Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Fixing Sydney" by Diane Zparkki

Fixing Sydney
(Branson's Kind of Love Trilogy Book 1)
by Diane Zparkki

Fixing Sydney, the first book in Diane Zparkki's new Branson's Kind of Love Trilogy, is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Sydney Sommer’s world fell apart after senior prom. Since then, her life had become a constant loop of unfortunate scenarios that kept her in constant fear of what might be lurking around the next corner. Her trust in others was at a standstill. Even those who were closest to her were held at a distance.
After serving active duty overseas, Jaxon Triggs moved away from his hometown, hoping the change in scenery would help him build a new future for himself. What he wasn’t expecting was to fall for a girl who was broken.
From the first moment Jaxon laid eyes on Sydney, he was curious. He became determined to do everything he could to break through the armor Sydney held around her so securely. His instinct to protect her and keep her safe kicked in as the dangers she encountered became more personal.
With dread always looming close by and secrets discovered, would Sydney be able to handle the new changes in her life yet heal at the same time?

Staring at myself in the mirror propped up in the corner of my bedroom, I wondered, How the hell did I get here? I stood there for another ten minutes, thinking I better contemplate My outfit included black jeans, converse, and a black tank top. My wardrobe mostly consisted of jeans, hoodies, sneakers, and boots. No dresses. In fact, the only formal dresses I had owned were the two I had worn to prom. The first one was to my best friend Shannon’s prom. Billy asked me to be his date after his girlfriend dumped him two days before to go with one of the football stars. Bitch. I donated that dress to a local charity. The other dress was worn to my own prom the following year. That dress was now long gone, buried at the bottom of some garbage landfill, being wormed back into the earth. Good riddance.
I was ready for my parents’ famous Sunday barbeque—well, my mom and stepdad, but I just called him “Dad” now. They loved having the family over for dinner. I didn’t know why they thought it was such a big deal when one of us was always there during the week, mooching dinner. If I were honest with myself, the real reason they had these dinners was to check on my mental stability. Over the past few years, those dinners had become a regular occurrence after I moved out to attend college.
I had taken a year off after high school to get myself back on track after I’d had a major meltdown that would have taken out three towns. Now I was coming back at a turtle’s pace, but I was coming back.
High school was so long ago, filled with great memories of football games, soccer games, pep rallies, dances, drinking, and school pranks. It had been the ultimate high school experience…until I had started dating Steve. Prom night had destroyed all those happy memories. That evening had twisted me up inside, shut me down so tightly nothing was going to penetrate my Teflon wall. It was the closest I had ever felt to death.
Death…Maybe death had occurred, just not in the physical sense.
I knew what death looked like, and I knew how people acted around it.
My father died when I was four. My memory was cloudy of him, but I remembered that day clearly.
My father lay in a plain mahogany coffin, wearing his favorite blue, checkered shirt. I had no idea why I knew it was his favorite; I just knew. He also had on a pair of black jeans, his boots, and his leather vest that had patches on it, like the other men at the funeral. To this day, every once in a while, I would get a whiff of worked-in leather, and it would remind me of him. I didn’t know why I would remember that above all else, though.
I also remembered a man at the back of the parlor, dressed similar to my dad. He had several tattoos, as did the rest of the men who stood with him and shook his hand.
“Mommy, is Daddy sleeping? Why can’t I wake him? Why won’t he wake up? Daddy, wake up!” I remembered saying.
My mother took my hand and brought me over to the casket where she laid her hand on my dad’s. “Daddy died, sweetheart. His soul is already in Heaven. His body is here so that all his friends and family can say good-bye.” As she explained death to me, it was the first time I saw tears stream down her saddened face.
I had no idea what a soul was, so she tried explaining it again to me. “It’s like when your daddy would ride his motorcycle. He was the soul of the bike; he controlled it. He brought the bike to life and made it move. When he got off the bike and turned the engine off, the bike stood still. His body is like the bike, and his soul is the engine.” She looked down at me and gave me a big sigh because I stood there with big doe-eyes in confusion.
“Daddy’s a motorcycle?”
That was when a blonde lady came up behind me and asked if I needed to use the bathroom. My mom nodded her head at the lady and hugged me before sending me off to the bathroom.
The lady came into the stall to help me fix my tights. Even as a child, I hated getting dressed up.
While we were in there, we heard two women speaking in the bathroom.
“Poor Sara. What is she going to do with that little girl now, raising her alone so far away from her family? Maybe she will move back home,” one woman said.
“She might when she realizes her husband’s so-called family will no longer take care of her,” added the other woman.
I looked up at the blonde lady, trying to make sense of what my little ears were hearing. She just continued to fix my clothes until the women left. Then we walked out of the stall and washed our hands.
I remembered looking up into the reflection of the mirror and seeing the blonde lady’s eyes held anger in them, but she also wiped a tear away from her cheek. I never asked the lady about it.
She brought me back into the funeral parlor, and I noticed a lot of people I had never seen before, most of them dressed in black, hugging my mom and speaking in another language.
I had no idea my mom spoke another language until that day. I always thought she spoke gibberish when she was angry. However, I later learned that she was actually speaking Italian and cursing like a sailor.
Mom always said families were great, but you couldn’t pick your family. Sometimes, the families you built with friendships were the greatest ones. They knew how to support you the best. I would guess that was why we never spent much time with my mother’s family.
We rarely saw her family, only a few phone calls on birthdays or Christmas. As the years moved on the phone calls started to dwindle. We were on our own.
The next few years were hard on us. We moved from our home to a small two-bedroom apartment not too far from my school. Mom worked a lot of hours as an accountant and took on new clients, working late into the night after putting me to bed. I was always in before and after school programs. Regardless, my mom made sure I never went without, and she absolutely made sure I knew I was loved.
We had teddy bear picnics in the park, put lick and stick tattoos up and down our arms, or on rainy days, built forts in the living room. She never made me feel like I was missing out on anything.
What she didn’t know was that I could hear her crying in her room at night. Her cries were muffled, probably because she was sobbing into her pillow, but I could hear her. Still, she never showed her heartbreak over the loss of my dad to me or anyone else. Instead, each morning, she would get up and start her day with a smile. She had done better than I was doing now.
When I was seven, Mom started dating Brad. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him, but I knew he made my mom happy. She laughed more, her smiles were genuine, and her late night cries were replaced by phone calls that had her giggling.
Mom had met Brad at a singles mixer—well, that was the story they told everyone. They actually met at a bereavement group for widows and widowers raising children on their own.
Brad had lost his wife Jenny due to a freak complication during childbirth. She had been giving birth to their second son, Logan, when something had gone wrong. Logan had only met his mother for a short few seconds before she had lost consciousness and died.
Just before Mom and Brad moved in together, the man from the funeral home came to the apartment. I remembered how nervous Brad was, pacing the floor and rubbing his hands up and down the front of his jeans. Mom, on the other hand, was as calm as a Hindu cow. It was rare that she would get flustered.
The boys and I played video games in the living room while Brad, Mom, and the man talked in the kitchen. The boys had just looked up at him when he had first come in, seeming unaffected by his presence, and continued playing.
The man had sat with his back to me, so I couldn’t see his face. They talked for a while, and once the man finished his beer, he shook Brad’s hand, hugged Mom, and then left. He never came back to our home again.
The following month, Brad, his boys, Mom, and I all moved in together. The house they bought had two huge oak trees in the backyard. They were so big I couldn’t put my little arms around the trunks. We had tire swings hanging from them, a tree house built in one, and Mom even made Brad rent the tallest ladder he could find to climb up the tree and carve our deceased parents’ names in them—Thomas in one tree and Jenny in the other. She said, that way, as the trees grew, they could watch over our growing family, too.
Mom was raised Catholic, but she had become more spiritual than religious. She often would say their spouses had brought them together. I thought that was a little morbid but sweet in a bizarre kind of way. That was my mom.
It was a week after we moved in that I met Shannon. She walked right up to me, wearing a little pink summer dress with white sandals, and her dark brown hair was pulled up in a ponytail with barrettes holding the strands in place.
“Hi, I’m Shannon. What’s your name?” she introduced herself.
There I was, lying on my belly on a floral blanket in the front yard, coloring. My messy, curly red hair was all over the place as I looked up at her and blew a strand out of my face, swearing I had put it up in a ponytail that morning. I was wearing my favorite purple tank top and little jean shorts with a purple flower on them, and I was barefoot.
“Hi…I’m Sydney,” I said. “Why are you all dressed up? You going to a party?”
Shannon smoothed out the front of her dress, looking at me with confusion in her eyes. “No, this is my summer dress.”
Oh, boy, were we in trouble, and trouble we were from then on.
We were inseparable and as opposite as opposites could be, but she was still my best friend, and I knew she was also worried about me.
Shannon was a year older than me, whereas my new brothers and I were all two years apart. Therefore, I had to spend my last year of high school without my best friend. Meanwhile, my brother Holden was in his third year of college away from home, and Logan had enlisted and was deployed overseas in Afghanistan. That whole year, it was just me, Mom, and Brad holding down the fort.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I so enjoyed Fixing Sydney! [...] I liked the growth of Sydney's character...she became stronger but still remained vulnerable but open to new ideas and relationships. The author described the settings so well, that I could visualize the loft, school and variety of locations. Sydney's flashbacks were well written, giving me just enough details to keep me guessing, until all was revealed. I liked the intensity of the relationships and how they were intertwined between the main characters, the MC, and the secondary characters. Including the play list was a great idea! I am looking forward to the continuing story of Sydney and Jaxon!!" ~ Amazon Customer
"I love this book! I couldn't put it down. I finished it within 24 hours, reading it until 6 am. Fixing Sydney is a suspense with twists and turns you actually didn't see coming. A love story that makes you addicted to reading on as Jaxon and Sydney's relationship develops. A friendship that reminds you of your best friend, and a family that you wish you could be a part. With that being said, it's a unique story that I haven't read in other novels. Can't wait for the next book to come out!!" ~ Amazon Customer
"Fixing Sydney by Diane Zparkki is a sensational read! I couldn’t put it down. Falling deep in the minds and inner thoughts of the characters was perfectly portrayed by the author. This love/romance suspense story, takes you through a journey of difficult experiences, finding love and the challenges of a young girl trying to heal while putting the past behind her. A surprising twist, which leaves you wanting more. I was pleased to learn this is the 1st of a Trilogy. So looking forward to the next book!" ~ Amazon Customer
"Just finished reading Fixing Sydney. What a great read. You will be gobsmacked at the end when all the twists, turns, and betrayals reveal themselves. The story takes you through a gamut of emotions as you follow Sydney's journey to heal herself and start fresh. The book will leave you wanting more so luckily it is the first in the trilogy." ~ Amazon Customer
"Fantastic book! Can't wait for the next one in the series!!" ~ Amazon Customer

About the Author
Diane Zparkki lives in the greater Toronto area. She is a working mom, and with her husband, she has raised three great kids. She is a thrill seeker who usually drags her family along with her.
She was never a big reader or writer in her youth - Coles Notes were her best friend through college. Her enthusiasm for reading came later in life when she joined a book club. She loved those books, but she wanted raw, simple, and happily ever after with a bit of get down and dirty. That was when her love for bad boys on a Harley was set in motion.
After reading so many books, her mind started to create her first story, and she needed to get it out.
Fixing Sydney of the Branson’s Kind of Love trilogy is her first book, and she hopes you enjoy it as much as she has enjoyed having these characters running around in her head.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of two $25 gift cards from Chapters.