ARC REVIEW+QUOTE STOP: Castle of Sighs (Forest of Whispers #2) by Jennifer Murgia

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Castle of Sighs (Forest of Whispers #2)
Jennifer Murgia
Expected publication: October 27th 2015 by Spencer Hill Press
YA >Contemporary | Paranormal
 
 

4 ★★★★

 
Purchase links:
 Amazon | B&N 
 
 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

Some secrets cannot be kept—in life or in death.
Months have passed since Rune has heard a single whisper from her long-dead mother, the great witch of Bavaria. But the absence of one evil has only made room for another.
After rightfully inheriting her ancestral home, Pyrmont Castle, Rune settles into a quiet life taking care of two orphans left in the wake of the terrible witch hunt that claimed dozens of lives in the nearby village. As the days grow colder, the castle’s secrets beckon and Rune finds herself roaming where no one has set foot in a long time. In the bowels of the fortress is a locked room full of memories that hang like cobwebs—shelves stacked with jars, strange specimens, putrid liquids, and scrolls of spells. Rune is undeniably drawn to what she finds there, and she begins to dabble in the possibilities of magic, hoping to find a cure for the strangeness overwhelming the castle.
As secrets unspool, the delicate thread of Rune’s world is threatened when she realizes the key may lie in the dark forest she once called home and the boy she thought she knew.

 

 
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REVIEW:

 

 

“And while I strive to be true, to prove I am not like my mother, despite my bloodline, I will always be the one the others watch carefully. I will always be a witch. And I feel such a stain will never wash away.”

Oh wow! What a sequel. I already know that Jennifer Murgia will impress me with her skills to transport me into Runes’s world and with her amazing writing but what I did not expect is that she will surpass all my expectations. Castle of Sighs floored me! Everything I ever wanted was given and Jennifer even gave me some bonus that I don’t think I deserve.

I highly suggest that everyone read the first book of the series. I read some reviews saying that they didn’t know that this was the second book in a series at first but still, they read on. There’s really nothing wrong with that but of course, the experience will be a whole lot better if you’ve read the first one. 

Rune grew up a lot! As I read through the Castle of Sighs, it’s obvious that the author made some huge characters developments in our main protagonist. Rune was a young and confused witch at Forest of Whispers but in here, she embraced who she is and tried to be better despite all the negative and cruel things that people kept throwing at her. Yes she’s a blood witch, but that doesn’t mean she’s part of the problem. 

The writing was so magnificent. Jennifer Murgia just enthralled me the whole way. I was sucked in from the first chapter and the story did not let me go until the very end. I have to double check my surrounding for a moment every time I read Castle of Sighs so that I can remind myself that I’m reading in my bedroom and not roaming the castle along with Rune. Everything about Murgia’s writing is absolutely beautiful.

All the characters charmed their way into my heart. And what’s the best is my Laurentz-Rune shipper heart is happy and swooning. I admit that I was left asking for more but I get that it was not the main focus of the book. I was still satisfied with the little romance that the author inserted.

Castle of Sighs is a solid follow up to an amazing book. Not only did it maintain the mysterious and enchanting vibe of the series but it intensified it even more. Looking for the perfect read this season? This series got you covered!  
COS tour graphic four

 

 

 

OTHER BOOK IN THE SERIES:

 

18506004

 

Forest of Whispers

 

PRAISE FOR FOREST OF WHISPERS
“Murgia’s dual narration makes this historical fantasy a compelling read. The plot-driven text quickly moves the story forward, and the vivid descriptions of 17th-century southwestern Germany pull readers in . . .  the pacing and narrative are absorbing. A solid novel for fans of historical fantasy that are looking for a fast-paced, action-filled tale.” ~ SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
“A story of magick and discovery.” — Readers’ Favorite: Five-Star review for FOREST OF WHISPERS

 

 

AUTHOR:

 

 Caroline-Patti-225x300

WEBSITE | EMAIL | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST

 

Jennifer Murgia writes moody fiction for teens—from paranormal fantasy (Angel Star, Lemniscate, The Bliss), to contemporary gut-punchers (Between These Lines). Her latest, Forest of Whispers, a 17th century historical mystery (about witches!) was a School Library Journal Fall 2014 HOT TITLE, and a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Literature Award Winner. Look for the sequel,​Castle of Sighs, to hit shelves 9.15.15 from Spencer Hill Press. In 2012, Jennifer Co-Founded YA FEST with YA author/friend, Cyn Balog. She coordinates this unique annual festival, bringing teens and fellow Young Adult authors together at her hometown library in Easton, PA.

Publicity inquiriesbrooke@spencerhillpress.com

 

 

 
   

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GUEST POST: Barren (Barren #1) by Elizabeth Miceli + Giveaway!!

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Barren (Barren #1)
Elizabeth Miceli
Published October 6th 2015
NA >Contemporary | Romance
 
 
 
Purchase links:
Amazon 
 
 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

 

I cried, praying for him to finish. I closed my eyes and tried to envision myself somewhere else… somewhere where I was happy. I thought of my family all piled around our tree on Christmas morning. I thought of singing with my band. I thought of Clare and I baking cookies and watching movies together. But after just a few seconds of pretending, Mike would hit me or thrust deeper and I would be back in reality. I was being raped. I was all alone. I was the damsel in distress. And there was no one there to save me.
Seventeen-year-old Stacey Lorenzo’s poor self-esteem has always consumed her. When her significant weight loss leaves her still feeling powerless- and with an eating disorder- she turns to partying to cope. This only makes matters worse because at a party she is raped, which leaves her psyche at an all-time low. Stacey drugs, cuts, and hooks up with countless guys in an attempt to find herself. But if Stacey doesn’t find a way to face her demons and overcome her fears, she might find herself in a hole so dark, even love won’t be able to pull her out
 
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GUEST POST:

 

Road to Publication

After finishing Barren in my senior year of high school, I took some time off from writing. With the start of college, I started to focus more on classes and put Barren on the back burner. In the summer before my sophomore year though, I worked on my query letter. It took a few weeks to hammer out the best letter I could, but with the help of some friends, I finally felt confident about sending out the letter. I started sending out query letters to agents and publishers by the end of May. I heard a lot of no. It seemed as though Barren was too raw, too hard-hitting for the people I chose to send my query letter too. That being said. a few agents said they wanted to read a longer excerpt or the full manuscript. I was starting to get down on myself and was thinking about changing my query letter when August rolled around. Then, something amazing happened. I was at the movies, waiting for “Bad Grandpa” to start, when I checked my email. It was from Swoon Romance saying that I was offered publication. I turned toward my friends, in absolute awe. They convinced me it was real but I decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone else until my mom read the email. In the morning, the email was still saying the exact same thing. This was real life. I was going to be an author.

 

 

 

AUTHOR:

 

 Caroline-Patti-225x300

 Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

 

Elizabeth hails from the smallest state with the biggest heart. She started off at The University of Akron and then transferred to the University of Rhode Island. She is a double major in both Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies. Although she loves writing- she also has a passion for helping others which is why she is studying to become a sex therapist/couples counselor. Elizabeth loves spending time with her family and friends, singing, eating everything Italian, and baking cookies. She is “in love with love” which is probably why the driving force in almost everything she writes is romance. When she’s not getting lost in her characters she can be found waiting for her prince charming in her North Kingstown, Rhode Island home.

 

 

 
   

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ARC REVIEW: Jane Unwrapped by Leah and Kate Rooper

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Jane Unwrapped

Leah Rooper, Kate Rooper

Expected publication: October 12th 2015 by Entangled: Crave

YA >Contemporary | Paranormal

 

 

 

4 ★★★★

 

 

Purchase links:

Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Entangled

 

 

 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

 

Some tombs should never be opened…

Fluorine uranium carbon potassium. Jane’s experiment really went wrong this time. After a fatal accident, teen scientist Jane becomes the first modern-day…mummy. Waking up in the Egyptian underworld without a heart certainly isn’t the best—especially when it means Anubis, god of embalming, has to devour her soul. Yuck. But when Jane meets the drop-dead gorgeous god, suddenly she’s thinking this might not be the worst thing to happen. And then she is pushed to do the impossible—just time-travel and kill King Tut. Well, every experiment has variables which can end in disaster… Jane just wishes she could decide whether she wants to strangle Anubis or kiss him.

 

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REVIEW:

 


“You only see beauty because you know it will end,” he says. “No one mourns a midday sun, but a setting sun has a finality to it. It makes you realize you don’t want it to end.”

Jane Unwrapped was a huge surprise.I admit that I never thought I will like it so much. So much that I was itching to stalk the authors immediately after finishing the book and demand a sequel. Self Control is totally needed. Jane Unwrapped is hard to fit into one genre because it has a little bit of everything. And it’s amazing how instead of a giant mess because of all the genres combined, Leah and Kate Rooper made the book into a masterpiece! But why read Jane Unwrapped?

First, because of the whole plot. The mythology and its modern take. Thanks to author Rick Riordan, I’m pretty much obsessed right now with mythology whether its greek or roman or in this case, Egyptian. I’m really fascinated with the rich tale and colorful characters. Leah and Kate did an incredible job in weaving the whole story. I was instantly sucked in from the first chapter and my eyes are glued until the end.

Leah and Kate Rooper’s characters are all memorable. Their own twist with the original myth characters are just right and great. The heroine, Jane, is someone you’ll be rooting for and will end up admiring. A flawed character that will grow up a lot and has an enjoyable monologue. Anubis was amazing! He’s all layers and concealed feelings and I enjoyed every chapter when the authors reveals something about him.

The romance was all kinds of sweet and cute. The chemistry between the two main leads was unmistakable! The authors did not do the usual Instalove thing but that just made the pair more likeable and worth shipping. They were explosives together and couldn’t be more perfect for each other.

Overall, I can say that Jane Unwrapped is definitely one of the best book ever written this year. This page turner will absolutely make you demand for more and will leave you satisfied! Fresh and vibrant characters with a fast paced plot that is full of intrigue, Jane Unwrapped is not a book that you want to miss!

 

 

 

AUTHOR:

 

 Caroline-Patti-225x300

Website | Blog | Kate’s Twitter | Leah’s Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr | YouTube | Newsletter

 

Leah and Kate Rooper are sisters from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Growing up beside the Pacific Ocean and inside a temperate rainforest fed their sense of adventure as children, and nourished a curiosity for strange and distant lands. They fed this curiosity with books—lots and lots of books. After experiencing the magic of Middle-earth, they began creating their own worlds. When they’re not writing, Leah and Kate spend their time blogging and vlogging about their travel adventures and their writing journey. You can visit them at: www.leahkatewrite.com

 

 

 
   

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Review: Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

23569334

Zac and Mia
A.J. Betts
September 2nd 2014
YA | Contemporary 
289 pages
Purchased

 

4/5 Stars

 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

 The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this tough and tender young adult novel that’s a lot about love (and a little about cancer).
Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize
“When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.” So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this tough and tender young adult novel that’s a lot about love (and a little about cancer).
Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize
“When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.” So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.

REVIEW:

 

I hate how books are described as being “The Fault in our Stars meets Eleanor and Park”, but I think that description was pretty accurate for this book.

Zac and Mia is truly a wonderfully written novel. I cannot tell you how glad I am I didn’t give up on this book. It started off great, and then hit this very boring, slow place for 60 or so pages. I kept trying to read them but it was not happening. So, I skimmed over those pages instead of putting the book down all together…BUT the second I started reading again things were already picking up and I don’t think I missed any pivotal details as I was skimming.

The characters were so wonderfully crafted. Mia was rude and arrogant at first but her development was amazing. I loved Zac the right after his first sentence. He was such a genuinely sweet guy. Its hard for me to explain how much I loved these two and their story. I feel the need to shove this book in everyones face because it was just that perfect and I want everyone to read and love it.
SAMhbt

SNEAK-A-PEEK: Trust Me, I’m Trouble (Trust Me #2) by Mary Elizabeth Summer

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Trust Me, I’m Trouble (Trust Me #2)

Mary Elizabeth Summer

Expected publication: October 13th 2015 by Delacorte Press

YA >Mystery | Thriller

 

 

 

 

Purchase links:

Amazon | B&N  | TBD | iTunes | Kobo 

 

 

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

 

The sequel to TRUST ME, I’M LYING

Staying out of trouble isn’t possible for Julep Dupree. She has managed not to get kicked out of her private school, even though everyone knows she’s responsible for taking down a human-trafficking mob boss—and getting St. Agatha’s golden-boy Tyler killed in the process. Running cons holds her guilty conscience at bay, but unfortunately, someone wants Julep to pay for her mistakes . . . with her life.

Against her better judgment, Julep takes a shady case that requires her to infiltrate a secretive organization that her long-gone mother and the enigmatic blue fairy may be connected to. Her best friend, Sam, isn’t around to stop her, and Dani, her one true confidante, happens to be a nineteen-year-old mob enforcer whose moral compass is as questionable as Julep’s. But there’s not much time to worry about right and wrong—or to save your falling heart—when there’s a contract on your head.

Murders, heists, secrets and lies, hit men and hidden identities . . . If Julep doesn’t watch her back, it’s her funeral. No lie.

 

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EXCERPT:

 

Chapter One: The Stratton Job

 

I can’t say I have much personal experience with conscience. I wasn’t born with that particular cricket on my shoulder. But people who believe in conscience seem to think it has something to do with compassion. And it could, I suppose, if you tilt your head and squint at it in just the right light.

The truth is, conscience exists because everyone has something in their past they’re not proud of. And if you’re smart enough to use that to your advantage, you can stay one step ahead of the consequences. Any good con man with the right kind of rope can hang an entire mob.

But my story doesn’t start with the mob. It starts with a pair of borrowed pumps and the front walk of a black-shuttered Colonial.

I am Ms. Jena Scott, the youngest attorney at Lewis, Duncan, and Chase Law. Or at least, I am for the next thirty minutes. Then I’ll turn back into Julep Dupree, sophomore at St. Agatha’s Preparatory School and all-around fixer. (Julep’s not my real name, either, but we’ll get to that later.)

It’s the officially unofficial talk around school that I’m a solver of other people’s problems. And I am. I just happen to charge a respectable sum for my services. St. Aggie’s isn’t cheap, and a job at the local deli isn’t going to cover the cost of toiletries, let alone tuition. Luckily, my fellow students can more than afford my rates.

My talent is the one thing I can leverage. I’m a grifter, a con artist, and a master of disguise. I’m the best, actually, because I was taught by the best—my dad, Joe. Never heard of him? Well, you wouldn’t have, because he’s never been caught. And neither have I. The best grifters are ghosts.

For the newbies out there, a grifter is a person who specializes in selling people something that doesn’t exist. At the moment, I’m selling my client Heather Stratton’s parents on the idea that she has applied to New York University. Which, of course, is a load of crap.

Heather doesn’t want to go to NYU; she wants to be a model. But since her mom won’t bankroll that endeavor, my job is to grease the wheels, so to speak, so everyone believes she’s getting what she wants. It’s a win-win-win, really. Heather is happy, Mrs. Stratton is happy, and I get paid. When you look at it like that, I’m in the making-people-happy business.

Heather’s paying for a full pig-in-a-poke package: fake application, fake interview, fake acceptance. And it’s going to cost her. I’ve already had Sam, my best friend and partner in crime, build a fake NYU website showing Heather’s application status. Then came the official-looking brochures and letters on NYU stationery Sam and I spent an afternoon making. And that was easy compared to getting the envelopes to sport a postmark from New York.

Now I’m doing the interview bit. Ms. Scott is a new creation of mine. A lawyer by way of NYU undergrad and University of Pennsylvania law school. She works at a big-deal firm here in Chicago and occasionally does admission interviews for her alma mater.

I straighten my suit skirt in the perfect imitation of a lawyer I saw on television last night. There’s a good chance nobody’s watching, but it never hurts to get into character early. I touch my hair to make sure the longish brown mess is still coiled into a tight French roll. I adjust the thin, black-framed glasses I use for roles both younger and older than my near-sixteen years.

Then I remember my gum—doesn’t exactly scream professionalism. Lacking an appropriate disposal option, I take the gum out and stick it to the bottom of the Strattons’ mailbox. I walk up to the covered porch and rap smartly on the blue door. A few moments later, a brittle, middle-aged woman with a too-bright smile and Jackie O style opens it.

“Mrs. Stratton, I presume,” I say in a slightly lower pitch than usual. People assume you’re older if your voice is deeper.

“You must be Ms. Scott,” she says. “Please, come in.”

She’s easy enough to read. Nervous, excited. She’s an easy mark, because she wants so much for me to be real. I mean, look at me. This disguise is a stretch, even for a professional grifter. But she won’t doubt it, because she doesn’t want to. No disguise is more foolproof than the one the mark wants to believe. I might feel a little bad for her if I were a real person. As it happens, I’m not a real person, and she is not my client.

I cross the threshold into an immaculate foyer. The living room opens off to my left, rich and inviting but lacking in the warmth the plush upholstery implies. It’s a gorgeous room, beautiful and cold, like an ice sculpture in the sun.

Mrs. Stratton motions me into the room and I sit in an armchair next to a brick hearth that hasn’t seen a fire in years. Julep would have chosen the couch, with its army of throw pillows, but “Ms. Scott” is here on business and doesn’t approve of all the touchy-feely nonsense that comes about sitting next to people.

“Would you like something to drink?”

“A glass of water would be most appreciated,” I say.

Mrs. Stratton leaves the room, returning a few moments later with a precisely cooled glass of water. She places a coaster on the polished end table next to me. I smile my approval, and her smile widens.

“I’ll go get Heather,” Mrs. Stratton says, and calls up the stairs for her daughter, who is expecting me.

Heather enters the room in what I can only assume is her Sunday best. Her family is Episcopalian, I’m fairly sure. I can usually tell by the decor of the house, the mother’s clothing choices, and the books on the shelves in public spaces. For example, you can always tell a Baptist household by the oak dining room table, the spinet in the living room, and the variety of Bibles on the shelf next to the television set. Episcopalians don’t often have televisions in their living rooms. Don’t ask me why.

“Hello, Heather,” I say, standing and extending my hand. She shakes it, shooting me conspiratorial glances while acting fidgety, and overall doing a lousy job of pretending she doesn’t know me. But her mother will chalk it up to nervousness as long as I do my part right.

I sink back into the armchair, and Heather sits across from me on the couch. She looks tense, but then she would be. Heather’s mother hangs around for another moment or two before realizing she is supposed to leave and finally whisking herself away to some other part of the house.

I raise my hand when Heather opens her mouth. So many of my clients foolishly think we don’t have to go through with the scam from beginning to end. They assume that once they can no longer see the mark, she’s not still around listening. My dad calls it the ostrich syndrome.

“Tell me about yourself, Heather,” I say. “What do you want to study at NYU?”

What follows is a yawn-fest of questions and answers. I couldn’t care less about Heather’s GPA. And student government? Really? But I’m helping her swindle her parents—I’m hardly in a position to judge.

At the end of the interview I cut her off, almost midsentence, and stand up, not having touched my water. I’m out of the house and at the door to Sam’s Volvo, proper good-byes offered and promises to put in a good word for Heather with the admissions office made. I open the driver’s-side door and slide into the leather seat, exhaling as I settle in. It’s a far cry from the hard plastic chairs on the “L,” which is my usual form of transportation.

I sense more than hear the purr as the engine turns over. I pull away from the curb cautiously, not because I’m a cautious driver by nature, but because I am still in character. Once I’ve turned out of sight of the house, I crank the radio up and slide the windows down while I push the gas pedal to coax the car to a peppier speed. It’s a warm Sunday in early September, and I want to milk it for all it’s worth. With one hand, I pull out the pins holding my hair back, letting the tangled tresses fall naturally to my shoulders.

Sam knows I’m not a legal driver. We’ve known each other since fourth grade, when we started pulling the three-card monte on our classmates, so he’s well aware of my age. You’d think he’d be more nervous about lending his brand-new Volvo to an untried, untested, unlicensed driver. But then, I’m the one who taught him how to drive.

Ten minutes later, I pull into the parking lot of my local coffee haunt, the Ballou, which is half a block from the St. Aggie’s campus, and claim a space next to a souped-up seventies muscle car. Chevelle, I think, though I’m hardly an expert. Black with two thick white racing stripes down the hood and windows tinted black enough to put Jay-Z’s to shame.

I take off my jacket and untuck my blouse. Kicking off the heels, I flip open my ratty old canvas bag and take out my well-worn Converse high-tops. I wriggle my feet into them as I tie my hair up again. Then I toss the glasses into the bag and grab my dad’s old leather jacket.

The Ballou is pretty much what you’d expect a coffee shop to be: wooden tables, scuffed and stuffed chairs, a lacquered bar polished to within an inch of its life, a smattering of patrons sipping lattes and reading Yeats. You see lots of MacBooks and iPads, and the occasional stack of textbooks gathering dust while their owners text or surf the Web.

Sam is sitting at our favorite rickety, mismatched table with the cardboard coffee-cup sleeve under one of the legs.

“To the minute,” Sam says, spotting me over the top of his graphic novel. “I’ll never know how you can guess that close.”

“Just have to know the mark.”

“That’s what you say for everything,” he says, smiling and moving his bag aside.

“Well, it’s true for everything,” I say while I casually steal his cappuccino.

Sam has a gorgeous smile. I often tease him about it, which he hates, or at least pretends to hate. But I think he secretly appreciates being noticed for something besides his status as the only son of Hudson Seward, board chairman of the Seward Group and the richest black man in Chicago. Sam wants to escape his father’s name as much as Heather wants out from under her mother’s iron fist.

Everyone wants something, I suppose. Me? I want a full ride to Yale. Hence my internment at St. Agatha’s.

“How’d it go?”

I yawn.

“That good?”

“Cake,” I say. “But we prepped well this time.” I take a swig of his coffee.

“As opposed to any other time?”

“Granted.” I set his keys on the table. “Thanks for the car.”

He pockets the keys. “And you’re thanking me because . . . ?”

“Hey, I say thank you sometimes.” I cradle the cup between my hands to warm them.

“No you don’t,” he says.

“Yes I do.”

He plucks the cup out of my grasp and leans back. “No you don’t.”

I’ve just conceded when Heather appears. I don’t love that she insisted on meeting up with us, but she’s the sort who needs to know each step of the plan in detail. She’s more her mother’s daughter than she thinks. She slips gracefully into the chair next to mine.

“That went . . . well?” she says with a slight question at the end, like she’s asking for confirmation.

“It did,” I say. I make it a policy to avoid hand-holding. But she’s my client, and far be it from me to begrudge her a bit of customer service.

“So what now?” She huddles into herself and lowers her voice to a whisper. Really, how my clients keep anything a secret when their body language continually screams Look at me! I’m planning something nefarious! is beyond me. I guess it’s true what the French say: fortune favors the innocent. Lucky for me, it also favors the moderately dishonest.

“Now I welcome you to NYU,” I say.

Then I detail the rest of the plan, which involves sending Heather a fake internship offer from a modeling agency to raise the stakes. Mrs. Stratton will be so desperate to secure Heather’s spot at NYU she won’t think to question our irregular instructions for sending the tuition check. In my profession, this is called the shutout, and it works every time.

“But how do I cash a check made out to NYU?” Heather asks.

“It won’t be made out to NYU. It will be made out to me. Or to Jena Scott, actually.”

“You think she’ll fall for that?”

“Fall for it? She’ll be the one suggesting it. Trust me, the check is the easy part.”

Heather’s doubt is evident, but she’s not the one whose confidence I’m trying to steal.

A half hour later, Sam drops me off at my apartment building.

“Catch you on the dark side,” I say as I get out and head to the front door.

“The dark side is a bad thing,” Sam calls after me.

I wave while he pulls away from the curb, shaking his head at me.

“Hi, Fred,” I say to the homeless man sitting between the row of mailboxes and the radiator in the entryway.

“Hey, Julep,” he says in his Dominican accent. “How’s shit going?”

“Shit’s good,” I say, and open our mailbox. I pull the comics out of the paper and hand them to Fred. If anyone needs a laugh, it’s him.

In case the homeless guy hasn’t given it away, my dad and I live deep in the West Side slums—the same apartment building we’ve been in since my mom left us. I was eight at the time, so that’s, what? Seven years? Well, in all that time I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of any maintenance personnel beyond the very occasional plumber.

I’m so used to it, though, that I climb the narrow stairs without seeing the fuchsia and black graffiti or the grime in the corners. In fact, I don’t even notice when I get to our apartment that the door is slightly open. When I try to put my key in the lock, the door swings away from me. Still, I’m distracted by a tuition bill from St. Aggie’s, so I walk right in.

The first thing I notice is my dad’s chair tipped upside down, the stuffing from the cushion littered around it like yellow sea foam. My lungs constrict as I take in the rest of our shattered belongings: Pictures torn down to reveal stained walls. Drawers pulled out and overturned. Even some of the linoleum flooring in the kitchen has been ripped up and left in curling strips.

“Dad?” The sound of my heart hammering is probably carrying farther than my voice.

This makes no sense. We have nothing worth stealing—no one breaks into the apartments in our building for monetary gain. Not that there isn’t violence; it’s just usually domestic or drug related.

I push open the door to my dad’s room and it gets stuck about a third of the way open. This room is in even worse shape than the rest of the apartment. Books and papers and blankets and broken bits of furniture cover the ratty carpet like shrapnel from a bomb blast. But still no Dad. At this point, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

Not as much damage in my room, but it’s still trashed. Curtains trailing along the floor. Desk knocked over, the bulb from the lamp shattered and ground into the carpet.

I pick my way back toward the kitchen as I study what was left behind. I’m certain someone was looking for something, but I have no idea what. It’s not like we stashed a Monet under the floorboards.

My dad does have a gambling problem. He’s the best grifter you’ve never heard of, like I said, but we’re still living in the ghetto. I’m sure you’re wondering why, since I keep telling you he could con Donald Trump out of his toupee. Well, that’s the reason. No sooner does he get a “windfall” than it gets spent on the ponies.

But he never borrows to bet. He bets everything we have but nothing we don’t. His bookie’s his best friend. Ralph even comes to my birthday parties. So I seriously doubt it’s a payment problem.

It has to be a con that’s gone south somehow. Which means my dad’s in trouble. He has something his mark wants. And not just any mark—a mark willing to break in and do this. That means a mark on the shadier side.

I reach the kitchen and tip a chair upright. What could my dad be into that would have resulted in this? What could he have that somebody would be looking for? The answer is lots of things: forged documents, information about something incriminating, who knows? The two bigger questions, though, are did the person find what he was searching for, and why didn’t my dad tell me what he was doing?

My dad is not the sort to shelter his offspring. We’re a team. I sometimes help him brainstorm when he’s planning a con. He doesn’t often use me as a roper, mostly because I’d stick out like a sore thumb in the circles he tends to work. But he always tells me his angle.

I lean against the wall, surveying the destruction in the kitchen. Something tells me that whoever tossed the place did not find what he was looking for. That might very well be wishful thinking, but I decide to act on the hunch anyway. Can’t hurt to do a bit of searching of my own.

But before I turn over even a plate, two thoughts occur to me. One, I should call the police before I tamper with any potential evidence. Two, if the home-wrecker didn’t find what he was looking for, he might come back.

I reach for my phone and tap a nine and a one before I come to my senses. I can’t call the police. Police plus abandoned minor equals foster care. Hello! I let out a shaky breath at how close I came to screwing myself nine ways to Sunday. I delete both numbers and quickly pocket the phone, as if my fingers might somehow betray me.

I’m sure you think I’m being melodramatic. But I’m not an idiot. Everyone knows that foster care is a prison sentence. Umpteen thousand crime procedurals cannot be wrong. Besides, my dad and I are our own system. I’m the only one who knows him well enough to figure out where he’s hidden whatever the intruder was searching for. If the police get involved, they’ll be the ones ruining the crime scene, not me.

I picture my dad, every detail from his thick brown hair to his scuffed oxfords. If I were my dad and I had to hide something . . .

What hasn’t been touched? I turn in a slow circle till I find it—the perfectly upright, not-even-a-millimeter-out-of-place trash can.

Only cops dig in the garbage, Julep, and even then, only on TV.

Before considering the consequences, I yank the bag out of the can and empty it onto what’s left of the linoleum. Last night’s chicken bones come tumbling out, along with several plastic wrappers and a lump of grease-covered foil. Gross, yes. Illuminating, no. I root around in it anyway, holding my breath and hoping. But there’s nothing in the bag that can remotely be construed as valuable. No pictures, no papers, no money, nothing.

I plop on the floor next to the mess, swearing to myself. I mean, who am I kidding? How am I supposed to find my dad in a pile of half-eaten chicken? The trash can mocks me with its dingy plastic lid. Still upright, it is the only thing in the apartment that’s exactly where it should be.

I kick out and knock it over. Might as well finish the job, right? But as it falls to the floor, I hear something bang around inside it. I pull the mouth around to where I can see. Inside the can is a padded envelope.

Ignoring the muck, I reach in and grab the envelope. As I rip it open, I have this strange sense of doom, like liberating its contents is some kind of point of no return. I ignore the feeling. He is my dad, after all.

But when I pull out said contents, I’m even more unnerved.

In one hand, I hold a note:

Beware the Field of Miracles.

In the other, I hold a gun.

 

 

OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:

 

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Trust Me, I’m Lying

 

25775878

 

 

Down to The Liar

 

 

 

AUTHOR:

 

 Caroline-Patti-225x300

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Mary Elizabeth Summer is an instructional designer, a mom, a champion of the serial comma, and a pie junkie. Oh, and she sometimes writes books about teenage delinquents saving the day. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her daughter, her partner, and her evil overlor–er, cat. TRUST ME, I’M LYING, a YA mystery, will be released by Delacorte in Fall 2014.

 

 

 

 
   

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