Search This Blog

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


a Rafflecopter giveaway


This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Gem & Dixie is the new novel from renowned young adult author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr—a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table; and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie, on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she's tried so hard to keep.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr has written her most personal and affecting book yet—an unforgettable story of breaking apart and of coming together again.

Goodreads Summary

I loved this story despite it not including romance (big step for me). Gem and Dixie are two sisters who are very different in terms of personality, looks, and desires. Gem has always seen herself as the helper and somewhat "mother" to Dixie due to their own mother's drug and alcohol abuse and inability to function, at times. Dixie used to see Gem in that way, too; however, it all changed as Dixie grew older and cooler and could use her charm and looks to get people to buy her things and food. Gem dreams of getting away and doesn't believe their mother or father (absent for the longest time) will ever change. She sees the school counselor and randomly does or doesn't talk to him. Gem is labelled as damaged. When their absent father returns, Gem knows that things are going to change...especially when she finds the backpack filled with money stashed by her suspect father under her own bed.

Gem and Dixie's characters were remarkably complex. The author captured the angst and sorrow of forgotten and neglected teens. The pair's resilience and unique ways of dealing with their lives will capture the readers' attention and force the reader to become very invested in these two girls. I couldn't predict the ending and spent a lot of time worrying for Gem in particular. I loved the inserted backstories of Gem and Dixie's heritage and family history (written by Gem for the school counselor).

The only part I wasn't sure I liked in this book involved Kip and the last portion of the book. While I liked Kip's character, I felt like she was a bit out of place or that the author had reached for yet another theme and not quite fit it into the other present themes. The closeness and relationship between Gem and Dixie just wasn't as present or important in the last part despite that being what I thought was the main part of the plot.

4 Stars


This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Best of Archie Comics, Book 1 (The Best of Archie Comics)


Celebrate 70 years of Archie Comics fun with this massive full-color collection of over 50 favorite comic book stories hand-selected by noted Archie writers, artists, editors and historians. Also included are loads of entertaining behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the comics, their creators, and Archie's unique impact on America's pop culture!

Designed for young and old alike, this is both a must-have companion for anyone who has grown up with Archie and a perfect introduction for new readers.

Goodreads Summary

My mom gave my sister and I Archie, Jughead, and Betty and Veronica comics for nearly every Holiday and, sometimes, just for fun! I grew up loving how Betty and Veronica functioned as both best friends and enemies. I never understood why they fought over Archie, but it was usually in good fun. Jughead's eating habits and casual humor was enticing and fun! Even the vain Reggie had his good points. I loved each characters' names, personalities, and quirks. The plot lines varied from short to long and "to be continued." I feel like I learned a bunch of moral and even social lessons from these comics! I even love the different ways the characters are drawn from plot point to plot point. Sometimes the characters are drawn "sharper" and other times they are rounded out and a little kinder looking. Their personalities and are so fleshed out and distinct; even Midge and Moose appear from time to time and will become part of a beloved repertoire. I recommend Archie comics for "kids" of all ages and interests.

5 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

Goodreads Summary


Tilla and Jax are bastards by the same father. Tilla still hopes to be legitimized in some way while Jax prefers the wilder life. Their status is far from impressive and often looked down upon in a society where bastards are only useful if the legitimate children are 1) never born or 2) die early. When Lyriana changes up the social order by sitting with the bastards at their specific table, more than just the social structure is shaken up. Soon, the bastard group plus Lyriana must flee together to try to help each other escape an unspeakable horrible fate.

I loved the main characters, in particular, Lyriana, Zell, and Tilla. The brewing romance between Zell and Tilla did not overshadow the main plot or take away from Tilla's impressive mental strength and wit. I love that the author provided the readers with backstories to each of his characters. The characters are dynamic and almost feel as if they could step off the page at any moment. Despite being from very different walks of life, they all come together for a common cause and eventually form friendships and romances. I have to admit that I finished this book in under three hours. I literally couldn't put it down without knowing what happened to Lyriana and how the plot would unfold and what happened in Zell's past, etc... Thoroughly engrossing and wonderfully written, Royal Bastards should fly off the shelves.

5 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

Friday, December 16, 2016

After her father goes missing in the woods that they protect, Winter tries to seek the truth in what happened, why the wood is changing, and what it all has to do with the arrival of a mysterious stranger in this thrilling YA debut.

When Winter’s dad goes missing during his nightly patrol of the wood, it falls to her to patrol the time portals and protect the travelers who slip through them. Winter can't help but think there's more to her dad's disappearance than she's being told.

She soon finds a young man traveling in the wood named Henry who knows more than he should. He believes if they can work together to find his missing parents, they could discover the truth about Winter’s dad. 

The wood is poisoned, changing into something sinister—torturing travelers lost it. Winter must put her trust in Henry in order to find the truth and those they’ve lost. 

Bobulski’s eerie debut is filled with friendship, family, and the responsibilities we choose and those we do not.

Goodreads Summary

I was lucky enough to pick this one up at NCTE. This novel reminds me so much of Victoria Schwab's The Archived with a twist. Winter's father disappears one day in the Woods that he carefully guards . Winter knows that this is no accident. Her father was thorough in his work. Winter, now the new caretaker of the Woods and of the "time travelers" who appear within it, smells foul play. When a mysterious boy repeatedly tries to enter into her world, Winter investigates and discovers that there are problems within the Council that oversees the Wood that could result in world destruction. 

I loved Winter's character. Her dedication to her family and unwillingness to give up on her father and the Woods was admirable. I like that she tried so hard to do a good job and, at a young age, was very open-minded. Henry functioned as the love interest and stubborn thorn in her side for most of the novel. Their relationship bitter sweet and short lived (somewhat, you'll have to read the book to see!). I liked how it developed organically and didn't feel rushed. The author kept the relationship firmly behind the main plot. I liked how the romance flitted in and out of the main focus: the Woods. Overall, I found this book to be an excellent and rewarding read. 

4 Stars






This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys

Thursday, December 8, 2016
You are cordially invited to participate in a game of thrills and dares. Tell no one, and come alone. If you dare.

Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she’s breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she’s tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she’s going to afford college. And she’s bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb.

When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she might win some real money.

But the Society isn’t all it seems . . . and soon Hope finds that playing the game isn’t a choice—it’s a requirement.
 

Goodreads Summary


Hope has cystic fibrosis. The nasty genetic lung disease has a way of making her appear fragile and incapable, but Hope loves to dispel people of that notion. When she receives an invitation to join the Society she decides to give it a try. As the dares start to come in, Hope soon realizes that she is way over her head. Once you dip your toe in the water, you simply must dive in.

Hope's character was well-developed. She came off as a bit conceited in some ways. I liked her determination and how she wanted to help her mom and was focused on college and aspirations. Her cystic fibrosis is mentioned throughout the book, but not over stated (which is something I wouldn't have minded). I could tell the author had done the research necessary to make her character accurately display the disease and potential mental/physical side effects. The other characters were mainly in the society and will become immediate suspects to the reader. I literally could not figure out who did the crime and was kept guessing until the bitter end. The ending itself surprised the heck out of me. The author does a wonderful job of making it nearly impossible for the reader to figure out the mystery and even throws in confusing events/people here and there. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author.

4 Stars





This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Crystal Storm by Morgan Rhodes

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

An epic clash between gods and mortals threatens to tear Mytica apart . . . and prove that not even the purest of love stands a chance against the strongest of magic.

MAGNUS and CLEO are forced to test the strength of their love when Gaius returns to Mytica claiming he's no longer the King of Blood but a changed man seeking redemption.

LUCIA, pregnant with the child of a Watcher, has escaped the clutches of the unhinged fire god. Her powers are dwindling as she goes forth to fulfill a prophecy that will keep her baby safe . . . but could mean her demise. 

JONAS treks back to Mytica with a plan to overtake Amara, but fate takes hold when he runs into the beautiful Princess Lucia and joins her on her perilous journey.

AMARA has taken the Mytican throne, but with no way to unleash the water magic trapped within her stolen crystal, she'll never be able to seize glory and get sweet revenge.

And what kind of darkness will descend--and who will be safe--after Prince Ashur reveals the dangerous price he paid to cheat death?

Goodreads Summary

I really enjoyed this book. Magnus and Cleo are torn between consumating their love and Cleo's belief that she will suredly die in childbirth. Jonas and Amara are still going head to head. Lucia is pregnant with an impossibly fast-growing child. I actually had trouble keeping track of all of the characters in this book. They had dynamic and developed characters, but it would be a good idea to read more slowly or start from the beginning of the series if you're anything like me! The author continues the plot from the novel before and the new plot tendrils develop and slowly infiltrate the main premise. 

I loved the relationship between Magnus and Cleo. They were probably my favorite characters with Amara coming in second mostly for her tempestuous personality. Magnus and Cleo have the kind of relationship that will make the typical person jealous. Magnus is sweet and super caring and Cleo has a calm, nurturing presence. Lucia spent the majority of the novel pregnant and with dubious maternal instinct. It's hard to portray such an action-packed plot in a short review, but this book is worth grabbing online or at a bookstore!

4 Stars


This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

Sunday, December 4, 2016
A smart, sexy, and surprising story of love and death set in an eccentric Brooklyn neighborhood where history since 2001 has unfolded differently than we remember.

Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed.

Lorna Ryder is a Devonairre Street girl, and for years, paying lip service to the curse has been the small price of living in a neighborhood full of memories of her father, one of the thousands killed five years earlier in the 2001 Times Square Bombing. Then her best friend’s boyfriend is killed, and suddenly a city paralyzed by dread of another terrorist attack is obsessed with Devonairre Street and the price of falling in love.

Set in an America where recent history has followed a different path, The Careful Undressing of Love is a love story that will leave readers breathless and unsettled.

Goodreads Summary

Devonairre Street girls fall in love and their "victim" dies. Lorna is a girl born and raised on Devonairre street. She has been in love with a bo for a long time, but too terrified to act upon her feelings. She feels like her own father has fallen victim to the curse. The reader follows Lorna and her friends and how they approach their fears and try to rationalize just what is happening both worldwide and internally.

I both liked and disliked Lorna's character. I ultimately think I would have needed to get to know her better in order to make a firm decision. Many of her actions seemed foolhardy and overblown, but the author managed to write her as if she were a teen perfectly. I really enjoyed the overall feel of the book. It's an odd thing to say, but I didn't think I liked magical realism as a genre as much as I did with this book. The ending was a bit of a disappointment (though realistic!) and I am looking forward to reading more from this author!

4 Stars





This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Friday, December 2, 2016


“I plead the blood.”

Those were the last words seventeen-year-old golden boy quarterback Clay Tate heard rattling from his dad's throat when he discovered him dying on the barn floor of the Neely Cattle Ranch, clutching a crucifix to his chest.

Now, on the first anniversary of the Midland, Oklahoma slaughter, the whole town's looking at Clay like he might be next to go over the edge. Clay wants to forget the past, but the sons and daughters of the Preservation Society—a group of prominent farmers his dad accused of devil worship—won't leave him alone. Including Ali, his longtime crush, who suddenly wants to reignite their romance after a year of silence, and hated rival Tyler Neely, who’s behaving like they’re old friends.

Even as Clay tries to reassure himself, creepy glances turn to sinister stares and strange coincidences build to gruesome rituals—but when he can never prove that any of it happened, Clay worries he might be following his dad down the path to insanity...or that something far more terrifying lies in wait around the corner.

Goodreads Summary

I read this at 1 in the morning and proceeded to stay awake until 3. I love horror novels, but this book sent shivers down my spine. The beginning was horrifying and gripping. I can't imagine seeing your dad die and spout odd religious-sounding sentences. The author lays the scene for what must be the best ending she ever wrote; it was so intricate and took such careful planning. I grew attached to Clay's character. The whole town judges his family for what happened with his father, his sister sings a creepy song, and his ex-girlfriend is suddenly interested again. I partly guessed (but not really) the ending and I loved the plot twists the author threw in.

Clay was a really nice guy. His character was humble, kind, and restrained. He was a true gentleman and tried to do things the right way. I did not like the vast majority of the other characters; many of them made the pages smell evil. At the very end, Clay's girlfriend became more redemptive. I really would love to see a sequel so we could find out what ended up happening! It wasn't quite a cliff-hanger, but I was left with many unanswered questions and a wild imagination.

4 Stars



This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Dare and the Doctor by Kate Noble: Promo and Giveaway!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016




A thrilling and absorbing tale about two people who find so much safety in each other that they’re able to take the biggest risk of their lives. Not to be missed.”
Kirkus Reviews (STARRED REVIEW, The Dare and the Doctor)

“Noble asks “Can men and women just be friends?” in the third Winner Takes All installment, and the answer is an enchanting tale filled with poignancy and wit…readers will be caught up in the plot as the hero and heroine’s letters reveal more and more about themselves and their relationship…secondary characters enhance the storyline and propel the romance. Noble crafts a lovely, easy-to-read story.”
—RT (FOUR STAR REVIEW, The Dare and the Doctor)

About the book

National bestselling author Kate Noble’s THE DARE AND THE DOCTOR lures readers back to the dazzling, irresistible Winner Takes All Regency Romance series. Margaret Babcock has always been content with her quiet life in the country. But every now and then, she feels the urge to spread her wings. Her late mother used to whisper, “What’s the worst that could happen?” at the start of an adventure, and now Margaret’s continuing the tradition. So when Dr. Rhys Gray, her longtime correspondent on matters botanical, invites her to speak to the London Horticultural Society about her new rose hybrid, she accepts. She’s excited about her first visit to London, but even more so about getting to see her friend Dr. Gray. When she arrives, Rhys is eager to show her the wonders of the city, and the two spend many happy hours together just as friends, of course! But would friends miss each other quite as fiercely when they’re apart; or feel such a spark when they’re together? Margaret finds that friendship with Rhys is much more complicated than she’d imagined…especially when it turns out her friend has forgotten that he may be promised to another woman.

About the author

Kate Noble is the national bestselling author of The Lie and the Lady, The Game and the Governess, third in the witty, sexy Winner Takes All Regency Series, and the critically acclaimed, RITA Award-nominated Blue Raven series. Under the name Kate Rorick, she writes for television, as well as novels based on the Emmy Award-winning web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, for which she is also a writer and producer. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit Kate at katenoble.comFacebook, and Twitter.

Praise for the Winner Takes All Series

With her usual witty writing and exquisite flair for characterization, Noble offers [The Lie and the Lady]. The effortless manner in which she wrote. The Lie and the Lady as a separate love story while at the same time gracefully connecting it to The Game and the Governess and cleverly hinting at what is to come in the series is nothing less than brilliant.”
Booklist (STARRED REVIEW, The Lie and the Lady)

“After a scandalous escapade with John, a commoner she thought was the Earl of Ashby. Letitia returns to England as the fiancĂ©e of a somewhat older, titled widower- only to find out that her new home is right in John’s backyard . . . heartwarming.”
Publishers Weekly (The Lie and the Lady)

“The Earl of Ashby trades places with his friend and secretary in order to prove he can win a woman without the benefit of his title in The Game and the Governess…It’s a delicious treat to watch Ned grow from earl to man, and see the stalwart Phoebe get everything she deserves.”
Bookpage (TOP PICK IN ROMANCE, The Game and the Governess)

“The subtle development of romance between the devil-may-care earl and the proper governess is the impetus behind this winning novel, complete with rich characters and a multi-dimensional plotline.”
—Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW, Best Summer Romance pick, The Game and the Governess

WINNER TAKES ALL GIVEAWAY!
To celebrate the third in the Winner Takes All series, The Dare and the Doctor, we are hosting a giveaway and the WINNER will TAKE ALL books in the series: The Game and the Governess, The Lie and the Lady and The Dare and the Doctor! Please note, you can enter at all participating blogs but you can only win once. U.S. only.

Blog Tour

REVIEWS:
BOOKPAGE: GUEST POST NOVEMBER 21ST!

FEATURE POSTS:

GIVEAWAY:

Win books 1-3 by entering your email and following me either via GFC, Email, Twitter, or Facebook.
Thank you for stopping by!

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Gratitude Giveaway Hop!

Monday, November 28, 2016



To win a mystery box of YA Arcs please leave your email and list one way you follow me (GFC, twitter, email-must be confirmed, facebook, etc...). You can leave a note about what you are doing for the holidays, too!





This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Alive by Chandler Baker

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Stella Cross's heart is poisoned.

After years on the transplant waiting list, she's running out of hope that she'll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred by strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone's radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi are inseparable.

Stella is convinced that Levi is her soul mate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?

After all, the heart never lies...does it?

Goodreads Summary

Sometimes you wonder what the worst thing in the world to experience could be. After reading this book I would say that waiting for your heart transplant would be close to the top. You aren't dying from old age, nor from a wasting mind. You are all there in the head and you know that you are dying. Definitely a pure hell on earth. Some people like Stella get lucky though and beat the odds though.

This book has a lot of aspects that make it good. Not only is it unique in the "phantom limb" category, but it also is really good at making you think about life and the things that truly matter. I liked the idea of the transplanted heart sending message to the new body that it inhabits. They always say that the heart lives on, but this book takes it to another level that is enchanting. The Author does a great job at creating a very believable introspective character here that is taking her second chance at life seriously. So often we hear about drug/alcohol addicts having their close call, recovering for a bit, and then going back to the destructive lifestyle. It was refreshing to see Stella have her close call in life and make changes to herself to achieve a better shot at happiness. Stella is a strong person and will persevere. You will find yourself rooting for her all the way through because she is very likeable as a person. Many people will also like the element of romance and the twist that goes along with this book in the end. In general, this book is out of the ordinary in all the right ways to make for a great read.

4 Stars

Reviewed by Chris

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post

Grant McAllister arrives in Murphy, North Carolina, with one aim: to sell his inherited property and leave as quickly as possible. The big-city lawyer has no interest in his late, estranged grandparents or the dilapidated mansion he just acquired. After his high-profile divorce, he should be avoiding perky reporters, too. But Jami Carlisle is honest, funny, and undeniably appealing.

After breaking up with her safe-but-smothering boyfriend, Jami is determined to ace her first big assignment. A story about the McAllister estate is too intriguing to ignore—much like its handsome, commitment-phobic heir. Thanks to her digging, the pieces of Grant’s fraught family history are gradually fitting into place, but also upending all his old beliefs.

The two draw closer as they share their dreams, until misread signals and misunderstandings begin to test their trust. But in the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home…

Goodreads Summary



Grant retreats to a large mansion previously owned by his passed-away grandparents after a particularly nasty divorce. Ironically, he himself is a lawyer. This book has quite a few tropes in it (the lawyer is the one who is divorced, he ends up dating a reporter against his own advice, etc...). Grant believes he knows what he needs to know about his family, but he's in for a whole story of surprises after meeting local reporter Jami. Jami insists upon exploring his family past and opening up the mysteries behind the mansion. Although parts of Jami made him uncomfortable, Grant still decides that he may be in love with her. Throughout the book, quite a few events occur that make it seem like the two may not remain together and their relationship is fraught with problems.

I preferred stable, aloof Grant's character over Jami's stubborn, obnoxious ways. I had difficulty connecting to either of the characters and feel like that took away some of my enjoyment of the book. The book is short and can be finished in one sitting. The author's style of writing will remind you of old-fashioned love stories (which I thoroughly enjoyed). A few of the surprises even managed to sneak up on me. I enjoyed the ending and would recommend this to adult, female readers.

4 Stars

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz: Review and Giveaway!

Saturday, November 26, 2016
In one terrifying night, the peaceful community of Creek’s Cause turns into a war zone. No one under the age of eighteen is safe. Chance Rain and his older brother, Patrick, have already fended off multiple attacks from infected adults by the time they arrive at the school where other young survivors are hiding. Most of the kids they know have been dragged away by once-trusted adults who are now ferocious, inhuman beings. The parasite that transformed them takes hold after people turn eighteen—and Patrick’s birthday is only a few weeks away.

Determined to save Patrick’s life and the lives of the remaining kids, the brothers embark on a mission to uncover the truth about the parasites—and what they find is horrifying.

Battling an enemy not of this earth, Chance and Patrick become humanity’s only hope for salvation.

Goodreads Summary

This was one of the most inventive books of 2016 for me. Gregg Hurwitz crafted a masterful tale blending biology with science fiction zombies. Chance and Patrick, the protagonists of our story, are two brothers who manage to pull the kids who are not yet zombified together and form a bit of a base at a school. They only know that after a certain age no one is safe from the brain-eating spores and will turn into a host for some unknown species. The kids struggle to grasp both the situation and what has happened to their loved ones. Chance and Patrick make some startling discoveries and there is a bit of a love interest (not too much of the story, but enough to spice things up) semi love triangle.

I really liked the boys' characters. Patrick was patient and kind. He was more of a thinker. Chance was a little more impulsive, passionate, and more of a doer. The pair worked well together and had each other at a time when most of the kids had lost their families. Patrick was turning 18 not too long after the zombies were discovered and Chance knew that he had to discover the source and, hopefully, the cure before his brother's 18th birthday. The story is told mainly from Chance's perspective and made to seem as if the book is a compilation of diary entries (a la World War Z). I throroughly enjoyed this book and can't recommend it enough to anyone who enjoys zombies, fast-paced action, and a unique plot.

5 Stars

GIVEAWAY:

  a Rafflecopter giveaway


This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn

Friday, November 25, 2016
From the national bestselling author of Jeweled Fire and Royal Airs comes the latest novel in the Elemental Blessings series.

Leah Frothen has returned home. But she can scarcely catch her breath before she is summoned by regent Darien Serlast, the man who made her a spy. Leah is reluctant to take on a new assignment, but Darien has dangled the perfect lure to draw her in…

Leah finds she enjoys the challenges of opening a shop catering to foreign visitors, especially since it affords her the opportunity to get to know Mally, the child she abandoned five years ago.

But when the regent asks her to spy on ambassadors from a visiting nation, Leah soon learns that everyone—her regent, her lover, and even her daughter—have secrets that could save the nation, but might very well break her heart.

Goodreads Summary

I wouldn't mind being in Leah's shoes. She gets to be a spy while still maintaing a fairly normal home life filled with family and friends who love her. They help her adjust to life back at home and surround her with happiness and light (somewhat literally on the happiness part). She also gets the opportunity to befriend Mally, someone who will hopefully end up being very close to her. However, there is always something to break the serenity. Leah finds out that people very close to her are harboring secrets...secrets that could make or break her in her line of work.

I really liked Leah though some of her decisions from the past were difficult for me to understand. She seemed like she had a sensible and generous personality. This novel has a bit of a darker undertone than the first few, but it will leave the reader satisfied and happy that he/she read the series in the end. I loved the casual world-building and how the author has a knack for making me care about characters I otherwise might have dismissed.

4 Stars





This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Did I Mention I Miss You by Estelle Maskame: Excerpt and Giveaway!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016



Summary:
One last chance for love.
 It’s been a year since Eden last spoke to Tyler. She remains furious with him for his abrupt departure last summer but has done her best to move on with her life at college in Chicago – and she’s finally over Tyler…isn’t she?  As school breaks up for the summer, she's heading back to Santa Monica, but she's not the only one who decides to come home… 
Despite their breakup, Tyler’s determined to rekindle what they once had. Having been left behind to deal with the aftermath of their bombshell revelation and a family torn apart, Eden’s not sure she can forgive him. Now she must search her heart and decide if Tyler is worth the risk once and for all.
 Did I Mention I Miss You? is the explosive finale to Wattpad senstation Estelle Maskame's DIMILY trilogy: three unforgettable summers of secrets, heartbreak, and forbidden romance.

Goodreads Link:
Buy Links:
Amazon:
Barnes & Noble: 
IndieBound:
About the Author:
Estelle Maskame started writing at the age of thirteen and completed the Did I Mention I Love You? trilogy when she was sixteen. She has built an extensive fanbase for her writing by serializing her work on Wattpad. Fitting book writing between her schoolwork and part-time job, Estelle has amassed followers from all over the world. She lives in Scotland. For more visit www.estellemaskame.com
Social Media Links:
          http://ow.ly/jOMs305yVJn



DID I MENTION I MISS YOU?
ESTELLE MASKAME

Chapter 1
The water is cold, yet that doesn’t stop me from wading into it, up to my ankles. I have my Converse in my hands, the laces wrapped around my fingers, and the wind is picking up, like it always does. It’s too dark to see far out over the low waves, but I can still hear the ocean crashing and rolling around me, and I almost forget that I’m not alone. There’s also the sound of fireworks, of laughter and voices, celebration and joy. I almost forget, just for a second, that it’s the Fourth of July.
A girl runs past me, through the water, disrupting the calm and gentle flow. A guy is chasing her. Boyfriend probably. He accidentally splashes water on me as he brushes past, laughing out loud before he grasps the girl and pulls her against him. I’m grinding my teeth together before I even realize it, my grip around my laces tightening. These people are around my age, but I’ve never seen them before. They’ve most likely come from out of town, from a neighboring city, to celebrate the good old Fourth of July in Santa Monica. I don’t know why. The Fourth of July isn’t anything spectacular here. Fireworks are illegal, which is the second-biggest bullshit law I’ve ever encountered in my entire life after it being illegal to pump your own gas back in Oregon. So there are no fireworks, only those from Marina del Rey to the south and Pacific Palisades to the north, which are visible from here. It’s after 9:00 p.m., so both displays have just begun. The colors light up the sky far in the distance, small and out of focus, but they’re enough to satisfy the tourists and the locals.
The couple is kissing in the water now, in the dark beneath the lights of Pacific Park. I turn my eyes away. I begin to walk away from the pier, wading slowly through the Pacific Ocean as I distance myself from all of the Fourth of July commotion. The crowds are much thicker up on the pier. Down here on the beach, it’s not so busy, so I have room to breathe. This year, I’m just not feeling the whole Independence Day excitement. There are too many memories attached to this day that I don’t want to remember, so I keep walking, farther and farther along the coast.
I only stop when Rachael calls my name. Until then, I’d forgotten that I’d been waiting for her to return. I turn around in the water to face my best friend as she half leaps, half jogs across the sand toward me. There’s an American flag bandana wrapped around her head, and she comes bearing two sundaes. She disappeared to get them almost fifteen minutes ago from Soda Jerks, which, like most stores along the pier, is open later than usual tonight.
“I got there just as they were closing up,” Rachael says, slightly breathless. Her ponytail swings around her shoulders as she comes to a stop and hands me the sundae, but not before she licks some of the overflowing ice cream from her index finger.
I edge out of the water to join her, thanking her with a smile. I’ve been quiet all night, and I still can’t bring myself to pretend that I’m okay, that I’m happy just like everyone else. So I take my sundae in my free hand, my red Converse still in the other—red footwear is as patriotic as I’m going to be today—and quickly run my eyes over the ice cream. It’s called the Toboggan Carousel, named after the Toboggan Carousel itself, which is inside the Looff Hippodrome up on the pier. Soda Jerks is on the corner. In the three weeks that I’ve been home, we’ve stopped by for sundaes more than once. In fact, I think we take an ice cream break more often than we take a coffee break these days. It’s much more comforting.
“Everyone’s up on the pier,” Rachael reminds me. “Maybe we should head up.” She sounds almost cautious as she makes the suggestion, like she’s expecting me to immediately cut her off and say no. She drops her blue eyes to her ice cream and scoops up a quick mouthful.
As she swallows, my eyes drift over her shoulder to the pier. The Pacific Wheel is performing its annual Fourth of July show, where its thousands of LED lights are programmed to display transitioning sequences of red, blue, and white. It started just after eight, at sunset. The two of us watched it for a few minutes when it first began, but it got very boring very fast. Holding back a sigh, I shift my gaze to the boardwalk instead. It’s way too overcrowded, yet I don’t want to test Rachael’s patience any more than I already have, so I say sure.
We turn back and head across the beach, weaving our way through the people spending their evening down on the sand and eating our sundaes in silence from our plastic to-go trays. After a few minutes, I stop to slip my Chucks back on.
“Did you find Meghan yet?”
I glance up at Rachael as I finish tucking my laces in. “Haven’t seen her.” In all honesty, I haven’t been looking. Although Meghan is an old friend of ours, that’s all she seems to be. Nothing more than that. But she’s home for the summer too, so Rachael’s making the effort to reunite our former trio.
“We’ll find her eventually,” she says, and then changes the subject almost immediately by adding, “Did you hear that the wheel is apparently programmed to the beat of a Daft Punk song this year?” She skips ahead of me, twirling on the sand and shimmying back over. She reaches for my free hand and pulls me toward her, her grin wide and dazzling as she spins me around. Unwillingly, I dance a little with her despite the fact that there’s no music. “Another summer, another year.”
I pull back from her, careful not to drop my sundae, and study her. She’s still swaying, still dancing to whatever song is in her head. As she closes her eyes and twirls again, I think about her words. Another summer, another year. It’s our fourth summer of being best friends, and despite a slight falling-out last year, we’re as close as ever. I wasn’t sure if she’d ever forgive me for the mistakes I made, but she did. She let it go because there were more important things to focus on. Like supplying me with ice cream and taking me on road trips around the state to distract me, to make me feel better. Desperate times call for best friends. Yet despite the fact that the time came for me to head off to Chicago, where I’ve spent the past year surviving my freshman year of college, we’ve still remained best friends. Now that I’m back in Santa Monica until September, we have months to hang out together.
“You’re drawing a crowd,” I tell her. The corners of my lips pull up into a smile as her eyes flash open, her cheeks flushing with color as she glances around. Several people nearby have been observing her silent dancing.
“Time to make our getaway,” she whispers. She latches on to my wrist and starts to run. She yanks me across the beach, kicking up the sand beneath our feet, our laughter echoing around us as I’m given no option but to dash off with her. We don’t run far: only a few yards, far enough to get her away from her spectators. “In my defense,” she huffs, “you’re allowed to look like an idiot on the Fourth of July. It’s a rite of passage. It emphasizes the fact that we’re a free nation. You know, ’cause we can do whatever the hell we want.”
I wish that was the case. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my nineteen years of breathing, it’s that we most certainly can’t do whatever the hell we want. We can’t pump our own gas. We can’t set off fireworks. We can’t touch the Hollywood Sign. We can’t trespass. We can’t kiss our stepbrothers. Of course, we can do these things, but only if we’re brave enough to face the consequences.
I roll my eyes at Rachael as we ascend the steps up to the pier, the music from Pacific Park gradually growing louder the nearer we get. The Ferris wheel is still flashing with red, blue, and white. The rest of the amusement park is also illuminated, albeit not so patriotically. We’re weaving our way through the upper parking lot on the pier, squeezing between cars that are parked way too close to one another, when I spot Jamie. He’s with his girlfriend, Jen. They’ve been dating for almost two years now. Over by the corner of the lot, he has her pressed against the passenger door of an old, beat-up Chevy. They’re making out. Obviously.
Rachael must notice them too because she pauses alongside me and rests her eyes on the scene. “I’ve heard he’s quite the troublemaker,” she murmurs. “He’s like a miniature blond version of his brother when he was that age.”
I flash Rachael a warning glance almost automatically at the mention of Jamie’s brother, who is also my stepbrother. We don’t talk about him. We don’t ever say his name. Not anymore. Rachael must notice the sudden tautness in my face and the sharpness in my expression because she mouths a quick apology, pressing a hand to her lips.
Relaxing only slightly, I look back at Jamie and Jen. Still kissing. Rolling my eyes, I toss the remainder of my ice cream into a nearby trash can and then clear my throat, yelling, “Don’t forget to breathe, Jay!”
Rachael laughs under her breath and playfully swats my shoulder. When Jamie glances up, eyes glossy and hair ruffled, I lift my hand and wave. Unlike Jen, who almost collapses dead with embarrassment the second she spots me, my stepbrother only gets pissed off, the same way he always does whenever I try to say anything to him.
“Screw you, Eden!” he yells across the lot, his coarse voice echoing around the cars. Grabbing Jen’s hand, he turns and yanks her away in the opposite direction. He’s most likely been trying his best to avoid Ella the entire night, because when all you want to do is hook up with your girlfriend, the last person you want spotting you is your mom.
“He’s still not talking to you?” Rachael asks once she stops snickering.
Shrugging, I start to walk again as I run my fingers through the ends of my hair. It’s just below my shoulders now. I cut it back in the winter. “Last week he asked me to pass him the salt,” I say. “Does that count?”
“No.”
“Then I guess we’re still not talking.”
Jamie doesn’t particularly like me. Not because he’s seventeen with a serious attitude problem that came out of nowhere last year, but because he’s still sickened by me. And his eldest brother. He can’t stand either of us, and no matter how many times I’ve tried to convince him that there’s nothing to worry about anymore, he refuses to believe me. He usually storms away and slams a door or two in the process. I sigh with frustration as Rachael and I head over onto the main boardwalk, which is still as busy as it was hours ago. There are a lot of parents with small kids and a lot of dogs dodging the mass of strollers. There are many young couples, like the pair back on the beach in the water. I can’t bear to look at any of them. Their interlocked hands and exchanged smiles only make my stomach knot. And not in the way that creates butterflies, but in the way that physically hurts. Today of all days, here of all places, I despise each and every couple I see.
Rachael stops after a few minutes to talk to some girls she knows who were in her grade back in school. I remember them only vaguely from passing them years ago at school or at the promenade. I don’t know them. They know me though. Everyone knows me now. I’m her. I’m that Eden. I’m the girl who gets disgusted glances cast over me, the girl who gets sneered and snickered at wherever I go. It’s exactly what’s happening now. No matter how hard I try to offer these girls a warm smile, it’s not returned. Both of them fire me a sharp glare out of the corners of their eyes and then angle their bodies away from me, stepping closer to Rachael and cutting me out completely. I press my lips together and fold my arms across my chest, kicking at the wood beneath my feet as I wait for Rachael to finish.
This is exactly the kind of thing that happens every time I come home to Santa Monica. People don’t like me here anymore. They think I’m crazy and weird. There are the few exceptions, like my mom and Rachael, but that’s about it. Everyone else just judges, but they don’t know the full story. I think the worst was when I came home for Thanksgiving last year. It was the first time I’d come home since I left for college in September, and word had gotten out and had spread like wildfire in the mere month that I’d been gone. So by Thanksgiving, everyone knew. At first, I didn’t know what was going on and why things were suddenly different. I didn’t know why Katy Vance, a girl I shared some classes with back in school, put her head down and turned in the opposite direction when I waved at her. I didn’t know why the young girl ringing me up at the grocery store laughed to her coworker as I was leaving. I had no idea why these things were happening, not until I was at LAX on Sunday waiting to board my flight back to Chicago, when a girl I’d never seen before in my life quietly asked, “You’re the girl that dated her stepbrother, right?”
Rachael doesn’t talk for long. She glances warily over at me every few seconds, as though she’s trying to gauge if I’m okay or not, and even though I shrug nonchalantly back at her in an attempt to reassure her that I’m fine, she still cuts the conversation short and tells the girls that we need to be somewhere, even when we don’t. That’s why I love Rachael.
“For that, I’m never talking to them ever again,” she states once the girls walk off, her voice firm as she throws her sundae into the trash and hooks her arm around mine instead. She spins me around toward Pacific Park so fast that it almost gives me whiplash.
“Honestly, it really doesn’t bother me anymore,” I try to tell her. We’re drifting through the crowd, which actually doesn’t feel that thick once we’re in the middle of it, and I let her pull me along the boardwalk.
“Uh-huh,” Rachael says in a distant voice, like she doesn’t believe me.
I’m about to argue my point even further, telling her that no, really, it’s fine, I’m fine, everything is fine when Jake Maxwell comes barreling toward us out of nowhere, sliding in front of us and stopping us dead in our tracks. He’s an even older friend of ours than Meghan is, and we’ve already spoken to him tonight. That was a couple of hours ago, when he was still mostly sober. The same can’t be said now.
“There you guys are!” Reaching for our interlocked arms, he separates us and takes both our hands in his and places a sloppy kiss on our knuckles.
It’s the first summer that Jake has come home from Ohio, and when we bumped into him earlier, for the first time in two years, I was surprised to discover that he’s now sporting a beard, and he was even more surprised to discover that I still live in Santa Monica. He had somehow gotten the idea that I’d moved back to Portland like forever ago. But beard and assumptions aside, he hasn’t changed. He’s still a player, and he still doesn’t try to deny it. When Rachael asked him how he was doing, he told us that it’s not going too great because both of his two girlfriends have recently broken up with him and he still doesn’t know why. I could guess.
“Where do you keep getting the beer from?” Rachael asks, wrinkling her nose as she pulls her hand back from him. She has to talk over the sound of the music from Pacific Park.
“TJ’s,” Jake says. And in case we don’t know, he rolls his eyes over his shoulder and points his thumb behind him, off into the distance. TJ has a condo over on the beachfront. Like I could forget. My stomach flips at the thought of it. “He’s sent me over here to round up the troops. Are you guys down for an after-party?” His eyes light up at the word, and I find it hard to take the tank top he’s wearing seriously. It’s got an eagle on it. Placed on top of the US flag. With “FREEDOM” written in block capitals across the eagle’s feet. It looks totally ridiculous, yet not as crazy as the temporary eagle tattoo he’s wearing proudly on his left cheek. I’m starting to wonder if he’s buzzed from more than just beer.
“After-party?” Rachael echoes. We exchange glances, and I can tell immediately by the look in her eyes that she wants to go.
“Yeah, yeah,” Jake says, his voice overflowing with enthusiasm as he grins down at us through that beard. “There are kegs and everything! C’mon, it’s the Fourth of July. It’s the weekend. You gotta come. Everyone’s gonna be there.”
I frown. “Everyone?”
“TJ and all the guys, Meghan and Jared are already there, Dean’s coming by later, I think Austin Camer—”
“Pass.”
Jake stops talking, and his grin twists into a frustrated scowl. He looks to Rachael, and for a brief second, I’m convinced he’s just rolled his eyes. When his bloodshot gaze focuses back on me, he gently grabs my shoulders and shakes me around. “Helloooooo?” He dramatically widens his eyes and pretends to scour every inch of my face. “Where the hell is Eden? I know I haven’t seen you in a hell of a long time, but surely you can’t have gotten this boring in the space of two years.”
Not amused, I shrug Jake’s grip off me and take a step back. Because he isn’t a close friend, or even a friend at all anymore, I don’t find it necessary to explain myself to him. So I remain quiet, staring at my Chucks and hoping Rachael will step in and save me as usual, because that’s all I’ve been depending on lately. I depend on Rachael to remind everyone that I never actually dated my stepbrother and that I never will. I depend on her to get me out of situations where I might bump into Dean. I’m still too ashamed to face him after everything that’s happened, and I doubt he wants to deal with me either. No one wants to deal with their ex-girlfriend, especially one that cheated on them.
As always, I hear Rachael tell Jake, “She doesn’t have to go if she doesn’t want to.” I continue to stare at my shoes, because every time Rachael comes to my rescue, I feel more weak and pathetic than I did before.
“You can’t avoid him forever,” Jake mutters. He suddenly sounds solemn, and when I glance up, I realize it’s completely obvious to him that the reason I don’t want to go to this party is because of Dean. I can’t deny it, so I only shrug and rub at my temple. There’s a second reason, of course. It’s the same reason my stomach has tightened. I’ve only been to TJ’s once before and that was three years ago. I was there with my stepbrother. Tonightof all nights, I really don’t want to head over there again.
“You go,” I tell Rachael after a moment of silence. I can see how desperately she wants to go to this party, yet I know she’ll most likely turn down the offer so that she doesn’t leave me alone. That’s what best friends do. But best friends also compromise, and Rachael has already spent her evening making sure that I’ve been okay on this dreaded day, so I really do want her to go have some fun. After all, the Fourth has landed on a Friday this year, so many people are making the best of it. Rachael should too. “I’ll go find Ella or something.”
“I don’t mind.”
Even I can tell she’s lying. “Rachael,” I say firmly. I nod toward TJ’s condo, off in the distance. “Go.”
Apprehensive, she pinches her lower lip between her fingers and contemplates for a short while. She’s hardly wearing any makeup tonight—she rarely does anymore—so she barely looks seventeen, let alone twenty. “Are you sure?”
“Positive.”
“Then c’mon!” Jake explodes, his overbearing grin back on his eagle-tattooed face as he reaches for Rachael’s hand, yanking her toward him. “We’ve got a party to get to!” He begins to pull my best friend away, hauling her down the boardwalk and away from the pier. She manages to wave good-bye just before they disappear through the crowd.
Once they’re gone, I check my phone for the time. It’s after nine thirty. Both the Marina del Rey and Pacific Palisades firework displays are over by now, so there are a lot of people beginning to head home. I pull up Ella’s number and start to call her. Unfortunately, my mom and her boyfriend Jack are both working this evening, so only my dad and my stepmom are out here at the pier to celebrate the Fourth of July. They’re my ride home, so I’ve got no choice but to hunt them down. But what’s even more unfortunate is that it’s Dad’s turn to have me stay with him for the week. That’s the worst part about having divorced parents: being thrown back and forth between different houses. I hate staying at Dad’s place, and he loathes it even more than I do, mostly because it’s unbearably tense and awkward. Like Jamie, Dad only talks to me if it’s absolutely necessary.
Ella’s phone is busy, so the call is directed straight to her voice mail. I don’t leave a message, hanging up as quick as I can. I dread the idea of having to call Dad instead. I scroll through my contacts, pulling up his number and calling it. It starts to ring, and I feel myself frowning as I wait for his coarse voice to answer.
Yet as I’m standing on the boardwalk with people milling around me and with my phone pressed to my ear, something catches my attention. It’s my youngest stepbrother, Chase. He’s lingering over by the Bubba Gump restaurant, and he’s alone when he shouldn’t be. Despite this, he doesn’t look too worried, mostly just bored as he paces slowly back and forth.
I hang up the call to my dad and head over toward Chase. He spots me as I approach, and instantly he stops pacing and looks sheepish.
“Where are your friends?” I ask once I reach him. I glance around, searching for a group of soon-to-be-freshmen boys, but I can’t see them.
Chase twirls a thick lock of his blond hair around his index finger. “They took the bus to Venice, but I didn’t go because—”
“Because your mom told you not to leave the pier,” I finish, and he nods. Chase’s friendship circle is prone to getting into trouble often, but he’s smart enough to know when not to break the rules. I’m sure his friends’ parents don’t want their kids sneaking off to Venice on the Fourth of July. It’ll be pretty rowdy over there right now, so I’m glad Chase has chosen to stay behind. “Wanna hang with me?”
“Sure.”
Throwing my arm over his shoulders, I pull him away from the restaurant and head toward Pacific Park. Chase loves the arcade games, but before we’ve even gotten within a twenty-foot radius of the Playland Arcade, I have to stop when my phone starts to ring. Picking up the call, I have to take a second to prepare myself mentally before I can answer when I see that it is Dad calling me.
“What did you want?” is how he greets me, his tone gruff. That’s all it ever is these days.
Angling my body slightly away from Chase, I press my phone closer against my ear and tell him, “Nothing. I was just wondering where you guys were.”
“Well, we’re at the car,” Dad shoots back, as though he expects me to know that already. “Hurry up and meet us here unless you want to ask your brother to give you a ride home instead, which I’m sure he won’t.”
With that, I promptly hang up the call without saying anything more. Most of my phone calls with Dad usually end like this, with one of us hanging up midsentence, and most of our conversations face-to-face end with one of us storming off. Admittedly, I’m the one who hangs up the calls. Dad’s the one who storms out.
“Who was that?” Chase asks when I turn back around.
“We’re heading home,” I answer, dodging the question. It’s not that Chase is oblivious to the fact that my dad and I can’t stand each other, it’s just easier to keep the tension to a minimum when it comes to the rest of the family. Whatever our family is. I pull Chase even closer against me as I spin him around once again, this time away from Pacific Park and back toward the city. “No arcade games tonight.”
Chase shrugs under my arm. “I already won a load of tickets earlier.”
“How many?”
Slightly smug, he grins and pats the back pockets of his shorts. They’re both bulging with yellow tickets. “Over seven hundred.”
“No way. What are you saving them for?”
“I’m trying to reach two thousand.”
We talk about the arcade games and the tickets and the Pacific Wheel and the fireworks and Venice as we make our way back down the boardwalk and out onto Ocean Avenue, tracing our steps back to the car. Parking on the Fourth is always incredibly hectic, and after spending a couple of minutes disagreeing with Chase over where Dad parked earlier in the evening, I realize I’m the one who’s wrong. We’re not parked north of the freeway like I’d thought, but south of it, down on Pico Boulevard and Third Street. It’s a good half mile away, so we walk pretty damn fast. Dad doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Ever.
The Lexus is wedged against the sidewalk between two other cars when we reach it ten minutes later, and to my surprise, Dad’s standing outside the car. Arms folded across his chest, foot tapping the ground impatiently, same ugly expression as always.
“Oh, good, you found your brother,” he says sharply, emphasizing that final word. Jamie and Chase are never simply just “Jamie and Chase” anymore. For the past year, Dad has always referred to them as my brothers as though to prove a point. Jamie hates it as much as I do, whereas I don’t think Chase has picked up on it at all.
I keep my cool and instead of growing irritated at Dad’s disdainful tone, I glance over his shoulder, resting my eyes on Ella. She’s in the passenger seat of the car, her body turned away from the window, but I can still see her phone pressed to her ear. Most likely still the same call she was engaged in when I called earlier. I look back at Dad. “Business?”
“Uh-huh.” He leans over and raps his knuckles harshly and quickly against the window, startling Ella to the point where her phone almost flies out of her hand. She spins around in the seat and looks back at Dad through the glass, only for him to nod his head toward Chase and me. Ella nods back, moves her device back to her ear, murmurs something, and then hangs up. That’s when Dad finally tells us to get inside the car.
Chase and I clamber into the backseat, pulling on our seat belts as Dad slips into the driver’s seat, fixing me with a firm glare in the rearview mirror, which I ignore. As he starts to drive, Ella cranes her neck over the back of the passenger seat.
“Don’t you want to stay out a little later?” she asks me, blond hair framing her face. It’s nearing ten by now, so I’m not sure what she was expecting me to stay out for. The last thing I wanted to do was go to that party at TJ’s, so I’m happy to be going home.
“Not really,” I tell her. I don’t mention the party. Nor the fact that the entire night has sucked.
“What about you, buddy?” Dad cuts in, nodding to Chase in the rearview mirror. “I thought Gregg’s mom was going to take you all home later.”
Chase stops texting to glance up. He fires me a sideways glance, so I rack my brain for a second before telling Dad, “He didn’t feel too good, so I told him to come home with us.” To make it sound convincing, I look at Chase with fake concern and ask, “How are you feeling now?”
“Better,” Chase says as he plays along, pressing the back of his hand to his forehead and rubbing it soothingly. “I think the Pacific Wheel was giving me a migraine, but I’m totally fine now. Can we stop for burgers? Please, Dad? I’m dying over here. You don’t want me to pass out, do you?”
Ella rolls her eyes and turns back around in her seat. Dad only says, “Let me think about it.”
With neither of them paying much attention to us, I curl my hand into a fist and rest it on the middle seat. He bumps his own fist against mine immediately, and we subtly smile at one another. If Dad knew about the trouble that Chase’s friends often got themselves into, Chase would never be allowed to see them again. It’s always better not to mention it, even when Chase always does the right thing.
We end up dropping by the Wendy’s drive-through over on Lincoln Boulevard on the way home. Dad and Chase both get burgers. I get a vanilla Frosty. A large. I spend the rest of the car journey home eating it, staring out the window at the dark skies, listening to Dad and Ella talk over the eighties music they’ve put on in the background. They’re wondering if Jamie will be home before his curfew at midnight. Dad reckons he’ll be an hour late.
We’re back on Deidre Avenue within ten minutes due to the traffic having eased slightly, where Dad parks up on the drive by Ella’s Range Rover. With my empty cup in my hand, I push open the car door and step out once Dad switches the engine off. I’m about to make my way up to the front door when Ella catches my attention, calling my name over the roof of the Lexus.
“Can you help me get some groceries out of the trunk from earlier?” she asks in a firm voice and gives the Range Rover a clipped nod. Because I like Ella, I make my way over to her car without hesitation. She follows me as she fumbles in her purse for her keys, and once she finds them, she pops the trunk.
I glance down, ready to reach in to gather up a bunch of grocery bags, but I’m perplexed to discover that the trunk is empty. Wondering if Ella’s having a moment of forgetfulness, I arch an eyebrow and look up at her. Her eyes are suddenly wide and wary, and she’s surreptitiously peering around the car, watching Dad and Chase make their way into the house. Once they’re inside, her eyes lock on mine.
“Tyler called,” she says.
I take a step back, defensive. His name feels like a weapon. That’s why I never say it anymore. That’s why I never want to hear it. It always hurts far too much. Already my throat feels tight as I forget to keep breathing and a shiver runs throughout my body. The earlier call wasn’t a business call at all. It was Tyler. He always calls Ella, once a week or so, and I’m perfectly aware of this. She desperately awaits his calls, but she never mentions them to the rest of us. Not until right now.
She swallows and glances back at the house before she talks again, fearful that Dad might hear her. No one is allowed to mention Tyler’s name around me. Dad’s strict orders, of course, and I think it’s the only thing we’ve ever agreed on. Yet Ella continues, looking at me in a way that’s both pitying and sad as she quietly says, “He asked me to wish you a happy Fourth.”
The irony almost makes me laugh, but it angers me to the point where it’s impossible to find it funny. The Fourth of July, three years ago, Tyler and I were in the hallways at Culver City High School during the firework display. That’s where all of this mess really started. That’s when I realized I was looking at my stepbrother in the way that I shouldn’t have been. We got arrested for trespassing that night. The Fourth of July, last year, Tyler and I weren’t at a firework display. We were in his apartment in New York City, alone in the dark as the rain drenched the city. He quoted a Bible verse. Wrote on my body, said that I was his. They were the other Fourth of Julys. Not this one. To wish me a happy Fourth tonight is almost like some sort of joke. I haven’t seen him in a year. He walked out and left me when I needed him by my side the most. I’m not his anymore, so how dare he wish me a happy Fourth of July when he’s not here to spend it with me?
As my mind tries to process everything, I feel my temper flaring up. Ella’s waiting for me to say something back, so before I turn around and storm into the house, I reach up and slam the trunk shut.
“Tell Tyler it’s been far from it.”


Giveaway:



a Rafflecopter giveaway
This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ