Blog Tour | The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa | Review

Wicked faeries and fantastic danger… Welcome to book one of the new trilogy in New York Times bestselling author Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey fantasy series, as infamous prankster Puck finally has a chance to tell his story and stand with allies new and old to save Faery and the world. 

“YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OF ME…”

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten. Filled with myths and faery lore, romance and unfathomable dangers, The Iron Raven is book one of a new epic fantasy trilogy set in the world of The Iron Fey.

Buy Links | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | Google Play

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have not read the other books set in this world, but having loved some of Julie Kagawa’s other books I definitely wanted to pick this one up. It can definitely be read without reading the past books, but I’m sure having them as a foundation would give more oomph to it.

I really enjoyed how fast paced this was, I didn’t really feel like there were any sections that dragged. It was easy to get immersed in the quest that the characters went on and no one really felt superfluous to me. I will definitely be going back and reading the previous books in this world and look forward to any future installments that are coming in the future!

JULIE KAGAWA is the New York Times, USA TODAY and internationally bestselling author of The Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, The Talon Saga and the Shadow of the Fox series. Born in Sacramento, she has been a bookseller and an animal trainer and enjoys reading, painting, playing in her garden and training in martial arts. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and a plethora of pets. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour | This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria | Review

An Ember in the Ashes meets Mask of Shadows in Emily Victoria’s #ownvoices debut YA fantasy, This Golden Flame, in which asexual Karis, a servant to the mysterious Scriptorium, accidentally awakens long-dormant automaton Alix, initiating an epic adventure full of magic, rebellion, and finding where you truly belong.

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible – she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father – their nation’s greatest traitor – once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

BUY LINKS | Bookshop.org | Powell’s | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Amazon | Chapters | Kobo

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was not expecting this book to suck me in from the beginning, but it did. The beginning definitely gives a good introduction to Karis and her motivations and it hits the ground running so to speak. I did enjoy the setting and aspects of Ancient Greek that were woven into the world/story. The duel perspectives of Karis and Alix were well played off of each other and it was nice to have a perspective that wasn’t just another human character. I loved the inclusion and diversity of the characters and their orientations without it being a huge thing. Those are my favorite types of inclusive stories, when it’s just normalized within the world. There were definitely aspects where the story could have gone a little farther, but overall I really enjoyed the story and the characters. Even minor characters were given fleshed out identities that were wonderful to read and breathed life to them even as the main characters worked through their adventure. I could see this having a sequel or companion, but I think it’s meant to be a standalone – still, the potential is there.

Emily Victoria lives on the Canadian prairies with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, works at her public library, and has just finished her Masters of Library and Information Studies.

SOCIAL LINKS |
Author website: https://www.avictoriantale.com/

Twitter: @avictoriantale

Instagram: @avictoriantale

Happy reading!

Review | I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have been wanting to pick this one up for a long time, so it’s another instance of kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. I really enjoyed one of Maurene Goo’s other books, so am glad I finally got to this one since it was just a wonderful read. Sure there were parts of it where it was a tad predictable but I absolutely loved all the K-drama references and the nods to Korean culture. I can’t say the route Desi took was appropriate and it was pretty out there – but it made the read fun and hilarious. This was great for a light and fun read and I’m so happy I finally got to it.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor | Review

In this contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born.

George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other, and Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

BUY LINKS | Harlequin  | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |
Books-A-Million | Walmart | Google | iBooks | Kobo

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Full disclaimer – of all of Jane Austen’s books, Emma is my least favorite. I don’t dislike it, but I have a weakness for being drawn to retellings of it to see if I like a reworking of the story itself. I really enjoyed this take on it and in some ways can completely empathize with Emma’s opinion that math can be easier to understand and communicate with than people. The idea of Emma having to kind of figure out herself after the one person she felt comfortable with, her sister, decided to move away for college was a great starting point. Not only does she not know anything about love, but she doesn’t know how to be by herself and be ok in her own skin by herself. It was a touch predictable who would be end game, but that didn’t effect the reading experience. The romance was slow burn as they moved through the story and the pace of writing made for a quick read. This was definitely a re-working of Emma that I really enjoyed and suited the modern setting.

Jillian Cantor is the author of award-winning and bestselling novels for adults and teens, including In Another Time, The Hours Count, Margot, and The Lost Letter, which was a USA Today bestseller. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantor lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

SOCIAL LINKS | Author Website: https://www.jilliancantor.com/ | TWITTER: @JillianCantor | Facebook: @AuthorJillianCantor |
Insta: @JillianCantor |
Goodreads: ttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1651861.Jillian_Cantor

Happy reading!

Review | Lobizona by Romina Garber

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I am so excited about the number of books coming out as of late which are timely and have themes that tie into some of the difficulties people are facing in every day life. Romina Garber tells Manu’s story really well, from the every day challenges she faces in our world to the similar problems she faces in another more magical world. Going into this book knowing very little is better in my opinion as things will have more impact that way.

I really appreciated how Garber addressed and explored different issues such as immigration and gender roles while also including so much culture and folklore in the tapestry of the story. I felt the flow of the writing was paced well, though there were some spots that slowed down, it still kept me invested in the story.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin | Review

Mean Girls meets Siobhan Vivian’s The List in THESE VENGEFUL HEARTS, an utterly addictive standalone YA debut that follows 16-year-old Ember Williams as she seeks revenge against the Red Court, a secret organization of Heller High’s most elite female students that specializes in granting and requesting favors—and which is responsible for the accident that left her older sister paralyzed.

A thrilling novel about a secret society and the dangers that lie in wait for anyone brave enough to join—perfect for fans of Karen M. McManus, Kara Thomas, and Maureen Johnson.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities known only by their leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Now, she’s determined to hold the organization accountable by taking it down from the inside. But will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

BUY LINKS | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Apple Books | Indie Bound | Bookshop.org  | Books-a-Million | Kobo

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I was really excited to get into this one since I really enjoy stories that include secret societies and someone infiltrating those secret societies for revenge? Sign me up. I did enjoy the read and it’s twists and turns, but some of the twists were a bit predictable to me. To me Ember was a bit unlikable, especially with her waffling back and forth. I understand the conflict the author was trying to inject into the story, but did feel it could have been fleshed out more to really give it the impact it could have had.

I did enjoy some of the side characters and if you’re looking for something very Mean Girls-esque, this will certainly fit the bill. It was an enjoyable read and I am interested to see more from this author as she further refines her writing.

Katherine Laurin lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, and tiny dog. When she’s not writing, Katherine enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, and listening to true crime podcasts. These Vengeful Hearts is her first young adult novel.

SOCIAL LINKS | Twitter: @writerkatherine |
Instagram: @kl_writerAuthor |Website: https://katherinelaurin.com/

Thanks so much to Inkyard Press for inviting me to participate in the blog tour! Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles | Review

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Buy Link | Macmillan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As soon as I started reading this book I was sucked in by the writing style, it was beautiful and perfectly set the tone of the book. As I delved more into this world I did want a little more world building than there was as there were some blind spots I felt could be filled, but that’s a minor criticism. I also found myself wishing it was a little more mature toned, as there were times it felt immature, but I understand that this is being marketed as YA, so that’s likely the reason it’s a little more younger toned.

Aside from those two points I really enjoyed this story and loved the overall dark and brooding vibe. It fulfilled the feelings of Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge for me and that alone made it a really fun ride. As noted earlier, Janella Angeles’ writing is beautiful and lyrical, perfectly suited to the story she crafted and I will definitely be picking up future books she writes as her writing style alone is enough for me to be sucked in and lose myself in the story. I can’t wait to see what happens with book two!

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Social LinksTwitter: @Janella_Angeles | Instagram: @Janella_Angeles

Where Dreams Descend comes out tomorrow, August 25th, so make sure to pick up a copy! Thanks again to Wednesday Books for including me in the blog tour.

Happy reading!

Review | When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I so wanted to really love this book and the writing and story were beautiful, but I just didn’t find myself connecting with it. I do feel that there are some very important conversations and revelations that happen in this book that could be very helpful to someone going through a similar experience. I did really enjoy the magical elements of this book, but I just kept wanting more. I wanted more things explained, and while some things get answered at the end of the book, I wanted so much more.

That being said, I still really enjoyed the story itself as we followed Sam and Miel and got to experience the ups and downs of their relationship as they simultaneously tried to protect and care for each other while also learning things about themselves. I definitely recommend the book as it was a beautiful story.

Happy reading!

Review | Clap When You Land

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If her first two books hadn’t already landed Elizabeth Acevedo on my auto-buy list, this one would have done it. I will say that I prefer her books in verse as I love her specific style, but I will also pick up anything she writes in prose as well. It’s not just her writing, but so many other things such as the impact she crafts with her words, the soul she gives her characters and more. I spent a lot of this book crying and sometimes I didn’t even understand fully what was making me cry, but it was heartbreaking. Being someone who has gone through the death of a father, I always appreciate (but also hurt) when authors are able to capture different aspects of grief and the different things people may experience/how no one’s grief is the same – and Acevedo perfectly captured that in this book. There are definite trigger warnings for death of a parent, sexual assault and grief in this book and I think it’s important to know that if those subjects are triggering for you, be aware.

It’s a hard read emotionally, but so worth it and I love that she drew inspiration from the real life crash of flight AA587 – while also shedding light upon it. Too often important events that impact hundreds, if not thousands, of lives get pushed aside or buried because something deemed bigger or more important happens. This should be on everyone’s lists, but make sure you have tissues handy.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Lobizona by Romina Garber | Excerpt

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

Buy Link | Macmillan

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing an excerpt from Lobizona with you. I’ll also have a review coming soon, so make sure to check that out as well!

I awaken with a jolt.

It takes me a moment to register that I’ve been out for three days. I can tell by the well-rested feeling in my bones—I don’t sleep this well any other time of the month.

The first thing I’m aware of as I sit up  is an urgent need  to use the bathroom. My muscles are heavy from lack of use, and it takes some concentration to keep my steps light so I won’t wake Ma or Perla. I leave the lights off to avoid meeting my gaze in the mirror, and after tossing out my heavy-duty period pad and replacing it with a tampon, I tiptoe back to Ma’s and my room.

I’m always disoriented after lunaritis, so I feel separate from my waking life as I survey my teetering stacks of journals and used books, Ma’s yoga mat and collection of weights, and the posters on the wall of the planets and constellations I hope to visit one day.

After a moment, my shoulders slump in disappointment.

This month has officially peaked.

I yank the bleach-stained blue sheets off the mattress and slide out the pillows from their cases, balling up the bedding to wash later. My body feels like a crumpled piece of paper that needs to be stretched, so I plant my feet together in the tiny area between the bed and the door, and I raise my hands and arch my back, lengthening my spine disc by disc. The pull on my tendons releases stored tension, and I exhale in relief.

Something tugs at my consciousness, an unresolved riddle that must have timed out when I surfaced . . . but the harder I focus, the quicker I forget. Swinging my head forward, I reach down to touch my toes and stretch my spine the other way—

My ears pop so hard, I gasp.

I stumble back to the mattress, and I cradle my head in my hands as a rush of noise invades my mind. The buzzing of a fly in the window blinds, the gunning of a car engine on the street below, the groaning of our building’s prehistoric eleva- tor. Each sound is so crisp, it’s like a filter was just peeled back from my hearing.

My pulse picks up as I slide my hands away from my temples to trace the outlines of my ears. I think the top parts feel a little . . . pointier.

I ignore the tingling in my eardrums as I cut through the living room to the kitchen, and I fill a stained green bowl with cold water. Ma’s asleep on the turquoise couch because we don’t share our bed this time of the month. She says I thrash around too much in my drugged dreams.

I carefully shut the apartment door behind me as I step out into the building’s hallway, and I crack open our neighbor’s window to slide the bowl through. A black cat leaps over to lap up the drink.

“Hola, Mimitos,” I say, stroking his velvety head. Since we’re both confined to this building, I hear him meowing any time his owner, Fanny, forgets to feed him. I think she’s going senile.

“I’ll take you up with me later, after lunch. And I’ll bring you some turkey,” I add, shutting the window again quickly. I usually let him come with me, but I prefer to spend the morn- ings after lunaritis alone. Even if I’m no longer dreaming, I’m not awake either.

My heart is still beating unusually fast as I clamber up six flights of stairs. But I savor the burn of my sedentary muscles, and when at last I reach the highest point, I swing open the door to the rooftop.

It’s not quite morning yet, and the sky looks like blue- tinged steel. Surrounding me are balconies festooned with colorful clotheslines, broken-down properties with boarded- up windows, fuzzy-leaved palm trees reaching up from the pitted streets . . . and in the distance, the ground and sky blur where the Atlantic swallows the horizon.

El Retiro is a rundown apartment complex with all elderly residents—mostly Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Nicara- guan, and Argentine immigrants. There’s just one slow, loud elevator in the building, and since I’m the youngest person here, I never use it in case someone else needs it.

I came up here hoping for a breath of fresh air, but since it’s summertime, there’s no caress of a breeze to greet me. Just the suffocating embrace of Miami’s humidity.

Smothering me.

I close my eyes and take in deep gulps of musty oxygen, trying to push the dread down to where it can’t touch me. The way Perla taught me to do whenever I get anxious.

My metamorphosis started this year. I first felt something

was different four full moons ago, when I no longer needed to squint to study the ground from up here. I simply opened my eyes to perfect vision.

The following month, my hair thickened so much that I had to buy bigger clips to pin it back. Next menstrual cycle came the growth spurt that left my jeans three inches too short, and last lunaritis I awoke with such a heightened sense of smell that I could sniff out what Ma and Perla had for dinner all three nights I was out.

It’s bad enough to feel the outside world pressing in on me, but now even my insides are spinning out of my control.

As Perla’s breathing exercises relax my thoughts, I begin  to feel the stirrings of my dreamworld calling me back. I slide onto the rooftop’s ledge and lie back along the warm cement, my body as stagnant as the stale air. A dragon-shaped cloud comes apart like cotton, and I let my gaze drift with Miami’s hypnotic sky, trying to call up the dream’s details before they fade . . .

What Ma and Perla don’t know about the Septis is they don’t simply sedate me for sixty hours—they transport me.

Every lunaritis, I visit the same nameless land of magic and mist and monsters. There’s the golden grass that ticks off time by turning silver as the day ages; the black-leafed trees that can cry up storms, their dewdrop tears rolling down their bark to form rivers; the colorful waterfalls that warn onlookers of oncoming danger; the hope-sucking Sombras that dwell in darkness and attach like parasitic shadows . . .

And the Citadel.

It’s a place I instinctively know I’m not allowed to go, yet I’m always trying to get to. Whenever I think I’m going to make it inside, I wake up with a start.

Picturing the black stone wall, I see the thorny ivy that

twines across its surface like a nest of guardian snakes, slith- ering and bunching up wherever it senses a threat.

The sharper the image, the sleepier I feel, like I’m slowly sliding back into my dream, until I reach my hand out tenta- tively. If I could just move faster than the ivy, I could finally grip the opal doorknob before the thorns—

Howling breaks my reverie.

I blink, and the dream disappears as I spring to sitting and scour the battered buildings. For a moment, I’m sure I heard a wolf.

My spine locks at the sight of a far more dangerous threat: A cop car is careening in the distance, its lights flashing and siren wailing. Even though the black-and-white is still too far away to see me, I leap down from the ledge and take cover behind it, the old mantra running through my mind.

Don’t come here, don’t come here, don’t come here.

A familiar claustrophobia claws at my skin, an affliction forged of rage and shame and powerlessness that’s been my companion as long as I’ve been in this country. Ma tells me I should let her worry about this stuff and only concern myself with studying, so when our papers come through, I can take my GED and one day make it to NASA—but it’s impossible not to worry when I’m constantly having to hide.

My muscles don’t uncoil until the siren’s howling fades and the police are gone, but the morning’s spell of stillness has broken. A door slams, and I instinctively turn toward the pink building across the street that’s tattooed with territorial graf- fiti. Where the alternate version of me lives.

I call her Other Manu.

The first thing I ever noticed about her was her Argentine fútbol jersey: #10 Lionel Messi. Then I saw her face and real- ized we look a lot alike. I was reading Borges at the time, and

it ocurred to me that she and I could be the same person in overlapping parallel universes.

But it’s an older man and not Other Manu who lopes down the street. She wouldn’t be up this early on a Sunday anyway. I arch my back again, and thankfully this time, the only pop I hear is in my joints.

The sun’s golden glare is strong enough that I almost wish I had my sunglasses. But this rooftop is sacred to me because it’s the only place where Ma doesn’t make me wear them, since no one else comes up here.

I’m reaching for the stairwell door when I hear it.

Faint footsteps are growing louder, like someone’s racing up. My heart shoots into my throat, and I leap around the corner right as the door swings open.

The person who steps out is too light on their feet to be someone who lives here. No El Retiro resident could make it up the stairs that fast. I flatten myself against the wall.

“Creo que encontré algo, pero por ahora no quiero decir nada.”

Whenever Ma is upset with me, I have a habit of translat- ing her words into English without processing them. I asked Perla about it to see if it’s a common bilingual thing, and she said it’s probably my way of keeping Ma’s anger at a distance; if I can deconstruct her words into language—something de- tached that can be studied and dissected—I can strip them of their charge.

As my anxiety kicks in, my mind goes into automatic trans- lation mode: I think I found something, but I don’t want to say anything yet.

The woman or girl (it’s hard to tell her age) has a deep, throaty voice that’s sultry and soulful, yet her singsongy accent is unquestionably Argentine. Or Uruguayan. They sound similar.

My cheek is pressed to the wall as I make myself as flat as possible, in case she crosses my line of vision.

“Si tengo razón, me harán la capitana más joven en la his- toria de los Cazadores.”

If I’m right, they’ll make me the youngest captain in the history of the . . . Cazadores? That means hunters.

In my eight years living here, I’ve never seen another per- son on this rooftop. Curious, I edge closer, but I don’t dare peek around the corner. I want to see this stranger’s face, but not badly enough to let her see mine.

“¿El encuentro es ahora? Che, Nacho, ¿vos no me podrías cubrir?”

Is the meeting right now? Couldn’t you cover for me, Nacho?

The che and vos sound like Argentinespeak. What if it’s Other Manu?

The exciting possibility brings me a half step closer, and now my nose is inches from rounding the corner. Maybe I can sneak a peek without her noticing.

“Okay,” I hear her say, and her voice sounds like she’s just a few paces away.

I suck in a quick inhale, and before I can overthink it, I pop my head out—

And see the door swinging shut.

I scramble over and tug it open, desperate to spot even a hint of her hair, any clue at all to confirm it was Other Manu— but she’s already gone.

All that remains is a wisp of red smoke that vanishes with the swiftness of a morning cloud.

ROMINA GARBER (pen name Romina Russell) is a New York Times and international bestselling author. Originally from Argentina, she landed her first writing gig as a teen—a weekly column for the Miami Herald that was later nationally syndicated—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her books include Lobizona. When she’s not working on a novel, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.

Author Links | Twitter | Instagram

Happy reading!