It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
FaithWords (May 13, 2009)
Plus a Tiffany’s Bracelet Giveaway! Go to Camy Tang’s Blog and leave a comment on her FIRST Wild Card Tour for Be Strong and Curvaceous, and you will be placed into a drawing for a bracelet that looks similar to the picture below.
Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages. Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She writes books about fun and faith—with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, watching movies, and making period costumes.
It’s All About Us is Book One in the All About Us Series. Book Two, The Fruit of my Lipstick came out in August 2008. Book Three, Be Strong & Curvaceous, came out January 2, 2009. And Book Four, Who Made You a Princess?, came out May 13, 2009.
List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (May 13, 2009)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Like the T-shirt says, life is good.
My name’s Shani Amira Marjorie Hanna, and up until I started going to Spencer Academy in my freshman year, all I wanted to do was get in, scoop as many A’s as I could, and get out. College, yeah. Adulthood. Being the boss of me. Social life? Who cared? I’d treat it the way I’d done in middle school, making my own way and watching people brush by me, all disappearing into good-bye like they were flowing down a river.
Then when I was a junior, I met the girls, and things started to change whether I wanted them to or not. Or maybe it was just me. Doing the changing, I mean.
Now we were all seniors and I was beginning to see that all this “I am an island” stuff was just a bunch of smoke. ’Cuz I was not like the Channel Islands, sitting out there on the hazy horizon. I was so done with all that.
Lissa Mansfield sat on the other side of the fire from me while this adorable Jared Padalecki look-alike named Kaz Griffin sat next to her trying to act like the best friend she thought he was. Lissa needs a smack upside the head, you want my opinion. Either that or someone needs to make a serious play for Kaz to wake her up. But it’s not going to be me. I’ve got cuter fish to fry. Heh. More about that later.
“I can’t believe this is the last weekend of summer vacation,” Carly Aragon moaned for about the fifth time since Kaz lit the fire and we all got comfortable in the sand around it. “It’s gone so fast.”
“That’s because you’ve only been here a week.” I handed her the bag of tortilla chips. “What about me? I’ve been here for a month and I still can’t believe we have to go up to San Francisco on Tuesday.”
“I’m so jealous.” Carly bumped me with her shoulder. “A whole month at Casa Mansfield with your own private beach and everything.” She dipped a handful of chips in a big plastic container of salsa she’d made that morning with fresh tomatoes and cilantro and little bits of—get this—cantaloupe. She made one the other day with carrots in it. I don’t know how she comes up with this stuff, but it’s all good. We had a cooler full of food to munch on. No burnt weenies for this crowd. Uh-uh. What we can’t order delivered, Carly can make.
“And to think I could have gone back to Chicago and spent the whole summer throwing parties and trashing the McMansion.” I sighed with regret. “Instead, I had to put up with a month in the Hamptons with the Changs, and then a month out here fighting Lissa for her bathroom.”
“Hey, you could have used one of the other ones,” Lissa protested, trying to keep Kaz from snagging the rest of her turkey-avocado-and-alfalfa-sprouts sandwich.
I grinned at her. Who wanted to walk down the hot sandstone patio to one of the other bathrooms when she, Carly, and I had this beautiful Spanish terrazzo-looking wing of the house to ourselves? Carly and I were in Lissa’s sister’s old room, which looked out on this garden with a fountain and big ferns and grasses and flowering trees. And beyond that was the ocean. It was the kind of place you didn’t want to leave, even to go to the bathroom.
I contrasted it with the freezing wind off Lake Michigan in the winter and the long empty hallways of the seven-million-dollar McMansion on Lake Road, where I always felt like a guest. You know—like you’re welcome but the hosts don’t really know what to do with you. I mean, my mom has told me point-blank, with a kind of embarrassed little laugh, that she can’t imagine what happened. The Pill and her careful preventive measures couldn’t all have failed on the same night.
Organic waste happens. Whatever. The point is, I arrived seventeen years ago and they had to adjust.
I think they love me. My dad always reads my report cards, and he used to take me to blues clubs to listen to the musicians doing sound checks before the doors opened. That was before my mom found out. Then I had to wait until I was twelve, and we went to the early shows, which were never as good as the late ones I snuck into whenever my parents went on one of their trips.
They travel a lot. Dad owns this massive petroleum exploration company, and when she’s not chairing charity boards and organizing fund-raisers, Mom goes with him everywhere, from Alaska to New Zealand. I saw a lot of great shows with whichever member of the staff I could bribe to take me and swear I was sixteen. Keb’ Mo, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Roomful of Blues—I saw them all.
A G-minor chord rippled out over the crackle of the fire, and I smiled a slow smile. My second favorite sound in the world (right after the sound of M&Ms pouring into a dish). On my left, Danyel had pulled out his guitar and tuned it while I was lost in la-la land, listening to the waves come in.
Lissa says there are some things you just know. And somehow, I just knew that I was going to be more to Danyel Johnstone than merely a friend of his friend Kaz’s friend Lissa, if you hear what I’m saying. I was done with being alone, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t stand out from the crowd.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like this crowd. Carly especially—she’s like the sister I would have designed my own self. And Lissa, too, though sometimes I wonder if she can be real. I mean, how can you be blond and tall and rich and wear clothes the way she does, and still be so nice? There has to be a flaw in there somewhere, but if she’s got any, she keeps them under wraps.
Gillian, who we’d see in a couple of days, has really grown on me. I couldn’t stand her at first—she’s one of those people you can’t help but notice. I only hung around her because Carly liked her. But somewhere between her going out with this loser brain trust and then her hooking up with Jeremy Clay, who’s a friend of mine, I got to know her. And staying with her family last Christmas, which could have been massively awkward, was actually fun. The last month in the Hamptons with them was a total blast. The only good thing about leaving was knowing I was going to see the rest of the crew here in Santa Barbara.
The one person I still wasn’t sure about was Mac, aka Lady Lindsay MacPhail, who did an exchange term at school in the spring. Getting to know her is like besieging a castle—which is totally appropriate considering she lives in one. She and Carly are tight, and we all e-mailed and IM-ed like fiends all summer, but I’m still not sure. I mean, she has a lot to deal with right now, with her family and everything. And the likelihood of us seeing each other again is kind of low, so maybe I don’t have to make up my mind about her. Maybe I’ll just let her go the way I let the kids in middle school go.
Danyel began to get serious about bending his notes instead of fingerpicking, and I knew he was about to sing. Oh, man, could the night get any more perfect? Even though we’d probably burn the handmade marshmallows from Williams-Sonoma, tonight capped a summer that had been the best time I’d ever had.
The only thing that would make it perfect would be finding some way to be alone with that man. I hadn’t been here more than a day when Danyel and Kaz had come loping down the beach. I’d taken one look at those eyes and those cheekbones and, okay, a very cut set of abs, and decided here was someone I wanted to know a whole lot better. And I did, now, after a couple of weeks. But soon we’d go off to S. F., and he and Kaz would go back to Pacific High. When we pulled out in Gabe Mansfield’s SUV, I wanted there to be something more between us than an air kiss and a handshake, you know what I mean?
I wanted something to be settled. Neither of us had talked about it, but both of us knew it was there. Unspoken longing is all very well in poetry, but I’m the outspoken type. I like things out there where I can touch them.
In a manner of speaking.
Danyel sat between Kaz and me, cross-legged and bare-chested, looking as comfortable in his surf jams as if he lived in them. Come to think of it, he did live in them. His, Kaz’s, and Lissa’s boards were stuck in the sand behind us. They’d spent most of the afternoon out there on the waves. I tried to keep my eyes on the fire. Not that I didn’t appreciate the view next to me, because trust me, it was fine, but I know a man wants to be appreciated for his talents and his mind.
Danyel’s melody sounded familiar—something Gillian played while we waited for our prayer circles at school to start. Which reminded me . . . I nudged Carly. “You guys going to church tomorrow?”
She nodded and lifted her chin at Lissa to get her attention. “Girl wants to know if we’re going to church.”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Lissa said. “Kaz and his family, too. Last chance of the summer to all go together.”
And where Kaz went, Danyel went. Happy thought.
“You’re not going to bail, are you?” Carly’s brows rose a little.
It’s not like I’m anti-religion or anything. I’m just in the beginning stages of learning about it. Without my friends to tell me stuff, I’d be bumbling around on my own, trying to figure it out. My parents don’t go to church, so I didn’t catch the habit from them. But when she was alive and I was a little girl, my grandma used to take me to the one in her neighborhood across town. I thought it was an adventure, riding the bus instead of being driven in the BMW. And the gospel choir was like nothing I’d ever seen, all waving their arms in the air and singing to raise the roof. I always thought they were trying to deafen God, if they could just get up enough volume.
So I like the music part. Always have. And I’m beginning to see the light on the God part, after what happened last spring. But seeing a glimmer and knowing what to do about it are two different things.
“Of course not.” I gave Carly a look. “We all go together. And we walk, in case no one told you, so plan your shoes carefully.”
“Oh, I will.” She sat back on her hands, an “I so see right through you” smile turning up the corners of her mouth. “And it’s all about the worship, I know.” That smile told me she knew exactly what my motivation was. Part of it, at least. Hey, can you blame me?
The music changed and Danyel’s voice lifted into a lonely blues melody, pouring over Carly’s words like cream. I just melted right there on the spot. Man, could that boy sing.
Blue water, blue sky
Blue day, girl, do you think that I
Don’t see you, yeah I do.
Long sunset, long road,
Long life, girl, but I think you know
What I need, yeah, you do.
I do a little singing my own self, so I know talent when I hear it. And I’d have bet you that month’s allowance that Danyel had composed that one. He segued into the chorus and then the bridge, its rhythms straight out of Mississippi but the tune something new, something that fit the sadness and the hope of the words.
Wait a minute.
Blue day? Long sunset? Long road? As in, a long road to San Francisco?
Whoa. Could Danyel be trying to tell someone something? “You think that I don’t see you”? Well, if that didn’t describe me, I didn’t know what would. Ohmigosh.
Could he be trying to tell me his feelings with a song? Musicians were like that. They couldn’t tell a person something to her face, or they were too shy, or it was just too hard to get out, so they poured it into their music. For them, maybe it was easier to perform something than to get personal with it.
Be cool, girl. Let him finish. Then find a way to tell him you understand—and you want it, too.
The last of the notes blew away on the breeze, and a big comber smashed itself on the sand, making a sound like a kettledrum to finish off the song. I clapped, and the others joined in.
“Did you write that yourself?” Lissa removed a marshmallow from her stick and passed it to him. “It was great.”
Danyel shrugged one shoulder. “Tune’s been bugging me for a while and the words just came to me. You know, like an IM or something.”
Carly laughed, and Kaz’s forehead wrinkled for a second in a frown before he did, too.
I love modesty in a man. With that kind of talent, you couldn’t blame Danyel for thinking he was all that.
Should I say something? The breath backed up in my chest. Say it. You’ll lose the moment. “So who’s it about?” I blurted, then felt myself blush.
“Can’t tell.” His head was bent as he picked a handful of notes and turned them into a little melody. “Some girl, probably.”
“Some girl who’s leaving?” I said, trying for a teasing tone. “Is that a good-bye?”
I wished I had the guts to come out and ask if he’d written the song for me—for us—but I just couldn’t. Not with everyone sitting there. With one look at Carly, whose eyes held a distinct “What’s up with you?” expression, I lost my nerve and shut up. Which, as any of the girls could tell you, doesn’t happen very often.
Danyel launched into another song—some praise thing that everyone knew but me. And then another, and then a cheesy old John Denver number that at least I knew the words to, and then a bunch of goofy songs half of us had learned at camp when we were kids. And then it was nearly midnight, and Kaz got up and stretched.
He’s a tall guy. He stretches a long way. “I’m running the mixer for the early service tomorrow, so I’ve got to go.”
Danyel got up, and I just stopped my silly self from saying, “No, not yet.” Instead, I watched him sling the guitar over one shoulder and yank his board out of the sand. “Are you going to early service, too?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he said, sounding a little surprised. “I’m in the band, remember?”
Argh! As if I didn’t know. As if I hadn’t sat there three Sundays in a row, watching his hands move on the frets and the light make shadows under his cheekbones.
“I just meant—I see you at the late one when we go. I didn’t know you went to both.” Stutter, bumble. Oh, just stop talking, girl. You’ve been perfectly comfortable talking to him so far. What’s the matter?
“I don’t, usually. But tomorrow they’re doing full band at early service, too. Last one before all the turistas go home. Next week we’ll be back to normal.” He smiled at me. “See you then.”
Was he looking forward to seeing me, or was he just being nice? “I hope so,” I managed.
“Kaz, you coming?”
Kaz bent to the fire and ran a stick through the coals, separating them. “Just let me put this out. Lissa, where’s the bucket?”
“Here.” While I’d been obsessing over Danyel, Lissa had run down to the waterline and filled a gallon pail. You could tell they’d done this about a million times. She poured the water on the fire and it blew a cloud of steam into the air. The orange coals gave it up with a hiss.
I looked up to say something to Danyel about it and saw that he was already fifty feet away, board under his arm like it weighed nothing, heading down the beach to the public lot where he usually parked his Jeep.
I stared down into the coals, wet and dying.
I couldn’t let the night go out like this.
“Danyel, wait!” The sand polished the soles of my bare feet better than the pumice bar at the salon as I ran to catch up with him. A fast glance behind me told me Lissa had stepped up and begun talking to Kaz, giving me a few seconds alone.
I owed her, big time.
“What’s up, ma?” He planted the board and set the guitar case down. “Forget something?”
“Yes,” I blurted. “I forgot to tell you that I think you’re amazing.”
He blinked. “Whoa.” The barest hint of a smile tickled the corners of his lips.
I might not get another chance as good as this one. I rushed on, the words crowding my mouth in their hurry to get out. “I know there’s something going on here and we’re all leaving on Tuesday and I need to know if you—if you feel the same way.”
“About . . . ?”
“About me. As I feel about you.”
He put both hands on his hips and gazed down at the sand. “Oh.”
Cold engulfed me, as if I’d just plunged face-first into the dark waves twenty feet away. “Oh,” I echoed. “Never mind. I guess I got it wrong.” I stepped back. “Forget about it. No harm done.”
“No, Shani, wait—”
But I didn’t want to hear the “we can still be friends” speech. I didn’t want to hear anything except the wind in my ears as I ran back to the safety of my friends.