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Friday, October 30, 2015

Guest Post with Robin Talley, author of What We Left Behind

Welcome to Day #10 of the What We Left Behind Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (10/27/15), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Robin, as well as 10 chances to win a copy of What We Left Behind or a 7-book LGBT YA Prize Pack chosen by Robin herself in the Grand Prize Giveaway!

Robin Talley's Top 5 Tips for Newbie Writers

Writers often get asked for advice from folks who want to write but aren’t quite sure how to get started. Having been one of those folks myself not so long ago, I’ve put together my top 5 writing tips for those just starting out: 

1. Read everything you can get your hands on. 
 Your favorite genre, out of your favorite genre. Fiction, nonfiction. Books, articles, poetry, drama ― it’ll all teach you something about language, about plotting, about what you like and what you don’t. Even if you don’t realize it at the time. 
2. Write every chance you get. 
Don’t wait for the perfect time, for the muse to strike, for that unicorn that is a commitment-free weekend. You’ll be waiting your whole life. Write when you can, whether it’s in 10-minute intervals on your lunch break or at night while the rest of your family is watching Netflix. Building a writing career is all about finding time where you never knew you had it. 
3. Try outlining. 
Outlining your stories might work for you, or it might not. Personally I couldn’t live without outlining, but I have friends who say it kills their creativity. But you don’t know which camp you’ll be in until you try it. And if you’re like me, your writing just might be incomprehensible unless you outline first. 
4. Connect with other writers ― and have them read your work. 
Your family and friends are fantastic, but unless they’re writers themselves, they won’t completely get what you’re trying to do. You’ve got to find other writers who are at the same point in their careers as you (social media is great for this). You’ll need them for bonding, for commiseration, and, perhaps most importantly of all, for beta-reading. 
5. Read writing advice books ― but ignore the parts that don’t work for you. 
There’s a lot of excellent advice there. Some of my favorite writing advice books are Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon, and Second Sight by Cheryl Klein. Read what other writers have to say about writing, but don’t feel like you have to follow their advice to the letter ― you should pick and choose the tips that work for you. The same goes for this blog post, too!

Today is the last day of the tour! Be sure to stop by the other blogs for more chances to win!
Blog Tour Schedule:
October 19th – Once Upon a Twilight
October 20th — Novel Novice
October 22nd — Reading Teen
October 23rd — Great Imaginations
October 26th — I Read Banned Books
October 27th — Ravenous Reader
October 28th — Candace’s Book Blog
October 29th — Book Love 101
October 30th — The Hiding Spot

Follow Robin: Twitter | Facebook | Website | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads
From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love isn't enough to conquer all. Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive. The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship. While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?
  • One (1) winner will receive a 7-book LGBT YA Prize Pack featuring the 5 novels chosen by Robin in Day #1's post (The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King, If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, Far From You by Tess Sharpe,  The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson), plus copies of both of Robin Talley's novels (What We Left Behind and Lies We Tell Ourselves)
  • Enter via the rafflecopter below
  • US/Canada Only
  • Ends 11/1 at midnight ET
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cover Reveals - Middle Grade (54)

Eleven and Holding by Mary Penney
Like The Thing About Jellyfish and Counting by 7s, this sweet, heartfelt middle grade novel illustrates for readers what it’s like to tackle loss, confront hard truths, and find the courage to begin again.

Macy Hollinquest is eleven years old, and don’t count on her to change that anytime soon.

Her birthday is just days away, but she has no intention of turning twelve without her dad by her side. He’d promised to be there for her big day—and yet he’s been gone for months, away doing some kind of secret “important work” after being discharged from the Marines. So she’s staying eleven, no matter what—that is, until she meets Ginger, a nice older lady who is searching for her missing dog. Could Ginger be the perfect cover for attempting to locate her dad?

Macy’s search puts her on a path to a head-on collision with the truth, where she discovers that knowing can sometimes be a heavy burden. And that change, when finally accepted, comes with an unexpected kind of grace.

Mary Penney’s earnest, heartfelt story of change, loss, and new beginnings will resonate with readers on the cusp of new beginnings, and stay in their hearts long after it’s done.
The Color of Darkness by Ruth Hatfield
After rescuing his parents, Danny returns to his old life, burying the taro that allowed him to speak to animals, trees, and the very storms that led to his adventure. Danny thinks he's left magic and mystery behind, but Sammael, a creature of terrible imagination, refuses to let him go.

A strange new girl, Cath, enters Danny's world, bringing with her a message: Danny's cousin Tom has sold his soul to Sammael. It's up to Danny and Cath to find Tom and stop Sammael, who seeks to destroy humankind once and for all.
Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard
With her mama recently dead and her scoundrel pa sight unseen since birth, fourteen-year-old Amelia is suddenly in charge of her younger brother and sister--and of the family gas station. Harley Blevins, local king and emperor of Standard Oil, is in hot pursuit to clinch his fuel monopoly. To keep him at bay and to stay out of the state orphanage, Melia must come up with a father--and fast. And so when a hobo rolls out of a passing car into their drive, Melia grabs opportunity by its beard. Can she hold off the hounds till she turns sixteen?
Mischief at Midnight by Esme Kerr
The thrilling follow-up to the boarding school mystery The Girl with the Glass Bird.

There's a new girl at Knight's Haddon, and she isn't like anyone the other girls have ever met before. Janet is cool and confident, so Edie is thrilled that they become friends. And when Edie's friendship with Anastasia becomes rocky, Janet is there for her. But mischief begins to unfold, leading Edie to think Janet may not be all she seems -- and suddenly events take a dangerous turn.

Patrick Griffin's Last Breakfast on Earth by Ned Rust
Join a twelve-year-old boy's accidental adventure through parallel worlds in this sweeping, new action-adventure series.
When Patrick Griffin passes out after a chemistry experiment gone bad, he wakes up in a strange parallel world, where everyone has huge eyes and tiny ears, and is addicted to smartphones called "binkies." At first, Patrick thinks he's in a weird dream, but he's about to realize he's on an adventure beyond his wildest imagination.

Meanwhile, a huge rabbit-like creature named Mr. BunBun is roaming through Patrick's hometown, leaving a trail of chaos behind it. Its mission? To save Earth from imminent doom.

See what happens when the fate of three worlds lies in the hands of one boy and one gigantic bunny . . .

It's Douglas Adams-meets-Kurt Vonnegut in this hilarious, smart, and mind-bending new series. Imagine if 1984 were even remotely funny.
The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper by Annabelle Fisher
Pixie Piper, an ordinary fifth grader, discovers she is a direct descendent of Mother Goose, and she has the magical ability and poetry power to prove it! A lively and funny twist on a classic character for fans of the Clementine books, Wendy Mass, and Lisa Graff.
Fifth grader Pixie Piper has always known she was a little different. She has a wild mop of hair that won’t stay put, her best friend is a boy, and to top it all off, she’s constantly coming up with rhymes and poems that just seem to pop out of her. Then, when Pixie thinks it can’t get any worse, she finds out that she actually is different—she’s a descendant of Mother Goose! This surprising and clever novel features family, friendship, poetry, a toilet museum, just the right amount of magic, as well as a goose, a fox, and a beautiful golden retriever puppy. Rich, multigenerational characters and the real and powerful portrayal of grade school friendships, with all their ups and downs, distinguishes this terrific elementary school story that will appeal to fans of Judy Moody, Clementine, and novels by Wendy Mass and Lisa Graff.

The Underdogs by Sara Hammel
A debut summer mystery with a breathtaking twist you won't see coming
Who killed Annabel Harper?

When a popular teen beauty’s body is discovered by the pool at an elite tennis club, the regulars are shocked—especially twelve-year-old Evie and her best friend, Chelsea. While everyone else is haunted by the teen’s death, Evie and Chelsea jump on the case, dogging the footsteps of the lead detective as he investigates this suspicious death. As the two shadow the detective, the girls learn secrets about the club’s regulars—and stumble upon a disturbing truth that will test their friendship and prompt an act of heroism that may change both of their lives forever.

Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle
On the third night of the third month after a girl’s thirteenth birthday, every girl in the town of Willow Hill makes three wishes.

The first wish is an impossible wish.
The second is a wish she can make come true herself.
And the third is the deepest wish of her secret heart.

Natasha is the oldest child in a family steeped in magic, though she’s not sure she believes in it. She’s full to bursting with wishes, however. She misses her mother, who disappeared nearly eight long years ago. She has a crush on one of the cutest boys in her class, and she thinks maybe it would be nice if her very first kiss came from him. And amid the chaos of a house full of sisters, aunts, and a father lost in grief, she aches to simply be...noticed.

So Natasha goes to the willow tree at the top of the hill on her Wishing Day, and she makes three wishes. What unfolds is beyond anything she could have imagined.
Five Times Revenge by Lindsay Eland
Adam is the prank mastermind. Perk is his best friend and the computer genius. Pearl is the prettiest girl in school—and a violin prodigy. Ray looks like a big dumb jock, but he secretly wants to be an engineer. And Dutch is the often-bullied dork who is in tune with everyone’s feelings. The five of them couldn’t be more different. But there’s one thing they have in common: they are fed up with Hill Parmar, the school bully—and his dad, their school principal, who is always turning a blind eye. When Hill finally steps over the line, the five unlikely schemers band together for a prank like nothing Mt. Nittany Middle School has ever seen before. Lindsay Eland weaves the five alternate points of view together for an accessible and funny school story—and a friendship story—for every reader. Teamwork, trust, and seeing below the surface are at the heart of this novel for readers who snap up books by Wendy Mass, Jennifer L. Holm, and Kate Messner.
The Brightest Stars of Summer by Leila Howland
Wedding bells are ringing on the Cape! It’s summer again and Marigold, Zinnia, and Lily are heading back to their beloved Pruet to help bride-to-be Aunt Sunny plan her big day. But cake and decorations aren’t the only items on the girls’ agenda this summer. Marigold can’t wait to escape the embarrassment of being cut from one of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters—especially after she bragged to all of her West Coast friends that she was in it. And Zinnie is trying her hardest to write a story good enough to get into an elite writing program. She finds unexpected inspiration in Marigold’s heartbreak over last summer’s crush, Peter Pasque, and a cute boy named Max she meets on the beach.

But when it becomes clear that Max has eyes for Marigold, Zinnie can’t contain her hurt, and it leads her to betray Marigold with an unthinkable sister crime. With a wedding on the horizon and tension simmering between them, will the Silver sisters be able to overcome their hurt in time to give Sunny what she’s already given them: a summer to remember?
Every Single Second by Tricia Springstubb
A single second. That’s all it takes to turn a world upside down.

Twelve-year-old Nella Sabatini’s life is changing too soon, too fast. Her best friend, Clem, doesn’t seem concerned; she’s busy figuring out the best way to spend the “leap second”—an extra second about to be added to the world’s official clock. The only person who might understand how Nella feels is Angela, but the two of them have gone from being “secret sisters” to not talking at all.

Then Angela’s idolized big brother makes a terrible, fatal mistake, one that tears apart their tight-knit community and plunges his family into a whirlwind of harsh publicity and judgment. In the midst of this controversy, Nella is faced with a series of startling revelations about her parents, friends, and neighborhood. As Angela’s situation becomes dangerous, Nella must choose whether to stand by or stand up. Her heart tries to tell her what to do, but can you always trust your heart? The clock ticks down, and in that extra second, past and present merge—the future will be up to her.

Tricia Springstubb’s extraordinary novel is about the shifting bonds of friendship and the unconditional love of family, the impact of class and racial divides on a neighborhood and a city, and a girl awakening to awareness of a world bigger and more complex than she’d ever imagined.
Which new covers are your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: The Toymaker's Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith


Title: The Toymaker's Apprentice
Author: Sherri L. Smith
Publisher: Penguin
Pub. Date: October 13, 2015
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 8-12
Pages: 400
More by this author: Orleans, Flygirl

A gorgeously imagined Nutcracker retelling from award-winning author making her middle-grade debut

Stefan Drosselmeyer is a reluctant apprentice to his toymaker father until the day his world is turned upside down. His father is kidnapped and Stefan is enlisted by his mysterious cousin, Christian Drosselmeyer, to find a mythical nut to save a princess who has been turned into a wooden doll. Embarking on a wild adventure through Germany, Stefan must save Boldavia’s princess and his own father from the fanatical Mouse Queen and her seven-headed Mouse Prince, both of whom have sworn to destroy the Drosselmeyer family. 

Based on the original inspiration for the Nutcracker ballet, Sherri L. Smith brings the Nutcracker Prince to life in this fascinating journey into a world of toymaking, magical curses, clockmaking guilds, talking mice and erudite squirrels.  

I'm not very familiar with the The Nutcracker, but my ignorance of the original story in no way impacted my enjoyment of Sherri L. Smith's middle grade retelling. The Toymaker's Apprentice is Smith's middle grade debut, but its likely that readers of all ages - including her older fans - will find much to appreciate within her newest offering.

"The cat raised a whiskered brow. Most rodents spoke a few words of Catish - mainly phrases such as 'spare me,' 'please,' and 'mercy.' Although that last one was a mistranslation. There was no word for mercy in the cat tongue, only 'swiftly.'"
The story is told from multiple perspectives, both human and animal. The two most frequent narrators are Stefan Drosselmeyer, the toymaker's apprentice for whom the novel is named, and Ernst, a scholarly rat. Stefan is the character with which readers will likely relate. Like the reader, he is just learning that animals - most notably mice, rats, and squirrels - can understand and communicate with humans. Ernst, on the other hand, is a learned creature, well aware of the history of between human and animal and the character from which the reader begins to understand the the events that have led up to Stefan's current predicament: a quest to track down a possibly imaginary, uncrackable nut to prevent a catastrophic war between humans and mice.
"It weighs heavily on you at first. Knowledge is often a burden. But each lesson is a tool, Stefan. The more you know about the truth behind the world, the better prepared you will be for what we face."
The action starts slowly as the scene is set and the characters are introduced, but I appreciated the slower pace as it allowed for connection with the characters. I couldn't help but draw comparisons between The Toymaker's Apprentice and Brian Jacques' Redwall series. Like Redwall, Smith's novel has plenty of action, but readers are given time to connect to the characters and realize the gravity of what a war between human and mouse would mean before launching into the fray. I found myself deeply invested in the lives of  the rat, Ernst, and his charge, the simultaneously blessed and cursed seven-headed mouse prince.
"If sadness shaped people, how was there ever joy in the world?"
Despite never having read or watched The Nutcracker, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Smith presents readers with characters that are both hero and villain depending on the perspective, which she cleverly showcases with alternating points-of-view. 


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cover Reveals - Young Adult - XLXIII

Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger
From Lois Metzger, acclaimed author of A Trick of the Light, comes a work of speculative fiction set in the near future about a teen girl who finds a new, mysterious perspective on her life.

Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.

But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.

A bold and original work of speculative fiction set in a familiar future, Lois Metzger’s latest novel is a profoundly authentic and heartbreaking tale of the things we keep locked away inside us, even from ourselves.
Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray
A historical psychological suspense and murder mystery for teens, with all the trappings of Downton Abbey.

After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can't accept that her brother's death was an accident.

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There's a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother's killer claim her life, too?

This Gothic murder mystery is filled with history, psychological suspense, and all the trappings of Downton Abbey.
Out of My Mind by Lauren Sabel
Callie Sinclair is literally out of her mind.

As the government’s youngest psychic spy, Callie finds valuable information for top-secret missions without ever leaving the office. Her work is fascinating and keeps her headaches at bay, but it means she must lie to everyone she loves. She can’t move to New York with her boyfriend Charlie no matter how much he begs; he’ll never know the real Callie and that wouldn’t be fair to him. Besides, she has a job to do… and a new partner to do it with.

Jasper’s psychic abilities are impressive, as is the way he keeps up with her witty remarks. Callie can’t help but flirt; Jasper knows her in a way Charlie never will. But as her love life gets more complicated, so do her visions. People halfway around the world seem to be in danger…and people in her own backyard, too. When an oddball billionaire takes interest in Callie’s talents, it’s clear that if she can’t find a way to alter future events, she could lose the people she loves—and her mind. Literally.

Lauren Sabel’s enthralling, romantic novel captures the thrill of exploring a unique power in a dangerous world.
Frannie and Tru by Karen Hattrup
When Frannie Little eavesdrops on her parents fighting she discovers that her cousin Truman is gay, and his parents are so upset they are sending him to live with her family for the summer. At least, that’s what she thinks the story is. . . When he arrives, shy Frannie befriends this older boy, who is everything that she’s not–rich, confident, cynical, sophisticated. Together, they embark on a magical summer marked by slowly unraveling secrets.

The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Los Angeles)…

When Cedric, crowned prince of Caelum, and his fellow royal friends (including his betrothed, Kat) find themselves stranded in modern-day L.A. via a magical portal and an evil traitor named Malquin, all they want to do is get home to Caelum—soon. Then they meet Liv, a filmmaker foster girl who just wants to get out of the system and on with her life. As she and Cedric bond, they’ll discover that she’s more connected to his world than they ever could’ve imagined…and that finding home is no easy task…

Worlds collide in The Marked Girl, an exciting fantasy tale turned upside down.
Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
The only life seventeen-year-old Kol knows is hunting at the foot of the Great Ice with his brothers. But food is becoming scarce, and without another clan to align with, Kol, his family, and their entire group are facing an uncertain future.

Traveling from the south, Mya and her family arrive at Kol’s camp with a trail of hurt and loss behind them, and hope for a new beginning. When Kol meets Mya, her strength, independence, and beauty instantly captivate him, igniting a desire for much more than survival.

Then on a hunt, Kol makes a grave mistake that jeopardizes the relationship that he and Mya have only just started to build. Mya was guarded to begin with—and for good reason—but no apology or gesture is enough for her to forgive him. Soon after, another clan arrives on their shores. And when Mya spots Lo, a daughter of this new clan, her anger intensifies, adding to the already simmering tension between families. After befriending Lo, Kol learns of a dark history between Lo and Mya that is rooted in the tangle of their pasts.

When violence erupts, Kol is forced to choose between fighting alongside Mya or trusting Lo’s claims. And when things quickly turn deadly, it becomes clear that this was a war that one of them had been planning all along.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Dr. Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.

American Girls by Alison Umminger
Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood.

Anna has had an excruciating year, topped off with new stepparents and a new school. So, she "borrows" her family's credit card and runs away to LA to crash with her half-sister. But in addition to not being wanted back by her parents, at least not immediately, Anna has to work to pay her way home. Her sister's creepy ex-boyfriend is directing an indie film inspired by girls who come to LA and disappear, literally or metaphorically, and he hires Anna for a seriously macabre research project--to research the murderous Manson girls.

This is not quite the summer Anna had in mind, but it may just be the one that she needs to understand and accept her family, and herself, in a new way.

In Anna's singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America--in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn't, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.
The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander
Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach. One minute Eddie was there, and the next he was gone. Seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie is a cute and mysterious boy that Elsie meets in her favorite boathouse hangout. When Tay introduces Elsie to the world of freediving, she vows to find the answers she seeks at the bottom of the sea.
The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
A charming and imaginative new novel about getting lost before you can be found.

Frannie and Louis met in an online support group when they were both younger. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them, exactly. Things just seem to…disappear.

They each receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

The Lost & Found is a bighearted novel about connections (missed and found), family (the kind you’re born with and the kind you make for yourself), and unexpected journeys (on the road, and of the heart), from an author who Publishers Weekly called “a fierce new presence.”
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
From the author of the critically acclaimed Under a Painted Sky, an unforgettable story of determination set against a backdrop of devastating tragedy. Perfect for fans of Code Name Verity.

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can't sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the 'bossy' cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Breakout author Stacey Lee masterfully crafts another remarkable novel set against a unique historical backdrop. Strong-willed Mercy Wong leads a cast of diverse characters in this extraordinary tale of survival.
Which new covers are your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Storytime: New & Notable Picture Books (26)

This week's Storytime features a busy mole, a little tree afraid of change, compromise between pets, an imaginative cloud, and an artist who learns its all about perspective.

Holey Moley
Written and Illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Ages 4-8, Available Now

Buy It
Get to know Mole, the underground protector of the garden, in this fact-filled natural history adventure with vibrant collage artwork from the Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Some might think that Mole is a garden pest, but the truth is, he is a pest-preventer! Mole keeps worms and caterpillars and other crawly bugs from munching up all the growing veggie plants. And so at harvest time, there is a bounty of yummy goodies for the gardeners to enjoy—and Mole is chubby from all the eating he has done and ready to get cozy in his burrow for winter.

Complete with a beautiful glossary identifying all of the different worms, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies included in the illustrations, this colorful gem from Caldecott Honoree Lois Ehlert is sure to delight nature lovers of all ages.
I have to admit, I'm not always the biggest fan of the text in Lois Ehlert's books - some I love, others I can do without - but I always adore her collage illustrations. Her newest book, Holey Moley, is no exception. Not only is the mole in this story absolutely adorable, readers will find plenty to explore within the illustrations (and in the garden!).

Little Tree

Written & Illustrated by Loren Long
Ages 4-8, Available 10/27/2015

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In the middle of a little forest, there lives a Little Tree who loves his life and the splendid leaves that keep him cool in the heat of long summer days. Life is perfect just the way it is.

Autumn arrives, and with it the cool winds that ruffle Little Tree's leaves. One by one the other trees drop their leaves, facing the cold of winter head on. But not Little Tree—he hugs his leaves as tightly as he can. Year after year Little Tree remains unchanged, despite words of encouragement from a squirrel, a fawn, and a fox, his leaves having long since turned brown and withered. As Little Tree sits in the shadow of the other trees, now grown sturdy and tall as though to touch the sun, he remembers when they were all the same size. And he knows he has an important decision to make. From #1 New York Times bestselling Loren Long comes a gorgeously-illustrated story that challenges each of us to have the courage to let go and to reach for the sun.
Oh, my heart! Loren Long's newest picture book is special. Young readers will love Little Tree's story, but adults will fall for this beautiful story about fear and change too. Picture books are for all ages and I want to give this book to everyone. Bravo, Loren Long, bravo!
Simon's New Bed
Written by Christian Trimmer; Illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt
Ages 4-8, Available Now

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Simon’s been looking forward to trying out his brand-new dog bed all day. He may be ready for the best nap of his life, but Miss Adora Belle the cat has other ideas. She’s taken over his bed before he even gets a chance to try it—and she’s not budging. As Simon struggles to find a way to free his bed for the Greatest Naptime Ever, he may just discover something wonderful about his new bed: there’s plenty of room for two.
In this hilariously true to life story about a dog named Simon who's brand new bed is taken over by a cat, readers will learn the value of compromise. Simon's facial expressions are too funny... I'm sure many cat owners will relate to Simon's struggle!

Cloud Country

Written by Bonny Becker, Illustrated by Noah Klocek
Ages 3-5, Available 11/3/2015

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Sitting there, among the clouds, looking down and day dreaming is... a little clo.udlet. Gale would like nothing more than to make one real cloud shape. But instead, she creates something different. Wait until all of Cloud Country finds out!
Gale, a cloudlet, finds she cannot make the cloud formations required of all young clouds, instead creating whimsical duplicates of animals and shapes she sees while Earth gazing. Will Gale graduate from Formation School or will her imagination stand in her way? Cloud Country is part of the Pixar Animation Studios Showcase, a series of original stories accompanied by the work of artists from Pixar. Illustrator Noah Klocek, who worked on films like Brave, Up, and Wall-E, has created gorgeous, soft accompanying illustrations in shades of purple.

Just Like I Wanted
Written by Elinoar Keller & Naama Peleg Segal, Illustrated by Aya Gordon-Noy
Ages 4-7, Available Now

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As she tries to create a perfect picture, a girl keeps drawing outside the lines but rather than give up, she simply transforms the picture into something new.
In this picture book, originally written in Hebrew and translated by Annette Appel, a young girl is determined to make a perfect picture that will earn the praise of her teacher and classmates. Instead of being discouraged and starting over when she makes what might be viewed as mistakes, she adapts, transforming the picture into something new. Told through collage and rhyming text, Just Like I Wanted is a celebration of imagination and perspective. Recommended to pair with I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard.

Love any of the books featured this week? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

YA Horror Recommendations

I'm a huuuuuuge wimp when it comes to scary movies, but I'm really drawn to YA horror novels. I don't read them that often, but, when I do, I end up reading under the covers, ridiculously overheating but too afraid to look around the room. MONSTERS ARE OUT THERE. AND SERIAL KILLERS. AND WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?

With Halloween only a week away, I've been thinking a lot about my favorite scary reads. Some time ago I put together a post with my favorite creepy Middle Grade reads, which you can find here, but today I'm showing some love to my YA favorites!

Have you read books that fit into this category that I should read? Let me know!

Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett
Penguin - September 2015

Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.
Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano
Simon & Schuster - August 2015 

When Paige moves from LA to Idaho with her mom and little brother after her parents’ high-profile divorce, she expects to completely hate her new life, and the small town doesn’t disappoint. Worse yet, the drafty old mansion they’ve rented is infested with flies, spiders, and other pests Paige doesn’t want to think about.

She chalks it up to her rural surroundings, but it’s harder to ignore the strange things happening around the house, from one can of ravioli becoming a dozen, to unreadable words appearing in the walls. Soon Paige’s little brother begins roaming the house at all hours of the night, and there’s something not right about the downstairs neighbor, who knows a lot more than he’s letting on.

Things only get creepier when she learns about the sinister cult that conducted experimental rituals in the house almost a hundred years earlier.
The more Paige investigates, and the deeper she digs, the clearer it all becomes: whatever is in the house, whatever is causing all the strange occurrences, has no intention of backing down without a fight.

Found in the aftermath, Diary of a Haunting collects the journal entries, letters, and photographs Paige left behind.
Survive the Night by Danielle Vega
Penguin - July 2015

We're all gonna die down here. . . .

Julie lies dead and disemboweled in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Her friends think she’s just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music.

In a tunnel nearby, Casey regrets coming to Survive the Night, the all-night underground rave in the New York City subway. Her best friend Shana talked her into it, even though Casey just got out of rehab. Alone and lost in the dark, creepy tunnels, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse . . .
. . . until she comes across Julie’s body, and the party turns deadly.

Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway system, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.

They’re being hunted.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke
Penguin - August 2015

For fans of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Lois Duncan, and Daphne Du Maurier comes a powerhouse anthology featuring some of the best writers of YA thrillers and horror

A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.

Shutter by Courtney Alameda
Feiwel & Friends - February 2015

Horror has a new name: introducing Courtney Alameda.

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco
Sourcebooks Fire - August 2014

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret - one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as "Dexter" meets "The Grudge", based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.
The Violet Hour by Whitney A. Miller
Flux - March 2014

The voice inside me is breaking free. I can't stop it.

Some call VisionCrest the pinnacle of religious enlightenment. Others call it a powerful cult. For seventeen years, Harlow Wintergreen has called it her life.

As the daughter of VisionCrest's patriarch, Harlow is expected to be perfect at all times. She must be considered a paragon of integrity by the other Ministry teens and a future leader in the eyes of the world.

Despite the constant scrutiny Harlow is keeping a dark and dangerous secret, even from her best friend and the boy she loves. She hears a voice in her head that seems to have a mind of its own, plaguing her with violent and bloody visions. It commands her to kill. And the urge to obey is getting harder and harder to control ....

Amity by Micol Ostow
EgmontUSA - August 2014


Here is a house of ruin and rage, of death and deliverance.
Here is where I live, not living.
Here is always mine.

When Connor's family moves to Amity, a secluded house on the peaceful banks of New England's Concord River, his nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons. destruction, and revenge. Dreams he kind of likes. Dreams he could make real, with Amity's help.

Ten years later, Gwen's family moves to Amity for a fresh start. Instead, she's haunted by lurid visions, disturbing voices, and questions about her own sanity. But with her history, who would ever believe her? And what could be done if they did?

Because Amity isn't just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a violent end as she's done before. As she'll do again. And again. And again.

Inspired by a true-crime story, Amity spans generations to weave an overlapping, interconnected tale of terror, insanity. danger, and death.
Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn
HarperTeen - June 2013

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese's fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Penguin - August 2013

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.

Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?

Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery... who makes you want to kiss back.

Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.

Have you read books that fit into this category that I've missed? Let me know!