Monday, April 30, 2012

Zero Book Report


Zero
By: Tom Leveen
YA Contemporary
April 24, 2012
Rating: I have to give it an R because of the open-door sex scene that happens. Otherwise, it would have only been a strong PG for language
Coffee Beans: 4.5/5
Spoilers: Some, but in order to protect the innocent, character names have been omitted
Favorite Line: Ever notice how much thing guys can eat? So not fair. (ebook, pg 108) When you're painting, you can see noise. Taste sound. Ten trillion neurons fire in your mind and trigger the fine muscles in your arms to do. (ebook, pg 128) Ain't that the truth. Boy howdy, I tell ya, when I decide to make a shit situation shittier, I commit. (ebook, pg 236) 
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this honest review
 
Publisher's Summary:

For aspiring artist Amanda Walsh, who only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, the summer before college was supposed to be fun—plain and simple. Hanging out with her best friend Jenn, going to clubs, painting, and counting down the days until her escape. But when must-have scholarship money doesn't materialize, and she has a falling out with Jenn that can only be described as majorly awkward, and Zero's parents relationship goes from tense to relentless fighting, her prospects start looking as bleak and surreal as a painting by her idol Salvador Dali. Will life truly imitate art?
Will her new, unexpected relationship with a punk skater boy who seems too good to be real and support from the unlikeliest of sources show Zero that she's so much more than a name.


 

Here's the thing:

I REALLY pretty much loved this book. Discuss.

Tom Leveen does an epic job of writing this story from a seventeen-year-old girl's perspective (which is actually somewhat unsettling), creating a believable and genuine voice for Zero and a rollercoaster of emotions. It's so good in fact, that it took me a little while to get into it. I know, that sounds a bit conflicting, but I don't know how else to describe it, other than, after a few chapters, I was hooked and couldn't put the book down. The voice is so fluid and natural throughout the entire story. The Conflict artfully constructed,
and all the relationship dynamics unfold so naturally and they have such an organic flow from one to the other, it's like I'm living through high school all over again. And the fact that it's a male author writing from a female's perspective so dang well is impressive. There's also some really fantastic dialogue.

This book is first and foremost about relationships. And how dysfunctional and broken and confusing and wonderful they can be. Tom writes these relationships so realistically; I experienced them right alongside Zero. The betrayal and confusion from a best friend. A first love. The cloudiness about your future and how you thought it was going to unfold. These are all powerful and well executed. When I was shown the relationship between Zero's parents, my heart broke and I was sick to my stomach. The source of the fallout between Zero and her best friend, Jenn, (which the MC tells you about in the beginning so I'm not spoiling anything here) was so completely out of left field, I just kinda sat on the couch saying, "Wow."

Leveen has the typical teenage angst (I hate using that word) and attitude down pat. Everything Zero says and does and how she reacts towards her parents is spot on. I kept nodding and laughing as I was reading, recognizing myself in some of those scenes (sorry mom for being the typical teenager and all that grey hair I'm now convinced is my fault).

And the author's funny. Zero's inner dialogue had me laughing out loud. The cynicism and sarcasm and humor is well-placed and well done. The plot is engaging and fast moving (only a few days to read the book), and so REALISTIC (I can't say that enough about this novel) I really did find myself sucked in, wanting to know how Zero's story would turn out.

There was only one thing I didn't care for: a scene between two characters that took place the parking lot of a coffee shop (you can pretty much guess where I'm going with this).

Here's the thing:

YA books are awesome on so many levels and for so many reasons. Discuss.

They're stories filled with characters discovering the world, love, hurt, pain, yada-yada-yada. YA books are able to broach topics that would otherwise be iffy or off limits in other genres, but we just barrel in, full steam ahead. Many books deal with drugs and alcohol and abuse. And sex (because, let's get real here, people, kids are experimenting and discovering that, too). Pretty much anything goes in YA.

But there's one rule, and it's a consensus with pretty much every literary agent, author, and publisher I've talked to: sex is okay to have in YA novels as long as it's behind closed doors. What does that mean? It means the reader knows what's happening but the author isn't taking us through the act with the MC. They typically take us up to the point of no return and then shut the door. Leave the rest up to the imagination (And I say typically, knowing there are some books out there that don't do that, Breaking Dawn, for example).

This book didn't do that, and it was somewhat disappointing for me. I'll say this—it didn't feel awkward or dirty or anything like that when the scene came about, it was a naturally progressing plot point, but it still was like—whoa. Um…pretty sure that door should have closed a long time ago. Don't get me wrong, it's an event that needed to happen because it's the foundation of several events, actions, feelings, and outcomes for the rest of the book. But that doesn't mean I had to be in the car with them, whistling awkwardly as I stared out the window, pretending I wasn't actually there while this was going on.

That's the only "negative" comment I have to say about the book.

Overall, I REALLY liked it. It was a great story about characters that were made real from the very beginning and about the everyday relationships in our lives.

Pick it up, read it, and decide for yourself, but I have a strong feeling you'll love it as much as I did. I will for sure be picking up Tom's first novel, Party.

Happy reading, my friends!

Vampire General Book Report


Vampire General (Book one of the Intern with a Vampire series)
By: Kit Iwasaki
Genre: Paranormal Medical Drama (I think I just made that genre up, btw :) )
Pub Date: April 13, 2011
Rating: PG
Coffee Beans: 4/5
Spoilers: None
Favorite Line: A man vomited blood on the floor behind them, then tried to sneak a bottle of Jack Daniels from his jacket to wash out his mouth.(ebook, pg 6)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this honest review.


Author's Summary: Human medicine is easy. On her first day at Grace General Hospital, new intern Aline Harman risks vampire infection, vivisection, and having her heart torn out of her chest… and this from her colleagues.

Juggling transhuman politics only becomes more difficult when a patient's life is at stake. With a zombie to resuscitate and a mermaid in critical care, Aline has her hands full. At least the doctors are good-looking.


My Review:


This book only took me about a day and a half to read through because it's well-written, creative, and fast-paced. It also helps that the book is only around 32,000 words (about a quarter the length of what I usually read), so I consider this book more of a novella than a novel. Which isn't a bad thing at all, though I generally like my books a little longer so I have more of a story to get into and more of the characters to get involved and attached to.

Kit Iwasaki is a talented writer who knows how to involve her reader in a fast-paced, clean story with interesting characters. The setting is ideal: an ER full of transhumant patients, urgency and tension, attractive doctors, potentially dangerous co-workers, and a whole set of rules the main character, Aline, is learning how to play by. In the short amount of time we're given, Iwaski does a pretty impressive job of showing us who the characters are and giving us a bit of a story to get attached to. Her previous experience being a premed student comes in handy to make everything in the book believable.

So, if it's a good story, good characters, and great writing, why the 4 stars instead of something higher?

I think that with everything Kit gives the reader, there's an awesome potential of there being so much more available for the reader. As it is, there's not much time for Kit to make sure we connect and understand her characters on more than just a surface level. We see how they react to a situation, but we don't understand, on a deeper level, why they do what they do. For example, when Aline finds out about this whole paranormal world, we don't get much of a reaction from her, which I can't help but feel a bit cheated about.

I also felt there were broken promises for romantic possibilities between Aline and a couple characters. I know leaving the romances unresolved leaves openings for other books (which there are), but there was such an intense and immediate build up between Aline and the other characters and it was washed away with a fire hose as soon as it caught fire. It felt a bit like a broken promise or at the very least being a tease.

The last thing I found a bit disappointing was the depth of the plot. Yes, Aline gets dumped into a pretty weird work situation, but to me, that isn't enough, I kept waiting for the larger, main plotline to come into play, more than just what her night was like at this transhuman hospital, but I didn't feel like it was ever delivered. There were several hints to one, so I know it's there, I just have a feeling the author's waiting to unveil it throughout her other books, which I'm not a fan of. Maybe a larger, connecting plot that threads through the series, but each book needs to have its own standalone plot that carries it.

Overall, it was a very good book. Engaging, fast-paced, well-written. The few issues I had were a direct result of the book being so short. I have no doubt, that if it were a regular length novel, none of my points would have remained issues. But, in the end, it really comes down to making your reader want to read more, and if you've done that, you've succeeded in one of the main goals of being an author, which Kit nailed. :) I'll purchase the second book in the series, Slash and Burn, when it comes out (Summer 2012, GoodReads says), to see what happens with Cassie and what—if anything—happens between Aline and a couple certain coworkers. I only hope the second book's a little longer than the first so it gives me something more to sink my teeth into.

Pick it up and check it out for yourself, it's only $0.99 over at Smashwords, and if you're a sucker for a good vampire book and good writing like I am, you'll enjoy this story.

Happy reading, my friends!

Zinger


(Catch up, here)


"Reality television?" I say in complete disbelief.

Junebug leans over to me and says, "It's real life on TV."

"I know what it is," I snap. "It's sacrilegious! What were you lot thinkin'? I'm gone and you all run what I built into the ground."

"There's nothing religious about this," Barrett says calmly.

"Of course there is! Every business has a religion. It's called money," I say.

"Here's the zinger then, this is the biggest altar to our religion." Barrett laughs.

"Grampy, you seriously can't be considering this," Junebug says with a frown.

"Yeah, Gramps. The Organization wasn't designed for this kind of move," Jack says.

"This is the direction we want to go, Abel," Barrett says. "And we don't want to do it without you. We can't do it without you."

"What are you sayin'?"

"If you're onboard, then this is the direction we're going. None of that other petty criminal, stuff," Barrett says.

"Uh," I hold up a finger to interrupt. "Murder isn't exactly considered petty."

Dick shoots me a look that could curdle milk and I sit back in my seat.

"Bottom line, Abel," Barrett says, "the business decision is still yours. You join us, we go a new direction. You don't, the organization stays the way it's always been. What'll it be?"

* * *
"Can you believe it's been a year already?" Jack asks.
I grunt my answer.
"Oh, get off it, old man," he says with a smile. "You're enjoying this and you know it."
I grunt again but crack a small smile. "And you're enjoyin' being second in command of America's newest and most lucrative television station."
"Hey, I went to school for this, remember? Running a legitimate business is what I paid fifty grand and four years of my life to do." He flips through my schedule. "Lunch meeting at two with that producer from ABC. He has an idea he wants to pitch to you."
"About?"
"He's being very tight-lipped about the whole thing, but the word on the street is a reality dating show."
"Been done before."
"Maybe he has a new twist," Jack says.
"Maybe," I say back.
"I need both of your guys' honest opinions," a new voice says.
Junebug's standin' in the doorway of my office, holding up two swatches of fabric. One a pale green the other a dusty blue. "Which one is a better shade for the nursery?" Her belly sticks out about a mile underneath her maternity dress.
"We can only make a legitimate decision if we know the gender of the rugrat," I say.
"Nice try, Grampy, you know Barrett and I are keeping that a secret." She smiles at me, hands on her hips.
Me—I think for the thousandth time—a great grampy. I smile.
It wasn't long after that whole fiasco last year that Barrett and Junebug tied the knot. Somethin' about a spark and "when-you-know-you-know" garbage. Then, not long after that, they found out they were addin' to the family.
I let them lead by example, asked Ruthy to be my wife. Took me a few decades, but I finally got it right.
Turns out, sayin' yes to the organization was the best decision I ever coulda made.



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yell


(Catch up, here)


I might as well be in the Twilight zone right now, with some alien Doctor Who hybrids fighting with light sabers. That's how wrong everything feels.

"What?!" I yell. "Barrett, what the hell's going on?"

"Sis," Jack says in a low voice, "I suggest not talking to the boss like that."

I've been talking to him this way the entire time. I'm not going to stop now. "You're the boss?" I say to Barrett.

"You don't have to say it like it's a completely ridiculous idea," Barrett says, slightly offended. But there's a smile behind the words, I can feel it. "I'm more like the second in command. The boss has been…out…so the organization has seconds set up in case this sort of thing happens. We don't like the possibility, but we'd rather be prepared."

Grampy snorts. "The organization must be scrapin' the bottom of the barrel if they're puttin' a young pup like you in charge of the outfit."

"The guy before me was much older," Barrett says, unfazed. "Besides, I've proven myself over the years to be the right person for the job."

"Wait," I say, rubbing at my forehead. "The guy before you? How many stand-ins have there been?"

"Well," Barrett says, thinking. "We've had to have stand-ins for the past sixty or so years, so, six, maybe seven? Dunno for sure, though. It was before my time so it could be less. Abel would probably know. I doubt that he hasn't been keeping track of the organization, despite him being retired."

My mind starts processing everything. There have been seconds in command for about sixty years. The organization's been looking for Grampy. Then something clicks in my brain. I look up at Grampy, shocked. He's already staring at me, like he's been waiting for me to put something together.

I scoot back, bumping into Jack. "You're the head honcho," I say, barely above a whisper. "And they want you back."

Grampy's eyes are the saddest I've ever seen. He hangs his head and Ruthy wraps her withered arm around his shoulders. After a moment, he pulls his head back up and looks at Jack and I.

"It's true," he says. "I was the head of the organization. A long time ago. But I left."

"There is no was, Abel," Barrett says. "Unless you're dead."

"Which he isn't!" I say quickly. "Grampy, why didn't you just tell us?"

"Because I thought I could keep you and Jack from all this. The organization takes everything from you, and it's nobody's fault but my own. I started it, so I thought I could finish it."

"But the organization got too big," Jack says.

Grampy nods. "So the only thing I could do was walk away and pray that I could stay lost."

"Which you couldn't do," Barrett says.

"Which I couldn't do," Grampy agrees. "But I kept it on its toes for sixty years."

"A lot has changed in that time," Barrett says. "We need you back. We want you back."

Grampy shakes his head so emphatically, I swear it's going to come off. "I can't. The organization doesn't stand for what it did when I started it. I'm too old for all that now."

"That's why you need to come back." Barrett sits on the coffee table. "The organization wants to go in a new direction. Something far more lucrative. And we need a man with your smarts and knowhow to get it done right."

"What has more money than the back alley deals the organization deals in?" my brother says.

Barrett gets a wicked grin on his face and his eyes spark. "Reality television."



Friday, April 27, 2012

Xcuse me?


(Catch up, here)


It feels like we've been here, in this incredibly small room, for a least a decade. I glance at a small clock on a side table. It's been about six hours and the sun's starting to rise outside.

Tracy has been hanging back by the door the entire time. Dick's pacing back and forth. I've been trying to rack my brain for a way out of this situation, but it's not looking good. And everyone around me is too possibly strong and calm. Like they've been through this thing before. Grampy and Ruthy, probably. But Barrett's just overly passive, I think.

Finally, Dick says something. "We've been looking for you for a long time."

"Well, I've been right here for the past—," Grampy starts

"Do you know what it's done to the organization, your disappearance? We need you to come back. You don't have an option."

"That's ridiculous," I say. Grampy shakes his head at me ever so slightly. "You're treating this like it's a life or death situation. Why can't you just forget about him and let him go?"

"It is a life or death of situation, little girl." Dick sneers at me.

"No, finding the cure to HIV or cancer is a life or death situation. Brining back and old man against his will is just mean and wrong."

Dick offers me a small, courtesy laugh. "You don't know anything. But that doesn't really surprise me. Abel's always been pretty good at keeping a secret." He turns to Grampy. "Now, are you going to come willingly? Or do we have to force you?"

"The organization isn't my life anymore," Grampy says. Ruthy rests her hand on his arm. "I've tried to shield my family from it, but you still got to Junebug. I'm not givin' the organization anymore. Besides, it sounds like you guys have done a pretty good job without me there."

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's all been rainbows and sunshine, Abel. Because it hasn't. We've managed to pick up and continue business as usual, but it's not the same. You need to come back."

"Listen," Grampy says in his calm tone that tells you you'd better watch out. "You're young, you probably have no clue about how things used to be—"

There's a loud bang that cuts off the rest of Grampy's statement and Tracy goes flying across the room. Our heads snap to the door. Jack's standing in the doorway, his shoulder down, like he just rammed the wood from its hinges. He races inside the room and slams the door. His foot lands on Tracy's back and he has a gun pointed at Dick.

"You," Dick snarls.

"Sit. Down," Jack says, barely breathing hard. I've never seen my brother in this zone before. Eyes cold and forward. I don't know why, but right now I'm convinced he's a lethal machine capable of anything.

"Jack?" I say, confused beyond all measure now. "What are you doing here?"

"Are you serious, sis? After that phone call earlier, I knew I had to come and clean up this mess." He doesn't look at me while he speaks, his eyes still trained on Dick.

"Wow, thanks for your vote of confidence, brother." I cross my arms over my chest.

"You got Jack, too?" Grampy says. His voice is hardening and I'm glad I'm not the source.

Jack turns his head and looks at Grampy, seeing everyone in the room for the first time. "Hi, Gramps. You must be Ruthy," he says when his eyes find her. Then they settle on Barrett and he freezes. His eyes go wide and his face drains of color. His gun hand drops to his side. "What's he doing here?" Jack asks in an almost whisper.

"What? Who?" I say. "Barrett? He's Grampy's nurse."

Jack tries to smile, but it looks painful. "June, that's not Grampy's nurse."

"What are you talking about? I've seen him for the past year, Jack, I think I'd know he's Grampy's nurse."

Barrett stands up, then. He's been silent the entire time. "Sit down," he says in a cool voice.

Jack drops into the sofa next to me.

"June, I don't think we've been properly introduced." He stretches out his arm, engulfing my hand in his. "I'm Barrett, head of the organization."

"Excuse me?" I manage to get out.

Jack leans in next to me. "Told you so."




Freebee Friday!! Thanks the good Lord! :) http://bit.ly/Ixc0xb

Freebee Friday


Next time I get mad, remind me to find a backlit slatted wall and do this. I LOVE this movie. :) 
Happy Friday, my friends!




Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wiggle


(Catch up, here)


I stick to the shadows and make my feet move fast. It doesn't take me long to get back to the apartment. I climb the stairs, always looking behind me to make sure I'm not being followed. When I get to the door, I do the secret knock.

It's only a few seconds before Barrett opens the door. "Did it work?" He grabs my elbow and pulls me into the room. Scanning the hall outside before closing the door again.

Grampy and Ruth are sitting awfully close together on the couch. There's an excited gleam in her eye and her entire body wiggles because of it. I try to push away how wrong that whole scene is.

"I think so," I say, shrugging off my coat.

"What happened?"

"I told them it'd only take another day or two to locate Grampy. I said I'd call." Barrett gives a curt nod. "We need to get out of here. Now. I don't trust them at all about this."

Ruthy leaps up and shuffles into her bedroom, emerging again with a small, flowered bag gripped tightly in her wrinkly hands. "Ready," she says with a bright smile.

I choose not to ask questions. I think that's the best route.

"All right, then, I guess we can leave now," I say, grabbing for my coat. Barrett helps it up over my shoulders and reaches for the door.

I slam into two large masses when I try to exit. I look up—rather dramatically—and stare into the cold eyes of Dick and Tracy. Nice. Isn't this just the icing on the cake.

"I thought you said you weren't being followed?" Barrett asks out the side of his mouth.

"I didn't think I was," I say back.

Dick pulls a gun out from the inside of his coat and pushes us back into the room. He kicks the door shut. "Don't let anyone leave," he says to Tracy.

Crap, crap, crap. CRAP. My eyes are flirting around the room, trying to figure out any options we have.

"There aren't any," Dick says with a smile, like he's reading my mind. He motions to the couch with the barrel of his gun. "Sit down. We have some talking to do."

Barrett and I do as we're told, taking seats on either side of Grampy and Ruthy.

"Hello there, Abel. Long time no see." I don't like Dick's smile. It reminds me of a snake smiling at a mouse it's about to devour. If snakes could smile.

This was going to end in a showdown. There was no other way. We were going to have to take them and escape if we wanted to live. There'd probably be casualties and I don't want to think who that might be.

This is not going to end well. All I can think about is a fight between Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker. I know, my brain does funny thing when it thinks it's going to die.

All Harry'd have to do is flick his wrist and shout, "Avada Kedavra!" and Luke would be smoke in a flash of neon green light. The organization is Harry. We're Luke.

In one corner: two lethal killers from the organization. In the other, far more pathetic corner: an orderly from a nursing home, an eighteen-year-old college student with a habit for making bad decisions, a crotchety old man with a limp, and an inappropriately excited old woman with a flowery overnight bag.

Yup. We. Are. Screwed.




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Theme Song

Found the theme song for my newest YA book - Annihilation by A Perfect Circle. Enjoy!


--Me

Violet


(Catch up, here)


I get into the car and slam the door shut. My anger makes the entire steel frame shake. When I'm nervous, it always comes across at anger. But this time, there's a little bit of actual anger mixed in there, too.

I left as soon as I got off the phone with June. I sleep in regular clothes, all the time. It's not all that comfortable, and Beth complains a lot, but it's what I need to do. You never know when the organization's going to call you in on something or when you need to get up and run. It's why I always have a dark purple duffle bag packed and by the door. Beth calls it violet. I just never thought I'd need to use it because of my little sister.

I pound the steering wheel and curse under my breath. Why, June? Why'd you have to take this project? I reverse out of the drive way and jam the stick into first gear. There's a cloud of smoke in my rearview as I tear off down the street with a high-pitched squeal.

Gramps is over six hours away. It's going to take me driving all night to get to them before the organization does. June said everything was okay, but she's new at this. Me? I'm a veteran. I know better.

I fish my phone out of the duffle bag on the passenger seat and try to tap out a quick message. I manage to miss hitting a taxi pulled over on the shoulder and blow through a red light. Good thing this is still an ungodly hour and there aren't many people on the road. I glance at the small screen.

dont go anywert


I press the send button. She's a smart girl, she'll figure out what I mean.

I hit the old highway and travel east. It's been years since I've seen Gramps. At first it was my job that took me away. Not the organization, but a real, legit job. Then I got busy, got a life, and forgot about Gramps and June. It wasn't until I got my new job that I started thinking about them again.

In the organization, Gramps is a legend. But not in a good way. Sure, he singlehandedly tamed America when the organization first wanted to plant roots somewhere other than Ireland. But he's mostly known for being ruthless and being a traitor. No one leaves the organization on their own terms. You may not be punished right away, you aren't going to be forgotten, either.

June and I started talking again, little by little. It was good to hear her voice, I'll admit it. But I didn't envision our relationship being one where I clean up after her.

I try to picture the reunion that's going to take place in mere hours. I envision something emotional and noble—like when a father comes home from war and the family races across the tarmac to leap into his arms.

I laugh.

Our reunion? It'll be by God's grace alone if a few punches aren't thrown.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls Book Report


TUBC4UG, for short
By: Julie Schumacher
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pub Date: May 8, 2012
Rating: PG
Coffee Beans: 4.5/5
Spoilers: Nope
Favorite Line: Oh, so many. See the section below. :)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this honest review

 

Publisher's Summary:

I'm Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn't want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer, with my knee in a brace. CeeCee's parents forced her to join after cancelling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of "The Unbearable Book Club," CeeCee, Jill, Wallis, and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren't friends. We were literary prisoners, sweating, reading classics, and hanging out at the pool. If you want to find out how membership in a book club can end up with a person being dead, you can probably look us up under mother-daughter literary catastrophe. Or open this book and read my essay, which I'll turn in when I go back to school.


 

I held off doing this BR for a few reasons. One, I read this book pretty fast and I wanted to make sure I had enough time to let it sink in. Two, I was busy (any surprise?). And three, I wasn't sure if I was going to use this BR in a new project that's *hopefully* going to start in May (more details to come as they become available. But let me just say, I'm uber excited!).

So, without further ado, let's begin.

This book was a fun, fast read. Very entertaining and engaging. Very funny. The voice of our MC, Adrienne (I can't help but channel Rocky Balboa's voice every time I say her name, so, from now on, I'll refer to her as A like CeeCee does in the book), is sarcastic and witty.

The main thing I want to know is this, how the heck do I become friends with CeeCee? This character is G.R.E.A.T. Not even kidding. She's the "queen bee" from school and has decided to honor A with her friendship, even though A doesn't want it. Her personality is entitled, snooty, snarky, funny, and stuck-up without being a putt-off (hence my friendship request).

Julie did such a fun and wonderful job making each of the four girls real and complex and deep. Their interaction together over the summer because of the book club is 100% what I remember from my high school days. Even the way they disbanded when it was over natural.

Wallis is a bit of a creepy yet ambiguous character. I never quite got the feel for her, I thought one thing, but then that never played through. That happened a few times during the story.


 

Did I mention I really love CeeCee? Cuz if I didn't, I do.

Good descriptions. Funny lines all over the place. Fast-moving plot. Loved, loved, loved this book.

Great lines:

  • When I turned toward her she smiled a closed-lipped smile, making me think of an alligator sunning itself on a riverbank. (ebook pg 11)
  • If a bear could be trained to talk, I thought, it would sound like Wallis (ebook pg 42)
  • My mouth was a saliva-filled marsh, boggy with pockets of vomit and gin (ebook pg 123)
  • Listening to the noise of the pool in the background—the shouting, the whistling, the general commotion—I thought, I am a lonely person. That's why I read books. (ebook pg 189)
A is a great example of strong female character without being strong in the stereotypical sense. Even though she doesn't know who she is and she's experimenting, deep down she's consistent and the same reliable, unbending (constant) person.

One thing I was unsatisfied with, though, was the fact that Willis kind of felt like a throw away character to me. I mean, I know the mystery of her character was there to push A into discovering deep down who she was, but I also wanted to know about Willis, and we never got that far. I felt a bit cheated, I'll be honest. We were never given a picture at the end of the book about what actually was going on with Wallis, which, I guess, is okay, but really, I'm not okay with it.

Okay! What's my usual disclaimer? That's right! Pick it up and read it for yourself. :)

Happy reading, my friends!


 


 

Unsure


(Catch up, here)


I start to shake less and less as I walk home; taking a long route to make sure I'm not being followed. I don't notice anything out of the ordinary, the streets are pretty empty. I'm trying to pay attention the best I can, but it's hard. I couldn't help get the impression that Grampy isn't who I thought he was all these years. Sure, I knew he was in the organization, but that didn't change the ultimate core of who he was. Did it?

I wasn't so sure anymore. How can anyone be a part of the organization and not be fundamentally changed? That included me.

It's obvious the organization wants him for something more than what they're telling me. But why? It's not like I can just go up to Grampy and say, "Okay, what's the deal? Lay all your cards on the table." Because then I'd have to do the same thing. And I'm not ready for that.

What a dark secret is he keeping locked away that the organization is willing to go this far for? Then a thought strikes me, and I don't like it.

Grampy's the enemy.

He can't be the enemy. Enemies are bad people, and even if Grampy is a bad person, I've seen the good in him. Everyone has good if you look hard enough. You just have to be willing to dig. He'd be willing to dig for me.

I hunch my shoulders near my ears and dig my hands further into my pockets. Night is in full swing and the cold is picking up. It's not too bad, but cool enough to make me want to get off the streets.

The more I get to thinking about it, the more I realize that we all need to be truthful with each other. I need to find out what Grampy has that the organization wants so badly. Then I have to make the decision if that knowledge makes him a friend or foe. I have to decide if my assignment still stands and I need to turn him in.

I hate that the thought even crossed my mind, but the organization is all about making decisions and carrying out projects that benefit the greater good. I try not to think about the fact that the greater good has always been in their favor.

I pull out my phone and hit speed dial six. It rings a few times before my brother picks up.

"What?" Jack says in a husky voice. I've woken him. He won't be pleasant.

"It's me," I say with a heavy sigh.

"Yeah, and?"

"Snap out of the mood you're in, we have an issue."

"Don't wake me up at this ungodly hour and you won't get this mood." His voice is starting to wake up a little more. "What's the issue?"

"I've found him." I'm only a few blocks away from Ruthy's apartment.

"Where was he?"

"I can't tell you that, not yet."

"Okay…" he draws out the word.

"I don't know if I can go through with it. I don't know if I can turn him in. What if the organization's wrong? What if he's not the enemy?"

"June," Jack says in a clipped tone, "he killed dad. Of course he's the enemy."




Rebel Fire Book Report


Rebel Fire
By: Andrew Lane
Genre: YA Mystery
Pub Date: April 24, 2012
Rating: PG
Coffee Beans: 3.5/5
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this honest review
 


Publisher's Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes knows that Amyus Crowe, his mysterious American tutor, has some dark secrets. But he didn't expect to find John Wilkes Booth, the notorious assassin, apparently alive and well in England—and Crowe somehow mixed up in it. When no one will tell you the truth, sometimes you have to risk all to discover it for yourself. And so begins an adventure that will take Sherlock across the Atlantic, to the center of a deadly web—where a friend is in peril and a defeated army threatens to rise again.

This is the second in Andrew Lane's Young Sherlock Holmes series, and it's was just as good as his first (Death Cloud). I was excited that I got this from the publisher, especially since I'd read and reviewed the first one for the publisher, as well. Then I started reading it and remembered that it was just as hard to get into as the first time around. It has nothing to do a little to do with the writing but mostly to do with the "heaviness" of the book. It was harder, this time around, for me to get into than Death Cloud was.

As true to the series, it starts with a death being witnessed. All the old characters are back, Sherlock, Matty, Virginia, Crowe, the evil head house keeper Mrs. Engaltine, and even his brother makes an appearance. And, as also is true to the series (and to the character), Sherlock almost dies quite a few times. Lane is remarkable at setting the stage for action and drama, adding details and tension. But when those times weren't around, I felt the story was dragging along far too slowly. The dialogue was far too "maid and butler" to me (As you know, Mr. Smith is actually a jewel thief…) and I felt like my hand was being held through everything possible, like I wasn't capable of figuring anything out for myself. I'm not gonna lie, I skimmed those parts.

Reading it was like a rollercoaster, and I'm glad there were several free-falls of excitement in the fight scenes to pull me through the lulls. As always, pick it up and read it for yourself. You may feel differently than I did.

Happy reading, my friends!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tough


(Catch up, here)


"You hope not?" Barrett sounds disgusted.

"What I know could get everyone in trouble," I snap. "Even you."

"Huh." Barrett leans back in his chair and crosses his ankle over a knee. He looks at me like he's waitin' for me to go on.

Stupid youth of today. No respect. I pat around at my various pockets, looking for one of my antacids. Then I remember. I took the last one when I escaped. I glare at Barrett. He's the reason I had to take my last one this morning. He's the reason I need one now.

"You owe me a new pack of antacids," I growl at him. This only makes his lips twitch in a smile. He pushes the grin away but I see it light up his eyes instead.

"Look," I say, a little impatiently. If Ruthy were still in the room, she'd chide me. I guess it's a good thing she went to have herself a little nap. "Junebug's as safe as she can get. She works for them. They trusted her to bring them me. As long as she's stays herself, she'll be fine."

Seems like a simple enough thing to do, huh? Stayin' yourself. But it ain't that easy. If I'd just stayed myself, I wouldn't be in this mess. I'd've married Ruthy. We would've had a dang good life together. But I didn't choose that path. I chose to be somethin' I'm not, and I've had to live with that for my entire life. Eighty-plus long years.

I shake my head and with it, the thought breaks apart and scatters.

"Did you hear me?" Barrett's leanin' forward now.

"What?"

"I said, if June gets into trouble with all this, I'm going in. I don't care the risks, I'll get her out."

I scoff at him, slappin' my knees. "You? Against the corporation Ha!"

I have to give the boy credit; he's keepin' his cool pretty good. But I see the spark of pride ignite his eyes. He thinks he can do it. And he could probably hold his own.

I think, maybe, I like this kid.

"Better than you can," Barrett says.

"What's that supposed to mean? I've been a part of the organization since before you were born!"

"Exactly. And you're what, one-hundred and three, now?"

"Disrespectful little—"

"Look, all I'm saying is that you aren't in the 'prime of your life' right now. I'm young. I'm strong; I can fight and handle a gun. As well as various other weapons."

I raise an eyebrow. What kinds of weapons? I wonder. "Maybe so, but I have all the experience." I say instead.

"So let's work together then. Not against each other. You're not the only one who cares about June."

A wild dog bristles inside me. "Don't say that," I snap. "Don't ever say that."

Barrett glares at me for a while, his lips pressed together, his jaw tight. "Fine. But that doesn't change what I'm going to do if I have to."

"Fine. But know this, Barrett, you're not good enough for my Junebug. You'll never be good enough."

He gets up out of his chair and goes to the kitchen.



Saturday, April 21, 2012

Scared


(Catch up, here)


I know what I'm supposed to say. No, I haven't been able to locate my grandfather yet. But somehow, with these men's eyes seeing through my soul, my mouth is dry and I can't form the words with my tongue. It's sticky and tacky against the roof of my mouth.

It's like I'm on a narrow, narrow path along the side of the mountain. I can't even look down because I'll fall to my death. That's what it's like talking with these two.

"Maybe she didn't hear you," the one on the right says. I've nicknamed him Dick.

"Then I'll repeat myself," the one on the left—Tracy—says. "Have you located Abel yet?"

I push a dry swallow down my throat. "You know, obviously, as well as I do—he's a wily old man."

"Not that wily." Tracy squints down his nose at me. "So what's the hold up?"

"Fine. You wanna know the truth?" I run my hands through my hair, pacing in a small circle. "I lost him. He's an old man, and I lost him." I spin on them. "Happy?"

One of them gave a small laugh.

"But I'm right behind him. I know it."

"Do you have an idea of where he might be?"

"Maybe."

"Where is that?" Dick asks.

"No way." I toss my red hair with a shake of my head. "My project, not yours. I'm not sharing that information."

"We're here to help." Dick says this in a soothing voice. Trying to gain my trust. It does the opposite.

"Yeah," I snort, "You're here to take my lead and bring Grampy in for your own portfolio. I may be new, but I know how the game works. So not going to happen. "

Tracy frowns and steps forward. "Fine. But the organization's getting tired of waiting."

"It's been a day," I say. "I'm expecting this to take at least a week."

"You don't have a week." Dick steps up to stand next to Tracy. "The organization wants him back by tomorrow evening, six sharp."

"W-what?" I sputter. That gives us less than 24 hours to do whatever it is we need to do.

"Six o'clock or we go and get Abel ourselves. And we won't treat him like our grampy."

They start to laugh and walk away. My eyes narrow and my fists clench. They sound like a pair of goons out of a really cheap gangster movie. Still…they mean business. I need to get back to the others and tell them our time frame has closed in.



Friday, April 20, 2012

Respect


(Catch up, here)


"So Barrett," I say, eyein' the boy who's been sittin' in the chair—stone quiet—for the past ten minutes. "Whad'ya think about all this?"

"I think June can pull it off. I think she has more strength than she gives herself credit for."

I nod. "Yeah, that's true. But what do you think about all we've said about the organization? You don't seem at all surprised."

"Surprised a group that sounds awfully similar to the mafia exists? No, I guess I'm not."

"Aren't you afraid you're in danger?" This boy's a little too cavalier for my likin'.

"I haven't done anything wrong," he says. Keepin' his cool.

"No, but you know about us," I say. "And the organization can't have that."

Barrett shrugs his shoulders and seems to lift the entire room, he's so large. "I can hold my own."

"I think you're underestimatin' who we're going up against."

He shrugs his eyebrows, like he's tellin' me, we'll see.

"Barrett, I think we started off on the wrong foot at Emerald Isle," I say with a deep breath. "It's obvious you care—on some level—about my Junebug." The boy starts to say somethin' but I keep talkin'. "You've stuck with her this entire time. Even though there have been plenty of times for you to bail. But you haven't. And I respect that. But I have to know; why?"

"You're my patient. I promised the Admin I'd bring you back safe. Besides, June has grown on me. I'd like to make sure she gets through this safe, too."

"Hmm." Don't know how I feel about that.

"Can I ask you something?" He leans forward, restin' his elbows on the insides of his knees.

"Shoot." I mimic him, but it's not as suave. My back creeks and pops. It's the pits getting' old. Barrett tries to hide his smile.

"Why does the organization want you so badly? And don't try to give me the answer you gave your granddaughter. I know it's more than that."

I frown. Maybe I don't like this kid after all. He's too nosey. Knows too much. Catches too much. Almost like….I shake my head. I don't need to be thinkin' about that possibility right now. "I have a formula in my head and they want it."

His eyes don't give anythin' away. "Why don't they just get it from somewhere else?"

"I'm the only one with it. Top secret. They gave it to me to keep it safe."

"They never thought they'd have to worry about you leaving the fold, huh?"

"No, they didn't," I say. "I guess you could say my move was a bit of a betrayal in their eyes."

Barrett nods. "This formula, it's not dangerous enough to put June in jeopardy, is it?"

I take another deep breath. Secrets only hurt people, in the end. I should've packed a bag long ago, with nothing but some water and my photo of Ruthy and gone to live in the woods.

Will this secret hurt Junebug? "I hope not," I say.





Freebee Friday!

This made me laugh so hard. Enjoy!



--Me

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just Read...

Zero
Tom Leveen

Surprisingly, a really good book. Very well-written. BR to come soon.

--Me

Quiet


(Catch up, here)


I'm standing out here, on the corner of Grove and 11th, and I'm cold. Gene told us what to do. I said I was okay with it, but mostly I'm not. What if I can't lie to whoever comes? I shrug that thought off like molting a second skin. Thinking that way will only make things worse.

It's dark out. The stars are bright in the sky and for a second I feel completely alone. Not exactly the best feeling to be experiencing. Especially in a situation like this.

This is the plan: I call my contact at the organization. Tell them I have news about my project. I don't feel safe talking about it over the phone, though. Have them meet me here. Then….Gene was a little vague on the next part. He used the word improvisation a lot. I didn't like that. He told me I didn't have to. I had to do and say whatever it took to get the organization to believe I still hadn't caught up with Grampy. I had to be careful, because they were wily Grampy had said. They'll spin words in such a way that I may get confused and divulge information I didn't mean too.

Great.

I hug my body tighter. It's getting cold. They should be here by now. Then the shadows start to shift, and out spill two tall men dressed all in black. They wear high-collared trench coats cinched at the waist and hats straight out of a 40's mobster movie. That doesn't make me feel any better.

I take a deep breath. Time to dig deep and pull out my junior high theatre class lessons; dust them off a bit.

"Took you long enough," I say as they saunter up.

"I don't believe you're the one giving the orders," the taller one on the left says.

"No, I'm not, but I'm the one in the middle of a project, and you making me wait could cost me the deal."

The one on the right lets out a low chuckle. "Spunky," he says. "Just like Abel."

"How do you know about my project?" I ask, stiffening slightly. No one is supposed to know about an individual's project except their direct superior and the Head Honcho.

"Toots," the one on the right says, "A project this big, everyone's gonna know about it."

I play dumb, stalling. "What do you mean a project this big? I'm finding my grandfather to make sure he's safe. Bring him back to Emerald Isle."

"Sure, sure," the one on the left says. "And the moon is made of green cheese."

"Then what's the real reason the organization wants me to find him?"

"He has something the organization wants. And when he disappeared they was that he did, it made the organization nervous. They want to bring him back, get what's theirs and make sure this never happens again."

I don't like the way he says that last part.

"So, the million dollar question: Have you found Abel yet?"



A2Z Blogging

Okay, here's the deal: I had so much going on yesterday and last night that I didn't get a chance to do today's post...yet. I'll get going on it now and put it up later this morning. So sorry for the delay (again), but check back later!

--Me

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pompous


(Catch up, here)
Grampy puts Barrett's cell phone on speaker. Gene's voice is more high-pitched than I imagined. Almost whiny. Pompous.

"Knew it was only a matter of time before I heard from you," Gene says, nasally.

"Yeah, well…" Grampy trails off.

"Heard you retired."

"News to me. Listen—"

"You need my help, I know. That's the only time anyone ever calls me." He sounds a bit bitter, I note. "Look, the word on the street is that your little granddaughter was sent to bring you in. She there with you?"

"I'm here," I growl. I don't like where he's going with this.

"Listen, Gene," Barrett says. "Everything's out in the open on this end, so it won't do you any good to try and stir up trouble." His protective stance surprises me.

"Of course not," he says. "Wouldn't dream of it. The point I'm trying to get across is that the organization knows she's there with you. She's half-way done with her assignment, and they're getting' nervous that she hasn't checked in yet. If they start to think she's gone rogue, bad things are gonna happen."

He's right, dang it, and I don't like it. "I'm not due to check in until tomorrow," I say.

"Only if you haven't found Abel by then. But they know you have. Once an assignment's been completed, there are new rules. You may be new to the organization, but you know the rules as well as your grand-pappy does."

"I really don't like this guy," I say in a stage whisper.

"Join the club," Gene says. "I think they meet on Tuesday's."

"It's Wednesday's now, we changed the day. Conflicted with bridge."

"Ha ha ha, very funny."

Grampy winks at me.

"From what I understand," Barrett says, crossing his arms across his chest; they double in size. "You have to help us and can't notify the organization that you've been in contact with us, correct?"

There's a pause before he answers. "Yes." He doesn't sound happy about it. I want to know what would stop him. It's almost like there's a spell or something. But I know that can't be the case. Anyway, now's not the time to start opening a new can of worms.

"Then how are you going to help us?" Barrett asks.

"You mean, how is June going to help us?"

"What?" I sputter.

"This is only going to work if June takes care of this. This is your problem to begin with. They're only going to back off if you're the one to meet them."

"Meet them?!" Grampy roars. "Out of the question. Absolutely not."

"And it has to be alone," Gene says.

"Alone?" Ruthy says. "That's not a smart—"

"I'll do it," I say over the clamor that's erupted. Everyone silences. "I made the mess, I'll clean it up."

"That's right," Gene says.

Grampy doesn't argue, but I know him well enough to see that he's upset with my choice.

"What do I have to do?"

"Call them. Set up a time to meet them. Tell them you're having difficulty locating Abel, that he got a decent head start on you, but that you think your getting close. Updating them in person will give them more confidence that you're not trying to pull one over on them."

"And what if it doesn't?" Grampy asks.

I imagine myself as a strong, lone tower in the middle of a snowfield. Everything is silent and cold. If things go wrong, I'll be all alone.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Offense


(Catch up, here)

I never thought I'd have to call Gene. He was always sort of an outcast of the organization. A slimy necessity.

"When's he supposed to call?" Junebug asks. I hate seein' her this worried, but it's time she grew up. See the world for what it really is.

"Oh, I dunno. Not too long, I suspect," I say. She doesn't seem happy with my response. "We have an advantage over the organization."

She sits up a little straighter. "We do?"

"'Course we do. This here's our territory. I was sent here as their liaison back in the day so they could stay at home in Ireland. They haven't had much experience here, so this here's our territory."

"We know it better than they do," Barrett says. He's been awful quiet this whole time. Thinkin' about everythin'. "Make sure we're on the offense."

"Correct," I say. I turn to Junebug. "This place, it's like a giant forest to them. Strange and foreign. It can be a little unnerving. Especially in a situation like this."

"And we're the forest natives that know all the ins and outs of the forest?"

"We're the Great White sharks swimming among the trees, looking for things to eat." I ignore her confused look, but am pleased when the ends of her mouth turn up into a faint smile. She's starting to relax a little.

"So how's this Gene guy connected to the organization?"

"He's the one who cleans up messes," Ruthy says, bringing in a fresh pot of tea.

"But, if he works for the organization, isn't it dangerous to go to him for help?" Barrett asks.

"The organization has a don't ask, don't tell policy when it comes to using Gene. It was originally put in place so employees could clean up mistakes without getting the higher-ups involved. It sort of added to the morale of the job."

Junebug give a cynical laugh.

"I know, morbid idea. But they didn't predict the loophole of people like yours truly using his services."

"But you're inactive," Junebug says. "You can't use him.

"I've never been retired," I say. "Not officially, anyway." I wink at her. I've always admired her strength.

"It's been a couple of hours. Shouldn't we be doing something more than just sitting here, waiting? I mean, it's like we're sitting ducks with a big target painted on each of our backs."

"June—"

There's a buzzin' that comes from Barrett's pocket. He reaches in and pulls out his phone, looks down. "Restricted," he says.

I nod once and step forward to take the phone. He taps a button on the face of the phone and hands it to me.

"Hello, Gene," I say.

"Good to hear your voice again, Abel," he says.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Just Read...

Rebel Fire
Andrew Lane

A well-written, young Sherlock Holmes book, but not one of my favorites. BR to come soon.

--Me

Nothing


(Catch up, here)


"Why does this not surprise me?" Grampy says between laughs.

"You're not surprised to see all this?" Grampy shakes his head. I rummage carefully between the lethal contents of the chest and pull out a knife bigger than my arm and yank it from its sheath. It's a buoy knife of death. "Not even this?"

Grampy takes it from my hands and turns it over. "I gave this to Ruthy for our one year anniversary."

"True love," I mutter.

The chest is filled with weapons of every sort. Strapped to the inside of the lid are knives of every size and shape. Some of them look more designed for cooking and slicing and filleting than killing a person. I let that thought sink in and try to suppress a shiver.

Barrett's muscled arm reaches in past mine and pulls out something black. It looks like the skeleton of a gun folded in on itself. He makes some quick movements and with a few snaps, the metal is unfolded and has extended into a nasty looking weapon. He puts the butt of the gun up against his shoulder and looks down the line of the gun as he points it to the ceiling.

"A gun man, huh?" Grampy asks. He's studying him closely.

"I grew up around them." Barrett brings the weapon down and slides something back while looking down a hole of something else, and then lets something snap into place. It's all too loud and makes me jump. He hands the gun across the space to Grampy's waiting hands.

"You seem pretty familiar with assault rifles." A leading question.

"My dad was a gun nut." Barrett shrugs.

I study the contents of the chest more as I speak. "What about this to-do list, Ruthy?"

Hand guns, boxes of bullets, money, passports, maps, papers in languages that are completely foreign to me, bundles of what look like surveillance photos of men. My heart stops when I see one of my direct supervisor. I bury the stack at the bottom of the chest and try not to think about it.

"Well," Ruthy says. "I happen to have started one sixty-some-odd years ago." She smiles and unsnaps the lining of the trunk lid. The knives fold away, revealing a hidden compartment with a manila envelope.

She un-sticks it and lays the contents carefully on the table. Inside is a stack of twenties, two passports, a folded piece of paper and a gun so small, it could fit in the front pocket of my skinny jeans and be hardly noticeable.

Ruthy unfolds the scrap of paper and smoothes it against the wood.

Gene
555-6297
That's all it says.

"I don't get it. I thought you said there was a to-do list?" My heart starts to speed up. That guy in the photograph is lethal. We needed a plan if we're going to escape, and if all we have is a name and a phone number? We're royally screwed.

"Gene is the list," Ruthy says.

"Barrett, give me your phone," Grampy says.

Barrett hands it over without any questions. Grampy dials the number. I can hear it ring. There's a beep, like an answering machine's picked up. Grampy punches some buttons and hangs up.

"What are you doing?" I ask in a panic. "If this guy's our list, don't you think you should at least talk to him?"

"I did," he says. "It's a code. By dialing that number and leaving the message I did, Gene knows the situation and what he needs to do."

"But he doesn't know you left the message. He doesn't know where we are!"

"Junebug?"

I stare at the man I've known my entire life, and suddenly, I don't think he can make everything better like I once used to.

"Things will be okay."

I take a few breaths. "What do we do now?"

"Nothing."



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mistakes


(Catch up, here)
Sorry about the previous post, folks, and all that weird code. I didn't notice it until just now. Here's a more readable version. :)


Barrett and I each sit in a chair, me at the edge of the cushion, him comfortably reclining. I hold the tea cup, perched on my knee, watching Grampy and Ruthy as they carry on a hushed conversation on the sofa across from us. It's kind of funny how natural they look together.

Ruthy says something Grampy doesn't agree with and he starts arguing. Then she says something else that makes him snap his mouth closed. They twist their bodies around to face us.

Here it is. The truth he's about to divulge is the white elephant in the room. Only, in our case, it's something more obvious and awkward. A giant blue frog, five stories tall, perhaps.

"I have somethin' the organization wants," Grampy says.

Fear grips me. What the organization wants, they get. At any cost. "But they told me they only wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Lesson one, Junebug, the organization will lie if it means gettin' what they want."

"I made a mistake," I say. I drag my eyes up from the weak black of the tea up to Grampy's eyes. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay. At least we caught it before it was too late."

"What we need to do now," Ruthy says, "is come up with a game plan."

"What do you have in mind?" Barrett asks, tone smooth and calm. Like he's been through this hundreds of times. I'm impressed with the about face his attitude has taken.

"First, we need to get out of this town. Somebody's already been here looking for him. I didn't open the door, but they'll come back. With reinforcements." She gets up from the couch and walks to the wall, squatting in front of a large vent in the wall, about two feet square. She digs her nails around the edges and starts to pull.

Barrett sets his tea down and walks over to help her. When the grate's gone, Ruth reaches in and starts to tug. With a grunt, the object starts to emerge. At first, all I see is the leather handle she's pulling on. Then, slowly, a large chest comes sliding out of its hiding spot.

Barrett lifts it without being asked and brings it over to our grouping. The top is layered in dust. Ruthy wipes it away. "I put this together right after I made Abel leave. I knew it was only a matter of time before I saw him again. And I knew the circumstances wouldn't be ideal."

A large gold padlock secures the contents hidden in its bowels. Ruthy reaches down the neck of her dress and pulls out a small chain. At the end is a key. She licks her lips, looking a bit regretful, and twists the lock open.

It falls aside with a dull thud against the carpet. Her deft hands run along the edges of the lid and she gently lifts it, letting it fall back against the hinges.

I bring my hand up to my mouth as I gasp. Barrett's knuckles turn white as he grips the arms of the chair. And Grampy?

Grampy laughs.




Friday, April 13, 2012

Lonley


(Catch up, here)


Barrett busts through the door first, to protect me, even though I told him it wasn't necessary. The little kid we met downstairs said something about three being a lucky number and I knew. When I was faced with the real possibility that Grampy might be dead, I was swallowed by the most suffocating sense of loneliness in existence. A world without Grampy would be colder than a dark hole.

"Barrett!" Grampy barks with the door is busted in. "What are you doing here?"

"Is this your grandson?" a woman behind him asks. Ruthy. Grampy's ears turn pink.

"I'm his nurse, ma'am."

"Nurse?"

"I'm June." I step out from behind Barrett's bulky frame. "His granddaughter." I extend my hand.

Ruthy takes it in hers, strong and cool. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"What are you doing here?" Grampy asks, such a contrast to Ruthy's soft words.

"I came to bring you home. Running away like this is one of the stupidest things you've done." I'm trying to hold it together. I was so afraid I wouldn't see him agaon, and the relief that he's here—safe—pricks my eyes with tears.

"Coming after me is the stupidest thing you've ever done."

"Abel," Ruthy says, clearly disappointed.

I can't help it. I think it's the guilt, but I start to cry. A disgusting wet, snotty mess of a cry. I cover my face with my hands.

Grampy's fingers gently bring them down. His eyes are soft, apologetic, almost. But I know him. He's never sorry for anything. Not really.

"You're stronger than this," he says. It's supposed to be an encouragement. And in a way, it helps.

"Coming after you isn't the stupidest thing I've ever done." I sniff and wipe my nose on my sleeve.

"You're teen years don't count," he says with a smile.

"They sent me to find you," I blurt.

In chorus, the entire room says, "What?"

"The organization. They sent me to come find you."

"Why would they do that? They knew nothing about you and Jack."

I twist my fingers together and unwind them. "Because I'm a member. Have been for a few years now."

The rage that crosses Grampy's face is like none I've ever seen before. His jowls shakes with his anger and the vein in his temple starts to throb. I take a step back. Barrett puts his hand on my back to keep me standing.

"Why. Would you. Do that?" Grampy asks.

I give a meek shrug. Right now, my reasons seem small and worthless. "They told me you were in danger. They said I needed to go and find you, bring you back safe. I was only trying to protect you."

"Abel," Ruthy says, a hand on his shoulder. "Try to remember when you were a part of the organization. How eager to change things we were. "

"I am. That's what makes me so mad. Why, Junebug? Why would you do something like this?"

"Because of that nickname! Because I was trying to prove myself to you. To show you that I was worth something."

"The nickname?" He wrinkles his forehead in confusion.

"I heard you tell someone once that you thought I was obnoxious, just like a June bug."

He looks confused for a moment. Then he nods. "You didn't hear the other half of that conversation. I told him I called you after my favorite thing in nature. June bugs are beautiful, just like you. As well as resilient and tough."

"You think I'm tough?"

"You joined the organization to protect me, didn't you?"

I smile. "I guess."

"Why don't I make some tea?" Ruthy says. "I have a feeling it's time for Abel to clear the air of secrets."

"I agree," I say.


Freebee Friday!

Song I'm currently obsessed with: Too Close by Alex Clare. Thank you MSN Internet Explorer commercial.



--Me

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Killer


(Catch up, here) 


I pound on the door of 5D, breathless, but will all the urgency in the world. "Ruthy! Ruthy open the door!"

Dear God, please let her be alive.


Nothin' but silence answers the door. The other men must have found her and got to her before I could. I'm hit at that moment with what I've been caryin' around my whole life: I'm a killer. And I've finally killed the person I love the most.


I hang my head, unable to wrap my mind around the fact that Ruthy's gone. Then my heart skips a beat. Our safe phrase. 


I knock one more time and say into the door seam, "Peanut butter monkeys." I wait. There's nothin'. Then, I hear the shufflin' footsteps of someone movin' behind the door. I step back. 


The brass knob turns and ever so slowly, the door creaks open. A wrinkled face slides into view. But I know who it is, and she's just as beautiful as when she sent me packin'.


"Ruthy, it's me—"


"I know who you are. What do you want?"


Well, I knew she wasn't goin' to be happy to see me. "I need your help."


"Figured as much. Had your old buddy come knocking on my door 'bout an hour ago. Didn't answer it, of course. But, I figured you'd be here sooner or later." She shuts the door. I hear the scrape of the chain lock being drawn back before she opens the door again. "Hurry up, I don't want anyone seeing you at my apartment."


When I step into the room, it's like I've gone and stepped back through time. It looks exactly as I remember. My eyes scan table surfaces. Then I spot it. Ruthy in a white dress, smiling up at a young man. There are others, framed faces of children. 


"You got married," I say. More of a statement than a question.


She looks down at my hand. Instinctively, my thumb runs across the gold wedding band I still wear on my finger. "You, too."


We both sort of nod at each other. 


"What do you need, Abel?"


"I think you know by now that they've found me." She nods but doesn't say nothin'. "I need your help to get away. I can't let them find me. I have to protect my family." I try not to let my words sound pleading, but it's hard with my level of desperation. 


"Why me? Why can't you go somewhere else?"


"Because it has to be you, you're the only one—"


Her hand reaches up and clutches at my forearm. "Hush!" she whispers. 


My heart skips a beat as I strain to hear what's alarmed her. Then it's there. The sound of thunder as feet come pounding up the stairs. 


They've found me. 


I level my breathing, putting my mind on one track—protecting Ruthy and getting' out of here. "There's at least two of them," I whisper.


"We'll be lucky if they haven't sent more." The footsteps stop outside her door. 


"I'm sorry about this. All I ever wanted was to keep you safe."


Her nails dig into my arm. I follow her gaze to the door. She didn't lock it. The knob turns and is thrust open, a burly figure tumbles through, followed by a smaller one. 


I push Ruthy behind me, prepared to fight for her life. I look up with the most feral sneer I can manage. 


"Grampy?" a familiar voice says.


"Junebug?" I say.


"Found him," Barrett says.




--Me