My Secret Guide to Paris: Secret Guide Writing Contest

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We have a really fun writing contest planned for this month’s book of the month. Inspired by My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder, we want you to write your OWN secret guide! Here are more details …

secret guide to paris alt coverThe Contest

In 250-500 words, write a “secret guide” to the city where you live (or where you grew up). Choose 5 places you’d send a visitor who’s never been there before. List each location, and explain why it’s special and why you would have someone visit that spot in particular.

Submit your personalized secret guide using the entry form here. Be sure to name the city and state you’re featuring!

The Prize

One winner will receive a signed copy of My Secret Guide to Paris from Lisa, herself!

The Rules

  • One entry per person
  • U.S. only
  • Must use the entry form
  • 250-500 words
  • Please use proper grammar and spelling

The Deadline

All entries are due by midnight (PT) on Tuesday, March 31st.

Questions? Leave ‘em in the comments & we’ll reply!

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes

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Today, we have the honor of sharing the EXCLUSIVE cover reveal for the upcoming fourth book in Morgan Rhodes‘ best-selling Falling Kingdoms series, Frozen Tides. Before we get to the GORGEOUS cover … here’s a bit more about the book:

FROZEN TIDES, A FALLING KINGDOMS NOVEL
by Morgan Rhodes, on sale December 15, 2015

Rebels, royals, and monsters wage war over the Mytican throne in the shocking fourth book of the Falling Kingdoms series, from New York Times bestselling author Morgan Rhodes.

CLEO: Reeling after a bloody showdown in Limeros ending with Amara’s abduction of the water crystal, and a vacancy in the Mytican throne, Princess Cleo must cast aside her feelings and look toward her kingdom with the eyes of a Queen.

MAGNUS: With the kingdom in chaos, Princess Lucia still missing and quite possibly in danger, and a shocking realization about Cleo, the steely prince is once again torn between love and duty, leaving him wondering whether he’s strong enough to rule his people.

LUCIA: The young sorcercess has had her vengeance after the cruel death of her first and only love. Heartbroken and unable to trust anyone, she allies with the awoken Fire god, who also seeks revenge.

JONAS: After escaping death by the skin of his teeth, the defeated rebel—along with a mysterious stranger–leader reunites with Princess Cleo, only to find himself a mere pawn in a dangerous hunt for the elusive Kindred.

KING GAIUS: Abandoned by Melenia and betrayed by his own children, Gaius flees Mytica and sails to Kraeshia, where he attempts to ally with the famously brutal emperor across the Silver Sea.

Sounds amazing, right?

And now …

the cover …

you’ve been …

waiting …

for …

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Isn’t it stunning? And think how it will look next to the other three books:

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And get ready, because Morgan is heading out on tour with some other great Penguin Teen authors — starting TODAY, actually! Here are details:

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Tour Authors:

And here are the tour dates & locations:

Tuesday, March 3rd 7 PM–Decatur, GA
Little Shop of Stories
133 East Court Square # A
Decatur, GA 30030

Wednesday, March 4
th  6 PM – Athens, GA
Avid Bookshop
493 Prince Avenue
Athens, GA 30601

Thursday, March 5th 7 PM – Alexandria, VA
Hooray! For Books
1555 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Friday, March 6th and Saturday, March 7th – Arlington, VA
NOVA Teen Book Festival
One More Page Books
Washington Lee High School and Arlington Central Library
Find out more about the NOVA Teen Book Festival events here!

Monday, March 9th 7 PM – Oakland, CA
A Great Good Place for Books
6120 La Salle Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611

Tuesday, March 10th 6:30 PM – Pasadena, CA
Vroman’s Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101

Follow along on social media using the hashtag #PenguinTeenOnTour & learn more HERE!

And if you tweet about the Frozen Tides cover reveal, be sure to use the hashtag #FallingKingdoms

What do you think of the cover? Tell us in the comments below!

New YA Releases: March 3, 2015

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Here’s a look at today’s new YA releases:

sorceressSorceress by Claudia Gray

To save the lives of countless people in Captive’s Sound, Nadia has sworn herself to the One Beneath, to black magic. Her plan, and the town’s only hope, is for Nadia to learn enough sorcery to strike back against the forces of darkness. But now that she’s separated from her friends, her family, and her Steadfast, Mateo, Nadia is more vulnerable than ever to darkness. And as the sorceress Elizabeth summons torrential rains and brings the One Beneath closer to the mortal world, Nadia is running out of time to stop her. The final battle lines are drawn, surprising alliances are made, and true love is tested in the action-packed conclusion to the breathtaking Spellcaster series.

Sorceress is richly woven with New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray’s signature dark magic, captivating mystery, and star-crossed romance.

how to win at high schoolHow to Win at High School by Owen Matthews

Using Scarface as his guide to life, Adam Higgs is going from zero to high school hero.

Adam Higgs is a loser, and he’s not okay with it.

But starting as a junior in a new high school seems like exactly the right time to change things. He brainstorms with his best friend, Brian: What will it take for him to take over Nixon Collegiate?

Adam searches for the A-listers’ weak spot and strikes gold when he gets queen bee Sara Bryant to pay him for doing her physics homework. One part nerd, two parts badass, Adam ditches his legit job and turns to full-time cheating. His clients? All the Nixon Collegiate gods and goddesses.

But soon his homework business becomes a booze business, which becomes a fake ID business. Adam’s popularity soars as he unlocks high school achievements left and right, from his first kiss to his first rebound hookup. But something else is haunting him—a dark memory from his past, driving him to keep climbing. What is it? And will he go too far?

How to Win at High School’s honest portrayal of high school hierarchy is paired with an adrenaline-charged narrative and an over-the-top story line, creating a book that will appeal to guys, girls, and reluctant readers of every stripe. Adam’s rocket ride to the top of the social order and subsequent flameout is both emotionally resonant and laugh-out-loud funny.

not otherwise specifiedNot Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.

dead i know, theThe Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep and haunted by dreams he can’t explain and memories he can’t recover. Death doesn’t scare him—his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn’t discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up.In this dark and witty psychological drama about survival, Aaron finds that making peace with the dead may be easier than coming to terms with the living. “I have never read a book more gripping, nor a book more triumphantly alive.   I love how it haunts me still.   I swear, I will never forget The Dead I Know.” — John Marsden, author of Tomorrow When the War Began.

memory key, theThe Memory Key by Liana Liu

In a five-minutes-into-the-future world, a bereaved daughter must choose between losing memories of her mother to the haze of time and the reality-distorting, visceral pain of complete, perfect recall.

Lora Mint is determined not to forget.

Though her mother’s been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most importantly, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return.

But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer’s, that isn’t easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would. Then a minor accident damages Lora’s key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother’s disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad—burying the truth forever?

Lora’s longing for her lost mother and journey to patch up her broken memories is filled with authentic and poignant emotion. Her race to uncover the truth is a twisty ride. In the end, Liana Liu’s story will spark topical conversations about memory and privacy in a world that is reliant on increasingly invasive forms of technology.

storyspinnerThe Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

death markedDeath Marked by Leah Cypess

A young sorceress’s entire life has been shaped to destroy the empire controlling her world. But if everything she knows is a lie, will she even want to fulfill her destiny? The sequel to Death Sworn is just as full of magic and surprising revelations, and will thrill fans of Leigh Bardugo and Robin LaFevers.

At seventeen, Ileni lost her magical power and was exiled to the hidden caves of the assassins. She never thought she would survive long. But she discovered she was always meant to end up, powerless, in the caves as part of an elder sorcerer’s plan to destroy the evil Empire they’d battled so long. Except that Ileni is not an assassin, and she doesn’t want to be a weapon. And, after everything, she’s not even sure she knows the truth. Now, at the very heart of the Empire—its academy for sorcerers—the truth is what she seeks. What she finds challenges every belief she holds dear—and it threatens her fledgling romance with the young master of assassins.

Leah Cypess spins an intricate and beautiful conclusion to Ileni’s story. In the end, it may not be the epic decisions that bring down an empire, but the small ones that pierce the heart.

deviateDeviate by Tracy Clark

Tormented after a daring escape, Cora Sandoval must find a way to stop the Arrazi from murdering innocent people and from violating, using, and killing the Scintilla for their powers. She must also accept one bitter betrayal: Finn Doyle—the Irish boy who has both a piece of Cora’s heart and soul—is Arrazi…

On the verge of extinction and sought by those who would either consume or destroy them, Cora and the remaining Scintilla survivors must solve the mystery of The Light Key. If they fail, the truth will stay buried forever and mankind will pay the ultimate price.

No longer will she hide.

No longer will her loved ones be hunted.

And she will have her vengeance…even if she shatters her heart in the process.

MyBestEverything_HCMy Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

You say it was all meant to be. You and me. The way we met. Our secrets in the woods. Even the way it all exploded. It was simply a matter of fate.

Maybe if you were here to tell me again, to explain it one more time, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so uncertain. But I’m going back to the beginning on my own. To see what happened and why.

Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.

Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything – including her heart?

The summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating. My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason – though is it an apology, a good-bye, or a love letter?

razor hurstRazorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Sydney’s deadly Razorhurst neighborhood, 1932. Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson, two ruthless mob bosses, have reached a fragile peace—one maintained by “razor men.” Kelpie, orphaned and homeless, is blessed (and cursed) with the ability to see Razorhurst’s many ghosts. They tell her secrets the living can’t know about the cracks already forming in the mobs’ truce.

Then Kelpie meets Dymphna Campbell, a legendary beauty and prized moll of Gloriana Nelson. She’s earned the nickname “Angel of Death” because none of her beaus has ever survived knowing her. Unbeknownst to Kelpie, Dymphna can see ghosts, too, and she knows that Gloriana’s hold is crumbling one henchman at a time. As loyalties shift and betrayal threatens the two girls at every turn, Dymphna is determined not only to survive, but to rise to the top with Kelpie at her side.

dark waterThe Dark Water by Seth Fishman

To escape Blake Sutton’s army at the end of the enthralling The Well’s End, Mia and her friends jump into the newly gurgling fountain of youth and swim to its very bottom. When they resurface, an astounding world awaits them—an entire underground civilization of humans, the Keepers of the Well.

But instead of finding a safe haven, Mia and her gang are quickly embroiled in a dangerous, high-stakes battle royale. If Mia wants to save everyone she loves and make it back home alive, she’s got to get to the water’s Source before Sutton and his troops, who are still hot on her trail.

With new characters and new threats, Seth Fishman has upped the ante fantastically and delivers another tense, fast-paced adventure in a richly imagined world just below our feet.

tragic ageThe Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe

This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.

Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul.

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It’s the age he’s at.  The tragic age.

Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.

kinKin by Lili St. Crow

Dreamily dark and spellbinding with a hint of horror, New York Times bestselling author Lili St. Crow stuns with this toothsome retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

Full moon. Glowing eyes. Red lips. And such sharp, sharp teeth…

In the kin world, girls Ruby de Varre’s age are expected to play nice, get betrothed, and start a family—especially if they’re rootkin, and the fate of the clan is riding on them. But after a childhood of running wild in the woods, it’s hard to turn completely around and be demure. Even if your Gran is expecting it.

Then Conrad, handsome and charming, from a clan across the Waste, comes to New Haven to seal alliance between their two families. The sparks fly immediately. Conrad is smart, dominant, and downright gorgeous. Yet as Ruby gets to know him more, she starts to realize something’s…off.

Then, the murders start. A killer stalks the city streets, and just when Ruby starts to suspect the unimaginable, she becomes the next target. Now Ruby’s about to find out that Conrad’s secrets go deeper than she ever could have guessed—and it’s up to Ruby to save her Gran, her clan, and maybe even herself….

Prepare to become thrillingly lost in the third, final, and simply mesmerizing installment of Lili St. Crow’s Tales of Beauty and Madness series.

terminalTerminal by Brendan Reichs & Kathy Reichs

The thrilling finale to Kathy and Brendan Reichs’ New York Times bestselling VIRALS series

The Virals are back—but they’re not the only pack in town anymore. Terminal finds Tory Brennan—grandniece of the famous forensic anthropologist (star of the hit show Bones)—and the rest of the Morris Island gang tracking a pack of rogue Virals who call themselves the Trinity. The new pack was infected by a strain of supervirus created by Tory’s nemesis and sometimes-crush, Chance Clayborne, who accidentally infected himself, too.

These red-eyed Virals have openly challenged Tory’s pack for domination of Charleston, bringing on the attention of a shadowy government organization intent on learning the secret to their powers. Surviving it all is going to test the limits of the gang’s abilities.

charismaCharisma by Jeanne Ryan

A chance at the ultimate makeover means deadly consequences in this Sarah Dessen-meets-Robin Cook thriller

Aislyn suffers from crippling shyness—that is, until she’s offered a dose of Charisma, an underground gene therapy drug guaranteed to make her shine. The effects are instant. She’s charming, vivacious, and popular. But strangely, so are some other kids she knows. The media goes into a frenzy when the disease turns contagious, and then deadly, and the doctor who gave it to them disappears. Aislyn must find a way to stop it, before it’s too late.

Part medical thriller, part social justice commentary, Charisma will have readers on the edge of their seats.

winner's crimeThe Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

bone gapBone Gap by Laura Ruby

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

dead to meDead to Me by Mary McCoy

“Don’t believe anything they say.”

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her–and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn’t a kid anymore, and this time she won’t let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets–and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie’s attacker behind bars–if Alice can find her first. And she isn’t the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.

positively beautifulPositively Beautiful by Wendy Mills

16-year-old Erin is a smart if slightly dorky teenager, her life taken up with her best friend Trina, her major crush on smoky-eyed, unattainable Michael, and fending off Faith, the vision of perfection who’s somehow always had the knife in for Erin. Her dad, a pilot, died when she was very young, but Erin and her mom are just fine on their own.

Then everything changes forever one day after school when Erin’s mom announces she has breast cancer. And there’s even worse news to come. Horrified, Erin discovers that her grandmother’s death from cancer is almost certainly linked, the common denominator a rare gene mutation that makes cancer almost inevitable. And if two generations of women in the family had this mutation, what does that mean for Erin? The chances she’s inherited it are frighteningly high. Would it be better to know now and have major preemptive surgery or spend as much life as she has left in blissful ignorance?

As Erin grapples with her terrible dilemma, her life starts to spiral downwards, alleviated only by the flying lessons she starts taking with grumpy Stew and his little yellow plane, Tweetie Bird. Up in the sky, following in her dad’s footsteps, Erin finds freedom chasing the horizon. Down on the ground it’s a different story, and facing betrayal from Trina, humiliation from Faith, and a world of disappointment with Michael, Erin knows she must discover the truth about herself. Sure enough, she’s positive for the gene that’s slowly killing her mom.

Suddenly, Erin’s life has turned into a nightmare, and the only person she can truly talk to is a girl called Ashley who she meets online. But when, in a moment of madness, Erin flies away with Tweetie Pie to find her new friend, she finds herself on a journey that will take her through not only shock and despair – but ultimately to a new understanding of the true meaning of beauty, meaning, and love.

For the comments: Which of today’s new releases are you most excited about?

Introducing My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder

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Today, we kick off our March 2015 Book of the Month, featuring a fantastic new middle grade story from one of our favorite authors: My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Schroeder. Below, learn more about this wonderful book (now in stores), but first, grab our March desktop wallpaper calendar!

As always, click to view full-size, then right-click to save:

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secret guide to paris alt coverHere’s more about My Secret Guide to Paris:

From the author of the Charmed Life and It’s Raining Cupcakes series comes a novel of family, friends, and a Paris adventure that readers will never forget!

Nora has always wanted to see Paris, thanks to her Grandma Sylvia’s stories. But when Sylvia suddenly passes away just months before their planned trip, Nora thinks she’s lost everything.

Nora still dreams of Paris–and when she finds her own name on a set of clues to a Parisian scavenger hunt packed away in her grandmother’s room, along with plane tickets, Nora knows that Sylvia still wants her to go, too.

At last, Nora sets off on the adventure–and mystery–of a lifetime. What did Grandma Sylvia want her to find in Paris? Why do all the clues insist that Nora’s mother be with her? And could the key to healing and forgiveness be found at the top of the Eiffel Tower?

Novel Novice Junior Book Review: Max’s Math

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max's mathMath is made fun and accessible within the pages of Max’s Math by Kate Banks, illustrated by Boris Kulikov.

Max and his two brothers hop into a car and go looking for problems they can solve. They cruise down highway number 4 on their way to Shapeville, but they see an abandoned number along the way. Is it a 6? Is it a 9? And what’s it doing on the side of the road? Once the trio reach Shapeville, there’s another problem: a flood washed away all of the squares. Max and his brothers show the town that putting together two triangles will bring their shapes back together, and then they follow the residents on a trip to Count Town, where they put the missing number back in its place in the countdown to a rocket’s blastoff.

Words and illustrations work in tandem to bring numbers, shapes, and other mathematical wonders to life in a fun story that is easily accessible to young readers.

Even as an adult, I’ve never been a big numbers person — but Max’s Math puts math into the context of a story, making it much more easily to grasp. But the prose alone isn’t what really brings the math to life in a fun, easy to understand manner — it’s Banks’ story in combination with Kulikov’s illustrations that make the story — and the math — sing and come alive.

Max’s Math is in stores March 10th.

Exclusive Excerpt: The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe

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Today, we are thrilled to be hosting the final stop on the pre-publication blog tour for The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe, a thought-provoking new contemporary coming-of-age story in the vein of The Catcher in the Rye and King Dork.

tragic ageAs part of the blog tour, we’re excited to bring you an exclusive excerpt from the book — but first, catch up on all of the previous excerpts released so-far:

And now, here is the final excerpt from The Tragic Age:

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11

It’s twenty minutes later and I’m moving down the hall- way past the school office when I glance through the open door and see that Willard Twomey is sitting on a bench.

It’s postbell but I’m in no real rush. After lunch it’s fourth period calculus and I always take some time get- ting there because I know the teacher, Mr. Thurmond, is still in the faculty lounge sucking down his umpteenth cancer stick of the day.

Mr. Thurmond, who is heavy and sad faced, is an aspiring stand-up comedian who puts flyers of his open-mike nights on the classroom bulletin board, never realizing none of us are old enough to get in. He also uses the class to try out his material, which means he tries to make calculus funny. Calculus, which studies the limits, functions, derivatives, and integrals of numbers, is about as funny as an abscessed tooth and so is Mr. Thurmond.

“What did the zero say to the eight?” he’ll say. “Nice belt!”

“What is the first derivative of a cow?” he’ll says. “Prime rib.”

No one laughs.

Which confuses and disappoints Mr. Thurmond. And makes him anxious. Which makes him want a cigarette. Which makes him excuse himself and run down the hall to the teacher’s lounge. The class is pretty much Mr. Thurmond’s only good joke.

I stop and look around to see if anyone is coming, and when I see that no one is, I turn back and go into the school office. Except for Willard Twomey and some secretary, there’s nobody else there. I clear my throat. The secretary looks up from whatever it is she’s doing. Unprepared for the port-wine hemangioma on my face, she flinches.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” she says. No hello, no may I help you.

“I need to see the nurse,” I say.

“For what?” she says. She seems alarmed. Like maybe a birthmark is possibly contagious.

“For a brain tumor,” I say.

Actually, I don’t say that.

“My stomach hurts,” I say. “I think I ate something at lunch.” Which is true. It was something.

The secretary sighs as if she’s besieged on a daily basis by disfigured people who have gotten sick from eating something at lunch and it’s exhausted her.

“Have a seat,” the secretary says. “I’ll see if she’s in.” She gets up and she leaves, probably down the hall to join Mr. Thurmond and the school nurse in the faculty lounge for a quick smoke.

Willard Twomey is still sitting on the long wooden bench, acting as if I’m not even there. I go over and sit down next to him, leaving room between us. Now both of us are acting as if the other isn’t there. I realize I can hear Mr. Esposito, the principal, talking on the phone in the inner office. He has a surprisingly strong, authoritative voice.

“Yes, I understand . . . No, but I do want to know who’s responsible for him . . .”

Obviously he’s talking about Willard Twomey.

“Very impressive,” I say, not looking at Willard Twomey. Willard Twomey doesn’t say anything.

“What you did in the cafeteria today.” Willard Twomey doesn’t so much as blink. “Montebello’s an idiot.”

“What are you?” says Willard Twomey. He stares straight ahead. I notice that on the back of his right hand Willard Twomey has another tattoo.

Chaos.

And on the back of his left hand yet another.

Change.

“. . . yes, well, I think we should have been informed that the young man has a juvenile record and a history of physical assault,” says Principal Esposito in his surprisingly strong voice.

“Who’s he talking to?” I say.

I don’t think Willard Twomey is going to answer. But then he does.

“My grandmother. Like she’s going to do anything but make herself another drink.” Willard Twomey sounds disgusted.

“I understand. Yes, I’m sure it is difficult for you,” says Principal Esposito’s voice, full of authority.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve done this. Maybe I never have. But I do now. I stick out my right hand.

Fact.

A handshake is a ritual in which two people grasp one another’s hands. It is thought by some to have originated as a way of saying, There is no weapon in my hand. I’m not going to cut your head off. This, of course, is unless it’s the left hand, which in many parts of the world is a way of saying, I’m going to use your head to wipe my ass.

“Billy Kinsey,” I say.

Willard Twomey looks at my outstretched right hand. And now he looks at me. At me. Willard Twomey doesn’t flinch, he doesn’t waver. He studies my face. It is rude and disconcerting to the point of panic inducing and I have to force myself not to look away. His eyes trace the periphery of my right cheek and all of a sudden that side of my face begins to burn.

Point of reference.

Dorie used to say that my birthmark lightened or darkened, ebbed and flowed in shade and intensity, according to my emotions, and that a person could tell what I was feeling just by looking at it. Which is just another reason why I always try to feel nothing at all.

Sidebar.

Dorie thought my port-wine hemangioma was beautiful.

Willard Twomey reaches out and lightly taps my open hand with a closed fist. “Twom,” he whispers. He repeats himself, says it louder. “Twom Twomey.”

“Not Willard?” I say. I make sure I sort of smile as I say it.

“Not unless you want a tray in your head.” He’s sort of smiling too. The tap with the fist, I decide, is an original way of saying, I’m not going to kill you yet.

“I look forward to meeting you as well,” we hear Esposito’s voice say. It sounds like he’s wrapping things up which means it’s time to get out of there. I stand.

“See you around,” I say.

“I thought you were sick,” says Twom Twomey.

“Miraculously cured,” I say.

I beat it out of the office into the hall. When I look back I can see Esposito standing over Twom Twomey, lecturing. Twom Twomey, looking bored to stone, is staring at Mr. Esposito’s navel. Esposito might as well be talking to the wall.

Twom. Twom as in “tomb.” A mausoleum. A place for the dead. Dad thinks I should have a new friend. I wonder what he’ll think about one who’s now baptized my open palm with the right hand of chaos.

The Tragic Age is in stores March 3rd. Here is the official synopsis:

This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.

Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul.

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It’s the age he’s at.  The tragic age.

Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.

Book Review: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

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The powers of imagination, friendship, and love are the driving force behind The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, a whimsical and delightful new middle grade book, lovingly enhanced with original illustrations by Emily Gravett.

imaginary, theRudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn’t exist, but nobody’s perfect.

Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?

A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.

The Imaginary is a powerful story about the will of children and their endless imaginations. From start to finish, this is just a beautiful book: a beautiful story, beautiful writing, and beautiful illustrations. The combination is a timeless classic that will endure for years to come, and find a place in the hearts of readers both young and old. It’s a reminder that the imagination is a truly powerful tool — a gift to be cherished and honored and utilized for as long as you can hold on to it.

Harrold has crafted a truly charming story, packed with whimsy and heart. And though the story itself already leaps from the pages, The Imaginary comes to life in even more ways with the beautiful illustrations from Gravett. Her drawings capture the charm of Harrold’s story, and makes the world come alive. The combination of story and illustration makes for a truly stunning package, and a book that will not soon be forgotten.

The Imaginary hits store shelves on March 3rd, and should not be missed.

The Best of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

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Today we wrap-up our February Book of the Month featuring I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios. But before we bid farewell, here’s a look back at this month’s highlights:

i'll meet you there cover HRI’ll Meet You There Writing Contest

In I’ll Meet You There, Josh is a Marine recently returned from Afghanistan and suffering from a serious bout of PTSD.

Imagine a character suffering from a form of PTSD after a traumatic event or situation (it can be war, but it doesn’t have to be). Write a 250-500 word piece from this character’s perspective about struggling with the trauma & trying to move on.

This can take any form you want: a diary entry, a dream, or just a little snippet of life.

Submit your 250-500 word piece using the entry form HERE. Be sure to use proper grammar & spelling, and see complete rules here first.

More from Heather Demetrios

 

 

Beyond the Book

Be sure to check out our review of I’ll Meet You There, too.

 

 

Book Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

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Forbidden love, loyalty and betrayal, love and war … all these ingredients combine for a scintillating, smoldering story of passion and honor in The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski, the highly-anticipated sequel to The Winner’s Curse.

winner's crimeBook two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Rutkoski ups the ante for her characters with The Winner’s Crime, with Arin and Kestrel facing stakes higher than ever, as they fight for their love and for the causes they believe in so passionately. Those passions collide, as each must choose who to trust and how to navigate the murky waters of a delicate political duel. Niceties barely mask plans of treachery, and Arin and Kestrel’s romance is caught somewhere in the middle.

The Winner’s Crime sees the seeds of political upheaval and epic romances that began in The Winner’s Curse brought to dramatic new levels. The second book in this fast-paced and stunning trilogy brings with it unexpected twists and turns that will leave readers aching for more.

As always, Rutkoski’s writing is gorgeous. Her world is richly imagined, and is only more lushly defined as we explore it further in this second book — as are her characters, who exhibit new layers and depth. This all combines for a truly enticing reading experience.

Look for The Winner’s Crime in stores March 3rd.

My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp Blog Tour: Guest Post & Contest

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Today, we are excited to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp. We’ve got a guest post from Sarah about the first time she saw her book’s cover, plus more about her book & your chance to win a copy! So keep reading for all of these goodies …

guest postI love my cover!

MyBestEverything_HCFrom the start of the process, I knew I was in good hands. My editor, Bethany Strout, had shared some stunning covers created by Tracy Shaw, the designer for my book. They’d also mentioned that the talented Joel Holland was working on the art and lettering. I had faith in their talents, and yet had no idea what to expect.

Early on, I received a couple of cover comps that were lovely in their own ways, but not quite right for my book. We all thought the moonshine element should be part of it, but we didn’t want to be too obvious either. The use of a mason jar was one option.

Mason jars are attractive and evocative, but I felt like I had seen them used quite a bit on covers—and really well. I wasn’t sure how we could make mine feel unique to My Best Everything.

Another image used in those initial comps was one of a truck. A lot of the story happens in, and because of, Mason’s truck. He fixes it for Lulu, teaches her to drive, and they use it to sell their moonshine. It causes trouble with his cousin, Seth. His truck is crucial! And yet, it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be included in the cover.

I received the news on the new cover design in a backward fashion. As I was leaving work one day I saw an email from my agent, Catherine Drayton, saying “My reaction is gorgeous! What about you?” before I read the email from my editor. I was too nervous to open it then, so I drove straight home, a little too fast, but not quite bootlegger style.

They were right! It was gorgeous. And perfect for my story.

It’s a simple design that looks hand-crafted and rustic—elements that would appeal to Lulu and Mason. The title, in its big loopy pink letters, is bursting with hope—and is a nod to Lulu’s best friend, Roni, who I adore.

The woods in the background are shadowed and look simultaneously ominous and romantic. And then, in the sky, that glorious gorgeous moon looms over everything, all bright and shining. And the two figures—Lulu and Mason—sitting close together on the truck, are lit up in the moonshine too.

It’s all about the moonshine, but in the most subtle of ways.

Thanks so much for helping me to celebrate on your blog!

about the bookYou say it was all meant to be. You and me. The way we met. Our secrets in the woods. Even the way it all exploded. It was simply a matter of fate.

Maybe if you were here to tell me again, to explain it one more time, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so uncertain. But I’m going back to the beginning on my own. To see what happened and why.

Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.

Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything – including her heart?

The summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating. My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason – though is it an apology, a good-bye, or a love letter?

In stores March 3rd
Find it: AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

about the author

Photo by Roxyanne Young

Photo by Roxyanne Young

Sarah Tomp has a MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

My Best Everything, a novel for young adults, will be published March 2015 byLittle, Brown Books.

She is also the author of a picture book; Red, White, and Blue Good-bye   (Walker Books for Young Readers).

Sarah teaches creative writing for University of California San Diego Extension. She reviews books for Bookbrowse.com and co-authors the blog, Writing on the Sidewalk.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

contest2

Enter to win one of 10 Finished Copies of MY BEST EVERYTHING – US Only

Enter using the Rafflecopter form HERE!

Blog Tour Schedule

Week One:

Week Two: