Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Warrior Prophet (The Watcher Saga #3) by Lisa Voisin

The Warrior Prophet (The Watcher Saga #3) by Lisa Voisin
Release Date: April 13, 2016
Publisher:  Inkspell Publishing

Mia Crawford is a prophet.

She can see angels. She also sees demons. Everywhere.

The angels are preparing for war to get her fallen angel boyfriend, Michael, back. A war that could take years.

Haunted by visions of Michael's soul being tortured, Mia can't rest until she knows he's safe.

To save him, she must make an impossible journey through Hell with the one person she prayed she'd never see again.
Link to Goodreads

Purchase Links:

BAM | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks 

Teaser Excerpt – Hell

Hands clawed at me as we passed through the blackness. The reek of sulfur and rot made a hot rush of bile rise to my throat. Arielle had said my soul would act as though I had a body, but my actual body was lying in a bed fifty feet below. 

We pushed through a thick blanket of black smog and then met a stretchy, membranous substance. Once we pressed our way through, we stepped out onto a huge, empty field. The ground was covered in charred ash. The air itself had to be a thousand degrees, and, if I’d had a body, it would have been incinerated. With stealthy, silent movements, he led me across the field, each step hovering above the ground. 

“Welcome to Hell.” His smirk made me want to slap him. “Well, one of the lesser territories.” 

“Lesser territories? How many are there?” 

“Hundreds, if not more. This one’s a soul wasteland.” 

“You think Michael’s here? In a soul wasteland?” 

“No, but it’s easy enough to get here. It’s not heavily guarded because there’s nothing to protect.” Cinders rained from a dull charcoal sky choked with clouds, landing in his hair. He brushed them away. “When a soul is all used up, the only thing left is an ashen residue. That’s what’s beneath us. It’s why we’re hovering.” 

I covered my nose with my hands to keep out the foul stench. “Oh God.” 

“Don’t say that word around here.” He scanned the area and lowered his voice. “You’ll attract attention. Draw your sword.” 

“Why?” I reached between my shoulder blades to find my sword hilt. “Won’t it attract attention, too?” 

“It’s better to have it handy if you need it. But don’t extend it until I say so, or we’ll draw a crowd.” 

I didn’t know what I’d expected Hell to be like, but this barren field wasn’t it. Above us, the clouds undulated in the sky, their tattered, ragged forms joining and separating like a flock of birds. They weren’t clouds at all but flyers. A squadron of them. 

“They know we’re here.” 

About the Author
A Canadian-born author, Lisa Voisin spent her childhood daydreaming and making up stories, but it was her love of reading and writing in her teens that drew her to Young Adult fiction. 

Lisa is also a technical writer, a meditation teacher with the Training in Power Academy, and the leader of the Young Writer’s Club, a local writing group for teens in her home town. A self-proclaimed coffee lover, she can usually be found writing in a local café. When she's not writing, you'll find her meditating or hiking in the mountains to counteract the side effects of drinking too much caffeine!

Though she’s lived in several cities across Canada, she currently lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her fiancé and their two cats. 

More about Lisa can be found on her web site: http://www.lisavoisin.com or blog: http://lisavoisin.wordpress.com

Other books in the series

Millennia ago, he fell from heaven for her.

Can he face her without falling again?

Fascinated with ancient civilizations, seventeen-year-old Mia Crawford dreams of becoming an archaeologist. She also dreams of wings—soft and silent like snow—and somebody trying to steal them.

When a horrible creature appears out of thin air and attacks her, she knows Michael Fontaine is involved, though he claims to know nothing about it. Secretive and aloof, Michael evokes feelings in Mia that she doesn’t understand. Images of another time and place haunt her. She recognizes them—but not from any textbook.

In search of the truth, Mia discovers a past life of forbidden love, jealousy and revenge that tore an angel from Heaven and sent her to an early grave. Now that her soul has returned, does she have a chance at loving that angel again? Or will an age-old nemesis destroy them both?

Ancient history is only the beginning.

Purchase:  BAM | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

Now that she’s found him again, all Mia Crawford wants is some downtime with her fallen angel boyfriend, Michael. But the call of duty keeps him away—from school and from her—with more demons to smite than ever.

When Michael is mortally wounded by a cursed sword, Mia must perform an ancient blood ritual to save him. But the spell exacts a price. Haunted by visions of war, torture, and despair, Mia discovers the world is in more danger than she ever imagined. Behind the scenes, an evil adversary pulls all the strings.

After redemption, there’s Hell to pay.

Purchase:  BAM | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

Giveaway Information:  Contest ends June 10, 2016

One (1) winner will receive at $25 Amazon Gift Card (INT)

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway: Powerless By Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs

Title: Powerless
Series: The Hero Agenda
Authors: Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire

Kenna is tired of being “normal.”

The only thing special about her is that she isn’t special at all. Which is frustrating when you’re constantly surrounded by superheroes. Her best friend, her ex-boyfriend, practically everyone she knows has some talent or power. Sure, Kenna’s smart and independent, but as an ordinary girl in an extraordinary world, it’s hard not to feel inferior.

So when three villains break into the lab where she interns, Kenna refuses to be a victim. She’s not about to let criminals steal the research that will make her extraordinary too.

But in the heat of battle, secrets are spilled and one of the villains saves her life. Twice. Suddenly, everything Kenna thought she knew about good and evil, heroes and villains is upended. And to protect her life and those she loves, she must team up with her sworn enemies on a mission that will redefine what it means to be powerful and powerless…

Buy Links:
Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/4nl0nt
BooksAMillion- http://ow.ly/4nl0DN
Indiebound- http://ow.ly/4nl0Xd

Excerpt from Powerless:
If I could have any superpower, right now, I’d choose the ability to reach through glass. One thin, little pane is all that separates me from bliss…of the midnight-snack variety, to be exact. The chocolate bar hangs halfway to freedom but refuses to take the plunge, as if the vending machine is mocking me, taunting me.
As if it knows I’m powerless.
Annoyed, I slam my palms against the glass. Everything inside shudders. My chocolate bar—pure Swiss milk chocolate dotted with toasted hazelnuts—doesn’t budge.
“Come on,” I beg as if the candy can hear me. “Just a little farther.”
No such luck.
Then again, when have I ever been lucky? I’m just glad no heroes are around to see me lose a battle with a vending machine. I would be the punch line to every joke for a year.
Thankfully, the lab is pretty much empty at this time of night. Even Mom went home two hours ago, leaving me to transcribe the notes from today’s sessions. I prefer to work when no one is around. My experiments fall into a gray area in the Superhero Code of Conduct, and even though I’m not technically a superhero—yet—I try not to piss off the powers-that-be. The last thing I need is to lose my lab privileges before I’ve perfected my formula.
Copying down Mom’s scribblings is like deciphering some previously unknown ancient language. It isn’t exactly the most glamorous summer job ever, but it pays okay and gives me access to the facility.
I’m almost done with tonight’s transcription from the digital white board Mom and her team spent all day filling with chemical equations for her newest power-enhancing formula. Maybe twenty more minutes, and then I can get back to my test samples.
My stomach rumbles in protest, reminding me that I skipped dinner. I really want that stupid chocolate bar. But since I just used my last quarters, my only hope is that one of the security guards upstairs has change for a ten.
I turn away from the vending machine alcove and start back around the corner to grab my wallet from the lab.
Right before I make the turn, I hear hurried footsteps. Not wanting a repeat of last week’s collision with Dr. Harwood—my favorite jeans still smell like sulfur—I hang back a step.
But the boy who rushes around the corner looks nothing like the balding, old scientist who works nearly as many late nights as I do.
No, this guy is tall and lean, but not too skinny. He’s got major biceps and I can see the outline of some pretty impressive muscles beneath his shirt. Yum. He’s probably about my age or a little older, eighteen or nineteen maybe. And everything about him is shrouded in black—his tee and jeans, his heavy-duty boots, his shoulder-length hair—everything but his eyes.
If we weren’t in superhero central, I’d say he looks like a stereotypical villain.
You’d think with all that darkness, he’d be nothing more than shadow. But he’s all angles: his cheekbones, his jaw, even the collarbones I can see peeking out from the low neckline of his tee. Light seems to reflect off him like moon glow at midnight. Surrounded by all that sculpted darkness, his icy blue irises burn like the hottest flames.
Our gazes collide, and though I know it’s vain, I instantly wish my hair wasn’t pulled back in a messy braid and that I was wearing something—anything—more appealing than my dad’s ratty old 1996 Stanley Cup Champions tee.
Hot guys in the underground lab are few and far between—Who am I kidding? Hot guys in my life are few and far between—so most of my wardrobe choices involve comfort and whether I mind if the garment gets ruined by acid, dye, or any of a million other compounds we work with every day.
If my best friend, Rebel, were here, she’d be doing an I-told-you-so dance because she’s been wanting to give me a makeover forever. That, and she’d already have his number and email address, and they’d be making plans for their date this weekend. Me, I can’t even manage a simple “hello.”
The fact that he’s scowling at me, those dark brows slashing low over those bright eyes, isn’t helping anything.
“The lab is supposed to be empty,” he says.
His voice is flat, but his comment almost feels like an accusation.
“I’m working late,” I answer, trying not to sound defensive. “What are you doing here?”
He lifts an eyebrow. “You’re working in the hall?”
“I needed a break to come get chocolate,” I say, gesturing at the vending machine behind me.
He nods down at my empty hands. “You don’t have any chocolate.”
“That thing hates me. Took my money and kept the candy bar.”
In a graceful movement that looks almost choreographed, Dark-and-Scowly steps around me and up to the greedy machine. He presses his palms to the glass, just like I did. Hey, maybe he has the power to reach through glass. After all, around here pretty much everyone but me has some kind of super ability.
When his hands don’t immediately sink through the surface, I say, “I tried smacking it already. Didn’t work.”
Moving his hands closer to the edge, he curls his fingers around the frame. Then, with his boots braced on the floor, he gives the whole machine a solid shove. The heavy hunk of metal rocks back once, then comes forward, its front legs hitting the tile floor with a sharp thud. On impact, the chocolate bar sails against the glass before falling into the trough below.
He turns to face me, a cocky smile twisting one side of his mouth. “Takes a special touch.”
I duck down and reach through the hinged door to grab the candy bar.
“You’re my hero,” I joke.
He snorts. “Right.”
About the Authors:
Tracy Deebs is a national bestselling and criticially-acclaimed author who writes under many different pseudonyms. Tera Lynn Childs is the RITA-award-winning author of two mythology-based novels (Dutton’s Children’s), and a kick-butt trilogy about monster-hunting descendants of Medusa (Katherine Tegen).

Social Networking Links:
Powerless Website: http://heroagenda.com/
Tera Lynn Child’s Website: http://teralynnchilds.com/
Tera Lynn Child’s Twitter: @teralynnchilds


By Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs
June 7, 2016; Hardcover; ISBN 9781492616610

Revenge is easy, but justice is worth fighting for…

Kenna is tired of being lied to—and hunted by the very allies she once trusted. Unearthing the dark secrets of the superhero world has not only endangered her life, now her boyfriend faces execution for crimes he didn’t commit and her mother is being held captive in a secret governmental prison.

Kenna is determined to stand up for what’s right and save those she loves from unspeakable fates. It’s time for the betrayal to end. It’s time for the real criminals to face justice.

But the truth is even more terrifying than Kenna could imagine. A conspiracy threatens the fate of heroes, villains, and all of humanity. If Kenna’s going to survive, she must draw on her deepest strength: her resilience. Because when Kenna’s pushed to the limit, she doesn’t break down. She fights back.

Pre-Order Links:
Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/4nl7i1
BooksAMillion- http://ow.ly/4nl7oM

Indiebound- http://ow.ly/4nl7GQ

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway: Anything You Want By Geoff Herbach

Title: Anything You Want
Author: Geoff Herbach
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Expect a bundle of joy—er, trouble—in this hilarious, heartwarming story from the award-winning author of Stupid Fast
 Taco’s mom always said, “Today is the best day of your life, and tomorrow will be even better.” That was hard to believe the day she died of cancer and when Taco’s dad had to move up north for work, but he sure did believe it when Maggie Corrigan agreed to go with him to junior prom. Taco loves Maggie—even more than the tacos that earned him his nickname. And she loves him right back.
 Except, all that love? It gets Maggie pregnant. Everyone else may be freaking out, but Taco can’t wait to have a real family again. He just has to figure out what it means to be dad and how to pass calculus. And then there’s getting Maggie’s parents to like him. Because it’s would be so much easier for them to be together if he didn’t have to climb the side of the Corrigan’s house to see her...


Buy Links:
Barnes&Noble-  http://ow.ly/4nkqH2
BooksAMillion- http://ow.ly/4nkrdo 
Indiebound- http://ow.ly/4nkrrI

Excerpt from Anything You Want:
When did this start? Duh, dingus. Last spring.

Last spring, I decided I was completely emotionally ready for her, so I asked Maggie Corrigan to prom and she said, “Boom,” and poked her finger into the middle of my chest.
I said, “Boom? That’s good, right? That’s a yes?” Maggie Corrigan is intense. She’s wild and crazy and intense and I had to be prepared.
We stood in the hall at school, leaned up against her locker as a bunch of freshmen, a total wad of screaming monkeys, ran by on their way to gym.
Maggie shouted, “Yeah, for sure, Taco! Boom!” She poked me again.
“What?” I shouted back, because I couldn’t hear over the freshmen.
“I totally want to go to prom with you!” she shouted.
“Really?” I shouted back
Then she grabbed my face and she pulled my ears so my head came down to her face and she French kissed me right there in front of all those freshmen. She, like, kissed my ass off. My shoes and pants almost exploded from my body, because she kissed me so hard.
She’s spontaneous like that. I knew that then, but not like I know now. And, you know what, dingus? Doesn’t matter, because I love her. I think I’ve loved Maggie Corrigan since before time. In a past life, I was probably the court clown and she was probably the Crazy Queen of Holland, and I’m pretty sure we were doing it behind the king’s back. If we weren’t doing it, we were probably going on long naked walks in the forest where we stroked unicorns and lay upon the dewy moss to gaze upon the sky.
All the freshmen monkeys in the hall shouted stuff like, “Get a room,” and “More tongue,” etc. Freshmen are pretty funny. I’ve always liked them.
That day will go down in history, for sure. I really needed Maggie Corrigan’s intensity, energy and love right about then.
The year before Maggie kissed my ass off, Mom died. Six months after Mom died, Dad took a job driving truck at a mine up north, because we needed more money to float the boat. Two months after Dad left for the mine, Darius, my older brother, got a drunk driving ticket, which he said he didn’t deserve, because he only had like two beers after work—it’s just that his blood doesn’t register alcohol like normal peoples’ blood, because it’s a mix of O+ and A -, which is rare, so the cops didn’t know what they were doing when they gave him the breathalyzer. Okay, dingus, that didn’t exactly make sense to me, but that’s good old Darius! Anyway, he lost his Pepsi product delivery route and went to work at Captain Stabby’s, this fish sandwich place, for about half the money. Dude smelled like fish 24/7.
So things were crap and I began to lose the pep in my cucumber. I was seriously beginning to think my mom was wrong about everything, and maybe life really is terrible, like Darius always says. But then I spent a few weeks following Maggie Corrigan around school and saw how she laughed until she fell on the floor, screamed when she got mad at her friends, cried when she was sad about the basketball team losing, and smiled so hard it looked like her face might break when I told her I liked her handwriting. After that I thought, “That’s what Mom was talking about! Life is beautiful!” and so I summoned my good feelings and my optimism, and I asked Maggie to prom. A week later, we were boyfriend and girlfriend and going at it in the hall between every class period.
Literally. Going at it!
Dr. Evans, our principal, had to bring us into the office to ask us to stop all the public displays of affection, (she called them “PDAs”) because our exhibits of love made some people uncomfortable—like those going through hard break-ups or maybe the divorce of their parents.
Maggie and I tried, but we couldn’t stop going at it. Sometimes, to hide from people who might feel sad, we climbed into the costume loft behind the auditorium. Sometimes we took our clothes off, mostly so we could try on costumes, but also because it was pretty great to get naked. Maggie would hang out up there in her underwear, pretending she had to find the perfect costume on the rack–but really she just liked being naked with me.
Right on. I liked it, too. See why I love Maggie?

About the Author: Geoff Herbach’s books have been listed in the year’s best by YALSA, the American Booksellers Association, and many state library associations. They’ve won the Cybil and the Minnesota Book Award. Geoff grew up a very nerdy jock in Southern Wisconsin and now teaches creative writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @geoffherbach

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Sourcebooks Fire
Pub date: May 3, 2016
ISBN: 9781492622161
10.99 Trade Paperback 

About the book:

Will Ivy fulfill her destiny as a dazzling Milbourn woman? Or will the pressure from her family cause her to crumble?

The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden—all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past…

Purchase Here: 
Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound  

Excerpt from Wild Swans
Chapter One
Granddad says all the Milbourn women are extraordinary.
Amelia, the Shakespeare professor up at the college, says cursed.
Judy, the bookseller down at the Book Addict, says crazy.
Here in Cecil, girls are still expected to be nice. Quiet. All sugar. Maybe a little spice.
But not us. We Milbourn women are a complicated lot.
The Milbourn legacy goes back four generations. Folks were just starting to drive over from Baltimore and Washington, DC, to buy my great-great-grandmother's portraits when she tried outracing a train in her new roadster. It stalled on the tracks and she and her two youngest were killed instantly. My great-grandmother Dorothea survived and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her love poems-but she was murdered by the woman whose husband she'd been sleeping with for inspiration. Grandmother painted famous, haunting landscapes of the Bay, but the year before I was born, she walked out the back door and down to the water and drowned herself. My mother had a voice like a siren, but she ran away from home the second time she got knocked up, and we haven't seen her since.
And me? I don't feel crazy or cursed. But I've grown up in this house, haven't I? So I don't know. Maybe there's no escaping it.
I'm home alone tonight, and a storm is sweeping up the Bay. Through the open french doors I can hear the waves crashing against the shore. They make a frantic shh-shh, like a desperate mama rocking a colicky baby.
I hear mothers do things like that, anyhow. I wouldn't know.
I've been reading Jane Eyre for about the twelfth time, but I set it down on the coffee table and leave the warm lamplight to go stand in the doorway. The wind catches at my hair and flings it back in my face. I push it away and squint down at the beach.
Lightning hasn't split the sky yet, but I can taste it coming. The air's so thick I could swim through it.
Jesus, but a swim right now would be delicious. I imagine tearing off my blue sundress, running down the sandy path, and diving right into the cool waves of the Chesapeake. I could swim almost before I could walk. Part fish, Granddad says. But he doesn't like me to swim by myself. Says it isn't safe, especially for a girl, alone and at night. That's one of his rules. He's got about a million. Some of them I fight; some I just let be. Given how his wife killed herself, it seems reasonable enough to humor him on this.
Behind me, something rattles in the wind and I startle. Goose bumps prickle my shoulders in spite of the heat. Lately it feels like a storm's coming even when the sky's blue. Like spiders crawling through my veins.
My friend Abby tells me I need to quit worrying and relax. It's going to be golden, this summer before our senior year. There will be barbecues and bonfires and lazy days volunteering at the town library. She doesn't believe in family curses or premonitions of doom. Her family has its own troubles, but they're not town lore.
My friend Claire says "fuck the family curse; you're your own woman." Claire's all rebellion and razor-sharp edges-especially since her dad had an affair with his secretary and moved out (such a cliché). Claire doesn't believe in fate; she believes in making choices and owning them.
But she's not a Milbourn girl.
The rain starts with a fury. It pelts the windowpanes and drums against the flagstones out on the patio. The wind picks up too, sending the gray curtains spinning into the room like ghosts. I pad back toward the sofa, trailing my fingers across bookshelves stacked with Great-Grandmother Dorothea's prize-winning poetry. All along the walls hang Grandmother's landscapes-our pretty Eastern Shore transformed by twisting rain clouds. She only painted hurricane weather.
They were all so talented. Troubled, sure. But look at their legacy.
What will mine be?
Granddad's had me in all kinds of classes: piano, flute, ballet, gymnastics, oil painting, watercolors, landscapes, portraits, creative writing... I threw myself into every new subject, only to be crushed when I didn't show a natural aptitude for any of it.
I'm on the swim team, but I'm never going to be an Olympic athlete. I'm an honors student, but I won't be valedictorian. Sometimes I write poems, but that's just to get the restless thoughts out of my head; my poems have never won any awards. I am completely, utterly ordinary.
Granddad won't give up; he thinks there's some bit of genius hiding in me somewhere. But over the last couple months... Well, I'm getting tired of trying so hard only to end up a disappointment. Maybe that's not how this works. Maybe whatever spark blessed or cursed the other Milbourn girls skipped a generation.
To hear people in town talk, the women in my family weren't just gifted; they were obsessed. And those obsessions killed them, three generations in a row. Maybe four. For all I know, my mother could be dead now too. Do I really want to continue that tradition?
Outside, thunder growls. Inside, something rattles. I stare up at the portrait of Dorothea as it twitches against the exposed brick wall. Just the wind, I reassure myself. There's no such thing as ghosts.
Dorothea was fifteen when her mother painted her. She wears a royal-blue shirtdress and matching gloves, and her hair falls in short brown curls around her face. She wasn't what you'd call pretty-too sharp featured for that-but there's something captivating about her. She stands tall in the portrait, shoulders back, lips quirked. It's not quite a smile. More like a smirk. A year later, she'd survive the collision that killed her mother and sisters. Her broken leg never healed quite right, Granddad says; she walked with a limp the rest of her life.
Lightning flashes. The lamp flickers. Rain is puddling on the wooden floor. I should close the doors, but Dorothea's eyes catch mine and somehow I don't want to turn my back on her portrait.
There's no such thing as ghosts, I remind myself.
Then the room plunges into darkness.
I run for the french doors, but before I can get there, I slam into something. Someone.
My heart stutter-stops and I shriek, scrambling away, slipping on the wet wooden floor.
"Ivy!" Alex grabs my arm. His fingers are warm against my skin. "It's just me. Chill."
"Jesus! I thought you were a ghost!" I take a deep breath, inhaling the salty breeze off the Bay. My pulse is racing.
"Nope, just me." He waves a flashlight. "Soon as the lights started flickering, Ma told me to bring you this. She knows how you get about the dark."
I fold my arms across my chest. "Shut up. I'm not scared of the dark anymore."
"Uh-huh. Sure." Alex shines the flashlight up over his face like a movie monster. I should have known better than to mention ghosts. He'll tease me about it forever. Remind me how he used to sneak over and scare Claire and me during sleepovers, how I used to sleep in my closet during thunderstorms, how I had a night-light till I turned thirteen.
"Gimme that." I reach for the flashlight.
"If you're not scared, why do you need it?" He holds it above his head. I'm tall-five ten-but the summer we were fourteen, Alex got taller, and he still hasn't stopped lording it over me. As he stretches, his shirt lifts to reveal taut, tanned abs.
I drag my eyes back to his face, but sort of leisurely like. He got soaked on his sprint from the carriage house, and his red T-shirt is molded to his muscled shoulders. The summer we were fifteen, he started lifting for baseball, and the girls at school went all swoony over him. I am not immune to a nice set of abs myself-but Alex is my best friend. Has been since we were babies, since my mother ran off and Granddad hired Alex's mom, Luisa, to be our housekeeper. There's nothing romantic between Alex and me.
That's what we decided after prom. What I decided. Alex and Luisa and Granddad are the only family I've got. What would happen if Alex and I started dating and it didn't work out? It would be awkward and awful, and I don't want to risk that. And if it did work? The baseball coach up at the college has already scouted Alex, all but promised him a scholarship if he keeps his grades up this year. If we were dating, Alex would be one more thing tying me to Cecil.
"I hate you," I mutter.
"No you don't." He gives me a cocky grin. Sometimes I think he's waiting for me to change my mind about us, but I'm not going to. Once I make a decision, I stick with it.
But the house presses around us, cold and quiet and more than a little spooky, and I fight the urge to snuggle up against him.
The front door slams. "Ivy!" Granddad hollers.
Just in time to save me from myself.
Alex relinquishes the flashlight. "I better go." Granddad gets a little skittish about Alex being here when I'm home alone. Alex and I have never given him any reason not to trust us, but when your only daughter goes and gets herself pregnant twice before the age of twenty, you maybe have reason to be a little overprotective.
Like I said, I pick my battles.
"You going to be okay now that the Professor's home? No more ghosts?" Alex licks a raindrop from his upper lip and smiles. It's his placating-Ivy smile, the one that says I let my imagination run away with me. The one he uses when I get all dreamy over a boy in a book or want to watch an old black-and-white movie or point out shapes in the clouds. The one that makes me feel like maybe I am a Milbourn girl after all-sensitive and selfish and bound for a bad end.
I grit my teeth, but the worry in his brown eyes is genuine. "Yep. I'll be fine."
"Okay. See you." He jogs off through the rainy backyard.
"Ivy?" Granddad cusses as he knocks into something out in the hall.
"In here!" I pull the french doors shut.
He limps into the room, tossing his battered briefcase onto the sofa. He nods at me and the flashlight. "How long has the power been off?"
"Not long. Couple minutes." I smile as he heads right for Dorothea's crooked portrait and straightens it. He might be a professor, but he's only absentminded when he wants to be.
"What've you been up to?" he asks.
"Nothing. Reading." I wave my copy of Jane Eyre at him.
"Reading isn't nothing, young lady. Not in this house." He gives me a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes and plops down into his brown leather recliner. "Have a seat. There's something I want to talk to you about."
That feeling slams into me again-impending doom-and I shiver. My skin feels like it's coated in cobwebs. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing we can't handle." Granddad stares up at Dorothea. "You know that student of mine? The one who's working in my office this summer?"
"Connor Clarke." As if I could forget. He's a rising sophomore who's somehow made himself indispensable. He aced Granddad's upper-level Twentieth Century American Poets course last semester.
Granddad nods. "I invited him over for lunch tomorrow. Remind me to leave a note for Luisa."
I raise my eyebrows. "Tomorrow's Wednesday."
He runs a hand over his bristly gray beard. "And?"
"Wednesday is Luisa's day off. Has been for years."
"Ah, I forgot." He steeples his fingers together. "You work the late shift tomorrow, don't you? Maybe you could join us."
Like I said-he's only forgetful when it suits him. "And make you lunch?"
He shrugs. "You might enjoy yourself. Connor's a good kid. Smart. Driven. He wrote an excellent paper on Dorothea. Most students are too intimidated to write a critical essay about my mother-in-law. It earned him an A on the paper and in the class."
"So you've mentioned." He hardly ever gives As in that class. Connor's probably an insufferable suck-up. "Impressive for a freshman."
"Would've been impressive for a senior." Granddad grins. He gets a kick out of my "competitive spirit," as he calls it. But he's the one who raised me to be ambitious, to think I could do anything I put my mind to. "I offer that class every spring. You could take it yourself."
We've had this conversation a million times. "If I stay here"-which I might, because I'd get free tuition and the college has a good swim team and a strong English program, and I worry about leaving Granddad all alone-"I'm not taking your classes. It would be too weird."
"It wouldn't be weird unless you made it weird," he insists. "You'd have to earn your B like everybody else."
"Except Connor," I grumble, bristling that he thinks this boy is smarter than me.
"Connor's an exceptional young man." Granddad casts a dubious look at Jane Eyre. "Really, Ivy. You'd rather study the nineteenth-century English novel than twentieth-century American poetry?"
I stick out my tongue at him. "I am dying to take Amelia's class on the nineteenth-century English novel, and you know it. Her Women in Shakespeare too."
Granddad sighs. "No accounting for taste, I suppose."
I grin, flopping back against the worn leather sofa. "You're the one who raised me to be a feminist. And you're perfectly capable of using the stove yourself, but I suppose I can make you and Connor some lunch. He's not a vegetarian, is he?"
"Oh, I hope not." Granddad shudders. "He seems so promising."
I smile, tucking my feet beneath me. "Is that all you wanted to talk about? The way you looked, I thought it was something dire."
"Actually..." He clears his throat. Drums his fingers on the armrest. The back of my neck prickles; it isn't like him to hem and haw. "I heard from your mother today."
"My-mother?" The word feels foreign on my tongue, like one you read in books and know how to spell but never learn to pronounce.
I must have misheard. Granddad hasn't talked to my mother in years. She signed away her rights to me when I was four, and he hasn't been in touch with her since.
Has he?
The lamp flickers back on. It illuminates the tired slump of his shoulders, the crow's feet perching next to his blue eyes. "Erica called me at the office. She... Well, the gist of it is that she's being evicted from her apartment and needs a place to stay. She asked to come home. I told her that I had to talk to you first, but I don't see how we can say no."
She left before I was two years old. Got pregnant again, dropped out of college, ran off with her boyfriend to New York City, and hasn't looked back since. Not once. Granddad says it's impossible for me to remember her, but I do. I think I do. White-blond hair and a smoky alto.
"I could say no." I click off the flashlight. "She needs a place to stay, so suddenly she remembers we exist? That's bullshit. That's not how family works."
I've never gotten a birthday card from her. Not a single Christmas present.
Granddad sighs, pinching the bridge of his long nose. Same nose as mine. What did I inherit from my mother? Her height? Her mouth? There are so few pictures from when she was my age.
Maybe she took them with her.
Or maybe she threw them away. Maybe she didn't want the memories any more than she wanted us.
When I was little, I prayed for her to come home.
But I'm seventeen now, and this is way too little, way too late.
"I know," Granddad says. He's the one who raised me to believe that family is everything: duty and love and legacy. "But we have to think about your sisters."
"Sisters?" I clutch the flashlight, knuckles white. "More than one?"
"Came as a surprise to me too. Isobel is fifteen. Grace"-his voice wobbles. That was Grandmother's name-"is six."
I've got sisters. Two of them. I wonder if they are perfect little Milbourn girls with marvelous talents. I wonder if they know that I exist.
"I know this won't be easy for you, Ivy. It won't be easy for me either. But Erica and her husband are getting divorced, and she lost her job, and she needs a place to stay. It took a lot for her to ask. I couldn't turn her away." He avoids my eyes and fiddles with his big, silver watch.
Those are his tells. Granddad is a terrible poker player.
"You already said yes," I realize. "When are they coming?"
That's four days from now. I run my fingers through my long hair, catching at the tangles. "I see." My voice is frosty.
"It's only temporary. Just till she can earn some money and get back on her feet. I'm sure she'll want to get the girls back to their schools in September."
"September? But that's the whole summer!"
And this summer was supposed to be perfect.
Every summer, Granddad signs me up for activities: writing camp up at the college or watercolors at the Arts League or a production of Oklahoma at the Sutton Theater. This year I put my foot down: no classes. I'm volunteering at the library and I'll be swimming every day. I need this, I told Granddad-a real summer. A break before senior year and all its pressures: captaining the swim team, copyediting the yearbook, taking three AP classes, and applying for college. And most of all (though I didn't say this part) I am desperate for a break from the restless, relentless search for my talent.
Granddad agreed, as long as I promised to submit some of my poems for publication.
How am I supposed to relax with my mother and newfound sisters living here all summer long.
"Can she do that?" I ask. "Take them out of New York? Their dad won't mind?"
"I don't get the sense that Isobel has a relationship with her father, and Grace's dad-" Granddad clears his throat, avoiding my gaze again. "They don't live in New York. Haven't for a while. They're over in DC now."
"Oh. I see," I say again.
And I do. Clear as day. My mother's been living two hours away, and she still couldn't be bothered to come visit. To join us for Thanksgiving dinner. To cheer me on at one of my swim meets.
I'm not even worth a tank of gas.

Praise for Wild Swans 

★ Ivy’s journey is handled perfectly, and it’s her story at heart. For anyone who suffers from too-heavy expectations, Ivy will ring true in this engaging, nearly flawless coming-of-age novel. — Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“A thoughtful, relatable story about a young woman attempting to figure out her own worth against the ghosts of her past.” — Booklist
“A strong coming-of-age story.” — School Library Journal

WILD SWANS is the kind of thoughtful, summery book you’ll want to savor under starry skies or read on a porch swing with a glass of lemonade nearby. This compelling story of a girl trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be vs. who everyone else expects her to be manages to feel both fresh and like a timeless classic. Highly recommended for Sarah Dessen fans.  —  Paula Stokes, author of Girl Against the Universe and The Art of Lainey

A beautiful novel about the complexity of family and the magic of first love.  I couldn’t stop turning the pages. — Lauren Barnholdt, author of Two Way Street and Heat of the Moment

A story of first love and self-discovery as sweet as it is compelling. — Jennifer Salvato Doktorski, author of The Summer After You and Me

About the Author
Jessica Spotswood is the author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband, and works as a children’s library associate, with her husband. Visit jessicaspotswood.com.

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