.post-body img { max-width:600px; max-height:auto; }

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blog Tour, Review & Giveaway: Emerge (Mer Chronicles #1) by Tobie Easton




Title: Emerge
Series: Mer Chronicles #1
Author: Tobie Easton
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Pages: 300
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy
Source: ARC from publisher
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis:
Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid, but she’s never lived in the ocean. Ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality, war has ravaged the Seven Seas.

So Lia has grown up in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he’s gorgeous in that cocky, leather jacket sort of way and makes her feel like there’s a school of fish swimming in her stomach, but getting involved with a human could put Lia's entire community at risk. So it’s for the best that he’s dating that new girl, right?

That is, until Lia finds out she isn't the only one at school keeping a potentially deadly secret. And this new girl? Her eyes are dead set on Clay, who doesn't realize the danger he's in. If Lia hopes to save him, she’ll have to get closer to Clay than ever. Lia’s parents would totally flip if they found out she was falling for a human boy, but the more time she spends with Clay, the harder it is for Lia to deny her feelings.After making a horrible mistake, Lia will risk everything to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.



Review
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This was such a great read! This story has everything that a good story needs- awesome world building, intriguing characters, magic, and mystery. Everything is put together magnificently to form a unique story. While I thought that some things could have been added to the story to give it more appeal, the story is quite enjoyable. 

What I liked
I loved the story. I was enchanted by it. The plot was well thought through and the story came together nicely. I enjoyed hearing the tale of The Little Mermaid and how it applied in this story. I also loved how the tale of The Little Mermaid was more along the lines of the Hans Christian Andersen version, instead of the cartoon version that we all know so well. 

I loved seeing the diversity regarding same sex relationships. One of the mermaid characters is falling in love for the first time, and she is falling for another female. I loved seeing that in this book. It just made me adore it that much more. We could certainly use more diversity in young adult books, so I applaud Tobie Easton for including it in this book.

The story is very creative. I loved reading about how the mermaids live on land and why they even have legs to begin with. It is such a unique take on mermaids. All of the backstory about mermaids and how they live on a day to day basis is so very interesting.

The main character, Lia, is so likable! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her in this book. She is such a darling, and I really felt what she felt while reading this. I identified with her struggles and relished in her happiness. 

What I didn't like
Much of the book was fairly predictable. Even from the first chapter I read things that I instantly found revealed the way the story was going. The book was a pleasant read, but the sense of surprise and mystery was not there for me. 

Spoilers in this paragraph. Ye be warned. I would have liked to see Lia and Clay come together more when he was not under the sireny magic. At the beginning of the book they really started to develop something, and then it waned off while she was trying to keep her secret safe. And then Mel comes along and he is put under her spell. We get to see glimpses of how he really feels about her when Mel's spells wear off, but in general he was under the sireny spell for most of the book. 

The main characters names a little too closely resembled the names of the Disney characters for my liking. Aurelia Nautilus....Ariel. Clay Ericson...Eric. I would have loved something more original.

While I enjoyed this book very much, it felt like it was missing that little bit of "oomph" that could have made it outstanding. I truly think that adding a little something to the story could blow readers out of the water. It has the makings to become something epic.

Would I Recommend It
Yes. This was such a lovely story. I enjoyed every moment of it! I am longingly anticipating the next book in this series! It is perfect for fans of Fantasy that have a soft spot for fairy tales. 


Tobie Easton was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she’s grown from a little girl who dreamed about magic to a twenty-something who writes about it. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Southern California, Tobie hosts book clubs for tweens and teens. She and her very kissable husband enjoy traveling the globe and fostering packs of rescue puppies. Learn more about Tobie and her upcoming books at www.TobieEaston.com.






Giveaway


Follow the rest of the tour here.




Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blog Tour, Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Love Me Never (Lovely Vicious #1) by Sara Wolf



Title: Love Me Never 
Series: Lovely Vicious #1
Author: Sara Wolf
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Publication Date: April 5, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Source: ARC from publisher
My Rating: 4 stars


Previously published as Lovely Vicious, this fully revised and updated edition is full of romance, intrigue, and laugh-out-loud moments.

Don’t love your enemy. Declare war on him.

Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to Buttcrack-of-Nowhere, Ohio, to help her mom escape a bad relationship.

All the girls in her new school want one thing—Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.

Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.

The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.
The game board: East Summit High.
The reward: Something neither of them expected.


Links:

Excerpt: 
“Who are you waiting for?” Knife Kid asks.
“That obvious, huh?”
“Jack, then. Screaming at him wasn’t enough?”
“He was the one who put the pictures of me all over school. Hell no, screaming isn’t enough.”
Knife Kid nods. “I saw the pictures. I had fun slashing them with my protractor. Nobody should be made fun of like that, I think.”
I don’t know whether to smile at how sweet he sounds or become extremely concerned at how creepy he sounds. I settle for a little of both just as Jack comes in. He walks right by and settles in his desk behind me. I turn and watch him take off his backpack.
“Hi.” I wave.
It takes him a moment to recognize me. Or a million. He focuses his gaze on me, then looks boredly to the window. He puts his chin in his hand, studies a pigeon in a tree with utmost intensity, and then all at once his eyes go wide. He swivels his head slowly back to me.
“You,” he murmurs.  
“Me!” I chirp.     
“What the hell are you doing in that?” he asks, eyes sweeping down to my chest, my legs, and up again.
“Damage control.” I smile. “Do you like it?”
“I’ve seen pigs dressed better.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt that, considering you see one in the mirror every morning.”

Review:

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book DREW. ME. IN. It was amazing. I started the first chapter and it sucked me right in and wouldn't loosen its grip on me. I finished this book in 24 hours. I couldn't stop reading it!

What I liked
The thing about this book that drew me in, and that I love most, is the personality of the main character, Isis. She is sassy, charismatic, bold, brave, daring, and she doesn't take shit from anyone. She sticks up for other people. She was easy to like. So much so that I instantly connected with her.

I love the air of mystery surrounding the characters in this book. So many of the characters have secrets that come out, or somewhat come out, in this book. The suspense leading up to the reveal of the dark secrets is awesome. These characters have their own demons and their own wounds that they are licking. This not only adds mystery and suspense to the book, but it makes the characters more human. Everyone has issues. Some are really messed up. I like that the author wasn't afraid to show them as real.

Picking up from the last point, I also loved that the author touched upon some serious issues. Not enough authors are brave enough to write about such delicate issues. And some authors simply cant write about them well. Sara Wolf not only writes about real issues, but she does it extremely well. Mad props! I love reading about realistic characters. There are so many different issues in the book that come up for the different characters and it adds so much more diversity to the book. 

I liked how evident it was that something traumatic happened to Isis in her past. This event, or time in her life, has shaped who she is. You get to see it in all that she says and does, the way that she treats others, and the way that she puts on a second skin. I can't wait to read the rest of the series and see if she comes to terms with her past. 

The chemistry between the two main characters, Isis and Jack, is written incredibly well. The dialogues were not awkward. The scenes were drafted beautifully. I loved watching the two of them go through their feelings towards one another. 

What I didn't like
The ending is just...WHAT?!? Seriously, this book is the Cliffhanger King! It wasn't even really an ending, just an abrupt stop. To be continued... I needed something with more finality. Even just a small conclusion. It didn't feel right to me. 

The book mainly consists of Isis and Jack and the war that they are waging against one another. I would have liked to see more things happen in the story. There are some parties that are attended and a few isolated events, but they seemed mashed together. I would have either liked more distinction between the events and the time that passes, or more events to make it seem like more is going on. 

Would I Recommend It

I would, yes! I don't typically like romances, but this one was quite refreshing. It grabbed me, sucked me in, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.


About the author:

Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Brynn Chapman is the daughter of two teachers. Her writing reflects her passions: science, history and love—not necessarily in that order. In real life, the geek gene runs strong in her family, as does the Asperger’s syndrome. Her writing reflects her experience as a pediatric therapist and her interactions with society’s downtrodden. In fiction, she’s a strong believer in underdogs and happily-ever-afters. She also writes non-fiction and lectures on the subjects of autism and sensory integration and is a medical contributor to online journal The Age of Autism.

She also writes under the pseudonym R.R. Smythe.



Follow the rest of the tour here.

Giveaway:



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Elementals: The Head of Medusa by Michelle Madow



Filled with magic, thrilling adventure, and sweet romance, Elementals 3: The Head of Medusa is the latest installment in Michelle Madow’s exciting Elementals series. Follow Nicole and her fellow Elementals as they journey to the end of the world, unsure of who to trust, and facing choices that will put their lives and the entire world at risk. Will they all survive the mission? And if they don’t, will the ones who do be able to find the strength to continue?

Title: Elementals 3: The Head of Medusa
Author: Michelle Madow
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: June 29, 2016
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Series: Elementals #3
Format: eBook and paperback


Synopsis:

THE EPIC JOURNEY CONTINUES IN THE THIRD BOOK OF THE ELEMENTALS SERIES.

Moving to a new town wasn’t supposed to be easy. But for Nicole Cassidy, it meant discovering she was a witch with never before seen elemental powers. Mysteriously given a mission that could help save the world, Nicole and four other gifted classmates journeyed to Greece, where they battled ancient monsters and barely escaped with their lives.

Now Nicole and the Elementals have returned home, and while her relationship with Blake—the fire Elemental—is finally heating up, she can’t rid herself of the guilt that she’s responsible for the death of one of their own in Greece. But she must remain focused, because the portal to the prison world of Kerberos is weakening, and Typhon, one of Earth’s deadliest creatures, has escaped. Now the Elementals must retrieve the only object in the world that can destroy this dangerous monster—the head of Medusa herself.

Follow the Elementals as they journey to the end of the world, unsure of who to trust, and facing choices that will put their lives and the entire world at risk. Will they all survive the mission? And if they don’t, will the ones who do be able to find the strength to continue?

Find out in the riveting third book in the Elementals series, The Head of Medusa.

Pre-order:  Amazon


The adventure began in the first book in the series, Elementals: The Prophecy of Shadows! To learn more about the first book, and to read the first four chapters for free, click here!

The Elementals series is available on Kindle Unlimited, so subscribers can read it for free!

About the Author:

Michelle Madow writes fast-paced YA (young adult) fiction that will leave you turning the pages wanting more!


She grew up in Baltimore, and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida, where she writes books for young adults. Some of her favorite things are: reading, pizza, traveling, shopping, time travel, Broadway musicals, and spending time with friends and family. Michelle went on a cross-country road trip from Florida to California and back to promote her books and to encourage high school students to embrace reading and writing. Someday, she hopes to travel the world for a year on a cruise ship.

Want all three parts of the Transcend Time Saga—Michelle’s first YA romance series—for FREE? Click here to learn about the series and claim your books J

To get instant updates about Michelle’s new books, follow her on Amazon!

Connect with Michelle:  Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Goodreads








Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cover Reveal: Confessions in the Dark (Running in the Dark #3) by Inger Iversen


Confessions in the Dark
Inger Iversen
(Running in the Dark #3)
Publication date: April 30th 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

After narrowly escaping from Vasily’s compound, Ophelia is on the run and fighting for her life. Her first goal is to get some help; too bad she’s stuck on an island owned by Vasily. Her second and third goals consist of going back and freeing her people, and killing Vasily—not necessarily in that order.
When Celtic warrior and vamp badass, Irish, senses something is amiss, he goes in search of the woman who has been on his mind since their first meeting. While his old friends adjust to their new lives, Irish heads off to the dangerous North Sentinel Island, in search of his woman. What he finds there will change everything in the battle against Vasily and his men.


Previous books in the series:

28958856 28868533




Author Bio:
Inger Iversen was born in 1982 to Anne and Kaii Iversen. She lives in Virginia Beach with her overweight lap cat, Max and her tree hugging boyfriend Joshua. She spends 90 percent of her time in Barnes and Noble and the other ten pretending not to want to be in Barnes and Noble.



Hosted by:

XBTBanner1

Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Blitz: Frequency (Frenzy #3) by Casey L Bond



Title: Frequency
Author: Casey L Bond
Genre: YA Paranormal
Cover Designer: Cover Me Darling
Model: Nathan Weller
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR


Blurb: 
When the Infected attacked, something horrific happened to Porschia Grant. Porschia in Frenzy was scary; Porschia with hallucinations is terrifying. There has to be a reason, and there must be a cure for the episodes refusing to release her from their tentacles of insanity. 

Saul is in the center of the city surrounded by secrets–some are damning, some are eye opening—others might just offer hope and be worth fighting for. How can a person justify the possibility of infecting another human being? What might the humans and night-walkers lose if he doesn’t take the chance?
The decisions made, and the lies uncovered, will shock everyone in and around Blackwater, and they just might spark a revolution.

Everything emits a sound… and hunger is deafening… horrible.





Buy Link: Amazon




Award-winning author Casey L. Bond resides in Milton, West Virginia with her husband and their two beautiful daughters. When she’s not busy being a domestic goddess and chasing her baby girls, she loves to write young adult and new adult fiction.

You can find more information about Bond’s books via the following links: 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Hair In All The Wrong Places by Andrew Buckley



Today Andrew Buckley and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for HAIR IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES! Which releases June 7, 2016! Check out the awesome cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a message from the author.

Hair in All the Wrong Places is the result of a misspent childhood watching late night movies about werewolves and other creatures that go bump in the night. The story follows Colin Strauss; an outsider in the small town of Elkwood who, in addition to dealing with the struggles of puberty, also finds himself being turned into a werewolf. As if
dealing with homework, bullies, and an unrealistic crush on the hot goth girl wasn’t enough! I love this cover because it perfectly captures Colin’s character and his discovery that he might indeed be growing hair in all the wrong places.



Title: HAIR IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES
Author: Andrew Buckley
Pub. Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook

What has he done? 

What's happening to him? 
And what on Earth is that smell?

For Colin Strauss, puberty stinks. Blackouts, hallucinations, and lapses in memory are the perils of growing up werewolf.

Worse than that, Colin worries he might have had something to do with the recent attacks on townspeople. He may have eaten a person. It doesn’t matter that it’s someone he doesn’t particularly like. What kind of boy goes around eating people?

Foolishly, all Colin can think about is how Becca Emerson finally kissed him for the first time. Yep. Hormones are afoot. Or at hand. Yikes.

But girls will have to wait. Collin better get himself under control before someone else ends up hurt . . . or worse.






Excerpt





First, a word of warning …




I don’t want to get too scientific here, but there are a few things you should know before you sink your teeth into this book. I’ve tried to keep it simple enough that anyone twelve and up could read and understand it. Werewolves were everywhere in Europe in the late sixteenth century. Go to a party, there would be a werewolf. Go to work, you’re probably working next to a werewolf. Bump into a stranger on the street—werewolf!




They were slowly killed off in Europe as the true nature of a werewolf is a terribly hard thing to control. Eventually you get that urge to eat someone. And let’s face it; eating people is just rude.




Now here’s the scary bit, the bit that concerns you. While werewolves ceased to be a part of the world, they didn’t necessarily leave it. On the contrary, humans evolved to repress the werewolf gene out of the fear they would be decapitated, shot with a silver bullet, burned alive, or a terrifying combination of all three. What this means is that every single human being is still carrying the werewolf gene. You, right now, sitting right where you are, has the werewolf gene swimming around somewhere inside of you.




Genes are strings of DNA. DNA makes you who you are. You have that werewolf gene inside you. It’s just not active. Not yet.




To fully activate that werewolf gene, you’d have to be bitten by another werewolf, someone who turns into a giant wolf-like creature when there’s a full moon. So fear not! As long as no one has bitten you recently, you’re likely okay.




So why this warning? You’re probably thinking there’s no chance I’ll turn into a werewolf because I haven’t been bitten. That is absolutely true. However, while it’s impossible to turn into a werewolf unless you’re bitten, it is very possible to awaken that sleeping werewolf gene by learning too much about them. This book will teach you a lot about those hairy creatures of the night, so I want you to be extra careful while reading it.




If you notice any of the following things, stop reading immediately:




- You find yourself looking at other humans and thinking lunch.




- You start to notice smells you never smelled before.




- You growl at people instead of talking to them.




- Your nails begin to grow at an alarming rate.




- You scratch your head in public using your leg.




- You greet your friends at the bus stop by sniffing their butts.




- You begin to grow hair in all the wrong places.




You’ve been warned.




Chapter One
Loser




Colin looked directly into the reflection staring back at him from the bathroom mirror and with absolute conviction said, “You are a loser.”




His reflection agreed.




Much as he had done almost every day for the last year, Colin evaluated his body. He was tall for a thirteen year old, with lanky limbs and broad pointy shoulders that bordered on skeletal. His face looked to be at odds with the rest of his body with its gaunt features and perpetually dark circles beneath the eyes. Pale skin stood in stark opposition to his unruly dark and stringy hair. Trying to sharpen his vision, he squinted before fumbling with his glasses.




His reflection didn’t look any better with them on.




After drying off, Colin got dressed and headed downstairs.




“Why are you dressed like that?” snapped his grandmother from her usual place in front of the TV. She hadn’t even looked at him yet, not that it mattered. Colin didn’t know what was more disturbing: that despite his grandmother being completely blind, she still watched TV religiously and commented on his clothes every day, or that he still felt the need to defend his choice of clothing to her. He was wearing jeans and an oversized hoody.




“It’s school today, Grandmother. I’m dressed for school,” he murmured.




“I know that!” she spat.




Nothing wrong with her hearing, though.




“Do you need anything?” he asked.




His grandmother sipped tea from a china cup. “I can take care of myself, you little ingrate. Get to school. You’re going to be late. If you don’t get an education, I’ll never get your lazy butt out of here.”




There was no point in arguing.




“And comb your hair before leaving the house. I don’t want people thinking I’m raising a hobo!” she said.




As Colin walked past the living room, his grandmother turned around in her chair and stared in his general direction with gray eyes damaged irreparably by cataracts. Blind eyes followed him as he walked to the door as quickly as he was able. It wasn’t until he was outside with the door firmly closed behind him that he allowed himself to breathe again.




Colin’s grandmother had always terrified him. He couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t blind or cruel. Colin’s parents lived in Seattle and over the past thirteen years had managed to have as little to do with their only son as humanly possible. They were young when his mother had discovered she was pregnant, and the following nine months had put a severe dent in their career plans. They were both up-and-coming lawyers at large firms, and as soon as they could be rid of Colin, they’d passed him off from one distant relative to another. Beyond that, they had no parental aspirations whatsoever.




Just over a year ago, after a short stint living with an uncle and aunt in Ohio, Colin had been sent to the small town of Elkwood to live with his only living close relative—his grandmother, Beatrice Strauss.




She hadn’t welcomed him, there were no hugs, no loving relationship, just a bitter old woman who spent most of her days parked in front of the TV and commenting on what a disappointment Colin was. He’d tried to help her, but she never wanted it. Despite being blind, she was more than able to get around and take care of herself. The only time she left the house was to attend the monthly town hall meetings to which he was never invited.




Colin was twenty feet from the bus stop when the school bus flew by. The mocking grins of students plastered the bus’s back window as it disappeared over the hill. Thankfully, the school was centrally located, which meant he’d be only slightly late.




On his way to school, Colin passed Mrs. Flipple, a kind old lady who walked her tiny, yappy dog, Jinx, each morning, rain or shine. As per usual, Jinx went straight for Colin, yapping in that high-pitched bark that only small, irritating dogs can make. Colin nodded politely to the old lady and held on to a secret hatred for that little dog.




The town was always overcast, and it rained almost every day of the year, which suited Colin’s depressed personality. He was thankful he didn’t live in a warmer climate as he’d have a much harder time being pale and awkward.




He’d survived the seventh grade at Elkwood School with above-average grades and a below-average number of friends. He was still considered a stranger here. His lack of personality, athleticism, and sense of humor didn’t help in the slightest. He wasn’t handsome enough to be popular or ugly enough to be ignored. He was just weird enough that students could be heard wondering aloud about him as he walked by. Now in the second week of his eighth grade year, Colin had one sort of friend, one unrealistic crush, and was the constant focus of several bullies who were determined to make his life miserable.




Loser.




He reached Elkwood School just as the second bell rang to indicate the start of classes. On average, each grade at the school contained only twenty to thirty students, and because of a limited number of teachers, some classes taught more than one grade or subject.




As Colin ran up the steps to the main entrance, a dark, looming shape confronted him. He looked up into the face of Principal Hebert.




“You’re late again, Mr. Strauss.” His voice sounded like rumbling thunder.




“I’m sorry, Mr. Hebert. I missed the bus.”




“While I admire your use of a classical excuse, I’d prefer if you’d made an attempt at originality. Had you been more creative, I would not feel the need to place you in detention.”




“I’m really sor—”




“But as you’re still trying to apologize rather than give me something interesting to work with, I’ll be seeing you after school.”




Colin studied his feet carefully. “Yes, sir.”




“Run along.” Mr. Hebert gestured, pushing his hand ahead of him in a forward motion.




Colin made his way into the building and chanced a glance back to see Principal Hebert slowly shaking his head. Hebert was a former marine and rumored war hero who had retired to Elkwood almost ten years ago and although he had absolutely no qualifications had been appointed as the school principal. He was a massive hulk of a man with the sort of physique that suggested he could bend large metal things with his bare hands. Principal Hebert was a firm believer in detention and hard work and often liked to combine the two. Most detentions involved cleaning something. Colin made a mental note that his day was not off to a rip-roaring start.




Can’t get any worse.




Colin’s day quickly got worse.




He moved down an empty corridor, his sneakers squeaking loudly on the clean laminate flooring before entering the last classroom on the right.




The entire class turned to look at him. Some groaned, others laughed, a few smirked. Mrs. Davenport was the substitute teacher again today for Biology, and she greeted him with a warm smile.




“Good morning, Colin. Please take a seat. We were just getting started.”




Colin shuffled over to his seat next to Jeremy Rodson, the only person in Elkwood Colin could refer to as a friend. Everyone liked Jeremy even though he had never really joined one particular group. He played on the basketball team, so the jocks liked him. He was smart and maintained decent grades, so he was accepted by the smart kids. He was a good actor, so the creative types liked him. Colin had met him on his first day, and Jeremy had introduced him to the school. With so many commitments, Jeremy wasn’t always around, so Colin was still forced to maintain his unhappy, loner lifestyle.




“No Mr. Winter again?” Colin asked quietly.




“Apparently he’s sick,” said Jeremy and grinned. “Why are you so late?”




“Missed the bus.”




“Detention again?”




“Yup.”




“Pay attention, boys,” said Mrs. Davenport with a smile. She was flipping through a PowerPoint presentation about pheromones.




As the only substitute teacher in the small Elkwood School, Mrs. Davenport was never short of work. She was also the kindest teacher that Colin had ever encountered. Her presence had a calming effect on the students that Mr. Winter could never manage.




Mr. Winter was a jerk. It wasn’t just Colin’s opinion but more of a collective agreement throughout the entire school, including the teachers. An uptight individual in his late thirties, he had a particular hatred for students, teaching, other teachers, and did I mention, students? A few years ago, Mr. Winter’s entire family—wife, parents, grandparents—had been killed in a car accident, and rumor had it that the insurance settlement had been sizeable. The rumor quickly proved true when Mr. Winter started travelling the better part of the school year.




“Pheromones indicate the availability of a female for breeding.” Mrs. Davenport was met with a round of sniggers. “Well, it’s true,” she said calmly. “All animals excrete pheromones, and they can indicate a variety of things. Anything from sex to marking territory, and it can even act as a defense mechanism.”




“Colin, you should get yourself some pheromones,” said Gareth Dugan from behind a textbook. His cronies laughed in honor of their leader’s display of wit.




Gareth was a bully with scraggly hair and a troubled complexion. Having been raised on a farm on the outskirts of Elkwood, Gareth had always struck Colin as being quite large for his age. Gareth didn’t like Colin, but then, the feeling was mutual.




“Why would I need pheromones?” shot back Colin. “Your smell already overpowers everything in the room.”




That probably wasn’t smart.’




The entire room agreed with him by sitting in absolute silence.




“That’s enough,” said Mrs. Davenport and cheerfully continued to describe other chemical factors that trigger social responses.




Colin dared a glance back to see Gareth glaring at him like a lion eyeing an injured antelope.




Gareth would inevitably seek revenge. Colin didn’t need a chemical factor to trigger a social response. All he had to do was open his mouth.




He tried his best to concentrate on his textbook, opened at random, but his thoughts remained fixed on how to save himself a beating Jeremy, who remained happily oblivious and completely free of any such dealings, leaned over enthusiastically.




“Did you take a look at Tori yet? Classic Tori outfit.” He grinned and subtly tilted his head backward. Having developed earlier than any other girl in school, Tori was the blond bombshell of Elkwood. Okay, she was more like a small nuclear explosion. To aid the raging hormones of teenage boys, she made a habit of wearing low-cut shirts complimented by extremely short skirts.




Mrs. Davenport turned to the whiteboard, and Colin glanced back three rows on the right to see Tori conveniently perched on the edge of her stool wearing a short powder-blue skirt and knee-high boots.




Colin’s eyes followed the curves of her body upward until he realized she was looking directly at him with a wry smile. He blushed instantly, but the awkward moment was suddenly interrupted as a textbook smashed into the side of his head, sending his glasses skittering across the desk and onto the floor.




The class laughed as Colin slipped from his stool and crawled around in front of the desk, searching for his glasses.




Mrs. Davenport whirled around, spied Colin on the floor, and asked, “What was that? Colin, what are you doing?”




“Sorry, Mrs. Davenport. Just looking for my glasses.”




The bell rang before any further interrogation could be made, and the class headed for the exit. Colin still couldn’t find his glasses.




Ironic. If I was wearing my glasses, I’d have no trouble finding them.




The side of his head was throbbing from where the textbook had struck him. No doubt Gareth or one of his minions to thank for that.




Colin stood and came face-to-face with Becca Emerson, his heartbeat doubling in speed.




“I found your glasses,” she said, handing them over.




“Uh, thanks, B-Becca.”




The rest of the class had cleared out. He put on his glasses, and she came into focus. Around his height with fiery red hair and pale skin, Becca displayed a standoffishness that made most people avoid her. She wasn’t developed like Tori, but neither were most cover models. Becca was a little like Jeremy in that she didn’t associate with any one group, but where he belonged to everyone, she tended to avoid all people. Her dad was some sort of government worker, which translated to “spy” to most middle schoolers.




Becca always wore dark makeup and dark clothes making her look paler than she actually was. She maintained high grades, avoided large groups, and Colin had loved her since he first saw her. It was, of course, a secret love because there was no way he could ever work up the nerve to do anything about it.




“Are you okay?” she asked.




Oh, that voice.




“Uh, yeah. Just another head wound. Probably won’t be the last.” He attempted a half-hearted grin.




They awkwardly stared at each other as Colin’s mind raced for something smart to say.




What do I say? You’re gorgeous? Want to share a slushee? Marry me?




“Okay, well have a good day,” said Becca, and left.




Smooth, Strauss. Very smooth.




Not the most suave guy at the best of times, Colin managed to be even less so around Becca. How would he ever be able to ask her out, let alone have an entire conversation with her if he didn’t even manage to open his mouth?




***




Having made it to last period unscathed, Colin was busy staring at Becca as the minutes on the clock clicked by while he planned his escape. He would have to move fast, get out of the school, and off the grounds. He’d skip the bus altogether—




“Wonder what Hebert’s going to have you do for detention today? My money is on cleaning the gym floor,” said Jeremy.




Detention!




“I’m so screwed.”




“It’s not that bad, just cleaning.”




“Not that,” groaned Colin. “Gareth got detention in third period.”




“Well at least you’ll have company,” said Jeremy unhelpfully.




The bell rang, and Colin’s heart skipped a beat.




“Just once Jer, just once I’d love to be as oblivious as you are.”




“You got detention today, Colin?” asked Becca.




Colin almost dropped his books. He hadn’t noticed her approach. “Uh, yeah. I was late today.”




“I know. I was there.”




“Right.”




“I was wondering if I could talk to you. Alone. I can walk you to your detention.”




“I’ve got to run anyway. Catch ya later.” And with that, Jeremy bounced off.




“Y-yeah, of course,” said Colin. This was new territory. Other than the occasional passing pleasantry, Colin had never had a full conversation with Becca. They walked down the south corridor toward the detention room at the back of the school.




“I know it hasn’t been easy for you,” said Becca without looking at him. “It must be strange to move here. Most people are born here these days.”




“Uh, yeah, I’ve heard that. No one ever moves to Elkwood.”




“The people here aren’t open-minded. They only know what they know. And who they know. This probably isn’t making any sense.”




“No. I mean, yeah. Well. No, no it’s not.”




Becca turned to him. Her eyes were a deep hazel color, he’d never noticed before. She put a hand on his shoulder, and suddenly his insides were on fire. It was only a moment, but Colin felt as if she was looking through him.




Colin was way beyond his comfort zone and didn’t know what to do. Was he supposed to say something? Did she want him to kiss her? Or was he misunderstanding her? When it came to reading girls, he was dyslexic. On the flipside, Becca Emerson was actually touching him! With her actual hand! But then she took her hand away and for a moment looked sad.




“I’m sorry, Colin. I thought maybe … but no.” She sighed. “I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to see things clearly here.”




Colin had no idea what she was talking about; he was still reeling from her touch and for once actually managed to say something. “Maybe you could help me?”




Did I just say that?




What was he thinking?




“I have to go. My dad will wonder where I am. Good luck in detention.”




And just like that, she was gone.




The ominous voice of Principal Hebert floated down the hallway. “Nice of you to join us, Mr. Strauss. Are you going to just stand there, or do I need to drag you into detention?”




Colin entered the room, noting the other attendees. Two students, Micah and Nathaniel Cross, otherwise known as the goth twins. They were pale with black tattoos, long black coats, tight black clothing, and permanent frowns plastered across their faces. Gareth sat with his feet up, smirking at Colin.




“Listen up,” began Principal Hebert. “You’re here because you did something or you didn’t do something. All I care about is what you do from here on out. Gareth and Colin, you’re on garbage cleanup. Nathaniel and Micah, you’ll be sweeping the gym floor. One hour, people, and then I expect you back for dismissal.”




Colin’s heart sank in his chest, down his legs, and through the floor. He was a dead man.




Gareth clapped his hands with false cheer. “All right, Colin, buddy. Let’s get to it!”




They grabbed a couple of garbage bags and headed outside. Without saying a word, Gareth just started picking up garbage. Colin, braced for an attack and watched him for a moment before hesitantly bending to the task too. ’It was getting dark, and the rain made the job all the more miserable.




After half an hour, Gareth had vanished around the other side of the building, and Colin began to think that maybe he had been worrying needlessly.




As he rounded a corner toward the back of the school, he saw his mistake. Sam Bale and Kevin Hadfield were sitting on one of the permanent picnic benches. They both looked menacing, as usual. Backtracking quickly, Colin turned and bumped into Gareth who shoved him.




“Where you going, buddy?” He spat that last word.




Colin dropped his garbage bag and backed right into Sam and Kevin, who were standing behind him.




“We don’t have to do this,” pleaded Colin.




“You don’t belong here, Colin,” said Gareth.




“I know. You’ve told me before.”




Gareth stabbed a finger to his chest. “And that smart mouth of yours really doesn’t belong here.”




“It’s attached to the rest of my body; I really don’t have a choice in the matter.”




Gareth faked a punch, and Colin flinched.




“Please, just tell me what to do,” begged Colin, fighting to keep the tears at bay. He’d been here before; he knew what was coming.




Kevin and Sam grabbed one of Colin’s arms while Gareth stood inches from his face. His breath stank. “I want you to go away. That’s all. You don’t belong here. Sooner or later you’ll get the message.”




Gareth punched him hard twice in the stomach and then once in the kidneys. Colin dropped to the ground and curled into a ball. Sam and Kevin began kicking him and then stripped him down to his underwear until finally, they left. Colin lay sobbing on the cold ground, half-naked and in pain.




This had been Colin’s life for over a year. Feeling like he’d failed at life in general, Colin had been reduced to living in a state of constant fear and humiliation. He had suffered bullying and his grandmother’s hatred.




Colin knew he was a loser, but he hated that everyone else knew it too.




The only positive he could think of was Becca and the strange, brief conversation they had shared. He picked himself up, feeling his bruised ribs, wincing as he walked barefoot across the parking lot away from the school. Hebert would be angry that he didn’t return for the end of detention, but he didn’t care. He didn’t intend to come back. He had to do something or he was going to end up dying here in Elkwood.




Colin decided he had to go to Seattle to see his parents.




Tonight.





Andrew Buckley attended the Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film and Television program. After pitching and developing several screenplay projects for film and television, he worked in marketing and public relations, before becoming a professional copy and content writer. During this time Andrew began writing his first adult novel, DEATH, THE
DEVIL AND THE GOLDFISH, followed closely by his second novel, STILTSKIN. He works as an editor for Curiosity Quills Press. Andrew also co-hosts a geek movie podcast, is working on his next novel, and has a stunning amount of other ideas. He now lives happily in the Okanagan Valley, BC with three kids, one cat, one needy dog, one beautiful wife, and a multitude of characters that live comfortably inside of his mind. Andrew is represented by Mark Gottlieb at the Trident Media Group.








Giveaway Details:



1 winner will receive an eGalley of HAIR
IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES. International.



 

The Alchemy of Ink Template by Ipietoon Cute Blog Design