AWOKEN BLOG TOUR+GIVEAWAY

Release Date: 11/24/14
312 pages

Summary from Goodreads:
Around the world humans are hallucinating after sleepless nights.

In a sterile, underground institute the forecasters keep reporting the same events.

And in the backwoods of Texas, a sixteen-year-old girl is about to be caught up in a fierce, ethereal battle.

Meet Roya Stark. She drowns every night in her dreams, spends her hours reading classic literature to avoid her family’s ridicule, and is prone to premonitions—which are becoming more frequent. And now her dreams are filled with strangers offering to reveal what she has always wanted to know: Who is she? That’s the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out. But will Roya live to regret learning the truth?






















Buy Links:
Amazon
About the Author
Sarah Noffke writes YA sci-fi fantasy and is the author of The Lucidites Series.  She’s been everything from a corporate manager to a hippie. Her taste for adventure has taken her all over the world. If you can’t find her at the gym, then she’s probably at the frozen yogurt shop. If you can’t find her there then she probably doesn’t want to be found. She is a self-proclaimed hermit, with spontaneous urges to socialize during full moons and when Mercury is in retrograde. Sarah lives in Southern California with her family.

Author Links:



MY REVIEW


Roya is a dream traveler. And the other travelers in her dream tell her she has to challenge the one who is perturbing dreams and causing her family and humans to have illusions. So when they tell her that she has to dream travel to the institute while her body is submerged in water, Roya decides to follow her destiny. But what the others haven't told her is that she's not the only one who's been chosen. More than a hundred others are at the institute, all in the same position as her. They have to face trials and prepare themselves before a challenger is selected along with a team of six. Roya has to deal with the challenges and try to figure out how she feels about the head scientist that seems to have caught her eye.

This was an extremely original read with an amazing concept of dream travelling. The explanations were clear and really interesting. Roya was a really headstrong character and at times i really felt bad for her situation. Her brother tried to kill her and all so she's good at hiding her emotions and doesn't trust anyone easily. She was pretty closed off and had a hard time opening up to anyone.

The secondary characters had their own distinct personalities and were likable and i never felt a lack of knowledge for anyone of them. I especially love Ren, unfortunately he was not a love interest! Ren and Roya i would say strongly dislike each other but their banter and actions towards each other never failed to make me smile.

Like i said before, the plot is quite complex and you really get to see the characters evolve. There were some unexpected twists that did shock me,  The book starts off right in the middle of the plot and the author did a fantastic job at presenting us this new world!

I would only have two negatives, one is that the first part of the story seemed to drag on a little and second that there was a little lack of Roya's background. The book starts with Roya going to the institute and there are snippets mentioned to show you how she found out she was a dream traveler and so on but i was quite confused at the very beginning,

Other than that, it had been a great read and i really look forward to reading the rest!

Book Tour Organized by:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I am so excited that AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir releases today and that I get to share the news, along with a special introduction from Sabaa herself!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Sabaa Tahir, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a signed copies of the book and some of those awesome sword letter openers we’ve seen around courtesy of Sabaa, Penguin Teen, and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.


A letter from Sabaa Tahir.


Dear Readers,

Today, my “baby” AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is finally out in the world! From inception to pub date, this journey took eight years. And what a journey it was: writing, rewriting, revising, editing, querying, submitting; Meeting other debuts, bloggers, booksellers and librarians, and hearing their thoughts on EMBER. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the radness.

And now, the book is here! I am so excited to see it in the hands of readers. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. To celebrate release day, I’m giving away two signed, first-edition hardcovers of the book. Details below!

All my best,

Sabaa

Title: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 464
Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.


Check out the book trailer!

About Sabaa:
Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.








Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a signed hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. US Only.

3 winners will receive a hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and a Sword Letter Opener! US Only.

Ends on May 9th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


DOWNCAST ARC REVIEW

TITLE: Downcast
AUTHOR: Cait Reynolds
SERIES: Unknown-BUT HOPEFULLY BOOK 1 OF SOMETHING
PUBLICATION DATE: May 2015
PUBLISHER: Booktrope
SOURCE: Netgalley ARC
RATING: 5 STARS!!!

Goodreads Summary

What would you do when faced with an impossible truth? Written with heart and passion, Downcast by Cait Reynolds is ripe with twists you never saw coming and love that defies the odds in this intense new Paranormal Romance retelling one of mythology’s greatest love stories.

It’s the start of Stephanie Starr’s senior year of high school, but sadly, this is no life of the prom queen. Stuck at the bottom of the high school social totem pole, Stephanie is forced by her domineering mother to wear lumpy linen dresses and eat organic tofu for lunch in a world of mini-skirts and pizza. 

What Stephanie doesn’t anticipate is gorgeous and cocky Haley Smith who breaks social convention and pursues her with a determination that is both terrifying and flattering. Afraid that Haley is simply trying to set her up for massive humiliation, Stephanie does her best to push him away. But the more attention he pays to her, the more she runs, and the more everyone else begins to notice.

Instead of a loving family to support her as the mean girls make their play, Stephanie’s mother begins to unravel mentally, her possessiveness of Stephanie spiraling to new and frightening extremes. Stephanie is forced to grow up, find herself, and learn the truth about her past in order to save her mother, her friends, and her town. When the truth is revealed, nothing can prepare her for the outrageous reality of her existence…and nothing can save her from her fate.

MY REVIEW


I really can't summarize this book because the synopsis says it all. But basically Stephanie has a MEGA overprotective mother and is bullied at school. So when Haley shows up, she can't  understand why he pursues her! But she can't help but feel like there's something weird about him-sometimes he's cocky and other times he looks at her with such a sadness and hunger that she can't comprehend.


First off let me start off by saying that Haley and Stephanie probably have the best chemistry so far! It's one of those books that you just absolutely LOVE and can't put down! Haley-SWOON! Such an intriguing character, i just couldn't figure him out which really contributed to this mystery thing he's got going on! Oh and his melodious and entrancing voice-okay point is, i have a new book boyfriend.

Stephanie was sweet and spunky, i loved her determination and stubbornness to get out of her shell. I also really appreciated that the other characters were well developed. They were not flat and you could really see them as characters. Helen, Stephanie's best friend is so hilarious and head strong. Zack, Haley's brother is a total tease and i loved the romance between the two! I'm also 99,9% sure the next book will be about Helen and Zack so it was so cool to get a feel of their characters from now on! I'm really looking forward to seeing more of them!

Okay now for the story itself- again i repeat myself -I LOVED IT!! Okay so the synopsis doesn't say what Greek myth is involved and when i was reading the book i really could not figure it out. I was racking my brain and i still couldn't find  it-i won't tell you what the myth is! But when it was revealed in the book, i wanted to slap myself. How could i not have guessed that? It's one of my favorite myths! And then when you mull it over you see that the story fits PERFECTLY with the myth and the author creates it in such a way that when it's revealed, you're left in complete awe!

I have never read a book with such a unique twist on a myth. There was real essence behind each character that complimented the myth just perfectly! Gah just give me moreeeeee!!!!!!! NEW FAV!! It will definitely be in my sidebar slideshow!

STONES AND FINGER BONES REVIEW

TITLE: Stones And Finger Bones
SERIES: A Black Towers Novel Book 1
AUTHOR: Jessica Minyard
PUBLICATION DATE: February 12 2015
PUBLISHER: Centurion Books
SOURCE: Netgalley ARC
RATING: 3.5 STARS!!!


Goodreads Summary

Aurelia Barone, Jewel of Starry Stone, harbors no illusions about the purpose of her life as heir to the throne. But after two failed betrothals, she starts to feel like nothing more than a pawn being moved aimlessly about a game board.

Until the night she loses everything.

Kidnapped by a wise-cracking mercenary with more than one identity, Aurelia embarks on a mission across land and sea to avenge her father’s death.

But an evil is rising from the ashes of memory. Insidious magic is stirring. The dregs of a once-powerful nation are thirsty for blood and revenge.

They seek to harness Aurelia. To tempt her. To manipulate her.

And if necessary, to destroy her.


MY REVIEW

Aurelia's betrothed has died and her father has already fixed her marriage with someone else. She can't get out of it, she wants to be a queen her people deserve. But one fateful night, she finds her father's dead body and the castle is sent into upheaval as the king's brother becomes the temporary regent until Aurelia marries. But Aurelia is kidnapped by a handsome but irritating man, Rycen, who infiltrated the castle as a spice merchant. As the knowledge of her father's murder looms before her, and her kingdom in the hands of an uncle whom she doesn't trust, Aurelia has to battle her feelings for a kidnapper who won't reveal the reason why he took her. She uncovers secrets and the magic in her bloodline. Everyone wants something from her but when she reaches her destination, she questions her father's rule and everything she has learnt. Aurelia will have to battle an ancient evil to get her kingdom back from the clutches of her uncle. But one thing is for certain; she can trust no one.

From the beginning this book drew me in! There was not one single moment of  boredom, the writing was beautiful and everything was just so well placed. There were shifting POV's so you could see what happened at the castle when Aurelia was away. It was just a really thrilling and gripping story!

Aurelia is a strong headed girl and wants to be a queen. She fights for her people with a great passion and at the end of the book you really see a new side of her, not the one who was always arguing with Rycen, but a real queen. I really felt the shift in demeanor in the last  few pages. I really think she will be an AMAZING queen because she would do anything for her people-and i mean anything.

Which brings us to the part where one little thing she did brought this whole book down for me. I won't ruin it, but for me it really ruined the whole book! I just didn't understand how she could do that!? the romance was just so SWOON WORTHY but it was ruined! And i guess the author took a risk, i've seen some authors do that same thing with their characters and sometimes it does actually work and becomes a part of the story..but this? Nope, i do congratulate the author on taking such a big risk but it didn't do it for me.

That being said, i am VERY interested to see what happens next. If the writing and story hadn't been so beautiful i would have rated this below 2 stars! But i really can't ignore how much i enjoyed this book at the beginning and even at the end. I will definitely love the second book even though i will be disappointed..but you never know, the author might surprise us!! This is definitely a series i will follow because i know that Aurelia will be amazing in the next book! I can't wait to see more of the setting and the battle for the throne!





A Necklace of Souls
Release Date: 12/19/14
339 pages

Summary from Goodreads:

‘A true dream is when the events I see in my sleep have, or will happen. It’s a talent that runs in my family. I was thirteen when I had my first true dream.’

Will’s Aunt says the Kingdom of the Rose is the most fortunate of lands. But Will hates the place – his uncle and aunt are horrible, and he misses his parents. Oh, how he misses them.

Dana wishes she wasn’t a princess. She’s always being told how to behave, what to wear. There’s a strangeness in the castle – why will no one talk about the Guardian, or the necklace that protects the land? And why does her father look at her with such sorrow? The collier’s cart seems the perfect escape. Only she didn’t realize she’d become so dirty, or so lost. Fortunately this boy, Will, has a sense of direction. And next to the forbidding stranger, N’tombe, he seems reassuringly normal.

Welcome to A Necklace of Souls: a story of love and loss, of shattered lives and desperate hopes. In the Kingdom of the Rose, bravery is not always measured by strength and magic is real, if only one has the courage to dream.

Shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, A Necklace of Souls was awarded the Tessa Duder Award for Young Adult Fiction, Best First Book at the New Zealand Post Children and Young Adult Book Awards and is a Storylines Notable Book.


Buy Links:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My name is Rachel Stedman. I’m a physiotherapist (physical therapist) by background, but now I work as a freelance contractor. I live in the wild and windy place of Dunedin, New Zealand, with my husband and two kids.
                                                                                                                                                 
I write mostly for children and young adults. In 2012 I won the Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished YA work and my first novel, A Necklace of Souls, was published by HarperCollins in 2013 (available in the United Kingdom and on Book Depository from June 2015). This year, A Necklace of Souls was awarded Best First Book at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards and won a Notable Book Award from Storylines. Inner Fire is my second novel.

Author Links:


MY REVIEW

Dana hates being a princess. She wants to run free and spend nights in the woods. But she has a weird dream involving a necklace, an old woman and two children. The dream scares her. But not more than the worried and saddened expression her dad keeps shooting her. They know something she doesn't; they are hiding something from her, Her aunt is the guardian and is protecting something but what? and what does she have to do with it? then she meets Will, who got a job as a baker after his whole town died of a plague. He becomes a warrior and teaches her how to fight. They can't help the attraction growing between them but will Dana's destiny get between them?

This was a lovely quick read that i really enjoyed. The story was very unique and so were the descriptions. The main characters were vivid and so was the setting. 

You really see the characters evolve as the years pass and it is told in alternating POV's so you get a feel of the characters through their perspectives. Will is a dedicated boy, determined to be the best at what he does. Dana was pretty weak at the beginning but she grew on me as she grew up and really found herself.

There was magic and loads of paranormal aspects that really added a cool atmosphere to the novel. My only negatives would be that the side characters were not developed enough. They all seemed to have important and interesting roles but i wish we knew more about them. And that i was a bit confused with some of the explanations.

Other than that, this book was definitely a fresh and new twist on your typical pricess-magic story, I'm looking forward to see where this series goes!!!


Book Tour Organized by:

CROW'S REST ARC REVIEW

TITLE: Crow's Rest 
AUTHOR: Angelica R. Jackson
SERIES: Unknown
PUBLICATION DATE: May 15 2015
PUBLISHER: Spencer Hill Press
SOURCE: Netgalley ARC
RATING: 4.5 STARS!!!

Goodreads Summary

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers—and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel—and get him back—plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.


MY REVIEW

Avery has always had a crush on Daniel. After leaving her uncle's house, she gets a text from Daniel saying he wanted to be friends. But now Avery is back to Tam's house and is determined to win Daniel back. But all she finds when she gets there is Daniel's over excited dog that seems to understand every single thing she says. Daniel is at the hospital and about to die. But somehow Avery and the dog manage to cure him but when Daniel wakes up, he is nothing like the sweet, shy boy she left behind. He's funny, arrogant and a pro at kissing. Avery can't help but think that this person is not Daniel. But who could he be? why was he here? where was Daniel? What role does Avery have in the world of the fae?

Avery was probably one of the funniest and most realistic characters i've ever read about! She has absolutely NO filter whatsoever for her mouth-she says really inappropriate stuff without realizing. She was also flawed and i liked that she didn't deny them when they were brought up. She was mature about the confession and really saw herself through someone else's perspective. She was brave and determined to get Daniel back.

Without ruining the whole plot, i will say i loved the romance between Avery and the Daniel (or is it!!??) They were really made for each other and you could feel the chemistry between them! I loved the little touches like the dog and the fae car!!! That was so cool! 

I liked the plot a lot. It was original and steadily paced but at times i still found myself skipping over a few paragraphs so i could get to the parts i liked! So yeah it did drag on sometimes,,.One other thing, i wish we had more stuff on the land of the fae. The little parts we've seen of it were amazing but not enough, I wish there was more world building on that side even though the story takes place on Earth. More about the queen and setting and so on..

Other than that i can't say anything else bad about this book. If you're looking for a new, original and intriguing read then definitely check out this one! I'm curious to see what this author releases next!



Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family #1)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: May 19th 2015

Synopsis:

Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.



HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH
by Tiffany Schmidt

There was always a moment as I rolled down the long driveway toward the high fence surrounding the estate when my breath caught in my chest and I doubted my decision to leave. Anything could happen to me outside the perimeter of our property.
Carter interrupted my thoughts. “I told Mother we’re going to see a musical. You know what’s playing and can pick one, right?”
Of course I did. I spent hours on NYC websites, blogs, and forums. Someday I’d go into a long remission. Someday I’d live there and walk the streets of promise, freedom, and opportunity they sang about in Annie, a play I’d seen with Father on Broadway right before my life turned purple and red.
“Really?” It made sense that Mother would agree to a play. It would be safe, a seated activity. The chairs would mark out defined personal space, and I’d be perfectly cocooned between my brother and his best friend/guard, Garrett Ward. It made a whole lot less sense that Carter would voluntarily attend the theater.
He lowered his window and called a greeting to Ian, the guard on gate duty. Once his window was closed and the gate was shutting behind us, he snorted. “No, not really. That’s just what I said to buy you some extra time.”
“You should at least listen to the score then,” I countered. “You know she’s going to want to discuss it. Or, if she doesn’t, Father will. He’ll probably perform it if I ask.”
“Then don’t ask,” said Carter. “Fine. Pick a show and Garrett can download the soundtrack. We’ll listen to it once, then I get the radio for the rest of the drive—no complaints.”
It was more than I’d expected; he truly felt guilty about being so MIA. “There’s a revival of Once Upon a Mattress that’s getting great reviews.”
They snickered.
Once Upon a Mattress? That sounds like—”
I cut my brother off. “Don’t go there! It’s a fairy tale, gutterbrain.”
“Of course it is,” laughed Garrett.
I’m pretty sure the subtext of that laugh was you’re such a child. I swallowed a retort. Freedom was too rare a thing to waste arguing. And I’d never had Korean barbecue. I’d never even heard of it. There were so many things I’d never seen, tasted, experienced . . . Tension melted into giddy anticipation, bubbling in my stomach like giggles waiting to escape.
“So, how’d your super-secret errand go?” I asked. “Was it something exciting? Something illegal?”
Garrett met my gaze in the rearview mirror and shook his head.
But it was too late. Carter’s expression darkened. “Everything we do is illegal. It’s not a game where you get to pick and choose which crimes you’re okay with.”
“So it didn’t go well,” I muttered under my breath.
I knew it wasn’t a game, and I knew the Family Business was against the law. I’d known it for so long it was easy to forget. Or remember only in a vague way, like knowing the sky is blue without paying any attention to its blueness.
Only in those moments when things went wrong—when lazy clouds were replaced by threats and storms, when someone got hurt or killed—only then did I stare down the reality of the Business through a haze of grief and funeral black. My fingers tensed on the edge of the seat.
“Ignore him,” said Garrett. “He’s just pissy because the people we were supposed to meet with stood us up.”
“Someone dared to no-show for a meeting with the mighty Carter Landlow?” I teased, hoping to break the gloom settling in the car like an unwelcome passenger. “I assumed it was a Business errand, but if someone stood you up, it must be a girl.”
“No offense, Pen, but you don’t have a clue what’s going on in the Business.”
No offense, Carter, but you’re being a—”
“Who wants to hear some songs about mattresses?” interrupted Garrett. He reached for the stereo, but Carter swatted his hand away.
“I’m not an idiot,” I said. And wishing for things that had been denied for so long was idiotic. No less so than repeatedly bashing your head against a wall or touching a hot iron. I knew the answer was no, was always going to be no, so asking to be included in Family matters was like volunteering to be a punch line for one of the Ward brothers’ jokes.
But I knew the basics. It wouldn’t be possible to live on the estate, spend so much time in the clinic, and not know. The first person to explain it to me had been my grandfather; fitting, since he was the man who’d reacted to the formation of FOTA—the Federal Organ and Tissue Association—by founding our Family.
The same day I’d demanded a kidney for Kelly Forman, he’d sat me down and demonstrated using a plate of crackers and cheese. “When donation regulation was moved from the FDA to FOTA, they added more restrictions and testing.” He ate a few of the Ritz-brand “organs” on his plate, shuffled the empty cheese slices that represented humans who needed transplants. “This, combined with a population that’s living longer than ever
before”—he plunked down several more slices of cheese—“created a smaller, slower supply and greater demand.” He built me an inside-out cheese-cracker-cheese sandwich. “It was a moment of opportunity, and when you see those in life, you take them.”
This felt like a moment of opportunity. And not to prove that I wasn’t an idiot by listing all the facts I knew—about how the Families provided illegal transplants for the many, many people rejected from or buried at the bottom of the government lists. How more than two-thirds of those who made it through all the protocols to qualify for a spot on the official transplant list died before receiving an organ. Or to recite the unofficial Family motto: Landlows help people who can’t afford to wait, but can afford to pay.
“Fine, tell me what I don’t know,” I said. “Tell me what’s going on, why you and Father are fighting, and what’s keeping you so busy. Tell me everything.”
Garrett muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “Don’t do this,” but since my brother ignored him, I did too.
Carter’s eyes met mine in the rearview mirror. “None of this leaves the car, Pen. I’m trusting you.”
“I understand.” I sat a little straighter. “And I promise.”
A phone beeped with a text alert, almost immediately followed by a ringtone that made them jump. Carter picked up his cell, swore, showed the screen to Garrett, then swore again. All the buoyancy of freedom seemed to evaporate from the car.
“Now? They blow us off earlier and expect us to answer now?” said Garrett.
“Well, it’s not like these things can be scheduled,” replied Carter, jabbing the screen of his cell. “Hello?”
He muttered low and furious into the phone, then hung up, still cursing. “We have to do the pickup.”
Garrett’s frowned. “No one else can do it?”
He shook his head.
“Pick up what?” I asked.
Carter opened his mouth, but Garrett put a hand on his arm. “She’s seventeen. Let her be seventeen. There’s plenty of time to get her involved later.”
“When we were seventeen we were already sitting on council, visiting the clinics, meeting with patients. She can’t even tell a kidney scar from a skin graft—she needs to catch up.”
She can make her own decisions, she is sitting right here, and she is coming along to what ever this mysterious pickup is, so she’s already involved,” I snapped.
“You are not coming,” said Garrett.
“We don’t have a choice, unless you want me to leave her on the side of the highway. This is our exit.” Carter was clutching his cell phone, shaking it as if that could erase what ever the text instructed him to do.
Garrett groaned. “You’re staying in the car.”
I hid my smile by looking out the window. It had gotten dark while we were driving, the dusky purple of summer evenings. On the estate these nights buzzed with a soundtrack of cicadas and crickets, but there was no nature outside the car. Nothing but concrete and pavement and cinder-block industrial construction. We pulled into a parking lot. A poorly lit, empty parking lot.
“Where are we? What are we picking up?” I examined Garrett’s stiff posture and the bright gleam in my brother’s eyes. “Does Father know about this Business errand?”
“No, and you’re not going to tell him,” Carter answered.
“Oh, really? So what am I going to do?”
“Stay in the car. Lock the doors. Keep the windows up.” Carter turned around to look me in the eye. “This isn’t a joke, Pen. If I’d known this was going to come up, I would’ve left you at home.”
“Please, princess,” added Garrett in a soft voice, but his eyes didn’t leave the windshield, didn’t stop their scan of the parking lot.
“Fine, but when you’re done, you’re filling me in. Then I can decide if I want to be part of it or not.” It was all false bravado. Each one of Carter’s statements tied another knot in my stomach; Garrett’s plea pulled them tighter.
Carter dumped a half dozen mints from the plastic container in his cup holder into his mouth—like his breath mattered, like this was a date not a disaster. He waved the container at us, but we shook our heads. He crunched the candies and said, “Gare,
you’re hot, right?”
I blurted out, “You can turn on the A/C, I’m not cold,” before I caught on: Garrett pulled a gun from a holster below the back of his shirt.
They laughed, but it wasn’t funny to me. I’d been to too many funerals—they’d been to more. I wanted to ask how long he’d been “hot.” If he always had a gun on him. Had he when we went mini golfing at Easter? Or the time last summer when I slipped on the pool deck and he’d carried me to the clinic? No. He couldn’t have then. He’d been wearing a swimsuit too—there’s no way he could’ve hidden a gun.
So what had happened in the past year, and why was he carrying one now?
Garrett was Family, he was a Ward, but he wasn’t supposed to follow his brothers’ footsteps. Or his father’s. They were enforcers, but he didn’t belong in their grim-faced, split knuckles ranks. That was why he was in college with Carter—Garrett was going to be his right-hand man when my brother took over the Business.
Not a thug with a gun.
“Stay here, Pen,” Carter said again, then slipped out into the night. His keys still dangled from the ignition, the engine still hummed.
Garrett lingered an extra moment. “This shouldn’t take long. And everything’s okay. I don’t want you to worry.”
“I’m not.” I would’ve sounded believable if my voice wasn’t quivering. If I weren’t clutching fistfuls of my dress.
“You’re cute when you’re worried.” Garrett winked, and then he too was out in the darkness and humidity and I was alone.
I tried to lower my window—just a crack, enough to let in voices but not even mosquitoes—except Carter must’ve engaged some sort of child lock. I stared out the tinted glass, watched as their shadows grew gigantic on the wall as they approached the
ware house, then disappeared around its corner.
No matter how hard I concentrated, my eyes couldn’t adjust enough to make sense of the dark. Maybe it was the placement of the parking lot lights—how I had to peer through them to see the warehouse beyond.
After they’d left this afternoon, I’d rushed to the clinic to model different outfits for Caroline. She’d teased. We’d laughed. I’d blushed and daydreamed about the lovely combination of me, Garrett, and NYC.
But in my daydreams, Garrett hadn’t been wearing a gun.
And now we were parked somewhere made of shadows and secrets and fear that sat on my tongue like a bitter hard candy that wouldn’t dissolve.
The car still smelled like them. Their seats were still warm when I leaned forward and pressed my hands against the leather. But I couldn’t see them. What if the dark decided never to spit them back out again?
This wasn’t the Business as I knew it: secret transplant surgeries that took place at our six “Bed and Breakfasts” and “Spas” in Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, where we saved people like Kelly Forman. She’d been ten when she needed a kidney transplant, but her chromosomal mutation—unrelated to her renal impairment—earned her a rejection from the Federal Organ and Tissue Agency’s lists. According to them, Down syndrome made her a “poor medical investment.” FOTA wrote her a death warrant. We saved her life.
She graduated from high school a few weeks ago. The past nine years since we’d met—she wouldn’t have had those without the Family Business.
That was enough. That was all I needed to know. Illegal or not, that was good.
I heard something. A crack so sharp it echoed and seemed to fill the spaces between my bones, making me shiver. I prayed it was a car backfiring.
Then it happened again.


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This spring, Bloomsbury's sending four amazing authors—Trish Doller, A.C. Gaughen, Emery Lord, and Tiffany Schmidt—to bookstores together for our Boldly Bookish tour. To celebrate it, they are giving away some goodies! All you have to do is buy one of the following books: The Devil You Know, Lion Heart, The Start of Me and You and/or Hold Me Like A Breath and email your receipt to teensusa@bloomsbury.com, in order to receive one of the following prizes:

Preorder 1 of the books pictured above, and get a Boldly Bookish logo sticker.

Preorder 2 of the books pictured above, and get a sticker + a Boldly Bookish bookmark!

Preorder 3 of the books pictured above, and get a sticker + bookmark + a Boldly Bookish button!

Preorder all 4 of the books pictured above, and get a sticker + bookmark + button + a Boldly Bookishmagnet!

And remember, the more books you preorder, the more Boldly Bookish swag you get!


Tiffany Schmidt lives in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles. She's not at all superstitious... at least that's what she tells herself every Friday the thirteenth.

SEND ME A SIGN is her first novel. BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE will follow in Winter, 2014. The ONCE UPON A CRIME FAMILY series begins with HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH in 2015. You can find out more about her and her books at: TiffanySchmidt.com, TiffanySchmidtWrites.Tumblr.com or by following her on Twitter @TiffanySchmidt.