Posts by Rebecca B

Hey, my name's Rebecca. I am college grad who blogs in my off time. According to my friends, I also take far too many pictures and sing Disney songs just a little too often. but hey, whatever makes life interesting.

Review Rendezvous: 10/5/19


Blackout by Nina Walker
Book stats:
Genre(s): Young adult, romance, dystopian
Medium: eBook
Number of pages: 324
Publish date: April 26th, 2018
Purchase: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Book Depository

Bound by blood and betrayal, she’ll destroy this kingdom.

Trembling in the wake of devastating treachery, can the Loxely sisters finally bring down the Royals?

United in the cause of saving their kingdom and bringing their family back together, Jessa and Sasha will face their greatest tests yet. Jessa’s wedding is coming at her faster than she can stop it, but it’s Sasha who is running out of time. Things aren’t as they seem in the palace, and the one person who can save them is the one they’ll never trust again.


This is the third book in this series, so if you don’t want to be spoiled for the first two, don’t read this review yet!

If you’re still reading, you’ve read these books already or you don’t care about spoilers (tbh that’s totally me on some books lol)

Anywho, we pick back up with Jessa right after she has been officially engaged to Lucas. Lucas sold out the Resistance’s invading force in order to get his father to sanction his marriage to Jessa. We also get a lot more Lucas and Sasha point of view I felt like, but they were there in the last book too so maybe that’s just me.

Sasha and the girls’ father are in holding being interrogated about the Resistance. I like how the girls were played against each other, Sasha refusing to give in and Jessa, being more emotional, doing whatever she can to protect her family.

There is a lot of freedom with Lucas in this book though, he uses his mystical white magic quite a bit and only encounters any problems right at the end of the book. I feel like it was almost a little coincidental, but maybe that’s setting things up for the last book.

I did like how we got to see Jessa’s anger against Lucas really make a mark. I wasn’t sure for a while if they were actually going back together. But, towards the end of the book she actually agrees to give him a chance at friendship again, and then maybe more later. Of course, this is right before everything goes to hell.

Sasha, on the other hand, strikes me as almost that stereotypical young boy excited to go off to war. She has some redeeming points (no one else in her area can do what she does, and the people fighting against the crown need her), but she also glamorizes things I think. She’s definitely up for a push off her high horse.

I really want to read more of the series, I’m exciting to see where all the threads tie together in the end 🙂

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:


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Review Rendezvous: 10/4/19


Today’s review is part of a blog tour with Rockstar Book Tours! Check below for a giveaway, US only.


The Fire Keeper by  J.C. Cervantes, Irvin Rodriguez (Illustrations)
Book stats:
Genre(s): Middle grade, fantasy, mythology
Medium: Print
Number of pages: 432
Publish date: September 3rd, 2019
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, Rick Riordan Presents
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Purchase: Amazon – KindleAudibleB&NiBooksKoboBook Depository

Zane Obispo’s new life on a beautiful secluded tropical island, complete with his family and closest friends, should be perfect. But he can’t control his newfound fire skills yet (inherited from his father, the Maya god Hurakan); there’s a painful rift between him and his dog ever since she became a hell hound; and he doesn’t know what to do with his feelings for Brooks. One day he discovers that by writing the book about his misadventures with the Maya gods, he unintentionally put other godborn children at risk. Unless Zane can find the godborns before the gods do, they will be killed. To make matters worse, Zane learns that Hurakan is scheduled to be executed. Zane knows he must rescue him, no matter the cost. Can he accomplish both tasks without the gods detecting him, or will he end up a permanent resident of the underworld?

In this cleverly plotted sequel to The Storm Runner, the gang is back together again with spirited new characters, sneaky gods, unlikely alliances, and secrets darker than Zane could ever have imagined. Secrets that will change him forever.


To preface this review, two things: I haven’t read a middle grade book since I was actually old enough to fit the target age range for it, and I also haven’t read the first book of this series.

Having said that, this book did a great job of getting me up to speed with what I’d missed from the first book. Honestly, I always questioned why authors recapped things briefly in second, third, etc. books when I’d clearly read the first and didn’t need to be reminded. Now I realize it’s for situations like this haha.

I like that the author included other gods besides the Greek and Roman pantheons, because we see so many books set there within the mythology book type. There’s a specific emphasis on Mayan gods in this series, which I haven’t read a lot about. I loved the chance to learn more, even if it was in a fictional setting.

The pacing of the book was very well done, it kept me reading even when I thought about putting it down for the night. Overall this is a really solid book, and the only true reason I didn’t give it five hearts was that middle grade is just not my cup of tea. I did appreciate being sent the book for review however, and I can tell that the author has a great writing style. Perhaps she’ll dip her toe into YA later on and I can pick up another book… 🙂

Rating:


About J.C.: 

J.C. Cervantes is the New York Times best-selling author of The Storm Runner, The Fire Keeper, and Tortilla Sun. Her books have appeared on national lists, including the American Booksellers Association New Voices, Barnes and Noble’s Best Young Reader Books, and Favorite MG Science Fiction/Fantasy Top Ten Books, as well as Amazon’s Best Books of the Month. She has earned multiple awards and recognitions, including the New Mexico Book Award, and the Zia Book Award.

J.C. lives in New Mexico (otherwise known as the Land of Enchantment) can read, write, and talk backwards, always roots for the underdog, and believes in magic.

Her work is represented by Holly Root at Root Literary.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads


3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE FIRE KEEPER, US Only. Enter here.


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Blog Tour: Witches Protection Program


Today I have an author interview from Michael Okon, who wrote Witches Protection Program! Also, check below for a US giveaway!

About The Book:
Title: Witches Protection Program
Author: Michael Okon
Pub. Date: May 30, 2019
Publisher: Wordfire Press
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 200
Book Trailer: Youtube
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo
Wes Rockville, a disgraced law-enforcement agent, gets one last chance to prove himself and save his career when he’s reassigned to a 232-year-old secret government organization.
The Witches Protection Program.
His first assignment: uncover a billion-dollar cosmetics company’s diabolical plan to use witchcraft for global domination, while protecting its heiress Morgan Pendragon from her aunt’s evil deeds. Reluctantly paired with veteran witch protector, Alastair Verne, Wes must learn to believe in witches…and believe in himself.
Filled with adventure and suspense, Michael Okon creates a rousing, tongue-in-cheek alternate reality where witches cast spells and wreak havoc in modern-day New York City.

About Michael:
Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling in his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

Author Interview:

Find Michael:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Snapchat

Giveaway

2 winners will receive a signed finished copy of Witches Protection Program & Swag, US Only.

Enter here!

Check out the rest of the tour!

9/23/2019- BookHounds Interview
9/23/2019- Two Chicks on BooksExcerpt
9/24/2019- Jaime’s WorldExcerpt
9/24/2019- Good Choice ReadingReview
9/25/2019- Burgandy IceExcerpt
9/25/2019- Owl Always Be ReadingReview
9/26/2019- Southern Girl Bookaholic Review
9/26/2019- A Dream Within A DreamExcerpt
9/27/2019- Don’t Judge, ReadReview
9/27/2019- Ramblings of a Book NerdReview
9/30/2019- Avid ReaderReview
9/30/2019- BookbriefsReview
10/1/2019- Cindy’s Love of Books Review
10/2/2019- BookriotReview
10/3/2019- Books a Plenty Book ReviewsReview
10/4/2019- ParajunkeeExcerpt

Review Rendezvous: 9/28/19


Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Book stats:
Genre(s): Young adult, contemporary, romance
Medium: Print
Number of pages: 385
Publish date: May 30th, 2017
Purchase: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Book Depository

Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.


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I’m going to start off with saying I LOVED THIS BOOK, so this is going to be a highly biased review. I literally bought it a week after I read it from the library so I could have the actual book for myself and support Zappia. I can’t tell you the last time I bought an actual, full-price book, as the rest of my library comes mostly from Goodwill or Half Price Books.

That being said, if you’re from fandom, you will also highly enjoy this book. I love the depiction of Eliza and her involvement in fandom and with online friends. Many people my age and younger grew up harped on about the notion of online friendship being dangerous. There is something to say about being safe with who you trust online, but certainly people have made great friendships (myself included) that started without seeing someone else in person.

I don’t normally read contemporary, but I couldn’t put this book down. It also has little illustrations of Eliza’s art inside, which was a perfect addition. This book explores the themes of mental health in a realistic way. I have never personally faced the things that Eliza wrestles with, so I can’t say whether or not it’s done accurately, but it seemed so from my outside point of view.

The one thing that I didn’t end up liking about it was how the love interest, Wallace, reacted at about the 75% mark after Eliza’s secret is revealed. He was super entitled and it made me automatically dislike him. He did try to repair things by the end though, so at least there’s that. I did love the rest of the book too much to knock off a star for that, though.

This is the perfect feel-good book you want to read on a sunny afternoon, and I highly recommend it. I’m not sure if Zappia has anything else in the pipeline, but I will be more than happy to check those out if she does!

Rating:


I am a Book Depository affiliate, click here to purchase books through my link.

Skillshare is an online community full of amazing classes and brilliant teachers. Try out two free months with my code here!

Blog Tour: Harbor for the Nightingale


Today I am excited to kick off the blog tour for this lovely book! I have an excerpt from Harbor for the Nightingale by Kathleen Baldwin, as well as the opportunity to win a copy for yourself! Check below for a US giveaway!

About the Book
Title: Harbor for the Nightingale (Stranje House #4)
Author: Kathleen Baldwin
Pub. Date: September 26, 2019
Publisher: Ink Lion Books
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 352
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindleB&N, Kobo

Harbor for the Nightingale is the highly anticipated fourth installment in the popular award-winning Stranje House YA series! #1 New York Times best-selling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure series “completely original and totally engrossing.”

“Enticing from the first sentence.” —New York Times Sunday Book Review on A School for Unusual Girls

“Baldwin has a winning series here: her characters are intriguing and fully rendered.” —Booklist, on Refuge for Masterminds

It’s 1814. In this alternate history, Napoleon has forced Europe to its knees, and now he plots to seize control of Britain.

Maya brings the mystery of India with her...

With her friends’ lives in deadly peril, Miss Maya Barrington, one of Miss Stranje’s unusual girls, must serve as a double agent. To do so, she gains entry into Napoleon’s duplicitous game on the arm of the enigmatic Lord Kinsworth. She can read almost everyone; not so with this young rascal. Quick with a jest and armed with lethal charm, Kinsworth remains just beyond her reach. Can she trust him?

With Britain’s future at risk and those she loves in deadly peril, Maya questions everything she thought she understood about life, love, and loyalty.

Fans of genre-blending, romance, and action will love this speculative history Regency-era novel filled with spunky heroines, handsome young lords, and dastardly villains–fourth in the Stranje House series. Don’t miss the first three books: A School for Unusual Girls, Exile for Dreamers, and Refuge for Masterminds

“An outstanding alternative history series entry and a must-have for teen libraries.” —School Library Journal on Refuge for Masterminds
“This alternative history series will appeal to fans of Gail Carriger’s works and The Cecelia and Kate novels by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.” —School Library Journal on A School for Unusual Girls

Book Excerpt:

July 1814, Mayfair, London, Haversmythe House
Miss Stranje hosts a coming-out ball for her young ladies

All the world is sound. Even if I were blind, I would still be able to see. It is as if everything hums—the trees, air, stones, and people—especially people. They all sing songs.

Some songs are more dangerous than others.

Most of the guests have already arrived at the ball, and our receiving line is dwindling. Georgie, Lady Jane, and Tess left us to join a lively country-dance. Seraphina still stands quietly beside me. Her inner music wraps around her as delicately as does the silk of her cloud-blue ballgown. With her white-blonde hair, Sera is the closest thing to an angel I have ever seen. On my other side, stands our rock, our headmistress, Miss Stranje, a woman made of iron.

The footman at the doors announces another arrival. “Lord and Lady Barrington.”

My father and his wife stand in the doorway. The instruments playing serenely within me crash to a stop and clatter to the floor of my soul.

He came.

I press my hand against my heart to keep it from flapping and shrieking like a strangled bird. Seraphina edges closer so that our shoulders touch. She is trying to lend me strength.

The ballroom overflows with people. Dozens of strangers clad in shimmering finery, surround us, laughing and talking, but my very English stepmother ignores them all and marches straight for the receiving line. She holds her nose aloft, and her mouth pinched up so tight that her porcelain white face looks almost skeletal. An out of tune clarinet, she squeaks toward us, every step making me wish I could stop up my ears.

People say she is beautiful. My father certainly must have thought so. I fail to see it, especially when her face prunes up as it is doing now. It is a familiar expression. One that causes me to quake nervously while simultaneously clenching my fists.

Stepmother. That is what I was instructed to call her. I cannot bring myself to do it. Mother is a title of sacred honor. This woman, whose soul honks like an out of tune oboe, hasn’t the faintest motherly inclination toward me. To me, she will never be anything more than the woman who married my father. Never mind that my mother, his first wife, was a Maharajah’s daughter. To the new Lady Barrington, I am merely the brown-skinned embarrassment her husband acquired in India. Her hate roars at me like high tide slamming against a rocky shore.

She halts, and her blond sausage curls quiver with distaste as she plants herself squarely in front of Miss Stranje. She does not curtsey or even nod in response to our headmistress’s greeting.

Her words trickle out so sweetly that most people would not notice she is gritting her teeth as she utters them. “Miss Stranje, a word if you please.”

Naturally, Seraphina notices. She notices everything—it is her gift. And her curse. She reaches for my hand to reassure me. Of the five of us, we who are Miss Stranje’s students, Seraphina Wyndham is the only one who truly understands me, and I do not want my best friend to suffer if she is caught being supportive of me. So, I smile reassuringly and slip free of her fingers. This is my battle, and I must face it alone.

Sera tugs my arm as I step away and furtively whispers, “Do something. Calm her.”

She, like everyone else at Stranje House, mistakenly thinks my voice contains some sort of magical power to soothe. It is much simpler than that. My grandmother taught me how to use certain tones and cadences to relax people and communicate tranquility. Most souls are more than receptive, they hunger for it. My father’s wife is a different matter. I have tried in the past, and rather than succumb to my calming tactics, she resists. On several occasions, she even covered her ears and screeched at me. I remember well her accusations of witchcraft and demonic bedevilment. It was on those grounds she convinced my father to send me away to Stranje House.

I wish, for Miss Stranje’s sake, Lady Barrington would let me quiet her rat-like tendency to snipe and bite. Although, I’m not worried. I am confident our headmistress has guessed what is coming and will manage my father’s wife quite handily without my help. After all, a rat does not surprise an owl.

“This way, Lady Barrington.” Miss Stranje graciously directs our bristling guest to the side of the receiving line.

Father’s charming wife clasps my shoulder and propels me forward with her. I could not possibly soothe her now. I’m not nearly composed enough to do it. Indeed, I am battling an overwhelming inclination to yank her boney claw from my shoulder and twist it until she cries off.

“What have you done, Miss Stranje?” Lady Barrington releases me and waves her hand at my ensemble. She is objecting to Miss Stranje’s ingenious innovation, a traditional sari draped over an English ballgown.

“Why have you dressed the child thus?” Lady Barrington’s fingers close in a fist around the embroidered veil covering my hair. “I’m mortified! You’ve garbed her like a heathen. Surely, this is an affront to everyone here.” She flicks the saffron silk away as if it has soiled her gloves. “How do you expect Lord Barrington and myself to weather this . . . this outrage!”

She barks so loud that some of our guests turn to stare.

“After the enormous sum we paid you, it is beyond my comprehension why you should do us such a disservice—”

“Lady Barrington!” Miss Stranje’s tone chops through the woman’s tirade. “Calm yourself.” Our headmistress stands a good four or five inches taller than most women, and she straightens to make every inch count. “You sadly mistake the matter, my lady. The other guests are well acquainted with your husband’s daughter. In fact, a few weeks ago she was invited by no less a personage than Lady Jersey to sing at Carlton House for the Prince Regent. Miss Barrington’s voice impressed His Highness so greatly that he, the highest authority in the land, suggested your stepdaughter ought to be declared a national treasure.”

“What?” Lady Barrington blinks at this news, but her astonishment is short-lived. She clears her throat and steps up emboldened. “Oh, that. I am well aware of Maya’s ability to mesmerize others with her voice. She uses demonic trickery, and you ought not allow—”

Miss Stranje leans forward, her tone low and deadly. “Are you unaware of the fact that Lady Castlereagh issued Miss Barrington vouchers for Almack’s?”

“Al-Almack’s . . .” Lady Barrington sputters at the mention of high society’s most exclusive social club. Her hands flutter to her mouth in disbelief. “No. That can’t be. Lady Castlereagh approved of her?” She glances sideways at me and her upper lips curls as if she tastes something foul in the air.

“Yes. Her vouchers were signed and sealed by the great lady herself.” Miss Stranje’s face transforms into a mask of hardened steel under which most people tremble in fear. “Not to put too fine a point on it, my lady, but Miss Barrington has been granted entry into the highest social circles. And, more to the point, it is my understanding that the patronesses refused to grant you vouchers. You were denied, is that not so?”

Lady Barrington steps back, unwilling to answer, a hand clutching her throat.

Miss Stranje refuses to let her quarry wriggle away. “In fact, my dear lady, anyone planning a soiree or ball during the remainder of the season, anyone who is anyone, has invited Miss Barrington to attend. I have stacks of invitations, dozens of notes, all of them begging your husband’s daughter to do them the honor of singing at their gatherings. Indeed, society has taken her under their wing so thoroughly I had rather thought you would be offering me a bonus, instead of this ill-conceived reprimand.”

Miss Stranje turns and levels a shrewd gaze at my father, who until this moment stood behind us silently observing.

He places a hand on his wife’s waist and moves her aside. This stranger, this formidable Englishman who I used to call Papa with such glee, steps up to my headmistress and takes her measure. After a moment that stretches long enough to hammer my stomach into mincemeat, he nods respectfully. “Very well, Miss Stranje. I shall send additional remuneration to you in the morning.”

His wife gasps, and indignation squeals off her like sour yellow gas.

He turns to me and reaches for my hand. Every instinct in me shouts to pull back. Do not let him touch you. It has been many long years since I have seen anything resembling a fatherly mannerism from him. I am terrified of what I might feel, and yet even more terrified of what I might miss if I pull away.

A sharp intake of breath crosses my lips, but then all other sounds cease. I no longer hear laughter or talking from the guests in the ballroom. No footsteps. No shuffling or clattering. The hum of impenetrable silence muffles everything else as I watch him lift my hand.

My father bows slightly, the way all the other gentlemen did as they came through the receiving line. He holds my fingers loosely as if we are mere acquaintances. “You look lovely, Maya, very much like your mother.” He straightens, and I think I hear a whiff of sound—a soft keening, low and mournful. Except it is so brief and distant, I cannot be certain.

“You have her fire in your eyes. She would be proud.” He squares his shoulders. “I’m pleased to see you making your way in the world—flourishing on your own.”

Flourishing?

Hardly.

Unable to summon enough breath for words, I dip in an English curtsy that has become a habit. When I am able to speak, it sounds embarrassingly weak and fluttery, like a frightened bird. “I am glad you think so, my lord.”

He lets go of my gloved fingers, offers his arm to his wife, and leaves me. Without a backward glance, he walks away. His measured gait is aloof and elegant, no different from that of a hundred other strangers in this room. The hollow thump of his heels as he abandons me hurts far worse than anything the spiteful woman he married has ever said.

I wish now that I had not allowed him to touch me. I ought to have run from the house—anything would be better than this grinding loneliness that darkens my insides. I would rather rip out my heart than to fall into the chasm threatening to swallow me. I’ve been in that dark place before.

The way he dismisses me without a second thought sends me spiraling back to India. I’m there again, in the stifling heat of his sickroom. Worried, I sneaked in to see him and stood quietly at the foot of his bed. Fear thumped through me like an elephant march as I watched him thrash under the sheets, fevered with the same epidemic that had only days earlier taken my mother’s life.

I remember his wide-eyed alarm when he noticed me standing by his bedpost. I was only six, but I can still hear his hoarse shout for the servants. “Get her out of here. Send her away!”

“No! No. I want to stay with you. Let me stay with you,” I begged. Crying, I clung to his bedpost, refusing to leave.

“Go! Take the chi—” Retching cut his rebuke short. Next came a string of muffled curses. “Out!”

“Come, miss. You cannot stay. Your father is very sick.” Servants dragged me, kicking and screaming from his room. Later, my ayah told me Papa wanted me to stay away so that I would not catch his illness. I will never know if that was true or not. My ayah may have been trying to spare my feelings. I do remember telling her I didn’t care if I got sick and died. I would rather stay with my papa.

“No, kanya. No, little girl. You must not say such things.” She brushed my hair until it gleamed like my papa’s black boots. “You will live, child. I see this. The future blooms in you. You are gende ka phool.” She pulled a marigold out of a small vase and placed it in my palms. “Protector. Sun lion.” I touched the bright orange petals and thought to myself, what good is such a small flower. It is too fragile—too easily crushed.

I was right.

The next day, on Papa’s orders, his secretary, a fusty man with little patience for children, escorted me to my grandmother’s family in the north. My father sent me away from the only world I’d ever known. On that long trip, loneliness and hurt chewed me up. Why would he send me so far away? Was he too sick? Or was his grief too heavy for him to share in mine? Perhaps my black hair and olive skin reminded him too much of my dead mother.

Or was it because she was gone that he no longer cared for me?

Why?

We traveled for days and days, journeying toward the great mountains, land of the five rivers, and all the way there, sadness gnawed on my soul.

Few Europeans had ever ventured to the old villages and cities along the rivers. People were wary and distrustful of my white escort. He had difficulty finding a guide, and even when he did, we made several wrong turns. I did not care. Numb with grief, certain my father would die, or that he no longer loved me. I was already a lost child. What did it matter if we wandered forever?

After several treacherous river crossings, our guide located my family’s village on theTawi River. The weary attaché deposited me and my trunks in their midst and hurriedly left. I sat in the dirt beside my baggage, completely abandoned. The last ember of hope flickered inside me and blew out.

Strangers, who I would learn later were my cousins and aunts, gathered in a circle around me, staring, their faces ripe with curiosity and suspicion. Half-English, half-Indian, I was an unwelcome oddity, who belonged nowhere. I sat in the center of their circle, feeling like an oddly painted lizard. Did they judge me poisonous? Or edible?

A woman’s joyous cry startled me. Astonished, I stood up. In my exhausted state, amidst all the confusion, I briefly mistook her voice for my mother’s. I stared at the old woman running toward me. The voice, although eerily similar, did not belong to my dead mother.

It belonged to my grandmother.

She burst through her gathered kinsman, took one look at me, and opened her arms.

Though I learned later she had only visited me once as an infant, she kissed my forehead and hugged me, rocking and murmuring in Hindi. In tears, she declared to all my cousins and aunts that I was her daughter returned home.

Grandmother, my naanii, did not care about my mixed blood. She had no qualms about teaching her half-caste granddaughter the ways of her people. Others in our village were not so quick to trust me. I was half-English, after all. But out of respect for my grandmother, they kept their opinions to themselves. Naanii taught me how to make bread, how to mix healing herbs, braid hair, sew, and a thousand other things.

More importantly, Naanii taught me to listen.

To hear the world around us.

Over and over, she told me, “All life sings a song if we will but stop and listen.”

I remember standing on the banks of the river washing clothes. “Close your eyes, little bird,” Naanii said. “Quiet your mind and tell me what you hear?”

I pointed to her kinswoman standing in the shallows scrubbing her laundry against the stones. “I hear Kanishka humming a contented tune.”

Grandmother, ever patient, smiled and asked, “And the stones, little one, what do they sing?”

I laughed and closed my eyes tight, listening for subtler vibrations. “They are old, Naanii. Their voices are quiet and deep. I can hardly hear them. Kanishka sings too loudly, so does the wind in the trees and grass.” I opened my eyes. “And the river is especially loud.”

“Ahh.” She nodded, wrung out the cloth she’d been laundering, and set it in her basket.

“It is true. Water is bold and brash. Very noisy.” She galloped her fingers through the air.

“Always rushing to and fro. River thinks she is all-powerful. You must try harder, my child. Listen for the calm voice of the stones.” She laid a smooth pebble in my palm and pointed to one of the large rocks jutting up, splitting the current of the river. “Do you feel it? The mighty waters push and shove with the strength of a hundred horses, yet that boulder is unmoved. Hear how deep it hums, how sure it is of its connection with mother earth.”

Years later, I would hear the stones sing, but not that day. That day I heard my grandmother, not just her words; I heard the unfathomable vibrations of her soul. It was as if she was as ancient and knowing as the stones of which she spoke.

I wish I were still standing on the banks of the Tawi River. Instead, I am here in London with too many sounds roaring in my ears—the babble of our many guests, the rumble of the city seeping up through the bones of this house. My father has taken me half a world away from the person who loves me best in all the world. Even though she is thousands of miles away, I close my eyes, hoping to catch my grandmother’s distant pulse. I try to block out all the other noises, searching for those melodic threads that run between us even at this great distance.

“Maya? Maya! Are you all right?” Lady Jane rests her hand on my shoulder and startles me out of my search. She and Sera stare at me expectantly. “The musicians are tuning up for a quadrille. We are about to return to the dancing. But you seem shaken, what’s wrong?”

I look at Lady Jane, wondering how to answer. I am not all right, as she phrases it, but what else can I say, here in this jangling place. “Yes, I hear the music,” I say, and try to smile as if it is an important observation, as if the frivolity of dancing lightens my heart.

“Hmm,” she says skeptically, and takes my hand, pulling me along with her like the mighty river carrying a piece of driftwood. I feel her questions clamoring to be asked, but luckily, I also know Lady Jane will restrain herself. This is not the time or place for that sort of discussion. She glances around the room and spots Alexander Sinclair. Immediately she brightens, and I feel joy pulse through her fingertips.

“Come.” She leads the way and, arm in arm, we face both the music and crowd together.

About Kathleen:

Award-winning author, Kathleen Baldwin, loves adventure in books and in real life. She taught rock climbing in the Rockies, survival camped in the desert, was stalked by a mountain lion, lost an argument with a rattlesnake, enjoyed way too many classes in college, fell in love at least a dozen times, and married her very own hero. Together they’ve raised four free-spirited adventurous children.

SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS is her first historical romance for Young Adults. Awarded 2016 Spirit of Texas, it is also a Junior Library Guild selection. Publisher’s Lunch listed it in 2015 YA BookBuzz. Scholastic licensed it for book fairs. Ian Bryce, producer of Spiderman, Saving Private Ryan, and other notable films optioned the series for film.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls Kathleen’s romantic Regency adventure, “completely original and totally engrossing.”

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Giveaway

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