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1. Dark Horse: Alley Oop: The Complete Sundays Volume 2, 1936-1938 HC

Writer/Artist/cover artist  V. T. Hamlin
Full Colour
128 pages
HC, 12” x 16”
Genre: Humor, Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Publication Date:
September 03, 2014

ISBN- 13: 978-1-61655-465-1
Price: $75.00
You can save 10% so the book costs $67.50 by ordering online here:

Presenting the second in a series that collects, in chronological order, all the full color Sunday pages of the classic newspaper strip! Go back in time to the prehistoric kingdom of Moo, and follow the strange, hilarious and outlandish Stone Age antics of V. T. Hamlin’s intrepid caveman, Alley Oop! This oversized volume collects every Alley OopSunday strip from 1936 through 1938!

* After over ninety years, Alley Oop is still in publication!

* The strip has been commemorated in a hit song, a comics award statue, and a US postage stamp!

Whoah! This really is a bigbook and the production on it is superb. Being British I never saw Alley Oop, barring the odd glimpse of a US Army newspaper while in Germany as a kid.  Of course, the song “Alley Oop!” by the Hollywood Argylles is a classic of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era…though thinking through my senility I think I may have mentioned that while reviewing volume 1!


This is not a super hero book and for that reason, no doubt, some are going to ask “why” they should be interested.  Well, if that’s what you are asking right now please leave.


As I’ve noted, I never saw these Alley Oop strips though, after my review of volume 1, I did ask a couple of people I know who are true comickers and collect newspaper strips.  They scanned (without cleaning up) pages for me so that I could see the quality of the source as it were.  Oh boy, grubby (we’re talking 1930s newsprint) and very –VERY- “brittle” I was told.  The pages were, coincidentally, the same as some of those reproduced in this book.  What a difference –crisp and clean!


The problem is that if you are a pop culture collector or just a newspaper strip collector getting hold of original samples is going to cost you a lot of money! If you are a comic fan/collector the same applies.  What the Dark Horse team has done is gather all the parts of the strip, cleaned them to a near new quality and put them in a big volume that ought to take pride of place in any collection.  Added to the first volume this has already become indispensible to comic culture historians and $75.00 comes to around £46.00 so it might seem a bit pricy but look at what you get!


Adding an extra shelf with the space to put these is at your own expense –you can argue with your wife or mum about where the shelf can go!


I’d highly recommend this (and volume 1) to any collector.

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Have you been on the fence about whether or not you're interested in KidlitCon? Have plans changed for you, but you thought you'd run out of time? You're in luck: we've been able to extend registration for one more week. The Citizen Hotel has... Read the rest of this post

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3. Kat Zhang, Author of ECHOES OF US, on Closure and Songs on Repeat.

What is your favorite thing about ECHOES OF US?

The end, haha. And that's not even me being facetious. I've put all my characters, especially Addie and Eva, through so much over the course of this trilogy, and it felt really great to give them an ending. A bit of closure. I can't get into the specifics, of course, without being spoiler-y!

On a more meta level, having worked on this trilogy for years and years, starting when I was 17 years old, it's a bit surreal to be 23 and seeing the final book release. I went through college while writing these books. I grew up with them, in a way. It feels like closure for me, as well, on a part of my life.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I feel like my road to publication was long, mostly because I literally starting dreaming about publishing a book when I was 12 years old, and that's about the time I started writing novels, too. However, I never actually finished a book until I was 17, and that was also the first book I queried. However, I only reached out to about 10 agents, maybe even less, and I never even got a full request! (I was…pretty bad at writing queries)

So I guess if you count from that first querying attempt, things went pretty quickly. I started writing What's Left of Me while querying Book #1, and queried it at age 19. Signed with my agent after about 2 months, and sold the trilogy later that year. :)

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

It really depends. Before this current book, I'd say I never listen to music while writing, but I've found a cover of "I See Fire" that I've listened to over 1000 times now on repeat while drafting! I write all over the place—home, coffee shops, libraries, the mall...

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Keep writing. Keep reading. :)

Enter to Win a hardcover copy of ECHOES OF US!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.


Echoes of Us
by Kate Zhang
Released 9/16/2014

To change the world, I may lose everything

All Eva ever wanted was the chance to be herself. But in the Americas, to be hybrid—to share your body with a second soul—is not tolerated past childhood. Now Eva and Addie, her sister soul, are constantly on the move, hiding from the officials who seek to capture them. But the tide is changing. A revolution is brewing, and people are starting to question the hybrids' mistreatment.

Then Marion, an ambitious reporter, offers Eva and Addie a daring proposal: If they go undercover and film the wretched conditions of a hybrid institution, she will not only rescue them, she'll find a way to free Jackson, the boy Addie loves. It's risky, and Eva will have to leave Ryan and her friends behind, but if she succeeds, it could also tip the scales forever and lead to hybrid freedom.

As Eva and Addie walk into danger, they cling to each other and the hope of a better future. But the price they might pay is higher than they ever could have imagined.

Purchase Echoes of Us at Amazon
Purchase Echoes of Us at IndieBound
View Echoes of Us on Goodreads


Kat Zhang spent most of her childhood tramping through a world weaved from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren't riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat's quirks today.

By the age of twelve, Kat had started her first novel and begun plans for her life as a Real Live Author (she was rather more confident at twelve than she is even now). Said plans didn't come into fruition until seven years later, when her agent sold her trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles, to HarperCollins. The first book, WHAT'S LEFT OF ME–about a girl with two souls–will released September 18, 2012. Book 2 in the series, ONCE WE WERE, will be released September 17, 2013.

Kat is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong. She also performs as a Spoken Word poet and contributes to Pub(lishing) Crawl, a site for aspiring writers to talk about books, storytelling craft, and the publishing process. Kat has also had the pleasure of remote interning for a literary agent, specializing in Young Adult fiction.

When she is not exploring the world of her characters, she is exploring her own. To date, she's had the pleasure of visiting five countries, including more than half of the United States. She hopes to always keep writing and traveling.

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4. Remember: It's Not Just The BZ&CF on 4th October In Bristol!

AniMangaPop! Up-Date!


 For Visitor, cosplay and Exhibitor info check out the link below:


Special Guests

The team here at aniManga POP! Love to bring you some of the most exciting & interesting guests to our show. Below are some of the guests you will be able to meet on the day!
Momoiro Otome Ensemble
Momoiro Otome Ensemble
A Meidol (Maid idol) unit! they also work as Maids at 'Maids of England', a maid cafe based in London, UK! They perform dance and song covers of Doujinshi, Anime, J-pop and idol songs!

Naomi Suzuki
Naomi Suzuki
Brought to the UK by Polygram records in the late 90’s and since then has embarked on projects of both critical and commercial success. Reaching number 12 in the UK singles charts. Naomi is also a reputable events host and worked with Matsutake Kabuki and NHK broadcasting amongst others.

A published novelist, model, actress, cosplayer and performer, originally from Germany, now living in the United Kingdom. She started cosplaying in 2009, taking part in in German Cosplay events. Making many appearances here in the UK at events such as MCM Expo and London Anime Con and also appeared in publications such as Neo Magazine.

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5. Stefanie Gaither, author of FALLS THE SHADOW, explains the importance of playlists and falling in love.

What is your favorite thing about FALLS THE SHADOW?

Besides the fact that it's an actual, real life book that I can now hold in my hands, lol? :) Hmm, I'd have to say it's the relationship between my protagonist, Cate, and her sister's clone, Violet. These two were so explosive anytime they ended up on the page together, and I loved bringing their complicated history and unconventional bond to life.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I've always loved science-fiction, and I've always loved stories that center around family, so I wanted to write something that combined the two in what I hope is an intriguing way. 

How long did you work on the book? 

The initial draft took about two and a half months, then after that snagged me an awesome agent, we did a round of revisions that took about a month, and then once we sold it to Simon and Schuster, it went through a few more rounds of edits that took a combined total of about three months. So, six, seven months, all together? Though it felt like a lot longer! And there was plenty of brainstorming in-between edit rounds not included in that, too.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

FALLS was my fourth completed book, and it will be my first published. It took me about four years between my first declaration of "I'm going to write a complete novel!" (and actually following through with that!) before I got an agent and then went on to sell FALLS. So, medium length and difficulty? :) I know people who have taken way more time and people who have taken way less time. I like to think it was enough time and rejection for me to build up a thick skin, but not so much time and so many rejections that I ended up going insane (well, not completely at least...) 

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc? 

I usually have to have music, and each of my projects has its own playlist. True story: I can usually tell how serious I am about a book by how many songs I'm adding to its Spotify playlist. When like every song I hear is starting to remind me of a book I'm writing, and I have to add it to said book's playlist, then I know stuff's getting real. 

As for where I write, I have an office space at home, but I'm most productive in coffee shops, far away from my cozy bed and all those seasons of Doctor Who waiting to be re-watched on Netflix. 

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers? 

"Fall in love with as many things as possible." I totally stole that from a pin I saw on Pinterest, but yeah, I sort of love it. Live widely and experience widely, because you never know what random lovely new thing might inspire your writing. And also? Stop comparing your writing journey to others'. Every writer I know does this during weak moments (myself included), but seriously, it's just poison to a writing career. And most of the time you're only seeing the good stuff that's happening to these other authors, so of course their successes look shinier than whatever you're currently slogging through.

Enter to Win a signed hardcover copy of FALLS THE SHADOW!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.


Falls the Shadow
by Stefanie Gaither
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 9/16/2014

When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement. Like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth—which means this new Violet has the same smile. The same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.

In a thrilling debut, Stefanie Gaither takes readers on a nail-biting ride through a future that looks frighteningly similar to our own time and asks: how far are you willing to go to keep your family together?

Purchase Falls the Shadow at Amazon
Purchase Falls the Shadow at IndieBound
View Falls the Shadow on Goodreads

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6. My tweets

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7. A Tower of Books

There’s a tower of books
Building up on my shelf
And most of them titles
I’ve picked out myself.

A couple, non-fiction,
My husband has read.
Perhaps, between novels,
I’ll try one instead.

My grandson loves knocking
Down towers completely;
I’ll do the same here,
But a bit more discreetly.

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8. BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Thompson - Guest Post and Giveaway

I've got a slightly different sort of book for you to learn about today... It's called BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Thompson and it's about kids taking charge to change their worlds for the better - powerful stuff! And something I fully support, which is why I was thrilled Laurie wanted to stop by to talk about it...

     I started working on Be a Changemaker in 2004. At the time, I was working on another book about ordinary people who had done extraordinary things. This is a common theme in much of my work, probably because I yearn to do extraordinary things despite feeling so very ordinary myself!
      While researching that book, I came across David Bornstein’s How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, which contains case studies of social entrepreneurs around the world who started innovative programs to solve various kinds of social problems in their local communities. I was so excited by Bornstein’s stories of individuals who had built lasting, meaningful organizations from the ground up and the myriad ways they had directly improved people’s lives. I remember shaking the book at my husband and saying, “You know who needs a book like this? Teenagers! If they knew they were capable of making the changes they care about, the world would be a better place for all of us. Why doesn’t someone write a book like this for them?” Obviously, that was a light bulb moment! I was someone, after all, so I would just have to write the book myself. With a new focus, I turned all my energies toward developing what would become Be a Changemaker.
      The people profiled in How to Change the World were all fellows in an organization called Ashoka, whose slogan is “Everyone a changemaker.” I soon discovered that Ashoka had a division called Youth Venture, which is specifically aimed at empowering young people to make positive changes in their communities, and one of their flagship offices was in Seattle, not far from my home. It felt like it was meant to be!
      Youth Venture invited me to attend a community workshop they were offering. The energy and enthusiasm there was infectious! The teens were thrilled to talk about the problems they saw in their communities and excited to work together to try to find solutions. Seeing them in action validated my ideas for Be a Changemaker. Everyone I met from the Youth Venture staff was supportive, too, despite the fact that I had never even written a book, much less published one! They knew that sometimes passion and persistence can be more important than experience, and their confidence in me was a huge boost.
      I got to work researching, drafting, and revising a proposal. I submitted the proposal for critique, got positive feedback, and kept going. I submitted again, got less positive feedback, and put it away. I learned more. I went back and started over again and again and again, round and round. After six years of this, I felt like I was finally getting somewhere and submitted the proposal to an agent. She liked it but wanted me to address a few issues. Feeling like I only had one chance to get it right, I worked on that revision for an entire year. It worked! Surely the hard part was over, right?
      Anyone who knows publishing knows it’s rarely that easy. It still took a while to find the perfect home for it, and then I had to finish writing it and go through the editorial process under tight deadlines and facing some unexpected medical challenges throughout. After all the initial waiting and painstaking refinement, I worried that the mad dash to the finish might cause me to lose sight of what I had been trying to accomplish and make me miss the mark I’d been shooting for all of those years.
      In the end, though, it turned out even better than I ever imagined. My family was behind me every step of the way. I was fortunate enough to work with a team of people who understood the vision and helped me nurture it all along the way. And, eventually, the process itself ended up coming full circle in the most fulfilling ways: I got to profile Divine Bradley, the inspirational guest speaker at that first Youth Venture workshop, in chapter two of Be a Changemaker; Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, wrote the foreword; and David Bornstein read an advance copy and provided a quote. To an ordinary gal like me, that’s some pretty extraordinary stuff. And looking back on it now, it was worth every minute.

Laurie's favorite writing spot is her Treadmill Desk. Click here to learn more about it.

Blue Slip Media has kindly agreed to give a free copy of BE A CHANGEMAKER to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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9. More 5 mins sketches

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10. Victoria Strauss, author of COLOR SONG, discusses fascinating old maps and ingenious young women.

What is your favorite thing about COLOR SONG?

Without a doubt, being able to set a novel in 15th century Venice. I visited Venice just once, but it made an indelible impression on me (as it has on so many people) and it was wonderful to become a time traveler for a little while, and imagine the glorious city as my heroine, Giulia, would have experienced it.

Researching COLOR SONG was so much fun--there are so many wonderful resources, including an amazing (and huge) map of the city created in 1500, which shows every street, square, canal, and building in Venice, and is so detailed that you can count the windows of the houses and see the wellheads in the squares. It was invaluable in helping me and Giulia find our way around. Giulia's experiences also reflect my own memories of Venice--from the magnificent yet crumbling palazzos, to the bustle of the Rialto, to the maze of squares and alleyways and canals in which it's incredibly easy to get completely lost. I'd love to set another book there some day.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I wanted to continue Giulia's story (begun in PASSION BLUE), and show how it might be authentically possible, even within the narrow conventions of 15th century Italy, for a woman of talent to transcend strict gender roles and follow her passion. I'm also fascinated by stories of women who disguise themselves as men (such as the surprisingly large number of women who fought as men during the Civil War), and COLOR SONG gave me the chance to incorporate that interest into a book.

How long did you work on the book?

Including research, about a year and a half.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

COLOR SONG is my ninth published book. I've lucky in that I've never completed a book that hasn't been published (though I've started and abandoned several).

It took me a very long time to sell my first novel, a YA historical called THE LADY OF RHUDDESMERE. I wrote it when I was 17, during a year off between high school and college, and queried sporadically over the next few years without success (my query letter was really awful; that may have had something to do with it!). By sheer luck, my manuscript landed on the desk of an editor who was in the process of switching careers to become an agent, and she took me on as one of her first clients. Initially she wasn't any more successful than I had been, but she never gave up, and six years after she took me on--and nearly ten years after I wrote the novel--LADY was finally published (in much-revised form).

I'm still with the agency, and LADY, which has been out of print for many years, is about to be be re-published.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

My writing ritual mainly consists of procrastinating until guilt forces me to my computer...But seriously, I start work in the morning, take a break for lunch and exercise, and continue until dinner. I work at my laptop in the dining room (my office, with its reminders of bills to be paid and emails to be answered, is too distracting) and I use a little program called Freedom that shuts off the Internet for whatever amount of time I plan to be writing. I prefer silence--music is also too distracting--and solitude, except for my two cats, who love to help me by lying on my keyboard.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Educate yourself! Take the time to learn about publishing and self-publishing before you take steps to get your work published. There are so many pitfalls for writers--writing scams, unqualified editors and literary agents, amateur publishers, bad contracts. The more you know, the better you'll be able to protect yourself, and the better decisions you'll be able to make.

What are you working on now?

For the past few months I really haven't been working on anything--there's an illness in my family and it's taking up a lot of my time and energy. But I'm trying to carve out space to plan another YA project, including doing preliminary research. I have two ideas in mind--now I just have to choose!

Enter to win a signed copy of COLOR SONG and PASSION BLUE!


Giveaway ends on 9/22/2014 at midnight EST.


Color Song
by Victoria Strauss
Released 9/16/2014

By the author of the acclaimed "Passion Blue," a "Kirkus Reviews" Best Teen Book of 2012 and "a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion," comes a fascinating companion novel.

Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed?or cursed?with a spirit's gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors as she creates them in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilit?. It's here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness and rekindled her passion to become a painter?an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.

But when a dying Humilit? bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession?the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue?Giulia realizes she's in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color. Faced with the prospect of a life in the convent barred from painting as punishment for keeping Humilit s secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist's apprentice?

Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilit s Passion blue. And Venice, she discovers, with its gilded palazzos and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, and where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?

This stunning, compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to pursue your passion?

Purchase Color Song at Amazon
Purchase Color Song at IndieBound
View Color Song on Goodreads


I'm the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone duology ("The Arm of the Stone" and "The Garden of the Stone"); the Way of Arata duology ("The Burning Land" and "The Awakened City"); and "Passion Blue" and "Color Song," a pair of historical novels for teens. I've reviewed books for SF Site, Black Gate, and Fantasy magazine, and my articles on writing and how to get published have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, I served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

I'm an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that warns about literary schemes and scams. I maintain the Writer Beware website, blog, and Facebook pages, and I was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.

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11. Happy Anniversary "Star Spangled Banner!"

September 2014 Marks
the 200th Anniversary of
Our National Anthem

This month marks the 200th anniversary of "The Star Spangled Banner." Did you know that our national anthem has its roots in a poem and a drinking song? And that baseball played a role in its history?

Share the story of how Francis Scott Key's poem became our national anthem. It's all in "Star Spangled Presidents" by Helen Kampion on the NCBLA's education website OurWhiteHouse.org! Click here to read the article.

The website OurWhiteHouse.org is the online education companion to the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, an incomparable collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, poetry, and a stunning array of original art, offering a multifaceted look at America’s history through the prism of the White House. 

With Our White House, kids can learn about the building of the White House--and why it once burned. They can engage with intimate stories of those who have resided in the White House over the years, including presidential pets and ghosts! And kids can also discover the joys and sorrows that have faced our nation and the often gut-wrenching decisions needed to be made by our presidents.

Our White House
was created by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance as a collaborative effort by over one hundred award-winning authors and illustrators to encourage young people to read more about America’s rich history and culture; to think more about America’s future; to talk more about our nation’s leadership; and to act on their own beliefs and convictions, ensuring this great democratic experiment will survive and thrive.

Ask for Our White House at a library or bookstore near you! And learn more at OurWhiteHouse.org

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12. Sherry Thomas, author of THE PERILOUS SEA, on running with no memory.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I've always wanted the middle book of the Elemental trilogy to have a sort of The Bourne Identity feel, i.e., protagonist with no memory, not sure why he is being chased, except that I want it to be the girl who is being chased.

What are you working on now?

Book 3 of the Elemental trilogy, for which I am going for a Return of the King vibe--but probably only in my head. 


The Perilous Sea
by Sherry Thomas
Balzer + Bray
Released 9/16/2014

From acclaimed author Sherry Thomas comes the striking sequel to The Burning Sky, book two in the Elemental Trilogy, for fans of Cinda Williams Chima, Rae Carson, and Kristin Cashore.

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

Sherry Thomas brings her trademark blend of dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and exciting action in this striking sequel to The Burning Sky.

Purchase The Perilous Sea at Amazon
Purchase The Perilous Sea at IndieBound
View The Perilous Sea on Goodreads


Sherry Thomas writes both historical romance and young adult fantasy.

On the romance side, she is one of the most acclaimed authors working in the genre today, her books regularly receiving starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

On the young adult fantasy side, there isn't much to say yet, as her debut book is not scheduled for publication until September 2013.

Sherry writes in her second language. She learned English by reading lots of romance and science fiction--every word Isaac Asimov ever wrote, in fact. She is proud to say that her son is her biggest fanboy--for the YA fantasy, not the romances. At least, not yet...

"Sherry Thomas is the most powerfully original historical romance author writing today."Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author

“Thomas weaves a lush, intricate fantasy world around a gorgeous romance that kept me riveted until the very last page. What a breathtaking journey!” (Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of the Legend series )

Visit Sherry at her website

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13. The Indomitable Struggle for Meaning

Hi folks, This is a real ramble this week. I was out having breakfast at my favorite little breakfast stop yesterday. It was late morning and I was the only one in the place. I took some pages of my WIP, bought my obligatory cup of iced tea (this is Texas), and picked up the provided newspapers to sift through. I still like to read a newspaper one or two times a week. It brings back warm memories of growing up when my family shared the Sunday paper. 

One of the employees was reading from her phone. 

"Oh, I love Shel Silverstein," she exclaimed.  

Her fellow workers all chimed back similar love.  Immediately. 

"Which one are you reading?" one called.

The phone reader called out, "You have to hear this. Hug O'War."

She read it. Tables stopped being wiped. The kitchen grew silent. The manager put down his tablet.

When she finished, I heard murmured happy comments of how much they all loved Shel Silverstein and how they have treasured him their whole lives (18 to 25 years). They called out his book titles; Light in the Attic, The Giving Tree, and Falling Up! And when this conversation ended they launched into the The Giver by Lois Lowery. 

I felt like a very happy fly on the wall.This conversation brought me close to my life's mission -- I'm caught up in the indomitable struggle for meaning.  I know, I have a life mission. I'm fighting the sound and fury part of life. I'm kicking against entropy.

This hunger to share something of who we are and what we want feels like rocket fuel inside me. Unfortunately, failure is an option that I have run into again and again. You see, I really want to create a morning in a breakfast shop in the future where someone reads from their phone, shares my words, and heads nod in happy communing over these familiar words. I so want to contribute a verse. 

I keep searching for that spark of meaning that will light the fire of human souls. I call this an indomitable struggle because I will not quit. I will not, but I must be honest. I've been feeling like Moses looking over into a promised land this week, wondering if I'm just barred because I hit a rock in frustration to make water flow. I'm feeling like Apollo Thirteen astronauts who got  mighty close to the moon but their story became one of just getting home and the wonders of duct tape. The worst of it, I'm feeling like the member of a host of women whose quiet serviceable lives are lost amid the clamoring voices of the flashier members of our species. 

I am the most pedestrian creature to have a far flung dream. I'm off the beaten track, dwelling in the yawning wilderness of suburbia, You really don't hear much about the "Voice that Cried from Surburbia!" I live in a "little box" on a street of ticky-tacky houses. I'm a housewife and a mother. I think the government calls me unemployed. My everyday projects are a garage sale and going grocery shopping. I might mow the lawn.  

And yet I'm caught up in this indomitable struggle for meaning. Here I am, hoping to rattle the bones. You know, a weed will spring up in any crack in the concrete. I hope that you hold onto your struggle. I hope you find meaning on this journey of life. I hope that you share it. Bloom, even in that impossible place. I have a deep seated belief that "every little thing is going to shine."

Will be back next week with more musing. 

Here is a doodle.

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. Marc Chagall

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14. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide) by Sally Orr

The Rake’s Handbook sounds like a cute read!  Check out the excerpt and enter the giveaway below!

The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide) by Sally Orr (Historical Romance; The Rake’s Handbook, Book 1; ISBN: 9781492602118)


The definitive guide to seduction…

The Rake’s Handbook was written on a dare, and soon took the ton by storm. Now its author, Ross Thornbury, is publicly reviled by the ladies—who are, of course, forbidden to read the handbook—but privately revered by the gentlemen. Unfortunately, Ross’s notoriety is working against him and he flees London painfully aware of the shortcomings of his own jaded heart.

Spirited young widow Elinor Colton lives next to Ross’s country estate. She’s appalled not only by his rakish reputation, but also by his progressive industrial plans. Elinor is sure she is immune to Ross’s seductive ways. But he keeps coming around…impressing her with his vision for England’s future and stunning her with his smiles.

How does one resist the man who wrote the manual on love?

About the Author:

Sally Orr worked for thirty years in medical research, specializing in the discovery of gene function. After joining an English history message board, she posted many, many examples of absolute tomfoolery. As a result, a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she is a hopeless Anglophile, it’s not surprising that her first book is a Regency romance. Sally lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many nerdy books and not enough old English cars. 

Social Media:

Website | @OrrSally | Facebook | Goodreads


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | iBooks



“You really are a rake,” she whispered, the sight and feel of their joined hands warming her cheeks. “A proper gentleman would never hold a lady thus. I have been warned about your charms. Perhaps I too should write everything down. Pen a handbook to instruct my widowed sisters what to expect upon attempted seduction and how to fight it.”

“Factual or satirical?”

She bit her lower lip to stop an indelicate reply.

“I could write that handbook too.”

His boast made her smile. “I seem to have found another trait of a rake.”

“Humph. I’d be delighted to show you all of my traits. Perhaps start with chapter one?” The determination in his voice indicated he was quite willing to comply.

“Please do, sir,” she replied in a facetious tone, tugging her hand free. “But I can already tell that I’ll stop reading your book after the table of contents. You know, all of those funny pages in the front of the book numbered v and i.”

He chuckled softly, then stared at her until he captured her gaze. “My handbook starts with fine eyes.” He reached up and swept back a ringlet that had fallen over her eye and carefully tucked the curl under her bonnet.

Her heartbeat raced.

“The eyes are followed by a notable vee.” His gaze lowered to the upper edge of her bodice and lingered in the center.

“Oh my, if that’s the table of contents, I don’t dare read chapter one.”

“I’d be pleased to read you all of the chapters. There are a total of . . .” He glanced at her leisurely, from the top of her leghorn bonnet down to her sensible half boots. His focus returned up to her neck—almost. His chest broadened as he inhaled. “Ten.”


He gave her a smoldering look from under heavy lashes. “Ten in volume one,” he continued in a silky baritone. “Let’s start with chapter one.” He leaned forward slowly, staring at her mouth, as if he might take liberties and kiss her. The distance between them shortened to inches. Close enough to feel his warm breath.


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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide) by Sally Orr appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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15. Claire Scully

Claire ScullyClaire ScullyClaire ScullyClaire Scully

Claire Scully

Claire Scully is a freelance Illustrator and Graphic Designer, Her clients include; New York Times, Random House and The Guardian to name a few. She has also collaborated with furniture maker D.H Painter and illustrator Susie Wright. Her inspiration comes from 50’s 60’s and 70’s architecture and the natural world. Her work often looks at the relationship between the urban enviroment and nature. I think the amount of detail which goes into these illustrations is very stunning and exciting to look at.

You can see more of Claire Scully’s work at her website and Facebook page

Posted by Jessica Holden


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16. Caragh M. O'brien, author of THE VAULT OF DREAMERS, on writing what fascinates you and 13 drafts!

What is your favorite thing about THE VAULT OF DREAMERS?

My favorite thing about The Vault of Dreamers is likely to be its most controversial aspect, too, and that’s the ending. I can’t explain it without spoilers, but I can say that Rosie’s story is really a novel of ideas. The characters are artists at an arts school where creativity is highly prized, and they are urged to take risks and experiment. To be true to that premise, I felt that I needed to take risks, too, and since my art form is the novel, I played with the book itself. I wrote what fascinated me, even when that involved exploring unknown dimensions, and it became intense. So, my favorite thing is the last chapter. It’s the perfect ending for this particular book.

How long did you work on the book?

It’s hard to say exactly how long I worked on The Vault of Dreamers because I had interruptions to the process while my first editor was on a leave of absence, and then later I started working with a second editor when my first editor left Roaring Brook.  These kinds of shifts are part of the business, so we made it work, and I definitely benefited from having input from two great editors, Nancy Mercado and Kate Jacobs.  Altogether, I’d say it took me about a year and a half to write this novel.  It went through 13 drafts.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My road to publication was initially quite short because I published a romance novel soon after I finished college, but then it took me another decade to publish again, and still another decade before I published Birthmarked, which was the beginning of my YA writing work.  I honestly can’t count how many novels are in my attic.  Half a dozen?  I’ve always written, even when I’ve had other work or when I’ve been discouraged.  I would have stopped if I possibly could have, to be honest, but I kept returning to it.  When writing becomes a version of being alive, a state unlike anything else, a person craves it.

Enter to Win a hardcover copy of THE VAULT OF DREAMERS!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.


The Vault of Dreamers
by Caragh M. O'Brien
Roaring Brook Press
Released 9/16/2014

From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

Purchase The Vault of Dreamers at Amazon
Purchase The Vault of Dreamers at IndieBound
View The Vault of Dreamers on Goodreads

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17. Introducing Your Main Character

Fourteen things to do (or not to do) to introduce your protagonist. 


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18. Wild Things! Review and a Giveaway

I enjoyed this book as a fan of children's literature, but it is also a valuable resource to teachers of literacy.

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19. Want a free query critique or copy of How to Write a Novel? Let's chat!

I'm working on a very interesting project for a very interesting General Assembly class on product management, and I would love 10-15 minutes of your time today (Saturday) or tomorrow (Sunday) to ask you a few questions. Yes, you! Let's talk!

In exchange, I will give you a free query critique OR a copy of How to Write a Novel.

We'll chat briefly about your experience having your writing critiqued, in addition to such completely optional topics as bad reality television, the weather in your locale in comparison to the weather in Brooklyn (which is fabulous, thanks for asking), and the iPhone 6 ZOMG the iPhone 6.

If you're interested, please shoot me an e-mail at nathan [at ] nathanbransford.com. Offer is good for the first ten people.

Thank you!

Art: A Conversation by Vladimir Makovsky

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20. Bristol International Book Fair & Comic Expo -an exclusive look at the panels!

Get yours today!!!
Exhibitor Tables


"What editors do, what they're looking for, and how to make their
lives so much easier."
Alternative Realities will be hosting an informal panel discussing what editors do, what they're looking for and how to make their lives so much easier. In other words, how to improve your chances of not being rejected even before they've even started reading your submission and how to rise to the top once they do.

"Fear, Uncertainty, and DRM"
In 2012, sales of eBooks overtook sales of physical books, but are consumers getting what they bargained for? Whether you are a publisher, writer, or reader, the new rules that govern who really owns and controls the digital content that you pay for affect us all. Join novelist, technologist, comics writer, and nerd Chris Lynch for a whistle-stop tour through the dark side of "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) and find out just how much power Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have over our books, music, games, and more in the digital millennium
Poetry workshop
Open to adults with little or no experience of writing, as well as those people who have been writing for sometime. Somerset poet Paul Tobin will be running a 90 minute poetry workshop. Paul is an experienced facilitator, who has run many workshops across the south west, and at festivals for the past six years.
Paul facilitates Taunton's popular poetry group Juncture 25, where he runs
a poetry workshop once a month.

Why not come along and let the muse speak to you.

The Changing Face of Horror

Horror, as a genre, is constantly evolving. Found-footage and torture-porn films are becoming increasingly popular, and in recent years there has been a resurgence in zombie and vampire fiction. This informal panel will look at the ever-changing face of horror. Are we becoming more difficult to scare? Whatever happened to the humble ghost story? When will the zombie trend end? What's next for horror? Featuring Adam Millard, Simon Marshall Jones, A.S. Chambers, and Scot Stanford.


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21. Week in Review: September 13-20

The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]
My Cousin Rachel. Daphne du Maurier. 1951. 374 pages. [Source: Library]
Wednesdays in the Tower. Jessica Day George. 2013. Bloomsbury. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Death of a Schoolgirl (Jane Eyre Chronicles #1) Joanna Campbell Slan. 2012. Berkley Trade. 340 pages. [Source: Library]
Mythmaker: The Life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Anne E. Neimark. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen. 1817/1992. Everyman's Library. 288 pages. [Source: Book I Own]
The Bible Study Handbook. Lindsay Olesberg. 2012. IVP. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
Edwards on the Christian Life. Dane C. Ortlund. 2014. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Love's Fortune. Laura Frantz. 2014. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's favorite:

How do I choose between The Hobbit and Northanger Abbey? They are completely satisfying reads, but in very different ways! I love Catherine and Henry. The story is funny and sweet and predictable and satisfying. I love Bilbo too. I love him more than Frodo. I love the world-building in The Hobbit. I love the writing too. Especially the dialogue. There are chapters of The Hobbit that I simply adore!!! But the same can also be said of Northanger Abbey. There are scenes--if not whole chapters--that I love so very much. It doesn't help that both books are so very quotable. (Usually, that helps me decide if I'm having a hard time.) Since I can only have one winner, I choose The Hobbit. I can't imagine this list without it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Top Ten Finalists in the Pitch Plus Five Contest!

I'm sure the last couple of weeks have been stressful for our top 25 finalists! I want you all to remember that if you didn't get in to the top ten that doesn't mean you should quit. Far from it. You should be thrilled and give yourselves a pat on the back for doing so well! It was close for a lot of people, but there were in the end, a clear top ten.


According to our esteemed author judges the ten that will go on to our agent round (in no particular order) are:

  1. The Lost Pearls of Indarnini
  2. The Apothecary of Forbidden Clocks
  3. Twice Dead
  4. Timekeeper
  5. The Troll Diaries
  6. Mash Up
  7. The Blood Rose Rebellion
  8. Noble Virtues
  9. The Past Life of Jase Byrn
  10. Phoenix Rising
Congratulations to our winners!! Please send your revised pitch (remember only the pitch part) and first five pages by midnight EST tomorrow, so that we can post them for our Agent Round on Monday.

Good luck!

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23. High Humidity

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24. Gretchen McNeil, author of GET EVEN, wears her 80's influences on her sleeve.

What is your favorite thing about GET EVEN?

I think my favorite thing about the book is the mix of comedy and suspense.  I was definitely influenced by Heathers, a movie that manages to be menacing and hilarious at the same time, and I worked really hard to gain the right balance between the two.  I had so much fun with the humor, especially with some of the secondary characters like Ed the Head and Peanut, and I think it heightens the suspense to have moments of terror juxtaposed against moments of hilarity.

At least, I hope it is!

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I started off with a revenge plot, kind of like The Count of Monte Cristo set in high school.  But I realized early on that I preferred an A-Team style group of revengers working unselfishly to avenge others.  But I wanted it to have a light tone, in the same way that John Hughes used difficult issues like class struggle and bullying, but in a humorous way.  That's when the pitch solidified in my head: The Breakfast Club with a body count.  And I went from there!

How long did you work on the book? 

I wrote the first draft in about three months, then spent a long time in revisions with my editor.  This book is significantly more complicated than my previous books, and we worked long and hard to get it right!

What are you working on now? 

I just finished the sequel GET DIRTY which will be out in June 2015.  My first series!

Enter to Win a signed hardcover copy of GET EVEN!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.

Get Even
by Gretchen McNeil
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
Balzer + Bray; Original edition
Released 9/16/2014

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars in Gretchen McNeil’s witty and suspenseful novel about four disparate girls who join forces to take revenge on high school bullies and create dangerous enemies for themselves in the process.

Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers.

When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.

Purchase Get Even at Amazon
Purchase Get Even at IndieBound
View Get Even on Goodreads


Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror POSSESS about a teen exorcist debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011. Her follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth, a finalist for the 2015 Evergreen Young Adult Book Award, and was nominated for "Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012" by Romantic Times. Gretchen's 2013 release is 3:59, a sci-fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions who decide to switch places. Gretchen's novels have been optioned by Hollywood production companies, and have sold internationally in Chinese, Spanish, and Turkish.

In 2014, Gretchen debuts her first series, Don't Get Mad (pitched as "John Hughes with a body count") about four very different girls who form a secret society where they get revenge on bullies and mean girls at their elite prep school. The Don't Get Mad series begins September 16, 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in the summer of 2015, also with Balzer + Bray. In addition, Gretchen has contributed an essay to the Dear Teen Me anthology from Zest Books.

Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. Gretchen blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and was a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels. She is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

You can find Gretchen on Twitter, Facebook, and on her blog.

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25. Fiona Wood, author of WILDLIFE, talks about rewrites and the trouble with coffee shops.

What was your inspiration for writing WILDLIFE?

There were a few points of departure. One was the idea of a character, Sibylla, who’s not quite sure who she is, navigating her first romantic and sexual relationship, and testing her ideas against some realities. The concept of what constitutes good and bad friendship interested me, too. Why do we sometimes settle for mean friends? In what circumstances might we fail as friends? The setting was also something I wanted to explore – we have a number of schools in Melbourne that also have dedicated campuses out of the city where groups of students board for a whole term, and combine outdoor education with the usual academic curriculum. My husband went to one of these schools, and I was always intrigued about the extra pressure – and extra fun – that accompanies this experience, away from many of the usual support structures. I was looking at themes of jealousy and betrayal, and so Othello was an inspiration and a reference point for me, too. The character, Holly, is loosely based on Iago. Death and grieving are explored in the character Lou’s story. So, I had all those things – and the loops and links between them – in mind.

How long did you work on the book?

About three years. There was some overlap with the books on either side of it.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My first book, Six Impossible Things, was published. I’ve only written three books – one still in progress. So, no rejections so far. I wrote TV scripts for twelve years, so I had a lot of writing experience before writing and submitting SIT. Even so, I spent a long time on it, five drafts, at least, over more than three years. And big drafts – story structure changes, and things like changing it from past tense to present tense – all before I submitted it. The other thing is that I do a lot of planning, so I do plenty of my own rejecting at that stage. 

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

For years I worked at home, but for the last seven years I’ve had a small office away from home, which I really appreciate. I need a quiet atmosphere for working. I could never even do my school homework if I had music playing. I don’t know how people work in a coffee shop. The distractions! I’d feel self-conscious sitting with my laptop – as though I were trying to look like a writer. Then if I were staring into space for minutes at a time – which I do half the day – I’d imagine people judging me: wow, she’s not doing much writing, for a writer. And I’d be worried about how much coffee I should be drinking. How many coffees per hour would justify my space in the room? Also, when you really do a lot of writing, your workstation has to be set up properly, or you hurt your back, neck, shoulders, wrists. When I’m writing a first draft I don’t let myself leave work until I’ve written my word count for the day. I write down the daily, accumulating word count, a page per month. It’s surprisingly encouraging seeing it there, growing a little bit at a time. 

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

The best writing advice I ever got was from a screenwriting teacher: finish it. You can’t even begin to make something work until the rewriting starts. Lots people have good ideas, and can write good sample chapters – but it’s a much smaller number who persevere with the hard slog of draft after draft after draft that might result in a well-written manuscript, and lead to publication. And the other thing is that I think characters and story ideas are more likely to wander into a quiet mind. So, the advice that relates to that is to give yourself some quiet time when you can. (Easier said than done.)

What are you working on now?

The second draft of my third book, Cloudwish.

Enter to Win a hardcover copy of WILDLIFE!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.


by Fiona Wood
Released 9/16/2014

During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating.

New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can't help but be drawn back into the land of the living.

Fans of Melina Marchetta, Rainbow Rowell, and E. Lockhart will adore this endearing and poignant story of first love, true friendship, and going a little bit wild.

Purchase Wildlife at Amazon
Purchase Wildlife at IndieBound
View Wildlife on Goodreads

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