The Making of Nebraska Brown

The last thing eighteen-year-old Ann Leigh remembers is running from her boyfriend in a thick Nebraska cornfield. This morning she’s staring down  a cool Italian sunrise, an entire continent from the life she once knew. The events of the eighteen months in between have inexplicably gone missing from her memory. All at once she’s living with Tommy, an attractive, young foreigner asking for her continued love. Though he’s vaguely familiar, she recalls a boy named Shane in America who she reluctantly agreed to marry.

Juggling a new world while her old one is still M.I.A is difficult enough
without the terrifying movie scenes spinning a dizzy loop in her mind: glimpses of a devastating house fire, a romance gone wrong, an unplanned pregnancy, and a fractured family–each claiming to be part of who she once was–a girl and a past somehow discarded.

 
Ann Leigh must collect the pieces of herself to become whole again, 
but she doesn’t know who to trust especially when Tommy’s lies become too obvious to ignore. And above all, her heart aches to discover what became of the child she may or may not have given birth to.

The Making of Nebraska Brown tells the story of one girl’s coming apart from the inside and the great lengths she’ll go to reclaim herself and find her way home.

                                                            

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The Making of Nebraska Brown, by Louise Caiola

Watch the awesome trailer!  http://youtu.be/f9IHCQy0g2k 

My Review

Masterfully written and wonderfully descriptive, The Making of Nebraska Brown takes us from Nebraska to Italy and beyond. This is Ann Leigh’s journey to finding herself. And as she fits together the pieces of her fragmented past, so does the reader.  As the story progresses, questions become louder and we are drawn in more.

Haunting, lyrical, and heartfelt, The Making of Nebraska Brown covers the full spectrum of human emotions as Ana Lisa struggles to understand where she came from and who she really is.  With the quintessential Italian boyfriend, she’s thousands of miles from  her family, finally realizing that part of her life is missing. She must struggle to mend her mind on her own, unsure of anything in her past or her present. But is she Ann Leigh or Ana Lisa, as the Italians call her?  Her life is a mystery she must unravel.

Louise Caiola’s deep, complex novel stays with you, and I found myself thinking about the characters and their plights almost as if they were real.  It’s also the kind of book which can be read again immediately and seen in a different light.

 

 

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Fire Alarm!

When I was in college, a few girls thought it was fun to pull the fire alarm and force everyone out into the night air. It didn’t happen often, and I didn’t mind too much, since  I was out there with my friends and it was a a little exciting. But now that I’m an adult,   it doesn’t go over as well–especially since I take life more seriously than I did then.

My husband, Rick, and I drove a few hours to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina recently for   a couple of days in spite of rainy, cold temperatures. The weather had improved our last day there, and we settled in for a good night’s sleep. For some reason, shortly after I lay down, I thought about the large number of units in our all-wood building and realized  the place is a fire trap.

A few minutes later a strange bleeping sound started, and I wondered if the fan in the room was having problems. Before I could investigate, Rick told me it was a fire alarm. When we checked outside, all of the lights on the front on the building were blinking, and the noise became louder as we opened the door. Soon an employee of the hotel informed us that they didn’t know what was caused the alarm to go off, but they wanted everyone to exit the building in case it was a fire.  Not what I was hoping for.

I took just enough time to slip on some pants under my gown and put on some shoes and a coat, not worrying about what anyone would think about my appearance, and we started out into the chilly air to cluster with the hodgepodge of hotel guests.  I felt uncomfortable next to a group of young guys, but a pajama-clad family put me at ease.  (No one even glanced down at my embarrassing display of jacket, long gown, and pants.)

Two fire trucks had arrived by then, and we wondered if the firemen were going into every unit. Knowing that would take a long time, I hoped they could figure it out some other way.  In the meantime, we discussed everything from sports to the lack of film development available. Everyone seemed to assume there wasn’t a fire, and Rick kept saying he wasn’t worried, since even the closets had sprinklers. (Of course, he also said he hoped they wouldn’t go off and get everything wet.)

Less than thirty minutes after the escapade began, the firemen waved us back inside,   but Rick and I had trouble relaxing and falling asleep.  We were relieved, of course,         to be back in the room, since there wasn’t a problem.

The only other time I’d been ousted from a hotel was a few years ago when the alarm      in an old building went off three times in one evening!  We heard they’d been having trouble with it, but I really thought it should be fixed.  After getting locked out of the stairwell the second time it sounded, I stayed in the room the third time, which is one reason they need a new system.

I hope you’ll never have to evacuate for a real or unreal fire.

Rick, feeding seagulls at HH 001

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His Hometown Girl

On tour with Prism Book Tours

He’d always managed to best her…

Jodi Chapman will do whatever it takes to get top care for her autistic son. If that means going home and convincing local farmers to sell their land, so be it. Even if her biggest opponent, childhood rival Daniel Gleason, is equally determined to convince farmers to buy into his co-op plan. And he’s not playing fair.

Facing off against Daniel is the last thing Jodi wants. The attraction that’s always fueled their competitiveness is as strong as ever and just as distracting. But with both their futures on the line, and years of distrust between them, how can they ever be on the same side?

Excerpt

The music began and Mary gave Daniel a little shove. “Have at her. Indulge us for old times’ sake. Everyone thought you two would make a great couple when you weren’t scrapping.”

He looked down at a dismayed Jodi. “Guess we can’t disappoint our fans.”

She threw her hands up and he swept her into his arms. And just like he thought, the feel of her brought back their middle school days. He recalled his sweaty palms on her tiny waist and how much he’d tripped because, instead of counting the steps, he’d counted the freckles on her nose. Kind of like now.

“Mr. Martin had some crazy taste in music,” she surprised him by saying, a far-off look in her eyes. “How did that count as exercise?”

Being around her raised his blood pressure. She was the best cardio he could imagine. They moved across the crowded floor, weaving in and out of other couples.

“No idea.” When the tempo changed he twirled and dipped her, their mouths nearly touching as he bent her over his arm for a long, breathless moment. The feel of her  made his blood surge.

“Let me up,” she said in a rush, and pushed at his chest, her touch electric. When he straightened, he pulled her closer and smoothed the hair that had come loose from her bun, her locks like silk. He inhaled the light, fresh scent of her and his body tightened against hers. His eyes dropped to her lips and he remembered her taste: honeysuckle and lemon drops. Kissing her had felt like kissing sunshine and for a moment he lost himself in the glow of that memory.

“Daniel,” she whispered, her eyes shimmering up at him, her voice husky. “People are watching.”

“Let them.”

When she trembled in his arms, he knew she was remembering the afternoons he’d held her this way. How they’d lie snuggled in the deep grass together, the blue sky their only witness. It’d been magic. The ultimate trick, however, was her disappearing act. The thought sobered him and he loosened his grip. She challenged, exhilarated, frustrated and attracted him like no other. Yet she had crushed him, too, and he sensed that could happen as easily now as it had then if he wasn’t careful. He wasn’t just at war with her, he also battled himself.

As he guided her through the swaying couples, their bodies moved in perfect sync. Suddenly he thought of her ex and felt a rush of jealousy at the thought of her in another man’s arms.

“I’m sorry to hear about your divorce,” he said, and felt her stiffen.

“I got through it,” she said lightly, her eyes sliding from his.

“Do you still see him?”  An irrational need to know how much time she still spent with the man seized him. It didn’t matter—or it shouldn’t—yet somehow, it did.

A laugh-snort escaped her and her gaze flew to his. “Not since he left.”

“What about Tyler?” he blurted. The guy might be a fool for not returning Jodi’s love,  but he must at least care for his own child.

The music ended and he led her to a table by the window. After pulling out her chair,      he straddled his.

Jodi caught her lower lip between her teeth and gazed outside.  The sun had set completely and the moon was up, a wedge of creamy white casting its reflection onto   the lake. Night wind rattled tree branches, knocking them against one another. “Not Tyler, either,” she said at last, her voice sounding empty. Scraped out.

He found her cold fingers beneath the table and wrapped his palms around them. “He’s  a terrible father.” And a horrible person. Who would abandon his wife and child? He’d known she was a single mother, but he’d never known that she was raising her son entirely on her own. After this night of revelations, she’d surprised him again and he admired her even more. What a strong, caring person.

Jodi nodded, her face bleak and beautiful. “Tyler wouldn’t stop crying after his dad left until—”

She froze, then yanked her hands away and stood. “I’ve got to go.”

“Jodi.” His voice stopped her. “I—I—” He broke off, searching for the right words the way he might grope for a light switch in the dark.

She glanced around the bar, the faraway look gone, her expression sharp. “We shouldn’t do this. It’s not good for either of us to get this personal. My focus is on Tyler. Not bars. Not men.” She gazed at him, her eyes pleading. “Not you.”

Before he could stand, she flew out the door, leaving him again.

About the Author

Karen Rock has adored romance since receiving Harlequin Presents books from her grandmother each summer. She formed her Young Adult writing partnership, J.K. Rock- pseudonym for the CAMP BOYFRIEND series, with her sister-in-law and Blaze author, Joanne Rock in 2011. When Karen heard of a call for submissions to Heartwarming, Harlequin’s latest line, she was inspired by the possibilities of writing unforgettable, deeply romantic, tender love stories that mothers would feel comfortable sharing with their daughters.  When she’s not writing, Karen loves scouring estate sales for vintage books, cooking her grandmother’s family recipes, hiking the ‘high peaks’, and rede-   signing her gardens.  She lives in the Adirondack Mountain region with her husband, daughter, and two Cavalier King cocker spaniels who have yet to understand the concept of “fetch” though they know a lot about love.

For more information about Karen’s upcoming books, check out her website: http://www.karenrock.com.                                                                                                            Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/karenrockwrites. Or follow her on twitter http://www.twitter.com/karenrock5. She’d love to hear from you!

   
HIS HOMETOWN GIRL FRONT AND BACK

MY REVIEW

Once again Karen Rock has awed me with her writing style and descriptions. From        the realities of autism to the plights of farmers, she tugs at readers’ hearts with her character’s raw emotions. But that doesn’t mean there’s no substance. The author obviously has knowledge in these areas, which she shares–educating and even supplying solutions.

A decade after a love lost, Jodi Chapman and Daniel Gleason find themselves on opposite sides of a heated battle. Hoping for a promotion at Midland Corp in Chicago,  Jodi is determined to acquire 5000 acres of prime dairy land in her hometown of Cedar Bay, Vermont. Adding to the awkwardness is the fact that her former boyfriend, Daniel, desperately hopes to co-op the farms in the community so they can hold on to their heritage.  Jodi fights for her son, Tyler, believing their future depends on her victory,    but what about Daniel?  Could this be a second chance for them?

Memories play a large part in this story, with regrets and resentments springing up, not only for Jodi, but for Daniel and his family.  And while she’s aware of the lives of those around her, Jodi must deal with her feelings and find a way to make a life for herself   and Tyler.

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Velvet Loved Our Old TV

It all started when my sister called my husband and me to tell us about a “really nice cat” in her neighbor’s garden. Little did we know that, in a few short days, the part Persian mass of black fur would become part of our household–and our lives.

No one knew where she had come from, but she had obviously belonged to someone.  The veterinarian my sister took her to disclosed that she had been fixed, and he surmised that she was about a year old.

Knowing she wouldn’t want to meet our Siamese, Coco, right away, we put her on the breezeway when we brought her home, and she immediately ran behind the washer.     No amount of coaxing would bring her out, so I finally placed some food on the floor. Before I could exit the room, she appeared and became my instant friend. (She must have thought anyone who would give her food must be okay.)  Just minutes later she allowed me to pick her up, then she half-reclined on my lap on the couch, seeming accustomed   to such pleasures.

We decided to call her Velvet, since that’s exactly what the top of her head felt like, but     I noticed it meant nothing to her at first when I called her name. But after two or three days, she responded immediately, thrilled that someone cared enough to spend time  with her.

As we gradually introduced her to Coco, also one year of age, we realized how different she was from the melancholy Siamese.  Instead of having a love for classical music, as   he did, she was enamored by anything mechanical or technical. Over the years, she       had a habit of overseeing work done by professionals, and listening to the dishwasher     in fascination. We decided if our two cats could become people, Coco would be a poet         or artist, and Velvet would be a handyman.

After the two matured to the age of about fourteen, we lost Coco to illness, making Velvet the only cat.  Since we lived in an apartment at the time, her outside privileges were limited to a tiny balcony which overlooked some woods. There were occasionally birds and squirrels for her to watch, but she liked to be out on the grass, flat to the ground, stalking them (at least in her mind).

Without her companion to help her wile away the hours, she took note of the words     running along the bottom of our television screen.  She was especially interested in sports scores.  After awhile she became excited by craft makers whose hands looked enormous, and that moved so quickly. She would jump up and try to catch their fingers, batting the screen with her soft paws. Eventually she started watching sports–especially golf and basketball–sitting right in front of the set, following all action with rapt attention.

But as all good things must come to an end, our seventeen-year-old console TV died suddenly one night, much to the chagrin of our household.  We knew we couldn’t find one just like it, with the wood-grain covering, but we did the best we could, elevating    the new set slightly.  And while my husband and I appreciated the newly-found colors that had disappeared from our old TV, Velvet refused to acknowledge its presence. Gone was the request, first thing in the morning, for us to turn on the box of energy she had     grown accustomed to.  She seemed to think we had taken away her toy because she like  it so much. (Or that it was with Coco at the mansion he now lived in.)

After a couple of months, she started glancing up at the impostor from the floor, realizing that she didn’t have to sit right next to a television to view its images.  Next she seemed to watch from a chair.  We had been concerned about having her so close to the other set, so that part worked out well. However, she never completely warmed up to the new TV. Somehow it just wasn’t the same as her wood-paneled friend who sat with her on the floor.

Velvet watching a Western

Velvet watching a Western

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A Southerner’s View of Snow and Ice

If you’ve read “Ski Trip or Comedy of Errors?”  you might get the impression I’m not a cold weather sports person. I’ve always lived in the South, and even though we get snow and ice from time to time, it’s never enough to encourage winter activities. But the cold weather we’ve been having, even in the South, along with the prediction of a ton of snow, reminds me of my senior year in college.  The fountain near my dorm froze and a few people ice skated on it, then the school closed down for two weeks because of heating problems.  (I admit, it was difficult for me to get back into studying after that.)

The first real opportunity I had to ice skate was when I visited Gatlinburg, Tennessee with a group from college. We rose above mountains in a giant cable car, awed by the panoramic views of snow-capped peaks.  When we reached a pinnacle and disembarked, the icy air hurt my hands more than any cold ever had, even though I wore gloves.  I retreated to a barely-heated building nearby to get some relief. It might be the only time I’ve come close to frostbite.

I wanted to ski, but it was expensive, so I settled for ice skating.  Unfortunately, the skates I received at the rink had been rented too many times, and they’d been bent back and forth at at the ankles at least a thousand times, making it impossible for me to skate, even though I’d recently taken a class in roller skating. A friend, who’d obviously received much better skates than I did, helped me to hobble around the rink, but I finally had to give up.  (I should have asked for different skates, but I was a shy student.)

Years later I tried ice skating again, but I didn’t have the confidence I did earlier, plus   the frigid air in the rinks bothered me, since I’m cold natured.  It’s my guess that most skaters who stick with it are hot natured.  So while I enjoy snow and the idea of ice skating and watching others skate, I’ll probably always be a person who stays on solid ground.  (Unless I’m swimming. But that’s another story.)

On a more recent note, traffic that’s backed up because of snow reminds me so much      of a year when Rick and I lived in Raleigh, NC. We drove about fifteen minutes to lunch that day, and just as we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, a few light flurries started to fall. We were somewhat accustomed to driving in the snow, so we didn’t worry about it, and we continued into the building which has no windows in the dining room.

When we finished eating, Rick decided it would be the perfect time to get a Cappuccino.   I was ready to go, but I waited patiently, with no idea that every snowflake that had fallen “stuck,” and the precipitation had really picked up.  We returned to our car to discover that the roads were getting slick and traffic was getting thicker. We probably would have been fine if some people hadn’t panicked, driving about five miles per hour, and if all the schools and workplaces hadn’t let out at noon.  There was way too much congestion on the roads, and our return trip was forty-five minutes instead of fifteen.

When we finally arrived home and checked the news, we learned that the highways were packed, and even when we went to bed, some cars were still on the road. We felt sorry for those who had to spend the night in their cars or at work or at school.  And all for about one inch of snow!  But it wasn’t the snow as much as it was the fact that so many were   on the road at the same time, and that some were so careful on the roads that it actually caused problems.  So while no one needs to be careless when there are icy conditions,    we also need to try not to go too far in the other direction.

Batesburg Snow through Window 001

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Bats 101

I’ll admit I’ve thought our two story fixer-upper with its dark, foreboding exterior and dingy trim resembles a haunted house (especially when cobwebs affix themselves to the windows), but a bat cave?  Never. My experience with bats heretofore had been limited: Wondering if that lone bird flitting about just after dusk was actually a bat; discovering,   in the middle of the day, a small, furry brown creature inverted on the side of a wall.  But after my husband and I bought our home in a forested neighborhood, all of that changed–drastically.

Six months after we moved in, I allowed one of our young Siamese cats the privilege of going into the living room, and we noticed something behind the door that looked like        a large, dead leaf. When Choco touched it with his paw, the thing squeaked. I snatched up our cat and hurried out of the room.

While I locked Choco and our other cat, Mocha, away from the area, Rick investigated. Coming into the den a minute later, he wore a somber expression. “I believe it’s a bat.”

Donning heavy gloves, he placed the nearly-dead creature in a vented oatmeal container and set it outside. It was the worst possible time for such an occurrence: Eight o’clock   on a Sunday night–New Year’s Day.

Rick called our local health department to see if they could test it for rabies, but the person’s attitude was casual. “I don’t know . . . was anyone asleep with it in the room?Sometimes we test a bat if people find it in their bedroom–in case they were bitten in their sleep.”

“Oh . . . what should we do about our cat?  He touched it.”

“Has your cat had a rabies shot recently?”

“It’s been a few months.”

“You might want to give him one just to be safe.”

I was relieved that the “experts”  felt it was okay, but disappointed that they were so routine about it and offered so little advice.  I worried the rest of the evening, wondering if any of us would contract some kind of illness, but we felt better after taking Choco for his shot and talking to the veterinarian. Getting back to our daily routine, we hoped we’d never have any more trouble with bats.

But one year later–New Year’s Day–our cats were anxious to go into the living room. Giving in to them, I again noticed something strange behind the door. Rick came in and studied the form.

“I think it’s another bat.”

We barely recognized it as such, since it was wedged between the carpeting and the wall. Concerned, but not devastated like the first time, we dealt with the situation as quickly     as possible, getting the creature out of our house. We didn’t bother with phone calls or shots, but we realized the first time wasn’t a fluke.

“Maybe they’re coming in through the vents,” Rick mused. “I’ve heard they can get into some tight spaces.”

He carefully covered all of the registers downstairs, thinking the intruders were coming from underneath the house. We felt better, believing that cold weather brought the bats inside. But when summer came, we found this wasn’t necessarily true.

The most frightening encounter occurred when I turned on a fan shortly before bedtime. As I started toward the other end of the bedroom, a huge bat soared over my head! Fear penetrated my being as I ducked instinctively while the creature flew around the room.    It really looked more like a bird, but with the trouble we’d been having, I felt sure it    was a bat. After what seemed like an eternity, it sailed through the door to the den.

It definitely was the largest one we’d seen. Using his gloves, Rick took it outside. We  both had trouble sleeping that night, and I kept reliving the scenario of that dark, bird-like creature flying back and forth in our bedroom. I wondered if there were more in the house.

Not many days later, our theory that bats were coming from under our house was dispelled when one appeared in the upstairs bathroom. A test for rabies turned out okay, but our nightmare continued. Something no one told us before we moved to our area, is that our town has a history of bat problems. We learned that, years earlier, the sky was almost black at dusk, when a myriad of bats left their attic dwellings to search for food. Things had improved in general since then, but our situation was getting worse.

We made some calls to local exterminators, but they told us they couldn’t help with bats, since they’re a protected species. We checked other sources, eventually finding someone to screen and seal spaces in our attic, but it wasn’t long before another bat appeared upstairs. This prompted us to have the chimney checked to make sure nothing could come in that way. The inspector assured us our chimney was secure, but another bat showed up soon thereafter.

Rick then had the idea of using clear packing tape on our attic door and the attic fan vent, and it wasn’t long before we heard strange sounds coming from the second floor. We went up with our cat, Mocha, and were shocked to find at least one bat trying to break through the tape on the attic door! We could actually see a creature working diligently.   It seemed to back up to get momentum, then it hit the barrier as hard as it could.

Mocha was so fascinated, he helped to keep watch part of the night, in case a bat broke through. Night after night this went on, and the invaders even tried to come through the attic fan vent!  It was eerie–like a horror movie. Needless to say, we all four lost sleep.

After making more phone calls, we got in touch with a bat man traveling through the area. He climbed into the attic, armed with a mask and gloves, and found two dead bats. As he banged away, trying to frighten the creatures, Rick was posted outside, and he watched 101 bats take flight from underneath our roofline!  The man closed areas where he thought they might be getting in, and we relaxed–certain that our home was finally       bat free.

This wasn’t to last, however, and we contacted a second bat eliminator who traveled.     He didn’t come until mid-August, since the law demands that the young bats be given        a chance to fly. When he finally came, the man affixed a net to the side of our house, allowing the bats to exit, but not return. Another worker came a few days later to remove the net and finish sealing the fascia board base. This expensive procedure seemed to take care of the problem, and we haven’t seen a bat since.

During our experience, we learned that bats like warmth, and they prefer to squeeze    into small spaces, rather than going through an open window.  They also like to be near  a source of water, such as a pond or pool, swooping down to take sips occasionally.

We still know little about these creatures, but so much more than we did prior to this ordeal. Most of the bats we dealt with during those two and a half years seemed docile, and for that we’re grateful. Choco and Mocha have found other ways to spend their time, and we’re all getting more sleep. We sincerely hope we’ll have no more visits from these uninvited guests.

 

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CAMP CHRISTMAS!

 

Camp Christmas by JK Rock is a novella which is part of the Camp Boyfriend series and will be free to download. While it is part of the Camp Boyfriend series it can also be read as a stand alone.   

Hannah never meant to be a mean girl – at Camp Juniper Point or at her high school. It just sort of happened during one painful year when her parents split and her life fell apart. Who knew being mad at the world would catapult her to popularity? But since changing the status quo would make her some serious enemies, she’s prepared to ride out her time until graduation. That is, until a camp friend calls her on the act during their school ski trip. Will Julian out her to her friends? Or will the guy she once accused of being King of the Nerds make her wish she was a whole lot more like him?

You can find Camp Christmas on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18369835-camp-christmas

Camp Christmas by J.K. Rock!

Release Date: December 17, 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary                                                                                                                           
Available now!
Download Camp Christmas for free on the Spencer Hill Contemporary website:  http://www.spencerhillcontemporary.com/Downloads.html
*****
The Authors
J. K. Rock is the pseudonym for YA writing partners – and sisters-in-law – Joanne & Karen Rock. After years of comparing notes on their favorites books and films, often dreaming up new endings to suit them, they decided to write their own stories. Their first Young Adult book, CAMP BOYFRIEND, is the first in a three-book series. CAMP PAYBACK will be a Spring 2014 release, and CAMP FORGET-ME-NOT arrives in Summer 2014. Visit the Camp Boyfriend website at http://campboyfriend.net to learn more about the free novellas they are offering readers prior to each full length book. Individually, Joanne Rock is an award winning Harlequin author published in 26 countries and translated into 20 languages. Karen Rock’s first Harlequin Heartwarming release, WISH ME TOMORROW, is a deeply emotional story of enduring love.

*****

Find J.K. Rock online:

*****
Excerpt
 
Julian
    “I’ve got to get a call out or a text message, but I haven’t had a signal for the last couple of hours.” I put my backpack on and wrapped my cape over it.
     Say what you will about a cape; I’d be the only one warm tonight if we got stuck out here. My eyes slid to Hannah. I could probably be talked into sharing it.
     Blinking, I forced myself to snap out of it. Just because she remembered some random moment we shared in fifth grade didn’t mean the past was forgiven. But it had been cool to find out she hadn’t forgotten. That it was still important to her under all the Mean Girl crap she’d worn like armor since junior high.
    “I’m going with you.” She stared at me with her inscrutable eyes, her red hair curling around her shoulders damply now that the snow fell so heavy.
    “It’s safer for you here.” I didn’t need her slowing me down.
    “Doesn’t matter. We’re partners. Buddy system, remember? No arguing.” She yanked her ski cap down farther beneath her helmet so it covered her ears more. “I’m going.”
    “Don’t go all stubborn on me,” I warned. “This isn’t the same as talking your way out of a homework assignment. There are real dangers in these woods and they’re only getting worse as it gets dark.”
    Her eyes narrowed. Her mouth flattened into a thin line. “Which is why I need to protect you.”
    “From bears?” I couldn’t resist.
    “Exactly. I think we can both agree I have bigger claws than you.” She dug her poles in the snow. “Now get moving before we lose more light.”
     I said nothing. I just started skiing.
We trudged silently for a while, the snow too fresh for any kind of speed. But after a few minutes she sidled closer.
    “Thanks for not arguing with me.”
    “I did argue. You just refused to listen.”
    She flipped long, damp strands of auburn behind one shoulder as she sighed. “I know you think I’m this super mean chick, but—”
    “You’re strong and you’re tough. That part’s cool.”
    “Really?” Her voice sounded uncertain in a way that hit me right in the chest.
     I swallowed down the feeling, not ready for it. Not now.
    “Definitely. I don’t mind that you wanted to come with me, Hannah. I like that you speak your mind.” I debated how to put the next part. “It’s when you snark on people to make them feel small…that’s mean. But I don’t think that’s really you.”
    Let her chew on that. I waited for her to jab me in the kidney with a ski pole or step on the back of my ski. But she was so quiet the only sound I heard for a long moment was the rhythmic thunk of her poles in the snow.
     “Of course it’s me. I’m the one who does it.”
     “Yeah, but you do it because your friends expect you to. You got a reputation for being the mean girl, and now you don’t know how to quit.”
     She stopped. Skis, poles, arms…all of it just kind of wilted right there. I paused, too, turning around to see her face scrunched in a weird, thoughtful way. Frowning, she reached for her chest, her palm and her ski pole resting there like she was holding herself together.
    “What?” I edged backward toward her. “Did you lose something?”
     I couldn’t see the ground clearly in the shadows of shrinking daylight, but I scanned for anything she might have dropped.
    “How do you know that?” She moved closer in a way that made my pulse leap. “I mean—why would you ever give me the benefit of the doubt?”
     One of her skis slid between mine. She was that close.
     I swallowed hard.
    “You don’t fool me, Hannah.” I shrugged. “I judge people based on what I observe. What I know.”
    “One time, I locked Bobby Randall in the girls’ room. His friends still call him Flush.”
    “Everyone knew he was going to get pounded that day by a senior wrestler from another school. It was obvious to me you saved his life.”
     She rolled her eyes. “I steal hall passes from Ms. Hanrahan’s desk all the time.”
    “You and everyone else.” I noticed that I couldn’t see her freckles as well now that the sun was setting.
    “I shoved Lauren Carlson off a cliff at camp.”
   “Definitely mean. But it was a small cliff, if I remember correctly. And you were having the year from hell.”
    She gasped. “How did you—”
    “I pay way too much attention to you.”
******
My Review

I was immediately pulled into this well-written Young Adult novella by J.K. Rock. Part    of the Camp Boyfriend series, Camp Christmas will not only take you full circle through high school relationships and attitudes, but also a high-stakes adventure.

When Hannah starts off on a yearly Christmas Eve ski trip to the Adirondack Mountains with her private school, a fellow classmate complicates her life. Julian knows her from Camp Juniper Point in North Carolina, but Hannah tries to keep her camp and school lives separate.  In fact, she told Julian not to speak to her when they were ten, and she still holds him to it. But she doesn’t know that Julian is changing from a nerd into a cool teen.

Being the third most popular girl at Northstar Academy is extremely important to Hannah, and it helps her deal with her crumbling home life.  She has a “mean girl” attitude that keeps her afloat with Missy and Bella, who hold the number one and        two spots, and if they keep seeing her with Julian, she could lose her status. But she soon learns that  her social life isn’t all she has to worry about.

There are very real dangers on Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, New York, and Hannah’s small group, which has gone off trail thanks to their lacrosse coach, finds itself dealing with an emergency situation. And in the midst of everything, Hannah must sort through her feelings for Julian, whose kind manner, tall build, and confidence tempt her to overlook his nerd label.

Camp Christmas is a fun book which showcases J.K. Rock’s talent and knowledge, and it’s the perfect length for a holiday or weekend read. Having read Camp Kiss and Camp Boyfriend also, I look forward to more of the Camp Boyfriend series.

Warning: Girls might find themselves falling for dreamy Julian Berwick, who owns          a cape.

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