Wednesday, September 28, 2016

#MMBBR #Showcase Nannyland by Jane Elizabeth Hughes



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About the book:
Successful banker and trader Jordy Greene flees Manhattan “one step ahead of the sheriff,” and away from the true wolves of Wall Street including her ex-boyfriend. Escaping to the Grey estate for a sabbatical to write a tell-all memoir, she is immersed in the historic world of the aristocratic Grey family who considers the original 16th century Lady Jane Grey to be their family hero. Meanwhile Jordy is drawn further into the Grey family after she witnesses thenanny doing the unthinkable. Unexpectedly, and rather unwillingly, she finds herself caring for the four children of the widowed Lord John Gray while he sits in Parliament. Together, she and the children make a discovery that could rock the foundation of the Grey family, and Jordy must decide what is more important – integrity or toeing the line.


REVIEWS

"IT IS SMART, WITTY, INTERESTING, ENGAGING, AND, OF COURSE, IT DOESN'T HURT THAT IT'S SET IN THE IDYLLIC ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE." - WHAT'S BETTER THAN BOOKS?
THIS BOOK IS WITTY, CHARMING AND LAUGH OUT LOUD FUN! -KILTSANDSWORDS
"THIS IS A MAGICAL, LOVELY STORY, WITH HISTORY, ROMANCE AND A BEAUTIFUL SETTING." - FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS
"I SERIOUSLY LOVED THIS BOOK." - A CRAZY VERMONTER'S BOOK REVIEWS


Jane Elizabeth HughesI wrote my first “book” when I was seven. Lorena Lorenson, Student Nurse was possibly a bit derivative (I was deeply into Cherry Ames at the time), but I was hooked. I’ve been writing ever since, although I took a few detours along the way, working for the CIA, on Wall Street, and in academia before finally allowing myself to write full-time. I’m a native New Yorker, mother of four, and grandmother to three baby girls (boy #1 is on the way!). I’m an obsessive reader with two fully-loaded Kindles and have published widely on international finance, but much prefer to write books that my friends and I would devour on the beach. My husband and I are ruled by two hideously spoiled Siamese cats, and divide our time between Brookline, MA and my true homeplace of Cape Cod.


Q.  What inspires your writing?A.  People. I find people endlessly fascinating, and so many scenes from daily life – a newspaper headline, an argument on the subway, a toddler beaming up at her mother  – may become scenes in my book. I peek into apartments as I walk on Manhattan streets at night and wonder about the lives inside those rooms; I observe families in restaurants and children in the park and businessmen on their cellphones, and make up stories about them in my head. 
My readers inspire me, too.  I never wanted to write War and Peace; I wanted to write books that my friends and I would curl up with on the beach or our favorite sofa, and bury ourselves in.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A. Being able to create my own world – where people can fall in love and live happily ever after; where nothing terrible ever happens to children; where I can just lose myself and make my characters do what I want them to do (mostly, that is).

Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?
A. Getting published! Writing is sheer delight, but getting a debut novel picked up by a major publisher – not so much. It took me several years, lots of rewrites, and enough rejection letters to wallpaper my bathroom, before my wonderful agent found me a home with an equally wonderful editor at Simon & Schuster.

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
A. I always wanted to be a ballerina…but I topped out at five feet (well, actually four feet eleven inches, but who’s counting?), with flat feet and a few extra pounds at my waist. Also no talent – but aside from that, I would be a ballerina.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled? 
A Woman’s Work. I love the saying: Man may work from sun to sun, But woman’s work is never done.

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?
A. Gone With the Wind, hands down. The scene where Rhett sweeps Scarlett up that winding staircase and she wakes up in the morning giggling and giddy…if only I could write like that!

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A.  In my fantasies, I’m Nancy Drew – does that count?

Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?
A. The teenage, present-day Lady Jane Grey in Nannyland, I think. She’s quiet and serious, a little awkward, but defiant and determined too, with a passion for English history. We both love Diet Coke and hate our fine, straight hair. 

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
A. It’s not a book, but a movie and Broadway play – Mamma Mia. I want to vacation (actually, live) on that sun-splashed Greek island with its aromatic olive trees and glorious beaches. I want to be part of the Dancing Queen chorus line that sings and dances its way through the village, and I want Pierce Brosnan to sing to me in his laughably awful voice.

Q.  What is your favorite season?
A. SUMMER!! I’m a beach person; I live in Boston now but yearn for a life where I never have to see snow and ice, ever again.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A. My youngest daughter is an artist, and she and I together came up with the idea of a shadow across a great country house based on my original title for Nannyland – In the Shadow of Lady Jane Grey. The shadow of Lady Jane, the Queen for Nine Days in the 1550s who was beheaded just after her sixteenth birthday, hangs heavily over the present-day Grey family estate where my heroine finds herself nannying four children. 

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.
A. People keep asking me about a book signing, but since Nannyland is an ebook, I’m not sure what to sign – their Kindles, perhaps?

Q.  Are you working on something new?
A. Always!! I just finished the first draft of  Hey, Jules, which is about the thrilling, sometimes dangerous, search for a modern-day descendant of Henry VIII’s last Queen. Here’s the opening:
A shadow fell across the table where I sat devouring a scone and a novel with equal satisfaction. Scowling and shading my eyes against the watery London sun, I looked up to see a tall, dark stranger gazing down at me.
“Hey, Jules!” the stranger said. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”
With some regret – he was very good-looking – I shrugged my shoulders and turned back to my book. “Sorry,” I said. “But I’m not Jules.”

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A.  Aside from family, reading is my greatest joy in life. Books have taken me through all of the triumphs and tribulations that the world hands out; sometimes I just wander through a library and bookshelf greeting all my old friends and remembering how much I loved this novel or that picture book. If you’re reading this blog, then you’re one of that wonderful community of book lovers, and I salute you – we’re all enjoying lives that are incredibly enriched by our reading addiction.

#MMBBR #Highlight #FirstLine I'm Still Here (Je Suis Là) by Clelie Avit


Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support... They don't realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she's there.

Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault's emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa's room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping. 

Thibault begins to visit Elsa regularly. As he learns more about her through her family and friends, he begins to realise that he is developing feelings for her. And when he talks to her, he can't help feeling that she can hear his every word...

For Elsa, his visits are like a breath of fresh air. Here is finally someone who speaks to her as if she is a real life person. Who makes her laugh. And who gives her something to fight for... 

And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives...

Praise:

"A viscerally moving love story. I'M STILL HERE beautifully shows how the steady, quiet power of the heart can sustain anyone who takes on impossible odds.” — Sarah Pekkanen, Internationally bestselling author of The Perfect Neighbors

"Magnifique! With charming characters, a unique premise and a delightful, fresh voice, Clélie Avit s debut novel will have you cheering for life and love while you hungrily turn its pages. I'M STILL HERE (Je Suis Là) is a gift, and Clélie Avit is a writer to watch.” —  Julie Lawson Timmer, author of Five Days Left and Untethered

#FirstLine ~ I'm cold. I'm hungry. I'm frightened.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clélie Avit was born and raised in the Auvergne region of France. She works as a physics and chemistry teacher, while also teaching dance. Avit received the Prix Nouveau Talent for I'm Still Here (Je Suis La), her first novel.




Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#MMBBR #Highligh #FirstLine In a Strange City: A Tess Monaghan Novel by @LauraMLippman @Morrow_PB



New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan must put her PI skills to the ultimate test when she falls into the crosshairs of a psychopath who knows everything about her.
For the past fifty years on the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe, a person wearing a cloak has placed three roses and a half bottle of cognac on the writer’s gravesite. PI Tess Monaghan has never witnessed the event. But when John P. Kennedy, an eccentric antiques dealer, asks her to uncover the identity of the caped visitor, who he believes has duped him with the sale of an inauthentic antique, Tess decides to hold vigil on the night the cloaked stranger is expected to make an appearance. But the custom takes on a bizarre, fatal twist when two cloaked figures arrive. The imitator leaves his tribute and then makes his escape…after shooting the first visitor. 
Warning bells tell Tess to steer clear of this case. But when roses and cognac appear on her doorstep, Tess’s curiosity is piqued. She soon discovers that John P. Kennedy has vanished into thin air and much of what he told her was questionable. Then the identity of the shooting victim comes to light, and all clues seem to point to the possibility he was the target of a hate crime. But Tess isn’t convinced. What was his connection to the decades-long Edgar Allan Poe tradition and to the killer? When more cryptic clues are left at her home, Tess realizes that someone is watching her every move...someone who’s bent on killing again.


#FirstLine ~ He begins on January 1, always January 1, playing with his body's schedule until he is increasingly nocturnal, staying up until dawn.



Laura Lippman
Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor's Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association. Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light. Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since.



#MMBBR #Highlight The Dragon Under the Mountain by Holly Kerr

The Dragon Under the Mountain by [Kerr, Holly]


"We're going to get in so much trouble..."

No one will admit to coming up with the idea to hide out at Wonderland amusement park after it closed, but Emma, Matt, Macy and their friends Kass and Dash all agree to it. It starts out fun and a little spooky with the approaching lunar eclipse only adding to the excitement.

But it's not until they find their way into the Guardian Under the Mountain ride that the adventure really begins. But the ride is closed so why are there others in the mountain? Others not from this world. A wizard, a warrior...a faerie? Why are they in the mountain? Where did they come from? And why do Emma and the others suddenly have strange, new powers?

And then there's the dragon...

Getting in trouble is the least of their problems.






An image posted by the author.Holly Kerr writes chick-lit with a twist. No broody men, no obsessions with shoes, just fun stories about strong women going after what they want. 

Her books include Coming Home, Unexpecting and Absinthe Doesn't Make the Heart Grow Fonder and her latest, The Secret Life of Charlotte Dodd. A sequel to Charlotte, The Best Worst First Date, will be out in early 2017. Holly also has a MG novel, The Dragon Under the Mountain available and is working on a sequel, The Dragon Under the Dome.

If you require more information about Holly and her books (and she really hope you do because that was her whole reason for setting up this page!) feel free to visit her website 
or follow her Blog. At times she discusses the craft of writing but usually she muses about her life and what's she reading, writing or watching. Following her blog would be a great way to make Holly happy.

Holly hopes you enjoy her books and she welcomes a chance to interact with her fans, but not in any creepy way. A simple comment "Hey, I really like/don't like..." would be a lovely way to begin a conversation.

Happy Reading



Friday, September 23, 2016

#MMBBR #Reviews #DaxandZippa by Steve Hanson


Series Review:
I adore everything about this book series.  It is such a sweet, funny and very readable series for new or beginning readers.  I found myself fully engrossed in each of the stories because they are all very well written and there was a funny twist and/or mix up in each book that added such a fun to an already delightful story. I simply adore the whole series.  5 stars

Dax & Zippa's Great Mail Mix-Up by [Hanson, Steve]

Dax is a clever six-year-old boy whose best friend is a balloon-animal poodle. He wants to mail a birthday card to Grandma, but an accident in the small-town post office mixes up everyone’s mail. Can Dax sort out the mess before his grandma’s birthday?

Dax lives with his family in Wallapazoo, Minnesota. Dax and Zippa met at a town carnival and have been best friends ever since. Dax is a great kid, but occasionally gets into trouble. When he does, Zippa is always to blame.

The Great Mail Mix-Up is a short chapter book for children aged 5-8 who enjoy humorous stories. 10 Chapters. 5k words.




Dax is a clever six-year-old boy whose best friend is a balloon-animal poodle. He wants his grandma to have a wonderful time when she visits, but will a giant storm ruin his plans?

Dax lives with his family in Wallapazoo, Minnesota. Dax and Zippa met at a town carnival and have been best friends ever since. Dax is a great kid, but occasionally gets into trouble. When he does, Zippa is always to blame.

The Great Wind Storm is a short chapter book for children aged 5-8 who enjoy humorous stories. 9 Chapters. 6k words.



Dax and Zippa The Great Halloween Fog (Dax & Zippa Book 3) by [Hanson, Steve]

Dax is a clever six-year-old who wants to have a fun Halloween. When his best friend, a balloon-animal poodle, is injured and the Halloween festival is almost cancelled, can he find a way to save Halloween?

Dax lives with his family in Wallapazoo, Minnesota. Dax and Zippa met at a town carnival and have been best friends ever since. Dax is a great kid, but occasionally gets into trouble. When he does, Zippa is always to blame.

The Great Halloween Fog is a short chapter book for children aged 5-8 who enjoy humorous stories. 10 Chapters. 7k words.



Dax and Zippa The Great Monkey Escape (Dax & Zippa Book 2) by [Hanson, Steve]

Dax is a clever six-year-old whose best friend is a balloon-animal poodle. When the monkeys escape from the zoo, it’s up to Dax to get them back safely before they trash his small Minnesotan city.

Dax lives with his family in Wallapazoo, Minnesota. Dax and Zippa met at a town carnival and have been best friends ever since. Dax is a great kid, but occasionally gets into trouble. When he does, Zippa is always to blame.

The Great Monkey Escape is a short chapter book for children aged 5-8 who enjoy humorous stories. 11 Chapters. 6k words.




Steve Hanson

Even as a kid, I loved telling stories. Before I knew how to write, I used to record myself telling stories on a tape player—if you remember those or ever come across one in a museum. I also played with a lot of action figures. My best friend and I invented huge stories about why Skeletor was trying to take over the world. Thankfully, he never did, but I got a lot of practice making up stories!

When I was ten years old, I wrote a monthly fake newspaper. Some of the articles were silly, about monsters or aliens. Others reported what my family was up to (The Hanson Family Bakes Christmas Cookies! Steve Has a Piano Recital). I used to mail the newspapers to my grandparents and aunts every month. My parents even got me special bright-orange paper to print my newspapers on. Only the best newspapers in the world had electric-orange paper!

Every Christmas, my family and I made gingerbread houses (usually out of graham crackers). When we first started, they were the size of small, school-lunch milk cartons, but by the time I was in high school, we were all making houses bigger than cereal boxes.

My favorite subjects in school were art, writing, music, and math. I used to make sculptures out of glue and toothpicks. I took piano lessons for sixteen years. I've made short poem books for most of my life. In the summer I would get my friends together to record movies about math. I even studied all of those things (at least for a little while) in college. Even though I just write now, I'm glad I've done all those things because I love variety.

After college I wanted to laugh more, so I started performing improv comedy professionally in Minneapolis. Improv comedy is when people from the audience yell out suggestions and actors (like me!) create short, funny stories based on the suggestions. I performed for a year and did more than a hundred shows before quitting to move to New Zealand.

I never got a chance to live overseas when I was in school, so I moved to New Zealand when I was twenty-seven. I flew out there with two suitcases, a passport, and a hotel reservation for my first week. I had to figure everything else out when I got there! I eventually found a place to live and met some wonderful friends.

New Zealand is beautiful (green rolling hills next to the ocean with tall mountains in the background), so I spent every afternoon hiking on trails that started in the city. I also read and wrote every day, but most importantly I met my wife while I was there! She came back to America with me, and since then we have lived in Colorado and Minnesota. We have one child, and I'm lucky that I get to spend a lot of time with him.

I am a licensed scuba diver and have been on many dives in the Gulf of Mexico. One of my favorite ones was a night dive. The only light was from my flashlight and the moon. Every time someone kicked their flippers, the water sparkled because tiny sea creatures called plankton shimmer when they are disturbed. It was so cool to watch all the night fish (like crabs and lobsters) roam around the glittery water.



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Thursday, September 22, 2016

#MMBBR #Highlight The Psi Squad by Mark Feggeler

J.B. has seen colorful balls of light floating around him for years. Doctors blame it on strained rods and cones in his eyes, but he's never believed that diagnosis. Now he's the new kid in town starting middle school with no friends and grandparents who aren't exactly excited he's moved in with them. When he spots a girl in class who interacts with one of the lights only he can see, J.B. decides to befriend the strange girl and investigate the peculiar coincidence. But some things are easier said than done... Join J.B., Rhea and William as they learn about their special talents and share their first adventure together.
The Psi Squad and the Atherton Ghost by [Feggeler, Mark]



After their first adventure, our three heroes haven't exactly managed to come together as a team. The newly formed Psi Squad club seems doomed before it even has a chance to get started. Until, during a field trip to the historic Atherton Homestead, strange things begin happening that will require the combined paranormal skills of J.B., Rhea and William to find out what's going on.

"The Psi Squad and the Atherton Ghost" is the second book in "The Psi Squad" series of paranormal adventures for reader age 9+.





Mark Feggeler

Mark Feggeler is a native New Yorker who has called North Carolina home since 1990. After spending two decades thinking about writing, he began the "Ramblings of a Very Pale Man" blog in 2010 and contributes to it regularly. 

Since 2011, Mark has released four books, beginning with a collection of blog posts and followed two years later by the murder mystery "Damage." While working on "Damage," Mark began writing a paranormal series for middle grade readers titled "The Psi Squad." The first two installments -- "The Psi Squad" and "The Psi Squad and the Atherton Ghost" -- were released to positive reviews in 2013 and 2014, respectively. He expects to release the third book in the series, "The Psi Squad and the Unhappy Valentine," in 2016.

He lives in North Carolina with his wife and children, and genuinely enjoys writing about himself in the third person.


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#MMBBR #Giveaway TWO BY TWO by @NicholasSparks @GrandCentralPub



SUMMARY
#1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with an emotionally powerful story of unconditional love, its challenges, its risks and most of all, its rewards.
At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear...and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding-one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined.




Two by Two

When London was three and half, the three of us went on a picnic near Lake Norman. It was something we only did once. Vivian packed a delicious lunch and on our way to Lake Norman, and because the day was breezy, we stopped at a hobby store on the way to buy a kite. I’d picked the kind of kite that had been popular when I was a kid; simple and inexpensive, nothing like the kind of kites that avid enthusiasts would dream of flying.
It ended up being the perfect kite for a child. I was able to launch it myself and once it rose high, it seemed as if it was practically stuck to the sky. It didn’t matter what I did; I could stand in place or walk around and when I handed London the kite reel and secured it to her wrist, it didn’t matter what she did either. She could pick flowers or run around chasing butterflies; a nice couple had a small cocker spaniel, and she was able to sit on the ground and let the puppy crawl over her while the kite stayed fixed in the air. When we finally got around to having lunch, I looped the string around a nearby bench, and the kite simply hovered above us.
Vivian was in a buoyant mood, and we stayed at the park for most of the afternoon. On the way home, I can remember thinking to myself that times like this were what life was really all about, and that no matter what, I’d never let my family down.
But here and now, I was doing exactly that. Or at least, right now, it felt that way. It felt to me as though I was letting everyone down, including myself.



It was Wednesday, day three for Vivian at work, and I was on
my own with London.
All day.
As I stood with London outside chiropractor number two’s office, I felt almost as though I were shipping my daughter off to a foreign country. The thought that she’d sit in the waiting room with strangers made me uneasy; the newspapers and evening broadcasts had led modern parents to believe that the bogeyman was always lurking, ready to pounce.
I wondered if my parents ever worried about Marge and me like that, but that thought lasted only a split second. Of course they didn’t. My dad used to have me sit on the bench outside an old tavern he occasionally frequented while he had a beer with friends. And that bench was on a corner of a busy street, near a bus stop.
“You understand that this is an important meeting for Daddy, right?”
“I know,” London said.
“And I want you to sit quietly.”
“And don’t get up and wander around and don’t talk to strangers. You already told me.”
Vivian and I must have been doing something right because London did exactly as she was told. The receptionist remarked on what a well-behaved young lady she’d been during the meeting, which soothed my anxiety about what I’d done.


Unfortunately, the client wasn’t interested in my services. I was Ofor-three at that point. At the restaurant the following day, I upped that to Ofor-four.
Forcing myself to remain optimistic, I had my best presentation to date on Friday afternoon. The owner of the spa—a blond, quick-talking woman in her fifties—was enthusiastic and though my sense was that they were already doing well, she knew who I was and was even familiar with some of my other campaigns. As I spoke with her, I felt relaxed and confident, and when I finished, I had the sense that I couldn’t have done any better. But despite all that, the stars weren’t aligning for me.
Not only did I fail to set up any meetings for the following week, I’d gone Ofor-five.

Still, it was date night.
When there’s nothing to celebrate, celebrate anyway, right?
That wasn’t quite true, though. While I hadn’t had any work success, Vivian certainly seemed to be lighting things on fire at her new job. She’d even been able to line up a musical act, a band from the eighties with name I recognized. How she’d pulled that off, I had not the slightest idea. I’d also spent more oneonone time with London, and that was definitely a great development.
Except . . . that it didn’t feel all that great. With the constant running around from one thing to the next, it almost felt as though I was working for London instead of enjoying time with London.
Was I alone in feeling that way? Did other parents feel like that?
I have no idea, but date night was date night, and while London was in dance class, I swung by the store and picked up salmon, steak, and a nice bottle of Chardonnay. Vivian’s SUV was in the driveway when I got home, and London jumped out of the car, calling for her mom. I followed with the plastic bag holding the goodies for dinner, only to see London zipping back down the steps. Vivian was nowhere in sight, but I heard her calling out from the bedroom.
London raced that way and I heard Vivian say, “There you are, sweetheart! How was your day?” I followed the sounds and spotted Vivian and London near the bed, upon which lay an open suitcase, already packed, along with two more empty department store bags.
Errands.
“Getting ready for tomorrow, I see.”
“Actually, I have to leave tonight.”
“You’re leaving?” London burst out before I could.
I watched as Vivian put her hand on London’s shoulder. “I don’t want to, but I have to. I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
“But I don’t want you to go,” London said.
“I know, sweetie. But when I get home on Sunday, I’ll make it up to you. We’ll do something fun, just you and me.”
“Like what?” London asked.
“It’s up to you.”
“Maybe . . .” I watched as London’s mind sorted through the problem. “We can go to the blueberry farm? The one you took me to before? And pick blueberries and pet the animals?”
“That’s a great idea!” Vivian said. “Let’s do it.”
“And we also need to clean the hamster cage.”
“Your daddy will do that for you when I’m gone. But for now, let’s get you something to eat, okay? I think we have some leftover chicken and rice I can heat up. Can you wait for Mommy in the kitchen while I talk to Daddy for a minute?”

“Okay,” London answered.
“So,” I said, after London had left us alone, “you’re off tonight.”
“I have to head out in half an hour. Walter wants me and a couple of the other executives to do a walk- through with the manager of the Ritz-Carlton, to make sure it’s getting set up the way Walter expects.”
“The Ritz-Carlton?” I nodded. “Is that where you’re staying?”
She nodded. “I know you’re probably upset. Just so you know, I wasn’t thrilled with knowing I’d be gone two nights either. I’m just trying to make the best of it.”
“That’s all you can do,” I said, forcing a smile.
“Let me go spend a little time with London, okay? I think she’s upset.”
“Yeah,” I said, “okay.”
She stared at me. “You’re angry with me.”
“No, it’s not that. I just wish you didn’t have to go. I mean, I get it, but I was looking forward to spending some time with you tonight.”
“I know,” she said, “me, too.” She leaned in for a quick kiss. “We’ll make up for it next Friday, okay?”
“Okay.”
“Can you zip my bag for me? I don’t want to wreck my nails. I just got them done.” She held up her hands for me. “Is the color okay?”
“It’s great,” I assured her. I secured the suitcase and pulled it from the bed. “You said you have a walk-through tonight at the hotel?”
“The whole thing has turned into a really big deal.”
“Atlanta’s four hours away.”
“I’m not driving. I’m flying.”
“What time’s your flight?”
“Six thirty.”
“Shouldn’t you already be on your way to the airport? Or at the airport right now?”
“We’re flying on Walter’s private jet.”
Walter. I was beginning to hate the sound of his name, almost as much as I hated the word errands.
“Wow,” I said. “You’re moving up in the world.”
“It’s not my jet,” she said, smiling, “it’s his.”

     

“I knew you could pull it off all by your lonesome,” Marge said. “You should be proud.”
“I’m not proud. I’m exhausted.”
We were at my parents’ place by eleven on Saturday, and the day was already sweltering. Marge and Liz sat across from me on the back porch while I recounted the week I just spent in all its hectic detail. London was helping my mom make sandwiches; Dad was, as usual, in the garage.
“So? You told me yourself you finally felt like you were hitting your stride on that last presentation.”
“A lot of good it did. And I’ve got nothing lined up for next week.”

“On the bright side,” Marge said, “that should make it a lot easier to get London to all her activities, and you’ll have more time to cook and clean.”
When I glared at her, Marge laughed. “Oh, lighten up. With Vivian starting work, you knew it was going to be a crazy week anyway. And you know that whole it’s always darkest before the dawn thing? I have the feeling that dawn is right around the corner.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I was thinking as I drove over here this morning that I should have been a plumber like Dad. Plumbers always have work.”
“True,” Marge said, “but then again, there’s a lot of crap involved with it.”
Despite my mood, I laughed under my breath. “That’s funny.”
“What can I say? I bring joy and mirth to everyone around me. Even whiny little brothers.”
“I haven’t been whining.”
“Yes you have. You’ve been whining since you sat down.”
“Liz?”
She absently picked at the armrest before answering. “Maybe a little.”

     

After lunch, and with the day only getting hotter, I decided to bring London to the movies, one of those animated ones. Marge and Liz came with us and seemed to enjoy it as much as London did. As for me, I wanted to enjoy it, but my thoughts kept drifting to the previous week, which made me wonder what on earth might be coming next.
After the movie, I didn’t want to go home. Marge and Liz seemed content to hang out at my parents’ place as well, and Mom ended up making tuna casserole, something London regarded as a treat, what with all the white flour in the pasta. She had a larger than normal portion and began to doze in the car on our way back home; I figured I’d get her in the bath, read a few stories, and spend the rest of the night zoning out in front of the television.
But it was not to be. As soon as she got in the house, she trotted to see the hamsters and I heard her voice calling to me from upstairs.
“Daddy! Come quick! I think something is wrong with Mrs. Sprinkles!”
I went to her room and peered into the cage, staring at a hamster that seemed to be making an attempt to push through the glass. Her room smelled like a barn. “She seems fine to me,” I said.
“That’s Mr. Sprinkles. Mrs. Sprinkles isn’t moving.”
I squinted. “I think she’s sleeping, honey.”
“But what if she’s sick?”
I had no idea what to do in that case and opening the lid, I scooped
Mrs. Sprinkles into my hand. She was warm, always a good sign, and I
could feel her begin to move.
“Is she okay?”
“She seems fine to me,” I said. “Do you want to hold her?”
She nodded and cupped her hands; I put the hamster in them. I watched as she brought the little critter closer to her face.
“I think I’ll just hold her for a little while to make sure.”
“All right,” I said, kissing the top of her head. “But not too long, all right? It’s already
almost bedtime.”

I kissed her on top of the head and headed toward the door.
“Daddy?” she asked.
“Yes?”
“You need to clean their cage.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow, okay? I’m kind of tired.”
“Mommy said you’d clean it.”
“I will. I just said I’d clean it tomorrow.”
“But what if it’s making Mrs. Sprinkles sick? I want you to clean it now.” Not only was she not listening, her pitch was beginning to rise, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with it.
“I’ll be back in a little while to get you ready for bed. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, okay?”
For the next half hour, I flipped through the channels, finding nothing whatsoever to watch. More than a hundred channels and zippo, but then again, I was cranky on top of being tired. Tomorrow, I’d be scooping poop from a hamster cage, my client list was hovering at zero, and unless there was some sort of miracle, it would remain that way another week. Meanwhile, my wife was flying on private jets and staying at the Ritz-Carlton.
In time, I rose from my spot on the couch and went back to London’s room. By then, her hamsters were back in the cage and she was playing with her Barbies.
“Hey sweetheart,” I said. “Are you about ready for your bath?”
She answered without turning toward me. “I don’t want to take a bath tonight.”
“But you got all sweaty with Nana today.”
“No.”
I blinked. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“I’m mad at you.”
“Why are you mad at me?”
“Because you don’t care about Mr. and Mrs. Sprinkles.”
“Of course I care about them.” In the cage, both of them were moving about, no different than any other night. “And you know you need a bath.”
“I want Mommy to do it.”
“I know you do. But Mommy’s not here.”
“Then I’m not going to take a bath.”
“Will you look at me?”
“No.”
She sounded almost like Vivian as she said it and I was at a loss. London continued to send Barbie rampaging around the Barbie townhouse; the doll seemed on the verge of kicking over the furniture.
“How about I get the water going, okay? Then we can talk about it. I’ll put extra bubbles in there.”
As promised, I added extra bubbles to the water and when it was ready, I turned off the faucet. London hadn’t moved; Barbie was still raging through the playhouse with Ken by her side. 
“I can’t make breakfast,I heard her make Barbie say to Ken, because I have to go to work.”
“But daddies are supposed to work, Ken said.
“Maybe you should have thought about that before you quit.”
I felt my stomach tighten, certain that London was mimicking Vivian and me.
“Your bath is ready,” I said.
“I told you I’m not taking a bath!”

“Just come on . . .”
“NO!!!” she screamed. “I’m not taking a bath and you can’t make me! You made Mommy get a job!”
“I didn’t make Mommy get a job . . .”
“YES YOU DID!” she shouted, and when she turned, I saw tears streaming down her cheeks. “She told me that she had to get a job because you’re not working!”
Another father probably would have been less defensive, but I was exhausted and her words stung, if only because I felt bad enough about myself already.
“I am working!” I said, my voice rising. “And taking care of you and cleaning the house!” 
“I want Mommy!” she cried, and for the first time, I realized that Vivian hadn’t called today. Nor could I call her; the event was probably in full swing right about now.
I took a deep breath. “She’ll be here tomorrow and the two of you are going to the blueberry farm, remember? You want to be all clean for her, don’t you?”
“NO!” she shouted. “I hate you!”
The next thing I knew, I was marching across the room and seized London by the arm. She began to struggle and scream and I dragged her to the bathroom, like a bad-parent video on YouTube.
“Either you get yourself undressed and into the bath, or I’ll undress you. I’m not kidding.”
“GO AWAY!” she screamed and after putting her pajamas on the countertop, I closed the door. For the next few minutes, I heard her alternately crying and talking to herself while I waited outside the door.
“Get in the bath, London,” I warned through the door. “If you don’t, I’ll make you clean the hamster cage all by yourself.”
I heard her scream again; a minute later, though, I heard her climbing into the tub. I continued to wait. After a little while, I heard her playing with her tub toys without the anger I’d heard earlier. Finally, the door opened; London was in her pajamas, her hair wet.
“Can we dry my hair tonight instead of leaving it wet?”
I gritted my teeth. “Of course we can, sweetheart.”
“I miss Mommy.”
I squatted down and took her in my arms, breathing in the sweet-clean scent of her soap and shampoo. “I know you do,” I said, and held her close, wondering how a father as messed up as I could have managed to help make something so wonderful, even as my little girl began to cry.

     

I read her the story of Noah and the ark as we lay in the bed together. Her favorite part, the part I had to read a second time, was when the ark was finished and the animals started to arrive.
“Two by two,” I read aloud, “they came in pairs, from all over the
world. Lions and horses and dogs and elephants, zebras and giraffes . . .”
“And hamsters,” London added.
“And hamsters,” I agreed, “and two by two, they boarded the ark. How will they all fit, the people wondered. But God had a plan for that, too. They made their way onto the ark and there was plenty of room, and all the animals were happy. And two by two, they stayed in the ark while the rain began to fall.”
As I was finishing the story, London was fading. I turned out the light and kissed her cheek.

“I love you, London,” I whispered.
“Love you, too, Daddy,” she mumbled, and I crept quietly from the room.
Two by two, I thought to myself as I made my way down the stairs. London and me, father and daughter, both of us doing the best we could.
Even then, I felt like I was failing her, failing at everything.



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicholas SparksWith over 100 million copies of his books sold, Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved storytellers. His novels include 12 #1 New York Times bestsellers. All his books have been New York Times and international bestsellers, and were translated into more than 50 languages. Ten Sparks novels have been adapted into major motion pictures, with The Choice coming in February 2016.



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