My First Half Marathon – After

I did it.

Truly, I have never felt that way before in my life.

First of all, I ran the first three miles. I slowed down a bit, but I didn’t walk at all until mile four. The second mile didn’t cripple me and the humidity didn’t drown me. Just with that alone, I was proud of myself for pushing through and running the first 5k without stopping.

Second of all, runners are warriors. I met so many people who are so supportive and gracious and giving. I ran with people who are living with lupus, who run to raise awareness. I ran with amputees who have embraced every part of themselves in order to run just like everyone else can. I ran with parents whose children are struggling, and they run to give their kids hope. I ran with people who are depressed, anxious, suicidal, sick, you name it, who run to feel better.

There were the pacers (the people running at set pace times for runners who want to complete at a certain point – 2:30 pacers, 2:15 pacers, etc.) who saw someone lagging behind and shouted “Let’s move it, come on!”

There was the girl who was running with her friend and saw me start to slow down. As she passed me, she smacked me on the back and said “You’ve got this.”

There was the woman in the Yankees cap who was on her phone almost the whole race because “Honey, if I’m listening to somebody else’s problems, I ain’t worried about my burning thighs.”

I nearly cried half a dozen times as I ran. Not because I was in pain (and after the eleventh mile, you bet I WAS) and not because I wanted to stop. My eyes welled up more than I care to admit because I was doing it. I used to hate running and now I am a runner. I kept feeling this rush of emotion that I’d never attached to exercise before. The runner’s high isn’t a one time surge or thrill. Through 13.1 miles, my high came and went in waves. I crested it then pushed through the following two miles. Then I did it again.

God, it was amazing.

I didn’t finish in the time that I’d hoped, but I’m still faster than I used to be. My legs burned and I was glazed in sweat. (My fingers swelled, too???) But I haven’t been so proud of myself in such a long time.

The Army Ten Miler is next month.


My First Half Marathon – BEFORE

I’m so scared.

In five days, I’m supposed to run 13.1 miles and NOT die.

The only question I have for myself right now is “Mary Grace, what in God’s name were you thinking?”

Granted, if I can so a 16 mile overnight walk through Philly, I can most certainly handle a 13 mile run that I’ve been training for since March, but holy cow, I didn’t think I’d be this nervous about it.

My hip is doing okay (and boy, do I feel like an old lady writing that), my knees are so much better (now that I’m not favoring the one and screwing up the other in the process anymore), my breathing has improved, my pace has evened out, and my stamina is… getting there.

And if you’d shown me that paragraph a year ago, I would have maybe gone cross-eyed.

But as anxious as I am that I’m going to fall on my face or torque my knee or land funny, I’m that much more proud of myself. I made myself run and now I’m a runner. I worked toward a goal for six month and it’s nearly here. I am so much happier and healthier since I’ve been running because it’s something that I do for myself on my own time that makes me feel good. That might sound silly and I know it’s not true for every single person who runs, but I’m just… better.

And in five days, I run farther than I ever have – only because I’m told you’re not supposed to run the full distance until race day, not because I was avoiding it…

At all…


BUT! I will be surrounded by many other runners, and that always helps me keep a better pace. I will be running through a city I love and supporting a cause close to my heart.

I’m told that there’s nothing like running through the city and each time you start to falter, you have a new landmark to look forward to in the next mile. I’m told that that’s what gets you through the walls in your head that your body knows how to knock down.

And I’m told that the home stretch is when you can see the Art Museum toward the end of the course. That’s when you push and end strong.

And the part of me that’s NOT super nervous and isn’t AT ALL worried about eating pavement? That part can’t wait.

Hope – a short story by Pepper O’Brien

I had pizza.

Tomorrow, I may have nothing at all, but that day, some kind soul bought me a three dollar slice of plain, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

“Honey?” she’d said, her sweet, concerned, round face peering down at me cautiously. “You eat pizza?”

“Sure do,” I’d told her.

“I don’t have cash, but I’m gonna get you some, okay? You like soda?”

“I…” my eyes welled as I looked up at her. “Yeah. Any kind.”

She walked across the street with a bit of a limp.

Huh. A woman in pain. It just figured that she’d be the first person to look at me all day. I bet it must be nice to see someone who has is worse.

When she came back, I swear I drooled all over myself at the sight of melted cheese.

“Here you go. You keep warm now, alright?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said quickly. “Thank you. Bless you.”

“And you, honey.”

And off she went. I hoped her limp got better. I hoped someone did a kind thing for her. I hoped a lot of things.

None of them were for myself.

“Jack,” I heard someone call. I turned to see Rosco hobbling toward me, his arms laden down with everything he owned.

“Hey, man,” I answered back with a wave.

“I was gonna share a Twinkie with you, but it looks like you’re all set.” Rosco plopped down next to me.

“Appreciate the thought. You want a bite?”

“Wouldn’t mind one. Thanks.”

There were an awful lot of creeps and thieves on the street, but Rosco was one of the good guys and about a year ago he’d decided that I was, too. We’d been looking out for each other every since. I didn’t see him every day, and I had my suspicions he was shooting up again, but there was no point in telling him off. He’d been living like this much longer than I had. I couldn’t lose the only person who ever bothered to check up on me. Maybe that was selfish. Maybe it was just survival.

Rosco handed me back the greasy paper plate that held my pizza and I polished off the rest without a word.

“Hey, where’d you sleep last night?” I asked, not really wanting to know the answer. “You weren’t in your usual spot.”

“Nah. Found a new one.” It was exactly the kind of answer that told me he wasn’t going to give up anything more. His quiet way of telling me to butt out.

“Oh,” I said simply, sipping the remainder of my Coke.

“Sandwich fairies oughtta be coming by tonight.”

“Sounds good to me.”


That night, I was fast asleep against the base of some statue when a light flashed bright in my eyes.

“Hey, man,” a voice said, “you can’t be out here.”

Fuck. The fucking park patrol. They’d been slacking off a lot lately, so I hadn’t bothered to worry about them.

“Seriously, man, I mean it. You gotta-”

“Yeah, I know. I’m going.” I stood on unsteady feet, gathered my pack and my sleeping bag, and stumbled away. Maybe the bus depot had some room.

I tried to avoid the bus depot, because a lot of unsavory characters hung out around there. You’d think I would have gotten used to them by now, but I wasn’t. I tried to avoid anybody who wanted me selling smack, and I really tried to avoid the ones who wanted me selling my body. Like life hadn’t already dealt me a tough enough hand of cards.

I settled into an empty corner far from the benches. I didn’t mind sleeping sitting up. I’d done it plenty in the Marines.


The next night, after a too long, too cold day of sitting on my ass with a piece of cardboard, I lucked out with the dumpster behind the donut place. Hey, there are way worse things than day old bagels, I tell you what.

“Hey, honey, you need some sugar?” I heard from down the alley.

“Can’t afford any sugar tonight, sweetheart, but thanks.”

“Holy… Jack?”

I picked my head up to see who it was. Did I know them?

No fucking way.


“Whoo! Haven’t heard that name in a while. It’s been Lainey for so long I forgot who knew me back then. Get your fine ass over here, Jackie boy.”

I hadn’t seen Lance Marcusen in years but there was that face – those twinkling eyes and that impish grin. The woman standing with her hand on her hip waiting for me to make my way out of the dark alley where I hid, though, was a happier, more confident person than the kid I’d known.

“Jack, honey, what in the world are you doing here?”

“Looking for food, I guess. What about you, man? I mean…” I fumbled. Thank God she laughed.

“Don’t you worry, baby. Come here. I’ve got plenty at home. It ain’t much but the water’s hot and the microwave works just fine.”

“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to-”

“Jackie, sweetie, you shush up and get walking.”

“Yes, ma’am.”


“Baby, what happened?”

About an hour later, I was as clean as I’d been in weeks and dressed in an old hoodie and some pink polka dot flannel pajama pants. There was even a heaping bowl of cereal in front of me. Lainey had Hot Pockets going in the microwave. She’d taken off her eyelashes, her platform heels, and her sparkling silver corset top. She was sitting on her ottoman in front of me wearing nothing but an embroidered kimono.

“Mom passed. Haven’t heard a peep from Dad since I joined up.”

“When did you get back?” she asked, genuine concern deep in her voice.

“Four months ago.”

“You didn’t call nobody?”

I shrugged. The truth was I hadn’t. I’d been… I didn’t know what. Too embarrassed?

“Well, you’re staying here now.” Lainey clapped her hands together and stood up, making her way back to her small kitchen.

“I can’t let you do that. I’m-”

“Yes, you can and you’re gonna. I ain’t hearing another word about it.”

I didn’t know what to say. So I ate my cereal.

That night, I slept in those polka dot pants. The next day, Lainey and I went grocery shopping and I convinced her to get a bag of apples and some eggs. The rest was total junk, but I let her be.

The day after that, I met her friend Jeanine, who ran a night club and needed a bartender.

It only lasted three months, but that was three months Lainey didn’t pay the rent on her own and I took care of the grocery shopping. She’d never eaten so healthy in her life.

About a week after I quit bartending, I answered a job ad looking for a mechanic. Lainey said she liked having a “hunky grease monkey” for a roommate and I liked the work.

When I’m not fixing cars, I’m keeping homophobic skinheads away from my friend (not that she can’t take care of herself) and searching for Rosco. I ask around plenty, but the streets are funny that way. Either they don’t remember me and think he’s in trouble or they do remember me and think I left him behind.

I hope I find him. I hope I can give him one of Lainey’s Twinkies and a slice of pizza.

Wonder Woman and Global Running Day

Full disclosure: there are no SPOILERS, but there are certainly hints. If you are unfamiliar with the DC comic universe, this may not make much sense… 

I took a vacation day this past Friday so that I could give Wonder Woman as much of my money as possible.

It was 100% worth it.

Don’t get me wrong: I certainly have my (minor) criticisms and nit-picky things, but I truly don’t think that I will ever NOT cry during Diana’s first battle crossing No Man’s Land.

Ugly tears. Like an angst-riddled toddler.

After seeing this magnificent piece of cinema thrice in one day, I then spent the weekend working, cleaning my apartment, baking with Sophie, and making up for the fact that I was too sick and then too busy to run for the past two weeks.

Imagine my surprise when I beat my split by over a minute.

I thought for a moment that the app tracking my miles was being finicky. There was no way I was suddenly running a nine minute mile (I know I’m slow, okay??) after fifteen days of nada. My average even before then had been around the ten and a half point.

But I do have a theory.

My feet hit the pavement on Saturday morning when all I could think of was that scene from Wonder Woman. I imagined Diana taking the battlefield and deflecting bullets one by one. I imagined a shield on my back and a lasso of truth on my hip, and I swear those thoughts are what made me run faster.

And I think I now know what a runner’s high feels like.

I know it sounds pretty cheesy, and I know that I’m a grown woman who ought to be past  the time of pretending to be a superhero running down the street, but here’s the deal: I didn’t have that as a child. I remember the first time I saw Christopher Reeve fly and thinking how amazing it was, but never once did I think to myself “Oh, I could do that!”

I could never see myself as Superman.

And I didn’t have a truly heart-stopping moment of awe with any DC superhero until Dawn of Justice when the shield lowered and there was Diana (with, I might add, the greatest possible theme music).

I ran like the wind yesterday – or as close to the wind as I probably could have come – all the while, thinking of my beloved Princess of the Amazons. It hurt like hell, but the second I stopped, I felt amazing. I felt invincible.

And this morning I heard on the radio that today is Global Running Day.

I’m off to grab my running shoes and my imaginary lasso.


Grief – a Short Story by Pepper O’Brien

There really wasn’t anything quite as satisfying as beating bread dough into submission.

Don’t think about it. Don’t go there. Keep it together. 

I chanted silently to myself over and over as I kneaded, the smell of the yeast wafting up to remind me that I was safe, I was home, and I was getting on with my life. I baked every day and made bread twice a week, sometimes more.

This week, all I’d done was bake. I woke up for a batch of muffins. The instant the bowl was clean, a cake was next, then there was buttercream to mix, and then a pie crust to roll out.

I baked for hours until Kyle came to either eat his fill or take away the extra to whomever. I never asked. As long as there was need, I’d keep baking.

Need in myself or need in others to eat, I didn’t pause for long enough to consider.

“Honey,” he said tentatively as I continued to knead.

“There are lady fingers just there and some chouquettes,” I told him. “This needs to prove again, but I’ll have an Angel Food out soon.” I spared a glance for the upside-down tin where the cake was resting before I returned my attention to the dough in front of me.

I didn’t hear my husband’s resigned sigh, but I knew it was there. I could feel it in my bones.

“Okay,” he finally said. “I’ll take care of it.”

You’re okay. Everything’s fine. Don’t think about it. 


Late that night, sounds drifted through the house in an uneven pattern. Baseball highlights floated in from the den’s television as my mixer whirred together butter and sugar. Kyle muttered on the phone, the ceiling fan spun in a hum, and cicadas happily sang in the yard. The oven timer beeped. The water ran in the sink. The kitchen radio played bachata. I used to dance as I baked, and I hadn’t quite gotten out of the habit of playing music whenever I had cookies on the brain.

I didn’t dance anymore.


At first, I didn’t hear him. I was too busy chanting in my head and watching to make sure the chocolate I had melting in the saucepan didn’t burn.

“Terry, baby,” he said again.

“Hm?” I didn’t look up.

“That was your mom.”

I tensed, unsure of why she’d call now.

“Janet’s kids… her students keep sending cards and things. She just wanted to know if you… if you’re interested in taking a look. Or maybe coming for a visit.”

I barely heard what he said after “Janet”. My sister’s name reverberated through my head as I stared at the blade of my mixer.

Janet. Janet. Janet. Janet. Janet. 

I could scream. I could vomit. I could curl in a ball in the corner and refuse to speak to anyone.

I didn’t. I just baked.

“Sweetheart? Maybe you could call your mom back tomorrow. She didn’t sound like she was doing very well-”

He cut himself off before he could say “either”. We both heard it anyway. What he stopped himself from saying, but meant just the same. She’s not doing any better than you are. 

Meaning I wasn’t doing well. Meaning I wasn’t handling my sister’s suicide.


My voice rasped from underuse. He probably hadn’t heard me say his name in weeks.

“I can’t…”

“Can’t what, baby?”

I didn’t know what to say. I reached up and turned the mixer off. Suddenly, all the noise in our house seemed to rush to a halt. I no longer heard the sports commentators. I no longer heard the ceiling fan. Kyle must have lowered the radio’s volume when he tried to get my attention. Even the cicadas seemed to hold their breath as I stood in my kitchen and tried to tell my husband what it was I couldn’t do.

“I can’t think about her right now, Kyle.”

“You don’t have to, Terry,” he whispered, never moving from his place by the door. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want, but you’re scaring me.”

That snapped my head up in a hurry. I finally met his eyes.

“You can keep doing this. I’ll bring you all the flour and eggs you want. I’ll keep bringing cookies to work with me. I’ll take your mother’s calls, and I’ll tell all of our friends that you’re doing okay. I promise I will. I’ll do all of it until you bake through every ounce of butter in the state, I swear.”

My eyes filled. My poor, worried husband looked pale and gaunt, barely propping himself against the door jamb.

“If that’s what you need, honey, that’s what I’ll do. But no one knows you like I do. Not your mom, not your brothers, and baby, I’m so sorry to say this, but not even Janet knew you like I do.”

The tears fell because he was right. I knew it and so did he.

“I know every part of you, and I know you’re trying to make yourself feel better. I know you’re trying to forget, because all of this,” he gestured to the counter in front of me, “is something you love.”

He took a step forward and I felt my hands shake.

“I miss my wife,” he said softly. “And I don’t want you to forget. I’ll go along with whatever you want, whatever you need to do, but sweetheart… I’d take years of your anger and your tears and your frustration over a single moment of your reserve. I miss you so much, and I don’t know how to show you anymore.”

Without another word, Kyle turned and walked out of the kitchen. I heard the game highlights come back on. Rubbing my face on my apron, I turned the mixer back on.


The next morning, I stepped outside and sat on my front steps with a cup of coffee in my hands, and I waited. I’d woken up to an empty bed. Kyle was probably out for a run, and I wanted him to see me here. I wanted to show him that I could leave the house, that I could behave like a normal person. Or at least pretend to for a time.

It was another ten minutes before I heard the telltale rhythm of his running shoes hitting the sidewalk.

I smiled even though it hurt. I stood even though I didn’t want to. My hands ached for my whisk and my rolling pin. Still I gripped my mug and made my way down the front walk.

Sweating and exhausted, my husband pulled up in front of me.




My body hurts.

I ran over ten miles last week, and before I know it, I’ll be running ten miles in a day

Remind me why I thought becoming a runner was a swell plan…?

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Because my swollen, mud splattered ankles make for top notch blog copy. 

I have found, though, that I am already starting to reap the benefits of getting off my own butt and doing something active on a regular basis. At work yesterday, Nino looked over and said, “You’re skin looks really great – what have you been doing?” As this particular workplace happens to be a cosmetics shop, I’m sure he was expecting me to tell him I switched moisturizers or started sleeping on a silk pillowcase. When I told him I’d been running, he nodded anyway and just said, “Yep. That makes sense.”

Yes, my body still hurts, but not as much as it did that first day, and not nearly as much as I would have expected it to after two weeks of running four to five days a week. I still want to rip off my own feet at the end of mile two most days, but at least that distracts me from my knee, which honestly hans’t been bugging me as much as I would have thought. I’ve also got a pretty impressive bruise on my thigh from a spill I took the other day on my trail of choice, but I’m proud of myself for getting up from said spill and finishing that day’s mile goal.

I suppose what I’m learning is that running is hard, but worth it. I have to make myself do it and those initial few moments of “crap, I don’t want to” are probably harder to get through than a stitch in my side on mile two. There will always be reasons why I shouldn’t or can’t or won’t, but the reasons I should or can or will are more important.

Becoming a Runner

I ran twice last week, and no, I was not being chased by something scary.

That’s a perfectly reasonable assumption, though, since I kind of hate running.

My lovely friend Keebs and I are planning on doing a 5k together this June. If you are unfamiliar with the Color Run, I encourage you to educate yourself below…

In the interest of getting pelted by colorful dust, getting some sweet photos, and gaining quality bonding time with Keebs, I agreed.

Then I remembered I hated running.

I just need to establish that. I really do hate it.

All of that said, I don’t want to hate it. I am not the sort of person (or, at least, I prefer to think that I’m not) whose favored topic of conversation is my disdain for all things. I don’t count my worth by my ability to trash the stuff others enjoy. I do make honest attempts at understanding why people like the things that they do, even if thoroughly incomprehensible to me.

For example, jellyfish scare the shit out of me. I don’t think this is a totally unjustified fear. However, I can see how others find them fascinating. I can go to an aquarium and see them in a tank and see them as interesting and, in their own scyphozoan way, rather beautiful. That does not mean I want to encounter one without the shield of a very thick pane of plexiglass.

Mosquitoes, on the other hand… no. Get out of here with that. I’m within the sphere of reason to despise mosquitoes on a basic human level.

Running, though, I am intrigued by. I don’t like doing it, but I really admire the people who wake up at 5:00 in the morning to run ten miles. I admire what it takes to train for a marathon and commit to that kind of physical strain/pressure/exhaustion/elation. I do really want to know what a runner’s high feels like.

I also need to exercise more often. The week I turned twenty-six, I feel like my body got  a huge smack in the face, and I suddenly couldn’t stomach Taco Bell anymore.

Amidst all of this internal debate/existential crisis/potential quarter-life meltdown, this gem popped up on my recommendations as I perused YouTube one day.

If homegirl can run a flipping marathon with ten weeks of training, I can run five measly kilometers.

Or, at least, I should be able to…

Any advise on this matter is appreciated…


A Very Short Story About the Little Things by Pepper O’Brien

Every morning, right around 11:00, I have… a moment with the FedEx guy.

I estimate he’s not much older than I am and that he works out on his own aside from hauling boxes up and down the stairs to various offices. He strikes me as a dog person, and perhaps someone who owns and rides a bike. I don’t know any of this for sure. We don’t exactly chat.

What I do know is he has a tattoo of a tiger on his arm. I only see it in the summer and only ever half of it as the rest is hidden under the sleeve of his polo shirt.

I also know he likes pizza, because the one time I had pizza and was too hungry to wait until noon to eat lunch, he’d pointed to my plate and simply said “jealous” with a smirk and a longing look in his eye.

I don’t know what his favorite pizza topping might be. I don’t know if he has any other tattoos. I don’t know what his favorite color is, as I have only ever seen him in black and purple.

I do know that every day, he comes right up to my desk, my simple, tidy desk, and shares a moment with me.

Anyway, each morning, he strolls through the office doors with a bright smile and says “morning” before setting down whatever parcel and handing me the keypad for my signature. Each morning, right around 11:00, he does this and looks at me with that handsome smile while I blush and scribble my name with the attached stylus. Sometimes I take longer than I need to handing it back just so I can see his eyes crinkle at the corners.

I smile at him and take his delivery, and he says “thanks so much” and gives me a wink, which (naturally) makes me blush harder.

I’d been at my job for less than a month when I first saw him. He was new, too. I liked that.

“Hey, there,” he’d said, looking right at me, probably because my desk just happened to be the one closest to the door. For the record, none of the packages are ever for me, nor do I ever open them. As soon as he leaves, I walk them right over to Kelly, who works in the very back corner.

“Hi,” I’d replied, a little confused and a little nervous. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to sign for anything at that point. I did it anyway, because when a good-looking guy hands you a keypad and asks for your signature, you give it.

“Last name?” he’d asked, taking his keypad back from me.


“Perfect,” he’d said. “Thanks.”

He has never asked for my last name since. He remembered it was Campbell after only one visit. I try not to dwell on that too much, assuming that he perhaps just happens to have an excellent memory. I try not to think it has much (if anything) to do with me.

My moment with the FedEx guy is easily the best part of my workday.

This morning, right around 10:55, I rushed to the bathroom to make sure my hair was okay (yes, I know how that sounds – sue me).

When he strolled into the office five minutes later, though, he didn’t have his usual bright smile. He didn’t look up at me at all. He didn’t say “morning”.

“Morning,” I said brightly, hoping it would be returned.

He looked up quickly and gave me a half-hearted smile. One that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Sign here, please?” He handed me the keypad and I scribbled.

“Sure,” I said, and then, dropping my voice a bit, “um, is everything okay?”

As I handed back the keypad, he looked up again and held my gaze.

“Yeah, thanks. Last name?”

I paused, and let myself stare for a second too long. He cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows, still waiting for an answer. I tried to ignore the sinking feeling as I took in another breath.


On Dystopian Young Adult Fiction

***Disclaimer – this post contains affiliate links: the book cover images are clickable***

Small confession: I caved and read another romance novel. And then reread two others I fell in love with last year.

I can’t apologize, because they were all great. I have mad love for Karina Halle’s work. I also may have a small thing for soccer players… I make no apologies for this.

Then, of course, I explored my saved shelves (yes, the real and the digital), and discovered just how many Young Adult, female heroine driven, post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction there is in the world.

I’m not complaining at all, but holy cow, I’d never actually realized there was so much of it! And no, I do not believe that there is any harm/shame/what-have-you in reading books geared toward high school students. I read Anna Karenina when I was eleven, and I read the complete works of William Shakespeare a year later (yes, I’m serious). Read everything and read it because you like it, okay? (Just not “Fifty Shades”…)

Most recently, I finished the Chemical Garden series by Lauren DeStephano, and while there were a few parts that dragged just a little, I did enjoy the concept. The premise is that we’ve completely eradicated genetic diseases, cancer, immune disorders, and the like, all at the cost of human life expectancy. Men die at 25, women ay 20. The only people who live longer are “first generations” who were born before these effects took hold, and not necessarily everyone is born as perfect human specimens. There are still those with birth defects that are looked down upon as malformed.

Enter Rhine, who is essentially kidnapped and sold into marriage, and who has heterochromatic eyes (one brown, one blue), which intrigues her new father-in-law scientist/doctor/psycho.

Not my favorite series of this genre, but certainly worth a read. A solid three out of five orange trees.


Another I finally got around to in the past few months is the Selection series by Keira Cass. This one takes a note from Suzanne Collins by “selecting” girls from different portions of what was once the Americas. Teenage America (yes, that’s her name) is selected and sent away to be courted by the nation’s prince. There’s also a caste system (probably one of my favorite “rules” of this world) that determines your job, indicates who you might marry, etc.

Not the craziest, most complex read I’ve found, but certainly enjoyable, and I really loved the different rebelling factions. Another solid three out of five stolen pennies.


The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is truly excellent. I reserve five out of five for knocked-my-socks-off-could-not-put-down-Harry-Potter-and-the-Prisoner-of-Azkaban-level-rock-star-awesome, but “Cinder” gets four out of five screwdrivers. Loved, loved, loved it, and I won’t bother to explain. Read it now. (And yes, there are more than what I’ve added links to, but obviously, start here.)


Those are examples, because I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the Divergent series or the Hunger Games. More still that fit the category quite neatly are the Matched series, the Delirium series, the Shatter Me series, the Uglies series, the Mortal Instruments, the Infernal Devices, and you know I can keep going.

The next two I’m looking forward to taking for a spin are “A Thousand Pieces of You” by Claudia Gray (which I’ve already dug into and is part of the Firebird series) and “The Forsaken” by Lisa M. Stasse.


For those of you who are not as voracious, perhaps, as I am about reading until your eyeballs fall out, enjoy the next few weeks/months of bedtime reading, and you’re welcome.

A (Very Short) Excerpt

I sat crossed-legged on my kitchen counter and let the heat from my mug warm my hands. It was below forty degrees in our apartment, but I tried not to let that bother me too much. At least we had someplace to live.

As I sipped my tea, I heard Jacob curse from the other room. For some reason, my mother’s voice echoed through my head.

“Language,” I reprimanded him. I said it firmly and I made sure he heard me, but I didn’t shout. As a general unspoken rule, Jacob and I did not fight.

He shuffled into the kitchen and pinned me with a look.

“Really?” he asked, his eyebrows disappearing into his hair. It really was getting much too long.

“Really,” I confirmed, holding his gaze. It was was Mom would have done. It ought to work for big sisters, right?

He heaved a sigh and shook his head, looking bemused.

“Yeah, alright,” he agreed as he turned to make his way back toward the living room.

“What are you working on this time?”

“The bookcase,” he told me, holding up the level in his hand. “The shelves are uneven.”

“So?” I asked, and I knew my nose scrunched in confusion. “It’s not like we have anything to put on them.”

“No, but we will someday, won’t we? I don’t want it going on a crooked shelf.”

“Fair enough.”

Jacob wandered back toward his project and I couldn’t help but smile. If there wasn’t something for him to do, he’d invent a task for himself. No one could ever accuse my brother of having idle hands. In the short time since our arrival, he’d managed to replace the windows, right the doors that were falling off their hinges, and retile the small bathroom we shared. One had to admire his sense of industry.

My tea had cooled a bit and I drank it deeply, my focus straying to the window. I saw shapes in the distance that must have been our landlord and his family. While it felt early to me, I knew our neighbors had been awake for hours.

“Sara?” Jacob called.


“Any idea where a hammer could be? Or maybe a pry bar?”

“Not a clue,” I almost laughed. “You could ask David.”

I listened for my brother’s footfalls as he left the bungalow in search of our friend David. We’d lived here almost three weeks, and while a tiny farmhouse that was probably somewhere near eighty years old and had seen its share of bad winters certainly wasn’t the city apartment Jacob and I had grown up in, it sure felt like home to me.

Ruth had said her cousin’s farm was some version of paradise, what she imagined heaven might be like. While I didn’t really go that far, I could see what she meant by it. It might not have the unicorns and ice cream I’d pictured when I thought of heaven as a child, but it was safe and the people welcomed me. It was much more than we’d had for the past few years.

Mom had gone to Austria in search of some old family friends to stay with. The last thing she told me before she went was that it seemed unfair to be fleeing a place her great-grandmother had herself fled to so long ago, but perhaps that was our cycle. To never have anywhere to belong. I hated the sentiment, but worse than that, I hated that I understood it.

We hadn’t heard from Dad in months. I think that’s what finally convinced my brother it was time to seek refuge.

I didn’t care that it had only been three weeks, and that nothing was certain. I was relieved. We were as off the grid as anyone could get in twenty-first century America, and at least for now, we were safe.

I looked up at the sound of Jacob plodding back into the house triumphantly.

“Got it!” he called.

I smiled into my mug.