Waiting on Wednesday #99: Lucky in Love by Kasie West

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week’s book:

30285562.jpgTitle: Lucky in Love
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: July 25, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads): In this new contemporary from YA star Kasie West, a girl who wins the lottery learns that money can cause more problems than it solves, especially when love comes into the picture.

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thoughts:

I am a new Kasie West fan. I read my first Kasie West novel last summer, P.S. I Like You, and I loved it so much that I have this author on my auto-buy list. This new contemporary has me squealing with excitement! The concept is so much fun and the whole part about working at a zoo sounds really intriguing. I know that I will be reading this one as soon as I can get my hands on it!

Book Blast: Ivory Queen (Order Of The Bell #1.5) By Jacob Devlin & Giveaway

 Welcome to the Book Blast for Ivory Queen (Order Of The Bell #1.5) by Jacob Devlin presented by Blaze Publishing! Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Looking for more books to read?
Read on and find a book that’s waiting for you to devour!

 

Twenty-five years ago, the venomous Queen Avoria was banished from the enchanted realms of Florindale and sentenced to spend eternity inside a cursed mirror.

After a seemingly endless tumble through the mirror’s abyss, Avoria awakens in a gloomy metropolis in the darkest corner of Wonderland. There she meets the shrewd King of Hearts, Cornelius Redding, and the two strike a turbulent alliance. As Avoria helps Cornelius execute his conquest of Wonderland, she plots her own vengeance against the world that cast her out. In the city’s cold shadows, Avoria finds pawns in the souls that defied her, truth in the reflection that calls to her, and power in the past that forged her. And thus, the Ivory Queen begins carving a path to the ultimate throne.

Ivory Queen (Order of the Bell #1.5)
by Jacob Devlin
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Blaze Publishing

Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

“a well-written glimpse into the magic mirror.” – Janelle
Avoria is a really fascinating villain”Samantha

 

When Jacob Devlin was four years old, he would lounge around in Batman pajamas and make semi-autobiographical picture books about an adventurous python named Jake the Snake. Eventually, he traded his favorite blue crayon for a black pen, and he never put it down. When not reading or writing, Jacob loves practicing his Italian, watching stand-up comedy, going deaf at rock concerts, and geeking out at comic book conventions. He does most of these things in southern Arizona.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

 

YOU SHOULD ALSO CHECK OUT:

 

 

The asteroid hurtling toward the earth will kill billions.

The Emperor and his Gold Court will be safe in their space station, watching from the stars. The Silvers will be protected underground. But the Bronzes must fight it out at the Shadow Trials for the few remaining spots left on the space station.

When an enigmatic benefactor hands Maia Graystone a spot in the Trials, she won’t just get a chance at salvation for her and her baby brother, Max: She gets to confront the mother who abandoned her in prison, the mad Emperor who murdered her father, and the Gold prince who once loved her. But it’s the dark bastard prince she’s partnered with that will make her question everything, including her own heart. With the asteroid racing closer every day, Maia must trust someone to survive.

The question is who?

 

Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1)
by Audrey Grey
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Publisher: Blaze Publishing

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After a financial collapse devastates the United States, the new government imposes a tax on the nation’s most valuable resource—the children.

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Crescenzo never would’ve thought his father’s figurines were modeled after real people, but when his loved ones start vanishing from his life, he must unite their real life counterparts and seek their aid to save his family.

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The Carver by Jacob Devlin
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Blaze Publishing

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ARC Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

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I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Stars: 3/5

Summary (from Goodreads): In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | iBooks

Alex, Approximately has everything that I look for in a summer read: a cute and amusing concept, some witty banter, and a gorgeous California setting. While I enjoyed this book, I became frustrated with how predictable and obvious the ending is and all the weird coincidences, so I didn’t end up loving it. However, I would still recommend it, as it is so adorable.

I really enjoyed the concept of this book. It is all about a girl who ends up moving to the same town as a close online friend of hers, but doesn’t tell him. She tries her best to hunt him down, but she doesn’t know his real name. I loved watching Bailey scour the town for Alex while also working at a museum. The conversations between her and her arch-nemesis co-worker are also hilarious. This is such a quick read that is so adorable and perfect for summer.

The setting in Alex, Approximately is absolutely perfect. The book takes place in a town in California, complete with surfers and delicious food. Bailey also works in a museum, which is more like a giant mansion with themed rooms. This town is so developed that I actually felt like I lived there. Bailey gets the chance to explore a lot, and the reader can experience all the newness along with her. I honestly want to visit this town, as the museum and all the attractions sound so incredible!

While I enjoyed this book, I didn’t love it as much as I could have. My main issue with it is how predictable it was for me. I get that the reader is supposed to know who the mysterious Alex is before the main character does, but around twenty pages in, I had already figured it out. It was so frustrating reading about Bailey trying so hard to figure out who Alex is when it seems so obvious from the start. There were also so many weird coincidences that ended up being too much. I really wish I could have loved this one as much as I enjoyed The Anatomical Shape of a Heart.

Alex, Approximately is a hilarious story about a girl who moves to California. The setting is so beautiful and extremely well developed. However, the predictability became too frustrating for me, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. Although this book is enjoyable, I feel like it was lacking somewhat.

Friday Reads #1: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Welcome to my first Friday Reads post! I miss sharing quotes and bits of books that I am currently reading with you and I stumbled across 2 really great memes for sharing books:

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader where participants share the first sentence (or so) of the book, along with initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice and the rules are quite simple: Grab a book, any book and turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader. Find any non-spoilery sentence(s) and post.

This week’s book:

33516773.jpgSummary (from Goodreads): From the author of Truly Madly Guilty and The Husband’s Secret comes a novel about the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly? What s indisputable is that someone is dead.
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny, biting, and passionate; she remembers everything and forgives no one. Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare but she is paying a price for the illusion of perfection. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for a nanny. She comes with a mysterious past and a sadness beyond her years. These three women are at different crossroads, but they will all wind up in the same shocking place.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the little lies that can turn lethal

Amazon | Goodreads

I started reading this one a few days ago and I am finding it very hard to put down. Each of the main characters are so well-developed and the mystery of the murder is so intriguing. The Australian setting is also idyllic and it has me lusting for a holiday. The plot really reminds me of Desperate Housewives and if the book is anything like the HBO mini-series, I am going to be all over it!

Book Beginning

“That doesn’t sound like a school trivia night,” said Mrs. Patty Ponder to Marie Antoinette. “That sounds like a riot.”

Page 56

She read the text: Merry Christmas, Mum. Dad, Bonnie, Skye and me all here at the shelter from 5:30 a.m.! I’ve already peeled forty potatoes! It’s a beautiful experience being able to contribute like this. Feel so blessed. 

“She’s never peeled a freaking potato in her life,” muttered Madeline as she texted back: That’s wonderful darling. Merry XMAS to you too, see you soon, xxx!

ARC Review: Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant

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I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Zenn Diagram
Author: Wendy Brant
Publisher: KCP Loft
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): Eva Walker is a seventeen-year-old math genius. And if that doesn’t do wonders for her popularity, there’s another thing that makes it even worse: when she touches another person or anything that belongs to them — from clothes to textbooks to cell phones — she sees a vision of their emotions. She can read a person’s fears and anxieties, their secrets and loves … and what they have yet to learn about calculus. This is helpful for her work as a math tutor, but it means she can never get close to people. Eva avoids touching anyone and everyone. People think it’s because she’s a clean freak — with the emphasis on freak — but it’s all she can do to protect herself from other people’s issues.

Then one day a new student walks into Eva’s life. His jacket gives off so much emotional trauma that she falls to the floor. Eva is instantly drawn to Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist who also has a troubled home life, and her feelings only grow when she realizes that she can touch Zenn’s skin without having visions. But when she discovers the history that links them, the truth threatens to tear the two apart.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon

Zenn Diagram really surprised me. When I first saw it, I was interested in how the author would incorporate a more sci-fi sounding concept into a contemporary, but it ended up working out perfectly. The main character is funny and relatable, and the way the book is written is just what I like. Even the title is a math joke!

This book has an interesting concept, especially for a contemporary. The main character has the ability to tell what a person is feeling when she touches something that they own. I enjoyed the way that Eva uses her ability to help others and figure out where they’re struggling when she’s tutoring them instead of manipulating everyone. The originality of this book made it interesting to read, and I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for something new.

Eva is the perfect main character for Zenn Diagram. She is logical and a math genius, but also pretty funny. I appreciated her geeky jokes scattered throughout the book. Eva is also relatable since she is awkward and more introverted. I felt bad for her as I was reading, since there are so many things she can’t touch without getting a vision, but she doesn’t complain about her ability. Whiny characters are a major turn-off for me, so I was glad to see that Eva is so agreeable.

The way that Zenn Diagram is written is so satisfying. There are some heavy topics mentioned in the book, but Wendy Brant doesn’t go too far discussing them and going off-topic. Zenn’s mom’s habits, for example, are shown enough for the reader to get the idea. I also really appreciated the plot twists, as I certainly didn’t see the major twist coming. The pacing in the book is perfect, as well.

Zenn Diagram is a unique book about a girl with special abilities. The main character is awkward and relatable, and the writing style is excellent. This book is perfect for all the math geeks – and everyone else – out there.

Waiting on Wednesday #98: Dear Reader by Mary O’Connell

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week’s book:

28820996Title: Dear Reader
Author: Mary O’Connell
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: May 9, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads): Gilmore Girls with magical realism! Dear Reader is an original, poignant modern-day take on Wuthering Heights, as a high school senior searches for her teacher and meets a boy who may just be Heathcliff come to life

For seventeen-year-old Flannery Fields, the only respite from the plaid-skirted mean girls at Sacred Heart High School at is her beloved teacher Miss Sweeney’s AP English class. But when Miss Sweeney doesn’t show up to teach Flannery’s favorite book, Wuthering Heights, leaving behind her purse, Flannery knows something is wrong.

The police are called, and Flannery gives them everything—except Miss Sweeney’s copy of Wuthering Heights. This she holds onto. And good thing she does, because when she opens it, it has somehow transformed into Miss Sweeney’s real-time diary. It seems Miss Sweeney is in New York City—and she’s in trouble.

So Flannery does something very unFlannery-like: she skips school and sets out for Manhattan, with the book as her guide. But as soon as she arrives, she meets a boy named Heath. Heath is British, on a gap year, incredibly smart—yet he’s never heard of Albert Einstein or Anne Frank. In fact, Flannery can’t help thinking that he seems to have stepped from the pages of Brontë’s novel. Could it be?

With inimitable wit and heart, Mary O’Connell has crafted a love letter to reading, to the books that make us who we are. Dear Reader, charming and heartbreaking, is a novel about finding your people, on the page in the world.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thoughts:

Oh my gosh! This book just sounds super cute and I am so excited about the fact that it is a Wuthering Heights retelling. The whole mystery surrounding the teacher’s disappearance and the aspects of magical realism have me very intrigued. Definitely a great addition to my spring TBR!

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Birthright by Jessica Ruddick

 


Birthright
by Jessica Ruddick
Genre: YA Supernatural
Release Date: March 20th 2017

Summary from Goodreads:

How do you live with yourself when you decide who dies?

Ava Parks would have killed for an iPod for her sixteenth birthday. Anything would have been better than coming into her birthright of being a seeker for the Grim Reaper, an arrangement made by her fallen angel ancestor in exchange for his re-admittance to heaven. And she isn’t just any seeker—she finds souls that have the potential for becoming angels and sentences them to death. A year and two souls into her role as a seeker with her conscience overflowing with guilt, Ava comes up with a plan to thwart the system. When it goes awry, she is forced to submit the name of a classmate, Cole Fowler, an ornery, rough around the edges guy who always seems to come to her rescue, whether she likes it or not. Her feelings for Cole prompt her to intervene, and she saves him from death, upsetting the Grim Reaper’s agenda. 

While Ava schemes to find a way to save Cole, she learns he has some secrets of his own. She lets him believe he is protecting her, and not the other way around, until a final showdown with the Grim Reaper forces Ava to make choices Cole may never forgive.

  


 

About the Author
Jessica Ruddick is a 2014 Golden Heart finalist for her new adult novel, Letting Go, which was inspired by her own college experiences. She lives in Virginia and is married to her college sweetheart—their first date was a fraternity toga party (and nothing inspires love like a toga, right?). When she doesn’t have her nose in a book or her hands on a keyboard, she can be found wrangling her two rambunctious sons, taming two rowdy but lovable rescue dogs, and battling the herd of dust bunnies that has taken up residence in her home. To learn more about Jessica, please visit her website at www.jessicaruddick.com.
Author Links:

   



GIVEAWAY: A Kindle copy of the Author’s first award-winning book, Letting Go.

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ARC Review: Keeping the Beat by Jeff Norton and Marie Powell

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I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Keeping the Beat
Authors: Jeff Norton and Marie Powell
Publisher: KCP Loft
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Stars: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads): It was supposed to be the best summer of her life. Instead, seventeen-year-old Lucy finds her best friend, Harper, shot dead in an LA swimming pool. How did things ever go so wrong? The story circles back to trace the steps that led to this disaster.

Only Harper McKenzie could have taken five girls from their school and reinvented them as Crush, the top prospect to win the international talent contest Project Next. As soon as the band finds its footing, it scores a huge win in the UK semifinal. Next stop, LA!

The girls will spend a luxurious summer in Hollywood, living as reality TV stars while they prepare for their performance in the Project Next final. With a mansion to themselves, they’re the toast of the town … living every girl’s dream come true.

It’s way too late when Lucy discovers that Harper’s heart has never been in Project Next at all. Joining the competition was just part of Harper’s elaborate ruse to reconnect with her no-good ex-boyfriend. Harper will risk anything — from her friendships to the band’s reputation — to get him back.

Meanwhile, the other members of Crush are throwing themselves headfirst into sex, drugs and rock and roll. With the band in crisis and the final approaching, Lucy must decide whether she wants to play to Harper’s beat or set the rhythm for the rest of the band.

This fast-paced story takes unexpected twists, unraveling the mystery of Harper’s murder and exploring the complicated relationships among members of the band. Writing team Marie Powell and Jeff Norton — with many years in the entertainment business between them — deliver one-part wish fulfillment and one-part cautionary tale as they go behind the scenes to reveal what no one sees on “reality” TV.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon

Keeping the Beat is all about a girl band and the tough life on a reality TV show. Each of the girls are so different and really transform throughout the story. The big themes in the book, such as drugs and eating disorders, really add some depth and make the story more intense. I would recommend this book, as it does a good job of taking the reader behind the scenes.

This book is all about a group of girls who form a band and work their way to stardom. I loved the way that normal British girls are thrown into the world of music and must adjust to life in LA. What is interesting about Keeping the Beat is the fact that the ending is shown in the first chapter, and the book has a bit of a mystery aspect added to the girls’ life of luxury. I am a sucker for both arts and thriller novels, so I really enjoyed this combination.

There is such an amazing cast of characters in Keeping the Beat! The girls of Crush joined as (basically) strangers,  and it is so interesting to watch them get to know each other and become real bandmates. Each musician has such a unique personality, and the girls are all so different from each other. My favourite character is probably Iza, as she transforms from a shy and quiet girl into such an independent individual. Female friendships are something that I always love to see, and I was thrilled to see a girl gang in this book.

There are some pretty heavy topics discussed in the book, which really made it more than just some girls living a life of luxury. Right off the bat, one of the main characters is shot and killed. Drugs, eating disorders, and body image are also incorporated and show the reader how easy it is to get caught up in all of it. I enjoyed how Keeping the Beat shows the media’s image of beauty and what can happen if you try too hard to make yourself “perfect.” The pressure on girls to look and act a certain way is really strong, and the fact that this book is able to educate a little bit about this is excellent.

Keeping the Beat is about a British girl band and contains many distinct characters. The themes in the story are pretty intense, but also educate the reader. I would recommend this book, especially to fans of the musical genre.

🍀 10 Irish YA Books to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!

 

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The one day of the year many celebrate all things Irish/green. I am always looking for themes in my reading and there are some themes in YA that are more difficult to find titles for. I have rounded up a few titles that I have discovered on Goodreads and beyond that are all set in the gorgeous country of Ireland. Most of these titles are older, as I couldn’t seem to find ones that are more recent. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments! Have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

   The Radiant Road by Catherine Katmull


   Greener Grass by Caroline Pignat

   When Irish Guys are Smiling by Suzanne Supplee

   The New Policeman Series by Kate Thompson

 

   Notes From a Spinning Planet-Ireland by Melody Carson

 

   Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

   There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

 

   The Carnaval at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

 

   A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

 

   Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Petals by Laurisa White Reyes

Petals
by Laurisa White Reyes
Genre: YA
Release Date: March 15th 2017
Skyrocket Press

Summary from Goodreads: Some memories refuse to stay buried…

On Christmas Eve, a horrific car accident leaves Carly Perez without a mom. After a year of surgeries and counseling, Carly’s life is nearly back to normal—except for the monsters—vague, twisted images from the accident that plague her dreams. When her father insists on spending their first Christmas alone in Guatemala with a slew of relatives Carly has never met, she is far from thrilled, but she reluctantly boards the plane anyway.

That’s where she first spots the man with the scarred face. She could swear she has seen him before. But when? Where?

In Reu, the Guatemalan town where her father grew up, Carly meets Miguel, her attractive step-cousin, and thinks maybe vacation won’t be a total waste after all. Though she is drawn to him, Carly’s past holds her back—memories that refuse to be forgotten, and a secret about the accident that remains buried in her subconscious. And everywhere she turns, the man with the scarred face is there, driving that unwelcome secret to the surface.

 

Excerpt: 

In sixty seconds, Mom would be dead.

We’re driving down Telegraph Highway, the two of us, a wrapped gift box on my lap. It is rectangular, maybe fifteen inches tall, in red foil paper with a white bow on top. We were lucky to find the drug store still open on Christmas Eve.

Mom is pleased. She’s humming along with the radio, which is playing a lively fifties holiday song. Her thumbs tap out the tune on the steering wheel. Her car keys sway in the ignition, jingling like bells.

Outside, the sky is dark. Through the storm, the road ahead looks like a long tunnel.

Snow is falling.

It happens so fast there is no time to react. Bright lights hurtle toward us on our side of the road. Mom’s arms brace against the wheel. She thrusts her foot against the brake, but the road is slick with ice. The car swerves.

I hear a car horn blaring. I hear the crunch of metal, the pop of glass shattering. A powerful force shoves me against the car door as everything suddenly whirls in the wrong direction. I feel pain. I scream.

And then it’s over.

When I blink open my eyes, everything is white.

Snow is falling.

CHAPTER ONE

His was the sort of face you couldn’t forget—yet somehow, I had.

I was slumped in a chair, blocking out the airport racket with my music and a pair of ear buds, when I first spotted him slipping quarters into a vending machine. His faded gray coveralls looked completely out of place amid the crowd of holiday travelers, and I wondered if he was an airport janitor or some kind of repairman. But it was his face that sent the jolt of recognition through me. His brown skin was disfigured with long, deep scars, as though shriveled by the sun like a raisin. I knew this man, the way I’d know a song by hearing the first notes of a melody. But where had I met him? I couldn’t remember.

“Are you all right, Carly?” Dad closed his Grisham novel and patted my hand. He was a handsome man, with cocoa-colored eyes and short black hair, completely at home in khaki Dockers and a polo tee.

 “I’m fine,” I said. But I didn’t feel fine. A wave of hot prickles crawled under my skin, like they did whenever I was somewhere I didn’t want to be. Dad meant well, but the truth was that I was still angry at him for guilting me into this trip.

The loudspeaker in our terminal crackled, and a woman’s nasally voice called our flight. I rolled up the magazine I hadn’t read and tucked it into my jacket pocket along with my phone. Then Dad and I got in line. Once on board, I slipped my art box (my only carry-on) into the overhead compartment and shut the cover. Dad settled in at the window, so I dropped into the aisle seat.

The other passengers continued to board. They moved slowly, a trail of human ants doped up on Dramamine, waiting for the inevitable deep sleep of late night air travel. I tried to imagine what secret lives they might be living, like mail carrier by day, stripper by night or something.

Then he got on.

My stomach lurched. Go to the back of the plane, I thought, as if summoning some latent power deep within my psyche. I read this e-book once on mental magic, about how our thoughts influence the world around us. I tried to move a paperclip just by thinking about it. It didn’t work, but that didn’t stop me from trying to will Raisin Face into sitting as far from me as possible. Instead, he took the seat directly across the aisle from me.

Dad and I sat in silence while the plane taxied down the runway. I leaned over Dad to look out the window. As the plane nosed its way into themidnight sky, I stared, mesmerized as the lights of Los Angeles spread out below me. The city from this vantage point was astoundingly beautiful, like a giant Christmas tree. My town, three hours north of Los Angeles, didn’t even have a regular traffic signal. It was snowing there when we had left that afternoon. I couldn’t believe I’d missed our first real snow day of the season.

After a few minutes in the air, the lights disappeared, blocked by cloud cover. It was so dark outside I could see my face in the glass. I squinted at the reflection staring back at me, narrow bronze features framed by long, brown hair topped by a white halo.

“You can take off your hat now,” Dad joked. “The sun went down hours ago.”

The hat, cotton canvas with a floppy brim, had been a gift from my mom.

“I like my hat,” I replied, tugging it tighter onto my head.

“Reminds me of Gilligan’s Island. You know. That old TV show?” Dad hummed the show’s theme song and took a pitiful stab at the lyrics. “A three-hour tour. A three-hour tour.” He looked pleadingly at me as though expecting me to chime in.

I settled back into my seat.

“Never mind,” he said, giving up.

It was well past midnight by the time the plane reached cruising altitude. The flight attendant came by, offering drinks. I accepted a plastic cup filled with Coke and ice.

“Peanuts?” she asked with a pasted-on smile. There was a swath of red lipstick on her teeth, and I wondered if I should do the polite thing and point it out to her. I curled back my lips like an orangutan, but her expression didn’t change. So, I pointed to my teeth. The skin between the attendant’s eyebrows creased. A possible sign of intelligence?

Dad sipped his drink. “This trip won’t be so bad,” he said.

“I already told you, I don’t want to talk about it,” I replied, and I didn’t. What I wanted was to spend the next three weeks in my own house sleeping in my own bed. Why did I agree to come on this trip? I could have chained myself to the tree in our front yard in protest, but then Dad would either have cancelled the trip and spent our entire vacation making me feel guilty about it, or I would have starved to death like a neglected Rottweiler. In either case, I really didn’t have much of a choice.

“I know you were mad,” Dad continued, “but you’re over it now, aren’t you?”

No, Dad. I am not over it.

I scratched at my front tooth. The attendant blinked twice.

“Peanuts?” she asked again.

Dad accepted a bag. Then she turned to me, expectantly. I gave her an exaggerated grin. If she wouldn’t get the hint about the lipstick, couldn’t she at least wipe that mannequin-esque smile off her face? I was not normally so critical of people, but this whole situation had set me on edge.

“No thanks,” I told the attendant. “Peanuts give me the runs.”

That did it. Her smile morphed into a slightly unpleasant expression.

Dad choked on his drink. “Carly!”

“What?” I said as the attendant moved on to the next passenger. “I’m allergic.”

“Since when?”

“Since you dragged me onto this plane and ruined my plans for winter break, that’s when.”

Dad opened his nuts, picked one out, and rolled it around his tongue to suck off the salt. Then he crushed it between his front teeth.

“Trust me, Carly. You’ll love Guatemala,” he said. He was relentless. “It won’t be so bad, spending Christmas there.” He poured the rest of the nuts into his mouth and chewed.

Personally, I had serious doubts about spending nearly a month in a third world country where half the people lived in mud huts.

“It’s a great place,” Dad continued. “Lush jungles, ancient ruins, coconuts—”

Malaria, sauna-like heat, amoebas—

“All I ask is that you give it a chance, Carly. Give them a chance.”

Them. The so-called family I never knew. For all my seventeen years, they had been nothing more than pictures on the mantle. Dad rarely spoke of them, so why he chose our first Christmas without Mom to change the status quo was beyond me.

“Why did I have to come?” I asked, my frustration piquing. “I’m old enough to man the house while you’re away. I can take care of myself.”

“We already went over this, Carly. They want to meet you. It’s important to me that they do.”

“If they’re so important, then why haven’t you seen them in two decades?” I didn’t expect an answer. I just wanted to get Dad off my back. But instead, he shrugged his shoulders and gave me an apologetic grin.

“Let’s just say we had our differences,” he said.

The flight attendant returned, this time offering a pillow. She was still smiling. At least the red mark on her teeth was gone.

I took the pillow and arranged it behind my neck. Dad took one as well, tucking it behind his head. I should have been glad to finally have some quiet time to myself, but curiosity got the better of me. I leaned over and whispered.

“What differences?”

“Go to sleep,” said Dad.

“What differences?” I asked again.

“Carly, it’s almost one in the morning. Even if you’re not tired, I am. Let me get some sleep. Okay?”

I looked around and realized that most of the other passengers had already dozed off.

“Do you need your pills?” Dad asked.

I shook my head. “If I take them now, I’ll be a zombie when we arrive.”

Although, maybe Guatemala won’t seem so bad if I’m in a drugged-out stupor.

“Night, Carly,” said Dad. Five minutes later, he was snoring.

Across the aisle, Raisin Face had a magazine open on his lap. He licked his thumb before turning each page. I didn’t realize I was staring until he turned abruptly to look at me. Our eyes locked, and in that sliver of a moment, my heart threatened to explode right out of my ribcage. I broke away from his gaze and jerked opened my own magazine, pretending to be absorbed in it.

When my heart returned to its normal rhythm, I set the magazine aside, turned on my music, and leaned back against the pillow. I closed my eyes, but thoughts kept racing through my head. I wanted to look at him again, to study his face and give my brain time to place him.

Is he watching me? I wondered. Does he recognize me too?

After a while, I started to relax. Oblivion was calling, but I desperately clung to consciousness, like a mountain climber gripping a rock by her fingernails while dangling above a precipice. The fall was inevitable, but I strained to hold on. It wasn’t that I had trouble sleeping, but the pills kept the monsters at bay.

Finally, unable to fight it any longer, I surrendered. Falling into sleep, I struggled to recall just where I had seen that man’s face before.

 

About the Author
Laurisa White Reyes is the author of the 2016 Spark Award winning novel The Storytellers, as well as The Celestine Chronicles and The Crystal Keeper series. Shelives in Southern California where she teaches English at College of the Canyons. Newsletter Sign-up – here.

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