he said, pointing it in my direction.

I stuck out my tongue and Aaron made an obscene gesture.

“Nice, Aaron,” Kyle said sarcastically.

Megan stared up at the enormous house. You could tell from the overgrown plants and faded window frames that no one had been here in a while. Josh and Courtney had spent all last weekend here getting it ready, but they’d just cleaned the inside.

The cabin was set in a clearing; the woods surrounded it on three sides, and a gorgeous lake ran along the front of the property. The scenery was beautiful. I didn’t understand why Josh’s family didn’t use it more often.

“You happy to be back?” I asked Blake as we walked to the front door at a snail’s pace. He dragged his feet like he didn’t really want to be here.

Blake shrugged and grunted. “Just here for the booze.”

Of course you are.

Josh unlocked the front door and turned to us. Kyle rolled his eyes, guessing what was coming, and I tried not to laugh. We—-eighteen and however old Blake was—-were about to be given rules.

“Courtney and I have worked hard getting the cabin ready for you all, so I would appreciate it if you would respect the place and not leave it looking like a Dumpster.”

I bit my tongue. How pompous. None of us were going to trash the cabin and he knew that. Courtney stood beside him like the lady of the manor, eating up the attention. I loved that girl, but she needed a good slap to knock some sense into her.

Josh opened the door and walked in ahead of Courtney. Gentleman my arse! And Court didn’t even care; she followed him like a little lapdog.

“I’ll grab the rest of the bags,” Aaron said, heading back out of the door.

I walked in and my jaw dropped. Wow.

The cabin was beautiful, albeit a little dated. The view of the lake from the family room window was to die for. The sun shone down on the water’s surface, making it glisten. There was a large fireplace that I could have stepped into.

Kyle walked behind me, capturing the view with his phone.

“I’m going to explore. Anyone wanna come?” Megan asked, bouncing up and down like a toddler. Her short, overly hair--sprayed bob barely moved an inch. She had already dropped her bag by the bottom of the stairs, which was about as much unpacking as she ever did.

I handed a case of beer to Courtney, who was organizing the food and booze in the kitchen.

“Don’t fancy getting lost in the forest, thanks,” I replied.

Aaron dropped a load of bags on the floor. “I’ll come.” He walked out before anyone could stop him and make him help. I watched them walk into the woods. The bright midday sun shone down on Aaron’s white--blond hair, making it glow. They both looked happy to be away, and I was going to try and do the same.

“Going for a walk,” Kyle said, shaking his head at them as he lowered the phone. He held up a six--pack in his other hand. “Crazy. Hey, Blake, where’d you want the beer, man?”

“In the oven,” he replied dryly.

I tried not to smile but failed miserably. I wasn’t sure what Blake was doing here. He didn’t seem to have a good relationship with Josh, and he didn’t seem to be making much effort.

Kyle’s mouth thinned in a tight smile, and I could tell he was fighting the urge to say something back. Instead, he narrowed his eyes and spun on his heel. Shaking his head, he walked away. Kyle was a sensitive soul and was never very good with anyone making fun of him.

Then, Blake and I were left in the living room. Alone again. I pursed my lips, not knowing what to say. Should I even say anything? The silence was awkward, but it didn’t seem to bother him at all. Nothing seemed to affect him. Blake was cool, calm, and almost robotic. But I wasn’t naive enough to think that nothing got to him.

“So…did you come here much when you were a kid?” I asked to fill the silence.

He looked over his shoulder, half smiling at me. “You’re asking if I come here much?”

“No, I asked if you came here much.” There was a big difference.

Blake turned his body so he was fully facing me. I don’t know if he did it to be intimidating, but it was. He had this cockiness about him, but it wasn’t off--putting like Josh’s.

“We came here a lot before our parents separated. After the divorce, the place stayed empty, until now.”

I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry.”

“Why? People divorce all the time.” Before I had the chance to say anything else, he walked outside. There was definitely a lot more to him than he let people see.

“Beer, Kenz?” Kyle asked from behind me.

I turned and smirked. “You know it’s eleven in the morning, right?”

“Yeah,” he replied, tilting his head, waiting for me to explain.

I smiled and took a beer from his outstretched hand. “Never mind.”

Kyle and I sat on the sofa while Josh and Courtney messed around putting things away in the kitchen. “You think we should help?” I asked.

“I offered. You know what Josh is like.”

Control freak. We wouldn’t do it the way he wanted. How many different ways were there to put food in a cupboard? This was “Josh’s” place though, and we were being made very aware that we were just guests. “I’m going to need a lot of alcohol to get through this weekend,” I said. I’d promised my parents no drinking, obviously, but we were all parent free and determined to make the most of it. They think we’re swimming in the lake, cooking out, and roasting marshmallows around a campfire. We are, so it’s not a total lie, but there will be drinking.

Kyle nodded in agreement and raised his bottle. “Let’s keep it coming, then.”

I clinked the top of my bottle against his and took a swig.

Kyle and I had just finished our thirds when the rest of the group joined us. “Wow, this looks fun,” Aaron said, grinning at the bottles of alcohol spread out over the coffee table.

“Yep, Kyle and I thought we should have it all at arm’s reach. Cheers,” I said, raising my half--full bottle.

“Well, if we’re doing this, we’re doing it right. I’m well up for getting wasted,” Aaron replied, picking the Absolut Vodka. “Everyone’s in, no backing out. Josh, shot glasses, my man!” My smile grew. I wasn’t a big drinker, especially after last time, with the accident, but I wanted to have stupid, immature fun tonight.

“Err, guys, I don’t want anyone throwing up in my house,” Josh said in his annoying, stuck--up, I’m--better--than--you way. I had a very sudden, very childish urge to drink until I puked.

Everything he wanted, I wanted to do the opposite. I knew that was dangerous though. I knew I couldn’t—-and I wasn’t stupid enough to do it—-but I damn well wanted to.

“Lighten up, mate, come on. We all want this to be a good weekend,” Kyle replied.

Josh glared and his jaw tightened. He didn’t like to be challenged. “I am relaxed,” he growled through his teeth.

Aaron lifted a freshly poured shot glass and raised it to Josh, his own little in--your--face, before knocking it back. I smiled and did the same. And then I regretted it because Josh’s eyebrow arched and I knew exactly what he was thinking.

And he wouldn’t hesitate to open his big mouth. But before he could say anything, Aaron spoke. “A toast,” he said, raising a bottle this time. “To a killer weekend.”

We lifted whatever we had in our hands. “To a killer weekend!”

Mark your calendars, The Cabin hits shelves September 6th!