The Last Mile by Blair Richmond

Source: Ashland Creek Press
Paperback, 244 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Last Mile by Blair Richmond is the third book in the Lithia trilogy — see my reviews of Out of Breath and The Ghost Runner and be aware that this review could contain spoilers for the previous two books — that combines environmentalism and supernatural elements.  Kat’s world has been upended once again, but she now is more determined than ever to get her life back on track, even if that means revisiting some previous relationships and exploring some untapped feelings.  If there’s one drawback, there is a little too much back story included here and some of it is repeated later in the short novel.  But other than that, Kat has come into her own and gained the strength that she needs to fight Lithia’s demons and ensure that the town has a future.

“He shakes his head.  ‘You know, it was strange back then.  I had moments when I looked up at these trees, these monuments to time, and I felt so guilty.  So cruel.  I knew even then that what I was doing was wrong.  The trees couldn’t fight back.  They were just standing there, like they had for centuries, living their lives, not bothering a soul, cleaning our air, giving nests to birds, making the world a better place just by being alive.  And then we arrived with out axes and saws and train cars, and we left behind miles and miles of stumps.”  (page 43)

Richmond has created a lasting environmental and supernatural hybrid that opens readers eyes to the wonders of nature and the ease with which we can live symbiotically with it, rather than cut it down in the name of progress.  Alex, the vegan vampire, is still at Kat’s side in friendship, though he wants more, but she’s made her choice and she’s moving forward as best she can as the death and destruction of Victor continues to hover in the shadows.  She’s a 20 year old young woman with great responsibility to the land she inherited and to the town where she’s found herself more at home than ever before, but she’s also aware that a delicate balance must be kept between panic and protection.

The marathon race into the Lithia Mountains, Cloudline, is approaching, and despite the anxiety she has regarding Victor’s intentions, Kat continues to train and strategize.  The Last Mile by Blair Richmond is about the push runners must consciously decide to take to make it to the finish line no matter the cost to them physically and emotionally.  Kat faces this last mile as a runner, on her own, and while she perseveres, she’s aware that her finish line may not only save Lithia, but also those she loves.

About the Author:

Blair Richmond is the pen name of a writer from the Pacific Northwest. Out of Breath and The Ghost Runner are books one and two of the Lithia Trilogy. Visit Blair’s blog for the latest on The Lithia Trilogy.

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #286

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:












1.  My Jane Austen Prize pack, with tote bag, bookplates, etc. from Syrie James’ Facebook giveaway!

2.  Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson for review from Milkweed Editions.

Sara Eliza Johnson’s stunning, deeply visceral first collection, Bone Map (2013 National Poetry Series Winner), pulls shards of tenderness from a world on the verge of collapse, where violence and terror infuse the body, the landscape, and dreams: a handful of blackberries offered from bloodied arms, bee stings likened to pulses of sunlight, a honeycomb of marrow exposed. “All moments will shine if you cut them open. / Will glisten like entrails in the sun.” With figurative language that makes long, associative leaps, and with metaphors and images that continually resurrect themselves across poems, the collection builds and transforms its world through a locomotive echo—a regenerative force—that comes to parallel the psychic quest for redemption that unfolds in its second half. The result is a deeply affecting composition that will establish the already decorated young author as an important and vital new voice in American poetry.

3.  The Fever by Megan Abbott on audio from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher and the father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school, and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families, and the town s fragile idea of security.

4.  Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta on audio from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

When thirteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity, and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.

5.  The Last Mile by Blair Richmond for review from Ashland Creek Press in October.

In the final book in the acclaimed Lithia Trilogy, Kat has new losses to mourn but also new reasons to live. On the brink of new beginnings, she is back together with Roman, their relationship deepening more and more even as she wonders whether she may still harbor feelings for Alex.

Yet Kat finds it difficult to focus on such things as college and romance, with terror still haunting the hills of Lithia and threatening the entire town. As several recent earthquakes baffle scientists and put residents on edge, it seems that something more dangerous may be looming in Lithia’s future.

6.  The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg for review from TLC Book Tours in October.

Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.

Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.


7.  Madame X by William Logan purchased from Novel Books.

One of the most technically gifted poets of his generation, William Logan here presents four sequences, each of which is haunted by the battered history of the enchanted city of Venice: two refugees from Nazi Germany replay a version of the Aeneid that shadows their lives in and out of Venice; the comedy of Tiepolo’s Punchinello drawings are given mocking narrative; a modern traveler finds in Venice’s insects, birds, and fish a nature that endures within an unnatural city; and, in a formal sequence reminiscent of W. H. Auden’s “The Sea and the Mirror,” King James commissions a revision of Macbeth in order to impress the chief magistrate. These new poems showcase Logan’s trademark refinement and erudition.

The poems here delve into what William Logan calls the “ill-lit kingdom of the past.” The book is haunted by the dead but equally penitent toward the rich insinuations of the living: the lost floral paradise of the Florida outlands, the steamy Gatsby summers of a Long Island childhood, the frozen stones of a colonial burying ground. This new collection of seventy-two poems will allow readers to delight in the richness of Logan’s language and the boldness of his vision.

8.  A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers for review for Book Junkie Promotions in September.

“Set in the vast and sometimes violent landscape of contemporary Brazil, this is a gorgeous collection of stories-wise, hopeful, and forgiving, but clear-eyed in its exploration of the toll taken on the human heart by greed, malice, and the lust for land.” -Debra Murphy, Publisher of Idyll’s Press, Founder of CatholicFiction.net



9.  Crow-Work by Eric Pankey for review from Milkweed Editions.

“What is a song but a snare to capture the moment?” Eric Pankey asks in his new collection, Crow-Work. This central question drives Pankey’s ekphrastic exploration of the moment where emotion and energy flood a work of art. Through subjects as diverse as Brueghel’s Procession to Calvary, Anish Kapoor’s Healing of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio’s series of severed heads, and James Turrell’s experimentation with light and color, the author travels to an impossible past, despite being firmly rooted in the present, to seek out “the songbird in every thorn thicket” of the artist’s work. Short bursts of lyrical beauty burn away “like coils of incense ash,” bodies in the light of a cave flicker, coalesce and disappear. By capturing the ephemeral beauty of life in these poems, Crow-Work seeks not only to explain great art, but also to embody it.

What did you receive?

The Ghost Runner by Blair Richmond

The Ghost Runner by Blair Richmond (book 2 in the Lithia Series, published by small publisher Ashland Creek Press) finds Katherine Healy unable to outrun her past and her father.  Ghosts begin appearing in her life, just as she has settled into her new home in Lithia, a home her family abandoned long ago for Houston.  Roman, an immortal carnivore, has been cast aside in favor of Alex, an immortal vegan and environmentalist, by Kat, but even her perfect relationship is showing signs of cracking under the new pressures Kat faces.

In the wooded town, most of the residents are happy knowing everyone in town and supporting causes that keep the forests protected, but developers are still in the shadows waiting to swoop in and change their way of life.  While Kat is hung up on two men, she’s also trying to get her life back to normal, enrolling in college again (at least part time) and holding down her job at the sports show store in town.  After running for her life in the last book, Richmond has Kat tackling more mundane obstacles, like keeping good grades and juggling her responsibilities at the store and school.

“I don’t care that it’s 8:15 on a Monday morning and that most of the other fifteen students are straining to keep their eyes open.  I don’t care that the room is as drab as a prison, with cinderblock walls painted an uninspiring off-white.”  (page 20)

“A ghost runner is someone who is always right behind you, pushing you, always about to pass you.  Or so you think.  Sometimes there is no runner.  Sometimes it’s just a ghost of a runner, the idea of a runner right behind you, that keeps you at your pace.”  (page 68)

The return of Kat’s father throws a monkey wrench into the situation, stirring up trouble not only between her and Alex, but also throughout the town.  Richmond maintains her engaging sparse prose and her first person narration to capture her reader’s attention and engendering a connection between Kat and the reader.  Kat is a 20-year-old woman who is finding that being a grown up is a bit more responsibility than she expected, even if she has been on her own for more than a year working to make ends meet and outrun her past.  What’s nice about the second book is that the theme of running is continued, but not in a cliched way — it is part of Kat, it is who she is, how she clears her head, how she thinks.

The Ghost Runner by Blair Richmond is a solid second book in a trilogy.  The novelist mixes environmental concerns with themes of finding your ground amidst a turbulent sea and the ghosts of the past.  It’s about dealing with your responsibilities as a part of nature and as a part of a wider society, and more than that it’s about changing your own actions and behaviors to make the changes in the wider society and world you seek.

About the Author:

Blair Richmond is the pen name of a writer from the Pacific Northwest. Out of Breath and The Ghost Runner are books one and two of the Lithia Trilogy. Visit Blair’s blog for the latest on The Lithia Trilogy.

Also Reviewed:

Out of Breath

Thankfully Reading Weekend 2012

I’ve unofficially participated in Thankfully Reading Weekend, finishing Keys to the Repository by Melissa de la Cruz, beginning and finishing The Ghost Runner by Blair Richmond, and starting the book club pick Ripper by Stefan Petrucha and Misguided Angel by Melissa de la Cruz.

Challenge #1 was what is the perfect book recipe or reading recipe:

My favorite place to read is on the couch, generally lying down but propped up on pillows and with a glass of something ice cold (usually water) or something piping hot (like coffee or hot cocoa) — the beverage often depends on the weather.  The blanket can be fluffy, fuzzy, or just plain warm as long as the legs are covered.  As for a book…generally the writing has to be easy to follow, absorbing, and about things I enjoy reading about, which can either mean poetry, the environment, vampires, Ireland, Boston, or those struggling to find their identities or home.  I love internal struggles most of all, so books where the character is having an internal struggle are the most appealing.

Challenge #2 was about the book we’re most thankful for, and I have to say that its Thrall by Natasha Trethewey because it made me think about race and father-daughter relationships in a new way.  I loved that she used paintings and other artwork to illustrate her points, but that she also drew on the more personal aspects of father-daughter relationships.  And when you hear her read in person, you can just feel the emotion of these poems.  It has inspired me to find more books that move me in that way and to write poetry that will carry a more emotional rather than theoretical weight.

For Challenge #3, we were asked about our family reading traditions or memories about books; here’s what I shared:

Our family didn’t read much, but my nana read to us all the time and she let me loose in the library at a very young age, and I would beg my mother to take us many days of the week to reload my shelves. The love of reading is something I hope to pass onto my daughter, who already knows the word “read” and says it every time she picks up a book from the shelf and hands it to me. And when I’m working or busy with dinner, you’ll often catch her in a sea of books on the floor saying the few words she remembers from the books — reading to herself or her stuffed animals. Too cute. And it makes me proud.

I hope to at least get partially through a third book before the end of the weekend, so wish me luck.  I also cheer on everyone who is participating or not even participating, but reading.

Mailbox Monday #195

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is BookNAround.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Ghost Runner by Blair Richmond from Ashland Creek Press for review.

2.  Everyday Writing by Midge Raymond from Ashland Creek Press for review.

How to be a writer even when you can’t write every day…

Writers are often told that in order to succeed, they must write every day–yet this isn’t realistic or feasible for writers with families, day jobs, and other responsibilities that preclude a daily writing practice.

Everyday Writing is about how to be a writer every day, even if you’re unable to sit down to write every day.

This book provides dozens of tips for busy writers, including how to create your ideal writing space, how to develop habits that work for you, and how to keep your projects moving forward even when you’re short on time. Everyday Writing also offers more than 150 prompts to fit into any writer’s life, from five-minute prompts you can do in a grocery store line to lengthy prompts that are perfect for a writing retreat. Whether you’d like to generate new material, free yourself from writer’s block, or start a revision, these writing exercises provide a way to engage immediately with your work.

3.  The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro from Algonquin unexpectedly.

On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner—is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

4.  Comet’s Tale by Steven D. Wolf and Lynette Padwa from Algonquin unexpectedly.

Forced into early retirement by a spinal condition, Steven Wolf reluctantly left his family and moved to Arizona for its warm winter climate. A lifelong dog lover, the former hard-driving attorney is drawn to a local group that rescues retired racing greyhounds. When Comet, a once-abused cinnamon-striped racer, chooses to “adopt” Wolf, he has no idea that a life-altering relationship has begun—for both of them.

Racers, cruelly treated and exposed only to the track and cage, have no inkling of the most basic skills—walking on tile floors, climbing stairs, even playing with toys or children—so Wolf must show the mistrustful greyhound how to thrive in the real world. Gradually, a confident but mysterious spirit emerges from the stunning animal. And when Wolf’s health starts to worsen, the tables turn and Comet must now help Wolf with the most basic skills.

5. The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley, which I received from Simon and Schuster for review in October.

To escape a recent heartbreak in New York, Grania Ryan returns to her family home on the rugged, wind-swept coast of Ireland. Here, on the cliff edge in the middle of a storm, she meets a young girl, Aurora Lisle, who will profoundly change her life.

Despite the warnings Grania receives from her mother to be wary of the Lisle family, Aurora and Grania forge a close friendship. Through a trove of old family letters dating from 1914, Grania begins to learn just how deeply their families’ histories are entwined. The horrors of World War I, the fate of a beautiful foundling child, and the irresistible lure of the ballet give rise to a legacy of heartache that leaves its imprint on each new generation. Ultimately, it will be Aurora whose intuition and spirit may be able to unlock the chains of the past.

Sweeping from Edwardian England to present-day New York, from the majestic Irish coast to the crumbling splendor of a legendary London town house, The Girl on the Cliff introduces two remarkable women whose quest to understand their past sends them toward a future where love can triumph over loss.

6. When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald, which I purchased at Novel Places.

When it happens to you, you will be surprised. That thing they say about how you knew all the time, but just weren’t facing it? That might be the case, but nevertheless, there you will be.

Molly Ringwald mines the complexities of modern relationships in this gripping and nuanced collection of interlinked stories. Writing with a deep compassion for human imperfection, Ringwald follows a Los Angeles family and their friends and neighbors while they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life—revealing the deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability familiar to us all.

7. House Inspections by Carsten René Nielsen, translated by David Keplinger, which I purchased at Novel Places after hearing the poet and translator at a recent reading.

With a dozen poems previously published in The Paris Review, Carsten René Nielsen is already a familiar name to US poetry readers. These dark prose poems—reminiscent of Charles Simic—map out a uniquely European territory with chilling, cinematic clarity.

Award-winning Danish poet Carsten René Nielsen is the author of nine books of poetry, including his US debut The World Cut Out with Crooked Scissors (2007). His poems appear in The Paris Review, Agni, Circumference, Mid-American Review, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Aarhus, Denmark.

David Keplinger’s poetry awards include the Colorado Book Award, T.S. Eliot Prize, an NEA fellowship, and grants from the Danish Arts Council. He directs the MFA program at American University in Washington, DC.

What did you receive?

Out of Breath by Blair Richmond

Out of Breath by Blair Richmond is a young adult novel that will have readers quickly turning the pages to find out what secrets Kat Jones is hiding and why the town of Lithia where she ends up seems so ethereal and mysterious.  Kat arrives in Lithia, where she was born, after running from something that happened in Texas, and everyone in the town is incredibly friendly and welcoming.

Richmond’s sparse narration, plus the focus on running races, ramps up the suspense as Kat’s secretive nature enables her to blend in and adopt a new life.  However, this new life quickly becomes more than she can handle, enticing her to strap on her running shoes and get out of town fast.  She’s a young woman who’s budding college life is cut short, and she turns to the only activity — running — that gives her solace to escape.  A vegan in a town of tree huggers and other like-minded nature and running enthusiasts, Kat is at home and relatively at peace.  However, the rivalry between Roman and Alex and their secrets threaten to disturb the tenuous life she’s starting to build.

“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, was faster than any boy I knew.  I ran cross-country in high school and I won state during my junior year.  A scholarship to a major college seemed all but inevitable until my dad backed the car up over my left foot the summer before my senior year.  It’s funny how quickly dreams can be crushed.  Just as easily as my left foot.”  (page 3)

Like many other young adult novels on the market, Out of Breath has a touch of the paranormal — vampires and ghosts — but there is an unexpected twist here.  Vampires are actually dangerous, and certain vampires have quirky eating habits.  The ghosts play more of a role in the latter pages, and likely even more of a role in the other two planned books for the trilogy.  Yes, this is the first in a series — a series that focuses on nature, saving the environment, and vegan/vegetarianism.  Although the vegan/environmental angle can be heavy handed at times when Roman and Kat converse, it serves a purpose for the plot and can be overlooked by readers that may feel as though Kat is preaching to them.

Out of Breath by Blair Richmond is an eerie novel that takes a look at the consequences of our actions and how we cannot right the wrongs of the past, but only  strive to change our futures.  Readers will enjoy the mix of paranormal, young adult coming of age story, romance, and suspense mixed with a theme of environmental conservation and appreciation.  Even better is that unlike other trilogies, Richmond’s novel does not leave the reader with a major cliffhanger, but provides a modicum of resolution and leaves the reader with a stronger version of Kat.  An intriguing mix of themes and characters that creates a mystical world in the forest anchored in the reality of today’s environmental concerns.

About the Author:

Blair Richmond is the pen name of a writer living in the Northwest, where OUT OF BREATH is set. She is currently working on THE GHOST RUNNER, the second book in the trilogy featuring Kat and the mysterious town of Lithia.

Ashland Creek Press is hosting a Halloween virtual book launch party with an author Q&A, book giveaways, and more.  Mark your calendars


This is my 60th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #136 and Library Loot #6

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is A Sea of Books.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailboxmeme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell for review in September from Sourcebooks.

2.  Out of Breath by Blair Richmond for review in October.

3.  Mr. Darcy's Undoing by Abigail Reynolds from Sourcebooks for review in October.

4.  Mr. Darcy's Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen from Sourcebooks for review in October.

5. Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey from Random House for review in the fall.

Library Loot:

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

1.  Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

2.  Sugar in My Bowl by Erica Jong

What did you receive this week?