Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Junior Year of Loathing by Jennifer DiGiovanni


Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for the
My Junior Year of Loathing by Jennifer DiGiovanni
presented by Swoon Romance!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Happy Book Birthday, Jennifer!


Junior year is supposed to be tough. Exams, term papers, homework, college tours, and participation in extra-curricular activities can all add up to non-stop stress. But Melinda Banner has goals to achieve and dreams to make real. This year, she’ll be unstoppable. But even over achievers need a break.
While walking in the woods to take a break from the stress of it all, Melinda meets a boy named Connor. After a few more run-ins, the two settle into an uneasy friendship, if you can even call it that.
But Connor's closed and mysterious. Whenever Melinda asks too many questions, he suddenly has to go or is no longer interested in talking. When they’re together, she’s torn between wanting him to open up and running away as fast as she can. Still she can't seem to shake her budding interest in him.
Connor has his own way of looking at the world, and his views often conflict with Melinda’s practical nature. Can you like someone and loathe them at the same time? Is he even worth the emotional tug on her heartstrings or distraction from all things Junior year?
And, as if she needs another project right now, Melinda starts to obsess over the abandoned estate she passes on the way to school each day. Between Connor and the old estate, Melinda's beginning to think she's taking on too much.
But Melinda's smart. She finds a way to indulge her interest in the estate and fulfill her obligations. She will uncover the truth behind the aging edifice for an epic article in the school newspaper.
But when her investigation reveals a connection between Connor and a tragedy long-since forgotten, Melinda has a choice: put off her junior year achievements to save a local landmark and a boy who constantly pushes her away or put them both out of her mind for good and focus on making the grade.
add to goodreads
My Junior Year of Loathing by Jennifer DiGiovanni Publication Date: October 25, 2016 Publisher: Swoon Romance

Jennifer DiGiovanni

Jennifer DiGiovanni is the author of the School Dayz Series. When she’s not writing or reading, she likes to try new sports and activities from archery to ballroom dancing, with varying degrees of success.

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!


The Last Winter Moon

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Lost Eye of the Serpent Tour and Giveaway

The Lost Eye of the Serpent
Jeremy Phillips
Genre: YA Mystery
Release Date: August 6th 2016
Limitless Publishing

Summary from Goodreads:

It may sound crazy, but Jonathan Delacroix is certain his sister Rose really is Sherlock Holmes...

Girls are not detectives. But in the summer of 1893, in the small western town of Hope Springs, Rose Delacroix is bound and determined to prove them wrong. When the famous Emerald Serpent Jewels are stolen from the Delacroix family hotel and the blame lands solely on her older brother Bill, Rose recruits Jonathan as her Watson-like counterpart to solve the case.

Proving your brother innocent is difficult when the evidence keeps stacking up against him...

Before Rose and Jonathan can properly start their investigation, another robbery is committed. The rusty revolver purported to have once belonged to Wild Bill Hickock has been stolen from the general store and found hidden amongst her brother's belongings. With Bill in jail, and the owner of the Serpent Jewels planning to sue the Delacroix hotel, Rose knows she has to find a lead, and soon.

Buy Link: Amazon

Rose Delacroix Versus the Box
By Jeremy Phillips
Rose Delacroix sat on a stump in the bare and dusty yard behind the Delacroix Hotel, staring at a metal box sitting on another stump, a few feet away from her.  She regarded the box with an ever-increasing intensity, not sure how to proceed.  Time was very short, and she wished that she had more of it available to her right now.
“Whatever am I going to do with you?” Rose said to the box.
The box didn’t look like much.  It was the size of a shoebox, but constructed of solid steel, with tight, straight corners.  Its only visible feature was a place for a key to fit, in the front of the box. Really, it seemed simple enough.  But looks, as Rose knew very well, are often deceptive.
In her hand, Rose held a couple of metal clips from out of her hair, clips which she had straightened out to use for this particular purpose.  Except, it hadn’t worked yet.  Rose approached the box again, the box which had at first glance appeared to be so simple, and yet had thwarted all of her prior attempts at entry.
Rose shook the box, which was deceptively heavy in addition to being deceptively difficult to break.  Something solid thunked around inside of it.  Whatever it was, Rose meant to have it out of that box, and soon.
Drawing a deep, calming breath, Rose tried once more to pick the lock on this thing.  The books she’s been reading, the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in addition to other lesser Detective tales, always make this seem so simple, don’t they? 
Using one of the hair pins that she had straightened out, Rose carefully massaged the top of the lock, to where she believed the pins that she needed to trick ought to be.  She could feel the pins moving, so that was good.  With a second hair pin, she applied a constant pressure on the bottom of the lock in the hopes of popping it open, when the pins were all equally deceived into believing that the proper key had been applied into the keyhole.
After another long effort, she stopped again.  What time was it getting to be, now? 
Really, she needed to pop this lock open.  She needed, rather desperately, to know what was inside of this thing.  All of her logic told Rose that whatever was inside of this deceptively secure box, was of vital importance to her investigation.  Even as she sat there in this yard, monkeying around with this locked box, her brother Jon was confronting the box’s owner.  Jon needed her, and he needed her now, not whenever it was that she managed to finally get this thing open.
Perhaps the problem was too obvious.  This box, which she had confiscated, perhaps inappropriately, from its hiding place in a guest room of the Delacroix Hotel, belonged to a man who liked to think of himself as the world’s greatest “cracksman.”   This was a term that Rose had only recently learned, but which referred to the man’s impressive ability to break into locked safes.  Given the great trouble that this person had managed to cause to Rose and her family in the last few days, he had a point concerning his abilities, after all.
Rose took a moment, and tried to think about the problem logically.  She had in her possession the small personal safe of a man who considered himself to be the greatest safe-breaker in the world.  It only stood to reason, that the security on the safe of such a person would defy any normal attempts at lock picking. 
Really, attempting to pick the thing was ridiculous, given the fact that she was an amateur at this sort of thing in the first place.  Rose was self-taught, having only popped a few locks around town during her free time when no one was looking, to see if she could do it.  To Rose’s way of thinking, skills such as lock picking were just the sorts of things that a self-styled Detective simply ought to know, after all. 
Not that everyone was likely to understand this.  She put this into the same category of small-minded thinking as seemed to possess most people that she met, the same type of small-minded thinking which implied that, given her status as a female, she was simply incapable of actual logic thought.  Or much else, either.  This was in the category of things that she simply refused to agree to wholesale, in other words.
Turning the safe around and looking into the keyhole with the aid of the heavy summer sunlight, Rose suddenly understood the problem more fully.  The lock itself seemed to run deeper than most locks did, and what’s more, there appeared to be pins on the right interior side of the lock too.  Those extra pins were placed at a different angle than were normally seen, in all of the others locks that Rose had encountered around the town of Hope Springs.  This was actually a rather extraordinary lock, which would take a rather extraordinary key.  It was a lock the likes of which Rose had never encountered before.
Given enough time, Rose was fairly sure that she could have broken the lock anyway.  It would require another hair pin, and perhaps another hand too, to apply pressure to the lock with the tension wire while she worked at the pins from two different angles at once.  But, time was something that she simply didn’t have much of.  This was going to require a different approach.
Rose placed the box back on the tree stump, then went into a large work shed, which was attached to the barn in the family’s back yard.  She returned a minute later with the heaviest wood chopping axe that she could find, and took a mighty swing at the top of the metallic box.
The first blow did nothing but mildly dent the box, causing it to bounce a foot or so up into the air with the force of her assault.  A second and third blow did little more.  But on her fourth attempt, after getting a reckless running start at the metal box from the other side of the yard, Rose managed to lodge the blade of the axe into the top of the steel box.  Rose’s arms were feeling sore already, from the exertions of trying to break this thing.
It was almost comical.  The axe was now lodged directly into the lid of the steel box.  Feeling her anxiety increase, Rose wondered what time it was now getting to be.   She wondered how things were going for Jon, who was even now confronting the burglar…a man who, the night before, had proven that he was not above pulling a gun on her brother.  He might not be above murder, even.
With great effort, Rose was able to pry the axe blade back out of the top of the box.  This left a large cut along the middle of the lid of the thing, but she could still not get to the contents of the box, or even really see what those contents were, rolling around inside of that damned box.
Rose set the box up on its edge.  This time, it would have to work.  She stepped back again, hefting the axe up over her head.  She stepped back farther, and farther yet.  An absurd feeling came over Rose, as though she were a baseball player up at bat, facing the third strike in the last inning of a tight game.
Well, and wasn’t that pretty much what this was, after all?  How much time did Jon really have, facing off with that criminal?  This was her last inning, and what all was on the line?  Only the freedom and future of her other brother, Bill, who had been framed for two robberies and one attempted murder that he didn’t commit.  Oh, and the possibility of the entire Delacroix family losing their ownership of the Delacroix Hotel to another criminal, and being kicked out into the streets of Hope Springs in the summer of 1893; there was that minor detail, too.  Only those things.  And Jon.
Steadying herself, Rose took a deep breath.  In her mind’s eye, she imagined the cut that she would have to inflict to make this thing happen.  She’s read someplace about the power of the mind, the power to make things happen by carefully visualizing them, first.  This was something she believed in wholeheartedly.
The blow would have to be perfect.  It would have to land squarely on the edge of the lid, to exactly where the hinge must be.  Only that.  Or else, perhaps she could go over to the Blacksmith’s shop and see if he couldn’t pop the thing open for her somehow.  But there would be a lot of questions asked, then.  And a lot of precious time wasted.  She thought again of Jon, headed over to the Bromwell Hotel, across the street.
With a cry, Rose ran wholeheartedly up towards the box, to where it sat there on the tree stump.  She brought the axe down with all her might, producing a bone-jarring ringing in her hands clear up to the shoulder, an ear-cracking SMACK when the unstoppable force of her axe came down on the immovable object of the steel box’s lid…and then the miracle happened.
The blow was perfect, more perfect than seemed fair.  The hinge of the box gave way, and the contents of the box flew everywhere, scattering around to land everyplace on the dusty ground.
Rose quickly rushed around the yard, ignoring the ringing pain in her arms, picking up the box’s former contents and placing them back in the now-broken box. 
There was a little leather pouch full of lock picks, proper ones, made of some fine thin steel that Rose had never seen before.  These she would keep, if things turned out as she hoped they might.  There was also a collection of paper money and coins.  And there, sitting separate and apart from the rest of the stuff, was a round object about the size of an apple.
Quickly picking the object up, Rose examined it closely. 
After a few moments a large smile came across her face, as she realized what the object in her hand was…and what it meant, for her and her all-consuming Investigation.  This was becoming like a Sherlock Holmes story after all, Rose thought, which filled her with excitement and a powerful sense of adventure, although she might not have admitted this to anyone, perhaps not even to her twin brother John.
Holding on to the object and rushing out to Main Street, Rose found herself running as quickly as she could to go help her brother.  Yes, this might help fix things.  It might help fix things very well.


Fans of the Mummy are going to love this book! Great action and intrigue around every corner.


About the Author 
My first novel will be available on September 8th, 2015. It's a Young Adult fiction story called: My Buddhist Christmas.

Author Links:


Book Tour Organized by:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In the Beginning Release Day Celebration and Giveaway


Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for the
In the Beginning: Dark Retellings of Biblical Tales Anthology
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Happy Book Birthday!


In the Beginning (Oct. 25, 2016) –Eight authors come together to build a powerful collection of dark young adult short stories inspired by the mysteries, faith, and darkness found within the Bible. Old Testament and New Testament, iconic and obscure figures alike are illuminated, explored, and re-envisioned throughout this charity anthology from Month9Books.
IN THE BEGINNING, ed. Laureen Cantwell and Georgia McBride Daniel and the Dragon by Stephen Clements A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master's zealous defiance of the king's law seals their fate. Babylon by Nicole Crucial Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she'll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live. Last Will and Testament by Mike Hays A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken. The Demon Was Me by Sharon Hughson Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he's meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host. The Deluge by Marti Johnson A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late-than-never attitude just might be your doom. Condemned by Elle O'Neill Just sixteen-years-old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life. First Wife by Lora Palmer In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah's sister Rachel. Emmaculate by Christina Raus Based on the story of Mary's Immaculate Conception, we enter the troubled mind of Emma, who finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.
add to goodreads
In the Beginning: Dark Retellings of Biblical Tales Publication Date: October 25, 2016 Publisher: Month9Books

  From THE DELUGE, by Marti Johnson: The stench of mildew and mold is heavy in our nostrils, and my lungs feel as though they are on fire. My breathing is audible in the lulls between the thunderclaps. My mother huddles, shivering, propped between two rocks. She is coughing painfully, and I can hear her teeth chattering. It is hard to breathe because the air itself is full of water. A deeper shadow has fallen across the side of the mountain on which we are sheltering. I pull aside the brambles, and gasp in amazement when I realize what it is. “Look!” I call to the others, and point at the sight. The ark has risen with the water, and now bobs up and down. It sits high in the water. We hear nothing from it but the creaking of the wood timbers and the sound of the branches and rocks on the hillside scraping against its hull.  


Stephen Clements
Stephen Clements earned a Masters in Political Science from the University of Memphis, served a stint in the US Army with a heaping long tour in Iraq, and would never recommend Baghdad as a vacation spot. When he got out, he cornered and married a mean, beautiful woman, and they have three corgis and one murderous cat. He has three books, with a recent short story in MEMPHIS NOIR. He loves history, theology, travel, and making wine.


Nicole Crucial
Nicole Crucial is a creative writing student at UNC Wilmington. Her hobbies outside of reading and writing include social media, Netflix, yoga (sometimes), costuming, organizing things, and spoiling her cat. She loves writing about fantastic worlds because she is certain that she would not survive in them. You can visit her website at:


Mike Hays
Mike Hays is from Kansas, a tried and true flatlander by birth. He relishes the fact his adult self can now make stuff up and not be sent to the principal’s office for it. His life is built around stories—whether as a dad, a molecular microbiologist, a high school sports coach, or as an author— stories are key. He writes mainly from a boy point of view and hopes to spread ideas and stupid-funny inspiration through his books, blogs, and social media. His upper middle-grade historical fiction, THE YOUNGER DAYS, is about a family’s survival in the fallout from the violent Border War over “Bloody” Kansas. Connect with him on Twitter (@coachhays64).


Sharon Hughson
Nurtured through a troubled teenhood by Aslan in Narnia, Sharon Hughson has long appreciated the power of the written word. She has published romance and women’s fiction, but her dream is to write young adult fantasy, a genre she credits for keeping her alive during her parents’ turbulent divorce and the chaotic readjustments that followed. Sharon fuels her imagination with recollections from years of motherhood and a lifetime of experience working with young people, at church and in public school. She resides in Oregon with her husband, sons and three cats, where she spends her non-writing hours substitute teaching, reading, playing piano, enjoying the outdoors and scrapbooking her family’s memories.

Marti Johnson
Marti Johnson was born on an American Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She has lived in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Nevada and California. Marti hiked and climbed mountains as a girl and young teen, and spent many years on horseback in the scenic eastern Sierras in California. She is the author (under her given name, Margaret Johnson) of DARK HORSE SPIRIT: BEYOND REDEMPTION published in 2014, and is currently working on a sequel.

Elle O'Neill
Elle O’Neill loves reading and writing—from her first all-nighter as a seven-year old with autographed copies of David Adler’s Cam Jansen books to her high school and college English and creative writing classes. She believes that you can fall into the world of a book and find yourself. While she sometimes has a hard time separating fiction from reality (or is it that she prefers not to?), she likes to think that’s a whimsical asset. She enjoys reading just about anything, but treasures underdogs and bluestockings—their trials and successes feel close to home.


Lora Palmer
Lora Palmer writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults. Her debut novel, THE MIRRORMASTERS, is forthcoming from Clean Reads. Bucks County, Pennsylvania is her home, where she resides with her wonderful husband and their mischievous cat. She has earned a graduate degree in Psychology and works at a local residential facility serving autistic children and teens. In her spare time, she also sings in a praise band, Chalice Sounds.


Christina Raus
Christina Raus earned her BA in Creative Writing from Western New England University in 2015. She received the Max Y. Litman English Prize for literary analysis and written communication upon her graduation. She has written articles for Lioness Magazine, a digital publication for female entrepreneurs. Originally from Massachusetts, she currently resides in New York, where she is attending Sarah Lawrence College and working on a novel. She is expected to graduate from Sarah Lawrence’s MFA in Creative Writing Program in 2017. “Emmaculate” is her first fiction publication.
LAUREEN P. CANTWELL, Editor: Laureen grew up in eastern Long Island and eventually found her way to Memphis —“the rock ’n’ roll side of Tennessee,” where she worked as a librarian at the University of Memphis and grew to love the darkness of the city—and Elvis. While there, she proposed and co-edited an anthology of short fiction, Memphis Noir, part of Akashic Books’ renowned Noir series published in November 2015. That adventure led to a conversation with Georgia McBride at a library conference, and to the thrilling experience of working with In the Beginning and putting together a charity anthology full of complex stories suitable for a young adult audience. She currently lives in Western Colorado and works as a librarian for Colorado Mesa University.

  GEORGIA McBRIDE, Editor: Georgia lives in North Carolina with her kids and husband. She has three dogs, one bird, and a fish. She loves to read, watch movies, listen to music, and go see films. She is a publisher, producer, writer, and editor. She has never met a piece of bacon she did not eat, or a cup of coffee she did not drink.

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!


Monday, October 24, 2016

Cease and Desist

Cease & Desist
Stephen David Hurley
Genre: YA Thriller
Release Date: October 10th 2016

Summary from Goodreads:

What if the secret to being charismatic were actually a gene you could inherit, and pass along to your children. What if this "X-factor" could make you a star? Welcome to the world of Cease de Menich, a sixteen-year-old actress in New York City who gets cast as Joan-of-Arc in a reality-drama, only to discover her "acting gift" has been passed down through her bloodline for almost six-hundred-years. Cease finds the plot of the drama reveals dark secrets from her past--an abusive mother, a brother who committed suicide--and the reader must decide if she's a reliable narrator or a terrified girl who's succumb to the pressure of fame and the abuse of her past.

Cease & Desist is a dark, contemporary YA thriller with a supernatural twist. Readers of books like I Let You Go and The Girl on the Train will enjoy this coming-of-age story, which struggles with the realities of sexuality, violence as entertainment, and mental illness. Cease & Desist has excellent crossover potential into the adult marketplace.


This book was a page turner from the get go and I couldn't stop reading. An interesting premise, Cease is a character with many layers. This dark tale will grip you hard and take you on a roller coaster ride.



Chapter 1
I’m Cease de Menich. It’s OK if you don’t know me— but you will. That’s what my agent keeps telling me to tell people, and judging from the throng of mostly stage-moms waiting beneath a marquee that reads “Good Morning, New York City,” maybe he’s right. I’m the actress who plays Jeanne d’Arc (please don’t call her Joan; that was never her name) the virgin, the warrior, the Catholic saint in a reality show that’s going to be a blockbuster. I’m supposed to say that, too. But don’t worry, I’m not over-the-top full of myself the way the others in the final three are.
I’m not beautiful, for starters. I’ve got a big nose—a French nose, as my Aunt Nina insists—but if it weren’t for my wide-set eyes it would be a real honker. I want to have it fixed but my Nina won’t let me. She says it gives me character. But the real reason is that we haven’t got the money, so that’s another thing you don’t have to worry about. I’m not rich, not like the girls from the Upper East Side who sat beside me at Juilliard. What I am is tough and smart, and I have something all the unrich, unbeautiful girls have: I have absolutely nothing to lose.
I look out the window of the car as I take off the last of my body armor; at the faded crepe in a liquor store window—the long shadows lumbering over subway grates on Broadway— and back to the faces of the wannabes waiting in the cold. All those wet noses and eager looks—all those eager fingers I hope will soon be pressing the letters of my name into their home screens. It’s only been four months since I was standing outside in the cold—an unknown, a wannabe, just licking my lips hoping to sink my teeth into a plum role.
For all you people who’ve been watching me on the WebTV trailers, I know what you’re thinking—that I just got lucky. I don’t deserve to be here. And you know what? I think that, too. (Is there an unrich, unbeautiful, sixteen-year-old girl anywhere who wouldn’t think that?) But fame never landed on my doorstep like a perfectly wrapped gift. I’ve paid my dues in ways you’ll never know… and for those of you who’ve been watching the installments the producers have been showing on WebTV every night—and are wondering just what this show is, I can offer you an explanation in a few simple steps. First. This isn’t just a reality show; in other words, this isn’t just a show about a bunch of girls and boys who fall in love or beat each other to death—it’s a drama. I’m an actress playing an historic character who lived almost six hundred years ago. Try to think of my character, Jeanne d’Arc, as a real-life superhero, because she was. The three finalists who must compete for the boys are Jeanne d’Arc, Catherine the Great, and Susan B. Anthony. The boys do not play historic characters—they’re just hunks who flex their pecs and preen a lot. You probably know by now, that the conflicts we face are pretty modern—as in, things that girls and boys must face every day at home and school.
Second. The plotlines of each episode are closely guarded secrets. Dialogue is released the night before we shoot, and I’m given only my lines and a brief outline of the action. There were rumors in the beginning that actors would bribe the writers to get their lines early or to find out what was being written about the other characters. I don’t doubt it.
Third. Francis MacDonald, the director, is crazy—hopefully crazy the way that Hollywood geniuses are—an auteur, I try to convince Nina, but she keeps insisting he’s an imbecile.
I comb my fingers through my hair and need another minute before I get out of the car. I’m tired. Before arriving here I was locked in a straw-filled cage for three hours, and now I’d rather be back home in Tudor City with my Nina having my brownies and milk because even a martyr about to be burned at the stake deserves her brownies and milk. I open the window.
“We’ve been waiting all morning,” a girl in the crowd says. I offer up a wholesome smile. “Sorry. I was tied up.” And I was. Tied to a stake, in fact, just after the interrogators in Rheims, France (actually it was the Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens) grilled me, Jeanne d’Arc, about the voices I heard from angels and why I chose to wear men’s clothing.
A woman tugs the arm of her girl, maybe eight, with a crooked smile, braces, and black-rimmed glasses with unfashionably large frames. “She’d make a great angel, don’t ja think?”
I know why they’ve come. All those eager faces. All those Louis Vuitton dreams. They want to know how I made it. What it feels like, rising so quickly at such a tender age. What the ingredients are in the potion that raised me up over all the others.
The it-ness of fame.
Be careful what you wish for, is what I should tell them, tell all of you. Fame tastes like a kiss from a stranger—a really hot guy who’s got a dark side you’d better see before it’s too late. Fame will make you do the most horrible things to the people you love. It feels like a bolt of grief in my chest, a lock I’ve felt since the first day I arrived on the set.

Buy Links: Amazon 

About the Author
Stephen David Hurley teaches middle school and blogs about fiction, faith and young people. You can find his blog at—you guessed it—

Author Links:

Blog Tour Organized by:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Outward Blonde by Trish Cook

Teen socialite Lizzie Finklestein has all the qualities of a trainwreck in the making.  With a physically absent father, an emotionally absent mother, and an addiction to shopping and hard partying she can’t seem to shake, Lizzie is on a certain path to destruction.  Rock bottom finally comes when one of her public drunken escapades gets caught on camera and shared with gossip sites.

Lizzie’s parents decide it’s time for a change of scenery.  They have her whisked away from her Manhattan penthouse apartment in the middle of the night and dropped at Camp Smiley, a gritty wilderness survival program for troubled teens deep in the Rocky Mountains.  Surrounded by a motley crew of campers all facing their own demons, she’s convinced she has nothing in common with these misfits.

Lizzie must learn to survive in the harsh conditions of the outdoors, including how to dig her own toilet and build a fire by rubbing two sticks together.  Lizzie feels that she’s only left with two options: get with the program, or get out of there.

PUB. DATE: October 18, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-945293-04-7
Barnes & Noble LINK: HERE

“You’re not going to believe this, Jem!” I say when
my best friend finally picks up FaceTime. Her cheeks, nose,
chin, and forehead are slathered in one of those masks she uses
whenever she thinks she might be getting a zit. Which never
actually happens. That girl is flawless.
“Try me.” Her lips are barely moving, which means the
mask must be almost dry, which means she’s probably more
interested in peeling than talking right now. That will change
once she hears my news.
“Guess who I just matched with on Tinder?”
Jem’s mouth moves the tiniest bit downward, her attempt
at a frown. She looks just like my mom after a fresh Botoxing:
incapable of any facial expression. “Using an app to find a boy
is kind of pathetic, don’t you think?” she asks.
“Jem, Jem, Jem. You didn’t say the magic word. A girl like
me deserves a real man, not some immature boy.”

“Well, what you’re going to get on Tinder is a real creeper,
Lizzie,” she warns. “And I like partying with you too much to
let you be found all over the city in a bunch of different garbage
bags. Not to mention, I’d be such shit at giving you a
eulogy. One, because I hate public speaking, and two, I
wouldn’t be able to bring up any of our best times together
without giving the adults at your funeral a coronary. So no.”
“You haven’t even seen who it is yet. Pretty sure you’ll think
he’s worth the risk.”
Jem closes her eyes and puts a hand over her heart, adopting
a sweet little voice that’s nothing like her loud normal one.
“What I’ll miss most about my BFF Lizzie Finklestein is
sneaking out with her on school nights, using our never-fail
fakes to get into all the best bars, doing body shots until we
puke, and making out with random college guys who have no
idea we’re still in high school. I’ll never forget the time we
‘borrowed’ her mother’s Benz and almost ran over a group of
Japanese tourists in Times Square. . . .”
I hold my hand up in front of the computer screen. And in
my hand is my phone, which still has the picture of Hot
Tinder Man on it.
“What . . . the . . . FUCK?” Jem is impossible to impress
and I’m pretty sure I’ve finally done it.
“I know, right?” The only thing standing between me and
this guy at the moment is my mom, who doesn’t take her
Ambien until right before she goes to bed. When she zonks
out, I’m sneaking out.
“It’s not really him,” Jem says. “You do know that, don’t you?”
“Everyone knows he’s on Tinder,” I tell her. “And that he likes
his girls younger. We’re perfect for each other. It’s, like, fate.”

“Oh, please.” Jem peels off an inch-wide strip of mask
starting at her chin and ending at her hairline and shakes it at
the screen. “It’s an old, bald, smelly, fat creeper pretending to
be him so he can rape and dismember you.”
“Dismember. Good SAT word, Jem. Mrs. Lemelson would
be so proud,” I say, invoking our prudish, perma-single English
teacher. “But I guarantee you it’s really him. If you don’t believe
it, come to the Standard with me and see for yourself.”
Jem’s peeling like crazy now. “It’s not him, and that fat
smelly old creeper is going to throw you into the Hudson once
he dismembers you. Do you really want to be shark bait?”
“I thought you said he was going to leave me in garbage
bags all over the city?” I tease. “Besides, I’m pretty sure there
are no sharks in the Hudson. And if you were really that worried,
you’d be my wingman.”
Jem strips off the final bit of mask. Her face is a gorgeous
deep caramel again, except for the smallest pink dot you’ve ever
seen on the side of her nose. It’s probably from the colored pens
we used in art class today. She points to the supposed “zit.”
“I can’t be seen in public like this. Activate your Find My
Friends app so I’ll at least be able to tell the cops where some
of your body parts are.”
I shrug. “Okay, but you’re missing out. Because I’m pretty
sure James Franco would be up for a threesome. Just think of
the pictures we’d get pretending we were going to go through
with it—”
“Fake Franco, you mean,” Jem interrupts me.
“He’s the real deal,” I tell my friend, and click the Face-
Time screen down before she can try to convince me some
more he’s not who he says he is. Or worse, decide to come

along and initiate a threesome for real (which she knows I’d
never participate in, leaving her with James Franco all to
herself, and she’s smoking hot so who could blame him, so,
like, no way).
There’s a knock at my door. My mom peeks her head inside
my cavernous room. She peers first at my king-sized canopy
bed, which is currently covered in pillows of every shape and
size but not me. Then she glances over to my dog’s bed where
Poochie—my adorable googly-eyed Shih Tzu with a crooked
underbite—is fast asleep. She’s twitching and smiling and
probably dreaming about bully sticks, her favorite treat. Whoever
decided dried bull dick might be a good dog snack is a
certified psycho, but Poochie is obsessed with it so I guess I’ll
have to keep buying it.
Finally, Mom realizes I’m sitting on my white leather chaise
by the window, like always. My laptop is on my lap, like always.
And I’m not doing my homework, like always. Mom has on a
silky nightgown and robe. That must mean it’s Ambien time.
“You almost ready for bed?” Her eyes are glassy and she’s a
bit wobbly—both sure signs the medicine is already taking
“Yeah! Don’t you like my pajamas?” I gesture at my crop
top and miniskirt. I hide my high heels under a throw so she’s
less likely to realize the outfit screams “going out” and not
“going nighty-night.”
Mom ignores my clothing and stares straight at my forehead,
where a subtle, stubborn swath of acne has been camped
out since sixth grade. If Jem had my skin issues, she’d never
go out again. Luckily there’s such a thing as cover-up or neither
would I. “Did you remember to put on your prescription
face lotion?”

Figures that even when she can barely focus, all she can see
is my flaws. I don’t reply. She won’t remember my answer in
the morning or that she ever asked anyhow.
Mom mumbles goodnight and shuffles down the long hall
of our penthouse apartment. It takes her forever to get there.
As a little kid, I used to hate the yawning distance between
us. Instead of staying tucked in, I’d make a break for it every
night, jumping as far from the mattress as possible and
sprinting away to be with her and my dad. Warm and safe
between them was the only place I could ever get a decent
night’s sleep. After all, Ursula the Sea Witch didn’t live under
THEIR bed.
So good thing I’m not a little kid who’s scared of an evil
fictional octopus anymore (mostly), since that kind of comfort
isn’t even an option now that my parents are divorced, Dad
went to live out his save-the-world dreams in Africa, and Mom
decided she prefers being in a medicated coma to snuggling.
Even better is that I actually like how far away they are from
me these days. Especially at night. Because you do the math:
divorced dad living in another country + mom’s room being
down an endless hall + her having an anxiety disorder that
requires daily doses of Klonopin x Ambien = me being able
to do whatever and whoever I want to, whenever I want to.
Which, tonight, is none other than James Franco.


This book was a page turning journey that didn't let up for a second. The author's voice was compelling and I enjoyed the read.


Trish Cook is the author of five young adult novels, including NOTES FROM THE BLENDER, A REALLY AWESOME MESS, and OUTWARD BLONDE coming this October from Adaptive Studios. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago's Graham School program in Creative Nonfiction, and her essays have been seen in the Manifest-Station, Graze Magazine, and Spittoon. In her spare time, she rows with a masters crew, most recently competing in Masters Nationals and the Head of the Charles Regatta. You can find more information at and @trixcook on Twitter.