Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!!!!



Happy New Year Book Blogging World!!

Note: All photos are taken from Google images.

Best Books of 2012

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Another year has passed and yay! I'm on my 5th year blogging about the books I've read, TV series and movies I've watched. 2012 has been a tough year to me and to my family. Well, that's because I've finally(!!!) decided to start a small business while attending to family needs, working and completing my masters. It's very tiring and I don't get to have ME time as much as before but so far everything is running smooth. I hope and pray that everything will be alrighty next year, oh I mean this year 2013 (already Jan 1 here in the Philippines). And of course that I would still be able to read and blog, though I may have to cut the number of books I read from six to four books a month.

As for the title of this post, every end of the year I review all the books I read, you know as in gather them all and look at each of the book and then give them "awards" ;) lol well it makes me happy doing it... so here are my best books read for the year 2012:

Best Books (5-starof 2012 

Best Book #1 (Series)

I loved this book! A very long book, 592 pages but I finished reading this in just three days! The author wove a great story of witches, vampires, demons, and other supernatural creatures. The story is captivating and full of emotions. ....

Must Read/Know Story 

North Korea. I have always been interested in this country for years so when Penguin approached me for a review, I instantly said yes.  The book is about Shin Dong-hyuk life story, the only North Korean  known to have escaped Camp 14, a prison/labor camp for the political enemies of North Korea.  

Best Book Finale (Series)

Didn't read one so I'll skip this award ;)

Best Romance Books

I loved this book! A very long book, 592 pages but I finished reading this in just three days! The author wove a great story of witches, vampires, demons, and other supernatural creatures. The story is captivating and full of emotions. ....

The Lure of Shapinsay is my first selkie book. When I accepted the request to read and review this,  I thought the story is interesting but I honestly didn't know what selkies are. I was imagining they're like mermaids/mermen, you know those fish-like creatures. So this is actually a shocking read for me. Selkies are not fish-like creatures. Imagine, seal in water, human on land. Wait - did you know that seal and sea lion are two different sea creatures? They look the same to me so again, I didn't know they're different until I read this book! Back to the Scottish folklore, selkies wear their skin when in water but if they want to be human, they have to shed their skin. This is all new to me so I checked other reviews for this book, seems like the other reviewers also didn't have a clue about this folklore. . . .

Best "Feel Good" Books

Godspeed is a very touching love story. I was deeply moved by this book, I cried and laughed with Derry and Amedee as I join them in their life together. I loved the building of their relationship. His love for Amedee is so pure, everlasting and I'm sure anyone who reads this book would want to find someone like Derry. . . . 

The book tells the story of Edward and Sam, two men in a relationship dreaming of having a family of their own. Actually, Sam wants it, Edward on the other hand is uncertain in proceeding with this plan because he is not sure he can handle it right.

Ginger is twelve years old but she has already experienced everything in life. Sex, drugs, child pornography, stealing, etc. Henry, the counsellor, thinks Sam and Edward's plans of raising a family is just right on time because Ginger needs to be  given a "home". Henry considers the gay couple the best foster parents to Ginger. Sam and Edward take on the role  seriously and  together they experienced the ups and downs of having a kid while maintaining their busy lives. 

Best "fresh fiction" Book

The Lure of Shapinsay is my first selkie book. When I accepted the request to read and review this,  I thought the story is interesting but I honestly didn't know what selkies are. I was imagining they're like mermaids/mermen, you know those fish-like creatures. So this is actually a shocking read for me. Selkies are not fish-like creatures. Imagine, seal in water, human on land. Wait - did you know that seal and sea lion are two different sea creatures? They look the same to me so again, I didn't know they're different until I read this book! Back to the Scottish folklore, selkies wear their skin when in water but if they want to be human, they have to shed their skin. This is all new to me so I checked other reviews for this book, seems like the other reviewers also didn't have a clue about this folklore. . . .
Full Review 

That's it for this year! Looking forward to reading more great books this 2013!!
Wishing you and your family a happy and satisfying 2013!

2012 Year End Book Review Report

Year End Book Review Report












Saturday, December 29, 2012

Follow Friday

It's time for the weekly hop!! If you want to join the fun, visit Alison Can Read  or Parajunkee's View for the link.


Okay, I can't think of a "book" but a book series. If I could, I would give everyone Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. They're my favorite books and because there are life lessons to be learned from just reading them. 

How about you? Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: Godspeed by Dan Chabot

A Love Story

Author: Dan Chabot
Paperback: 306 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 20, 2012)
Amazon Link

Kindle Edition
File Size: 419 KB
Print Length: 307 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1477435360
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Babop/Dan Chabot; 1 edition (September 28, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

Note: I received a review copy of this book free from Dan Chabot. The review posted below is based on my personal thoughts while reading the book.

Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Godspeed is a love story which tells the painful yet satisfying journey of one man - Derry Danaher. Derry works in a local newspaper called the Ledger as a reporter and feature writer. He believes that by working in that newspaper, he is doing something important, something that makes difference in people's lives. For Derry, he doesn't need anything or anyone in his life. When he lost his father, he went into depression and he doesn't want to go through the same pain again. Everything is working out well with him until he meets Amedee Carol Beauchene.

Godspeed is a very touching love story. I was deeply moved by this book, I cried and laughed with Derry and Amedee as I join them in their life together. I loved the building of their relationship. His love for Amedee is so pure, everlasting and I'm sure anyone who reads this book would want to find someone like Derry.  

I also loved Derry's family and even work friends. The love and understanding they have shown him is unbelievable. Everyone at work had the compassion to offer any help to Derry, they did not hesitate to take him back even after six months of no communication. I sometimes wonder if that was realistic, to have that kind of support from people at work is just amazing. 

The only flaw I see in this book was that the first 100 pages were kind of a slow read because of the flashbacks. I was never good in understanding stories with flashbacks so I just skimmed through those until I guess I was almost done with the story. When I finally realized how they are connected, I went back to read the earlier pages again.

The ending made me decide to finally give this book a 5-star rating even with the above flaw.   I honestly think this would make a good Hollywood movie. If you are looking for a nice, heartwarming and encouraging story, you might want to pick-up this book.

About the book:

When Derry and Amedee fall in love, it is a collision of destinies, and they are sure it will last forever. But when it ends in tragedy, Derry, beset by remorse and guilt, sets off on an improbable, reckless crusade for redemption. When it finally ends abruptly, he has found someone to help him build a new life from the ashes of the past, and readers are left to ponder a poignant question: How can a lie be wrong when it makes so many people feel so good?

About the author:

Dan Chabot is a veteran newspaper editor, writer and columnist who spent 25 years with the Milwaukee Journal, much of that time as the editor of its popular and beloved Green Sheet, a feature section printed on green paper that specialized in whimsical and offbeat stories, humor and advice columns, puzzles and games, and of course, the comic strips.

He wrote a popular column called The Greenskeeper that engaged readers in offbeat and improbable contests, such as finding the people with the worst handwriting in Milwaukee (doctors were declared ineligible, because they were considered professional scrawlers), or searching neighborhoods to find homes with the most interesting, imaginative and creative mailboxes. For several years the Green Sheet provided helpful advice on St. Patrick's Day to folks caught without something green to wear -- a handy template on how to cut up the Green Sheet in a precise way to make a quick necktie!

Chabot also wrote for other sections of the paper. One of his travel stories, about a visit with his family to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, was quoted in a Hall of Fame publication, and also wound up in Paul Dixon's book, "Famous Baseball Quotations."

Chabot is a native of Ontonagon, MI, where he served for a time as assistant editor of the local weekly. After two years with a small paper in the California Bay Area, he joined the staff of the Milwaukee Journal.

These days Chabot lives in Florida. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, are the parents of three grown sons and five grandchildren. "Godspeed: a love story" is his first novel, and he's now at work on a second.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Spotlight: Christopher S. Bell's TRANSFERABLE AMERICAN MORALS

Transferable American Morals
by Christopher S. Bell

Paperback: 234 pages
Publisher: My Idea of Fun
Release Date: December 12th, 2012

About the book

Transferable American Morals follows twin prodigies, Libby and Neil Robinson, in the fall of 1972. Born and raised in the small town of Marble Valley, Washington, the siblings are pushed into the limelight by their father, Brian, at the age of thirteen, soon arising victorious as grand-prize winners on the popular game show Teenage Know-How.

Now both seventeen and ridden with hormones, the Robinson twins are living separately across town from one another.  Libby is a shining example at her religious mother’s side, until college boyfriend, William Hamilton the III, violates the girl’s every conviction. Sick and stranded at a university gala, Libby finds solace in slacker, Evan Wheeler, soon meeting his older brother, Davy, an addicted Vietnam veteran reduced to working carnival games on the outskirts of town.

Neil is unstable, residing above the garage at his Uncle Dennis’ humble abode and unfortunately in love with his Cousin Grant’s girlfriend, Josie Crissman. The twin locates a temporary solution in newscaster, Mona Gilmore, stranded by her own sense of trust following husband Woody’s invitation into a swinger’s lifestyle. Neil and Mona begin a sordid love affair just as Libby and the Wheeler Brothers dance around the point.

Amongst all the routine confusion, the Robinson twins fail to notice their mother Carol’s new boyfriend, Gabriel Hegedus, snaking his way into their lives. Approaching holidays, unexpected engagements and rising suspicions all coalesce as Neil and Libby slowly discover half-truths about their rare talents and interwoven lifestyles.


Libby was at a loss after getting shouted at by another frayed student of Hickory University.  She subtly caught her balance and noticed the tall bottle of liquor sitting in the same vicinity as the grainy tobacco.  “I’m sorry.  I… I’m just a little out of it.”

“Well you’d have to be, to be here,” Evan sealed the sloppy brown bits into the paper.

“Yeah, I guess,” Libby suddenly crawled back into her dense and instructed self, approaching him with steadier steps.  “So what fraternity do you belong to?”

“None,” he chuckled, before lighting the white end and breathing out the smoke.

“Then why are you here?”

“Stealing this, killing time,” Evan pointed to the bottle with little thought, and went back to the breeze.  “What about you?”

“Oh I’m uh… Well I’m kind of looking for the easiest possible way for all of this to make sense.”  Libby wondered if he’d think her assessment of the universe was at all childish or misinformed.

“For what to make sense?”

“Just why I’m here.  Why it looks as if happenings like this may be the rest of my life.”

“Oh… Well, I don’t know.  I guess I can’t make any assumptions, but I can say that I think it’s normal for people to talk out loud about things like that nowadays.”


“Yeah, it’s more socially acceptable to be destructive, or paralyzed by our own thoughts now, just because everything’s in pieces everywhere, ya know?”

“Sure,” she sighed, trying to determine if the person in front of her was going through a similar loss in judgement and direction.

“But anyway, I’m getting out of here now, so it was what it was, ya know?” He buttoned the bottom of his coat, and began to stroll as Libby attempted to see if she was at all attracted to his exaggerated form.  She had a low tolerance for smoking and slicked back exteriors, but that was a mere offshoot of memorized prayers and reactions.

“Actually um…” Libby hesitated before finding her words right where she had left them years before the death of curiosity.  “Do you maybe have another cigarette for me?”
They were then frozen cliches, attempting to resurface from months of swimming around parallel social scenes.  Following introductions on the stroll to his downtrodden vehicle, Evan and Libby both realized that they had most likely passed each other by multiple times in the previous two months, and yet were more so in awe at how easy it was for them to talk about less than nothing.

They were hardly personal, projecting skewed points of view on taste and largely square environments, before traipsing around more dense issues of time and place.  They became so lost that after a few sips of the bottle and the soft chill of the wind on her face, Libby Robinson completely forgot about everything tying her down.  Their night was merely waiting to begin.


Neil briefly considered Jesus Christ willfully donating his time and powers to such festivities, before crossing the possibility out completely.  He scurried back toward the hallway, painting a similar line with his steps.  An invisible underdressed specimen had wandered in at the perfect time.  Neil noticed Suzanne Romano sloppily French-kissing a longhaired socialite on the outskirts of the clump, before leaving a cloud of dust behind them, and surprising Josie with the bottle.  They didn’t wait to drown away their sorrows; soon back on the streets checking Neil’s wristwatch as the numbers motionlessly passed by.

“Unbelievable,” Josie stated, somewhat in awe of the bottle before taking another quick swig.

“Ya know, we probably shouldn’t just drink that in the street,” Neil said, somewhat nervously checking the angles again.

“Why the hell not?  We’re fine Neil.  I mean, if we get caught, I know how we’ll get out of it.”

“How?” He asked, slightly confused.

“All we have to say is that we know Lou Hinterliter,” she grinned

“Just because we know the chief of police’s name, doesn’t mean we’d get out of trouble.”

“Are you sure?  I mean, isn’t that what your dad did to get out of a jam all those years ago?” Josie knew she shouldn’t have brought it up, and yet couldn’t necessarily resist the devilishness of her comment.

“You’re stepping into shit right now, and I’m not sure I should even tell ya how much it stinks.”  Neil snatched the bottle from her hand, and cut down the nearest alley, cringing as the thick syrup made its way down his throat.

“I’m sorry, but I mean… you know that’s how it works, plus considering that Paul’s going to be at the same party we’re headed to means we’re free and clear to get this shitty in the middle of the street.  Big Lou’s not gonna bust his own son.”

“Must you always point out each and every hypocrisy of the system we live in?” Neil knew he was being a condescending smart-ass, and yet could very easily blame his mood and tone on how fast the booze was kicking in.

“Hey, I’m just trying to make this walk a little more enjoyable since you’re freaking out about everything.”  Josie’s eyes grew wide as her smile crept up and exploded on Neil Robinson in a monumental flash.

“At least I had the balls to walk in and steal that.  You just hid in the corner like a little girl.”

“I didn’t wanna have to see all of them in their suits and dresses.”

“Why not?”

“Because it reminds me too much of how we’re all just wasting away.”

Josie Crissman’s honesty always had a funny way of sneaking up on Neil when he least expected it.  The continuation of their walk to the threadbare house on Third Street was exactly as he had dreamed it would be.  They laughed and danced around all the vital points before entering into a familiar crawl.  It was exactly where their weekdays had led them.  Drugs and narrow simplicities under the radar in a somber living space.  She ran to Grant who had gotten off from the restaurant early, reliably drunker than the both of them.  Neil merely hoped that his cousin’s charm would fail and that he would still be awake when it was time to pick up the pieces.  Missing the mark for the greater good and the rest of their nights.

Book Review: Night of the Chupacabra by Michael Hebler

Night of the Chupacabra
Chupacabra Series Book One

Author: Michael Hebler
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Night After Publications (October 17, 2012)
Amazon Link

Note: I received a review copy of this book free from Michael Hebler. The review posted below is based on my personal thoughts while reading the book.

Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

I thought the story is great and I was hooked from the very first until the last page of the book. I  first heard stories of the Chupacabra from my grandmother and this brought back childhood memories. Night of the Chupacabra is a western horror novel that tells the story of one family wanting to start a new life in a new place. While in one of their travels, they encountered a chupacabra and only one man survived, Drake.

Drake, the main character of the story, is very much likeable. One would instantly love this character, a strong and tough guy on the outside but softy on the inside. His love and dedication to his family including his dear brother, Gavin, is what I remember the most.

The pacing of the story moves forward smoothly. Considering I was out attending parties the week I'm reading this, I never had a problem remembering the story and the  characters. The story flows just right and the tension stays with me every time I pick up the book. As for the dialogue, usually I despise books written in strange language or dialect, or anything written not in plain English. I am still wondering why despite the author's use of "western dialogue",  it didn't affect the level of my enjoyment of the story. Maybe he was just really good in weaving the whole story that I was never bothered by the strange dialogue. I loved the twists, especially the revelation on the legend of the first chupacabra, that I believe wouldn't bore readers. All in all, loved the book one and I look forward to reading more from the author, Michael Hebler.

About the book:

Post Civil War. Families move west to begin rich new lives, only some never make it. There is a creature that lurks in the vast open deserts of the west. It can only survive on blood and, although it prefers to prey on the weak and young, it will slaughter anyone or anything, once provoked. It is unnatural, deceptive, and difficult to kill. Word about the existence of this elusive beast has not spread since anyone who has crossed paths with it did not live long enough to tell of their account. 

Night of the Chupacabra is one man’s journey to reunite with his missing family, while the lethal creature that separated them, the mysterious and ravenous chupacabra, is never far behind. Night of the Chupacabra is not only a gruesome regale of carnage, but a unique combination of science fiction bloodshed with a more poignant tale of lost love set against a Western backdrop. Night of the Chupacabra is an unflinching look at the impossible choices made for family, while knowing the consequences will ultimately lead to a fate worse than death.

About the author:

In addition to being an author and a Southern California native, Michael Hebler also has a career in film publicity.

Michael's current focus is on a series of dark thriller novels based on the legendary 'el Chupacabra' with Book One, "Night of the Chupacabra", releasing on October 17, 2012. In June 2011, Michael published a short-story prologue to the Chupacabra Series, "Hunt for the Chupacabra", available for free download. Michael is also the author of the children's picture book classic, "The Night After Christmas", available in both ebook and print formats.

Michael enjoys running a blog in his spare time, "My Little Obsessions", where he rambles about all the things he loves, which tends to be a distraction from his work.

Author website:
My Little Obsessions:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guest Author: Karen Wiesner

Being a writer of series can be a Catch-22. Sometimes a series drags on long past the point of author interest. Other times a series ends far too soon. That was the case for me with the Family Heirlooms Series. I fell in love with so many of the secondary characters in this series that I came up with book ideas for two of those characters, sold them as non-series novels, but then realized I had a lot more tales to tell that connected with but didn’t really fit in as part of the Family Heirlooms Series. The Friendship Heirlooms Series was born.

Zoë Rossdale was first introduced in GLASS ANGELS, Book 4 of the Family Heirlooms Series. Zoë is hands-down my favorite character of all the many, many I’ve created. I knew going into the outline for her book that I wanted to write her in 1st person point-of-view…not something I’ve done often. I wanted to achieve a “Chick-lit” feel for the book, and I knew I could capture it in that POV. But I also knew I wanted to include the hero’s POV, but not in 1st person. I wasn’t sure how to do this, but a friend and fellow author, Diane Craver, encouraged me to go ahead with this idea, which seemed crazy to me. So I did it. I wrote the first two scenes: Zoë’s in 1st person, Curt’s in 3rd. I loved every minute of writing both of these scenes, and they worked. I knew that first sure when I sent them to Diane and she felt the same way I did. I knew this was the only way to write this story, and I also knew I wasn’t done with Zoë and Curt. I’ll be revisiting them in the 5thand 7th books in the Friendship Heirlooms Series, CLUMSY GIRL’S GUIDE TO HAVING A BABY and CLUMSY GIRL’S GUIDE TO HAVING IT ALL. Find out more about these books and the series here:

Creating realistic, unforgettable characters one story at a time…

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 94 books published in the past 14 years, which have been nominated for and/or won 125 awards, and has 30 more titles under contract. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror, chick-lit, and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as her bestsellers, First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}, available from Writer’s Digest Books. Look for Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas, her next offering from Writer’s Digest Books, in May 2013. Her previous writing reference titles focused on non-subsidy, royalty-paying electronic publishing, author promotion, and setting up a promotional group like her own, the award-winning Jewels of the Quill, which she founded in 2003. Jewels of the Quill produced two award-winning group anthologies per year published by Whiskey Creek Press from 2005-2011. All were edited by Karen and others. For more information about Karen’s fiction and series, consult her official companion guide The World of Author Karen Wiesner: A Compendium of Fiction. Along with her writing, Karen enjoys designing websites, graphics, and cover art. For more information about Karen and her work, visit her websites at,, and If you would like to receive Karen’s free e-mail newsletter, Karen’s Quill, and become eligible to win her monthly book giveaways, send a blank e-mail to

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Spotlight: Karen Wiesner's Clumsy Girl's Guide To Falling In Love

Book 1 of the Friendship Heirlooms Series 
by Karen Wiesner

Inspirational Contemporary Romance/Chick-lit

978-1-105-20122-6 (trade paperback); 978-1-300-18190-3 (hardcover) from
978-1-61160-274-6 (electronic) from Whiskey Creek Press
Available December 2012

Find out more here:

Return to the quaint little town of Peaceful, Wisconsin, from Karen Wiesner’s award-winning Family Heirlooms Series, where you first met and fell in love with these colorful, lovable friends. Now you can read the stories of those secondary characters in an all-new spin-off series. Nuggets of faith can be passed down as heirlooms from friend to friend, heart to heart, soul-mate to soul-mate.

Find out more about the Family Heirlooms Series here:

Find out more about the Friendship Heirlooms Series here:

Book One Friendship Heirloom:  Persistence

Zoë Rossdale is the clumsy girl who always has her elbows, feet, eyes, and brass-red hair going in the wrong directions. She floats around in her own world, comfortable there alone, only to be jarred back into the real one when her obliviousness gets her in trouble again. After a lifetime of being evaluated critically—first by her own father, and then by everyone around her—and found wanting, she’s trying to change…for her own good. She’s reaffirmed her commitment to Christ and vowed not to do any of the stupid, possibly illegal, things she’d done for years on the pitiful excuse of surviving. After nearly being fired from the only job she could get to keep her from starving and living on the streets, she’s going to school once more and trying to do better for her über-patient boss. And she’s allowed her best friends to talk her into getting contacts, some new clothes, and a more flattering hairstyle. They tell her she looks beautiful, but she feels more like a dodo bird than ever before—until she literally runs into the only man she’s ever gone loopy over. 

Curt Bertoletti has spent years trying to forget the seriously messed-up Zoë and her embarrassing ways. The only person who’d ever approved of the ditzy klutz was his mother, and his mother has become relentless in her cause to get him married and settled down. Surely that’s what conjured the appearance of Zoë... Zoë, who looks so little like the girl he remembers. Even as he vows that he won’t stray again—out of weakness or whatever it was that had him stone-gone over her before—he can’t help remembering how well he and Zoë fit together. They’d truly been two abnormal peas in an even stranger pod. But no other woman had ever gotten that misty look in her eyes when she looked at him, or kissed him like she’d forgotten anyone or anything else existed. No other woman made him so happy, so mad, so sad, and so content. Though he’s walking stronger in the Lord than he ever has before and he finally knows what he wants in life, he’s convinced Zoë Rossdale is not it—matchmaking mother or no matchmaking mother. So why can’t he forget her and be done with it?

For better or worse, Zoë will always be Zoë—the clumsy girl with her dress tucked into her pantyhose, toilet paper stuck to her shoe and trailing in her wake, the girl whose idea of falling in love is to stand at the edge of the precipice, throw out her arms and confidently jump into a free-fall. If Zoë will always be Zoë, the only question left is, can they both live with that fact? Forever?

Excerpt © Karen Wiesner

Chapter 1

“This is like déjà vu all over again.”
~Yogi Berra

I never could come up with a good response right away. Sometimes days went by while I obsessed over what I should have said and didn’t before I thought of a decent reply. When Zsa-Zsa Wu Ling had finished “permanently” straightening my nest of brass-red, frizzy hair and proclaimed her painstaking labor a success, she’d stared at me in the mirror I was sitting before and demanded triumphantly, “Who are you now, sweetie pie?” in that adorable, Japanese baby voice of hers.
Maybe she hadn’t expected an answer. At the time, I’d simply blinked at her—and myself. After all, I’d never imagined my hair looking like anything other than something a rat would love to take up residence in. For the first time, my hair was normal: Long, straight, silky, soft, and presentable! I was afraid to touch it and dissolve what had to be an illusion.
Zsa-Zsa Wu Ling certainly hadn’t waited for my answer before she spun me dizzily in the salon chair so my friends could survey what they’d paid for.
From the time she’d uttered the question on Monday, I’d thought about it. Now, on Thursday, early evening—after waiting the requisite seventy-two hours so my new hair could avoid the humidity of a steamy shower (and exercise, if you can believe that), my three best friends had gathered for our usual girls’ night and allowed me to get cleaned up properly for the first time in as many days. They’d dolled me up like their own personal Barbie and sent me off into town on a manhunt. Oh, they didn’t call it that, of course, but I knew that was what they intended after all their hard work.
So here I was, taking my Maine Coon cat (a feline easily the size of the average dog), Nutmeg, for a walk in Peaceful’s Pet Park. I was dressed and made up as if I was off to some party and feeling pretty uncomfortable and ridiculous. Suddenly, the answer to Zsa-Zsa Wu Ling’s question came to me. Who am I?I’m Zoë Rossdale, the clumsy girl who always has elbows, feet, eyes, and hair going in the wrong directions. I’m the clumsy girl with my dress tucked into my pantyhose, toilet paper stuck to my shoe and trailing in my wake. I’m the clumsy girl who unfathomably ended up with three, gorgeous best friends—all of whom are positively perfect with steady guys who worship the ground they walk on. I’m the awkward, clumsy misfit in the group and they all wish they could find a nice guy to all but worship me…
At the moment of belated revelation, it occurred to me why I’d avoided this park for so long…precisely at the instant my reason for keeping a wide berth appeared directly in my path in flesh and blood. Curt Bertoletti was the jerk who’d turned out not to be my perfect prince three and a half years ago, which was when he’d dropped me without blinking an eye for someone drop-dead gorgeous, rich, sophisticated, and graceful—everything I wasn’t and couldn’t possibly ever be.
I’d never forgotten how much I’d invested in him and in the foolish hope that he’d loved me as much as I’d loved him. At final tally, the damage came out to everything I was, everything I might someday be, everything I possessed. These things had all gone whole-hog into my relationship with him. When it was over, I was left with nothing. Actually, to be more exact, what little remained, I lost. My entire world had seemed to collapse from the inside out.
I’d never doubted that Curt hadn’t given me a second thought when he walked away. But here he was again, just when I’d gotten myself to believe that sometime in the next century I might actually heal from what he’d done to me and to us. His Maine Coon, Cayenne (we’d called our cats sugar and spice), must have recognized his old flame Nutmeg from the distance and took off at a dead run straight for her.
Nutmeg, in turn, also seemed to have scented the male that, as far as she knew, had abandoned her. Fortunately, she’d always been forgiving. But this one time, I wished she wasn’t. She suddenly jerked and yanked me into a similar dead run. Without time to recover from the shock, I ended up flying behind her something like a balloon at the end of a leash instead of a string.
Ahead, Curt was trying to control Cayenne, shouting at him to heel, and I couldn’t do anything but hold on. I could see the outcome from a figurative mile away, and it seemed to happen in slow motion. Nutmeg met up with her true love and abruptly halted only inches before him. Unlucky for me, I was still in flight, an ungainly dodo, as I crashed at full speed right into a flabbergasted Curt. He let go of Cayenne’s leash. I realized at that instant that I should have let go of Nutmeg’s long ago. Now there was no need since my cat had arrived at her destination—namely, by her hero’s side.
With a mighty thud, I sprawled over Curt like an upended bowl of spaghetti over a toddler’s all too willing head. Curt was far from being ecstatic at being knocked over like this. He lay beneath me spluttering while I tried to gain my balance. I’d like to tell you this had never happened to me, that I’d never crashed into someone and ended up in a tangle on the ground, but unfortunately I’m Zoë Rossdale, and this was a common occurrence for an über-clumsy girl.
Without warning, our eyes met. I acknowledged then that Curt hadn’t recognized me in advance, the way I had him from the distance. He was blinking at me, resembling a big, goofy, adorable dope. And then he muttered hoarsely in clear shock, “Zoë? Zoë Rossdale?”
I removed my knee from his stomach—the hard way. He expelled an “Oof!” and then, together, we tried to right ourselves. Only he kept trying to help me get to my feet, and I was abruptly and enormously furious with him. I didn’t want him to look at me, talk to me, or touch me. He was dead to me! As dead as I’d been to him seconds after he’d shoved me off into the lonely stratosphere of One, a place I’d never wanted to be again after I’d met him. He’d probably figured I’d be like the tagline of one of his favorite movies: In space, no one can hear you scream. Sometimes I would lock up tight and wouldn’t utter a word, but other times I let loose with all the restraint of a wild animal. Now was one of those “scream” times. Oh, now he would hear what he hadn’t wanted to back when he decided he no longer had a use for me in his life.
“Zoë…let me… What are you…”
“Get away from me! I’ll kill you, fool!”
Somehow we were both standing upright again, facing each other, and the Italian Stallion Chub started laughing.
“Don’t you dare laugh at me, Curt Bertoletti! You lost that right when you checked out…” Wait a minute. Lost the right to what? Laugh at me? No, that’s not what I meant to say…
“You’re gonnakill me, Zoë? What are you? A hundred pounds soaking wet, and you’re gonnakill me?”
I grabbed Nutmeg’s leash again. “Get out of my way!” I demanded shrilly, trying to stalk around him, but he was talking again and I was too mad to listen until I realized the hard way that Nutmeg and Cayenne’s leashes were so completely tangled up, it would take a dedicated effort to free them.
“Zoë, would you just stop or this knot is gonna get worse!”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
He bent to the task once more, muttering, “What’s gotten into you anyway?”
Oh, he had nerve. I was about to tell him so when it occurred to me that he looked vastly different than the last time I’d seen him. My Curt had been a big Italian chub. Not when we’d first met actually, but he’d started gaining weight rapidly when we became a couple. And I’d loved him that way. Loved that he’d come from this huge Italian family where everyone was constantly bickering and playing mean jokes on each other, and maddeningly in each other’s business every second of every day. Yet none of them would have had it any other way. I loved that they all worked together in their grandfather’s legacy to the family—at the restaurant where food was always available and flowing, and where his Mamma Cara unceasingly pestered everyone to “Eat! Eat!” I’d never had to be told twice. I’d loved that Curt was as imperfect as I was. But now…now he was a hunk and it made me feel even more inferior than usual. He was tall and slim and muscular, his beloved face carved out of stone instead of dough.
My anger unexpectedly fizzled, seeing him like this. I remembered how intimidated I’d been by his good looks when we met. He’d had such thick, black, wavy hair, that dark olive skin I’d coveted all my life instead of my milk-white opposite, and the most beautiful, deep brown eyes complete with thick eyebrows and long, plentiful eyelashes. I found myself tentatively answering the question I thought he’d asked me: What happened to you? Because I was wondering what had happened to him. “I got my hair straightened. On Monday.My friends’ idea of a good birthday present. A makeover—one that says, “You’re so pathetic that we had to spend gobs of our pooled money to make you look presentable if we can’t get you to look good.” Actually, I think they got a massive discount because Zsa-Zsa Wu Ling wanted to have some guinea pig heads to try out thermal straightening on in her salon. So I got a discount for life on the procedure because I was the first pig to be volunteered, albeit by my friends.”
Curt looked up at me from trying to free our cats and broke into laughter again. My spine went ramrod straight. Why was he laughing? Because of what I’d said or how I looked?
I didn’t trust him when he said, “It looks really good, Zoë.” He put out his hand. “Let me have your leash. Maybe I can get this fixed.”
Stubbornly, I held it away from him, and he gave me that same look he’d worn when he’d muttered, “What’s gotten into you?” I realized that was what he’d been asking me in the first place, not what had happened to my hair. I didn’t pause to get my breath after my last outburst. “Gotten into me? Is that what you have the nerve to ask me, Curt Bertoletti? What’s gotten into me? Gee, let me think about this for a millisecond. How’s Bon BonMagnífico?”
Curt looked away, shaking his head. “Bonnie Magnoli. That’s… We… It’s…” As he shook his head a second time, he wore a look of humiliation.
I wouldn’t relieve him of that emotion for anything in the world! “What?” I asked, mockingly sweet. “Did she drop you on your head the way you dropped me on mine?”
“It wasn’t like that, Zoë. You know it wasn’t. You must have realized just like I did that… I… Well, that it just wasn’t working between us.”
Hearing this was the ultimate betrayal. The pain I couldn’t seem to leave behind, not totally, flared. I stared at him, my mouth no doubt gaping without an ounce of the prettiness other girls achieved in the same situation. “How can you say that? I’d never been happier! I’d never been happy period. I loved you, you jerk. I tried to make you happy and satisfied…”
He looked positively mortified now by words I couldn’t have held back if I tried…and probably because of the tears filling my eyes and making my new contacts feel like they were swimming. I hated how obvious it became to me—like a ginormous elephant suddenly plopping down between us and our cats—that our time together had meant nothing to him. Nothing…when I still wasn’t over him, still thought about and missed him every single day.
My mind chose that instant to serve up the most treacherous memories: How my whole world used to align perfectly whenever he came into view and I knew we’d be together for the day—and sometimes the night (both of us being such backslidden Christians at that time). I remembered how we used to laugh and do everything as one. Sometimes I truly thought we were two halves of a whole. We seemed to have the exact thoughts at the exact times.
But now I needed to accept that I’d been alone in all that, in all that I’d wanted for him, for me, for our love. He’d been my entire life. Nothing else had mattered to me—literally. But whatever he’d felt for me, if anything, he’d obviously gotten over in a stalled heartbeat when someone better came along and made his cheating heart go pitter-patter.
With the tears spilling over in my eyes, I shouted at him, “Well, I hope Bon BonMagnífico taught you what it’s like to be on the other side of the drop, Flat Top!” I stomped on his foot and tried to walk away haughtily. Only Nutmeg refused to cooperate and give me my justified, graceful exit. She stood her ground next to her chosen beau. At about eighteen pounds of solid cat, she was strong, and I really had to yell at her, something I’d never done before, to get her to budge. Reluctantly, she finally conceded and did what I wanted her to, all the while doing what I wouldn’t give the Italian Stallion Chub the satisfaction of doing: She looked back longingly until Curt and Cayenne were out of sight.
I hated myself for not having the strength to fight my own heart because I already knew I’d be coming back to Pet Park with my treacherous cat tomorrow night.

* * * *
“If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later.”
~Lewis Carroll

Zoë Rossdale.
Curt Bertoletti stared after her and her cat, feeling almost numb with a kind of shock that had a guilty edge to it. If he didn’t know his mother was a Christian, he would have assumed she’d gone to some black magic conjurer to bring Zoë Rossdale back into his life. But you know you’ve been waiting for this moment for the past month—since Bonnie made it loud and clear how she really feels about you. You’ve been waiting and going out of your way to make it happen.
Curt let out a sigh that was nowhere as unequivocal as he would have liked it to be. He’d spent years trying to forget the seriously messed up Zoë and all her embarrassing ways. The only person who’d ever approved of the ditzy klutz was his mother, and Mamma had become relentless lately in her cause to get him married and settled down like the rest of his brothers and sisters. Surely her constant harping was what had conjured the appearance of Zoë… The rest was just coincidence. He wanted to believe that anyway.
Zoë, who looked so little like the girl he remembered. Instead of frizzy, fire-engine red hair that stuck out every-which-way—worse when she’d spent hours chewing on the ends—her hair tonight had been soft and smooth-looking, lying flat and straight for the first time ever, as the silken strands curved around her thin, strangely lovely face. The mass was still flaming red, but he wouldn’t kid himself that he’d always loved her hair color, even when her head looked like she’d had the shock of her life. Tonight she’d looked sophisticated, feminine, not frazzled to a pulp. And she hadn’t been wearing those ridiculous, oval-shaped, mile-thick, tortoise shell frames on her adorably bumpy nose, a bump that did nothing to keep the glasses from slipping down, in constant danger of falling right off her face…
Curt had spent years steeling himself against the slightest memory of affection for that woman. He’d put his time with Zoë out of his mind, convinced that he’d done the right thing dumping her so unceremoniously. She’d been too annoying, too embarrassing… But that thought made him feel guilty, and he didn’t want to. Even after more than a month, the horrific situation that had changed his life and his whole way of thinking still had the power to scald him.
“Come on, Cayenne,” he said forcefully, tugging on the leash to get his ultra-strong, classic red and white tabby to go along with him—in the opposite direction as Zoë and Nutmeg. Cayenne protested with his loud, unhappy yowl and looked back yet again. Curt knew he had to get as far from Zoë Rossdale as he could, and fast. He was not going down that road again. No way.
Even still, on the final of his three-times-a-day walks back to his apartment over the family restaurant, he vowed that he wouldn’t stray again out of weakness or whatever had him stone-gone over Zoë before. His life had been a mess back then, trying to find his place in the family business, not wanting to simply do what was expected of him but something bigger and more influential. Something the rest of them won’t consider a joke. He could cook as well as any of his brothers and sisters, but that part had never interested him as much as the business end. But he was the baby of the family, and none of his six siblings took his efforts seriously. Three years ago, he’d realized they wouldn’t until he gave them a reason to. So he’d made a series of decisions to bring their change of heart about. He’d altered his major in college with the purpose of taking over the business side of the restaurant. Ciatti’sItaliano, named after his grandfather CiattiBertoletti, who’d started the business and had worked hard to earn two Michelin stars for it, would someday become a three-star chain if Curt could get his hand in the process.
His mother had been doing the administrative business duties since his father died almost four years ago, but the work filled practically every minute of her day. She insisted often that she loved keeping busy, but Curt suspected the truth was that she saw what needed to be done and so she did it.
Since he’d graduated with his business degree, he’d been taking over a little bit from her at a time, and she’d let him without complaint or restraint. Still, she stayed around the restaurant most of the day, as if not knowing what to do with herself and unable to conceive of a life outside of the family business. Despite a huge family of kids and grandkids, she seemed lonely and Curt and his siblings had talked about how worried they were about her.
In addition to pursuing his desire to be taken seriously by his family, possibly with more optimism than warranted, Curt had been regimentally determined to get on with his life, improve his health, and stay on the straight and narrow. He’d lost seventy-five pounds by exercising and cutting down on portions and the snacks his mother was constantly pushing on all of them. When he’d been with Zoë, he’d never possessed her insane metabolism. As thin as she’d probably always be, she could put away three times more food than a normal man. In fact, that’d been how they met. When his family had taken a booth at the annual local fair one summer and offered an eating contest, Zoë had won over a guy who’d been close to three hundred pounds. The prize had been a month of free lunches at CiattiBertoletti. She’d never missed a single day they were open. Maybe part of that had been because she’d realized they attended the same college and things had begun to get romantic between them.
In any case, being with Zoë had further spurred his love of food. All his life, Mamma had been forcing food on everyone, and he’d eaten more than his fair share. Despite that, until he’d met Zoë, he’d managed to keep his weight under control. Those few months they’d been together, he’d steadily packed on the pounds to keep up with her. Zoë never seemed to mind, even while his siblings teased him and called him Panzone (fatty), Pallone (big belly), or Botte (barrel) relentlessly. But Curt had become ultra-sensitive to the teasing, mostly because Bonnie Magnoli— Zoë’s Bon BonMagnífico in that comic strip she wrote and drew like a diary—had begun sending him signals that she was interested in him. Bonnie was the daughter of the owner of an Italian bakery in La Crosse, about an hour from his hometown of Peaceful, Wisconsin, and their families had been old friends. Bonnie attended the same college he did and shared his class schedule almost exactly.
At the time, he hadn’t made the connection between Bonnie’s sudden interest in him and their similar career goals. He now knew that her goal in life had been to take the easy way out of everything. Without the slightest protest, he’d let her copy his homework whenever she asked, peek at his answers during tests. Basically whatever she needed, he’d been willing to do because she’d led him to believe she wanted to be with him. Maybe he’d imagined her outrageous flirtations and what had sounded like promises to him. But she’d used him the whole time. No more kidding himself about that.
In large part, he’d dumped Zoë because Bonnie was an Italian beauty without compare, her body enough to turn him to stone at the mere glimpse of its perfection. She’d been nothing like Zoë, and maybe that explained why his mother had never liked Bonnie, despite their family connections. Mamma loved Zoë from the first time she’d met her as Curt’s girlfriend.
His brothers and sisters hadn’t shared his mother’s zeal for her. They’d pounded it into him that Bonnie was the only woman of the two worth pursuing. Their selfish encouragement had led him to believe he had a chance with Bonnie. Their efforts had been rewarded when he broke up with Zoë, and it’d taken years for Curt to realize the ramifications of what he’d done.
Once he’d scraped up an ounce of his pride from the floor, he’d put all his energy into getting over what Bonnie had done to him when she’d made it brutally clear she’d never had the slightest interest in being with him or seeing him as a serious boyfriend. The sting of her cruelty hadn’t quite left him in the time since The Incident, but he was determined to forget her.
Was it worth it? Duping myself into believing Bonnie had any interest in anything but cheating off me in school? Zoë hadn’t been far off in her estimation tonight of why he’d dumped her as abruptly as he had. All that time together, she’d shown her jealousy only through her comics, and he’d denied any merit in her worries whenever he read them. But she’d known the truth better than he did. Just like Zoë had pointed out, women like Bonnie loved themselves alone, end of story.
Women like Zoë…
Curt let himself into his apartment and unhooked his cat from the leash, his mind on the past. Why couldn’t he stop remembering how well he and Zoë had fit together? They’d truly been two abnormal peas in an even stranger pod. He couldn’t deny that any more than he could refute that no woman had ever gotten such a misty look in her eyes when she gazed at him, or kissed him like she’d forgotten anyone or anything else existed. I don’t like to remember it, but no other woman made me so happy, so mad, so sad, and so content.
Thinking like this was stupid. He couldn’t call to mind the good times. He’d escaped what could have been a fate worse than death, hadn’t he? He was walking stronger in the Lord than ever before and he knew what he wanted in life now. Zoë Rossdale was absolutely not it, and that was true, matchmaking mother or no matchmaking mother. He wouldn’t tell Mamma he’d even seen Zoë again. She’d be a dog on a bone then, and he’d never get loose from her gnawing.
I have to forget Zoëand be done with that whole crazy thing. The biggest reason to forget is that I know she’ll never forgive me for what I did to her. She’s not the forgiving type, remember? She’ll put me through sheer and utter hell and then she might not even decide I’m worthy of her precious forgiveness. How often did she say, “Good intentions do not equal effort or outcome” whenever I failed her, which was more often than not? Worse than that, she hates men. Her opinion of my “species” is so bad…
Curt groaned in realization. If her opinion of men had been monumentally horrible before, he’d tripled it with the way he’d dumped her for a “bon bon” like Bonnie. No, Zoë wouldn’t forgive. She wouldn’t forget. Why put himself through that torture? What could ever make that worth doing? Nothing.Finito!
Stripping off his clothes, he stepped into the shower, trying to convince himself through the whole task that he wouldn’t go there, into that place he and Zoë had created together, ever again—if he knew what was good for him. But the desire to see her again was so strong, he couldn’t shake it and kept coming up with alternatives to avoiding her like the plague for the rest of his life. Could they be friends? He had to be crazy to even consider it. But then he recalled her fury at him tonight. “Get away from me! I’ll kill you, fool!”
Against his will, he found himself grinning…and scheming in his plans for their next encounter.

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