Deep in the hills of Lithia brews an epic battle between evil and nature...
Nineteen-year-old Kat Jones has been a competitive runner since she was a young girl, but after her mother's death, the path her life was supposed to take begins to crumble around her -- until one day, she finds herself on the run in a literal sense, this time in a race for her very life. Kat's journey takes her to the Pacific Northwest town of Lithia, the place of her last good memories, of the days when her mother was still alive. But soon after her arrival, strange things begin to happen in Lithia -- and when one of her new friends disappears under mysterious circumstances, Kat begins to realize that Lithia's inhabitants are not all of this world. Worst of all, she is falling in love with one of these otherworldly locals, and the friend who hopes to save her has secrets of his own.
As Kat tries to rebuild her life, she is also training for a race that will turn out to be her biggest challenge yet, as she must outrun not only the demons of her past but the demons of the here and now, who threaten her very existence and that of the entire town.
At once a paranormal love story and an environmental allegory, Out of Breath offers an exciting new voice in young adult fiction.
Read an Excerpt
Out of Breath
By Blair Richmond
Ashland Creek PressCopyright © 2011Ashland Creek Press
All rights reserved.
They call it a runner's high, a sensation of euphoria experienced after a certain distance, usually a very long distance. Some runners must travel six miles or more before feeling it. But me, I feel that high every moment my worn old running shoes touch the ground.
Since I was eight years old I've been a runner. Not a jogger. A runner. I was always the fastest girl I knew and, during junior high, faster than any boy I knew. I ran cross-country at West Houston High, and I won state during my junior year. A scholarship to a major college seemed all but inevitable until my dad backed the car over my let foot the summer before my senior year. It's funny how quickly dreams can be crushed. Just as easily as my let foot.
The community college didn't have a running team, not that it mattered. I was too busy waiting tables and tending bar to have the time anyway. My foot eventually grew strong again, and I ran on my own when I found the time, usually late at night. Running was the only thing that kept me sane and out of trouble. I wish I had been running during that last night in Houston.
But because I wasn't, I guess that's why I'm running now. Though not in the conventional form. I've been on the run, moving from town to town, scrubbing floors at truck stop rest- rooms to pay for meals, sleeping in homeless shelters, keeping an eye open at all times. Never fully sleeping. Never relaxed.
Being on the run is different from running. For one thing, on the run, there's no such thing as a runner's high.
* * *
It is late in October when I arrive in Lithia. A woman in a huge white pickup truck with a white dog named Kitty on her lap gave me a ride north from Redding. She told me about the jerk who let her last month for a younger woman. She told me you can't pump your own gas in Oregon, not that I'll have to bother either way. She told me that people get lost in these parts; they pull over one day to check out the scenery and they never come back. She shoves ten dollars in my hand as I climb down from the cab.
"Be careful, kiddo," she says. "This town is full of crazies."
I watch her pull away and realize that I forgot to thank her. Her gift is the only money I have. Ten bucks won't buy me a motel room, so I begin looking for a place to sleep the night.
I try to remember Lithia, searching the recesses of a child's memory. The town is in southern Oregon, so small and so close to the state line that if you're driving south on the interstate, you can miss it entirely and not realize it until you're in California. A speck of a city clinging to the forested legs of a sprawling wilderness of trees. People call Lithia "quaint." They come from all around to see shows at its theaters. But I have a different reason for coming here.
I was only eight when I left Lithia, and maybe that's why I have no memories of the town, or maybe it is just too dark tonight. There is no moon above, or if there is, it's denied viewing by the low-hanging clouds. I can see the beginning of the hills behind the small town square. Houses rising up, growing more expansive as the hills stretch into the white mist.
But the town square is well lit and lively with couples and young people milling about. Families, their little kids leashed to their hands; some older couples, retired and practically living at the theater. People my age, dressed in fatigues or batiks, hair knotted and dreadlocked, beards down to their chests, rings through their ears down to their shoulders. Music drifts down from the second floor of an old brick building. I sit on a bench and let the music calm me.
People look at me as they pass. I don't look like anyone here. I'm not quite a hippie, not a young mom, not a college student. I'm not one of the runners who comes here for training in the mountains; I'm not a theater buff. I don't fit in, even though I'm probably one of the few people who was actually born here.
There's a pizza shop on the edge of the square, and I spend half my money on a slice and a large coffee. I don't normally eat pizza but right now I'm so hungry I could order an entire pie. Yet I resist. I have to make the money last. Hunger is a fact of life now, and there's nothing to do but ignore it.
Same with the cold. When I let Houston, I didn't have time to pack much. Working my way through community college, I didn't own much anyway. And back then, there was no need for a jacket, not in the heat of the summer.
I headed for Austin, where I lied my way into a bartending job, adding two years to my life and saying I was twenty-one. Drunk men staring at me in my requisite low-cut tank top and jean shorts was a small price to pay for tips. It was the tips that had kept me in school back in Houston, and I got over the indignity of flaunting what I had for strangers a long time ago. Not that I have much to flaunt, with a runner's build, but I do have good legs.
Austin was a paradise. The bar owner was a salty woman who had inherited the bar from her ex-husband after he died—"He forgot to change the will, bless his dumb old heart," she said—and every night after closing she walked me back to my motel room, waiting till I was locked in safe before going home herself. I risked working there for a few weeks to save up money, but in the end it was still too close to Houston, so I moved on. I found a homeless shelter in Lubbock. Then one morning, after I woke up on my cot with a smelly man rolling back and forth on top of me, I let the state of Texas for good.
I headed north and then drifted west. As summer slipped into fall, I picked up a sweatshirt in Colorado Springs, a hoodie in Reno.
I didn't realize it at first, but from the very beginning, I was headed home. To Lithia.
So here I am, and though I'm wearing every piece of clothing I have right now, still I'm frozen through. I move to a spot that's close to a flamethrower—a woman with a baton burning at both ends. She's wearing a long, gauzy skirt, and I worry about it catching ire until I see a ire extinguisher next to her tip jar. I look at it with longing, all those bills and coins, but there's a guy sitting really close, and I'm not sure I could steal from her anyway.
The flames don't offer enough heat to keep me warm, so I stand and start walking again. I enter a park just off the town square and walk past a duck pond. I hear a creek running. A couple, hand in hand, pass me, and then I'm alone in the darkness, invisible. But I welcome it. I'm tired of the eyes that seem to judge me, take pity on me. Or worse. This is why I used to run at night, in spite of the warnings against it. Nobody could catch me anyway, I always believed. And I was right—nobody ever did.
I find a bench and consider making this my bed for the night. There's a public bathroom just beyond. Maybe I can withstand the cold. Maybe. Then I notice the sign on the bathroom building.
WARNING Recent bear attacks Proceed with caution Avoid park after dark
My stomach clenches, triggered by a childhood memory I'm not expecting yet always dreading. I quickly turn around and escape the darkness of the park.
I return to the pizza shop and spend the rest of my money on pizza so that I can sit in the warmth, with all the good smells of pizza bread and the familiar smell of spilled beer. I take a table next to the window so I can watch people pass.
I'll have to leave eventually—then what? Even if I find a homeless shelter, I don't want to spend the night there. I'm tired of shelters and their rules and the men who inevitably sneak into the women's dorms. I don't like bunk beds, and I get claustrophobic when I'm lying in a room full of cots, listening to ever
Excerpted from Out of Breath by Blair Richmond. Copyright © 2011 by Ashland Creek Press. Excerpted by permission of Ashland Creek Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed reading Out of Breath. From the very first page you get hooked into this book. This story of Kat, a runner, who is running from her past by returning to her hometown. With no money to feed or shelter herself you are instantly pulling for Kat.. wanting to help her. Much like those in the town of Lithia who do reach out to her and take her in without questions. I read this book in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know what was going to happen and was oddly pulled into this book even though the actual story was one more of life than anything else. Day to day events, that is until murder hits a little too close to home. This is a book to add to your collection. A unique paranormal twist added into a spectacular story of an odd town with good hearted people. Melissa Reviewer for 1000 + Books to Read Check out more of the Review on our Youtube Channel
One of the very wonderful things about reading books is that they take us into worlds we might never be able to experience and into the heads and hearts of characters we wish we could be. That being the case, it was a fascinating place to find myself inside the head and physical surroundings of Kat Jones. I'm not and never have been a runner. It's something that has interested me over many years because I've come across friends and acquaintences who love to run. What makes "Out of Breath" so unique is the experiences shared about this lifestyle and its character building benefits. It was an educational and emotional experience to read. From the perspective of strictly a YA novel, you'll find this one a treat because it's much along the lines of a "Twilight" venue. There is the dark and handsome vampire, Roman; the somewhat innocent and caring nature-boy-cum environmentally aware, Alex; and Kat, who is new to town, a loner and quietly beautiful. But from that point the novel takes a direction that is explosive in character pulling us into the world of running, vegan lifestyles versus blood-feeding, and murder in the woodlands above the town called "Lithia" for its calmning drinking water. Blair Richmond is a very strong author. Her style is not only agreeable, but engaging and it has a flow that makes one want to keep digging for answers that she poses in her story. I was hooked from the beginning, and I found the mysteries she posed in the novel grabbers! Her characters are also likeable; even the strangest of the vampires, and I'm anxious to know more about all of them. This is the first in a series around Kat, Roman and Alex. I'm very much looking forward to reading more about them and the town of Lithia. There are open-ended questions I have and I'm dying to know the answers to. Ease of reading and a great story will make this a sure-to-be loved novel and series. I recommend it for those who love vampires! I also recommend it for YA who love to run and are concerned about our environment, as well.
Cover - I like the cover. I've always found cement angels slightly spooky. It fits well with the book. - Plot - Kat is a runner. It's evident when we meet her because that's what she's doing at the start of the book: Running. Running from life; Running from emotions; Running from everyone and everything she knows. She winds up in the town where she was born, Lithia. Once there, she starts to notice that the people act differently from any other place she's been. People joke it's the water making everyone so friendly. Fortunate to have found a new place to live and a new job in one day, Kat's life picks up some semblance of a normal routine. Then she begins investigating the recent murders and suddenly Lithia doesn't seem to be as friendly as she thought. - Main Characters - Kat - A runner; a vegan. Slightly skittish when it comes to men. She's an only child whose mother died eleven years before. - Alex - A runner; a vegan. He works at the local co-op and shows Kat some kindness on her first day in town. - Roman - A carnivore. He's a local theater actor who lives in the castle at the top of the hill. Dark and mysterious. Doesn't like to talk about his past much. - Overall - Minus the two or three proofread mistakes (please keep in mind I was reading an ARC and not a final proof), this book is extremely well-written. I became engaged in this story from the first page. When I had to put it down (one must sleep and work!), I was eager to pick it back up again as soon a I could. The story has some familiar elements, but with a new twist that I wasn't expecting (and that I think vampire-story/book lovers would appreciate). I would definitely recommend this book to readers of YA and mystery books. Although it wasn't indicated anywhere in the book, that I can recall, I just know there's going to be a second book and I am impatiently awaiting its debut so I can read it!
Blair Richmond did an outstanding job with the novel "Out of Breath". This novel had be eagerly turning the pages- I couldn't put the book down and ended up finishing it within a day. Katherine Healy is a nineteen year old girl who is running away from her past and ends up in the town where she was born- Lithia. In this town she finds some comfort until tragedy strikes and she can't help but feel guilty. To complicate matters, she's attracted to attention of two guys who both have secrets that they rather keep hidden but Katherine is determined to find out. Out of Breath is just a glimpse into the promising of a great trilogy. I can not wait to see what will happen in the next novel.
Out of Breath tells the story of Katherine, a vegetarian runner from Texas. She was born and raised in Lithia, a town in Oregon, but when her mother died, his dad lost his job and believed that life would be better outside Lithia. Too many bad things happened in Texas so Katherine decides to return to her hometown to start a new life, this time without his father. At first, after reading the first three chapters, the story line didn't appeal much to me. Thought it was just an ordinary story for a paranormal-ish book. When I get to read the part where Katherine met Stacey and David, Out of Breath became a page-turner. I didn't stop until I read the whole book. I love how the author wove the story. Normally, paranormal romance books depend on the love story but Out of Breath is different. The story could actually stand out even without the main character's love interest/s. This is what I'm looking for in a novel. You don't have to wait for the romance part every single page. The story could be very well accepted as it is and the romance part is just a bonus to the readers. I love Katherine's personality, she's tough and strong for a female lead. If there is hesitation on some things, it would easily be resolved. What else? I love how the setting of the story is described. Imagine a place with forests, environmentalists, vegan people, etc. As for the book cover, nice right? The paranormal part was surprising. With the book cover in mind, I thought differently. I'm not gonna spoil it for you so you decide which otherworldly beings are in this book. And would you believe these otherworldly beings are also vegan?? Interesting story! Okay, while I loved this book, I just want to say that I had a little "connection problem" with the "romance part". It's just that I can't feel excitement with Alex and Roman, Katherine's love interests in the story. I love Alex (not sure about Roman though) but I felt something is lacking, probably because I have this delicate heart *wink* when it comes to dealing with love triangle issues in books. Overall, I truly loved Out of Breath. If you are looking for a series to start, pick-up this book then! Now so happy to be reading book 2, Ghost Runner ;)!
Let me just say that the cover is a bit creepy! Porcelain dolls, statues with no eyes, *shivers* creepy! Aside from the cover, this book was great! The beginning was so heart-wrenching! I kept thinking, "That could happen to me" and it made me sad because not everything goes according to plan and it's even worse when things go so far down south that they reach Antarctica! Well that's pretty much what happens with Kat. She had such a bright and promising future planned out and then one little incident changes it all. She ends up bumming it on the streets not knowing when her next meal will come. She decides to move back to Lithia and thus begins our adventure. Kat has had a rough life she thought it was going to get better but there is always something to mess up your happy times. For having no one in the world to help her or even care what happens to her and having to live on the streets she's strong in every way. Many would have crumbled and given up but she has life by the horns and is not letting go! She is a real trooper. Heroines are not always those that have the superpowers sometimes it just those that can get themselves ahead in life and Kat is one of those heroines. She's such a great character that she's made into my top 20 favorite heroines. So the plot. It goes from really bad where we learn Kat's history to a great change for her where she manages to get herself a job, a little cottage, and friends that care about her enough to help her. A bit of up and down but not one that will get you sea sick. Very rare sort of plot because even though there is a love triangle...or maybe even a love square....it still has you turning the pages (or in my case swiping my finger across the screen). The only thing that bugged was if she had lived there before with her mum how did she not hear anything about vampires in that area? I guess I'll have to read the sequel to find out if maybe they explain this question of mine. Now who would've thunk that vampires could come and interfere with this great little life she's made. These aren't even your normal vampires who drink blood...well not all of them...but vampires that need trees! Did I get your attention now?! Yes trees! You must read this book to understand what I'm talking about. Trust me you've never encountered vampires like the one mentioned in this book so far!
This book goes beyond the vampire genre and talks about the importance of nature and how it influences all of us. The heroine Kat is a competitive runner who is actually running away, only to end up in her mysterious hometown which she left as a child. There is a lot in her past that isn't revealed until much later, and it definitely keeps the pages turning -the book is very suspenseful and a good, easy read. It's a great book for anyone who loves paranormal romance and a good mystery, and also for readers who appreciate nature and the environment.
'Out of Breath' by Blair Richmond is set to be released at the end of October and all of you 'Twilight', 'Vampire Diaries' fans out there are in for a treat. I have no idea why I agreed to read this ARC despite my hard line against all things vampire/werewolf/etc (must have been a moment of weakness), but I started it yesterday afternoon and was up till midnight finishing it. I admit, I liked it. What I liked about it: 1. The cover. I hope they don't change it. 2. The fact the Katherine is has a secret and an agenda of her own. It is actually a secret that an entire novel could be written around without the addition of otherworldly beings. 3. Mr Richmond's writing style. The characters are well developed and the story flows beautifully. I was hardly aware of turning pages. 4. The addition of running as an activity. These are hard core athletes that comprise a society of their own within the town. They are connected by the sport in a way we see every day with skiers and rock climbers, hockey players, etc. 5. The way running and the beauty of the mountains and nature become characters of the book in their own right. 6. The ending wasn't a cliffhanger but left me ready to read the next book of the trilogy. (Oh, did I mention that this is the first book in a trilogy?) 7. The fact that the press release says for ages 12 and up and it is totally appropriate for ages 12 and up - maybe even 10 and up. What I didn't like: 1. As an older reader it was blatantly obvious that many of the ideas and characteristics of the vampire world were incorporated from both 'Twilight' by Stephanie Meyer and 'Vampire Diaries' by L. J. Smith - this would not likely be an issue for younger readers and maybe not even for readers who are fans of these other books. 2. The fact that I liked the book! I was kind of enjoying my anti-vampire book stance till now.
The first in a trilogy, Out of Breath follows Kat - who is has been on the run for a long time and finds herself in her hometown of Lithia. She is embraced by the townspeople and settles into a normal life, until her friend Stacey is brutally murdered while they are running in the forest. When Kat looks into her friend's mysterious death, she finds out that Lithia isn't the quaint small town she believed it to be. There are vampires hiding outside the town limits and they are killing people. How is Kat going to accept the fact that vampires are a part of Lithia, especially since she is falling for one? Richmond's novel is another YA paranormal romance that seems to blend in with all the others in its genre. It has some different elements that set it apart - Richmond focuses on the beauty of nature and the healing effects of running. Also, there is a lot of emphasis on vegan lifestyle - almost to the point where it seems to be pushing vegan ideals on the reader. The characters were mainly flat and had no depth and the plot had some intriguing aspects that went unexplored. The novel might have held more interest if it had not introduced vegan vampires from the Pacific Northwest - it seems it is just trying to be an eco-friendly version of Twilight but with a few different details. Disclosure: I received my copy of this book free from Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. However, this had no effect on my opinion of the book or my review.