September 30, 2015

Review: First & Then

First & Then by Emma Mills
Grade: B
Release date: October 13, 2015
This ARC was loaned by Rachel from Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: First impressions can be deceiving . . .

Devon has life pretty much figured out: she’s got her best friend Cas, her secret crush (also Cas), and her comfortable routine (mostly spent with Cas). New experiences: not welcome here. But as she enters her senior year, her parents take in her cousin Foster, an undersized weirdo who shows an unexpected talent for football, and star running back Ezra takes Foster under his wing. Devon can't figure out how she feels about Ezra. He's obviously stuck-up, but Foster adores him. Ezra has nothing to say to her, but he keeps seeking her out. And... Devon might actually like him. If only she can admit it to herself.

Funny, fresh, and layered, First and Then proves that change doesn't always tear things apart—sometimes, it brings them together.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: To me, First & Then was about relationships. It was about Devon and Foster, Devon and Cas, and Devon and Ezra, and Devon and Lindsay. And the strongest of those relationships? Devon and Foster. You don't see too many realistic brother/cousin-sister relationships, and Emma Mills wrote this one well. Foster is a sweetheart, and his relationship with Devon came across as very real. Devon is an interesting character. I didn't enjoy the unnecessary slut-shaming (she regularly refers to the freshman girls in her gym classes as "prostitots"). She did gain some self-awareness by the end of the book, which showed growth and maturity. The one character I really wasn't a fan of was Marabelle. She just to me. She was a puzzle piece that didn't fit. Emir was another puzzle piece that didn't quite fit. He showed up at random moments with deep advice but just didn't quite work for me. I liked Lindsay, though. She was like a brighter, better Harriet. She was funny, wonderful, and realistic, and dear heavens, I want a Lindsay in my life.
And Ezra is such a Darcy. He's bad at conversation, and Devon's first impression of him isn't great. But their friendship grows, and their romance blossoms, and he actually read Sense and Sensiblity and Pride and Prejudice so they'd have something to talk about. What I really liked about the romance is it felt real. It wasn't overly swoony and dramatic or grandiose. It felt simple and real, and I think that's mostly because Devon seemed like a real person and so did Ezra. I love contemporary fiction, but most YA contemporaries have something that makes them unrealistic. Not so in the case of First & Then.
As for the ugly, there's a fair amount of cursing.

The Verdict: Really good with a few flaws. I loved all the nods to Austen.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: I think so.

September 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: If You've Only Read Popular YA

I decided to go a little more general than the original topic because I'm not the biggest John Green fan, and I'm not great at recommending books for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. But if you've really only read popular YA, than you need to read this titles.

1. Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke
Epic, trippy worldbuilding, beautiful covers for this duology, and parallel universes!

2. Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche
So there's a road trip for fans of Paper Towns and there's diversity and this was a really good book.

3. Pivot Point by Kasie West
More parallel universes, but also sort-of super powers and fun romance.

4. Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
I love, love, love the friends-to-something-more trope. Plus, this book has a rich setting.

5. Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
This is one I hear very few people talk about, outside of a few bloggers. More people need to read Rites of Passage.

6. Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
Sad about Downton Abbey's impeding final season? Then you've got to read this dystopian book that's reminiscent of the world of Downton Abbey!

7. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Friendship books are the bomb, and this is one of the best and most realistic.

8. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Maybe you've read The Fault in Our Stars or All the Bright Places. Well now you need to read this moving story.

9. Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
Yes to time travel.

10. The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
Character growth, a swoony love interest, and lots of baking.

September 28, 2015

Interview with Emily Lloyd-Jones, Author of Deceptive

I'm a big fan of superheroes. I'm especially a big fan of them in young adult fiction. So I'm very honored to have Emily Lloyd-Jones on the blog today. She wrote Illusive and its sequel, Deceptive, which deal with super power-type abilities. They're very cool books.


Don't miss this thrilling, high-stakes sequel to Illusive.

You don’t belong with us. These are the words that echo through the minds of all immune Americans—those suffering the so-called adverse effects of an experimental vaccine, including perfect recall, body manipulation, telepathy, precognition, levitation, mind-control, and the ability to change one’s appearance at will.

When immune individuals begin to disappear—in great numbers, but seemingly at random—fear and tension mount, and unrest begins to brew across the country. Through separate channels, super-powered teenagers Ciere, Daniel, and Devon find themselves on the case; super criminals and government agents working side-by-side. It’s an effort that will ultimately define them all—for better or for worse.

Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. When she was twelve, her cousin gave her a copy of Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles and triggered her lifelong addiction to genre fiction. She went on to read all the usual suspects (Tolkien, Lewis, McCaffrey etc). When she wasn't immersing herself in someone else's fantastical world, she was usually creating her own.
After graduating from Western Oregon University with an English degree, she loaded up her car, wrestled her cat into a pet carrier, and drove across the U.S. to Philadelphia. She enrolled in the publishing program at Rosemont College but spent far too much time in coffee shops working on a novel when she probably should've been writing her thesis. Once she managed to finish both, she again packed up her car (and a very disgruntled cat), and drove back to the west coast.
She currently resides in Northern California, working in a bookstore by day and writing by night. There's a lot of coffee involved. When not working, she can be found watching British television, browsing TV Tropes, or reading.  She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.
The Interview

Emma: Deceptive, which released on July 14, is the sequel to Illusive. How did the writing and publication of Deceptive differ from when that all happened for Illusive?
Emily: Writing Illusive was actually much more hectic than writing Deceptive. (Writing your debut novel while simultaneously writing your master’s thesis? I do not recommend it.) Deceptive was less of a straightforward process and more of a learning curve, but I truly enjoyed getting to know the characters better.

Emma: How did you react when you got the news Illusive was going to be published?
Emily: I put my cell phone down and went to work. No, really. I got the news in my car. I was pretty much in a happy shock. Then I promptly overcharged a customer for a newspaper because I was so frazzled.

Emma: Is there going to be a third book?
Emily: At the moment, it looks like Illusive will remain a duology. 

Emma: I'm really trying to not cry right now.

Emma: What drew you to write about super powers?
Emily: I’ve always been intrigued by how humans react to change. Typically, that change has revolved around social and—especially today—technological changes. I looked at superpowers as just another huge shift that humans would have to deal with, and that idea intrigued me. I wanted to explore how it would affect humans on a cultural and personal level.

On a shallower note, I also just really love writing action scenes and superpowers make for some good action.

Emma: Do you watch a lot of superhero TV shows/movies or read a lot of superhero books?
Emily: Not as many as you would think. I watch all of the new MCU movies in theaters, but I don’t really watch them at home. As for television, I’m more into drama or straight-up fantasy. (I’m looking forward to Reign and Once Upon a Time’s return this fall.) As for books, I try not to read too heavily in whatever sub-genre I’m currently working in, because I don’t want to be subconsciously influenced.

Emma: I know from your author bio that you work in a bookstore. How has that experience shaped your journey as an author?

Emily: I love what I do. It’s an awesome little niche to be in—working in an indie bookshop. I’m always surrounded by the written word. As I often say, by day I sell books and by night I write them. One good thing is that I’m usually clued into the latest industry news. On the other hand, it means if I want to think about something other than books, I’m utterly doomed to failure.

As an author, it’s a fascinating experience to see customers browse books. It truly drives home the need to have a book that can be easily captured in a few sentences—because that’s how long a bookseller has to pitch a book to a customer.

Also, I know which publishers have the best customer service.

Emma: What's the weirdest writing advice you've ever received?
Emily: Write what you know. It’s advice that is handed out right and left, but it always seems ridiculous to me. If I wrote what I knew, all my books would be about writers who always have cat hair on their jeans.

Rather than writing from a place of knowledge, I try to write from empathy. To put myself in my characters' lives and go from there.

Also, I research. A lot.

Emma: Any recent YA reads you want to recommend?
Emily: Two awesome and fairly recent YA books that I’d highly recommend are THE WITCH HUNTER by Virginia Boecker and THE LEVELLER by Julie Durango. Completely different books, but they’re both really fun reads.

Emma: And finally, my signature question: do you have a favorite fairytale?
Emily: One of my favorite story tropes is that of the Faustian deal, so I’d have to say Rumpelstiltskin.

Emily: Thanks for having me on your blog! :)
Emma: Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Emily!

If you'd like to find Emily elsewhere and read her books (which I highly recommend you do), here are some links!
Emily's Twitter:
Emily's Tumblr:
Emily's Instagram:
Illusive at Read Between the Lynes:
Deceptive at Read Between the Lynes:

September 27, 2015

Rewind & Review #46

Rewind & Review

The last two weeks have been fairly low-key. Just classes, homework, work, and reading. Workshops start next week in beginning creative writing fiction class, and I'll be reading on Thursday. Very nervous! Nothing else noteworthy has happened, I don't think.

Books I Received for Review
Cinderella's Shoes by Shonna Slayton (from Entangled Teen via NetGalley)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz (won in Heidi's Twitter giveaway)
Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin (Thanks, Shae!)

Books I Bought

Books I Read
Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard (3 stars)
Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (2 stars)
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (3 stars)
Fake ID by Lamar Giles (2.5 stars)
Red Girl, Blue Boy by Mandy Hubbard
The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett (3.5 stars)
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Cinderella's Shoes by Shonna Slayton
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott (3.5 stars)
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (2 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed
   (From 9/14-9/19)
   (From 9/20-9/26)
Upcoming Posts in the Next Few Weeks (subject to change)
  • Interview with Emily Lloyd-Jones, Author of Deceptive
  • Top Ten Tuesday: If You've Only Read Popular YA
  • Review: First & Then by Emma Mills
  • Random Friday: Books I've Convinced My Friends to Read
  • Review: My Secret to Tell by Natalie D. Richards
  • Recent Releases You Need to Buy
  • Review: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
  • Interview with Sara Raasch, Author of Ice Like Fire
  • So You Like... #19
  • Taylor Swift and Lyrics

September 26, 2015

I'm Emma and I'm a Word Nerd

I'm a writer. I'm a bibliophile. I love words in general, but I also love really cool words like...

Lethologica ~ the inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word

Bungalow ~ a small cozy cottage

Chatoyant ~ changing in luster or color

Denouement ~ the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot

Effervescent ~ bubbling enthusiasm
Fun story - this has been one of my favorite words since I read it in Dear Pen Pal by Heather Vogel Frederick.

Ethereal ~ light, airy, or tenuous

Gossamer ~ a thin, insubstantial or delicate material

Labrinthine ~ twisting and turning

Limerance ~ the state of being infatuated with another person

Mellifluous ~ a sound that is sweet and smooth

Nemesis ~ an unconquerable enemy

Petrichor ~ the smell of earth after rain

Vellichor ~ the strange wistfulness of old/used bookshops

So what are some of your favorite words?

September 25, 2015

Emma Recommends Diverse Books

Back in July, I had a survey (it's actually still available if any of y'all want to take it) about diverse books - your reading habits and diverse books on my blog. Because of that, I'm trying to consistently do at least one post a month about diverse books. So this month's is a list if you're trying to find some more diverse books to read. Many of these are ones I've enjoyed; others are ones I've seen recommended. I'll probably do another post in November or December with more titles, so don't think these are all I know about! In addition, there is some overlap of titles.


Like No Other by Una LaMarche (Judaism)
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (Islam)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (a fantasy form of Christianity)
Margot by Jillian Cantor (Judaism)
Deception's Princess by Esther Friesner (pagan Irish beliefs)

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (OCD and cerebral palsy)
The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno (split personality disorder)
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (OCD)
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (depression)

Endangered by Lamar Giles
This Side of Home by Renee Watson
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
(Also Like No Other, Written in the Stars, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and My Heart and Other Black Holes.)

So now it's your turn! Do you know of any diverse books you think I should read? And please, continue to let me know what you want to see on Awkwordly Emma when it comes to diversity in literature.

September 24, 2015

Review: What We Saw

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
Grade: B-
An ARC was provided by Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Do you ever feel bad for not loving an "issue" book? Don't get me wrong, they can be very thought-provoking and important, but sometimes, I just don't love them. That's the case with What We Saw. It handles the issue of accusations of sexual assault well. Hartzler wrote realistic characters with realistic dialogue; a bitter taste was often left in my mouth but only because I could see how true some things were. But I felt distanced from the book. Maybe it's because I've, thankfully, never experienced such a situation. There was no emotional connection for me.
What We Saw took turns I didn't quite expect, which was good. I'm glad things ended the way they did. Most "issue" books don't really have happy endings, but this one had a sort-of happy ending. There's not a lot I can say about this one without being spoilery, and I'm trying to refrain from that.
The ugly consisted of: underage drinking (lots of it), definitely some upper PG-13 sexual content, and there's SPOILER a video of the actual act. The descriptions of it are fairly graphic, so I'd definitely place some trigger warnings on that scene. END SPOILER.

The Verdict: Good, worth the read, but not something I loved.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Probably not. It was a good read but not something I want to own.

September 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2015 TBR List

I love these seasonally TBR list posts because it's basically my chance to say "I'M GONNA READ ALL THE BOOKS."

1. Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

2. Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
My Secret Sister from last round preordered this one for me, so I'll get to read it sooner rather than later.

3. Signs Point to Yes by Sandy Hall
This sounds like it'll be as cute as A Little Something Different.

4. Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown
All the historical fiction!

5. The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson
A Rapunzel retelling!

6. All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
*tries not to scream* I love The Naturals series like whoa.

7. Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
I won a preorder of this back in the spring. So excited for A Thousand Pieces of You's sequel! It was my first 5-star read of 2015, so I have high expectations for this one.

8. Winter by Marissa Meyer
This book is gonna kill me; I know it.

(I'm pretending they didn't change the cover to something so blah and typical.)
9. Da Vinci's Tiger by Laura Malone Elliott
I'm all for historical fic that isn't set during the usual choices (ya know, WWII and Victorian era).

10. For the Record by Charlotte Huang
A blogger I know has already read this and she really liked it, so I have high hopes.

Bonus picks:
Everything but the Truth by Mandy Hubbard (An If Only... title)
Promises I Made by Michelle Zink (sequel to Lies I Told)

September 21, 2015

Review: The Icing on the Cake

The Icing on the Cake (Saturday Cooking Club #2) by Deborah A. Levine and JillEllyn Riley
Grade: B
Release date: September 22, 2015
An e-galley was provided by Aladdin via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Turning thirteen isn’t looking lucky for Liza—and even the kitchen isn’t a refuge—in this second book of the Saturday Cooking Club series.
Liza’s big plans for a small birthday celebration with besties Frankie and Lillian don’t stand a chance against a guilt-giving force of nature: her Nana Silver. As the girls attempt to regain control from a grandmother with way-too-grand ideas, they also try to find the right recipes for their own happiness. Frankie decides to remake herself in the image of Lillian’s high-achieving, “perfect” sister Katie, while Lillian tackles the puzzle of how to understand boys. And Liza whips up plans to use Nana’s extravagant birthday bash to try get her parents back together—despite the obvious simmering between her mom and Chef.

Can the girls rise to the occasion and salvage Liza’s party without scorched feelings? Or will turning thirteen be far from a piece of cake?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: This is the sequel to Kitchen Chaos, the first Saturday Cooking Club book was which very fun and reminiscent of The Mother-Daughter Book Club in a lot of ways for me. I really enjoyed Kitchen Chaos, so I hoped The Icing on the Cake would be just as good. It was - but I have a few problems to critique.
In the first book, Frankie, Liza, and Lillian evenly share the chapters (at least, I think they did). This book was much more Liza's story so she dominated the narration. This wasn't necessarily bad, but I wanted more of Frankie and especially Lillian. Also, Frankie had the B-plot and I felt it was dealt with too easily and quickly. She seemed to be on the verge of an eating disorder, and that wasn't dealt with realistically. Also, one of my favorite parts of the first book was the actual cooking classes and those were skimmed over more this time which was sad. I love hearing about cooking and baking! This book focused more on baking and sweets, which is my forte and I wanted more of that. 
So hopefully this series will continue, and the next books will showcase Frankie and Lillian more - and more of the cooking classes!

The Verdict: Totally a series for fans of The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. Make sure to check out the first book, Kitchen Chaos!

Will I be adding this book to my library?: I hope to!

September 20, 2015

Sunday Street Team: Brianna Shrum Guest Post

The Author

Brianna Shrum

Brianna Shrum lives in Colorado with her high-school-sweetheart turned husband and her two little boys. She's been writing since she could scrawl letters, and has worked with teens since she graduated out of teenager-hood, either in the writing classes she taught, or working with the youth group. Brianna digs all things YA, all things geeky, superhero-y, gamery, magical, and strange.

Her debut YA, Never Never, releases in September of this year. Her second YA, How to Make Out, releases in Fall 2016. She'd totally love to connect with you, so come say hi on her website or Twitter!

Visit her Website at

Follow her on Twitter @briannashrum

The Book

Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum

James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.

When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.

But grow up he does.

And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.

This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.

Except one.

The Guest Post - Favorite Adaptations of Peter Pan

Hands down, my all-time favorite Peter Pan adaption HAS to be HOOK. (Before I go into full-on fangirl mode, though, let us all put our hats over our hearts for the incredible 2003 Peter Pan’s Jason Isaacs as Hook. I mean, good gracious, was he utter perfection.)
HOOK certainly presented a more kid-friendly Neverland than we go to in Never Never, but I think that’s one of the things I love about it. Who among us saw HOOK and didn’t want to eat everything on that imaginary dinner table with all the Lost Boys? Or wasn’t shaking in their shoes at the sheer terror of The Boo Box? (By the way, the pirate who gets tossed into The Boo Box at the beginning, bearded and all, is played by Glenn Close! I just think that’s so cool.) And who, unless you have no heart, doesn’t STILL weep at the mere THOUGHT of Rufio? (RU-FI-OOOOOOO)
It’s easily the most diverse Pan adaptation, particularly among the Lost Boys, which I love. And it’s so full of life and hilarity and magic and cleverness.
Robin Williams’ Pan is incredible. (Though it kind of makes me cry now L) But the real perfection of the story, though, is in the good Captain, as one would assume, based on the title. Hook is frightening, and refined, and elegant, and bizarrely, dreadfully likable and scary all at once. You find yourself unsure if you’d want to be a Lost Boy or a pirate, because of him and his crew.
I could talk about this movie all day. I won’t. I think I’ll go watch it instead. BANGARANG!

The Giveaway

September 19, 2015

The Weight of Feathers Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway

I was delighted to receive an invitation from St. Martin's Press to participate in the blog tour for The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. It sounded like such a cool book, y'all, so I jumped at the chance to promote it. I've got an excerpt and a giveaway for you! But first, let's take a look at the book and the author.


Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, will be released in 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. 



For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. 

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees. 

Beautifully written, and richly imaginative, The Weight of Feathers is an utterly captivating young adult novel by a talented new voice.

THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna-Marie McLemore.  Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Griffin.

The feathers were Lace’s first warning. They showed up between suitcases, in the trunk of her father’s station wagon, on the handles of came-with-the-car first-aid kits so old the gauze had yellowed. They snagged on antennas, turning the local stations to static.
Lace’s mother found a feather in with the family’s costumes the day they crossed into Almendro, a town named for almond fields that once filled the air with the scent of sugary blossoms and bitter wood. But over the last few decades an adhesive plant had bought out the farms that could not survive the droughts, and the acres of almonds dwindled to a couple of orchards on the edge of town.
The wisp of that black feather caught on a cluster of sequins. Lace knew from the set to her mother’s eyes that she’d throw the whole mermaid tail in a bucket and burn it, elastane and all.
Lace grabbed the tail and held on. If her mother burned it, it would take Lace and her great-aunt at least a week to remake it. Tía Lora’s hands were growing stiff, and Lace’s were new and slow.
Her mother tried to pull the tail from her grip, but Lace balled the fabric in her hands.
“Let go,” her mother warned.
“It’s one feather.” Lace dug in her fingers. “It’s not them.” Lace knew the danger of touching a Corbeau. Her abuela said she’d be better off petting a rattlesnake. But these feathers were not the Corbeaus’ skin. They didn’t hold the same poison as a Corbeau’s body.
“It’s cursed,” her mother said. One hard tug, and she won. She threw the costume tail into a bucket and lit it. The metal pail grew hot as a stove. The fumes off the melting sequins stung Lace’s throat.
“Did you have to burn the whole thing?” she asked.
“Better safe, mija,” her mother said, wetting down the undergrowth with day-old aguas frescas so the brush wouldn’t catch.
They could have cleaned the tail, blessed it, stripped away the feather’s touch. Burning it only gave the Corbeaus more power. Those feathers already had such weight. The fire in the pail was an admission that, against them, Lace’s family had no guard.
Before Lace was born, the Palomas and the Corbeaus had just been competing acts, two of the only shows left that bothered with the Central Valley’s smallest towns. Back then it was just business, not hate. Even now Lace’s family sometimes ended up in the same town with a band of traveling singers or acrobats, and there were no fights, no blood. Only the wordless agreement that each of them were there to survive, and no grudges after. Every fall when the show season ended, Lace’s aunts swapped hot-plate recipes with a trio of trapeze artists. Her father traded homeschooling lesson plans with a troupe of Georgian folk dancers.
The Corbeaus never traded anything with anyone. They shared nothing, took nothing. They kept to themselves, only straying from the cheapest motel in town to give one of Lace’s cousins a black eye, or leave a dead fish at the riverbank. Lace and Martha found the last one, its eye shining like a wet marble.
Before Lace was born, these were bloodless threats, ways the Corbeaus tried to rattle her family before their shows. Now every Paloma knew there was nothing the Corbeaus wouldn’t do.
Lace’s mother watched the elastane threads curl inside a shell of flame. “They’re coming,” she said.
“Did you think they wouldn’t?” Lace asked. Her mother smiled. “I can hope, can’t I?”
She could hope all she wanted. The Corbeaus wouldn’t give up the crowds that came with Almendro’s annual festival. So many tourists, all so eager to fill their scrapbooks. That meant two weeks in Almendro. Two weeks when the younger Paloma men hardened their fists, and their mothers prayed they didn’t come home with broken ribs.
Lace’s grandmother set the schedule each year, and no one spoke up against Abuela. If they ever did, she’d pack their bags for them. Lace had watched Abuela cram her cousin Licha’s things into a suitcase, clearing her perfumes and lipsticks off the motel dresser with one sweep of her arm. When Lace visited her in Visalia and they went swimming, Licha’s two-piece showed that her escamas, the birthmarks that branded her a Paloma, had disappeared.
Lace’s mother taught her that those birthmarks kept them safe from the Corbeaus’ feathers. That family was el Diablo on earth, with dark wings strapped to their bodies, French on their tongues, a sprinkling of gypsy blood. When Lace slept, they went with her, living in nightmares made of a thousand wings.
Another black feather swirled on a downdraft. Lace watched it spin and fall. It settled in her hair, its slight weight like a moth’s feet.
Her mother snatched it off Lace’s head. “¡Madre mía!” she cried, and threw it into the flames.
Lace’s cousins said the Corbeaus grew black feathers right out of their heads, like hair. She never believed it. It was another rumor that strengthened the Corbeaus’ place in their nightmares. But the truth, that wind pulled feathers off the wings they wore as costumes, wasn’t a strong enough warning to keep Paloma children from the woods.
La magia negra,” her mother said. She always called those feathers black magic.
The fire dimmed to embers. Lace’s mother gave the pail a hard kick. It tumbled down the bank and into the river, the hot metal hissing and sinking.

“Let them drown,” her mother said, and the last of the rim vanished.


Things you should know!
~St. Martin's Press is providing the prize (1 signed copy of The Weight of Feathers).
~It is only open to residents of the United States and Canada.
~I will be sending your contact info to SMP, should you win.
~I will be checking entries, so no cheating!

September 18, 2015

Random Friday: Bookstores Part 2

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I'm a bad blogger. I had the grand idea of planning to film another bookstore visit (this time to Joseph-Beth) but I've been so busy these past few weeks that I've barely left campus. I promise I'll film a trip there some day soon, guys! So instead this post will be about all the bookstores I want to visit.

1. Books of Wonder (New York City)
If I don't visit Books of Wonder before I die, I may die.

2. Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Cincinnati)
I was here back in January for the Marissa Meyer event, but I really want to go again when it's not so crowded and I have plenty of time to browse and explore.

3. Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston)
If I ever find myself in the Houston, Texas area, you know I'll be making a stop at Blue Willow Bookshop. They host a lot of YA events, so I'm sure they have a lot of signed copies that I'm dying to get my hands on.

4. The Morris Book Shop (Lexington)
This one's super close to my university, so I think I'll be visiting there relatively soon. (Sooner than Houston, of course.)

5. Shakespeare and Co. (Paris)
When I eventually travel to Paris someday, I will be visiting many of the bookstores so I can buy all my favorites in French.

So let's talk bookstores. What are your favorites? Which do you want to visit? Any questions you want to ask me, relating to bookstores?

September 17, 2015

Interview with Mackenzi Lee, Author of This Monstrous Thing

I have mad love for historical fiction. So that's why I'm very excited for Mackenzi Lee's debut title, This Monstrous Thing, which releases in just five days. As a special treat, I have an interview with her for y'all to enjoy.


In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently lives in Boston, where she works as a bookseller and almost never reanimates corpses. Almost.

Emma: What has your experience as a debut author been like?
Mackenzi: Overwhelming! And awesome! It’s still difficult to process that a thing that once existed only in my brain will soon be something people can walk into bookstores and then buy and read and share with me. Publishing a book, it turns out, is sort of like making a horcrux--it’s a piece of your soul that lives outside your  body. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the weird awesomeness of that.

Emma: What drew you to write historical fiction?
Mackenzi: I’ve always loved history, and my first access point to studying it was through historical fiction. The books I remember really loving when I was young were all historical fiction titles, things like Esperanza Rising, Fever 1793, Number the Stars, and A Long Way From Chicago. As a kid, I loved the idea of history was a world that felt like fantasy except it was real! To be honest, that’s still what excites me most about it, how historical fiction is a blend of real and imagined and things that feel imagined but are real. 

Emma: Do you want to continue writing historical fiction or are other genres calling you?
Mackenzi: Right now, historical fiction/historical fantasy is my happy place. The stories that come to me and excite me enough to write them are all centered around a historical period. Never say never, but for the foreseeable future, my books will keep being set in the past. 

Emma: Are there any YA historical fiction titles (besides your own of course) that you would recommend?
Mackenzi: I live for this question. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is the book of my heart, and it’s companion novel, Rose Under Fire is equally gutting. If you read nothing else these year, read these books. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is great for fans of alternate history and steampunk. Also check out The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coates, The Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, and My Near Death Adventures (99% True) by Alison DeCamp.

Emma: What's the weirdest/funniest/coolest thing you found while researching for This Monstrous Thing?
Mackenzi: One of my favorite Mary Shelley facts that didn’t make it into the book is that, as a child, Mary learned to write her name by tracing the letters on her mother’s tombstone, since they were both named Mary Wollstonecraft (Wollstonecraft was her mother’s surname and Mary’s middle name). Seemed appropriately spooky.

Emma: Who are your favorite young adult heroes/heroines?
Mackenzi: I have a big old crush on Jacky Faber, the heroine of LA Meyer’s fantastic series of the same name. I love her spunk and vulnerability and how courage and cowardice are represented equally inside her. Maddie and Queenie from Code Name Verity are two other YA ladies I’d like to hang out with. We would drink tea and eat biscuits and wear jumpers and talk about Kidnapped and then Maddie would take us all for a ride in her Lysander.  

Emma: Any upcoming YA releases you want to recommend?
Mackenzi: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to aggressively hand sell it to everyone that comes my way in September. I’m also a card-carrying member of the Kendall Kulper fanclub, and I am dying to see her new novel Drift and Dagger on shelves. Also the second book in the Jackaby series by William Ritter comes out the same day as This Monstrous Thing  and I’m maybe more excited for it than I am my own book.

Emma: Lightning round! What is your favorite...
Fairytale? I’m not really a fairytale aficionado, but my favorite bonkers Grimm Brothers story is called All Kinds of Fur. It is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
Song? Make this hard, why don’t you? My favorite song changes daily. The angsty YA hipster heroine in me loves “There is a Light that Never Goes Out” by the Smiths. The classic rocker in me loves “Vienna” by Billy Joel. The musical theater nerd in me loves “Santa Fe” from Newsies. My current most played song on my iPod is “Falling Slowly” by the Swell Season.
Place to write? I’m a member of the Writers Room of Boston, and there is a particular desk in the corner of their space, with a view of a clock tower, a run-down fire escape, and a historic harbor-front street that I love very much.  
Writing snack? Oreos and Diet Coke. Clearly, I am kind of a health nut.
Recent read? I just finished a book called The Bone Key by Sarah Monette that I’m totally smitten with. It’s a collection of macabre linked short stories about a socially awkward and utterly endearing librarian and his brushes with dark magic. Totally charming, inventive, and the writing is just so damn good.
Emma: Thanks for stopping by, Mackenzi!
If you want to find Mackenzi elsewhere on the interwebs, use these links below.
Mackenzi's website:
Mackenzi's Pinterest: