Pretty Fierce by Kieran Scott (Giveaway and Excerpt!)

 

An action-packed, edge-of-your-seat novel about a teen who, when backed into a corner, fights back, from the author of What Waits in the Woods

Kaia has been on the run her whole life. The daughter of professional assassins, she knows danger—and she’ll do anything to survive. After her parents vanished during a job gone bad, Kaia’s spent the last year in hiding, trying to blend in as an ordinary teenager, and there’s no one who makes her feel more normal, more special, than her boyfriend, Oliver.

But when she’s attacked by someone from her mother’s past and Oliver catches her fighting back, Kaia’s secret is exposed. In a split-second decision, she flees the small town, taking Oliver with her. Stalked at every turn, Oliver and Kaia must protect each other…or die trying.

 

KIERAN SCOTT is the author of several acclaimed young adult novels, including the Non-Blonde Cheerleader trilogy, the He’s So/She’s So trilogy, and Geek Magnet. She also wrote the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Private and Privilege series under the pen name Kate Brian. She is a senior editor at Disney/Hyperion and resides in New Jersey with her family. Visit kieranscott.net.

 

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Kobo | iTunes | Indiebound

 

GIVEAWAY! Enter to win here.

 


EXCERPT 

KAIA

“How did you find me?”

His thin lips curled into a sneer. “Word is out, liebling. You should thank me because I’m going to make your death nice and quick. Others will be coming for you and they won’t be as kind as I intend to be.”

Others? The very word sent a spiral of fear down my spine.

“What did you do to Henry and Bess?” I demanded.

Slowly, the visitor walked past me, slipping the side of his knife across the placket of his gray pinstriped jacket over and over again. My blood left tiny red hash marks in the fabric. He came to a stop behind my chair.

“To who? Those trolls you call protectors? I’m sure they’ll find their bodies before the end of the month.”

A real sob welled in my throat. “You sonofa—”

He grabbed me by the hair. Before he could bring the knife to my neck, I drew my arms forward, then yanked my elbows back as hard as I could into his gut. His knife hit the floorboards as he doubled over and I kicked it away. He was as good as dead, but knives were not my style. I was a gun girl, born and raised. I yanked the shotgun off the mantle—the one Henry had told me he always kept loaded in case of emergency—turned around, and whacked the guy across the chin with the side of the stock so hard even I saw stars. I was going to have to thank Bess for making me keep up the kickboxing training—for keeping me strong. If I ever saw her again.

Please let this guy be lying about what he’s done to them. Henry and Bess had become my family over the last year and a half. They were the only family I had left. I couldn’t lose anyone else. I just couldn’t.

The impact from my blow had laid the German out, and I brought my foot down on his neck, choking off his air supply.

Shotguns leave a serious mess, and they can be painful as hell to fire, but you can load the shell from the magazine into the chamber with one hand. Click clack. It’s pretty badass. I aimed the gun at his face and looked down the sightline at the man’s quivering, bloody upper lip.

“Please, kid,” he rasped. “Please. I’m only doing my job.”

“Not anymore,” I said.

See? Badass.

But then I started to sweat. My throat tightened, and my vision went fuzzy. I didn’t want to do this. Not really. Not again. But I had to. If I didn’t kill him, he was most definitely going to kill me.

I had this sudden, vivid memory of my uncle Marco frying ants with a magnifying glass when I was about five. When I’d burst into tears, he’d looked over his shoulder at me, his glass eye glinting, and sneered. “Survival of the fittest, baby.”

“Please kid,” the guy choked out now. “Please.”

I clenched my teeth. My finger twitched on the trigger. Before I ended him, I needed to ask him who’d sent him here. It was what my parents would have done.

“Kaia?”

I blinked. The screen door creaked open, and Oliver was there, staring. Oliver Lange. My boyfriend. His unruly blond curls were slicked back with water from his postpractice shower, and his solid soccer bod practically filled the doorway. Oliver was the love of my life. The only person left on this godforsaken earth who gave two shits about me.

“What’re you doing?”

He looked, understandably, like he was about to throw up, and suddenly I was reliving, in vivid detail, the day just over a year ago when Oliver and I had met. I’d dropped my books all over the floor in front of my locker when Oliver’s soccer ball had hit my shoulder—an accident that felt like the icing on the crapcake that was my life. It was my second week at South Charleston High School—the first normal school I’d ever been to, and hardly anyone had said a word to me. I’d spent every night for three months not sleeping, searching the internet for any sign of my parents, waiting for a text or a call or an email, and afraid of the nightmares I had whenever I closed my eyes. I was so exhausted that when my books hit the floor, I’d almost lost it. Yes, I’d almost cried over spilled books.

But then Oliver was there, helping to gather up my things, looking directly into my eyes. And unbelievably, what I’d seen there was understanding.

“Hey,” he said. “It’s gonna be okay.”

“Is it?” I asked.

“I’m Oliver,” he said.

“I’m Kaia,” I replied.

He offered his hand to shake, and when our fingers touched, I knew nothing would ever be the same.

“Kaia?” Oliver said again in the here. In the now.

I blinked.

Behind him, a black SUV careened around the corner into view. No plates. It didn’t belong here. We were about to have more company. And Oliver was in their line of fire.

No. Hot desperation welled inside my chest. Not Oliver.

He was everything good and pure in this world. Broken, yes. But to me that made him all the more perfect. And he loved me. Almost every single detail I’d told him about myself had been a lie, except for the fact that I loved him too. That was 100 percent true. And I wasn’t about to let him die.

I flipped the gun around, brought the butt down in the center of Picklebreath’s forehead, and snatched my canvas backpack from the floor. My eyes lit on the German’s duffel, tossed carelessly next to the front entry.

“Grab his bag,” I ordered Oliver.

“What?”

I groaned, leaned past him, and picked it up myself. Brakes squealed outside.

“Get inside!” I shouted to Oliver as I grabbed his arm and dragged him into the house.

“What the hell is going on?”

“Oliver, I swear I will explain everything!” I shoved him ahead of me, through the kitchen toward the back door. There was blood all over the floor—Betty and Henry’s blood—and he slipped in it as he reached for the handle. I swallowed hard and held my breath to keep from throwing up. Outside, a second set of brakes screeched, and a car door popped, then another, then another. “Please! Just run!”

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Hello, Goodbye, and Everything Inbetween


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Hello, Goodbye, and Everything Inbetween is classic Jennifer E. Smith, which means I loved it just because. Great character building (as always), spot-on dialogue, interesting and relatable premise… I laughed and I ugly cried and I fell in love a little.

Check out the official blurb, then click here to see it on Amazon or get it from your favorite bookseller!

On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

Charming, bittersweet, and full of wisdom and heart, this irresistible novel from Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, explores the difficult choices that arise when life and love lead in different directions.

By Your Side by Kasie West

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Honestly, there’s nothing Kasie could write that I wouldn’t want to read. She’s an auto-buy author for me, and I’ve never been disappointed.

In By Your Side, we get to live vicariously through Autumn, who gets stuck in the library after closing (could there even be any better situation for a book lover?) when she runs back in to use the restroom. Somehow her group of friends doesn’t realize that she’s not with them (thanks to multiple cars), and they take off for their weekend adventures. It’s not long before Autumn realizes she’s not alone, either – she’s stuck with Dax, who’s known as a troublemaker. There are a whole lot of situations that line up perfectly to make it so they’re truly stuck in the library over a long weekend, but all of it adds up to a fun story with a classic Kasie West sweetness.

Check out By Your Side here on Amazon or at your favorite book store. Enjoy!

What to Read: Upper Elementary Girls Struggling with Confidence

I get asked for book recommendations all the time, and I truly enjoy being able to match kids in specific situations with books that could help them. A few days ago, I got a message from a former student who’s working with 3rd-5th grade girls, mostly Hispanic and African American, who are struggling with confidence.

Here’s the list I shared with her:president-of-the-whole-fifth-grade

President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston, which features an African American female main character who makes it her mission to win the class presidency as a step toward her big dream: building her own cupcake empire. It’s not an easy feat, but she perseveres and succeeds with honor and integrity.

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Allie, First at Last by Angela Cervantes, which features a Hispanic American female main character in fifth grade who is surrounded by a family of over achievers. She feels like she just can’t win at anything, but then she finds a contest that changes everything for her.

 

smile-raina-telgemeier

Smile by Raina Telgemeier, which is a graphic novel that tells the story of a part of the author’s life when she suffered a dental injury as a sixth grader. She has to go through all kinds of dental work and has to deal with all kinds of physical and emotional struggles as she recovers. This book is written for middle grades, but kids in 3rd grade and up love it. I’ve purchased several copies for the library and I just can’t keep them on the shelves.

 

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Gabriela (American Girl Doll of the Year 2017, Book 1) by Teresa E. Harris, which tells the story of Gabriela, an African American girl who loves dancing and poetry but struggles with a stutter. She overcomes her fears and brings people together to save their community arts center.

Any Boy But You by Julie Hammerle

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Because I’ve really liked the books I’ve read by Julie Hammerle, I jumped at the chance to read Any Boy But You, the first in a new series set in North Pole, Minnesota. I could tell from the description that this would be an enemies to romance kind of story, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so much fun.

Any Boy But You is sort of a crazy mix of Romeo & Juliet (family feud involving their sporting goods stores), Pokemon Go, and You’ve Got Mail (through the a game’s chat feature). It sounds strange, but it all somehow worked together and made a cute, fun story. My favorite aspect, though, is the setting – North Pole is a quirky town where it’s basically Christmas year round. There were so many great things about North Pole (the best was the Chinese restaurant) that I’m looking forward to reading future books set in this town.

My only complaint about it would be that there’s more language than I really felt was necessary, so it’s not something I’d put in my middle school classroom, but I feel like it’s fine for high school. Check it out here on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller and enjoy!

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What Would Gwendolyn Brooks do by Parneshia Jones

I subscribe to an email list called Poem-a-Day. Sometimes the poems I get in my inbox are old favorites and sometimes I’ve never heard of them before. Sometimes I read them and sometimes I don’t. It’s nice, though, that I always have one there that I can choose to read if I’m in the mood for it.

So, when I got to school on Monday morning, I had this poem waiting for me in my inbox. The title caught my eye, and I’m glad I took the time to read it… and then to go listen to Parneshia read it on poets.org (click the speaker button near the top)… and then to share it with our 7th and 8th grade ELA teachers in the hopes that they might pair it with a Gwendolyn Brooks poem from their textbooks.

I hope that you, too, take the time to read it. This poem eloquently and fearlessly describes so much of what’s going on in our country today that I just had to share.


What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do

Dawn oversees percolating coffee
and the new wreckage of the world.

I stand before my routine reflection,
button up my sanity,
brush weary strands of hair with pomade
and seal cracked lips of distrust
with cocoa butter and matte rouge.

I ready myself once again
for morning and mortify.
Stacking poetry and bills in a knapsack;
I bundle up hope (it’s brutal out there).

For a moment, I stand with ghosts
and the framed ancestors surrounding me.
I call out, hoping she can hear me
over the day-breaking sirens—
hoping she’s not far away,
or right down the street,
praying over another dead black boy.

How will we make it through this, Ms. Brooks?

                     Hold On.

When she held a body,
she saw much worse than this.
I know she was earshot and fingertip close to oppression.
She saw how hateful hate could be.
She raised babies, taught Stone Rangers,
grew a natural and wrote around critics.

She won a Pulitzer in the dark.

She justified our kitchenette dreams,
and held on.
She held on to all of us.

                    Hold On, she whispers.

Another day, when I have to tip-toe
around the police and passive-aggressive emails
from people who sit only a few feet away from me.
Another day of fractured humans
who decide how I will live and die,
and I have to act like I like it
so I can keep a job;
be a team player, pay taxes on it;
I have to act like I’m happy to be
slammed, severed, and swindled.
Otherwise, I’m just part of the problem—
a rebel rouser and rude.

They want me to like it, or at least pretend,
so the pretty veils that blanket who we really are—
this complicated history, can stay pretty and veiled
like some desert belly dancer
who must be seen but not heard.

                     Hold On.

We are a world of lesions.
Human has become hindrance.
We must be stamped and have papers,
and still, it’s not enough.
Ignorance has become powerful.
The dice that rolls our futures is platinum
but hollow inside.

Did you see that, Ms. Brooks?
Do you see what we’ve become?
They are skinning our histories,
deporting our roots,
detonating our very right to tell the truth.
We are one step closer to annihilation.

                   Hold On, she says, two million light years away.

She’s right.
Hold On everybody.
Hold On because the poets are still alive—and writing.
Hold On to the last of the disappearing bees
and that Great Barrier Reef.
Hold On to the one sitting next to you,
not masked behind some keyboard.
The one right next to you.
The ones who live and love right next to you.
Hold On to them.

And when we bury another grandmother,
or another black boy;
when we stand in front of a pipeline,
pour another glass of dirty drinking water
and put it on the dining room table,
next to the kreplach, bratwurst, tamales, collards, and dumplings
that our foremothers and fathers—immigrants,
brought with them so we all knew that we came from somewhere;
somewhere that mattered.
When we kneel on the rubbled mosques,
sit in massacred prayer circles,
Holding On is what gets us through.

We must remember who we are.
We are worth fighting for.
We’ve seen beauty.
We’ve birthed babies who’ve only known a black President.
We’ve tasted empathy and paid it forward.
We’ve Go-Funded from wrong to right.
We’ve marched and made love.
We haven’t forgotten—even if they have—Karma is keeping watch.

Hold On.
Hold On everybody.
Even if all you have left
is that middle finger around your God-given right
to be free, to be heard, to be loved,
and remembered…Hold On,
and keep
Holding.


Copyright © 2017 by Parneshia Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

#Famous by Jilly Gagnon

famous

#Famous is a fresh and new rom-com that follows Rachel and Kyle through some crazy insta-fame and the repercussions of an innocent tweet gone viral.

Rachel, a funny, somewhat nerdy kind of girl without many followers, tweets a picture of her crush, Kyle, in his Burger Barn uniform. It’s supposed to just go to her best friend, really, but the picture combined with her sense of humor make for a tempting retweet, and it goes viral in a matter of just a few hours. Suddenly Kyle’s dealing with fame, Rachel’s dealing with embarrassment at having revealed her crush to the world, and things are quickly spiraling out of control.

I loved this book, told in an incredibly well done dual POV, for its fun story and real characters. I loved that, while Rachel and Kyle certainly had their faults, they were both genuinely good people. I also loved that they learned some real and valuable lessons about the internet, fame, and relationships. Click here to see it on Amazon, or request it at your favorite book store!

Official Blurb:

In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives—and their hearts—forever. But are fame and love worth the price?

Told in alternating points of view, #famous captures the out-of-control thrill ride of falling for someone in front of everyone.