Friday, May 31, 2019

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2) by Mackenzi Lee + 50/50 Friday

On Friday's I take part in three weekly link ups - The Friday 56, hosted by Freda's Voice, Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and 50/50 Friday is a new weekly link up and it is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books. For The Friday 56, you choose a book, a book you have just finished, a book you are about to start, your current read, and share a line or a few lines that grab you (but don't spoil anything) from page 56 or 56% of the way through the ebook. Post it and share your post's url on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post. As for Book Beginnings, you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires, and then link up your post's url with Rose City Reader. Then, for 50/50 Friday, every week there's a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - you share a book that suits each category and link up on the hosts blogs.

This week I'm spotlighting one of my first Pride Month read, The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2) by Mackenzi Lee. Felicity was my favorite character of the first book and I'm so happy to see her lead this sequel.


I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off.


"Love has made you terribly soft, you know," I say to him without looking.

50/50 Friday: Favorite/ Least Favorite Red Cover Design (Updated from 6/20/18)

Favorite: The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore - I don't know about you, but it just screams read me!

Least Favorite: The Troop by Nick Cutter - A great horror novel, but the cover is a little boring.

What are you reading this weekend?  Have you read any of theae books?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting down below!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Riot's 2019 Read Harder Challenge - May Update: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared & In Cold Blood

How has May gone by so quickly?  Anyway, now that means that I've completed 10 out of 24 books of Book Riot's 2019 Read Harder Challenge!  The tasks I completed  this month required me to read a humor book and a book by a journalist or about journalism.  For the tasks, I selected The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  Read on to see my mini reviews and what's next for June:

❋ ❋ ❋ 

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is a quirky adventure. I liked getting to know Allan in the present day sections of the story involving the suitcase full of money, criminals, and an elephant, but my loved his flashbacks.  It's awesome to see all of the major world events he's seen and historical figures that he's met over the years. Of course, the sense of humor is great, but I can see where it wouldn't be for everyone. If you enjoy dark or off-beat comedy plus Forrest Gump, I have a feeling you'd get a kick out this novel. By the way, the movie adaptation of this book is pretty awesome - Robert Gustafsson does a fantastic job bringing Allan to life. I'm going to have read more from this author soon.

I read this novel on May 17, 2019 and my review is also on Goodreads.

❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ 

The first time I watched the film adaptation I didn't realize that it was based on a true story. When I realized that it was it really freaked me out just knowing that piece of information. Now that I've read the book, I can say it is an absolutely chilling experience. If you're at all interested in true crime, then you can't miss this classic.

I read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote from May 2 - 5, 2019 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Next Up For June:

A book by an AOC set in or about space

My choice: Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor - I loved reading Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death the 2018 Read Harder Challenge and I'm looking forward to reading more from her in 2019.

An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America

My choice: North of Happy by Adi Alsaid - I was really impressed by Alsaid's Let's Get Lost and I'm glad this challenge is giving me a great reason to read more of his work.

Have you read any of these books?  Are you participating in the Read Harder Challenge this year, or have you in the past?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting down below!

Pride Month - Potential TBR

Happy Wednesday everyone!  As you may know, June is Pride Month and I decided to celebrate the occasion by tackling five LGBTQIAP books this month.  I've had my eyes on these for ages and I can't wait to get to them.  Which one should I read first?

A Case of Possession (A Charm of Magpies #2) by K.J. Charles - I read book one, The Magpie Lord, a couple of years ago and it was pretty great.  The series is a M/M historical fantasy perfect for fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2) by Mackenzi Lee - Felicity was my favorite character of the first book and I'm dying to see her lead the sequel.  I have no idea why I haven't already read it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - I've heard so many great things about this and it's about time I try it for myself.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - After reading Circe, I totally realized it's high time i read this 2011 release.

Vengeful (Villains #2) by V.E. Schwab - In this novel, Victor Vale, my favorite character from book one, is confirmed to be ace and this makes me very happy to hear.  I don't think I can adequately express how excited I am to read this!

Have you read any of these books?  What are you reading this month?  As always, thanks very much for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting down below!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Released In The Last Ten Years

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Welcome to the Top Ten Tuesday now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is Favorite Books Released In The Last Ten Years (one for each year) (submitted by Anne @ Head Full of Books).  This is going to be so difficult!  Here we go - beginning in 2018 and working my way all the way back to 2008:

2018: Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood

2017: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

2016: Borderline (The Arcadia Project #1) by Mishell Baker

2015: The Girl with Ghost Eyes (The Daoshi Chronicles #1) by M.H. Boroson

2014: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

2013: Written in Red (The Others #1) by Anne Bishop

2012: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

2011: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

2010: Room by Emma Donoghue

2009: The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist #1) by Rick Yancey

2008: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

Have you read any of these books?  What are some of your favorite books that have been released in the last ten years?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting down below!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Music Monday: Bobby Vee, Bobby Goldsboro, & John Denver

Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to Music Monday! Let's share some songs we've been enjoying lately!  If you would like to play and I really hope you do, please see the rules and link up below.


Every Monday share a few songs you've been enjoying lately.  It doesn't have to be a specific genre, new, or one of your favorites - just something you'd like to share with others.  If possible, share a music or lyric video of the song and your thoughts on the song(s), artist(s), and/or music video(s).

If you would like to participate in Music Monday, please join the link up by sharing your post's url.

This week I'm spotlighting three songs - Bobby Vee's "Beautiful People" (1967), Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" (1968), and John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" (1971).  I've grown up listening to these songs, but a few days ago I was reminded me of just how much I like them.  I had an old VHS tape of family home movies from the 1960s converted to dvd.  The original version was just silent, but then a copy was made in the mid 1970s with voice over describing who and what you're watching - plus a soundtrack featuring these songs and others of a similar style.  Lots of John Denver, especially.  Anyway, I just recently rewatched the full hour and ninety minute video and remembered just how fascinating they are to watch.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, May 26, 2019

I Spy the Boy Next Door by Samantha Armstrong (ARC) - Review


I received an ARC from the publisher, Koru House Press, in exchange for an honest review.

Four p.m. spy sessions are the highlight of Mallory Taylor’s day. Observing the boy next door—one with a body and an attitude to match—has her perched beside her window so often it can't be healthy. When she finally convinces her mom to let her go to public school, Mallory comes face to face with her neighbor, Troy Parker. And he makes it clear he wants nothing to do with her. His rejection awakens a newfound tenacity and maybe even a touch of recklessness. But when Troy starts to show up when she needs him the most, Mallory can’t help but wonder if there’s more to him than he’s let on. Taking chances, breaking rules, and following her heart is all new to Mallory. And no one warned her just how fickle hearts can be. When she discovers that Troy isn’t at all the guy she imagined him to be, secrets rise to the surface that will change her life forever.

I Spy the Boy Next Door by Samantha Armstrong sounded like it could be a fun YA contemporary, but overall it was just filled for too many cheesy cliches for my tastes. I mean, the whole incredibly naive girl who has minimal social skills paired up with the stereotypical bad boy - tattoos, motorcycle, underground boxing ring, the whole nine yards. Seriously. Also, they're next door neighbors but they haven't spoken in five years - instead she's been spying on him. She really knows next to nothing, maybe even less than that, about him. I don't know about you, but the spying thing got a bit creepy - that's not to mention the sneaking into bedrooms business. Anyway, this novel just wasn't quite for me. Maybe if I were younger or more romantically inclined? The only part that found myself really interested in was that pretty big plot twist about the bad boy neighbor and his family - gotta say I wasn't inspecting that. If only it didn't come so far out of left field and wasn't as rushed.

Overall, I Spy the Boy Next Door just wasn't quite in my wheelhouse even though I thought it may have been. If you're a fan of light YA contemporary romance that's packed with cheese and stereotypes, you may end up liking this novel more than I did. Thanks anyway to the publisher for the opportunity.

I Spy the Boy Next Door by Samantha Armstrong was released May 25, 2019 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Harvest (Call of the Sirens, #1) by K.B. Benson - Review

❋ ❋ ❋ 

I received a copy of this book from Book Review 22 in exchange for a honest review.

Iris never expected to live her life trapped on land. Nor was she prepared for what she would find there. A siren isn't supposed to fall in love with her prey. When Jace moved to Santa Cruz, he never imagined he'd risk his life to protect a monster. He soon finds that ancient myth has become reality. And not every pretty face is what it seems. After Iris sings her siren's song to Jace — a hypnotic melody that leads men to death beneath the waves — both of their worlds are turned upside down. Will Iris give in to her bloodlust or will she turn her back on everything she's ever known? As the tide runs red with the blood of the Harvest, Iris must choose: save the life of the human boy she loves or sacrifice her chance at humanity forever.

I'm so glad I decided to try The Harvest (Call of the Sirens #1) by K.B. Benson. Honestly, I have a hard time resisting anything featuring mermaids or sirens. Luckily for me, this debut YA fantasy delivered. Benson's writing is quite engaging while being incredibly entertaining. I was hooked right off the bat. I particularly enjoyed how the author works the classic Greek mythology of the sirens and The Odyssey into this present day set story. Along with the fantastic sense of adventure, I also got a kick out of seeing the characters dealing with strictly speaking human issues. My only complaint about the novel is the romance - at times it's a little too romance heavy for my tastes and the jealousy element bothered me a bit as well. Overall, though, The Harvest is well worth your time especially if you're into paranormal romance, mermaids, sirens, or Greek mythology. I can't wait to read the sequel titled The Hunt after that ending!

Thanks again for this opportunity, Book Review 22!

The Harvest (Call of the Sirens #1) by K.B. Benson was released on February 19, 2019 and my review is also on Goodreads.

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan + 50/50 Friday

On Friday's I take part in three weekly link ups - The Friday 56, hosted by Freda's Voice, Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and 50/50 Friday is a new weekly link up and it is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books. For The Friday 56, you choose a book, a book you have just finished, a book you are about to start, your current read, and share a line or a few lines that grab you (but don't spoil anything) from page 56 or 56% of the way through the ebook. Post it and share your post's url on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post. As for Book Beginnings, you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires, and then link up your post's url with Rose City Reader. Then, for 50/50 Friday, every week there's a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - you share a book that suits each category and link up on the hosts blogs.

This week I'm spotlighting one of my current reads, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, which I'm reading for the 2019 Hub Reading Challenge 2019.  If you like you can see my tbr for that challenge here.  I've been looking forward to this YA Magical Realism Contemporary novel for a while and I'm glad I've finally had the chance to pick it up.


My mother is a bird.  This isn't like some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap.  My mother.  Is literally.  A bird.


For a moment there is only the tick of the tiny alarm clock on the shelf.  And then Waipo gasps with understanding.  She pats Waigong's arm, and he opens his eyes, gazes down at the pages.

50/50 Friday: Novel Worth/ Not Worth The Hype - This week was another freebie so I'm updating the topic from March 23, 2017.

Worth - The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan - I don't know why I ever doubted Mr. Riordan's skills.

Not Worth - The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid - Not bad at all, but I felt like I'd seen it all before.

What are you reading this weekend?  Have you read any of these books?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting down below!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small - Blog Tour with Excerpt

Happy Tuesday everyone!  I'm very excited to welcome you all to my leg of the Bright Burning Stars blog tour!  Today, you'll find the details and summary for this novel,  an excerpt from the first chapter, and an about the author, A.K. Small.  Thanks for visiting my stop on this blog tour!

Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Smal 
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Price: $17.95
Format: Hardcover

Pages: 304

As a young ballerina in Paris, young adult novelist A. K. Small studied at the famous Académie Chaptal and later danced with companies across the US. Inspired by the dancers from her childhood, Small weaves a vivid story of a fiercely competitive female friendship in her dazzling debut, Bright Burning Stars. Following two teens fighting for center stage and a spot in the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet, this page-turning novel explores the lengths it takes to turn talent into a career. A gifted new writer, Small brings the reader into the passionate world of ballet all while telling an engrossing story of female friendship. 
Kate and Marine have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School where they formed an intense bond after respective family tragedies. Their friendship seems unshakeable until their final year when only one girl can be selected for a place in the Opera’s company. The physically demanding competition takes an emotional toll, and their support for each other starts to crumble. Marine’s eating disorder begins to control her life as she consumes less and dances more, and Kate discovers the depths of depression and the highs of first love as she falls for the school heartthrob—who also happens to be Marine’s dance partner.

As rankings tighten and each day is one step closer to the final selection, neither girl is sure just how far she’ll go to win. With nuance and empathy, the intense emotions of teenage years are amplified in Small’s debut as the girls struggle with grief, mental health issues, and relationships, all set against the glamorous backdrop of Paris.

With the incredible success of the film Black Swan and dance reality TV shows today, dance seems to be more popular than ever. Kirkus Reviews praises the debut as “addictive, angst-y, and heartfelt” while Entertainment calls out that Bright Burning Stars is “notable for the way it tackles sensitive topics such as mental illness and eating disorders”. In Bright Burning Stars, debut author A. K. Small pens a stunning, propulsive story about girls at their physical and emotional extremes, the gutting power of first love, and what it means to fight for your dreams.


“Debut author Small, herself a dancer, brings authenticity (fascinating day-to-day details abound) to what it takes to flourish or wither amid the soaring highs and crushing lows of a competitive dance school while sensitively exploring the girls' many emotional and physical extremes... Addictive, angst-y, and heartfelt.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Bright Burning Stars is the compulsively readable story. I was breathless and battling tears up until the very last stunning turns onstage and beyond. A dazzling, heart-wrenching debut.”
 — Nova Ren Suma, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Room Away from the Wolves

“The fascinating, competitive ballet world may get the YA novel it deserves with Bright Burning Stars...Pitched as an immersive, propulsive story into the world of ballet, Bright Burning Stars is also notable for the way it tackles sensitive topics such as mental illness and eating disorders.”



We stood outside the circular studio in the apex of the dance annex. Some of us obsessively rose up and down in first position to break the soles of our shoes, while others, like the boys, tucked their t-shirts into their tights and cracked their necks for luck. I didn’t do anything but clutch Kate’s hand. Kate and I always held hands before the weekly générales. But before I could ask her what she thought the new ratings would be, who would outshine whom on The Boards after only a week and four days of ballet classes and rehearsals in our final year at Nanterre, my name was called first. A bad omen: in six years of dancing here, the faculty had never switched us out of alphabetical order before. Isabelle The Brooder always started. I danced third.

“Break a leg,” Kate said in English before I stepped into the studio, which made me smile because saying things in her mother tongue was Kate’s way of showing love.

Inside the vast round room, three judges—judging deities really—sat erect behind a long folding table. Valentine Louvet, the director, was on the left, her dark hair twisted into a loose knot and rings adorning her fingers. She would sometimes look up at the giant skylight and I would swear that her lips moved, that she discussed students with Nijinsky’s ghost through the thick glass. Francis Chevalier, the ballet master, an older man with sweat stains radiating from under his arms, was on the right. While you danced, he rhythmically jabbed the tip of his cane into the floor. In the middle sat The Witch, aka Madame Brunelle, in glasses and a tight bun. When she disliked a student’s movement, which was almost always, we all whispered that worm-like silver smoke seeped from her nostrils and her ears.

I didn’t look them in the eyes for fear of turning to salt. Instead, I hurried to the yellow X that demarked center, taking note of all the mirrors that wrapped around me like gauze. I tried not to criticize my reflection, how I was one kilogram fatter than when I’d last performed in May. I’d found out earlier this morning, courtesy of Mademoiselle Fabienne, the school nutritionist. Weigh-ins here were like random drug tests. You were called and asked to step onto the beastly scale whenever faculty felt like it. Now, all I could do was suck my stomach in and pray it didn’t affect my score. I placed my right foot on the tape, my left in tendu behind, then waited for the pianist’s introduction.

As I offered the judges my most heartfelt port de bras, I concentrated on the ivory of my leotard, an atrocious color on me, yet a coveted symbol of my new elite rank. Seven other sixteen year-old rat-girls and I had risen to First Division. The variation we were to perform today was obscure, from The Three Musketeers, but I didn’t mind. Actually, I preferred low profile dances. The pressure somehow felt less. I also liked the three-count waltz, the way the notes filled up inside me, the rush of the C major melody, all making me zigzag across the studio. Music was why I kept going, my ticking heart. As the piano filled the air, my arms felt fluid, my balances sharp, and my leaps explosive. Even my hunger diminished. I steered myself from left to right then from front to back. My spirits lifted and my nerves calmed. Vas-y. I can do this, I thought. And then I remembered to give the judges my stage smile. Maybe I’ll rise from Number 3 to Number 2. During a slow triple pirouette, I held my foot above my knee, balanced, and stuck my landing in perfect fourth position, the number 2 floating like an angel’s halo above my head.

But then I forgot to anticipate the piano’s shift in keys, the sudden acceleration. Realizing I was an eighth of a note off, I skipped a glissade to catch up to my saut de chat. Ne t’en fais pas, I told myself. Adjust. Yet, at once, The Witch stood up and snapped her fingers, silencing the music.

“I thought you were here because of your auditory gift, Duval,” Madame Brunelle said. “Don’t students call you The Pulse?”

I looked down at my feet. I hadn’t gone through three fourths of the variation.

“They must be wrong. Would you like to have someone else come in and demonstrate? Teach you whole notes from half notes?”

“No,” I whispered.

“Miss Sanders,” Madame Brunelle yelled.

Kate poked her head inside the studio. A joke, I thought. Kate was a dynamic ballet dancer but well known for her lack of rhythm.

“Mademoiselle Duval needs help with her waltz tempo. Would you run the variation through for her?”


Kate nodded. She tiptoed into the studio, setting herself on the X the way I had done earlier.

“Shadow her, Duval,” Madame Brunelle ordered.

She snapped her fingers and the pianist began again.

I danced behind Kate. We moved in unison, gliding into long pas de basques, arms extended. Kate seemed weightless, her heels barely touching the ground. A genuine smile fluttered on her lips. Her ivory leotard fitted her long narrow frame like skin. Blue crystal teardrops dangled from her ears as she spun. They glittered like fireflies. All of Kate glittered. The afternoon sun poured in from the skylight, lighting her up like a flame. The variation lasted a million years. At every step, my face grew hotter. The studio door had been left wide open, so I saw in the mirror’s reflection that other First Division dancers were peering inside and watching our odd duo. A wave of humiliation nearly toppled me. Madame Brunelle did not stop the music this time. She waited for Kate and me to finish with our révérence, then she dismissed us with a flick of the finger.

I ducked out of the studio into the stairwell and didn’t wait for Kate. I could have sought refuge in the First Division dressing rooms but that was too obvious a hiding place so I rushed down three flights of stairs and into the courtyard. A mild September breeze blew. I fought back tears. It would have been easier, I thought, if The Witch had picked someone else. Anyone else. But Kate? Pitting me against my best friend? I wished I could keep walking past the trees, alongside the fence, out of the gates, down L’Allée de La Danse, to the metro, all the way home to the center of Paris and my mother’s boulangerie. There, inside with the warmth and the sugary smells, I would find a tight hug, an, “It’s okay, Chérie. You don’t have to do this unless you want to.” But I knew I wouldn’t. I’d have to go back to the dorms to change into street clothes or at least take off my pointe shoes and then I’d see Oli’s battered demi pointes on my bed. Plus, I’d come this far. Hadn’t I? Only 274 days until the final Grand Défilé. Judgment Day: when everyone, except for two strikingly gifted students—one female, one male—got fired in the top division. I plopped down into the middle of the courtyard and found the sky. How could I have messed up on tempo? I closed my eyes and inhaled.

“Hey!” Kate yelled a minute later.

I started.

She stood at the entrance of the courtyard, breathing hard. “Do you think you could have gone a little faster?” she said, crossing her arms. She was still in her leotard, tights, and pointe shoes. Her neck flushed bright red from running. Wisps of blond hair framed her face. “You hurtled down the stairs like a bat out of hell, M. I thought you were going to tumble and fall.”

Bat out of hell? I nearly corrected her and said that here we used comme un bolide—like a rocket—but instead I replied, voice sharp, “Too bad I didn’t.” “You don’t mean it,” she said. “Mistakes happen. You’re only human.”

Kate sat down beside me. She smelled woodsy, even after she danced. We watched as pigeons flittered around the bright white buildings. On our left were the dorms with their common rooms at the bottom. In front, the dance annex loomed. It was known for its grand staircase, bay windows, cafeteria, and Board Room where all big decisions were made. On the right was the academic wing with classrooms and faculty offices. Little pathways led from one building to the others with awnings in case of rain. If I turned around, I could peek at the high concrete wall hidden between oak trees. Sometimes I wondered if the barrier was there to keep rats from fleeing or strangers from trespassing.

Kate squeezed my ankle then flashed me her best smile. “The Witch is an asshole. Seriously. Don’t sweat it.”

At her touch, my eyes filled. The tempo mix up hadn’t been Kate’s fault. Only mine. I quickly wiped the tears with the back of my hand.

“Have I told you that I dig wearing ivory?” Kate said. “Last night, I called my dad and tried to explain it to him. How good it felt to parade around in this sublime color. I said it was like receiving the freaking Medal of Honor but he didn’t get it.”

“Of course not.” I shook my head.

And just like that, the weird moment between us, the resentment I’d felt at having to dance behind her, passed.

I was about to tell her that after what had happened in the circular studio I would probably never wear ivory again, when younger rats came out into the courtyard, disturbing our privacy. Everyone always whispered about everyone else while waiting for ratings. Within the hour, the Board Room would open. Rankings would be posted on the wall. Rats who were rated below fifth place might be sent home. Now and again, I’d see a parent waiting by the school entrance and the wretched sight would make me flinch. But Kate, who was always at my side, would loop an arm around me and say, “Face it, M. Not everyone is cut out for this.” Her thick skin soothed me today.

“God, I can’t stand the sitting around,” Kate said. “Let’s play Would You.”

“I thought you and I banned that game,” I replied.

Kate laughed. “Things don’t go away just because you want them to, Miss Goody Two-Shoes. Or because the stupid rules say so.”

I slapped her shoulder.

“Ouch. Loosen up. I go first,” she said. “Would you die for The Prize?”

The Prize. What every rat girl and boy was after: the large envelope with a red wax stamp on the back, a single invitation to become part of the Paris Opera’s corps de ballet. The thought of seeing that envelope made me dizzy with possibility. I almost said yes but she cut me off.

“If I close my eyes,” Kate said. “I feel the envelope’s weight in my hands, the warm wax beneath my thumbs. It’s damn near euphoric.”

I looked away. Kate’s hunger for success, for being the Chosen One was sometimes so acute that it frightened me. “Are you asking because of Yaëlle?”

The Number 3 rat from last year, a sweet girl from Brittany, once our roommate, had been found in her tiny single, lying atop her twin bed, in her ballet clothes, bones protruding at strange angles, eyes sunk deep in their sockets, dead a few days before Le Grand Défilé last May. She’d starved herself in the name of The Prize. Ever since, we’d all been on edge. Summer hadn’t changed the mood. If anything, getting back together after a few months away had heightened the sense of dread.

“You’re not answering my question.”

“No,” I decided. “I wouldn’t die for The Prize. Would you?”

“Yes,” Kate said. “Absolutely.”

There was no hesitation in her voice.

“I’ve got another,” she said. “Would you hurt The Ruler for The Prize?”

Gia Delmar, the Ruler. Always Number 1 on the boards, she was our biggest rival but this wasn’t the time to think about her. Not before rankings. “I wouldn’t hurt anyone,” I said, then I added, “Would you rehearse night and day?”

“Yes. But would you do drugs?”

“Would you?”

“Rehearse night and day, sure. Drugs? Maybe.”

“Kate!” I said.

“Would you try to suck up to Monsieur Chevalier?”

“No. But maybe Louvet.”

Kate laughed. “I know. Would you sleep with The Demigod?”

The Demigod? I shivered. Like The Ruler, The Demigod was off limits. As a rare conservatory transfer, he’d magically appeared in Second Division one sunny day last February and had outdone everyone. I didn’t want to think about the leaders, the rats most likely to succeed, even if they were supremely sexy. “No,” I answered. “Of course not. Would you?”


“That’s sick,” I said. “Sleeping with someone to climb the ladder?”

Kate lowered her voice. “The Demigod is different, M. You know. Everybody knows. Even faculty. Look how they gawk at him. His talent is greater than the sun and the stars combined. Proximity to him is—” she paused, searching for her words. “The key to everything. Think of it as Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock’s lover, collaborating with him on a canvas. Except that our canvas is four dimensional, made up of flesh, of bodies. Lee’s paint strokes had to intensify, right? The Demigod’s balletic gift, his glow, rubs off like glitter on his partners. Haven’t you noticed? Anyone who spends time with him in and out of the studio shoots up on The Boards. M, he is The King. You know what dance is? The art of the sensual. Electricity, entanglement, ease. You partner with him and you will blow the roof off this effing place. Plus,” she sucked in her breath, kept me in suspense. “He’s got the hottest quads in the universe.”

I imagined Cyrille flying into splits, his thighs stiffening under silver tights, what his hands might feel like clasping mine if I was ever asked to partner with him. My whole body warmed. Kate was right. The Demigod was like food, like one of my mother’s pastries. You knew that eating it was bad for you, but you just couldn’t help yourself. I was about to warn Kate that the Greek demigods, as attractive as they were, ate their young and their lovers when Monsieur Arnaud, the groundkeeper, walked over to the old fashioned bell and rang it. The wooden doors creaked open and all the dancers scurried inside the Board Room. I still sat outside, frozen. What if I was ranked fifth or lower and got sent home? I thought of Oli. My promise to dance for him no matter what. Failing was not an option. Kate snagged my hand and pulled me up.

“Come on, sweetie,” she said.

I reluctantly followed her in.

About A.K.:

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

Thanks to Brittani Hilles at Algonquin Young Readers for this opportunity!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That I Refuse to Let Anyone Touch

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Welcome to the Top Ten Tuesday now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is Books That I Refuse to Let Anyone Touch which was submitted by Savannah Grace @ Scattered.  Here we go, in no particular order:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling - Sure my hardback copies of the series are worn, but I have too many memories to give them up.

Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab - I want to keep these in good condition for as long as I can.

The Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman - I have all of the books in this awesome urban fantasy series and I don't want to take a chance with them.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher - I have all of the books in the series so far and I don't want to lose any of them.  I can't wait for the next installment to be released.

The Among Us Trilogy by Anne-Rae Vasquez - This series is a real gem and I had the opportunity to act as a beta reader for the second and third books, so these are very special to me.

The Girl From Everywhere duology by Heidi Heilig - I adore this duology and I love sharing it with people, but just not my two personal copies.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis - This was brilliant - and since I've had my copy signed by the author I'm definitely not letting it out of my sight.

The Great Library series by Rachel Caine - I adore this series - I'm not ready for the grand finale!

The Firekeeper Saga by Jane Lindskold - I love this epic fantasy series so much.  I need to do a reread.

Have you read any of these?  What books do you refuse to let people touch?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog and perhaps even commenting below!