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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review of Strange Girl by Christopher Pike

Strange Girl by Christopher Pike
Genre: Young Adult (Paranormal)
Date Published: November 17, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Christopher Pike comes a brand-new fascinating and seductive new novel about a girl with a mysterious ability—but one that carries an unimaginable cost.

From the moment Fred met Aja, he knew she was different. And she was.

Aja had a gift. But her gift came with a price.

After a shocking sequence of events, Fred must look back at their relationship, and piece together all of their shared moments, so he can finally understand Aja’s precious gift…and its devastating repercussions.

Strange Girl by Christopher Pike was a different kind of story. From the beginning, you know there won't be a happy ending. I can easily see a book like this being made into a movie. It has that movie feel to it. I thought it sounded interesting and unique from the blurb, but the more I read the less I enjoyed it. I really hate that because I was so anxious to read this book. I've read and loved Christopher Pike's books in the past. Unfortunately, I didn't connect with the main characters what so ever. Aja's history and back story were interesting, and it made me wonder about her having a possible personality disorder,  but that doesn't explain the healings. Unless she's a girl with personality disorders who happens to be able to heal people as well.  Who knows? I'm still trying to figure out what the point of the whole story was. I mean, I get the messages he was trying to push(can't say I agreed with them all, but they came through loud and clear), but messages aside... what about the story itself? What was the point?

Strange Girl by Christopher Pike was kindly provided to me by the publisher for review. The opinions are my own.

It was four in the morning when I heard the soft knock on our motel door. I appeared to be the only one who heard it.

Nearby, Janet and Shelly slept soundly on one bed, while on the other Dale lay like a dead man as Mike snored loudly. At the knock, I sat up on my foldout bed. I didn’t mind rollaways. If I was tired enough, I could sleep on the floor. Pulling on my pants over the gym shorts I’d been sleeping in, I slipped from beneath the sheets and answered the door.

“Hi,” Aja said and smiled. She had on the same dress she’d worn to the Roadhouse. Her hair was wet, though, as if she’d just showered, and her feet were bare. I saw no car. I assumed she’d walked over from her own nearby motel or hotel.

“This is a surprise,” I said. It was so good to see her I feared I might still be asleep, dreaming the whole thing up. “What are you doing here?”

“Want to go for a walk?”

“Right now?”


I glanced at my friends; they were still out. “Give me a second, let me find my shoes and a shirt,” I said.

Minutes later we were strolling along the cracked edge of an asphalt road beside a twenty-foot fence, topped with barbed wire, that surrounded the base. The town was silent as Elder usually was at this time of morning. There wasn’t a soul in sight.
The air was heavy with moisture and the ground was damp; clouds had chased away the stars. It made me wonder if it had been raining and if that was the real reason Aja’s hair was wet. Had she been wandering around in the dark since we’d last seen her? I asked and she nodded.

“Are you nuts?” I said. “You should have hooked up with us hours ago.”

She shrugged. “You were playing and the place was noisy. Besides, I like to take walks late at night.” She glanced over. “You look surprised.”

“I’m surprised you’re here. What made you come?”

“You invited me to hear you play. You remember?”

“Sure. How did you get here? Did Bart bring you?”

“I took a bus.”

“Why didn’t you come with us?”

“I wanted to surprise you.”

“Let me get this straight. You rode here all alone, across half the state, with only the clothes on your back. And since we last saw you at the Roadhouse, you’ve been wandering around in the dark—barefoot—in a strange town all by yourself.”


“What part are you saying no to?”

“My shoes.”

“What about your shoes?”

“I brought shoes. But I got tired of wearing them.” She added, “They’re sitting on the hood of your RV.”

“Well, that’s a relief. You’ve got your shoes to protect you. Honestly, Aja, you can’t behave like this, not in this country. You’re too pretty a girl. Anything could happen to you.”

“Anything can happen,” she appeared to agree, before adding, “Don’t worry about me.”

I shook my head. “I do worry about you.”


“Because . . . maybe where you come from it’s safe to wan¬der around at night. But this can be a violent town. You saw those guys at the club. They were ready to kill Mike and Dale.” When Aja didn’t respond I looked over at her. “But they didn’t because you showed up. How did you get them to stop?”

“I didn’t do anything. They were afraid, that’s all. They didn’t want to hurt anybody. And when they understood that, everything was okay.”

I shook my head. “If Shelly had stood on that table instead of you and begged that drunken herd to calm down, they would have beaten the shit out of her. What you did was amazing.”



“I can’t be in danger one minute and amazing the next. You have to make up your mind.”

She had a point, sort of. I was contradicting myself. Not that she still wasn’t acting naive. “What I mean is . . . ,” I began.

She interrupted by reaching over and taking my hand. “I liked when you sang by yourself at the beginning,” she said.

Her hand felt good in mine. “You were there at the start? I didn’t see you.”

“Yes. At first you were nervous, then you relaxed.” She added as if to herself, “You enjoy singing in front of people.”

For such a naive girl, I thought, she was perceptive.

“I do,” I said. When she didn’t reply, I asked, “How have you been this last week?”


“It must have made you mad getting expelled on your second day of school.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll be there Monday.”

I shook my head. “I can’t understand why Billard hates you.”

“She doesn’t hate me.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s afraid of me.”


“We met over the summer.”


“At the town cemetery. I often walk there.”

“What happened at the cemetery?”

Aja hesitated. “Better you ask her.”


“She’ll explain.”

I pushed Aja to elaborate but she just shook her head and kept walking. I finally decided to shut my mouth and enjoy the touch of her hand, which was remarkably soothing. I don’t know how far we’d walked when I noticed that I was feeling awfully energized for a guy who hadn’t really slept in two days. More, I felt light, light as a balloon, as if I wasn’t walking but floating alongside the fence. And the clouds in the sky, they felt somehow closer, like I could touch them.

Aja suddenly stopped and faced me, her big, brown eyes bright in the dark night. She reached up and stroked my cheek, my hair, and even though I did my best to stay cool I trembled. She inched up on her toes and kissed me on the lips, just for a second or two.

“Let’s go back to your RV,” she said.

“You mean the motel? You can sleep on my foldout. I can sleep on the floor.”

Aja shook her head and tightened her grip on my hand. She began to lead me back the way we’d come. “I want to sleep with you in the RV.”
I don’t recall much about the walk back. But I do remember lying beside her on the cushions in the rear of the RV, our two bodies barely fitting between the crush of our equipment. We didn’t have sex—we didn’t even make out, nor did she kiss me again.

But she held me and let me hold her and for the first time in my life I felt as if all my hidden fears had been deftly exposed and quietly put to bed, once and for all. I had fought with her that it wasn’t safe to wander alone in the dark, but when I slept with her cheek resting on mine, and felt the brush of her eyelashes as they fluttered during her dreams, I was the one who felt protected.

1. How long have you been writing?
    I started writing when I was twenty-one.  I sold my first book, Slumber Party, when I was twenty-eight.

2.  What inspired you to write Strange Girl?
    My girlfriend of fifteen years, Abir.  She suggested I write a story that starts like a basic love story.  Where a boy -- Fred -- meets a girl -- Aja -- at the beginning of his senior year in high school and gets a crush on her.  But after spending time with her, Fred begins to discover Aja is…well, kind of strange.  She’s very peaceful, nothing seems to bother her.  He doesn’t know why she’s so different, and to make matters worse, it’s almost impossible for him to get her to talk about her past.  But the whole point of the book was to write a story where I had no idea what was going to happen next.  To just write what came to me each day.  In that way I was in the dark in just the same way Fred was in the dark.  But the strange thing is -- there’s that word again -- a wonderful story unfolded all by itself.

3.  Which do the characters do you relate to and why?
    I relate to Fred.  In the book he’s an aspiring singer/songwriter.  In high school I tried to learn to play the guitar so I could put chords to songs I was trying to write.  I had just two problems: I couldn’t sing to save my life and I wrote terrible songs.  My songs were more like poetry, actually, they were not meant to be sung.  Oh, I had a third problem.  I was tone deaf.  But even though I had all these obstacles that Fred doesn’t suffer from -- in the book he is actually quite talented -- I relate to him because I think he’s the guy I wanted to be when I was young.

4.  What is a secret about you that nobody knows?
    Boy that’s a hard one, I can think of many humiliating things about myself that no one knows but I’m not going to write about them here.  But there is one that I suppose I can talk about.  Everyone I know sees me as a hard worker.  They think I have the most amazing work ethic, incredible discipline.  But the truth is I’m a terrible procrastinator.  I tell everyone I like to write at night because no one calls to interrupt my chain of thought.  But the truth is I write at night because it takes me the whole day to psyche myself into sitting down at my computer and getting to work.  The odd thing is -- once I do begin to work -- I’m very happy.  Yet I go through the same procrastination exercise every day of my life.  I wonder why?

5.  If your real life as a teenager was a Young Adult novel, what would you, the main character, be like?
    As I mentioned above, I would have enjoyed being like Fred when I was in high school.  But I was no Fred: I had no talent, nor did I have the nerve to go up to a pretty girl and ask her out, which Fred does in the very first chapter of my book.  If I tried to write a book based on what my real life had been like when I was in high school I’m afraid it would be boring.  Like I mentioned, I was extremely shy in school.  I never dated -- I was afraid of girls.  I spent most of my free time reading and running.  I enjoyed running track and cross country.  Most of all, I spent endless hours going for long walks and concocting elaborate fantasies.  I feel my daydreaming led me to become a writer.

6.  What book have you read too many times to count?
    The Lord of the Rings.  Dune.  The Time Traveler’s Wife.  Every mystery Agatha Christie ever wrote.  Every sci-fi book Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov ever wrote.  

7.  What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
    Write every day, even if only for a few minutes.  It’s important to stay in contact with a book you’re working on.  Also, finish the books you begin!  So many beginning writers I know never complete a single novel.  They keep jumping from story to story and never get anywhere.

8.  If you could hop into any fictional character, who would it be and why?
    I would love to be Sam in The Lord of the Rings.  Sam is surrounded by powerful characters: Gandalf the Wizard; Galadriel the elf queen; Frodo the bearer of the ring.  But at the end of the day it is simple plain common sense Sam who saves the quest.  I love the way Tolkien wrote Sam -- I think he was writing about himself.

9.  What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
    When I finally got published and was able to support myself with my writing, I discovered my subconscious mind knew more than my conscious mind.  Even when I planned out a book ahead of time in detail, I’d often reach the last chapter and discover a new and shocking ending waiting for me.  Many times it was a case where the new ending was obvious once I discovered it, and yet, it never occurred to me until I got to the end of the book.  Now I have faith in letting a story take me where it wants to go.

10.  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
    I hang out with my girlfriend.  We’re both addicted to books.  We’ll lie together in bed together and read all day and hardly move.  Or else we’ll talk about books for hours at a time and continually interrupt each other.  I also like to go for long walks in the hills behind Santa Barbara.  One day I’m sure I’m going to sprain my ankle and get trapped back there for days.  I never bring a cell phone when I hike -- I enjoy the solitude.

11.  Are any of the things in your books based on real life experiences or is it all just your imagination?
    A handful of the spiritual experiences I talk about in Strange Girl and Sati and Remember Me are based on real life experiences.  I suffered serious asthma as a child and once had an out of body experience one night when I was on the verge of smothering to death.  I based much of what Shari went through in Remember Me, when she died, on what I experienced.  Also, I’ve been to India a few times and have been fortunate enough to meet two yogis that were -- for lack of a better word -- the “real deal.”  Understand I’m not into gurus or cults or the New Age.  But these two yogis both gave me an experience I find impossible to describe: something expansive; something blissful; something eternal.  In an indirect way, Strange Girl deals with these experiences.  I say indirect because Strange Girl can be read on many levels.  Most people will say it’s a love story.  Others might say it’s a mystery.  But I like to think it is a “Mystical Fable,” if there even is such a thing.
Christopher Pike is a bestselling author of young adult novels. The Thirst series, The Secret of Ka, and the Remember Me and Alosha trilogies are some of his favorite titles. He is also the author of several adult novels, including Sati and The Season of Passage.

Thirst and Alosha are slated to be released as feature films. Pike currently lives in Santa Barbara, where it is rumored he never leaves his house.

To learn more about Christopher Pike and his books, visit her website.You can also find him on Goodreads, Facebook, and Wattpad.

Enter to win: 
25 paperback copies of STRANGE GIRL 
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5 paperback sets of all 5 copies of THIRST series (1-5) in PB. 
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5 paperback copies BOUND TO YOU 
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Series Review! Uninvited & Unleashed by Sophie Jordan

Uninvited (Uninvited #1) by Sophie Jordan
Genre: Young Adult (Dystopian/Romance)
Date Published: January 28, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report in bestselling author Sophie Jordan's chilling new novel about a teenage girl who is ostracized when her genetic test proves she's destined to become a murderer.

When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

The first in a two-book series, Uninvited tackles intriguing questions about free will, identity, and human nature. Steeped in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan's trademark mix of gripping action and breathless romance, this suspenseful tale is perfect for fans of James Patterson, Michelle Hodkin, and Lisa McMann.

Uninvited is the first book in the Uninvited series by Sophie Jordan. This was a pretty intriguing and interesting story about a world where you are labeled as dangerous and murderous based on whether you have a certain gene or not. Davy has lead a pretty pampered life up until now, when she finds out she has the killer gene. She has friends turn on her, family treats her different, and she's thrown into some pretty hostile situations. She handles herself about as well as I'd expect someone to handle these situations, plus the reactions people have to her is basically how I would have expected them to act in real life. I could easily envision this as reality as I read. The author's writing captured the nature of people, both good and bad. I was pretty impressed with Uninvited, and I'm anxious to get started on the next book.



When I was three years old, I sat down at the piano and played Chopin. Mom claims I heard it the week before in a hotel elevator. I don’t know where I heard it. I just knew how to place my fingers on the keys . . . how to make them move. Like one knows how to walk, it was just something I knew. Something I did.

Music has always been my gift. That thing I was good at without having to try. First piano. Then the flute. Then violin. It never took me long to get the hang of a new instrument. All my life I heard words like gifted. Extraordinary. Blessed. When everyone discovered I possessed a voice to rival my skills with an instrument, I was called a “prodigy.”

These talents aside, I had the normal dreams, too. When I was six I decided I would be an archeologist. The following year, a race car driver. There was also the requisite princess fantasy in there I spent hours in my room, building fort castles, only to have my brother knock them down. I just pretended he was a dragon and rebuilt those castles.

I had all these dreams to become something. Someone.

No one ever said I couldn’t.

No one ever said killer.

Closing my eyes, I savor the sensation of Zac’s lips on my throat. He inches toward the sensitive spot right below my ear and I giggle, my body shaking in his arms.

“Zac, we’re at school,” I remind him, arching away and shoving halfheartedly at his shoulder.

He levels brilliant green eyes on me, and my breath catches.

Two freshman girls pass us. They try to avert their eyes, play it cool, and look straight ahead, but I can see it’s a battle for them. A battle they lose. Their gazes skip to slide over Zac admiringly. He’s in his gym shorts. An Everton rugby shirt stretches tight over his lean torso. When he lifts an arm and props his hand on the locker behind me, his shirt rides up to reveal a flat stomach, sculpted from long hours at the gym. My mouth dries a little.

The girls walk away, whispering loud enough for me to hear: “Freakin’ hot . . . so lucky . . .”

He’s oblivious to them. “But don’t you like this?” He leans in, backing me against the lockers, and places a lingering, tender kiss at the corner of my mouth. “And this.” He kisses my jawline next.

My stomach flutters and I’m about to give in, forget that I have Mrs. McGary and tons of calculus homework waiting, and surrender to making out with Zac outside the orchestra room, where Anthony Miller is less than successfully warming up on the drums. One of the only instruments I don’t play, but I’m sure I could still play better than Anthony.

Zac pulls back with a sigh and gives me one of those smoldering looks that I know he thinks is irresistible. Only because it is. Only because every girl at school trips over herself when he bestows that smile on them.

But he chose me. My heart swells inside my chest and I let him kiss me again even though I’m already late for practice and Mrs. McGary hates it when I’m late. She constantly reminds me that I’m supposed to be the example for everyone.

Tori walks up to us with a roll of her eyes. “Get a room, you two.” She pulls open the orchestra room door and the sound of the drum solo inside murders my ears.

She holds the door open for me. “Coming, Davy?”

Zac frowns at her. “She’ll be there in a minute.”

Tori hesitates, staring at me with that whipped puppy-dog look on her face. “Are we still studying tonight? I thought you wanted me to help you with your calculus.”

I nod. “I do.” Calculus. The bane of my existence. I barely made an A these last six weeks. And that A was mostly due to Tori and her endless patience with me. “We’re still on.”

She smiles, looking mollified.

I smile back. “I’ll be there in a minute. Save me a seat.”

Tori disappears inside the orchestra room. Zac blows out a breath.

I smooth a hand over his firm chest. “Be nice.”

“She’s always interfering.”

I make an effort to divide my time between Zac and Tori equally, but it’s a balancing act. I never manage to satisfy either one of them. “Have I said that I can’t wait until next year?” I ask. It’s the only thing I can think to say in moments like this when he complains about Tori.

He stares at me knowingly. He has a way of looking at me. So deeply. Like he can see right to my very soul. He knows I’m trying to distract him with the promise of our future. Fortunately, it works.

His fingers thread through my hair. He loves it when I wear it down, loves touching it. Touching me. Yeah. I’m kind of addicted to my boyfriend. It’s getting harder and harder to stop ourselves these days.

“Yeah. And you know the best part of it all?” His eyes hold mine. “Our very own dorm rooms.”

I laugh. Next year. The dream of it tantalizes me. Me at Juilliard. Zac at NYU. I know I shouldn’t be excited at the prospect of my best friend attending college hundreds of miles away from me, but it’ll be nice not having to worry about hurting Tori’s feelings all the time.

My phone rings. I squeeze out of his arms to see who’s calling me. With a quick glance at Zac, I mouth, Mom.

He lifts an eyebrow. My mom is usually still at work this time of day.

“Hello?” I answer.

“Davy, I need you home.”

I hesitate before answering. Not because of her demand but because of the tremble in her voice. So unlike Mom. She always talks fast, her words spilling out in a rush. Hours spent bossing people around at her design firm, I guess.

“I have practice—”

“Now, Davy,” she cuts me off.

“Is everything all right?” Silence meets my question and then I know everything isn’t all right. “Is it Dad?”

“Your father’s fine. He’s here.”

Dad’s home, too? He’s more of a workaholic than Mom. “It’s Mitchell,” I announce, dread pooling inside me. “Is he okay?”

“Yes. Yes. He’s fine,” she says hurriedly, that nervous tremor still there. Maybe even worse than moments before. I hear the rumble of voices in the background and the phone muffles, like Mom’s covering the receiver with her hand so I won’t hear. Then her voice returns to my ear. “Come home. I’ll explain everything when you get here.”

“Okay.” I hang up and face Zac.

He stares at me sympathetically. “Mitchell?”

I nod, worry knotting inside me for my brother. What’s he done this time? “Let me just let Mrs. McGary know.” I stick my head inside the orchestra room. Mrs. McGary is at her desk in the corner talking on the phone. I motion to her but she shakes her head and holds up a finger for me to wait.

Seeing me with Zac in the doorway, Tori heads over. The orchestra room has always been a “no Zac zone,” and I know she likes it that way. “What’s going on?”

“My mom called. I have to go home.”

Frowning, she touches my arm. “Is everything all right?”

“I don’t know.” I bite my lip.

She angles her head, her eyes bright with concern. “Mitchell?”

I shake my head. “I don’t know.”

Her hand moves up and down my arm in a consoling manner. “It’ll be all right. He’s just going through a phase. He’ll get it out of his system.”

If that is the case, my older brother has been going through a phase since he was thirteen. And at twenty-one, I am not convinced he is going to grow out of it anytime soon.

“You’ll see.” Tori nods with certainty. “He’s a good guy.”

“Thanks.” A quick glance reveals Mrs. McGary still on the phone. “Look, will you let her know—”

“Of course.” Tori gives my fingers a comforting squeeze. “Go. I’ll head over when practice ends. Want me to pick you up a smoothie on the way? Watermelon?”

“Thanks, but I better pass. I don’t know what’s going down at home.”

“C’mon.” Zac takes my hand. I grab my backpack, and together we head upstairs to the classroom level. We pass several friends. Zac keeps us moving when they try to stop us to talk.

Zac’s best friend is the only one who succeeds. A consummate flirt, Carlton never lets me slip by without a hug. “Hey, gorgeous.”

I step back from his embrace. “Hey.”

Carlton bumps fists with Zac. “Doing weights today, man?”

Zac tugs me back to his side. “Nah. Gotta get Davy home.”

Carlton winks at me. “Cool. See you guys later.”

“Hey, Bridget,” I call out to the sophomore girl who sits beside me in orchestra. She’s second-chair violin. She jerks to a sudden stop, her hand clutching the railing as she stares at me in almost wonder.

The sophomore nods rapidly, holding still even as we keep climbing. “Hi, Davy.” Her gaze slides to Zac and her cheeks grow pink. “Hey, Zac.”

He looks back at her with a blank look. “Hey.”

I smile a little.

“Why are you smiling?” he asks as we reach the first floor. “You don’t even know her name.”

He wraps an arm around my waist and pulls me closer against him. “I know your name.”

I laugh. “Oh, really? Just my name?”

His gaze slides over me, and it’s a hot look that makes me all fluttery inside. “I know a few other things about you, too.”

“You’d like to know a few other things,” I tease.

“I will.” He grins, so sure of himself. So sure of us.

He gets the door for me and we leave the Academic Building behind, walking along the pebbled path toward the parking lot. There’s a nip to the late afternoon—what consists of a Texas winter making its final stand. Soon it will be so hot that shirts stick to skin, and the air feels like steam.

I’m looking forward to New York. I’ve only seen snow once, ten years ago. It melted almost immediately, just sticking to the rooftops for the day. My brother and I scraped what we could off the lawn into snowballs and stuck them in the freezer, hoping to save them. They resembled dingy, brownish balls of ice with twigs and dried leaves sticking out of them. Mom threw them away before we ever got a chance to recover them from the freezer.

My gaze skims the brown-green hills etched against a sky so blue it hurts your eyes. The headmaster’s white-pillared mansion looks down on us from the top of the hill as we pass the refectory where we eat. A perfectly manicured expanse of green stretches to our left. In the distance, flags slap on the wind, mingling with the soft drone of a golf cart driven by the head of campus security as he rolls toward the practice fields. Everyone calls him “Snappy” because he likes to snap his fingers to get your attention. My brother coined the nickname years ago as a freshman. Snappy busted Mitchell on more than one occasion.

We descend the hill toward the parking lot. Seniors get the best spots. It’s one of our privileges at Everton, in addition to having our very own senior lounge replete with couches, TV, and soda and snack machines. Zac’s parked in the front row beneath a crape myrtle tree in full bloom. Tiny white blossoms decorate the hood of his car.

“Someone needs to cut that thing down.”

“It’s pretty.”

He squeezes my hand. “Not as pretty as you.”

I roll my eyes, but still smile. He unlocks his BMW and walks me around to the passenger side. I love that he still does this. Even six months into our relationship, he makes me feel special. Like every day is a first date.

Before I can get in the car, he stops me. Placing his hands on either side of the car, he traps me between the vehicle and his body. My heart speeds up. I smile up at him, thinking he’s going to kiss me again. But he doesn’t. His vivid green eyes drill into me with unusual intensity.

“Davy. You know what you do to me, how you make me feel. . . .”

I touch his chest, flattening my palms against him. “You make me happy, too.”

“Good. Because that’s all I ever want, Davy. To make you happy.”

“You do,” I assure him.

He nods but he still doesn’t move. He stares at me like he’s memorizing me.

I angle my head, wondering at his odd seriousness. It’s not like he goes around declaring himself all the time. “Zac?”

“I love you,” he murmurs, the words falling slowly.

Everything inside me tightens. He’s never said those words before.

My heart clenches and the ache there is so sweet. It’s a perfect kind of agony. I suck in a sharp breath and then release it in a rush. Words are impossible. They stick inside my closed throat.

His gaze darts around and he almost looks nervous. “I didn’t know I was going to say that here. Right now. In the parking lot. I mean . . . I’ve known for weeks that I love you. You’re all I think about—” He grins down at me. “I’m babbling.”

“I noticed that.”

He kisses me. We’ve shared some amazing kisses before but nothing like this. Zac loves me. He. Loves. Me.

He breaks for air and mutters against my lips, “God, I’ve been trying to get up the courage to tell you that. Sorry it wasn’t someplace more special.”

I swat him on the shoulder. “Why would you be afraid to tell me that?” Probably the same reason I’ve been afraid to say the words, too.

His expression sobers and his arms tighten around me. “I don’t know if I can handle you not loving me back.”

I touch his face. Place my fingertips against his jaw. It’s a little bristly. My fingers move over his skin, reveling in the texture. “Well, that’s not possible. I think I loved you before you ever even asked me out.”

Relief washes over his face. He kisses me once more, sweet and lingering before we finally move and get inside the car.

It’s a short drive to my house. I sit there in a daze, absorbing the sensation of his hand holding mine between us, and everything it means. Me. Zac. Forever. That’s what it feels like. I know I’m just seventeen, but why not? Why not forever?

We’re at my house in ten minutes. In this instance, I wish I didn’t live so close to campus. Wish we could stay in our little world for a few hours more.

Two extra cars sit in the circular driveway. I don’t know who they belong to, but my gaze drifts to Dad’s Range Rover. Home in the middle of the week in broad daylight. That never happens.

Zac gets out with me. He quickly reclaims my hand. We’ve barely reached the wide rock steps leading to the double front doors when one of them swings opens.

Mom steps out and I stop.

She looks pale, her normally smooth complexion drawn tight. Mom’s key to looking young is to never get in the sun. As in—never. She only swims in our pool at night. But right now, even those efforts seem lost.

“Davy,” she says my name on a breath, staring at me in an intense, devouring way that makes me want to touch my face and check that I haven’t broken out in a rash suddenly.

Her gaze skitters to Zac. She nods at him. “Thanks for dropping her off.” The translation is clear: leave. My parents adore Zac. If I didn’t already know something is wrong, then I do now.

Zac gives my hand a squeeze and locks his impossibly green eyes on me. The concern is there—the love. I’d seen it before but now it has a name. Now I know. “Call me.”

I nod.

With one last look, he walks back to his car.

Then it’s just Mom and me. She looks over her shoulder and I can hear the voices drifting out from somewhere in the house. I recognize Dad’s baritone and not just because it’s familiar. It’s the loudest.

“Mom? What’s going on?”

She motions me inside.

I drop my backpack inside the foyer. We walk across the dark wood floor into the living room. I inch inside warily, toeing the Oriental rug.

Immediately, I see Dad, standing, pacing. His arms and hands are all movement as he talks. No Mitchell though. My gaze sweeps the cavernous room. I recognize my headmaster, Mr. Grayson. He rises when we enter. He’s never been to our house before, and it’s strange seeing him here and not on campus. As though the only place he belongs is at Everton.

And there’s another man. I’ve never seen him before. He’s dressed in a cheap suit. The cuffs stop well before his hairy wrists and the fit is all wrong, too loose at the shoulders. I’ve been taught to appreciate good suits. Dad wears Caraceni and Gucci. The stranger stays sitting, looking almost bored.

Mr. Grayson tucks one hand inside his suit pocket. He addresses Dad in a placating voice, “Patrick, listen to me. My hands are tied. There’s protocol—”

“Wasn’t there protocol with Mitchell, too?”

Mitchell graduated three years ago. He’s always been in trouble. Drugs. Failing grades. Nothing really improved when he started college, either. He came home first semester and currently lives in the guesthouse. Dad keeps pushing him to work at the bank. An “internship” he calls it. It sounds better than saying, “My son’s a teller at the bank I own.”

Hamilton Bank has been in my family since my greatgrandfather founded it. It looks like that legacy would die with Dad. Mitchell’s not cut out for it, and I have other plans.

Dad waves an arm wildly. “I wrote a check then. A fat donation and everything was fine. Why not this time? This is Davy! She’s a damned prodigy. She sings and has been playing God knows how many instruments since before kindergarten. . . . She even performed for the governor when she was nine!”

I blink. Whatever this is, it’s about me.

“This is beyond my control.” Mr. Grayson speaks evenly, like he’s rehearsed what to say.

Dad storms from the living room, passing me without a word.

Mr. Grayson notices me then. His entire demeanor changes. “Davy.” He claps his hand together in front of him. “How are you?” he asks slowly, like I might have trouble understanding.

“Fine, Mr. Grayson. How are you?”

“Good!” He nods enthusiastically, reminding me of a bobblehead. Weird.

His eyes, however, convey none of this cheer. They flit nervously over me and then around the room—as if sizing up all possible escape routes. Marking the French doors leading outside, he shifts his gaze to the man on the couch.

The headmaster motions to him. “This is Mr. Pollock.”

“Hello,” I greet. “Nice to meet you.”

He doesn’t even respond. He looks me over with small, dark eyes set deeply beneath his eyebrows. His mouth loosens, the moist top lip curling in a vaguely threatening way. The thought seizes me: he doesn’t like me.

Ridiculous, of course. He doesn’t even know me. He’s a stranger. How could he have formed any opinion of me at all?

In the distance, I hear the slap of Dad’s returning footsteps. He enters the room breathlessly even though he didn’t walk far. Even though he plays raquetball every week and is in great shape. His face is flushed like he’s been out in the sun.

He brandishes his checkbook as he sinks into a chair. With his pen poised, he demands: “How much?”

Grayson exchanges a look with the stranger. He clears his throat, speaking almost gently now. “You don’t understand. She can’t come back tomorrow.”

I cut in. “Come back where? What’s going on?”

I move farther into the room. Grayson takes a notable step back, his gaze flying almost desperately to Pollock.

Staring down at his checkbook with fixed focus, Dad shouts, “How much?!”

I jump, my chest tight and uncomfortable. Prickles wash over the skin at the back of my neck. Dad never yells. He’s too dignified for that. Everything about this is wrong.

My stomach churns. I look at Mom. She hovers at the edge of the room, her face pale. Her mouth parts and she moistens her lips as though she’s going to speak, but nothing comes out.

Mr. Pollock rises from the couch, and I see just how short he is. His legs and torso appear almost the same length. His square hands brush over his bad suit. He takes a long, measuring look around our living room, his gaze skimming the furniture, the floor-to-ceiling bookcases, the heavy drapes, and grand piano in the corner that I’ve played ever since I sat down in front of it at age three.

Dad lifts his gaze now, watching Pollock with almost hatred. And something that resembles fear. Although obviously not. Patrick Hamilton fears nothing and no one. Certainly not this man with his beady eyes and ill-fitting suit.

Watching Dad, I marvel at the harsh glitter of his gaze . . . the heavy crash of his breath. A part of me wants to go to him and place a hand on his tightly bunched shoulder. For whatever reason. Maybe to just make me feel better. Because Dad like this freaks me out.

Mr. Pollock stops before Dad and looks down at him. My father rises, still clutching his checkbook in his hand, crushing it.

Pollock jerks his head in my direction. “You can’t buy her way out of this.”

I stare, at a total loss. What did I do? Fear crawls up my throat in hot prickles, and I fight to swallow.

“Dad?” My voice is a dry croak.

He turns to me, the whites of his eyes suddenly pink, shot with emotion.

Mr. Grayson moves to leave. He gives me a small, sympathetic smile as he passes, lifting a hand as though to pat my shoulder and then drops it, changing his mind.

Then it’s Mr. Pollock before me, so close I can smell his sour coffee breath. He flips out a small card. “I’ll be your caseworker. I won’t come here again. From now on, we meet at my office. Be there tomorrow at ten sharp.”

The unspoken words or else hang in the air.

My thoughts jumble together. I glance down at the card but can’t focus on the words.

Then the men are gone. It’s just me and my parents.

I spin to face Mom. “Why do I have to see him tomorrow? I have school—”

“No,” Dad announces, slowly sinking down into a chair. “You don’t.”

Mom moves inside the living room, her hand gliding along the back of the couch as though she needs the support of something solid under her fingers.

Dad drags a hand over his face, muffling his words, but I still hear them: “Oh, my God.”

Those barely there words shudder through me.

I wet my dry lips. “Someone please tell me what’s going on? What did that man mean when he said he’s my caseworker?”

Mom doesn’t look at me. She fixes her stare on Dad. He drops his hand from his face and exhales deeply, shaking his head. “They can’t do this.”

“Oh, Patrick.” She shakes her head as if he just uttered something absurd. “They’ve been doing it all over the country. What can we do?”

“Something,” he snaps. “This isn’t happening. Not to my daughter!” He slams his fist down on the desk and I flinch.

My eyes start to burn as apprehension curls through me sickly. Part of me feels the irrational urge to run. To flee from whatever horrible truth has my parents acting this way. Find Zac and hold him, bury my face in his chest and listen to him tell me he loves me again.

Mom looks at me finally. Her lips compress and flatten like it’s hard for her to even look at me. “You can’t go back to school.”

“What? I don’t—”

“Let me finish.” She takes a breath like she’s preparing to dive into deep waters. “You’ve been uninvited.” Her lip curls at this last bit. Everton Academy never expels students. They “uninvite.” As though the gentle euphemism could mask the reality of what being uninvited means.

I slide a step back. My hip bumps into a table holding an assortment of framed family photos. One hits the floor with a loud crack. I don’t even move to pick it up. Shaking my head, I whisper, “Why?”

It’s Dad who responds, his voice biting deep with the words that will change everything forever. “You have the kill gene.”

U.S. Department of Justice * The Federal Bureau of Investigation * Criminal Justice Information Reporting Division

*HTS testing yet to become protocol in many state-level jurisdictions

**HTS testing fully realized at every state-level jurisdiction

Unleashed (Uninvited #2) by Sophie Jordan
Genre: Young Adult (Dystopian/Romance)
Date Published: February 24, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen

Unleashed, the romantic, high-stakes sequel to New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan's Uninvited, is perfect for fans of James Patterson's Confessions of a Murder Suspect.

Davy has spent the last few months trying to come to terms with the fact that she tested positive for the kill gene HTS (also known as Homicidal Tendency Syndrome). She swore she would not let it change her, and that her DNA did not define her . . . but then she killed a man.

Now on the run, Davy must decide whether she'll be ruled by the kill gene or if she'll follow her heart and fight for her right to live free. But with her own potential for violence lying right beneath the surface, Davy doesn't even know if she can trust herself.

Unleashed is the second book in the Uninvited series by Sophie Jordan. Things definitely aren't any easier for Davy and her new friends. In fact, they get decidedly worse. I didn't read the blurb before I started reading this one. I just wanted to know what happened next and started reading away. So, to say I was surprised when Caden entered the picture would be an understatement. It was one of those "Noooooooo!" in slow motion kind of moments. I really didn't want this to be a love triangle. And really, I don't think I'd call it much of a love triangle after all. I'll be honest, I held a little grudge towards Caden through the "getting to know  you" stage, but my feelings towards him changed the more I got to know him. There are so many reasons why I'm Team Caden, but the big one is because of the role he plays in Davy's emotional healing and acceptance of herself. Those parts were truly beautiful. I wanted to bonk Davy on the head so many times while reading... I lost count. I'm not sure if there's supposed to be another book coming, but this one wrapped things up nicely, which is another thing I wasn't expecting, but really liked. I thought Davy was going to play more of a role in the whole revolution aspect, but this story wasn't really about that at all, and I'm glad. We've had Hunger Games and Divergent for those kinds of stories. Unleashed is about an average girl. She's not this big, bad hero. She's just trying to survive. She's the girl we can relate to. She's the girl most of us would be if something like this were to happen in real life. I was pleasantly surprised with this story, and definitely recommend it.

Check out my reviews of this authors other books!

Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she's also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Avon historical romances. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she's not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes and Diet cherry Coke preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with true-crime and reality-TV shows. Sophie also writes paranormal romances under the name Sharie Kohler.

To learn more about Sophie Jordan and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Review: Storm by Alyssa Rose Ivy

Storm (The Empire Chronicles #5) by Alyssa Rose Ivy
New Adult (Paranormal Romance)
Publication Date: December 3, 2015
Publisher: Self

Underneath our greatest flaws lie our greatest strengths.

Jared barely has time to process the revelation that his mother is a witch before his life is once again turned upside down. He wakes up in a time and place he thought he had left behind with no clue how to get out. When Vera shows up the stakes are even higher.
Racing to find a way back to reality and to fix mistakes, both must face new truths about their identities, and what they are made of.

Storm is the fifth and final book in the Empire Chronicles by Alyssa Rose Ivy. Whew! This series really took me places. Seriously! Even back in time. Jared has been my favorite from the beginning, so I'm so happy he's met his match in Vera. Vera is a female version of Jared, so watching their relationship grow with all the bantering and chemistry has been a lot of fun. This book takes us back in time to just before Levi and Allie meet. So, there's that chance they don't meet at all this time around. Yikes! How would that change things? I don't want to give too much away, but much can go wrong if the past is altered, much can go right too. I think I've said this before, but if I haven't, this series is a must read, and I highly recommend you starting from the very beginning with the Crescent Chronicles. These books are just that good.

The ARC of Storm by Alyssa Rose Ivy was kindly provided to me by the author for review. The opinions are my own.

Check out my reviews of the other books in this series!

If you haven't done so already, you need to read Alyssa Rose Ivy's books!! While you're at it take a peek at my reviews too!

Alyssa Rose Ivy is a New Adult and Young Adult author who loves to weave stories with romance and a southern setting. Although raised in the New York area, she fell in love with the South after moving to New Orleans for college. After years as a perpetual student, she turned back to her creative side and decided to write. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young children, and she can usually be found with a cup of coffee in her hand. You can also read an interview with Alyssa Rose Ivy here.

To read more about this author, visit Alyssa Rose Ivy's Blog and Website. You can also find her on GoodreadsPinterestFacebook, and Twitter.