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7.05.2015

Siren's Fury ~ Review

Siren's Fury
The Storm Siren Trilogy 2
By Mary Weber

I have to admit I've been waiting eagerly for this book since I read Storm Siren.  The wait was worth it!  I devoured the book in an afternoon.

Siren's Fury picks up where Storm Siren left us.  The battle at the Keep has ended Draewulf's reign. Eogan has assumed his position as King Ezeoha of Bron. The Hidden Lands are finally safe from Draewulf, Lady Isobel, and the Dark Army.

Or are they?  Draewulf has revealed himself to Nym, having taken Eogan's body and his identity as his own.  Has the power that they just defeated retained his hold on the kingdom of Bron?

Draewulf is not easily defeated and he has been planning for years and in one awful moment Nym is about to discover just how much she has to lose.  And in the losing can Nym discover who she truly is or will she succumb to the temptations that are offered to her. Temptations that could turn her into what she most hates.

But who will Nym trust in a world that has once again betrayed her?  Can she trust Princess Rasha to help her or will Rasha  put Cashlin interests ahead of Nym's concerns and needs?  And when Myles presents her with an option will she trust the man who betrayed her before?  And can she stop Eogan/Draewulf or will her feelings for Eogan prevent her from stopping him?

Siren's Fury is as exciting as Storm Siren.  If it has been awhile since you read Storm Siren take the time to read it again before diving between the covers of Siren's Fury, it will be worth it and enhance your reading experience.  This is a worthy sequel as we see Nym struggle through the pain and loss she is experiencing while trying to rediscover who she is .

Well, I can now eagerly anticipate book 3!  And believe me when you reach the final line you will be too!

I was provided a digital copy of this book by the publisher through the BookLook blogger program in exchange for my honest review.


About the Book:
"I thrust my hand toward the sky as my voice begs the Elemental inside me to waken and rise. But it's no use. The curse I've spent my entire life abhorring-the thing I trained so hard to control-no longer exists."
Nym has saved Faelen only to discover that Draewulf stole everything she valued. Now he's destroyed her Elemental storm-summoning ability as well.
When Nym is taken with a host of delegates to Bron, Lord Myles offers her the chance for a new kind of power and the whispered hope that it may do more than simply defeat the monster she loathes. But the secrets the Bron people have kept concealed, along with the horrors Draewulf has developed, may require more than simply harnessing a darker ability.
They may require who she is.
Set against the stark metallic backdrop of the Bron kingdom, Nym is faced with the chance to change the future. Or was that Draewulf's plan for her all along?
About the Author
Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80's hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean. Twitter: @mchristineweber Facebook: marychristineweber

The Wonder of You ~ Review

The Wonder of You
A Christiansen Family novel 5
By Susan May Warren

It's been a month since Roark St. John made his appearance in Deep Haven.  But Amelia's big brothers were there to send him packing before Amelia and Roark could speak.  Her heart was hurt by what Roark did, but crossing the ocean to see her must mean something.  The question is what.

Roark is determined to get a second chance with Amelia.  But her big brothers are presenting a problem.  And finding a way to stay in Deep Haven and not let the Christiansen clan know before he has a chance to talk to Amelia will take work and help. Fortunately Roark has an inside man who is willing to give him a chance.  And he needs a chance to win back the heart of the woman who makes him feel whole.  But can Amelia forgive him when she learns the truth of who he truly is?

The Wonder of You is Amelia's journey to becoming the woman she is meant to be.  The woman who doesn't rely on her family to make her way.  The woman who must determine who she trusts.  The woman who must decide to whom her heart belongs - Seth the man who has known her her whole life or Roark the man who sees her for what she could be.

But The Wonder of You is more than just Amelia and Roark's story.  This is also Grace and Max's as they work through the issues in their relationship and Max's future looming medical issues.  And then there is a young girl who is in need.  And the Christiansens being who they are, are determined to help this young hurting soul.

The Wonder of You is another exciting addition to the Christiansen family / Deep Haven world.  A world where family and friends are ready to help you and sometimes give you the shove you need to be the person you are meant to be.

If you've read the previous books in the series you will enjoy this latest offering starring the Christiansens.  And if you haven't read the previous books you can follow along fairly easily and catch up later - though reading them in order is ideal.  And as always the book ends giving you a teaser as to what the next book will be about.  And another possible Christiansen family crisis looks to be in the forecast.

What I like best is this series portrays people one can relate to.  And small town living in Deep Haven is realistically portrayed (small town resident here).  Everyone makes everyone else's life their concern and it is the talk of the town (though they occasionally forget to verify the facts with the main persons concerned in said events).  The caring is obvious and appreciated.  If you want to experience small town without making the move this is one way to do it.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.


About the Book:
Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?

Connect with Susan May Warren online.

6.29.2015

Hearts Made Whole ~ Review and Author Interview

Hearts Made Whole
Beacons of Hope 2
By Jody Hedlund

Hearts Made Whole is the second book in the Beacons of Hope series.  Set at the Windmill Point Lighthouse we are taken on trip to 1865's Michigan.  The country is recovering from years of war that have torn at its very foundations.

As the country rebuilds, two individuals struggle to rebuild their lives in Lake St. Clair.  Caroline Taylor is trying to retain her position as light-keeper, one that she assumed temporarily at her father's death.  But standing in her way is Ryan Chambers, a man haunted by the horrors of war and his wounds - physical and emotional.  Both need this position.  Caroline to care for her younger siblings and Ryan in an attempt to right the wrongs he feels burdened by.

But letting go of our guilt is often the only way to heal.  Can Ryan let go of his guilt?  Can he accept that sometimes we need a helping hand to make our hearts whole again.  And true freedom from the guilt that binds our hearts can only be found in the forgiveness offered to us by God.

But Hearts Made Whole is more than just an entertaining story, it is a step back in time.  And not that far a step back at that.  A time when inequities were being fought.  A simpler time, though not necessarily an easier time.  A time when rights were being fought for.  A time of unrest.  A time when healing was being sought.  Not all that different from the world in which we find ourselves today.

Jody has a talent for bringing a piece of history to life, introducing us to characters which we grow to care for and others which we loath more with each encounter.  Her story and the characters that populate it have a depth that can at time be lacking in other works.  Her characters add the extra dimension that a page needs to make it three dimensional.

I was provided a copy of this book through the generosity of both the publisher and the author in exchange for my honest review.


Jody's Bio:
Jody Hedlund is a best-selling and award-winning author who loves history and happily-ever-
afters. She makes her home in Midland, MI with her husband and five children. When she's not
writing another of her page-turning stories, you can usually find her sipping coffee, eating
chocolate, and reading.

Contact Jody:
I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com
For lots of fun pictures, follow me on Pinterest: pinterest.com/jodyhedlund
I get personal on Instagram: instagram.com/JodyHedlund/
Or you're welcome to email me at: jodyhedlund@jodyhedlund.com


Interview with Jody Hedlund

1. How did you come up with the idea for Hearts Made Whole?

Historical textbooks are full of stories about men like George Washington, Thomas Edison, Andrew
Carnegie, and so many more.  And while such men are truly remarkable, all too often their stories
overshadow equally courageous and remarkable women. One of my goals as an author is to help bring forgotten women of the past to life.

In the Beacons of Hope series, I'm focusing on historical women light keepers who have often been kept in the dark by the more prominent stories of their male counterparts.

As I researched for writing a lighthouse series, I came across a fantastic book called, Ladies of the Lights: Michigan Women in the U.S. Lighthouse Service. The book is a tribute to the approximately 50 or so women who served either as primary or assistant keepers in Michigan Lighthouses.

I based the heroine in Hearts Made Whole on one of those women light keepers. It's my hope to bring her and the other women keepers out of the historical shadows and into the spotlight.

2. Is there anything about this second lighthouse book that ties it to the first one? Or are they both stand alone novels that can be read in any order?

All of the books in the Beacon of Hope series can stand alone. Readers don't need to read one book to understand the next. However, I do recommend starting with the novella, Out of the Storm (free in
ebook format) which lays the foundation for a common theme that stretches through each book in the
series.

The hero of Hearts Made Whole, Ryan Chambers, is the brother of the heroine from the first book (Love Unexpected). Readers will enjoy meeting the younger, more carefree Ryan in Love Unexpected. But they'll fall in love with him in Hearts Made Whole even if they haven't yet met him in book 1.

3. Many of the heroines in your books are inspired by real women. Is that true of the heroine in 
Hearts Made Whole? If so, what women provided inspiration?

The woman light keeper in Hearts Made Whole is inspired by Caroline Antaya. Caroline lived at the
Mamajuda Lighthouse on the Detroit River a short distance away from Windmill Point Lighthouse.

Caroline's husband served with honor in the Union army during the Civil War, losing several fingers on his hand at Gettysburg. Eventually after returning from the war, her husband was named as keeper of the Mamajuda Lighthouse, but he passed away of tuberculosis.

Part of what really impressed me about Caroline Antaya's situation was that she had been doing a
fantastic job as a light keeper. But the district lighthouse inspector trumped up charges against her
saying that she was in ill-health and incompetent. He took away her position simply because she was a woman and gave it to a man instead. Fortunately, her community rose to her defense and enlisted the help of a Michigan Senator to help her get her position back and she went on to serve as a light keeper for another three years.

In those days, when women were regularly discriminated against because of gender, Caroline's story is inspirational and an encouragement to persevere in the face of injustice. I admired Caroline's will to stand up for herself and to pave the way for women coming after her to use their God-given talents and abilities in roles and jobs that had previously been closed to women.

4. You also like to base your villains on real Michigan criminals. Who inspired the villain in Hearts Made Whole?

The villain in Hearts Made Whole is Stephen Simmons, a real rogue from the pages of Michigan history. While he lived in the early 1800's in the decades before the Civil War, I used this villain as the basis for Mr. Simmons in the book. He had a tavern outside of Detroit and was a Goliath-of-a-man. At first he gave the impression of being cultured and educated. But once people got to know him, they realized what a brute he really was.

The community where Simmons lived grew to fear him because when he was under the influence of
alcohol, he searched out his enemies, picked fights, and inflicted painful beatings. Eventually he killed his wife in a drunken rage.

5. Do you do a lot of research for your novels? Do you do it before, in the middle, or after you write your novel.

Since I write historicals, research is an integral part of my writing process. I usually spend anywhere
between 4-6 weeks on initial research, reading biographies, getting a feel for the time period, and
digging into the meat that will comprise the plot of my book.

Once I start writing the first draft, I have to stop from time to time to do a little more research,
particularly if I switch settings within the story. But usually, if I don’t know something, I’ll highlight it and then do more research during my editing phase.

6. What do you do to get away from it all?

READ!! I absolutely love reading! When I find a really good book, I have a hard time tearing myself away from it to get to sleep.

6.28.2015

Unplanned ~ Review

Unplanned

Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel Volume 1

By Alana Terry

Kennedy Stern is a first year pre-med student at Harvard.  In addition to juggling a busy class schedule she's learning to deal with life in the U.S.  Church services are a sharp contrast to what she experienced in China.

But when Pastor Carl, who knew Kennedy as a child, asks her to volunteer at the new pregnancy crisis center, Kennedy agrees to handle the calls for a week-end.  The center hasn't officially opened yet so there shouldn't be many, if any incoming calls.  But the first phone call she answers involves a young girl who shouldn't be old enough to have the worry of pregnancy.   With nothing to go on other than an age and a name, that may or may not to be the girl's real name, Kennedy is determined to find and to help "Rose".

But helping Rose is about to involve  Kennedy in something she wasn't ready to deal with.  Can she learn to trust God in all things, even when it seems hopeless?  Because all too soon trust in God is all she has.

Unplanned is a book that will leave you thinking.  When faced with having to personally confront difficult issues how will we react?  What role does our upbringing play in how we face issues and difficulties?  When do our beliefs become personal?  When do they become our choice and not just something we borrow from our parents?

Unplanned is a story wrapped in intrigue, politics, belief, decisions and family.

I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest review.  


About the Book:
When Kennedy Stern's childhood pastor asks her to volunteer at his new pregnancy center, she carves time out of her rigorous college schedule to promote the cause of the unborn.

After receiving a disturbing call from someone far too young to carry a child in the first place, Kennedy can no longer blindly hide behind the pro-life platitudes she grew up believing. She resolves to locate the unknown girl but winds up entrenched in a mystery that grows more convoluted as it unfolds.

Soon, Kennedy finds herself a pawn in a deadly game of intrigue, at the mercy of those who consider a few innocent lives a small ransom to pay in exchange for personal and political victory.

Unplanned was a finalist in the Deep River Books Writing Contest. The paperback contains discussion questions for book clubs or personal reflection.

A first year college student adjusting to life in the States.
A brand new pregnancy center desperate for new volunteers.
A mysterious phone call from a girl who's far too young to be pregnant.


UNPLANNED from award­-winning suspense novelist Alana Terry

After volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, Kennedy Stern finds herself a pawn in a deadly game of intrigue, at the mercy of those who consider a few innocent lives a small ransom to pay for victory.

Did You Know? (Writing trivia from Alana Terry)
  • I started writing Unplanned at 12:15 am on January 1, 2015. The neighbor’s fireworks helped keep me awake.
  • The first draft of Unplanned was completed in three weeks.
  • About fifteen percent of Unplanned was composed on my dictation program, where I spoke the words out loud and the computer transcribed them. It had more errors to correct but was easier on my eyes and wrists than typing.
  • My research for Unplanned included interviews with an OB nurse, a crisis pregnancy center director, an EMT, and an FBI field agent.
  • I went to college just outside of Boston, near where Kennedy studies.
  • Like Kennedy, I was also a premed student. When I took the MCAT I scored higher on the writing section than on biology.
  • In Unplanned, Kennedy is reading Crime and Punishment for her Russian lit class. It's a book I've read three times, once in high school, once in my own college Russian lit class, and once after I graduated.
  • Kennedy's roommate is rehearsing for an adaptation of Twelfth Night, which is my favorite Shakespeare play.
  • When I was a volunteer for our local pregnancy center, I received a call very similar to the one Kennedy receives from Rose. I never did figure out who the girl was.
  • During one round of edits, I deleted the word just 93 times, even 103 times, and at least 23 times.
  • Even though Unplanned is the first book in the Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense series, it shares characters with my other books. Kennedy’s parents are the missionaries in Slave Again and Torn Asunder.
  • While I worked on Unplanned was the first time I’ve gotten choked up while writing.
Protagonist Kennedy Stern vs. Author Alana Terry
(a video interview)
It's always fun to learn how much of themselves authors put into their characters. For Alana Terry, it can be a whole lot! In her new Christian suspense series, the main character Kennedy Stern is a lot like Alana was in college. They both were in school in the Boston area, they both were pre- med students, and they both loved Russian literature. Watch the four­ minute video to learn about even more similarities.


6.26.2015

Guy Erma and the Son of Empire: Exile ~ Review

Guy Erma and the Son of Empire
Exile Part 3
By Sally Ann Melia

EXILE is the third and final part of the exciting and entertaining Guy Erma and the Son of Empire series.  Guy and Teo have escaped, or at least they are in the process of escaping the Dome.

But if they in fact get away from the Battle Borgs and the Dome Elite where can they go that will be safe and whom can they trust?  But they are other forces at work that could threaten all that they know.  And life on Freyne 2 may be at an end, at least as they know it.

Karl Valvanchi may be the only hope for Freyne 2, Guy, and Teodor.  But why have these two young men garnered such interest?  And who is the true enemy who is determined to see one or both of them dead?

Exile is one you won't want to miss if you've read the first 2 books in this 3 part series.  This would be a perfect choice for any YA Summer Reading Challenge that tweens and teens are taking part in this summer.

Adventure. Betrayal. Romance. Political intrigue. Deception. Friendship. Alliances. This book has it all so it has a broad audience appeal.  Though geared towards the YA reader, others will enjoy this offering from the talented Sally Ann Melia.

I was provided a copy of this book through iRead Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.


About the Book:

Guy Erma and the Son of Empire is a new three-part action adventure, set a long time ago on a planet far far away.

" Someone somewhere had decided Sas Darona plague could be used as a weapon."

"They called them poison pills, and in some cases the glass eco-systems containing six venomous flies were displayed as part of contemporary interior decor.

Strange!" Karl Valvanchi mused, "When you consider the insects are practically unstoppable and breed exponentially into great clouds of death. These plague weapons went beyond deadly. They were planet-killers."

13-year-old Teodor has found a way to escape from kidnap, how long before he is safely home?

13-year-old Guy Erma has run away from everything he has even known and no longer knows what the future holds.

Their adventure has forged an unexpected friendship, but do they really trust each other? Dare they share their darkest, deepest secrets??

The paths of Teodor Freyne and Guy Erma have now become one, their fate becomes that of the Empire they were born to when they discover a hidden terror.

Author's Bio:

The author was born in Wallasey, England, in 1964, and moved to the South of France when she was eleven. She spent her teenage years living in the cosmopolitan city state of Monaco and became immersed in its many languages and cultures. An English girl in a French school, for three hours each week she would sit at the back of the class as her colleagues learnt English. To pass the time, she wrote stories. This led to a lifetime of writing novels, scripts, stories and articles.

In her working life, Sally writes marketing communications and manages large international websites.

In 2010, Sally joined the Hogs Back Writers, a club located on the outskirts of Guildford, and she set about turning an old manuscript into this novel: Guy Erma and the Son of Empire. Sally currently lives in Farnham, and she is married with two children.


Connect with Sally:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Pinterest

Available for Purchase at:


6.22.2015

Desperate Measures ~ Review

Desperate Measures 
Port Aster Secrets #3
by Sandra Orchard

The Port Aster Secrets series concludes with Desperate Measures and the suspense doesn't let up. All the mysteries that seem to be piling up at Kate Adams' door are about to get bigger and even more dangerous.  Determined to be reunited with her long missing father, Kate is willing to keep her research on the amendoso plants a secret from everyone - even Tom Parker.  Solving the secret of the amendoso and its healing properties is the key to everything and to stopping GPC.  But GPC is determined to control the amendoso plant.  And this could cost Kate everything especially if anyone suspected that she was hiding some away.

But when her research assistant Patti begins showing suspicious symptoms Kate fears that she may yet again be putting a friend in danger.  But who's to blame in this latest attack?  Is it Jarrett, Patti's boyfriend and the mayor's son?  Has GPC figured out what she's been hiding?  And what is the link to the missing teen?  Are all the secrets of Port Aster related?  Or are they merely coincidence?

Can Kate learn who to trust with her secret and her heart before it is too late?

If you've read the first 2 books in the Port Aster series you won't be disappointed with Desperate Measures.  This is exciting conclusion to this series that has kept up the mystery surrounding Kate's past, her father, and the amendoso plant.  We finally learn the truth surrounding many of the characters Kate has had doubts about and what roll they've played in the secrets hiding in Port Aster.

Take a trip north of the border for an exciting mystery in Canada with ties to the United States and South America.  With a long holiday week-end on the horizon what better way to spend it than with a good book.

I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher Revell in exchange for my honest review.


About the Book:
Kate won't be safe until all of Port Aster's secrets are revealed

Researcher Kate Adams has finally pinpointed the supposed "miracle plant" that tore apart her family years ago. She's certain that discovering its secrets is her only hope of solving the mystery surrounding her father's disappearance. She's willing to risk anything to find the truth, including her relationship with Detective Tom Parker. But with so many people in pursuit of the plant, going it alone might be a fatal mistake.

Award-winning author Sandra Orchard pulls out all the stops in this breakneck and breathtaking conclusion to the Port Aster Secrets series.


About the Author:
Sandra Orchard is the award-winning author of several books including Deadly Devotion, winner of the 2014 The Word Award for suspense, and Blind Trust. Her Love Inspired Suspense titles have garnered two Canadian Christian Writing Awards and a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award. Sandra has also received a Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She lives in Ontario, Canada. Learn more at www.sandraorchard.com.

6.19.2015

The Ark ~ Review with Excerpt

The Ark
By Laura Liddell Nolen

There are just hours left all life on Earth ends.  An meteor is on a collision course with Earth and destruction is expected to be total and complete.

Some will survive, but only a chosen few who will leave Earth behind forever. Char is not one of the favored few.  She's has a record and is still locked-up. But Char is nothing if not resourceful and she's determined to spend her last hours of life on Earth free.  And if at all possible she is going to make it to one of the OPTs and one of the five ARKs.

After all a world of promised peace and new beginnings is just what she needs.  A chance to prove that she has changed.  But can she get the chance?

You know the saying about something seeming too good to be true, well Char is about to discover just how true that is...

The Ark is an intriguing story.  If you were offered the chance to avoid the total destruction of all you by giving up all you knew, would you take it?  Family and friends left behind, guaranteed to die mere hours after you left.  Could you live with it based on a promise that you would be among the few to rebuild civilization and the human race on a distant world.  A world promised to be free of weapons and war.  A new world, a better world based on what we have learned.  Would you believe it as truth or would you fear it to be a lie?

The choice is yours what life will you choose?

Teens and fans of YA, dystopian, and science fiction will find this an entertaining and enjoyable book.  A perfect summer afternoon escape.

I was provided a copy of this book through PUYB in exchange for my honest review and tour participation.

About the Author:

Laura Liddell Nolen grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she spent lots of time playing make-believe with her two younger brothers. They supplemented their own stories with a steady diet of space- and superhero-themed movies, books, and television. The daughter of a comic book collector, she learned how to handle old comics at an early age, a skill she’s inordinately proud of to this day.

Laura began work on her first novel, The Ark, in 2012, following the birth of her daughter Ava, a tiny rebel and a sweetheart on whom the novel’s main character is loosely based. Completion of The Ark was made possible in part due to an SCBWI Work-in-Progress Award.

Laura loves coffee, dogs, and making lists. She has a degree in French and a license to practice law, but both are frozen in carbonite at present. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children, and their dog Miley, who is a very good girl.

For More Information:

Visit Laura Liddell Nolen’s website.
Connect with Laura on Facebook and Twitter
Find out more about Laura at Goodreads.
Visit Laura’s blog.

About the Book:
Title: The Ark
Author: Laura Liddell Nolen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 239
Genre: YA Scifi
Format: Paperback/Kindle/Nook

There’s a meteor headed for Earth, and there is only one way to survive.
It’s the final days of earth, and sixteen-year-old Char is right where she belongs: in
prison. With her criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, one of the
five massive bioships designed to protect earth’s survivors during the meteor strike that
looks set to destroy the planet. Only a select few will be saved – like her mom, dad, and
brother – all of whom have long since turned their backs on Char.

If she ever wants to redeem herself, Char must use all the tricks of the trade to swindle
her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of
whether they actually ever want to see her again, or not . . .

For More Information:
The Ark is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes and Noble.
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Read Chapter One here.

Book Excerpt:

On the last day of Earth, I couldn’t find my hairbrush. That probably seems like a silly
thing to worry about, what with the imminent destruction of, well, everything, but my
mom was always after me about my usual ratty ponytail. Normally, I’d ignore her. Or, if I
were having a really bad day, I’d tell her what she could do with her hairbrush. But like I
said, it was the last day of Earth. And I figured, since it was the last time she’d ever see
me, I wanted it to go smoothly. I wanted her to remember me, if not fondly, then at least
without anger.

A girl can dream.

I slipped out of my cell as soon as the door swung open. I’d done the same every
day for the past month, and my family had yet to show up. Their OPT—Off-Planet
Transport—took off in eighteen hours, so they still had time. Barely. I couldn’t blame
them if they didn’t come. It wasn’t hard to imagine that they’d rather escape to the stars
without so much as a backward glance at me, their big disappointment. Even my father’s
influence couldn’t persuade the government to give me a spot on an OPT.

Turns out, when humankind is deciding which of its children to save, the last
place it looks is in prison.

But I was pretty sure they’d come. West had said as much in his last transmission.
The thought of my younger brother actually halted me mid-step, like one of those
punches in the gut where you can’t breathe for a few seconds.

“Looking for something?” The lazy drawl floated out of the nearest cell.

Against my better instincts, I turned to see Cassa lying on her bunk, her arm
draped across Kip. My Kip. Or at least, my ex-Kip. Whatever. In twenty-two hours, I
wouldn’t have to think about him anymore.

See? Silver lining. And they called me a perpetual pessimist at my last psych
workup.

They barely fit next to each other on the flimsy mattress, but that wasn’t the weird
part. The guys’ ward was separated by a substantial metal wall. We were kept apart
during evening hours, for obvious reasons. Not that anyone cared anymore. The med staff
had been the first to go, followed by the cleaning crew, followed by the kitchen crew. To
show you where girls like me fell on the government’s list of priorities, there was still a
skeleton crew of guards lurking around, despite the fact that I hadn’t had a real meal for
going on a week. The guards would be gone soon, too, and then there’d be no one in here
but us chickens.

I figured either Kip had a key, or the guards had left already. A key could be
useful. My curiosity got the best of me. “How’d he get in here before the first bell?”

He cocked an eyebrow. “I got some tricks you ain’t seen, babe. Why don’t you
join us? End of the world and all.”

The guards were gone, then. I felt a small trill of anxiety deep in my chest. If the
guards were gone, my family was even less likely to show. But it was never smart to
show fear. “The Pinball could be headed straight for this building, and I still wouldn’t be
desperate enough to touch you. Oh, wait. Guess you don’t have to take my word for it.”
I turned to leave, but he continued. “Now is that any way to treat your dear ole
partners? Be nice or I won’t give you back your stuff.”

“Ugh, you were in my room?” I flexed my shoulder blades, making sure my gun
was still tightly secured between them.

“Don’t worry, Char. I didn’t handle the merchandise. Didn’t want to wake you up.
Just lifted me a few keepsakes.” He pronounced my name the way I like: Char, as in
charred. Something that got burned.

I wasn’t sure what Kip and Cassa were planning, but I knew I wouldn’t like it.

They were thieves and liars. I would know. I used to be one of them. That was before the
last job, when Cassa had attacked an elderly man in the home we were robbing. She’d
kicked him until he stopped fighting back. Kip had called her off after a few licks, but I
just stood there, staring. The old man looked at me, like right at me, while we made our
getaway, and my stomach twisted into a knot so tight that I tasted bile. That was the
moment I knew I wanted out.

But by then, no one believed me. Or, if they did, no one cared. Except for Kip and
Cassa, of course. They’d taken the news pretty hard, to put it lightly.

If I lunged for the box, I could probably grab my hairbrush and get out of there. I
wouldn’t have time for more than that. Then again, I’d be doing exactly what they
expected, and I didn’t have time for delays. My family could be in the commissary any
second now.

“Ahem. Seeing as it’s your last day of life, I might let you have one thing back,”
said Kip.

“In exchange for what?”

“I’m hurt. All our time together, and you still don’t believe in my inherent
generosity. But now that you mention it, I’ve got a hankering for some peanut butter
crackers.”

“Sorry, Kip. I’m fresh out of food. Kinda like everyone else.”

“Nice try, Charrr.” He drew my name out, as though tasting it. “I saw them
yesterday. Figured you were hiding them under your pillow when I couldn’t find them
last night.”

“You figured wrong.”

All I could think about was my brother’s face. And how I had this one last chance
to apologize to my parents, for everything. I shrugged and turned to leave.