DEADLY COOL by Gemma Halliday


Marit Wesisenberg

SELECT FEW Official Blog Tour

Sean Penn


D.J. MacHale

ORACLE OF DOOM by D.J. MacHale Nerd Blast

Ashley Eckstein


Peternelle van Arsdale


D.J. MacHale

JBN Podcast

Liana Garder


Dave Robison

ARCHIVOS Official Nerd Blast

Kerri Maher


Lisa Edelstein


Gregory King and Jonathan Greasley


Syrie James and Ryan M. James

EMBOLDEN Official Nerd Blast

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Chris Miles Author Interview

Photo Content from Chris Miles

Chris Miles has written several books for young readers in Australia. His short fiction and other writings have appeared in publications throughout Australia. He works as a website designer and developer, and in his spare time he indulges his love of Doctor Who, LEGO®, Dungeons & Dragons, and anchovies. He is a dog person (though not literally).

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (February 7, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1481479725
ISBN-13: 978-1481479721

Praise for SPURT

“Hilarious, addictive, brilliantly-warped... like Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen crossed with Diary of a Wimpy Kid” ―Stuart Gibbs, New York Times bestselling author of the Spy School series

“Funny, heartfelt, and likely to appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys on the cusp of puberty” School Library Journal

“A refreshing take on body image, acceptance and the need to fit in. The novel’s moments of profundity are subtle yet powerful, and masterfully balanced with humour. Spurt is appealingly naughty.” Books+Publishing

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
It’s our tool for sharing and embracing our common humanity; it’s how we remind ourselves of who we are and what we can be. And it’s one of those rare things that’s nourishing and pleasurable at the same time.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I think the ambition to become a writer really struck when I was in my early teens, when I realised that being on my own and inventing stories in my head a) didn’t mean I was crazy and b) was something you could do professionally. Or at least semi-professionally.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Instead of studying literature or English or arts at university, which you’d think might be better preparation for being a writer, I actually studied accounting and economics. Though ‘studied’ implies that I actually turned up, which I mostly didn’t. Because — spoiler — I did not actually want to be an accountant or economist.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I think I was 10 or 11, and it was a Mad Max inspired post-apocalyptic story, but all the characters were leather-clad balls of fuzzy felt instead of leather-clad road warriors. I wrote my first actual children’s novel in my mid-twenties, though it has never been published.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
In elementary school we had an emergency teacher (like a relief teacher, not sure what the word is in the States) who took us into the cellar of the old headmaster’s house attached to our school and told us a scary story about a grisly murder. The story ended with him telling us that the bodies from the murder were buried right where we were sitting. So I guess what I learned was that emergency teachers can be real jerks sometimes.

In your new book; SPURT, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
Spurt_’s about an eighth-grader called Jack Sprigley who hasn’t hit puberty yet, and thinks he’s being left behind by his friends. So he decided to try to ‘fake puberty’ and convince the world that he really has ‘manned up’. Except he learns that manning up isn’t exactly what he thinks it is.

I think anyone who has had the experience of not feeling like they ‘measure up’ in some way would get something out of Spurt, but hopefully anyone can read it and get some laughs from Jack’s cringeworthy exploits and the situations he gets himself into.
For those who are unfamiliar with Jack, how would you introduce him?

Jack is basically a decent kid, but when we meet him at the start of the book it’s fair to say he’s a little bit self-absorbed, and too fixated on comparing himself to other people. He was on a reality TV show called Bigwigs when he was in sixth-grade but it was a bit of a weird experience, and not necessarily in a good way, so it’s not something he talks about much. Eventually he’s led astray by his need to prove himself, but I think his good nature comes through in the end.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think Jack would have a lot in common with Adrian Mole from the Adrian Mole series by Sue Townshend. Both are them are having problems with puberty, and they’re both a bit naive and deluded, though Adrian is probably a bit more pretentious about it than Jack.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
We are not always the same person from moment to moment, but we can sometimes find ourselves in situations where we lose touch with who we really are, so my life advice would be to try to compassionately measure yourself not against other people but against the best, most ideal version of yourself you can imagine.

I just realised that maybe you meant writing advice, in which case: try to remember to stand up and walk around for a bit every twenty minutes or so.

What’s the most memorable summer job you’ve ever had?
I was pretty lazy and spent most of my summers (you guessed it) writing stories, but while I was at university a friend had a summer job collecting fares at the local rubbish dump. I used to hang out with him there and after hours we’d lock the gates, get in his car and take turns doing burnouts in the rubbish dump.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
Honestly, the 80s was a pretty interesting time to be a kid (that was the decade I grew up in). There was an amazing explosion of pop culture, really, plus you had the spectre of nuclear war looming over you. But if I had to choose another decade, it would be the 60s, because that’s when Doctor Who first aired and it would have been cool to be in the playground at the peak of Dalekmania.

What scares you the most and why?
Depending on the day, it’s either the apparently inevitable environmental catastrophe we’re hurtling towards or accidentally giving someone bad bus directions, which I did recently.
What is your greatest adventure?

Probably my first overseas trip, in my twenties. I went to Turkey and Europe. I caught a ferry from Turkey to Venice, and arriving in Venice by sea was like a dream come true.

Where would you bury hidden treasure if you had some?
I like to obey rules, so I’d probably find some sort of designated hidden treasure burial zone and do whatever they told me.

When was the last time you cried?
When did the last Pixar film come out? Probably then.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
As a child I mostly read Garfield and Peanuts and Doctor Who novelisations, but I remember also having a soft spot for an Enid Blyton book called Hello, Mr. Twiddle. Mr. Twiddle was an old man who would do things like accidentally put his alarm clock in the oven. I guess as a child I was just hungry for stories about people suffering from age-related cognitive decline.

Where can readers find you?
I’m on Facebook at, and I have a website at

01. “Sometime around the end of seventh grade, Jack had started noticing the changes. Darylyn’s pimples. The hair above Reese’s lip and under his arms. Vivi becoming, to the extent that Jack had looked, more ‘boobs-having.’” 

02. “‘We’re all in the middle of big changes in our lives, right? You, me, Reese, Darylyn… me… We’re all growing up. Our minds, our bodies. Definitely mine are.’” 
“Natsumi Distagio’s tan was just that shade more perfect than anyone else’s. Her eyes, nose, and mouth were crucial millimeters closer to ideal. Her hair had optimum bounce and luster. 

03. Natsumi Distagio — and Jack felt this was no exaggeration — was a hottie of sufficient magnitude to be one of those models who stood at the back of the stage during the presentation of a People’s Choice Award.” 

04. “Sometime between the end of sixth grade and the start of seventh, Oliver Sampson had been swept up in the biggest testosterone tsunami in recorded history. Over the course of a single summer break he’d tripled in size in every direction. When he’d stripped down in the locker room that first week of junior high, the other new seventh graders literally cowered, as if they’d received a visitation from some extraterrestrial superbeing.” 

05. “Jack wondered if he’d made a terrible mistake, turning away from his Bigwigs semifame. He should have cashed it in as a kind of popularity insurance policy. Maybe then it wouldn’t have been so easy for everyone to leave him behind. As it was, he felt like an embarrassing leftover from another time. A time before pubes.” 

06. “‘Manhood, you see, is not something that just happens,’ said Mr Trench. ‘It’s something that has to be taken charge of. There’s a whole army of male sex hormones lying idle within you, Sprigley. An undisciplined rabble just waiting for a general to marshal them into action. It’s you who must lead the charge. You must act like a man in order to become a man.’ 

07. “Jack was afraid that if he tried to use the Bigwigs reunion to rescue his reputation, he’d only sink further into a humiliation of national proportions. Because all the producers had to do was show one clip of Jack from when he’d been a contestant on the show, and the whole country would see that he looked and sounded the same as he did in sixth grade: fresh-faced and freckled, like a woodland creature in an old Disney cartoon.” 

08. “‘This is reality TV, Jack. The last thing we want you to be is yourself.’” 

09. “Soon Jack would be standing up in front of the whole town to launch the balloon festival, before soaring through the heavens to victory in his very own mayoral chariot. With his official duties finally over for the day, Jack grabbed himself an energy shake and walked home via the Bernadino Mall. All through the day, everywhere he’d gone, he’d been welcomed like a king. Every door in Upland was open to him. It was almost enough to stop him thinking about the typically disappointing results of that morning’s pube tally. (Zero.)” 

10. “Jack forgot himself for a moment. He wasn’t Jack the Mayor for a Week, or Jack the Bigwig, or even Jack the pubeless weirdo freak-boy. The world suddenly seemed vast and full of possibility. He felt, for that moment at least, the freedom not to be anything or anyone at all.”

Balls and all!

Jack Sprigley isn’t just a late-bloomer. He’s a no bloomer: an eighth grader, and puberty is still a total no-show. Worse yet, he hasn’t heard from his friends all winter vacation. He assumes they’ve finally dumped him and his child-like body—until he finds out it’s much worse than that. His friends are now so far ahead of him that they’ve started dating. Jack is out of luck. But then he comes up with a plan to catch up and win his friends back. And his plan is perfect: he just has to fake puberty.


(From pages 176 – 177)

“O-okay . . . ,” said Delilah. “I better get these guys working on their masterpiece. But first”—she touched Jack’s shoulder and leaned in close—“can I have a word? I just remembered something.”

Todd and Brett started packing up their equipment, leaving Darylyn, Philo, and Reese standing around looking slightly lost. Jack let himself be led away by Delilah.

“What is it?” he asked.

Delilah crossed her arms. “This girlfriend of yours, the one you mentioned the first day of filming. Nats. We haven’t seen her. We haven’t got any vision of her. She should really be with you when you open the balloon festival.”

“Oh,” said Jack. “Um. Well—”

“Be straight with me, Jack. She doesn’t exist, does she?”

“Of course she exists!” said Jack.

This, at least, was technically true. Nats did exist. Just not in a being-the-girlfriend-of-Jack-Sprigley sense.

Delilah stared at him for a moment. “I’m not judging you. I just want to know: Is this is another thing I need to ‘make happen’? Because I’m going to be extremely busy between now and the weekend, getting the plans for these two balloons to the seamstresses—”

“Two balloons?”

Delilah looked temporarily lost for words. “It’s just . . . insurance. In case the first one doesn’t work out.” She looked Jack in the eye. “So we’re solid on the Nats thing? There’s nothing I need to do?”

Jack wondered if Delilah really could find a way to fix him up with Nats. She’d already proved she had the power to change reality. Jack clicked his fingers, Delilah transported him to a firing range, summoned up a fishing boat, pulled the strings to make him Mayor for a Week. It just fell into his lap, without him even having to do anything. He was starting to wonder if that was a good thing.

“No,” he said. “It’s all good. It’s all taken care of.”

You can purchase Spurt at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CHRIS MILES for making this giveaway possible.
5 Winners will receive a Copy of Spurt by Chris Miles.
MARCH 29th WEDNESDAY She Dreams in Fiction DREAM CAST 
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APRIL 2nd SUNDAY Reading for the Stars and Moom REVIEW & MUSIC PLAYLIST 
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Dream Forever by Kit Alloway Excerpt

Book Nerd Spotlight

As the veil to the Dream becomes dangerously thin, Josh must stop it from tearing to save the world, in the conclusion to The Dream Walker Trilogy.

Trying to control her powers as the True Dream Walker is hard enough with Feodor as her instructor. But trying to learn her strengths with a broken heart makes it nearly impossible for Josh. When mysterious tears in the veil separating the Dream from the waking world begin to appear, and with Peregrine still on the run and Haley trapped in Death, Josh finds herself truly in over her head. With the World threatening to crumble around her, Josh must figure out who she really is and what she wants in time to save it, herself, and everyone she loves.

You won’t be disappointed in this exciting conclusion to Kit Alloway’s The Dream Walker Trilogy.


“Written with an alluring, almost hallucinatory atmosphere punctuated by visceral horror, this is a phantasmagoric swirl in which quantum theory meets Freddy Krueger. Readers are left blinking and anticipating the next volume of this nightmarish saga.” —Kirkus Reviews on Dreamfever

“Dreamfire is an amazing fantasy novel with realistic characters who will grab readers from the first page, immersing them in a fantastic new universe. Divergent fans will be pleased with the unique concept. The twisty plot never dulls, leaving readers guessing til the end. Alloway is one author to be on the lookout for.” —RT Book Reviews on Dreamfire

“The nightmare vignettes are rivetingly chilling. A dark and exciting paranormal adventure that will keep patient genre fans up late.” —Kirkus Reviews on Dreamfire

“Alloway's writing is rich and vivid, and the dynamics within the close-knit cast of characters make the danger even more delicious as readers watch for the outcome.” —School Library Journal on Dreamfire

“Patient readers will be richly rewarded with effective mystery, a charged romance (of course Will and Josh wind up together), and a cool alternative world detailed onto our current one in ways that make expected places and scenes unfamiliar and magical.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books on Dreamfire 


“Sometimes people give me special access because I’m Peregrine’s grand daughter.” 

That was only part of the truth. Josh had a reputation among dream walkers as a prodigy, and they were usually more than happy to bend over backward for her. 

“Ironic,” Feodor said, but he smiled at her in a way that made her feel like he saw right through her. “Unfortunately, triangulating the bodies will give us, at best, a rough idea of where Peregrine might be.” 

Not to discount the lives of the five men Peregrine had killed, but Josh had a larger concern. If he found a way back into the Dream, he was likely to hurt a lot more people. “What are the chances he’ll figure out how to deactivate the symbol?” 

Feodor considered. “I could do it. But then, Peregrine is not me.” 

“Well, that’s reassuring,” Josh said. 

“However . . . the power of obsession to propel a man to acts of which he might not other wise be capable should not be underestimated. I believe Peregrine will continue until he finds a way.” 

That was not reassuring. 


“I really think I’m over it,” Will Kansas told his counselor. 

Malina wasn’t technically a therapist, but as a pastor, she’d been trained in counseling, and because she was a dream walker, Will could tell her the truth about what had happened to him. They
were sitting in her office, which smelled pleasantly of herbal tea and was cluttered with little statues of angels.

Malina lifted her eyebrows at his words. “That’s pretty quick,” she said. “How long has it been? Six weeks?” 

“Eight,” Will corrected. Eight weeks since they’d gone into the Hidden Kingdom. Eight weeks since Will had killed Bayla. Eight weeks since he’d failed to kill Peregrine. 

Eight weeks since he and Josh had broken up. 

“How do you know you’re over it?” Malina asked. 

“I’ve stopped having flashbacks and nightmares. I’ve stopped thinking about it all the time. I feel— mostly—at peace with what I had to do to save every one. I took down my stalker wall.” 

“Okay,” Malina said, but the way she broke the syllable told Will she wasn’t crazy about his answer. “That’s all good evidence that your post- traumatic stress is under control, but I’m not sure how that indicates you’re moving on.”

Isn’t holding it together enough? Will wondered. It felt like it should count for something. 

“Did you try out for track like we talked about?” 


 “Did you join the Amnesty International Club?” 

“No.” Before she could ask what other activities he had avoided,
Will said, “I just keep thinking that Peregrine’s still out there. What’s the point of starting something new when I know he’s going to come back and screw it all up?” 

“ You’re certain he’ll come back.” 

“As long as Josh has power he doesn’t have, he’ll be back to try to take it. I doubt he’s done with Mirren, either.” 

“How’s Josh doing?” 

In the two months since they’d broken up, Josh had tested out of her se nior year and graduated early. She spent ten hours a day in the Dream, most of them with Feodor. She’d stopping eating meals with her family, and Will was pretty sure she was living on protein bars and candy. She’d also quit brushing her hair and was getting dressed in the dark, apparently, but her bizarre appearance was only part of the wiry, disheveled look she’d developed. Every time Will saw her, she seemed distracted, hassled, confused by the presence of other people, and more than once he’d caught her muttering to herself in Polish. What ever was going on with her had ruined her already tenuous grip on the margins of normal be havior.

 “Same as usual, I guess,” Will said. 

Malina didn’t let him get away with the deflection. 

“Do you miss her?” 

“Yeah,” he admitted. “I . . . still miss her. I wish things had gone differently.” 

“What do you wish had gone differently?” Every thing, he thought. 

“I wish we hadn’t lied to each other. I wish I’d asked for support when I needed it. I wish she had confided in me. But mostly I wish Feodor and Peregrine were gone. I think we could have worked things out if not for them.” 

“Have you talked to Josh about what happened?” 


That was an understatement. Josh barely spoke two words to him. Then again, he barely saw her. She spent all her time with Feodor. 

At least, Will thought she was spending all of her time with Feodor. Except for when she was dream walking, she wasn’t at home very much. 

“Do you want to talk to her about it?” Malina asked. 

“I don’t know. Sometimes. Sometimes I want to explain why I had to break up with her.” 

“What would you say?” 

“That I did it to protect myself emotionally. That it had less to do with her than it had to do with Feodor and Peregrine and all that chaos. I want to tell her . . . that it wasn’t because I didn’t care about her.” 

“Do you think she knows that?” Josh, with her monstrous capacity for guilt and self- blame? 


“Would you feel better if you told her?”

You can purchase Dream Forever (Dream Walker #3) at the following Retailers:

Author Spotlight
Photo Credit: Fusion Photography

KIT ALLOWAY writes primarily for young adults, having always had an affection for teenagers. In addition to writing, she plays various musical instruments, decorates cakes, mixes essential oils, and studies East European languages. She lives in Louisville, KY with her family and four very tiny dogs.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

Series: Blink
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Blink (May 9, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310758661
ISBN-13: 978-0310758662


"You won't be able to put this book down. This heartfelt read totally sucked me in. A (Prince) Charming read." Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan

"Tatum's complex and realistic relationships with her friends, family and the potential love interest will have you savoring every chapter while heavily anticipating the next. It Started With Goodbye is an adorable and clever contemporary that will enthrall you with its fairytale-esque charm." Ami Allen-Vath, author of Liars and Losers Like Us

"I loved this fun, contemporary take on the Cinderella tale that explores what it takes to be yourself while finding your place in life, love,and your family. June's characters are vividly drawn, complex people that you'll want to root for, and Tatum's story will strike a chord for anyone who's felt like they were misunderstood." Lisa Maxwell, author of Unhooked, Sweet Unrest and Gathering Deep

"A sweet and satisfying portrait of family, friendship, and discovering your own path. Tatum's journey from fear and disappointment to honesty and freedom to be herself is one that will resonate with many readers." Ashley Herring Blake, author of Suffer Love

"A fresh, charming debut, brimming with friendship, family, and love." Marci Lyn Curtis, author of The One Thing

“Honest, fun, and entirely compelling, this is a story about how being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to a whole lot of right. Tatum is a character you’ll relate to, cheer for, and want to befriend.” Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of Firsts

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.
You can purchase It Started With Goodbye at the following Retailers:

Photo Credit: Hannah Bjorndal

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, will be published by Blink/HarperCollins on May 9, 2017.

MAY 9th TUESDAY We Live and Breathe Books REVIEW & EXCERPT
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Night Magic by Jenna Black

Series: Nightstruck (Book 2)
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (May 30, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765380064
ISBN-13: 978-0765380067

Praise for NIGHT MAGIC

“Suspenseful and savage―Jenna Black does horror right!” ―Kimberly Derting, author of the Body Finder series

"Effectively blending grisly horror, teenage dilemmas, and a touch of romance, Black has built a genuinely scary city where the night literally has teeth.” ―Publishers Weekly

Jenna Black returns to the quarantined city of Philadelphia, where an unsuspecting seventeen-year-old has unknowingly unleashed a dark power that transforms the city into a monstrous hellscape in Night Magic.

Philadelphia is locked in the grip of an evil magic that transforms its streets into a nightmare landscape the minute the sun sets each night. While most of the city hunkers down and hopes to survive the long winter nights, Becket Walker is roaming the darkened streets having the time of her life.

Once, the guilt of having inadvertently let the night magic into the city―and of having killed her onetime best friend―had threatened to destroy her. But now she’s been Nightstruck, and all her grief and guilt and terror have been swept away―along with her conscience. So what if she’s lost her friends, her family, and her home? And so what if her hot new boyfriend is super-controlling and downright malevolent?

Mesmerized by the power and freedom of not having to care about anyone but herself, Becket is sinking ever deeper into the night magic’s grasp. But those who love her refuse to give up on her―even if she’s given up on them. If they can’t find a way to help Becket break the night magic’s hold, the entire city might soon find itself shrouded in perpetual night. But the last thing Becket wants is to be “rescued” from her brand new life, and she will fight tooth and claw to stay exactly where she is.

You can purchase Night Magic at the following Retailers:

Photo Content from Jenna Black

Jenna Black is your typical writer. Which means she's an "experience junkie." She got her BA in physical anthropology and French from Duke University.

Once upon a time, she dreamed she would be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush making fabulous discoveries about primate behavior. Then, during her senior year at Duke, she did some actual research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend something like 80% of their time doing such exciting things as sleeping and eating.

Concluding that this discovery was her life's work in the field of primatology, she then moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. Among her other experiences . . .

Ballroom dancing.
Traveling all seven continents. Yes, even Antarctica.
Becoming a Life Master in Bridge.
Singing in a barbershop chorus.

Read the true story of Jenna's first trip out of the country by herself at the age of 16: 
Jenna's Zaire Adventure. And remember, insanity is a good thing for a writer.

She's also a proud member of the 
Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, and would love for her readers to support her fellow authors!
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y Movies, Shows, & Books EXCERPT
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esday Insane About Books REVIEW & FAVORITE THINGS
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Wish You Were Here by Renee Carlino

Book Nerd Spotlight

You know when you’re looking at someone and you can’t help but smile at how oblivious they are to their own charm? That’s what was happening to me, and it was making me feel…happy. Euphoric. Something indescribable. It was like we already knew each other, like we had met in a previous life. Memories that didn’t exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks.

Charlotte has spent her twenties adrift, searching for a spark to jump-start her life and give her a sense of purpose. She’s had as many jobs as she’s had bad relationships, and now she’s feeling especially lost in her less-than-glamorous gig at a pie-and-fry joint in Los Angeles, where the uniforms are bad and the tips are even worse.

Then she collides—literally—with Adam, an intriguing, handsome, and mysterious painter. Their serendipitous meeting on the street turns into a whirlwind one-night stand that has Charlotte feeling enchanted by Adam’s spontaneity and joy for life. There’s promise in both his words and actions, but in the harsh light of morning, Adam’s tune changes, leaving Charlotte to wonder if her notorious bad luck with men is really just her own bad judgment.

Months later, a new relationship with Seth, a charming baseball player, is turning into something more meaningful, but Charlotte’s still having trouble moving past her one enthralling night with Adam. Why? When she searches for answers, she finds the situation with Adam is far more complicated than she ever imagined. Faced with the decision to write a new story with Seth or finish the one started with Adam, Charlotte embarks on a life-altering journey, one that takes her across the world and back again, bringing a lifetime’s worth of pain, joy, and wisdom.


Villains was an unpretentious tavern with live music about five blocks from our apartment in the Arts District of Downtown LA, where Helen and I had been living together for the last eight years. I’d heard of other people’s friendships imploding after they became roommates with their BFFs, but Helen and I were always joined at the hip. We’d known each other since we were little kids growing up in the same suburban cul de sac, and we’d been together through twelve years of grade school and four years of college at UCLA. If we had any problem, it was that we were maybe too comfortable with the idea of becoming spinsters together.

Helen loved Villains because, deep down, I was pretty sure her Plan B was to become some rock god’s muse. Whenever we’d go to a concert, she’d stand in front of the crowd near the stage and sway back and forth in an attempt to get the attention of the lead singer. It wasn’t subtle. I’d usually sit at the bar and watch the spectacle from afar.

When it came to dating, I always waited to be approached. I’d had boyfriends, but nothing had lasted longer than a year. I had a way of turning every date into a yearlong relationship instead of getting out early, when I knew it wouldn’t last. I just couldn’t get into the one-night-stand scene. But Helen had no rules about anything. I envied her for that.

After our shift ended, we went back to our apartment and peeled off a layer of tortilla soup, got ready, and headed to Villains around ten. I was wearing my party uniform—black blouse and jeans—and Helen was in a red, high-waisted, A-line skirt and sleeveless white blouse with platform heels. She always looked way hipper than me.

Once inside the bar, she shouted, “Damn it!” I followed her gaze to the stage where an all-girl band was setting up.

“Bummer,” I said.

“Let’s leave, Charlie. This is lame.”

“No, I like it here. It’s so close to our apartment. Don’t make me go back out there.”

The lead singer approached the mic and tapped on it. “Check, check.” When she tore off a crazy guitar riff, Helen’s face lit up. “Okay, fine. We can stay for a while, but we’re getting shots!”

Remember how I said Helen had no rules? She liked attention, and it didn’t matter who it came from. We sat at the bar and took shot after shot, forgetting all about tortilla soup, Luc, and the messiness of our lives. An hour into the set, Helen left me to approach the stage. She stood near the front and tried desperately to get the lead singer’s attention, but the woman wasn’t having it. Maybe she was straight? After more shots and watching Helen’s pathetic attempts to catch the singer’s eye, I found myself sitting in a booth, comforting a rejected—and very drunk—Helen.

“Why doesn’t anyone want me?” she slurred. “Not even that gay chick with the guitar.”

“Well, no one hit on me either.”

“No one ever hits on you, Charlie! You’re stand-offish!”

“What? No I’m not,” I whined.

“Your eyes scream, ‘Stay away, I hate one-night stands.’”

“Everyone hates one-night stands. They’re awkward as hell.”

“You’re just a prude.”

“Ugh. Let’s go home, I’m over tonight, and I don’t want you throwing up in this bar.” Between Helen, my brother, my mom, and Helen’s mom, I got enough crap about the state of my love life.

“No, I wanna dance.” Helen slid out of the booth and fell directly on her ass with a thump. I pulled her up by the armpits, wrapped my arm around her waist, and started dragging her toward the door. We were making a scene, but Helen was finally getting her wish: the lead singer was staring at her, along with everyone else in the bar.

“I got it, I got it,” she said.

“I don’t think so, babe. You can’t even walk.” I propped the door to the bar open with my foot and led her out onto the street.

“I think I got roofied,” she slurred as her head lolled against my shoulder.

“I think it’s the ten shots you took, not to mention the vodka from earlier.”

We turned a corner and I looked up just in time to see a guy standing directly in front of us with his head down, staring at something written on his palm. “’Scuse us,” I muttered, trying to navigate around him, but he was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, holding a bag full of what looked like Chinese takeout.

“Yum, is that Chinese food?” Helen asked.

The guy looked up at her strangely and then looked down at the bag in his hand. He was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a black hoodie, which shadowed his eyes. Not the most fashion-conscious outfit. “Oh this? Yeah, it is. Are you hungry?”

I started pulling Helen forward, “Come on,” I whispered. “You can’t eat some random guy’s Chinese food on the street.”

She stumbled but caught herself before falling over.

The man walked to her other side. “Let me help you,” he said.

“No, no, we’re fine,” I protested, but Helen had already slung her arm around his shoulder. She reached up and pulled his hood back, and he turned toward her, nonplussed, his striking brown eyes wide with curiosity. He was undeniably good-looking, and would be in anyone’s book. “I’m Adam,” he said. “Let me help you.”

“Nice to meet you, Adam. I’m Trixie and that’s Dottie. I think we got this.” I said.

Adam grinned. Two deep dimples punctuated his cheeks. “Trixie and Dottie, for real?”

“Yep,” I said curtly.

Helen rolled her eyes. “That’s Charlotte and I’m Helen.”

I elbowed her in the ribs. She leaned in and whispered, “He has Chinese food and he’s cute.” She said the last part a little too loud, which made Adam smile.

“Adam, do you live around here?” I asked.

“Yeah, I live on Molina.”

“Why were you headed in the opposite direction then?”

He looked straight ahead so I couldn’t see his face. “I must’ve gotten flipped around.” I looked at him curiously. Maybe he’s new to the neighborhood? That would explain why I haven’t seen him around.

“You wanna eat at our apartment?” Helen slurred.

“That’s okay,” Adam said. “I’ll just walk you to your place.”

“It’s right up here.” I pointed to the steps leading up to the front door of our building. “This is good here; I’ll get her up the rest of the way.”

He stopped, looked at the side of our building, and crooked his head. “Ahhh, man, I love that mural. It’s like wolves dancing in a bed of flowers.”

I followed his gaze to the large, abstract mural that took up the whole side of our building in a riot of grays, pinks, oranges, and blues.

“We always thought those streaks were blood,” Helen said, making sweeping motions with her hand.

“That’s a pretty gruesome interpretation. Those are pink and red flowers, obviously,” he countered. “Their beauty is meant to emphasize the equally wild beauty of the wolves.”

I tipped my head and squinted. “Now that you mention it, they do look like flowers. But why are the wolves angry if they’re dancing in a field of flowers?”

“Maybe they’re allergic,” Helen offered.

“Who says they’re angry?” Adam replied. “The flowers are rising up from the ground to embrace them. To me, they look happy.”

I stared at him as he stared at the mural, completely transfixed. Silence washed over us as we stood in the street, two best friends and a stranger sharing an oddly sincere moment together.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Adam,” I said, gently breaking our collective daze. “Thanks for your help.”

“No problem. It was nice to meet you, ladies.” He nodded at us, gave a little wave, and headed up the street. But as we turned and made our way up the stairs, we heard Adam call out, “Oh, I almost forgot!” He jogged back toward us, pulling a take-out container from his plastic bag. “Here, I told you I’d share.” He held the little carton out to me and looked into my eyes with total sincerity. He pushed his thick, wavy brown hair back with his other hand, and I felt something pull within me.

“That’s okay.”

“No, we’ll take it!” Helen swatted at the box, ripping it from Adam’s grasp.

He chuckled at her and then turned his attention to me. I couldn’t pull my gaze from his, from that face full of kindness, those eyes that turned down slightly at the corners, giving him a slightly sad air. I should’ve felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t.

You know when you’re looking at someone and you can’t help but smile at how oblivious they are to their own charm? That’s what was happening to me, and it was making me feel…happy. Euphoric. Something indescribable. It was like we already knew each other, like we had met in a previous life. Memories that didn’t exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks.

I smiled at him; he smiled back. There was some sort of affinity between us, but I didn’t know where it was coming from, exactly. I didn’t know this guy half an hour ago, but now I needed to know him.

He glanced past me at the mural, and then he searched my eyes, squinting. “Have we met before?” he asked.

Excerpt provided by the publisher.

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Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and the bestselling author of Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, After the Rain, Before We Were Strangers, and Swear on This Life. Her next novel, Wish You Were Here, comes out on Aug. 15 and can be preordered now.