Tuesday, October 21, 2014

RELEASE DAY LAUNCH & EXCERPT: Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L. Armentrout

SCT RDL Banner Final  

We are thrilled to bring you the Release Day Launch for Jennifer L. Armentrout's STONE COLD TOUCH! STONE COLD TOUCH is the second full-length novel in Jennifer's The Dark Elements Series, a young adult paranormal romance being published by Harlequin Teen!!

  Cold Stone Touch

Amazon l Barnes and Noble l Kobo l iTunes

  Every touch has its price Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could. 

 But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay...

  SCT available now


I’d remained in bed after that, trying to sort through the odd tingling in my chest. There was a slight smile on my lips, because Zayne…well, he’d made my day, but then I’d remember what Roth had said to me the night before and the smile would wash away as if it had never been there.

I probably needed to get used to the whiplash mood swings.

It wasn’t until after dinner that I decided to scrub a day’s worth of gunk off myself. Gingerly, I peeled the bandage off, happy to find that the cut in my arm was healing as expected. I didn’t need to cover it anymore. The arm was still tender, but the Warden blood in me was quickly undoing the damage from the iron.

After changing into fresh pj’s, like a total hermit, I padded over to my desk, where I’d left my cell phone. It had been on silent all day and when I tapped the screen, I wasn’t surprised to see a slew of texts from Stacey.

Where r u?

R u skipping, u ho?

A minute later: Your locker misses u. Guess u sick with the herp?

Oh my God. I laughed out loud, grinning as I thumbed through her texts. Our bio sub is still hot. U r missing this.

Bio is lonely.

My boobs miss u. How weird is that?

That was notably weird and yet not surprising.

If I get my cell taken from me, it’s ur fault.

Holy shit, Layla, where r u?!?

Air punched out of my lungs as I read the next text and the several following them.

U have no idea who just walked into bio!!!

Roth is here!

Holy Canola oil, why aren’t u here to witness this?

Ok. He says he had mono. Srlsy? Do people still get mono? And who in the duck was he kissing? A second later—Duck? I didn’t mean duck. That’s SO not what I meant, autocorrect.

Another text had come in about fifteen minutes after the last one. He asked where u were. I told him u joined a cult. I laughed. He didn’t. 

Finally, the last text was to call her if I wasn’t dead.

“What in the Hell?” I tossed my cell onto the bed, mouth hanging open.


And don't forget! The choice is yours... Beginning today you’ll have 3 weeks to visit the series website, www.thedarkelementsseries.com, to take a poll and decide which guy Layla should ultimately choose in the final book in the trilogy, Every Last Breath. At the end of 3 weeks, we will tally all the votes, and that’s when Jennifer L. Armentrout will start writing Every Last Breath. The guy who gets the most votes is the one Layla will pick. To prevent early spoilers, we're not going to reveal who won the poll in advance…you’ll have to wait until Every Last Breath goes on sale on July 28th, 2015 to find out whether Zayne or Roth wins Layla in the end. We promise the book will be epic and definitely worth the wait! Who do you want Layla to end up with? Go to www.thedarkelementsseries.com and vote for your choice!  

Author PhotoAbout Jennifer L. Armentrout: # 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV.   She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.   

Series Website l Website l Twitter l Facebook l Jennifer L. Armentrout Goodreads l STONE COLD TOUCH Goodreads

Saturday, October 18, 2014

REVIEW: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late. 

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage. 

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target. 

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 

BLACK ICE is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick’s riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous…

Purchase: Amazon l Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts:
This review contains spoilers. It would be almost impossible for me to get my thoughts across without delving into the story a bit, so read on at your own risk. Also there is not a whole lot of order to what I say. It was just getting thoughts out and being done with this book unfortunately. 

I think that Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush Hush series would be one of my favourite series ever. I loved it. You only have to mention the name Patch and it sends me into a self induced swoony haze. When I saw that she was releasing a new book, I was pumped with excitement. The synopsis sounded amazing. Absolutely amazing. And that cover!! I don't mind admitting that I can be swayed to read a book by the cover alone, and this one was stunning. I was all in on this one. I couldn't get it in my hands quick enough.

Unfortunately, that's where my love ends. I found Black Ice to be one of the hardest books to get through this year. It took me two weeks to read it, and almost every page was hard work. Once again, it was my complete lack of care of the characters. I couldn't relate to any of them, on any level whatsoever. They frustrated me, they made me cringe, and they made me groan. There were many, many occasions where I was ready to give up, but I had people telling me to keep reading, because it would get better and that everything would come together. So forge ahead I did.

The premise of the story was actually pretty good. A girl held captive by two criminals, and to save her life she agrees to help them navigate their way off the mountain in blizzard conditions. It sounds awesome right? Unfortunately for me, it had some pretty big holes. Firstly, Britt and Korbie head off into the mountains with their car fully stocked with an array of camping gear, supplies, warm clothes and plenty of food. Along the way a raging blizzard hits and they are forced to pull over. The snow is so bad that they aren't even fully aware if they have missed their turn off or not. So they make the decision to leave everything that they will need for their survival behind in the car and head off into the storm with not much more than the clothes on their back and no idea where they are heading. 

After stumbling through the forest they come across a cabin that is inhabited by two gorgeous males, Mason and Shaun. These are the two men who will hold them captive and force Britt to guide them off the mountain. I didn't really understand why these two grown men, who had found their way onto the mountain only hours before, needed this seventeen year old girl to help them find their way off it. Also Mason at one stage sets out to retrieve something from Britts broken down car, which is parked miles away on the road, on the mountain, and he had no trouble in finding it. Or finding his way back to the cabin. So why did they need Britt? Did I miss something? I'm confused!!

Then we have the characters. Britt and her 'best friend' Korbie annoyed me from the very beginning. I use the term best friends very loosely because for me, best friends don't treat each other the way that they do. Who keeps a book and lists each others assets and rates them? If my best friend did that there would be no way that she would be my best friend for very long. Everything that the other did seemed to irritate them no end. They bickered and constantly competed with each other over everything. I wanted to throttle both of them!! I was so glad when Korbie was left behind and they weren't together anymore.

"I tapped my cup to his, grateful to have found Shaun, because for a minute there, I'd thought I was going to have to save myself. Instead, I'd wandered into the protective care of a sexy older man.

She talks about being strong and independent, but at every turn, she wants and expects a man to come in and save her.

Something about Shaun was a little off. He was charming and friendly, but not necessarily warm or genuine. 

And then five pages later, we have this...

I wondered if his pulse was thrumming like mine. I wondered if he kept stealing glances at my lips, the way I shamelessly watched his.

She finds Shaun 'off', but he's cute, so what the heck. Cute comes first right?

I just found Britt to be incredibly immature. She went backwards and forwards between telling us of her love for her ex boyfriend, who treated her like dirt, to her wanting to make out with the guy who will be one of her kidnappers, Shaun, and then her developing feelings for her other kidnapper, Mason. She went from being in love with one guy to being in love with another in four days. She flirted with everyone even when she knew that Korbie liked them. And that was just a whole other issue. Korbie has a boyfriend but has no regard or respect for him whatsoever. She blatantly states that she can get together with Shaun because her boyfriend, who she was on her way to meet, is leaving for college soon. Not only is she a wonderful and loyal friend, but she's also a loving girlfriend. Not!! The moral standards of these two were non existent. 

Then we have the plot. This was why everyone kept telling me to keep reading. It was going to blow me away. And while it had it's moments, I guessed the way most of it was going to play out way before it happened, so there really weren't any big surprises for me. What frustrated me the most was that this book had so much potential. Unfortunately for me, it just failed to deliver on it. 

I really hate doing this but 1.5/5 Disappointing Stars. 

Paperback copy kindly provided by Simon & Schuster Australia.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BOOK BLITZ - EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Losing Track (Living Heartwood #2) by Trisha Wolfe

Losing Track (Living Heartwood #2)
Release Date: Oct 15th, 2014

Summary from Goodreads:
Sometimes you have to lose your way before finding the right track.

The roar of a bike engine. The vibration between her thighs. The feel of cool darkness kissing her skin as she coasts along twisty back roads at night—Melody Lachlan lives for these things. Ever since Mel and her best friend Darla escaped their small, backwoods town, they’ve traveled the countryside in search of fast rides, tatted bikers, and good times.

A self-proclaimed poet and lover of all things free, Mel views her life as one long bike ride—with pit stops along the way to numb the pain. But she never saw herself as a junkie. Party as hard as you ride. That’s her motto…until a tragic night steals her soul. Then she’s forced to delve below the surface, to where her demons rage.

When she meets recovered drug addict Boone Randall, she’s more likely to deck him than kiss his dimple-adorable face. She doesn’t want his help; doesn’t want to own up to her part in that night. She just wants to do her time and keep her promise to her friend. Yet Boone challenges Mel, and soon she doesn’t mind sharing the road. Only when Boone’s own secret demons threaten their newfound, fragile security, Mel’s course becomes rocky, and she must decide if letting her well-worn track marks fade is worth finding a new path. 

Told from Dual point of view from Melody and Boone, this is a New Adult Contemporary Romance intended for readers seventeen years of age and older.


Only $.99 for a limited time only!

Excerpt: Melody

“Your friend doesn’t like me very much,” Boone says, interrupting my weird thoughts.
I shrug. “Jesse’s like that. Don’t worry about it.”
“I wasn’t, really.” He ducks his head to find my eyes. “But I am concerned that he seems to think you’re his property.”
My insides rage. “I’m no one’s fucking property,” I bite out. “And you don’t know him. You don’t know the MC. It’s just their way…to like, look out for me and shit.”
Boone holds his hands up in defense. “Take it down a notch, Riz. Not looking for a brawl here.”
“Funny. I thought that was your MO, fight club.”
This earns me a full-on smile, and my anger takes a dive. “Fair enough. Truce?” He extends his hand.
With a forced sigh, I take his hand and shake. But he doesn’t release it. Instead, he subtly twists his hand so that our fingers align, palm-to-palm, then laces his fingers through mine. My traitor heart kicks my rib cage.
“How ill am I going to be watching you out there?” he says.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you won’t be on a bike you’re used to, right? I’m assuming whoever’s bike you’re going to race is one of the guy’s from down there.” He nods toward the pit. “Not built for a woman.” He eyes me. “A petite one, at that.”
“I resent the fact that you think I’d have to ride a chick bike.”
He looks me over slowly, from head, to body, to toes, sending a flood of new heat everywhere. “What did you ride before?”
I attempt to hide my smile, doing a terrible job. “A Breakout, okay?” His smile widens, and I’m tempted to punch him in the shoulder. “I know…I know. But you have to admit that like, even though technically designed for chicks, it’s still bad ass.” I shrug. “I need a lower model, being vertically challenged and all.”
“I get that. And it is a badass ride. I’m sure it was modded all to hell, too.”
“Damn right,” I add.
“So what are you riding tonight?”
I nod toward the track, to where Jesse is getting ready to take off down the strip. “Forty-Eight.”
Boone’s gaze follows mine to Jesse and his new hog. I take a quick peek at his face, see his brows pull together, before he says, “No. No way.”
“No offense. I’m sure you’re an excellent rider…but I can’t in good conscience let you drive that beast.”
“It is a beast,” I say, having to agree with him. But then my feminine hackles raise. This is the second time in two days that a guy is telling me what’s good for me. First, Jesse and his jealous ol’ man act, when he reiterated again and again how he didn’t like me hanging out with some backyard brawler. And now, Boone’s laying it on pretty thick. Though in all fairness, I am taking more than a gamble with Jesse’s hog.
“Ride mine,” Boone says.
Surprised, I look him straight in the eyes. “Are you serious?”
A moment of hesitancy pales his face, but to his credit, he checks it quickly. I know how much work he’s put into his Bonnie. And I’m sure he doesn’t trust me enough not to trash it on the track—he’s never even seen me ride.
“I’m sure,” he says. “It’s sits low, and it’s also a bobber, very lightweight. It rides pretty close to a Breakout, and you’ll handle it a hell of a lot better than that tank down there.”
This is actually true. His bobber is customized for speed, and it does sit low, lower than a Breakout, actually. But one thing: “It’s not American,” I say. “I cannot ride non-American.”
He cracks a smile. “How did I know you’d say that?” He gives my hand a pump, reminding me we’re still holding hands, and it scares me a little how right it feels, how normal. “I’m serious, Mel. You need to ride my bike if you’re going to do this. Don’t let your stubbornness get you hurt.”
A few weeks ago, him saying something like that would’ve ended with me telling him where to stick it. That it’s none of his business—which really, it’s not. But as I look down at our linked fingers, then up into his face, the light bruise covering one cheek, the cut above his eye, I know he also understands pain. Stubbornness. Determination. Want, and everything else I battle.
And truthfully, today is not the day I want to end up careening out of control. Whether on the track or off.
“Do you know how special you are, that I’m even offering you the chance to ride my baby?” His hand sends another pulse to mine, and it’s like a lifeline—his energy, his assurance, flowing from him to me.
I don’t think I would’ve offered him the same in return. I know what a huge thing it is to let someone else ride a machine you’ve put so much of yourself into. Really, I could get all misty on him in this moment.

Instead, I palm his large hand between both of my small ones. “I’m going to hear so much shit for racing a Triumph.”

Companion to:
The Darkest Part (Living Heartwood )
by Trisha Wolfe
Release Date: 08/06/13

Summary from Goodreads:
Pressing the boundaries of both the psyche and the heart, Sam and Holden embark on a dangerous journey that will test the limits of love.

Sam Wintry’s life used to be almost perfect. She was engaged to her childhood best friend and high school sweetheart, Tyler Marks, planning an amazing cross-country honeymoon during her college break. But after a hit-and-run leaves her in ruin, she begins seeing Tyler’s fractured, ghostly presence, and her family believes she’s losing her mind. Not until she completes their journey, stopping along the way to scatter Tyler's remains, will Tyler be able cross over. Only...is Sam ready for him to leave her?

When the black sheep of the Marks' family, Holden Marks, returns to check on Tyler's case, Sam convinces him to give her his brother's ashes. Despite their shaky history, she needs him...plus, he owes it to Sam and his brother. What she doesn’t count on is Holden’s relentlessness to go on the trip.

On the road, Holden realizes just how unhinged Sam has become. Dealing with her psychosis forces him to confront his dark past, making it harder to keep secrets hidden that should remain buried. Especially from Sam, the only woman he’s ever loved. And as Sam starts to unravel the truth, she begins to question if the brother she's unwillingly falling for again is in an even darker place than her.

New Adult Contemporary.

Only $.99 for a limited time only!

About the Author:
I’m the author of the YA Steampunk DESTINY'S FIRE (Omnific Publishing), ASTARTE'S WRATH NA Historical/Supernatural, and the upcoming YA Utopian FIREBLOOD from Spencer Hill Press, October 2013. My NA Dark Fantasy OF SILVER AND BEASTS available May 2013.
I’m the creator of YA Bound, a promotional site for the Young Adult genre. Also a member of SCWW and The Apocalypsies.
A proud business owner, I'm partnered with my partner, my husband. When I’m not busy doing all of the above, I’m a wife and the mother of a gorgeous teen boy who's the sounding board for my male characters.

Author Links:
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

BOOK BLITZ - EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer

The Intern

Title: The Intern 
Author: Gabrielle Tozer
Genre: New Adult
Publish Date: 10/1/14
Publisher: Harper 360
Event organized byLiterati Author Services, Inc.  

Seventeen-year-old Josie is studying journalism and ends up at Sash magazine to do an internship. Josie has little enthusiasm for fashion and wants to be a serious journalist. But she has little choice. It’s Sash or the local cat fancier’s magazine. Once at Sash, Josie comes to grips with the fact that the fashion industry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Plus she has to contend with her fellow interns and the editor, Rae, who is in charge and arbitrary - one day Josie’s her hot new favorite, the next, who knows? Country girl Josie also has to get used to living in the city, and sharing a small flat with her cousin Tim, and his hotter-than-hot roommate James, is an education. Things come to a head at Sash when Josie manages to connect with Billy, a troubled rock star. But a disastrous episode at a nightclub and the fallout on social media causes Josie to wake up and see the real person behind his glamorous front. Josie starts to wonder if she’ll ever get the journalistic break she longs for …


Melons. The girls. Gazongas. I could rattle off every nickname in the world for my boobs — oops, nearly forgot jubblies — but it didn’t change the fact they were small. Embarrassingly small. Think grapes over melons, fun-size bags over fun bags, shot glasses over jugs.
Which was why I shouldn’t have been surprised when my boobs were the catalyst for squeals of laughter from my younger sister, Kat, on the eve before an important day. A Very Important Day.
‘Geez, put those puppies away,’ Kat smirked from my bedroom doorway. ‘Some of us haven’t had lunch yet and I’d hate to lose my appetite.’
I paused from rifling through piles of crumpled clothes on my bed. ‘What? I don’t know what you —’
‘Just look down,’ said Kat, tossing her jet-black ponytail. I hated when she did that.
Following her instructions, I looked down and saw my left nipple peeking out of my bra. ‘Argh!’ I yelped, yanking at the faded material. ‘Kat, get out! Get out!’

Kat cackled, then plonked onto my bed, squashing the heaving mass of clothes. Too tired to argue, I sat down next to her and double-checked that my boob hadn’t made another escape.
Kat fussed with her thick fringe. ‘So, found something to wear tomorrow, Jose?’
Broken shoes, stained shirts and fraying dresses burst from the wardrobe, spilling into an unwearable mess. A personal stylist would’ve come in handy to tell me why I shouldn’t tape my sneakers together instead of buying a new pair, and how to dress like a normal seventeen- almost-eighteen-year-old.
‘Yep. Well, maybe. Probably. No. I’m screwed. My sister just saw my boob and I’m screwed.’
Cursing, I lay back on the bed. Kat reapplied her gloss. It smelled of cherries, reminiscent of summery desserts.

‘Hey Jose?’ she said.
‘I won’t tell anyone I saw your boob.’
‘Well, except Tye,’ Kat added. ‘I tell him everything.

You know, boyfriend rules and all that.’
I sighed. One of those melodramatic I-hate-my-life

sighs, where the air rushed up from the depths of my stomach and exploded with a raging ‘whoosh’. But if Kat noticed, she didn’t show it.
‘Hey Jose?’ she said again.

‘You’re going to have to look amazing tomorrow, you know?’
‘I know.’ I know. I know. I know.
‘Amaaaazing. Seriously, tomorrow’s important. Mum’s been yabbering to everyone about it.’
‘Heard you the first time.’
During the past few weeks, Kat had been firing off tips about the Very Important Day. Wear this, don’t wear that, do this, don’t do that, say this, don’t say that. I knew she was trying to help me reduce the risk of embarrassing myself, but it only made me more panicked. You see, life loved handing me something amazing, only to backhand me almost straight after. It had always been that way. In Year Eight, after my first kiss, the delectable Pete Jordan vomited from food poisoning and hadn’t spoken to me since. At Year Ten presentation night, I was named ‘Most Likely To Succeed’, only to faceplant the ground as I walked back to my seat. Some moron recorded my historic fall, making me an overnight YouTube sensation. I won’t even go into what happened at my Year Twelve formal, although it involved a spiked punch bowl, ninety rolls of toilet paper and a paddock of mud. I don’t know why I thought the next day — the Very Important Day — would be any different, but I was counting on a fairy- godmother-shaped miracle.

Most girls I knew, like Kat, spent their allowances or pay on make-up, jewellery, fashion, music, phone credit and magazines.
For me, magazines were a sparkly fantasy filled with smiling, shiny people who looked too happy all the time. That didn’t stop me from leafing through Kat’s magazines when she was out, but instead of checking out the fashion I was reading the feature stories, scoping out who wrote them and looking for spelling mistakes.
I’d studied hard at high school for six years because I was destined to be a news journalist at a newspaper or radio station. So it had come as a huge shock to everyone, including me, to discover I would be interning at a magazine as part of my uni degree’s second semester And not just any magazine. I’d been signed up to (translation: pushed into) a one-day-a-week internship at one of the hottest women’s magazines in the country, Sash.
When I told Kat my news, she was thirteen per cent excited for me and eighty-seven per cent envious. In her world, my inability to use a curling iron meant I didn’t deserve the intern position. Her warning of ‘Don’t say anything stupid to the Sash girls and ruin my chances of working there one day’ hadn’t filled me with confidence. Unless I underwent the world’s first personality transplant between here and the city, I knew I’d find a way to put my high-heeled foot in it.

Kat picked up a ratty floral dress from the top of the pile and threw it into the bin near my desk.
‘Hey! What are you doing?’ I said. ‘I’ve had that for ages.’
‘Exactly,’ she shot back, rolling her blue eyes in a flurry of mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow. ‘Tomorrow you need to look hot and cool. You can’t wear your crappy old clothes at a place like that. Now, here’s what I’m thinking ...’
I sighed and tuned out. I couldn’t handle another one of Kat’s pep talks where she criticised my worn-out sandals, mismatched socks, lack of bold lipstick, split ends and under-plucked brows.
‘... so come on, it’s makeover time. We’re getting our shop on,’ barked Kat, unaware that I’d been ignoring her rant.
‘I’ll sort it. Trust me.’
Grunting in disbelief, Kat held up a daggy blue skirt and waved it around. ‘This opportunity is wasted on you — and your small boobs!’
She threw the skirt back onto the bed and stormed out, her ponytail whipping behind her. I heard her bedroom door slam — twice, just in case I missed the first. I held the skirt up against my lower body and took in the reflection grimacing back at me. Mousy brown hair, scruffy but fine. Eyes, green and wide, easily my favourite feature. Eyebrows, semi-unruly but manageable. Lips,

pouty and pink, no major complaints but occasionally clownish. Nose, free from any wart-like protrusions so doing okay. Boobs, small in size — obviously — but apparently confident enough to jump free of brassiere at a whim. Everything from the waist down blurred together: hips, thighs and legs were all ... just there.
I gazed at the skirt. Sure, I’d owned it for five years, and it was a hand-me-down from my weird cousin Tracey, but it was all I had. I needed another opinion.
‘Mum, can you come here for a sec?’
Moments later, Mum appeared in the doorway, balancing an overflowing washing basket on one hip and holding a bag of pegs. Her shaggy brown hair was pulled into a loose bun at the nape of her neck and held with a rusty peg. A fresh yellow daisy played peekaboo from behind her right ear. Mum loved plucking flowers from the garden and wearing them until they wilted. Her dress — another bargain from the op shop — had faded to a musky pink and clung to her body in all the wrong places. But none of these things detracted from her pretty features, which glowed without even a hint of foundation, blush or mascara.
‘Yes, love?’ she asked, readjusting the basket on her hip.
I held up the skirt. ‘How hideous is this? Would you say it’s send-me-home-to-change hideous or let-me-stay- but-bitch-about-me-behind-my-back hideous?’

Mum shrugged, then patted me on the shoulder. ‘Josephine Browning, you always look gorgeous.’
‘You have to say that.’
‘Not true. When you were a child you had enormous ears — reminded me of a baby elephant — and I was the first person to point them out.’

‘But I do like that skirt.’
‘Kat reckons I need a new outfit — new dress, heels,

the works. You know, for tomorrow.’
‘Wait, is that my skirt? I thought I’d passed it on to

your cousin Tracey. I should’ve hung onto it if it’s back in fashion, love.’
I forced a smile. Kat’s outburst about my lack of options suddenly didn’t seem so hysterical. It was time to admit defeat to the self-proclaimed fashion queen of the house, which ranked number two on my Things I Hate To Do List. (Number one: cross-country running.)
I knocked on Kat’s bedroom door with its Stay Out sign sticky-taped above the doorknob. Rock music pounded from within and I imagined her writing in her diary about her ugly, frumpy, older sister. Either that, or sneaking out the window to meet up with Tye. I doubted she was dabbling in the rare option of cleaning her room, although when it came to Kat I could never be sure.
The door cracked open. ‘Whaddya want?’ ‘Um, what were you saying about the shops?’

‘Not another word, I hear your unfashionable cries for help loud and clear,’ said Kat, scooping up a handbag from the floor and swinging it over her shoulder. ‘Get your wallet, Jose, because when we’re done you’re definitely going to need it.’
I looked like a tarted-up pageant queen. As I stared into the full-length mirror, all I could see was big green eyes, big pink mouth, big bold jewellery, big bright patterns and big high-heeled shoes. Everything was big, right down to the price tags. I smelled like a perfumery and my face itched from the foundation and bronzer caking my skin. Kat beamed, admiring her work. She’d taken me on a whirlwind tour of the department store, trialling make- up products at every counter. Before I could stop her, she called out to a saleswoman who was hovering nearby. ‘She looks amazing, right? Like, amazing,’ Kat said.
‘Oh yeah, amazing,’ gushed the woman, fuelled by the anticipation of a sale. ‘Hon, you should seriously get that whole outfit.’
I blushed, reminded of when Mum took me to buy my first bra in Year Six and invited the shop owner into the change room to admire my ‘growing buds’. Like Mum, Kat had the intuition of a dead caterpillar when it came to sensing my discomfort. I squeezed my wallet a little tighter as the saleswoman circled me, eyeing me up and down. She’d detected my fear the moment we’d walked

into the store and I’d cried out, ‘Is that a belt or a skirt?’ Mentally, I double-locked my piggy bank and buried it in a safe three hundred metres below ground level, complete with security guards and CCTV cameras.
I snuck another peek in the mirror and cringed at the loud colours competing for my attention. The dress felt tight, but Kat was convinced it fitted perfectly. I had to admit, it was creating curves in places usually hidden by baggy T-shirts or baby-doll dresses.
To my right, a mannequin wearing the same outfit, down to the bright yellow peep-toes, was looking rather fashionable. ‘How do you do it?’ I muttered to her.
‘Okay, I’ll say it: this is the best you’ve ever looked,’ said Kat. ‘Wear this tomorrow and you’ll kill it. That dress is hot.’
‘Weren’t we aiming for hot and cool?’
Kat rolled her eyes. ‘Let’s not go crazy, Jose. It is you we’re talking about.’
The saleswoman cleared her throat. ‘So do you want to pay with cash or credit, hon?’
I ran through my wardrobe options at home one final time. A montage of outdated playsuits, daggy dresses and worn shoes danced in my mind, the blue skirt at the forefront. I had no choice: I was getting the outfit.
‘Cash, thanks.’
I handed over the crumpled notes. There was no turning back now.

Purchase Links:
barnes and noble   

Author Photo_GABRIELLE TOZERAbout the Author: 
Gabrielle Tozer is a senior features writer who has edited, sub-edited and written for several magazines, newspapers and anthologies throughout the past decade. In addition to Gabrielle’s work on Dolly, Cosmopolitan, DisneyGiRL, Mamamia and FamilyFun, she has also written for creative journals such as GOfish and Take It As Red. Born and bred in regional New South Wales, Gabrielle now works at Pacific Magazines and lives in the heart of Sydney.  

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