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Coming Soon:
~Review: The Killing Woods
~Review: The Waiting Sky
~Review: A Certain Slant of Light
~Review: Timepiece
~Review: Infinityglass

Monday, February 25, 2013

Author Interview: Mercy Amare!

Today I have for you all an interview with Mercy Amare, indie author of the new YA/New Adult book, You Got Me! This was a very fun interview to conduct and I hope you all enjoy it. :D


TBP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

MA: My name is Mercy Amare. I am 23 years old from Arkansas. I wrote my first novel at age 14, it sucked, and since then I haven't stopped writing. Hundreds of songs included... I love to read! I love caffeine, specifically NOS Energy Drink. I also have an unhealthy addiction to the TV series: The Lying Game, Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, Gossip Girl, and Pretty Little Liars.

TBP: Describe You Got Me in nine words or less.

MA: Letting go of the past. Falling in love.

TBP: What inspired you to write You Got Me?

MA: I have no idea, honestly. I was just at work one day, and the idea popped into my head! I started writing. Then stopped. Then changed the characters, A LOT, then re-wrote, and there you have it. :) Ideas usually come to me when I'm walking, or driving... Always random times for no reason at all.

TBP: What is one of your favorite YA book series?

MA: My absolutely favorite, hands down, is Stalk Me by Jillian Dodd. I adore that book series.

TBP: If you could co-write a book with any author, past or present, who would it be and why?

MA: This is a tough question. I have SO MANY favorite authors. But, I think I would say Colleen Hoover. Her stories are breathtakingly amazing! I would love to just hang out with her for a couple of months, and see her in action. It would be incredible.

TBP: If you could bring back any no-longer-with-us character on the TV show The Vampire Diaries, who would it be? (If you are not caught up on the show, this can prove spoiler-ish so to read the answer, highlight the gap with your mouse with precaution.)

MA: Well, considering Jeremy just died, this is a tough question. I miss Aunt Jenna, Alaric, Jeremy, Vicky, John, Anna, Grams, Lexie (we did NOT get enough of her)... I'm sure I'm missing some... Gah... Can I say tie? This is the hardest question EVER.

Fine, Jeremy. I need Jeremy back! lol.

Haha! I think I agree with you, though prior to recent events, I'd have definitely said Alaric.

TBP: Your bio says you play guitar, bass, and drums. Which is your favorite and why?

MA: I love playing them all for different reasons, so really, it depends on my mood. The drums are just FUN, and when I play them I always get really hyper. It's a rush.... The bass is laid back. I don't have to think, at all, when I play. It's relaxing, and it's nice. (Though that may just be from the 9 years of experience). The guitar is my first love. I've been playing 11 years, and I play well (not being "big headed", it's just a fact). It's amazing to see the look on peoples faces when they see me, a GIRL, play so... good... I honestly couldn't chose between them.

TBP: You mentioned that you've had a lot of not so great jobs in the past. I feel like there has to be a funny/odd story in there somewhere from one of them. Do tell?

MA: I have had a LOT of jobs. I have worked for all the major cell phone companies: AT&T (call center & store), Sprint (store), and Verizon (call center & store). I've worked in a lot of call centers. (I was a telemarketer for a week. Most miserable week of my life). I worked at a Wells Fargo call center for a few months. We were very slow there, and I was bored a lot. I spent 20 minutes sometimes waiting on a call. While working there, I wrote a 47k word book. All on the company watch. Needless to say, I got laid off (along with hundreds of others)... Did I mention being an author is my favorite job?

TBP: You are putting together a soundtrack to your life. What are some of the songs on it?

MA: My soundtrack would be so crazy. I've done so much in my life, and I'm thankful for it. Road trips have always been a HUGE part of my life, and each road trip has it's own sound track: Life is a Highway by Rascal Flatts (I had pit passes to their concert in Little Rock. I went to Tunica with my bf (Waking up in Vegas (TUNICA): Katy Perry). Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus (I blame Six Flaggs St. Louis for this). Baby by Justin Bieber (I was drunk, don't ask! lol). I Am Not a Whore by LMAO (YouTube the song). Clumsy by Fergie (described by love life from age 16-20). Keep on Loving You by REO Speedwagon (me and my husband's song)... :) This is just the beginning.

I totally get the Miley Cyrus thing. Well not totally (can't stand her, personally). Call Me, Maybe would be on mine because I heard it constantly while I was staying with a friend in NJ for two months over the summer. So I understand how that ind of thing happens. lol.

TBP: Anything else you'd like to add?

MA: Yes, thank you everybody who is still reading! And thank you, Briana, for having me today! This interview was so much fun! :)


And thank you, Mercy! It was great fun. :D

I hope you all enjoyed that interview, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by!

Don't forget to check out Mercy Amare's books!

Don't Tell (Novella)
Kindle / Nook

You Got Me
Kindle / Nook 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Being Henry David Blog Tour: Interview & Giveaway!

TBP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

CA: First, in spite of my name, I’m not a guy. I hope nobody’s disappointed, because I’m pretty pumped in general about being female. I’m one of those crazy people who always wanted to be a writer, ever since I could manage to hold one of those fat red pencils in my chubby little hand. I’m the daughter of a preacher and a teacher, who were always very encouraging and didn’t laugh at me when I said I wanted to grow up to be a famous writer and artist. (Obviously, this still remains to be seen.) I’m married to a really great guy who puts up with my creative Gemini, split-personality craziness, and we have two amazing daughters. In addition to writing, I sing, paint, draw, work at an independent bookstore, and do professional voice-overs (something I started doing back when I worked full-time in radio). Oh, and I have a 3-year-old miniature Australian shepherd named Layla. She’s my first dog ever, and I’m ridiculously smitten.

TBP: Describe Being Henry David in nine words or less. (Can be individual words or a sentence.)

CA: Lost boy + nature, friends & Thoreau = discovery and hope

TBP: You have a Masters Degree in Creative Writing. As someone who is considering the pursuit of one, myself, what would you say is one of the most important and useful things you learned in your studies?

CA: I think the most important thing I learned is that it’s critical to share your work with other people and get constructive criticism. The workshopping process (when instructors and peers critique your writing) can be both encouraging and brutal, but you need honest input in order to grow. You start to really get a feel for what you’re doing right, and what you need to improve. And after a while, you learn what criticism to take to heart, and what to discard. To be honest, even though I did a lot of writing for newspapers, magazines and radio before I got the Masters, I doubt very much I would have gotten this book published without grad school. (Fiction and non-fiction are so different.) Plus, I made some fabulous lifelong friends, and we still meet regularly to laugh, drink wine, and workshop our stuff!

TBP: Your bio says that you sing semi-professionally. Could you tell us a little more about that?

CA: Sure! I’ve loved singing ever since being in the cherub choir at my daddy’s church, and music has always been a source of joy for me. I’ve sung in choirs, small groups, bands, in musicals, you name it. As for the semi-professional singing (which basically means I get paid for it, but it’s not how I make my living), I was the lead singer in a blues/rock group for about six years (and played a mean tambourine and cowbell, I must say), and I currently sing in venues all over New England with my husband in an 11-person a cappella group. (P.S. I even met my husband in college choir!)

TBP: Fate or free will? If you believe in a degree of both, which side do you lean more towards and why?

CA: That’s a very interesting question, and it’s one that I definitely mulled over when my character, Hank, finds a copy of Thoreau’s Walden at Penn Station. Does the book actually belong to him? Is it fate that it was right by his side when he awoke? Or, is it simply a book that was discarded at the train station by some random person, and Hank stumbled upon it? My book is all about what Hank chooses to do after finding the book, so I think it’s more about free will than fate. In general, I believe it’s about what you choose to do with the circumstances of your life that matters. I guess I like the thought that we have some element of choice!


Thank you so much, Cal! (Check out her website.)

What did you all think? If Being Henry David sounds like something you'd like to read, I'm giving away (in partner with Albert Whitman) a copy to one lucky winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 22, 2013

Guest Post: Mean Girls Usually Win… (Except Sometimes)!

Author Bio:
Molly Cochran, author of the teen paranormal romances LEGACY and POISON, has written 26 published novels and four nonfiction books under her own name and various pseudonyms. Her books include New York Times bestselling novels GRANDMASTER and THE FOREVER KING, coauthored with Warren Murphy, and the nonfiction DRESSING THIN, also a NY Times bestseller. She has won awards from the Mystery Writers of America (Best Novel of the Year), the Romance Writers of America (Best Thriller), and the New York Public Library (Outstanding Books for the Teen Age).

SEDUCTION, the third installment in the LEGACY series, is scheduled for release later this year through her publisher, Simon & Schuster.

Two eBooks, THE TEMPLE DOGS and THE FOREVER KING, are currently available through online retailers. A third, GRANDMASTER, will be available soon.

Molly has lectured extensively and has taught writing at the college level as well as at a women's prison (where she was NOT an inmate). She also writes a blog on writing technique which appears on her website, She is also on Facebook at and Twitter at

She lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


Guest Blog by Molly Cochran

(Except Sometimes)

You know them. They walk in front of the crowd, and others follow. If they wear yellow, the next day the halls look like a convention of canaries. They’re considered beautiful, even if they’re not. And they always run the show, whatever that particular show is about.
They are the leaders. The prime movers. The Mean Girls.
From time immemorial, they’ve been thorns in the sides of the rest of us, bullying, intimidating, and tantalizing ordinary mortals with the promise of acceptance into their inner circles.
For most of us, the best we can hope for is that the chief Mean Girl ignores us—because once she targets us, we’re dead meat. Suddenly we can’t do anything right, we always sound stupid, and our clothes belong in the Goodwill bin. But if she likes us… Ah, then the very doors to Paradise swing open.
For a while.
Until Mean Girl gets what she wants.
And then…
POISON, a YA paranormal centering around a boarding school located in a town with the largest percentage of witches in the United States, is about someone who gets used by a Mean Girl. It doesn’t matter that the “someone” is a witch with nuclear-strength powers. Or that the Mean Girl has connections going back 1600 years, to the court of Camelot and the wizard Merlin himself. Or that what hangs in the balance is the destruction of an entire plane of existence.
What happens is something that goes on, in varying degrees, in schools all over the world, in every generation: The Mean Girl gets her way, and everyone else has to pay the price for her selfishness until someone—that someone, the one who went along until it was almost too late—says no, and takes on all the consequences herself.
In POISON, those consequences amount to life and death. In real life, it usually only feels that way, but they can reverberate forever.
The point is, sometimes being accepted comes with too high a price. And even the most timid among us sometimes has to stand alone in order to save whatever is important to us—the people we love, our values, and our pride in ourselves.


Thank you Molly! And now, check out Molly Cochran's books, Legacy and Poison!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Real Mermaids Don't Need High Heels Blog Tour: Giveaway & Interview!

Real Mermaids Don't Need High Heels Blog Tour
Giveaway & Interview!


TBP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

HB: I write books for kids and teens from picture books like I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN (Candlewick) to my REAL MERMAIDS series (Sourcebooks) for tweens.

I grew up in a really large family on a small island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean where we had sleepovers on lobster boats, hiked to secret beaches, and got chased by wild cows through forest paths. Many of my books are inspired by the fun times I had growing up with my seven siblings and many cousins and friends. I’m a compulsive walker and train for half marathons and also love dark chocolate, bacon, and lemon Perrier water (in that order).

TBP: What inspired the creation of your Real Mermaids series?

HB: Water has always been a huge part of my life. My dad is a lobster fisherman and he used to take us on boat trips from our little island off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to the mainland where we’d sail through a canal and a boat lock to get to a fresh-water lake. I was always amazed by the purple jellyfish I saw on the ocean side, compared to the white jellyfish on the lake side of the boat lock. I often wondered; did the purple jellyfish know about the white ones and vice versa? And what other mysteries existed in those watery depths? That was the inspiration for my mer-world in the Real Mermaids series.

TBP: Your "About Me" section on your website says you grew up on an island in the Atlantic. What is it like for you not living by the water now and do you ever consider moving to some where nearer the ocean?

HB: I miss the ocean so much. I love my new town and my wonderful friends but my dream is to someday have a seaside cottage to call my own so I can spend part of my time there. Thankfully, I’m able to visit my childhood village for a few weeks every summer with my family. I look forward to it all winter!

TBP:  If you could morph into any sea creature, which would it be and why?

HB: An anemone, mostly because I love the way the word sounds.

TBP:  Describe your ideal type of day in regards to weather, temp, location, etc.

HB: I’m a spring and fall person because I hate the cold or the sweltering heat. ‘Sweater Weather’ probably describes my ideal temperature best and of course, I’d have to pick an oceanside location for my ‘ideal day’. I’d start off with an hour-long hike near the water, then return to a cozy seaside cottage (notice a theme?) get myself a hot drink and snuggle on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and a good book. Can I also have a crackling fire in the fireplace, please?

TBP: What was one of your favorite books growing up?

HB: I’m from a family of ten so books were kind of community property in our house. I remember, though, that my godfather sent me my very own hardcover Trixie Belden for Christmas one year. I cherished that book because it was mine. All mine!

TBP: Anything else you'd like to add before you go?

HB: You can connect with me @: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


If you'd like to see where I did a previous interview with Helene, you can go HERE. You can also check out my review of the first book, Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings, in the trilogy HERE. And now, if you have already read the first two, here is your chance to win the final book in the trilogy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also buy them:

~ ~

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Forty Days Book Blitz: Excerpt & Giveaway!


Forty Days
Stephanie Parent
February 12th, 2013
Neima's Ark, #1
Young Adult


The entire village knows Neima’s grandfather is a madman. For years the old man has prophesied that a great flood is coming, a flood disastrous enough to blot out the entire earth. He’s even built an enormous ark that he claims will allow his family to survive the deluge. But no one believes the ravings of a lunatic…

…until the rain starts. And doesn’t stop. Soon sixteen-year-old Neima finds her entire world transformed, her life and those of the people she loves in peril. Trapped on the ark with her grandfather Noah, the rest of her family, and a noisy, filthy, and hungry assortment of wild animals, will Neima find a way to survive?

With lions, tigers, and bears oh my, elephants and flamingos too, along with rivalries and betrayals, a mysterious stowaway, and perhaps even an unexpected romance, FORTY DAYS is not your grandfather’s Noah’s Ark story.

FORTY DAYS is approximately 45000 words, the length of a shorter novel, and is the first installment in a two-part epic story. It does contain a cliffhanger ending.

Readers looking for a traditional, religiously oriented version of the Noah’s Ark story should be warned that FORTY DAYS may not appeal to them. The novel will, however, appeal to lovers of apocalyptic fiction, historical fiction, and romance, as well as anyone who’s ever dreamed of having a baby elephant as a pet.



Mouths are moving, people must be screaming, the trembling goats beside me must be squealing, but the only sounds left in the world are the crash of water and wind and the boom of thunder. I urge the goats forward, but as soon as they find their footing they slip again, and I do as well. It takes all my attention just to make some slow progress toward the ark, dragging the goats behind me, and I have to narrow my eyes against the increasingly sharp barbs of the raindrops. So I don’t even try to see what’s going on with my father and Noah, Munzir and the ruined fire. And I don’t see the shape approaching me as I stumble onward, till I’m only a few steps from the ark’s open doors—
—and a cold, wet hand grabs my arm.
It’s Jorin, his eyes wide and his lips moving furiously, though I can’t make out a single word. I try to pull away from him and he just comes closer, his mouth moving even faster; every minute facet of his expression beseeches me to listen, to understand. I’m doing my best to hold on to my anger against him, but it’s slipping away, a mere gust of hot air that means nothing as the world breaks into pieces around us. And then I no longer care what he’s saying; I only want to tell him: Go back, now, while you can still cross the river. I hope your home is strong. Stay safe.

Author Bio:
Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major. She moved to Los Angeles because of Francesca Lia Block's WEETZIE BAT books, which might give you some idea of how much books mean to her. She also loves dogs, books about dogs, and sugary coffee drinks both hot and cold.

Author Links:


Thanks to Stephanie, I have one ebook copy of Forty Days up for grabs!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


You can buy a copy NOW!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review & Giveaway: Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton!

Blaze (ARC)
Laurie Boyle Crompton
Sourcebooks Fire
February 1st, 2013
14+ (YA)
For review from publisher / netgalley.

Synopsis via Goodreads
Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She's desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark's feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now...

When I accepted Blaze for review, I got the feeling that it was going to be one of those books that I'd either really like or really dislike. When accepting books for review, I try to stick to ones that I'm confident I'll enjoy, but I took a chance with this one. Suffice it to say, it was worth it!

First, I want to talk about Blaze. My initial impression of her was that she was fun, a bit quirky, and painfully naive/impressionable. She did not come off at all like a 17-year-old, but instead, more like she was only 15. I would see her about to get herself into a stupid situation and it was like watching a horror movie when you are screaming at the dumb bimbo not to go upstairs, but she can't hear you and does it anyway. She was also too forgiving when it came to her crappy friends, especially Amanda, whom I'd have completely disowned, pronto, after what she did to Blaze. However, no matter how much she frustrated me at times, I really loved her character and found myself constantly cheering for her. She was a flawed, yet refreshing, new voice in the world of YA heroines. She starts out fairly weak but, in the face of the sext photo backlash, really starts to grow up and out as a character. She was very genuine, unique, and had me riding shotgun next to her whilst on her emotional journey. One of my favorite characters was Josh, Blaze's little brother. Their relationship was by far the best in the book and it was so sweet! He could be a typical bratty 13-year-old, but he was also protective of his sister and I could tell how much he cared about her. The addition of Josh's various friends to the story was something that I loved and thought helped set this book apart from others out there. "Mark the Shark" was a total player and, quite frankly, a dick. His only redeeming quality was that he had the good graces to be ashamed of what he did and the consequences that followed. Then we have Quentin, and oh how I wish there had been more of him. I liked that there was a small amount of history between him and Blaze from when they were younger. Blaze + Quentin = a match made in comic book heaven! If only she hadn't spent so dang much time thinking about Mark. >_>

Blaze spends her free time being absorbed in reading and creating comic books and chauffeuring around a gang of soccer 'cretins', aka her brother, Josh, and his friends. Automatically this was something different and new for me. Both of these elements were part of what secured my growing fondness for this book. While I'm not all that knowledgeable on all things comic-book related, I loved the references and how the author managed to seamlessly incorporate them all throughout the book. (I have read Sin City so I appreciated that reference!) The family dynamics between Blaze and Josh, their mother, and their absentee father were very keenly wrought and helped to add even more dimension to the story. Then of course we have the issue of the "sext" photo and severe bullying. This is something that happens quite a bit throughout schools and towns all across the world and the aftermath is never pretty. It is a serious issue and Crompton managed to shine light on it in a very effective way. Despite her previous naivety, in the end, Blaze handled things very well and managed to stay fairly strong--*insert a mini breakdown here and there*-- throughout the ordeal. There was definitely a sense of hope laced all throughout this story, and I think that is very important. Sometimes it is hard to see past the current mess and seeming hopelessness of a situation. Furthermore, Crompton showed that while it can and will be very hard, things can get better. Her handling of the actual sexual content was something I also thought she did well in making sure it was necessary to the plot and, while a bit detailed, no more explicit than required.

Crompton's writing style was crisp and honest, knowing when to be deep and serious and when to lighten things up with some well-placed humor. She was able to make me wholly dedicated to the story she was telling, and I was able to immerse myself in Blaze's emotion. The writing flowed in a swift and consistent manner that kept me wanting to turn the pages.

The ending was nothing short of perfect. Actually, I'd say that about the whole last part. We get introduced to a few new characters, Butterfly and Maniac, a hip truck-driving couple. Blaze's dad makes his first actual appearance. The way the conflict was resolved between Blaze and her dad was pure epicness. Honestly, if I had rated this book based purely on the last 1/3 or so of the book, it would have been five stars all the way.

In Essence

Characters: Annoyingly naive heroine but lovable and shows significant character growth. Refreshing array of supporting characters.
Writing: Very polished and genuine writing style.
Plot: Both hilarious and emotionally wrought. An original take on the "sext" photo story line.
Ending: Perfect!
Enjoyment/Likability: The more I read, the more I liked it! Really enjoyed.
Recommendable: Great for YA contemp fans!

Overall: With its unique comic book twist, Blaze was a harmonious balance of humor and depth. The story was good to begin with, but as it continued, it grew into something just shy of amazing. A terrific YA contemporary debut from an author showing a ton of promise.

Cover: Simple but cool! Lovin' the pink hair!

Buy Blaze
Amazon / B&N / Kindle / Nook 


Here is your chance to win a copy of this great book, thanks to Sourcebooks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Waiting on Wednesday: Wild Awake!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Wild Awake
By Hilary T. Smith
Katherine Tegen Books
May 28th, 2013
Young Adult

Synopsis via Goodreads

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.


I like lists, so the synopsis of this book immediately stood out to me when I saw it. And it sounds amazing! This book appears to have tons of potential to be outstanding and I hope it lives up. Can't wait to read this one. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Emblaze Blog Tour: Giveaway & Exclusive Short Story!

Jessica Shirvington
Sourcebooks Fire
March 19th, 2013
The Violet Eden Chapters, #3
Young Adult

Synopsis via Goodreads
Once again Violet Eden faces an impossible choice ... and the consequences are unimaginable.

Violet has come to terms with the fact that being part angel, part human, means her life will never be as it was.

Now Violet has something Phoenix - the exiled angel who betrayed her - will do anything for, and she has no intention of letting it fall into his hands. The only problem is that he has something she needs too.

Not afraid to raise the stakes, Phoenix seemingly holds all the power, always one step ahead. And when he puts the final pieces of the prophecy together, it doesn't take him long to realise exactly who he needs in order to open the gates of Hell.

With the help of surprising new allies, ancient prophecies are deciphered, a destination set and, after a shattering confrontation with her father, Violet leaves for the islands of Greece without knowing if she will have a home to return to...


The following is an exclusive short story by Jessica Shirvington that I have been given the opportunity to share with you all!


by Jessica Shirvington

My feet tangled beneath me and I stumbled forwards, almost taking a full-on nosedive.
I couldn’t believe it!
I found my balance, hitched my backpack up and powered on.
I was going to be late, again, and Giuseppe was going to kill me.
No, worse, he was going to fire me.
Last time was ‘the last time!’ he’d said, shaking his finger at me, blowing the greying curls that fall over his eyes.
But I needed that job. I needed all of my jobs. So I kept running, knowing that by the time I arrived at the Pizzeria I’d be disgusting and sweaty, and in-desperate-need-of-deodorant. Plus, I was still in my Hades wait-staff uniform, another thing that never went down well. Working a full cycle of shifts at Hades and the opposite at Giuseppe’s had me slogging from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week and constantly running from one side of the city to the other in the 30-minute-between-shifts gap.
I rounded the corner, almost there.
Giuseppe would forgive me. And if he started yelling, I’d just cry. That always worked. He was a tyrant, but the man couldn’t handle tears.
I pulled up short of the restaurant when I heard an all-too familiar whistle. Panting, I looked around until I spotted him. The second I saw my brother, Sean, my stomach churned. Something was wrong.
What now?
What more could possibly go wrong?
As if our lives didn’t suck enough already.
He was hidden beneath the shadow of a sunken doorway across the street. I put my hands on my hips and waited. If he wanted to talk to me he could damn well cross the road.
I could just about feel one of his heavy sighs from over the street. He was only three years older than me, but he’d assumed the man-of-the-house role a while back and since then he acted as if he was twenty-two going on fifty.
“Real discreet, Claudia,” he said harshly, pulling me by the arm to the side of the pavement. He was wearing his street clothes, which meant he hadn’t been working one of his legit jobs today. I tried not to notice.
“Sean, whatever it is, I don’t have time. I’m late for work again. Giuseppe will give my job to one of his five million cousins if I don’t hurry up.”
His expression softened. I wasn’t the only one who worked constantly. There was a time when all Sean did was chase his med degree and chase girls. He was so different back then, but those days were well and truly gone. Everyone thought he’d have this amazing future, become some kind of medical savior. I guess in a way he had – just not the way he’d thought he would, and not the way that guaranteed any kind of bright future either. Sean was our family’s savior. After what Dad did … Sean kept us all going, kept us together and safe. He looked over his shoulder. He was scared.
More than usual.
I grabbed hold of his clammy hand. “What is it?”
He shook his head, more to himself than me. “We have to go, Claude’s. We have to pack up and leave.”
“But, but … we need more time! We don’t have the money yet!”
“Shh,” he snapped, his eyes urgent as he looked up and down the street. “I have it. I pulled in a favor. Claudia, we have to finish this. We’ll give them the money after your shift tonight and then we’re out of here. All of us.”
“Why? I mean, if you have the money, wasn’t that the whole point? If we give it to them won’t they leave us alone? This is supposed to be the final payment.” We’d worked so hard for the last year. It had all been leading to this. Every single cent we’d made had gone to them.
“They’ll never leave us alone, Claudia. I … I don’t know what they are but they know things … and they can do things that normal people can’t. I … I saw one of them this afternoon …” he paled and grabbed me by the shoulders as if to steady himself. “I can’t even tell you, it was so horrible. I just know we have to go. We have to get Taylor and Mum away from this place.”
I knew he was right. Deep down, I’d always known the men who Dad had been mixed up with before he died were not normal. I don’t know how, instinct I guess. Sean had always known too, even if we hadn’t wanted to admit it to one another. It was why we’d being working so hard to pay off Dad’s debt. Whatever gambling mess he’d gotten himself into, it had ended up costing a lot more than simple interest. I knew I wasn’t the only one in my family who suspected his death wasn’t just a simple car accident. Sean and I had never told Mum about what his body looked like when we’d gone to identify him. We never would.
I nodded.
“I can ask for my pay tonight. Here,” I fumbled in my bag, pulling out my wallet. “I have my pay from Hades, too.”
Sean sighed with relief as he took the money. My contribution was important, but Sean was the one who brought in the big bucks. He’d given up everything and I knew he couldn’t be doing anything good to bring in the kind of money he was. I wished I could hate my father for it. But he was a victim too.
“I’m going to get us away from all this, Claudia. We’ll go somewhere else and start fresh. We’ll get Taylor into a good school. You’ll be able to go back to art school. Everything will be better.”
I looked toward the pizza restaurant. I could hear Giuseppe’s booming voice. “I better go.” I threw my arms around my brother and he hugged me back briefly.
“I have to go organize a few things. Stay in the restaurant until I get back. Then we’ll go give them the money and we’re gone.”
I bit my lip nervously, but nodded. “Be careful, Sean.”
He mustered a small smile. “Don’t tell anyone, okay. We have to just disappear.”
He was looking around again, pulling his hoodie over his head. Whatever he’d seen had more than frightened him.
“I know. I won’t.”

* * *

I watched the clock on the wall. Giuseppe yelled at me for twelve minutes, which was a long time even for him. I tried to turn on the waterworks but they didn’t come. I don’t know if it was because I was too petrified something might go wrong with Sean’s plan or if I was too excited about the prospect of finally being free of Dad’s unfortunate legacy.
Sean had known about Dad’s gambling when he was alive. Apparently a few weeks before the accident Dad had broken down and told him he was in trouble – that the people he owed money to were dangerous and would come after him. Sean had dropped out of university and started his first shift at a bar that night. I remember yelling at him the next day – not knowing why he’d done it – calling him a deadbeat loser.
I went through the motions. Collecting dirty plates, loading them up on my already tired arms. At least working here, the customers didn’t get too drunk or handsy. Some nights after a shift at Hades my overly pinched ass was the sorest part of all. Here, I just had to put up with being yelled at by Giuseppe and Mario and Antonio and, well, there were a lot of them, for six hours. At least this would be my last six hours of that.
I took a deep breath while making my way to the next table, topping up their wine. Everything was about to change. If Sean and I could just pull this off, if we could get Mom and Taylor packed up tonight, by tomorrow … by tomorrow we could be starting our new life. I could get another job and actually use the money for something I wanted. I knew the first thing I’d buy – after a haircut. Paint.
“Pizza, Claudia!” Mario yelled at me, from behind the wood-fired oven.
I collected the three scorching hot pizzas, which meant one was, resting against my wrist, but I was used to it. I’d been working there for over a year, my arms had burn scars that I was sure would never go away. I delivered the pizzas and noticed new customers seated in the dinky corner. We were obviously full – it was always the last table to go.
I headed over, recognizing one of the diners. Violet Eden and I had gone to the same school, but I’d been ahead of her and apart from the one community art course, we rarely crossed paths. But now this was twice in a few weeks. Weird how that can happen – as if someone is suddenly supposed to be in your life for some reason.
She was looking at me, panic drawn all over her face. Last time I saw her she was at Hades with some hottie, getting drunk on the sly. Nothing I hadn’t done a couple of years back – half her luck. Anyway, she’d forgotten my name. It’s so easy to tell when people do that – maybe because it happened to me all the time, all they see is my bright red hair. Taking those last few steps. I twisted a little so my name badge would be in her line of sight and as I stopped in front of her table I flicked my hair back giving her full view. I could tell the moment her eyes latched on to the golden nametag by the relief flooding her features.
“Hey, Violet,” I said.
“Hey, Claudia. So this is the other place you work at,” Violet said, recalling our last conversation. At least she’d remembered that.
“Yeah, unfortunately.” I smiled but something about her was off. She was tense, sitting high in her chair, holding the menu with an almost desperate grip. I thought she looked a little frightened. I leaned towards her, about to ask if she was okay, before stopping myself. I barely knew her, and I was about to know her a whole lot less once this city was in our rearview mirror. So instead, I decided on something more neutral. “Shitty tips and crap boss, but it works,” I said with a shrug, using the movement to step back a little.
Violet smiled awkwardly, looking between her dinner partner and me. I looked at him for the first time and almost fainted right there.
“Claudia, this is Phoenix,” she said, kind of leaving things there, up in the air. I wasn’t much help. I was speechless. He was beautiful. I mean, not hottie like – he was utterly, earth-shatteringly and painfully beautiful.
Did people like this actually exist?
He had this presence around him, some kind of humming vibration coming off him and I … Oh. My. God. I just wanted to dive in, lose myself in it.
He didn’t even look at me but it didn’t matter. I felt as if he knew exactly what I was thinking. I stared. I wasn’t usually brazen with guys and especially not ones who looked like that … but I couldn’t look away, couldn’t bear to take my eyes from him, even if all he was doing was staring at his menu, completely disinterested in me.
“Pleasure,” he said, now looking over his menu to Violet.
But when he spoke something happened; a feeling foreign but not, came over me as if it wasn’t mine but had being molded from me somehow. A sureness … that Sean had been right. We needed to leave this city, get as far away from here as possible. Strangest of all, I knew the light-bulb moment had something to do with the guy sitting at the table, Phoenix.
I swayed, overwhelmed, and had to brace a hand on their table.
Violet was watching me strangely. Fair enough, I was macking on her dinner date. How did she suddenly have all these adorable guys around her?
“Hi,” I said, trying to recover, looking at Phoenix. “Can I take your order?”
Violet cleared her throat. “I’ll have the Diavola pizza, thanks.”
I saw Phoenix smirk. He was looking at her so intently. She had her eyes cast down, avoiding his. I almost reached out and slapped her. It wasn’t just that I’d been unlucky in love with a string of guys that fit into the live-and-learn category of life, it was that with everything my life had – or rather had not – turned into, to have one person look at me the way he was looking at her just for one moment. I couldn’t imagine a more heavenly thing.
Phoenix glanced my way briefly. “The same, and a glass of the Cabernet,” he said dismissively.
I nodded, writing it down, trying to process the overpowering influx of emotion I was experiencing. Yet again, I was so sure all of a sudden that I had to leave – had to get away.
I staggered away from the table, desperately needing to get away from them, but half wanting to grab a hold of Phoenix and beg him to take me away. But with each step my mind seemed to clear. I had no idea what was going on, but the feelings that had started to stir when I’d been near that guy stayed. The weirdest thing of all was that, I felt as if Phoenix had been trying to help me. I shook my head at myself. Crazy. He didn’t even know me.
I went to the bathroom to pull myself together. Whatever had just happened, it didn’t matter. We were leaving. Everything would be okay. I splashed water on my face and reloaded the toilet-paper holders before heading back out to the busy restaurant, grabbing empty glasses from tables as I passed. That was Giuseppe’s rule, ‘never waste a walk anywhere; you go to the kitchen, bring something with you! You leave the kitchen, you take something out!’
“Pizza! Claudia!” Mario yelled. I grabbed the pizzas and got back to my tables, avoiding Violet and her friend. When I spotted Giuseppe I even got up the gall to ask him for my pay at the end of the shift.
He spat out a string of words in Italian and marched off. I smiled. For Giuseppe, that meant yes. I actually felt bad that I would have to leave without saying goodbye. Maybe Sean would let me write Giuseppe a letter once we were settled.
“Pizza! Claudia!” Mario yelled, again from behind the wood-fired oven. I made my way over to the two waiting Diavola’s. Violet’s order.
I dropped the dishes on their table quickly, trying not to look at Phoenix. Now that I’d managed to get my head straight, I didn’t want to risk it all muddling up again – and I didn’t want to do something stupid like throw myself at him right in front of Violet. For some reason I couldn’t trust myself around that guy so I concentrated on my other tables, hoping that I might be able to make some extra tips.
When the peak-time slam settled down, I offered to go out back and start on clean up. It was usually the job everyone avoided, but I wanted to do something nice for Giuseppe and it meant I could daydream about where Sean and I would take the family.
Taylor would be so excited. She hated her school. We’d had to move her into a public school six months ago because we couldn’t cover the private tuition fees. She didn’t complain but the new school didn’t have a music department and I’d heard her crying every night for the first few weeks. Taylor had an amazing voice – I’d never heard an eight-year-old like her. And she loved choir. There was something about her – she was good. Sean and I both knew it – of all of us Taylor was the best. She would do something amazing with her life. Make a difference. And Sean and I would do anything to protect her so she could.
I started wiping down the prep benches and putting away ingredients in the cool room. I wouldn’t care if I never ate a pizza again in my whole life. Pizza and the occasional pick up from the kitchen at Hades had been the basis of all our family meals for the past year. There is only so much pepperoni one person can take.
I hummed to myself as I worked. This was it. Everything would be better once we were gone. We’d done the best we could, paid off Dad’s debt and now it was time to get on with our lives. Maybe Sean would go back to med school. Maybe Mum would be happy again and let go of some of her guilt. I think she knew what Sean and I had to do to keep us safe – she just couldn’t bear to talk to us about it. Mum was an Irish woman and her pride had been stripped away, but with this new start …
I tied the rubbish bags and used my back to push open the alley door that led out to the bins. Caught up in the disgustingness of my shoes sticking to the dirty ground, I didn’t even look behind me and backed right into what felt like a brick wall. A very human-shaped brick wall, that is.
I dropped the rubbish and tried to spin around, but I barely made any progress before an arm closed around my neck and started dragging me into the darkness of the alley while I gasped, watching the kitchen door slam shut.
Beyond the sounds of my scuffling feet and strangled whimpers I could hear the noises of the world around me – the traffic, the hustle, the buzz of distant voices in the air. But they were so far away. Already I feared I would never again be a part of those noises coming from the end of the alley – the sounds of life.
I screamed, struggling to get away from the person dragging me into the darkness. But he was so strong, it barely seemed an effort for him to counter my attempts until, all of a sudden, he dropped his hold on me so fast I fell to the ground. Too sacred to look around and face my captor, I scrambled on hands and knees, my sights fixed on the kitchen door. If I could just get inside …
But he grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled so hard the fabric ripped apart.
I heard a growl. I froze. Whatever feral noise that was, it was not anything human. Did he have an animal with him? Before I could stop myself I spun around in a crouch to see him and terror I’d never believed existed encased me.
He was incredibly tall and eerily thin, except for his shoulders which seemed to be twice the width of him. He sneered at me wickedly, as if enjoying my fear and ran an eager hand through his bright white hair that stood out like a beacon on his otherwise black outfit.
“You should not have tried to leave. You belong to us.”
Oh God, help me!
I desperately looked down the end of the alley.
“No, no,” I stammered. “We … we have your money. My brother will be here any second. We have all of your money!”
He watched me with hungry eyes that had me trying to shuffle back.
“Your brother needs to be taught a lesson. You’re it.”
He was going to kill me. Sean would come to get me in an hour and he’d find me dead. I didn’t want to die.
“Please!” I panted between fear-filled gulps. “Please, we’ll do anything. We’ll get you more money.”
“Should’ve thought of that before.” He shrugged. “But they don’t send me to negotiate,” he growled.
I backed up until I hit the wall, sobbing and let out a final scream.
The man moved fast, inhumanly fast, grabbing me by the hair, pulling me to my feet.
All I could think about was Taylor. I prayed that she would at least go on. That Sean would find a way to keep her safe – I knew he would.
The tall blond winked as his hand moved back. He was going to beat me to death and by the look in his eyes – he was planning to take his time.
But just before his hand should have collided with my face, he stopped, his arm dropping and his attention drawn to the end of the alley.
I strained under his tight grip to see what he was looking at. Someone was walking towards us.
I started to scream again, a high-pitched desperate holler for life.
The man yanked me savagely, twisting me so my back was to him and his arm, once again, was around my neck.
When the person coming down the alley was only meters away I saw who it was.
Violet’s friend.
But he looked different. Stone faced his cold eyes were fixed on the man holding me. Suddenly, I didn’t know if things had just improved for me or not.
‘This is not your business,” the man holding me said menacingly.
Phoenix shrugged like he didn’t have a care in the world. He didn’t look frightened at all. “Just made it mine, Cherub,” he said the last word with venom.
“She’s our property,” the man snarled.
Phoenix didn’t respond. I wondered if he was considering just walking away. If he did, I was dead.
Footsteps pounded down the ally and another figure came into view.
“Violet!” I screamed before I could think. “VIOLET! HELP ME!”
The man yanked my head back, his grasp on my neck tightening while his other hand clamped down over my mouth.
I kept my desperate eyes on Violet.
Oh God. I’d just brought her into all of this. What had I done? She couldn’t help me, how could she? She was just a girl, younger than me. She was watching on, petrified. If I had another chance I’d yell at her to run.
Phoenix whispered something harshly at her but then he turned back to us, a different type of resolve now on his face as he positioned himself between Violet and us.
“Release her,” he said, his voice quietly rebounding off the alley walls threateningly.
I felt the man back up half a step and he did something to me. It felt as if thick syrup was poured over my body, inside and out, covering all of me and then hardening, like glass. Impenetrable glass. And I was locked within.
He threw me down, my head smacking into the concrete and looked at me with absolute hatred as he commanded, “Kneel before me.”
I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to kneel for him even though deep down I was still there, was still petrified, he owned me. I had to do as he commanded.
I crawled to his feet, blood dripping from my head onto my hands and I knelt.
“Beg me to take your life,” he spat at me.
My mind fought feebly. Sean was supposed to come for me. Was this the price I would pay for dreaming? Would this be the price Sean would pay, too? My heart pounded with fear as the tall man’s image morphed into something terrifyingly creature-like. I considered I might already be dead and in some kind of hell. Either way, I was in absolutely no doubt, I must do as I was told.
“Kill me. P-p-please,” I stuttered, tears streaming down my face.
“No! Let her go!” I heard Violet scream. But it was all too far away now. “Claudia! Claudia, run!” She may as well have suggested I fly. Did she not see the terrible things surrounding me?
The man pulled me up, spinning me to face Violet and Phoenix and put a hand flat on either side of my face, holding me still.
“If you want her, come and get her,” he challenged, adding another word at the end I did not know; “Grigori.”
He lifted me into the air, holding me out toward them.
Pain registered distantly. People were not supposed to be held mid air by their heads, but I just dangled, completely disconnected, locked away in my glass prison.
I knew what he was going to do. As if he had somehow whispered it tauntingly in my ear.
Violet launched herself toward me, panic-stricken but brave, eyes on mine, arms outstretched. She knew too.
And then, I saw Phoenix. As if he’d somehow forced me to look in his direction and instantly … everything, all the pain, the fear, even the feelings of entrapment vanished. I was me and I was not afraid.
I was at peace.


Now, here's a chance to win a copy of Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington!

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Fuse by Julianna Baggott Giveaway!

Julianna Baggott
Grand Central Publishing
February 19th, 2013
Pure, #2
Young Adult

Synopsis via Goodreads
When the world ended, those who dwelled within the Dome were safe. Inside their glass world the Pures live on unscarred, while those outside—the Wretches—struggle to survive amidst the smoke and ash.

Believing his mother was living among the Wretches, Partridge escaped from the Dome to find her. Determined to regain control over his son, Willux, the leader of the Pures, unleashes a violent new attack on the Wretches. It’s up to Pressia Belze, a young woman with her own mysterious past, to decode a set of cryptic clues from the past to set the Wretches free.

An epic quest that sweeps readers into a world of beautiful brutality, Fuse continues the story of two people fighting to save their futures—and change the fate of the world.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one finished copy of Fuse by Julianna Baggott up for grabs! US & Canada only!

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Charm & Strange!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Charm & Strange
By Stephanie Kuehn
St. Martin's Griffin
June 11th, 2013
Young Adult

Synopsis via Goodreads

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

But he’s also part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a family secret so painful it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild thoughts inside his mind or learn that surviving can mean more than not dying.


This one sounds sooo good and mysterious, as well as potentially deep. I can't wait for this one to come out! What do you think? Have you seen this one around?

Monday, February 4, 2013

February TBR Pile!

Hello dear readers! So, this is a sneak peek at what I am hoping to get read in the month of February. I already have one book under my belt, Weather Witch by Shannon Delany. With my ridiculous college course load and other personal activities, getting all of these read will be difficult but I'm certainly going to give it a go. I'm determined that I won't go MIA this semester as I have been so prone to do in the past since starting college. If you are curious to see what I've read in January, you can check out my left hand sidebar. Here is the official list for this month:

Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison
Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Being Henry David by Cal Armistead
Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini
Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington
Georgetown Academy by Jessica Etting & Alyssa Schwartz
Awake at Dawn by C.C. Hunter
Forty Days by Stephanie Parent

Are any of these books you are hoping to read? Maybe you've already read some of them? 

Friday, February 1, 2013

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About Me

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Georgia, United States
Hello all! My name is Briana, I'm 20, and I live in the beautiful state of Georgia. I love reading and photography.

My Partner in mean reading. :P

My Partner in mean reading. :P
Meet Rudy everyone!