Review: Jackaby ~ William Ritter

JackabyISBN ~ 978-1616203535
Publisher ~ Algonquin Young Readers
No. Of Pages ~ 299 pages
Links ~ Algonquin Young Readers, Barnes & Noble,

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is the first one in a series and, when I realised it was aimed at the young reader market it made me come to the conclusion that all hope of ever finding a good read in this genre is not dead.

The Author certainly has a way with words, and a wonderful way of using them.  This becomes apparent from the first character introduction he writes.  Not only does he make his characters three-dimensional and interesting from the very first meeting, but he manages to keep this standard up and apply it to all subsequent characters that appear throughout the book.  It may be wrong of me but, as the title of the book suggests, Jackaby is not the only front and centre main protagonist in this novel; his assistant takes equal footing as the story progresses and, in some places outshines Jackaby.  When this happens it doesn’t read as if the Author ran out of steam as far as Jackaby was concerned, but rather embraced the ebb and flow of real life into the plot that makes it inevitable that lead roles will change.  The description of our title character, and his actions, had me swinging between wondering if he was truly the genius he purported to be and also trying to figure out how he had evaded being consigned to the nearest asylum long before the story takes place.  His assistant on the other hand shows all the traits and stubbornness that many young women were feeling in this time period, and went to extraordinary lengths to stretch those newly discovered wings.  I particularly liked with her character the way in which the Author had her determined in her path but at times interspersed this with a glimpse at the closeted lifestyle she had left behind.  In the supporting cast of characters, some of whom I do hope will appear in future instalments, they too were treated with as much care and consideration as the main characters.  Do I have a favourite in all those presented to me within this novel’s pages?  I certainly do, and I would have to say there wasn’t one that I didn’t like.

With as much care as he put into his characters, this Author sets the locations and events within the book.  He pulls on the weather and lifestyles of the period to create atmosphere and suspense in a way that I can honestly say I haven’t seen in a YA book before.  The Author manages to blend the thought processes of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Harry Dresden together in a seamless manner; the end result being something that really shouldn’t work producing a whole new way to look at the world of detection.  There is no wasted area in the book, as scenes visited early on come back at some point to play an integral part of the plot; the result of this is an engrossing read that will pull you into the mystery from the very first chapters.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of all ages, not just those in the aimed demographic, and also anyone who enjoys any of the characters mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Will I read anymore by this Author?  Definitely, I am already halfway through book two in the series.

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5 Cures for ‘Outlander’ Separation Anxiety

Personally I gave up on the Outlander series after the first three books, but I know plenty of people who pull at the bit waiting for the next book, and who schedule their day around the next episode on TV.  Hopefully as you wait for season 2 to air, or wait for the next instalment in the book series, here are five books I think you may find helpful:

Into the wildernessInto the Wilderness ~ Sara Donati
ISBN ~ 978-0385342575
Publisher ~Delta
No. Of Pages ~ 896 pages
Links ~ Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Weaving a tapestry of fact and fiction, Sara Donati’s epic novel sweeps us into another time and place…and into a breathtaking story of love and survival in a land of savage beauty.

It is December of 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered—a white man dressed like a Native American: Nathaniel Bonner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, Elizabeth soon finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as with her own family. Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati’s compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portrait of an emerging America.

veil of timeVeil of Time ~ Sara Claire R. McDougall
ISBN ~ 978-1451693812
Publisher ~ Gallery Books
No. Of Pages ~ 416 pages
Links ~ Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

time travelers wifeThe Time Traveler’s Wife ~ Audrey Niffenegger
ISBN ~ 978-1476764832
Publisher ~Harvest Books
No. Of Pages ~ 571 pages
Links ~ Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.

human croquetHuman Croquet ~ Kate Atkinson
ISBN ~ 978-0312186883
Publisher ~ Picador
No. Of Pages ~ 352 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound

Once upon a time, in far-off England, there was a small village surrounded by a mighty forest, where a dark stranger, one Francis Fairfax, arrived to build a stately home. Fairfax Manor was renowned throughout the land for its feudal pleasures, its visit from the Queen, and the mysterious beauty of Lady Fairfax, who one day cursed the Fairfax name and vanished into the forest, never to be seen again except in a ghostly haze. Fast-forward to 1960…Over the centuries the forest has been destroyed, and the Fairfaxes have dwindled, too; now they are the local grocers to their suburb of Glebelands, a family as disintegrated as its ancestral home. It is here that young Isobel Fairfax awakens on the morning of her sixteenth birthday, a day that will change everything she knows and understands about her past and her future. Helping celebrate if one could call it that are the members of her strange and distracted family: There is Vinny, Maiden Aunt from Hell; Gordon, Isobel’s father, who disappeared for seven years; and Charles, her elder brother, who divides his time between searching for aliens and waiting for the return of their long-gone mother, Eliza. And back again…As her day progresses, Isobel is pulled into brief time warps and extended periods of omniscience, from the days of the first Fairfax to the roaring twenties to World War II, through which she learns the truth about her family and about her mother, whose disappearance is part of the secret that remains at the heart of the forest.

perilous gardThe Perilous Gard ~ Elizabeth Marie Pope; Richard Cuffari (Illustrator)
ISBN ~ 978-0618150731
Publisher ~Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
No. Of Pages ~ 288 pages
Age range ~ 10 – 14 Years
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound

In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.

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Review: Ultimate Star Wars ~ Ryder Windham, Adam Bray, Patricia Barr and Daniel Wallace

star warsISBN ~ 978-1465436016
Publisher ~ DK
No. Of Pages ~320 Pages
Links ~ Amazon, Dorling Kindersley, Barnes and Noble

Become an expert on the Star Wars galaxy!

Ultimate Star Wars® is an in-depth visual feast exploring the characters and storylines from the Star Wars galaxy. This is a beautifully illustrated guide that is structured chronologically and packed full of information about key characters and storylines from the Star Wars movie saga, The Clone Wars, and Rebels™Ultimate Star Wars will get new and old fans caught up and knowledgeable on all things Star Wars.

© & TM 2015 LUCASFILM LTD.

Let me start by explaining the reason behind my four thumbs review, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the movies, but I’m not a fangirl in the same sense or to the extremes others out there are.  Having said this, this art book really hit the spot with me, and went a long way to explaining some of the storylines and characters in the movies.

Dorling Kindersley have done their usual excellent work when publishing this book and, with the frenzy that is building with the release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens in December of this year, they are sure to have a money-maker on their hands.

This book is sure to appeal to fans of any levels, and maybe capture the interest of those new to this Universe.  The book itself is divided into topics that cover things from characters to locations, and these are interspersed with ‘key event’ facts  and each includes a timeline  and a behind the scenes article.  Covering all six of the Star Wars films, it also touches on the animated TV series of Clone Wars and Rebels.

To say this book has detail would be an understatement, and do it a total injustice.  As I said earlier I am not a huge fan, but I found the character pages fascinating; each has a biography which includes some important events of which they were a part and other little pieces of information on their weapons etc.  The major characters, such as the R2-D2 unit are given a double page spread, as can be seen in the image below, while lesser character may, in some cases only get a portion of the page they are still included and this is part of what makes this a comprehensive guide to the Star Wars Universe.

r2 unit

Apart from the myriad of information that the reader will find within this books pages, they are also given a visual treat in the form of crisp images that are full of detail, from the most important of characters right down to the obscure.  I have to admit that my favourite part of this book, along with the foreword by Anthony Daniels, were the character and location sections, as after reading it I now feel I might just be able to hold my own in a conversation with a die-hard fan.

I would highly recommend this to all lovers of Star Wars and those, who like myself, enjoy the movies but feel their knowledge is lacking.

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Review: The Stingy Minion ~ H.M. Marson

stingy minionISBN ~ 978-1475997866
Publisher ~iUniverse
No. Of Pages ~260 pages
Links ~ Amazon, iUniverse

Educated by her imprisoned hacker father, and dumped on her grandparents’ doorstep by her distraught mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Carson brings big problems to small-town Ellisville, Missouri. Rooted in a broken family and conflicted by her own awakening femininity, she fails to recognize that help is all around—a caring community, a musical prodigy named Jereme, and loving grandparents.

As if family problems were not enough, Elizabeth’s curious nature finds more trouble. She brings her father’s hacking program, the Stingy Minion, back to life, and soon finds herself staring at a highly classified NSA blog site used by the president of the United States. Trouble escalates to danger when a power-hungry investment firm tries to steal the Stingy Minion and threatens her life and the lives of newfound friends.

In over her head, Elizabeth continues to hack and discovers a plot to attack Iran’s nuclear development sites. The world is on the verge of nuclear war. With hired thugs on her tail, only time will tell how long she and her friends will remain safe.

3 Thumbs-UpHaving not read a book about hackers for a very long time, this one caught my eye and I thought I would give it a read.  I didn’t have any real expectations of what would be waiting for me within the covers, so I didn’t leave myself open to any disappointment that might have been waiting but I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I found it quite and enjoyable and fun read.

With the internet, and hackers being a big part of everyday lives now I found the characters to be very realistic.  They had a depth to them that is often lacking in YA fiction, and there were none of the ‘perfect’ people in this novel that seem to be the norm in many books.  The main protagonist, a 16-year-old female, is full of all the insecurities and anger that seems to be the norm for young adults but, rather than it becoming annoying and whiny, the Author is able to pull on all the characters different personality traits and the problems encountered at this age and make them work, creating a character that the reader can relate to and care about.  I usually find teenage angst to be an irritating and over used back story in YA novels, but it actually adds to the book in this case.

The plot in the book is very real world too, and could almost have been taken from the news headlines.  As expected in a book about computer hackers there is a lot of computer terminology which some readers may find a little daunting if they are not familiar with it.  Rather from detracting from the novel though, this adds yet another dimension to the book which makes it more gritty and realistic.  T he reason behind the three thumbs rating is that at times the book seemed rather childish, aimed more at the middle school age group rather than the young adult; overall though it is a fun light read.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different, or a reader interested in the hacking world.

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Review: The Abhorsen Chronicles (The Abhorsen Trilogy, #1-3) ~ Garth Nix

AbhorsenISBN ~ 978-0061441820
Publisher ~ HarperTeen
No. Of Pages ~ 1232 pages
Links ~ Abe Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sabriel
Every step brings Sabriel closer to a battle that will pit her against the true forces of life and death—and bring her face-to-face with her own destiny.

Lirael
With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil, which threatens the fate of the Old Kingdom.

Abhorsen
The Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone are missing, and Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the evil Destroyer—before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpThis is a huge book even by my standards, and to add to the confusion it is one of those that, by some strange reason is known under a different title depending on where in the world you live; for example in the Authors native Australia this book is entitled The Old Kingdom Chronicles.  It is also a trilogy that not many fantasy readers appear to know about.  As for me it took me some time to actually finish reading this, and that was not due to its size.

The characters in all three of the books, in my opinion, could have benefitted from a lot more time spent in their development.  None of them really gripped me and made me want to invest more of my time in getting to know them.  I really was expecting to like the characters, but they were flat and very one-dimensional people who seemed to enjoy a lot of walking.  You would have to read the books to understand that reference.  Having said this, the character of Sabriel in the first book of the three was, by far, the most interesting of any in the Chronicles; she is a determined young woman with a definite plan for her life.  When curve balls are thrown at her she is able to adapt and think on her feet making her the most impressionable of all the characters in these books.  What really would have  helped the characters come into their own in these books would have been more background and explanation into how they learned their skills and came to be in the place they are when the books open.

The world in which these books are set could have been so much more.  It was a wonderful concept but I felt that the Author really did not do it justice and, like his character development, it would have benefitted from more time being spent in the descriptive aspects.   At no time did I feel as if I had actually been transported into this world and was experiencing the events occurring; in a good fantasy novel a reader should feel themselves transported to the alternate world, as that is part of the pull of this genre.

After buying this trilogy on the recommendation of a friend, I now wish that I had kept my money in my pocket and will be donating my copy to the local library.  If long and plodding fantasy books are something you enjoy, this is probably the book series for you; if not I would recommend you give this a miss.

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Review: Symbiosis: A Justice Keepers Novel (Justice Keepers Saga Book 1) ~ R.S. Penney

SymbiosisASIN ~ B00RKY0WJ8
Publisher ~
No. Of Pages ~ 330 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Kobo

Ten thousand years ago, a mysterious race that we only know as the Overseers took primitive humans and scattered them on dozens of worlds across the galaxy. Now, some of those people have found their way back to Earth. A young Justice Keeper named Anna Lenai has tracked a criminal through unexplored regions of space in the hopes of recovering a symbiont that grants its host the ability to bend space and time. Her search leads her to Earth, where she befriends a young man named Jack Hunter. Together, they will face enemies with advanced technology as they struggle to recover the symbiont before its power falls into the wrong hands.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel from this Author and, if this first book is anything to go by the rest of the Justice Keepers Saga is going to be a spectacular read.

The characters in this book are extremely well written; they have a depth and feel to them that is rarely seen in a book in the YA genre.  The female protagonist is gutsy and strong-willed, but she also has a side to her that she tries to keep well hidden, and which rarely makes an appearance.  However, because of the way in which the Author develops her character it is obvious that there are hidden depths to her that will, hopefully be revealed as the Saga continues.  I liked this character immensely, she is a strong young woman who comes alive and off the page as events unfolds; true to life she is not wholly likeable but this only adds to her charm and makes her more alive and real.  The man she befriends is equally well written and, in giving both the male and female leads in this book the same careful treatment, the Author creates a novel that will appeal to both male and female readers.

World building is just as well done in this book as the character development; so well is it written that it brought to mind the descriptions of space that a reader will find in any of the books written by Peter F. Hamilton.  The descriptions of Earth make it seem familiar yet totally fresh and new at the same time, as I read through the book I wanted to travel to the locations contained within its pages and experience the adventures I found.

Thinking there is nothing new in the YA genre?  Then I highly recommend this book as it will change your mind.  Skilfully written and tightly edited it was a pleasure to read and I will definitely be reading more in this saga as it becomes available.  My only regret is that this is only available on eBook as I want to add a paper copy to my shelves.

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Our Own Little Christmas ~ Heidi Peltier

Today’s short story comes from the Author of The Delmar Shark Chronicles, which I reviewed in June 2013.  If you’ve not yet read any of these books they are worth the time.

shark-and-fish-at-christmas-20812-1680x1050Our Own Little Christmas
By Heidi Peltier
Terra woke up alone again this morning, just like she did on Valentine’s Day, and on her birthday, and on our fourth wedding anniversary a few months ago. Either I had left early in the morning, or I had never come home at all the night before. The further into my college education I got, the busier and more preoccupied I became. The first few semesters, I made the three-hour journey to and from the university in Palermo, Sicily, every day. Each night, I would return home to our tiny island home of Isola di Squalo, the island of which Terra was Queen. I would be exhausted from a full day of study and travel, but I would happily fall into bed each night knowing she was right beside me, snuggled in my arms. That alone made it all worth it.
But as my classes grew more challenging and my workload mounted, it became impossible to make the trek home every night. I refused to get housing on campus. I refused to accept that I couldn’t go home to her every day. So, for a long time, I would stay in a hotel or crash on a friend’s couch for the night in order to make a late night study session and an early morning class. Finally, Terra convinced me that my best option would be to lease a flat near campus. I adamantly denied needing it, but she could see the exhaustion on my face. She knew I couldn’t keep up the rigorous pace much longer. I swore to her I would come home every weekend, and I did…until once again, the work mounted up, and I was forced to stay one weekend, then two, then three.
She’s busy too, I told myself. She has a country to run. She probably doesn’t even notice I’m not there most of the time. It was a lie, and I knew it. She noticed. I could see it in her eyes when I would return. And I dreaded seeing the pain on her face when it was time for me to leave again. She never cried though, never complained. I think she knew it would only make it that much harder for me. And we both knew I couldn’t give up. She established the Delmar Shark Institute for me. It was an unbelievable gift, one that went against every natural instinct she had. But she did it for me because she knew how much it meant to me, so I was going to earn it. I just never knew the price I would have to pay, the sacrifices both of us would have to make.
I’m almost done, I told myself. It’s almost over. With the college courses I’d taken in high school and being able to go to school full time, I’d completed my undergraduate studies in just two and a half years. I gave up competitive swimming to devote my full attention to getting my degree. I immediately started working on my master’s degree and only had a little further to go to finish it. Once I started on my PhD, I could spend a whole lot more time at home working at the shark institute. No more going back and forth every day. No more nights away from home. No more saying goodbye to Terra. I just had a little bit more to go, but she had no idea. She knew I’d been pushing myself, but I hadn’t really been keeping her up to date on my progress, mostly because I didn’t want to disappoint her if I failed. So, I set my goal and kept it to myself.
At the end of November, we had a long weekend break, and even though there was work to do at school, I went home. I had to. I hadn’t seen Terra in three weeks at that point and refused to go another week. I arrived at the palace unannounced in the early afternoon. I peeked into her office and found her slumped over her desk, her head in her hands, crying. I couldn’t bear it. I burst into the room, ran to her, and took her in my arms. She gasped and immediately started wiping her eyes. She plastered a smile on her face and tried to compose herself.
“Dylan,” she said in surprise, “I didn’t know you were coming.”
“I wanted to surprise you,” I murmured, my joy at finally seeing her being trampled by the sadness in her eyes. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long.”
“No need to be sorry,” she insisted. “I know you’re busy.”
“I never meant to hurt you this much, Terra, really.”
“I’m fine, Dylan.”
“You were crying,” I pointed out. “You’re not fine.”
That’s when I spotted the note on her desk. It was a message from her brother, Fed. The note told Terra that he would not be coming home for Christmas this year because he’d be spending it with his girlfriend Ana’s family in Portugal. Terra’s sister, Delphine, had already told us she wouldn’t be coming for Christmas either since she was studying at an art institute half way around the world in Canada. Terra’s parents were both dead, which meant Terra had been sitting here thinking about having no one at Christmas. Surely, she didn’t assume I wouldn’t be here. Or perhaps she did. With her brother and sister both studying out of the country and me gone almost all the time now, she must have been feeling very lonely. And suddenly, my heart was breaking for her. I should have realized. I should have been paying closer attention.
I pulled her closer to me and tucked her head under my chin. As I stood there holding her, a plan started to form in my head. I would be home for two full days after this, and then I would probably be gone until the semester ended the third week of December. I was going to make the most of my time on the island and put my plan in motion.
Terra had a meeting that afternoon which I knew she couldn’t cancel just because I’d graced her with my presence unexpectedly. So, in those two hours, I held my own secret meeting with Ilario, Terra’s head of security. He and I arranged everything, and by the time Terra was free, my plan had come together. But she had no idea.
For the next two days, Terra and I were inseparable. We spent hours walking through the gardens and by the lagoon. We went into town but didn’t stay long. The friendly people of the island were wonderful and loving, but I hadn’t come home to see them. I wanted to be selfish and have my wife all to myself. I took her for a picnic at Faro di Merrick, the lighthouse hill overlooking the sea where we always went to escape life for a little while. We talked about our future together once I was finished with school. I hadn’t realized until that day just how badly she wanted to start a family. With a baby to take care of, I thought hesitantly, she won’t be alone. I held her in my arms, and we danced to the music of the sea until the sun set.
When it was time for me to leave, I told her it was OK to cry because I was crying too. She buried her face in my chest, and I held her until I couldn’t stay another second without being late. I boarded the ferryboat that took me back to Sicily and watched her until I couldn’t see her anymore. Then, I sank into my seat and cried, not caring that the driver and my bodyguard could see.
Three excruciating weeks passed as slowly as molasses on a cold day, as my grandma used to say. I worked my tail off and fell into bed exhausted every night. Every morning, I ticked another day off the calendar, counting down the days until I saw my girl again. I finished my work and met with my professors and advisors. I made my request, and they granted it. All that was left now was to pack up my belongings from the flat and get home.
I made a call to Ilario, and he got things rolling at the palace. Terra’s personal attendant, Maria, had been tasked to pack Terra’s bag for her in secret. That bag was now stowed in a closet, ready to be thrown into the car as soon as I arrived.
I swept into the castle, and Terra was there waiting for me. I pulled her to me and pressed my lips to hers. When I finally let her come up for air, she said, “I’m so happy you’re home.”
“Not for long,” I said conspiratorially.
“What do you mean?” she asked, but before I had a chance to answer, Maria crept up behind her and threw on her coat. Ilario grabbed the suitcase from the closet and put it in the car that was still waiting outside.
“What’s going on?” she asked, confused but smiling.
“Your chariot awaits, my lady,” I said, offering her my arm.
I led her to the car, and Ilario drove us back to the docks while I spent the time kissing my very curious wife. I kissed her on the ferryboat, and I kissed her in the car on the way to the airport. Royal decorum dictated that I was not allowed to kiss her in the airport or on the airplane, but I snuck a few in here and there. She asked over and over again where we were going only to be answered with another kiss. I think she eventually caught on to the game and asked anyway knowing she’d never get an answer. I resumed showering her with kisses in the car when we arrived in Switzerland.
And now, here we stand, outside one of the most remote ski resorts in the Alps. The sun has set, and thousands of twinkling white lights illuminate the scene. On the eaves of the buildings, they sparkle inside the icicles that hang there too. An enormous Christmas tree stands just inside the two story high lobby windows, inviting us to come inside. I look at Terra and am mesmerized by the reflection of the lights in her eyes, sparkling like the sunset on the ocean. I can’t help it – I have to touch her. I run my finger gently down her jaw line, and she turns her glittery eyes to me.
“I knew,” I say, leaning in to kiss her neck, “that you didn’t want to be in that big, empty palace for Christmas. So, I decided we’d have our own little Christmas away.”
She stays quiet, but she doesn’t have to say anything. The look in her eyes is enough.
“And we don’t have to ski at all, if you don’t want to,” I whisper in her ear.
She blushes and giggles, and we walk inside.
On Christmas morning, Terra doesn’t wake up alone, and if I have my way, she never will again. She begins to stir, but I wrap my arm tighter around her to hold her in place. I kiss the back of her head and nuzzle into her hair.
When we finally emerge from the bedroom, breakfast is already laid out for us on the table. She refuses to let me bring her breakfast in bed, so we sit together to eat. Suddenly, a look of panic crosses her face.
“Dylan,” she gasps. “I didn’t bring your Christmas gifts. I didn’t know…”
“I don’t need any,” I tell her. “This Christmas isn’t about me. It’s about you. It seems like everything has been about me for the last few years, and I’m tired of that. Come on.” I extend my hand to her and pull her to the living room sofa. “Let me get your gifts for you.”
“Oh, Dylan, this trip is enough…”
“Hush,” I whisper as I disappear into the bedroom. When I return, I have two packages in my hands. I give her the smaller one first.
It’s a necklace and earring set – heart shaped aquamarine stones surrounded by diamonds. I had them specially made to match the ring I gave her four years ago. The blue of the stone almost matches her ocean blue Delmar eyes.
“They’re beautiful,” she whispers, a slight catch in her voice.
“Not as beautiful as this,” I say, handing her the larger package.
She lays the rectangular shape in her lap and begins to tear off the paper. Inside is a black leather folder. Inside that is my master’s diploma.
“The University of Palermo,” she mutters, skipping lines, “have conferred upon Dylan Austin Murphy the degree of Master of Science, Marine Biology…”
She looks up at me, confusion etched on her face. “What…?”
“I wanted to surprise you,” I say, taking her hand in mine. “I graduated…four days ago.”
“But Dylan,” she argues, “we were here. We missed it. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t miss anything,” I tell her. “I did what I went there to do, and now I have my degree and I have you. That’s all that matters.”
“You’re finished?” Disbelief exudes from her. “Already? But how…?”
“When it’s something you love,” I explain, “you just do it.”
She nods and looks back down at the diploma.
“I’m talking about you,” I say, pressing my lips to her fingers. “I did this so I could come back home to you. I couldn’t stand being away from you so much, so I pushed myself to finish quickly. I’m sorry for all the time I’ve been gone, but from now on, most of what I’ll need to do can be done at home, at the shark institute. I’m done, baby. I’m not leaving you ever again.”
Finally, she lets herself cry, and she throws her arms around me. I wrap mine around her, and I never, ever intend to let go.
©Squalo Books 2014

For Christmas Heidi is offering the above short story as a free download for your kindle, head over and pick it up for future reading.

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