10 Kick-Ass Books I Read in 2016

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One thing I was determined to do in 2016 was read more. I often get caught up in the “should”s, as in I should be _____ instead of reading. (Really, you can replace “reading” with anything. I so need to stop “should”ing on myself!) My goal was to read 25 books; I read 31—or at least, that’s what Goodreads says. I didn’t track all of my reads, so I’m sure this number is a bit off.

The following 10 are my favorite reads from this year, in no particular order. Check them out, and load up your Kindle!

F*ck Love, by Tarryn Fisher

F*ck Love would, gun to head, be my favorite book of 2016. I read it during a weekend while Mike was away at an art show, and I couldn’t put it down. Helena and Kit’s story was absolutely insane, in the best way possible. Months later, I still can’t stop thinking about it. This dark and gritty romance is exactly the tone of book I hope to write someday.

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Lex Talionis, by S.A. Huchton

What’s better than a revenge story? A best friend’s revenge story! Lex Talionis also joined F*ck Love in my list of all-time favorites. This was another one that I couldn’t put down. It’s also got a romantic element that had me rooting hard, plus an ending that is super rewarding.

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Luther: The Calling, by Neil Cross

My mom kept recommending I watch Luther, the show on BBC about a detective who might be just as crazy as the killers he chases. I borrowed this from her and had to seriously reign myself in from reading it in one sitting. I then proceeded to binge half of the series; it’s going to be a while until the next season comes out, so I’ve slowed down quite a bit to savor it. Complex, mysterious, and smart, Luther is one of my all-time favorite characters. It doesn’t hurt that Idris Elba is so damn sexy.

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If I Stay and Where She Went, by Gayle Forman

These books are a back-to-back must. I can’t imagine having to wait for the sequel. I borrowed If I Stay from the library and basically cried my way through it. It was so poignant and heartwrenching. Where She Went was just beautiful, and worth running back to the library for.

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Collateral, by J.C. Hannigan

The final book in the Collide series, Collateral was quite the grand finale. I’ve loved Harlow from the moment J.C. told me about her, and it’s been such a great experience watching her grow and come into her own. A suspenseful romance, Collateral is raw and real. And don’t even get me started on how freakin’ hot Jax is. He’s seriously the perfect boyfriend—and my all-time favorite book boyfriend!

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The Year We Fell Down, by Sarina Bowen

This was the first book—that I can remember reading—with a disabled heroine that fully captures what it’s like to live in a limited body. I devoured it in one sitting because I loved Corey and I absolutely had to know whether she and Adam would be together. Though Adam is only temporarily injured, he’s the epitome of the perfect partner. I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I really need to get on that!

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I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

My sister brought this over one day, urging me to read it. I’d been wanting to, so no argument there! Malala tells the story of how she defied the Taliban and fought for girls’ education alongside her supportive father. It was such an inspiring and enlightening read. I was 13 on 9/11, so I remember it well but there was still a lot that I didn’t know; it was fascinating to read about the global effects of the so-called “War on Terror.” More importantly, Malala’s bravery was so empowering and uplifting.

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Pretty Pink Ribbons, by K.L. Grayson

Going in, I didn’t know that this was a breast cancer book, but I figured it out pretty quickly, as I have several loved ones who have fought breast cancer. Though it’s in a series, Pretty Pink Ribbons is a complete standalone. It’s quite the rollercoaster, emotionally speaking, but the ending is so worth every second of heartache.

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Kaleidoscope Hearts, by Claire Contreras

This was another one that I devoured. Contreras writes so beautifully, and I fell deeply in love with Estelle and Oliver. I related to a lot of their problems, and I got really attached to their friends and family members. I picked up the complete series box set, so I’m still making my way through the rest of the books. Kaleidoscope Hearts was just lovely.

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Let’s Get Digital, by David Gaughran

And now for something completely different! If you’re new to self-publishing or have been at it for a while and looking for a refreshing book with some publishing and marketing tips, Let’s Get Digital is an insightful, quick read. I promptly grabbed Let’s Get Visible to widen my education, and have already learned a lot.

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There were some books that I started but didn’t finish because I just didn’t get into them, and there were others that were re-reads of old favorites. Honestly, I’ve been watching a lot of TV; by the end of the day, I’ve got too much brain fog to focus on reading. Still, I’m really happy with my reads for 2016.

What were your favorite books this year? Let me know in the comments below!

End of Year Paperbacks Clearance Sale!

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And just like that, it’s officially autumn. There are so many things I love about this time of year: hayrides and apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, cozy sweaters over soft leggings… I could go on. It does sting to say goodbye to summer—I am an August baby, after all—but I’ve always seen fall as a new beginning. Maybe it’s because I could never wait ’til the first day of school so that I could start using all my new notebooks and pens.

I’m an office supply junkie. What can I say?

For whatever reason, the change of season triggers a mindset in me to grind down and get busy, in preparation for the new year (and the coming winter). Since I’ll be re-releasing all of my paperbacks in 2017, it’s time to clear out my current inventory. This, of course, totally calls for a clearance sale!

Shipping within the U.S. is free; if you live outside the U.S., please email me to discuss shipping options. You can email me at elizabethbaronebooks@gmail.com.

Diving Into Him (South of Forever, Book 1)
1st Edition, Maietta Ink, 2015
Regular: $14.99, Clearance: $7.99

Only 1 copy left

The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos
1st Edition, Maietta Ink, 2015
Regular: $14.99, Clearance: $7.99

Only 5 copies left

The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos
2nd Edition, Booktrope, 2016
Regular: $11.95, Clearance: $9.99

Only 6 copies left

Sade on the Wall
2nd Edition, Booktrope, 2015
Regular: $11.95, Clearance: $9.99

Only 3 copies left

Please email me at elizabethbaronebooks@gmail.com if you live outside the U.S. and wish to purchase a signed copy!

5 Kick-Ass NA Books I Read This Summer

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Even though summer isn’t officially over, the PSL is back within my reach and the weather has turned a little cooler. Mornings and evenings are now for soft sweaters, and I’ve broken out my boots again. It’s back to reality, and I’ve been busy writing a new book. My iPad is loaded up with books to be read as soon as I type The End, but I’m still mooning over these brilliant New Adult books that I read over the summer.

Kick back, and prepare to load up your Kindle!

Lex Talionis, by S.A. HuchtonLex Talionis, by S.A. Huchton
Standalone. New Adult suspense / romance.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

When Lexi receives a message from her dead best friend after Randi is senselessly murdered, she decides to take revenge into her own hands. A dangerous and calculated cat and mouse game begins, with Lexi holding the strings. I cheered Lexi on, even when her moves were morally questionable. The romance is a small element of the story; it mostly focuses on the friendship between Lexi and Randi. This was a stellar read that I couldn’t put down. A standing ovation for S.A. Huchton.

1-Click buy on Amazon

The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years, Book 1), by Sarina BowenThe Year We Fell Down, by Sarina Bowen
First in a series. New Adult romance.

The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?

I read this book in one sitting, staying up late into the night because I couldn’t stop. It was the first time I’ve read this author but now I’m determined to read every word she’s ever written. Unlike your typical college sports romance, this book tells a love story between Corey—ex-hockey player who was permanently sidelined after a life-changing injury—and Adam, a hockey star out on temporary injury leave. The author perfectly captures both the frustration and beauty of disability, and the HEA romance that unfolds is a rollercoaster worth the ride.

1-Click buy on Amazon

Fuck Love, by Tarryn FisherFuck Love, by Tarryn Fisher
Standalone. New Adult dark romance.

This book, this book, this book. Another first for me, but I’m itching to read everything by this author now, too. I ripped through it, pausing only to sleep a little. It was like a good but strong drink that goes down like water. I got a little buzzed off Tarryn Fisher’s words; she truly is a fantastic writer. The story is about Helena, a Harry Potter obsessed door mat who begins pursuing her best friend’s boyfriend after she has a dream about what their life could look like. The whole thing is so insane, but I couldn’t help but root for Helena and Kit. This is another rollercoaster that will frustrate you but the ending is so very satisfying.

1-Click buy on Amazon

Rebel Soul (Rebel Series, Book 1), by J.C. HanniganRebel Soul, by J.C. Hannigan
First in series. New Adult romance.

Disclaimer: J.C. is my good friend who I’ve dubbed my “work wife” because even though our publisher closed, we still do a lot of strategizing (and laughing and commiserating) together. I love all of her books, but her latest release is just beautiful. It’s not as heavy as her other books are, though there are still plenty of social issues woven in. Tessa is enjoying her last summer before college when fate shoves her into the arms of bad boy Brock. This book encompasses that hazy, warm summer love feeling, complete with bonfire parties and tender nights full of burning, slow kisses. Though this book is HEA, there’s plenty of aching push and shove between these two. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

1-Click buy on Amazon

Kaleidoscope Hearts (Hearts, Book 1), by Claire ContrerasKaleidoscope Hearts, by Claire Contreras
First in series. New Adult romance.

This NA is a bit different from the usual, because the main character Estelle has recently graduated college. But that whole “adjusting to being on your own” element is still there, because Estelle’s fiancee died in a freak accident, leaving her alone in their house and the gallery they co-ran. Estelle has to pick up the pieces of her broke heart, and just when she thinks she’s recovered, a flame from the past walks back into town. There are a few chapters in Oliver’s point of view, but mostly the story is told through Estelle’s eyes. It’s a beautiful novel with some really brilliant lines.

1-Click buy on Amazon
(You can also purchase the entire three-book series here.)

What are you currently reading? Leave a comment and let me know!

July Newsletter

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The July newsletter is about to go out! Make sure you’re subscribed. Click or tap here. Be sure to make sure elizabethbaronebooks@gmail.com is on your approved senders list before you subscribe. Then check your inbox and confirm your subscription, or you’ll miss out on this month’s goodies!

And trust me, you don’t want to miss out. This month’s newsletter has a special bonus!

I’m off to the cave to wrap up edits for What Happens On Tour and then handle some self-care things. (Health woes and author fear—both of which can be conquered after a short break. I’m also a little overwhelmed by the state of the world right now, to be honest.)

Take care of each other.


A Day In My Life

A Day In My LifeBecause I have chronic pain and it majorly impacts my sleep, etc, I get up anywhere between 9am and 11am. 9am is my goal, especially because I try to stick to my 9-5 work day rule. But, for example, if I participate in a Kidney Walk on a Sunday, I’ll let myself sleep in on Monday to recover. (Walking even a mile really aggravates my arthritis, which in turn sucks the energy right out of me.)

I usually eat breakfast immediately, since I’m hypoglycemic and my blood sugar is often low in the morning. It’s either a light breakfast of fresh fruit and a protein-filled breakfast bar, or a delicious egg and cheese sandwich on an English muffin. Or cereal. (Don’t judge me.)

While I’m munching, I get started for the day. This is usually something like checking Facebook and Twitter, or writing a blog post—something I can do without being fully awake. As soon as I finish eating, I take my morning meds, which are currently a cocktail of: sulfasalazine (my DMARD), a wallop of vitamin D (since I’m low at the moment), B complex (mostly for its energy properties), a multivitamin, and an OTC allergy medicine (usually the store brand of Claritin or Zyrtec, since I have to switch off every season). Totally exciting so far, right?

The rest of the day sort of depends. Every week, I write up a master To Do list and then break it down day to day. If I don’t have any doctor appointments, I’ll brew up some coffee and then roll up my sleeves. If I do, I’ll drink my coffee while getting ready and hurry out the door.

Confession time. I’m still trying to get better at the whole writing every day thing. I usually set a word count goal for each day, but I’m lucky if I get there. Often I feel like I need to tackle a bunch of other things before I can get to the fun part. (For example: keyword research or email.) I do really well when I rearrange my day so that I’m writing first thing, so I need to work on this pressure I feel to get everything else done first. After all, I’m a writer. Shouldn’t writing be the most important thing?

I work steadily ’til lunch, going down my checklist. Then I take a break long enough to make whatever I’ve got on hand: grilled cheese, a big salad, or a hamburger/hot dog. I work through lunch, taking bites in between tasks. After lunch, it’s noon meds (more SSZ). And I resume working.

This is usually the part of the day where I shove everything else aside and get those words down. I reread the last couple of lines I wrote the day before or during my last session, then skim through my outline. (Click here for a little peek at how I “outline” my books!) I turn on the music that’s currently inspiring my WIP, and let my fingers glide over the keys. (I write on a MacBook Pro, and its keyboard is the silkiest thing I’ve ever laid hands on.)

I can write between 1,000-2,000 words an hour. The best I ever did was close to 3K in an hour, which was insane. My favorite method for keeping the spark alive between me and my WIP is stopping when I don’t want to. So, since I usually end each chapter on a “moment,” I usually call it a day when I’ve finished a chapter. Each of my chapters are around 3,000-4,000 words, sometimes less; I tend to let the story guide me.

At this point, I’m up against the clock. There might be a couple more things I need to do for the day, or it might be getting too close to dinner time. So I race to get as much as I can done, then force myself to shut down my computer. This is my least favorite part of the day. I have a really hard time letting go, especially if I haven’t completed my list for the day.

I cook dinner—usually from scratch, because A) we’re broke and B) I love cooking. Every so often Mike will surprise me with romantic things like ordering a pizza. We catch up at dinner, talking about our days. After I finish eating, I take my evening meds (more SSZ and my Tramadol). Then we go outside and share a cigarette—I said no judging, remember?—and I go back in and clean up.

7pm or 8pm is my favorite time of day because, unless I have a takeover, I sit down on the couch. It reclines, so I put my feet up and get the pressure off my poor hip. The Tramadol washes over me and I get to stop fighting the pain for the first time in 24 hours. It takes it down to a more bearable 7/10. I read or we watch a movie. (We don’t have cable or even Netflix.)

I try to go to bed before midnight. When I get off schedule—like I did in May, attending to all the fires—everything gets out of whack. I’m naturally a night owl. I have to fight to get back into routine. In May, I was working until and going to bed around 5am. Oops.

Sometimes I still have sleep anxiety, so I always go to bed with a calming video on YouTube and then a chapter or two of a softly spoken audiobook. I’m a light sleeper, but the drone of the fan lulls me right off, and I rarely wake up until my alarm goes off the next morning.

And then it starts again.

LifeBooksWriting Blog Challenge

What’s your daily routine like? Share with me in the comments below.

Next Friday: My top 5 books and why!

Note: I’ve fallen way behind on this challenge. I’m actually backdating this post and scheduling the rest; I’ve learned that I tend to forget to post for challenges, and scheduling in advance keeps me on track. So I apologize if this post confuses anyone! You can find all of my #LifeBooksWriting posts here.

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Free Kindle Giveaway (+ Books)!

This month I’m participating in Free Kindle Giveaway, along with The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos and Diving Into Him (South of Forever, Book 1).

If you aren’t already familiar with Free Kindle Giveaway, they are a company that promotes books AND their authors! Readers join their list for great deals as well as opportunities to connect with amazing authors…while also having the chance to participate in monthly giveaways! There are a variety prizes, but most often the winner has a choice between $100 PayPal Cash or a Kindle Fire! But for this special giveaway, Free Kindle Giveaway is giving away 100 dollars (or a Kindle Fire) AND 100 ebooks while telling you about 100 special ebook deals. It’s the 100/100/100 Giveaway! Learn More About the Prizes Below, or Go Here to Enter to win:

Enter Here

The Prizes: 1 Kindle/$100 + 100 Books!


Check Out The Books You Can Win!





















Check Out these Book Deals from Our Participating Authors!

Click any image to learn more! Lots of free and bargain titles here!

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A12 A2 A10 A8 A3

A15 A13 A14 A17 A11

A5 A16 A7 A4

  C15 51+bboTMHiL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ A C2

B5 B2 B6 B4 B9

B3 B24 B23 B7 B13

B14 B12 B18 B21 B22

B15 B16 B8 B20 B19

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B11 B10 B17 C5 C

C9 C19 C16 C8 C7

B C20 D15 D18 C4

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C10 C3 C14 C11 D9

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F8 D13 F14 F9

Good luck!

A Look Back, and a Plan for Moving Forward

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I can hardly believe that 2015 is almost over—yet I’m also relieved.

This year went by fast. In a way, I guess it was kind of like ripping off a Band Aid. I’ve now been writing full-time for a full year. It wasn’t what I’d planned; it just kind of happened. And although I’ve yet to make a full-time income, I’ve learned a lot about the business and myself. I wrote several novels and released a couple, too. I spent a lot of time evaluating my plan and changing things up. Literally nothing went the way I thought it would. Not that that’s a bad thing. Halfway through the year, I got picked up by a publisher.

Aside from writing, I spent much of this year battling depression. I’m actually kind of ashamed to talk about this. Turns out, it was a combination of trauma and poorly handled meds. I’ve most likely been struggling with PTSD all these years, which explains why antidepressants only make me feel worse. There’s nothing chemical about my depression, but as a result of multiple traumas, I’ve been trapped in certain behaviors and coping methods. (For example, I beat up on myself and withdraw.) Even worse, I’ve dealt with a lot of so-called professionals over the years who only made things worse for me.

Someday I want to share my story. I don’t really want to be anyone’s poster girl, but I long to be understood.

In a lot of ways, 2015 was about getting hopelessly lost and then finding my way back to myself.

Some good things happened this year, too. I finally got a diagnosis: enthesitis-related arthritis, probably reactive arthritis. (My rheumatologist thinks the medication I’m on will get rid of it completely. I’m not getting my hopes up, but my fingers are crossed.) Mike and I moved out of my parents’ and into our first apartment in a cute little town.

Already, 2016 is shaping up to be my year.

My Goals for 2016

I still want to be a full-time novelist. I’ve been writing professionally for four years now. My best production year was 2014; I slowed down a lot last year. In 2016, I’m aiming to release something new every 2-3 months. In February, my publisher Booktrope will be re-releasing The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. Then, sometime during the spring, my team and I will be publishing the first two books in the South of Forever series. Diving Into Him will be getting a facelift and Savannah’s Song will be released for the very first time. I know a lot of you have been waiting for this, and I’m super excited to finally give it to you! The rest of the South of Forever series will be released as 2016 progresses.

In the meantime, I’d like to write six new novels. Currently I’m doing pre-production for a standalone romance that I plan to start writing in January. Ideally, I’d like to arrange my schedule so that I’m writing a complete novel in roughly four weeks, taking a week to refill the well, using another week to edit a previously completed first draft, then spend another week or two on pre-production for the next novel. Now that I have a publisher and creative team behind me, I’m confident that I can pull this off. It’s basically what I was doing when I was self-publishing, only a little faster.

I don’t want to write my year away, though.

I’ve fallen absolutely in love with the little town we moved to. Though I’m an introvert, I’d really like to get more involved. I’ve kind of been toying with the idea of joining a social club.

I’d also like to read a lot more books. I spent a lot of 2015 doing and though I read quite a bit—I even re-read several older books—I’ve been making an effort to read even more. I enjoy a little bit of everything, so let me know if you have any recommendations! I’m especially looking to read more NA. (Some that I really enjoyed: Scorched by Jennifer ArmentroutCam Girl by Leah Raeder, and As You Breathe Again by Molli Moran—my super awesome critique partner.)

I’m also working on practicing acceptance. When it comes to trauma, I’m really good at placing it in a box. But denying it only brings more heartache. Accepting trauma, to me, means just acknowledging those feelings. There are a lot of nights where I lay awake, in this sort of frozen mode where the fear starts to take over. Sometimes I’m really angry. And a million other feelings. I’ve been working on being more kind to myself and telling myself it’s okay to feel however I feel.

My work is cut out for me in 2016.

It’s going to be my year.

What are your goals for 2016? Leave a comment and let me know!

A New Appreciation

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In a moment of weakness, I decided to re-read The Hunger Games series—a move that, before I even started, I knew would result in tears. Lots of them. For multiple reasons. For one, I don’t do well with storylines involving little sisters in danger. But toward the end of The Hunger Games, I realized what it is about this series that strikes me the most.

It’s not just the tragic love story or the horror of the Games themselves. What simultaneously tears me to pieces and makes me appreciate these books even more is the way that the trauma of what Katniss has been through is handled.

Too often in entertainment and even in our society, the impact of trauma is ignored. People will sympathize with you—to an extent. They don’t understand the long-term effects of surviving a tumultuous event. For the survivor, it’s almost unbearable.

But as The Hunger Games began to wind down, I remembered that the things that Katniss and Peeta endure are not simply glossed over as the series continues. The next two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, portray a lot of the aftermath: the nightmares, the anxiety, the guilt, the shame.

This morning, as I sipped my coffee and devoured the familiar words, I realized a new appreciation for Suzanne Collins and her masterpiece. She went there. The aftermath of trauma is not romantic or especially entertaining—not in real life, and definitely not in fiction. But The Hunger Games series devotes some serious time to these things, painting a very realistic picture of what it’s like to overcome any trauma.

The first time I read this series, I didn’t pay much attention. I empathized with Katniss but because I was still suppressing my own trauma, I barely noticed. Only now that I recognize how my own trauma has affected me can I truly understand why these books mean so much to me and their potential to act as a beacon for other readers grappling with their own trauma.

I see these books in a whole new light, and I love them even more for it.

Sade on the Wall: Chapter 3

11793179_10153076754279072_98385358_nJackie didn’t come to school the next day. We had first period art together—we had made sure of that when we picked our classes during the summer—and she wasn’t there. Art is probably the easiest elective, other than study hall. Neither of us wanted to take anything too challenging first thing in the morning. I couldn’t imagine running around the gym that early in the day.

I told our friend Lauren about the party the night before, and she said Jackie probably just had a hangover. I felt lucky. Other than my head throbbing every so often and my parched throat, I felt okay.

“You said she was throwing up last night, right?” Lauren asked, laying out the paper mache supplies on our table.

“She definitely smelled like it,” I said, cutting a square off a white sheet of paper. “She didn’t look good at all.” I added the paper to my mold, then brushed some paste onto it. We were making masks, like those pretty porcelain ones you see hanging up on people’s walls.

“So she’s probably sleeping it off. No big deal. My sister comes home like that all the time,” Lauren said. She liked to tell us about how her older sister was a bartender and got to drink for free all night.

I shrugged. “I know. She just didn’t look too good. Plus I’m grounded and I can’t even tell her we have to cancel girls’ night because my moms took away my phone.”

Lauren flipped her long, brown hair over her shoulder, and turned her dark eyes to her own mask. I always got the feeling she wanted to be invited, but girls’ night was Jackie’s and my thing since forever. Inviting someone new would be weird.

Art went by pretty quickly, and then I had biology. I didn’t really mind bio. We got to do a lot of labs and things, rather than just read out of the book. When I got to bio, there was someone else sitting in Jackie’s seat—someone wearing a green football jersey and blue jeans. A hat that matched the jersey sat on the table in front of him. Mrs. M probably told him to take it off. He kept pushing his hair out of his coffee colored eyes, and I knew right away why he wore the hat, even though they’re against the rules.

I put my books on the table and slid onto the stool next to him. I smiled—just a little one because I didn’t want him to think I was some slutty flirt—and opened my biology notebook.

“I’m not in your seat, am I?” he asked.

I finished writing the date and looked up at him. “Huh? Oh. No.” When our eyes met, I could feel heat spread across my cheeks.

“Okay, good. I just can’t see the board from the back, and didn’t want to sit too far up front.” His warm eyes stared into mine, and my heart beat a little faster in my chest. I suddenly wished I’d bothered to do my hair that morning.

I nodded. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. Which class did you drop?” I didn’t think I’d ever seen him before. Even though Clarington is a small town, the school is huge. It’d be impossible to remember every single person.

“I’m new,” he said. “This was the only sophomore science class open.”

“Oh!” I glanced at his hat. “Where did you transfer from?”

“Okay, everyone,” Mrs. M said. “I’m passing out a list of the supplies you’ll need for the dissection tomorrow, and a handout of the frog’s anatomy. Today I’m going to demonstrate the dissection. It’s probably a good idea for you to take notes on the handout, because tomorrow’s dissections will be graded.”

“Shit,” the boy next to me whispered. “I was taking physics at my old school.”

“Now,” Mrs. M said, “as soon as you get your goggles and gloves, come on up.”

I dug into my bag and pulled out my goggles: black with hot pink glitter and feathers glued onto them. Jackie and I had jazzed up our goggles in middle school with Mama’s box of stuff she uses to mockup stage designs, and they became an inside joke. I put them on and the boy raised an eyebrow at me.

“There are extras in the back of the room,” I said.

He nodded and smirked. “Any extra glitter?” Before I could reply, he got up and went to the back shelf.

I went to the head table, where Mrs. M had a frog laid out, its little green hands and feet pinned to the piece of cardboard. It kind of reminded me of Jesus on the cross. I wrinkled my nose and placed my papers and notebook on a clean area of the table. I felt the boy standing next to me, but stared hard at the frog in front of us.

“First, you’re going to make a butterfly cut,” Mrs. M said. She cut across the chest, just under the frog’s neck, then down from that cut, making a T. I didn’t get why she’d called it a butterfly cut until she pulled back the skin and pinned it to the frog’s sides.

“Ew,” I said, and leaned forward to see the guts.

“Your frog’s organs will not be dyed like these are. This,” she pointed with the tip of a pen, “is the heart.” Some sicko had dyed it bright pink before sending it to the school. The rest of the organs were dyed a barf green and yellow—bright and yet somehow pale colors that made me feel bad for the poor frog. I hoped he’d lived a happy life.

“This is the stomach,” she continued. “You get five bonus points if there’s anything inside of your frog’s stomach.” Everyone started chatting, betting each other they would get the extra points. “This,” Mrs. M rose her voice above the chatter, “is the egg sack.”

“Little bitty babies!” a big kid named Ron said. “Can I touch one?” He made a pinching motion with his fingers. His eyes gleamed.

“Civilized,” the new boy next to me muttered. I smirked, glad that I wasn’t the only one who thought Ron needed some help.

“If your frog is carrying eggs, you will receive ten extra points,” Mrs. M said, ignoring Ron.

“Sweet!” Ron yelled.

The boy next to me snorted.

Mrs. M showed us the rest of the frog’s parts, then glanced at her watch. “You have a few minutes to pack up and ask questions.” She smiled and stripped off her gloves with a snap.

I went back to my table, stripped off my own gloves with the same snap, and took the goggles off.

“So,” the boy said, putting his hat back on. The logo on the hat said Jets. I suddenly wished I’d paid attention to everything Corey and Jackie had told me about football.

“So,” I said.

“If you’re not doing anything after school, I work at Jay’s Comics in the mall.” He pointed to my open backpack. “I saw the Batman comics in your bag.” He blushed. “I get a twenty percent discount,” he said quickly.

“Oh,” I said. “I’d love to, but I’m kind of grounded right now.” I made a mental note to ask Corey for more of his Batman comics.

“Oh,” the boy said.

I scrambled to save the opportunity, but no words came to mind. I swallowed hard, frantically glancing at the clock. If nothing else, I needed to know his name. “So what’s your name?” I asked, keeping my face casual. Inside, though, my heart did flips, fluttering in my chest.

The bell rang, drowning out his answer. Afraid to ask again, I picked up my backpack and slung one strap over my shoulder.

“What do you have next?” he asked, following me into the hall.

“English, with Mr. T,” I replied automatically. My heart slammed against my chest. There had to be another way I could get his name.

He pulled out a creased sheet of paper from his back pocket. “I have French. There weren’t too many classes still open when I transferred,” he said, as if French was the lamest class ever.

I leaned over, scanning his schedule. Before I could find his name in the tiny print, he folded it up and pocketed it. ”French is cool,” I said. “I took it last year, but this year I wanted to take a break and take art instead.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you later or something, then,” the boy said. “I’m down this way.” He waved and then walked in the other direction toward the foreign languages wing. I sighed and went to English, wishing I’d taken French again instead of letting Jackie talk me into art. I was rapidly running out of things to talk to him about. Oh well, I decided with a little flutter in my chest. At least bio will be even more interesting now.

To Be Continued…

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