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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cover Reveals - Middle Grade - XXXI

I Don't Know How the Story Ends by J.B. Cheaney
Isobel is reeled into the bustling beginning of the film world when she's shipped off to WWI-era Hollywood...
When Isobel is dragged on an extended vacation to Hollywood, she anticipates nothing but homesickness—especially with her father away at war. But that's before she meets Ranger, her fast-talking, movie-obsessed cousin. Ranger ropes Isobel and her sister Sylvie into helping him create the perfect film, but their adventures come to a screeching halt when the girls' father returns home with a serious injury. While Isobel and Sylvie struggle with their grief, Ranger uses the real-life tragedy as inspiration for his epic film, which might be just the thing to help the family heal.
Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den by Aimee Carter

Twelve-year-old Simon Thorn’s life has never been easy or normal, but things like being bullied at school and living in a cramped Manhattan apartment with his Uncle Darrell are nothing compared to his biggest secret: He can talk to animals.

But when his mom is suddenly kidnapped by a herd of rats, Simon finds out that he, his mom, and his uncle are all Animalgams—people born with the ability to change into an animal at will.

In search of his mom, Simon discovers the Animalgam Academy based at the Central Park Zoo. There he learns about the fractured five kingdoms that make up this secret world . . . and realizes he may be the only one who can save it.

This action-packed page-turner is perfect for fans of the Spirit Animals and The School of Good and Evil series.
Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo
Deckawoo Drive’s intrepid Animal Control Officer meets her match—or does she? A funny, heartfelt, and fast-paced romp from the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Francine Poulet is the greatest Animal Control Officer in Gizzford County. She hails from a long line of Animal Control Officers. She’s battled snakes, outwitted squirrels, and stared down a bear. "The genuine article," Francine’s dad always called her. She is never scared—until, that is, she’s faced with a screaming raccoon that may or may not be a ghost. Maybe Francine isn’t cut out to be an Animal Control Officer after all! But the raccoon is still on the loose, and the folks on Deckawoo Drive need Francine back. Can she face her fears, round up the raccoon, and return to the ranks of Animal Control? Join a cast of familiar characters—Frank, Stella, Mrs. Watson, and Mercy the porcine wonder—for some riotous raccoon wrangling on Deckawoo Drive.
Superheroes Don't Eat Veggie Burgers by Gretchen Kelley
Sixth grade would be a lot easier if your fantasies came true . . . or would it?
Middle school may be tough, but Charlie Burger has a plan for how he'll get through it: mind his own business and stay out of the limelight. But the sixth grade has other plans for Charlie. His best friend Franki starts acting weird--since when does she like to dance?--and everyone from his mom to his soccer coach is on his case all the time. Worst of all? The school bully, Boomer Bodbreath, seems to think Charlie has a bull's-eye on his back.

When Charlie's eccentric science teacher hands out writing journals instead of beakers and goggles, Charlie is convinced his year can't be saved. That is, until he starts writing stories about Dude Explodius, an awesome, studly superhero--and those stories start coming true.

Can a kid who's used to the sidelines suddenly take a shot at saving the world?
This Side of Wild by Gary Paulsen
Gary Paulsen is an adventurer who competed in two Iditarods, survived the Minnesota wilderness, and climbed the Bighorns. None of this would have been possible without his truest companion: his animals. Sled dogs rescued him in Alaska, a sickened poodle guarded his well-being, and a horse led him across a desert. Through his interactions with dogs, horses, birds, and more, Gary has been struck with the belief that animals know more than we may fathom.

His understanding and admiration of animals is well known, and in This Side of Wild, which has taken a lifetime to write, he proves the ways in which they have taught him to be a better person.
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Following a series of murders, an apothecary’s apprentice must solve puzzles and decipher codes in pursuit of a secret that could destroy the world in this suspenseful debut novel.

Christopher Rowe, apprentice to Master Apothecary Benedict Blackthorn, is learning all his master’s secrets—like how to decipher complex codes and puzzles, and how to transform simple ingredients into powerful medicines, potions, and weapons.

Christopher’s beloved master guides him with a firm, steady hand—a confidence even more vital as Christopher learns of a mysterious cult preying on London’s apothecaries. The murders grow closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop…until Christopher is torn from his home with only a cryptic message and a warning from his master: “Tell no one what I’ve given you.”

Aided by his best friend, Tom, Christopher must race to decipher his master’s message—and follow a trail of deceit toward an unearthly secret with the power to tear the world apart.
When Mischief Came to Town byKatrina Nannestad
When Inge Maria arrives on the tiny island of Bornholm in Denmark to live with her grandmother, she's not sure what to expect. Her grandmother is stern, the people on the island are strange, and children are supposed to be seen and not heard.   But no matter how hard Inge tries to be good, mischief has a way of finding her.     Could it be that a bit of mischief is exactly what Grandmother and the people of Bornholm need?
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier
It’s been two years since Peter Nimble and Sir Tode rescued the kingdom of HazelPort. In that time, they have traveled far and wide in search of adventure. Now Peter and Sir Tode have been summoned by Professor Cake for a new mission: find a 12-year-old girl named Sophie Quire.
Sophie knows little beyond the four walls of her father’s bookshop, where she works as a bookmender and dreams of leaving the confines of her city walls. But when a strange boy and his talking cat/horse companion show up searching for a rare and mysterious book, she finds herself pulled into an adventure beyond anything she has ever read.
The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst
Sophie loves the hidden shop below her parents' bookstore, where dreams are secretly bought and sold. When the dream shop is robbed and her parents go missing, Sophie must unravel the truth to save them. Together with her best friend—a wisecracking and fanatically loyal monster named Monster—she must decide whom to trust with her family’s carefully guarded secrets. Who will help them, and who will betray them?

Which new covers are your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Five Questions with Kids Comics Authors: Andy Runton, creator of Owly

Today Dragons Beware! creators Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado are at The Hiding Spot to interview Owly creator Andy Runton! This interview series was co-sponsored by Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. You can follow the full blog tour here.

Rafael/Jorge: Andy, thanks so much for answering our questions. And so nice to cyber-meet you. 
Andy: Absolutely! It's great to meet you as well. :) 
Rafael/Jorge: How do go about writing Owly, since it’s a silent comic? Do you write an outline first or just write/draw as you go?  
Andy: All of my stories come from real-life situations that are then customized for the Owly universe. I think of the story in my mind and write down a few notes. I'll do a quick summary and then I just start sketching. Most of the time this is when the details come into play so I really don't know how the story is going to really work until I start drawing. I know where it's headed but it doesn't really come to life until it's on paper. 
Rafael/Jorge: Will we ever see an animated Owly special or TV series? Do you have any interest in that? 
Andy: We actually worked hard to get an Owly series off the ground a while back and made a great little short with the help of Sprite Animation (who are absolutely fantastic! - you can see it here: We had a few offers but it never worked out. I'll keep working on Owly stories and maybe someday it'll happen. 
Rafael/Jorge: What contemporary cartoonists influence your work these days? 
Andy: I was hugely influenced by all of the comics and illustrated children's books I read growing up. My biggest comic influences are Bill Watterson, all of the artists that worked on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (especially Eric Talbot) and Mike Mignola.
Rafael/Jorge: What are you working on now? 
Andy: I'm actually working on a few side projects with plans to get started on the next full-length Owly graphic novel soon. 
Rafael/Jorge: What's on your nightstand? 
Andy: Exploring Calvin & Hobbes, The Art of Richard Thompson, Bodie Troll by Jay Fosgitt, and Band by Christine & Erin Humiston.

About Andy Runton:

Andy is the creator of the breakout all-ages series of graphic novels, Owly, featuring a kind-hearted little owl who's always searching for new friends and adventure. Relying on a mixture of symbols and expressions to tell his silent stories, Andy?s work showcases both his gift for characterization and his love of birds, animals, and the outdoors. His animated and heartwarming style has made him a favorite of both fans and critics alike.

The Owly series has earned him multiple awards in the comics and graphic novel community, including the Howard E. Day Memorial Prize, the Harvey Award, two Ignatz Awards, and the 2006 Eisner Award for "Best Publication for a Younger Audience". He lives in the greater Atlanta area, where he works full-time on Owly comics, books, and graphic novels.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review & Giveaway: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Buy It 

Title: The Girl at Midnight
Author: Melissa Grey
Publisher: Delacorte BFYR
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+
Pages: 368
More by this author: n/a

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Melissa Grey's debut novel, The Girl at Midnight, is a fast-paced, romantic fantasy novel in the same vein as Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Laini Taylor's Shadow and Bone books, but with an entirely new and compelling mythology.

As a child, Echo, an orphaned human pickpocket, was taken in by the Avicen, a race of beings similar to humans but with magical abilities and avian traits. Despite the Avicen being the only family she's ever known, Echo never truly feels that her place with the Avicen is accepted or permanent. When she's tasked with finding the mythical Firebird, an entity prophesied to end the war waging between the Avicen and the Drakharin, another underground humanoid race with draconian traits, Echo's doubt about where she belongs intensifies. During her search for the Firebird, Echo is forced to partner with two Drakharin soldiers who challenge her preconceived notions of the ruthless Drakharins of legend, confusing Echo's beliefs... and heart.

I absolutely loved Echo, the heroine of The Girl at Midnight. Though she was taken in by the Avicen, she's very independent and capable. She never wants to be a burden to the Avicen she's grown close to, so she tries to earn her keep, usually by tracking down and nicking things for the Avicen. Which is why she's tasked with finding the Firebird, a person or object that very little is known about, except that it will end the war between the Avicen and Drakharin. Echo, with the help of two Avicen friends and two Drakharin, ends up following clues to an extravagant scavenger hunt that she hopes will ends with the identity or location of the Firebird.

The two warring races an interesting element of the plot. I felt like I had a better understanding of the the Avicen and a clearer picture of what they looked like. I think this was in part because Echo's closeness to this race, but also because this race is bird-like and the characters were often compared to specific birds as introduced. The Drakharin are, in comparison, relatively unknown to Echo and dragon-like - which makes for a much more vague description. That said, I'm hoping readers are given more information about the Drakharin and their society in the next book!

There is a romantic plot line within The Girl at Midnight that is strong, but not distracting. Again, this felt like something that would develop more in the second book, but I really did like where it was going throughout this first installment. There's some game-changing reveals near the end of the novel that will make for a very interesting situation as the series continues and I'm looking forward to seeing how it is handled.

Melissa Grey's writing and debut novel will definitely be embraced by YA readers who enjoy strong female characters, romance, and magic set within the real world. Highly recommended. 

Win It!

1 winner. US mailing addresses only. Ends June 12, 2015.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cover Reveals - Young Adult - XXX

Madly by Amy Alward
"No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better."

Teenagers at Wisconsin's Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it, with the East as his ally and the empire as his enemy. He’s finally managed to dismiss the memory of Kestrel, even if he can’t quite forget her. Kestrel turned into someone he could no longer recognize: someone who cared more for the empire than for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she cared for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.

But far north lies a work camp where Kestrel is a prisoner. Can she manage to escape before she loses herself? As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover unexpected roles in battle, terrible secrets, and a fragile hope. The world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and Kestrel and Arin are caught between. In a game like this, can anybody really win?
Burn Girl by Mandy Mikulencak
A meth lab explosion leaves Arlie permanently scarred — both physically and emotionally. Yet, she develops the street smarts and survival skills to keep her addict mother out of the reach of the law and hidden from her stepfather, Lloyd, the man responsible for the explosion that killed three people.
Shortly after Arlie’s 16th birthday, her mother overdoses, forcing an end to their nomadic lives. Social services steps in and rules suddenly exist where none had before. Soon, she’s living in a 31-foot Airstream trailer with an eccentric uncle and attending high school for the first time.
While her facial scar makes it hard to fit in, Arlie begins to think a normal life might be possible – that is, until her stepfather tracks her down and insists she return drug money her mother had stolen. A final confrontation tests Arlie’s idea of right and wrong, and how far she’s willing to go to protect her new life.
Pieces of Why by K.L. Going
Tia lives with her mom in a high-risk neighborhood in New Orleans and loves singing gospel in the Rainbow Choir with Keisha, her boisterous and assertive best friend. Tia's dream is to change the world with her voice; and by all accounts, she might be talented enough. But when a shooting happens in her neighborhood and she learns the truth about the crime that sent her father to prison years ago, Tia finds she can't sing anymore. The loss prompts her to start asking the people in her community hard questions--questions everyone has always been too afraid to ask.

Full of humanity, Pieces of Why is a timely story that addresses grief, healing, and forgiveness, told through the eyes of a gifted girl who hears rhythm and song everywhere in her life.
Riders by Veronica Rossi
For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.
Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.
They fail.
Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.
But will anyone believe him?

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Violin prodigy Etta Spencer had big plans for her future, but a tragedy has put her once-bright career at risk. Closely tied to her musical skill, however, is a mysterious power she doesn't even know she has. When her two talents collide during a stressful performance, Etta is drawn back hundreds of years through time.

Etta wakes, confused and terrified, in 1776, in the midst a fierce sea battle. Nicholas Carter, the handsome young prize master of a privateering ship, has been hired to retrieve Etta and deliver her unharmed to the Ironwoods, a powerful family in the Colonies--the very same one that orchestrated her jump back, and one Nicholas himself has ties to. But discovering she can time travel is nothing compared to the shock of discovering the true reason the Ironwoods have ensnared her in their web.

Another traveler has stolen an object of untold value from them, and, if Etta can find it, they will return her to her own time. Out of options, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the mysterious traveler. But as they draw closer to each other and the end of their search, the true nature of the object, and the dangerous game the Ironwoods are playing, comes to light -- threatening to separate her not only from Nicholas, but her path home... forever.
The August 5 by Jenna Helland
In this debut novel, two worlds collide amid clashes of power, honor, and what it truly means to be brave.
Sixteen-year-old Tommy Shore lives a life of privilege: the finest clothing, food, and education available and servants to take care of his every whim. He is the son of the chief administrator of Aeren-the most important man on the islands. Fifteen-year-old Tamsin Henry has grown up knowing only poverty, but she is the daughter of a revolutionary who longs to give her and their people more.

Ordinarily, Tommy and Tamsin would never cross paths, but on the day of a violent and deadly revolt, chance brings them together. Now the world waits to hear the fate of the August Five, five men led by Tamsin's father, captured during the uprising. As the tensions between the government and the rebels escalate, Tommy uncovers a brutal truth about his father. How will he ever get Tamsin to trust that he wants to help, when she sees him as the enemy? In the end, Tommy and Tamsin learn that sometimes the honorable thing to do demands the most amount of courage.
Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry
Years ago, Clara survived a vicious bear attack. She's used to getting sympathetic looks around town, but meeting strangers is a different story. Yet her dreams go far beyond Knik, Alaska, and now she's got a secret that's both thrilling and terrifying--an acceptance letter from Columbia University. But it turns out her scars aren't as fixable as she hoped, and when her boyfriend begins to press for a forever commitment, she has second thoughts about New York. Then Rhodes, a student teacher in her English class, forces her to acknowledge her writing talent, and everything becomes even more confusing--especially with the feelings she's starting to have about him. Now all Clara wants to do is hide from the tough choices she has to make. When her world comes crashing down around her, Clara has to confront her problems and find her way to a decision. Will she choose the life of her dreams or the life that someone she loves has chosen? Which choice is scarier?
Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood
Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren's life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

Author Tessa Elwood's debut series is an epic romance at heart, set against a mine field of political machinations, space adventure, and deep-seeded family loyalties.

Which new covers are your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Interview & Giveaway with Sarvenaz Tash, author of Three Day Summer

Today I'm lucky enough to have author Sarvenaz Tash at The Hiding Spot to talk a bit about her new book, Three Day Summer, her writing process, the book that provides her with the perfect hiding spot, and more!


Your newest novel, Three Day Summer, is set during Woodstock. Can you tell us about why you chose that particular historical event as a backdrop for Michael and Cora’s story?
Honestly, it was the closest I could ever get to attending Woodstock myself! I chose it because I’ve long been enamored with everything about the festival: the music, the vibe, the fashion and the sense that “anything can happen.” It was also so much about youth and love that it just made sense to me to see it through the eyes of two young people who happen to fall in love. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?
I am very much an outliner and I almost always write chronologically. If I am really, really stuck I will sometimes work on a scene out of order, but that’s pretty rare because it’s hard for me to wrap my head around what happens next if I don’t follow my characters’ experiences in order. Usually when I start writing, I want to first get to know my characters, so I spend some time doing rough character sketches and backgrounds. My general philosophy is that if I know where a character is coming from, I can eventually figure out where they’re going.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?

I went to film school and ended up concentrating on screenwriting, so I think some of the lessons I learned there (like about three-act structure, story arcs, and dialogue) were some of the ones that have most directly influenced my fiction writing. However, I’ve also had jobs writing and managing websites and social media for both Bravo and MTV, and continue to do web editing. Even though I wasn’t writing fiction, they were all still very influential in honing my wordsmithing skills—especially learning to be succinct for Twitter!
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
Dulcet. I just love the way it sounds, how it’s spelled, and what it means.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that has provided you with a hiding spot.
Not that this is very original, but Hogwarts has been one of my hiding spots for a very long time. I’ve definitely spent a lot of time exploring its hidden staircases, moving portraits, and grand tapestries whenever I’ve needed a break from the real world.
What can readers look forward to next?
My next book, The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, will be out in Summer 2016. I call it my comic con rom-com and it was pitched as Pretty in Pink goes to Comic Con. It’s about a lovelorn nerd who decides to profess his love for his best friend at the biggest event of their social calendar. I’m actually working on edits for it now and I can tell you that—just like with Woodstock in Three Day Summer—I’m having a lot of fun vicariously attending the convention along with my characters!
About the Book

Michael is unsure about most things. Go to college? Enlist in the military? Break up with his girlfriend? All big question marks. He is living for the moment and all he wants is a few days at the biggest concert of the summer.

Cora lives in the town hosting the music festival. She's volunteering in the medical tent. She's like that, always the good girl. But there is something in the air at this concert and suddenly Cora finds herself wanting to push her own boundaries.

When Michael and Cora meet, sparks fly, hearts race, and all the things songs are written about come true. And all the while, three days of the most epic summer await them...

Check out the Three Day Summer playlist here

About the Author

Sarvenaz Tash was born in Tehran, Iran, and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, copywriting, and professional tweeting. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, visit:

Ends June 6, 2015. 1 winner. US addresses only.

Follow the blog tour:

Mon, May 11
What a Nerd Girl Says
Tues, May 12
Wed, May 13
Mother Daughter Book Club
Thurs, May 14
Curling Up with a Good Book
Fri, May 15
The Compulsive Reader

Mon, May18
The Hiding Spot
Tues, May 19
Too Fond of Books
Wed, May 20
Thurs, May 21
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Fri, May 22
Word Spelunker