Thursday, February 13, 2014

Summer Spotlight: Celia on the Run by Sarah Mandell

Welcome to Summer Spotlight! Lately I've gotten a number of requests through email from authors to read their books. While I'm always happy to receive those emails, it isn't very often I get to accept the books for review. Hence, I've created Summer Spotlight. If there's a book or author I feel deserves more attention than I'm currently able to give them/it, I'll post it. This is to promote the books and authors and gather opinions from readers. I hope we can all have fun and enjoy this new (intermittent) feature!

Woah! We're already on the eighth Summer Spotlight. Go authors go!

Nick Novaczek is a cautious soul, a 17-year old with a quiet thirst for danger. On the eve of his grandmother’s funeral, danger finds him by the motel swimming pool. Her name is Celia and she’s everything he’s not. This foul-mouthed beauty is hitchhiking across the country to make amends with her estranged father and doesn't carry an ounce of fear or hesitation in her tattered suitcase. Hours after meeting Celia, Nick is hopelessly hooked and “borrows” his parents’ car to join her mission, even though her story is full of holes. It’s the mistake he’s been waiting his whole life to make. After weeks of detours, with hundreds of miles left to go, their wild adventure unravels, but she won’t turn back, no matter how desperate things get. Celia’s got a charming smile to pay her way, a willing accomplice, and an endless supply of lies. Not to mention a gun.

Those last two lines completely sucked me in! Nick and Celia seem a bit liked a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. Well, without all the bank robberies and murder. I'm interested in Celia being a mistake Nick has been waiting to make. It's not often male characters choose to see female manipulation and not be snowed. I like it when tropes get changed for the better. Still, I am worried what Celia has up her sleeves. Maybe the dad isn't estranged? Perhaps he was abusive. Surely, Celia would want to use that gun to kill him if so. I wonder how far along Nick is willing to go for Celia. Tell me what you thought of Celia on the Run if you've read it, or your initial impression if you haven't.

An excerpt from Celia on the Run courtesy of the author

With one tiny smirk, Nick bolted from the car as if it were on fire, glanced at the nearby gas station, the one with the car wash he’d never use, and then raced to the motel room. Without thinking too hard about the consequences, he grabbed his mostly-packed suitcase and scrawled a note saying, "Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’ll call you soon. I’m sorry.” Nick hurled his belongings into the trunk and screeched the tires as he backed out of the parking space.

Narrowly avoiding hitting another car, he sped down the road, hoping Celia hadn’t been picked up during the last critical minutes. To his joy and relief, she hadn’t made it very far. Her pace was steady but slow as she rolled her suitcase along the shoulder of the highway, continuing her mission. Nick pulled over and got out of the car, loosening his necktie. Celia turned around, a bit surprised to see it was Nick, the timid teenager she had her way with the night before. Her hand shielded the afternoon sunshine from her dark eyes. She wasn’t smiling but she wasn’t frowning either. Her lack of reaction was unnerving, shooting paralysis through Nick’s lanky body. Her unreadable quality multiplied his shyness a hundred-fold now that he was face to face with her again, even though he just made the boldest move of his young life to stand there.

He put his hands in his suit pockets and said, “Hi,” then nothing more.

“Hey. What’re you doing here?” she questioned, pulling her shoulder bag tight to her side, keeping her guard up.

“Why’d you leave? You said you’d stay for one more night.”

Celia explained, “I know what I said, but I figured there was no good reason to stay on. I mean…I had a lot of fun, but I just needed to get going, you know? Nothing personal.”

He brushed off her explanation, hoping there was room for negotiation. His only chance to be with her was to go with her and he was prepared for that option should she agree to it. “Can I give you a lift?”

“To…where?” She seemed unsure of his motive.

“I was thinking to New Jersey.” He looked her in the eye, welling up with hope. He was ready for an adventure, ready to sweep her off her feet. All she had to do was say sure.

“No. No thanks,” she replied quickly.

“What? Why not?” he persisted, a little surprised by her hasty rejection.

“You’re not that stupid, are you? New Jersey is over two thousand miles away.”

“I know. But I mean it, New Jersey or bust.” Nick stood up tall, ready to change her mind. Celia’s cold expression hinted she wasn’t one to change her mind about anything.

“I appreciate the offer, it’s a hot one today, but no thanks.” She wiped her brow.

“Please. I really want to do this with you.”

“I didn’t invite you,” she snapped. Celia’s hair blew in her face as a truck passed.

“Look, I know we just met and all…but I don’t want you to leave like this. I…really like you, Celia.” He opted for the casual expression over the serious ones stewing in his heart.

“You’re sweet, I’ll give you that, but you can’t come with me. Sorry, kiddo.”

“So you’re just gonna walk and bum rides for two thousand miles?”

“It’s taken me thirty-nine days to go nine hundred, so yeah. You got a problem with that?” Her voice grew annoyed. “What the hell do you care anyway?” She made a gesture to shoo him off like he was nothing more than fly buzzing around her lemonade.

“I don’t know. I just think…if we did this together…it might be…fun. I’ve never done anything crazy, I’ve never had an adventure before.” Nick fidgeted with his thumbs, regretting his honest pleas. He inhaled deeply in hopes of sucking back his words before the wind could blow them to her ears. She squinted her eyes, baffled by his persistence.

“You’re a little young to be having a midlife crisis, don’t you think? Go home, Nick. Try LSD, join a fight club, I really don’t give a damn. You’re not coming with me.”

“Please. I’ve never met anyone like you before. I don’t want this to be the end,” Nick continued, sounding more and more pathetic as the words kept coming. “I think we’d…have a great time together, this could be the best two thousand miles of our lives. Think about it.”

“You don’t get to say things like that.” She turned away dismissively and started walking.

“Wait!” Nick shouted after her.

“Stop,” she said over her shoulder. “It was nice to meet you, Nick. Best of luck. Thanks for the screw.”

Celia was ready to sever whatever bond they’d temporarily formed but Nick wasn’t willing to give up on her. He followed after her. She was worth chasing, worth pursing down the side of Route 40 and beyond.

If you enjoyed that excerpt, be sure to head to Sarah Mandell's website here for extras for Celia on the Run like playlists, a map of the journey and photos from the trip.

About Sarah Mandell

Sarah Mandell is a professionally trained artist with a background in interior design. She's also the brains and busy hands behind a thriving indie craft business called Once Again Sam, where she sells handmade leather jewelry and quirky fiber art creations online and in local shops. Even with an ever-expanding collection of creative outlets, she's truly the happiest when she's writing. Her debut novel, Celia on the Run, was published in 2012 by Untreed Reads.

To find Mandell online, click the links below. 

Happy Reading,

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