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Ramblings from a Fledgling Novelist Reading, Writing and Life in a Small Town
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1. Summer Time

The best part of summer is having time. Time for reading, time for vacation, time for kayaking, time for baking, time for redesigning the website. I’ve been doing all of these things. You’ll see the website redesign soon, but I have to say, my family is definitely more appreciative of the baked treats I’ve been […]

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2. A Half Bad Giveaway

I hope you had a good two weeks off. I know I did. My WIP is up to 16K (hooray!), not as far as I’d like to be, but all progress is good so I’ll celebrate that! Today I’m giving away my ARC of a YA novel that I’ve heard compared to Harry Potter. (Yeah, […]

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3. Summertime

I'm on vacation for the next few weeks, 6K into my next novel and writing every day. I'll be back with more book reviews, giveaways and a few interviews starting July 21.

Enjoy your summer!

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4. Summertime

I’m on vacation for the next few weeks, 6K into my next novel and writing every day. I’ll be back with more book reviews, giveaways and a few interviews starting July 21. Enjoy your summer!

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5. Finding Friends and Followers

I had the chance to add more than 1,000 followers to my Twitter account last week. It was tempting. I mean let’s be honest – who doesn’t want to believe that there are thousands of people who want to hear what you think about books and writing and more? The only thing that held me […]

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6. Finding Friends and Followers

I had the chance to add more than 1,000 followers to my Twitter account last week. It was tempting. I mean let’s be honest – who doesn’t want to believe that there are thousands of people who want to hear what you think about I had the chance to add more than 1,000 followers to my Twitter account last week. It was tempting. I mean let’s be honest – who doesn’t want to believe that there are thousands of people who want to hear what you think about books and writing and more?

The only thing that held me back? The cost.

And I don’t mean the $25 charge for adding their Twitter handles to my account.

One of the things I love about Twitter – about the internet in general – is the way it allows us to connect with other people. Last week Andrew Smith favorited and retweeted one of my tweets. And yes, I had a major fangirl moment ☺ I live in a tiny town in California with a population of less than a thousand people. And yet, I shared mini conversations with people in Canada, Florida, New England – even a guy in Africa. How cool is that?

I wouldn’t have had these conversations with people I bought from a list, people who may not even know their name was on the list. We had these conversations because we share a common interest. And finding those people to connect with – people who like books and reading, writing and publishing, movies and music – that’s half the fun. Finding and making those connections. Not buying them.

I may not have as many followers as some of the people who’ve been doing it longer. But I’m content to find those people over time. So that when we do find and follow each other, we’ll share a real connection. Maybe even have a memorable conversation.

That’s worth more to me. That’s priceless.?

The only thing that held me back? The cost.

And I don’t mean the $25 charge for adding their Twitter handles to my account.

One of the things I love about Twitter – about the internet in general – is the way it allows us to connect with other people. Last week Andrew Smith favorited and retweeted one of my tweets. And yes, I had a major fangirl moment ☺ I live in a tiny town in California with a population of less than a thousand people. And yet, I shared mini conversations with people in Canada, Florida, New England – even a guy in Africa. How cool is that?

I wouldn’t have had these conversations with people I bought from a list, people who may not even know their name was on the list. We had these conversations because we share a common interest. And finding those people to connect with – people who like books and reading, writing and publishing, movies and music – that’s half the fun. Finding and making those connections. Not buying them.

I may not have as many followers as some of the people who’ve been doing it longer. But I’m content to find those people over time. So that when we do find and follow each other, we’ll share a real connection. Maybe even have a memorable conversation.

That’s worth more to me. That’s priceless.

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7. And then there was one...

...one winner, that is. Without further adieu, the winner of the Grasshopper Jungle ARC is...

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 6.02.27 AM
Congratulations, Danielle! I'll be sending your book out later today. I hope you enjoy reading it! And if anyone is looking for some more good reading, Lucy Silag from Book Country interviewed me on their blog today. This Penguin community for writers is a great place to meet critique partners and get your work read in a public forum. WISH YOU WEREN'T is an Editor's Pick this month (yay!) and I was thrilled that they wanted to profile me.

If you'd like a chance to win your very own copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T, don't forget about the other two blogs I mentioned yesterday. Sheri Larsen at Writer's Alley interviewed me and she's giving away a print book and an e-book. And the delightful Rosi Hollinbeck, a reviewer for the San Francisco Book Review, posted her review of WISH YOU WEREN'T on her blog, The Write Stuff, and she's giving away a print copy.

Oh, and one more thing! If you live in Santa Barbara County and want to learn more about writing for middle grade readers, I'm leading a workshop at the Solvang Library with three other authors: Valerie Hobbs (Sheep), Gwen Dandridge (The Stone Lions) and Kimberley Troutte (Saving Miner's Gulch). The workshop is on Saturday from 1 to 3:30 and we'll be doing a book signing from 12 to 1pm. To find out more, you can visit the library's website. I'd love to see you there!

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8. And then there was one…

…one winner, that is. Without further adieu, the winner of the Grasshopper Jungle ARC is… Congratulations, Danielle! I’ll be sending your book out later today. I hope you enjoy reading it! And if anyone is looking for some more good reading, Lucy Silag from Book Country interviewed me on their blog today. This Penguin community […]

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9. All About the Win

You were probably expecting a post today announcing the winner of GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE. But since I entered the wrong date on the Rafflecopter, there's still a few hours left to enter the contest. If you haven't already signed up to win, do it now. I'll be back tomorrow to let you know who won.

In the meantime, if you've been wanting to read a copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T, there are three copies up for grabs on two different websites. Somehow I lucked out and two different bloggers featured my book for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Sweet!

Sheri Larsen at Writer's Alley interviewed me and she's giving away a print book and an e-book. And the delightful Rosi Hollinbeck, a reviewer for the San Francisco Book Review, posted her review of WISH YOU WEREN'T on her blog, The Write Stuff, and she's giving away a print copy.

Thanks to both of them for their generous giveaways. Now it's all up to you. Go forth and win!

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10. All About the Win

You were probably expecting a post today announcing the winner of GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE. But since I entered the wrong date on the Rafflecopter, there’s still a few hours left to enter the contest. If you haven’t already signed up to win, do it now. I’ll be back tomorrow to let you know who won. In […]

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11. Grasshopper Giveaway

The 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature were recently announced. And the winner in the fiction category? Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.

I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy of this YA back in early February before the novel was released and I have to say, it was one of the strangest books I've ever read. Parts made me laugh out loud, and parts made me wonder what Andrew Smith was smoking when he came up with this plot. Six-foot-tall grasshoppers taking over the world? Yeah. Like I said...

But the backbone of the story – the relationship between Austin, his girlfriend and his best friend – make it a worthwhile read. Even if you do have to suspend your disbelief as an enormous grasshopper makes a meal out of the chemistry teacher. Or when you happen upon chapter titles like, "Never Look for Ice Cream in a Sperm Freezer."

You can read The Horn Book review here. But if you'd like to read this YA novel for yourself, I'm giving away my ARC. Fill out the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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12. Grasshopper Giveaway

The 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature were recently announced. And the winner in the fiction category? Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy of this YA back in early February before the novel was released and I have to say, it was […]

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13. Let’s Review – Goodreads or Point of Purchase?

I've been somewhat of a slacker recently on Goodreads, actually with reviews in general. I used to write reviews for books whether or not I liked them, but that took a lot of time. So I started only writing reviews for the books I loved. Then after hearing about the rise of fake reviews, I stopped reviewing all together.

But the thing is – fake review or real – I read reviews before I buy a book. And having my own book out there makes me realize how important it is to have those reviews from real readers. (I'm so grateful to every person that has ever written a review of my book, even if it wasn't a glowing review. I just appreciate their time first in reading, and second in writing the review.) So the question remains: how do you get legitimate reviews for a book without begging, bribing or otherwise paying for them? And where do people look for reviews? Goodreads? Amazon? Barnes & Noble? Or old-fashioned word of mouth?

 I love reading the reviews that come through my Goodreads feed, telling me what books my friends have read. (And if we aren't already friends over there, send me a friend request!) I have definitely read someone's review and then gone online to buy the book. But otherwise, I tend to just look at the reviews at whatever online portal I'm buying the book from.

What about you? Do you generally review books that you read? How much do reader reviews inform your purchases? And where do you go to find reviews?

And speaking of Goodreads, author friend Dawn Malone is giving away 10 copies of her new novel, Bingo Summer. Pop on over to enter for your chance to win!

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14. Let’s Review – Goodreads or Point of Purchase?

I’ve been somewhat of a slacker recently on Goodreads, actually with reviews in general. I used to write reviews for books whether or not I liked them, but that took a lot of time. So I started only writing reviews for the books I loved. Then after hearing about the rise of fake reviews, I […]

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15. The Little Book That Could


Almost two years ago I read a book that a friend loaned me, a book with a cover that fascinated me from the start. Written by R. J. Palacio, the book was called Wonder. The book had a good story, great characters – always important for me to keep reading. And even though I cried through most of the second half – not because it was sad, more because the story just touched me – I ended up really enjoying it.

The amazing thing is, a lot of editors didn't want to publish this book. They thought it would be a downer. Even the publisher who did pick it up, didn't have high hopes for it; they only did a small print run. But word of mouth has turned this little book into a bestseller and two years later, it's still topping the charts. 

If you're a writer, this story should give you hope. Hope that even a single title from an unknown author can catch on with readers and build on the strength of its merits. If you're a reader, I hope you'll continue to search for stories by unknown authors and give them a try. And maybe in the process, you'll find something wonderful.

Find more great posts for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog.

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16. The Little Book That Could

Almost two years ago I read a book that a friend loaned me, a book with a cover that fascinated me from the start. Written by R. J. Palacio, the book was called Wonder. The book had a good story, great characters – always important for me to keep reading. And even though I cried […]

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17. E-books for the Win

A big thanks goes out to Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Katie from Youth Literature Reviews for organizing last week's blog hop. I found a lot of blogs I'd never read before and discovered some new books as well. It was nice to meet so many new people who are interested in books for kids – the perfect way to celebrate Children's Book Week!

If you didn't win a copy of Wish You Weren't (names are on the image below), don't worry. I'm also doing an interview and giveaway over on Dianne Salerni's blog, In High Spirits. You can enter the Rafflecopter there for a chance to win one of two copies up for grabs.

Next week I'll have a book review for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. Until then, have a great week!

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18. Ebooks for the Win

A big thanks goes out to Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Katie from Youth Literature Reviews for organizing last week’s blog hop. I found a lot of blogs I’d never read before and discovered some new books as well. And thanks to everyone who stopped by this blog and commented. *waves* It was […]

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19. Review: The Eighth Day

It's a long drive from where I live in California to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, twenty-two hours to be exact. But I made good use of my time. During the trip I was able to start and finish an ARC that I won of THE EIGHTH DAY by Dianne K. Salerni. Five pages in and I was lost to the world. Stopping for dinner was a huge inconvenience. And did my family really need to interrupt to point out the snow / lake / mountains / wild animals we were passing? I think not. In fact, I was so engrossed in the book that I failed in my role as navigator and we ended up more than twenty miles off course before I looked up and realized what had happened. Needless to say, hubby might not be as big a fan of Dianne as I am :P

So what did I love about this book? For starters, the concept is cool: an extra day stuck in the middle of the week that only a few people know about. The problem lies with what certain people decide to do with all that extra time on their hands. By blending modern day situations with Arthurian legends and throwing in a few Dr. Who and Ancient Aliens references, Dianne has created something completely original. Filled with heart-pounding action and wonderful characters–people who grow on you even when you start out thinking you won't like them–this is the type of book that I finish reading and hand off immediately to my kids. If you have a chance to get an ARC, jump on it. Otherwise, look for it when it releases next month. You'll definitely want to add this to your TBR list.

As for the WISH YOU WEREN'T blog tour, there's plenty of fun stuff happening this week. Reviews, deleted scenes, 25 things you might not know about me, and of course, plenty of give aways. Here's where you'll find me around the blogs this week:

Book Dreaming: Shannon O'Donnell reviews Wish You Weren't.
Read This Instead: Kathy will be sharing a deleted scene from Wish You Weren't.
Me, My Shelf & I: 25 Things you may or may not know about me :)
Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile: Jessica will post a review of Wish You Weren't.

All of these sites will be giving away prize packs as well (printed copy of Wish You Weren't, astronaut ice cream and a wish token), so stop by and enter your name to win!

Of course, you can always get your very own copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T from these magnificent retailers. And when you buy the print version from Amazon, you get a free e-book download, too -- bonus!

Amazon   |  Kobo  |  B&N  |   Smashwords  |   Solvang Book Loft

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20. Total Eclipse of the Moon

redmoonTax day approaches – everyone's favorite day of the year. Tonight I plan to stay up past midnight and watch the day arrive. Not because I waited until the last minute to do my taxes (although there's that) but because tonight there will be a total lunar eclipse.

Most of North America will be able to see the eclipse and since the moon is close to full it should be pretty dramatic. Because of the timing of the eclipse, sunsets and sunrises in other parts of the world will make the moon look blood red. Kinda cool! If you have cloudy skies or too many city lights to see it, The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will broadcast the eclipse live starting at 9:45 p.m. PST.

This is also the last week of the blog tour for WISH YOU WEREN'T. Here are the planned stops.  

MONDAY
The Book Cellar: Erica posts an interview about my reading and writing habits.  
Books and Needlepoint: Kristi will post her review of Wish You Weren't.  

WEDNESDAY 
Book Loving Mom: Amy will post her review of Wish You Weren't.

I want to thank all of the bloggers who hosted me during this tour. Book bloggers are seriously the coolest people. They don't make money from this. They do it because they love books and I'm totally honored to have been part of so many awesome blogs.

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21. Eyes on the Stars

WishYouWerent-ShootingStarYou may have guessed, based on the topic of WISH YOU WEREN'T: I'm a fan of meteor showers. And as luck would have it, there's a good one tonight!

The Lyrid meteor shower is a bright one, which is good since the moon is still pretty big. The comets will look like they're coming from Vega (part of the Lyra constellation), but really, they're coming from the tail of the Comet Thatcher. (But Lyrid meteor shower sounds so much better than Thatcher meteor shower, don't you think?)

 The meteor shower will peak between midnight and sunrise and if you're in a remote area away from city lights, you should be able to see as many as 20 comets per hour. But if you miss it tonight, don't worry. They should be visible through the 25th of April. NASA also plans to do a livestream for people who are unable to see it where they live.

So will I be dragging my kids out to see the shooting stars tonight? Making wishes? What do you think ;-)

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22. Guess the Musician, Part Two!

Kelly Polark’s debut middle grade novel, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK  is out! Did you know that Kelly has seen over 100 bands live?!  If you missed GUESS THE BAND PART ONE, check it out here! Here are a few more pics of her and some cool musicians. Read the rhyme and guess the bands in the comments. Kelly will comment later today with the correct answers! Rock on!






1.  He played Noah Drake.
     Jessie's Girl brought him fame.
     He's done everything for you.
     ___________ ______________ 's his name.






2.   "Animal" was their first hit.
       Frontman sings it with ease.
      "Pop Psychology" was just released.
      This band is __________ __________.




3.  They are "Sorry" they're bad
     Singing "Crazy B..." and
     "Gluttony," "Lit Up."
     _______________ 's this band.


  

4.  He "Performs This Way."
     Makes us laugh without fail.
     He sings "Eat It" and "Yoda."
     You know it's _____________ ___________!





5. "Raise Your Glass" to this gal.
    "So What" doesn't stink.
    "Try" not to love her songs.
    This singer is ____________ !



You can say "HEY!" to Kelly at her blog, her celeb book recommendation site, on Facebook, and Twitter! She is also a picture book author. Check out ROCKABET, BIG SISTER, BABY BROTHER, and HOLD THE MUSTARD! Purchase ROCK 'N' ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK here!

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win some bookmarks and an ITunes gift card!
       


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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23. Author Spotlight on: Kendell Shaffer

I'm excited to introduce you today to a YA writer I met several years ago through an online class, Kendell Shaffer. A screenwriter, a teacher and most recently a radio show host (!), Kendell has combined her background in entertainment with her current hometown of Venice Beach, to create a novel that feels different from your typical angsty teen stories, totally raw and real.

Welcome, Kendell!

Let's start with the basics. How long did you work on this novel? How many versions did you go through?
I started writing the novel in the online writing class through mediabistro.com where we met! Once I finished it I did two more drafts then sent it to an editor, Winslow Eliot. The self-publishing part was fairly quick once the manuscript was ready. I had fun with the cover art. I found a girl with blonde dreadlocks, like Kalifornia, and did a photo shoot on Venice Beach. My husband designed the cover.

I love that Frances Bean was an inspiration for writing this story and I also love the relationship that Kal develops with her dad. Who were your rock star idols growing up?
When I was a teenager, hair bands were popular and I really didn't like those. I grew up in Baltimore and the summer before 10th grade a radio station in Washington DC, DC101, played only music from the 1960s the entire summer. So my best friend Virginia and I listened to that nonstop and I gained an education and love of the music from that decade. The funny thing was that the following school year we found the boys who had the done the same thing we had, so our first boyfriends were discovered because of the shared love of sixties music.

That's so cool that the radio station focused on the sixties for the summer. I know I've dated guys based on musical tastes in the past :-)

I like how you placed your characters in a lot of real locations around Venice, almost making the city another character in the story. What made you decide to set the story there?
I live in Venice and it's so vibrant and ever changing. It doesn't know if it wants to be a beach town or Rodeo Drive or Silicone Beach or all of those at once. It's restless and unpredictable, sort of like a teenager, so yes, Venice Beach is very much a character in KALIFORNIA BLU.

Yeah, anyone who has spent time in Venice knows what a crazy, fun place it is. My kids like going just to people watch. Do you plan to set additional novels there?
I'm working on a sequel to KALIFORNIA BLU. It will take Kal at first to Europe with her mom, but then she returns to Venice and all the characters we met in the first book.

As if writing books isn't fun enough, in your other life you're a screenwriter. How does writing a novel differ from writing a screenplay?
In novels you get to take the characters much further then you would in a screenplay. You can explore details in more subtle ways and you aren't limited to the number of characters you have or pages you write.You have much more room to play and don't have to limit yourself thinking about the reality of a budget and locations.

In addition to working on VFX on "Knight and Day," you've also worked as an associate producer on several films and television shows. Do you think that production background has helped you with the business side of self-publishing?
I am finding the ability to walk up to strangers and say, "I wrote a book, will you read it?" has been helped by my living and working in Los Angeles. You can't really be shy when you do that and I have learned to be able to talk to anyone while working as a producer. The organization skills help with self-publishing; the "I can do that" attitude helps too. In production and post production you are constantly given problems that need to be solved quickly and cost efficiently. So yes, all that helps.

It definitely helped with your book trailer. The production value on this is just amazing. It's one of my favorite book trailers EVER.


Just gorgeous! It makes me want to see a movie of KALIFORNIA BLUE. I think you might need to get working on that ;-)

So tell me – what do you think is tougher: the writing, the publishing or the marketing? Why?
The publishing is a piece of cake. CreateSpace has been remarkable and they have unbelievably good customer service. Writing is just a joy. But marketing is a challenge. You have good days when something great happens like an interview with you, Sherrie, but there is no direct route so it's challenging to navigate all the different directions you could take. Also it does take time away from writing. I have a radio show once a month called WriteSpa Teen where I interview YA authors so that helps with the marketing and it's really fun!

And you've gotten to interview some incredible authors like Amy Timberlake and Jane Yolen. I'm so impressed!

So what are you working on right now? What will your next book release be?
I'm working on a sequel to KALIFORNIA BLU which will come out at the end of the summer. And I started a middle grade reader about a boy ballet dancer called THE BUN TEST. Both my kids are in a serious Russian ballet program so I spend a lot of time in the dance studio. My eleven-year-old son is the only boy in a company of 60 girls. I thought that would make a good novel.

Love the title! My son did ballet for a very short time. I told him he should have stuck with it  because there will come a day when he appreciates being the only boy in the company of 60 girls!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Kendell. It's been great catching up with you!

You can find out more about Kendell and her projects (including the upcoming Japanese translation of her novel!) by visiting some of her virtual hangouts:

Website: http://kendellshaffer.com
YouTube: http://youtu.be/xHaiGnXCmvg
Instagram: http://instagram.com/kaliforniablu
Radio Show: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writespa
Buy the Book: http://www.amazon.com/Kalifornia-Blu-Kendell-Shaffer-ebook/dp/

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24. Children's Book Week Kid Lit Giveaway Hop



I'm so excited to be part of the Children's Book Week Kid Lit Giveaway Hop. Reading books with my kids has always been a special part of our time spent together. I hope WISH YOU WEREN'T will become one of those books that parents and kids enjoy reading together, that kids enjoy reading under the covers and that people enjoy enough to share with each other. Want to check it out for yourself? You can enter to win a copy below!


Marten doesn't believe in the power of wishes. None of his have ever come true. His parents ignore him, his little brother is a pain and his family is talking about moving to Texas. Not cool. So when he makes an impulsive wish during a meteor shower, he doesn't expect it to make any difference.

Until his annoying brother disappears.

With the present uncertain and his brother’s future in limbo, Marten finds himself stuck in his past. And if he runs out of time, even wishes might not be enough to save the ones he loves.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

KID LIT GIVEAWAY HOP EVENT DETAILS
Are you a children's book or teen literature blogger, an author, a publisher, or a publicist looking to share copies of a fabulous book?  Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews are joining forces to provide you with the opportunity to take part in the Children's Book Week Giveaway Hop 2014, featuring links to giveaways for fabulous children/teen's books, gift cards, cash, or other prizes.  What better way to celebrate Children's Book Week?

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25. Children’s Book Week Kid Lit Giveaway Hop

I’m so excited to be part of the Children’s Book Week Kid Lit Giveaway Hop. Reading books with my kids has always been a special part of our time spent together. I hope WISH YOU WEREN’T will become one of those books that parents and kids enjoy reading together, that kids enjoy reading under the […]

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