Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Dream Keeper by Amber R. Duell Blog Tour & Giveaway


Dream Keeper
Author: Amber R. Duell
Publisher: The Parliament House
Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Synopsis
The Sandman is seventeen-year-old Nora’s closest friend and best-kept secret. He has to be, if she doesn’t want a one-way ticket back to the psychiatrist. It took her too long to learn not to mention the hooded figure in her dreams to her mother, who still watches Nora as if she’ll crack. So when Nora’s friends start mysteriously dying gruesome deaths in their sleep, she isn’t altogether surprised when the police direct their suspicion at her. The Sandman is the only one she can turn to for answers. But the truth might be more than she bargained for…
For the last five years, the Sandman has spent every night protecting Nora. When he hid the secret to the Nightmare Lord’s escape inside her dreams, he never expected to fall in love with her. Neither did he think his nemesis would find her so quickly, but there’s no mistaking his cruel handiwork. The Nightmare Lord is tired of playing by the rules and will do anything to release his deadly nightmares into the world, even if that means tormenting Nora until she breaks.
When the Nightmare Lord kidnaps Nora’s sister, Nora must enter enemy territory to save her. The Sandman is determined to help, but if Nora isn’t careful, she could lose even more than her family to the darkness.
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 
Excerpt

1. The Sandman

T
he invisible dome that encased the Dream Realm burned blue beneath my gloved hand. My magic ached to be released from its rigid confinement—to return to the spiritual place deep in my chest, where it could fuel dreams once again—but this barrier was the only thing standing between me and the Nightmare Realm. Or, more specifically, from the things lurking there. Grotesque or beautiful, animalistic or humanoid, it didn’t matter. Each and every nightmare held their own special brand of terror waiting to ensnare an unsuspecting Dreamer.
From this close to the wall, I could easily see into the Weaver’s realm. Rolling hills stretched into the distance, and a small stream snaked through the low plains, which were colored in muted greens and blues. The knee-high grass tinkled an eerie, hushed melody as the breeze rippled across it. Hooked barbs, hard as steel and sharp as razors, grew along each blade, invisible to the naked eye. Beyond the hills lay an endless array of landscapes with their own vicious traps.
None of the Weaver’s creatures roamed among the swaying grass tonight—at least none I could see. Still, something felt different. A layer of anxiety prowling beneath the calm.
I ignored it the best I could and continued my nightly security inspection—if not to protect the Dream Keeper, then to protect her world. Although, if I were being honest with myself, it was no longer the Day World I was concerned with saving from legions of deadly nightmares.
It was the Dream Keeper herself—Nora.
Nora, who would be hunted for the dream I’d placed inside her five years ago—the exact contents unknown even to me. She held the end of an invisible leash keeping the nightmares in the Night World, and the Weaver wouldn’t hesitate to regain control of it. Even if that meant helping the creatures slip their collars entirely.
I rolled my shoulders and turned my attention back to the barrier. The worry I carried was ridiculous, a waste of time better spent elsewhere. Nothing more than paranoia. The shields were secure, the Weaver still bound to his realm, and the key to unraveling it all was safely hidden in Nora’s mind.
Even still, my magic knotted inside me. Wrong, wrong, wrong, it seemed to whisper, insistently. Tendrils of it slid down my arms, flowing from my fingertips. The glimmering beach vibrated beneath my feet, and thousands of pieces of sand floated into the air. Two feet. Three feet. Four. Until the air was filled with sparkling flecks. With a deep breath, I flung my arms out wide, fingers splayed to propel a fresh layer of my magic into the existing barrier. It shot outward, clinging to the dome, and strengthened it in a flash of blue.
With the beach undoubtedly safe for Nora, I looked inward. The cords connecting me to each Dreamer that knew the legend of the Sandman spanned out like a million silver harp strings. Some connections glowed bright, their owner already asleep. Others idled, dull and dreamless, while the person on the other end remained awake.
I knew exactly where to find the cord that led to Nora. Even if I hadn’t found it every night since we met, the dream I gave her was made of my magic, and it begged to return home. I tugged off my gloves and reached out as if to touch her cord—as if it were a tangible thing, instead of something spiritual. The silver and navy flecks covering my pale hands shimmered brilliantly.
Unlike Nora’s cord.
“What’s taking you so long?” I whispered to myself. She was never awake this late. We met in the same place on the other side of the realm like clockwork.
Suddenly, a shadow raced toward me in a blur of black and yellow fur, and I froze. Baku was my only ally in the Night World, even if it was by default. “Enemy of my enemy” and what not. But he knew the rules. He wasn’t supposed to be here when I was expecting Nora to arrive. If she ever discovered there were darker things outside of these walls, it would invite trouble.
The chimera dug his tiger paws into the sand, skidding to a halt before me. Baku snorted through the elephant trunk situated between his ivory tusks. Large ears flapped twice on either side of his brindle face, and his cow-like tail snapped back and forth behind him.
I stopped breathing the moment I met the worried gleam in his eyes.
“Something’s going on in the Nightmare Realm.”
It wasn’t a question. Baku spent most of his time on the other side of the barrier which meant he had a front row seat to whatever had happened and there was no reason to challenge his judgment. “Wh—”
The Weaver’s maniacal joy shot through me, snaking around my fear, strangling it, and I staggered back a step. I hadn’t been able to feel the Weaver since the binding. His magic was always traceable, but never his emotions. Dread pooled in my gut. I tried to shove the other sensation out, to pull instead on his location, but his magic registered in every direction. It was like trying to pinpoint the dream cord of an insomniac.
A streak of gold shot across the sky. It splintered its way through the stars, spreading, thinning, and fading. Magic thrummed through my veins, frantic to escape. To rise and protect. To defend. Baku pranced nervously at my side.
“Sandman.” A gentle voice traveled down the cord. “Help me sleep.”
“Nora.” Her name fell from my lips as a single, strangled breath. I clenched the leather gloves in my hands. She hadn’t asked for my help in years. Years. I gaped at the barrier in awe, utterly perplexed. Checking on the Weaver was important, but so was aiding Nora. If one was safe, they both were. I swallowed hard and drew a leather pouch from my belt loop.
“Find the Weaver,” I told Baku. I tugged my gloves on again and snapped the hood of my tunic up over my brown curls. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Baku gave a curt nod and rushed back through the barrier without pause. Even if he had his hands—rather, paws—full, trying to devour a thousand nightmares tonight, Baku would help me find answers.
The cord between Nora and I grew taut as I careened along it to her bedside. Despite my best efforts not to, my breath still hitched when I caught sight of her platinum hair against the dark sheets. I reached a gloved hand out to brush a few strands from her temple but curled my fingers at the last moment. You shouldn’t, I admonished myself. This is off limits.
I didn’t creep around in bedrooms, and I certainly didn’t touch anyone without their knowledge. Not even Nora. Especially not Nora—even if my chest did ache for the smallest hint of physical contact. It was my own fault we never touched, never high-fived or hugged or held hands. It was one of my rules, my lies, to keep distance between us. A lot of good they did. My body still jolted every night at the first glimpse of her and the adrenaline coursed through me long after she woke every morning. I’d spent an eternity watching people dream of love, but I never understood the appeal until Nora. None had come before her and I knew with absolute certainty that none would come after.
“I don’t know why you needed to call me tonight,” I said, keeping my voice low. Though she could neither hear nor see me, I fumbled for the edge of my hood, retreating into its shadow.
“But, my magic will take you to the beach. You’ll be safe there.” Please be safe there. “I’m sorry, Nora. But I’ll see you soon.” Reaching into the ever-present pouch, I pinched a bit of sand between my fingers. “Remember to keep a true heart and a true mind, and that the power of the dream is yours.”
Then, I promptly sprinkled the glimmering flecks over her eyes and whispered, “Sleep.”
My throat seized, and I choked back the awful truth of what she was, of what I made her, and what consequences we might be facing for it now. After escorting Nora’s consciousness to the beach, and once I’d ensured that she was safely inside the barrier, I slipped through the surrounding shield into the perilous terrain of the Nightmare Realm. I flew through the tall grass toward the center of the Nightmare World amid a chorus of harsh metal clinks. The tiny barbs stabbed through my pant legs and pricked against my leather boots. Each cut into my skin was like a slap with a hot poker, but it was a small price to pay for a chance at reaching the Weaver’s Keep in time to stop whatever was happening. The scent of burning wool ravaged my senses. His magic. Strong and undeniable. A sure sign that his binding must have worn thin—too thin, given how little time had passed.
The Day World was still warded against the Weaver’s power and would remain so. That is, as long as he didn’t find Nora. However, just because he couldn’t open the doors without prying the information from the Dream Keeper’s mind, that didn’t mean he couldn’t knock.


About the Author
Amber R. Duell was born and raised in a small town in Central New York. While it will always be home, she’s constantly moving with her husband and two sons as a military wife. Before becoming published, she had a wide range of occupations including banking, bartending (though she’s never tried alcohol), and phlebotomy (though she faints with needles). She also volunteered as a re-enactor at the local Revolutionary War fort and worked near shelter cats which led to her previous crazy cat lady status.

She does her best writing in the middle of the night, surviving the daylight hours with massive amounts of caffeine. Her favorite stories are dark with a touch of romance and a villain you either love to hate or hate to love.

 When not reading or writing, she enjoys snowboarding, embroidering, snuggling with her cat, and staying up way too late to research genealogy. She loves to travel and has visited more countries than states. Kissing the Blarney Stone and hand-feeding monkeys in the mountains of France will be hard to beat, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to find the next real-life adventure.



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Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox Blog Tour & Giveaway!


The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox
Publisher: Harlequin’s Graydon House Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Synopsis:
Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it. Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well. New Oldbury, 1821 In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall. The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline. All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

 Goodreads |  Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes

Excerpt

Hello readers, I’m so excited to share an excerpt with you from my debut novel, THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL (on-sale October 2, 2018). My name is Hester Fox, and hailing from Boston, I’ve always been fascinated with the rich and oftentimes dark history of this period. My novel takes place in a small New England town over 130 years after the infamous Salem Witch trials, and features a Gothic, melancholy atmosphere, restless spirits, and of course, resilient women. I hope you enjoy this excerpt I’ve pulled for you.

~*~

Gingerly, I get up, my legs full of pins and needles from sit­ting on the floor so long. Just like the night of the woman in the garden, I can’t stay in the library knowing that someone might be there. I must go and look for myself.
Even with the sun coming through the windows, illumi­nating the wood floors and catching the light of the crystal lamps, I feel as if I’m making my way through a dark, murky passage. My feet are heavy, as if they know something that my mind does not.
The door to the dining room is closed. It beckons me, yet repels me, exuding a sense of silent occupation. My ears buzz. A singsong chorus of whispers grows as I approach.
Are you ready?
I am here.
You attract them.
Are you ready?
Prepare for what lies ahead.
Prepare.
Prepare.
They mount and mount into a dizzying jumble of sound and I run the rest of the way to the door, my heart in my chest, my eyes squeezed shut. Grasping the knob, I fling open the door. The voices die away.
I knew it would be there. But it doesn’t stop me from gasp­ing as every part of me curls back in on itself in horror. My blood turns to ice.
Seated at the table is a woman, or what used to be a woman. She sits as if she has every right to be there, as if she has always been there. A veil covers her face, but it is gauzy and thread­bare, and I can see the contours of the features beneath. Her dress is old, black as night yet opalescent as the moon through a cobweb. Paralyzed with fear, I watch as it moves about her of its own accord, a soft undulation as if she were underwater. And though I can see her as clear as day, the veiled woman in our dining room, there’s a translucence to her, and the pan­oramic wallpaper is just visible behind her. She is like nothing and no one I have ever seen before, and yet she is familiar, as if I have always known her.
“Come, child.” Her voice comes from everywhere and no­where, and when her words are finished, I have the unnerving feeling that they weren’t spoken aloud at all, but came from within my head.
She beckons me with a knobby finger, more bone than flesh.
I can’t drag my gaze away from her face, the sunken holes where there ought to be eyes, the lipless mouth, all teeth and blackness. The cold pie that I just enjoyed churns in my stom­ach and threatens to come up. She beckons me again, and I imagine those long, terrible fingers closing around my neck and choking the life out of me. I imagine them raking me across the face until ribbons of skin flutter from my skull. I stand my ground, unwilling to deliver myself up to her. She is the stuff of my novels, a grotesque horror that titillates on the page, but sends terror into my heart when in the same room as me.
She gives something like a grunt, and as if able to read my thoughts, says, “One hundred and thirty years of death is not gentle on a body. Come, do not gawk.” I dare not disobey her, so I force my leaden feet to move a few steps closer.
The smell of decay and death fills the room, sickly sweet and putrid at the same time. My stomach clenches at the memo­ries the odor brings back of Emeline in her coffin. My throat is tight, my mouth cotton, but somehow I’m able to gasp out, “W-who are you?”
She makes a noise, something between a snort and a laugh, a scraping, rattling sound, though it’s devoid of humor. “Do you not know your own forebear?”
The blackness of her dress curls around her like a snake, but she sits as motionless as if she were carved of stone. Her still­ness is suffocating, it dares the house to be silent, and punishes the sunlight for filtering in through the window.
Warily, I come to a halt at the edge of the dining room table. I don’t know what she’s talking about. “Forebear?”
“Have you not looked upon me since you were a babe? Do you not recognize in me what flows through you?”
“I…” But then it comes to me. The lace collar, though tat­tered and black as her dress, is unmistakable around her neck. “You’re the woman in the painting. Mother’s ancestor.”
The inclination of her head is small, barely perceptible.

About the Author
Hester Fox has a background in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician. This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has cleaned and cared for collections that range from paintings by old masters to ancient artifacts to early American furniture. She is a keen painter and has a Master's in historical archaeology, as well as a background in medieval studies and art history. Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband and their two cats.

Giveaway

Harlequin’s Graydon House Books is offering one lucky Grand Prize winner a fun witch themed prize pack containing a paperback copy of The Witch of Willow Hall, a pumpkin spice scented candle, a Witch’s Brew coffee cup, a witch’s hat, a witch’s wand, and a bottle of black nail polish! Four (4) Runners-up will receive an eCopy of The Witch of Willow Hall. To enter for your chance to win one these great prizes, please fill out the Rafflecopter link below:

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Renegade by Mallory McCartney Blog Tour & Giveaway


Renegade
Author: Mallory McCartney
Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing
Publication Date: August 21, 2018

Synopsis:
“The time for Kiero’s reign in prosperity is over.”
Six years before the Black Dawn Rebellion, Adair Stratton and Emory Fae are following in their parent’s footsteps and living at The Academy, a home for those who are gifted. The pressure to uphold the future of their parent’s dream falls on them. An outcast and feared by most, Adair longs to break away from the expectations dictating his future. Even if Emory tries to make him see differently. An unexpected group of friends keep him there, but as whispers of unexplained disappearances start reaching from the capital, Adair starts to doubt The Academy is all it seems.
An unexpected visit ignites new tensions as the roguish king from across the Black Sea, Tadeas Maher of the Shattered Isles, and his heir, Marquis Maher sail to Kiero. Notorious for their pirating and wrath- for the first time in years, they demand the Fae’s listen to their proposition for a new treaty, holding the news of Nei’s father’s abrupt death over them. Caught in the middle of politics- Adair and Emory, with the help of their best friends Brokk and Memphis search for the one thing that matters most- finding out the truth.
In this gripping prequel to Black Dawn, their world is tipped upside down as unlikely alliances are made. War ravages through Kiero and is torn apart by acclaimed Kings. Through the throes of betrayal, lies, hidden magic and love, Adair is faced with a life changing decision- to fight or to bow to the darkness within him. 
Other books in the series 

Guest Post by Mallory!
Thank you for having me! My top ten songs I would recommend while reading Renegade are:

  1. Made to Find You- Belle MT
  2. Bloom- The Paper Kites
  3. The Mortal Boy King- The Paper Kites
  4. Sound of Pulling Heaven Down- Blue October
  5. The Yawning Grave- Lord Huron
  6. Stubborn Beast- Bear’s Den
  7. Hollow- Belle MT
  8. In My Body- SYML
  9. Carry You- Novo Amor
  10. When the Night is Over- Lord Huron
What was your Authors journey from story idea to publication?
 Renegade is my little story that could! Originally planned as a novella, once I sunk my teeth into the story, it turned into a full-fledged novel. Before the second book releases, I wanted to explore the back story, to show how Adair became the villain, how the world fell into ruin. How secrets and betrayals set characters destinies spiraling onto their path. It took two years to write but once the drafts were done I started the publishing process with Clean Reads, until it was released this August.
If Renegade became a movie who would you like to play your characters?

I love this question!

Adair Stratton- Cole Sprouse 

Emily: I love this casting! Cole is such a great actor and I love him on Riverdale. 

Memphis Carter –  Nicholas Hamilton
Brokk Foster- Cameron Boyce
Emory Fae- India Eisley

Marquis Maher-  Logan Lerman (with green hair and freckles)

Author the Author
Mallory McCartney currently lives in Sarnia, Ontario with her husband and their three dachshunds Link, Lola and Leonard. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found day dreaming about fantasy worlds and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.


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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Blastaway by Melissa Landers Cover Reveal


Today Melissa Landers and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover and an exclusive content for BLASTAWAY, her new Middle Grade Sci-Fi which releases Summer 2019! Check out the awesome cover and the excerpt!

On to the reveal! 


Title: BLASTAWAY
Author: Melissa Landers
Pub. Date: Summer 2019
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Goodreads

Pitched as "Home Alone in space," a young science prodigy who runs away in his family spaceship must team up with a plucky mutant to save the Earth from destruction.

Scheduled for publication Summer 2019.

Exclusive Excerpt!
At some point, I must have fallen asleep.

I say that for two reasons. First, my chin was wet with drool, and I hardly ever slobber on myself when I’m awake. And second, I was no longer on Earth.

I sat bolt upright and stared out the window as distant stars whizzed past in a blur. There were no planets in sight, and judging by the swirling purple nebula ahead of me, this wasn’t the way to Nana’s house. I checked the navigation screen and felt my mouth drop open. The flashing beacon that represented my ship was halfway between Earth and Fasti.

(So you see, it is totally possible to steal a spaceship on accident.)

I guess my hand hit the EXECUTE button when I fell asleep. And because it would take just as long for me to turn around and go home as it would to finish my journey, it made sense to keep going, right? Either way, my parents would ground me into the afterlife, so I might as well earn the sentence, right?

Right.

An electric thrill rushed through my veins when I thought about the possibilities that lay ahead of me. Anything could happen on this trip. Literally anything. I could discover a brand-new element. Or meet a secret race of aliens. Or invent a new energy source. Or eat so much chocolate that I puked. Either way, I had complete freedom to make this journey into whatever I wanted, and once I realized that, there was no freaking way I could turn back. It was like the universe had dropped a gift in my lap, a gift I had no intention of returning.    

I wiped the drool off my chin and smiled.

“Hold onto your stars, Fasti. Here I come.”

About Melissa:

Melissa Landers is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public—just ask her kids. She lives just outside Cincinnati in the town of Loveland, “Sweetheart of Ohio.”


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Brightest Stars by Anna Todd Giveaway!

Today I'm excited to be partnering with Anna Todd for this giveaway!

The Brightest Stars
Author: Anna Todd
Publisher: Frayed Pages Inc.
Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Synopsis: 
Internationally bestselling author Anna Todd returns with a gripping novel about a young woman’s quest to keep her family together, despite the lies that are tearing them apart.

Karina knows the harsh realities of military life. And like anyone who has grown up around an army base, she knows the background noise that follows a soldier home from war. That’s why she’s forging her own quiet life in her own little house. But she hasn’t turned her back on her family. She’s the glue that holds them together—when her father is deployed, when her brother, Austin, has another brush with the law.
Karina knows that she has to look after herself, that she can’t always fix what’s broken. But when Austin’s behavior worsens and her father’s reactions grow more extreme, Karina feels her own edges beginning to fray. That’s when she meets him—a closed book she’s desperate to open.
At just twenty, Kale is a handsome, brooding soldier struggling with the aftermath of two tours in Afghanistan. He’s emotionally damaged and closed off. Quiet doesn’t begin to describe him. But as Karina gets used to his stable presence, she finds it hard to ignore the way he makes her feel. In their time together, she finds the stillness she has always wanted and never found. She lets down her guard. And she lets herself fill in the blanks about this mysterious man.
But illusions quickly made are quickly shattered. That’s when Karina has to find her own courage—to untangle the truth from the lies, and decide what she’s going to do about it.
A riveting story about the love and lies, THE BRIGHTEST STARS will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.

Click here to download chapter 1 of The Brightest Stars
About the Author
Anna Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the After series, The Spring Girls and the upcoming The Brightest Stars. Always an avid reader, she began writing stories on her phone on Wattpad, the reading and writing multiplatform for original stories, with After becoming the most read series on the platform with over 1.5 billion reads. The print edition was published in 2014. It has been published in over 30 languages, with more than 11 million copies sold worldwide, and is a #1 bestseller in Italy, Germany, France and Spain. The film adaptation, which Anna is co-producing, is set to be released in early 2019. Anna and her husband currently live in Los Angeles.

Find her at AnnaTodd.com, on Twitter at @imaginator1d, on Instagram at @imaginator1d, and on Wattpad as Imaginator1D.

Visit the Official Website | Twitter | Instagram | Find the author on Wattpad

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Dark Beneath The Ice by Amelinda Bérubé Blog Tour + Giveaway!

Title: Dark Beneath the Ice
Author: Amelinda Bérubé
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Synopsis:
Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity in this compelling ghost story about a former dancer whose grip on reality slips when she begins to think a dark entity is stalking her.
Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.

But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it’s convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

Excerpt 
1
The silence still clings to me.
If I close my eyes it’s there waiting for me, filling my mouth, heavy as water. Ready to swallow me again.
I rest my forehead against the window, willing the ordinary sounds around me to wash the memory away: the windshield wipers, the spatter of the rain, the rattle in the wheel well. In the driver’s seat beside me, Mom breathes in little hitches, trying not to sound like she’s crying.
I risk a glance at her; she’s wiping her eyes. Her hair is usually tied up in a neat sweep of gleaming black, silver threads glinting through it. Today she’s yanked it through an elastic, pieces straggling dull and stringy around her face. Before I can look away again her gaze meets mine and she attempts a half smile.
It hurts to see it. I study the flowers in my lap: lilies—big, splashy orange ones. The smell is giving me a headache. They’re for Aunt Jennifer, for taking care of me. It’s not like I haven’t been to Aunt Jen’s overnight before, not like it’s some huge favor. How long is she planning to leave me there?
Mom slams on the brakes, and I clutch the bouquet to stop it from sliding to the floor. She grates out a few choice swear words at the car ahead of us.
“I left your father a message,” she says. “I sure hope he calls you.”
I take the words in like water—like an icy lake, swallowing their impact without a splash, letting them sink. I turn back to the window, watch my reflection slide over the river and the low-slung clouds. My face is thin and pale, my eyes dark hollows. I look like a ghost.
Mom heaves a sigh, yanks a tissue from the box sitting between us. She won’t tell me where she’s going. She won’t tell me why. Not that I’ve pressed her for details. There’s a traitorous piece of me that’s relieved. Mom’s always been unpredictable, prone to wild mood swings she apologizes for later, and Hurricane Laura, as Dad puts it, has been howling full blast these past couple days. We used to joke about battening down the hatches, waiting out the storm. But this time, Dad’s the reason she’s in pieces.
And he left me to pick them up by myself.
I won’t think about it. Just like last night—whatever happened last night. It’s a stone, and it’s vanishing into the water, leaving me serene. Unmoved.
Aunt Jen’s building is long and low, brick and stucco, a little shabby at the edges. It’s a strange contrast with the palatial homes on the next street, but that’s what this whole neighborhood is like. The boat launch at the end of the road is barricaded and piled high with sandbags to keep the river from swallowing the pavement. Right beside it, half a dozen two-story row units are surrounded by a high cedar hedge. Aunt Jen’s is the last one before the water. As the car crunches to a stop in the driveway, the sun comes out, as if from behind a veil. Suddenly, over the seawall, the river is all blue glitter, the trees drooping over the end of the street glowing golden-green, the last drops of rain sparkling as they drip from the leaves.
We sit silently in the car for a long moment. Seagulls wheel overhead, crying.
“Wait here,” Mom manages eventually, taking the flowers. She slams the door without waiting for me to respond and hurries over to Jen’s gate in the hedge, where a flush of pink roses shine in the sun.
I get out more slowly once she’s disappeared behind it. Their voices drift toward me: Mom’s barely muffled wails, Jen’s reassurances. I can’t make out words from here, though. I kick at a rock, following it down to the end of the road toward the seawall.
The river shouldn’t be this high. Behind the seawall—a chest-high barrier that zigzags behind the imposing homes lining the waterfront—the water is brown, choppy, slapping at the concrete a foot below the top, an occasional wave sending spray sloshing over onto the grass. By now it’s usually fallen low enough that the boat launch stands open to the river; later in the summer it drops all the way down to a stony outcropping that makes for a great place to skip rocks. It’s hard to imagine that now.
The rain hasn’t stopped for more than a couple of hours at a time this past week; I can’t even remember the last time the sun was out for this long. It won’t last. The news has been talking endlessly about record precipitation and the threat of flooding, images of picnic tables standing in the water and empty outdoor swimming pools with their surfaces pocked with raindrops. The DJs hosting the radio morning shows, in between laughing at their own jokes, moan about how summer is never going to come. Usually I love the peace and softness of rain, its soothing murmur on the roof. But it’s starting to feel oppressive lately. Inescapable.
I turn my back on the water, breathe in its green, weedy smell, and tell myself to relax. Aunt Jen’s place has always been cozy, a haven of good memories going back to when I was little. I used to play “inflatable Auntie” with her, pretending to blow her up like a beach ball. She would puff up obligingly and then deflate again, sagging in her chair and making a loud raspberry noise for full effect. I tried that game once with my mom, but she put on a pained smile and told me she didn’t like it. I think she was worried I was implying she was fat. Aunt Jen, comfortably plump compared to Mom, doesn’t seem to care about that sort of thing; she keeps her graying hair cut short, doesn’t wear makeup, and lives in jeans and sweaters unless forced to dress up, when she just drapes herself in something long and flowy.
The gate creaks, and Mom hurries out toward me, folds me into a tight hug. She’s not even trying to hide that she’s crying now. Aunt Jen follows behind her but heads to the car, popping open the trunk, although she casts a worried look our way.
“It’s only for a little while,” Mom whispers. “Just a little while. It’s not you, sweetie, I just can’t deal with this, not on top of everything else.”
“With what?” My voice breaks too, and despite my resolve, they come bubbling up: all the questions I haven’t dared to ask. “Mom. Please tell me. Did something happen last night?” She lets me go, half turns away, wrapping her arms around herself as if I punched her, her face crumpling. “Mom, what happened?”
“Nothing,” Mom sobs. “Nothing. Nothing.”
She draws a fierce breath, then another, and grips my shoulders, fixing me with a tearful glare.
“Nothing happened, Marianne!” Her fingers dig into my arms. “Understand? It’s not you. I just need to get some help. I’m going to get some help, all right? I’ll come and get you as soon as I can, and…and we’ll figure everything out. Okay?”
I nod. There’s nothing else I can do. The sun is gone again. I’m cold from the tips of my fingers to the hollow of my back, despite my sweater.
“Okay,” Mom repeats. Her lips tremble. “I love you.”
She pulls away, takes long steps back toward the car, and yanks the door open. She folds her arms over the steering wheel and rests her head on them for a moment while her shoulders shake. With the glass between us, I can’t hear her sobbing.
“Come on, Mare-bear.” It’s Aunt Jen’s arm around me now, a band of warmth, pulling me close. “Let’s go inside.”
***
We step into Aunt Jen’s living room, a cool, leafy cavern. Gray light filters through plants that spill from shelves and dangle from hanging planters. The piano, a mass of dark, carven wood, is the only surface that isn’t draped with fronds or vines. The little radio on the side table next to the old maroon couch fills the room with earnest, thoughtful conversation.
“I’ve set up the spare room for you,” Aunt Jen says, pulling the patio door closed behind us. “You can get yourself settled in a bit, and then we’ll have a cup of tea.”
Hugging my pillow, my laptop case banging against my leg, I follow her up the stairs. There are empty spots on the wall where pictures of my parents used to hang. I feel for my phone in my pocket. Dad hasn’t called. I hope he will. I hope he won’t.
The room hasn’t changed: the window looking down onto the garden and the river beyond it, a twin bed with a threadbare quilt, moss-green walls, a white dresser topped with a menagerie of little china animals—a tiger, a monkey, a turkey, a horse. Mom told me they belonged to my grandmother, who died when I was still a baby. I used to play with them when I was little.
“There’s plenty of space in the dresser if you want to unpack,” Aunt Jen offers tentatively. “It’s never fun living out of a suitcase.”
I set down the laptop case and fluff my pillow a couple of times before arranging it on the bed, trying to avoid her gaze.
“Well. I’ll go put the kettle on, Mare-bear, okay? Take your time.”
“It’s Marianne, please, Aunt Jen.” But she’s already out the door.
I sink down on the bed, which creaks under me. The rest of my life is unrecognizable, but everything here is the same. It’s like I’ve stepped into some parallel universe. Like any second I’ll hear my parents laughing downstairs as Jen pours glasses of wine, and none of this will have happened.
There is one thing that’s different. Usually there’s a picture of me and my parents on the wall beside the mirror. Now a much smaller frame hangs a little crookedly in its place, holding a snapshot from some distant summer: just me, striking a ta-da pose beside a leaning sandcastle. I remember that red swimsuit.
The photo must be from the beach right down the street from here, so close that we used to go there all the time. I remember those trips in flashes: Mom’s smile as she glanced back at me from the front seat, strings of hair whipping around her face in the gale from the open window. Dad’s hand on her bare knee. My sandaled toes tipping up toward the jewel blue of the sky at the apex of a swing. Dad diving for a volleyball and sprawling in the sand, making me laugh so hard my sides ached. The sparkle of the water, its delicious chill when I waded in. Swimming out as far as I dared, diving as deep as I could, reaching for the murky bottom.
I took yoga classes with Mom after I quit dance. To help me calm down, she said. Like she thought it would fix me. The studio must have been nice during the day, with sunshine pouring in through the wall of windows at the front. At night the fluorescent lights made everyone look tired and cold. At the beginning of each class, as we lay on our thin, hard mats, the instructor asked us to picture a place where we’d found tranquility, and every time that’s what I called up: the water, cold and green. It’s second nature now, the one useful thing I learned in those six weeks. I can summon it easily, lower myself into chilly weightlessness, the absence of sound, and hang suspended between worlds for a few long breaths until I’m cool and reasonable again. Lately I’ve frosted the surface over with a layer of ice, a shield keeping me submerged.
I close my eyes. The memory of silence, an empty horizon, rises around me, but I push it aside, force it down into the depths where dark water belongs. I’m not letting a bad dream spoil this for me, the one place where I’m truly safe. Around me I summon sunlight filtering down through the waves, a translucent, icy ceiling inches thick. Perfect, thoughtless peace closes over my head.
And then a noise like a firecracker, like a gunshot, yanks me back to reality. I leap to my feet, fear splashing through my chest.
It was the mirror above the dresser. Breaking. From a smashed, spiderwebbed epicenter, it’s split side to side, slicing my reflection in two with a thread of silver, frozen lightning. The two halves of my dislocated image slide past each other as the frame trembles into stillness.
“Marianne?” Aunt Jen appears in the doorway, frowning. “Is everything—”
Her words disappear into an indrawn breath. I follow her stare back to the mirror, and then to the floor, where the wooden cat from the bedside table is lying on the linoleum next to the dresser.
“Oh, sweetheart,” she says. The words are gentle; horrified. I shrink away from them. What just happened? She thinks I threw it. I open my mouth to protest—but I didn’t!—but the words wither, half-formed.
Did I throw it?
Aunt Jen looks at me for another long moment, her lips pursed in consternation, then comes over to wrap an arm around my shoulders. She ushers me downstairs, leads me to the couch like I might break, pours me a steaming cup of some herbal tea that smells like flowers. The orange lilies stand in a vase on the dining room table, brassy and loud as trumpets.
I wrap my hands around the warmth glowing from the teacup to stop them from shaking. My heart is made of moths, fluttering against my ribs, in my throat.
“Are you going to tell Dad?” I blurt out as she sits down next to me. “About the mirror?”
“I don’t know, Mare-bear.” She eyes me over the rim of her own cup. “Do I need to?”
I shake my head, obviously. But I can’t remember picking up the figurine, much less throwing it. It’s a hairline crack in the day, a thread of blank space. Just like last night.
“Well. Listen, sweetie. I’m not mad. Honestly. I know this is hard. It’s awful, and I just want you to know you can talk to me if you need to. Okay?”
“Okay.”
Silence descends while she waits for me to continue. Eventually she gives up and clears her throat.
“So,” Aunt Jen says in a sprightly, let’s-talk-about-something-else way. “You’ll need to take the bus to school tomorrow. Just exams left after that, eh?”
“Yeah.” Just two weeks. Just forever.
The radio chimes to announce the news. More rain in the forecast; they’re piling sandbags in the East End.
“Well, I took some vacation days to look after things, so I’ll have all the time in the world. You just let me know what you want to do. Or maybe you’d rather get together with some friends, you know… That’s fine too.”
I shake my head. Ingrid’s the only one I want to spend time with. But San Francisco might as well be the moon. I slurp my still-too-hot tea and burn my tongue.
There’s not really anywhere left for the conversation to go. Aunt Jen watches me for a while and finally sighs, perches her glasses on her nose, and picks up her crochet needle. I sip my tea a couple more times and then murmur an excuse about checking my email before escaping back to my room.
No notifications, of course, when I pull out my phone. I start a text to Ingrid for the hundredth time, and for the hundredth time I sit motionless, my fingers hovering over the screen until it goes dark. The words won’t condense, somehow, from the formless worry and grief. Music drifts up from downstairs: Aunt Jen’s flying through the twinkling notes of a Chopin waltz on the piano. I think she means it to be comforting.
I used to dance to this when I visited, twirling around the tiny living room on the tips of my toes, my hair swinging out behind me, my arms swept over my head, fingers poised to pluck butterflies from the air, just like they’d taught us. Mom always applauded earnestly. I was her star. Dad would be watching us both, smiling.
Water can stop bullets if it’s deep enough. The memory can’t touch me. I just have to breathe, breathe, and let it sink. Like everything else.
Like my silent phone.
Call me, I want to type, but how many ways can you tell somebody you miss them before you end up sounding hopelessly needy? If I could talk to Ingrid about all this awfulness, it would lose its weight, disappear. If I confided in her, maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone. But maybe—probably—it would just be oversharing. And I can’t think of a way to tell her about the things that scare me most. Strange things.
Like the mirror. Its broken face keeps twinkling in the pale afternoon light, catching my eye, drawing it back. Eventually I grab the quilt folded at the end of the bed and throw it over the frame. Was it me? It must have been me. How else could that happen, glass simply breaking, out of nowhere?


About the Author

Amelinda Bérubé has been a writer and editor with a small department in the Canadian public service. She holds a bachelor of humanities from Carleton University and a master of arts from McGill. Amelinda is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.