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Blog Tour with Review: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Early Praise:
Tweet Cute delivers in every possible way: a perfect enemies-to-lovers romance, a whip-smart plotline, and endearingly real characters. I devoured it.” – Francesca Zappia, author of Eliza and Her Monsters

“Sweet and fun! An adorable debut that updates a classic romantic trope with a buzzy twist.” – Jenn Bennett, author of Alex, Approximately and Serious Moonlight

“A witty rom-com reinvention for the Twitter age, Tweet Cute pairs delicious online rivalry with deeply relatable insights on family pressure and growing up. This fresh, funny read had us hitting ‘favorite’ from page one.” – Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest

Buy Link: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/tweet-cute/

MY REVIEW

Tweet Cute is the young adult novel I have been waiting for. Tweet Cute is the debut novel from Emma Lord and hits all the marks that I was looking for.

Tweet Cute follows the story of Pepper and Jack. Pepper is the overachiever, swim team captain and overall perfectionist. Her life might be full of chaos, but the family business is doing better than ever. Then we’ve got Jack. Jack is the class clown and Pepper’s mortal enemy. Between trying to escape his brother’s shadow and keeping his family’s business afloat, Jack’s life is anything but easy. He has a love/hate relationship with the family business, but when the competitor comes out with a recipe that’s a dead ringer for his grandma’s, he’ll stop at nothing to take his enemy down…

All’s fair in love and war, and Tweet Cute was a real treat. This book was a fantastic debut novel and was a fun read to spend my day getting lost in. I loved the modern take on You’ve Got Mail. I thought the authors take was fresh and entertaining. Not only was this book a part of one of my favorite troupes, Enemies to Lovers, but it also delivered on excellent chemistry and push and pull. I loved the interactions between Pepper and Jack. They appeared to be so opposite, yet so alike at the same time. I thought their story was well written and entertaining. And I for one, couldn’t wait to see their story play out.

At the end of the day, Tweet Cute was the perfect light read. It was paced well, smart and filled with some great swoon-worthy moments. As far as debut novels go, this one is pretty fantastic. I look forward to seeing what this author will have in store for readers in the future.

*I was provided an ARC copy of this book via the publisher & NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review*

TWEET CUTE Blog Tour Q&As

Booklover_lex

What was your inspiration to become a YA writer?

I don’t think I ever set out to be any genre in particular, but what draws me to YA again and again is probably that a lot of the fandoms I was in growing up featured strong teen leads — I spent most of my time writing about teens when I was a teen, and then I guess I never really stopped!

What is your favorite show tune?

Oooh, love this question! This is a tough decision for me but I think I have to say “Astonishing” from Little Women — I think anyone who’s ever had a dream that has felt bigger than them can relate.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My parents, for sure. They’re both pretty prolific writers and storytellers, and they raised me and my siblings to let our imaginations run wild. No other parents were as delighted as mine to hear about all bajillion pages of fan fiction their kid was uploading every other day growing up.

Bookishly Nerdy

How did you come up with this idea?

I actually tweeted the whole idea for a plot as a joke in 2017, saying there should be a story about two social media managers from competing accounts falling in love. It wasn’t until the tweet got picked up by a few bookish friends and people started saying that someone should write it that I was like, “Oh! I guess that person could be me!”

What books influence your writing?

In terms of books, I’d say anything from Anne Brashares or Rainbow Rowell — but to be honest, a lot of influence came from my favorite fan fiction writers, who were the champions of banter-y dialogue and breaking conventional YA rules long before they were getting recognized for it.

Do you use twitter a lot?

Oh, boy howdy. I’m on Twitter WAY too much. But I think it’s okay for me, because even though I do get some of my news on it, I mostly use it for friendship and memes. At the moment my timeline is basically just Baby Yoda, Spider-Man, and Hufflepuff jokes.

Book Chelle

When the idea for Tweet Cute came into fruition, did you imagine the characters or the plot first?

This was a rare moment that the plot came first! I tweeted the idea as a joke a few years ago, and then was tasked with making characters that would fit the bill. It was a little harder for me because it’s not my usual process, but I was happy with how they turned out in the end.

Do you listen to music, soundtracks, or any ambient sounds when writing? If so, what do you listen to?

I do listen to music while I’m writing, but it’s surprisingly mopey! Lots of singer/songwriter acoustic songs, the kind I can appreciate the prettiness of when I do happen to pay attention. I’m pretty sure my Spotify Discover thinks I walk around dressed in all black with a rain cloud hovering over my head. (In real life I am much more cheerful than my writing playlists would suggest!)

What is your favorite romance trope?

Yikes on BIKES am I a sucker for enemies-to-lovers. It is my baguette and butter. I am also a big fan of the secret identity trope, courtesy of being obsessed with all things superheroes, so I’m very pleased I got to work that into Tweet Cute!

Kitty’s Book Spot!

Do you write to music?

I do! It tends to be slower, more acoustic music while I’m doing the actual writing, and more bops when I’m plotting. These days it’s a lot easier to find good music to write to, with other writers sharing playlists on Tumblr all the time.

Do you make music playlists for your works?

I’ve recently gotten into making character playlists for works, at the suggestion of other writer friends. I tend to listen to those when I’m walking around and daydreaming about the plots, though, since I find that the music I think my characters would listen to isn’t often the kind of music that helps me focus on actual writing. I’m have a WIP right now that has six different character playlists and is probably about to get more, my poor Spotify account is just a big mess of character names!

What would you tell us about yourself that no one knows?

I saw the Star Trek 2009 reboot in theaters seven times. (My friends thought it was six. I lied.)

The Book Marauder

What’s the most exciting part about being a writer?

Oh, for sure whenever someone mentions my characters’ names out loud to me. It’s wild to think that other people are living in the same little world you created, even if it’s just for a few hours. It’s like you opened up your brain and other people hopped in.

What is the first book that made you laugh?

Junie B. Jones!! I remember my kindergarten class howling with laughter when our teacher would read it out loud in class. I can’t remember a single one of the plots in adulthood, but I do remember everyone just losing their marbles at them.

Who is your favorite ”Tweet Cute” character and why?

Oooh. I don’t think I have a favorite, but I will say that the one I relate to most is probably Taffy, the overworked Hello Kitty-loving millennial trying to run Big League Burger’s social media. She gets mentioned very briefly, but it was a way of sneaking myself into the book for sure.

Swoony Boys Podcast

What was your favorite part of TWEET CUTE to write?

I think my favorite parts by far were whenever Pepper and Jack bantered with each other in person — there’s a scene early on when they do that in a cafe, and one mid-book where they’re bantering in the pool, and those were my favorite to write. The latter scene I especially loved because it was the first time I’d gotten to use all those years of high school swim team for any kind of purpose in the “real world” — teenage me may have hated it, but adult me is glad to have had some experience to draw from!

Tell us about Pepper and Jack.  We want to know all the things!

Oh BOY. Okay, Jack is a Cancer, and Pepper is a Capricorn. Both are Hufflepuffs (Pepper with a Slytherin bent, Jack with a Gryffindor one). Jack is a firm believer in never walking and texting. Pepper has way too many socks, but they always, always match. Jack does coffee, Pepper does tea (hallmark of a “bad New Yorker,” as I’ve been told by my coffee-guzzling friends). Pepper’s favorite color is rainbows (hence, the color coding of everything in her life, from her closet to Excel spreadsheets to planners). Jack is the only person in his family who hates cilantro and as deli owners and foodies it brings them all deep shame.

If you could introduce one of your characters to another character from any other book, who would it be and why?

I feel like Jack and a young James Potter would have plenty to talk about re: scheming.

Awkwordly Emma

With TWEET CUTE based around a Twitter battle, how do you think social media has changed modern teen romances?

I think it’s given teens an entirely new language to communicate — like, literally, teens are crafting their own slang, creating infinite new types of memes, crafting their own unique forms of syntax and grammatical rules. I think it only broadens the opportunities you have to get to know and relate to people, having this shared language that is tight knit and highly relatable, and takes a lot of the pressure off interactions that might otherwise cause anxiety. Social media has its pitfalls, sure, but at its best it gives teens a low stakes, high reward way to connect with each other, whether it’s for friendship or romance or just to share some laughs.

Did any rom-coms influence you while writing TWEET CUTE?

Oh, for sure You’ve Got Mail — or at least, what I knew of it. (As soon as people started likening the idea to the movie, I wouldn’t let myself watch it so I didn’t rely too much on its plot!)

Pie or cake, and what kind?

What an excellent question that I have a highly specific answer for!! Cake, and the best kind I’ve ever had was a yellow cake that was filled with three types of frosting between each of its three layers: a peanut butter cream cheese frosting, raspberry jam, and chocolate ganache. I never would have thought of it on my own, but I used to work in a cake bakery, and when they were chopping off the ends of this particular cake to shape it into a football they let me eat the leftovers. I still DREAM about it. But truly, I’m here for any cake except chocolate cake (I’m ashamed to say it — I’m more of a chocolate frosting lady, unless the chocolate cake is like, absurdly rich, in which case it has my attention).

The Nature of Pages

Did the plot or the characters come to you first when writing this novel?

This one was an odd one for me because the plot came LONG before the characters, in the form of a tweet I made in 2017 joking that there should be a rom-com about social media managers from warring fast food chains falling in love. Usually I’ll think of a character first and build plot around them, but I had to go through about five iterations of characters before landing on Pepper and Jack.

What was your favorite part about the process of writing Tweet Cute?

For sure writing with my friends! We try to meet up once a week and are constantly bopping around in the group chat. I wrote Tweet Cute in a month and a half while holding down a full-time job, so my brain was basically just leaking memes by the end of it, but those sessions we spent writing in coffee shops after work were my best memories of the process.

As a debut author, what was a surprise when it came to writing your book?

Uh, people READING it. That was profoundly surprising to me. Like, logistically you understand that people are going to read it if it’s getting published, but usually I’ll write something, stick it on a fan fiction platform anonymously, and that’ll be the end of it. I’m still not over the surprise any time someone reads the book and tags me in something about it!

Nailthatbook

What inspired you to write Tweet Cute? How did you come up with the idea?

The idea actually started out as a tweet — I’d been laughing at some of the Twitter wars between brands, and thought it would be a funny concept if two of the social media managers from competing accounts fell for each other without realizing it. Once people started saying they wished it was a book, it all kind of took off from there!

How would you describe your writing process? What part do you focus on the most or take you the longest to work through?

I would describe it as organized chaos. I try to sit down and plot, but more often than not the plot comes when I’m walking to work or in the shower or somewhere deeply inconvenient. Usually I’ll just start writing the first two chapters to see what comes out of me, then stop and figure out where it’s going until about the 40,000 word mark, then stop and adjust the plot outline and start again.

What Hogwarts Houses are some of the characters?

Oh, everyone’s a Hufflepuff. I’m busting into the YA world with an unrepentant Hufflepuff agenda. Pepper’s a Hufflepuff with a Slytherin moon; Jack is a Hufflepuff but a Gryffindor rising; Pooja is a Hufflepuff with aggressive Ravenclaw tendencies; Paul is about as Hufflepuff as it gets. But they are all unquestionably Hufflepuffs, and I think that’s going to be the case with most of my YA going forward.

BookCrushin

What parts of online culture were important for you to showcase in Tweet Cute?

I really, really wanted to inject the fun of social media in Tweet Cute — the bantery, laugh-out-loud relatability of it, and how it can be full of surprises. I think we’re often so fixated on the bad qualities of social media that we forget the ways it brings us together.

Which came first – the ship name or Pepper & Jack’s name? How did their ship name fully form for you?

MWAHAHAHA. So this was a happy accident, really. I had the name Jack, and I could not for the life of me figure out a name for the girl lead. I tried four or five of them but when I was typing them they all seemed wrong. I think I’d fully finished two chapters and just hit a dead end with it when my brain cells finally crashed into each other and were like “PEPPER!! PEPPER AND JACK!!!!!!!” And that was that.

What do you hope readers take away from the story?

I want the book to feel like eating a really good, deeply satisfying, thick slice of cake. But also, I want readers to consider the kind of pressure they’re under to be a certain way, or pursue certain things, and separate that pressure from what they think is actually best for them — the characters deal with that a lot, as do most of us, and I think that’s something we can all check in with ourselves on every now and then.

The Elven Warrior

For both Jack and Pepper (I adore those names!) what would you consider their core character trait? The thing that makes them solely THEM?

Hmmm — for Pepper I’d say it’s her drive, and for Jack I’d say it’s his empathy. I think they both have a lot of both of those elements, but those seem to be the factors that spur their decision-making in the book and lead them into all their mutual shenanigans.

Sending your first book out into the world and being a debut in general can be nerve wracking. But it can be an amazing! What has been the best thing about this experience?

Is it cheating if I say the whole thing? Everything is new to me — getting to work with a team on edits and marketing and how things look, getting a cover, meeting other authors, having people legitimately read something that I wrote and know that I wrote it (unlike the bajillion years I’ve spent writing fan fic). It feels like every day something happens to me that’s never happened before.

If you had to choose between working in a bakery, a sandwich shop, or as an author, which would you choose and why?

Fun fact: I’ve done ALL THREE of these. I spent my post-grad years working in a sandwich shop, and then a bakery, and then a whole bunch of other things (lol, job market) before becoming a digital media editor and eventual author. I’d say I’d rank them as author (you get to play god to a bunch of characters you made up!), bakery (FREE STALE CUPCAKES EVERY DAY!), and sandwich shop (great coworkers, but not as delicious, and I always came home reeking of basil).

Reading, Writing, and Me

Social media is obviously a huge part of this story. Were you ever hesitant or concerned about trying to capture internet culture in a book? Did you do any kind of research to prepare?

Oh boy, I did almost zero research. I was working as an editor who wrote and assigned daily content based on things going viral both in the social media and food space, so I was already aggressively online. I think my primary concern was mostly trying to keep the book from feeling too hyper specific to the time I was writing it, but also keeping it fresh — I was careful to try and choose the more “lasting” memes than the memes of the week.

One of the major threads of the story has to do with Jack’s app Weazl. How did you get the idea for Weazl? Was it important to you to show the really positive side of social media with this app because I really enjoyed that focus.

I knew I wanted some element where they were getting to know each other without any pressure, so that’s kind of where Weazl came in. I also did want to emphasize that although there are always cases of social media being used for bad, there’s so, so much good that comes out of it too! I really loved the idea of these kids who were forced to be so hyper competitive all their lives coming together in a place where they could help each other out and band together, because ultimately that’s what a lot of these social media platforms and tools help teens do.

Jack and Pepper are both quite complex, well drawn characters that complement each other perfectly. Do you have any advice for writers looking to further develop their own characters, and do you have any advice for people writing multiple points of view?

I think what really helps for me is just figuring out who the characters are by mentally putting them in all kinds of situations that may or may not ever actually land in the book. I think of life experiences I’ve had, or my friends have had, and I ask myself, “How would this character have reacted to that? Would it have been similar or different to the way I did, and why?” That also helped with figuring out the fundamental differences between the two characters when I was switching POVs; I was definitely worried in the beginning about making them sound too alike, so figuring out what set them apart was definitely a priority when I was first shaping them up!

Books Real When Shared

In your opinion, which is one of the best Twitter wars in history?

Hands down, without a doubt when Moon Pie smashed Hostess during the eclipse. Hostess tweeted saying that Golden CupCakes were the official snack of the eclipse, and Moon Pie simply quote retweeted “Lol ok …” and I have been DYING ABOUT IT EVER SINCE. Sometimes I’ll just be walking down the street and think about it and start laughing to myself. We stan the Moon Pie Twitter social media manager from now until the end of time.

https://twitter.com/moonpie/status/899624556377276416

Are you a fan of baking like Pepper? And if so, which is your go-to dessert?

Yes!! I’ve been baking my whole life. I can’t say I’m all that good at it, but I sure do love it (one of my little sisters is the true genius who has the actual patience for complicated things). My go-to is anything involving cookie dough; I’d say my favorite dessert on the planet is the “Sex Positive Brownies” in the book, which are the already popular combo of brownies, Oreos, and cookie that are all slightly underbaked. (I also like to add a pinch of salt to mine!)

F A N NA

The twitter war in Tweet Cute is primarily between a fast-food chain and a deli regarding an iconic grilled cheese sandwich. While Pepper is working behind the scenes to defend Big League Burger, Jack is stern on stating the fact that this sandwich recipe belongs to his grandmother who worked hard behind the deli. How did this idea of back-and-forth debating in 280 characters emerge?

The idea actually started at as a tweet! Back in 2017, I made a joke about how there should be a rom-com where two social media managers from competing accounts fell for each other without realizing they were Twitter battling. I knew I wanted it to be over something I already was familiar with, and I was pretty much raised on a steady diet of grilled cheese and Eggo waffles, so grilled cheese became the central focus. It helps that everyone who loves grilled cheese has strong opinions about how it should be made (I have yet to find a single grilled cheese opinion that’s wrong, though — it truly is the most delicious canvas of all).

Tweet Cute also entails some emotionally important themes like the rat race to good grades or college admissions, living up to the academic expectations set up by parents, figuring out everything by the end of senior year in high school, and being unresponsive to the pressure of familial responsibilities. What would you like the targeted young readers to take away from such aspects of the story?

I think the main takeaway I want is for young readers to know that everything is never set in stone. The things you study in high school, the colleges that accept you right out of the gates — it can all just be a blip if you let it. It’s easy to transfer schools, to change your course of study, to start all over again if you want to (trust me, I did all three of those things, sometimes more than once). Pepper and Jack deal with a lot of the pressure of thinking their futures are decided for them because they’re already committed to a certain path, but the truth is that path only gets more forked with options the older you get and the better you understand yourself.

Lastly, which of the two main characters Pepper or Jack do you see more of yourself in? The over-achiever girl with social-media managing ability and baking talents, or the goofball boy with the coding aptitude and a sweet-tooth?

Oh, boy. I think I’m a Jack-esque goofball when I’m out with my friends, but I’m so, SO much like Pepper in the privacy of my own brain. I think that’s why I was especially worried about how people would react to her — that was very much me, both in high school and now, even if it’s not necessarily the personality I project when I’m not working. That said, I could not code my way out of a paper bag. (Jack inspired me to take some free coding lessons for fun, though, so we’ll see!)

Casual Fangirl

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I love when you think you have the whole thing plotted out and then midway through the draft a character surprises you and is like, “Nah, I’m not gonna do that. Here’s what I’m gonna do instead.” Never a dull moment!

What is your go-to writing snack?

I’m actually terrible at snacking and writing, but I am definitely a tea gal. I’m part of the 5am writer’s club, and tea is the one way to bribe my lazy butt out of bed. That said, my entire life and times is basically sponsored by Taco Bell. When I hit word count for the day you can almost always find me in line for a spicy tostada and chips and guac.

What is your favorite Rom-com (book/tv/film)?

I love love love the movie About Time, and the book Something Borrowed. Those are my main comfort watch and comfort read for sure. I think there is something innately Hufflepuff about the main characters in both of those works, and being inside their brains is a cozy place to be because of it.

In Between Book Pages

Tweet Cute featured a Twitter brand war, something we have seen (and laughed at) before [e.g. Taco Bell vs Old Spice, Burger King vs Wendy’s]. Were you inspired by any IRL Twitter brand war?

I wasn’t inspired by any one Twitter war, but definitely Twitter Brand War Culture. I work in digital media, so I was covering a lot of them in pieces I was writing and assigning out. Plus one of my very close friends is a social media manager, and it was always funny to get insight on her side of the Twitter curtain and find out what’s really going on behind the scenes. A lot of that factored into the decision to write the book.

Even though Tweet Cute is mostly sweet and fluffy, both Jack and Pepper was put through the wringer having to deal with school, their families and friends, and deciding what they want to do. What do you want your readers, especially the younger ones, to take away from your story? And if you could give them an advice, what would that be?

I guess one of the takeaways that felt important to me was that nothing really truly gets “set in stone” in high school; even if you’ve set yourself on a certain path or feel obligated to follow one someone set out for you, you’re allowed to change your mind. Also, the thing you’re meant to do and truly love might be the last thing you expect! Definitely let your heart lead you, whenever you’re lucky enough to find things you’re passionate about.

Finally, using three memes, describe Tweet Cute.

OKAY MY BODY IS READY. My number one is based on that text post meme that’s like “on the outside I am human on the inside I am pasta and sin,” except for Tweet Cute it’s “on the outside i am human on the inside i am cheese and tweets”.

Number two is the “is this a pigeon?” meme:

Number three is the Captain America detention meme, and it is not aimed at Pepper and Jack, but at me.

A Glass Of Wine

What gif do you feel best describes Tweet Cute?

I don’t know if this is a meme or a GIF, really, but the Elmo fire one comes to mind. I think it’s sort of come to represent a weird intersection of joy/pain/chaos/hilarity, and I think Tweet Cute’s got all of that in the mix.

If a signature ice cream were to be made for Tweet Cute what might be included?

OOOOH. I think the base would be a classic vanilla, but it would be stuffed to the gills with Rolos, Reese’s, Oreos, and rainbow sprinkles like Monster Cake from the book, and have ribbons of caramel and a healthy pinch of salt and oh my god I am so hungry now, BYE.

Tweet Cute is inspired by You’ve Got Mail. What are some of your other favourite rom-coms?

I love About Time above all, I think, but I’m also a fan of Crazy Rich Asians, The Proposal,  27 Dresses, Bride Wars, Love, Rosie, and the woefully underrated period rom-com, Mrs. Pettigrew Lives For A Day. I’m sure I am missing about a gazillion that I also love.

Author bio:

Emma Lord is a digital media editor and writer living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, grilled cheese, and a whole lot of love. Her sun sign is Hufflepuff, but she is a Gryffindor rising. TWEET CUTE is her debut novel. You can find her geeking out online at @dilemmalord on Twitter.

Social Links:  @dilemmalord (Twitter/Instagram)

Review: Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Echoes Between Us is bestselling author Katie McGarry’s breakout teen contemporary novel about a girl with everything to lose and the boy who will do anything to save her.

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…

Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica.

A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

MY REVIEW

When it comes to Young Adult novels, Katie McGarry is my go-to author. So, when I heard about Echoes Between Us, I just knew I had to get my hands on it. I mean, have you seen the cover for this book? It is just stunning!! I took one look at it and knew this book was going to be a winner and I was not disappointed.

Echoes Between Us follows the story of Veronica and Sawyer. Veronica is the unique outsider. She’s considered weird or strange by most. However, there is more to her than meets the eye. She’s fearless and makes the most out of each and every moment. She’s not afraid to be her true self and isn’t about to let her blinding migraines get her down. Oh, did I mention she also sees her mother’s ghost? And then we have Sawyer. He’s the golden boy. He’s handsome, popular and an amazing swimmer. However, the pressure from having to perfect all the time and the responsibilities life has handed him has led to one crazy addiction. When times get tough, he likes to dive off cliffs. He can’t get enough of the high and is afraid he won’t be able to stop. His life is crazy and chaotic. His mother can’t be counted on and his dad isn’t really around. What happens when the weird girl and golden boy cross paths?? You’re just going to have to pick up Echoes Between Us to find out…

Overall, I thought this book was a really fascinating read. As with every Katie McGarry book, this one sucks you in instantly and completely consumes you. This story intrigued me as much as it thrilled me. I loved seeing Veronica and Sawyer come together. They started off as enemies and quickly became more. Their relationship was sweet and honest. I loved how real these two were with one another. Veronica and Sawyer both had a lot of layers and I loved getting to know each of them. Their story was powerful and dealt with a lot of tough subject matter. I loved how well the author not only researched their issues, but how true she stayed to the characters.

Echoes Between Us was a consuming and heartfelt story. I devoured it easily in just one sitting. The characters were entertaining and left me hanging on every word. I enjoyed getting to know Veronica and Sawyer and had a great time getting swept up in their story.

*I was provided an ARC copy of this book via the publisher & NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review*

Release Blitz: From Flame And Ash by Carrie Ann Ryan

Title: From Flame and Ash
Series: Elements of Five #2
Author: Carrie Ann Ryan
Genre: YA Romance
Release Date: November 19, 2019
Blurb
NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues Lyric’s epic journey in this spellbinding sequel to From Breath and Ruin.

Lyric lost her past, her friends, and even her connections to both worlds when she found out about the Maison realm and her calling. But now she must put that aside and travel back to the Maison realm to continue her training as the Spirit Priestess. Only her journey isn’t to Rhodes and those she fought alongside before. This time, Easton and the other Obscurité warriors will stand by her side as she tries to unlock her final three elements.

However, just as she starts to learn more about what she’s been prophesied to do, a Seer’s wish and the calling of the Lumière kingdom calls her forth, thrusting Lyric into another journey where she must trust those on both sides of the age-old war to survive…and keep those she loves safe.

Purchase Links

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
ALSO AVAILABLE
Trailer
Also Available
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Coming Soon
Releasing July 14, 2020
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Author Bio
Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary, paranormal, and young adult romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Fractured Connections, and Elements of Five series, which have sold over 3.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over seventy-five novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not losing herself in her emotional and action-packed worlds, she’s reading as much as she can while wrangling her clowder of cats who have more followers than she does.
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Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

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No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

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MY REVIEW

The Grace Year is a title that I have been impatiently waiting to get my hands on. From the synopsis alone, I just knew this book was going to be special and that it would be thrilling. I mean, it sounded like all of my favorite dystoptian novels were wrapped into one. So, if you’re a fan of The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale or even Lord of the Flies, you are in for a real treat with The Grace Year.

The Grace Year follows the story of Tierney James. Tierney has always dreamed for a better life than the one she knows. She lives in a society where dreams are forbidden and where women are seen as the weaker sex. When a girl reaches her sixteenth birthday, she enters what is called her grace year, a time that no one dares to talk about. Rumor has it that women are filled with magical power that they must accept and eradicate in order to return home pure and ready for their husbands. But, what they don’t tell you is that you will be pitted against one another, that your friends are not who you thought they were, and that there is more to fear than just poachers in the woods….

As a huge fan of YA Dystopian novels, I couldn’t wait to see what The Grace Year would bring to the table. And let me tell you, it does not disappoint. This story is filled with mystery and intrigue. The plot is totally unique, yet has similar elements to some beloved dystopian novels. This story is gritty and intense at times and it will certainly keep you on your toes. This is a story of survival in the worst of circumstances, yet there is also hope for a better life and future. The Grace Year does have some romantic tones, but the romance does not drive the book, the plot does. The Grace Year is filled with lots of fantastic twists and turns and at times will have you questioning what you have gotten yourself into.

Overall, I found The Grace Year to be a very enjoyable read. I thought it was very unique and written well. I found myself glued to the pages and unable to put this book down. I know this is a YA book, but do not let that fool you. This book packs a punch and keeps you guessing the entire time.  If you’re a fan of dystopian novels, I definitely would recommend giving The Grace Year a try.

*I was provided an ARC copy of this book via the publisher & NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review*

Review: The Burning Shadow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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When Evelyn Dasher crossed paths with Luc, she was thrown headfirst into the world of the Lux—only to discover that she was already far more involved in their world than she ever suspected.

Because the Luxen aren’t the only ones with a hidden past. There’s a gap in Evie’s memory, lost months of her life and a lingering sense that something happened, something she can’t remember and nobody is willing to tell her. She needs to find out the truth about who she is—and who she was. But every answer she finds only brings up more questions.

Her search for the truth brings her ever closer to Luc, the Origin at the center of it all. He’s powerful, arrogant, inhumanly beautiful, extremely dangerous…and possibly in love with her. But even as Evie falls for him, she can’t help but wonder if his attraction is to her, or to the memory of a girl who no longer exists.

And all the while, a new threat looms: reports of a flu-like, fatal virus that the government insists is being spread by Luxen. A horrifying illness that changes whoever it touches, spreading panic across a country already at its breaking point.

#1 New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout returns to the world of the Lux with this steamy, shocking second installment of the Origin series that will leave readers reeling.

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MY REVIEW

“You’re real, Evie. It doesn’t matter who you used to be or who you thought you were. You are real, and I see you.”

The highly anticipated sequel to The Darkest Star is finally here and I don’t know about you guys, but I have been anxiously waiting to get this bad boy in my hands. The Burning Shadow picks up right where The Darkest Star left off and leaves no stone unturned. Evie is still trying to come to turns with who she is and why her memories are all messed up. However, with every answer Evie gets, she is left with a million more questions and this quest for the truth only stands to bring her closer to the one and only Luc. Luc is all that and a bag of chips with the arrogance to back it all up. And while Luc may think he’s in love with Evie, Evie herself can’t help but fall for Luc. The question of what is real and what isn’t has never been more critical to Evie. And if dealing with her own crisis isn’t enough, it seems there’s more on the horizon to worry about. A new threat looms and is spreading panic far and wide. Will Evie find out the answers she so desperately needs? Will Evie, Luc and the gang be able to stop the new threat from spreading??? There’s only one way to find out….

Overall, I found this book to be a really enjoyable read. I loved getting wrapped up in the Luxen/Origin world again and seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones. This book is filled with Jennifer Armentrout’s signature humor and swoon worthy romance. It checked off all of my boxes giving me a read that is filled with romance, sarcasm, mystery, intriugue, suspense and lots of twists and turns. Yes, that is one thing I love about JLA’s writing is that her twists always knock me off my feet and just leave me begging for more.

I will say that for me, the pacing for The Burning Shadow was a bit slower than I would have liked, but that being said, the slower pace did not take away from all the action this book had and once I got into the stories groove, I could not put it down. The Burning Shadow has a lot going on in the best possible way and I loved how the author left little breadcrumbs for readers to follow along the way.

The Burning Shadow is a terrific addition to The Origin Series. It kept me on my toes and left me with a ton of questions that I am just dying to have answered. I have no clue how this story is going to play out in the end, but I can definitley tell you that I will be waiting anxiously to see where this series will take us next!

*I was provided an ARC copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review*

Blog Tour: Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace Ganger

“Two teens maneuver painful routes through profound grief as well as the complex quagmire of severe mental illness…
Ultimately hopeful, and readers will connect with the messy, visceral lives simmering on the page. Profoundly
emotional and truthful.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Six Goodbyes We Never Said is a knowing tour de force filled with crackling wit, pain, and mini, freeze-dried
marshmallows. Original and funny, the best parts may be found in the small moments, especially Ganger’s hilarious,
spot-on dialogue, as well as tucked within the brilliantly-placed parentheticals. All that and a bowl of Lucky Charms. Or
maybe six boxes.” – Gae Polisner, award-winning author of The Memory of Things and In Sight of Stars

Six Goodbyes We Never Said By Candace Ganger

This is no love story; in fact, it’s not even really a “like” story. In Candace Ganger’s sophomore novel, SIX GOODBYES WE
NEVER SAID (Wednesday Books; September 24, 2019), two teens meet after tragically losing their parents and learn
about love, loss, and letting go. Deftly tackling issues of mental health and grief, Ganger’s #OwnVoices novel brings
vibrant characters to life as they figure out how to say goodbye to the people they love the most.

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll
hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her
to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her
Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her
father so desperately wanted for her.

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret
anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use
a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets
Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

Full of tender, funny, and downright heartbreaking moments, Ganger’s second novel will have you cheering and crying
all on the same page. Don’t miss out on this YA powerhouse standalone!

AUTHORS NOTE

Hello, dear reader.

I think it should be known that, while Six Goodbyes is a work of fiction, I share the many characteristics, fears, and pains, in both the delicacy of Dew, and the confused ferocity in Naima. Please let this brief note serve as a trigger warning in regards to mental illness; self-care is of the utmost importance. And while I hope Six Goodbyes provides insight for those who don’t empa- thize, or comfort for those that do, I also understand everyone reacts differently.

Dew’s social anxiety is something I, and many others, struggle with. We carry on with our days and pretend it’s not as hard as it feels inside. Others can’t quite see how much it hurts but we so wish they could. Naima is the most visceral interpretation of all of my diagnosed disorders combined. Her obsessive-compulsive dis- order (OCD) and related tics, her intrusive thoughts, her utterly devastating and isolating depression, her generalized anxiety dis- order (GAD), which makes her so closed off from the world, and her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from losing the biggest portion of her identity—those are all pieces of me. Very big pieces. They don’t define me, but it would be misleading if I didn’t ad- mit they sometimes, mostly do. I’m imperfectly complicated like Naima. And though I’ve written extensively on both my mental illnesses and living biracial, between two worlds—never enough of one or the other; always only half of something and never whole or satiated—I often still feel misunderstood. Hopefully Dew and Naima’s stories will provide a little insight as to what it’s like inside their heads, and inside mine.

Both Dew and Naima want to hold on to the roots that have grounded them in their familiar, safe spaces. But once their meta- phorical trees are cut, and all the leaves shielding them from their pains have fallen and faded away, not even photosynthesis could bring them back to life. Those roots, Naima and Dew feel, will die off, and everything they had in their lives before will, too. There are many of you out there who feel the exact same way, but I assure you, Dew and Naima will find their way— they will grow new roots that flourish—and you, my darlings, will, too.

Thank you for reading, and may Six Goodbyes serve as per- mission to speak your truths—the good and the painful.

Here’s to another six airplanes for you to wish upon.

Dad

cell

May 3 at 7:33 PM

Transcription Beta

“Guess who’s getting ready to come home and take you to Ivy Springs? That’s right, Ima. It’s happening. It’s finally happening. Don’t tell Nell. I want to surprise her.”

0:00               0:10

Speaker                Call Back                   Delete

Email Draft (Unsent)

To

Subject

I’m holding my breath

Until you’re standing in front of me Because we’ve danced this song

So many times before

Promise.

And I no longer trust You’ll do what you

Just in case,

I’ll count the hexagons.

NAIMA

Nell is a dingy yoga mat; the sweaty barrier between total chill­ status and my shit reality (aka, my annoying stepmom and ru­ iner of all moments) (trust me on this).

“JJ and Kam aren’t going to believe how much you’ve grown since the funeral,” she says on our long­ass 794­mile drive from Albany, Georgia, to Ivy Springs, Indiana. She tap tap taps her long, pointed fingernails against the steering wheel to the beat of what­ ever imaginary song she’s playing in her head. Probably some­ thing disco or hair band. The radio is silent, always silent, when we ride together, but the second she speaks with that high­pitched nasally voice I loathe, I regret this necessity. I concentrate harder on the objects we pass so I can properly pinch my toes between them.

Tap my nose. Tap my nose. Tap my nose.

Tap my nose. Tap my nose.

Tap my nose.

Click my tongue. Click my tongue. Click my tongue.

Click my tongue. Click my tongue.

Click my tongue.

Flick my thumbnail. Flick my thumbnail.

Flick my thumbnail.

Flick my thumbnail. Flick my thumbnail.

Flick my thumbnail.

Flick.

Flick.

FLICK.

I continue with my sequence the length of the drive. Nell hates it, but I hate when she wears fingerless gloves in the summer, so we’re even. Without my boring­ass stepbrother, Christian, to be my talk block—the dull cushion of conversation between Nell and me—(he left two days ago on a death star/plane to see his dad in NYC), the “spacious” SUV feels like I’ve been placed at a dinner table in a vast canyon and right across from me is literally the only woman I don’t want to meet for dinner. Like, why can’t I eat with the Queen of England or Oprah? I’m bound by my father’s love for Nell, or whatever, but now he’s gone, and I’m climbing the hell out of the canyon before she wants to talk about how big my naturally tousled hair is (a perfect mess), period cycles (semi­regular, FYI), sexually transmitted diseases (don’t have a single one, thanks), or worse—my feelings (happily bur­ ied!). Ugh. GTFO.

The failing engine’s hum, where the metal scrapes and churns with a whir, competes with Nell’s increased tapping. I’ve missed too many objects, my toes rapidly pinching and releasing, to make up for what’s been lost. But it’s too late. My mind shifts automatically to a neon sign flashing warning! There’s always a consequence to messing up the sequence. Always.

Counting is to time what the final voicemail Dad left is to the sound of my heart cracking open; a message I can’t listen to. It’ll become entombed in history, in me. My finger lingers over my phone and quickly retreats, knowing there’s nothing he could’ve said to make this pain less. Nothing can make him less gone.

I look out the window to where my dreary­eyed reflection stares blankly back at me; Nell glides over the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic, violently overcorrecting just before we would have been hit by a semi. The sound of his horn echoes

through the high­topped Tennessee mountains. Three thousand two hundred eighty­seven people die in car accidents every day. I Googled it. After I Googled it, I looked at pictures. And after I looked at pictures I went through the sequence. Car accident. Fatalities. My legs smashed up to my chest. Nell crushed into the hood.

“Sorry,” she says; her voice rattles. “Make sure Ray’s okay back there.”

I turn to investigate the vase­shaped metal urn surrounded by layers of sloppily folded sheets (Nell did that) and one per­ fectly situated hexagon quilt (that’s all me). The sun’s gleam hits

U.S. Marine Corp just so, and I’m reminded again that he’s gone.

Gone.

It’s fine,” I say, refusing to call that pile of ashes “Dad,” or “he.” The urn arrived several days ago in a twenty­four­hour pri­ ority package. Nell saying, “No reason to waste time getting him home,” and I was like, “What’s that?” and she was all “Your dad, silly,” and I was like, “Huh?” and she asked me if I wanted a banana­kale protein shake after she “got him situated.” A big hell no. I immediately dove into a Ziploc ration of Lucky Charms marshmallows to dull the pain of conversing with someone so exhausting.

After he was transported in ice from Afghanistan to Dover, after they sorted and processed his things, after he was cre­ mated, after the police and state troopers closed down the streets to honor him as we drove him through, after we had the memorial service, after we were handed the folded flag with a bullet shell casing tucked inside, after they spoke of his medals, and after Christian and I sat in disbelief beneath a weep­ ing willow tree for three hours, Nell finally decided the ashes should go to his hometown in Indiana, after all. I didn’t think she’d cave, but after one talk with my grandma, JJ, she did. If anyone could turn a donkey into a unicorn, it’s JJ (or so she says). And so, it was decided—Dad, I mean It, was going home a unicorn.

“Let’s stop for some grub,” Nell says, wide­eyed. “Hungry?” “Grub,” rhymes with “nub,” which she is. “No.”

“Let’s at least stretch our legs. Still a few hours to go.” “Fine. But no travel yoga this time.”

She pulls off to a rest area a few miles ahead, exiting the car. I crack a window and wait while she hikes a leg to the top of the trunk, bending forward with an “oh, that’s tight.” After, she says, “Going to the potty. BRB.”

I flash a thumbs­up and slink deep into the warmth of my seat, hiding from the stare of perverts and families. My foot kicks my bag on the floor mat, knocking my prescription bottle to its side. Dr. Rose, my therapist in Ft. Hood, said sometimes starting over is the only way to stop looking back. But what about when the past is all you have left of someone?

My gaze pushes forward to the vending machines. Dad and I stopped at this very place on our way to Indiana without basic Nell. He’d grab a cold can of Coke and toss me a bag of trail mix to sort into piles. If I close my eyes, it almost feels like he’s here—not a pile of ashes buckled tight into the backseat. We’d play a game of Would You Rather to see who could come up with the worst/most messed­up scenarios (I usually won).

Would you rather wear Nells unwashed yoga pants every day for a month?

Or call an urn full of ashes “Dad”?

Sometimes, he’d pre­sort the trail mix,

Leaving me the best parts (the candy­coated chocolate).

I am one­of­a­kind

Magic, Dad would say.

But he was, too.

A unicorn, I think.

Definitely not a donkey. The more I think on it,

Maybe JJ could turn Nell

Into a unicorn, Too,

But no magic is that strong.

Dad

cell

June 1 at 9:04 AM

Transcription Beta

“Open the door.”

0:00 0:03
Speaker Call Back Delete

Sent Email

No Subject

Naima <naimatheriveter@gmail.com>   Jun 1, 9:07 AM to Dad

If I open it,

Will you really be there Or just a memory

From the last time?

Nevermind.

The ghost

I see you,

Outside my window.

DEW  GD  BRICKMAN

DURATION:   10:49

In todays forecast, sunshine early morning will give way to lateday thunderstorms. I love the smell of rain. Its the aroma of being alive.

August Moon and the Paper Hearts—the band my parents opened for—advise we speak kindly to strangers through song. I’d like to think that’s what my parents would’ve said, too. I can still see my mother’s chestnut eyes soft as she hums. From the tired bones in her feet after long shifts at the glass­making factory (after the band split apart), to the graying curls that sprang into action when the beat hit her ears, she’s frozen in time; a whim­ sical ballerina, twirling inside a glass globe to a tune only she and I can hear.

“Let the music move your soul,” she’d tell me. “Let it carry you into the clouds, my darling.”

She’d grab my hand, hers papered by the rough gloves she was required to wear during her shifts, guiding me by the glitter­ ing moondust, while Dad watched on from the old twill rocker, threads carved around his boxy frame. Our feet stepped along invisible squares against the floor, round and round, until the world vanished beneath us. We floated.

“You got that boy spoiled, Momma,” Dad would tell her. “Don’t you know it,” she’d reply, pulling me closer.

That was when the universe built itself around the three of us; vibrant wildflowers, dipped in my mother’s favorite verb: “love.” I wish I could remember the smell of her better. I wish I could remember what Dad would say. When I lose my breath in the thick of human oceans and panic, I wish harder.

My second set of parents, Stella and Thomas, are kind to me. Stella’s eyes remind me of my mother’s—two infinity pools, giving the illusion of boundless compassion—while Thomas’s laugh is an eerily mirrored version of my father’s. Sometimes, when Thomas finds himself amused, I catch myself thinking Dad is here. I can almost see him holding his bass guitar, doubled over from a joke he’d heard.

My sister, Faith, hasn’t settled into this family yet, even after a year of fostering. She cries, punches her bed pillow—sometimes Stella; sometimes Thomas. Her wailing is incessant, scratchy, and raw. Sometimes I sit outside her door and silently cry with her. When you’re taken from your birth parents, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your new, adoptive, or temporary, foster parents are. They can be every warm hug you’ve needed, but if you’re holding tight to the feeling of being home, you may find com­ fort in the cold, dark night instead. I did at first. After all the months with us, Faith is realizing the Brickmans are her home now, but she’s still fighting to stay warm on her own, hoping her parents would somehow return.

“You can never know someone’s pain or happiness until you’ve stepped inside their shoes,” my mother would say.

“What if their shoes don’t fit?” I’d ask. “If our lives are too different?”

“Find a connection; something similar enough that all the dif­ ferences bounce off the table completely, like Ping­Pong balls. If we look past things that divide us, humanity will find a way to shine through.”

No one should step inside my shoes unless they’re prepared to understand the kind of grief that’s whole­body and constant. It’s quiet but deep. The same way Earth orbits the sun every hour of every day of every year, I miss my parents, and Faith misses hers.

Stella and Thomas try. They’ve searched our shoe collection. They’ve tried them on. And, just as Cinderella found her magic fit, they’ve managed to find a pair that fits in some way. Of the hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care, they placed an inquiry about me, they went through the classes and orienta­ tion for me, they did the home study for me—they adopted me. Same for Faith, however different our circumstances.

It makes no matter that Stella and Thomas couldn’t conceive naturally. The foster and adoption process stole chunks of time they’ll never retrieve, for a “special needs” boy—due to my age, “minority group,” and “emotional trauma”—long past diapers and bottles and baby powder–scented snuggles. It was financially and emotionally draining for all of us involved, with no guaran­ tee I would welcome them or they could love me the way my parents did. I didn’t embrace them at first. I quite liked my previ­ ous foster family but they felt me only temporary. The Brick­ mans embraced me without hesitation, with a permanent kind of promise. It’s the same kindness my parents would endorse. They gave me a home, a family, and a place I belong. And so, to every stranger along my path, I will be kind, too. Even—especially—the ones who’d prefer I didn’t.

“Those are the souls who need compassion most,” Mom would say. “The ones broken by the world, angry and afraid of trust­ ing. You must remind them that they are not alone. Nothing can be lost in trying. Remember that always, my darling.”

As I hear Faith shouting into her comforter again, I wonder how many have failed to try on her shoes through the near dozen foster homes she’s been in.

I hear you, Faith. I am you.

I think all this before my pre­planned path to Baked & Caffeinated—the coffee and bakeshop at which I’ve been em­ ployed a mere six days—with August Moon streaming through my earbuds. Today is my first scheduled shift, and if you could feel my heart beat, you’d assume it was about to burst (it very well may). Though Ivy Springs maintains a compact three­mile radius, it’s my first time walking alone. For most, it’s a relaxing walk. But, as my father would often tell me, I am not most people. The mere thought of the journey had me curled in a ball on my twin mattress for at least an hour. Beneath the covers, I gave my best, most inspiring pep talk about how, despite those voices tell­ ing me I can’t do it, I can and I will and I’ll be glorious.

Mom would always lift the blankets off the bed and sit next to me. “This, too, shall pass, my darling.”

“And if it doesn’t?” I’d say with quivering lips.

“It will. You are my corpse flower,” Mom told me. “The larg­ est, rarest flower in the whole world. Blooming takes many ar­ duous seasons, but it is worth the wait.”

The longer she’s gone, the more I understand the layers she peeled off of me. With each one, my shine radiated a little more. Mom and Dad never saw my fears in black and white; people aren’t made so simply. We’re straddling a blur of gray.

The downtown café is fairly new to this small blip of town. Serving variations of roasted coffee beans, espresso concoctions, and freshly baked confectionaries you can smell for miles, Baked & Caffeinated is one of the few places people my age come. With school out for summer, the position of highly regarded cashier is a way to blend in slightly more than I stand out. When the manager, Liam “Big Foot” Thompson—college student and “organic medicinal specialist” (whatever that means)—barely glanced at the application I spent two long hours filling in, I’m not sure what prompted him to hire me on the spot, but there it was: an opportunity to slide into a new pair of shoes.

“Hard work reveals who people really are,” Dad would tell me. “When the going gets tough, some hide and others rise.”

I will rise, Dad.

One glance at the clock and I see no matter how I rush, the seconds tick by faster than I can keep up. I’m dressed in freshly ironed slacks, an ebony polo buttoned two­thirds of the way up (I was told this is appropriate), snazzy checkered suspenders, and the taupe fedora—feather and all—I cannot live without.

“I’m off,” I tell Stella.

She sits at the kitchen table, a list of recipe ingredients in hand, peering over the bridge of her reading glasses. She pulls a ceramic coffee mug to her lips and sips her coffee with a slurp. It dribbles to the paper. “Ah, damn it!”

I step back, my hands gripping my suspenders as if they’re bungee cords.

“Sorry,” she says, standing. She squares her shoulders with mine and drives her stare through me. “I hope you have the best time.” She pulls me near—an attempt at a hug that’s strangled by her awkward, coffee­saturated positioning. “If you feel over­ whelmed, take a deep breath, excuse yourself to the bathroom if necessary, and you can always, always call me. K?”

I hesitate, fear squirming between us.

She tips my chin up so my eyes fall straight into hers. Her eyes swallow me up in a bubble of safety, little lines spiderwebbing out from the corner creases that cling to my distress, fishing fear out of me, casting it somewhere else entirely. It’s a trick Mom used to do, too.

“You’re going to do great,” she reassures. “Promise.”

I nod, finally, and she releases me from her grip to deal with the coffee puddle. I watch her for a whole minute before she urges me out the door. I’m supposed to work on my time management. I lose time when my brain is knotted with worry. But how do you untangle something you can’t even see?

Along my walk down the potholed sidewalk, my eyes care­ fully plot each step to not catch on a divot. The last time, I nearly broke my arm, the exact spot ridiculing me as I pounce over it with the light­footed pirouette of a cat. I’m so proud of this move, distracted by my obvious victory against that mean concrete hole, I run straight into someone.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I stammer.

“Dude,” a boy says with a heavy grunt. “Watch it.”

I’m hesitant to make eye contact, but I do—Stella and Thomas have encouraged it—alarm bells blaring. The boy’s eyes are nar­ row, brows furrowed. I replay last night’s news headline in my mind—teen shoots former classmate at graduation party and fold as far down as my small frame will allow.

He rips his earbuds out, his face softening only slightly. I try to walk by, he blocks me. I move to the other side. He stands in my way here, too.

“Excuse me,” I say.

“You should watch where you’re going. It’s a small town with shitty sidewalks.”

“Yes,” I stutter. “I will, thank you for the advice.”

He presses his earbuds back into place and allows me to pass with the wave of his hand.

“Have a wonderful day,” I tell him. My voice shakes, my feet moving faster than before.

Mom would say, “Chin up, eyes forward, not back,” so I re­ peat this to myself, pretending she’s here to ricochet these inter­ actions into outer space. I’m still learning how to be my own hero. My deepest darkest fear is, maybe I never will.

I stand outside the bakeshop and stare up at the illustrated cof­ fee mug on the sign. My reluctance holds me in the center of this busier than normal sidewalk. I remind myself I’m okay. The crowds won’t harm me. I can breathe through it and the day will go on. It can and it will, because it has to. As the sweat accumu­ lates beneath my hat, I think of Mom telling me “now or never,” and open the door. The bell attached to the door rings as I breeze through.

“You’re so late,” Mr. Thompson says after I wind through the line of customers bunched near the counter. “I thought we said ten.”

A quick glance at the time—ten seventeen—and my chin sinks into my chest. “Apologies. We did agree on that time.” Dad used to say, “The only good excuse is none at all,” so I swallow the ones rising into my throat and try to ignore the gnawing feel­ing in my gut that makes me want to lock myself inside the bath­ room to escape all the noise and people and smells and sounds. My sensory dashboard is on overload. I imagine a little robot in a white coat frantically working to calm each circuit board before it fries. Poor fellow. His work is thankless and sometimes a com­ plete and utter failure. I do my best to help by inhaling another deep breath, exhaling through my mouth as Mr. Thompson guides me to the space behind the counter where I’m to stand. I fumble in the small space, as another employee, a girl in a long flowy dress covered by an apron, welcomes me with a wide grin.

“Hey, newb,” she says. “I’m Violet.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Dew.” I keep a generous distance to not make her uncomfortable, but she moves in close enough to notice how well I’ve brushed my teeth (well enough, I hope).

“You have a really great aura. It’s blue­centric with electric swirls of pink. Very neon, man.”

I respect her need for close proximity and we stand almost nose to nose. “Interesting. What does that mean?”

Her eyes widen as if she’s swallowing every centimeter of mine. “You’re highly sensitive, intuitive, and have strong mor­ als. Like, you’re honest to a fault and can’t seem to deviate from it, even if it’d serve you better to keep your mouth shut. I know, because I’m a total Purple. I can read your palms if you want.”

I slip them into my pockets. “Perhaps later, after I’ve grown accustomed to the process and routines here.”

She smiles and allows me the space to breathe again as Mr. Thompson waves me to a short stack of papers I’m to fill out. “When you’re finished with these, I’ll have Violet show you how to brew espresso shots for lattes.”

I nod. “Sir—”

He stops me with a snicker. “Please—my dad is sir because he’s a dinosaur. I’m Big Foot.”

My eyes confusedly scan the perimeter of this man who is neither big nor seems to have larger than average feet. Perhaps that’s the irony. I decide I like it. “Mr. Foot,” I begin; he stops me again to remind me it’s Big Foot, “I don’t have a driver’s license yet, only a permit. My birthday is in a few weeks, though I’m not interested in driving a motor vehicle at this time. I also have some allergies that may restrict my duties outside of handling the register. I forgot to mention it when I applied.”

He lays a hand on my shoulder. “I read the notes on the ap­ plication. I have a little bro with some pretty gnarly allergies. We specialize in nut­free, dairy­free shit. It’s my duty to represent the underrepresented, you know?”

I nod, relieved.

“If you’re not comfortable with any part, I’ll make sure the others know to step in. Wear gloves. Wash your hands. Take your meds,” he pauses, looks me over, “you got meds, right?”

I nod again.

“I got you, bro. Let me know if you have a flare­up from any­ thing, ’cause I’ve got EpiPens and all that jazz.”

My posture relaxes a bit.

“It’ll be all right. Come get me after V trains you on the espresso shots.”

I nod again, folding my hands in front of me.

Local boy freezes in the middle of summer—tonight at 10.

“So, listen,” Violet says, drawing me closer. “My best friend, Birdie, went through major crappage this past year, and I’ve learned how to be a better friend because of it. Apparently she didn’t feel like she could trust me with her most important secrets, so I totally reevaluated my life choices and decided, with a cleanse, to start anew.”

“Good for you.” I stop to wonder why she’s telling me, a per­ fect stranger, this.

“Point is, I know we just met, but as this new, improved me, I’m good at reading people. And it looks like you could use a little encouragement.”

She pulls a notebook from the cubby beneath the register, the words on the front flap, Book of Silver Linings, catching the gleam of the fluorescent lights. I watch her fingers flip and fumble to a specific page. “Confidence grows when we step out of our com­ fort zone and do something different.” Her mouth hangs open, half smiling, as if she’s waiting for my reaction.

“That helps. Thank you.”

“No problem. I think you’ll be okay, Dew—what’s your last name?”

“Brickman now, was Diaz.”

“I think you’ll be okay Dew­Was­Diaz­Brickman.” With a wink, she packs the notebook away. “So you’re gonna be a soph­ omore or . . . ?”

“Correct, you?”

“Only here for the summer, then off to pre­college; a year of exploratory  learning.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Caramel School of Massage and Healing Arts, about forty minutes from here so I can go home when I want. Do you know what you’re doing after high school?”

The question strikes me as abrupt. I’ve thought about the future, but not in the context of who I’ll be in it. “Undecided.” “I was, too. Don’t stress too much. It’s only the rest of your life.” She laughs, but it’s glaringly obvious it’s not a joke.

I turn to the stack of papers, still unsure of which boxes to check, which address to write, what emergency contacts to state. My initial reaction is my old Indianapolis address, Plum Street, and my parents’ cell numbers, which I’ve memorized. I have to stop myself and carefully think what is true today—a Pearl Street address in Ivy Springs, and numbers that belong to Stella and Thomas. It’s a habit I wish I didn’t have to break.

As I neatly write my answers, I look up to see a man reminis­ cent of my father, dressed in desert­camouflaged pants and a tan fitted T­shirt. He orders a large coffee, black, no sugar. I have a penchant for details. They’re the difference between knowing someone in 2­D or 4­D. Violet pumps the fresh java from a ca­ rafe while the man slides inside a booth near the entrance. The large window lets the sun seep in, coating him in a sunshine glaze; almost angelic. Perhaps it’s my dad inside my bones, mov­ ing my feet—he never passed a service member without thanking them for their service—but I find myself standing at the foot of this man’s table.

“Thank you for your service,” I say dutifully.

“Thank you,” he says with a warm smile. “I appreciate that.”

“Well, I appreciate you appreciating me, so I suppose we’re at an impasse of gratitude.” I grin, my hands tucked behind my back to fidget with reckless abandon.

He chuckles as his phone rings. “I’m sorry, but I have to take this.”

“Have a great rest of your day,” I say. “And thank you again.”

“No, thank you—” He stops himself with a palm over the phone speaker. “We could go on forever.”

Violet brings a steaming cup to the table. “This cup signifies my gratitude. Plus, you have a really great aura.”

“Thank you,” he tells her before his attention returns to his call.

The crowd has thinned out and I slink back behind the counter without incident. Violet joins me moments later. I study the way the man holds himself, strong and steady. I wonder who he’s leav­ ing, or coming home to. I wonder where he’s been and where he calls home. I don’t mean to eavesdrop. But his dutiful brawn, his voice, his presence, they almost resound in our small space.

“Sir,” he says, shuffling in his seat. “I hadn’t intended to—yes, sir. I understand.”

A sudden, hard silence falls like a gavel, cutting his booth into before­and­after: the pleasantries before the call, and his tight­ ened jaw after. He holds the phone steady in the air, parallel to his ear, before clutching it inside his fist. All the color fades from his face. I want to look away, I should look away. But one mo­ ment he’s a floating warrior, levitating through fields of all he protects; the next he’s human, weighted by a sharp blow of some­ one’s brandished words, and I can’t.

“I know that look,” Violet whispers. “Heartbreak.”

She says it like she knows the term well. I refrain from spill­ ing how deeply I understand its etymology, my focus still at­ tached to this man—a mere stranger I feel strangely connected to—if only because my story has had a few chapters that didn’t end so well.

He dials a new number. His face contorts into different ex­ pressions, shaking the tightness loose to find some kind of smile. “Smiling tricks the mind and body into thinking you aren’t

in pain,” Stella taught me. As he forces his lips to upturn, mine do the same.

He clears his throat. “I just wanted to say . . . I . . . I love you. I wish I could stop time, you know? Of course you know. It’s always about the time, isn’t it, baby? We need to talk later. . . . Let me know when you and JJ are back from the farmer’s mar­ ket. I love you. . . . So much . . . Talk soon.”

Violet sighs. “Man. I feel for him. And whoever that message is for.”

I quietly decide I’ll do my best to unearth his buried treasures in the event there is an answer among them—one I’ve been searching for since everything in my own life changed.

“We all have things buried so deep, it would take a dedicated search team to pull them to the surface,” my counselor told me once. She said it after my parents died, when I first learned of the Brickmans’ interest in fostering me. It was a time when I only felt the pieces of me that went missing. This man is missing some­ thing, too.

As the clock moves forward, I feel that pull of time passing. Like oars dropped in the ocean, I scramble to grab ahold. But, losing time doesn’t change what’s happened.

In tonights top headlines, new Ivy Springs resident and soon-to-be high school sophomore Andrew Brickman finds something he hadn’t intended during his first shift at Baked & Caffeinated: the crushing realization his parents arent coming back.

About the Author

CANDACE GANGER is a young adult author, contributing writer for Hello Giggles, and obsessive marathoner. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, bestselling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. She lives in Ohio with her family.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sarah Bonamino, Associate Publicist
St. Martin’s Publishing Group
Sarah.Bonamino@stmartins.com | 646-307-5566
SIX GOODBYES WE NEVER SAID
By Candace Ganger
Published by Wednesday Books
On Sale September 24, 2019
Hardcover | $18.99
ISBN: 9781250116246 |
Ebook ISBN: 9781250237088

Release Blitz: Styx & Stones by Carmen Jenner

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Cancer sucks … and then you die.

Styx and Stones an all-new emotional, mature young adult romance from USA Today bestselling author Carmen Jenner is available now!

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Alaska Stone is a walking wet dream.

My wet dream.

For years, I’ve watched her in the halls, wanted her, but she never knew I existed.

Not until she walked into my chemo session.

For me, it was love at first sight.

For her? It might take a little longer.

But hey, it’s not like we’re on a deadline or anything.

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Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

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About Carmen

Carmen Jenner is a USA Today and international bestselling author.

A hardcore red lipstick addict and a romantic at heart, Carmen strives to give her characters the HEA they deserve, but not before ruining their lives completely first … because what’s a happily ever after without a little torture?

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