Here are the entries that stood out for me.
Iggy had grown so much in the past few years. On the day his brother was murdered, she had a round little face and a Campbell’s kid smile, a tight shock of wiry curls crowning her head like a halo. Now, her face had lengthened and fleshed out. The chubbiness was gone, replaced by the soft supple curves of adulthood. She had Frankie’s light brown eyes, but everything else about her belonged to her mother. Her squat, athletic frame, her cocoa-tinted skin. Even her dimples were her mother’s.
“I swear, Uncle Donnie,” she said, flashing the dimples as she skittered a nearly empty gallon of milk across the counter. “You’re worse than a kid. How come you’re always putting stuff back in the fridge empty?”
I'd cut the first sentence cause you really don't need it. You have "now her face had lengthened and fleshed out" which conveys the same info.
And I'm perplexed by his brother when Iggy is given female pronouns.
Twelve-year-old Calvin Jones speaks with birds. The doctors think what Calvin hears is caused by his brain tumor. His parents believe his imaginary friends are simply vivid childhood fantasies.
Maybe they are.
But Calvin has a secret. Not only does he converse with them, but he soars wing tip to wing tip.
To ascend into the sky means no school, no bedtimes, no responsibilities, and no chemo.
The birds say, “To fly is to live.” And to soar forever as a bird is Calvin’s dream, but returning to humanity may be impossible once committed.
Which is either bird-brained or a bonus. Calvin’s not sure, but life with cancer—stinks.
I'd cut the fourth sentence: maybe they are.
That's implied already. No need to put it on the page.
And I'd cut the last phrase: but life with cancer—stinks.
That gives the reader something to wonder about.
Someone comes to stand beside me. I look up and do a double-take.
He looks like Sebastian. Same cheekbones and deep brown eyes, hair just a little more sun-blanched on the edges. This must be the brother. He’s tall and lean like my human, but he’s got an artistic musculature to his torso, arms folded as he watches Sebastian on stage. He’s dressed like he fought with a bear but changed shirts on the way: his plain white T is clean but his jeans and boots are scuffed, and I think I catch a waft of pine needles and sweet grass. If a tree trunk rammed into this brother, I bet the tree would stop.
Excellent character description here!
Hollis was tall, but gravity and anxiety stole a few inches, knocking his stature from six foot one to five eleven. He smiled halfway, only his right cheek ticking up, when he saw me wave him over. He skulked towards me, like a ghost in a room full of mediums. He hadn’t yet grasped that billionaires at a gala were hard to hide.
He looked so much better than the last time I’d seen him. The black suit he wore was impressive, so I didn’t have the heart to point out the ink stain on his collar. I was, however, curious as to how it got there. With Hollis, there was always a story.
Cecilia Ortiz Luna
I’ve concluded that my parents’ DNAs caromed against each other haphazardly during my conception. I possess none of Dad’s German propensity for precision engineering, none of my Filipino mother’s talent for singing. I’m not sure where I got the stomach for malt whiskey, super spicy food, and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Appearance-wise, though, people who’ll find me wandering in the woods will know which set of parents to return me to. I inherited Dad’s Aryan facial bone structure, six feet height, his halblaut speaking voice. The rest of me? All-Mom. Dark brown eyes, black hair, fair skin. Even that chin mole.
Luckily, my genetic mashup apparently worked for the only segment of society whose opinion mattered to nineteen-year-old me — them lovely girls of Anne Arundel County, Baltimore.
Very nice description here!
There was something in the way that Violet carried herself as she crossed the bar, and the confidence she had in every interaction. The wave and waggle of her fingers to someone she knew, the flirtatious eyebrow raise to someone she did not. How she froze a whole table of conversation by leaning in to whisper in one person’s ear for just a heartbeat. Travis had been around many cocky frat boys and finance jerks, but Violet was genuine in her self-assuredness. It was magnetic. But even more than that, it was the effortlessness with which she swiped two people’s wallets, extracting the money and returning to original pockets without breaking her stride or getting noticed by anyone else that captivated Travis’ attention.
Nice character twist here.
In the midst of this maelstrom stood she, a prisoner of the inevitable, the window for her escape quickly slamming shut, precious seconds ticking away. Standing in her way… her target, who had turned the tables, and now led their dance. Upside-down and firmly in his clutches, she fought off the combined effects of the blood rush and the punch.
I am screwed, Zola thought. Royally screwed.
On the bright side, a premature death would excuse her from yet another interminable debriefing session.
Of all the perilous scenarios she had envisioned, and the attendant escape techniques she'd devised, “Mid-Waltz Extrication” never had come to mind.
"I shouldn’t have had that last drink," she mumbled.
“The last drink wasn’t the problem. It was the six before that,” said The Voice rudely invading her head.
I'd cut or move that first paragraph and start with I am screwed, Zola thought.
Mitch thrives on the graveyard shift in a world most living people avoid—the morgue. He’s rail-thin, with white-blond hair and a pasty complexion. Honestly, there are corpses with more color than Mitch. Rumor has it he moonlights at a local funeral home when he’s not in the morgue, so it’s possible he never sees the sun. A lack of Vitamin D won’t be the ultimate cause of his demise, though. He’s a decade younger than me, but I’ll outlive him unless he gives up his pack-a-day habit.
“You’re the boss, Doc,” he says easily whenever I ask him about a case. “I just do what I’m told.”
It’s a game we play almost every time we work together. We both know who’s really in charge.
I'd cut those first two lines, or move them, so that you open with the real grabber:Honestly, there are corpses with more color than Mitch.
Maggie put down her book and rubbed her eyes. A pale beam of streetlight leaked around the blanket that partially covered her lone window, which was frosted by an icy ooze of January air off the East River. In the yellowish light it looked like frozen urine, and being a basement window, it could have been. She pulled the bedcovers further up and glanced at her growing library of 193 books, every one of them stolen. On top of everything else, she thought, I’m starting to look and feel like a mole.
I suggest starting with that last sentence: I'm starting to look and feel like a mole. It's much grabbier than all the exposition.
There were two entries that really stood out to me:
By the summer when I was seventeen, my hormones were on a collision course with my common sense. I had been looking for someone whose primed animal instincts were all wrapped up in a fine pair of faded Levi’s, someone with a sweet talkin’ smile, someone whom mothers feared and sweet young thangs dream about, at a time when the local high school boys seemed gawky and crude. The moment I saw him I knew, in that heart-thudding second, he was the one. He had a casual perfection about him. His lean body moved with the fluid, hypnotic grace of a jungle cat, which fueled my nightly aerobic dreams.
oh yes yes yes
The young woman was on the wrong side of the road, hitch-hiking, wiggling her thumb as though unsure this thing worked. He couldn't tell her age, but maybe 20.
As he slowed, she dropped her hand, eyeing the truck without expression. She was wearing a little white sweater, skinny jeans and clunky high-heeled boots, all soaked. Everything about her shouted 'I don't belong here―I don't want to be here.' So what the hell was she doing here, trying to hitchhike on a rainy November evening?
“Should we offer a ride, Betty?” he asked. The old dog offered no opinion. “But why would she get in a truck with the likes of me?” He stopped, rolled down the window, and leaned out. She did not move. “Hey, there,” he said, smiling.
oh sweet mother of god, yes I want to know more.
Rather than dawdle any longer trying to choose just one, how about we have two winners this time!
Kitty and BobW, drop me an email and let me know what kind of book you'd like to get as a prize.
I'm now crawling back (sloooowly) from vacation.
It was a luxurious couple weeks without deadlines or To Do lists but holy hell, the incoming query mailbox: