Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hey, It's A Book Blitz for "Breaker and the Sun" by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

 by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Book 2, in the Paper Stars Novels
"Breaker and the Sun"
Genre: Young Adult, Historical. 325 pages.
Price: $3.99 ebook (at time of post)
Book Link: Click Here
Times means nothing. It’s just the sun and moon changing places. New from Lauren Nicolle Taylor, the best-selling author of Nora and Kettle, comes a fresh take on a classic tale. 

Breaker Van Winkle is a recently returned Vietnam vet, struggling with PTSD and the difficulties of readjusting to civilian life with his mother. Sunny is a high-achieving eighteen-year-old Chinese-French immigrant who fled Vietnam during the war. Sunny is usually as cheerful as her name implies, but she has her struggles too. Haunted by violent memories of the bombing that killed her parents, and chafing under the rule of her eccentric grandmother, she finds solace deep in the Catskills, at a place she calls the Ugly Tree. 

When Breaker stumbles upon Sunny and the Ugly Tree, things start to change. They are drawn to each other, and feel called to the tree. As they spend more time together and their relationship deepens, they notice that their time at the tree is becoming twisted somehow. Sunny’s mind yawns and her ambitions begin to slip away. Breaker feels safe and carefree, his memories finally burying themselves in the distant past. They are being lulled toward a tempting, peaceful sleep—but there is a cost to this magical serenity, and it may be more than either of them can bear…
Walking up the stairs, I pause and bend down, plucking some stubborn weeds from the hard earth. I shake the dirt from them and look at the struggling roots before tossing them in the garden bed. Is he just a jerk? Seems like there must be more to it than that. At least, that’s what I’d like to believe.
I sigh, wishing I could be like Cara sometimes. To stop searching for the reasons behind things and just accept the world for what it is and all the jerks in it. 
The smell of garlic and peanut oil seeps from the front porch, luring me inside and throwing my thoughts into the frying pan. I walk up, my foot hovering over the last cracked bit of peeling concrete. I open my ears and smile wide as I listen to the cackling and coughing coming from within.
“You love my voice, eh?” Ama shouts as metal clatters in musical harmony. 
“I love you to shut up!” Gung grumbles. 
Ama starts humming out of tune. I can picture Gung’s surly expression. His eyes following her around the room like they’re trying to decipher one tiny particle of the code that makes her, but then he’ll give up. We always give up.
I take off my shoes and open the door. 
I’m looking at my rainbow-striped socks when a white china bowl comes flying at my knees. I jump out of the way, and the bowl hits the doorframe and bounces off without breaking. “Ama! What the he…heck?” I manage to avoid saying hell before my intensely religious grandmother slaps me. 
“See, George! Doesn’t break.” She throws another bowl my way like a Frisbee, and I sidestep as it skitters across the cork floor with a clanging marble kind of sound. 
I giggle and step into the lounge, kissing Gung on the cheek, inhaling his sweet tobacco smell just as he runs a hand through his thinning hair and shouts at Ama, “You crazy woman!” 
“It’s Corr Relle!” She says it like it’s two words, not one, and like that should explain her throwing crockery. My eyes turn to the kitchen and the dining set strewn across the floor. Ama stands on her tiptoes in the small spaces between the overlapping plates and bowls, knees bent as if she’s considering jumping out of the mess she’s created.
I put my hand up to stop her. “Ama, let me help you pick all this up.” I kneel and start stacking the plates. 
“Twenty-five percent off, Sun,” she whispers, squatting down on her haunches to help me. She has the balance of a gymnast, leaning her thighs against the back of her calves with ease. Whenever I try to do that, I fall backward. But that could also be because she usually tries to knock me over with the end of a broom. 
Ama grins, all red lipstick and white powder, and I smirk. She looks half like a Geisha and half like a forgotten Beatle with her died black hair and pageboy cut. 
Gung coughs and strains his ears to hear us. “How much you pay for all this?”
Ama winks at me and lies, “Ten dollars the lot.”
He accepts this, although I’m sure he suspects she’s lying. 
After we rise, she places a bowl in front of me at the counter, serving up some sweet corn soup. I lift the spoon to my mouth. 
She asks, “How was rest of day at work. Make any tips?”
“Only from that one guy, you know, the weird one,” I mumble.
She shrugs, turning her back to me to rattle a frying pan on the hob.
I take a sip, swallow, stall… 
I reach for my spoon again, and Ama grabs my wrist. “You mean the army man who gave you hating eyes because you Eurasian?” she asks, narrowing her eyes at me.
I wonder what she’ll say. I never know with her. What side she’ll pick.
“Yeah, that one,” I start, looking to Gung. He has angled his whole body my way, but he hasn’t deemed this conversation worthy of getting all the way out of his chair. I feel more comfortable addressing him. “Though I don’t think it’s because I’m Eurasian, Ama. I think it’s just because I look Asian.”
Ama snaps to attention, grasping my chin and pulling it toward her fierce eyes. “Nothing wrong with way you look. You beautiful Eurasian girl.” She traces under my eyes with her wrinkled finger. “Eyes like watermelon seeds…”
I smile and try to pull back. “He’s a Vietnam veteran. Maybe I reminded him of something bad,” I mutter, defending the guy. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I doubt he’ll come back in again, and I got to keep his change.”
Ama turns to Gung and says proudly, “I gave him my finger. The middle one! But then…he is soldier.” She sighs very loudly. Everything exaggerated. “Maybe we can be generous to him.”
I roll my eyes. Gung rolls his eyes too. The way she flips back and forth is exhausting. 
“Are you all right, Sun?” he asks.
I shake my head. “Nothing a Douglas can’t handle,” I say proudly, sitting up straighter in my seat.
“I saw you roll the eyes at me, Sunny. Rolling around like marble in bowl.” Ama waggles her finger at me, dangerously tipping into a temper. “American soldiers save your life. You should be grateful.”
I know. I remember.
But it wasn’t this exact soldier. It wasn’t his hand that reached for me in the rubble. 
“Maybe when you doctor, you fix all the soldiers,” she announces, and I bow my head to look like I’m agreeing with her.
First, I need to fix what’s wrong with me. 
Gung flicks on the TV, turning up the volume and trying to stop the conversation from happening. The one about college and where I’m going to go, but Ama’s not that easily distracted tonight. 
She comes around the counter to stand in front of me. I look up from where I sit on my stool. “Ama. S’il vous plaît. Please. Can we not have this conversation? I don’t have to decide just yet.”
Gung clears his throat and speaks, softly but firmly. “Annie. Leave the girl in peace. Let her enjoy her good fortunes for one day.”
Ama glares at Gung, and then her gaze settles on me. “You lucky I listen to Gung.”
Gung snorts and waves her over to watch Wheel of Fortune

I know I’m lucky.
An older man in full uniform approaches us, looking stern and judgmental. He frowns at Tien, and I feel like I want to stand and defend him. Tien stands and salutes the older man, whose crinkly face cracks into a smile. “No need to stand on ceremony here, Tien,” he says gruffly, ruffling his spiky black hair. Then he looks at me. “Don’t let his looks fool you! Tien will take care of you. He’s one of the good guys.”
I frown then. Not sure how to take that. Tien doesn’t seem to mind though.
When the old guy is gone, I nudge Tien. “Are you cool with that? I mean, shit, this must be a little awkward for you sometimes,” I mutter, watching all the white men strolling between groups, their uniforms in varying states of spit and polish.
He shrugs. “It was at first. And yeah, looking like I do, I have to work harder at getting some people to accept me, trust me, but once you know me, well…” He gulps down the rest of his coffee and crushes the cup in his hand. “You can’t help but love me!”
It doesn’t seem fair that he has to work harder. “Doesn’t seem right, man,” I say, shaking my head.
Tien knocks my leg with his knee. “Nope, it isn’t. But what you just said. That right there is enough of a reason to keep trying. Things will change. Name by name. Face by face. I like you already, Breaker!” He’s intoxicatingly hopeful.
I run a hand through my hair. Who would have thought I’d be on this side of the argument?
Tien knocks my knee again. His laugh is full of light. Not sunshine exactly. More like the light from a cluster of stars. It sparkles with magic.
Heart steady. A smile, tinted green, but a smile just the same.
The sun hits the sand, and it sparkles. Palm trees bristle in the warm breeze. If I squint, if I look past the stacks of wooden crates piled on the beach, the dirty men draped over them, it looks like a postcard.
I snap that image for later.
Booze is poured into tin cups, and we sip. We wipe our brows of sweat and tell stories, swap the most mundane details of our lives with each other, building something. This foundation we have to rely on.
Kicking my shoes off, I bury my toes in the sand, watching it cascade over my white, shriveled skin. My feet look like they’ve been in a bath for hours.
I’m staring at them when a disk with colored feathers sprouting from it lands at my feet.
I look up into the expectant grin of a kid, about the same age as Red. He beckons me with his hand, asking me to join the game he’s playing with his friends.
Sarge nods an okay.
Towering over these little Vietnamese kids, I jog to where they’re playing. Quickly, I realize the aim of the game is to keep the feathered disk in the air using whatever I can.
The kids are amazing, back-flipping, twisting, slapping at it with their hands and feet. I try to keep up, and they laugh but encourage me to keep trying.
We’re just kids, playing a game.
Our shouting rattles across the waves. We kick and slap at the ball, we laugh when someone falls over, but offer a hand to help them back up.
My smile cracks open my chest as some fear spills out onto the sand to be collected by the sea.
Some of the other guys join us, and we play until it’s too dark to see.
The sun sprays red and orange over the water, and the kid who invited me slaps my back and winks. He hands me the feathered disk and runs away, laughing and shouting at his friends.
Tien taps my back gently. “Breaker. Where’d you go?”
My mouth feels strange, turned up into a smile.
I’d forgotten about that kid. That good memory.
“Sorry. I was just remembering something,” I mutter.
“Must’ve been a good something,” Tien says, pointing at my mouth.
I chuckle. “Yeah, it was.”
First Meeting
Ama drives like a distracted demon, reminding me again that I need to go for my license. She waits until the last moment to turn and then pulls the wheel hard, swinging the car out and making me feel like my lungs are strapped into the backseat and my stomach is hiding in the trunk. I hold the side arm of the door and clutch my heart for the full half-hour journey. 
When we arrive at the grocery store, she slams the handbrake up before applying the footbrake. We lurch forward and then shoot back into the headrests. Once parked, she turns to stare at me, her teeth showing streaks of red lipstick. She holds out her hand. “Give me discount card,” she demands.
I fish it out of my wallet with a sigh. “You can’t bargain at the grocery store, Ama. Okay?”
She fixes her hair and slaps the steering wheel. “Ah baik! Too many rules from you. Can’t bargain. Can’t go to college in New York. Can’t sleep.”
I roll my eyes with my back turned. I know it’s hard for her. As a consulate brat, I spent a great deal of my childhood traveling with my parents between Asia, England, and France. But my grandparents had lived their whole life in Malaysia until the incident. And although they jumped at the chance to come here, I don’t think they realized how different it would be. 
I think my mother always bridged that gap for them. The one between the Western world and their own.
I instantly feel bad for rolling my eyes and link my arm with hers. She leans her head on my shoulder briefly before charging ahead. I trail after her, always scared of what she might do next.
My manager gives me a wary look when we walk through the doors. He knows Ama all too well. He follows a few paces behind her, ready to stop her squeezing the peaches too hard or testing the bounce of the citrus. 
I catch Cara’s eyes as she looks up from her cash register, and she gives me a quick wave and a smile. Her eyes are questioning. I try to somehow communicate with my eyebrows that I got in to Stanford. She adds up her customer’s total, hands them a docket, and then looks back to me. I nod, grinning widely.
“Oh my God!” she shouts, covering her mouth and apologizing to the man trying to pay her. She giggles and hands him his change, making all sorts of strange, excited faces in my direction while she bounces up and down at her station. 
I go out the back and punch in my timecard, one eye on Ama through the window in the door as she fills her trolley with out-of-date frozen yogurt.
When I come out, a tall, scruffy man bumps into my shoulder. He doesn’t look up or even apologize. Just keeps walking down the aisle like he didn’t even see me.
I’m about to yell out when I notice his army greens, and I suppress my reaction. Bursts of light shatter before my eyes and I blink, trying to shake that rubble from my hair. I reach out to steady myself against the shelf laden with Lucky Charms and Coco Pops and take a deep breath. The cool white wire shudders under my grip, and I cough. Dust. Blood. Light. One arm clad in army green, reaching for me, pulling me up and out of the hole.
I squint and focus on the normal things. The monkey on the cereal box. The little leprechaun waving his golden spoon…
Kez, the manager, clears his throat behind me. “Sunny,” he says, his voice brushing away the dust and bringing me back to fluorescent lights and beige linoleum floors. “I need you at the checkout.”
Shaking my head, I whisper, “Désolée. Sorry, Kez.” I wipe the sweat from my forehead. “I’ll be right there.”
He pretends to rearrange stock nearby as I collect myself. 
I take a deep breath, glance once more at the friendly cereal leprechaun, and move to the front. 
Once I’m sitting on my stool, staring at the cash register, I feel okay. I need to focus on the good things. NYU. Stanford. A new bed.
Cara slams the drawer shut on her register and checks for customers, then turns to me. “Did you get the scholarship?”
I grin, my smile a half moon hooked over my ears. “Uh-huh.”
Cara wiggles in her seat and squeals. “Yes! I knew you would, ya smart cow!”
I snort.
Ama sidles up to Cara’s register. “At least she no sound like stuck pig!” she says with a wicked grin as she pokes Cara in the side with her pointy fingernail, tickling her between her ribs.
Cara squeals some more, and she does kind of sound like a pig.
“Oh, Annie, stop!” Cara giggles while trying to reach for the yogurt. 
Ama cackles like a witch and leans in to pinch Cara’s plump face. “Such nice dimples!” Then she shoots me a nasty look. “Sunny too thin for dimples.” Like dimples are a necessary feature and I’ve done something wrong by not having them.
I ignore her and ask Cara, “So what about you?” 
Cara laughs as she packs Ama’s groceries into a bag. “Vassar, baby!”
“That’s so great, Cara.” After I congratulate her, I wait for Ama to respond.
She doesn’t, which means I’m going to hear about it later. Vassar is in New York. Just over a hundred miles away as opposed to thousands.
Cara blushes. She’s worked really hard, and I’m proud of her. “No scholarship or anything, but still… My folks are super happy about it.”
Ama pats Cara on the shoulder. “I been tutoring you for one year now with your French, and you smart girl. You good girl, good daughter too, Cara. Staying close to your family.”
And there it is.
I’m about to snap back at her when the guy in army greens approaches Cara’s counter. Since she’s still busy counting through Ama’s pile of quarters, I wave him over. He shakes his head and holds his place. Ama turns around and faces him, and he takes a step back from her. 
“Sir,” I say with a smile. “She’s going to take a while. Let me serve you.”
He sighs loudly, his broad shoulders pulling up and releasing violently. Reluctantly, he comes to my counter, slamming down a loaf of bread, milk, and a bunch of candy bars like they are about to bite him.
Staring at the black strip in front of us, he mutters, “A pack of smokes.”
“Which brand?” I ask.
“Any,” he snarls.
I jump a little, and he looks up at me. It’s a quick flash of regret balled with sadness that turns to fire like the click of a lighter. I find it hard to look away, his hatred linked to my gaze in chains. I grab a pack of Marlboros and add it to the total. “I, uh, that will be seven thirty-six, sir,” I stutter. “Do you want me to bag…?” I don’t get to finish as he’s already thrown a ten on the counter, grabbed his stuff, and is stalking toward the front door. 
“Keep the change,” he spits. 
The air feels heavy, not with dust for once, but with hate. Cara stares at me, and Ama is starting to turn red hot. 
I clench my fists and relax them, clench my fists and relax. I’ll never get used to it. The hate thrown at me simply because of the way I look. I swallow dryly and click the drawer closed, separating out the change and putting it in the tip jar to share with the others. 
Ama tries to catch up to him, running out the open door, but I can see out the glass that he’s almost running down the street. Like he can’t stand to be within a mile of someone like me, like both of us. 
Tears burn the back of my eyes. I kick the inside of my counter, bruising my toes. I can’t let this get to me. I won’t.
Ama gives a rude gesture to his disappearing back, and I laugh at the image of this little Chinese woman standing in the parking lot, flipping the bird with a bag of out-of-date yogurt in one hand.

I shout out to her, “Ama. Arrêtez! Stop! He’s a vet,” and watch her lower her arms slowly, rigidly, her temper flaring like wings wanting to fly.
Now Available ....
"Nora & Kettle" (Book #1)- Click Here
**Check out My Review Post: Link Here**
Price$3.03 (at time of post)
Author's Bio:
Author Links: Amazon PageWebsite, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter.

Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.
She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing. 
She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

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