Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blog Tour: How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler Review and Giveaway

Thanks so much to Jean at Jean Booknerd and Janet Gurtler, for providing me with an ARC of How I Lost You and allowing me to be a part of this great tour! I really look forward to reading more books from this wonderful author!


There are a few things Grace Anderson knows for sure. One is that nothing will ever come between her and her best friend, Kya Kessler. They have a pact. Buds Before Studs. Sisters Before Misters. But in the summer before senior year, life throws out challenges they never expected. And suddenly the person who's always been there starts to need the favor returned. Grace and Kya are forced to question how much a best friend can forgive. And the answer is not what they expected.

My Review- 4/5 Friendly Stars

First of all, thanks for the ARC and allowing me to be a part of this tour! I was very excited about reading this book when I read the synopsis. I love books about best friends and the trials and tribulations that come with friendships. I read so much about relationships involving the opposite sex, so to read a book like this was a breath of fresh air.

This is my first Janet Gurtler novel and I have to say, I was highly impressed. This book hit home for me. It made me think of how things in life really is or could be involving friendships. It's realistic and easily relatable. I've been in a similar sitation, maybe more than once (different circumstance each time) and it made me relive my adolescent years which wasn't my favorite time in my life. However, I really felt absorbed and gripped throughout the whole story.

Grace Anderson and her BFF Kya have been through everything together. They do everything and share all their secrets and will always put one another first before everything...including boys. They're both on the same paintball team, trying to get into a big league for college. The summer before their senior year, everything changes. Secrets are revealed and their true friendship is tested. Can they forget all that was lost and remain as close as they've ever been? Or is it too late for them?

I enjoyed this book very much. It was really well written and the characters were so realistic, I felt like I was there watching the scenes unfold. It reminded me of a time one of my best friends and I went through our problems in high school. Things change. People change and ultimately you can't stop it. Sometimes when you're so focused on the friendship and saving it from breaking apart, you forget who you are and what you want in life. I was saddened to see how things happened. I loved Grace's character. She was a true friend. She was giving, caring and always sacrificed her happiness to keep her friendship with Kya together, even when it was truly falling apart. I didn't like Kya one bit. To me, she reminded me too much of someone I used to know. She was rude and bitter and very selfish. She was lucky to have a friend like Grace. But she was too blind to see it. Also, I enjoyed James. He was sweet and kind and I felt bad for him when he had to deal with Kya's crappy attitude. I was sad when he revealed what happened between them and was a little pissed off at Kya for what she put him through. She was always so disrespectful to him too. I can't stand people like that. Get over yourself and quit thinking the world owes you something. I understand she was dealing with some stuff that happened to her. But really, it was time for her to grow up and face reality and try to be a better person. I'm not saying she had it easy, but she was just too whiny for my liking. Sorry, I don't like bad talking people, but I really didn't like her. Thank God for Grace. That girl kicked ass and when she finally stood up for herself, I was proud. I've been in her shoes, trying to do everything to make the other person happy regardless if I'm miserable. I hated that. I'm just a people pleaser and it seems she's like me in that respect. I think that's why I can relate to her so easily and felt bad for her. I've been there.

I loved Levi and Lucas. They really made this book for me. Well, Levi moreso than Lucas. He was so sweet. I loved how he was there for Grace. He was her rock and she was lucky to have him to lean on when all the crap went down with Kya. I could tell he really cared about her. Every scene he had popped in, I smiled like a dork. *sigh*

The end was wonderful. I felt sad but ultimately, it ended the way it needed to end. I was glad Grace finally came around and put herself first for once. It needed to be done, regardless how it might have hurt. But that's life. You live, you learn, and you move on. Life is too short to put up with nonsense.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It shows how life can change over time. We are not the same people, we change, we grow. And sometimes, friends outgrow each other and choose different paths. But that's why you make new friends, new memories. I went through this alot. I thought I would be BFF's with my friend from middle school that I grew up with. But over time, we changed and went our separate ways. It's just life. I've made new friends in high school and even beyond that. I do have one friend that I've been really close with since middle school (around the same time as my other one). We had a falling out during high school but years later, we reunited and we're close as we've ever been. Life just works in the funniest ways sometimes. Anyway, I think the point of this book is to show how girls can be petty about things and how some circumstances can change you for the worst. But then for some people, it can make you grow up. I highly recommend this book to teens and young adult that's ever had a best friend in high school that they lost touch with or are still friends with to this day. Either way, you're bound to learn something from it. It's realistic and I'm sure most will easily relate to it. Great story and great characters. Thank you for writing a refreshing book about growth, sacrifices and friendship. 

Meet Janet Gurtler

Janet lives near the Canadian Rockies with her husband and son and a little dog named Bruce. She does not live in an Igloo or play hockey, but she does love maple syrup and says “eh” a lot. 

Janet only gives 5 stars to the books she reviews because she is an author herself and knows that no book can appeal to everyone, but like a child, it is very special to the creator.

I'M NOT HER was published by Sourcebooks Teen Fire in May 2011. 

IF I TELL released Oct 1, 2011 from Sourcebooks Teen Fire.

WHO I KISSED Sourcebooks Fire 2012.

Janet's work will also appear in the THE FIRST TIME anthology, DEAR TEEN ME anthology and WHO DONE IT anthology.


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Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: Born in Flames by Candace Knoebel

Title: Born in Flames
Author: Candace Knoebel
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: 4/5 stars

Red mirrored scales race up my arms as the haze of pain blurs my vision. My bones crack, breaking to realign. I scream. It is then that the realization of my unavoidable fate sinks in; I am of a dying race. I am dragon. 

Aurora Megalos, orphaned and teetering on the edge of adulthood, thought finding her past would curb the sting of being an outcast. Having no memories of the time before she awoke on her foster mother’s doorstep, she yearns for the emptiness inside her to be filled. With her fellow orphaned best friend, Fenn, by her side, she has nothing to lose and everything to gain. But something powerful stirred within her that she couldn't explain. Something wanted out. 

In the dark of night, a crazed Seer, dubbed Mr.Creepy, erases everything she’s ever known with an impending prophecy. She now faces two paths. Return to her true home to protect a dying race against a growing evil, or stay hidden in the safety of our realm with a shot at a true love. With a vengeful Arch Enemy stopping at nothing to see her dead, she’s running out of time; a decision must be made. What would you choose?


First of all, I'd like to thank Jean for asking me to review this book. Then to Candace for providing me with a copy to review. All I gotta say is, LOOK AT THAT COVER! Gah, I'm such a cover whore. I have cover lust when it comes to books. If they grab me or catch my eye(s), I'll read the blurb and decide if I want to read it or not.

Don't judge a book its cover, they say. But in this case, you can judge all you want. It's totally fine because not only is the cover amazingly beautiful but so is the story.

Well, when I was first asked to review this book, I was excited about it. I've never read a book about dragons. Sure there were books *with* dragons in them but not solely about them as in dragon-shifters. So it was pretty exciting. I've been meaning to read the Firelight series by Sophie Jordan. I've had my eyes on that series forever now. But alas, I haven't had the time yet. However, I was really glad I read this book.

Aurora, a dragon-shifter is thrown into an unknown world where she must learn of her destiny. Her and her best friend, Fenn find that nothing in their lives are as it seems even as they're both adopted at age 10. That's not all and it gets more interesting. They need to find some answers on what their destiny is. But with the help of Fenn, Aurora is determined to protect everything she cares about all the while trying to learn who and what she is.

The characters were amazing. I enjoyed them immensely. I really like Fenn. He's a sweetheart, fierce and protective of Aurora and I can see a relationship of some sort brewing between these characters, which makes me happy. I think they're an adorable pair. 

I love the action, mystery, magic and romance in this story. The writing was great and easy to follow. I'm on edge for the next book in this installment! I can't wait to see what happens next and be thrown back into the world of dragons, Fenn and Aurora. I definitely recommend it! 4/5 stars from me!


Candace Knoebel is the award-winning author of Born in Flames-a young adult fantasy trilogy. 

Published by 48fourteen in 2012, Born in Flames went on to win Turning the Pages Book of the Year award in February of 2013. Embracing the Flames, the second in the trilogy, is scheduled for release in the summer of 2013.

Candace Knoebel discovered through lunch breaks and late nights after putting her kids to bed, a world where she could escape the ever-pressing days of an eight to five Purgatory. Since then, she crawled out of Purgatory and has devoted her time to writing and sometimes heelying.

Next up....


The Stone of Immortality has been protected under the watch of the Draconta for as long as time has existed. That is, until the betrayal of a Fate. Now everything is about to change. 

Aurora Megalos accepted her destiny without blinking-even if it meant succumbing to her dragon side. Deemed the Progeny, she left the ordinary life she knew and has done everything in her power to learn the ways of her new realm and what it means to be part dragon. But when her mentor, Astral, suddenly disappears, she is forced to take the reins. With war on the brink, she sets out on an epic journey to not only find her mentor, but to stop her Arch Enemy, Zordon, from attaining the Stone of Immortality. But what she discovers about him along the way is far worse than she could’ve ever imagined. She will be tested and pushed to the limit. Lives will be lost, love will be questioned, and a battle will begin.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blog Tour: Light in the Shadows (Find You in the Dark #2) by A Meredith Walters: Review and Author Interview+ Giveaway


How do you keep going when you feel like your life is over?

Maggie never thought she’d see Clay again. So, she attempts to put her life back together after her heart has been shattered to pieces. Moving on and moving forward, just as Clay wanted her to.
Clay never stopped thinking of Maggie. Even after ripping their lives apart and leaving her behind to get the help he so desperately needed. He is healing…slowly. But his heart still belongs to the girl who tried to save him.

When a sudden tragedy brings Maggie and Clay face to face again, nothing is the same. Yet some things never change. Can the darkness that threatened to consume them be transformed into something else and finally give them what they always wanted? And can two people who fought so hard to be together, finally find their happiness? Or will their demons and fear drive them apart for good?

The thing about love, is even when it destroys you, it has a way of mending what is broken. And in the shadows, you can still see the light.

My Review: *5 Fantastic, Phenomenal, Heartbreaking, Emotional and Bittersweet Stars*

Thank you to A Meredith and Kim for putting together this awesome blog tour and for allowing me to be a part of it. It's by far my favorite blog tour to date! 

These books are just too incredible for words, it's hard to think about them without shedding so many tears. Tears of joy for the outcome of this beautiful story. Tears of heartache for all these beautiful characters had to endure. Tears of sadness for the very fact that this series is over, no more Clay and Maggie. Oh how I'll miss them so much. So. Damn. Much. 

I loved Find You in the Dark. Like LOVED it. I raved about it. I knew it was dark and disturbing when I picked it up. I knew it wouldn't be a fluff or fairy tale kind of story. But as I started it, I was so immersed in the story I didn't care. Clay was such a sick boy, he needed to be saved. And Maggie comes along and falls for him just as the rest of us had. He was mentally sick, yes. But underneath the illness and unstable behavior, he was just a boy trying to fit into the world. His parents didn't show him love, they were ashamed of him because of his illness. Let me talk about that for a minute....

What the f**k kind of parent tells their only child that they're an embarrassment and should be locked away so it doesn't have an effect on how THEY look to the public?? OH MY GOD! It's no wonder Clay was ashamed of himself and so fucked up. He had no support from the people who are supposed to love him unconditionally. They made him feel like he was worthless, a fuck up. Well, let me tell you....he was far from a f*ck up because in my eyes, he was strong and perfect. It wasn't his fault that he sick. F**king A those assholes wanted to send him away so they wouldn't have to deal with their son's mental instability. GAH, I'm furious. Just thinking about them makes me want to vomit and then gauge their eyes out.

That said, I won't go into FYitD because if you've read it, you know what happens. I don't have to go into that....though, I will say this book picks up where FYitD left off. Yes, there was a cliffhanger and I was DYING, DYING for the next one. And thanks to Walters and Kim for sending me an ARC of this amazing conclusion. I was so thrilled to get my hands on this gem. It was like a dream come true. I got into it right away and was again, immersed into the whirlwind rollercoaster of Clay and Maggie. It was worth every heartache and tear I shed, and believe me, I shed A LOT of tears. This book met every expectation I had and then some.

The prologue. Oh god, that prologue had me in tears. It was amazing.

"Forgive. Such a small word. Only seven letters but they carried the weight of the world. Seven letters between me and the one thing I wanted most in my life."

*wipes tears*

So Clay is in Florida at the Center getting help. He's been there for almost 3 months. And almost 3 months ago he tried to end his life. Maggie saved him but she had to let him go. He needed more help than she could give him. So now she's at home in Virginia trying to pick up the pieces of her crazy life and move on.

Only one problem....she can't. She loves the only boy who made her life worth living. He showed her how to live, even though he was so sick. When they were together and doing good, they were REALLY GOOD. But things took a turn quickly and it started to become too much for her. After all, she's only 17. How does one handle such a monumental circumstance? She did the best she could and she loved this boy with all her heart and soul, which is why she had to set him free. But she's struggling to let go completely. Deep down she knows they belong together.

"My love for this beautifully broken, yet slowly healing boy, made me strong.... My soul belonged with him, was so entangled in him that I was no longer a single being." -Maggie Mae Young

Tragedy strikes, sending Clay back to Davidson for a funeral. Ah, my heart. My heart was crying for these people. Especially Clay. So sad.

Clay and Maggie see each other for the first time in 3 months. 

"It was like every time we were together. Our bodies orbited around each other as if pulled by an invisible force that we had no control over. I wanted this. And I wanted to run from it. I wanted to pull her in and never let go. And I wanted to push her away."-Clay

"Seeing him again had only confirmed what my subconscious already knew. I would never move on from Clay. My soul belonged with him, was so entangled in him that I was no longer a single being." -Maggie

The two of them, together again, it was like nothing had changed. Yet everything had changed. But it was beautiful and heartbreaking. Real and hopeful. The whole time, I kept thinking, they have to be together. They have to be. But how are they going to make it work? I had so many fears for them. I was nervous, happy, scared and overjoyed at their reunion. The circumstance which brought them back together was so hard to see. I cried the whole time. Clay had suffered so much yet more shit piled on top and I was so scared he'd relapse. But god, he was so strong compared to FYitD. I was so proud of him. Not to mention, he had a great support...Dr Todd was fantastic in helping with his progress. 

"There’s nothing weak in acknowledging when things are greater than you.” -Dr Todd

There were times he'd have a panic attack and had to calm himself, fight his demons because he so badly wanted to give in and give up, and cut himself so he wouldn't feel the pain anymore. But with the steps he remembered from treatment, he overcame the urge to give in. I was sooooo proud of him. His struggles were so real and heartbreaking. I felt everything he went through. I loved that we got his POV. Thank you Walters for writing it that way. I don't think I would have felt his heartache and emotions so clearly if we didn't have his POV, and to be honest, I wouldn't have felt so connected to him either. I actually don't think it would have worked at all without it. Some books are mandatory for both MC's POV and this was one of them. I cried when he cried, I felt happiness when he did, I felt his fears, sorrow, guilt, love, loss and grief so deeply that I couldn't concentrate on anything else while I was reading it. This book both shattered my heart yet healed my soul. 

I loved Daniel and Rachel so much in this book. At first they pissed me off when they kept urging Maggie to move on and get over Clay. I wanted to punch them in the face a few times. But I also understood they were just looking out for their best friend. They saw what she went through the first time. Hell, they went through it with her. I admire them for being such amazing best friends. But once things with Clay and Maggie started up again, they backed off. And then....Daniel made me cry.

“Look, man. I know I haven’t been the most… uh… supportive of you and Maggie. And I’m still not sure how I feel seeing the two of you all up in each other’s asses again. But, I know you’re a decent guy. So for now, I’m reserving judgment." “Okay, so that sounded way assier than I meant it to. What I’m trying to say, is I know you’re dealing with shit. A lot of shit by the looks of it. And for Maggie’s sake… well… and yours too, I won’t be the speed bump on your road to the candy castle or whatever.” -Daniel Lowe

He really tried to be friends and give Clay the benefit of the doubt. I loved him for that. It made my heart happy to see them getting along. Things between Maggie and Clay couldn't have been more rockier or intense. But when they were together, it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Maggie was so supportive and the fact that she agreed to go to therapy with Clay just made me cry with happiness for them. They wanted to really make it work this time. Clay went to great lengths to change and be the man he felt she deserved. Maggie went to great lengths to show the boy she loved with everything she has that she would support him no matter what. And she really grew in this one. She didn't stand down when he occasionally lashed out at her or cower to him. She stood up and made him see she wasn't going anywhere this time. It was just...perfect. Beautiful. God, I love them so much. These two endured so much yet they overcame it and came out stronger in the end. My heart is so full of emotion when I think about these books. Walters portrayed such a tough subject so real and raw, you could feel the realism in your bones. It was as if you were experiencing it yourself, which in a way you were. Walters has an amazing gift. 

I'll never forget this story as long as I live. Clay and Maggie will FOREVER live in my heart and I will take them with me to my grave and never forget them. I love them so much. I cried for over 30 minutes when I finished reading this book. I was glad to have read it and experience it, but was so sad to say goodbye to my favorite fictional couple.

The ending. Oh god, that ending had me in a weepy mess. So amazing and wonderful and bittersweet. Oh Clay, how I love the hell out of you.

“Over six years ago I met a girl who saved me. I didn't realize at the time, mostly because her attitude pissed me off, that she would become the most important thing in my life. But then I got to know her and when I was drowning, she became my air. In the cold, she became my warmth. In the dark, she became my light,”-Clayton Reed

Oh Clay, I'll never, ever forget you. You've ruined all other fictional boys for me. You'll forever be in my heart and I'll love you for all eternity. *wipes tears*

"For a guy who struggled with finding his place in the world, standing next to Maggie, I understood one thing on a very fundamental level. Wherever she went, whatever she did, that is where I belonged." 

If you haven't read these books, you really need to. I will recommend them for as long as I live because they are MUST READS. These books are phenomenal and it shows that love is above all the most important thing in life. Thank you Walters for writing such an extraordinary series that will forever live in my heart. 

About the Author
The New York Times bestselling author of Contemporary and Paranormal romance including Find You in the Dark, Cloud Walking and Bad Rep.

A. Meredith spent ten years as a counselor for at risk teens and children. First working at a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault program and then later a program for children with severe emotional and mental health issues. Her former clients and their stories continue to influence every aspect of her writing.
A. Meredith recently moved to England and is trying to get used to driving on the other side of the road, eating fish and chips and all things British

Interview With A Meredith Walters

     1When did you first realize you wanted to be an author? 
              I've wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. I can’t remember a time I wasn't writing.      But I decided to devote myself to it full time after moving to the UK from the states. I had to wait a few months to get clearance to work and figured I’d take the plunge. And I’m so glad I did!
                 2. How long did it take you to write Find You in the Dark and did you see yourself actually publishing it? 
             I wrote FYITD in three months. I wasn't sure I was going to publish it, because I wasn't sure if the subject matter would turn people off. But I’m really glad that I did!
3. Are any of your characters based on actual people you know? 
     Not directly in this book. But the situations are completely based in personal experiences I've had with loved ones suffering from mental health issues and from working as a counselor for over a decade.
4. What is your writing style like if you have one? 
      I suppose it could be classified as gritty and raw. I prefer to write stories that are in your face and unapologetic. You won’t always like the situations or the characters but I try to keep them real.
5. Where is your favorite place to write?  
       I love my home office. When we were looking for houses, my one stipulation was to have a kick a** office to write. And this one checked off every single requirement I had. 
              6. What is the biggest challenge you have faced while writing? Did you ever get stuck or have writers block during any of the 3 books (novella included)? 
          I am a feast or famine kind of writer. I will either write like crazy, barely stopping to eat or sleep, or I will go weeks without writing anything. My “mojo” gets thrown pretty easily unfortunately and I had to work through writer’s block quite a bit with these three books.

   7. Do you ever plan to write outside of the current genre or are you set on Romance? 
          I’m not sure. I really love romance. Those are the books I love to read and those are the ones I love to write. But I do love paranormal and I've written a number of stories in that vein, so we’ll have to see where the wind takes me.

   8. Who are your inspirations? 
          My biggest inspiration isn't an author, but a collection of people. My clients, the amazing children and their families that I've had the honor of working with over the years have provided me my greatest inspiration. Their stories, struggles, successes are humbling and that is how my stories, particularly the Find You in the Dark series came about.

         9. What is the one thing you love most about writing? What is the least you love about it? 
            I love creating stories that mean something to me. I love being able to write a book that I would pick up read myself. What I love least? Editing and critiquing my own work. I tend to doubt myself a lot during this stage and there were moments where I almost chucked Light in the Shadows, sure that the whole things sucked. Thank god for my beta reader and friend, Claire, who stopped me! J

10. Do you find publishing a book to be easy? 
      Well clicking the publishing button is probably the easiest part. It’s everything else that goes into it that is difficult. When you put your book out there for people to read it’s like giving them a piece of who you are to see and either love or hate.

         11. What goes into writing a book and how do you ensure that it is complete? 
           I usually start with writing the end then work backwards. Then I structure the story around key elements I want to happen. It’s sort of like coloring in a picture at that point, I have an outline and where I want these characters to go. It’s just then a matter of connecting the dots. I re-read my book constantly while writing and I’m not sure how I know when it’s complete.  I could probably find things to change about each book I've ever written, so I’m not sure they’re ever “finished.”

        12. What is one piece of advice you would give to new authors who are trying to self-publish? 
         I say the biggest thing is to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. Negativity kills creativity and it’s important to have people you trust read your work and give you constructive feedback. Make sure before you hit publish it is a story you’d be proud to have people read.

  13. What do you like to do in your spare time?   
          I love to bake and read. But most of all I love to spend time with my daughter. She’s at that really fun age when she is becoming such a girly girl. So I spend a lot of time getting “makeovers” and having my nails done, LOL. 

  14. What is your biggest fear? 
                  Spiders. I’m an arachnophobe! I also have a huge fear of public speaking. I turn bright red. We’re talking tomato red. It’s embarrassing! 

 15. What is your favorite genre to read? 
Romance, followed by paranormal fiction

      16.What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your characters? 
          That the dark stuff in life really makes for a great story. I wasn't sure I’d even like where my story was going, but I ended up loving the tortured and angsty Clay, even as he drove me crazy!

               17. To any reader who hasn't read Find You in the Dark, how would you persuade them to give it a try? 
At the heart of this story is the tale of broken boy and the girl who wants to save him. It’s a story about hope and resilience and whether love really can make things better.

            18. Where did you get the inspiration from this story? Do you know anyone who suffered the same way Clay did? 
          I took a lot of this story from my experiences as a counselor. But I also have personal experience with both bi-polar and borderline personality disorders. I have been the support person for someone who won’t medicate and it’s a rough and exhausting road. 

 19. What were some of your favorite bands growing up? 
    I'm a huge classic rock fan. I grew up on Led Zeppelin, Motor-head, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple. But I have to admit as I pre-teen I was as into pop as the next girl. New Kids on the Block was my very first concert.
 20. What did you want to be as a kid? 
I wanted to be a writer, a meteorologist, a psychologist, a vet. I think it changed weekly.

 21. Where can your readers stalk you? 
You can find me on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter (AuthorAMWalters) or you can email me at
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s been a pleasure and I wish you the best of luck in your writing and I know you will go very far!!! 

Contact A Meredith Walters

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You can win an Ebook copy of Light in the Shadows, here...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Entangled, A Novel: Chapter 1 & 2

Chapter 1

I gently caress Angel’s fur as the medicine kicks in. Tears prick my eyes but I hold them back. I have to be strong. I've done this before, many times. I should be used to it by now. Working at the animal clinic has always been my dream, to be a Vet. And this is great experience for me. But there are days like this one that make me question my career choices. No matter how many times I see animals come and go, it still brings tears to my eyes when they don’t come back. Angel is a beautiful Australian Shepard who’s been sick for a while now, but her heart is finally giving up. Mrs. Wheeler, a regular patient brought her in to end her dog’s suffering.

Dr. Shultz, a Vet of over twelve years softly speaks to her, telling her it’s okay to go and she’ll be happy and pain-free. She tries to keep her emotions contained but I can see she’s struggling like me. “You’re free of pain now, Angel. Go gallivant with the other animals in the meadow. We’ll miss you.” I turn away, wanting to bolt out of the room. It’s hard to see the faces of the owners when there’s no more hope. Mrs. Wheeler is crying as she says goodbye to her best friend. She lives alone and only had the company of Angel. Now she has no one. I know what that’s like. I want to hug her. Death seems to follow me everywhere and though I’m immune to it, some affect me more than others. Angel has been with our clinic for four years. We've groomed her and given her shots for that amount of time. I grew to love that dog. She was always gentle and so patient. She had the kindest spirit. She was a good dog.

Finally, I place my hand over her heart and note that it hasn't moved. Her heart has stopped. She’s gone. But she’s in peace now. I look up and meet the doctor’s gaze and nod. She knows what I mean. I stroke her black and white fur one last time and say goodbye. We’re all lost in our own thoughts. “Okay, well she’s gone.” Amanda, the Vet says. She kisses her head.

“I love you Angel. Rest in peace sweet baby. May Jack take care of you, wherever you are.” Mrs. Wheeler chokes out. I want to reach out and hug her. I assume Jack is her husband? Maybe even her old dog, who knows. All I know is, she’s lost them all and now lost Angel too. I can attest to the fact that life sucks sometimes. It’s never easy losing a companion. And even though I've never owned an animal of any kind in my life, but I know what it’s like to lose those you love.

“She’s in a better place now.” I can’t tell how many times that line has been said to me. And saying it to someone else feels insensitive. Still, I hope to ease her mind a little.

“I know. And she had a great life. I gave her the best life I could. I’d like to think she died happy.” I smile, reassuring her she did. Angel was found, abused and neglected, in a field close to Mrs. Wheeler’s house. When she first brought her in, her fur was mangled, like she hadn't had a bath in weeks, maybe months even. She was skinny, malnourished and possibly beaten. It was heartbreaking to say the least.

“Thank you ladies for all you've done. You saved her.” I hug her and we walk begin to walk out of the room. I look back at the table one more time where Angel lies, stiffly. “You’re going to be a terrific Vet, Maddy.” Mrs. Wheeler states behind me. Why do I feel like crap?

“Thank you. It’s times like these I wonder if I can really do it.” I started working here when I was seventeen, when the clinic first opened up. Amanda has been my boss; she hired me to work the office, just taking calls and making appointments. I told her I wanted to be a Veterinarian, so she gave me a job. Plus I needed to prepare myself for being on my own. I had to work, make a life of my own.

My mother died in a car accident when I was seven and my father forgot he had a daughter to take care of. I was left alone. But I lived with my best friend Andi and her family. Our parents were best friends in high school so Andi and I grew up together. Her parents took me in when my father shut the whole world out. They told me to give him time and he would come around. He just needed time to grieve my mother’s death. But he only got worse. My mother’s death wrecked him, which in turn wrecked me. He missed out on a lot. Every day I’d try to talk to him but I couldn't get through. I’d tell him I loved him anyway and missed him, hoping he would say it back. It was so hard to deal with this on my own. I guess we all grieve in our own ways. Eventually I stopped trying. I did write him letters though. It just hurt that he wasn't there for me. My mother died, and I was seven. Shouldn't families grieve together? Especially when there are children suffering.

Andi’s family grieved with me, but also gave me a home. I’ll never forget the kindness they showed when they opened up their home to me. Of course I wanted my own family back. It wasn't the same, but I was happy to have someone who cared. Jim, Andi’s father practically replaced my own. He treated me like a daughter and I loved him. Melanie, her mother always told me stories of my parents when they were in high school. I felt closer to her somehow and I loved her so damn much, even at just seven years old. No one can replace your real mother, and she didn't. But it helped to remember her. She’d show me pictures of them all too. My mother was beautiful when she was young, before she had me. And she was happy. She was happy when she had me…right up until the accident. I’d like to think she died happy, just like Angel. Maybe they are up in Heaven together playing in the field or something. I don’t really know where we go when we die, but I’d like to think we go somewhere amazing. 

I dream often of my mother. I don’t remember them except for when I wake up crying or screaming for her not to leave me again. I usually have the same dream; my mother comes into my room and wakes me up, telling me to fix things with my father. She sometimes tells me to talk to him and convince him the accident wasn't his fault. She says she’s sorry and she loves us. She says we need each other. I know they are dreams but they always feel so real.

“Maddy.” I’m standing in the doorway of the room we just left Angel on the table, except I never left. I’m still here. I look up and see Amanda’s concerned face. I realize I was daydreaming, which happens sporadically. Maybe this time because I just had to put a dog to sleep and it made my mind wander to my mother. “Are you okay?” I nod once and walk to the office. Amanda follows me. She knows what was going on. She’s always so understanding and patient. I sit in the black leather office chair and lean my head back, trying to ward off a migraine. “You should take the rest of the day off. I know days like these are hard on you.” I shake my head, closing my eyes to shut out the brightness of the light. I’ll be fine after I get back to work. Distraction is good.

“No, it’s okay. I’m sorry. I just…my brain got muddled for a second. It won’t happen again.” That’s not a promise but she knows it’ll happen again.

She sits down next to me, pursing her lips together. Her brown eyes show sincerity. “You don’t have to apologize. And if you want to go home, it’s okay. Really.” I didn't need excuses. Death is everywhere. I can’t escape it. I can’t let it run my life either. 

“Bye Maddy, Dr. Shultz.” We look up to see Mrs. Wheeler in the hall as she’s leaving. Her dog just died and here I am, sitting here feeling sorry for myself. It’s insensitive of me. I stand up and approach her, looking into her tear-filled eyes and hug her. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Wheeler. I pray you find peace.” I feel breaking down.

“Thank you.” She pulls back to look at me. “You’re going to be a great Vet one day.” If only I could stop crying when we lose an animal. I force a smile.

Mrs. Wheeler leaves the clinic. I glance at Amanda, take a deep breath and say, “Let me do some paperwork in here for a while and I’ll be okay. Then I’ll go back to the lobby and take the appointments.” She nods in agreement after contemplating it for a minute, pats my hand and leaves me alone. I can do this. I always do.

Chapter 2

“ We've been here for over thirty minutes, Noah. Are we ever getting out of the car or would you prefer saying your goodbyes from here?” Spencer asks, impatiently. I hate cemeteries, always have. I can get a little closer each time but I can’t seem to get my feet or legs to work enough to get me out of the car.

“I need to visit them. But I can’t face them. Not yet.” My stomach turns every time I’m here. The cemetery we buried my best friend, Alexa five years ago. It’s one of the biggest cemeteries in New York City and it’s haunting.

“Noah, it’s been five years. I don’t think they still blame you.” Maybe not, but I’ll always blame myself. I was there when their daughter died. It was my fault their daughter was taken from them so young. My stupidity and carelessness cost them a fucking lifetime of pain.

I beat on the steering wheel for the hundredth time since we've been here. Images of that night plague my mind, making me crazy. I want to scream, curse and pound the shit out of something. Maybe I’ll just get really drunk tonight.

“I’m getting out. I’ll leave the flowers on her headstone. Give me a second.” Spencer gets out of my jeep and walks across the street to our friends’ grave-site. I watch with gratitude. He’s always the one leaving flowers we buy for her. Thank God he’s willing to do it, for both of us. I suppose if he was carrying around so much guilt and pain, he’d be having a difficult time with it as well. That’s why I’ll miss Spencer when I move, not because he does everything for me but because he’s always stood by me when I was going through so much shit. He knew my life story. He knew all that I had to endure in life and even though at one time I was a destructive fuck up, he was always there to bail me out or talk me into getting help. But I have to move. I need to get away from New York City. This place has sucked me in, leaving me angry and bitter.

Living in New York with a life of regrets sucks ass and I’m hoping for a change, including scenery and lessons. Not to mention I will be away from my controlling, poor excuse of a father who’s responsible for my screwed up life. He’d rather worry about his status as one of New York’s finest than be a father. My parents divorced when I was ten. He broke my mother’s heart and left me fatherless.

I watch Spencer place the 2 dozen flowers we bought her on the way here, on her tombstone. It reads:

Alexa Michelle Brooks
Born September 12, 1980
Died: June 2, 1997
Beloved daughter, sister & Best friend
You’ll Forever Be Missed. Never Lose Hope.

I finger my tattoo on my wrist, one that we were supposed to get together. It’s just a small Chinese symbol of hope. We promised to always look at it and remember what it stood for. She always told me to never lose hope, that my life will work out and things won’t always be so shitty for me. But she’s gone and I can’t help but wonder how life can possibly be okay again. She always kept a positive outlook on life. During my darkest days I tried to think about her words. But when you fall deep into a dark hole, you lose the sense to care about anything. I've lost too many people in my life and now without her, I became bitter, angry and destructive. I turned to drugs, alcohol and used women to help numb my pain. I guess that makes me no better than my mother. Lex and I were supposed to get a place together after graduation. She’s the reason I didn't end up insane. Well, she and Spencer. They were the only friends I held onto after high school because of their positive influence. Now it’s only Spencer and me.

My right leg bounces up and down as I wait for Spencer to come back. I need to get away from here before I lose my shit. It’s too quiet and creepy.

“Sorry dude, I don’t know when I’ll be back here. I wanted to tell Lex some stuff before I abandoned her for too long. I told her you loved her and missed her.”

“Thanks Spence. I was hoping to come by before I left. I’m just not sure I can do it. Maybe another ten years I’ll finally be man enough to face this shit.” I’m moving to Colorado in two days. My aunt and cousin whom I haven’t seen in years live in a small town called Waldrip. It may be a good place to start over. My mother and I don’t get along either. I wish we did. But she also abandoned me for booze and men. She couldn't deal with the divorce like an adult. Our relationship has been estranged for years. I can’t say I’ll miss this place. I’m just hoping I’ll like Colorado.

My dead grandparents left me money…a lot. So I’m moving, using the money they left for my future. I’ll stay with my aunt for a while until I can find a place of my own. Then at some point, I’ll get a job or go to school. I haven’t figured all that out yet. One step at a time. I’m pretty much leaving everything except clothes and movies and minor things. I don’t want my furniture or anything my father paid for. He paid for my apartment, thinking he could buy my love or something. Uh, no. You can’t buy a child’s love and whoever thinks you can is fucking stupid.

“I’ll come by later tonight. I've got some stuff to take care of. Maybe we’ll go out for drinks or something.” I say to Spencer as we drive to his place.

“Let me guess, you’re going to Kasey’s to…?” He motions with his hands that I’m going to do the nasty. I laugh and shake my head but don’t confirm. “Have you even told her you’re leaving yet?”

“Nope, telling her tonight.” I can see how that convo will go. She seems to want more than I can give her. I don’t do relationships, not now. Not ever.

“After you do it. One last rendezvous, eh?” He laughs, I’m not amused. He doesn't understand what I’m giving up. I've never been in a serious relationship, but not for the lack of trying. Actually I could have had many monogamous relationships if I wanted. Every girl I was involved with wanted me to commit. I’d just laugh at them. I wasn't the type. I didn't mix emotions with sex. The last thing I needed was to be tied down and deal with anyone’s emotional crap. I didn't care. They would want sex, which was great but then the moment they wanted more, out the door they went. Noah didn't play that game. I couldn't allow myself to get attached or for them to get attached to me. So I remained ice cold and careless. I know, it’s cruel and I was an asshole, I’ll admit. It’s not like I had the proper role models to teach me different.

But moving will hopefully fix me or leave me damaged. I’m willing to find out. Of course I’m not looking to meet anyone. I don’t want to. I can barely take care of myself, let alone worry about someone else’s shit.

“I’m going home right now. But will go see her in a little bit.”

“Okay, well good luck. Text me later or whatever.” He’s out of the car but before he closes the door I call out, “Hey, Spence?” He catches the door before it shuts and leans down to look at me. “Thank you for going with me today, even though I didn't actually get out of the car.” He’ll never know how much I appreciate his friendship all these years. I hate that I’m leaving him but I hope he’ll understand that I have to do this, for myself. He bumps his fist with mine in response.

“You’re my best friend, Noah. No matter what. You got my back, I got yours.” I smile as he shuts the door.

I drive home with the windows down and the music cranked up. My smile falters when I pull into my driveway. I’m on the bottom floor with a garage. The apartments are pretty nice. Mine is a one-bedroom with a living room, dining room, bedroom and bathroom. Nothing special. It’s in a nice side of town, thanks to my father. He pays for it, but I am done taking shit from him. I drive up and close the door with the remote, getting out of my jeep. I walk through the door, hearing voices, confirming my suspicions.

“Noah, so nice to see you.” My father. His voice sends shivers down my spine.

“What are you doing here?” I ask, gritting my teeth.

“What a nice way to greet someone. Is that how you treat people who pay for your shit?”

“Believe me; I don’t need your money.” I spat. He’s in black slacks and dress shirt and tie. He’s always all business with me. Fuck him; I can’t wait to get away from him.

“When were you going to tell me you were moving?”

“When I decided it was your business.” I haven’t told him about the money I got, which I don’t ever plan on sharing with him. I head for my bedroom just as my mother comes out of hiding.

“I’m sorry, Noah. I couldn't get him to leave. He thinks you moving is a stupid idea.” Her crinkles in her concerned eyes make my heart break. This is one of those times I see the good side of her, not the absent alcoholic mother she usually is. But the one that was once there for me, caring for me and loving me when my father was gone all the time at work. I miss that woman.

“Who died and left him in charge? He has no say in my life. Not like he ever really cared before.” I sit on my bed and run my hand through my hair. “I’m getting the hell out of here, where he can’t control me anymore.” I wish my mother would get out of here too. She still lets him control her and they've been divorced for years. The problem is she thinks he will magically come back to her. I wish she’d wake up and realize it’s never going to happen. 

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