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

 

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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!”

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.

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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Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Confession: I’ve wanted to read Tell Me Three Things for quite a while (because of the heart shaped waffles on the cover, to be completely honest), but it’s one that I wasn’t able to get my hands on in ARC form, so I (stupidly) waited to buy it and now I’m late for the party. If you, like me, missed it when it first came out… you gotta get it now.

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In this, 16 year-old Jessie is trying to figure out life without her mom (she passed away two years ago) and with an entirely new city and step family (her dad moved her suddenly from Chicago to Los Angeles when he eloped with his new wife). On top of all that, Jessie’s now attending a prestigious private school that is beyond difficult to navigate as the new girl.

So, when she receives an anonymous email from a classmate calling himself Somebody/Nobody (SN for short) in which he offers to be a spirit guide to help her adjust to the school, she reluctantly accepts his help out of desperation. When their initial anonymous exchange develops into a friendship, the mysterious SN is still reluctant to meet, even though he clearly knows who Jessie is and they’re developing real feelings for each other. They start asking each other to “tell me three things,” and so these great lists of things are included in their messages back and forth. The identity of SN isn’t revealed until almost the end of the book, and while I did have a good idea of who I hoped it would be, I was guessing until the end just like Jessie was. I was so happy with who it was that I actually went back through the whole book and reread their messages. They just made me happy.

It may sound simple and potentially sad (dead mom, etc.), but Tell Me Three Things is honestly one of the most engaging, emotionally beautiful novels I’ve read this year. It’s NOT sad – Buxbaum’s author’s note made it clear that she wasn’t aiming to write a book about the death of a mom but instead wanted that to be a part of the character’s story – but the way Jessie learns from and deals with her grief is a very real and compelling. The hope she finds in new friendships and eventually in her relationship with her dad is ultimately what the reader feels at the end of the story.

Because I’m a teacher and I can’t turn that part of my brain off when I read YA, I do have to say that I think it’s appropriate for upper high school ages. There’s some language, but it doesn’t feel excessive or showy – it’s mostly coming from grief and truly hard situations. The profanity didn’t bother me in this book like it does in some others. There’s also a significant subplot involving one of the main character making the very grown up decision of whether or not she’s ready for sex. Again, that story line can bother be in some books if it’s not treated with care, but it’s done pretty carefully here, and that’s a topic I wish parents would talk more about with their kids anyway.

It’s been a long while since I’ve read a book that has set in and stuck with me throughout several days like this one did. It feels to me like everything that a book written for teens SHOULD be – not cheesy, full of real life situations, hopeful, fun, relevant, and engaging.

Find Tell Me Three Things on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. Enjoy!

The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle

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The Sound of Us is one of those books that does a great job of encouraging readers to stick with their dreams and stay true to who they are. That’s enough to make me love it – I just don’t think that message can be given to teenagers (or adults, frankly) too much. 

Kiki Nichols is a fun, introverted fan of a popular geeky sic-fi show who also happens to be an aspiring opera singer. She heads off to an exclusive summer camp at a college known for its music program. She has two main goals for the summer: one, be cool and make friends, and two, be one of the top students at the end of camp, which would earn her a scholarship to study opera at the university. But, of course, stuff happens and Kiki’s derailed from her goals a few times… and one big distraction comes in the form of a hot drummer (and fellow sic-fi show fan) she’d like to spend more time with. 

Kiki is a great character, and I love her growth throughout the story. The supporting characters are all really well written and they definitely make the book richer, with the exception of Kiki’s parents and brother who seem sort of one dimensional and annoying (until one conversation at the very end, I guess). A little bit of language and some content would make me uncomfortable with having this in my middle school classroom, but it’s fine for high school. Overall, there are some great messages here for teenage girls (and guys) about being happy with who you are and going after your dreams instead of settling, and I enjoyed reading this one. 

Find The Sound of Us here on Amazon or order it through your favorite bookseller!

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

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In P.S. I Like You, aspiring musician and generally awkward Lily Abbott falls into an anonymous pen pal relationship with a fellow Chemistry class sufferer. She and the pen pal hit it off and Lily’s having fun wondering who it could be… if only she could get her best friend’s ex, Cade Jennings, to leave her alone she’d be happy. Somehow they end up in verbal battles everytime they’re near each other. When Lily finally discovers the identity of her letter writer, she’ll have to take a step back and figure out how she really feels about everything. As usual, this book is not JUST a contemporary romance – there are family issues and big dreams and lots of real, relatable themes for teens. 

It’s no secret that I love everything Kasie writes, but I swear she gets better and better with each book she writes. I started reading P.S. I Like You one evening and couldn’t put it down… I did eventually fall asleep, but finished the story quickly the next morning and thought about Lily and Cade all day long.

I found this excerpt on GoodReads and had to share. Enjoy it, and check out this book!

“I nodded toward Cade’s wrist. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fun. I get a man bracelet.”

I smiled. “I don’t think you get to keep it. She’s just using you as her model.”

“Her model?”

“It’s a fact, not a compliment.”

“Because if you gave me a compliment you might have a stroke.”

I laughed. “Probably not a stroke, but my brain would definitely revolt in some way.”

He didn’t laugh along with me, just looked at the cording on his wrist.

“Oh, stop, you don’t need me to tell you that you’re hot to know that it’s true.”

“Are you okay? Did that hurt your head?” Cade asked.

I kicked his foot with mine and he laughed.

“So you think I’m hot?” Cade’s eyes sparkled.

“Doesn’t every girl?”

It surprised me when his cheeks turned a light shade of pink. I wasn’t sure why that embarrassed him in any way. I was positive he already knew it. He ran one hand through his hair. Then he said, almost too quiet for me to hear, “You’re not every girl.”

― Kasie WestP.S. I Like You

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

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As summer winds down and back to school sales take over the stores, I find myself wanting to cling to summer for as long as possible.

One great YA title that might help us all hold fast to summer days is Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything, a seriously cute and heartwarming novel that showcases everything there is to love about YA literature.

In it, Andie is a teenage girl with a very clear plan for her summer, for college, and for life in general. She’s the daughter of a politician, so her childhood has been lived under public scrutiny, and she strives for perfection. She hardly sees her dad, and since her mom passed away when she was young, she has basically raised herself. She’s fiercely independent and has very little relationship with her father, but somehow she’s satisfied with the way things are. She has her plans for the future, she has her friends, and she knows where she’s going.

But what will Andie do when a very public political scandal sends those plans sailing out the window? How will she deal with her lost summer internship? What will her unexpected summer be like when she had so many clear expectations that just won’t happen?

After she answers a help wanted ad that turns out to be for a dog walking service, all kinds of unexpected things pop up: a dad who’s suddenly in town a whole lot more than usual, a part time job without the prestige of a medical internship, a seriously great group of friends, a cute boy who keeps popping up, and so much more. What I love about The Unexpected Everything is that it’s fun and authentic (the text conversations, complete with emojis, are fantastic), but it still has strong themes of family and friendship and the power of change. We, along with Andie, get to see that sometimes beautiful things happen when life veers off the path we’ve decided it should stay on.

This novel is perfect for teenage girls and grown up women alike, and it’s especially fitting for these days when we’re still sort of in our summer state of mind but also making plans and looking ahead to the fresh opportunities that a new school year brings. Check it out, and enjoy!