Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book Beginnings/The Friday 56 July 21, 2017


Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. The idea is to share a sentence or so from the first page and the 56th page of the book you are currently reading!  Also, I will now also include a brief synopsis.
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The Life She Was Given

From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets—beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time—and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.



Beginning of the Book:
Lilly
July 1931
Blackwood Manor Horse Farm
Dobbin's Corner, New York
Nine-year old Lilly Blackwood stood in the attic dormer of Blackwood Manor for what felt like the thousandth time wishing the window would open so she could smell the outdoors. Tomorrow was her birthday and she couldn't think of a better present.

Page 56: 
Chapter 6

Julia
The trees surrounding Blackwood Manor were black and bare making the estate look even grayer.  The house seemed as overpowering as the day it did the day Julia left, grim and bulky, the color of the winter sky.



What do you think would you continue to read this?  I have actually only 1/3 left to go; I'm hoping to finish before the weekend, but then that means tomorrow.  Not sure about that, but definitely before the weekend is over.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

June Wrap-Up

Wow, I thought May was a good reading month with 12 books that I finished, but in June, I read even more 15 books finished.  Unfortunately, they were a mixed bag with book ratings ranging from 5 stars down to 1 star and at least one that I DNF'ed.  Quantity, definitely does not equal quality, But here is what I read and my review for them.

Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II

I listened to this as an audiobook. Although parts of this book were interesting, it was not quite what I was expecting or what I hoped for. A good part of the book (about a third to half) discussed the history of Japan and also, China to a lesser degree. I was hoping for a lot more people's personal experiences before, during, and after the Japanese internment. For this reason, I can't give this more than 2 stars, maybe 2.5, but Goodreads doesn't allow half stars to be reflected in each person's rating. Overall, I was disappointed in this book.

2 stars

Second Chance Summer (Cedar Ridge, #1)

I listened to this book on audio. This was my first book by Jill Shalvis. For the first half of the book, this book was merely OK, but I enjoyed the second half and will continue reading this series.

I will be listening to the 2nd book in this series in July.  

3 stars

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child

My first 5 star book of the month

Excellent book! I listened to this as an audio book. At first, I didn't care for the narrator, but either she improved as the book went on or I just got use to her. It was a very interesting story of growing up in amidst war.in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her life was good and normal for the first nine years of her life, but then her family had to flee from the war-torn country.  She had to deal with several family deaths, moving to several African countries, and finally resettlement in the U.S. (Rochester, NY) through the refugee program. She thought life in America would be perfect and learned there were many unexpected challenges. 4.75 stars.

#sandras_story

Pretending to Dance

I received an ARC of this book quite awhile ago, but never got to read it. In the meantime, I have been able to get an audio version of it on Overdrive. It was really good and kept my attention and wondering what it was that made her flee her North Carolina home and sever all ties with her family after her father's death from Multiple Sclerosis. The only thing that I really didn't like in the book happened in the very beginning of the book. when she and her husband were interviewed by a social worker, because they were wanting to adopt a child. The social worker asked her and her husband why they can't have "children of their OWN'. Being an adoptive parent, any "good" and professional social worker with any knowledge of adoption should know that this is not an appropriately phrased question to ask. A more appropriate question would have been to ask why they could not have biological children. When you adopt, the adoptive child(ren) become your OWN children, just not biologically. Other than this, the adoption storyline was very enjoyable and appropriate. I recommend this book and will look into other books by Diane Chamberlain.

4 stars
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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

Wow! What an excellent book! I don't think I ever heard of these "radium girls" and there was even a company here in Illinois that employed these dial painters, who used paint containing radium. Ths book was extremely well-researched and although this is nonfiction, most of this reads as fiction, but it is true. It was a page-turner and often kept me up somewhat later than I usually do. Definitely 5 stars.


Sisterland

This book was just barely ok. There were times when it was interesting, but those times were too few; overall, I really would have been fine not even reading this. I can't say much without giving something away, but I feel it was totally unnecessary to include in the story in the first place. If you've read the book, you should know what I'm alluding to. Also, I feel authors sometimes include certain storylines because it is the in thing at the time.

1.5 stars


If I Run (If I Run, #1)

This is a really good book that I listened to on audioI never read anything by this author before and with this author marked as writing Christian fiction, I wasn't sure what to expect. This was also one of the free selections in this summer's Sync audiobook teen program. But I was pleasantly surprised that this was a very good suspense and I would never have known it was a Christian author who wrote this if I had not read that she was. Kaycee finds her friend murdered and ends up the main suspect, so she flees the state in hopes of figuring out how to bring the killers to justice. This is actually the first book in a series and ends in a cliffhanger. 4.5 stars

My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir

A solid 3 stars. This book was interesting, but nothing particularly memorable about it. It was written, as well as narrated by the author, Garry Marshall, who has a thick New York accident, which at times made it hard to understand for this Midwesterner. He was the creator of Happy Days, in addition to directing some other tv series and many movies, the most famous of which was Pretty Woman. I also just found out he had passed away last year (2016) at the age of 82.


The Red Umbrella

I first heard of this book on Raul's BookTube channel, The Latin Lector. He raved about this book and I really enjoyed it. It is set in the early 60s in Cuba and the U.S after Castro was in power. I never really learned about that period in history in school so it was very interesting and informative. I just loved the ending. Since this book was released last year, maybe the author will write a sequel.

4.5 stars



The Cherry Cola Book Club


This was a totally mediocre book. The premise was good, a librarian's attempt to save a small town library, but the delivery fell flat for me. Very disappointed.

2 stars, but that may be generous.

A Stardance Summer (Eternity Springs)

Another winner by Emily March in her Eternity Springs series.  I was a latecomer to the series, starting with the 7th book and trying to catch up on those first 6 ones that I missed.  Because there are 4 books that I have not yet read, I was confused at first with all the names and where they fit into the series, but for the most part I figured it out before long and enjoyed the series.  The synopsis on Goodreads is a bit misleading, since it says Brick's ex-girlfriend shows up unexpectedly, which never happens.  There are several storylines in this book and all of them are enjoyable.  I look forward to the next book in the series.

4 stars


All the Summer Girls

This was barely even an okay book; I listened to this on audio in one day, otherwise I'd have DNF'ed it long before I finished.  Even a day and half after finishing when I was writing my review, my memories of what this book is about are waning and as I type this up several weeks later, I can't really remember much at all.  It wasn't until the last third of the book that it became somewhat interesting.

2 stars on Goodreads, but that's generous!


Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education

I thought this book might be interesting.  It discusses how education, especially college education, keeps lower-class children from reaching their potential.  But this book is very academic and is full of statistics that one does not remember after reading/hearing it.  (I listened to the audio version.)
There were a couple of examples/studies of actual people that were interesting.  Ashley's story was told in the first chapter of the book and I figured there would be a wrap-up at the end of the book; that was the only reason I continued to listen to the entire book.  By the time I finished the book, there had not been any wrap-up to Ashley's story and I felt cheated. 
The book was way too long and seemed to repeat itself, but just used different words to do so.  Also, the audiobook was read by the author and I found him an extremely boring and dry narrator. 

1 star.


Spring/Summer 2017 St. Martin's First Sampler

I have enjoyed the Book Samplers which were provided by Buzz Books showcasing a variety of their books for the next two seasons, so I was extremely excited when I saw that St. Martin's Press was doing this also. But to be honest, I really did not love any of these samples. The last one in the book, Stars Over Clear Lake looks like one of the more promising, as well as The Last Place You Look, but I am not that excited for any of them. I actually was somewhat disappointed in these selections and St. Martin's Press is one of my favorite publishers. I received this book as an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

2 stars



By Starlight

I haven't read a Dorothy Garlock book in over 15 years, but I found I still enjoy her. I listened to this one on audio. This is not my favorite historical era, Prohibition, but I did find it pretty good.

3 stars.


I read/listened to a several excellent to very good books, a few stinkers, and some that were good  and others were only okay.  My favorite book that I read in June was The Radium Girls, which I definitely recommend!  How Dare The Sun Rise was my favorite book that I listened to in June, followed closely by If I Run.  I also recommend these, either as audios or actually read.

Sorry  this June Wrap-Up is so late this month.  I think, I will be stepping back a bit with my overall blogging.  I want to of course keep up my wrap-up, but I may not be posting every Wednesday and Friday, as I have been doing.  I'm feeling a bit burnt out and will from time to time post on these days, but I want to post because I want to not because I feel I have to!  Blogging is suppose to be fun and lately, I haven't been enjoying it as much and since I don't get paid to do it, I really need to make sure I'm enjoying myself

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WWW Wednesday July 12, 2017

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It's time for the weekly meme, WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
All you need to do is answer the following questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
So let's get onto it!

What are you currently reading?  I'm still reading Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif, but I'll finish this on Thursday, possibly even Wednesday, since I have only 30% left to finish.

What did you recently finish?  I just finished My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shavis on audiobook  earlier today.  I tried listening to Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, but I think I'll read this one instead; it seems they alternate viewpoints between WWII France and modern day and it was a bit confusing, but I think reading it will be much better and I've heard so many good things about it.

What do you think you'll read next?  I think I'll pick up the ARC, The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman and my next audiobook will be The Passenger by Lisa Lutz.

What have you been reading?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Beginnings/The Friday 56 July 7. 2017


Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. The idea is to share a sentence or so from the first page and the 56th page of the book you are currently reading!  Also, I will now also include a brief synopsis.
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Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening

A ferociously intimate memoir by a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of a courageous movement to support women’s right to drive.

Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year fundamentalism took hold. In her adolescence, she was a religious radical, melting her brother’s boy band cassettes in the oven because music was haram: forbidden by Islamic law. But what a difference an education can make. By her twenties she was a computer security engineer, one of few women working in a desert compound that resembled suburban America. That’s when the Saudi kingdom’s contradictions became too much to bear: she was labeled a slut for chatting with male colleagues, her teenage brother chaperoned her on a business trip, and while she kept a car in her garage, she was forbidden from driving down city streets behind the wheel.

Daring to Drive is the fiercely intimate memoir of an accidental activist, a powerfully vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men—and won. Writing on the cusp of history, Manal offers a rare glimpse into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia today. Her memoir is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties, absurdities, and joys of making your voice heard.
 


Beginning of the Books:
  The secret police came for me at two in the morning. The second knock on the door quickly followed the first..  They were loud hard knocks, the kind that radiate out and shake the door frame.  My five year old son  was asleep but I was awake still, sitting up with my brother


My thoughts:  The secret police is never a good thing, especially in Muslim nations.

Page 56: I bled for three days; my sister told me afterward that my face turned yellow. They couldn't take me to the doctor; although there is no official rule banning female circumcision, female circumcision can still be treated as a crime in many Saudi hospitals.  


My thoughts: And a crime it should be.  This book certainly will not help people to see Islam in a better light.  It will just give us another view of why it is barbaric.  Thank goodness, it is not the Friday 55; I definitely would not have been able to include any of the description of the actual act here.  It was difficult enough to read.  Ick, I really did not need to have the process described to me.  

I hope this does not get any more graphic or I may not be able to continue.  What do you think would you continue to read this?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WWW July 5, 2017

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It's time for the weekly meme, WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
All you need to do is answer the following questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
So let's get onto it!

What are you currently reading?  I almost forgot today was Wednesday, all due to the holiday, it messed up my sense of time,  I am currently reading Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif,  I literally just finished my audiobook.  So not listening to anything at this time.

What did you recently finish?  I just finished a few minutes ago Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson.  I also finished the audiobook, By Starlight by Dorothy Garlock and the ARC, Reading With Patrick: A Teacher, A Student, and A Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo.

What do you think you'll read next?  I'm still pretty early into Daring to Drive, but I'm planning to pick up the ARC, The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry.  I think I may start listening to Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

What have you been reading?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

WWW June 28, 2027


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It's time for the weekly meme, WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
All you need to do is answer the following questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
So let's get onto it!

What are you currently reading?  I'm reading an ARC, Reading With Patrick: A Teacher, A Student and A Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo

What did you recently finish reading? I have had a really good reading week,thanks to audiobooks, although nothing this past week has been rated higher than 3 stars.  I listened to three audiobooks: All The Summer Girls by Meg Donohue (2 stars), Tearing Down The Gates: Confronting The Class Divide in American Education by Peter Sacks (1 star), and By Starlight by Dorothy Garlock (3 stars) and I read an ARC, Spring/Summer 2017 St. Martin's First Sampler (2 stars).  I also DNF'ed What We Find by Robyn Carr.  It just wasn't doing anything for me and I thought why force my self to read more. I also tried a couple audiobooks and they did not keep my interest.

What do you think you’ll read next? I will listen next to Then Everything Changed : Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics by Jeff Greenfield; could either be very interesting or so boring that I DNF it.

What about you?  Have you read any of these or do you plan to? What are you reading?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Stardance Summer Blog Tour - Review & Excerpt






Return to the beloved small town of Eternity Springs in the newest installment of Emily March’s New York Times bestselling series with A Stardance Summer.

Sometimes the end of one road
Brick Callahan enjoys every minute of chaos at his campground, Stardance Ranch, especially after the Tornado Alleycats arrive for an extended summer stay. The members of the all-female glamorous camping club are primarily seniors—active and adventurous, friendly and fun. But when he discovers Liliana Howe frolicking with the glamping grannies in a late night skinny-dipping session, he fears he's in for a summer of trouble. Because his best friend's kid sister has grown up to be drop-dead gorgeous.
. . .is the start of another

Betrayed by those she trusted, Lili decides she's put her career first for too long. She sells her practical sedan, buys a travel trailer, and heads to Eternity Springs for a summer of rest, relaxation, and reassessment as the newest member of the Alleycats. The last person she expects to find running an RV resort is her high school crush. Their undeniable mutual attraction is a reminder that life is full of surprises. But when the past comes calling, will their summer romance stand the test of time?


My Review

Another winner by Emily March in her Eternity Springs series.  I was a latecomer to the series, starting with the 7th book and trying to catch up on those first 6 ones that I missed.  Because there are 4 books that I have not yet read, I was confused at first with all the names and where they fit into the series, but for the most part I figured it out before long and enjoyed the series.  The synopsis on Goodreads is a bit misleading, since it says Brick's ex-girlfriend shows up unexpectedly, which never happens.  There are several storylines in this book and all of them are enjoyable.  I look forward to the next book in the series.





Author Bio:


Emily March is the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series. Publishers Weekly calls March a "master of delightful banter," and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romance Writers of America. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeƱo relish has made her a tailgating legend.

Social Links:



Twitter @emilymarchbooks

Chapter1 Excerpt


Chapter One

Twenty years later

I won’t cry. I absolutely, positively will not cry.

Liliana Howe silently repeated the mantra as she rang the doorbell of her parents’ home in Norman, Oklahoma. She still had a key to the house, but her arms were full with two large white paper bags of her father’s favorite Tex-Mex from the taqueria over by Oklahoma University.

Brian and Stephanie Howe met at home for lunch every day, but it was rare for Lili to join them. She usually worked through lunch. But then, today was not a usual day, was it?

Her father answered the door. His gray eyes rounded in surprise. “Lili? Did we forget a lunch date?”

“No, Dad. I was in the neighborhood. Thought I’d surprise you with lunch from Miguelito’s.”

 “Well, that’s nice.” He opened the screen door. “Come on in. Let me help you with those bags.”

He led her through the house back toward the kitchen. “That smells wonderful. This is a real treat, Liliana. Your mother doesn’t let me have Mexican too often.”

“It’s been too long since I’ve seen you guys.”

They walked into the kitchen to find her mother seated at the table staring intently at her computer. Typical Stephanie Howe. Always working. Without looking up, she said, “Stevenson has the best rating, but—”

“Look who’s here, honey,” Lili’s father interrupted.

Stephanie Howe finally glanced up, her thoughts obviously somewhere else, because she gazed at Lili as if she didn’t recognize her. Lili waved her fingers. “Surprise.”

“Oh.” Stephanie gave her head a little shake. “Lili. Hello. Did we forget a lunch date?”

Inwardly, Lili sighed. “No. I was in the mood for Mexican and I thought of Dad.”

“It’s not good for his cholesterol.”

“No, but once in a blue moon won’t hurt him. Dr. Derek told me that himself.”

She unloaded the bags, setting tacos, cheese enchiladas, refried beans, guacamole, and tortilla chips in the center of the table. Her mother brought plates and silverware from the cabinet. “Nevertheless, it’s nice to see you. It’s been too long. How are you, Lili? Have you recovered from tax season?”

“It’s definitely behind me,” she replied with a wry twist of her lips.

They all filled their plates. Not anxious to spill her own beans, Lili took an extra spoonful of refried and asked, “So, what do you hear from Derek?”

Her parents spent quite a bit of time talking about their renowned heart surgeon son. Nerves caused Lili to make a pig of herself on chips and guacamole, and she didn’t miss her mother’s judgmental frown.

Finally, after extolling Derek’s most recent peer recognition award, her father asked Lili what was new with her work and the moment was at hand.

She sipped her water, wished it were a beer, and summarized the sequence of events that had led her to this crisis point. Then she waited for them to react.

And she waited.

And waited.

Her parents shared one of those long, hard-to-read looks that made Lili’s stomach do a bit of a sick flip. Her father cleared his throat. “It’s an incredible tale.”

Her mother nodded. “Unbelievable.”

Lili sucked salt off her bottom lip. She hadn’t expected them to jump to their feet and vow to make the villains pay, but she’d thought they’d be angry on her behalf. Not . . . reserved.

Deep within her, despair kindled to life. They were her parents. She was counting on them. Nevertheless, she pressed ahead, calmly and logically laying out the approach she wanted to take and the assistance she needed from her mother and father.

Again, her parents shared one of those inscrutable looks. Lili’s heart began to pound. “I don’t know, Liliana,” her father said, rubbing the back of his neck. “It would be hard to fight them. They’re powerful people. I hate to say it because it’s not the way this country was supposed to work, but if a Normal Joe tries to go up against powerful people, most often he loses.

“I don’t want to see you get involved with making a charge against the police. That could turn nasty real fast. This cop . . . you said you think your bosses might have threatened him, too? He might be in an even tougher position than you.”

“But he lied, Dad! He falsified records.”

“But you have no proof of that, do you?”

“Just my word.” Isn’t that enough, Dad? At least for you?

“Maybe you should let things lie for a while. Give it some time. See how things work out. I think it’s simply too soon to call the governor and ask for a personal favor.”

That, Lili knew, was a no. A no and a verbal punch to the gut. After her father’s heroic efforts during Central Oklahoma’s most recent tornado outbreak, hadn’t the governor given Brian Howe her direct phone number and instructions to call if he ever needed help with anything? Lili could think of only one reason why he denied her request, and it made her want to toss her guaco.

“Maybe later on when everything settles down we can look at the situation again.”

He didn’t believe her. He didn’t believe in her. Neither did her mother. Lili’s heart twisted. She knew her parents. They wouldn’t come right out and say it, but she saw the significant looks they’d exchanged. Noticed the way they wouldn’t meet her eyes.

They believed she’d been driving drunk last night and the DUI was legit. They did not believe that she’d been set up.

They thought she’d lied.

Lied!

Hurt like nothing she’d ever known washed through her. Lili had never been a liar. Even as a child she’d been frightfully honest. Hadn’t that been her way of attempting to gain favor with her parents? Her brilliant older brother spun stories that had fooled her equally brilliant parents, but eagle-eyed little sister often knew the truth. And tattled. But always with the truth.

Always.

Yet now, they doubted her? They believed her so irresponsible that she would climb behind the wheel of a car after she’d been drinking, thus risking her life, the lives of others, and her license to practice her profession?

Good grief, did they think she’d embezzled money from senior citizens, too?

Lili swallowed hard. Inside, her heart was bleeding. I will not cry. I will not cry. She couldn’t believe this. What was she going to do now?

The only thing she was certain of was that she needed to leave. Immediately. Before she lost her enchiladas all over her mother’s Italian tile.

But Lili couldn’t make herself stand up. Her knees were too weak.

“I think your father is right.” Stephanie Howe reached over and patted Lili’s hand. “You know, dear, maybe this is for the best. You haven’t been happy in your work for some time now.”

“You never liked accounting,” her father added helpfully. “Perhaps it’s best that you look on this event as an opportunity.”

An opportunity? For what? Prison? Hysterical laughter bubbled up inside her, but Lili swallowed it down.

Lili’s mother rose from the table and removed a glass pitcher of iced tea from the refrigerator. She topped off her husband’s glass and changed the subject.

Lili didn’t really care about the plans for their next-door neighbor’s upcoming retirement party. Nor did she give a fig about OU football recruiting rumors. She spent the rest of the meal in a distracted fog.

Finally, having cleaned his plate—twice—Brian Howe set down his fork, wiped his mouth with a napkin, then checked his watch. “I’ve gotta run. I have a one o’clock conference call.”

Standing, he leaned over and pressed a kiss against Lili’s hair. “It was nice to see you, sweetheart. Don’t be such a stranger.”

Minutes later, he walked out the door and Stephanie was preparing to follow. “I hate to rush you, Lili, but I have office hours before my two o’clock lecture.”

Stephanie Howe taught advanced mathematics at OU. “That’s okay, Mom. Why don’t you go on? I’ll stay and load the dishwasher.”

“Thank you. You’ll lock up when you’re done?”

“I will.”

Her mother ducked into the master bedroom and returned a few moments later with her hair and teeth brushed and wearing new lipstick. On the way out the door, she paused. “Lili, things happen for a reason, and often, we don’t know what that reason is. Sometimes you simply need to give it a little time.”

She gave a little finger wave, then exited the house. Lili stood in the center of her parents’ kitchen, her arms hanging limply at her sides. She heard her mother’s car start, then back out of the driveway. Lili was alone. Alone and . . . lost.

Her parents didn’t believe her. Why not? What had she ever done to earn this lack of faith?

 Nothing. She might not have been the smartest Howe sibling, but she’d made it a point to be the one who never screwed up. Derek the Favorite couldn’t say that. The time her brother had come within a phone call of getting an MIP, he’d deserved one. He and his trouble-magnet best friend had celebrated the no-hitter Mark had thrown in the regionals of the state baseball tournament by buying a fifth of bourbon with fake IDs and drinking themselves silly in a public park. Neither had gone near a car, but still.

Derek’s good luck was that their father’s administrative assistant’s husband was the chief of police. Dad had called the chief on Derek’s behalf and worked out a deal. Derek would pay the required fine and do the required community service, but it wouldn’t go on his record. Gotta protect the college applications, you know.

He’d called for Derek.

He won’t go near the phone for me.

Pressure filled Lili’s chest. It reminded her of that achy feeling she got when reading a novel where the protagonist discovers that her loved one has betrayed her. At that point in a book, Lili invariably skipped ahead to read the ending. Lili needed happy endings.

Satisfying endings didn’t work for her. She wanted happy-ever-after.

Once she knew the book was a safe read, the emotional grief she experienced eased. Then she invariably read the rest of the book backward. She was weird that way.

She’d never expected to be the wronged character in a real-life novel. Not with her parents cast as the betrayers, anyway. She wished she could skip to the end of this story. Maybe then she’d discover that her parents had believed her and believed in her all along and they had a really good reason for doing what they’d just done.

Yeah. Right. And I’ll win the next season of Who’s Got Talent because of my spreadsheet expertise.

Ordinarily, pity parties were not Liliana’s style. Today as she picked up her father’s plate from the table, she had a star-studded gala going on.

Mom and Dad didn’t believe her.

She took two steps toward the sink, then abruptly stopped. She dropped the plate.

Actually, she threw the plate. With both hands. Hard.

It smashed against the floor, shattering into dozens of pieces. Next she threw his glass and her mother’s plate and her own plate and glass. And Liliana realized she was panting as if she’d run five miles. Tears pooled in her eyes, but she blinked them away.

Then, because she was Liliana, she got a broom and dustpan and cleaned up her mess. About the time her mother would be pulling into the faculty parking lot at OU, Lili exited the house and locked the door behind her. Then she removed her parents’ house key from her key ring and dropped it through the mail slot in their front door.

As she walked down the sidewalk toward the slate-gray sedan she’d parked at the curb, the soon-to-be-retired neighbor drove into his driveway. They exchanged waves and Lili extended a trembling hand toward her car door.

“I absolutely, positively won’t cry.”

Maintaining her composure, she slid into the driver’s seat and calmly buckled the safety belt. She started her engine, shifted into drive, and slowly pulled away from her childhood home. She wouldn’t cry. She wouldn’t curse. She wouldn’t break any more dishes or squeal her tires in a fit of temper.

Lili wasn’t reckless. She didn’t act rashly and seldom lost control of her temper or emotions. She was logical and deliberate and controlled.

And honest. Totally honest.

Just the way a good accountant should be.

The faintest of sobs escaped her at the thought.

She’d broken her mother’s Fiesta. And yes, she had goosed the gas on her practical sedan, though not enough to squeal the tires. She wasn’t certain that her engine even had enough power to do it.

Her landlady’s voice echoed through her mind. I think this car’s get-up-and-go got up and went before it ever left the showroom floor.

“I bought it used,” Lili had defended.

Patsy Schaffer clicked her tongue and shook her head. “Oh, honey. Of course you did.”

Buying this car had been a good decision, Lili told herself now. A practical purchase. Cars lost value the moment they were driven off the lot. The last thing she needed was a big car payment.

Especially since as of today, she didn’t have a job.

She sucked in a shuddering breath. What am I going to do?

“Fight.” That’s what she needed to do. That’s what she’d come to her parents’ house to do. To gather her resources. To prepare for war. This injustice could not be allowed to stand!

So fine. She’d go into battle by herself. Work from the bottom up instead of the top down. She could do it. She was a grown-up. She didn’t need her parents to fight her battles. She was accustomed to doing things alone, wasn’t she?

She’d go back to the office. Today. Now. What could it hurt? They couldn’t fire her again. She’d demand to speak to Fred Ormsby, the other founding partner. She’d outline her case and demand that the situation be investigated by an independent party. Then she’d go to the police and do the same thing with them.

She could do this. She was strong.

She was scared.

By the time she pulled onto I-35 headed north to her office building in downtown Oklahoma City, she’d lost the battle to hold back tears. Soon she’d soaked four tissues and was on to drowning her fifth.

Then, just as she signaled her intention to take the upcoming exit, a motorcycle screamed by, passing on the right. Only by the grace of God did she avoid hitting him.

In that instant, the blaze of Lili’s temper evaporated her fears. If she’d had another dinner plate, she’d have thrown it at the fool. She was furious that the rider had endangered himself by riding recklessly without a helmet. She was incensed at her former friend and mentor in the firm and at his criminal connections in the police department who were able to create false DUI charges out of nothing.

 And her parents . . . Lili swallowed hard. Her parents. For them, she had no words.

Downtown, she found a parking spot two blocks from her building, so she took it. She grabbed a fresh tissue, flipped down the visor mirror, and wiped away mascara tracks. She blew her nose, put on fresh lipstick, and pinched some color into her wan cheeks.

Drawing two calming, bracing breaths, she stepped outside and prepared to go to war.

Lili marched up the street. You can do this. You can do this. Right is on your side. Justice will prevail.

She was halfway to her building’s front door when the problem occurred to her. They’d taken away her credentials. She wouldn’t be allowed upstairs.

They’d taken her credentials. They’d taken her reputation. They’d taken her license. A great yawning sense of despair opened up inside her. I’m powerless.

The door to her building opened and her former mentor and the firm’s other founding partner stepped outside. Okay. Okay. Her luck was turning. Here was an opportunity. Approaching them on a public street wouldn’t be her first choice, but the fact that they’d come out of the building right at this particular moment was a sign, was it not?

She took one more step forward, then stopped abruptly. A third person had joined them. A third person smiled and laughed and flirted up at the two men old enough to be her father.

Tiffany Lambeau.

Lili’s nemesis.

When Tiffany had followed Mark Christopher to the University of Hawaii, Lili had hoped Norman, Oklahoma, had seen the last of her. Instead, Tiffany had come home with an MBA and a “broken” heart quickly healed by a prominent banker. Now Tiffany was on the prowl again, and she’d started working at the firm late last year as a consultant. She knew everyone of consequence in town— maybe the entire state—and she’d quickly weaseled her way into visiting the corner offices. Often.

Lili watched the trio turn the other direction and stroll up the sidewalk, arm in arm, and she had no doubt that she was looking at Ormsby, Harbaugh, and Stole’s newest partner.

The guacamole in Lili’s stomach made a threatening rumble. “Oh yes,” she murmured. “Talk about a sign.”

She could possibly face the powers that be at the firm. She might even be able to hold her own while presenting her case to the cops. But Tiffany Lambeau? Forget about it.

Some parts of high school a girl simply couldn’t leave behind.

Lili pivoted and returned to her car. She thumbed the lock, opened the door, slid inside, and calmly fastened her seat belt. She sat with her hands on the wheel for a full five minutes, the events of the day running through her mind like a bad movie. How many times today had she asked herself, What am I going to do?

Now, finally, at—she glanced at the clock on her dash— 2:27 p.m., she knew the answer. “That’s it. I’m done. I quit.”

Lili switched on her ignition, shifted her car into drive, and spoke her life-changing decision aloud. “I’m going to join the Tornado Alleycats.”

Copyright © 2017 by Emily March and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.



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