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The Grave Winner by [Loucks, Lindsey]
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The Grave Winner Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Length: 302 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


"This is such an imaginative story, and Leigh has so much voice, it's like you're there, living her nightmare with her... Miss Loucks knows her craft."Pam Godwin, author of Dead of Eve

"Witty and fast paced, The Grave Winner by Lindsey R. Loucks is a snarky blend of zombie horror and urban fantasy... I loved it." -  Reviewed by Kayti Nika Raet for Readers' Favorite

"The two love interests sizzle" - Christina from Ensconced in Lit

From the Inside Flap

Excerpt from Chapter 1
Dad, Darby, and I stood rooted in place at Mom's burial. The weight in my chest threatened to suffocate me if I looked at the lid of her gleaming casket any longer. Instead, I focused on the black birds cutting across the sky in a sharp V formation. They pressed on until the tops of the trees took them from me.
The preacher had stopped talking a long time ago. People still crowded around us, heads bent, smothering their sniffles with tissues. Someone patted my back, and I wished they would stop. No attempt to comfort would help.
The white-haired old man hovering back by the fence hacked loudly then puffed on a cigarette with a dirt-spattered hand. When we arrived at Heartland Cemetery, I'd seen him preparing another grave for a casket. He bounced on the balls of his feet, probably anxious to get the body in the ground.
Mom's body.
Once the ground swallowed her, her death would be final, and that guy wanted to speed things up. He probably wanted to get to his coffee break or something. Heat flashed through my gut. I took a step toward him.
Dad grabbed the collar of my dress and yanked me back. I opened my mouth to say something, but the words died in my throat when I saw the tears slipping down his cheeks.
Darby had her head buried in his side. She looped her small fingers around my plaid belt, the one Mom got me for my fifteenth birthday. I grasped Darby's warm hand and closed my eyes against the pricks of hurt inside them.
The people closing us in shifted and began to wander away. The old man inched closer to Mom's casket, but Dad tightened his hold on my collar. I gripped Darby's fingers and glared at the man.
The few people remaining gave us consoling looks and said empty words before they drifted off. One was the woman who'd seen my funeral attire earlier and clucked her tongue in disapproval. Mom had loved my black eyeliner and these combat boots, though. She'd said I reminded her of herself when she was young.
"It's time," Dad said.
A choked cry forced its way out of my mouth. No, it wasn't. If we left, the old man would lower Mom into the ground. It would be final, and I couldn't stand it.
"Why?" I asked, my voice cracking.
Dad just shook his head, hugged us both to him, and turned to leave Mom with the old man.
I wriggled free and ran.
"Leigh?" Dad called.
I didn't know where I was going or what I was doing. But I needed to be away--away from that stupid man who wanted to put the final punctuation mark on Mom's life. Away from the unfairness of her death.
My breath came in quick, sharp gasps as I weaved around crumbling headstones. The sun threw bright rays on the maze of white, rocky paths and made my eyes tear up. I pumped my legs harder until I became nothing but movement. The untied laces of my left boot whipped my bare legs. Grass and mud muffled my steps until my boot flew off my foot and landed with a thwack in the middle of a cluster of trees.
I leaned over to catch my breath, unsure if I wanted to laugh or cry. Several yards behind me, Dad and Darby stood and waited. I waved them on to the gates and went to retrieve my boot. There seemed to be no one around except the trees and me. The leaves murmured to each other while the wind swayed the branches. Heartland Cemetery had more trees than the rest of Krapper, Kansas, and they all whispered and danced for the amusement of the dead.
A sudden breeze brushed over my arms and sent a faint smell of rotten hamburger past my nose. My stomach rolled. What was that? That didn't smell like the usual slaughtered cow stink that came from the other side of town. I shoved my foot into my boot and hobbled away.
The breeze and stink faded to nothing as quickly as they had come. I bent to tie my boot, but a crackling behind me made me pause. A cloud cast long, dark shadows over the headstones and chilled my skin. The hairs along my arms prickled.
The crackling came closer, and I turned my head slightly. In the corner of my eye, inky black darkness crawled up the bark of a nearby tree.
I gasped and shot to my feet. The black ink crept to the tips of the branches and ripped away its leaves, leaving it empty and naked. More darkness pooled at the bottom of the trunk and inched along the grass toward me. Every green blade curled in on itself with that awful crackling sound, dying. The darkness reached straight for me.
A shudder raced across my shoulders, and I stumbled back. My gaze caught on blackened footprints that led to the tree. Someone was doing this? But how? This wasn't possible.
I glanced back at Dad and Darby, but they'd gone on without me. This couldn't be real. None of it. I shook my head hard, trying to wake myself, but nothing changed.
Something dark fluttered from behind the dead tree. Whoever was doing this stood behind the trunk.
I dug my nails into my palms, pressed my lips together, and took a step back. A branch snapped under my boot, louder than the crackling. I froze. My heart jumped.
Scraps of muddy fabric flapped around the trunk, followed by a girl.
My flesh crept up and down my bones. Sweat trickled along the zipper at the back of my dress. That rotten meat stink kicked my stomach, forcing me to clap a hand over my nose and mouth.
The torn fabric that hung from the girl's scrawny frame looked like a prom dress. Mud and grime covered her entire body. Her mouth sagged open in a silent scream. 
The darkness pooled underneath the dangling hem of the girl's dress and spread dangerously close to the toes of my boots, but I couldn't move.
The girl raised her tucked chin and looked at me. The whites of her eyes blazed behind the mud caking her face. Her open mouth held the same black gloom that dripped at her feet. A grimy tiara perched on the side of her head.
My muscles stiffened. I gasped as recognition hit me.
I knew the girl. Or knew of her. Her social circle was my social nightmare. Her name was Sarah, the popular cheerleader who committed suicide a week ago.
But how could she be here when she should be in the ground? I had to be hallucinating. My grief, the stress from the day, it was all making me see things.
Jumbled whispers swirled through the air. Was Sarah trying to tell me something? Because I didn't want to hear it. My feet finally got the message to move just before the killing darkness touched my boots. I ran.
"Mom," I called without thinking. Mom.
The old man cranked a lever that lowered her into the ground. A dull pain stitched my side, and a sob welled in my throat. I couldn't watch.
"Dad!" I raced for the cemetery gates. He and Darby stood just outside. When I neared them, I breathed, "Something's wrong."
Because what else could I say in front of Darby? If she'd seen what I saw, it would be too much to handle in one day. I stood so I blocked her view of anything behind me and resisted the urge to flip the glasses off her face.
Jo, my best friend, put her hand on my shoulder. I hadn't even noticed she was there. "What is it, Leigh?"
I took giant gulps of air and risked a glance behind me. The trees looked normal. Black death wasn't dripping everywhere. Everyone was in their graves.
That fact made me wince. "Nothing."

Product Details

  • File Size: 805 KB
  • Print Length: 302 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: TeZLA Publishing (September 15, 2015)
  • Publication Date: September 15, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0139SADYM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,216 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Grave Winner by Lindsey R. Loucks doesn't fall into an easy category. The genre is most similar to a YA horror/paranormal (like the wonderful Anna Dressed in Blood), but I don't want readers who aren't into horror to discount this book. It has a lot of really terrific paranormal elements and is a wonderful read. I'm not a horror buff either and I loved it! This book stars Leigh, a typical rebellious teenager that has just experienced what every other teen hopes not to experience-- the death of her mother. A popular girl at school has just come back from the dead, and Leigh is determined not to have her mother come back that way. But events take an ominous turn and she struggles to keep her family and friends safe as creepy things start to happen. She also gets into a bit of a romantic triangle between a cute graveyard caretaker and the brother of her best friend. Will Leigh be able to work all of this out in time?

I loved this book. Every time I thought I could pigeonhole the book, it surprised me in some way. I had some questions along the way that I wasn't sure would be answered, but they were, in a most satisfying way. The characters are terrific-- I think I would have been lucky to have friends like Leigh and Jo in high school. The two love interests sizzle, although I think I definitely have a soft spot for the best friend's brother, Callum. The setting is creepy and appropriate.

I have to mention this as well-- Loucks has the best swag I've ever seen any author have. The items she has are pivotal players in the book, and I was delighted to see how those elements revealed themselves. I think it's a talent to have swag that enhances the book even more.

Overall, a terrific and creepy read-- make sure you have a warm blanket, pet, or significant other to squeeze during the scary parts! I'll be watching Loucks career from here on out.
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I adore Loucks' story-telling, and this was no exception! The plot is unique and original and the characters stories were fun to read about. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between the sisters and the family members. The writing is crisp, and I will guarantee you've never read anything like this. The way everything came together was exciting and intriguing, and I found this overall to be an easy read. I also have to say, rarely has a story made me CRINGE the way this one has, as Loucks has a way of really getting under your skin with both detailed description and situation. On a side note, I would have loved to see more development of the romance(s), however, understand that this is more paranormal than romance and this did not detract from my enjoyment in any way. I guess I just really liked those parts and wanted more heh.

Who do I recommend this fore? Readers who don't mind a "slow burn" in the beginning will do best with this, and anyone who gives it the time will find that once things kick into gear, it rarely lets up. The characters will most likely appeal to younger people (after all, that's who this book was geared toward!), however, the juicy world-building details will require your full focus to absorb. I would attribute this to the world-building so unique that it's not readily understood, and in the natural delivery of these details, it can be hard to follow. This can slow the reading down unless you are willing to read through it without thinking about it or worrying too much about understanding how the magic of this world works.

So far I've read two books in this series, and it's hard to say which is my favorite, though I lean slightly toward this one. I've also read some of Loucks' other works, and there's a lot of brilliance to be found there. She's definitely an author to watch!
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Wow, so this book was amazing. Because I like my protagonists a little older, I was worried at first, but this is a novel that can be enjoyed by everyone. It has a very mature feel. Right away, I felt connected to Leigh, the main character. She’s a tough little spitfire, and she has a great head on her shoulders. A great example for teen girls her age. I also loved her little sister Darby and her best friend Jo. All the characters were really well drawn.
And it was written beautifully! I mean, the imagery pops off the page. I felt like I was in Krapper, Kansas in the body of a fifteen year old girl. Super impressed. Don’t get me started on the imagination. The story was so unique and well thought out. It starts out with the passing of Leigh’s mother and quickly escalates into the prom queen coming back from the dead. Of course, the town is all a tizzy. Then Leigh meets Tram, a Trammeler, or sorceress hunter, and she learns all about the three, trinity trees, and why it’s never a good idea to leave gifts for the dead.
The pacing was right on and the story was memorable. We’re not that far into 2016 and I already know this is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
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The Grave Winner is a dark YA novel with interesting twists and well developed characters. I enjoyed the story and the writing style. The heroine is a spunky high schooler who makes her own choices and answers to no one. She’s fun to read as is her interactions with her friend Jo, her friend’s brother, and her own family. She is going through a lot with the loss of her mother but is also trying to hold her sister and father together. All of this when something strange starts happening in her small town.

It’s a fun read, especially if you like dark paranormal novels. I enjoyed it a lot and look forward to the next in the series!
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