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1. Book Recommendation: Jeff VanderMeer’s WONDERBOOK

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Susan Dennard

WonderbookI’m a HUGE fan of books on writing. Like, I probably have an addiction and I know my husband would be REALLY happy if I’d throw out some of these gazillion craft books hogging up the basement…

Recently and sort of on a whim, I picked up Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. I am so, so, SO glad I did. Seriously guys, this is my new favorite book on writing craft. Not only does this book give beginners everything they need to know to start crafting stories, but it’s an incredibly helpful book for experienced writers too.

Here’s the trailer:

Not only does VanderMeer introduce some awesome concepts and prose possibilities that I’d never considered before, but he also shares tons of essays from other authors on how THEY do things.

Then there’s all the art to go along with it!! A few of the crazy diagrams left my Muse spinning in the best possible way. Like this Hero’s Journey as depicted with a Mexican Luchador:

Mexican-Wrestler-Mono-myth-VanderMeer-Zerfoss-Wonderbook-2013

On top of all the graphics, there’s an interactive website to go along with the text. SO. MUCH. INFORMATION. It took me weeks to get through this book, and I enjoyed/savored every sentence.

So watch the trailer below, read an excerpt or the web extras, and maybe pick a copy of your own. I promise: all artists can gain something from this fantastic guide.

Jeff VanderMeer is the author of more than 20 books and a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award. His books have made the year’s-best lists of Publishers Weekly, LA Weekly, the Washington Post, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many more. He is the cofounder and codirector of Shared Worlds, a unique writing camp for teenagers, and has taught at Clarion, the world’s premiere fantasy/sci-fi workshop for adults. VanderMeer is based in Tallahassee, Florida.

SusanDennardBefore she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan Dennard traveled the world as marine biologist. She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series (Tor, 2015), and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or practicing her tap dance shuffles. You can learn more about Susan on her blogTwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

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2. Blogging and Conversion – How to Get More Juice out of Your Efforts

I’m always reading marketing blogs and one of my favorites is HubSpot.com. In a recent post on ‘squeezing more conversions out of our blog,’ the author offered some interesting tips on doing this – four tips actually. 4 Blog Conversion Tips 1. Get a “subscriber banner” up on your website. I really like this idea because it’s immediately visible, front and center when someone lands on your

0 Comments on Blogging and Conversion – How to Get More Juice out of Your Efforts as of 9/1/2014 7:23:00 AM
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3. Meet Middle-Grade Author James Gordon...

I want to thank and welcome middle-grade author, James Gordon for sharing his personal writing journey with us on my blog today. His featured book, Hi, My Name is Bobo: A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader can be purchased from Amazon, and other on-line bookstores.

How long have you been writing, James?

I have been writing since 2007, published first book in 2009, The Confessional Heart of a Man.

 Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write Hi, My Name is Bobo: A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader?

A friend of mine mentioned to me that I had not written a book that his children could read. So I decided to take two weeks and write Hi, My Name is Bobo.

What sets Hi, My Name is Bobo: A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader apart from other books in the same genre?

Bobo is different because the main character is African American. Unlike most children's books, there isn't one central message. However, Bobo exemplifies the innocence and hopeful excitement that a young man should have when dealing with school, first love, etc.

 As a children’s author, what is your writing process?

Not much a process really. I do pull pictures and watch programs to put me in a youthful mindset.

How long did it take for you to start and finish Hi, My Name is Bobo: A Weekend in the Life of a 5thGrader?

It took two weeks to write, have edited, and complete Bobo.

Do you have any advice for other writers striving to write in your genre, James?

Make it special and real. Children and their parents need new adventures to go on. So write on....

What’s next for James Gordon the author?

I have a top secret project that I'm working on and will be released soon. 

Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?  

I would like to go back to various junctures in history when people were harmed and reverse those instances.

Bio: James Gordon is the award winning author of Hi My Name is Bobo (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th
Grader). He hails from Chicago Illinois. As G.P.A.(Greatest Poet Alive), he has written five other books of Poetry. James can be seen in the movies (Persian Version and Animals) and TV (Chicago Fire and Chicago PD). He can be found on Twitter at gr8estpoetalive.

Buy link:


Connect with James on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HimynameisBobo

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4. Audio Books: Listen to This!


eBook Sale: August 26-31 only $0.99/regular $5.99

Available at these eBook stores Mims House eBookStore Nook Kindle Kobo iBookstore

AUDIO BOOK (Unabridged): Now Available!

Available at these Audio Book stores iTunes Store Amazon Audible

According to the Wall Street Journal, audio books have “ballooned into a $1.2 billion industry, up from $480 million in retail sales in 1997. Unit sales of downloaded audio books grew by nearly 30% in 2011 compared with 2010, according to the Audio Publishers Association.” Some reasons include the ease of listening on smart phones, lower prices, and a growing audience of people who prefer audio books.

I’ve always loved audio books, and in fact, I almost always have one going in my car. That’s why I’m thrilled with my news today that three of my titles are now audio books, with three more coming this fall. If you have audio rights to your books, you can also do this through ACX. They provide a platform for you to audition narrators, who will then produce the book. They are all for sale on iTunes, Audible and Amazon. At the time of this writing, Kell, the Alien is on sale at Audible for only $1.99.

The Girl, the Gypsy and the Gargoyle

Paula Bodin

Paula Bodin, actress and narrator of THE GIRL, THE GYPSY AND THE GARGOYLE.

The narrator, Paula Bodin, created multiple voices for this exciting version of the story.

Paula Bodin is an actress and producer in LA who adores the SciFi/Fantasy genre. She’s voiced multiple characters in shows like Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Monster High and Ever After High, brought Lady Door to life in the West Coast Premiere of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and is in numerous film/tv/web productions, including playing Wendy in The New Adventures of Peter & Wendy.

Paula says, “I hope you enjoy listening to this book as much as I enjoyed reading it!”



GGG-ACXCover
Buy the AudioBook

Listen to a Sample


Saucy and Bubba: A Hansel and Gretel Tale

Audio Book Narrator, Monica Clark-Robinson

Audio Book Narrator, Monica Clark-Robinson

Monica Clark-Robinson is a writer, actor, and voice-over artist living in Little Rock, Arkansas. She holds an MFA in Theatre from Michigan State University. Monica has acted locally for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, and Murry’s Dinner Playhouse. She also writes for kids and teens, and was a finalist in the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Karlin Picture book award competition. Monica has published a cookbook, titled “Vegan Kids Unite,” and she is a speech writer for local and national professionals. She also works as a voice-over talent for local audio production companies. In her “spare time,” she enjoys gardening, reading, and just hanging with her two awesome daughters and her handsome husband.

S&B Audio250x250-150
Buy the Audio Book

Listen to a Sample Audio


Kell, the Alien

Josiah Bildner, audio narrator of the ALIENS, INC. series.

Josiah Bildner, audio narrator of the ALIENS, INC. series.


Josiah Bildner has been performing in theatrical performances since he was 10 when he played Bob Cratchit’s son in Dickens A Christmas Carol. He starred as the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz and Geppetto in Pinnochio in high school and received a drama scholarship at the University of Northern Iowa. After graduation Josiah worked as a director and audio/visual engineer at the NBC affiliate KWWL channel 7 in Waterloo Iowa. Josiah is also a storyteller at a children’s Education Through Music camp and during the school year he is a speech language pathologist. Josiah currently uses all those talents in the wonderful world of voice over. He can be heard voicing many audiobooks, from children’s sci-fi to adult horror, biographies of musical celebrities like Emil Richards and George Harrison to spiritual journeys of Buddhism and Judaism. Josiah Bildner loves voice over because it is the best of all worlds!

Aliens1-250x250-150Buy the AudioBook (Unabridged)

Listen to a Sample


Do you like audio books? How often do you listen to them?

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5. Stop and search, and the UK police

The recent announcement made jointly by the Home Office and College of Policing is a vacuous document that will do little or nothing to change police practice or promote better police-public relations.

Let us be clear: objections to police stop and search is not just a little local difficulty, experienced solely in this country. Similar powers are felt to be just as discriminatory throughout North America where it is regarded as tantamount to an offence of ‘driving whilst black’ (DWB). This and other cross-national similarities persist despite differences in the statutory powers upon which the police rely. It would, therefore, seem essential to ask whether differences in legislation or policy have proven more or less effective in different jurisdictions. Needless to say, absolutely no evidence of experience elsewhere is to be found in this latest Home Office document. Instead, to assuage the concerns of the Home Secretary, more meaningless paperwork will be created.

One reason why evidence seems to be regarded as unnecessary is the commonplace assumption that ‘everyone knows’ why minorities experience disproportionate levels of stop and search: namely that officers rely not upon professional judgement, but upon prejudice, when exercising this power. Enticing though such an assumption is, it has serious weaknesses. As Professor Marion Fitzgerald discovered, when officers are deciding who to stop and search entirely autonomously, they act less disproportionately than when acting on specific information, such as a description.

Research that I and Kevin Stenson conducted in the early 2000s also found that the profile of those stopped and searched very largely corresponded to the so-called ‘available population’ of people out and about in public places at the times when stop and search is most prevalent. This is not to say that these stops and searches were conducted either lawfully or properly. Indeed, a former Detective Chief Superintendent interviewed a sample of 60 officers about their most recent stops and searches as part of this research. What he found was quite alarming, for in around a third of cases the accounts that officers freely gave about the circumstances of these 128 stops and searches could not convince any of us that they were lawful. There was also a woeful lack of knowledge amongst these officers about the statutory basis for the powers upon which officers were relying.

Uk police officer watches traffic at roadside. © RussDuparcq  via iStock.
UK police officer watches traffic at roadside. © RussDuparcq via iStock.

If officers were much better informed about their powers, then perhaps the experience of stop and search may be less disagreeable — it is unlikely ever to be welcomed — than it often is. Paragraph 1.5 of the Code of Practice governing how police stop and search states:

1.5   An officer must not search a person, even with his or her consent, where no power to search is applicable. Even where a person is prepared to submit to a search voluntarily, the person must not be searched unless the necessary legal power exists, and the search must be in accordance with the relevant power and the provisions of this Code.

The implication of this is quite clear: police may stop and search someone with their consent, but may not use such consent as a means of subverting the requirements under which the search would be lawful. Yet, so few officers seem even to be aware of this and conduct stop and search solely on the basis of their formal powers. I believe they do this as a ‘shield’; they imagine that if they go through the formal motions then no one can object to the lawfulness of the search. But they do object and do so most valuably, which gravely damages the public reputation of the police.

Research evidence aplenty confirms that it is not the possession of this power by the police that irks even those who are most at risk of stop and search. What they really object to is the manner in which the stop and search is conducted. A more consensual approach by police officers might just make the use of this power just a little more palatable.

The post Stop and search, and the UK police appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Happy Labor Day!

I hope everyone had an amazing summer! Now it’s back to school, work, and, hopefully, working on your manuscripts! May the second half of 2014 bring you many creative breakthroughs and challenges. If there’s ever anything I can do in an editorial capacity, please check out my freelance editing and consulting website. Now get out there and wear some white! Or whatever it is that people do on Labor Day…

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7. Setting up the reading journal for a year of writing about reading

Ever since I began teaching, my students’ reading journals have been as much “the gateway to all the work we will be doing from September to June” (to borrow a phrase from a… Continue reading

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8. SIX Giveaways plus New YALit Releases 9/1-9/7

Happy Labor Day! We hope you all are enjoying your three day weekend. Were you able to squeeze in any extra reading time?

We have SIX giveaways for you this week! Plus our regular round-up of all the new YA releases coming up this week.

Enjoy and happy reading!

All best,

Martina, Alyssa, Katharyn, Jan, Lisa, and Clara


YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS THIS WEEK



The Dolls
by Kiki Sullivan
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
Balzer + Bray; Original edition
Released 9/2/2014

Eveny Cheval just moved back to Louisiana after spending her childhood in New York with her aunt Bea. Eveny hasn’t seen her hometown since her mother’s suicide fourteen years ago, and her memories couldn’t have prepared her for what she encounters. Because pristine, perfectly manicured Carrefour has a dark side full of intrigue, betrayal, and lies—and Eveny quickly finds herself at the center of it all.

Enter Peregrine Marceau, Chloe St. Pierre, and their group of rich, sexy friends known as the Dolls. From sipping champagne at lunch to hooking up with the hottest boys, Peregrine and Chloe have everything—including an explanation for what’s going on in Carrefour. And Eveny doesn’t trust them one bit.

But after murder strikes and Eveny discovers that everything she believes about herself, her family, and her life is a lie, she must turn to the Dolls for answers. Something’s wrong in paradise, and it’s up to Eveny, Chloe, and Peregrine to save Carrefour and make it right.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Dolls?

I first began writing THE DOLLS in early 2012, and of course I’m working on the sequel now, so basically, I’ve been living with Eveny (my main character) and her sister queens Peregrine and Chloe for quite a while. In fact, I’ve been so busy over the last month or so with the revision of the sequel that my real-life friends would probably tell you I’ve been a better friend to Eveny, Peregrine and Chloe than I’ve been to them!

As a writer, it can be tough to choose a favorite thing about your book, because over the course of writing and editing it, you fall in love (and sometimes in hate!) with so many elements. And now that I’ve written the second book, one of the things I love most is how the main characters are growing and becoming more comfortable in their own skin. Isn’t that a part of growing up for all of us (even those of us who don’t have magical powers)?

If I had to choose a few things I especially love about the first book in the series, I’d probably say:
1. Carrefour, the magical, mysterious walled town where most of the book takes place: It was fun to lay the town out and create its rules!
2. Peregrine’s wardrobe: Part of being a Doll is dressing the part. Let’s just say that I would expect to find Peregrine wearing the shoes on the cover (which I’ll get to in a moment) as well as lots of other items I could never dream of affording. She, Chloe and their mothers are basically lifted from the pages of the latest issue of Vogue. I love clothes and shoes, and although I realize this is a little weird, I’m super-jealous of my characters because they get to wear the things I’m lusting after!
3. Eveny: I love a good fish-out-of-water story, and that’s exactly how THE DOLLS begins. Eveny returns to the town she left when she was just three, and immediately, she realizes she’s completely out of step with all of the weirdness taking place there. Over the course of the book, she begins to understand what’s happening – and what her role in everything is – and I truly loved following her through this journey. She has a wonderful heart and the best of intentions.
4. Caleb: Is it weird that I have a crush on a fictional character I created? Don’t tell my husband (who is very crush-worthy too). Honestly, I wish I’d had more time in THE DOLLS to introduce you to Caleb, because seriously, I loooooove him. Some of his character development was cut out in the editing process, which makes me think I need to write a novella or short story focusing on him at some point. Or maybe that’s just my crush speaking. I was so inspired by Caleb, in fact, that I even co-wrote a song from his perspective. You can hear the first 90 seconds by going to KikiSullivan.com. The song automatically plays on everything but mobile devices.

Oh, and finally, I’m absolutely in love with the cover. From the font to the amazing, gorgeous shoes, I adore every inch of it. I even found shoes that essentially match! (See photo.)

It’s also important to note that THE DOLLS developed in a really interesting way. Nick Harris from The Story Foundation, a books-to-film company, was very involved in the genesis of the idea, and now he’s working with some heavy hitters to hopefully make it into a television show. So I look forward to seeing what they’re able to do with it. I would love to see Eveny, Peregrine, Chloe, Caleb, Drew and the whole gang on the small screen!


Purchase The Dolls at Amazon
Purchase The Dolls at IndieBound
View The Dolls on Goodreads

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The Winter People
by Rebekah L Purdy
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
Entangled: Teen
Released 9/2/2014

An engrossing, complex, romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore or Maggie Stiefvater, set in a wholly unique world.

Salome Montgomery fears winter—the cold, the snow, the ice, but most of all, the frozen pond she fell through as a child. Haunted by the voices and images of the strange beings that pulled her to safety, she hasn't forgotten their warning to "stay away." For eleven years, she has avoided the winter woods, the pond, and the darkness that lurks nearby. But when failing health takes her grandparents to Arizona, she is left in charge of maintaining their estate. This includes the "special gifts" that must be left at the back of the property.? ?

Salome discovers she’s a key player in a world she’s tried for years to avoid. At the center of this world is the strange and beautiful Nevin, who she finds trespassing on her family’s property. Cursed with dark secrets and knowledge of the creatures in the woods, his interactions with Salome take her life in a new direction. A direction where she'll have to decide between her longtime crush Colton, who could cure her fear of winter. Or Nevin who, along with an appointed bodyguard, Gareth, protects her from the darkness that swirls in the snowy backdrop. An evil that, given the chance, will kill her.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Winter People?

My favorite thing about The Winter People is the magical backdrop as well as the fact that my main character is far from normal. She has a debilitating fear of snow/winter. So much so that she can’t always function the way a normal person would. I like that she’s imperfect and has to work through facing winter every time it rolls around. Because of this quirk, she doesn’t have a lot of friends (due to mini-freak outs etc) so she’s got only a few people she trusts, most of which are family and her BFF (the only ones to survive her winter related freak outs).
Toss into the mix the strange beings and creatures in the woods that only she can see, she believes she’s crazy—especially when she hears voices that no one else can. Some of them kind, some more sinister.


Purchase The Winter People at Amazon
Purchase The Winter People at IndieBound
View The Winter People on Goodreads



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Always a Catch
by Peter Richmond
Hardcover Giveaway
Philomel
Released 9/4/2014

A ripped-from-the-headlines story about teens and steroids.

From a New York Times bestselling sports writer comes the story of one boy's quest to stay true to himself without letting down his team. Jack and his father have never seen eye to eye…until Jack’s dad gives him the chance to transfer to Oakhurst his junior year. His dad sees it as a way for Jack to get into a good college; Jack sees it as refuge from his dad.

Oakhurst is more than an escape—it's a chance for Jack to do something new, to try out for the football team. Once Jack makes the team, he’s thrust into a foreign world—one of intense hazing, vitamin supplements, monkey hormones and steroids. Jack has to decide how far he's willing to go to fit in—and how much he's willing to compromise himself to be the man his team wants him to be.

Perfect for fans of Mike Lupica and Tim Green.

Praise for ALWAYS A CATCH:

"Richmond has written an above-average story that will appeal to fans of the genre and authors, such as Mike Lupica and Tim Green."--School Library Journal

"
A dynamic but thoughtful novel of self-discovery."--Kirkus Reviews

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Always a Catch?

My favorite thing about Always a Catch? That I seem to have captured what it is to be a 16-year-old boy who is "coming of age" -- and being pulled in lots of directions with some accuracy -- judging from various responses, including a freshman college class in my YA Lit course. I knew from the start that I could have chosen a more plot-driven tale (and I'm pretty proud of the plot, which took more twists and turns over the last few years than a kite in a tornado). But I decided to take on a story where I was inside the head of an "average" adolescent: not a star, not a loser; just an average guy. And re-reading, I think that I managed to pull it off. I think I conjured up what it is to be in the midst of the turmoil of teenland...and grow up by making the right choices.

Purchase Always a Catch at Amazon
Purchase Always a Catch at IndieBound
View Always a Catch on Goodreads

* * * *


Don't Touch
by Rachel M. Wilson
Hardcover Giveaway
HarperTeen
Released 9/2/2014

Step on a crack, break your mother's back,
Touch another person's skin, and Dad's gone for good . . .

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it's never been this bad before.

When her parents split up, Don't touch becomes Caddie's mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person's skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn't make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama's humidity, she's covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that's where things get tricky. Even though Caddie's the new girl, it's hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who's auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she'll have to touch Peter . . . and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.

From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we'll let them in.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Don't Touch?

The friendships. Mandy and Peter and their entire group of friends were so much fun to write, and I have such a feeling of kinship with all of them. They aren’t based on individual people I’ve known, but as a group, they have the spirit of the circles of friends I’ve been blessed to belong to over the years. When I was writing the group scenes, they all kept asserting themselves, saying funny things, and I felt less like a writer and more like a spy scribbling everything down. As a teen, I always connected with individuals more easily than with groups—I can divide my young life into sections by who my “person” was at any given time. But over time, I found my tribe—tribes, really. Theater always helps to create a sense of community, so that’s been the source of many of my most amazing friend groups—but I’ve also lived in a co-op, traveled with friends, and enjoyed to the summer-camp-feeling community at Vermont College of Fine Arts. For Caddie at the beginning of the book, truly belonging to a tribe like Mandy and Peter’s seems impossible, so for me that journey toward belonging is at the heart of the book.


Purchase Don't Touch at Amazon
Purchase Don't Touch at IndieBound
View Don't Touch on Goodreads

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The Jewel
by Amy Ewing
Hardcover Giveaway
HarperTeen
Released 9/2/2014

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Jewel?

Wow, what a tough question! I really love that THE JEWEL features a female dominated society. That was one of the most fun things to explore. The concept of women buying other women is just so intriguing. The ability to bear children is one of the fundamental differences between women and men. And I wanted to explore the concept of women controlling other women in that area because it just seems so wrong—shouldn’t we be kinder to our own gender? Shouldn’t we understand each other, be compassionate?

I wrote a female dominated society to show the dark sides of humanity too, the dangers of power and fear and oppression. These qualities are not gender specific. Choice is such an important theme in THE JEWEL because I think the idea that someone could legislate what I can and cannot do with my body has always been a fear. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where I know I would have been supported in any decision I made regarding my body—even such trivial things as piercings or tattoos. But that isn’t the case for many women and it sickens me to see the government and society revert back to archaic views on women’s issues. Terms like “legitimate rape” and mandatory ultrasounds before getting an abortion are society’s way of saying, “We know better than you.” Everyone should have the freedom to choose, especially when it comes to their own bodies.

But on a completely frivolous side note, I love the glamour and luxury of THE JEWEL. I had so much fun researching palaces and ball gowns, and creating sumptuous menus. What can I say, I’m a sucker for lavish party scenes!


Purchase The Jewel at Amazon
Purchase The Jewel at IndieBound
View The Jewel on Goodreads

* * * *


The Social Media Experiment
by Cole Gibsen
Hardcover Giveaway
Entangled: Teen
Released 9/24/2014

On the surface, seventeen-year-old Reagan Fray appears to have everything. She's popular, Ivy League–bound, and her parents are rich enough to buy her whatever she wants. Behind the scenes, Reagan is a girl with an anxiety disorder struggling to hold the fraying threads of her life together. It takes work to stay on top, and when that fails, Reagan's learned from her politician mother that a little social espionage never hurts. That is, until the day Reagan finds all of her texts and private messages printed out and taped to every locker in her high school.

Finding herself ostracized from her friends and on the receiving end of the bullying she used to dish out, Reagan won't settle into her new role as social pariah without a fight. Determined to get back in with her friends and reclaim her social status before her mother finds out and sends her to boarding school, Reagan has no choice but to team up with outcast Nolan Letner.

But the closer Reagan gets to Nolan, the more she realizes all of her actions have consequences, and her future might be the biggest casualty of all.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Social Media Experiment?

Honestly, that's a really hard question for me to answer. In order to write
TSME I had to delve into my own past with anxiety and bullying. As a result
of having painful memories resurface, my anxiety levels increased resulting
in panic attacks and a trip to the emergency room. I've never had a book put
me in the hospital, but again, I've never had to dig so deep inside myself
before. I guess my favorite thing about this book was coming to terms with
my own demons while laying them out on the page.


Purchase The Social Media Experiment at Amazon
Purchase The Social Media Experiment at IndieBound
View The Social Media Experiment on Goodreads


YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS LAST WEEK: WINNERS


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Beauty of the Broken
by Tawni Waters
Hardcover
Simon Pulse
Released 9/30/2014

Winner - Kathy Lynn

In this lyrical, heartwrenching story about a forbidden first love, a teen seeks the courage to care for another girl despite her small town’s bigotry and her father’s violent threats.

Growing up in conservative small-town New Mexico, fifteen-year-old Mara was never given the choice to be different. Her parents—an abusive, close-minded father and a detached alcoholic mother—raised Mara to be like all the other girls in Barnaby: God-fearing, churchgoing, and straight. Mara wants nothing to do with any of it. She feels most at home with her best friend and older brother, Iggy, but Iggy hasn’t been the same since their father beat him and put him in the hospital with a concussion.

As Mara’s mother feeds her denial with bourbon and Iggy struggles with his own demons, Mara finds an escape with her classmate Xylia. A San Francisco transplant, Xylia is everything Mara dreams of being: free-spirited, open, wild. The closer Mara and Xylia become, the more Mara feels for her—even though their growing relationship is very much forbidden in Barnaby. Just as Mara begins to live a life she’s only imagined, the girls’ secret is threatened with exposure and Mara’s world is thrown into chaos.

Mara knows she can't live without Xylia, but can she live with an entire town who believes she is an abomination worse than the gravest sin?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Beauty of the Broken?

I’m deeply in love with the characters, at least the good ones. I resent the bad ones in a wholehearted, obsessive sort of way that may be unhealthy. I hope the characters are as rich and alive for readers as they are for me.

Mara is one of those characters that felt like she “came” to me, rather than like I invented her. I sat down to write one day and did this thing I often do as an exercise, which is to say, “Anyone who wants to talk to me, start talking,” and then write the first words that come into my head. Whether this is an exercise in spirituality, insanity, or the power of suggestion is anyone’s guess. All I know is that it works for me. Words always leap into my head when I prompt myself like this.

That day, I heard, “Momma and Willy Macyntire made Iggy in a barn.” I wrote it down, and more words came. Within a couple of hours, I had this beautiful, broken character and twenty pages that would eventually become the outline for Beauty of the Broken. With this novel, I’ve always felt like the characters were writing the novel, and I was transcribing their story for them. I was as surprised by the events of the book as any reader. I had no idea what was going to happen next.

Early readers of Beauty of the Broken have been furious with me about the death of one of the characters. “You traumatized me,” they say, and I can only say that I traumatized myself too. Every time I read that book, I die a little.

I don’t know. Maybe I just refuse to take responsibility for my actions. I feel this perhaps alarming lack of culpability for the way the book turned out. I think I’ll get a T-shirt that says, “Don’t blame me. I just wrote it.”


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Can't Look Away
by Donna Cooner
Hardcover
Point
Released 8/26/2014

Winner - Michelle Taylor

Donna Cooner establishes herself as our own Jodi Picoult in this timely tale of sisters, loss, and redemption.

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident -- maybe because of Torrey and her videos -- Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey's internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Can't Look Away?

My favorite part in writing CAN’T LOOK AWAY was exploring the interaction between memory and grief. When I started writing this book, my mother had just passed away after a long illness. I missed her so much. Every day was filled with memory triggers embedded in smells and sounds. It was intensely bittersweet. On one hand, I was so grateful for the wonderful memories of such a funny, loving woman. At the same time, I was also painfully realizing the huge loss of her in my life. Creating the sisters in CAN’T LOOK AWAY was a way to express that grieving process and to share hope with those who have experienced loss.
I also had a great deal of fun immersing myself in the world of teen beauty vloggers. I watched tons of make-up tutorials and even tried some of them out. Unfortunately, I’m still working on my “Smokey Eye Look.” Mine sort of looks like a “Black Smudged Eye Look.” Even though my makeup skills did not improve, I did gain a huge respect for these talented teens. They put themselves on the internet every day to deliver creative content to thousands of viewers and to hear the constant comments. From my small glimpse into internet buzz, that takes a lot of courage.


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Feral
by Holly Schindler
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 8/26/2014

Winner - Stephanie Fredrick

The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Feral?

That it’s a bit unusual, in terms of genre. It’s a classic psychological thriller, which we don’t see all that often anymore, especially at the box office. Like all psychological thrillers, FERAL incorporates elements of other genres: mystery, horror, even paranormal, but the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller / action. The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). Essentially, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that includes the wintry Ozarks setting. The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and here is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state). The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (also a frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley. Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche. Ultimately, FERAL is a book about the frightening aspect of dealing with the aftermath of a violent act.

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Six Feet Over It
by Jennifer Longo
Hardcover
Random House Books for Young Readers
Released 8/26/2014

Winner - Nora Geer

Home is where the bodies are buried.

Darkly humorous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Jennifer Longo’s YA debut about a girl stuck living in a cemetery will change the way you look at life, death, and love.

Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:

Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.

At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).

Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Six Feet Over It?

The dialogue. Dialogue is my very favorite part of writing prose. I love listening to people talk in public, word choice and speech patterns and how groups of people tend to subconsciously mirror one another's speaking habits. My education background is in playwriting and acting, which are essentially both studies in dialogue, in listening and responding. As I worked on the book I would write a conversation and sit there alone laughing or feeling lonely or loved depending on the words the characters were saying to one another. The dialogue in SFOI is the part of the writing I'm most proud of, I think.

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MORE YOUNG ADULT FICTION IN STORES NEXT WEEK WITH AUTHOR INTERVIEWS


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Girl Defective
by Simmone Howell
Hardcover
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Released 9/2/2014

In the tradition of High Fidelity and Empire Records, this is the literary soundtrack to Skylark Martin’s strange, mysterious, and extraordinary summer.

This is the story of a wild girl and a ghost girl; a boy who knew nothing and a boy who thought he knew everything.

It’s a story about Skylark Martin, who lives with her father and brother in a vintage record shop and is trying to find her place in the world. It’s about ten-year-old Super Agent Gully and his case of a lifetime. And about beautiful, reckless, sharp-as-knives Nancy. It’s about tragi-hot Luke, and just-plain-tragic Mia Casey. It’s about the dark underbelly of a curious neighborhood. It’s about summer, and weirdness, and mystery, and music.

And it’s about life and death and grief and romance. All the good stuff.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Girl Defective?

My favourite thing in Girl Defective is the character of Gully. He very nearly took over the book. Gully considers himself a detective and writes memos detailing his investigations of neighborhood crimes (sometimes real, sometimes perceived). Gully is inspired by my young son who is a collector and a documenter and always tells the truth. He also makes me laugh every day.


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The Summoning
by Hillary Monahan
Hardcover
Disney-Hyperion
Released 9/2/2014

There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.

Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them--Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna--must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.

A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: "Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY." A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror.

Once is not enough, though--at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary's wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered.

A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary--and Jess--before it's too late?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Summoning?

The memories that inspired me to write it, probably. My town had a local spin on Bloody Mary. The Howard School (picture attached) burned down in 1949. While there were no casualties, the kids rewrote history to say a girl named Mary Jane died in the blaze, accidentally locked in an upstairs bathroom. To summon her spirit, you went into a darkened bathroom and said, "I believe in you Mary Jane and your golden blood." She's supposedly appear in the glass and maybe scratch your face. We all tried it and all swore we saw something flickering in the glass. Because, you know, kids.
Funny aside--I went on a camping trip with the Girl Scouts later that year. Someone went to all the cabins and wrote MARY JANE in soap on the screen windows. That was it—full-on panic. Some kids were so scared that Mary Jane was going to come out of the woods to get them, they asked to go home. It didn't help that one of the camp counsellors told us that four matching anything meant Mary Jane was near, so anytime we saw four vaguely-similar things clustered together, we grew convinced we were going to die. It took the camp's OWNER coming out to tell us that Mary Jane was only a story to calm us down.
I think I was twelve or thirteen when that happened? And my biggest takeaway from the whole experience was exactly how contagious fear could be.


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MORE YOUNG ADULT NOVELS NEW IN STORES NEXT WEEK


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100 Sideways Miles
by Andrew Smith
Hardcover
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 9/2/2014

Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

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A New Darkness
by Joseph Delaney
Hardcover
Greenwillow Books
Released 9/2/2014

A chilling new trilogy from the author of the internationally bestselling The Last Apprentice series! Tom Ward is an apprentice no longer—now he is a fully fledged spook battling boggarts, witches, and other creatures of the dark. This three-book arc will introduce brand-new readers to Joseph Delaney’s haunting world, and delight longtime fans.

Tom Ward is the spook, the one person who can defend the county from ghosts, ghasts, boggarts, witches, and other bloodthirsty creatures of the dark. But he’s only seventeen, and his apprenticeship was cut short when his master died in battle. No one trusts Tom’s skill, not till he’s proven himself. And a fifteen-year-old girl named Jenny knows more about the three mysterious deaths in the county than Tom does. She is a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and she wants to be Tom’s first apprentice—even though a female spook is unheard of. Together, Tom and Jenny will uncover the grave danger heading straight toward the county, and they’ll team up with a witch assassin to confront it.

A New Darkness begins a three-book series that will introduce new readers to Joseph Delaney’s deliciously scary imagination and delight his longtime fans. A New Darkness is perfect for every reader who loves thrills, chills, action, and adventure-no prior knowledge of the Last Apprentice series necessary!

The Last Apprentice series, the first internationally bestselling series about Tom Ward, is soon to be a major motion picture, Seventh Son, starring Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Olivia Williams, Antje Traue, Djimon Hounsou, and Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin.

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Anatomy of a Misfit
by Andrea Portes
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 9/2/2014

This emotional, hilarious, devastating, and ultimately triumphant YA debut, based on actual events, recounts one girl’s rejection of her high school’s hierarchy—and her discovery of her true self in the face of tragedy.

Fall’s buzzed-about, in-house favorite. Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?

Anatomy of a Misfit is Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Anika’s hilariously deadpan delivery will appeal to readers for its honesty and depth. The so-sad-it’s-funny high school setting will pull readers in, but when the story’s dark foreboding gradually takes over, the devastating penultimate tragedy hits like a punch to the gut. Readers will ride the highs and lows alongside funny, flawed Anika—from laughter to tears, and everything in between.

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Feuds
by Avery Hastings
Hardcover
St. Martin's Griffin
Released 9/2/2014

In this breathless story of impossible love, perfection comes at a deadly cost.

For Davis Morrow, perfection is a daily reality. Like all Priors, Davis has spent her whole life primed to be smarter, stronger, and more graceful than the lowly Imperfects, or “Imps.” A fiercely ambitious ballerina, Davis is only a few weeks away from qualifying for the Olympiads and finally living up to her mother’s legacy when she meets Cole, a mysterious boy who leaves her with more questions each time he disappears.

Davis has no idea that Cole has his own agenda, or that he’s a rising star in the FEUDS, an underground fighting ring where Priors gamble on Imps. Cole has every reason to hate Davis—her father’s campaign hinges on the total segregation of the Imps and Priors—but despite his best efforts, Cole finds himself as drawn to Davis as she is to him.

Then Narxis, a deadly virus, takes its hold--and Davis’s friends start dying. When the Priors refuse to acknowledge the epidemic, Davis has no one to turn to but Cole. Falling in love was never part of their plan, but their love may be the only thing that can save her world...in Avery Hastings's Feuds.


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Heir of Fire
by Sarah J Maas
Hardcover
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Released 9/2/2014

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

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Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper
by Elizabeth Kiem
Hardcover
Soho Teen
Released 9/2/2014

Lana travels to New York City, on tour dancing with the world famous Bolshoi Ballet in this thrilling follow up to Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy.

Lana Dukovskaya has spent her life in her mother, Marina’s, shadow, and nowhere more so than at Russia’s world-famous Bolshoi ballet, where Marina danced years ago. But when Daniela, Lana’s friend and chief rival, is brutally attacked on the eve of a New York tour, Lana is given her coveted solo—an unlikely stroke of luck that makes Lana the chief suspect in the attack.

Once in New York, Lana meets Georgi Levshik, a powerful Russian émigré who claims to know the truth about Marina's past. She’s torn between her distrust of Levshik's offered patronage and her need for answers. But when another young dancer is struck down on the day of her debut, Lana becomes the prime suspect in not one, but two attacks.

On the run and still in the dark, Lana puts her trust in Levshik's alluring young bodyguard, Roma. Together they must uncover the truth about a Bolshoi blood feud involving three generations of Dukovskaya dancers.

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Practice Makes Perfect
by Melanie Spring
Paperback
Poppy
Released 9/2/2014

Behind every squad, there's a story.
It's spring semester at Northside High and the girls of the JV cheer squad are trying out for next fall. The pressure is on as Chloe, Devin, Kate, and Emily practice Varsity-level stunts amidst the drama of best friends, boyfriends, and frenemies. When jealousy and competition threaten to tear these besties apart, can the girls band together to dominate at tryouts?

Book 3 in the Varsity series has more best-friend drama, boy trouble, and, of course, sideline spirit!

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Puppy Love
by A. Desitny and Catherine Hapka
Hardcover
Simon Pulse
Released 9/2/2014

First crush, first love, first kiss—in this addition to the sweet and clean Flirt series, Lauren gets a lesson in love when she takes her new puppy to training classes.

Fifteen-year-old Lauren has always loved dogs, but could never have one of her own until her highly allergic older sister went to college. Now she has her very own puppy, and she’s head over heels…until the cute little monster starts chewing everything in sight and barking loud enough to drive the whole family crazy!

So it’s off to puppy kindergarten they go. There, Lauren quickly falls for the dog trainer, a seventeen-year-old dog whisperer with a hot accent.

But is he really the one for her…or would she be better matched with Jamal, a fellow fumbling owner her own age with an unruly mutt?

Will Lauren graduate from puppy kindergarten with a just a well-trained pup? Or will she have a new boyfriend by her side?

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Sealed with a Lie
by Kat Carlton
Hardcover
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 9/2/2014

In this sequel to the romantic spy-thriller Two Lies and a Spy, Kari must race the clock on a mission to save her little brother.

Kari Andrews thought life was going to get easier. She was wrong. Following the events of Two Lies and a Spy, she and her brother, Charlie, are left to cope with the aftermath while also adapting to a new school—in another country. And then Charlie disappears.

With her brother’s life hanging in the balance, Kari, Evan, Rita, Kale, and some new friends from Generation Interpol (G.I.) are on a race around Europe at the bidding of a voice on a phone. The voice tells them that they need to jailbreak a thief—a flirtatious, hot thief—steal something from a high-security bio lab, and deliver the goods during what’s sure to be a double-cross exchange. Can they succeed before Charlie pays the ultimate price?

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Shattered
by Marianne Mancusi
Hardcover
Sourcebooks Fire
Released 9/2/2014


A girl at the end of the world.

Two brothers fighting for opposite sides.

And a dragon who can save them all...

Or set the world on fire.



Trinity's world changed forever the day she stole Emmy's egg. Now she's on the run with the last living dragon and twin brothers from a war-torn future. Connor may have betrayed his mission to kill Emmy, but he'll do whatever it takes to prevent the coming dragon apocalypse. Coddling a temperamental dragon on its way to being the size of a house is no way to keep them safe. But Caleb can't stand to see Emmy trapped and miserable.

When a video of Emmy flying over the skies of the Texas Hill Country goes viral, the government closes in--and the future they've risked everything for is about to go up in flames.

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Starry Night
by Isabel Gilllies
Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 9/2/2014

Sometimes one night can change everything. On this particular night, Wren and her three best friends are attending a black-tie party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to celebrate the opening of a major exhibit curated by her father. An enormous wind blasts through the city, making everyone feel that something unexpected and perhaps wonderful will happen. And for Wren, that something wonderful is Nolan. With his root-beer-brown Michelangelo eyes, Nolan changes the way Wren’s heart beats. In Isabel Gillies's Starry Night, suddenly everything is different. Nothing makes sense except for this boy. What happens to your life when everything changes, even your heart? How much do you give up? How much do you keep?

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The Boy I Love
by Nina de Gramont
Hardcover
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Released 9/2/2014

When the boy you love asks you to keep his greatest secret, do you? A thought-provoking, achingly complex novel about prejudice and the many meanings of love from Nina de Gramont, author of Meet Me at the River, which Kirkus Reviews called a “must-read.”

Fifteen-year-old Wren has been content to stay in her best friend Allie’s shadow. It doesn’t bother her that Ally gets the cutest guys, the cutest clothes, and even a modeling gig—Wren is happy hanging with the horses on her family’s farm and avoiding the jealousy of other girls. But when Tim, the most intriguing guy in school, starts hanging out with Ally and Wren, jealousy is unavoidable, but not the kind Wren expects. Because even though Ally is wayyy into him and Wren hasn’t flirted, not one little bit, it becomes increasingly clear that Tim prefers Wren’s company above anyone else’s.

Tim’s unexpected devotion comes at the exact time Wren’s home life is about to be turned upside down. Her parents have just found out that the family horse farm is on land that was once a slave plantation and are struggling with whether to sell it. Wren aches at the thought of losing her horses and leaving town, but at least there is Tim...always a gentleman on their dates. Such a gentleman. Too much of a gentleman, even, and Wren begins to wish he’d be a wee bit less gentlemanly. And as Tim’s church becomes actively homophobic, his pressuring parents don’t understand why he won’t help “spread the word,” and he’s now a wreck. Then he tells Wren his biggest secret, and Wren must decide what she’ll really do for love.

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The Secret Sky
by Atia Abawi
Hardcover
Philomel
Released 9/2/2014

A novel of love during a time of war by NBC's Afghanistan correspondant
Set in present-day Afghanistan, this is

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9. The year I walked through hell

I know it's Labor Day, not New Year's, but I'm declaring it officially the start of a new year. This last year was the hardest year I have ever had in my life.  Good things happened too, I'm not saying that, but I would trade those good things to reverse some of the bad. A year ago today, I was involved in a horrific car accident, then moved home and took care of my mom while she was on hospice, and then ended up in the hospital.

The accident

We were driving to dinner. September 1, 2013. I had my hand on my husband's knee and we were smiling and talking about nothing.

Past his shoulder suddenly: a dog. Appearing so out of nowhere it's like magic. A black lab running flat out toward us. Pink tongue streaming behind. Black leash streaming behind.

It looks totally happy. Happy and clueless.

No time to scream. No time to brake. No time to react.

A second after we first see it, the dog and car meet just past the driver's side front bumper.

And then we are screaming.

We pull over in the gravel, still screaming. It has to be dead. It has to be.  Oh my god.  It seems like we are a long ways away, blocks and blocks, but later I see it's not even half a block.

I get out. It's worse than I thought.

Not one dog, but two.

Two dogs lying on their backs in the street, paws in the air.

I've never seen dogs lying like that. Cars are already stacking up. A young man kneels by one, a young woman by the other.  Screaming, crying, begging. What will these people think of us?  We killed their dogs.

MauroAs I get closer, I can see they are street kids. The girl with red-gold dreads and pants made of patches. The guy with red-gold hair and a black T-shirt. (I later found his picture online.) They carry their dogs to the side of the road. The guy is begging. "Aldo! Aldo!" The black lab is moving a little. And then it dies.

The little dog is still alive and whining.

I try to look up Dove Lewis, the emergency animal hospital, on my phone. I keep typing the wrong letters, and the harder I try the worse I get. The lady who answers says to bring the dogs in. I tell my husband to get the Subaru.

These two kids are wailing. Stumbling from one dog to the other, shaking, weeping so hard that snot runs down their faces.

The guy lifts the lab into the back - even though we all know it must be dead - and then climbs in beside it.  The girl sits in the back with the little dog and I pick up their two huge packs (they were setting down their packs when they lost control of the dogs) and bag of groceries and somehow manage to shove them all in the car.

And then we drive. Too fast. I keep telling my husband to be careful, that the guy is just loose back there.

Otherwise, the car is mostly quiet. The guy is curled over the dog, weeping soundlessly. The girl is trying to reassure the little black and white dog, named Karate Kid. Neither of these two are that much older than our daughter.  But somehow they've gone from being someone's precious babies to two kids living on the street with their dogs.

At the vet hospital, a tech in blue scrubs comes out to the parking lot, puts her hand to the lab's neck and shakes her head.  She's a tall girl, broad-shouldered, and she manages to carry his body in by herself. Three hours later, we are looking at X-rays of the smaller dog. (It turned out that another car actually hit him.) The ball on one hip joint has been turned into paste.  Everything has been pushed to one side.

And after they say goodbye to both dogs, both kids stagger back out into the waiting room. Eyes nearly swollen shut with weeping. We were strangers thrown together, sharing a nightmare.

2011-07-22 12.23.02 Becoming an orphan
Eleven days later, I drove down to my home town
on a few hours sleep. I had gotten back from a business trip to North Carolina and New York City the night before. My mom had declared that September 12 was when she was going on hospice. She had congestive heart failure and interstitial lung disease and had been put on oxygen a few months before.

2013-10-12 14.50.34I think she had hoped that the magic of going on hospice would cause her to die right away. But then the hospice nurse said she might live for months. My mom and I exchanged horrified glances while the nurse prattled on, oblivious. It took her a long time to figure out that Mom wanted to die and soon.

For years, my mom has been dying on the installment plan.  She was ready to die. There was nothing unsettled, nothing unsaid. She thought it was funny when, after she had decided she would go on hospice, her fortune said, "You are soon going to change your present line of work." She firmly believed in God and and afterlife, although she had no preconceived ideas about what it would be like.
2013-09-21 14.31.36

The nurse only took her off a couple of her meds.  On her own, Mom decided to go off the others.  She stopped her oxygen. Then she stopped eating.  Then she - sort of - stopped drinking.

It was a very strange three weeks.  Good conversations. Watching a lot of old movies and documentaries, as well as the entire first season of Homeland and the Forsyte Saga. Being bored. Wondering when/ hoping/being afraid she would die. Weeping in the laundry.


I was getting an award October 5.  I was going to cancel. Mom told me not to, and then died quietly October 1, a few hours after the hospice nurse said she would live for at least a week, maybe longer. Of course, I was flat out useless at the awards. I basically stood at the podium and wept. It got so bad that one of presenters gave me her already used Kleenex.

2013-09-23 15.13.35room and biting my hand so she wouldn't hear me. Being scared. Laughing. Telling her to stop apologizing for my being there. Trying to write a little. Eating my way through so much junk food.  The day the wild turkeys came - and my mom's favorite memory involved a drive in the country and a flock of wild turkeys. 2013-09-21 07.43.42

When you hear hoofbeats, don't look for zebras
Doctors have a saying.  "When you hear hoofbeats, don't look for zebras." In other words, it's probably a cold, not a rare fatal virus.

Or in my case, just before Christmas when my leg turned red and started swelling up, it was probably cellulitis.  And when it didn't respond to three different antibiotics, they decided it was MRSA cellulitis, and I ended up in the hospital for three days. In case I was contagious and  might pose a danger to people who were already physically sick, they put me on the psych unit. Let's just say, that was interesting. T
hen I had a rare reaction to IV Vancomycin called hand-foot syndrome. First my hands and feet felt like they were on fire. Then eventually all the skin peeled off. Oh, and somewhere in there, the doctor thought I had a blood clot in my heart that was throwing off bits.  It was a month or so of suck.

2013-12-24 12.15.01
2013-12-28 11.30.16 2014-01-08 12.21.57

I did a LOT of lying on my back, staring at white acoustical ceilings, and crying.  And wondering whether I would lose my leg or die. I actually came out okay (except a scar from a biopsy).  It turns out that an errant kung fu shin clash probably led to something called traumatic panniculitis (dermatologist's theory) or a crush injury (orthopedic doc's theory).  Unfortunately, even though everyone eventually agreed I never had cellulitis, they couldn't agree on what I did have, so I coudln't be featured in the NY Times' Think Like a Doctor series. I couldn't even persuade the hospital to not charge me my copay, since they never tested to see if I had an infection.

Write or die
I like that program, Write or Die, for forcing you to write, forcing you to create instead of criticize or dither.

This past year was write or die for me. I turned in a book February 19th. February 20th I started a new book and turned that in June 1, despite doing school visits and events in St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago and Houston.  Both editors said the books were the best I had ever written. And I sold a new book over Memorial Day.  I'll finish it in November.
Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 2.58.01 PM

So that's it. The highlights of my year. I hope to have a much quieter one this year.

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10. Not yet

I am still on vacation.
All electronic devices have been hidden for safekeeping.



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11. Scottish Space Adventure: Edinburgh Book Festival 2014

This year Edinburgh Book Festival was OUT OF THIS WORLD!



My literary co-pilot Philip Reeve and I had been putting together a Cakes in Space stage show and this was our first full-on performance. (Since Reeve lives on Dartmoor and I'm in London, we only had one other chance to practice, at Nine Worlds a couple weeks before Edinburgh.) And just as we were leaving for Scotland, this fabulous animated Cakes in Space trailer popped up, made by Ed Beck & David Mead from MB Films:



Our book features a spaceship food machine called the NOM-O-TRON, so we brought along a smaller, portable version:



And I showed everyone how to draw Pilbeam the robot and a killer cake! Here's one of the drawings, tweeted in by @Lorna_May_D:



I still can't quite get over seeing Reeve in streaky blue hair and lipstick.



And we even got our portraits shot by festival photographer Chris Close. We were the only authors he took into his special anti-gravity booth. Thanks, Chris!





When Stuart and I first arrived at the book festival, I raced around looking at all the other photos... and spotted some friendly faces! Here's Philip Ardagh (who works with Axel Sheffler on his The Grunts books; Axel draws Julia Donaldson's Gruffalo - that's the link to the little chappie on his shoulder - and Babette Cole, with characters from her new James Rabbit and the Giggleberries book.



And while I was there, Babette drew me a birthday picture! Thank you, Babette! :D She made sure I paid special attention to the space pants.



I did quite a lot of costume changes, and Stuart was wonderful about helping me with them, even if he thought I was slightly nuts.



On the Thursday, I had a full day of Outreach Events in Fife. The festival organises these so schools and libraries outside of central Edinburgh can still take part in the festival. Here I am in the festival Yurt, very early in the morning, practicing my There's a Shark in the Bath song. I first sang it at the Hay Festival and I was super-nervous, but I'm a bit more confident about it now.



I took those sharks to Kirkcaldy West Primary School. They were great fun, that lot! And we even got our pictures in the local paper. (Thanks for tweeting that, Damon Herd!)



My assistants and I got to have lunch at the beautiful new Kirkcaldy Galleries:



The Schools Outreach is very strict about not taking photos in the schools, so I only got one. But it's of the excellent team who took me around on the day: Outreach coordinators Sarah Bingham, Grainne Crawford and Rona Neilson and a tag-along Jampire. Thanks so much, team!



One of the challenges of Edinburgh Book Fest is trying to do a few other things outside the book festival. But this time Stuart and I made a point of going to see our friend Emma Vieceli acting at The Fringe festival, in a play called Parade. She did a great job! Emma now makes comics, but she started out as a children's telly presenter and she's recorded music, and it's fun seeing her go back to her roots.



Ah, here's Emma (second from right)! Together with comics people Hannah Berry, Pat Mills and their partners:



On the way to Emma's play, Stuart spotted my Summer Reading Challenge banner in the front window of the new Edinburgh Central Children's Library, together with two of Philip Reeve's three GOBLINS books. Cool!



Another fun thing about Edinburgh is going out for publisher dinners and meet other authors who are published by the same team. Here's Philip, our excellent Oxford University Press publicist Keo Baxendine (who did a lot of our planning) and another of their writers, Wendy Meddour, whose 12-year-old daughter illustrates their Wendy Quill books. (Or maybe her daughter's older now, but still, pretty amazing.)



And hanging out in the Authors Yurt is fun, too. Everyone's sort of equal in there, so you can talk with anyone (and grab cake and whisky and other nice treats and meals). Look, it's Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman! While we were there, Malorie did an interview with a Sky reporter, quite rightly calling for more diversity in children's books, and got stuck with a very bad headline, which caused massive internet outrage, and quite a lot of abuse, too. But Malorie stuck by her guns, and all our colleagues rallied around her, and the whole thing made it much more clear just why we need more diversity in books. Not in a tick-the-box sort of way, but in a way that lots of different kinds of people can find other people like themselves in books. Patrick Ness talked on Twitter about how he couldn't find any books about gay people in his school library, and there aren't that many UK children's books with black people as the main characters. Here's Malorie's initial Sky interview, and a Guardian article about her response.



Here's Malorie's Summer Reading Challenge video:



More exciting encounters: it's Di Cameron from Oxford's Story Museum, comics artist Adam Murphy in The Phoenix Comic), comics colourist Lisa Murphy, Cameron Jr and comics artist Neill Cameron! Adam and Neill both have new books out with The Phoenix Comic and David Ficking books, compilations of their Phoenix work: Corpse Talk by Adam and How to Make Awesome Comics by Neill. Lisa did quite a lot of the colouring for Adam, and has also coloured for my studio mate Gary Northfield (Gary's Garden) when he was pressed for time.



Philip and I were hugely flattered that Geraldine McCaughrean came to our event! Geraldine's been a big influence on Philip, and her book The White Darkness is one of my all-time faves. Geraldine's on Twitter now: you can follow her: @GMcCaughrean.



Philip and I did two Cakes in Space events, one for schools and one for the general public. During the schools event, festival sketcher Morag Edward drew us! She did a great job, but I don't think we made it easy for her: "You moved around a lot!"



COSTUME CHANGE!



Ha ha, I got this week at Afflecks Palace in Manchester during an earlier festival, and I love the name of it: Skyscraper Blond.



Head of Marketing and Publicity Elaine McQuade from Oxford University Press came with Philip and me to Wester Hailes Library to do another Outreach event, this time featuring Oliver and the Seawigs. I'm really getting into this wig thing. My bird thought Elaine was rather splendid and cuddled up. One of the librarians had a phobia of feathers, so I had to put away my fluffy fan.



We had a great time at Wester Hailes, drawing Sea Monkeys with everyone and singing the EEP song, but I didn't get any photos. Our next stop was Leith Library, where we were helping them with their Summer Reading Challenge final medal ceremony. First I sang an opera aria...


Photo by Jeff Holmes

(No, not really.) If you've been following my blog, you'll have seen that MYTHICAL MAZE theme of this year's Summer Reading Challenge has been a big part of my lasts few months. I got to be the official illustrator, and when I first took on the job, I met with kids at Leith Library and got their ideas and feedback on some of the characters. So it was great coming full circle and hearing how they'd enjoyed the challenge, and congratulating them for reading their six books.


Photo by Jeff Holmes

We tried to slide the medals on gracefully and not get them stuck on anyone's ears. It's a tricky task.


Photo by Jeff Holmes

Philip and I read a bit from our Oliver and the Seawigs, the myth we've created, and I talked with the kids a bit about myth making. There's no way to say your characters will be remembered thousands of years from now, like Medusa or the Minotaur, but if you do your best, you never know!


Photo by Jeff Holmes

I led everyone in drawing Medusa, Edinburgh City Libraries' Simon Radcliffe said a few words, and our sponsor, Tesco Bank, took a big Summer Reading Challenge group photo.


Photo by Jeff Holmes

One of the fun things about this summer is the way so many kids and librarians have dressed up in mythical creature costumes, and the photographers took us outside for a few more cosplay shots:


Photo by Jeff Holmes

Whee! Thank you, Edinburgh! A huge thanks to the festival's Children & Education Programme Director Janet Smyth, and you can follow the festival on Twitter: @EdBookFest and see some other things that happened on the #EdBookFest hash tag.


Photo by Jeff Holmes

As much as I love book festivals, I find them exhausting, and I was very grateful that I didn't have to go straight back to the drawing desk (despite impending deadlines). Stuart and I took a couple more days to visit Glasgow Auntie, and she looked after us wonderfully. Here she is, having an intimate moment with a Jampire.



Glasgow Auntie took us to beautiful Troon. I had no idea Troon had such an amazing beach.



But jellyfish... JELLYFISH! We were glad we weren't swimming. Check out this alien creature that had washed up:



One last shot with lovely Stuart in the Troon sun.



Bye bye, Scotland, but just for now! If you're further south and still want to see our Cakes in Space performance, there are still a few spaces left for our Saturday morning family-friendly launch at Daunt Books Marylebone, central London on 13 Sept at 10:30am. Book your free ticket now! (You can come with kids or without, in space costume or not, it's up to you!) :)

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12. The US Supreme Court should reverse Wynne – narrowly

Maryland State Comptroller of the Treasury v. Brian Wynne requires the US Supreme Court to decide whether the US Constitution compels a state to grant an income tax credit to its residents for the out-of-state income taxes such residents pay on out-of-state income.

Brian and Karen Wynne live in Howard County, Maryland. As Maryland residents, the Wynnes pay state and county income taxes on their worldwide income. The Maryland income tax statute provides that Maryland residents who pay income taxes to states in which they do not live may credit against their Maryland state income tax liability the taxes paid to those states of nonresidence. However, the Maryland tax law grants no equivalent credit under the county income tax for out-of-state taxes owed by Maryland residents on income earned outside of Maryland.

When the Wynnes complained about the absence of a credit against their Howard County income tax for the out-of-state income taxes the Wynnes paid, Maryland’s Court of Appeals agreed. Maryland’s highest court held that such credits are required by the nondiscrimination principle of the US Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause. The absence of a credit against the county income tax induces Maryland residents like the Wynnes to invest and work in-state rather than out-of-state. This incentive, the Maryland court held, may impermissibly “affect the interstate market for capital and business investment.”

For two reasons, the US Supreme Court should reverse. First, Wynne highlights the fundamental incoherence of the dormant Commerce Clause test of tax nondiscrimination: any tax provision can be transformed into an economically equivalent direct expenditure. No principled line can be drawn between those tax provisions which are deemed to discriminate against interstate commerce and those which do not. All taxes and government programs can incent residents to invest at home rather than invest out-of-state. It is arbitrary to label only some taxes and public programs as discriminating against interstate commerce.

Suppose, for example, that Howard County seeks to improve its public schools, its police services or its roads. No court or commentator suggests that this kind of routine public improvement violates the dormant Commerce Clause principle of nondiscrimination. However, such direct public expenditures, if successful, have precisely the effect on residents and interstate commerce for which the Court of Appeals condemned the Maryland county income tax as discriminating against interstate commerce: Better public services also “may affect the interstate market for capital and business investment” by encouraging current residents and businesses to stay and by attracting new residents and businesses to come.

There is no principled basis for labeling as discriminatory under the dormant Commerce Clause equivalent tax policies because they affect “the interstate market” of households and businesses. Direct government outlays have the same effects as do taxes on the choice between in-state and out-of-state activity. If taxes discriminate against interstate commerce because they encourage in-state enterprise, so do direct government expenditures which make the state more attractive and thereby stimulate in-state activity.

Snow Clouds Over a Snowy Field, Patuxent Hills, Maryland. Photo by Karol Olson. CC BY 2.0 via olorak Flickr.
Snow Clouds Over a Snowy Field, Patuxent Hills, Maryland. Photo by Karol Olson. CC BY 2.0 via olorak Flickr.

Second, the political process concerns advanced both by the Wynne dissenters in Maryland’s Court of Appeals and by the US Solicitor General are persuasive. Mr. and Mrs. Wynne are Maryland residents who, as voters, have a voice in Maryland’s political process. This contrasts with nonresidents and so-called “statutory residents,” individuals who are deemed for state income tax purposes to be residents of a second state in which they do not vote. As nonvoters, nonresidents and statutory residents lack political voice when they are taxed by states in which they do not vote.

Nonresidents and statutory residents require protection under the dormant Commerce Clause since politicians find it irresistible to export tax obligations onto nonvoters. The Wynnes, on the other hand, are residents of a single state and vote for those who impose Maryland’s state and local taxes on them.

In reversing Wynne, the Supreme Court should decide narrowly. The Wynnes, as residents of a single state, should not receive constitutional protection for their claim to a county income tax credit for the out-of-state taxes the Wynnes pay. However, the Court’s decision should not foreclose the Court from ruling, down the road, that credits are required to prevent the double income taxation of individuals who, for income tax purposes, are residents of two or more states. Such dual residents lack the vote in one of the states taxing them and thus require constitutional succor which the Wynnes do not.

Dissenting in Cory v. White, Justice Powell (joined by Justices Marshall and Stevens) argued “that multiple taxation on the basis of domicile” is unconstitutional. Since the Wynnes are taxed by only one state, the Supreme Court need not now confront this issue again. However, the Court should decide Wynne in a fashion which allows the Court to revisit this question in the future by holding that credits are constitutionally required to prevent the double taxation of dual residents.

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13. Evil Librarian Giveaway

Are you ready for a giveaway? I’ve got an ARC of a book that releases next week, EVIL LIBRARIAN by Michelle Knudsen. Previously known for writing middle grade (The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian) and picture books (the best-selling Library Lion), this is her debut novel for young adults. I have to […]

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14. Blog Tour: Stanley the Builder by William Bee PLUS Giveaway

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About the Book: Stanley is a helpful guinea pig who helps his friend Myrtle build a new house.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: When it comes to picture books, I can't help but do the storytime browse when I look through them. You know the one. You open a book, check the length of the text on the page and if it's a page long, you put it aside in the not for storytime pile. Yes, I know, longer picture books are great for lapsits and older readers, but I'm always on the lookout for simple text to use with my youngest storytime crowd.

New toddler books are hard to find so I am thrilled that William Bee's Stanley is here! Bright colors, simple text and fantastic vocabulary all make this a wonderful addition to toddler storytime.

Stanley builds Myrtle's house using a variety of trucks which is sure to be a hit with young readers. I love that in addition to the vocabulary of each vehicle used, there's also an introduction to the color of each vehicle. The colors are bright and vibrant and sure to engage young readers who will love looking at Stanley's adventures.


Along with his friend Charlie, Stanley builds Myrtle's house using concrete, bricks, nails and of course paint! 


The process of building is explained in a way that toddlers will understand. They're sure to want to read it again and again. And who can resist the adorable Stanley? 

Stanley is a great addition to toddler storytimes and would pair nicely with Lauren Thompson's Mouse Series

Would you like to win a copy? 
-One entry per person
-US Address only
-13+
-Contest ends September 8

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Full Disclosure: Copy reviewed from galley received from publisher for review 



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15. Math Monday: Padlet


Visit Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for Math Monday link up!
(This post is cross posted at Click Here Next)

I don't remember where I saw Padlet used for math but I kept the idea in the back of my head.  This week,  I wanted to start embedding technology into our work across content as a natural part of the process. I didn't want to teach a lesson on Padlet or talk directly about the tool but I did want kids to begin to experience various tools could support thinking and learning.

So before school began, I started a padlet with the problem we'd be solving.  I didn't share it with students yet but, as students were working on a math problem, I bopped around as I always do, looking a student work and finding a variety of strategies. I decided to take photos of 4 students' work and add photos of each to the padlet. About 3-4 minutes before I gathered the class to share, I invited these 4 students to look at the padlet and to add their words to their work--what had they done to solve the problem. I had each child use a different computer so as the rest of the class gathered for share time, they could see the 4 students simultaneously adding to the padlet.  The talk was around math and the strategies each had used, but the power of the technology was evident.

Because we'd been talking about how we could learn from each other and how we might want to go back to a past problem to solve a new one, I wanted to make this something kids could easily go back to if they want to later in the year. I also thought it was a great opportunity to write a quick shared post on our class website. So we added our Padlet to the math section of our Weebly and wrote a quick blurb about the activity.  This hopefully gives students an anchor for talk at home about learning at school.

This was really simple and the addition of Padlet took no extra time.  The focus was still on math but Padlet helped us look at the possible strategies and to hold on to those in a way that we couldn't without technology.  By putting this on our class website, this resource can be accessed whenever a child thinks it might be helpful.


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16. In the Classroom: Thoughts on Ice (Buckets)

I have been very appreciative of the occasional attention given to introversion in the classroom for students and teachers of late. It helps me to clarify what I know already — I’m very introverted. I need quiet, recovery time, and all those other things that are so often typical of introversion. And as I consider how I can be a good teacher given this and how I can also support my students, introverted or not, I have been considering something else. This is the pleasure so many get when a teacher performs. Those that happily dance on the stage during an assembly, who willingly wear a costume all day for a cause, who speak publicly with such verve, who do the Ice Bucket challenge and other things of that sort. So often I see a video of such a teacher along with comment after comment about what an amazing teacher he or she is and I think, “There is just no way I can do this.” The very idea gets me all scrunched up.

It isn’t that I’m uncomfortable with all forms of public presentations. I enjoy enormously writing about what happens in my classroom, about curriculum, about my thinking about teaching and learning. I enjoy public speaking about teaching and learning or Lewis Carroll or Sierra Leone or Africa is My Home or something else. What I don’t like at all, what makes me horribly uncomfortable, is having it be all about ME. That the looking is at ME and not about my work or something else. And I wonder — what is this? Is it introversion or something else? Social anxiety? (While I am very lively in social gatherings with people I know, I’m extremely shy in those where I don’t know anyone.) Comfortable as I am knowing this about myself,  I still feel horribly guilty when saying no to a request to do one of these public acts. I feel that I must appear really selfish for being so unwilling. Or that I’ve disappointed my students who watch other teachers happily dance and be silly.

So this isn’t about throwing ice on these sorts of public activities. Bravo to those who can do them. But what about those of us who appear perfectly able to do them and say no for the reasons that are not necessarily visible?  Teachers and students alike. How do those of us who have this aspect to our personalities navigate a world that so adores Ice Bucket challenges and similar sorts of things?


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17. MMGM Links (9/1/14)

Bit of a smaller list given the whole "holiday weekend" thing, but I still put together the MMGM links:


- The B.O.B. is discussing THE LIGHTNING THIEF. Click HERE to see what she thought of the book and the movie.
- Bookish Serendipity is FINDING RUBY STARLING. Click HERE to read her review. 
- Amara Jabber is gushing about THE BLACKWELL PAGES. Click HERE to see why.
- Suzanne Warr is cheering for PRINCESS POSEY AND THE MONSTER STEW. Click HERE to see her review.
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing and GIVING AWAY a copy of THE SECRET AT HANEY FIELD. Click HERE for all the fun.
- Jess at the Reading Nook is digging THE SWAP. Click HERE to see her feature.  
- Greg Pattridge is captivated by DIEGO'S DRAGON.  Click HERE to see why.  
- Rcubed is highlighting THE GREAT GREENE HEIST! Click HERE to see what she thought.
- Deb Marshall is a MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week. 
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Jennifer Rumberger always has an awesome MMGM feature on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week. 



If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me. 

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18. Picture Book Monday with a review of My Pet Book, which was written and illustrated by Bob Staake

Taking care of a traditional pet, one that has fur or feathers, scales or fins, is a big responsibility. Pets need to be fed and entertained. You need to clean up after them and take them to the vet. Of course, you could have a pet rock or a pet plant. Such pets are easier to take care of, but they are not very interesting. What would happen if you decided to have a book for a pet? Now that might be an interesting experiment.

My Pet BookMy Pet Book
Bob Staake
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2014, 978-0-385-37312-8
Most people have dogs, cats, birds, fish, or rodents for pets. Some even have snakes, turtles, or hermit crabs in their homes. In Smartytown there is a boy who has a very usual pet, and it is a little book. Since he did not like dogs, and was allergic to cats, the boy’s mother suggested that he should get a pet book. His father agreed that a pet book would be perfect. After all “no pet book / Had ever run away.”
   The boy and his parents go to a bookshop and at first the boy is overwhelmed by all the choices, but then he sees a little red hardcover and he knows at once that this book, with its “pages crisp, the printing fine / Its spine so very taught,” is the pet for him.
   Unlike traditional pets, the little book does not shed, does not have fleas, and does need a bath or meals. It never gets sick, does not make any noise, and doesn’t “even poop.” Best of all, the book is full of fantastic stories that are so captivating that the boy feels as if he is in the stories and not just reading them.
   Like all pets, the book stays at home when the boy goes to school. One day he comes home and he discovers something truly terrible; his book has gone. Something has happened to his beloved pet!
   In this wonderful picture book we meet an usual boy who has a very usual pet. As their story is revealed we come to appreciate how much the little boy loves his book, and we begin to wonder if, just maybe, some of our books are pets too. Are they, like the little boy’s book, “a friend?” Are they dear to us, and would we be upset if we lost them? Of course they are special, and of course we would miss them if they disappeared.


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19. I'm off to Rio! Yippee!


Okay, I am making the assumption once again that things are following the plan. Whether that's true or not, one thing's for certain: the Urban Sketchers 5th International Symposium is now officially over (sigh). But, my trip isn't quite done yet (hurrah!).

Before I left England, I booked a long-distance bus to take me and fellow instructor Liz Steel to Rio de Janiero. The symposium actually ended with the bit party on Saturday night, but I know from past years that the pace over the three days will have been extremely intense, so I thought I might appreciate a short period of relative calm, sketching at a gentler pace in Paraty on Sunday, before moving on.

Liz and I leave Paraty on the 09.20 bus (or has it already happened? Can't remember which way the time-thing goes...), but it takes over four and a half hours to get to Rio. Now, Liz is probably the only person alive who talks more than me, so we'll be able to pass a fair bit of that time chin-wagging, but I'm guessing we'll also be doing some of The Usual. 

I don't have long in Rio - just two and a half days, which is nowhere near long enough for such a crazy place, but I'll get a taster at least. And, yes Mum, I'll be careful and won't go out and about on my own - promise!




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20. the news worth telling

I had 30,000-plus images stored in my computer, and the old Apple wasn't going to take it much longer. And so, for the past four hours I've sat here whittling those images down.

Reviewing a photo log is like reviewing a life, in miniature. Yesterday I might not have been able to tell you, as assuredly as I can now, that my photo obsessions (which may also be my life obsessions) can be divided rather readily into: family and friends, unusual (to me) places, portraits of children, my house in every season, dancers, and Chanticleer garden.

It seems that there is not that much more to me than this: I love those I love, I love to find and explore the new, I find peace in the sheltered quiet of this world, young people thrill me, dance is magic. I don't tend to photograph my vast collection of books. But I love the books too, of course.

The other day I was actually thinking about this question—the me of me. My son had called and had told me his news—the adventures he'd been having, the conversations, the outtings with friends, his river at night, his city from a rooftop club. And then he stopped and asked what I'd been up to lately, and I stumbled. I find this question a perennial stumper. What's new? What's up? It's a rare day when I have something meaningful to say.

Because most of what is new with me is what goes on inside my head. I read a great book. I had this idea. I was fighting with a sentence. I was lying down and looking up and I remembered my grandmother. Or I remembered Uncle Danny's laugh. Or I thought about a meal I once had and tried to resurrect the recipe. Or—oh, I know—I was thinking of painting the bathroom. On a good day I can tell you about a movie I've seen or opine over "Orange is the New Black" or mention that I've been to Adamstown and bought a pair of 19th century baby shoes. Or maybe I'll say (if I sense that there is time) that I lucked into a Hamburg hamburger festival, and that will be it: my news. A sentence or two, and I'm done.

What's new? Every time I'm asked I feel the Tedium of Beth coming on.

What is the life news worth telling? At my old age I'm still figuring it out.

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21. Guest Post and Giveaway: Amanda Forester, Author of A Winter Wedding

Please welcome Amanda Forester to the virtual offices this morning! She took a little break from her Labor Day festivities to share some info about her handsome duke, James Lockton, and she has a copy of A Winter Wedding up for grabs!

The Trials and Tribulations of an Unmarried Duke by Amanda Forester

Can one feel sorry for a duke? The Duke of Marchford is, after all, young, wealthy, attractive, and a duke. An unmarried duke, to be exact, and that is where the trouble starts. Let us spy a moment on how he is getting along at his London house in this excerpt from Winter Wedding.

James Lockton, the Duke of Marchford, was a marked man. He heard voices coming and pressed himself against the wall, edging slowly away, careful not to make a sound. One wrong move would seal his fate.

He had tried to escape his doom, hiding at his country estate like a craven coward. It was only the pressing needs of king and country, and the early opening of Parliament to deal with a severe crisis of governance, that drew him back to London. He had hoped December would find Town desolate of company, but with the return of the members of Parliament came their families, and with their families came…

“The Duke of Marchford is sooooo handsome,” cooed a young feminine voice.

“Better yet, he’s dreadfully rich,” said another young lady. “What I wouldn’t give to be duchess of this hall.”

“Do you think we should be wandering about, Mama?”

“No, of course not, but do you think we should come all this way without an introduction to the duke? Do you really think I care a whit about that spiteful old dowager? No!” exclaimed the baroness. They were growing nearer.

Marchford knew the baroness and her daughters were coming to visit his grandmother, but he hardly expected them to make a search of the house. He darted up a servants’ stairwell and into a long hallway of bedrooms. He walked quickly toward the main stairs but stopped short at the sound of their whining voices. The woman had the audacity to come up to the private rooms!

“We’ll flush out the duke,” crooned the baroness, her voice growing louder, “say we got turned around in the house and secure an introduction. I swear I’ll not set foot from this place until you both have been asked to dance at tonight’s ball.”

Nothing to do but run.

He spun and dashed down the hall on light feet. Taking a risk, he opened one of the doors and slipped inside, closing the door carefully to avoid the conspicuous click of the latch. Now if only the bedroom were empty, he could possibly survive the night.

A small, feminine shriek behind him laid waste to that grand hope.

“Your Grace!” demanded Penelope Rose. “What on earth are you doing in my bedchamber?”

Ah, the trials and tribulations of being an unmarried duke. Of course the Duke of Marchford is not only the biggest matrimonial prize in the known world, he is also obligated to assist the Foreign Office in flushing out traitors and spies who have infiltrated London society. This is 1810, after all, and we are at war with that wretchedly brilliant Napoleon.

Is it any wonder that Marchford may feel a bit piqued at times? So how does a duke relax after a hard day of avoiding marriage-minded females and international spies? Unfortunately, Marchford could learn more of the fine art of relaxation, but here are some of his favorites:

  1. Run off to the club and spend time with his friends, the Earl of Thornton and Mr. William Grant. Trouble is, they are both recently married and are focused on such odd things as spending time with their wives and the anticipation of tiny heirs.

  2. Hide in his study and look at maps. Marchford thought there was nothing he could like more than a good dependable map… until Penelope ended up on top of one.

  3. Convince his grandmother to adopt a stray cat by telling her it is a rare Peruvian jungle house cat. His grandmother, however, declares the animal is a dog.

  4. Tease Penelope Rose by taking her beloved Christmas traditions to their literal extreme, all for the joy of seeing the shocked expression on her face along with a twinkle of amusement in her eye.

  5. Take a long hot bath with…oh wait, you’re going to have to read the book to find out more about this!

To read more about the Duke of Marchford and his search for traitors, spies, and a suitable bride, read Winter Wedding now available. To get you started in the series, the first book in the trilogy, Wedding in Springtime is being offered FREE for a limited time and Midsummer Bride is currently only $1.99. I love to hear from readers so come visit me at my website, facebook, or twitter.

What is your favorite way to relax? Comment for a chance at winning a copy of Winter Wedding!

Amanda Forester holds a Ph.D. in psychology and worked for many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance novels was decidedly more fun. Whether in the Highland hills or a Regency ballroom, Forester’s critically acclaimed novels offer fast-paced adventures filled with wit, intrigue, and romance. She lives with her supportive husband and naturally brilliant children in the Pacific Northwest.Visit her at www.amandaforester.com.

This adventurous duke…

The Duke of Marchford requires a suitable bride, but catching spies for the Foreign Office takes up most of his time. Not wanting to face another London season as an eligible man, he employs the notorious Madame X to find him a match.

Has met his match

Miss Penelope Rose knows the rules of marriage among members of the ton better than most. Her own unsuccessful attempts at matrimony did not stop her from becoming London’s most exclusive matchmaker. Marchford proves to be a difficult client, but as he draws on her social expertise to help him flush out a dangerous traitor, they find that falling in love may be the riskiest adventure of all.

Pre-Order Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1vcjPpL

Apple: http://bit.ly/1orV3bN

BAM: http://bit.ly/1sxRhDC

B&N: http://bit.ly/1qXa08Q

Chapters: http://bit.ly/1pXOdMo

IndieBound: http://bit.ly/1ntyXVW

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1vckp71

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Amanda Forester, Author of A Winter Wedding appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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22. Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

On the basis of Beth Kephart's recommendation in her book Handling the Truth, I ordered a copy of Hiroshima in the Morning through Powells. The author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto received a fellowship to go to Japan in mid-2001 for six months and research her planned novel about the bombing of Hiroshima. What she did not expect was the wrenching difficulty (in a myriad of ways) of parting from her husband and 2 young sons in NYC and how complicated it would be to navigate Japanese culture and gain the insight she wanted on her subject.

This is a really tough book to classify because if I tell you it will resonate strongly with women who feel torn between family life and their work, you will probably immediately think of "Lean In" and not give it a second thought. But that aspect of the book is important and needs to be noted. Rizzuto's personal/professional conflict is so intense and so tied to the unique aspects of researching a book, that any writer who has ever felt similarly torn is going to identify very powerfully with her words. She wonders if she is committed enough to her marriage and motherhood and also worries about her own mother who is suffering from the early stages of dementia. Are there other places where Rizzuto should be? It doesn't help when her husband starts to rethink all of his earlier support for the project after spending one too many nights dealing with sick kids. And all Rizzuto can tell him is that she is talking to people, visiting museums and temples, "soaking up" the culture of Japan.

She might be more convincing if she felt more certain that she was getting done the work she needed.

That's the other impressive aspect of Hiroshima in the Morning--Rizzuto's discovery of how complicated the Hiroshima story is. The book has excerpts from the interviews she conducted with survivors and they are the very definition of gut wrenching. Rizzuto finds herself overwhelmed by the horror of those stories, (you will be too), and transformed by them. Then 9/11 happens and her family arrives for a visit and again her vision of herself and the world goes through another change.

There is a lot about this book that made me think about writing, history, stories, the power of family and so much more. So many times as a writer I have questioned the value of what I choose to do with my life and anyone who has ever been in that position will understand what Rizzuto goes through. But the stories from Hiroshima are what has stayed with me more than anything else and they make me think yet again how much our history is dominated by the way we tell stories, and our collective acceptance of who does the telling.

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23. All Fall Down: Review Haiku

Yes, it's a bit cliched
and too easily solved.
But you'll still read it.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner. Atria, 2014, 400 pages.

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24. Diversity – What does it mean for writers and young readers?

I’m thrilled to be back blogging after a stellar three-month summer hiatus. I completed the first draft to my contemporary YA, which is my MFA thesis. I attended a superb writer’s craft conference for the benefit of the non-profit Sierra … Continue reading

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25. 100,000 like lottery


I've reached 100000 likes on my Facebook fanpage, I'm giving away this little image to one of the commenter of this post. Head over there and comment if you'd like a small drawing: www.facebook.com/Mattias.O.Adolfsson Thanks all for all the likes!

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