SNEAK-A-PEEK: Racing Hearts: Compilation by Laura Lascarso + Giveaway!!

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Racing Hearts: Compilation

Laura Lascarso

Published October 26th 2015 by Leap Books, LLC

YA/NA > Contemporary | Romance

 

Purchase links: Amazon | BN 

 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

Book One:

Eighteen-year-old Jesse Copeland learns of a local car race sponsored by his father’s nemesis, Shep Bradley, and the prize money might be enough to keep his family from losing their home–if he can win. Brooke, Shep’s daughter, is also aiming to compete, with or without her father’s approval. She’ll do whatever it takes to persuade Jesse to make her car race ready. Both are driven, both are risk-takers, and soon it’s more than engines getting fired up. Jesse tells himself their relationship is strictly business, until it isn’t. Can two star-crossed lovers overcome a family feud as old as Ford vs. Chevy, or will the competition become too explosive for these racing hearts?

Book Two:

See you at the finish line… With the big race weeks away, eighteen-year-old Jesse Copeland struggles to keep his head in the game and his hands off his smoking hot competition. But when Brooke reveals a secret that could destroy Jesse’s family, it sends him into a tailspin of self-doubt. Jesse must pull himself together if he hopes to have a shot at the prize money, save his home, and win the heart of the girl he loves. Can these two competitors overcome the sins of their fathers or will a shadowed history destroy their dreams forever?1

[tour schedule

 EXCERPT:

RH1 two scenes from Brooke’s perspective, first-person

By Laura Lascarso

Not many things held my attention, but that Cobra did, especially speeding down the highway in broad daylight like it was the Daytona 500.

I adjusted my rearview mirror to get a better look. From the shape of the hood I guessed it to be a ‘69 and I might add that the driver was easy on the eyes as well. He pulled up next to me and revved his engine, which roused me from my afternoon daydream. Maybe it was a tease or maybe it was a challenge. There was only one thing I could do—I revved my engine back.

“Nice ride,” he called out, checking me out with just the right amount of discretion. I appraised his lines—powder blue paint job polished to a high shine and not a scratch or dent on her. I appreciated a man who took care of his car. That Cobra was a beloved machine.

“Back at ya, Hotshot,” I called. “Want to race?”

He tilted his head and seemed to give it some thought—for an entire half-second.

“I don’t race girls,” he called. I smiled even though I’d like to slap the smug grin off his face. A lot of guys make the mistake of underestimating me on the racetrack, and then I cream them. And then I laugh.

“Oh no?” I revved my engine again. The sound was like a drug to those of us who chase the thrill of victory. Racing was an addiction like any other and the possibility of an unexpected challenge gave me goose bumps all over. My adrenaline kicked into high gear. “Just this once?”

He might have been reconsidering when the light turned green. I gunned it, slithering in front of him like a snake. I saw his stunned expression in my rearview. Now I had his attention. It took him half a beat to recover and then he was chasing after me.

I darted in and out of a few cars—they seemed happy to oblige. The wind was in my hair and my endorphins were flowing—the best feeling in the world. I was soaring near 60, free as a jaybird.

He finally caught up, or maybe I slowed down a bit to let him catch me, because after all, he was pretty cute and his taste in cars was something to be admired. Maybe if I got to know him, he’d let me drive his Cobra. We could take our cars down to the Circle-Circle and race for real. There I could beat him proper, maybe put some money on it, just to make it interesting, Mr. I-Don’t-Race-Girls.

“What’s your name?” he called out. Distraction was a method my brother Junior often employed, one I’d trained myself to become immune to. I pulled ahead just a tad, making sure he couldn’t overtake me.

“Brooke,” I shouted, keeping an eye on the road. My exit was coming up fast. No more time for small talk.

I sprinted ahead and dirt-tracked a turn onto the bridge. My tires burned some rubber and an oncoming car laid on their horn like a demon. A thrill of panic raced through me—I nearly sideswiped the car—and then my backend straightened out and I was safely in my lane. I blew my racing partner a kiss and drove on.

I thought maybe he’d follow me, but alas…

Sure it was fun, but this small time stuff was for amateurs. I needed a real racecar on a real track—a professional outfit. That’s where I needed to focus my energy. I had two months before my father’s race, and whether he liked it or not, I was going to enter. Now, all I needed was to find someone to make my car race ready, and fast.

This summer I’d prove to my father that I was a contender. I’d make it so that he couldn’t do anything but sponsor me in the racing circuit. Other girls might have opportunities—marriage, college, career… But for me, there was only racing. That was the one thing I was good at. And everything else was just a blur outside my window.

 

*****

 

I went to visit Jesse that Sunday, despite my brother’s warning, partly because I wanted to see him again, but more because I saw his potential—his potential to help me, that is. Here under my very nose was a first-rate mechanic who wasn’t in my father’s pocket, who could not only make my car race-ready, but who might also be able to keep it under wraps—something unheard of in my family.

I found him in the back garage, banging away at the inside of his Mustang with the music on full-blast. I may have paused for a moment to admire his arms, which were ripped with muscles from hard labor, and his shoulders, broad as an ironing board. His thin t-shirt clung to his back and outlined the V-shape of his torso. I may have noticed those things, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was distracted by them.

“Hiyah, Hotshot.” I had to shout to be heard above the music.

He looked surprised and stopped what he was doing mid-swing. He climbed out of the car—sweaty, grimy and completely adorable.

“Hey, yourself,” he said with a little half-smile, one of those you don’t even know you’re giving.

“Don’t you ever get a day off?” He seemed to always be working, and though I didn’t know for sure, the fact that he didn’t have his own car or cell phone made me think that he wasn’t too well-off. Maybe he spent all his money on cars. Or drugs. I hoped not drugs.

“This is my day off.” He walked over to the sink and turned on the water, splashing his face and running his hands through his hair. It still stuck out every which way. He pulled up his t-shirt to wipe the sweat from his neck, affording me a glimpse of his finely chiseled midsection. Can I get an order of fries with that?

“Your brother know you’re here?” he said, completely ruining the moment.

This was a delicate situation. My brother could be pretty intimidating and my father would blow a gasket if he found out I was building myself a racecar. Jesse would be taking a risk to help me out, which meant I’d have to offer him something in return, something he needed.

“No, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

I took a tour around the garage, stalling for time while checking out his Mustang. It looked like a hell of a lot of work, and the way he was swinging that crowbar made me think that it would take me three times as long to complete a job like this.

Time was not on my side.

“Looks like you’ve done this before,” I said.

“A couple times. Well, I helped my dad. Sam helped him. They always worked as a team. Sam was my dad’s pit boss, when he was still racing.”

“Was he now?”

He nodded and turned over two buckets, offering me a seat. It was such a gentlemanly thing to do without any thought to what reward he might get in return. I’d noticed that about him. The way he was generous for no reason. In my family, it was always tit for tat—what’s in it for me? With Jesse, he seemed so trusting and open. It gnawed at me a little bit, knowing what I was about to ask him.

“I’ve got a proposition for you, Jesse.” I’d be up front about it. He seemed to be the type to appreciate directness.

“I’m listening.” He slouched back a bit and crossed his arms. I took a deep breath.

“It would require me divulging some information that I’d like to keep private.”

“You got a secret?”

“I do.”

“I’m no gossip.”

I believed that he wasn’t, but Sam seemed like the head biddy in the henhouse with the way he scratched at the dirt. I glanced over to where he was chatting up another mechanic.

“Sam? Yeah, he’s a blabbermouth, but he can keep quiet, if it matters.”

I’d have to take the risk. I had no other options. “I’ve got a racecar.”

“The ’97 Camaro?” He had a good memory for cars.

“Yep. But it isn’t a racecar just yet.”

His grin faded a little like I might have hurt his feelings. Maybe he liked me. Maybe I liked him too, but that was beside the point.

“You need someone to make it race ready?” he guessed.

I nodded, doing my best to appear as a damsel in distress. It wasn’t my favorite look, but it worked so often that I couldn’t give it up.

Jesse groaned. “What for?” he asked. I knew he was entering the race, and I didn’t want him to worry about me being his competition, so I decided to keep it vague.

“I’d like to have a little practice behind the wheel.”

“Why don’t you ask your dad? He’s got plenty of mechanics at the dealership. I’m sure they take on side work.”

Because if my dad knew about this, he’d ground me for life or send me to some boarding school run by nuns or worst of all, take away my cars—both of them. “The truth is, Jesse, he doesn’t want me racing.”

I had a little pout, poor me. He narrowed his eyes and studied me—seeing right through my act. I could see he was having some inner argument with himself. It seemed this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.

“I don’t think I can help you,” he said at last.

I sighed, all slow and dramatic-like. He checked out my boobs, but tried to act like he wasn’t, and though I didn’t want to have to resort to this, it seemed he was giving me no alternative.

I did my sexy walk over to his car and laid my hands on the hood. I’d deliver him a two-fer. If my looks didn’t persuade him, then maybe my pocketbook would.

“Must be expensive,” I said, “doing all this work to a car, just for one race. I’d pay you, of course, for your time and labor.”

He didn’t say anything, but I knew I’d piqued his interest. I tossed my hair over my shoulder and bent over a little. I’m not proud, but like my father always says, you got to use whatever advantages you’ve got. Being the daughter of a car salesman I’d learned a few things in that regard.

“I know the realities of racing Jesse. It’s expensive and it’s dangerous, but what can I say? I love it—like our fathers, and like you. If you’re trying to protect me from the big, bad world of racing, you’re about ten years too late.”

He groaned and I knew I was wearing him down. “You know the heap of trouble I’d be in, if your father caught wind of this?”

“I’m very good at keeping secrets.” I gave him my most innocent look.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” He stood, but I could already tell he was coming around. Some kind of sixth sense, I suppose. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper that had my phone number on it.

“I could really use your help, Jesse. You’re the only person I can trust with this.” I took his hand in mine—big and calloused and caked with grease—the hands of a working man or a race car driver. “Here’s my number. Think about it.”

I smiled and walked away, praying that he’d swing my way. I needed him to get my car in shape. That’s all there was to it. Without him, I was sunk. And if we had to spend a little more time together, if I had to watch him work in his garage with his muscles slick with oil and his hair all disheveled like he just got out of bed. Well, I suppose it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

So long as it didn’t become a distraction.

 

AUTHOR:

 
HeadshotWebFinalTwitter 
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Laura Lascarso aims to inspire more questions than answers in her young adult fiction. Her debut novel COUNTING BACKWARDS, which deals with mental illness, was awarded the Florida Book Award gold medal for YA lit in 2012. Her most recent novel, RACING HEARTS, tells the story of two star-crossed lovers set in Daytona Beach, the mecca of motorsports, and has been described as a Romeo & Juliet on wheels.

She lives in North Florida with her husband, two children and a menagerie of animals.

 

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What Do Readers Say About The Urban Boys by K.N. Smith + Giveaway!!

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The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses

K.N. Smith

Published September 29th 2015 by Two Petals Publishing

YA/NA > Horror

 

Purchase links: Amazon | BN | iTunes

 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses is an action-adventure story about five teen boys who are mysteriously exposed to a foreign energy source that gives them extremely heightened senses. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become hypersensitive gifts that forever change the world. The story offers young and mature readers central themes of loyalty, responsibility, honesty, fear, and triumph, which become artfully integrated with cinematic-level action and high drama. The story twists, turns, and grinds through elements of paranormal and action-adventure in a diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narrative.

Overview: The story’s small town of Danville Heights, a carefully crafted universe, contrasts with the dark, gloomy town of Sandry Lake, where evil abounds. Upon the boys’ mysterious incident with the energy source, they’re instinctively called to Sandry Lake to root out evil. Their senses guide them each time. However, secrecy about their mission, furious battles with evil thugs, extreme fatigue, and stress and pressure soon overwhelm the boys, but they must find a way to embrace their fate. A lurking, Dark Stranger seems to know their plight, and a strikingly beautiful, fearless girl lends way to heightened confusion. Shocking details about these two characters, and the evil antagonist, the dreaded Druth, twist and grind the story even further. Despite tension and fierce battles, will the boys hold it together long enough to fulfill their destiny? Intriguing, intelligent, and full of action, The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses offers a memorable, emotion-packed, thrilling ride for young and mature readers alike!1

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WHAT DO READERS SAY ABOUT THE URBAN BOYS?

The Urban Boys is wonderful book in which K.N. Smith sweeps the reader away into each of the characters with their exceptional abilities. She also has the strong literary skills to keep the reader totally engaged throughout the entire story, and that is no small feat considering the various multi layered plotlines, diverse set of characters, and wildly fluctuating events. I am ready for the next one!” (5 stars) Claire Middleton, Indie Book Reviewers

 

“The Urban Boys by K.N. Smith is the most entertaining, deep, and interesting book I have read in a very long time! From the moment I picked it up and read the first page I was hooked, as the characters are so real and loveable and the descriptions are so vivid and full of life, it is impossible to put down. The author has painted a picture of extraordinary lives of these young men which at times is very moving and action packed and done with remarkable attention to detail. It is certainly a story that will stay with me for a long time and I hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next one in the series to become available.” (5 stars) J. Thackery, Indie Book Reviewers

 

AUTHOR:

 
14431555 (1)Twitter 
| Facebook | Website 

K.N. Smith is an American author and passionate advocate of childhood and family literacy programs throughout the world. She continues to inspire students of all ages to reach their highest potential in their literary and educational pursuits. Her creative, lyrical flair sweeps across pages that twist, turn, and grind through elements of paranormal and action-adventure in diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narratives. K.N. Smith has over twenty years’ experience in writing, communications, and creative design. She lives with her family in California.

GIVEAWAY:

1 Winner will get a $15.00 iTunes gift card | 2 Winners will each receive a signed copy of THE URBAN BOYS | 20 Winners will get eCopies of THE URBAN BOYS | Must be 13+ to enter | Ships in US Only

 

 

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ARC REVIEW&BOOK PLAYLIST: The Hometown Hazard by Dawn Lanuza + Giveaway!!

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The Hometown Hazard

Dawn Lanuza

Published January 29th 2016 by Indie Sisiw Books

YA/NA > Romance | Contemporary

 

Purchase links: Amazon | Buqo 

 

4 ★★★★

 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

Jules Coronado has been away from her hometown for almost a decade but when an intruder breaks in to her childhood home, she finds herself coming back. Changes evidently took place in her small town, including her childhood best friend’s younger brother, Kip – now tall, slightly scruffed, all grown up and caught climbing into their garden wall.

Kip Villamor has a mission and despite Jules’ doubts, they team up: going on fieldtrips, tackling unsuspecting men, and trespassing offices to dig up dirt. But Jules has secrets of her own, one that might be exposed – unless she keeps her walls up. But climbing walls are Kip’s forte, remember?

Will her secrets keep her on his side, or will it force her to disappear again?

1

[tour schedule

 

REVIEW:

asdfjkl

 

Yep. That’s just me the whole time. Dawn Lanuza brings out the romantic side of me from my icy and snarky exterior. Well played Dawn! Well played!

 

 

 

 

“You ever felt like there are two versions of you, and they dont exist in the same place.”

 

I have bee a fan of Dawn Lanuza ever since I read her first book, The Boyfriend Backtrack, which by the way is a great life choice because not only did I enjoy that smart and sweet story but I also got the chance to meet our main character in The Hometown Hazard which is Jules. I have to say though, because we’re totally being honest here, that the blurb of this books caused some double taking from me. The girl-being-younger-than-the-love-interest (no matter how much the age gap) is something I avoid aggressively. So. If you’re like me, I’ll tell you right away that THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BOTHER YOU.

The book started off with Jules waking up because of a phone call from her parents saying that somebody broken inside of their house and apparently, the intruder was very interested at Jules’ room. Could Jules know who the culprit is? Jules being the caring daughter decided to go home to her hometown which she left long time ago because of an incident. From here we meet her loving parents and of course the swoony daredevil, Kip. All grown up and enjoying his new hobby: sneaking into offices and running from people. Just like from Dawn Lanuza’s first novel, she made another set of characters that are authentic and fun. They are a bunch to let go. Jules is the definition of a likeable character. I like the fact that she’s matured and her background story agrees with her. I mean, you don’t expect me to like a character who says she graduated from law school but don’t act like it. Stuff like that are very important. You can see though from the first part of the story that Jules’ character is pretty flawed. She have fears and issues that she needs to overcome. Plus the fact that she’s running away from something that happened years ago and it’s affecting her future. And this is where Kip comes in. Kip is.. wow how do I describe Kip? Well he’s my favorite guy by Dawn Lanuza. He’s the right amount of dangerous and swoony. He’s all mysterious but I liked the fact that with every page, the author keeps peeling off a layer from Kips mysterious personality.

The romance is set in a pace that is believable and its just my favorite thing! No instalove. No love triangle. No unnecessary dramas. I think what makes The Hometown Hazard stands out from other love stories out there is that ITS NOT JUST A LOVESTORY. There’s also a mystery that is going on plus a huge revelation about our main characters pasts. It’s truly such an incredible story!

Written in a very easy and witty atmosphere, The Hometown Hazard is written not to only entertain but to tug at your heartstrings. Dawn Lanuza just keeps getting better and better! Hilarious, romantic and real.. Readers need to make room for The Hometown Hazard in their shelf. 

 

BOOK PLAYLIST:

I actually have playlist for the story while I was writing it on Spotify. But these are the top tracks:

The Naked and the Famous – No Way (Quiet)

This is actually the first song that came to mind when I was writing the book. It’s a beautiful track and I think it matches a certain part of the book. If you read the book, I think you’d know where it fits.

Chicago – If You Leave Me Now

This song just reminds me of lazy Sunday mornings and I feel like that’s how Jules pictured her childhood home and her hometown.

Raleigh Ritchie – The Chased

Just because there’s a lot of running and chasing.

Tom Waits – I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You

In the book, I made Kip and Jules dance to a James Taylor song but when I was writing it, I was imagining it with Tom Waits’ “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You.”

Tegan and Sara – Drove Me Wild

This is my Kip song. I think about him when I listen to this song.

The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still

This is the song that’s playing in my head when I imagine the beach scene.

Colony House – Learning How to Love

I think this song’s lyrics is spot on with Jules.

Imogen Heap – Entanglement

Last scene. I’ll leave it with that. 

– DAWN

 

 

AUTHOR:

 Caroline-Patti-225x300Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

Dawn Lanuza started writing stories when she was just a kid (they weren’t good or even finished). She works for the music industry by day and writes meet cutes and snappy comebacks by night. ‘The Boyfriend Backtrack’ is her first book. She currently lives with her family and an adopted dog.

     

 

 

 

 

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SNEAK-A-PEEK: In Place of Never by Julia Anne Lindsey + Giveaway!!

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In Place of Never

Julie Anne Lindsey

Published February 2nd 2016 by Lyrical Press, Inc

YA/NA > Romance | Mystery

 

Purchase links: Amazon | BN 

 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

Can the truth set her free?…
 
A part of Mercy died the summer her sister tragically drowned. Now Mercy has a chance to discover if Faith’s death was an accident—or murder.  Her first step is to confront the lead suspects: a band of traveling gypsies—the last people who saw her sister alive. But Mercy finds an unexpected ally in Cross, the soulful musician in their ranks. He’s a kindred spirit, someone who sees into her heart for the first time in, well, forever. Yet stirring up the past puts Mercy in danger…
 
Suddenly someone is shadowing Mercy’s every move, making her even more determined to uncover the facts. With Cross by her side, she is ready to face it all, even if that means opening up to him, knowing he may one day leave her. What she discovers is a truth that rocks the foundation of her small river town—and a love worth risking everything for….

1

[tour schedule

 

EXCERPT:

Chapter 1

 

The Sideshow

Faith is dead.

The words had formed my first thought every day for three years. Strangely, on the anniversary of her death, my mind was blank.

My bedroom door stood open, courtesy of my little sister, Prudence, no doubt. This was her way of nudging me into motion. Muted shades of gray light filtered through rain-washed windows, barely enough to illuminate dust motes floating overhead. Time to face the worst day of the year.

Sounds and scents of breakfast climbed two flights of stairs and settled into my thoughts with an eerie echo. I pulled clothes from the pile and brushed my teeth and hair. These were the things I’d only begun to appreciate before everything changed.

Far too soon, my toes curled over the top step outside my room. I pulled in a deep breath and braced my palms against cool stairwell walls, dragging my fingertips over the grooves and planes in the wood paneling as I inched downstairs.

From the quiet hallway outside our kitchen, life looked surreal, like the setting for a play with actors in motion but no audience or script. Dad’s clothes were as neat as a pin, and his hair fell in the same schoolboy style he’d outgrown thirty years ago. The morning paper lay open in front of him, beside a full cup of coffee that had lost its steam. Pru stood at the stove shoveling eggs from a pan onto a plate. She, too, appeared ready for the day, if I ignored the tremor in her hand and the strain in her brow. She nearly dropped the plate when she turned from the stove.

“Mercy.” She pressed a hand to her heart and stumbled to the table with the eggs. “Why are you just standing there?”

Dad turned blank eyes on me, unspeaking.

I moved to the counter and filled Mom’s favorite travel mug with coffee, ignoring the palpable tension. In sixty seconds, I’d be out the door with my free, portable caffeine.

Pru untied the apron from her waist and folded it on the counter. She stared at me. “Aren’t you eating?”

I sealed the mug. “No.” I needed to be anywhere but here.

Dad tensed. The paper crumbled around his tightened grip, but he wouldn’t get involved, especially not today. Today we’d pretend we were still a family. Three months from now, we’d do it again.

Pru bit her trembling lip. “Mercy.” The word was barely audible, even in the quietest house on Earth.

Something tore inside me, and I wavered, slowly sipping coffee until the bitter taste Mom had loved turned my stomach.

Dad pressed the paper against our ancient Formica tabletop and lifted cold coffee to his lips.

I settled onto a chair and tapped my nails over tiny flecks of gold and silver embedded in the table’s white surface. He and Mom had received the kitchen set as a wedding present from her parents. A grooved metal wrap curled around the table’s perimeter. My sisters and I had done homework at that table. Birthday cakes and Thanksgiving dinners were served there. When our family was whole, we’d played cards and board games together every Friday night. Family night. Lately, we were a family of ghosts, figurative and literal.

The legs of Dad’s chair scraped over worn linoleum. He poured his coffee into the sink and freed his jacket from the chair back where he’d sat. He threaded his arms though too-large holes. “I’ll be home late.”

Pru flopped her arms against her sides. “But you didn’t eat.”

He scooped his Bible and keys off the counter and pulled the front door closed behind him.

Pru collapsed into the seat across from me. Bony elbows slid across the tabletop. “Please eat something.”

“No thank you.”

Her frown deepened. “No one eats around here. It isn’t healthy.”

“We don’t sleep or talk either. At least we’re consistent.” A deep cringe pinched my heart. I’d promised myself not to provoke Pru. She was only a kid. The least I could do was use restraint and good manners. “Sorry.”

I stared into her wide blue eyes, wanting to say a million things I couldn’t. “You didn’t need to make breakfast. It’s not your responsibility.” The word lodged in my throat, filling the space until air struggled past.

“Sorry.”

Hurt welled in Pru’s eyes. “Whose responsibility is it then? Yours?” She stood in a burst of energy I couldn’t fathom, rocking her chair onto two legs before it settled with a thump. “I’m fifteen, not five.” Pru whirled through the room, dumping eggs in the trash and shoving dishes into the sink. Defeated by her loved ones before nine AM. It wasn’t fair.

She turned on her heels and glared at me. “You’re leaving in six weeks. Then what?” She bit her bottom lip and scrubbed a plate hard. “You could at least pretend you don’t want to go. Even if it’s a lie.”

“I’m not leaving. I’m going to college like everyone does.”

Her weary eyes drooped at the corners. “Not everyone.”

“Not Faith.” As if I needed the reminder. As if I didn’t think of that every day.

She dried her hands and pursed her lips. “What are you doing today?”

Thunder rocked the house. “I’m going out.”

“Out where? There’s a storm. Besides, my friends are coming over for movies and popcorn. Why don’t you stay? Company could take your mind off…stuff.”

Stuff. Right.

“Me, Prudence, and the color guard?” I flipped a handful of sandy curls off Pru’s shoulder. “I’m not sure that’d be fun for anyone.”

“Please.”

“Can’t. I’m going to go see Mom and Faith. I’ll be home later.” Her doe-eyed expression stopped me short. Since when was Pru so needy? She’d certainly never needed me. Had she? Even if she had, what was I supposed to do about it? “If you want, you can come up to my room when your friends leave. We’ll eat cold pizza and drink warm soda after Dad falls asleep.” My throat constricted further with each word. Faith and I had spent many nights that way when Pru was small and sound asleep in her room next door.

She paled. “Maybe.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Maybe?” That was the best invitation I’d ever offered and she’d turned me down. Something was up. “Why? Do you have plans after Dad falls asleep?”

“Maybe.”

I sucked air. “You can’t go out after curfew.”

She crossed thin arms over her chest. “I said maybe. Anyways, since when do you care? Is this a joke? You think you’re in charge?”

My gut wrenched. Was I? Everyone ahead of me on the chain of command had either died or otherwise checked out. “You can’t stay out all night.”

She clenched her jaw.

I grabbed my bag off the coat tree and secured it cross body before she lashed out. “I can’t do this right now. I’ll be home soon. I won’t interrupt your movie day, but I will look for you tonight.”

Pru scoffed as I edged past her and out the door where Dad had disappeared minutes before.

My muddy Chucks waited on the rack against the railing.

Pru glared at me through the window.

I couldn’t stay. I had to visit Mom and Faith before the storm washed the roads away.

I gathered my hair into a knot as I sloshed through the rain toward the edge of town. Puddles splashed warm water onto my ankles. Raindrops swiveled patterns over my forehead into my eyes, blurring my vision and masking a hot tear of frustration on one cheek. The streets were empty of pedestrians. Cars with wipers on warp speed settled at stoplights or outside shops, collecting women in rain gear and children wielding umbrellas shaped like storybook characters.

Dad’s car sat alone in the church lot. He dreamed of inspiring the town and he prayed fervently for a healing of our broken community. The concept was nice if you weren’t one of his forgotten daughters.

I ducked my head and moved faster, dashing through the lot and across the intersection at Main Street. Soggy, wind-battered flyers waved from light posts on every corner. The annual River Festival returned this month, assuming St. Mary’s didn’t wash off the map before then. I tugged my hood over my ears and sloshed onto the sidewalk. American flags lined store windows. Support our Troops shirts and Uncle Sam bobbleheads monopolized every retail display in town. The Fourth of July fun was right on schedule, only a few days until the big parade and concert in the park. My family didn’t celebrate this weekend anymore.

Several yards away, two guys took shelter under the awning outside our local honky-tonk. Their laughter broke through the drumming of rain on rooftops and pounding of truck tires through puddles. Both were tall, dark, and out of place in my town. Instead of jeans and boots, like cowboys or country singers, or the shorts and gym shoes of locals and tourists, this pair wore black pants and dress shoes. Their matching V-neck shirts were equally out of place in St. Mary’s, West Virginia.

The broader one noticed me first. His smile vanished and his posture stiffened. He locked his wrists behind his back and nodded. The short sleeves of his shirt nipped his biceps. The ridiculous breadth of his chest

tested the limits of the thin black material. His clothes probably hid the grotesquely oversculpted figure of a body builder.

My feet slowed instinctively, weighing the merits of crossing the street to avoid them. Crossing meant moving away from my destination, staying meant eventually sharing a three-foot patch of cement with two guys already filling every spare inch.

The leaner, younger-looking one turned his face toward me. Black ink crawled up his neck from the collar of his shirt to his earlobe. A scar pierced one eyebrow and a thin silver hoop graced the corner of his mouth.

Dad wouldn’t approve.

I rounded my shoulders, withdrawing into my hoodie and averting my eyes.

The broad one whipped a hand out as I stepped onto their patch of cement. “Miss.”

I jumped back, wrapping my fingertips around the strap of my bag.

His enormous arm blocked my path. He clenched a mass of silk flowers in his fist. “For the lady.”

“Uh.” I pulled in a shallow breath. “No thank you.”

The younger one’s eyebrows dove together. “I think you’re scaring her.” His dark eyes settled on mine. His voice was deep and low. “Is he scaring you?”

The big guy handed the flowers to his friend and stepped back, palms up.

The younger one offered them to me, extending his arm slowly as if being careful not to frighten a wild animal. “I’m Cross. This is Anton. Anton thinks he’s a magician.”

I glanced over one shoulder at the church behind me before accepting the strange offer. A lifetime of forced manners pushed my name from my mouth. “Mercy.”

Cross’s lips twitched. “He’s a lot to take in, but he’s a marshmallow.”

I bit back an awkward smile as Anton protested the remark with a shove. “Mercy’s my name. It wasn’t an exclamation.”

Cross relaxed his posture. “Good to know.” He shoved his fingers into his pockets. “Do you live here?”

“Yeah.” A measure of unexplained confidence wound through me. “Not you, though.” I scrutinized their strange ensembles again. Their clothes were almost like costumes, or what I imagined a mortician would wear in the nineteen hundreds. “What are you doing here?” I sidestepped them, exchanging my view of the distant willows for a view of the church.

The low tenor of their voices collided as Cross said, “Visiting,” and Anton said, “Performing.”

Cross narrowed his eyes at Anton.

Interesting. A sign tucked into the corner of the honky-tonk’s window announced another round of live bands. Cash prizes and a guaranteed Nashville record executive in the audience meant lots of newcomers to St. Mary’s. Maybe these two were country singers. “Performing what?”

Again with the twin speak, Cross answered, “Nothing.”

Anton answered, “Everything.”

I frowned. “Well, that’s cleared up.” I waved the bouquet. “Thanks for the flowers.”

“You’re welcome,” they answered.

Dad’s face appeared in the church window, and I darted into the rain. “I have to go.”

I stuffed the flowers into my bag as I jogged away from the street of shops, closing the space between the willows and me. Thunder cracked in the distance. The storm was passing for now. I stepped into the pavilion outside St. Mary’s Cemetery with a sigh of relief. Willow trees lined our small town along the river’s west edge. Their craggy branches swept the earth with every gust of wind. The town cemetery stretched fingers of marble graves into the distance, marking lives lost in the mid-eighteen hundreds beside others lost in my lifetime. Two of those graves marked the lives of Porter women, Faith and Mary Porter. My older sister and my mother.

When the drops thinned to sprinkles, I made my way up muddy paths to their grave sites, sliding down as often as I moved forward. Dad said he’d chosen the spots at the top of the hill so Faith and Mom could look over our town. If they truly had a view, theirs was perfect.

The sopping earth squished under my weight as I left the path. A week of relentless rain had ruined the dirt roads and flooded the lowlands mercilessly.

I knelt before the headstones. “Hi. I bet you didn’t think I’d come in the storm.” Tears burned my eyes. I’d come selfishly. “You’re the only one I can talk to.”

I rubbed my wrist over each eye. “I am so amazingly sorry.”

Wind beat against the trees, shaking limbs and freeing wads of green leaves from their branches. “The storm’s gathering again.”

I wiped pine needles and dirt off Faith’s name. Wind tossed sticks and tiny American flags across the thick green grass. A batch of grave flowers rolled down the hill toward the river, reminding me of the ones in my bag.

“I have something today.” I unlatched my bag and pulled out the silk flowers. “Some very weird guys outside Red’s gave these to me. I think you should have them, Faith. I don’t bring you flowers enough. Maybe that’s why I ran into those two. You needed flowers.” I stabbed their plastic stems into the mushy ground and pressed the grass tight around them, anchoring them the best I could.

“I miss you. I wish you knew how much. Dad’s still trying to save the town. Pru’s still pretending she’s like everyone else. The color guard’s coming over for popcorn and movies.” I rolled my eyes. “I think she’s planning to sneak out tonight, and I don’t even know if it’s the first time.”

I settled in the wet grass and tilted my face to the sky. “I’ve never minded our summer storms. Remember when we used to dance in the rain until Dad begged us all inside? He’d laugh and say,” I mocked Dad’s deeper voice, “‘I guess the rumors are true. My girls don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.’”

A sound in the distance caught my attention. A rhythm. “Do you hear that?” Wind whipped through the trees, but the eerie sound of tinny pipes and organs floated to my ears. I rubbed my palms over gooseflesh-covered arms and an icy shiver slid down my spine.

I stood on wobbly knees and moved to the hill’s edge.

A line of black vehicles crawled along the river toward the campground. Each truck was marked with the symbol that once haunted my dreams. A fancy letter L, circled in curlicue lines and tiny words from another language. “The Lovell Traveling Sideshow came back?”

After three years, it was back.

I turned to my sister. “I bet they came for the River Festival. What should I do?”

I sensed her presence and felt her voice in the wind, obscured by the ringing in my ears. My weary conscience screamed, “Leave it alone,” but my every curious fiber disagreed.

I’d researched, cyberstalked, and obsessed over the Lovells off and on for two years before I backed off. I squinted at the caravan of trucks below. If one of them knew what happened to Faith, I needed to hear it. Maybe someone at their campsite could help me.

Dad refused me the courtesy of knowing what happened to my sister. When I’d followed him through our home begging, he’d said I was too young. Faith was too young. I should pray for peace. I’d scoured the local paper and Internet for information. Three years later, the only things I knew for sure were Faith was dead and Dad blamed the Lovells. I’d heard him and Mom after Faith’s funeral. He hated them, but it didn’t make any sense. Faith drowned. Dad believed the Lovells contributed to Faith’s death somehow, despite the coroner’s accidental drowning conclusion.

I looked over one shoulder at Faith’s headstone. “I’ve got to go. I’ll be back.” I rubbed wet palms against my jeans. My feet stumbled through the grass on autopilot. This was my chance.

I sprinted toward home, formulating a plan. First, I needed a shower and change of clothes. Next, I needed a picture of Faith from that summer. The Lovells probably saw thousands of new faces every year and three years had already passed. Expecting them to remember one girl from a town as unremarkable as ours was asking the impossible.

I slowed my pace on Main Street. Outside the honky-tonk, a fresh banner hung from the awning, a photo advertisement for the Lovell Traveling Sideshow. My mouth dropped open as my gaze swept over the ad. I missed the curb and planted one foot in ankle-deep runoff racing for the gutter. “Gross.” My palms hit the sidewalk, stopping me from a complete fall. The open flap of my bag dripped against my pant leg when I stood. I buckled the bag without looking, unable to drag my focus away from the banner. A woman covered in tattoos posed with a set of acrobats front and center. A shirtless strongman with a mask and endless muscles stood behind her. I tried to match Anton and his flowers to the masked man in the photograph. Was it possible?

A man in tuxedo tails pulled fire from his hat and a woman in a ball gown swallowed swords. Animals in black tutus and studded collars pranced at her feet. Behind the others stood a brown-eyed guy with neck ink, a guitar, and a frown. Cross was a performer all right. He was one of them. A Lovell.

 

 

AUTHOR:

 Caroline-Patti-225x300Twitter | Facebook | Website 

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Mother of three, wife to a sane person and Ring Master at the Lindsey Circus, most days you’ll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book. Julie started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world.

Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

   

 

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ARC Review: Under The Dusty Moon by Suzanne Sutherland


Under The Dusty Moon

Suzane Sutherland

Published January 23rd 2016 by Dundurn

YA >  Contemporary

272 pages

eARC for Review

 

 2 ★★

 

Purchase links: Amazon | Nook

 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

 

She’s with the band, whether she likes it or not.

Victoria Mahler is the sixteen-year-old only daughter of rocker Micky Wayne, whose band, Dusty Moon, took the world by storm when Micky was just a teenager. The band broke up under mysterious circumstances, but, after years spent off the road being a mom, Micky’s solo career is finally starting to take off.

When an offer to tour Japan falls into her mom’s lap, Vic is left to spend the summer under the care of her distant grandmother, and without her built-in best friend. Fortunately, a boy with a secret geek side and a group of feminist game-makers save the season, and Vic starts to see herself as her own person, out from under her mother’s shadow.

But when Micky finally comes home — with a poorly chosen boyfriend in tow — all bets are off. Will Vic be able to maintain her newfound sense of self amidst the building thunder of Micky’s second chance at stardom? And through it all, will Micky still really be her best friend?

 

REVIEW

Under The Dusty Moon was disappointing on epic proportions.  You see, when I first went into this book, what I expected was girl power, plenty of gaming goodness, a protagonist I would love and a parent-daughter relationship that would be eye-opening in its goodness.  What I got—at least after the 35% mark—was basically a disaster in print form.The book follows one summer in the life of Victoria Mahler, a sixteen year old BRAT.  She was the epitome of a kind of girl you would not want to grow up with because damn.  She’s selfish and basically a fool, but the one thing that stood out most about this girl was how jealous she was.  See, Victoria’s mother Micky Wayne was the yesteryear star of Dusty Moon, which was a huge deal.  And the book—and Victoria’s POV—was more than 90% whining about how Micky was so famous, and how she should move on and be a  real mom, and whatnot.  Victoria just wouldn’t move beyond the fact that her mom had a life before her, separate from her, and it was annoying af.  She kept being a brat to her mother, and the entire “best-friends” thing that she had with her fell flat on its face for the very same reason.Micky, Victoria’s mother, was another major reason the entire book failed.  Being a part of a band (that split up years ago, btw) apparently gave the woman free reign to leave Victoria on her own for the summer and go traipsing around the other side of the world. I understand about working mothers who have to travel a lot (I have one), but the entire thing felt like something that normal moms just wouldn’t do.  Her entire character arc felt very confusing, and I couldn’t tell up from down where this woman was concerned.

Under The Dusty Moon started off really well.  For almost the first half, I found myself enjoying the book, its characters, the entire she-bang.  With the benefit of hindsight, I realise that I almost looked over the annoying parts of the book simply because I was way too excited to enjoy the book completely.  But in all honesty, I did not see this book going the way it did.  I thought there would be one pivotal point where the story would pick up pace, and Victoria would become more aware of things besides herself, more mature, but unfortunately, that point never came.  Throw in a best friend who bought the whole gaming thing in for a grand total of 3.67 pages, and a love interest who was as boring as he was flimsy, I really don’t see the point of recommending this book to anyone.

Rhea[1]