Blog Tour for Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace Ganger

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Hey everyone! Happy September! Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Six Goodbyes We Never said!

 

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ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Title: Six Goodbyes We Never Said

Author: Candace Granger

Release Date: September 24th, 2019

Published By: Wednesday Books

Pages: 288 pages

Link to retailers: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250116246

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Synopsis:

Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go

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. 

Candace Ganger’s Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.

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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 Nell’s 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 today’s forecast, sunshine early morning will give way to late-day thunderstorms. I love the smell of rain. It’s 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 partyand 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 tonight’s 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 aren’t coming back.

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About the Author

Candace Ganger AP_Credit Candace Ganger (1)

 

Candace Ganger is the author of Six Goodbyes We Never Said and The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash as well as a contributing writer for HelloGiggles 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, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. She lives in Ohio with her family.

Twitter: @candylandgang + @WednesdayBooks

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AUTHOR’S 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.

Happy Reading!

 

Blog Tour for His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler *Review and Giveaway*

Hello Everyone! Happy August! Welcome to my stop on the His Hideous Heart Blog Tour!

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Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Title: His Hideous Heart

Author: Dahlia Adler (Editor), Kendare Blake, Rin Chupeco, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Stephanie Kuehn, Amanda Lovelace, Marieke Nijkamp, Emily Lloyd-Jones, Hillary Monahan, Caleb Roehrig, Fran Wilde

Release Date: September 10th, 2019

Published By: Flatiron Books

Pages: 480 pages

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SYNOPSIS:

Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

Contributors include Kendare Blake (reimagining “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”)

***

my review

I loved this reimagined collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s tales! This particular edition has both the reimagined tales and the original tales in the book. When I first saw that this was coming out I knew I had to get my hands on it, especially with that gorgeous cover! I loved how these tales retained that same gothic eeriness and creepiness of the original tales. This is a really fun anthology for fans of EAP and those new to his tales. Dahlia Adler did a fantastic job of helping to bring these new, modern tales together for a new generation to enjoy!

The Thirteen Tales are:

  1. She Rode a Horse of Fire by Kendare Blake (inspired by “Metzengerstein”) 
  2. It’s Carnival! by Tiffany D. Jackson (inspired by “The Cask of Amontillado”)
  3. Night-Tide by Tessa Gratton (inspired by “Annabel Lee”)
  4. The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig (inspired by “The Pit and the Pendulum”)
  5. A Drop of Stolen Ink by Emily Lloyd-Jones (inspired by “The Purloined Letter”)
  6. Happy Days, Sweetheart by Stephanie Kuehn (inspired by “The Tell-Tale Heart”)
  7. The Raven (Remix) by amanda lovelace (inspired by “The Raven”)
  8. Changeling by Marieke Nijkamp (inspired by “Hop-Frog”) 
  9. The Oval Filter by Lamar Giles (inspired by “The Oval Portrait”)
  10. Red by Hillary Monahan (inspired by “The Masque of the Red Death”) 
  11. Lygia by Dahlia Adler (inspired by “Ligeia”)
  12. The Fall of the Bank of Usher by Fran Wilde (inspired by “The Fall of the House of Usher”) 
  13. The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay by Ron Chupeco (inspired by “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”)

 

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About the Author

 

Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens, LGBTQ Reads, and Frolic by night, and an author of Young Adult and New Adult novels at every spare moment in between. Her books include the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University trilogy, and her short stories can be found in the anthologies The Radical Element, All Out, It’s a Whole Spiel, and His Hideous Heart, which she also edited. Dahlia lives in New York with her husband, son, and an obscene amount of books, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @MissDahlELama.

 

Contributors:

Dahlia Adler

Kendare Blake

Rin Chupeco

Lamar Giles

Tessa Gratton

Tiffany D. Jackson

Stephanie Kuehn 

Emily Lloyd-Jones

amanda lovelace

Hillary Monahan 

Marieke Nijkamp

Caleb Roehrig

Fran Wilde

***

giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a free copy of His Hideous Heart! 

To win just comment “His Hideous Heart” below! (US entrants only please. Sorry!)

 

 

Happy Reading!

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? – 08/05/2019

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CURRENT READ(S):

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ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Title: House of Salt and Sorrows

Author: Erin A. Craig

Release Date: August 6th, 2019

Published By: Delacorte

Pages: 416 pages

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SYNOPSIS:

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

 

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ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Title: Nevernight

Author: Jay Kristoff

Release Date: August 9th, 2016

Published By: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 429 pages

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SYNOPSIS:

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

 

Happy Reading! 

Goodreads Monday – 08/05/2019

GOODREADS MONDAY IS HOSTED BY LAUREN’S PAGE TURNERS.  ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SHOW OFF A BOOK FROM YOUR TBR THAT YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO READING.

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I prefer the UK cover myself (pictured below)

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ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Title: The Silence of the Girls

Author: Pat Barker

Release Date: September 4th 2018 (first published August 30th 2018)

Published By: Doubleday Books

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SYNOPSIS:

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.

 

Happy Reading! 

July Book Haul

Hey Everyone! Happy Sunday! I can’t believe we’re already into August! I feel like the summer has just flown by in the blink of an eye!

July was a bit of a hectic month for me, but there is less than I originally thought there was! lol

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Digital/E-ARC’s:

 

Netgalley:

 

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Edelweiss:

 

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Physical Books:

 

Purchased Books:

I took advantage of the BOGO sale Barnes and Noble had on James Patterson books 🙂

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What did you guys add to your shelves this month? 

 

Happy Reading! 

Blog Tour for The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Hey everyone! Happy publishing day to The Escape Room! Welcome to my stop on the first day of the blog tour for The Escape Room by Megan Goldin! I will be sharing my review and an excerpt from the book today!

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ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Title: The Escape Room

Author: Megan Goldin

Release Date: July 30th, 2019

Published By: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 288 pages

Find it here

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Synopsis:

In Megan Goldin’s unforgettable debut, The Escape Room, four young Wall Street rising stars discover the price of ambition when an escape room challenge turns into a lethal game of revenge.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

***

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE


It was Miguel who called 911 at 4:07 a.m. on an icy Sunday morning. The young security guard spoke in an unsteady voice, fear disguised by cocky nonchalance.

Miguel had been an aspiring bodybuilder until he injured his back lifting boxes in a warehouse job and had to take night- shift work guarding a luxury office tower in the final stages of construction. He had a muscular physique, dark hair, and a cleft in his chin.

He was conducting a cursory inspection when a scream rang out. At first, he didn’t hear a thing. Hip- hop music blasted through the oversize headphones he wore as he swept his flashlight across the dark recesses of the lobby.

The beam flicked across the classical faces of reproduction Greek busts cast in metal and inset into niches in the walls. They evoked an eerie otherworldliness, which gave the place the aura of a mausoleum.

Miguel paused his music to search for a fresh play list of songs. It was then that he heard the tail end of a muffled scream.

The sound was so unexpected that he instinctively froze. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard strange noises at night, whether it was the screech of tomcats brawling or the whine of construction cranes buffeted by wind. Silence followed. Miguel chided himself for his childish reaction.

He pressed PLAY to listen to a new song and was immediately assaulted by the explosive beat of a tune doing the rounds at the dance clubs where he hung out with friends.

Still, something in the screech he’d heard a moment before rattled him enough for him to be extra diligent.

He bent down to check the lock of the revolving lobby door. It was bolted shut. He swept the flashlight across a pair of still escalators and then, above his head, across the glass- walled mezzanine floor that overlooked the lobby.

He checked behind the long reception desk of blond oak slats and noticed that a black chair was at an odd angle, as if someone had left in a hurry.

A stepladder was propped against a wall where the lobby café was being set up alongside a water fountain that was not yet functional. Plastic- wrapped café tables and chairs were piled up alongside it.

In the far corner, he shone his flashlight in the direction of an elaborate model of the building complex shown to prospective tenants by Realtors rushing to achieve occupancy targets in time for the building’s opening the following month.

The model detailed an ambitious master plan to turn an abandoned ware house district that had been a magnet for homeless people and addicts into a high- end financial and shopping precinct. The first tower was almost finished. A second was halfway through construction.

When Miguel turned around to face the elevator lobby, he was struck by something so incongruent that he pushed his headphones off his head and onto his shoulders.

The backlit green fluorescent light of an elevator switch flickered in the dark. It suggested that an elevator was in use. That was impossible, because he was the only person there.

In the sobriety of the silent echo that followed, he convinced himself once again that his vague sense of unease was the hallucination of a fatigued mind. There was nobody in the elevator for the simple reason that the only people on- site on weekends were the security
guards. Two per shift. Except to night, Miguel was the only one on duty.

When Stu had been a no- show for his shift, Miguel figured he’d manage alone. The construction site was fenced off with towering barbed- wire fences and a heavy- duty electric gate. Nobody came in or out until the shift ended.

In the four months he’d worked there, the only intruders he’d encountered were feral cats and rats scampering across construction equipment in the middle of the night. Nothing ever happened during the night shift.

That was what he liked about the job. He was able to study and sleep and still get paid. Sometimes he’d sleep for a couple of hours on the soft leather lobby sofa, which he found preferable to the lumpy stretcher in the portable office where the guards took turns resting
between patrols. The CCTV cameras hadn’t been hooked up yet, so he could still get away with it.

From the main access road, the complex looked completed. It had a driveway entry lined with young maples in planter boxes. The lobby had been fitted out and furnished to impress prospective tenants who came to view office space.

The second tower, facing the East River, looked unmistakably like a construction site. It was wrapped with scaffolding. Shipping containers storing building materials were arranged like colorful Lego blocks in a muddy field alongside idle bulldozers and a crane.

Miguel removed keys from his belt to open the side entrance to let himself out, when he heard a loud crack. It whipped through the lobby with an intensity that made his ears ring.

Two more cracks followed. They were unmistakably the sound of gunshots. He hit the ground and called 911. He was terrified the shooter was making his way to the lobby but cocky enough to cover his fear with bravado when he spoke.

“Something bad’s going down here.” He gave the 911 dispatcher the address. “You should get cops over here.”

Miguel figured from the skepticism in the dispatcher’s cool voice that his call was being given priority right below the doughnut run.

His heart thumped like a drum as he waited for the cops to arrive. You chicken shit, he berated himself as he took cover behind a sofa. He exhaled into his shirt to muffle the sound of his rapid breathing. He was afraid he would give away his position to the shooter.

A wave of relief washed over him when the lobby finally lit up with a hazy blue strobe as a police car pulled in at the taxi stand. Miguel went outside to meet the cops.

“What’s going on?” An older cop with a thick gut hanging over his belted pants emerged from the front passenger seat.

“Beats me,” said Miguel. “I heard a scream. Inside the building. Then I heard what I’m pretty sure were gunshots.”

“How many shots?” A younger cop came around the car to meet him, snapping a wad of gum in his mouth.

“Two, maybe three shots. Then nothing.”

“Is anyone else around?” The older cop’s expression was hidden under a thick gray mustache.

“They clear out the site on Friday night. No construction workers. No nobody. Except me. I’m the night guard.”

“Then what makes you think there’s a shooter?”

“I heard a loud crack. Sure sounded like a gunshot. Then two more. Came from somewhere up in the tower.”

“Maybe construction equipment fell? That possible?”

A faint thread of red suffused Miguel’s face as he contemplated the possibility that he’d panicked over nothing. They moved into the lobby to check things out, but he was feeling less confident than when he’d called 911. “I’m pretty sure they—” He stopped speaking as they
all heard the unmistakable sound of a descending elevator.

“I thought you said there was nobody here,” said the older cop.

“There isn’t.”

“Could have fooled me,” said the second cop. They moved through to the elevator lobby. A light above the elevator doors was flashing to indicate an elevator’s imminent arrival. “Someone’s here.”

“The building opens for business in a few weeks,” said Miguel. “Nobody’s supposed to be here.”

The cops drew their guns from their holsters and stood in front of the elevator doors in a shooting stance— slightly crouched, legs apart. One of the cops gestured furiously for Miguel to move out of the way. Miguel stepped back. He hovered near an abstract metal sculpture
set into the wall at the dead end of the elevator lobby.

A bell chimed. The elevator heaved as it arrived.

The doors parted with a slow hiss. Miguel swallowed hard as the gap widened. He strained to see what was going on. The cops were blocking his line of sight and he was at too sharp an angle to see much.

“Police,” shouted both cops in unison. “Put your weapon down.”

Miguel instinctively pressed himself against the wall. He flinched as the first round of bullets was fired. There were too many shots to count. His ears rang so badly, it took him a moment to realize the police had stopped firing. They’d lowered their weapons and were shouting something. He didn’t know what. He couldn’t hear a thing over the ringing in his ears.

Miguel saw the younger cop talk into his radio. The cop’s mouth opened and closed. Miguel couldn’t make out the words. Gradually, his hearing returned and he heard the tail end of a stream of NYPD jargon.

He couldn’t understand most of what was said. Something about “nonresponsive” and needing “a bus,” which he assumed meant an ambulance. Miguel watched a trickle of blood run along the marble floor until it formed a puddle. He edged closer. He glimpsed blood splatter on the wall of the elevator. He took one more step. Finally, he could see inside the elevator. He immediately regretted it. He’d never seen so much blood in all his life.



ONE

THE ELEVATOR

 

Thirty-four Hours Earlier

Vincent was the last to arrive. His dark overcoat flared behind him as he strode through the lobby. The other three were standing in an informal huddle by a leather sofa. They didn’t notice Vincent come in. They were on their phones, with their backs to the entrance, preoccupied with emails and silent contemplation as to why they had been called to a last-minute meeting on a Friday night at an out-of-the-way office building in the South Bronx.

Vincent observed them from a distance as he walked across the lobby toward them. Over the years, the four of them had spent more time together than apart. Vincent knew them almost better than he knew himself. He knew their secrets, and their lies. There were times when he could honestly say that he’d never despised anyone more than these three people. He suspected they all shared the sentiment. Yet they needed one another. Their fates had been joined together long before.

Sylvie’s face bore its usual expression, a few degrees short of a resting-bitch face. With her cover-girl looks and dark blond hair pinned in a topknot that drew attention to her green eyes, Sylvie looked like the catwalk model that she’d been when she was a teenager. She was irritated by being called to an unscheduled meeting when she had to pack for Paris, but she didn’t let it show on her face. She studiously kept a faint upward tilt to her lips. It was a practice drummed into her over many years working in a male-dominated profession. Men could snarl or look angry with impunity; women had to smile serenely regardless of the provocation.

To her right stood Sam, wearing a charcoal suit with a white shirt and a black tie. His stubble matched the dark blond of his closely cropped hair. His jaw twitched from the knot of anxiety in his guts. He’d felt stabbing pains ever since his wife, Kim, telephoned during the drive over. She was furious that he wouldn’t make the flight to Antigua because he was attending an unscheduled meeting. She hated the fact that his work always took precedence over her and the girls.

Jules stood slightly away from the other two, sucking on a peppermint candy to disguise the alcohol on his breath. He wore a suave burgundy-and-navy silk tie that made his Gypsy eyes burn with intensity. His dark hair was brushed back in the style of a fifties movie star. He usually drank vodka because it was odorless and didn’t make his face flush, but now his cheeks were ruddy in a tell-tale sign he’d been drinking. The minibar in his chauffeured car was out of vodka, so he’d had to make do with whiskey on the ride over. The empty bottles were still rattling around in his briefcase.

As they waited for their meeting, they all had the same paranoid notion that they’d been brought to a satellite office to be retrenched. Their careers would be assassinated silently, away from the watercooler gossips at the head office.

It was how they would have done it if the positions were reversed. A Friday-evening meeting at an out-of-the-way office, concluding with a retrenchment package and a nondisclosure agreement signed and sealed.

The firm was considering unprecedented layoffs, and they were acutely aware they had red targets on their backs. They said none of this to one another. They kept their eyes downcast as they worked on their phones, unaware they were the only ones in the lobby. Just as they hadn’t paid much mind to the cranes and construction fencing on their way in.

Sam checked his bank account while he waited. The negative balance made him queasy. He’d wiped out all the cash in his account that morning paying Kim’s credit-card bill. If he lost his job, then the floodgates would open. He could survive two to three months without work; after that, he’d have to sell assets. That alone would destroy him financially. He was leveraged to the hilt. Some of his assets were worth less now than when he’d bought them.

The last time Sam had received a credit-card bill that huge, he’d immediately lowered Kim’s credit limit. Kim found out when her payment for an eleven-thousand-dollar Hermès handbag was rejected at the Madison Avenue store in front of her friends. She was mortified. They had a huge blowup that night, and he reluctantly restored her credit limit. Now he paid all her bills without a word of complaint. Even if it meant taking out bridging loans. Even if it meant constantly feeling on the verge of a heart attack.

Sam knew that Kim spent money as much for attention as out of boredom. She complained that Sam was never around to help with the twins. He’d had to point out that they’d hired a maid to give her all the help she needed. Three maids, to be truthful. Three within the space of two years. The third had walked out in tears a week ago due to Kim’s erratic temper.

Kim was never satisfied with anything. If Sam gave Kim a platinum necklace, she wanted it in gold. If he took her to London, she wanted Paris. If he bought her a BMW, she wanted a Porsche.

Satisfying her unceasing demands was doable when his job prospects were good, but the firm had lost a major account, and since Christmas word had spread of an impending restructure. Everyone knew that was a euphemism for layoffs.

Sam never doubted that Kim would leave him if he couldn’t support her lifestyle anymore. She’d demand full custody of the girls and she’d raise them to hate him. Kim forgave most of his transgressions, she could even live with his infidelities, but she never forgave failure.

It was Sam who first heard the footsteps sounding through the vast lobby. The long, hurried strides of a man running late to a meeting. Sam swung around as their boss arrived. Vincent’s square jaw was tight and his broad shoulders were tense as he joined them without saying a word.

“You almost didn’t make it,” observed Sylvie.

“The traffic was terrible.” Vincent ran his hand over his overcoat pocket in the habit of a man who had recently stopped smoking. Instead of cigarettes, he took out a pair of glasses, which he put on to examine the message on his phone. “Are you all aware of the purpose of this meeting?”

“The email invite from HR wasn’t exactly brimming with information,” said Sam. “You said in your text message it was compulsory for us to attend. That it took precedence over everything else. Well, we’re all here. So maybe now you can enlighten us, Vincent. What’s so important that I had to delay my trip to Antigua?”

“Who here has done an escape-room challenge before?” Vincent asked.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Sam said. “I abandoned my wife on her dream vacation to participate in a team-building activity! This is bullshit, Vincent. It’s goddamn bullshit and you know it.”

“It will take an hour,” said Vincent calmly. “Next Friday is bonus day. I’m sure that we all agree that it’s smart to be on our best behavior before bonus day, especially in the current climate.”

“Let’s do it,” said Sylvie, sighing. Her flight to Paris was at midnight. She still had plenty of time to get home and pack. Vincent led them to a brightly lit elevator with its doors wide open. Inside were mirrored walls and an alabaster marble floor.

They stepped inside. The steel doors shut behind them before they could turn around.

 

TWO

SARA HALL

 

It’s remarkable what a Windsor knot divulges about a man. Richie’s Italian silk tie was a brash shade of red, with thin gold stripes running on a diagonal. It was the tie of a man whose arrogance was dwarfed only by his ego.

In truth, I didn’t need to look at his tie to know that Richie was a douche. The dead giveaway was that when I entered the interview room, a nervous smile on my pink matte painted lips, he didn’t bother to greet me. Or even to stand up from the leather chair where he sat and surveyed me as I entered the room.

While I categorized Richie as a first-class creep the moment I set eyes on him, I was acutely aware that I needed to impress him if I was to have any chance of getting the job. I introduced myself and reached out confidently to shake his hand. He shook my hand with a grip that was tighter than necessary—a reminder, perhaps, that he could crush my career aspirations as easily as he could break the bones in my delicate hand.

He introduced himself as Richard Worthington. The third, if you don’t mind. He had a two-hundred-dollar haircut, a custom shave, and hands that were softer than butter. He was in his late twenties, around five years older than I was.

When we were done shaking hands, Richie leaned back in his chair and surveyed me with a touch of amusement as I settled into my seat across the table.

“You can take off your jacket and relax,” he said. “We try to keep interviews informal here.”

I took off my jacket and left it folded over the back of the chair next to me as I wondered what he saw when he looked at me. Did he see a struggling business-school graduate with a newly minted MBA that didn’t appear to be worth the paper it was written on? Or was he perceptive enough to see an intelligent, accomplished young woman? Glossy brown hair cut to a professional shoulder length, serious gray eyes, wearing a brand-new designer suit she couldn’t afford and borrowed Louboutin shoes that were a half size too small and pinched her toes.

I took a deep breath and tried to project the poise and confidence necessary to show him that I was the best candidate. Finally I had a chance at getting my dream job on Wall Street. I would do everything that I could humanly do not to screw it up.

Richie wore a dark gray suit with a fitted white shirt. His cuff links were Hermès, arranged so that the H insignia was clearly visible. On his wrist was an Audemars Piguet watch, a thirty-grand piece that told everyone who cared that he was the very model of a Wall Street player.

Richie left me on the edge of my seat, waiting awkwardly, as he read over my résumé. Paper rustled as he scanned the neatly formatted sheets that summed up my life in two pages. I had the impression that he was looking at it for the first time. When he was done, he examined me over the top of the pages with the lascivious expression of a john sizing up girls at a Nevada whorehouse.

THREE

THE ELEVATOR

 

All the lights in the elevator turned off at once. It happened the moment the doors shut. One moment they were in a brightly lit elevator; the next they were in pitch- darkness. They were as good as blind, save for the weak fluorescent glow from a small display above the steel doors showing the floor number.

Jules stumbled toward the elevator control panel. He pressed the button to open the doors. The darkness was suffocating him. He had to get out. The elevator shot up before anything happened. The jolt was unexpected. Jules lost his footing and fell against the wall with a thud.

As the elevator accelerated upward, they assumed the lights would be restored at any moment. In every other respect, the elevator was working fine. It was ascending smoothly. The green display above the door was showing the changing floor numbers. There was no reason why it should be dark.

Without realizing it, they shifted toward one another, drawn together by a primordial fear of the dark and the unknown dangers that lurked within it. Jules fumbled for his phone and turned on the flashlight setting so that he could see what he was doing. He frantically pressed the buttons for upcoming floors. They didn’t appear to respond to the insistent pressure of his thumb.
“It’s probably an express,” explained Sylvie. “I saw a sign in the lobby that said something about the elevator running express until the seventieth floor.”

Jules pressed the button for the seventieth floor. And the seventy-first. And, for good measure, the seventy- second, as well. The buttons immediately lit up one after the other, each button backlit in green. Jules silently counted the remaining floors. All he could think about
was getting out.

He loosened his tie to alleviate the tightness in his chest. He’d never considered himself claustrophobic, but he’d had an issue with confined spaces ever since he was a child. He once left summer camp early, in hysterics after being accidentally locked in a toilet stall for a few minutes. His mother told the camp leader that his overreaction was due to a childhood trauma that left him somewhat claustrophobic and nervous in the dark.

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ll be taking the stairs on the way down,” Sam joked with fake nonchalance. “I’m not getting back into this hunk of junk again.”

“Maybe the firm is locking us up in here until we resign voluntarily,” Jules said drily. “It’ll save Stanhope a shitload of money.” He swallowed hard. The elevator was approaching the fortieth floor. They were halfway there. He had to hold it together for another thirty floors.

“It would be a mistake if the firm retrenched any of us,” said Vincent. “I told the executive team as much when we met earlier this week.” What Vincent didn’t mention was that several of the
leadership team had avoided looking at him during that meeting. That was when he knew the writing was on the wall.
“Why get rid of us? We’ve always made the firm plenty of money,” Sylvie said.

“Until lately,” Vincent said pointedly.

They’d failed to secure two major deals in a row. Those deals had both gone to a key competitor, who had inexplicably undercut them each time. It made them wonder whether their competitor had inside knowledge of their bids. The team’s revenue was lower than it had
been in years. For the first time ever, their jobs were vulnerable.

“Are we getting fired, Vincent?” Jules asked as the elevator continued rising. “Is that why we were summoned here? They must have told you something.”

“I got the same generic meeting invite that you all received,” Vincent responded. “It was only as I arrived that I received a text with instructions to bring you all up to the eightieth floor for an escape room challenge. The results of which, it said, would be used for ‘internal consultations about future staff planning.’ Make of that what you will.”

“Sounds like they want to see how we perform tonight before deciding what to do with us,” said Sylvie. “I’ve never done an escape room. What exactly are we supposed to do?”

“It’s straightforward,” said Sam. “You’re locked in a room and have to solve a series of clues to get out.”

“And on that basis they’re going to decide which of us to fire?” Jules asked Vincent in the dark.

“I doubt it,” Vincent said. “The firm doesn’t work that way.”

“Vincent’s right,” said Jules cynically. “Let’s take a more optimistic tack. Maybe they’re using our escape room performance to determine who to promote to Eric Miles’s job.” Eric had resigned before Christmas under something of a cloud. They’d heard rumors the firm was going to promote someone to the job internally. Such promotions were highly sought after. At a time when their jobs were in jeopardy, it offered one of them a potential career lifeline.

The green display above the door flashed the number 67. They had three more floors to go until the elevator finished the express part of the ride. The elevator slowed down and came to a stop on the seventieth floor. Jules exhaled in relief. He stepped forward in anticipation of the doors opening. They remained shut.

He pressed the open button on the control panel. Nothing happened. He pressed it again, holding it down for several seconds. The doors still didn’t budge. He pressed the button three times in quick succession. Nothing. Finally, in desperation, he pressed the red emergency button. There was no response.

“It’s not working,” he said.

They looked up at the panel above the door that displayed the floor numbers. It had an E on its screen. Error.

A small television monitor above the control panel turned on. At first, they didn’t think much of it. They expected to see cable news or a stock market update, the type of thing usually broadcast on elevator monitors.

It took a moment for their eyes to adjust to the brightness of the white television screen. After another moment, a message appeared in large black letters.

 

WELCOME TO THE ESCAPE
ROOM. YOUR GOAL IS SIMPLE.
GET OUT ALIVE.

 

From The Escape Room. Copyright © 2019 by Megan Goldin and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.

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my review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars 

This book is just pure fun. If you’re looking for a genuine, realistic, heart-pounding thriller this is probably something you should skip, but if you’re looking for a fun, quick summer read check this one out! I hesitate to call this a psychological thriller as there is no big twist coming that just blows your mind, but it would make a good mystery. This is told in alternating POV’s, it flips back and forth between current day with the coworkers in the escape room and talk of the past from a former employee. Is it a groundbreaking tale? No, but it’s a fun summer read whether you’re on the beach or having a rainy day. The writing is simple and smooth and will have you compulsively reading to the end to see what happens. There are absolutely no redeeming qualities to the characters and there is not a whole of depth to them but this story kept the pages turning. If you’re looking for a page turner to turn your mind off of current events I would definitely pick this one up!

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About the Author

Megan Goldin Hi Res.jpg

MEGAN GOLDIN worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. THE ESCAPE ROOM is her debut novel.

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THANK YOU FOR STOPPING BY! HAPPY READING! 

It’s Monday, What Are You reading? – 07/22/2019

Image result for its monday what are you reading

I didnt get much reading done last week so I’m still reading the same books lol *cries*

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CURRENT READ(S):

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ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Title: Nevernight

Author: Jay Kristoff

Release Date: August 9th, 2016

Published By: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 429 pages

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SYNOPSIS:

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

***

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ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Title: The Escape Room

Author: Megan Goldin

Release Date: July 30th, 2019

Published By: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 368 pages

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SYNOPSIS:

Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are ruthlessly ambitious high-flyers working in the lucrative world of Wall Street finance where deception and intimidation thrive. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to reach the top.

When they are ordered to participate in a corporate team-building exercise that requires them to escape from a locked elevator, dark secrets of their team begin to be laid bare.

The biggest mystery to solve in this lethal game: What happened to Sara Hall? Once a young shining star—”now gone but not forgotten”.

This is no longer a game.
They’re fighting for their lives.

 

Happy Reading!