Bring Me Back

by B.A. Paris

 

I’ve been all over the board with B.A. Paris books. Her first one Behind Closed Doors really didn’t sit well with me it was so disturbing and I couldn’t get past the fact that he was such a deranged person. Then we had The Breakdown, I liked that one and found it really suspenseful.  Just recently her latest Bring Me Back came out and I devoured it in a day and a half. I really liked this one and think it might be a favorite of the 3. It was a “haunting/stalking” like nothing I’ve read before. Yes I figured it out by part 2 but not 100% I still had questions and some of my theories weren’t right, and some of the plot twist were big twist! B.A. Paris is a master storyteller and her books are ones you will have very concrete views on. This like her other novels will have a strong loved it and hated it camp. Her novels really seem to create strong emotions with readers. I can’t wait to see what she creates next. B.A. Paris will be an author I will always read.

Finn never really knew what happened to her girlfriend Layla when she vanished into thin air. He stopped living for a long time and couldn’t get over his own possible role in her disappearance. He also never told the full truth of what all went on leading up to those final moments they were together. Eventually he starts to feel alive again when Layla’s little sister comes down to England and he falls for Ellen. Just when he thinks his life is finally going to be happy weird things start happening and he can’t get over the fact that someone is trying to tell him something and isn’t going to let his past with Layla rest. So begins the unraveling of Layla’s vanishing and Finn’s reckoning.

About the book: She went missing. He moved on. A whole world of secrets remained—until now.

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

Thank you so much St. Martin Press for sending me a copy of Bring Me Back. I really enjoyed this book and all thoughts and opinions are mine and not influenced by the free book.

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The Good Luck Sisters

Wildstone series {novella – book 1.5 in the series}

by Jill Shalvis

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I’m so happy to be a part of the Spotlight tour for The Good Luck Sister novella. The Wildstone series sounds the perfect summer reading. Add the series to your GoodReads bookshelf : Lost and Found Sisters – The Good Luck Sister and Rainy Day Friends 

ABOUT THE GOOD LUCK SISTER

After a difficult few years, Tilly Adams is ready for life to start going right. Though she has a case of first-day nerves teaching art at the local community college, she knows it isn’t anything a few snuggles from her rescue puppy won’t cure. Until she sees Dylan Scott again, her one-time BFF and first love sitting in the front row. Dylan knows he should’ve left well enough alone, but when he sees Tilly living her dream, he can’t help but make contact. Ten years ago, he left Wildstone and everything in it behind, including Tilly. He had his reasons, but now he wants her back in his life, anyway he can get her. When Tilly agrees to design the logo for Dylan’s new helicopter touring company, it’s business only . . . until she finds herself falling into his arms once again. Can she possibly open her heart back up to the only man who’s ever broken it? But soon they’re both realizing the truth—love always deserves a second chance.

{ This quote from the book is so me, so I had to share it!}

Book Excerpt:  Chapter 1

“I’ve finished my free trial of adulthood and am no longer interested, so please cancel my subscription.” From The Mixed Up Files of Tilly’s journal.

Tilly Adams sat in the vet’s office staring at the doctor in shock. “Say that again?”

Dr. Janet Lyons smiled. “I think Leo faked being sick. Probably so you’d stay home from work today.”

Tilly looked down at Leo. “You do know he’s a dog, right?”

All six pounds of him smiled up at her. About a month ago, she found him on a street corner hiding beneath a bus bench; wet, dirty, cold, hungry and matted. He’d been Dobby meets Gremlin meets neglected, abused Care Bear. Tilly had looked around for an adult, and then had to remind herself that at twenty-five years old, she was legal herself. So then she’d searched for an adultier adult, but she’d been the only one in sight.

So she’d scooped the little guy up and had brought him to the SPCA, who’d said he was about five weeks old, a possible Maltipoo, which meant he came by his care bear look naturally. He was malnutritioned and suffering from mange. They’d said they’d do what they could, and Tilly had turned to go. That had been when she’d seen all the eyes on her from an endless row of cages … and she’d realized her care bear would soon be sitting in one too. Then she’d heard herself offer to foster him until they found him a forever home.

They’d found him one too. Tilly had signed the adoption papers last weekend in spite of the fact that just that morning he’d escaped his crate, eaten her favorite sneakers, destroyed her favorite pillow, and then yakked up the stuffing from the pillow.

He was a destructo of the highest magnitude, and something else too. He had no idea how small he was. He went after her sister Quinn’s twenty-plus pound cat and her neighbor’s hundred pound black lab with the same fierce, fearless gusto. Turned out, the little guy had a bad case of small-man syndrome, which was how he’d earned his name.

Leo, short for Napoleon.

 And now on top of Leo’s impressive chewing skills, his escape artist skills, and his ability to get up on her bed and yet still not understand why stepping in his own poop was annoying, he had a new skill.

He’d faked being sick.

Proud of himself, Leo smiled up at her. Smiled. An hour ago he’d been coughing and limping and acting all sorts of odd. Now he just kept smiling up at her while sending her meaningful glances at the open dog biscuit bin between her and the doctor.

Dr. Lyons laughed and gave him one.

“Dogs can’t fake sick,” Tilly said while Leo inhaled the biscuit whole before licking the floor to make sure he got all the crumbs. “Can they?”

Dr. Lyons scooped him up and gave him a kiss on his adorable snout. “Yours did.”
Tilly sighed. It was too early for this. She’d had a crazy late night. Not hanging at Whiskey River, the local bar and grill. Not at a club with friends. Not working on her designs for he upcoming graphic art showing.

Nope, she’d been on a serious stress bender — a marathon of Game Of Thrones. She hadn’t fallen asleep until

after two and her alarm had interrupted her in the middle of a really great dream starring Jon Snow.

Dr. Lyons handed Leo over. He immediately snuggled into the crook of Tilly’s neck and dammit, her cold heart melted on the spot and she hugged him close. “You’re sure he’s okay? He was coughing. And then he limped funny. And then he wouldn’t eat.”

“But he hasn’t coughed once that I’ve seen. And he’s not limping either. And you said all his food vanished while you took a quick shower.”

“Yes,” Tilly said.

Dr. Lyons waited for her to catch up.

Tilly sighed. “He really did fake me out.”

ABOUT JILL SHALVIS

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website, www.jillshalvis.com, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

When Never Comes

by Barbara Davis

 

 

When Never Comes is a book about finding yourself again when you never realized you were lost to begin with. Christy Lynn hasn’t had it easy she is the child of an addict, went into foster care in her teens and ran away right after. She made something of herself in the publishing world and meet her handsome prince a famous author who whisked her off her feet and they got married. However everything comes crashing down when she gets a middle of the night knock on the door and finds out not only is she a widow now but her husband Stephen was having an affair. With photos leaked and the secret out she grabs very little from the house and runs. She runs to the first place that she can and it ends up being the cute little town her and Stephen went to on their honeymoon. While she didn’t plan to stay there she ends up setting down new roots and creating a life she wants but she still has a lot of unanswered questions so she starts poking around and learns more than she bargained for when she meets the “other” woman’s family. Now she has even more questions and begins to realize she might not have even known the man she was supposedly in love with.  Could she have been that blind when it came to her husband? When Never Comes is full of a great cast of characters and some shady ones you wish would just crawl back under the rock they came out of. This book is a great beach/pool read this summer. It is a fast read not that heavy and has the happily ever after in the end. Christy Lynn is strong and vulnerable and has a great heart. I really enjoyed her character and all her new friends as well.  I’m so glad I went beyond my usual mystery thriller and requested this book.

About the book: As a teenage runaway and child of an addict, Christy-Lynn learned the hard way that no address was permanent, and no promise sacred. For a while, she found a safe haven in her marriage to bestselling crime novelist Stephen Ludlow—until his car skidded into Echo Bay. But Stephen’s wasn’t the only body pulled from the icy waters that night. When details about a mysterious violet-eyed blonde become public, a media circus ensues, and Christy-Lynn runs again.

Desperate for answers, she’s shattered to learn that Stephen and his mistress had a child—a little girl named Iris, who now lives in poverty with her ailing great-grandmother. The thought of Iris abandoned to the foster care system—as Christy-Lynn once was—is unbearable. But she’s spent her whole life running—determined never to be hurt again. Will she finally stand still long enough to open herself up to forgiveness and love?

Thank you Lake Union Publishing and Netgalley for allowing me to read When Never Comes. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

Every Single Secret

by Emily Carpenter

 

This is the first Emily Carpenter book I’ve read. I have The Weight of Lies in my TBR pile and trust me after reading Every Single Secret I’m moving that book up to the top. What caught my eye was the cover. I loved the cover and wondered why all the birdhouses. Well  the birdhouses will make sense once you read the book! The setting was creepy and one you just couldn’t put your finger on way it put you on edge. It reminded me of old gothic suspense novels that I’ve read in the past. This book was so good and I never figured it all out. Heck I didn’t even scratch the surface of all the dysfunction going on with Heath, Daphne and so many other characters.  Heath thinks going on a 7 day couple retreat to figure out why he has nightmares and night terrors will help. The doctor is said to be the best in the field but is he really? Once in the secluded house with no phones, wifi or way to contact the outside world Daphne starts to get on edge things are not adding up and she things something is very wrong! Then  everything starts to unravel things go from bad to beyond bad in a heartbeat. Daphne needs to get out of this couples retreat and fast if she is going to make it out alive. Luca is the cook and has been trying to tell her to run but he is also in danger. The writing goes from the day everything comes to a head and then the days leading up to the final day. I really can’t say much without ruining the book but I can say RUN to your local library or bookstore and grab a copy of Every Single Secret! It’s out no and you will not be disappointed. They only thing that will disappoint you is when you finish the last page and your done with this great book.

About the book: Emotionally guarded Daphne Amos always believed she’d found a kindred spirit in her fiancé, Heath. Both very private people, they’ve kept their pasts hidden from the world, and each other, until Heath’s escalating nightmares begin to put an undeniable strain on their relationship. Determined to give their impending marriage the best chance of succeeding, Heath insists that Daphne join him on a seven-day retreat with Dr. Matthew Cerny, a psychologist celebrated for getting to the root of repressed memories. Daphne reluctantly agrees—even though the past is the last place she wants to go.

The retreat’s isolated and forbidding location increases her unease, as do the doctor’s rules: they must relinquish their keys and phones, they’ll be monitored at all hours by hidden cameras, and they’re never to socialize with the other guests.

One sleepless night, Daphne decides to leave her room…and only then does she realize that the institute is not at all what it seems—and that whatever’s crying out from Heath’s past isn’t meant to be heard. It’s meant to be silenced.

Thank you Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for allowing me to read Every Single Secret. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

The Good Twin

by Marti Green

Publication date: May 15th 2018

 

There is so much I want to say about The Good Twin but I don’t want to spoil it for you guys. I will say your going to want to pre-order or get on the wait list at your local library. This book is perfect for summer reading! This book is a clear case of who really is the villain. I mean they all have their moments and money, greed and betrayal are at the heart of it all, isn’t it always. What was so different and great about The Good Twin is that you really do get 2 sides of a story. You get Mallory the first twin we learn about side of what all went down from her life growing up, finding out she actually had a twin to getting in way over her head into something very wrong and illegal! Then we Charlotte’s aka: Charly’s side of the story. We get to know her and find out how it all went down from her perspective. I liked that part of the multi perspective. I also enjoyed that it the book was split into sections and told in its entirety not the constant back and forth like I’m at a tennis game trying to figure out who side I was reading for that chapter. This really worked for me and I think it will work for other readers as well. Their was a lot of back stabbing, surprises and twist and turns. I kinda figured it all out but then guess what I didn’t the author pulled the rug out and I didn’t see that twist coming. I would give The Good Twin 4 solid stars and it would totally be on my re-read list. There was only 1 thing that I didn’t like and it was the speedy tying up loose ends final chapter. It was good I got closure but it felt so fast after her great job at going in-depth on the character’s life and thoughts. Still a great book and I enjoyed it so much, I was reading every chance I got.

About the book: Mallory Holcolm is an unfulfilled waitress and aspiring artist living in a Queens boardinghouse when she learns something astonishing about her past: she has an identical twin sister named Charly she never knew existed.

Charly is a Princeton graduate, a respected gallery owner, and an heiress married to her handsome college sweetheart, Ben. Charly got everything she ever wanted. Everything Mallory wanted, too. And now it might be easier than Mallory ever imagined. Because Ben has reasons of his own for wanting to help her.

It begins with his startling proposal. All Mallory has to do is say yes.

But as their devious plan falls into place, piece by piece, Mallory learns more about her sister and herself than she ever meant to—a discovery that comes with an unexpected twist. A chilling deception is about to become a dangerous double cross. And it’s going to change the rules of Ben and Mallory’s game to the very end.

Thank you so much Netgalley, Thomas & Mercer and Marti Green for letting me read The Good Twin. I enjoyed this mystery so much. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

My Oxford Year

by Julia Whelan

I’m so happy to be a part of the My Oxford Year spotlight tour. My Oxford Year has been on my TBR list for quite a while. It book sounds so good I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.  Update 5/9: Just got a library copy and I finished the book I was reading before. So perfect timing and I’m starting it today! Book review to come later this week.

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My Oxford Year instagramis this month’s Hello Giggles book club pick. They do it all on Instagram so if your looking for a fun online book club hop on over to their and give it a try.

ABOUT MY OXFORD YEAR

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day. When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret. Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.

Book Excerpt:  CHAPTER 1 :  While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England – now!

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad – Robert Browning, 1845

“Next!”

The customs agent beckons the person in front of me and I approach the big red line, absently toeing the curling tape, resting my hand on the gleaming pipe railing. No adjustable ropes at Heathrow, apparently; these lines must always be long if they require permanent demarcation.

My phone rings. I glance down. I don’t know the number.

“Hello?” I answer.

“Is this Eleanor Durran?”

“Yes?”

“This is Gavin Brookdale.”

My first thought is that this is a prank call. Gavin Brookdale just stepped down as White House Chief of Staff. He’s run every major political campaign of the last 20 years. He’s a legend.  He’s my idol. He’s calling me?

“Hello?”

“Sorry, I-I’m here,” I stammer. “I’m just –

“Have you heard of Janet Wilkes?”

Have I heard of – Janet Wilkes is the junior senator from Florida and a dark horse candidate for President. She’s 45, lost her husband twelve years ago in Afghanistan, raised three kids on a teacher’s salary while somehow putting herself through law school, and then ran the most impressive grassroots senatorial campaign I’ve ever seen. She also has the hottest human-rights-attorney boyfriend I’ve ever seen, but that’s beside the point. She’s a Gold Star wife who’s a progressive firebrand on social issues. We’ve never seen anyone like her on the national stage before. The first debate isn’t for another two weeks, on October 13, but voters seem to love her: she’s polling third in a field of twelve. Candidate Number Two is not long for the race; a Case of the Jilted Mistress(es). Number One, however, happens to be the current Vice-President, George Hillerson, who Gavin Brookdale (if the Washington gossip mill is accurate) loathes. Still, even the notoriously mercurial Brookdale wouldn’t back a losing horse like Wilkes just to spite the presumptive nominee. If nothing else, Gavin Brookdale likes to win. “Of course I’ve heard of her.”

“She read your piece in The Atlantic. We both did. ‘The Art of Education and the Death of the Thinking American Electorate.’ We were impressed.”

“Thank you,” I gush. “It was something I felt was missing from the discourse –”

“What you wrote was a philosophy. It wasn’t a policy.”

This brings me up short. “I understand why you’d think that, but I –”

“Don’t worry, I know you have the policy chops. I know you won Ohio for Janey Bennett. The 138th for Carl Moseley. You’re a talented young lady, Eleanor.”

“Mr. Brookdale –”

“Call me Gavin.”

“Then call me Ella. No one calls me Eleanor.”

“Alright, Ella, would you like to be the education consultant for Wilkes’ campaign?”

Silence.

“Hello?”

“Yes!” I bleat. “Yes, of course! She’s incredible –”

“Great. Come down to my office today and we’ll read you in.”

All the breath leaves my body. I can’t seem to get it back. “So… here’s the thing. I-I’m in England.”

“Fine, when you get back.”

“… I get back in June.”

Silence.

“Are you consulting over there?”

“No, I have a… I got a Rhodes and I’m doing a –”

Gavin chortles. “I was a Rhodie.”

“I know, Sir.”

“Gavin.”

“Gavin.”

“What are you studying?”

“English Language and Literature 1830 to 1914.”

Beat. “Why?”

“Because I want to?” Why does it come out as a question?

“You don’t need it. Getting the Rhodes is what matters. Doing it is meaningless, especially in Literature from 1830 to 19-whatever. The only reason you wanted it was to help you get that life-changing political job, right? Well, I’m giving that to you. So come home and let’s get down to business.”

“Next!”

A customs agent – stone-faced, turbaned, impressive beard – waves me forward. I take one step over the line, but hold a finger up to him. He’s not even looking at me. “Gavin, can I call –”

“She’s going to be the nominee, Ella. It’s going to be the fight of my life and I need all  hands – including yours – on deck, but we’re going to do it.”

He’s delusional. But, my God, what if he’s right? A shiver of excitement snakes through me. “Gavin –”

“Listen, I’ve always backed the winning candidate, but I have never backed someone who I personally, deeply, wanted to win.”

“Miss?” Now the customs agent looks at me.

Gavin chuckles at my silence. “I don’t want to have to convince you, if you don’t feel –”

“I can work from here.” Before he can argue, I continue, “I will make myself available at all hours. I will make Wilkes my priority.” Behind me, a bloated, red-faced businessman reeking of gin, moves to squeeze around me. I head him off, grabbing the railing, saying into the phone, “I had two jobs in college while volunteering in field offices and coordinating multiple city council runs. I worked two winning congressional campaigns last year while helping to shape the education budget for Ohio. I can certainly consult for you while reading books and writing about them occasionally.”

“Miss!” the customs agent barks. “Hang up the phone or step aside.” I hold my finger up higher (as if visibility is the problem) and widen my stance over the line.

“What’s your date certain for coming home?” Gavin asks.

“June 11th. I already have a ticket. Seat 32A.”

“Miss!” The customs agent and the man bark at me.

I look down at the red line between my sprawled feet. “Gavin, I’m straddling the North Atlantic right now. I literally have one foot in England and one in America and if I don’t hang up they’ll –”

“I’ll call you back.”

He disconnects.

What does that mean? What do I do? Numbly, I hurry to the immigration window, coming face to face with the dour agent. I adopt my best beauty-pageant smile and speak in the chagrined, gee-whiz tone I know he expects. “I am so sorry, Sir, my sincerest apologies. My Mom’s –”

“Passport.” He’s back to not looking at me. I’m getting the passive-aggressive treatment now. I hand over my brand new passport with the crisp, un-stamped pages. “Purpose of visit?”

“Study.”

“For how long will you be in the country?”

I pause. I glance down at the dark, unhelpful screen of my phone. “I… I don’t know.”

Now he looks up at me.

“A year,” I say. Screw it. “An academic year.”

“Where?”

“Oxford.” Saying the word out loud cuts through everything else. My smile becomes genuine. He asks me more questions, and I suppose I answer, but all I can think is:  I’m here. This is actually happening. Everything has come together according to plan.

He stamps my passport, hands it back, lifts his hand to the line.

“Next!”

When I was thirteen I read an article in Seventeen Magazine called, “My Once in a Lifetime Experience,” and it was a personal account of an American girl’s year abroad at Oxford. The classes, the students, the parks, the pubs, even the chip shop (“pictured, bottom left”) seemed like another world. Like slipping through a wormhole into a universe where things were ordered and people were dignified and the buildings were older than my entire country. I suppose thirteen is an important age in every girl’s life, but for me, growing up in the middle of nowhere, with a family that had fallen apart? I needed something to hold onto. I needed inspiration. I needed hope. The girl who wrote the article had been transformed. Oxford had unlocked her life and I was convinced that it would be the key to mine.

So I made a plan: get to Oxford.

After going through more customs checkpoints, I follow signs for The Central Bus Terminal and find an automatic ticket kiosk. The “£” sign before the amount looks so much better, more civilized, more historical than the American dollar sign, which always seems overly suggestive to me. Like it should be flashing in sequential neon lights above a strip club. $ – $ – $. Girls! Girls! Girls!

The kiosk’s screen asks me if I want a discounted return ticket (I assume that means round trip), and I pause. My flight back to Washington is on June 11th, barely sixteen hours after the official end of Trinity term. I have no plans to return to the states before then, instead staying here over the two long vacations (in December and March) and traveling. In fact, I already have my December itinerary all planned. I purchase the return ticket, then cross to a bench to wait for the next bus.

My phone dings and I look down. An email from The Rhodes Foundation reminding me about the orientation tomorrow morning.

For whatever reason, out of all the academic scholarships in the world, most people seem to have heard of The Rhodes. It’s not the only prestigious scholarship to be had, but it’s the one that I wanted. Every year, America sends 32 of its most overachieving, uber-competitive, social-climbing, do-gooder nerds to Oxford. It’s mostly associated with geniuses, power-players, global leaders. Let me demystify this: to get a Rhodes, you have to be slightly unhinged. You have to have a stellar GPA, excel in multiple courses of study, be socially entrepreneurial, charity-minded, and athletically proficient (though the last time I did anything remotely athletic I knocked out Jimmy Brighton’s front tooth with a foul ball, so take that tenet with a grain of salt). I could have gone after other scholarships. There’s the Marshal, the Fulbright, the Watson, but the Rhodies are my people. They’re the planners.

The other finalist selected from my district (a Math/Econ/Classics triple-major and Olympic archer who had discovered that applying Game Theory to negotiations with known terrorists makes the intel 147% more reliable) told me, “I’ve been working toward getting a Rhodes since Freshman year.” To which I replied, “Me, too.” He clarified, “Of high school.” To which I replied, “Me, too.”

While, yes, the Rhodes is a golden ticket to Oxford, it’s also a built-in network and the means to my political future. It ensures that people who would have otherwise discounted me – this unconnected girl from the soybean fields of Ohio – will take a second, serious look. People like Gavin Brookdale.

Going after things the way I do, being who I am, has alienated my entire hometown and most of my extended family. My mom hadn’t gone to college and my dad had dropped out after two years because he’d thought it was more important to change the world than learn about it, and there I was, this achievement machine making everyone around it vaguely uncomfortable. She thinks she’s better than everyone else.

Honestly, I don’t. But I do think I’m better than what everyone, besides my dad, told me I was.  I wake up in a moment of panic when the bus I’d boarded back at Heathrow jerks to a stop, sending the book on my lap to the floor. Hastily retrieving it, I force my sleepy eyes to take in the view from the floor-to-ceiling window in front of me. I chose the seat on the upper level at the very front, wanting to devour every bit of English countryside on the way to Oxford. Then I slept through it.

Pushing through the fog in my head, I peer outside. A dingy bus stop in front of a generic cell phone store. I look for a street sign, trying to get my bearings. My info packet from the college said to get off at the Queens Lane stop on High Street. This can’t be it. I glance behind me and no one on the bus is moving to get off, so I settle back into my seat.

The bus starts up again, and I breathe deeply, trying to wake up. I jam the book into my backpack. I’d wanted to finish it before my first class tomorrow, but I can’t focus. I was too excited to eat or sleep on the plane. My empty stomach and all-nighter is catching up to me. The time difference is catching up to me. The last twelve years spent striving for this moment is catching up to me.

Inside my jacket pocket, my phone vibrates. I pull it out and see the same number from earlier. I take a deep breath and preemptively answer, “Gavin, listen, I was thinking, let’s do a trial period of, say, a month, and if you feel that I need to be there –”

“Not necessary.”

My throat tightens. “Please, just give me thirty days to prove that –”

“It’s fine. I made it work. Just remember who comes first.”

Elation breaks through the fog. My fist clenches in victory and my smile reaches all the way to my temples. “Absolutely,” I say in my most professional voice. “Thank you so much for this opportunity. You won’t be disappointed.”

“I know that. That’s why I hired you. What’s your fee? FYI: there’s no money.”

There’s never any money. I tell him my fee anyway and we settle on something that I can live with. The Rhodes is paying my tuition and lodging and I get a small stipend for living expenses on top of that. I decide right then that what Gavin’s going to pay me will go directly into my travel budget. 

“Now, go,” he says, “Have fun. You’ve clearly earned it. There’s a pub you should visit in the center of town. The Turf. See where one of your fellow Rhodes Scholars – a young William Jefferson Clinton – ‘didn’t’ inhale.”

“Ha, got it. Will do.”

“Just take your phone with you. Your phone is an appendage, not an accessory. Okay?”

I nod even though he can’t see me. “Okay. It’s a plan.” Just as I say this, the bus rounds a bend and there she is:

Oxford.

Beyond a picturesque bridge, the narrow two-lane road continues into a bustling main street, lined on each side by buildings with a hodge-podge of architectural styles, no room to breathe between them. Like the crowd at the finish line of a marathon, these buildings cheer me on, welcoming me to their city. Some are topped with sloped, slate roofs, others with battlements. Some of the larger buildings have huge wooden gates that look as if they were carved in place, a fusion of timeless wood and stone that steals my breath. Maybe those doors lead to some of the 38 individual Oxford colleges? Imagining it, dreaming of it all these years, doesn’t do it justice.

I look skyward. Punctuating the horizon are the tips of other ancient buildings, high-points of stone bordering the city like beacons.

“The City of Dreaming Spires,” I murmur to myself.

“Indeed it is,” Gavin says in my ear. I’d forgotten he was still on the line.

That’s what they call Oxford. A title well deserved. Because that means, before it was my dream or Seventeen Magazine girl’s dream, it was someone else’s dream as well.

ABOUT JULIA WHELAN

Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. While she was in England, her flirtation with tea blossomed into a full-blown love affair, culminating in her eventual certification as a tea master.

Engineering a Life

A Memoir

by Krishan K. Bendi

 

I love Physics and Engineering so I thought this biography would be interesting and one a might like to read. I’m not a big non fiction fan, but working on changing that with more science related books. I know Engineering isn’t a science per say when you think of sciences (bio, physics, chemistry) but it is  and it uses physics and math. Engineering A Life ended up being less of what I was expecting but it was still good. This book went less into the engineering part of his life and more into the day to day struggle to survive part. I showed that you can achieve your dreams. Some times you have to work extra hard, harder than the other guy. If you don’t give up and let lives ups and downs keep you down you can and will be anything you want to be. After finishing this book I felt like a really knew the author Krishan Bendi. It was like meeting a stranger and finding out their whole life story over a cup of tea.  This is a feel good book that really made me so happy that he never gave up. If you’re not sure about non fiction but a book sounds interesting give it a try. I’m so glad I did and really want to read more now. I am going to give more STEM biographies and books a chance.

About the book: Krishan Bedi came to the United States in December of 1961 at the tender age of twenty. He had only $300 in his pocket, and he had made it out of his small village in India on sheer faith, determined to get education in the US. For him, there was no option but to succeed—so he began his new life in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he had to adapt to the culture shock not only of being in the US but a Punjabi man in the South in the 1960s.

Thank you so much BookSparks, and SparkPress for sending me a copy of Engineering a Life.  All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.