Crickets

The fire-like leaves of an aged oak rustled above Polly’s head as she lay watching clouds carried by the wind. Blue sky and the birds overhead — mockingbirds she thought — the sun dappled prairie that stretched beyond her forever, like a sheet of paper she could write her life on. This was her childhood playground. It had been years since she’d been here, she’d never really intended to come back, and now she was. Now she was laying in the same place she ‘d spent almost every afternoon as a girl. The same place where she’d seen him fall.

The memory crashed to the front of her brain like a truck to a brick wall. Tanner staring at her through the tree’s limbs, backlit by the noonday sun. Smiling. He had the most beautiful smile. White teeth, crooked on the bottom, his lips pink and soft. He always wore chapstick.

She closed her eyes, banishing his image from her mind. This was why she didn’t want to come back here. She stood up, brushing the debris from the ground off her jeans and straightening the hem of her denim button down. Clothes she’d uncovered in the attic of the house. Boxes of her mothers things, from the years before her mother stopped trying, stopped keep up the appearance of a woman who cared.

Polly had spent her entire life trying to get away from the truth, one that ended a life she loved more than her own. She’d wandered around. She’d had meaningless flings with tall, dark, northerners who talked about Faust and Niche. She’d made herself a medallion wearer, two years now, sober and sulking. She’d liked the feeling of a motor buzzing her away from his sandy blonde hair. Or how the boys in New Hampshire had all complimented her accent and the freckles made from too much time in the sun.

The truth was, Polly had enjoyed the distance, but then her trek was halted. Her mother had finally given up completely, the war she’d fought with a man Polly was supposed to call “Daddy” had ended, and it had been accompanied by a loaded shot gun. But what could Polly have done about that? She hugged herself, the smell of her mother’s perfume in her nose somehow, and she felt a tear squeeze into the corner of her eye. She could have done more than she wanted to admit, but she couldn’t with his memory hanging onto her like a barnacle.

She bent her knees, plucking from the ground a lonely, fading bluebonnet. The wind caught her hair, sending it out from her neck like she’d been shocked. No, she hadn’t helped her mother, just like she didn’t warn Tanner he was too high. Just like she didn’t believe him when he said his head hurt from the fall. Polly’s silence had killed them both.

“Remember what your mother told you,” Tanner’s words as he limped up the hill. “Listen to me, Polly Anne. Listen to my heart, and not my words.” Tanner was talking nonsense, but he was right, and she should have listened.

This post was inspired by a brilliant InMon Prompt.

Road Trip Wednesday #141

For this weeks Road Trip Wednesday the question is: What was the best book you read in July?

I read two books this last month, excluding my own manuscript twice, one was Literary Fiction and the other YA Fantasy. The first, Bridget Asher’s (one of the pen names Julianna Baggott prints under) The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, and the second was Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo. For me there was no better, but only completely and utterly different. How do you quantify the value of two things that in no way relate to one another? Let’s see if I can.

Time it took to read:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted was a slower ride. It wasn’t something to consume quickly. It was like chocolate — or one of the French pastries she talks about in the book. I had to savor my time with it.

Shadow and Bone took me two days. It was rich and full, but the pace was active and the story filled with intrigue.

Narrator:

Both books were written in first person, past tense. The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is composed in the frazzled voice of Heidi Bartolozzi, a young widow. Shadow and Bone is told from the perspective of Alina, an orphan girl living in a magical offshoot of Russia. Both are strong, flawed, funny women with a lot going on in their lives. Both made me smile. Only one made me cry.

Plot:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted follows Heidi to France with her son and niece, on a mission to salvage the families home there and rediscover herself separate from the loss of her husband. Heidi wars with these tasks, often times unwilling to let go of the loss and equally feeling to pull to be renewed.

Shadow and Bone is about the country of Ravka, and how Alina may be the key to saving it from the magical darkness that surrounds it. Her awkward rise to the top, and her sexy though foolish romance with the man who discovered her gift, is captivating.

Character:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is cast beautifully. From Heidi, a ruffled woman in her mid 30s, to Charlotte, the sixteen year old niece with a secret. Her young son, the neurotic and curious Abbott, is deeply compelling. (I am a sucker for sweet, wounded children.) Her romantic, though cold, mother — the matriarch that forces Heidi to confront her loss— is alive on the page. But for me, a woman who really loves her husband, Heidi’s long-dead husband really hit home for me. He’s beautiful, strong, and slightly nerdy. Their romance was genuinely heartbreaking to experience in the context of knowing he was dead.

Shadow and Bone is filled with characters that immediately feel fantastical but human. Alina, as a heroine, is incredibly compelling. Her perspective is sort of cynical, and I kind of love that. Mal, her best friend, is a cunning and genuinely selfless boy she has loved for years in secret. I was drawn the most though to The Darkling, the most powerful man in the kingdom next to the King, and also the most dangerous. Everything about him is sensual and mysterious. There’s also the funny, beautiful friend and the boy she loves. A crazy old woman, beautifully illustrated, as well as a combat teacher modeled — it would seem — after Jackie Chan.

So, overall, which is the best? I’m still undecided. They serve very different purposes and create totally different emotions in me. It’s an example of why it’s so important to read in different genres. Each genre has something brilliant to offer.

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RTW Question: My YA Friends

The question for the week is a pretty good one: What in-real-life people can you talk to about YA?

For those who know me well, you will know I have always enjoyed a good book, but until the past few years I wasn’t reading YA much. I had read the obvious (Harry Potter, Twilight) but beyond that, I wasn’t really aware of the genre. I felt like there were so many classics I hadn’t sunk my teeth into yet that I really shouldn’t be wasting time on new works. Also, I went through a historical fiction phase — which I still enjoy — and that can be a little exhausting.

About two years ago I was looking for a new read, and my mom had this middle-age book called Savvy  (check it out on Goodreads) sitting on her coffee table. I zoomed through it in a day, exhilarated by the gentle romance and coming-of-age themes. My mom isn’t really a YA reader, so she’s not one of my people, but I’m getting there. That same weekend I spent time with my sister-in-law Stephanie.

Stephanie is one of the hippest chicks I know. Seriously, here hair was like three shades of red the last time I saw her. She’s up on pop culture references and music, but most of all, Stephanie is a reader, and most commonly she is reading something YA. I mentioned I had read Savvy , and wanted something new in the YA genre. Stephanie was the one to give me The Hunger Games. I read all three books in four days. I was a psycho-zombie-Peeta-groupie. I spent the day after I finished crying like a baby, trying to make sense of what I had just experienced. From that moment on, I was sold, and Steph and I have found yet another reason why we were both so impeccably cool.

This pic features some of my YA friends. Stephanie is the one in purple with the mischievous smile.

Then, through that, I discovered there were a whole heepin’ lot of people in my life who were underground YA readers. Now, as I have said before, I am in the latter part of my 20’s, so you can imagine that most of my people are adults. There are some super clever teens in there too, because I love the teens, which is why I am now trying to write for them. The list is as follows, in no particular order:

Jennifer Petersen

Penny Jackson

Hanah Mayes

Katy Petersen

Anna Howington

Abigail DeHart

Tracey Liggett

Dana Davies

Penny Pierce

Carla Mayes

Erica Schulz

Deborah Drake

Stacie Forest

Thank you to all my YA buddies, you all inspire me to be a better writer, and to write something you will love to read. Keep on being fabulous!

RTW Questions for YA Highway

So, this is the first time ever posting for a YA Highway prompt. The question is: What images inspire/ represent you WIP (work-in-progress) or favorite book?

My novel takes place somewhere nothing at all like the image I am about to post.

California Poppies by water

My main character, we’ll call her OP, pines for a place not unlike this one here, but it no longer exists. Since I have been writing in first-person, I find myself longing to be here too. This image represents so much to her. She places herself there in her dreams, longs for her mother who is no longer alive, but lived there. When I want to remember how she feels, I look at pictures of the coast in California, and then her aching becomes even more real to me.

Another image that comes into play a lot is this one:

This is a women’s changing room in Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland. OP spent time in a place not unlike this for a period before the novel begins. This place is a huge part of her back story, and the story of the world she lives in. It’s amazing to try and imagine how someone would feel somewhere like this for weeks of their life, not really knowing if their life would continue.

Enjoy and come back soon!