Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

New Cover
Old Cover
SummaryAnna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend. 

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?
ReviewBased soley on the title, Anna and the French Kiss doesn’t seem like the kind of book I would normally read.  I, for one, tend to lean towards fantasy YA that often involve epic battle scenes and hot aliens but when I started this book I literally pulled an all nighter and didn’t put the book down until I had finished it.  It might not have hot aliens but what it does have is an öber hot and wonderfully genius British/American/French guy.  He even had an awesome British accent, and honestly who doesn’t love that?  Stephanie Perkins creates just the right amount of tension between the OTP (Étienne St. Cloud and Anna Oliphant) with a periodic bone thrown for the reader with stolen moments between the two.  Throughout most of the book I wanted to rip my hair out, in the best way possible, and make them get together.  It is a well-written book that has a good pace and I honestly don’t have any complaints other than the length of time it took for St. Clair and Anna to get together.  I don’t normally go for the guy likes girl, girl likes guy, and everyone knows except the two involved but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.  It left me wanting more.  I will say though that I’m not very fond of the new cover and much prefer the original.


Age: 12+


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Review: The Maze Runner

Summary: If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

Review: I have to be honest with you guys, it took me months to read this book and the only reason I finally finished it was 1: the release of the movie and 2: I read it for a school project.  The beginning of this book is so incredibly slow I couldn't even get past the first 30 pages.  I had so many friends telling me that it was amazing and that I just had to read it and that once I got past the slow start I would love it but I wasn't feeling it.  It turns out that they were right in that the ending of the book is very well written and is very good and what not but that is only that last maybe third.  Granted, I am the kind of reader that if a book doesn't immediately catch my attention, the chances of me continuing the books are very slim but I gave myself no choice with this book.  I have yet to see the movie and have heard many good things and few bad things about the movie.  I have heard that there are major differences between the book and the movie which I hate but I'll just have to put on my big girl panties and suck it up.  In the end I would say that I was fairly pleased by the end and I can definitely say that the end was very unexpected and I am midway though the second book of the series The Scorch Trials and will likely finish the series at some point in time.  I can't say that this was my favorite book by far but in the end it did surprise and it picked up in the end which is a plus.



Friday, November 21, 2014

Cover Reveal, Giveaway, & Excerpt: The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
The Perilous Journey
Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls can only dream of: Money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. Except, she suspects her heart may be 
falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithie in the family’s steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. Only the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure and restitution await her, if she can survive the voyage.
add to goodreads
Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Leigh Statham

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl
Leigh Statham
Chapter One
Marguerite held the brass cricket gingerly in her hands. She kept it tucked under the table while she turned it over, her fingers blindly memorizing every feature. She knew it was childish for a sixteen-year-old to have a favorite toy, but she couldn’t help it. The design fascinated her. Occasionally she would trip the mechanism and the cricket literally sprang to life, launching itself against the underside of the table with a loud knock.
“What was that?” Madame Pomphart cried.
Marguerite caught the little metal bug with one hand and tucked it into the folds of her skirts. “Nothing,” she lied.
“I heard a noise.” The sour-faced governess slapped the desk with her pointer and stepped closer. “What are you hiding?”
Marguerite didn’t flinch. “You must be hearing things again. You are getting rather old.”
Madame Pomphart swung her pointer, making sound contact with Marguerite's shoulder.
“Ah!” Marguerite grabbed her shoulder and jumped to her feet, knocking her chair over. She quite forgot about the little toy cricket which launched right at the governess’s face.
“What? Oh!” Madame Pomphart batted the air and stumbled backward, dropping her stick as the cricket ricocheted off her nose and landed at Marguerite’s feet. “How dare you bring vermin into my classroom? Your father will hear about this. Lord Vadnay will not be pleased!”
Marguerite scooped up her prize and ran for the door, grateful for the chance to escape.
“Get back here or you’ll receive double lashings!”
It was too late. Marguerite ran much faster than her teacher and was already halfway down the wide corridor. Lined with portraits of long-dead relatives and her father’s collection of modern weaponry, each display tempted her with thoughts of challenging the governess to a duel. She could easily scoop up one of the automated cat-o-nine-tails and turn back to the classroom. She rather fancied the idea, actually. But it wasn't the right time or the right way to handle her heavy-handed caretaker, and honestly, she wasn't quite brave enough to do more than talk back—not yet.
Her fear began to lift as she lightly descended the grand curving stairway to the ballroom, sprinting over the marble tiles and through the large doors to the gardens. The French summer sun blinded her. Marguerite blinked as she continued to run around the fountain filled with automated koi. A servant perched on the edge of the large pool, brass fish in hand. Its tail clicked furiously back and forth as he tried to oil it. The late-summer roses bloomed bright with color all around her. Butterflies seemed to flit merrily on every blossom, cheering her on. Human and automaton servants worked side by side grooming the large hedges … They jumped out of her way and bowed. None of them seemed surprised to see the young lady of the house running out of doors and they all knew where she was headed.
She tried to slip away to the cool shelter of the small glen beyond the lavender fields every chance she could, but since her father came up with the idea that she needed to be a “real lady,” it had become more difficult to sneak away.
At this point, she could have stopped. Pomphart wouldn’t follow her now, but it felt so good to move quickly after being at a table all morning. Her heart beat like an auto-hammer in her chest by the time she reached the work fields. More automatons and human servants stopped and bowed to the master’s daughter. Marguerite paid them no attention.
Finally reaching the small grove of trees, she flopped merrily on the soft grass and took a deep breath, then giggled to herself. She was safe, for now. The wind picked up and tousled the leaves overhead, sending bits of sunlight swimming wildly around her. The grass outside the glen rustled under the heavy thud of work boots: Claude.
“Hullo!” His voice sounded merry as he peered through the low branches that poked and tickled at the earth, surprised to see her there so early. “How’d you manage to beat me?” His wavy, light brown hair was just shaggy enough to soften his strong jaw and angular nose. His cheek was smeared with gear oil, right up to the corner of his smiling blue eyes. He was too tall for his work trousers and his chest had grown too broad for his cotton shirt. The buttons tugged a bit, but he wasn’t the type to care about his clothes. He pulled his welding goggles off of his head and wiped the sweat on his brow with the arm of his shirt.
“I ran.” She smiled wickedly.
Claude flopped down in the grass beside her. “That’s not very ladylike, and Pomphart doesn’t usually let you out till half past.”
“I had to run after this marvelous toy you made for me attacked her.” She held up the cricket like a prize gem freshly plucked from the earth.
“Marguerite!” he cried. “I asked you to keep it safe, not use it to get yourself tossed out of ladyhood!”
“It was an accident. I swear. The lessons are just so boring. I needed something to do, so I had it under the table. She’s such a brute. You should have seen how she hit me with her blasted pointer.”
“She struck you again?” his face turned dark.
“Yes, but it's nothing, just a welt on the shoulder.” The last thing she wanted was to be the damsel in distress.
“Still.” Claude's brow furrowed. “It's not right. Ladies don't strike other ladies. Please keep good care of that little bug. It took me a long time to build and I didn’t record the plans. I may need to borrow it back someday.”
“All right.” Disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm for her naughtiness, she carried on. “But you should have seen her face! If only I could have a portrait made of that. I’d hang it over my bed and have a miniature made to keep by my heart.”
A nasally voice attached to a pointy-faced, pale girl in bright pink skirts burst through the cool glen. “Whose miniature are you keeping by your heart? You haven’t even had your ball yet.”
“Hello, Vivienne.” Marguerite sighed without enthusiasm.
“Marguerite has just sealed her doom,” Claude chimed in. “She threw the cricket I made her at Pomphart’s face today, so there may not be a ball.”
“That’s rubbish! I did no such thing. It just got away from me and bounced right off her nose.” Marguerite laughed again while recalling the image, but Claude’s words made her a bit nervous.
“Oh dear,” cried Vivienne. “What are you going to do?”
Of course Vivienne would make a big deal out of it, Marguerite didn’t expect anything less from her childish neighbor.
“I’m not sure. That’s why I came straight here.” She turned pointedly to Claude. “I thought you’d want to celebrate my freedom and take the rest of the day off.”
Claude was quick to reply, “I’m afraid I can’t. Lots to be finished at the forge and I am on stall-mucking duty with the bots.”
“What do you possibly have to finish at the forge that’s so important?”
Claude raised his eyebrows at her. “A certain girl’s father has requested automatic serving dishes made of twenty-four-karat gold for her introduction to society.”
“Oh my!” Vivienne drew a dramatic breath. “How elegant. I so wish I were old enough to come.”
“Don’t worry,” Marguerite patted the girl’s knee, “I’m sure you can borrow them for your own ball.”
“Marguerite … ” Claude hissed at her.
It wasn’t a very kind thing to say, but Marguerite had never been very fond of Vivienne. She mostly endured her company because she was the only girl within a hundred miles that was close to the same age and station as Marguerite. That, and Claude had insisted she be kind to her.
“You’re right, Claude.” Marguerite smiled in repentance. “I’m sure your father will have loads of wonderful things for the guests to marvel at when your time comes, Vivienne. Still, it would be nice to have both of you there. I suppose I will be forced to talk to strangers.”
“I can’t believe you’re not excited!” Vivienne chattered. “New dresses! Handsome suitors!”
“I am excited,” Marguerite cut her off, “to have it over and done with! Dressing up might be fun, but dressing up to catch a man is not my idea of a good time.”
“Don’t be vulgar.” Vivienne blushed. “It’s not like that at all.”
Claude cut in, “I’d love to stay and discuss this matter with you girls, but I do have a few chafing dishes waiting for their motors in the shop.”
Marguerite tensed at the thought of not only being left alone with Vivienne, but also being without Claude’s protection should Pomphart come looking for her. “Do you think I could come help you at the forge today?”
“Not if you want me to get anything done.” Claude smiled merrily.
“Stop it! You know I’m a whiz with gear-work.”
“When you are actually interested in the work, yes, but I’m afraid that auto-spoons and brass tureens would bore you to death.”
Marguerite tried to make her eyes look large and beseeching, but she knew it was no use.
“No. But you can walk me there. I forgot my lunch anyway,” Claude said as he reached to help Marguerite up.
“I didn’t exactly have time to grab a snack as I fled the dungeons,” Marguerite quipped.
“Oh! I know!” Vivienne was bursting. “Let’s have lunch in town today. You’re not going back to your lessons are you? And Claude is busy with work. It will be such fun girl time!”
Marguerite sighed, but Vivienne was right. There was no way for her to return to the estate house without being trapped by Pomphart, and she had nothing to do if Claude insisted on finishing his chores. Still, she was uneasy about the idea of being on her own with Pomphart’s wrath hovering around an unknown corner waiting to pounce. The woman was ruthless when no one of importance was watching. She had a way of getting Marguerite off on her own and exacting whatever form of punishment she felt was suitable for the crime. Marguerite tried to complain to her father, but he wouldn’t listen, he thought Marguerite just didn’t want lessons anymore.
Claude knew all of this and sensed her fears in her quiet gaze.
“Come with me, both of you. I have someone I want you to meet.” Claude smiled.
Marguerite jumped up at his tug, tossed her wavy brown hair, and set her skirts aright, glad someone was helping her make up her mind. “Very well.”
“Hooray! Oh, I know just the place,” Vivienne said. “There is a new little patisserie I saw the other day I’ve been aching to try.” She skipped up the hill ahead of the other two, babbling on about buns and cakes and half sandwiches.
Claude reached for Marguerite’s arm and squeezed a bit. He used this gesture when he was about to chastise her, but she didn’t think she’d been that rude to Vivienne. The girl got on her nerves with every word, but her intentions were good and Marguerite wasn’t cruel by nature, just impatient.
“What?” she hissed.
“I have some news, but I wanted to tell you first.”
“Oh?” Relieved not to be in trouble, but also perplexed, Marguerite wished more now than ever that Vivienne would just skip into oblivion with her bouncy blonde curls and scattered thoughts.
“Yes. You know how we spoke a few weeks ago about my plans?”
“Did you find a position in Paris?” Marguerite could scarcely contain herself. Her friend was so talented, and she knew better than anyone that he was wasted working as a bondservant on her father’s estate. If he could secure an apprenticeship in Paris he could come back to La Rochelle as a master tradesman. Plus she could visit him there. Still, apprenticeships were hard to come by.
“No, I think it’s better than that.”
“What could be better than Paris?” In her mind, crowds of well-dressed ladies paraded down glittering avenues while the latest autocarts passed by in a blur of technology and innovation. Paris was the hub of all things Marguerite admired.
“I’ve signed into His Majesty’s service. As of next week, I’ll be an official member of the Royal Corp of Engineers.”
“You what?” She was stunned. It took her a moment to sort out her emotions. How could he have made this type of decision without consulting her? They had shared everything since they discovered each other as bored children on the estate a decade ago.
“I knew you’d be angry with me for not telling you beforehand, but an opportunity just presented itself and I knew it was right—I had to take it.”
“No, I’m not angry at all. Just shocked. You know how my father feels about the military.”
“But you see, that’s just it. I won’t have to worry about your father anymore, I won’t owe him anything. My first assignment is to New France.”
“Are you two coming or not? I’m starved!” Vivienne had doubled back when she realized she was talking to herself.
Marguerite wasn’t sure she could eat or talk at that moment. She wasn’t sure she could even take another step.

L. Statham
Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one day get her hit by a car. 
Connect with the Author: Website |Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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The book will be sent upon the titles release.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cover Reveal: Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette

Welcome to the cover reveal for Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette. This is an Upper Middle Grade/Lower Young Adult sci-fi adventure that's great for the whole family.   The cover illustration is by the talented Kirbi Fagan.

About the Book:
"E = mc2 is no longer the most powerful force in the universe. Your wand is."

Twelve-year-old Billy and his best friend Suzy Quinofski didn't mean to change the universe. Billy, a quantum physics prodigy, just wanted to find a way to help his hoarding, schizophrenic mother – and maybe impress a coven of older girls in high school. Suzy, his intellectual equal, wanted to help her friend and cling to her last remnant of childhood, a belief in magic. Together they made Billy a real, working, magic wand, and opened a door to the Quantum World where thoughts create reality, and all things – good and bad – are possible.

Preorder from Amazon

About the Author: 
R.S. Mellette has written, directed, designed and acted in theatre, film, television, and publishing for over 30 years. His credits in various jobs include XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS, BLUE CRUSH, and his own JACKS OR BETTER, which won Dances With Films Best Screenplay award in 2000. He has been working with the festival ever since.

His novel, Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand, is due out in December 2014 from Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. For novelists, Mellette blogs for From The Write Angle. For filmmakers, he writes for Dances With Films.

Also find him on AmazonGoodreadsTwitter and Facebook.

This cover reveal was organized by CBB Book Promotions.


THROW BACK THURSDAY (The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare)

What is this: Chances are all of you reading this post can think of a single book or series that got you hooked on reading, especially whatever genre it may be that you prefer.  I myself, go for YA, fantasy, or Sci-Fi. I think that we need to thank these authors, whoever they may be, for shepherding us to a fanbase where we (or at least I) should have been our whole lives.  I decided to post a #TBT to what book started my obsession with reading.

Background: I did in fact read books such as PJO and Harry Potter and, one of my all time favorites, A Series of Unfortunate Events before I read The Moral Instruments and the accompanying The Infernal Devices, but I never truly fangirled about them.  TMI was the series that I will willingly admit turned me into a total book nerd.
This series traveled like wildfire through my group of friends and by the time we had read all the books, there were (and still are) lengthy discussions about the book, several different photo streams with related pictures, midnight premieres for the movie, and so much more. The final book City of Heavenly Fire has been released although I personally have not read it yet. The first book was adapted into a movie (which, quite depressingly, didn't live up to my, nor my friends', hopes and expectation) but as to wether or not the next book is becoming is a movie, your guess is as good as mine. There is another accompanying series, The Infernal Devices, which is referenced several times and will be adapted into a TV series and an entire other series called The Dark Artifices that will be released next year and is set slightly later and with different characters, but with the same background and basis.
These books are amazing and I read most of them in one day because I simply refused to do anything other than read once I had started them.

Recommended for: Ages 13+


P.S. Please share what books started your reading obsession below in the comments.  I would love to hear from you guys.  Maybe I'll even read and review some of them!!

Review: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Summary: It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth -- and ultimately her life. 
"January 24th
After you've had it, there isn't even life without drugs...."

Review: This book is the edited journal of a girl who went through this in the seventies.
 I am not ashamed to admit that I cried at the end of all of this series of books by Anonymous.  Along with Go Ask Alice, there is Letting Ana Go, Lucy in the Sky and Jay's Journal which I have yet to read.  Of the three that I read I would probably have to say that Go Ask Alice is my favorite by far because of the fact that her whole ordeal with drugs began by her being unwillingly and unknowingly drugged.  All she wanted was to be part of the popular group so she of course she would jump at the possibility of going to a sleepover with the very girls she looked up to.  They drugged her and this was what led to the downfall of her life.  
I found these books to be life changing because when you hear about drugs all you hear is that "drugs will ruin your life and kill you."  By reading these books you learn the truth of drugs - they can feel like fun at first and seem like a good escape, but what you don't realize until it's too late is how true what everyone has been telling you is.  The protagonist (who's name you never know for certain) lost everything that meant anything to her. I will willing admit that although I almost never cry in books, I was balling my eyes out like a baby at the end of the novel.  Go Ask Alice has been labeled as a banned book due to its content that deals with drugs and sex and such but I found that it altered my views on both of those things.  She gives up her virginity to someone that was only using her to make a profit and she gives up her life to her addictions.  This is a book that I think rather than being banned by many schools should be on the required reading list because it teaches about drugs and many things that high schoolers are doing nowadays, thinking that there won't be any consequences and that everyone is making these things out to be worse than they really are. But this book teaches how wrong this way of thinking really is.

Recommended For: Ages 14+


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: Stone Cold Touch (Dark Elements #2)

Summary: Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could. But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay…

Review: There is no denying that JLA is my absolute favorite author, I don’t even let people breathe on my signed copy of The Return, and she certainty does not disappoint in her latest novel. Although I am all for Rayla (Roth + Layla = Perfection), she has written Zayne and his emotions so beautifully that I can’t help but want to hug him and make him happy. The story line is so intriguing that I literally didn’t put the book down until I had finished it. She leaves the book in such a cliff hanger that I don’t even know how she expects her loyal fanbase to wait for the next book Every Last Breath to come out. JLA, as always, finds the perfect balance between steamy passion, tension between Layla’s love interests, and jealousy between Zayne and Roth.



Who Am I?

ABOUT MOI So Kay has been insanely with busy with school and drama and sleep and etc so she decided to enlist her amazing best friend to help her with reviewing some books so that y'all won't forget about her and her blog's existence. She has literally been spending about 16 hours a day at school. I, as you have probably guessed, am her best book buddy Jessie. You will probably be seeing me again because Kayla doesn't always have the time to post as often as she would like to. You should be seeing her again fairly soon due to the fact that drama is over as of last night.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman by Michelle E. Reed

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman by Michelle E. Reed and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman by Michelle E. Reed

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


Dez is finally hitting her afterlife stride. She hasn’t missed a meeting or session in forty-two days, and she’s put the adventures and danger of her first days at Atman behind her. Life after death is becoming tolerable, yet nothing is quite what she’d hoped. Confusion over her feelings for Charlie, residual resentment over losing Hannah, and a continuous stream of unwanted assignments leave Dez restless and argumentative.

In a missed encounter with Crosby, her prying gaze lands upon a single entry in the datebook on his unoccupied desk. These few, hastily scribbled words reveal an enormous secret he’s keeping from her. Possessed by a painful sense of betrayal, she once again sneaks off to Atman City, determined to find answers to an unresolved piece of her life.

It begins as all their adventures do, but as light falls into darkness, a stop in an unfamiliar neighborhood sets forth a chaotic series of events. Dez will have to fight for her very existence, and will face painful, irreparable loss in an afterlife teeming with demons wielding ancient powers.

In M.I.A.: Missing in Atman, the second book in the Atman City series, Michelle E. Reed continues the story of Dez Donnelly, pushing her to her limits and surprising readers at every twist and turn of the vast world that is Atman.
Death was only the beginning.

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Title: Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman
Publication date: December 16, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Michelle E. Reed


(Missing in Atman)
Michelle E. Reed

Chapter One

“Thinking about her again?”
The grass prickles me through my thin cotton shirt as I roll onto my back and take in the sky’s churning array of blues peeking through the treetops. My thoughts drift back over a span of months, coming to rest on a farewell still tugging at my heart.
“Of course I am.”
“What do you suppose she’s doing right now?” Charlie asks. His fingers trace a meandering trail up and down my arm.
“I have no idea, but whatever it is, it’s probably amazing.”
Three months. That’s how long Hannah has been missing from my life.
Well, my afterlife.
She was my first friend, and my first goodbye. Our worlds intersected for just a week, but that’s all it takes. Bonds form fast and strong here, and when you’re stranded in limbo, never quite sure who will be the next to leave, you have a steady reminder that the end of life does not mean the end of loss.
My bracelet taunts me, an unwanted reminder of exactly how long I’ve been here and how far I am from leaving. LEVEL 02-068-098.
I scroll through the menu to the time and groan. “I have to go.”
“Want me to walk you to Admin?” Charlie sits up, chivalry at the ready.
“You’d better try and find Pip before work.” I point to the bag of grapes sitting next to him. “He’s going to want those.”
“He’s just a bird, Dez.”
“But he’s Hannah’s bird. And we promised to take care of him.”
“That was before I knew how high maintenance he is.” He holds up his hand for inspection. “My finger still hurts.”
“You’re the one who was teasing him with that banana. Besides, if you can jump out a ninety-five story window without a scratch, I don’t think a toucan is going to hurt you.”
The day I met Charlie, he set our relationship in motion by plummeting from a library window in an ill-conceived attempt at humor. It was then I learned of his early, dark days at Atman when he tried in every conceivable way to kill himself, from hanging to stepping in front of high-speed trains. Through this terrible process, he learned the physical pain we feel and injuries we sustain in this transitional existence are all in our heads. Charlie is the only underage soul I know of who is immune to pain.
“Still, his beak is really sharp,” he says.
“Poor baby.” I kiss his fingertip. “Well, I’ve got to hurry up and get to my meeting before work. I’m running late as it is.”
“At least you get a short work day.”
“I’d rather scrub dishes than deal with Kay.” I stand. “See you at open rec?”
“Count on it.”


A receptionist sits at a small desk before the only other door in the room where I sit, impatient. Drab, run-of-the-mill décor adorns the walls, which are painted in a revolting shade of dull. As I survey the clean lines of the minimalist furniture, I can't help but wonder how gigantic the afterlife’s IKEA must be.
I chuckle, just loud enough to attract the attention of the new receptionist.
She’s a plump woman with graying hair and a shockingly pink pantsuit. She looks up from a small stack of paperwork to give me a polite smile.
“Don’t worry, Desiree, she’ll be with you shortly.”
“Dez. No one calls me Desiree,” I say for what seems like the millionth time. My mood is in rapid decline. This looming therapy session allows no happiness to overlap from my picnic lunch with Charlie.
“What’s that, dear?”
I hate pink.
She returns her attention to the stack of paper on her desk. Her smile becomes a small but noticeable frown. My attention turns to the task of identifying the familiar melody piped in from a speaker overhead.
What’s the point in not letting me remember? It’s a love-hate relationship I have with this existence. Mostly hate. My fingernails tick tick tick against the slim metal arms of my chair.
Pink Pantsuit looks up again from her collating. “Can I help you with something?”
“Depends. Can you get me on the next train out of here?” I plaster an angelic smile and hopeful look on my face.
She scowls and returns her attention to her paperwork.
“That’s what I thought.”
The door behind Pink Pantsuit opens, and Kay Robinson’s tall, lithe frame breezes into the waiting area.
“Hi, Dez. Come on back.” Her voice is warm and soothing.
A feeling of serenity washes over me, and I don’t bother fighting it. Her greetings always have this effect on me. It’s what follows that sends my mood plummeting.
She leads me down a narrow corridor to her cramped office, where I plunk down in my usual spot, facing her desk.
“You know, Dez, you’re actually one of the lucky ones.”
My reply comes out as a single, disgusted snort. I grab a stress ball from her desk and toss it in the air. It sails up, arcing slightly, and lands back in my hand.
The corners of Kay’s mouth curl up just a bit, and she does a poor job hiding the amusement dancing in her eyes. This is how our relationship goes. Mutually aloof, but secretly friendly. I can’t say I really get her, but I guess that’s not the point. She’s my Station Guidance and Assistance rep, so she’s here for me.
“Lucky? Yeah, sure. Lucky me,” I say.
“Grumpy again?”
“Is that the clinical term? And what do you mean, ‘again?’”
“I’ll take that as a yes. You’re going to love what’s on the agenda for today.”
“We’ll start with something easy. Tell me about adoption.”
“I thought I was here for your ‘guidance and assistance,’ Kay.”
“Yes, that’s exactly why you’re here. You know that. Now, if you don’t mind, allow me to guide and assist you.”
I shrug. “Adoption in general, foster adoption, multi-racial adoption, or my multi-racial adoption? There are lots of choices.”
“Whatever you feel like. Just go for it.”
“Fine. You’re getting my sophomore year Honors English informative speech.”
“You remember a speech from a class you took two years before you died? You’re good.”
“You want to hear this or not?”
Kay raises her hands in surrender.
“I’ll just nutshell it for you.” I clear my throat and begin reciting. “My mom was always certain it was fate that brought us together as a family. The infertility treatments, miscarriages, tests, and endless months spent as a human pincushion were all for a reason. Adoption wasn’t a distant second choice—that’s just how things shake out. You decide you want a baby, and you try to have one the way most people do. When it doesn’t work out, you find yourself consulting specialists, going to appointment after appointment, trying all sorts of crazy medical procedures in order to—”
Kay holds up a traffic cop hand. “I was hoping you’d share your feelings on adoption.”
“You said, ‘whatever you feel like.’” I toss the stress ball to her.
“Speaking of a deeply personal matter in a detached, sterile way does neither of us any good.” She tosses the ball back to me. “You tend to de-personalize the deeply personal, Miss Donnelly.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? And what’s this ‘Miss Donnelly’ crap?”
“You balk at sharing feelings and experiences in a personal way. You detach in what I believe is an attempt to avoid the risk of being exposed to painful emotions.”
I glance around her small office. “You’d think that for an eternity, they could spring for better digs.”
“You’re also a master of deflection.”
“So are you,” I retort. “You called me lucky.” I throw the stress ball at her, a little harder than necessary. She catches it with ease, her coordination matching her graceful, willowy frame. “Last I checked, I’ve been attacked by a madwoman, stalked and assaulted by a murderer, had some mystery staff member linked to my brain without my consent, and had my roommate unceremoniously snatched from this limbo-verse a week after I got here. How, exactly, am I lucky?”
“Because you’re not as complicated as you think you are.”
“Gee, thanks.”
“What I mean is you’re not going to be at Atman so terribly long. Moving on is really up to you, and you have an uncanny ability to make things far more difficult than they need be.” She raises her eyebrows, daring me to challenge her.
“That’s comforting. Glad to know it’s my fault I’m stuck here, because, you know, it’s not bad enough just being stuck here. It’s not enough to die at seventeen and never really get a chance to live. I need guilt, too.”
“You’ve found yourself a great support system. In your short time with us, you have developed strong bonds with several floormates and a particular member of our staff.”
“Fine, you’ve got me. I’m lucky. Charlie’s awesome. Bobby’s a genius. Crosby’s the best mother hen a girl could ask for. Hannah, however, is gone, and thanks so much for that. Can we move on, please?”
“What has you in such a mood today, Dez?”
“Do I have to have a reason? Isn’t being dead enough?”
Kay lets me sit in silence and stew in my anger. I focus on a granite plaque on her desk. Each time I’ve been here, it has displayed a different quote.
“That’s helpful, as usual. Last time it was some Confucius crap.”
“It was good advice. ‘It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.’ Haven’t you found that to be true since you’ve gotten here? Be honest.” She narrows her gaze and leans forward in her chair. It squeaks, marking another entry in the long, long list of things here that make no sense.
A chair in need of a blast of WD-40 in the afterlife?
“You remind me of my mom,” I blurt out.
Kay waits a moment before responding. “You’re changing the subject again, but let’s go with it. I think this could be important.” She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and leans forward to rest her elbows on her desk.
It’s not just those left behind who grieve; the dead feel the agony of loss as well. We worry about the living and how they’re coping, how they’re getting along without us. We feel the sharp, raw pain. The same suffocating fear crushes us. Those we leave behind suffer a single loss, but the dead? We lose everything and everyone who ever mattered to us.
“Do we really have to get into this right now? I think I need to go partake of some chaotic action.”
“I think you’ve had your fill.” She glances out her small window toward the skyline of Atman City. “Enough to last quite some time, even in the span of eternity.”
An immediate longing pulls at me as I take in the off-limits city I’d snuck into three times during my first week here. The final visit nearly cost me my freedom in a dangerous confrontation with a lunatic. Despite the pointed lesson, I know I’d go back in a second if I could get away with it.
“Never going to let that go, huh?” I ask, drawn from my daydream of adventures never to be.
“Let’s not get off track.” She clicks the top of her pen. “Have you seen your mom in DSR lately?”
In the days following my funeral, my mom’s sorrow and pain left her contemplating suicide, a scene played out for me in Dream-State Reflection. Fearing the worst, I made that fateful third trip to Atman City, hoping to use the communication pods at Nero’s Tavern to contact her.
“It seems like she’s doing a bit better, from what little they show me. She’s been working on her garden. I think it’s therapeutic.”
Kay nods as she takes notes. “Returning to activities she enjoys is a good sign, and I’m glad to hear she’s progressing through her grief.” She looks up from my file. “I want to get back to what you said, though—that I remind you of her. Can you tell me what it is about me that lends itself to that comparison?”
“I … maybe nothing. Maybe I’m just grasping.” I pick at my fingernails and focus on my cuticles to avoid her gaze. “Is it ever going to stop hurting so much?”
“Think of how far you’ve already come, and you’ll find your answer.”
My hands drop into my lap. “Talk about clinical.”
“You’re in a much better place than you were upon arrival, are you not?”
“I suppose.”
“Of course you are. Don’t be afraid of progress, Dez, and don’t be afraid to feel. Own the pain. Allow yourself to experience the loss you’ve suffered. It is the only way to move forward.”
“Could you be more vague?”
Kay smiles. “Well, now you’ve stepped in it. You want specifics? I have a perfect assignment for you.”





Michelle E. Reed

Michelle was born in a small Midwestern town, to which she has returned to raise her own family. Her imagination and love of literature were fueled by a childhood of late nights, hidden under the covers and reading by flashlight. She is a passionate adoption advocate who lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, and their yellow lab, Sully.

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